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Final poll of key state Senate race shows Dana Young holding lead over Democratic opponent

Majority Leader Dana Young has maintained her lead in Senate District 18, but needs to continue mobilizing supporters to make sure she comes out on top on Election Day.

A new poll by St. Pete Polls, conducted for FloridaPolitics.com, showed 40 percent of Senate District 18 voters are backing Young, compared to 35 percent backing Democrat Bob Buesing. The poll found 14 percent of voters said they were supporting Joe Redner, while 3 percent picked Sheldon Upthegrove. Eight percent of voters said they were undecided.

The automated poll of 1,087 people was conducted Nov. 2. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

The poll showed Young had support from 36 percent of independent voters, 65 percent of Republicans, and 17 percent of Democrats. Buesing was backed by 33 percent of independent voters, 52 percent of Democrats, and 19 percent of Republicans.

The new poll is in line with two St. Pete Polls conducted in October. A poll conducted Oct. 25 showed Young led Buesing, 39 percent to 34 percent. In an Oct. 11 poll, Young received the support from 38 percent of voters, while 32 percent said they were backing Buesing.

While Young is maintaining her overall lead, the latest St. Pete Polls survey indicates her supporters need to turn out to make sure she comes out on top come Election Day.

The poll found 60 percent of respondents said they already voted. Nearly 39 percent those respondents backed Young, while 38 percent supported Buesing.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.3.16 – Guns, pot and minimum wage measures to be voted on next week across the country

In Florida, we have two constitutional amendments on the ballot that will be decided next Tuesday.

The way it looks now, it would be a major upset if Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative, fails to get 60 percent of the electorate’s vote. Then again, conventional wisdom was that it would pass in 2014, and it came up a few points short.

There’s also Amendment 1, the solar power amendment, where the momentum seems to be going against it at the moment. Yesterday, two groups critical of the measure went to the Florida Supreme Court, calling on them to reject the results of the vote next week because they contend the measure was created to intentionally deceive Florida voters.

Nationally, there are plenty of ballot measures to watch next Tuesday. No fewer than five states are voting on legalizing marijuana outright, with everyone looking to see if California will lead the way there. I was in the Golden State immediately after the 2010 election, when people couldn’t believe a similar measure went down to defeat. Methinks that won’t be the case this time around.

Four states — Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine — are voting to increase their minimum wage. Washington would raise it the highest, to $13.50 by 2020. South Dakota would DECREASE the wage for workers under 18 from $8.55 to $7.50.

And four states will vote on gun restriction laws: Maine, Washington, California, and Nevada.

As usual, California leads the way in the number of total ballot measures, with 17 different ones on the ballot. You can read about them all here. The most significant one might be the measure that would repeal the death penalty, though polls show that may not pass. There’s also the measure requiring actors in pornographic films to wear condoms.

In other news …

All four candidates in Florida’s state Senate District 18 race competed in a debate at the University of Tampa — where Bob Buesing, Joe Redner, and Sheldon Upthegrove took turns blasting Dana Young’s voting record.

Take it for what it is, but a poll released on Tuesday night of people who had already voted in Florida says 28 percent of Republicans have voted for Hillary Clinton in Florida.

The Hillsborough County Commission has green-lighted $1 million for marketing the NCAA College Football Championship game, to be held in Tampa next January.

Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend filed a complaint with the state’s Election Commission on Wednesday regarding that $1,000 contribution to Tampa City Council District 7 candidate Jim Davison from the local GOP. Davison later said he has since returned the money.

Dana Young’s voting record blasted by her SD 18 opponents in debate

Debating for the first time in the state Senate District 18 race, South Tampa Republican Dana Young had her voting record pummeled by her three more-liberal male opponents at the Reeves Theatre on the University of Tampa campus Wednesday.

Young has maintained a fairly conservative record in her six years representing House District 60, a record her Democratic first-time opponent, Bob Buseing, has said is out of the mainstream of the voters in SD 18 which, like HD 60, encompasses South Tampa and much of western Hillsborough County.

Young has moved up in House leadership during her tenure, and is currently majority leader. She’s also raised more than a combined $2.3 million in the race, between her own campaign and her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young.” With just six days before the voting stops, her appearance on Wednesday was the first time she has met her opponents for a debate. And they were ready to attack her from the get-go.

“Dana Young wants to hide her record as a career politician,” said independent candidate Joe Redner in kicking off the forum, indicating what was in store for her and the audience for the next hour-plus. “She wants to hide that she takes millions of dollars from every special interest pulling the strings.”

Buesing followed suit, offering an aggressive take on Young’s stance on virtually every issue raised by the UT students in the audience. Seconds into his opening statement, he announced he was opposed to fracking, and immediately criticized Young for voting for the measure in this past session.

Young’s record on fracking has been seized upon by her opponents and environmental groups this election cycle. She has insisted that her support for Florida HB 191 the past winter was NOT a pro-fracking vote, a stance she maintained throughout the debate.

Critics have claimed she voted against allowing local governments have their autonomy on whether they want to ban fracking, but Young said she believed a statewide ban was the only legitimate way to handle the issue, because “our aquifer does not know county lines.”

“I’m not worried about the counties that pass bans on fracking, I’m worried about the counties that don’t,” she said.

That answer failed to mollify Redner, who has placed television ads criticizing Young on the environment. He said her fracking vote was done in a “slick way that career politicians do,” his voice dripping with disdain. And both he and Buesing referred to a complaint made by environmental groups that while the bill would have required fracking companies to disclose to the state all chemicals they used, but if the formulas were considered trade secrets, they wouldn’t have been available to the public.

“It seems like we’re all trying to out-hate fracking [more] than the next guy,” Young countered, saying that the other candidates had not studied the bill.

On guns, Buesing said he opposed a bill that failed to advance in the Florida Senate last session that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.

Young took the offensive when it was her turn, citing statistics that one out of four women in college will be the victim of sexual assault. “I support the right of myself and other women to stand up and protect ourselves against men who would seek to do us harm.”

Buesing responded by saying the college campus which Young’s daughter attends, Clemson, does not allow guns on campus. “If she thought the only safe place was a place where there are guns on campus, why is she sending her daughter to Clemson University?”

Sheldon Upthegrove, the fourth candidate in the race, brought his perspective as a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict to the discussion. He said he supported concealed guns on college campuses, but only after a citizen passed a marksmanship test. But he disagreed with Young regarding feeling safe by carrying a gun, saying self-defense classes should be considered first before using a firearm.

“It’s insanity. Guns kill,” snarled Redner when it was his turn. He said citizens should be able to maintain firearms at home, but not out on the streets.

On the issue of medical marijuana, all four candidates said they support Amendment 2 on next week’s ballot that would legalize the substance for those with certain treatable diseases, and two of them, Redner and Upthegrove, support outright legalization. Redner again talked poignantly of how the herb helped him when he was receiving from Stage 4 lung cancer, and Young said her husband was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and had to contend with chemotherapy and radiation,  but did not use pot to alleviate his pain. “I believe anyone in that situation should be able to make a choice with what they wish to do with their body,” she said.

When asked about reforming Florida’s campaign finance laws, Buesing said, “I hate it,” saying that with outside groups, he has been outspent on a three-to-one ratio.

“There is too much money coming from dark money groups, like the ones that are supporting Mr. Buesing,” Young said, eliciting shrieks from the audience. Young called out the group Florida Strong, who this week alleged Young’s votes helped to pad her personal fortunes since her time in elected office. “They don’t have to disclose their donors, where my donors are all disclosed for the world to see.”

Those comments set off her opponents.

“So how much have you collected, Dana, $3 million from those upstanding donors?” asked Redner sarcastically, adding that, if elected, he’d work to pass the toughest campaign finance laws the state has ever seen.

“I find it funny that Dana says there’s too much money in politics, which in this race, she has more money than … at least a couple of us,” Upthegrove said, who said he thought there was too much money in politics.

In his concluding statement, Buesing read from various Tampa Bay Times editorials and opinion columns that have criticized Young and the third-party groups for some of their statements on Buesing’s background as an attorney with Trenam Kemker.

Afterwards, Young said the encounter was “interesting,” adding “that’s politics.”

Buesing said “I win this hands down, if it’s about the issues.”

Election Day is now just five days away.

Dana Young campaign hits door-knock milestone in SD 18 race

Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young announced Wednesday her campaign has knocked on the doors of more than 85,000 voters within Senate District 18.

“I am truly excited to announce this milestone, which underscores our campaign’s dedication since Day 1,” Young said. “By meeting and listening to voters in our district, I have had the opportunity to share my platform and positive changes I have helped enact while in the Florida House of Representatives, as well as hear their concerns for our community. In the days left leading up to the election, I look forward to continuing to meet with as many voters as I can, demonstrating why I am the best candidate to represent Florida Senate District 18.”

Young, who currently holds the District 60 seat in the House, is running against Democrat Bob Buesing and a pair of NPA candidates in SD 18, which covers Northwest Hillsborough County.

The third-term representative also touted endorsements from more than a dozen organizations in the release, including from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Tampa area police and firefighter organizations.

Young is by far the leader in fundraising in the district with more than $2.3 million in total fundraising across her campaign and political committee. Her closest competitor is Buesing, who had raised a little under of $450,000 for his campaign through Oct. 21.

SD 18 has slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans, and was narrowly carried by President Barack Obama four years ago.

Endorsement Watch: Hispanic Leadership Fund, National Association of Police Organizations, others issue endorsements

With just a few days until the election, organizations are continuing to roll out endorsements for state and federal candidates.

Add the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce to the list of groups backing Randy Perkins.

The Chamber endorsed Perkins in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The organization, according to the Perkins campaign, made its decision based on his “understanding of the importance of a robust business climate and the role of economic development when it comes to policy and governance.”

“I’m very proud to have earned the trust and support of the Palm Beach North Chamber’s membership,” said Perkins in a statement. “In Congress, I look forward to working with our business community in order to get the economy working for everyone again and empowering small businesses by ending unnecessary regulations and improving access to capital.”

Perkins also received the support from Karen Marcus, a former Palm Beach County commissioner.

“His proven record of working hard and bringing people together to solve problems is exactly the type of Representative we need fighting for us in Congress on issues such as the environment,” she said. “With so much dysfunction in Washington we need people like Randy who understands the issues that most impact our families are not Democratic versus Republican issues.”

Perkins faces Republican Brian Mast in the Nov. 8 general election.

Mast added the Hispanic Leadership Fund to his list of supporters.

“Brian Mast is a Harvard University graduate and veteran who’s dedicated to fight for working families in the 18th congressional district of Florida,” said Mario H. Lopez, the president of the organization. “Unlike his opponent Randy Perkins, who will follow Nancy Pelosi’s reckless policies of higher taxes and skyrocketing health care costs, Mr. Mast believes in free market principles that will produce economic growth, help creates jobs and ensure our military vets are receiving the best care in this country.”

Majority Leader Dana Young has scored the backing of the several law enforcement associations.

The National Association of Police Organizations, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association have all endorsed Young in her Senate District 18 bid.

“The PBA is throwing our support behind Dana Young with our endorsement of her candidacy for Florida Senate District 18,” said Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida PBA. “Representative Young has been a tireless advocate of law enforcement in the Florida House. Whether at the Capitol or in her everyday life, Representative Young has supported issues and policies that are important to us and our mission, and we are honored to endorse the best candidate in this race.”

Young faces Democrat Bob Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, in the Nov. 8 general election.

“I could not be more proud to have received the endorsements and support of the NAPO, and our state, regional and local PBAs,” said Young. “Our law enforcement put their lives at risk each and every day serving our communities and protecting us from danger. I have always stood behind our men and women in blue and will continue to do so if given the honor of serving my Tampa Bay community in the Florida Senate.”

Bob Buesing places final TV ad in SD 18 race

Bob Buesing has gone to the airwaves to make his final pitch for voters in Florida’s state Senate District 18 race.

In his new ad, called “kitchen” now airing on broadcast and cable stations in the Tampa Bay area this week, the Tampa Democrat makes the case that “Florida politics just don’t reflect real people anymore,” as shots of regular voters are shown staring straight into the camera(including former University of Tampa political science professor and major local Democrat Rich Piper). “Problems don’t get solved by who shouts the loudest,” Buesing says. “In real life, they get solved here,” he says, standing in front of a kitchen table.

There’s been lots of money spent in the SD 18 race between Buesing, Republican Dana Young and independent Joe Redner, who has paid for more ads in the election than any of his many former runs.  Sheldon Upthegrove is also in the contest.

Public and private polls released recently show Young to be maintaining a slight lead over Buesing. The district encompasses parts of South Tampa and western Hillsborough County.

Here’s where the money chase stands in Tampa Bay’s legislative races

Tampa Bay legislative candidates have filed their second-to-last campaign finance reports before Election Day, and Republicans still look like they’ll hold onto five of the six Senate seats covering Hillsborough or Pinellas counties.

Sens. Tom Lee, Bill Galvano, and Jeff Brandes have already been re-elected without opposition, while Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala only faces a write-in candidate.

Democratic Rep. Darryl Rouson faces Republican John “Mr. Manners” Houman in the SD 19 race, though he has been piling on to his campaign finance lead in the left-leaning district.

Rouson added $48,400 between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21, and has about $65,000 in the bank compared to Houman, who had less than $100 on hand after raising $0 in his new report.

SD 18 is a little more competitive, though Republican Rep. Dana Young still has a firm lead over Democratic attorney Bob Buesing.

The Tampa Republican added another $23,200 in campaign contributions and has more than $570,000 in the bank. Her committee, “Friends of Dana Young,” didn’t add anything during the week-long reporting period, but it is sitting comfortably with about $860,000 on hand.

Buesing was able to tack on another $27,855, but his war chest was sitting at about $63,000 on Oct. 21.

No-party candidate Joe Redner put $60,000 of his own money into his campaign on Oct. 18, making him the top SD 18 fundraiser during the reporting period, though his campaign is in the negative. Fellow no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove posted $0 in his report, and sits with about $500 in his campaign account.

In the House, Republican Reps. Jake Raburn, Janet Cruz, and Jamie Grant were re-elected, and Democrat Sean Shaw is already on the list for the freshman class. Republican Reps. Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls, and Larry Ahern also should hang on to their seats with minimal opposition.

Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison, who is in his second “first term” as the HD 63 representative, is still in a tough battle with Democrat Lisa Montelione.

He both out-raised and outspent Montelione in the new report, with about $18,000 coming in and $60,000 heading out.

Montelione, who was able to raise $24,000 in her previous report, raised just $6,739 and spent just $127 between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21.

Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters also is facing a decently funded challenger in the HD 69 race, though she managed to pull in $24,000 to Democrat Jennifer Webb’s $7,265 in their new reports.

Peters’ total fundraising hit $370,000 on Oct. 21 and she still had about $152,000 of that money on hand. Webb has raised about $138,000 so far and has just over $10,000 in the bank.

Republican Rep. Ross Spano was also able to put a little more space between himself and Democratic challenger Rena Frazier in the HD 59 race.

The incumbent Republican pulled in $27,580 compared to Frazier’s $12,031. His total fundraising is now just shy of $350,000 and he has about $95,000 in the bank, while Frazier has raised a total of about $185,000 and has about $77,000 on hand.

Democrat Ben Diamond once again out-raised and outspent Republican Joseph Bensmihen in the race to take over for exiting Rep. Dwight Dudley in HD 68.

Diamond added another $14,000 and spent $10,000, leaving him with less than $15,000 on hand after raising more than $366,000 this cycle. Bensmihen raised just $250 and spent $7,361, for an on-hand total of less than $1,000 on Oct. 21.

Republican Jackie Toledo also came out on top against Democrat David Singer in the race to replace Young in HD 60.

Toledo raised $24,200 and had more than $90,000 on hand on Oct. 21, while Singer brought in just $5,360 and had about $4,000 in the bank.

The seat leans toward Republicans, and with the financial advantage Toledo has built up, she is likely to hold Young’s seat for the GOP.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.1.16 — Russian involvement’ in presidential election still a mystery

The Tampa Bay area gets one last, large dose of Bill and Hillary Clinton today.

Hillary makes her first campaign appearance in what used to be considered a crucial bellwether — Pasco County, for an appearance this afternoon at Pasco-Hernando State College.

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, makes his second appearance in the past 14 days in Pinellas County, speaking in South St. Petersburg.

With a week to go before the presidential election wraps up, the most significant national story in the papers this morning is the report in the New York Times that the FBI has been looking into Russia’s possible role into messing with the election. However, “Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

So, in a nutshell, the report says there is no collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, as conspiracy-minded Democrats have alleged this summer. However, this story says there may be evidence that Putin is interested in mucking up this major national U.S. election — so those who believe that idea aren’t necessarily being paranoid.

“The most serious part of the FBI’s investigation has focused on the computer hacks that the Obama administration now formally blames on Russia,” Times reporter Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers write. “That investigation also involves numerous officials from the intelligence agencies. Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly.”

I guess we won’t know what is the deal here until sometime after the election, but it’d be good to get some proof, one way or another of actual Russian involvement. Right?

In an interview with CNN last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed claims his country is interfering in the U.S. presidential election as “ridiculous.”

Lavrov said it was “flattering” that American officials think Russia is meddling in the election, but the accusations were baseless. Vladimir Putin has said he didn’t see why Russia was a “main issue in the election campaign,” and that it was “gratifying but puzzling.”

In other news …

Anti-Amendment 2 groups were expressing fears last week that Halloween could mean marijuana-laced candy, a charge pro-Amendment 2 types labeled yesterday as “scare tactics.”

Bob Graham hasn’t exactly endorsed that many Democrats running for statewide office this fall, so whether Bob Buesing can exploit that endorsement with just a week to go remains unclear.

Florida Democrats are accusing Ross Spano of sexism after he questions his HD 59 Democratic opponent Rena Frazier‘s experience.

HART officials talk about bus service that would run from downtown Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the Carillon area to Tampa International Airport.

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long thinks the Tampa Bay region needs something dramatic to bring it together to act as one when it comes to transportation, as she introduce her proposal to the HART board yesterday.

Bob Graham announces his support for fellow Democrat Bob Buesing’s state Senate bid

With just eight days to go before the voting ends in Florida, state Senate District 18 Democratic hopeful Bob Buesing received some welcome news Monday when former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham endorsed him.

“Bob Buesing is the right person to work across the aisle to address Florida’s challenges and get things done for the people of Senate District 18 in Tallahassee,” said Graham in a statement issued by the Buesing campaign early Monday. “I’m endorsing Bob because he’ll be a fresh voice in Tallahassee dedicated to protecting our environment and drinking water, strengthening our public schools, and providing innovative new ideas to grow good jobs here at home in Florida. The people of Hillsborough County can count on Bob Buesing to always put their interests first.”

“I am deeply honored to have earned the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham,” said Buesing. “Gov. Graham’s legacy of service to our state is a testament to all that can be accomplished when you prioritize the needs of the people you are elected to serve and work together across party lines. I am proud to share Sen. Graham’s dedication to putting people first and I will look to his example as a member of the Florida Senate.”

The endorsement from the 79-year-old Democratic icon (who turns 80 next week) could be a boost for Buesing, who is still relatively unknown in local politics as he attempts to defeat Republican Dana Young in the Senate race. Buesing is also being squeezed by progressive icon Joe Redner, a former Democrat turned independent who is polling in double figures in the contest.

Unlike President Obama, who endorsed a number of Florida Democrats running for state legislative seats earlier this month, Graham has been very selective in terms of his endorsements.

In addition to backing Hillary Clinton and Patrick Murphy in the high-profile races for president and U.S. Senate, the only other state legislative Democrat Graham has endorsed this cycle has been Ben Diamond, running in the Pinellas County House District 68 race against Republican JB Benshimen. 

National GOP group lists Jackie Toledo’s run in HD 60 as one of 16 to watch

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) is listing Tampa engineer Jackie Toledo‘s candidacy for Hillsborough County House District 60 among the “16 in ’16: Races to Watch” nationally on Friday.

Toledo is running in a fierce battle against Tampa land-use attorney David Singer for the seat that has been held for the past six years by Dana Young.

According to a statement, the list highlights women and diverse candidates recognized as up-and-coming party leaders in their communities. 

“With just under two weeks to go until Election Day, state-level Republicans can feel confident in the strength and future of our party because of candidates like those highlighted today,” said RSLC President Matt Walter. “The men and women featured in the latest phase of ’16 in ’16’ will be crucial in our fight to hold and grow our ranks nationwide, but their victories will also have a tremendous impact on the future and prosperity of their communities. Our candidates represent educators, healthcare professionals, small business owners, and more; and their wide array of experiences and qualifications will prove critical in steering policy discussions and crafting effective, conservative legislation. I am so proud to stand by all 64 of our ’16 in ’16′ candidates in this final stretch to Election Day, and I wish them the best of luck on Nov. 8!”

House District 60 has been in Republican control well beyond Young’s tenure in office. Faye Culp held the seat from 2002-2010, and Chris Hart represented what was known as House District 57 from 1994-2002.

But Singer, a first-time candidate, has been pushing a centrist agenda in this campaign, and some observers say internal polling shows the race to be extremely competitive.

HD 60 encompasses much of South Tampa, as well as Davis Islands, Harbour Island, Palmetto Beach, Palm River-Clair Mel, Apollo Beach, and parts of Ruskin.

This was RSLC’s fourth and final round of 16 candidate races among Republican state races to watch closely.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Dwight Gonzales — Arkansas House District 85
  • Meredith Chapman — Delaware Senate District 8
  • Jackie Toledo — Florida House District 60
  • Byron Donalds — Florida House District 80
  • Lindsay Parkhurst — Illinois House District 79
  • Melinda Prunty — Kentucky House District 15
  • Leilani Holmstadt — Minnesota Senate District 54
  • Suzanne Geist — Nebraska Legislative District 25
  • Carrie Buck — Nevada Senate District 5 
  • Victoria Seaman — Nevada Senate District 6
  • Ceil Levatino — New Mexico Senate District 37
  • Julie Killian — New York Senate District 37 
  • Deanna Ballard — North Carolina Senate District 45
  • Theresa Gavarone — Ohio House District 3
  • Cornelius Huff — South Carolina Senate District 11
  • Affie Ellis — Wyoming Senate District 8
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