Patrick Murphy Archives - Florida Politics

Lobby Up: Hurricane cleanup firm AshBritt Environmental hires Ballard Partners

AshBritt Environmental, a “rapid-response disaster recovery and special environmental services contractor” in Deerfield Beach, has hired Ballard Partners‘ namesake Brian Ballard and its Christina Daly Brodeur.

Veteran influencer Ron Book also remains the company’s lobbyist, according to lobbying registration records accessed Wednesday.

Daly Brodeur, formerly Secretary of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice under Gov. Rick Scott, joined Ballard’s firm last month.

The new registration comes as the Gulf coast cleans up and starts rebuilding after category 4 Hurricane Michael ravaged it and a swath of north Florida last week.

AshBritt rose to prominence in the disaster mitigation industry after Hurricane Andrew passed through South Florida in August 1992.

At the time, founder Randy Perkins and his wife were running a small landscaping company which borrowed two wood chippers to help with Andrew as a local hurricane cleanup contractor.

Since then, AshBritt has become one of the nation’s leading disaster-recovery and debris cleanup firms, assisting after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy and last year’s Hurricane Irma. 

The firm’s history is not without controversy. “With the company’s success came accusations that Perkins overcharged the federal government, stiffed a consultant and subcontractors and used campaign donations to influence politicians to give him no-bid government contracts,” TCPalm has reported.

And the Miami Herald last month reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general now “is conducting an audit of debris-removal contracts in the Florida Keys approved right after Hurricane Irma ransacked the island chain.” Contracts were with six companies, including AshBritt, the paper reported.

Perkins self-funded an unsuccessful bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District as a Democrat in 2016. He reportedly was worth about $200 million as of last year. 

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy vacated the Treasure Coast seat to mount a run for U.S. Senate. Murphy lost to incumbent Republican Marco Rubio; Perkins later lost to Republican Brian Mast.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, is AshBritt’s general counsel and director of government relations, according to his member page

The company was named after two of Perkins’ daughters, Ashley and Brittany, who is now its CEO.

In 2016, Perkins stepped down as CEO “to focus on the AshBritt Foundation, his work with mental health, and other business and philanthropic endeavors,” his website says. “The AshBritt Foundation supports communities impacted by disaster or crisis and internal and external workforce development and job training programs, with a focus on working with veterans.”

Perkins also sits on the board of directors of Lauren’s Kids, the child sexual abuse prevention organization founded by Ron Book’s daughter, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation.

Democrats hammer Ron DeSantis on five-year anniversary of federal government shutdown

Five years ago, the federal government shut down. And on Monday, three Florida Democrats reminded Florida media of Ron DeSantis‘ role in “masterminding” it.

DeSantis, now the Republican nominee for Governor, was in his first term representing Florida’s 6th Congressional District at the time. And he and his Tea Party colleagues were uniquely positioned to exact influence, the Democrats said on a media call.

DeSantis, among other things, said a shutdown wouldn’t be “the worst thing ever.”

The call included two incumbent Congresswomen and a former Congressman who made the case that, contrary to such breeziness, the shutdown impacted people in their districts.

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, who represents the Tampa area, asserted that the shutdown was driven by a desire to end Affordable Care Act coverage of preexisting conditions.

“Republicans had a majority in the House,” said Castor, “and all summer long they threatened to shut down the government and they finally went through with it at the end of the fiscal year.”

“Not even a majority of Republicans from Florida were trying to push this position, but Ron DeSantis was,” Castor said.

The shutdown impacted federal employees and contractors.

“This didn’t have to happen,” Castor said, adding that even after a compromise was reached, “Ron DeSantis voted no.”

“This demonstrates how extreme he is, how irresponsible … and what kind of governor he would be,” Castor said.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, whose district includes West Palm Beach, called DeSantis “one of the most extreme and irresponsible members of Congress.”

“It’s one thing to be the guy who says no to everything [in Congress],” Frankel said, but his extremism raises questions about why he wants to be Governor.

Frankel, like Castor, outlined consequences of the shutdown, before saying DeSantis “isn’t the guy we need to be governor.”

Former U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy, who served at the time with DeSantis, added that DeSantis was “putting himself above people” and “trying to appeal to a small group of Tea Party members.”

“He’s a follower of a very small group of people … putting politics over policy,” Murphy said.

“The notion that you would shut down the government on a bill that isn’t going anywhere” nettled Murphy, who said it was “unacceptable … to put your politics over the people.”

Sean Shaw

Sean Shaw announces general election finance team

Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw on Wednesday announced he had formed a “General Election Finance Committee” for his Attorney General campaign against Republican nominee Ashley Moody.

The list features more than a score names, with Capital City Consulting lobbyist Justin Day, Merlin Law Group founder William Merlin and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink are listed as co-chairs of the committee. Sink selected Shaw to be the state’s insurance consumer advocate during her term as CFO.

Other names on the list include former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and St. Petersburg state Rep. Ben Diamond and a host of attorneys from all corners of the state.

“I am thrilled to have this impressive list of Floridians supporting my campaign and helping to push us towards a historic victory,” Shaw said in a press release. “The state of Florida needs a strong Attorney General that will fight to protect our citizens. With the help of this committee, I know that we will be successful come election day.”

The campaign’s senior adviser, Dan Newman, will lead the finance committee efforts.

“We are all proud of Sean and the team that he has put together. Our goal is to ensure that after this election, the state of Florida will have an Attorney General whose judgment they can trust and decision making they can have faith in,” Newman said. “As members of the finance committee, it’s our job to help raise the resources for Sean to be successful. We’re excited to get to work.”

Shaw entered the AG race at the beginning of the year and easily defeated Odessa attorney Ryan Torrens in last month’s primary election.

Shaw has so far raised more than $1 million in hard money with another $538,000 raised for his political committee, Sean Shaw for Florida. As of Sept. 7, the two accounts had a combined $525,700 on hand.

Though he vastly outraised his primary opponent, Moody has had much more success on the fundraising trail thus far. Her primary campaign against Pensacola state Rep. Frank White drained her campaign and committee coffers, however.

Moody, a former circuit court judge who also hails from the Tampa area, has raised $4.7 million between her two accounts, but her donations have slowed since the primary. On Sept. 7, she had a combined $83,000 in the bank.

Shaw and Moody will be on the general election ballot alongside unaffiliated candidate Jeffrey Siskind of Wellington.

The remaining members of Shaw’s finance committee are below:

Mitchell Berger

Richard Chait

Fred Cunningham

Tiffany Faddis

Alex Heckler

Wayne Hogan

Andrew Korge

Chris Korge

Harold Mills

Eric Pintaluga

Tarra Pressey

Neal Roth

Robert Rubenstein

Andrew Smulian

Dale Swope

Hendrik Uiterwyk

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott need a real statewide debate. Leadership Florida forum fits perfectly.

In the tight race for U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — for the sake of millions of Floridians — need to take part in a statewide, televised face-to-face debate.

Few can disagree that debates can be critical; they not only give candidates the best shot at making their respective cases, but voters also get an unfiltered opportunity to compare and contrast the two before heading to the polls.

And one forum that fits the profile perfectly (and is already planned) is “Decision 2018: Before You Vote,” the latest variant of the successful series from the nonpartisan nonprofit Leadership Florida, partnering with the Florida Press Association.

“Before You Vote” is currently set for about a month from now, Oct. 23 at Broward College, beginning 7 p.m.

Both Nelson and Scott need to commit to this debate — prearranged since March — as the best and only statewide televised forum in a crucial race that has attracted national attention.

Here’s why: A statewide consortium of 10 major network affiliates is dedicated to picking up the event, blanketing every Florida market. It is the same partnership that produced the highly acclaimed 2016 U.S. Senate debate (held at the same venue) pitting incumbent Marco Rubio against challenger Patrick Murphy.

Observers praised that forum as a serious, substantive and modern model for such events — which is precisely why Nelson and Scott need to take part.

Right now, the only so-called “debate” currently under consideration is from Telemundo, with coverage in select markets limited to Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, West Palm and Orlando. It will not be a statewide consortium.

Another event, this one from CNN, is being referred to as a “debate” by the Scott campaign, but Nelson’s campaign acknowledged it will review other possibilities, including the one to be hosted by CNN.

However, CNN.com has no mention of any Florida debate or forum. Also, while CNN has a national reach, it is only available for those with paid cable. People watching via antenna will not see it.

On its website, News4Jax does refer to the CNN event as a “debate,” offering tweets from both campaigns admitting such. They say Scott agreed to the forum — going as far as calling it a “debate” on Twitter — but no mention of it from Nelson.

Again, the News4Jax event (even if it does happen) will offer limited TV reach.

Leadership Florida, their partners FPA/WPBF and Broward College, bring both a history and a stellar reputation for producing professional and highly regarded debates.

Moderators and panelists for the LF debates are all Florida-based journalists, who offered the most in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of the race and critical issues. As for timing, the LF/FPA debates are strategically scheduled to serve as the last word before Election Day.

Also, both Florida-based and national journalists have sought credentials for the Oct. 23 event and C-SPAN, as in the past, has expressed keen interest in carrying the debate.

Along with an extensive reach and prestige, the event will also have high-quality talent behind the camera.

Executive Producer Phil Alongi, a 25-year veteran of the NBC network, is producing this show — as he did the Rubio/Murphy debate in 2016. Alongi is also a technical producer for the Republican National Convention, as well as coordinating all media covering it.

The bottom line — and it cannot be stressed enough — is that Scott and Nelson need to DO THIS DEBATE.

Simply stated, it’s a solution where both campaigns (and voters) will benefit.

Don’t do it, Lauren Book

The Gwen Graham for Governor yard signs were not even down before the man who beat her in last week’s Democratic primary for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum, was being asked if he would consider her as a running mate.

There’s a reason God put Labor Day Weekend right after Election Day, and that was so the candidates who have spent the better part of a year crisscrossing the state in pursuit of votes get a chance to collect themselves after the grueling primaries.

Ron DeSantis, the Ponte Vedra congressman who is now the stand-bearer for the Republican Party demonstrated, with his dog-whistling ‘monkey‘ comment, why no winning (and exhausted) candidate should give interviews the day after an election. Is there any question that DeSantis would have been better off if he had said, as does the Super Bowl MVP, he was taking his family to Disney World for the weekend?

Instead, everyone wants to know who Gillum and DeSantis plan to pick as running mates. That question is quickly followed up with, ‘Who’s gonna win, Andrew or Ron?’

Give it a moment, people. Breathe. It’s gonna be a long two months to November.

In fact, that’s one of the many problems with Florida politics, that candidates spend about eighteen months running for their party’s nomination, then just eight weeks running in a general election. The Sunshine State would be better served if party nominees were chosen in the late Spring rather than when many folks are busy getting kids ready to go back to school.

But this is the system we are in, so the two candidates who shocked the political world by winning last Tuesday now must choose a dance partner by next Thursday.

If DeSantis wants to change the discussion from monkeys and racist robocalls, his campaign should start leaking his top one or two choices right before the Florida State football game begins at 8 p.m. Monday night. Then seize the initiative on the unofficial start of the general election campaign by unveiling his pick Tuesday morning.

Gillum, who probably hasn’t had a moment to himself to think about who he wants standing next to him for as much as the next eight years, is reportedly considering about five or six possible choices: Graham, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Lauren Book, state Reps. Kristin Jacobs and Amy Mercado, and Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay.

For a variety of reasons, Gillum is under enormous pressure to select a female running mate. Choosing a woman would invigorate a constituency of the Democratic Party that is smarting after Graham’s loss. Everyone keeps saying 2018 is the year of the woman in politics, but with four dudes atop the two tickets — Gillum, DeSantis, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — November 6 has the makings of a sausage party.

The animosity between the Gillum and Graham camps was palpable on the campaign trail and may be too much to overcome to add Graham to the ticket.

Murphy would be a formidable attack dog for Gillum, which may be needed in this campaign. But going the ‘Tim Kaine route,’ as one Democratic strategist described a Gillum-Murphy ticket, seems like an odd pairing.

Book, Jacobs, Mercado, and McKinlay each possess unique talents, and I’ll leave it to their surrogates to make a case for each of them. However, if I can personally appeal to Book, I have one message:

Don’t do it.

If asked by Gillum to be his running mate, politely but surely decline.

Lauren, you’re bigger and better than LG.

Book was recently re-election without opposition to a second term in the Florida Senate, where she has already demonstrated herself to be a capable leader willing to speak out against bullies (like former Sen. Jack Latvala) and for those who need a champion.

With her powerful father as her top cheerleader, Book is a political powerhouse, able to raise millions of dollars for any campaign on which she works.

It’s easy to understand why Gillum would want her as a running mate. She’s forcefully intelligent, telegenic, hardworking, and a prodigious fundraiser.

Gillum and Book on stage next to each other would communicate to many voters that this is not your father’s Democratic Party.

But Book should resist any entreaties to get up on that stage with Gillum.

First of all, she has more power in the Florida Senate, especially if the Democrats win the majority, than she would as Lieutenant Governor. The valets at the Governors Club have more juice than the occupant of LG’s office.

Second, Gillum’s chances of winning are, at best fifty-fifty. Book would have to give up her safe Senate seat to roll the dice with Gillum.

Third, whether Gillum wins or loses, Book’s time will come. If Gillum wins, she can be his staunch ally in the Senate and run in eight years when she’ll still probably be the youngest person on the ballot. If Gillum loses, Book is one of the front-runners to be the party’s nominee in 2022.

The bottom line: Book has a lot to lose just for a flipped coin’s chance of winning one of the worst jobs in Tallahassee.

Don’t do it, Senator.

Andrew Gillum: Gwen Graham ‘in the mix’ for LG pick

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and second-place finisher Gwen Graham ran tough campaigns against each other in the Democratic primary, but Gillum allowed Monday that Graham is “in the mix” for the Lieutenant Governor spot on the ticket.

The decision must be made by Thursday. Gillum is reportedly considering Graham, former U.S. Rep. Patrick MurphyLauren Book, state Reps. Kristin Jacobs and Amy Mercado, and Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay.

Speaking to media Monday in Jacksonville, Gillum didn’t sound like he was done with his vetting process. Yet, despite the sometimes chippy nature of the primary sparring between the two camps, Graham (the presumptive nominee until the ballots started rolling in from metropolitan areas) could be on the ticket, Gillum said.

Gillum described the LG pick as his “number one priority at this time.”

“Gwen is in the mix, of course,” Gillum said. “I’d say anyone who ran for governor is also in the mix.”

Whether Gillum will ultimately pick Graham or another primary rival such as Philip Levine or Chris King, remains to be seen.

However, for those who believe the ticket would be stronger with Graham — a strong draw with moderates and Blue Dog Democrats — there is still hope.

The 25 moments that defined the 2018 primary for Florida Governor

Marco Rubio brought us to this.

The long slog to Tuesday’s primary election for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates was the usual series of false starts, histrionics, re-inventions, pandering to bases, and — new this time — dealing with the shadow of Donald J. Trump.

But if one could pick a starting point for the trail that led us here, it would have to be the Republican Rubio’s June 2016 decision to end his quest for the presidency, and re-enter the U.S. Senate race.

That was the political big bang that set into motion the forces and decisions — starting with Ron DeSantis’ exit from that same Senate race — shaping Election 2018 for the person to succeed the two-term Rick Scott, 45th governor of the Sunshine State.

Before the big show starts tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time, let’s revisit the key moments that went from a small singularity to the current universe we call “Florida politics”:

June 13, 2016: Rubio decides to re-enter U.S. Senate race

After a bruising fight for the GOP nomination for president, Rubio said he wouldn’t go back to trying to get reelected to his Senate seat. But of course, his senses kicked in, and he did, announcing that decision on June 22. That essentially squeezed out DeSantis, the congressman who very well could win the GOP gubernatorial contest. Rubio went on to crush Scott ally Carlos Beruff in the GOP primary and edge out Democrat Patrick Murphy in the general election. “Gee,” we know some of you thought at the time. “Wonder what DeSantis’ political future holds now?”

Dec. 22, 2016: Will Weatherford decides not to run

In late 2014, as both men were leaving their leadership roles, Senate President Don Gaetz told the Tampa Tribune that then-House Speaker Weatherford “is the future of Florida.” He said he expected “to host a fundraiser for Will Weatherford for Governor or U.S. Senator sometime in the next five years. He will be, if he wants to be, very significant on the Florida political landscape for the next 30 years.” “If he wants to be” turned out to be prescient. Weatherford, citing his family and Weatherford Partners, the venture capital group he created with his brothers, declines to run for Governor in 2018.

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is inaugurated

The president goes on to become the biggest force in this state’s GOP primary, bar none. His kingmaking ability, which had faltered in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, works in shovelsful here, as we’ll see. 

April 13, 2017: Gwen Graham’s husband’s cancer goes into remission

Had Steve Hurm’s cancer not gone into remission, we would not now be talking about former Congresswoman Graham’s campaign for Governor. Indeed, Hurm’s fight against prostate cancer “was a factor in her decision on whether to run for governor,” WCTV later reported. “Graham … said her husband is one of her biggest supporters and did not want her to make the decision based on him.” But she did, and here we are. She entered the race May 2, becoming the first major-party woman candidate.

May 7, 2017: George Soros gets behind Andrew Gillum

Readers of conservative journal Human Events once voted billionaire financier Soros “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.” Soros, who fled Nazi Germanyoccupied Hungary as a youth, also has been described by the Tampa Bay Times as a “liberal mega-donor and bogeyman to conservatives.” He gave $250,000 to Forward Florida, the Gillum-associated political committee, in April. He later went on to pump hundreds of thousands more to Gillum’s electoral benefit.

June 22, 2017: The FBI’s subpoena in a Tallahassee corruption investigation drops

Gillum, the city’s Mayor, never really recovers. “Federal authorities have demanded the city of Tallahassee produce volumes of records related to top local developers behind some of the biggest projects subsidized by the Community Redevelopment Agency,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports at the time. “Among those named in the subpoenas are Adam Corey, developer of the city-backed Edison restaurant in Cascades Park and a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.” It’s bad … but Gillum later says the FBI told him he’s not a target. Still, the association with Corey lingers, and other revelations continue, including a Costa Rica trip.

July 25, 2017: Adam Putnam’s “NRA sellout” tweet

Putnam went all-in for gun rights, saying guns should be allowed on college campuses and hinting it was time to look at once again allowing open carry in the state. After a Times columnist panned the speech with the headline, “Adam Putnam sells out to the NRA,” Putnam tweeted, “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!” As Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, he oversees concealed carry licensing. (That comes up later in the story.)

Oct. 10, 2017: Philip Levine sets up shop

The Miami Beach Mayor “hired a veteran fundraiser for his political committee, which he already stuffed with nearly $5 million since establishing it six months ago,” POLITICO reported. We learn that “veteran Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney” has joined his All About Florida political committee. Levine says he “intends to make an official decision on whether to join the crowded Democratic primary for Governor in 2018.” He, of course, gets in. 

Nov. 3, 2017: POLITICO Florida reports on Jack Latvala sexual misconduct allegations

This story was the beginning of the end for the Clearwater Republican, who had risen to Appropriations chairman after an unsuccessful run at the state Senate presidency. He later declared he would run for Governor. Then the website drops the bomb that “six women who work in Florida’s Capitol say … Latvala has inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” It was “so disgusting, and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one woman said. Latvala eventually resigned, suspended his campaign and escaped prosecution after Tallahassee’s top prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue him criminally

Nov. 24, 2017: Orlando businessman & lawyer John Morgan takes himself out of contention

Everyone had feared the native Kentuckian’s charisma, down-home appeal, and — perhaps most of all — his ability to self-fund. Then he tweeted, “While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination.” Good thing, too, for the other Democrats: “His name recognition alone, built through years of TV ads throughout Florida, would have cost every other candidate tens of millions of dollars to achieve,” the Times explained. (And they’re right.)

Dec. 22, 2017: The first Trump tweet for DeSantis

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” … Not quite a full endorsement, but that was simply yet to come.

Jan. 30, 2018: The 50th Graham workday, a hallmark of her campaign

Graham posts on Twitter: “On my 50th Graham Workday, I spoke with Dad (former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) about the meaning of our family tradition and what he learned working 408 different jobs with Floridians across the state.” Graham herself spent that day “learning the ins and outs of a Florida microbrewery (at) the M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral.” This only helped burnish the Graham brand. 

Feb. 14, 2018: The Parkland shooting

A teenaged former student gunned down 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County. The politics of gun control spiked yet again as a “student-led campaign organizes two mass walkouts from schools and country-wide demonstrations, (while) Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president, appear at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas,” The Economist later reports. A “Rally to Tally” later sees nearly two dozen buses bringing parents, teachers, and students to the Capitol to demand action from lawmakers on the day a gun bill would be heard.

Feb. 14, 2018: Richard Corcoran, Gillum debate on immigration

The House Speaker, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Gillum squared off over the “tired, (the) poor, (the) huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” The debate “was sparked by Corcoran’s anti-sanctuary cities ad and House Bill 9, which is legislation Corcoran is pushing to eliminate sanctuary cities in Florida,” WTXL explained. The event was moderated by Troy Kinsey of BayNews 9 and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press.

April 18, 2018: The first Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ debate

It was a lackluster performance all around, with some on the stage “stumbling on basic questions regarding some aspects of state government,” the USA Today Network-Florida reported. Graham scored with her “Gwen and the men” line, but she and the others flunked when asked about their morning reading habits. Not one mentioned SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source. The GOP soon smelled blood.

May 9, 2018: Corcoran drops out, endorses Putnam

Corcoran, who had been expected to enter the Governor’s race, instead got behind Putnam. Term-limited in the House, he framed his decision to stay off the ballot as sticking to his word. He told news media repeatedly that he would run for Governor or otherwise “go home.” “I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home,” Corcoran said, before getting in a dig at DeSantis: “He’s got a bulldog mouth, a chihuahua a —, and he doesn’t even know what the heck is going on in this state. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, that’s the only thing he can say. At some point, you’ve got to come out and give people a Florida vision.”

June 4, 2018: Billionaire Jeff Greene enters race

The über-rich Palm Beach real estate investor, who had previously told the Post he was “underwhelmed by the Democratic field,” files to enter the race as a “D” himself. That’s after “Greene spent about $24 million of his own money on a losing 2010 U.S. Senate bid, getting 31 percent in a Democratic primary against former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.” The idea, insiders say, is that he won’t throw good money after bad: He’s in it to win it. 

June 7, 2018: Patrick Murphy decides against running

Murphy gets behind Graham, “ending speculation he’d run on a bipartisan ticket with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly,” according to TCPalm. Murphy says “he hasn’t decided whether he’d accept a position as Graham’s running mate, if she offered him a shot at Lieutenant Governor. (He) said he (was) worried over mounting such a late campaign in an already crowded primary. ‘I was always, I guess, on hesitant footing to do this, and it was always going to take quite a bit to get me over that hump to do it.’ ” Nice timing: The next day, the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, endorses Graham.

June 8, 2018: The concealed weapons permitting scandal breaks

The Times’ Steve Contorno reports that “for more than a year, (Putnam’s gun-licensing division) failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits … The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned.” Putnam later said applications were still run through two other databases: “When we became aware of the problem, we undertook the process of reviewing 365 names … and ultimately revoking 291 licenses.” Other stories continued to dribble out about problems at his Licensing Division over the summer, causing headaches for Putnam and staff.

June 22, 2018: Trump’s full-throated endorsement of DeSantis.

Tweet: “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes — Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” … Whoomp, there it is.

June 28, 2018: The Fox News debate

As the network described it, Putnam and DeSantis “sparred … over their support for President Trump … DeSantis championed his relationship with the president, and Putnam argued he’s more focused on local issues than his opponent … Putnam said in his opening remarks, ‘It’s different than a Washington, D.C., studio. Welcome to Florida, congressman.’ DeSantis played up Trump’s endorsement … ‘I am proud to have the endorsement of President Trump in this race.’ ”

June 29, 2018: Gillum gets ‘Next Gen’ support

Gillum gets to boast of the support of a second billionaire after Soros with Tom Steyer‘s NextGen America announcing its “investment” of $1 million into his bid for governor. Mo’ money, indeed. 

July 19, 2018: Tampa Bay-area “Stand Your Ground” case becomes an issue

The shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, by Michael Drejka, 47, happens in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater after the two men get in a confrontation over McGlockton’s girlfriend parking in a handicapped spot. The county sheriff initially declines to file charges, saying Drejka is protected by the state’s “Stand Your Ground” provision of self-defense law. Democrats seize on the shooting to say the state law “incentivizes” violence. Republicans back the law and use the incident to show how 2nd Amendment rights could be threatened.

July 31, 2018: Trump campaigns for DeSantis

The Times tops itself with this lede: “Declaring himself the most popular Republican in the history of America, President Donald Trump revved up thousands of fans Tuesday night at a rowdy Tampa Bay campaign rally to help gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and, above all, celebrate Donald Trump … ‘(W)e need to elect Ron DeSantis … He’s going to be an incredible governor. I have no doubt, no doubt. I don’t do these endorsements easily.’ ”

Aug. 2, 2018: The final Democratic debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate left disappointed. On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise. The five contenders pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress. The political class hit their collective snooze button.

Aug. 23, 2018: Jeff Greene “goes dark”

Greene, after barreling into the race in early June and becoming omnipresent on TV through much of the summer, stepped out of the spotlight for the final push. The campaign essentially went dark publicly, with six days before the end of primary voting. He decides to focus on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Patrick Murphy endorses Sean Shaw for Attorney General

With just over a week left until the Aug. 28 primary, Sean Shaw has picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy to be Florida’s next Attorney General.

Shaw, now state representative for House District 61, is competing with Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens in what has been a heated Democratic primary race.

Now, Murphy says he’s backing Shaw in that contest and all the way through the general election.

Floridians need a battle-tested candidate who is ready to take the fight to special interests groups on day-one,” Murphy said.

“Whether Sean was holding BP accountable for the oil spill that threatened our way of life or pushing back against rising insurance costs for the elderly, Sean has always made protecting the rights of all Floridians his primary concern. I look forward to supporting him on the campaign trail.”

Murphy, a Republican turned Democrat, was elected to Congress in 2012 and served two terms. He decided not to pursue re-election to the House in order to run against Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, which Murphy lost.

Nevertheless, Murphy has a national profile which Shaw thinks will help him come out on top in the AG contest.

With the help of Democrats like Congressman Murphy, we will make history on Election Day, and return our government to the hands of the people who actually make this country great, the people,” Shaw said.

“The citizens of this state deserve an Attorney General who will fight for the rights of every single Floridian and hold rule-breakers accountable. That is exactly what I did as this state’s Consumer Advocate and exactly what I will do as this state’s next Attorney General.”

Shaw and Torrens have filed competing lawsuits against each other during the Democratic primary.

Shaw alleges Torrens received an illegal campaign contribution which would disqualify him from the race. Torrens countered with a libel suit, arguing the contribution was really a loan and Torrens simply made a mistake.

Late Sunday night, Torrens offered to drop his lawsuit if Shaw would do the same.

Patrick Murphy endorses Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner

Attorney and medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried picked up another endorsement for bid in the Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner on Thursday, this time from former Congressman Patrick Murphy.

“I’m supporting Nikki because I know that she is dedicated to promoting the Democratic values we share like protecting Florida’s environment and natural resources, standing up for consumers, and ensuring our state’s agriculture industry has a dependable partner in the Cabinet,” Murphy said.

Murphy represented Florida’s 18th Congressional District from 2013 to 2017. He’s been on the sidelines since 2016, when he unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Sen Marco Rubio’s re-election bid.

He joins former state CFO Alex Sink and 21 Democratic members of the Florida Legislature, among others, in backing Fried’s primary bid.

“I am honored to have Congressman Murphy’s support in this race. During his time in Congress, he was a fierce advocate for our coastal communities — especially when it came to the toxic blue-green algae blooms ravaging our state,” Fried said.

“As Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I pledge to work tirelessly until this issue is resolved once and for all.”

Fried faces fellow Democrats Jeffrey Porter and Roy David Walker in the Aug. 28 primary.

Since entering the statewide race to replace term-limited Commissioner Adam Putnam in mid-June, Fried has raised more than $228,000 in funds between her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Florida Consumers First. That puts her even with the combined efforts of Porter and Walker.

Also running for the seat are four Republicans: North Fort Myers state Rep. Matt Caldwell, Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven state Rep. Baxter Troutman.

Caldwell and Grimsley, who recently rolled out her first TV ad, have been the standouts on the Republican side. Each have piled on more than $2 million in outside cash and have seven figures remaining in their war chests.

Troutman, meanwhile, has spent more than $3 million of his own fortune trying to secure the GOP nom.

Fried has an Orlando fundraiser set for tonight, hosted by Sink and Ruth’s List, as well as Orlando attorney and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan, and Richard Swann, whose involvement in Democratic Party fundraising goes back decades.

Lauren Baer tops $1M banked for CD 18 campaign, Brian Mast nears $2M

Democratic candidate Lauren Baer has cleared seven figures in the bank for her campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

Baer’s campaign said it will report more than $500,000 raised in its second-quarter campaign finance report and show more than $1 million in the bank, an increase of $300,000 over her reserves at the end of the first quarter.

The performance also bests her $450,000 report for Q1 and makes for more than $1.5 million in campaign funds raised to-date.

“I’m in awe of the outpouring of support we have received since launching our campaign in September,” Baer said. “Thank you to everyone who has donated, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and registered voters. This campaign will always be about you and your interests, not special interests, and together we will be victorious in November.”

The former senior official in the Obama administration added that the new cash was raised without taking a dime from corporate PACs. She pledged to decline such contributions in February.

Baer faces former Navy JAG Pam Keith in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for CD 18, which covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as northeastern Palm Beach County, including Tequesta, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens and part of West Palm Beach.

Keith has not yet announced her second-quarter fundraising numbers, though she had raised $358,500 through the end of March with $50,000 in the bank.

Mast, who is only nominally opposed in the Republican primary, also announced Tuesday that he’d hit a high watermark in the second-quarter with more than $1 million raised.

“Congressman Mast’s laser-like focus on the issues that matter most to our community — water quality, protecting Medicare, lower taxes and supporting veterans — are driving incredibly strong grassroots support. While other candidates have been forced to choose hyper-partisanship in pursuit of Nancy Pelosi’s support, Congressman Mast’s independence and leadership continue to deliver results for our community,” said campaign spokesman Brad Stewart.

The announcement indicated Mast had nearly $2 million in the bank at the end of June, a major increase from his $1.5 million on-hand tally at the end of the first quarter.

CD 18 is a top target for a “blue-wave” flip in the fall, with only CD 26 and CD 27 outranking it on Florida Democrat’s priority list.

Though the district voted plus-9 for Donald Trump in 2016, it was held by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for two terms before he gave it up to run for U.S. Senate last cycle. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball” currently lists CD 18 as “likely Republican” in the fall.

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