Carlos Lopez-Cantera – Florida Politics
Aakash Patel

Aakash Patel’s latest big-name endorser? Carlos Lopez-Cantera

Tampa businessman Aakash Patel announced Monday that Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has endorsed his campaign for Hillsborough County Commission District 1.

“I had the opportunity to get to know Aakash Patel through his work with Leadership Tampa Bay and his service on their Board of Directors since 2014. Aakash has impressed me with his drive, ambition and ability to apply his conservative ideals to encourage and mentor others in the business community and leadership roles,” Lopez-Cantera said.

“I strongly support his effort to become a member of the Hillsborough County Commission where I am certain he will work to consistently apply his solid conservative principals in all that he does. I wholeheartedly endorse Aakash Patel, in his campaign to become the next Hillsborough County Commissioner for District 1.”

Patel, a Republican, is a 2011 graduate and current member of the Board of Directors of Leadership Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization that educates and trains its members on issues facing the Tampa Bay region.

“I am extremely honored to have the support of such a true conservative friend as Carlos Lopez-Cantera,” Patel said. “Having spent time advancing individuals in leadership roles beside the Lt. Governor, I sincerely admire his strength and guidance across the State of Florida. I sincerely thank Lt. Governor Lopez-Cantera for his endorsement of my campaign for Hillsborough County Commission.”

CLC’s endorsement is the latest in a long string of Republican elected officials who’ve lined up to back Patel. Two weeks ago, Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess announced his support, and prior endorsements include Tarpon Springs U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Panhandle U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and Sarasota state Rep. Joe Gruters.

Patel faces fellow Republican C. Todd Marks and Democrat Jen McDonald in the race for District 1, the seat currently held by Republican Commissioner Sandra Murman, who has filed to run for the countywide District 7 seat in 2018.

Patel leads the field in fundraising with more than $433,000 raised and $267,000 on hand through the end of April. Marks has not filed his April report, but had about $76,000 in the bank at the end of March. McDonald filed last month and has not yet filed her first campaign finance report.

CRC rejects added duty for Lieutenant Governor

Florida’s lieutenant governor won’t have to worry about being required by voters to run a state agency.

Members of the state Constitution Revision Commission on Tuesday rejected, in a 20-12 vote, a proposed constitutional amendment (Proposal 66) that would have required the Lieutenant Governor to oversee a department within the executive branch.

“We spend about $1 million a year on support services and salary for the lieutenant governor,” said Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and member of the commission who sponsored the proposal. “It was just an idea to get not only a bigger bang for our buck, but at the same time also create some added value and some self-actualization for the individual.”

In the past, Lee called the money spent on the office “wasteful.” On Tuesday, he said the position is one of the weakest in the nation and simply designed to “help elect a governor at election time.”

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera is paid $124,851 a year.

But several members of the commission noted the governor already can appoint the lieutenant governor to run an agency and that some agency-head positions have required qualifications. As an example, the Department of Health is headed by the state Surgeon General.

“In dealing with many of these agencies over the past seven years, I know the Department of Corrections is highly qualified in law enforcement,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said. “I think that’s another problem, that many of these require very specialized skills.”

Bondi is part of the 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years to craft constitutional amendments that will go before voters in November.

Commissioner Emery Gainey, a member of the Attorney General’s management team, asked what would happen if the Governor wasn’t satisfied with the performance of the Lieutenant Governor and no other agency-head position was open.

Lee initially proposed that the Lieutenant Governor act as a tie-breaking vote in the Florida Senate and replace the secretary of state, one of the positions now appointed by the Governor. But the proposal was scaled back to requiring that the Lieutenant Governor serve as an agency head.

Other examples of agencies under the Governor include the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Lottery and the Department of Management Services.

Commissioner Don Gaetz, a former state Senate president, was among those backing the proposal.

“I think we’ve had some great lieutenant governors who actually had jobs,” said Gaetz, a Niceville Republican. “And then we’ve had some lieutenant governors who could have wandered the halls with their hands in their pockets, a waste of human resources. It’s just the way it was.”

The office has been around in Florida since 1968 and provides an immediate replacement if there is a gubernatorial vacancy — as happened in 1998, when Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay briefly became governor after the death of Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Under Gov. Rick Scott the position has been widely viewed as ceremonial.

Scott let the office sit idle for nearly a year between the resignation of Jennifer Carroll in March 2013 and his appointment of Lopez-Cantera in February 2014.

Plan would specify Lieutenant Governor duties

Florida’s Lieutenant Governor would have specific duties under a proposed constitutional amendment that continued to draw support Friday from members of the state Constitution Revision Commission.

The commission’s Legislative Committee unanimously backed a proposal (Proposal 66) by Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, that would make the Lieutenant Governor serve as head of one of the departments in the executive branch.

“Under our current structure, we have about the weakest Lieutenant Governor in the United States,” Lee, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, said.

Four states — Maine, Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming — don’t have the position. Most states that have the position attach job requirements.

Lee said money now spent on the office is “wasteful.”

“We’re spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million a year to have the infrastructure for a lieutenant governor, and part of that includes the salary and benefits,” Lee said.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera is paid $124,851 a year.

While three committees of the Constitution Revision Commission have backed the proposal, that doesn’t mean the measure will appear on the November ballot.

The commission, which meets every 20 years, is reviewing proposed constitutional amendments and is expected to decide this spring on which issues will go before voters.

Lee initially proposed that the Lieutenant Governor act as a tie-breaking vote in the Florida Senate and replace the secretary of state, one of the positions now appointed by the governor.

The other potential landing spots for the Lieutenant Governor would include the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Lottery and the Department of Management Services, Lee said.

“What this proposal does, is it says the governor will take a look at the talents and skill sets of the individual that he or she has chosen as a Lieutenant Governor and assign them to one of these,” Lee said.

Florida’s lieutenant governor is elected as the governor’s running mate and would step in if there is a gubernatorial vacancy — as happened in 1998, when Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay briefly became Governor after the death of Gov. Lawton Chiles.

At times, such as with MacKay, lieutenant governors have played important roles in state administrations. But the position under Gov. Rick Scott has been widely viewed as more ceremonial.

Scott let the office sit idle for nearly a year between the resignation of Jennifer Carroll in March 2013 and his appointment of Lopez-Cantera in February 2014.

The office has only been around in Florida since 1968.

The state had a Lieutenant Governor from 1865 to 1885, when the position was elected separate from the governor and the role was ex-officio president of the Senate, able to vote in case of a tie.

Mike Pence to keynote Republicans’ conference in Orlando

Vice President Mike Pence is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Statesman Dinner during their November state conference in Orlando.

Pence – with “special guest” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio –  is to highlight the dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 2 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, kicking off the two-day conference.

Also billed for the kickoff dinner to the quarterly party meeting are three of the four members of the Florida Cabinet, though not Gov. Rick Scott. The other advertised guests include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi,  Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

General tickets are $200 for the dinner, with executive committee members and College Republicans getting discounts.

Jeremy Ring adds $168K in August for CFO campaign

Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring will report a combined $168,822 raised last month between his campaign and committee accounts, his campaign finance director said Tuesday.

Shelby Rogers said the former state senator brought in $154,322 of the money through his campaign account and another $14,500 through his committee, “Florida Action Fund.”

“Our August fundraising numbers are further proof that Jeremy Ring’s message of bringing a more innovation-driven economy to Florida to create high-paying jobs has resonated with Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys, and we are excited to continue sharing Jeremy’s vision for a stronger Florida economy,” Rogers said.

Ring finished July with about $130,000 between the two accounts; Rogers didn’t give any update on Ring’s on-hand totals.

According to his committee website, FAF has about $5,200 on hand, while his campaign’s August report hasn’t been filed.

James Pugh Jr. topped the committee donor roll with a $5,000 check, followed by the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters and the Florida Alliance for Better Government at $2,500, Alliance for Progressive Government at $2,000 and the Florida AFL-CIO and lobbyist Paul Wharton at $1,000 each.

Committee expenses came in at around $13,000 and included $5,500 to Johnson Campaigns and $3,000 to Renaissance Campaign Strategies for consulting work.

As of Sept. 5, Ring is still the only candidate running for CFO.

Potential GOP candidates include sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis and Brandon state Sen. Tom Lee.

Rick Scott on hurricane duty

No rest for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, as his daily agenda shows a schedule packed with planning items in advance of Hurricane Irma‘s track toward the state.

At 7:30 a.m., the governor had a weather briefing with Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon. An hour later, he was set for a call with county sheriffs on hurricane planning.

At 9, there was a call with local chiefs of police, and another at 9:30 with county school superintendents.

Looking ahead, another call is set for 10:20 a.m. with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long.

At 10:30, the jobs governor will make an appearance at Naples’ Pyure Organic, an independent stevia sweetener compan, to “highlight its new facility and job growth.” That’s followed by another weather briefing at 11:15 a.m.

Then Scott high-tails it to Tampa to “announce new jobs at Cognizant Technology Solutions” at 2:15 p.m.

At 5:15, he’ll get yet another weather briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera also gets into the act today, with weather briefings at 7:30 and 11:15 a.m., and again at 5:15 p.m., his schedule shows.

Updated 10:30 a.m.: Scott’s schedule was revised to add a 7:55 a.m. call with South Florida Water Management District Chairman Dan O’Keefe, an 8:05 a.m. call with Army Corps of Engineers district commander Col. Jason Kirk, and an 8:20 a.m. call with the Navy’s southeast region commander, Rear Adm. Babette Bolivar.

Jeremy Ring raised $45K in July for CFO bid, spent $60K

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring headed into August with about $130,000 on hand after spending more than he raised in July for his Chief Financial Officer bid.

The Margate Democrat brought in a total of $45,396 between his campaign account and his political committee, “Florida Action Fund PC.” Combined, the two entities spent $60,515, including a $20,000 payment to the Florida Democratic Party.

Among the other $40,000 in spending was more than $10,000 in payments to D.C.-based MDW Communications for a website, $4,800 to NGP VAN, Inc., based in Washington, D.C. and Somerville, Massachusetts, for IT work and a slew of $1,000-plus payments to various consulting groups across the Sunshine State.

Contributions to the committee included $10,000 from the Firefighter FactPAC, $5,000 from the Pelican Bay political committee in Naples and $2,500 from the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. The campaign account took in $26,000 in July across 38 contributions, including $3,000 a piece from Robert Greenberg, Eric Becker, Adam Stein, James Stork and Nadezda Usina.

Ring is currently the only declared candidate for Florida CFO, is now held by Republican Jimmy Patronis, who was appointed to the position after Jeff Atwater left the job earlier this year to become the CFO of Florida Atlantic University.

Patronis, a former lawmaker himself, hasn’t said whether he would run for CFO, but several of his former colleagues in the Legislature have hinted they might take a stab at the Cabinet seat in 2018.

Possible Republican entrants include state Sen. Tom Lee and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

A couple of Democrats have been floated as candidates as well, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Francis Rooney to go python hunting in Big Cypress swamp

Rep. Francis Rooney is going python hunting.

The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to take part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program on Aug. 10. The program aims to eliminate the Burmese python, an invasive species, which damages the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife.

“I am looking forward to hunting these devastating and invasive snakes,” said Rooney in a statement. “The python is a predator impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystem across the Everglades and the State of Florida.  Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades.”

Rooney is the latest Florida politician to head out on a python hunt. In May, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined python hunter Tom Rahill on a hunt in South Florida. The Miami-Dade Republican killed a 15-foot Burmese python with a pocket knife during his trip, posting photographs on social media.

POLITICO Florida reported at the time Lopez-Cantera grabbed the snake, and Lopez-Cantera helped pulled it out when they realized how large it was. The lieutenant governor then killed it with the knife.

The South Florida Water Management District renewed the program in June, after the pilot program eliminated 158 snakes in about two months. The district’s governing board also expanded the area where python hunters are allowed to access to include Broward and Collier counties. Previously, the hunt was only allowed in Miami-Dade County.

“Joining this hunt is a worthy challenge,” said Dan O’Keefe, the chairman of the SFWMD Governing Board in a statement. Having also experienced the program firsthand by participating in a live hunt, I cannot say enough about the tremendous work of our bounty hunters working long hours and enduring the harsh summer elements to rid the Everglades of this destructive python threat.”

Rooney is scheduled to go python hunting in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Aug. 10.

 

Florida leaders react to the bombing at a concert in Manchester

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.

The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.

Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”

On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Stalking pythons: Carlos Lopez-Cantera joins Everglades hunt

Florida’s lieutenant governor joined hunters paid by the state to stalk and shoot invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades.

South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith says Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera went hunting Monday night with one of 25 hunters hired to kill pythons on district property.

Smith says Tom Rahill and Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch (5-meter) python. It was the 96th python caught by the district’s hunters since March 25.

Rahill leads the “Swamp Apes” program taking veterans on hunts to remove invasive animals from the Everglades. He took Lopez-Cantera hunting along a canal in western Miami-Dade County.

The district is paying $8.10 an hour in a python-killing pilot program ending June 1. Florida’s wildlife agency also is hiring contractors to remove pythons from specific areas.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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