Jack Latvala Archives - Florida Politics

New poll finds Democrats’ 6-point advantage in generic governor’s race

Without naming a specific candidate, a new poll finds Democrats have a six-point advantage in the 2018 Florida governor’s race.

Conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, a Tampa-based firm known for Democratic polling, the poll was taken Aug. 13-17 with live callers, 30 percent cellphones, and bilingual interviewers.

“With big names lining up to run for governor on both sides, we decided to take a more legislative approach to see how the race for governor is setting up by asking which party candidate for governor was the respondent more likely to support,” SEA pollster Thomas Eldon stated in a memo announcing some of the results.

“Despite a conservative midterm model giving Republicans a plus-two turnout advantage (41 percent Republican/39 percent Democrat/20 percent no party affiliation), the results favored the Democrat by six with peak intensity separation also at six.”

The poll found the Democratic strength lays with women and Hispanics, in Central Florida and South Florida; Republicans continue to hold solid advantages among white voters and in the Florida Panhandle.

Democrats also held a five-point advantage over Republicans among independents. However, independent voters were much less likely than partisans to make a pick. Almost 45 percent did not choose a party candidate, Eldon noted.

Women voters gave the generic Democratic gubernatorial candidate a 15-point advantage over the Republican, and among working women, the lead rose to 19 points. Hispanic voters gave a Democratic choice a 16-point advantage.

“With Democrats holding a significant margin among Hispanics, Hispanic turnout in 2018 is pivotal to secure a clear path to victory,” Eldon wrote.

The poll was released through Christian Ulvert‘s Edge Communications, which is working with  Philip Levine, the Miami Beach Mayor who is posturing as a Democratic candidate for governor, though he has neither announced nor filed for candidacy. Without disclosing whom, Ulvert said the poll was commissioned by an individual, but said it was not Levine nor anyone associated with his campaign.

Leading candidates for governor include Democrats Gwen Graham, Chris King, and Andrew Gillum, and Republicans Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Democrat John Morgan and Republicans Richard Corcoran and Ron DeSantis also are positioning for possible runs.

Sources: Ron DeSantis nears entering Governor’s race

The race for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination could soon pick up even more star power, this time with Congressman Ron DeSantis.

Though there was some discussion the Palm Coast Republican may enter the race for attorney general, our sources debunk that theory, saying DeSantis spent the summer meeting with conservative donors discussing the governor’s race.

There has also been a shift in online presence. DeSantis2016.com is now being redirected to RonDeSantis.com.

Likewise, the tagline on the new website speaks to a new emphasis: “Ron DeSantis for Florida.” As does a change in imagery, with lifeguard towers replacing Capitol Hill-style graphics.

And a noticeable uptick in online activity on Twitter: @RonDeSantisFl.

All of this points to a pivot in focus — perhaps to a statewide run many anticipated back in the 2016 cycle, when DeSantis dominated fundraising in the U.S. Senate race until Marco Rubio reconsidered his presidential bid and ran for re-election.

Time is of the essence for DeSantis’ launch, which looks likely to be in November; on the GOP side of the ledger, fundraising is already fast and furious.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, state Sen. Jack Latvala raised over $800,000 in his first month in the race — with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam still the clubhouse leader at $19.19 million raised thus far between committee cash and campaign money.

Meanwhile,  House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $4.4 million — with $3.9 million on hand (and he’s not officially announcing anything in this race until after the Legislative Session).

DeSantis does have what seems to be a unique value-add, says POLITICO’s Marc Caputo — shoutouts from President Donald Trump and his namesake son.

At a Heritage Foundation confab, the elder Trump called DeSantis “incredible” (per Caputo), while Donald Trump Jr. is tweeting out news stories citing DeSantis’ pressure on the “Uranium One” deal — a hot-button issue for activists on the right.

Though a lot of money is on the GOP side of the race, in a field crowded with smart politicians, the Trump factor could prove dispositive.

DeSantis’ entry could prove most damaging to Putnam, who is attempting to stake out the right flank in the primary. With a few months’ head start, the DeSantis factor could occlude Corcoran’s prospects as well.

Campaign cash from utilities? ‘I’ll accept it,’ Richard Corcoran says

While GOP gubernatorial rivals Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam feud over campaign contributions from investor-owned utilities, Richard Corcoran is watching from the sidelines.

As reported by FloridaPolitics last week, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s political committee has received nearly $800,000 from the utilities, and another $1.8 million to political committees that may have been re-directed to him.

Latvala, a Clearwater state senator, last month said he would no longer accept political contributions from the power companies, saying they should spend their money on improving power grid infrastructure following the outages after Hurricane Irma barreled through the state.

Corcoran, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, said Wednesday that he has accepted campaign contributions from the investor-owned utilities in the past, and he hopes to in the future.

“I’ve accepted in the past, as has Senator Latvala, and I’ll accept it in the future,” he said to reporters following a news conference in Tampa. “And my record speaks for itself in fighting for consumers in utility fights.”

Corcoran added that he’ll take contributions from virtually any group.

“My point to anybody is, anybody can donate to my campaign for the most part. I’m Richard Corcoran, this is what I stand for, and that’s what I’m going to fight for. And if you don’t like it, don’t donate.”

On another issue, the speaker said Gov. Rick Scott won’t have to worry about a bill funding an airplane for the next governor.

Scott, who is term-limited next year, ended the practice when he became governor in 2011, saying that it was a waste of taxpayer money as he had the funds to afford his own personal plane. Scott sidestepped reporters’ questions about it after this week’s Cabinet meeting.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a plane in the House budget, I can assure you of that,” said Corcoran, who also is term-limited next year—and may declare his own run for governor after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Ed Hooper lands Wilton Simpson nod on the heels of Bill Galvano endorsement

Former lawmaker Ed Hooper is looking to rejoin the Legislature via Senate District 16 next year, and in the past couple days he’s landed endorsements from the two men who would serve as Senate President during his first term.

“Ed Hooper is a committed public servant dedicated to working for his neighbors. As a firefighter and as an elected official, Ed has demonstrated that we can trust him to get job done,” Majority Leader Wilton Simpson said in a press release. “Common sense and integrity are the hallmarks of a leader, so I give my full support to Ed and ask the people of District 16 to join me to support Ed Hooper for the Florida Senate.”

Simpson, a businessman and farmer, has been in the Florida Senate since 2012 and is set to take over as Senate President after the 2020 elections.

“I appreciate Senator Simpson’s faith in my candidacy and in my ability to get the job done,” Hooper said. “I look forward to working with him in the Senate and getting good things done for Florida.”

Simpson’s public show of support for Hooper comes just days after an endorsement from Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano, who is a couple weeks away from becoming Senate president designate and would take over for current Senate President Joe Negron following next year’s election.

Hooper has called the Clearwater area home for 45 years, including 24 years working for the city’s fire department. He served in the House from 2006 through 2014, when term limits forced him to retire, and has spent his three years out of the Legislature working as a consultant.

Currently, Hooper is the only Republican candidate in the race running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who is termed out of the senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.

SD 16 covers the northern half of Pinellas County and a strip of coastal Pasco County that includes New Port Richey. It also has a clear GOP lean, with about 20,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats. The district voted for Donald Trump last year over Hillary Clinton 56-39.

Since filing in January 2016, Hooper has racked up endorsements from fellow GOP pols – including one from Latvala – and raised about $144,000 for his campaign.

Ed Hooper lands endorsement from Bill Galvano

Former Rep. Ed Hooper picked up an endorsement for his 2018 Senate campaign Friday from fellow Republican Bill Galvano, who is set to become Senate President after next year’s elections.

“Having served the community most of his life, Ed Hooper understands the issues that face Senate District 16. Ed is known for being a champion of economic development, job creation, and quality education for our kids,” Galvano said in a press release. “The election of Ed Hooper to the Florida Senate will be beneficial to not just his constituents, but all residents of the great state of Florida.”

Hooper is running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who is termed out of the senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.

Hooper has called the Clearwater area home for 45 years, including 24 years working for the city’s fire department. He served in the House from 2006 through 2014, when term limits forced him to retire, and has spent his three years out of the Legislature working as a consultant.

Currently, Hooper is the only Republican candidate in the race. Since filing in January 2016, he has racked up endorsements and raised about $144,000 for his campaign.

Also running is Democrat Bernie Fensterwald, who filed for the race in June. He has raised $12,400 for his campaign and has about $7,000 in the bank.

Senate District 16 has a similar makeup to the pre-redistricting Senate District 20. It covers the northern half of Pinellas County and a strip of coastal Pasco County that includes New Port Richey.

The district favors GOP candidates, with about 20,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats, and voted for Donald Trump last year over Hillary Clinton 56-39.

Jack Latvala gubernatorial bid scores major endorsement with FOP backing

On Saturday in Jacksonville, state Sen. Jack Latvala promised a “significant announcement.”

And he delivered, with the 22,000 member Florida State Fraternal Order of Police endorsing the Pinellas Republican’s gubernatorial bid.

This endorsement, delivered after the FOP State Lodge Board meeting in Jacksonville, wasn’t necessarily surprising; back in August, when Latvala announced his candidacy in Hialeah, Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins was in attendance.

FOP leadership were first to encourage Latvala to run for governor; the veteran lawmaker has been a staunch supporter of law enforcement efforts and has been consistently supported by the Fraternal Order of Police throughout his career.

“There is no doubt that all the things we hold most dear start with living in safe communities because without that it is nearly impossible to do the rest,” said Latvala.

“Police officers are so critical to all of us,” Latvala added. “It is a true honor to be endorsed by this exceptional group of law enforcement professionals.”

In making the endorsement, FOP President Jenkins lauded Latvala’s advocacy for law enforcement priorities.

“There have been decades of support shown to the Fraternal Order of Police along with other first responders. It is this unwavering dedication to the men and women wearing the badge that prompts our decision to endorse Jack Latvala for Florida Governor.  He always has our back, so we back Jack!” Jenkins asserted.

Indeed, Latvala’s legislative mission has aligned with law enforcement priorities.

“Law enforcement officers know better than most what our efforts in the Senate did to help reduce crime in Florida. I helped enact the 85% rule which requires persons convicted of crimes to serve 85% of their sentences, 10-20-Life legislation which stiffened the penalties for those convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, and ‘Three Strikes’ legislation that keeps career criminals behind bars,” Latvala said in 2014.

The senator has routinely advanced pro-law enforcement measures, such as leading the charge for pay raises.

Crucially for law enforcement advocates, Latvala has also fought against the dilution of defined benefit pensions, a point he made when he launched his run for Governor.

“They want to give them the same kind of pension you can get for working at Walmart,” Latvala said. “A 401(k) instead of a real pension and I think that’s the least we can do for people who put their lives on the line every day is show some appreciation in giving them a good retirement.”

The Fraternal Order of Police crosses party lines often with endorsements.

While President Donald Trump was the FOP choice in 2016, the FOP endorsed Democrats in the last two Gubernatorial races.

Latvala, in addition to enjoying the support of the state’s powerful police union, is also backed by many of the state’s firefighters.

International Association of Fire Fighters locals throughout the state, including in St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Miami, support Latvala without reservation.

Endorsements from public safety unions, locally and statewide, are invaluable to Latvala’s bid for governor, offering a key difference between him and major opponents, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Latvala had, at the end of September, roughly $4.67 million cash-on-hand between his campaign account and committee; the backing of influential and politically-active public safety unions will amplify for those efforts.

$50 million sought to tackle opioid epidemic

Skyrocketing numbers of overdoses. Burned-out first responders. Families torn apart.

Those are just some of the woes a key Senate budget panel heard about during a discussion Thursday focused on the opioid epidemic engulfing Florida and much of the nation.

Echoing what a separate Senate committee heard this week, substance-abuse treatment providers, community agency representatives and law-enforcement officials pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee for a comprehensive approach to the complicated issue, along with more money.

The state this year received $27 million in federal funds to deal with a mushrooming opioid crisis that has resulted in some counties seeing a 300 percent increase in overdoses.

Gov. Rick Scott – who declared a public health emergency about the opioid issue this year – announced that he will seek $50 million from the Legislature to deal with the issue, but he has yet to release a detailed plan for how the money would be spent.

Substance-abuse treatment providers on Thursday also asked for $50 million to address what at least one doctor called “chemical warfare” as lawmakers begin to put together a state spending plan in advance of the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.

The number of Floridians dying from overdoses – involving prescription drugs, street drugs like heroin or the synthetic opioid fentanyl, or combinations of the drugs – has steadily increased over the last few years, following a dip after lawmakers cracked down on prescription drug “pill mills” in 2011.

Heroin overdoses jumped by 1,000 percent between 2007 and 2015, and most experts agree the number of deaths is much higher than what is being reported by the state’s medical examiners.

Overdoses related to fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, are also climbing.

The information about the rising number of deaths associated with opioids is perplexing for lawmakers who thought they stymied the state’s opioid plague by shutting down the pill mills.

“My concern as a policymaker is, how do we make sure we don’t do the same thing … because if not, then three years from now, instead of saying fentanyl and heroin, there it will say something else,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, referring to a chart of deaths due to overdoses. “I don’t want to see fentanyl and heroin in three years just turn into x, y, z.”

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford offered a suggestion.

“One of the answers is going to be the investment in treatment resources,” he said.

“I think that’s the ultimate point. How do we get to the root of the problem? Is it a mental health issue? We gave it a Band-aid, but the underlying (root) is still there,” Flores said.

While the picture appears grim, Ann Berner, CEO of the Southeast Florida Behavioral Network, told the committee that the state can “turn the tides” on the opioid epidemic.

The $50 million sought by providers to address the issue would go toward housing vouchers and employment assistance for people in recovery, medication-assisted treatment programs that use drugs like Suboxone to help keep addicts off opioids such as OxyContin and heroin, residential treatment and detox beds, which are a critical first step in getting users clean.

The request for the funds comes as lawmakers begin to grapple with what will certainly be a tight budget year, made even leaner because of the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Senate budget chief Jack Latvala wouldn’t say if $50 million is enough to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

“We just started working on this. This is the very first meeting of committees, very first meeting that this has been discussed. We have a lot of work to do before we can make opinions like that,” Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is running for governor, told reporters after the meeting.

Latvala has made battling opioid addiction one of his top priorities, and asked Scott to use executive authority to release $20 million in emergency funds for the problem. Scott recently activated a $25 million emergency loan program for the citrus industry, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

“I asked for $20 million on an emergency basis to get us through the rest of this year. I’m still waiting. People are still dying. Nobody’s dying because oranges fell off of a tree,” Latvala said.

He again called on Scott to release the money.

“I think we need to treat the opioid crisis just like we’re treating the economic crisis from the hurricane. He (Scott) has the same ability on the opioid crisis to deal with that through the executive order as he has on the hurricane,” Latvala said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race

Nick DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report, released Tuesday, signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Berny Jacques.

Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed.

April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door.

His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less.

In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

DiCeglie, who entered the race at the start of last month, raised $30,751 in 30 days. All of that money that came in before his official campaign kickoff event, too. That event is set for Thursday evening in Bellair and features more than 50 names on the host committee that no other first-time candidate could dream of getting in the same room anywhere outside the Governor’s Club.

The abbreviated list: St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes, Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala and his son Rep. Chris Latvala, and Pinellas County Commissioners Dave Eggers, John Morroni and Karen Seel, as well as Commission candidate and current HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters.

His pull with local Republican rock stars isn’t a surprise. In addition to owning and operating the lauded waste management company Solar Sanitation, Inc., for over decade, he spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and earned a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Being the current chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Among his September donors were renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater City Council Member Doreen Caudell, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and lobbyist Alan Suskey.

Chris King raises $148K in September for governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King raised $148,000 in September, giving his campaign a total of $2.6 million raised, his campaign reported.

King, a Winter Park-based developer of affordable housing and senior housing, raised $77,500 for his official campaign and $70,500 for his independent political committee Rise and Lead Florida, according to data posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Those totals included $47,000 he donated to his own campaign, and $25,000 donated to Rise and Lead by Serenity Towers On the St. Johns, one of the senior centers his company runs.

His campaign now has raised $1.67 million, most of it coming from his own contributions. Rise and Lead has raised $948,000. Together, the two committees ended the month with $1.7 million in hand, his campaign reported.

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his quest for the Democrat’s primary nomination in 2018. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

“Despite being a newcomer to politics, Chris King continues to remain competitive with career politicians with deep institutional and establishment support,” King’s campaign spokesperson Hari Sevugan stated in a news release issued late Tuesday. “Whether it’s fundraising, grassroots activity online or what we’re seeing and hearing across the state, what’s clear is that Democrats are tired of losing statewide, and are looking for new ideas and a fresh approach to leadership to break one-party control in Tallahassee. This consistent fundraising has also demonstrated that Chris is positioned to be the clear alternative to Gwen Graham.”

Gwen Graham blasts Everglades oil permit renewal

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham on Tuesday blasted a state decision to renew an oil exploration permit in the Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, criticized the decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to renew the exploration permit for Burnett Oil Co. of Texas, and for doing so two weeks before the Oct. 24 deadline on the request.

“Protecting Big Cypress National Preserve is vital to preserving and restoring Florida’s Everglades. The state should be working to end oil drilling in the Everglades, not expand it,” Graham stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “As governor, I will fight to protect our clean land and water from oil drilling and fracking.”

The department responded by saying the activity was first approved by the U.S. National Park Service under President Barack Obama, and that position was upheld by a U.S. District Court decision in the Middle District of Florida earlier this year. Florida DEP Communication Director Lauren Engel said in a statement that the department “will take every step possible to protect Florida’s environment.”

Federal authorities have control over the lands, while the Florida department reviewed the permit to determine if it met all Florida requirements, she added.

Graham is battling with fellow Democrats Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King for the party primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

Her campaign noted that several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Center for Biological Diversity all asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection not to renew Burnett Oil Co.’s exploration permit. The groups cited several potential violations, including killed or damaged trees, ruts in the soil and working without the supervision of National Park Service staff, Graham’s campaign stated.

“Conserving land and protecting the Everglades should not be a partisan issue, but under Rick Scott and Republican politicians in Tallahassee, the state has disregarded preservation in favor of profits. Under this administration, the DEP has become the Department of Environmental Pollution,” Graham said in the release. “This effort was started by a Republican governor. Legislation to protect the park was signed by a Republican president. Even George W. Bush and Jeb Bush wanted to stop oil drilling in the preserve. When the Bushes oppose drilling, you know it’s bad.”

 

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