Steve Crisafulli Archives - Florida Politics

Bobby Olszewski HD 44 fundraiser packed with Republican leaders

The Republican primary for House District 44 may have deeply split support from top Republicans but now that Bobby Olszewski has won he’s bringing much of that together behind his special election campaign.

Olszewski’s campaign announced a fundraiser set for the evening of Aug. 30 that will feature the current speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the next three most-likley speakers, several past speakers, plus scores of other Republican leaders, including quite a few who had supported Olszewski’s opponents in last week’s primary.

The fundraiser is set for the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, with contributions of up to $1,000 per person.

Olszewski won the Aug. 15 Republican primary and now faces Democrat Paul Chandler in an Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant seat representing southwest Orange County.

Among those set to attend the fundraiser are Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran and speaker designates Jose Oliva, Chris Sprowls, and Paul Renner, along with special guest U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a longtime Olszewski supporter who also is a former speaker of the Florida House. Other past Florida House speakers Steve Crisafulli, Tom Feeney, Mike Haridopolos, and Will Weatherford also are among the named guests.

The supporters listed for the fundraiser also include Bruno Portigliatti and Usha Jain, two of the Republican candidates whom Olszewski defeated in the Aug. 15 primary. The fourth in that primary, John Newstreet, is not included, but a number of his former backers are, including state Reps. Jason Brodeur, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Mike Miller, and Rene Plasencia.

 

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Ag. Commish candidate Denise Grimsley introduces herself to Tampa Republicans

Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley made the first of what should be many visits to Tampa during the next year-and-a-half, introducing herself to local Republicans and speaking about her credentials as to why she’s the best candidate to succeed Adam Putnam.

Like Putnam, she’s a fifth-generation Floridian, but unlike him, she had an entire career outside of politics before being elected in 2004 to represent Highlands County in the Florida House.

Grimsley spent 17 years in the health care field. She also spent time as a citrus grower and rancher when she took over for her ailing father at the Grimsley Oil Company.

“When I did that, I started seeing how government impacted our day-to-day life,” Grimsley told the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which gathered at the River at Tampa Bay Church Tuesday night. Before that, she said, she had little interest in the workings of government.

“Up until then, even at my job at the hospital. I didn’t have a lot of involvement with state government or the federal government, but when I started running this company I saw how the Department of Transpiration oversaw our business, I saw how the Department of Agriculture oversaw our business, every single state agency had their  hand in our business in one way or another,” she said.

As chairwoman of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, Grimsley said that she spent an entire legislative session in Tallahassee and was met mostly with ignorance or indifference. That experience ultimately led to her decision to run for the state House in 2004, where she served until 2012.

She then won in Senate District 26 (representing eight different counties) in 2012, but said she didn’t seriously consider running for Ag. Commissioner until former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced in January that he would not be running for the position.

She says she’s concerned about citrus greening and other diseases that are wreaking havoc with Florida growers. She believes her public and private sector experience make the best candidate for the job.

Before the meeting began, an aide to Grimsley asked members of the audience to sign a petition to get Grimsley on the ballot. She says she would be the first statewide Republican candidate since the 1990s to qualify for the ballot by petition … She needs more than 118,000 signatures by next summer.

Other Republicans running for the position include Paul Paulson and North Fort Myers Representative Matt Caldwell, who has just released his first campaign video.

As HD 44 special election candidates’ watch begins, Bobby Olszewski nabs Steve Crisafulli’s backing

Republican Bobby Olszewski has grabbed another endorsement – former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli – in his campaign to win election in Florida House District 44, now heading for a special election this summer with the resignation of incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle of Windermere.

His endorsements, which include numerous local officials from west Orange County, and his fundraising, which brought in $21,000 last month, may be hedging not against current opponents so much as against other Republicans contemplating jumping into the now short race.

No special election dates have been set yet, but an announcement from the Florida Division of Elections, through Gov. Rick Scott, is expected to set a primary in mid-summer and a general election soon after, creating the opportunity for a quick campaign.

Among those considering jumping in are former Republican Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd and Republican personal injury lawyer Will McBride, who finished second in a four-way Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Also being discussed in Orange County as considering runs for HD 44 is Rich Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, though he also is said to have decided to not run. . Maladecki was not available Wednesday to comment.

A special election is sure to drive down turnout, unless Democrats can deliver on their promise to mobilize their forces this summer in HD 44, covering much of western Orange County. And in a district that favors Republicans by about 8 percent, it’s likely to be a district the Republicans can count on.

One Democrat, Orlando businessman Paul Chandler, has entered the race. Another Republican has entered, Dr. Usha Jain, though she said she is largely running for the opportunity to express her desire for reform in politics. Chandler reported raising $695 in April, and spent $549 of it on campaign promotion. Jain has not raised any money.

Boyd, who left the county commission last year after being term limited with eight years in, said he is following matters closely and “strongly considering it,” but has made no decisions. Boyd’s former District 1 seat on the Orange County Commission includes most of HD 44. He has campaigned and won there twice.

McBride also ran but aborted a campaign for House District 27 primary last year, when the dominos affect of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s decision to seek re-election pushed state Rep. David Santiago to jump in late, to seek re-election.

McBride, who maintains homes in both Orange Park, allowing for the HD 27 run last year, and in Windermere, in HD 44, said he has retained his campaign team from his 2016 run, and is discussing the special election prospect with them, and with potential donors.

“I’m strongly considering it at this point,” he said.

Money might not be an issue for McBride, who founded a law firm with offices in Orlando, Kissimmee, Tampa, and five other states. In the 2016 race, he lent his own campaign $250,000, though the campaign paid $172,000 of that back to him after he withdrew from the contest.

Endorsements are where Olszewski, a former Winter Garden commissioner who ran for Orange County Commission last year, might have to build a firewall.

Crisafulli joined several dozen Olszewski endorsements, including those of Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Today, State House candidate Robert “Bobby” Olszewski announced the endorsement of Central Florida leader and former Speaker of the House, Steve Crisafulli.

“As a former Speaker, I know firsthand just how important it is that local communities have strong and conservative representation in the Florida House and that is why I’m proud to support my friend Bobby Olszewski for State House District 44,” Crisafulli said in a news release issued by Olszewski’s campaign. “Bobby O has proven to be a tireless and dedicated servant for Winter Garden and West Orange County. He will serve the community he loves with dedication and distinction and I’m happy to endorse his candidacy.”

 

Third Republican files for House District 51

Republican Tim Tumulty announced Monday he would run again for House District 51, where he unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rep. Tom Goodson last year.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to develop a deep understanding of our community,” said Tumulty. “As the former Mayor of Cocoa Beach, I saw firsthand how the decisions made in Tallahassee have a direct impact on our community and our way of life.”

“I plan to continue to fight for our conservative values in the Florida House by keeping taxes low, developing more trade school opportunities for our children and holding our government accountable,” he continued. “I look forward to meeting with as many people as I can on the campaign trail and the opportunity to represent their interests in Tallahassee.”

Goodson switched to the reliably Republican HD 51 from HD 50 last year after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli termed out of the Legislature. He beat Tumulty with 61.7 percent of the vote in the August 2016 Republican Primary.

Goodson is now termed out, making way for Tumulty and a pair of other Republicans to duke it out for the Space Coast seat. So far, Thomas O’Neill and Taylor Sirois are the only other candidates to enter the race.

Both candidates filed for the seat in April, so neither has filed their first campaign finance report.

When he ran for the seat last cycle, Tumulty was able to raise nearly $30,000, $6,500 through loans and about $23,000 through contributions.

The Cocoa Beach Republican holds degrees from Brevard Community College, the University of Central Florida and the Florida Institute of Technology.

He currently works as a math and physics teacher at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School, and in the past has worked in restaurant management, as a mortgage broker, and as an electrical engineer at Kennedy Space Center.

Since he officially filed on April 28, his first campaign finance report, covering the last three days of the month, is due May 10 alongside the inaugural reports from O’Neill and Sirois.

Matt Caldwell plans run for Agriculture Commissioner this summer

State Rep. Matt Caldwell is planning to file paperwork this summer in a bid for Florida Agriculture Commissioner.

Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, on Thursday said he has “every intention of filing to run in August.” Caldwell, first elected in 2010, will be term limited in 2018.

The 35-year-old, chair of the House’s Government Accountability Committee, has been rumored to be considering a run since former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced he wouldn’t seek the seat.

“I was fully ready to support Steve Crisafulli,” said Caldwell. “I never really thought about (running for the seat) until he suggested it.”

A lifelong Floridian, Caldwell has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues, a background that could serve him well.

He organized a recent helicopter tour for reporters from the Miami Herald and POLITICO to view Everglades restoration efforts.

“It’s wonderful and I enjoy it, but we created the water conservation areas,” he told the Herald. “That’s former farmland that we turned back into marsh in the ’60s, so if I could just build a reservoir today and spend half as much, I could put it there on 60,000 acres.”

Last year, Caldwell – a real estate appraiser – passed on the race to succeed Curt Clawson in the state’s 19th Congressional District. Naples Republican Francis Rooney later won the seat. 

Tom Grady

Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom GradyTom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.

Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.

Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.

Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.

Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack LatvalaAaron BeanJeff BrandesLee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.

Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.

Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no one has had time to actually declare interest in it. No one has filed to run in 2018.

Said Brandes in a tweet Friday, “I haven’t talked to the governor yet, but if I was asked, I would carefully consider it.”

Grady, from Scott’s hometown of Naples, has been looking around. He recently was interviewed for the open president’s post at Florida Gulf Coast University, and last cycle talked briefly about running for Congress in Florida’s 19th District. Last year he declined an opportunity to become the state’s insurance commissioner. He’s on the state board of education, is a former commissioner of financial regulations and a former interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Once this is done there may be another opening on the cabinet, as state Attorney General Pam Bondi remains a widely-speculated prospect to move on to Washington as part of President Donald Trump‘s team.

Denise Grimsley running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018

Denise Grimsley has made it official, announcing she filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Grimsley, who told FloridaPolitics.com in January she was eyeing a run, filed her statement of candidacy with the Division of Elections. She is vying to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

“Florida has many challenges in our agriculture industry, yet we have so many more exciting opportunities,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a smart statewide water policy, we will protect our environment and blessed Florida resources, and we will pursue expansion of the over two million jobs Florida agriculture provides our state. I offer my broad life experience and an optimistic vision to achieve so much for our state.”

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

Grimsley served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company. She’s also been involved in the citrus and ranching industry, and is a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

A registered nurse, Grimsley has been certified in trauma and pediatric advanced life support. She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid.

“We are the sum of our experiences, and I offer my candidacy to continue the principles of conservative public service I have followed in my career, both in the private sector and in the Florida Legislature,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Serving on the Cabinet as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services would be a tremendous honor, and I look forward to earning our Republican Party’s nomination and competing for the general election in November 2018.”

While much of the 2018 chatter has been about the governor’s race, attention turned to the race to replace Putnam in recent weeks after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced he would not run for the office in two years.

Crisafulli, with his deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, was considered a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination.

Grimsley isn’t the only one vying for the spot. Republican Paul Paulson has already filed to run, and Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Greg Steube are both considering a run.

In Florida House, Cyndi Stevenson negotiates St. Johns County’s growing pains

FloridaPolitics.com caught up with State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson this week at the St. Johns Legislative Delegation meeting.

For Stevenson, a former county commissioner, it was a return to familiar ground.

St. Johns County, the Republican said, “is becoming a more complete community,” which she believes is also “good for the region.”

“We have over 200,000 people. We’re working on a strong, diverse tax base,” Stevenson said.

However, with growth – especially at the rapid pace of the last couple of decades – St. Johns County experiences unique challenges.

And there are gaps between the county’s legislative priorities and what may be possible in the Florida House.

***

One such seeming gap: the county wants to see more state level economic money, via a restoration of the Quick Action Closing Fund.

“Enhance funding for the State-level Economic Development Incentive Toolkit and Workforce Education and Training Programs, including the reinstatement of the Quick Action Closing Fund (QACF) or similar performance-based program to allow Florida to be more competitive with other states to attract high-impact projects, diversify our economy, and create jobs,” read the county commission’s ask list.

However, that doesn’t jibe with the sentiments of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who falls into the camp of those who believe such is corporate welfare.

Stevenson, when asked about that gap, redirected the question after a sigh of what sounded like dismay.

“It sounds to me that the House is really interested in infrastructure and in training. I haven’t heard any threats to QTI at this point,” Stevenson said.

“I was a commissioner here for a long time and I know that incentives have been an important part of getting some good manufacturing jobs in St. Johns County. And that benefits not only us, but our neighbors in Putnam and Flagler. And I’m sure we get some people who drive down from Jacksonville as well,” Stevenson maintained.

When asked if St. Augustine and St. Johns County were becoming regional economic hubs, Stevenson responded that “we hope” that’s the case.

A problem she identified, in terms of that development: “we have so much waterfront property, such a robust tourism industry, and such great schools that having a balanced tax base is hard. For a county like ours, incentives are especially important. In the short run, the price of our real estate works against us.”

“I’ve heard some discussion about a job center near the [St. Augustine] airport, and those types of things. We try to work in a creative way to make things work,” Stevenson added.

“Each county has different challenges. And this county, in the long run, has a problem with diversification of employment opportunities,” the representative noted.

***

Another ask the county has: ambitious road projects.

Transportation asks for the fast-growing Northeast Florida county are significant, including $95 million for the proposed State Road 313 (SR 313) Extension/Bypass from State Road 207 (SR 207) to State Road 16 (SR 16) (and $30 million more for right of way acquisition and design.)

As well. St. Johns County seeks another $90 million for the proposed County Road 2209 (CR 2209) from County Road 210 to SR 16.

Stevenson’s take?

“I have not heard a lot of pullback in the transportation area. I believe they have in their five-year plan some of these projects, like the 9B extension. They may not get it this year, but in the long run it’s certainly needed,” Stevenson noted.

Road congestion is “one of the things that drives the accident and fatality rate,” Stevenson said of her county.

Especially north of World Golf Village on I-95, Stevenson notes that “we have a very dangerous stretch of road there. Those road projects are the alternative roads to alleviate some of the local traffic, and they’re high priorities for the state government as well, as they help protect capacity on I-95.”

These road projects, Stevenson added, may alleviate Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic as well.

***

Stevenson is experiencing her second Speaker – she actually began her House tenure during the Steve Crisafulli speakership.

Has she noticed any differences between Crisafulli and Corcoran?

Stevenson noted that Corcoran “seems to be paying a lot of attention to his relationship with the members,” and is “focused on reform.”

“I’ve always heard that Speaker Crisafulli was kind of the ‘accidental speaker’. I think he did a terrific job in difficult times. I’m hoping that Speaker Corcoran will do as well,” Stevenson added.

“It’s a different time and he’s got a lot of reform on his plate. We’re just looking for those good opportunities to put Florida on a sustainable path for the long term.”

Denise Grimsley eyeing Agriculture Commissioner run in 2018

Add state Senator Denise Grimsley to the growing list of Florida politicos thinking about 2018.

The Sebring Republican said Tuesday that she is considering a 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner. A registered nurse and hospital administrator, Grimsley said in a interview via text message that agriculture has always played a big role in her life.

“It’s a big decision and one I’ve been discussed with both my family and my employer,” she said. “Agriculture has always been a big part of my life and having someone hold the office who brings the unique qualification of hands on farming and ranching is important to me.”

While most 2018 chatter has been about who will occupy the Governor’s Mansion, the race to be the next Agriculture Commissioner has been thrust into the spotlight in recent days. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced last week he would not run for the office in two years.

With deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, Crisafulli was considered to be a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination to succeed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

His decision to pass on 2018 leaves a wide open Republican field, and could give Grimsley an edge.

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

A member of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, Grimsley touts the work she’s done for the agriculture community on her Facebook page.

“Over the past few years, we have partnered together in assisting farmers affected by natural disasters and raising the profile of Florida’s first-class agricultural community; communicating the economic development challenges and needs of small counties and rural areas; (and) finding common sense solutions for quality health care and the desperate need for more qualified health professionals like nurses,” she wrote.

Grimsley isn’t the only name being floated as a possible 2018 contender. Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, is also believed to be eyeing the office. Last week told FloridaPolitics.com that he has discussed the possibility with his wife, who has said she is “comfortable with that if that’s the decision” he makes.

Caldwell cannot run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits.

Also in the mix are state Reps. Ben Albritton and Halsey Beshears.

In a statement Wednesday, Grimsley said she expects to make a decision about 2018 soon.

“I’ve been humbled by all the calls I’ve received offering support,” she said. “You can expect to hear more soon.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster contributed to this story.

 

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