Ryan Ray - SaintPetersBlog

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

More than two dozen Florida House members re-elected without opposition

As of close of business for the state Division of Elections, it appears candidates in some 29 state House seats — nearly a quarter of the 120-member body — are already headed to Tallahassee.

About 15 Republicans and 14 Democrats will have no need for a campaign manager this election cycle, according to a preliminary review of new state data.

Big names among those newly elected include Speaker-to-be Richard Corcoran, who will return to his House District 37 with no opposition, and Democratic Leader Rep. Janet Cruz, who also drew no opponent in House District 62.

Here’s a list of all the candidates with no opponent as of late Friday evening, along with the House seat they represent:

  • Rep. Halsey Beshears (HD 7)
  • Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (HD 17)
  • Rep. Clovis Watson (HD 20)
  • Rep. Larry Metz (HD 32)
  • Rep. Richard Corcoran (HD 37)
  • Don Hahnfelt (HD 33)
  • Rep. Daniel Burgess (HD 38)
  • Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (HD 44)
  • Rep. Cary Pigman (HD 55)
  • Rep. Jake Raburn (HD 57)
  • Rep. Janet Cruz (HD 62)
  • Rep. Jamie Grant (HD 64)
  • Rep. Jim Boyd (HD 71)
  • Michael Grant (HD 75)
  • Rep. Dane Eagle (HD 77)
  • Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (HD 78)
  • Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (HD 81)
  • Rep. Larry Lee (HD 84)
  • Rep. Bill Hager (HD 89)
  • Rep. Bobby DuBose (HD 94)
  • Rep. Kristin Jacobs (HD 96)
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (HD 97)
  • Rep. Katie Edwards (HD 98)
  • Rep. Evan Jenne (HD 99)
  • Rep. Joe Geller (HD 100)
  • Rep. Shevrin Jones (HD 101)
  • Rep. Sharon Pritchett (HD 102)
  • Rep. Cynthia Stafford (HD 109)
  • Rep. Kionne McGhee (HD 117)

Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. State elections officials said they expect all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.

Florida consumer confidence down for third straight month amid mixed economic news

Florida’s consumers sentiment is trending negatively for the third straight month, according to a University of Florida survey.

Consumers’ confidence in the wellbeing of the state economy dropped to 89, one point down from May’s report and tied with September 2015 for the lowest reading in the last year and a half.

Overall economic news was mixed according to the survey, with three metrics decreasing and two improving.

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the sharpest drop, falling 3.5 points from 85.5 to 82.0. This decline was shared by all Floridians except those with income above $50,000, whose reading rose 4.3 points. In contrast, those with annual incomes under $50,000 dropped 7.4 points from last month, according to the report.

“The trend of these two components together over the past three months indicates that perceptions of current economic conditions have deteriorated among Floridians, but this pessimistic sentiment started a month earlier for those with annual incomes under $50,000,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Florida’s jobless numbers were slightly down again in May, dropping 0.1 percent to 4.7 percent. The number of jobs added in May statewide was 253,900, a 3.2 percent increase compared with last year, the report found. Florida’s economy is definitively growing, with more jobs added every month for 70 consecutive months.

Christopher McCarty, director of UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said despite that the mixed news is worth keeping an eye on in terms of politics and economics.

While the decline in the sentiment index was marginal, it’s worth noting that this is the third straight month of declines,” said McCarty. “The national and international context may contribute to further declines over the next few months. As the campaigns for U.S. president get in full swing, it’s not unusual to see drops in sentiment as consumers hear negative economic opinions and anticipate what each candidate might do.”

Jeff Moran drops out, backs Ken Sukhia in CD 2

Republican Jeff Moran dropped out of contention for the 2nd Congressional District primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham Thursday morning, and is throwing his support behind former U.S Attorney Ken Sukhia.

Moran’s move cuts the four-way GOP candidate pool down to three, and helps Sukhia consolidate his support in the more populous eastern half of the sprawling eastern Panhandle district.

Spending as much time on the campaign trail as I have, you get to know the other candidates pretty well. I’ve gotten to know Ken Sukhia, and I’m endorsing him today because of his personal integrity,” said Moran. “His actions match his words. He has such a passion for conservative causes; there is no doubt in my mind that he will go to Washington and fight with integrity for all of us.”

Sukhia responded in kind with conciliatory remarks.

“I am humbled by Jeff Moran’s support and pledge to live up to his endorsement. During this campaign, Jeff has outlined a common-sense approach to solving the nation’s problems, something sorely missing in Washington,” said Sukhia.

Sukhia also highlighted the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, which, in keeping with conservative doctrine, he ascribed to foreign Islamist forces rather than anti-gay attitudes.

“Last week’s terrorist attack in Orlando highlighted the urgent need for Congress to act to keep America safe. When elected, ending the threat of radical Islamic terrorism will be my number one priority. It’s a fight we must win,” said Sukhia.

Moran’s campaign — which released its first ad earlier this month — had focused on his blue-collar bona fides.

“I’ve worked with my hands my whole life, and that gives me a perspective that is quite different from others in public service,” Moran said. “I’m looking forward to finding ways I can apply my background to elective office in the next election cycle.”

“Dropping out of the race was a tough decision, especially so because I think it’s still anyone’s race to win. But I am drawn to public service, and I’m going to do everything I can to find a way to serve in elective office in the very near future,” continued Moran.

Sukhia will face Panama City urologist Neal Dunn and former Scott administration attorney Mary Thomas in the Aug. 30 GOP primary in CD 2. The redrawn district is now one of the state’s most Republican-leaning, meaning the primary will almost certainly decide the next representative.

Rick Scott: “disappointing” Obama admin rejected emergency declaration following Orlando shooting

Gov. Rick Scott said Monday he finds it thoroughly “disappointing” Obama administration authorities have denied his request for a federal emergency declaration in the wake of last weekend’s deadly shooting at an Orlando night club.

Scott cited $5 million he requested which the state of Florida will miss out on, which Scott said would have funded “emergency response efforts, law enforcement response, emergency medical care, counseling services and other social services to assist victims.”

Federal officials have, however, approved $253,000 to help pay for overtime for hundreds first responders who worked long hours after the attack.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration.  Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history,” said Scott, long a states’ rights advocate and staunch opponent of President Barack Obama.

“It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency. We are committing every state resource possible to help the victims and the community heal and we expect the same from the federal government,” continued Scott.

Scott pointed out several other times when federal officials saw fit to declare such a state of emergency, including the so-called Boston Bombing, a 2013 fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, and the president’s own inauguration in 2009.

Kathleen Peters to hold St. Pete fundraiser with Jeff Brandes

Rep. Kathleen Peters will look to infuse her House District 69 re-election campaign with a festive, craft beer-fueled fundraiser on Tuesday.

The Gulfport lawmaker will be hosted by fellow Pinellas Republican, Sen. Jeff Brandes at the Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Pete on Tuesday, June 21.

Peters is seeking a third term in the House in a moderate swing seat. She drew a Democratic challenger in Jennifer Webb in April, but expects local GOP support to rally around her.

The HD 69 seat includes Gulfport, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and parts of St. Petersburg.

Maximum contributions are $1,000 under state law.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.40.11 AM

Scott Batterson bribery conviction upheld on appeal

Former Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority board member Scott Batterson‘s 2014 bribery conviction has been upheld on appeal.

On Friday, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld the trial court conviction without comment.

Batterson was convicted in a 2014 scandal in which he was seen as the linchpin of a pay-to-play deal at the expressway authority. The state had argued that Batterson tried to cut a deal with a contractor in exchange for the contractor hiring friends of his.

On Oct. 17, 2014, Batterson was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison by Orange County Judge Jennifer Davis. He has been out on bail since.

Batterson had made it clear to the contractor, according to the state’s case, that he and a newly appointed member of the authority’s board, Marco Pena, with help from lobbyist and former Florida House Speaker-designee Chris Dorworth, would be able to gain control of the board and steer a $5 million contract to the contractor.

The appeals court upheld the conviction by a 2-1 vote, with Judges Wendy Berger and Thomas Sawaya voting to affirm, and Judge Richard Orfinger dissenting.

Orfinger offered a dissenting opinion that argued that a bribery charge requires the perpetrator to receive something in return, but that Batterson did not.

Batterson and Pena resigned from the board after previously pleading guilty to charges of violating the state’s open-meeting laws.

Gwen Graham co-sponsoring Bill Nelson’s gun purchase oversight bill

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham may straddle the fence on some issues dear to progressives, but she came out on Thursday with a full-throated endorsement of Senate Democrats’ plan to notify the FBI when a suspected terrorist buys a firearm.

The bill’s main Senate sponsor is Florida’s senior senator, Sen. Bill Nelson, who introduced the bill on Wednesday in response to renewed political will to rein in guns following Sunday’s lethal mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando.

“In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack against the LGBT community in Orlando, Floridians from across our state are demanding change. There is no one answer to solve the problem of gun violence in America – but that doesn’t mean Congress shouldn’t try to make our streets safer, to save lives, to prevent another tragedy like the Pulse shooting.” Graham said in a statement announcing the move.

“This is commonsense legislation that will help prevent suspected terrorists from attacking Americans, without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. I applaud Senator Nelson for his leadership on this issue, and I’m proud to join him in this effort,” continued Graham.

Specifically, the bill would mandate anyone is, or who has been, under a terrorism investigation be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which gun dealers now check when vetting a potential gun buyer.

The administrators of that background check list shall notify the FBI if someone on the list buys a gun, according to the proposed legislation.

Graham joins Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of California in backing the law in the Republican-dominated House.

“We need to make sure that those responsible for our country’s security have all the information they need to help keep Americans safe,” said Thompson. “By alerting the FBI when individuals formerly under a terrorism investigation purchase guns or explosives, the FBI can determine if there is new cause for concern, and hopefully, intervene before tragedy strikes.”

The move may signal a shift in Graham’s political priorities. The bill is far more palatable to Florida’s statewide electorate she will try to woo as a gubernatorial in candidate in 2018 than it is to her constituents in the 2nd Congressional District seat she is vacating after 2016.

Planned Donald Trump speech to pivot from Hillary Clinton to terror, immigration following Orlando attack

Following the nation’s most deadly mass shooting which left 50 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Donald Trump said Sunday he will change the subject of a planned Monday speech to address “this terrorist attack, immigration, and national security.”

Trump had originally planned to use the speech to present a litany of attacks against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

According to senior Trump campaign staff, the presumptive GOP nominee was going to serve up a “charge sheet” against Clinton, including broadside attacks on her infamous private email server, her handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, and allegations for the former Secretary of State tried to silence women who may have been involved with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

While Republican consultants and party leaders have advised Trump to avoid the more personally tinged attacks, most of which date back decades, events have forced Trump to abandon the speech altogether.

Trump said in a statement Sunday he will instead continue a favored line of argument: the need to “get tough” on what he called radical Islamic terrorism and stem the tide of immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Earlier in the day Trump said he “appreciated the congratulations” from supporters who said he was right to make Islamic terrorism a central focus of his campaign, and claimed credit for predicting more attacks would afflict the nation.

“What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

In the statement, Trump fixated on the attacker’s Muslim and Middle Eastern origins, rather than his anti-gay views or his use of a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle in the deadly dance club siege.

“The terrorist, Omar Mir Saddique Mateen, is the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan who openly published his support for the Afghanistani Taliban and even tried to run for President of Afghanistan,” said Trump. “According to Pew, 99% of people in Afghanistan support oppressive Sharia Law.”

Trump brandished those facts as evidence in favor of his notorious plan to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States.

“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” said Trump. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.

“If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore,” Trump continued.

Trump made no specific reference to the apparent anti-LGBT motivation behind the shooter’s attack.

Trump will give his revamped remarks on Monday at New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, NH.

Florida campaign weekender for June 11-12

Friday, June 10

The Florida Society of Ophthalmology is holding its annual meeting in Orlando this weekend from Friday, Jun 10 until Sunday, June 12. Legislative issues are always at the center as they prepare to strategize ahead of 2016 elections and the 2017 Legislative Session. The event will take place at the The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes (4012 Central Florida Pkwy, Orlando)

Saturday, June 11

House District 108 candidate Francesca Menes will be knocking doors in a “day of action” event in Miami Shores. Supporters will gather at the Miami Shores Veteran’s Memorial Park at 10 a.m. (9308 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores).

The NOVA Republican Club will hold their Annual Picnic by the Bay this Saturday morning at 11 a.m. Rep. Greg Steube and other local GOP dignitaries will be on hand. The event will be held at the Maxine Barrett Pavillion (1800 Harbor Dr South, Venice)

The Lake Worth Democratic Club will meet to talk 2016 presidential politics and hear from Oscar Bahena, Field Organizer for the Democratic Presidential Combined Campaign. The meeting is set for 11 a.m. at Brogues Downunder Restaurant (621 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth).

Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. John Cortes are partnering with Farm Share to host a food distribution event in Kissimmee. According to the Democratic legislative duo, more than 65 percent of Orland0-area are impacted by the lack of publicly funded meals from free or reduced-cost meals children receive at public schools. The event is set to run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Gateway High School (93 Panther Paws Trail, Kissimmee, 34744).

A group of Pinellas Democratic clubs will hold a candidates’ forum ahead of the August primary in House District 70. St. Pete City Councilman Wengay NewtonCJ Czaia, and Dan Fiorini are all confirmed to attend. The Gulfport Democratic Club, St. Petersburg Democratic Club, and South St. Petersburg Democratic Club are jointly hosting the event, set to kick off at noon at the Sanderlin Center (2335 22nd Ave S, St Petersburg).

Democratic Senate candidate Frank Alcock is hosting a house party meet and greet as the New College of Florida professor campaigns for Sarasota-based SD 23. Light snacks, beer, and wine will be served. The event is set for 5 p.m. at the home of Randy & Martha Wells (708 Tropical Circle, Siesta Key 34242).

Sunday, June 12

The campaign team of Rep. Matt Gaetz will be out and about speaking to voters in Destin and Pensacola this Sunday as he keeps his bid for Congress rolling in Northwest Florida’s CD 1. For more information, contact Ryan Smith at ryan@mattgaetz.com.

The Lake County Democratic Party will be canvassing for local candidates in Leesburg. Supporters will gather at 2 p.m. (1223 W. Main Street, Leesburg). Contact Kathy Williamson at uffda_fyda@yahoo.com, 352-460-2145 to her know you’ll be there or if you have questions.

Rep. Greg Steube will be participating in a Flag Day ceremony on Sunday. The event is set for 6 p.m. at the Sarasota National Ceremony (810 State Rd 72, Sarasota).

Edward James cracks $300K in HD 72 campaign, Alex Miller brings in $28K for May

Democrat Edward James surpassed the $300,000 mark during May fundraising in his campaign for House District 72, newly released campaign finance data shows.

James brought in $4,190 through his campaign account and $23,500 through an affiliated political committee, for a total of $305,328 raised overall since he joined the HD 72 race in June of 2015. Of that, some $263,000 remain on hand for the first-time candidate.

Republican Alex Miller, meanwhile brought in $28,907 last month, bring her total fundraising to $89,782. $50,000 of that came by way of a personal loan the health care executive made to her campaign when she entered the race in March.

Republican TV host John Miller, who threw his hat into the race last month, reported only a $5,000 personal campaign loan in an abridged May reporting period.

All three candidates are vying to replace Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who left the HD 72 race earlier this year to pursue the Senate seat abdicated by outgoing Sen. Nancy Detert, who’s running for Sarasota County Commissioner.

Pilon had held the moderate swing seat from 2011, after ousting former Democratic Rep. Keith Fitzgerald in the 2010 Tea Party-inflected midterms.

Like many central Florida House districts, it favors Republicans more in gubernatorial “off” years than in Democratic-skewing presidential years, though Gov. Rick Scott narrowly lost the district to Charlie Crist in his 2014 bid to retake the governor’s mansion.

The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive and competitive House campaigns in the 2016 cycle.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons