Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 5 of 41 - SaintPetersBlog

Husband’s cancer is a factor in Gwen Graham’s decision to run for governor

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham says she wants to run for governor, and she plans to run for governor. But there’s one very important factor that’s weighing on her decision: her husband has cancer.

“Every part of me wants to run for governor, that’s what I feel passionate about, that’s what I know I need to do for the state of Florida, but things happen in life that could take me off that path. I hope not,” Graham said Wednesday evening while conducting her last “work day” as a congresswoman — helping sell Christmas trees at an outdoor stand.

The work days were a signature of her father Bob Graham‘s time as Florida governor and a U.S. senator. Like her father, she spends time experiencing different jobs as a way to reach out to constituents and voters.

She decided not to seek a second term in Congress after the Florida Supreme Court ordered new congressional districts be drawn so that don’t favor incumbents or political parties. Graham’s district became far more Republican and she decided to explore a 2018 run for governor rather than risk re-election.

She sounded a lot like a candidate when talking with reporters outside the Christmas tree stand, saying she plans to campaign in all 67 counties and discussing her campaign strategy. But she said she’s waiting to see how treatment progresses on her husband Steve Hurm‘s prostate cancer.

“He absolutely wants me to run. He’s very supportive of that and I couldn’t do it without him by my side,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it without him by my side.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leaving office in 2019 due to term limits. Among other Democrats believed to be considering a run are Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also considering a run.

The Republican Governors Association is already preparing for a potential Graham candidacy, wasting little time after this year’s election to begin attacking Graham in news releases. The association called Graham “just another Washington politician.” Graham hadn’t held elected office before winning her House seat two years ago.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

TBX critics not surprised by FDOT Secretary’s stance on the project

Following Florida Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Boxold’s comments this week that it’s time for a “reset” on the controversial Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, an opposition group says it’s time to remove the project from Hillsborough County Metropolitan Organization’s five year plan.

“We are not surprised that FDOT has realized how tarnished and damaged the TBX brand is- the project is too costly and does not solve congestion or meet transportation needs,” says Michelle Cookson, a spokesperson for Sunshine Citizens, the citizen activist group formed to oppose the Tampa Bay Express project in 2005.

Cookson was reacting specifically to Boxold’s statements to the Florida Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, where he said, “We have had some challenges with getting that project to a point where the local communities that are affected are pleased with where it is, and so we have the benefit of some time before we’re ready to move forward with that project,” Boxhold said.“We probably have 2-3 years before that project is what we call ‘production ready,’ ready to turn dirt,” adding, “and so we’re going to sort of hit the reset button, bring in additional staff or different staff to manage that project, and work more intensively with the local communities.”

The comments were the first by the FDOT in months regarding the project, which last came before the public in June, when the Hillsborough MPO board approved including the project in the agency’s five-year transportation improvement plan.

The TBX project is the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area. The plan would ultimately remake I-275, I-4 and I-75, and bring new toll lanes from Pasco County south to Manatee County and from Pinellas County east to Polk County.

Critics contend that the plan would negatively impact a low-income and minority concentrated area of Tampa, who had little input on what was happening in their neighborhood, something that Boxold said on Tuesday he is well aware of.

Other critics say that the plan is foolhardy and won’t decrease traffic congestion.

However, some of Tampa’s biggest political players, such as Mayor Bob Buckhorn, state Senator Dana Young and much of the business establishment is solidly behind the plan.

Here is the statement in full from Sunshine Citizens:

Upon reading Florida Politics’ coverage of FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold’s comments to a Florida Senate committee, “FDOT Secretary says it’s time to hit reset button on TBX project,” we are not surprised that FDOT has realized how tarnished and damaged the TBX brand is- the project is too costly and does not solve congestion or meet transportation needs.

Sunshine Citizens’ emphasis in our long-term plan has always been on what comprehensive transportation could this region have for $6 billion – instead of $2 per mile tolls on the highways?

The only action FDOT can take to satisfy community concerns about TBX is to remove TBX from the 5-year work plan and commit to funding a Citizen-led regional transportation outreach effort that runs in conjunction with the premium transit study.

It is imperative that FDOT commit to funding Citizen-led participation in shaping a regional transportation plan that serves ALL of the community – because this is $6-9 billion of our taxpayer money they are talking about using. This outreach must be led by the citizens and include large, diverse groups of people from all over the county, with their input first, not a pre- conceived outcome shaping the dialogue.

We have always questioned the rush to fund this project which has been shown to be so tremendously flawed. Our current actions include petitioning FDOT to remove TBX from the 5- year work plan and continued demands of the Hillsborough MPO to remove TBX from the TIP.

In conjunction with our coalition partners, our next major actions include attendance at the Hillsborough Legislative Delegation Meeting*, Friday, December 16, and then action plans in Tallahassee in 2017.
*Event information at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/586138868243288/

Sunshine Citizens remain committed to public education, grassroots activism and growing our coalition of business and community organizations that favor investment in infrastructure, to include multimodal comprehensive transportation, that generates greater return on investment without eviscerating communities.

It’s time to move Beyond TBX and position this region for economic growth and prosperity while meeting the community’s transportation needs.

Run-off elections prove fruitful for Tampa Democrats for second straight year

Somewhat lost in the tumult over the infighting within the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee this week is the fact that for the second time in less than two years, a Democrat has been elected to the Tampa City Council in a run-off election after finishing a distant second in the initial election.

Luis Viera’s win by 63 votes in the District 7 race  came four weeks after he finished 2,469 votes behind Jim Davison in the Nov.8 general election.

“We had a great ground game that we’re really proud of,” Viera said on Thursday. “I think that the the closer that people looked at the issues involved in this election, the  more they were able to make an informed choice.”

The initial odds for the run-off didn’t seem to favor Viera, the 38-year-old Hunters Green-based attorney running for office for the first time. Not only had Davison taken the most votes in the general, but a poll taken two weeks before the run-off continued to show him with a steady lead. He also received two endorsements from two of the original six candidates (Avis Harrison and Cyril Spiro), while the two other Democrats in the race, Gene Siudut and Orlando Gudes, declined to get behind Viera’s candidacy.

Even though the race was considered “nonpartisan,” it was anything but that. The Hillsborough County Republican party literally tried to shower some support for Davison, the only registered Republican in the race, giving him a $1,000 contribution that ultimately was rejected when it ran afoul of the Tampa City Charter. Meanwhile, Viera was backed by Democrats like Kathy Castor, former District 7 representative Lisa Montelione, and ultimately Bob Buckhorn.

And while Republicans are somewhat of an endangered species at City Hall, District 7 has been their lone sanctuary for a number of years now, with Shawn Harrison and Joseph Caetano holding down the seat for a 12-year run from 1999-2011.

But the two debates in the last week of the race could have been the deciding X factor.

The vast majority of voters in Tuesday night’s election voted by mail, most in advance of the negative fallout that Davison received for saying in both debates that he would not take the issue of New Tampa seceding from the rest of Tampa off the table.

While it may not have been the defining moment of the race, Viera believes it was a break for his campaign.

“When I talk to people in whether its Forest Hills or New Tampa, or anywhere in North Tampa, they rejected the idea of using that, even as leverage,” Viera says. “So that’s something as soon as I heard that I knew that it wasn’t going to be well taken, because it wasn’t well taken by me,I don’t think that’s a productive process that you negotiate for North Tampa. To me that’s a non-starter and I believe that the voters agreed with me.”

Davison thinks that Viera was skillful in “twisting the secession thing,” and said he actually won the majority of votes in New Tampa.

While Viera says he won’t use secession as a negotiating point, he was certainly shared Davison’s sentiments on the trail that District 7 needed a fighter to gets its fair share from the rest of the city government.

“Not in an adversarial way, but in a way to work together to stress the great unique benefits of North Tampa,” he says, “whether it’s the University area, which includes USF, Moffitt, Shriners, etc. Whether it’s the wonderful neighborhoods of New Tampa, whether it’s Forest Hills historic neighborhood. Just to stress to people the benefits of neighborhoods, the people, the industries, the potential to the city and I believe that by doing that…we can get the respect that we deserve in North Tampa.”

In April of 2015, Jackie Toledo received 1,370 more votes than Guido Maniscalco in a three-person race for the Tampa City Council District 6 race general election and nearly won the race outright with 46 percent of the vote. But after the third place finisher, Tommy Castellano backed Maniscalco in the run-off, he ended up beating Toledo by 149 votes, in another case of a Democrat beating a Republican in run-off.

“In Guido’s case he was 17 points down, so I think that the role that we played was bigger,” says Hillsborough County DEC Chair Ione Townsend, who was serving as vice chair of the party back then. “I did organize some events, but for Luis, he had the funding and some pretty key endorsements, and the mayor came in at the end to help him.”

Davison admits that Viera had more money and a bigger machine working for him. “I was taking on the whole Democratic machine. You had Jim Davis, Bob Buckhorn and Tom Scott all making multiple robocalls,” he says.”I had robocalls for three days, but I was using a citizen in New Tampa. Not the mayor or a former congressman.”

Viera did raise more than four times as much campaign cash as Davison did. In fact, Davison raised the least money of the original six candidates, showing that in a small local election, money is not always a deciding factor, though ultimately it was here.

“It takes a lot of money to get that kind of message and explain it to people,” he says about his comments that a new firehouse was needed immediately. “Money I didn’t have.”

“If you examine the metrics of the Tampa Bay Fire Dept., it doesn’t call for another firehouse, ” Davison adds. “It may in the future, but certainly there’s not a need for allocating funds in the next budget or two.”

Davison says he may run against Viera again in 2019, but says that all of the other candidates in the race are formidable in their own right. And he says the issues he was talking about during the race are still there.

“They’re going to have to give Luis something,” he says about what Viera can get for the district when he runs for re-election.

Hillsborough County GOP Chair Deb Tamargo was unavailable for comment, but Jonny Torres, who is challenging her for party chair later this month, didn’t hold back.

“You can’t look at a race like the one in District 7 where we only lost by 65 votes and ask yourself, “what could we have done differently?” If the margin were larger it would be a very different conversation, but we have not been able to gain any ground in local elections for years,” he tells SPB in an email. “While we have been able to hold on to most of our local offices, the changing demographics in the county are not trending in our favor. This only reinforces the need for us to ramp up and expand our visibility, voter registration and engagement in the community to be better prepared for these types of opportunities.”

 

Mitch Perry Report for 12.9.16 – Will Bud Selig’s entry into the HOF ease the way steroid users?

Happy Friday, y’all. Hey, can we talk baseball this December morning? Okay, how ’bout hypocrisy?

Bud Selig, the commissioner who presided over the game’s golden age of steroid use, was named to the sacred Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week by what is called the “veterans committee.”

That’s not to be confused with the Baseball Writers Association of America, who will most likely once again diss Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens when they vote next month on who should make the hall.

There were a lot of other elements of the Selig era, but the press certainly was fascinated by the explosion of people using performing enhancing drugs (PED’s) during the late 1990’s and early aughts, and none were better on (or off them) than Bonds and Clemens.

Of course, it should be noted, steroid use was completely legal in the game at the time. A weak policy was put in place in 2003, but it was strengthen in the fall of 2005 after Congress threatened to intervene. Leading the game at that time was Selig, who, like most of the baseball establishment (including us fans) pretty much ignored the controversy until it centered around a guy that nobody liked named Barry Bonds.

Bonds owns both the all-time home run record for one season, hitting 73 in 2001, as well as the most in the history of the game, when he eclipsed Hank Aaron in 2007.

Bonds was a universally loathed man, but he was beloved in San Francisco. The same for Clemens in the towns that he played in. Alex Rodriguez? Well, when people were throwing fake needles at Bonds during his run-up to breaking the all time home run record in ’07, A-Rod was hitting 54 homers in the Bronx, and NYC sports writers were saying that he would ultimately surpass Bonds. Then A-Rod got busted again for steroid use himself a couple of years later, and ultimately became the whipping boy of the New York city dailies.

Of course, “Big Papi” David Ortiz also got busted for ‘roids a decade ago, but hey, he’s beloved by everyone, so nobody likes to bring that up. In fact Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, says that drug test that Ortiz failed back then may have been faulty.

“I think that the feeling was, at the time that name was leaked, that it was important to make people understand that even if your name was on that list, that it was entirely possible that you were not a positive,” Manfred told the Boston Globe on October 3, Big Papi’s final day as a pro. “I do know that he’s never been a positive at any point under our program.”

Whatever. But come on, isn’t it time to end the punishment for these stars for doing better what so many others were doing at the time? At least some sportswriters are seeing the light. Veteran San Francisco Chronicle scribe Susan Slusser tweeted last week that it’s “senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

Will her colleagues in the baseball media follow suit?

In other news..

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a letter to Donald Trump earlier this week from 17 big-city mayors, calling on the President-elect  to reconsider his vow to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the provision that protects young, so-called Dreamers who came to the country before the age of 16 from deportation and allows them to study and work in the U.S. Bob Buckhorn wasn’t on the letter, but said he would have signed if he were asked.

Marco Rubio and the Republican Senate isn’t about to give Merrick Garland an up or down vote regarding his nomination for the Supreme Court, but a coalition of progressive groups in Florida aren’t giving up the opportunity to think about it during the lame -duck session of Congress.

And the Tampa City Council District 7 election is over, but the hard feelings aren’t – at least with one fallen candidate.

Andrew Gillum is “real deal” for governor, supporters say

The push to draft Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to run for governor has picked up two more supporters.

Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville and Mayor Eric Jones of West Park hopped on the bandwagon Thursday.

Gillum, a 37-year-old Democrat, has been the capital’s mayor since 2014. He first was a city commissioner, the youngest person ever elected to that body.

“As mayors from across the state of Florida, we know the importance of having a governor who understands the needs of our cities,” Poe and Jones, both Democrats, said in a joint statement. “We believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum’s nearly 14 years of local government experience will be a huge asset as the next governor of our state.

“We have admired Andrew’s innovative, inspired and forward-looking leadership,” they said. “He created a jobs program to help young people find quality work, and he has developed unique ways to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses.

“Under his leadership, Tallahassee was named one of the top cities nationwide to receive designation as a TechHire community by President Obama’s White House, allowing residents to train for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy,” the mayors added. “In short, Mayor Andrew Gillum is the real deal.”

The jockeying for the 2018 governor’s race already has begun; current GOP Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited.

On the Democratic side, outgoing Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee, has announced she is considering running. Other names mentioned include Democratic mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa and Philip Levine of Miami Beach.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the most likely Republican candidate to announce a run for 2018.

Gillum’s star has been rising steadily, especially after disclosures that his name was on a short list to be running mate to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

He also flirted with running for the newly redrawn, Democrat-heavy 5th Congressional District that stretches from Jacksonville to Gainesville. But Gillum stayed out of the race, and former state lawmaker Al Lawson, another Democrat, won the seat.

Email Insights: Republican Governors Association takes aim at Gwen Graham

The 2018 gubernatorial race has officially begun — even though none of the likely candidates have filed paperwork to run.

In an email Thursday, the Republican Governors Association blasted outgoing Rep. Gwen Graham, one of several Democrats considering a 2018 run. The association said Graham’s office hasn’t responded to Freedom of Information Act requests made by the Republican Governors Association.

According to documents provided by the Republican Governors Association, the organization requested all documents related to Graham Companies, real estate and development projects in Florida, and the “American Dream Project” in Miami. The request was made in October; and in an email Thursday, the RGA said the documents would “give voters valuable insight into how she conducts her congressional office.”

“When it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another. Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power,” said Jon Thompson, the director of communications for the Republican Governors Association, in a statement. “Graham should immediately release her congressional records so that Florida voters know exactly how she was using her influence as a Washington politician to benefit her political ambitions.”

Graham has resigned from the board and said Thursday she has no involvement in the project mentioned in the FOIA request.

“As the RGA probably already knows, I voluntarily resigned from the company’s board when I was elected to Congress, and I have no involvement with this project,” she said in a statement. “We are 23 months away from the Governor’s election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks. For the rest of 2016, I’m focused on finishing the job I was elected to do and then enjoying the holiday season with my family. I recommend the folks at the RGA do the same.”

She continued: “So here’s some advice for the DC crowd from a mother: Turn off your Twitter accounts and your press release machines for a few weeks; go spend time with your family, visit friends, check out some museums, read a book, and join the rest of our great nation in spending a few weeks without the nonstop vitriolic back and forth of Washington type politics.”

The Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to Congress. According to a March 2016 article in Government Executive, correspondence between members of Congress and individuals, and draft bills are protected and considered private.

Thompson acknowledged in an email to FloridaPolitics.com on Thursday that the “law does not require” Graham to release the records the RGA is requesting. However, he said the group feels that “as someone running for governor, who consistently talks a big game on transparency, she would want to release these records so that FL voters know exactly what she was communicating to her colleagues and business interests.”

Graham is one of several Democrats believed to be pondering a run for governor in 2018. The North Florida congresswoman did not run for re-election, and is wrapping up her first term in the U.S. House. Earlier this week, WFSU reported that, during her final floor speech recently, Graham said she was fortunate to grow up in a “family dedicated to public service.”

According to WFSU, she went on to say she “never planned to follow in my father’s footsteps into politics. But as, as our country became more divided, my thoughts began to change.” Graham is the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham.

In April, she told Florida Politics that she realized her heart and her head are leading her “toward running for governor.” She stopped short of actually announcing, though has dropped hints about her intentions along the way. In October, she told a packed crowd at the weekly “Café Con Tampa” lecture series that she will “run a 67-county strategy” if she runs.

If she does decide to run, she could face a crowded field Democratic field. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are all believed to be considering a run. John Morgan has said he is weighing his options, after a group of South Florida politicos started a petition drive to draft him for governor. And a group of Democratic college students recently started their own petition in hopes of convincing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to throw his hat in the race.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is believed to be gearing up for his own gubernatorial bid.

__Tallahassee-based reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.

 

Bob Buckhorn says if asked, he would have signed immigration letter to Donald Trump

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel traveled to Trump Tower to hand deliver a letter signed by 17 big-city Democratic mayors urging President-elect Donald Trump to reconsider his vow to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the provision that protects young, so-called Dreamers who came to the country before the age of 16 from deportation and allows them to study and work in the U.S.

“Ending DACA would disrupt the lives of close to one million young people, and it would disrupt the sectors of the American economy, as well as our national security and public safety, to which they contribute,” Emanuel wrote. “We encourage your administration to demonstrate your commitment to the American economy and our security by continuing DACA until Congress modernizes our immigration system and provides a more permanent form of relief for these individuals

Bob Buckhorn was not a co-signer to the letter, but that does not mean he doesn’t agree with the sentiment.

The Tampa Mayor’s press secretary, Ashley Bauman, tells FloridaPolitics in an email that Buckhorn was not asked by Emanuel to sign the letter. She says he would have done so if asked.

In that respect, Buckhorn is like other mayors who say they would have signed the letter if asked.

Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado tells the Miami Herald that, “I would have signed that letter in a heartbeat,” adding that “I think they’re missing a lot of mayors, and I hope that they expand it. It should be a Republican, Democratic and independent thing.”

In an interview with Time Magazine published on Wednesday, Trump said he’s “going to work something out” with regard to Dreamers, saying, ““I want Dreamers for our children also. We’re going to work something out. On a humanitarian basis it’s a very tough situation. We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. But that’s a very tough situation.”

Last month, approximately two dozen activists delivered a letter to Buckhorn calling on him to designate Tampa to be a “sanctuary city,” a jurisdiction where local law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. On the campaign trail, Trump said that he would work with Congress to pass legislation to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities.

The ACLU of Florida released a report last year identifying some 30 counties in Florida that currently have policies declining to respond to Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, or to honor them only in limited circumstances, such as when they are accompanied by a judicial warrant. They include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota Counties.

On Wednesday, Buckhorn told WMNF’s Rob Lorei that “we’re “looking at that” when asked about the possibility of Tampa becoming a sanctuary city.  He said he may not officially make such a declaration because “that has other impacts, but added that,”I’m not interested in disrupting families and breaking up families, purely because they are of an undocumented status.”

By only 65 votes, Luis Viera defeats Jim Davison in Tampa City Council special election

By just 65 votes, Luis Viera defeated Jim Davison in the Tampa City Council District 7 special run-off election, taking 50.64 percent to Davison’s 49.36 percent, a difference of only a single percentage point.

Viera received 2,588 votes to Davison’s 2,523, just 65 votes out of 5,120 cast.

The special election was held to succeed Lisa Montelione, who was re-elected without opposition to the North Tampa district seat in early 2015. Last fall, Montelione announced that she would run for the state Legislature, creating the opening for a new candidate.

Turnout for the runoff was low on Election Day, with 815 people voting. The clear majority of those who did participate voted by mail — 3,730. In four days of early voting (Thursday through Sunday), an additional 575 people cast ballots.

Viera’s victory maintains an all-Democratic Tampa City Council. If Davison had won, he would have been the first Republican on the board since Joseph Caetano, a District 7 councilmember defeated by Montelione when he ran for re-election in 2011.

Viera was endorsed by top Tampa area Democrats like Congresswoman Kathy Castor and City Council Chair Mike Suarez, a longtime friend. He also received a late endorsement from Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said he was irked by Davison’s statement in the last week of the campaign that he would not dismiss the idea of threatening New Tampa secede from the rest of Tampa.

Although some speculated that Buckhorn would have ultimately endorsed Viera anyway, a fellow Democrat, Davison’s “Brexit”-like attitude made for a more dramatic element to the race.

A poll Friday by St. Pete Polls showed the two candidates tied at 39 percent, with 21 percent undecided. Undecideds apparently broke for Viera, if just narrowly.

For the 62-year-old Davison, this is his third loss running for office. He failed at two previous attempts for Hillsborough County Commission in 2002 and 2004.

Davison was also the co-founder of the New Tampa Transportation Task Force and has served on other transportation committees, including the Committee of ’99, which endorsed the idea of a sales tax to pay for transportation improvements.

Viera is a 38-year-old attorney with the downtown Tampa law firm of Ogden & Sullivan. He has been a member of the city of Tampa’s Civil Service Review Board since 2011.

Like Davison, Viera too is a resident of Hunter’s Green in New Tampa.

In the race, Viera raised more than four times the amount of campaign cash as Davison: $107,474 to Davison’s $25,630.

For the first round of voting Nov. 8, Davison won a plurality of votes in a six-person field. Viera came in second, behind by nearly eight percentage points (31-22 percent).

Two of the four remaining candidates – Avis Harrison and Cyril Spiro – endorsed Davison, while the other two Democrats in the contest – retired police officer Orlando Gudes and La Gaceta writer/editor Gene Siudut – opted to stay neutral.

The fact that Viera wasn’t endorsed by competitors “spoke volumes,” Davison charged at a debate in Forest Hills last week.

District 7 includes New Tampa, the University area, Terrace Park, Forest Hills and Temple Crest.

Viera will make $43,139 annually in what is considered a part-time job.

John Morgan torn on possible governor run, in no hurry

John Morgan has powerful split emotions about the prospect of running for governor in 2018 as a Democrat, and figures he has at least a year to decide.

Morgan, the 60-year-old Orlando trial attorney who championed Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative this year, said others – not he – are pushing for him to run for governor. And while flattered, he insisted it’s not his idea, and he’s not giving it any serious thought yet.

“I don’t think I have to do anything this year, 2017,” Morgan said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about it now, if only when he’s driving around, kicking it around in his head.

“The advantage I have, for better worse, is they [any other candidates for governor in 2018] are going to have to spend $25 million at a bare-bones minimum to have any name ID. To me that’s a starting number,” he continued. “And so for better or worse, except for Miami and Fort Lauderdale, I[his Morgan & Morgan law firm featuring him in TV and billboard advertising] am in all those markets, and have been for 30 years or so. I also have the advantage of four years of [campaigning statewide for medical] marijuana, and a very big following. When people come up to me, they thank me for marijuana.”

A group of south Florida politicos, led by Democratic operative Ben Pollara, have put together “For The Governor,” a campaign pushing a petition drive to draft John Morgan for governor, through social media and other communications. Pollara was Morgan’s former campaign manager for United For Care, which ran the successful Amendment 2 campaign this year

Pollara said he’s in the process of formally incorporating a For The Governor Political Committee and expects to begin raising money.

He and Morgan both stated that they had not discussed the initiative with each other, though Morgan hasn’t dismissed it.

“You’ve got to be careful because our egos can really get us into trouble,” Morgan said. “Everybody says, ‘I like you. I like you. I like you. I want you to do it.’ All of the sudden you like what you are hearing, and all of the sudden you go off on a venture you shouldn’t go off on, for a lot of reasons.”I’ve got a great life.”

“I’ve got a great life.”

In the interview, Morgan quickly explored several reasons why he wouldn’t dream of running for governor.

* He professes no clear Florida governing platform at this point, other than a strong conviction that something must be done about low wages in Florida. And he’s not convinced that his being governor would be the most effective way for him to address that; he’s exploring another constitutional amendment initiative to do so.

“I would only want to do it [run for governor] if there was something that I thought that I could make a difference in. And what I worry about is, even if I defy all odds, and win, could I even get anything done with a Republican senate and house?” he said.

* He’s very close to U.S. Rep. Gwen Grahamthe most likely Democratic candidate for governor so far, and particularly close with her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. And he expressed admiration for other potential Democratic candidates, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn,  and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

* He even likes some potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, citing Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, among others.

“If I find someone who inspired me, then I would go, ‘You now what? the state would be in good hands with this person.’ It doesn’t matter if they’re a Republican or Democrat,” Morgan said.

* His business interests are complex on a level approaching Donald Trump’s, and he’s not sure he wants to unwind, disengage or liquify anything. Besides his law firm, which is in 18 Florida cities and eight other states, his business interests including hotels, real estate, shopping centers, and attractions.

* Finally, he’s not crazy about enduring personal attacks and knows his profession and lifestyle leave him and his family wide open to ugly anti-Morgan campaign smears.

“I’ve been on TV for 30 years, so I’ve had people writing mean things to me, calling me with mean things, discussing my fat face, my, you know, whatever, so I’m used to mean things. But with this [draft John Morgan campaign] out there, the meanness out there ramps up a little. So I’m like, ‘Who wants this?'” Morgan said. “I’m used to the one-offs. I’m used to people writing me: ‘You’re an ambulance chaser.’ But I’m not used to this where everybody can weigh in. That’s been kind of unnerving.

“It seems like in politics people believe they have a special license to be meaner than usual. That’s what I’ve found these last few weeks,” he said, adding it bothers him, “Because I like to be liked.”

But Morgan does see reasons to run.

He’s not convinced Graham or the other Democrats can actually win. He’s at a point in his life when he’s contemplating the difference between being “successful” and being “significant.” He takes his victory with the medical marijuana initiative to heart on a humanitarian level. He likes that feeling. And he thinks more must and can be done.

“You know, there are things I believe very fervently. I believe that the real issue out there in America is people are not paid fair wages for a fair day’s work,” he said. “Now I don’t know what the number is. I don’t know what the number is. But I believe peoples’ frustration is, they go out, they do everything right, they put on a uniform, and at the end of the day they’re further behind than they were before.”

Perhaps the answer is another constitutional amendment initiative, one aimed at creating a living wage in Florida, Morgan said.

“I’ve already started researching what that language would look like. It may be that my best bet to do what I want to do would be to have a constitutional amendment. I now know how to navigate that world, after making lots of mistakes the first time around,” Morgan said. “But is $15 too much? Would that pass? What’s the magic number? I don’t know.”

The lessons Morgan draws from 2016 political victors is that voters are rejecting career politicians and the status quo, whether it’s Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. Morgan is certain he fits the outsider identity. If he ran and won, he said he’d pledge a one-term tenure and donate the governor’s salary to charity.

He believes voters want someone who’s less partisan and more practical. Morgan has backed Republicans in the past and said he certainly would in the future. He even praised Gov. Rick Scott for being single-minded on jobs, and for delivering on that.

But mostly, Morgan said, voters deserve someone with compassion for them, and that’s a mark he believes he has.

“What I think is missing in politics today is compassion. I think it’s too much not about what’s for us but what’s for them,” Morgan said. “I don’t believe somebody should be a non-violent felon, go to jail, and not have their civil rights restored. That’s a crime. I don’t believe drug addiction is a crime. The leader I’m looking for is someone who is compassionate and thinks about people first. And I think that includes the minimum wage.”

Pollara and others pushing the draft-Morgan campaign have many of the same concerns about a Morgan run that Morgan himself expressed. Yet they also have his same concerns about the Democrats’ prospects without Morgan. The next governor will oversee another redistricting, which could lock a party’s power in Florida for another decade, Pollara cautioned.

The draft Morgan effort, he said, is “a product of anxiety we Democrats feel about this upcoming governor’s race. Now we’re looking at 2020 redistricting,” which could lead to a “generation of irrelevance” for Democrats.

Morgan also expressed a clear, proud sense of accomplishment, having pushed medical marijuana into Florida’s constitution.

“I got beat with the marijuana the first go around [in a failed 2014 campaign.] I learned my lessons,” Morgan said. “And I think the people who are supporting e the fact I didn’t quit, and I won, and I didn’t just win, I won in a big way.

“And what I did in four years was more than any legislator has done in the last 40 years.”

By-law change adds controversy to Monday night’s Hillsborough DEC election

Viewed from a certain angle, the Democratic Party resembles a smoking pile of rubble in the wake of last month’s general election. Not only will Donald Trump become president in less than two months, but the Senate and House (and soon the Supreme Court) are in Republican control.

Instead of giving up, however, there appears to be a grassroots revival in certain quarters of the party, such as in Hillsborough County.

At their first meeting after last month’s election debacle, several hundred people showed up at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s November meeting — a crowd so large that an auxiliary room needed to be opened to provide seating for them at the party’s regular meeting quarters in Ybor City.

But an intra-party squabble regarding their by-laws has the potential of turning off many of those newcomers to the process.

This coming Monday, the local party will hold its reorganization meeting, where DEC members will vote for local party officers, including chair, vice chair, treasurer and state committeeman and state committeewoman. However, a dispute about who is eligible to vote is causing some members to criticize Hillsborough County DEC Chair Ione Townsend, after she sought an interpretation regarding the by-laws regarding whether locally elected Democrats can vote in the election.

Townsend said that her review of the Hillsborough DEC by-laws were not clearly stated about whether Democrats who won nonpartisan elections are eligible to vote in these elections. That would include people like Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and the entire City Council, currently all Democrats, but who don’t run as Democrats because the Tampa municipal election is considered nonpartisan.

Because of that uncertainty, Townsend asked for a clarification from the the Florida Democratic Party Rules Committee. Townsend says that the two-co chairs of the Rules Committee and the Vice Chair of the Rules Committee sent her an opinion – sent directly to her by Rules Co-Chair Rick Boylan – “that the by-laws do not clearly define or even imply that nonpartisans are included in that definition.” (Boylan did not return our request for comment).

That’s raised the ire of some local Democrats who were involved in writing those actual by-laws in 2012, such as former Hillsborough County DEC Chair Chris Mitchell.

Mitchell chaired the Hillsborough County DEC from 2011 to 2013 before departing to run the House Victory office of the FDP. He says that along with recently-elected state Representative Sean Shaw, they wrote the by-law revisions in 2012 “to make elected officials more part of the party, more accountable, which was why we took some steps to include them in the leadership of the party.”

“Ione is obviously interpreting it the way she sees fit politically, but it was not the intent of the authors – which were us – and it was not the intent of the committee that amended the bylaws back then with a more than two-thirds vote,” says Mitchell. “We realized that the success or failure of the party would rely on making sure that those elected officials that Democrats had worked so hard to raise money for were part of the solution to move our party.”

Alma Gonzalez, who is running against Donna Fore for State Committeewoman, agrees with Mitchell and says “it’s difficult to to understand her interpretation of this by-law to exclude and in fact disenfranchise (local Democrats) in selecting party leadership.”

Townsend counters that the Florida Democratic Party, in its December of 2012 reorganization meeting, also found “that people who held nonpartisan office were not included in the definition.”

“There’s something awry here with people’s recollections of what went down and what the intent was,” responds Townsend. “We have to go with what is written, and my interpretation is that it does not specifically include office holders of nonpartisan races.”

Townsend says that in fact there haven’t been any of these nonpartisan office holders at any meetings over the past year, with the exception of Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who applied for membership and was elected and sworn in and signed a loyalty oath. She also says she understands there is a perception that she is trying to limit participation in next week’s election, but adds that others have said that she shouldn’t loosen the rules. “I am caught right square in the middle,” she says, adding that she’s had “angst over this for three weeks.”

Perhaps no one is more affected by Townsend’s interpretation than Alan Clendenin, who is running for State Committeeman against Russ Patterson. Clendenin is seriously considering running for the Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party next month, a race that he fell just short of winning four years ago. In order to run for state party chair, candidates must be local party chairs or a committeeman or committeewoman.

After being informed about Townsend’s decision to review the by-laws, he said in an email last week that, “I am quite perturbed about it. They have always been allowed to vote. How on earth can we not allow Mike Suarez, State President of the Democratic Municipal Officers, Harry Cohen,Yolie Capin or Bob Buckhorn? It is crazy what people will do to try to win a party power struggle.”

Townsend insists she’s not trying to exclude anyone from participating in the election. “I want to run a fair and open election and one that will stand up against scrutiny of state statues, FDP by-laws and our own by-laws.” She’s invited all of those Democrats elected in nonpartisan races to attend Monday’s meeting, where she will pet them to vote on a provisional ballot, in case her ruling of the by-laws is overturned if appealed.

Townsend herself is on the ballot as chair, but is not being opposed.

Gonzalez says she’s disappointed about the in-party fighting, and worries it could be a turnoff to Hillsborough DEC newcomers.

“It’s unfortunate that we have this kind of distraction  going on at at time when there are many folks who are interested and who are coming and who are putting  forward their time and their effort and raising their  hand and saying we want to be a part of a solution,”she says.

Monday’s meeting will take place at the Letter Carriers Hall, 3003 W. Cypress Street at 6 p.m.

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