Jeb Bush Archives - Florida Politics

Paulson’s principles: Money, money, money!

It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.

This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.

Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.

Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.

Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).

Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.

Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.

Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.

Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.

Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.

It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.

There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Ashley Moody’s ready to take over as AG on ‘Day One’

In the race for Florida’s next attorney general, former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody has emerged as the early front-runner.

That perception is not based on name recognition, since as a judge she rarely had the opportunity to make news, but on two other relevant pieces of evidence — her prodigious fundraising since declaring her candidacy in early June, and that she’s a member of the Republican Party, the dominant party in statewide elections in Florida for the past two decades.

Despite the fact that she’s won the endorsement from current AG Pam Bondi and seemingly every Republican in Hillsborough County, she remains a cipher to most of the state, which made her appearance before the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee on Tuesday night a noteworthy event.

Moody spent most of her 13-minute speech giving context to her impressive resume. A fifth-generation Floridian who went to Plant High School in South Tampa, Moody attended the University of Florida and was appointed to the state’s Board of Regents while still at Stetson Law School by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

She then went through the rest of her professional biography, beginning as a defense attorney at Holland and Knight, where worked she worked on business disputes.

Acknowledging how the court system is an adversarial process, the 42-year-old Moody said it was ironic, since “I really don’t like fighting, I don’t like acrimony. I like working on problems and trying to solve problems together. That’s my nature.”

Saying she wanted to get into the courtroom more, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Middle Attorney’s office during the George W. Bush era, where she worked under U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, first in Jacksonville, then in Tampa.

“It was a great experience, and I loved standing up and saying I was Ashley Moody and I represented the United States of America.”

At the age of 31, she decided she wanted to get into the family business, which was to become a judge, following in the footsteps of her father and stepfather. She won an election for Hillsborough Circuit Court in 2006, becoming at that time the youngest judge in Florida.

“It showed that I had the experience, the judicial temperament, and the ability to hear all sides before making a final decision, and that’s what I try to bring to the bench with that approach to problems,” she said.

Moody said that it was the urge to want to do more which compelled her to run for attorney general. She says the skills required for the attorney general position are the skills that she has honed over her career as an attorney, prosecutor and judge.

“Of all the things that the attorney general’s office handles, I have experience,” she said. “It would be impossible for someone to come in that has not had the experience in any of these areas and start the job effectively on day one,” she declared. “Impossible. It would take so long to get up to speed in these particular areas to make any sort of lasting impact.”

Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant is the only other Republican in the race to date. Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens is the lone Democrat. Moody is crushing both in fundraising, with more than $720,000 in combined campaign contributions from her own account and her PAC (Fant has more than $200,000 in his PAC and his campaign account; Torrens is just shy of $29,000 raised).

Moody joked about how she became less popular once she quit the bench as a powerful judge to become a political candidate, and a Republican one at that. She said that she was “not inclined” to get into partisan politics, since it has become very polarized, and almost decided not to enter because of those concerns. Her husband Justin (a federal agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration) convinced her that it was important for someone who hasn’t done politics to run for such an important position with her qualifications.

She then took a few questions from the audience and seemed unprepared for the first one: a question about where she stood on the drive for a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the voting rights of former felons who have served their time.

Florida is one of just four states that denies the right to vote to all former felons until they petition for rights restoration. A lawsuit filed earlier this year said that more than 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.

But Moody said the system seems to be working just fine.

“I would like to study it more before I give it a definitive answer, but I think there are historical reasons that we haven’t let felons vote, and I think that there are reasons for that,” she said. “Now we have a process that they can obtain their rights after they’ve been convicted, and certainly I would invite that if they are eligible … so there’s a process for restoring rights and I think that the process that we have is fine.”

Daniel Perez defeats Jose Mallea in HD 116 GOP primary

Daniel Anthony Perez is heading to the general.

Perez defeated Jose Mallea in the special Republican primary to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Unofficial election results posted to the Florida Division of Elections website show Perez received nearly 55 percent of the vote, compared to Mallea’s 45 percent.

Perez will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the special general election on Sept. 26.

Perez is an associate at Cole, Scott & Kissane in Miami. The first-time candidate is the former vice-chair of the Miami-Dade County Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board and is a member of the Cuban American Bar Association. He took heat early in the campaign after the Miami Herald reported he took his engagement photos in Havana earlier this year.

Mallea has an extensive background in politics, including running Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He also served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and served stints in the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

His political background influenced his campaign — both positively and negatively. He scored endorsements from former Gov. Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sen. Rene Garcia, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

But outside groups attacked Mallea for his work in the mayor’s office, saying he helped usher in massive tax increases; while Perez released a Spanish language ad saying he betrayed Rubio when he worked as Bush’s Hispanic outreach director during his 2016 presidential campaign.

First elected in 2010, Diaz resigned his seat, effective Sept. 26, to run in the Senate District 40 special election, which was also Tuesday. Diaz received nearly 58 percent of the vote to defeat former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who received nearly 26 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Jeb Bush, Mark Cuban: Donald Trump dragging down GOP, billionaires

President Donald Trump‘s performance in the White House will make it harder for Republicans — and billionaires — in the coming elections, two of his most prominent critics said Saturday.

Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lashed out at the Republican president during separate remarks at a summer festival in New York City’s Central Park.

Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said he may challenge Trump in 2020.

“If he lasts four years, I’ll be there to kick his (butt),” Cuban declared as the young New York crowd roared. “We’ll see. I’m not making any proclamations yet.”

Cuban also warned that Trump “might ruin the path” for another billionaire outsider to run for president in the future.

“He’s not setting the best example,” Cuban said.

After six months in office, Trump and his party have failed to enact any major legislation. His poll numbers are near historic lows and an investigation into Russian interference in the last election is focusing on his closest aides and family members.

Energized Democrats hope they can capitalize on the GOP’s political struggles in next year’s midterm elections when the House majority is at stake.

Bush, a regular target of Trump’s personal attacks during the 2016 Republican primary election, said he would not run for president again. He also tried to distance his party from the new president, noting that Trump was registered as a Democrat in recent years.

“He’s not really affiliated with the party, just to be clear. He’s Trump,” Bush said, speaking less than a mile from Trump Tower.

Bush also lamented the rise of celebrity politicians — Cuban, among them — as he pondered the future of the GOP.

“We may have really talented people that are really good on TV being our leaders for a while until we sort things out,” Bush said, noting that Cuban was on Saturday’s speaking program. “Ideas and policy really matter. It’s not just about personality.”

He said Republicans have “a huge opportunity” with control of the White House and both chambers in Congress. Should the GOP squander that, he said, Republicans may struggle in 2018 and 2020.

Despite the criticism, Bush said he’s rooting for Trump to succeed.

“I find him deeply troubling in a lot of ways. But I pray for him every night. And I pray for our country every night,” Bush said. “I care about my grandkids.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Jose Mallea releases ad featuring Jeb Bush ahead of HD 116 primary

Jose Mallea is bringing in some star power — Florida politics, style — in the final days of his special House District 116 primary campaign.

On Monday, Mallea campaign released a Spanish-language radio advertisement featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush. The ad comes just one week before the special Republican primary in the race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, in House District 116.

“Governor Bush is one of Florida’s greatest leaders, and I am honored to have him behind our campaign,” said Mallea in a statement. “I plan to keep working hard in the home stretch of this primary to make sure District 116 has a representative in Tallahassee who will work hard for conservative policies that will improve education and increase opportunity for everyone.”

Bush endorsed Mallea in May, saying in a statement at the time that Mallea, a senior advisor to his 2016 presidential campaign, was “the right leader for District 116.”

According to a translation of the advertisement provided by the Mallea campaign, Bush calls Mallea a “trusted friend that’s going to defend us.”

“Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature,” he says in the advertisement, according to the translation provided by the campaign. “That’s why I am asking for you to vote for Jose on July 25.”

Mallea faces Daniel Perez in the July 25 primary. The winner will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.

Diaz resigned to run in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. The primary in that race is also scheduled for July 25.

Personnel note: Kim McDougal joins GrayRobinson lobbying team

Kim McDougal, Gov. Rick Scott‘s former chief of staff, is joining GrayRobinson‘s Tallahassee office as a Senior Director of Government Affairs, the law firm announced Friday.

“Kim brings tremendous insight and invaluable experience to our firm, and will also substantially increase our expertise in the education policy and appropriations areas,” said Jason Unger, managing partner of the Tallahassee office. “The breadth of her governmental experience cannot be underestimated as a resource to our clients.”

She “will advise and lobby for clients in all sectors on both policy and appropriations issues, while she continues her passion by also focusing on education-related issues,” a press release said.

“Her experience at the highest level in state government provided her in-depth knowledge on both policy and appropriation issues as well as how state government functions and how to effectively navigate through Florida’s entire state government.”

McDougal, who was chief of staff from April 2016 to May of this year, was Scott’s fifth chief of staff since he took office in 2011, following, in order: Mike Prendergast, Steve MacNamaraAdam Hollingsworth, and Melissa Sellers (now Stone). Former communications director Jackie Schutz is now chief of staff.

Our story from March 2016 when McDougal was hired is here. Her last reported yearly salary with the state was $170,000.

Here’s the rest of the release:

McDougal began her public service career with the State of Florida in 1989 as a program auditor with the Office of the Auditor General, and she later worked for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

During her 10 years with the Florida Legislature, she worked on a wide array of policy areas, but the majority of her policy work focused on K-20 education policy. McDougal has worked as a senior advisor or in a leadership role for many of Florida’s Education Commissioners.

She also worked for Gov. Jeb Bush in several roles within the Executive Office of the Governor, including the Policy Coordinator for Education in the Office of Planning and Budget.

McDougal served Gov. Scott’s administration for almost four years, beginning as a special advisor on education, then serving as Policy Coordinator for Education in the Office of Planning and Budget, then joining the Senior Leadership Team as Policy Director and subsequently serving as Legislative Affairs Director.

While serving as Scott’s Chief of Staff, McDougal was responsible for directly serving and advising the Governor and regarding the over 100,000 executive branch employees and the administration of an $83 billion state budget.

She graduated from the Louise S. McGehee School, a private all-girls school in New Orleans, then got her bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Florida State University College of Education.

McDougal has resided in Tallahassee since 1984.

Jeb Bush foundation issues legislative grades; aces for Richard Corcoran, Joe Negron

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron aced the 2017 Legislative Session when it comes to school choice, said an organization founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Foundation for Florida’s Future gave both Republican lawmakers an “A+” this year and included both on their “honor roll,” which the group says, “recognizes the legislative leaders who championed bold education reforms that keep the promise of a quality education for each and every student.”

“His determination to ensure every child, regardless of location, income or ability level, has access to a high-quality education earned him a top spot on Florida’s 2017 Education Report Card,” the group said of Corcoran. “His tireless advocacy and leadership will undoubtedly improve the educational outcomes for thousands of Florida students.”

Negron also received praise for expanding the Gardiner Scholarship Program, a program for disabled students passed during former Sen. Andy Gardiner’s time as the chamber’s president, and for rallying senators “to embrace student-centered education policies that empower parents and expand educational options.”

The Stuart Republican was a major force behind the controversial charter school bill HB 7069 clearing the chamber by two votes at the tail end of the 2017 Legislative Session.

The omnibus education bill included funding for the “Schools of Hope” program, which encourages charter schools to open in low-performing school districts by giving them incentives.

In addition to Negron and Corcoran, Foundation for Florida’s Future put a dozen other representatives and nine other senators on the honor roll with perfect scores.

Overall, the Foundation gave 23 of 40 senators and 75 of 120 representatives an “A” or higher.

New mailer targets Jose Mallea over tax increases

Miami Republican Jose Mallea is the target of a new mailer, which claims he helped usher in a massive tax increase during his time in city government.

The mailer — which appears to be from Conservatives for Truth PC, a Coral Gables political committee — claims Mallea, who served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz played a role in “increasing taxes by $74 million on Miami residents.”

“Jose Mallea helped usher in a massive windfall of new tax revenue, to the tune of $74 million dollars,” reads the direct mail piece. “This massive tax increase was very damaging to many of us in the Miami area. Jose Mallea stood by and watched a 41 percent increase in taxes bleed many in our community dry.

The increases, according to the mailer, came during fiscal 2004-05 and fiscal 2006-07.

Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in the special election to replace Rep Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Diaz, a Miami Republican, resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned amid scandal earlier this year, in Senate District 40.

Mallea has racked in several big name endorsements, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and has raised $140,156. He ended the most recent fundraising period with $88,488 cash on hand.

Perez has raised $83,450, and ended the most recent fundraising period with $35,418 cash on hand.

The special GOP primary is July 25. The winner will go on to face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.

 

Florida politics lopsided despite required fair districts

Florida has more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the balance of power in government doesn’t even come close to reflecting that.

Despite a 2010 constitutional amendment aimed at preventing political gerrymandering, Republicans dominate Florida politics. Democrats only hold 41 of 120 state House seats, 15 of 40 Senate seats and are outnumbered in in the U.S. House 16-11.

While it would be easy to say Republicans built their power because they draw the political boundaries for Congress and the Legislature, it’s not as simple as that. Yes, observers note, it has contributed to the lopsided political numbers in a state where presidential elections are often seen as a tossup. But they point out Republicans are at this point just better at raising money, recruiting candidates and winning races in districts that should be more competitive.

The Associated Press analyzed all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly elections last year using a statistical method of calculating partisan advantage designed to detect potential gerrymandering. Florida was found to be one of the states with the largest Republican tilts in the state House. While it also showed Florida Republicans’ advantage in Congress was slightly more than should’ve been expected, it wasn’t to the point that clearly indicated gerrymandering.

The analysis examined the share of votes cast for Republican and Democratic candidates in each district and projected the expected number of seats each party would gain if districts were drawn so that neither party had an overall advantage. In Florida, Republicans had about 11 more seats in the state House than would be expected, one of the largest margins in the country.

Political maps are redrawn every 10 years after a new U.S. Census. Republicans helped gain dominance in Florida by controlling that process in 2002. Democrats controlled it in 1992 when they commanded the Legislature. Then Republicans flipped enough seats to take control by the time Republican Gov. Jeb Bush was elected in 1998.

“Republicans really put their foot on the gas when Bush got elected,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic political consultant.

The state House went from a 71-49 Democratic majority in 1994 to an 81-39 Republican majority after the 2002 election when districts were redrawn by Republican lawmakers. Schale said Republicans drew maps with highly concentrated Democratic districts so that they could create more Republican-strong districts that weren’t as concentrated.

As a result, Schale said, districts seen as competitive still have a slight Republican edge: “Even the places that are competitive aren’t truly like jump balls.”

Republicans acknowledge the 2002 rewrite favored their party.

Former Republican state Rep. Jeff Kottkamp sat on the House committee that redrew House maps. Kottkamp, who later served as lieutenant governor, said lawyers warned lawmakers that there were still rules that had to be followed. “You knew that the district had to be as compact as possible, contiguous. You tried to keep communities of interest all together. It just wasn’t always possible,” he said.

But he said every legislator tried to push for districts that increased their chances for re-election.

“Obviously if you’re the party in power and your members wanted to draw districts that helped themselves get elected, to a certain extent that’s naturally going to benefit the majority,” Kottkamp noted.

The 2010 “fair districts” constitutional amendment was aimed at preventing that practice. It requires lawmakers to draw maps that don’t benefit incumbents or political parties and to try to keep communities from being divided for political purposes.

Those behind the amendment successfully sued to have U.S. House and state Senate maps redrawn because they didn’t meet constitutional muster, but state House maps went unchallenged.

So, if the maps are fair, why do Republicans still dominate the state House? University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith said Republicans are better at fielding candidates and running campaigns — particularly in about 30 truly competitive districts.

“Republicans have done a good job of targeting those areas and getting good candidates and putting a lot of money into marginal districts, which they tend to win,” he said.

Likewise, he said state Senate maps are drawn fairly, but Democrats underperform in districts they should win.

Part of the problem with Democrats is institutional, said Schale. He said the party has no discipline and doesn’t recruit candidates as aggressively as it should.

“Too often we’ve settled for the first person who raised their hand, and that was not always the best option,” Schale said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Simone Marstiller takes herself out of Attorney General contention

Former appellate judge and Republican Simone Marstiller said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018.

“NOT running for AG,” she posted Monday night. “Holding that office has been a dream of mine for a long time.

Marstiller

“But I’ve reluctantly concluded that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me,” she added. “Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for encouraging me and pledging your support. I am blessed beyond measure to have people like you in my life. The adventure continues …”

Marstiller declined further comment Tuesday.

Her name was first floated in a January post on The Capitolist by Brian Burgess, who included her among his picks to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi amid rumors she was leaving to take a post in President Donald Trump‘s administration. Bondi is term-limited in 2018.

“She’s a staunch conservative thinker, a bit of a fireball, and strikes me as someone rank-and-file Republicans could embrace as potential A.G. candidate – not only because she’s got the fire in the belly for politics, but also because she’d throw a wrench into the flailing and failing identity politics machinery of the Florida Democratic Party,” Burgess wrote in January.

“She’d be an absolute joy to watch – not only arguing cases and in press conferences, but on the campaign trail, too.”

Last month, Marstiller told The Capitolist’s John Lucas she was “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy.

The Liberian-born Marstiller is now in private law practice after retiring in 2015 as a judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, based in Tallahassee.

Her long resume includes being Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Interim Secretary of the Department of Management Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, and state Chief Information Officer under Gov. Jeb Bush. 

She also was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill McCollum and Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission.

Declared GOP Attorney General candidates for 2018 include state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody. Tampa Bay-area attorney and political newcomer Ryan Torrens has filed for the post as a Democrat.

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