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Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

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Former prosecutor, young GOP leader Berny Jacques contemplating run for House District 66

Former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney Berny Jacques is seriously considering a run for the state House District 66 seat next year, which will become an open seat with Republican Larry Ahern term-limited out.

The 29-year-old Haitian native has been active with the Pinellas County GOP since he arrived in the community in 2009 to attend Stetson Law School in Gulfport. That’s when he says he was drawn into the grassroots aspects of state government.

In many ways Jacques and his family are the embodiment of the American dream. His parents worked two and sometimes three jobs concurrently when they moved to the states in the mid-1990’s.

“They had to work hard to put their children in a better position,” he says. “And to see me go to college and graduate and become an attorney all within their lifetime, I mean, that’s a strong testament to what this nation has to offer, and I think that’s made possible by a free enterprise system that capitalizes on people’s desire to work hard.”

Jacques’ father currently teaches English as a second language in Naples, Florida, while his mother works as a registered nurse at a nursing home. He says they always stressed the power of education when he was growing up.

“They said if you take your schooling seriously and you apply yourself, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.  I’ve always taken that with me and ran with it.”

Jacques was president of the Pinellas County Young Republican club in late 2013 when longtime U.S. Representative Bill Young died, igniting what would ultimately be one of the most expensive congressional campaigns ever. He got behind David Jolly’s candidacy early on. He also assisted on the campaigns of Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls in 2014.

If he pulls the trigger and announces later this spring for 2018, he says his platform will center around three main tenets – public safety, education and job creation.

Regarding education, he says you can expect him to be a strong advocate for school choice. On business, he talks about the importance of government creating “the environment” for businesses to grow.

Now working at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer, Jacques considers himself “very pro Second Amendment,” saying that he wants to put individuals in the position too protect themselves as much as possible.

On the battle between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott regarding whether or not it’s a good thing to offer tax incentives to lure businesses to Florida, Jacques doesn’t take sides, saying  that “it’s important to understand that they both have the same goals, and that’s to create jobs for the state of Florida.” He does state that the doesn’t want government to choose between winners and losers.

On transportation, Jacques adamantly opposed the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax. Yet he also says that he wouldn’t oppose changing state law to allow big cities like St. Pete or Tampa to hold their own referendums. Current law only allows counties to do that.

For the past several years, both Rick Kriseman and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn have unsuccessfully lobbied Bay area legislators to give them the power to tax themselves to pay for rail projects in recent years. Jacques says as a legislator he wants to hear what the people say, and if they want the right to tax themselves, he says he wouldn’t stop them.

“I’m all for empowering voters to make decisions, so  if the people of St. Pete feel it’s appropriate, and it’s clearly stated that here’s the funding structure, and here’s what you’re going to be on the hook for, if they decide then they decide that,” he says, adding that his baseline philosophy is to err on the side of empowering the people to make the decision themselves. “I would probably vote no if you asked me to raise taxes, but my fellow citizen might feel otherwise.”

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Poll shows Charlie Crist would beat David Jolly if a rematch is in the cards

Even though there are more than 20 months before Election Day 2018, a week does not go by without a mention — or several — in the media about a possible rematch between Charlie Crist and David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

In a new StPetePolls survey of CD 13 voters, Crist would edge out Jolly by about eight points if such a rematch were held today. Crist would get nearly 49 percent, compared to Jolly, who gets just under 41 percent. Nearly 11 percent of respondents were undecided.

As the incumbent, Crist received the support of almost 72 percent of Democrats, along with nearly 24 percent of Republicans. Those numbers are significantly better than his Republican predecessor; Jolly wins only 69 percent support from voters of his own party, while getting 18 percent of Democrats. Chris also has better numbers with independents (49 percent to 34 percent for Jolly).

Crist also does slightly better among white voters (46 percent to 45 percent for Jolly) and considerably better with black voters (66 percent to 20 percent for Jolly). The former Republican governor also fares well in every age bracket – except with voters over the age of 70, who prefer Jolly 48 percent to Crist’s 42 percent.

The poll was conducted Jan. 30 for FloridaPolitics.com using an automated phone call system with a sample size of 1,289. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences in demographics and that of the active voter population of CD13 as of Dec. 6, 2016. Demographics included political party, race, age and gender. The results have a 2.7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

 

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After leaving Charlie Crist for David Jolly, Vito Sheeley says “I’m still a Democrat”

Vito Sheeley says that despite his decision to now work for former Republican Congressman David Jolly, he remains a Democrat.

In one of the more enigmatic personnel developments in Tampa Bay area politics recently, Sheeley announced Monday that he was leaving the office of Charlie Crist,  to now work for Jolly as a senior adviser.

Crist defeated Jolly in Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District race last fall.

The move came just days after reports that Sheeley was going to work for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s office, along with (unreported) rumors Crist had jettisoned Sheeley early last week, and rehired him by week’s end.

In a just-released statement, Sheeley says: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

He then says service to his community “outweighs any political party or title.”

A St. Pete native, Sheeley worked as an outreach coordinator for Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor, whose district used to include parts of South St. Petersburg, before leaving in 2016 for Crist’s congressional campaign.

Sheeley says he will help Jolly continue policy work locally on education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

To some, the hiring decision remains perplexing, considering Jolly is no longer a sitting congressman, announcing Monday he has not made a decision about running again in 2018.

However, in hiring Sheeley, he has indeed invited speculation that he intends to run next year.

Sheeley’s statement in full, entitled “I’m Still a Democrat,” is below:

Public service is a part of my DNA. My mother was a social worker, my grandmother was an educator, and my grandfather a pastor. I was raised to believe that serving my community and country is the most important calling one can have. I still believe that today. I have worked in public service as Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Outreach Director for Charlie Crist’s Congressional Campaign 2016 and, until recently, Congressman Charlie Crist’s District Director.

My passion is to see that others have the same opportunities that I have been given.

Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me. My service to my community outweighs any political party or title. You see, for me, I don’t see Democrat or Republican, I see people. I see children not receiving a quality education, I see poverty, I see families searching for job security and a better way to provide. I recognize the injustice within our Justice System, I’m appalled at witnessing our voting rights being stripped away to benefit those in power or those who would like to remain in power. These reasons and more are the reason why I fight for a solution. I will be working with David Jolly to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

I respect David Jolly. I respect his service to his community and country. We both share a common belief, we love this community.

David Jolly respects my Democratic views, and together I believe we can bring balance to our divided country. In these days and times, we as a nation have forgotten what is important. What is important is “Treating others as one would wish to be treated;” this is the Golden Rule. As I continue this journey, I will fight for what I believe is important. That is “You,” the people … of Pinellas County, Democrat or Republican, your voice matters.

We face serious issues together we can overcome.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me in this past week. Your overwhelming encouragement has meant a lot to my family and I.

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David Jolly hires Charlie Crist staffer Vito Sheeley as ‘senior adviser’

David Jolly says that he has not made a decision whether to run for his former congressional seat next year, but that’s the impression he has given by announcing on Monday that he has hired Vito Sheeley to serve as his “senior advisor for the 2018 political cycle.”

Sheeley has been working as district director for Charlie Crist, the man who defeated Jolly last November in the Congressional District 13 race. Sheeley also worked on Crist’s congressional campaign as his campaign outreach director.

“While I have made no decision whether to pursue elective office in 2018, I am committed to continuing our important policy work of the last three years,” Jolly said in a statement.  “As Laura and I consider what is best for our family and our community in 2018, I am thrilled to have Vito Sheeley join our political team. Through my years working with Vito in Pinellas, I know him to be an honorable man, dedicated to our community, and a trusted advisor on how best to represent and serve Pinellas County and the State of Florida.”

“I’m extremely excited to begin my new role with Congressman Jolly,” Sheeley said. “Helping the citizens of Pinellas County has been and will remain the most important priority of my life.  As Senior Advisor to Mr. Jolly, I look forward to continuing to listen to the needs and concerns of Pinellas County.  I thank Congressman Jolly for recognizing my value to him and his team.”

Max Goodman, a spokesman for Jolly, says that Sheeley will be working with Jolly  “to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.” He says he’ll be paid through non candidate committee funds.

The announcement caps a bizarre week in the news for Sheeley, who previously worked for Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor.

There were unconfirmed reports that Crist had fired Sheeley last week, and then rehired him back. FloridaPolitics called Sheeley on Friday to ask him about that report, which he flatly denied, saying that he was still working for Crist at the time.

He also said it was unclear whether he would go on to work for Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign, as had been reported by the Tampa Bay Times last week.

“I only wish the best for Vito,” Crist told FloridaPolitics this afternoon. “He did a wonderful job on our campaign, for which I will ever be grateful. I hope for a very bright future for he and his family.”

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Travis Palladeno collects a trio of endorsements in re-election bid

Travis Palladeno

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni have endorsed Travis Palladeno who is running for re-election as Madeira Beach mayor.

“I’m very humbled,” Palladeno said Monday of the trio of Republican endorsements.

Palladeno also received the endorsement of a Madeira Beach business. Lisa’s Café has broadcast the endorsement on the restaurant sign: “Re-elect Travis mayor.”

“I am truly grateful” for the support, Palladeno said, adding that it’s small businesses like Lisan’s Café that keep Madeira Beach moving forward.

Palladeno has also scheduled his first meet and greet of the campaign season. The event is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at Mad Beach Fish House. Appetizers and beverages will be served.

Palladeno has served as Madeira Beach mayor since 2011. He represents the city on, and is current chair of, the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. He also represents the city on the county’s Tourist Development Council and the Barrier Island Government Council, or Big C. He is vice president of the Big C. He is the retired owner of Live Wire Fishing Charters.

He is facing a challenge from Margaret Black.

Madeira Beach has a council-manager form of government in which a professional city manager runs the day to day activities and a five-member council sets policy and passes a budget.

The election is March 14. Voters will not only have a choice of mayoral candidates, but also two commission seats are on the ballot.

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David Jolly presents flag at Ray Neri’s memorial service

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly on Wednesday presented an American flag to Laura Neri, the widow of community activist Ray Neri, who died Jan. 3.

The flag was one that U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis had had flown over the Capitol especially for Mrs. Neri.

“Ray Neri was a special person,” Jolly said. “Ray touched peoples’ lives.”

Jolly was only one of many of Pinellas’ political leaders who came to Neri’s memorial service. Others included Pinellas County commissioners  Pat Gerard, Karen Seel, Ken Welch, Dave Eggers and Charlie Justice. Former state Rep. Jim Frishe also attended. Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and former county Commissioner Neil Brickfield spoke during the ceremony.

“There will never be another Ray Neri, but we can continue what he started,” Gualtieri said.

Although most had helped Neri with projects to benefit the unincorporated Lealman area, Jolly had helped him in another way.

Neri was diagnosed with a heart ailment that the Veterans Administration could not treat. Neri appealed to Jolly, who pushed the VA into giving him permission to go elsewhere for help. A Tampa surgeon was successful in saving Neri.

Neri died Jan. 3 at Northside Hospital where he was taken after falling at home.

Neri had served on boards of the Lealman Community Association, which he headed for several years; the Juvenile Welfare Board; the Sheriff’s Police Athletic League; Keep Pinellas Beautiful; the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club; and the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council.

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In wake of Orlando shooting, Vern Buchanan renews call to pass bill imposing death penalty for cop killers

One day after Debra Clayton was shot and killed, Sarasota area Republican Vern Buchanan is once again calling Congress to pass his bill making it easier to sentence cop killers to death.

Clayton, a 17-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, died Monday morning while attempting to arrest a murder suspect. Hours later, an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy also died in an auto accident during the pursuit of the alleged killer wanted in the slaying of his pregnant former girlfriend.

“These vicious attacks against police must end,” Buchanan said. “My legislation sends a strong message to those who target police — you will be held accountable.”

Buchanan’s “Thin Blue Line Act” (H.R. 115), would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter or other first responders an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.

Former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly sponsored a similar bill in 2015.

Deadly shootings and ambush attacks contributed to a five-year high in U.S. law-enforcement fatalities in 2016, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

There were 135 officers killed on the job last year, and gun-related incidents were the leading cause of death, a report released last month indicated.

William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), praised Buchanan’s bill in a statement issued out by the congressman’s office, saying assaults against police have increased sharply in recent years. In 2016 alone, ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers increased by 167 percent, according to NAPO.

“Establishing stricter penalties for those who harm or target law enforcement officers will deter crime,” Johnson said. “Any persons contemplating harming an officer must know that they will face serious punishments.”

The legislation would be applicable when a murdered individual is on duty, in the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official.

The proposal covers federal, state, and local police officers, firefighters and first responders. The only requirement is that the homicide involves federal jurisdiction, such as an interstate homicide of an officer, one killed on federal land, or while serving as part of a joint task force.

Buchanan’s press staff said it is unclear at this time if the Thin Blue Line Act would apply in the case of the incident Monday in Orlando.

“We owe a great debt to police officers and first responders across the country,” Buchanan said. “Just as we recently witnessed during the Fort Lauderdale airport attack, these brave individuals put their lives on the line to keep us safe.”

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Charlie Crist says “God would be pleased” if Donald Trump shows more heart towards Dreamers

Charlie Crist is one congressional Democrat who appears to be greeting the incoming Donald Trump administration with an open mind.

“Whatever it is that we come to help American workers get back to work and help the middle class and our country, we need to do it together and do it in a spirit of cooperation,” the St. Petersburg Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview broadcast on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

That spirit of cooperation includes embracing a Trump proposal to place a 35 percent tax of tariff on U.S. businesses wanting to take American jobs overseas.

“It’s all about jobs and making sure that we have American jobs protected, we protect the American worker, give them the opportunity to be able to provide for their families, get a college education,” Crist said.

Last month, Trump tweeted that he would impose such a tax on products sold inside the United States by any business that fired American workers and built a new factory or plant in another country.

Crist participated in a discussion with three other members of Congress speaking with Tapper about some of the proposals that Trump has made both during the campaign and in the transition period.

Trump officially takes office in 19 days.

Trump’s hardline stance on immigration helped galvanize his support with the GOP base, but he recently indicated a reappraisal of how to contend with so-called Dreamers, the children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In the interview naming him “Man of the Year” last month, Trump told Time Magazine that, “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” when it comes to dreamers, adding that “they got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

When asked by Tapper if that appeared to be a backing away from his earlier stance, Crist said yes, and he said he’s glad that’s the case.

“Being a nation of immigrants, I think it’s important we embrace that kind of hope,” Crist said. “I would say to the president-elect, I appreciate you showing your heart. And if it’s a little softer, what’s wrong with that? God would be pleased.”

The former Florida governor then made it personal by referring to his grandfather as an original dreamer.

“My grandfather Adam Christodoulos immigrated in 1914 when he was 12 and when he got here he very soon joined the army, and he fought World War I, he was honorably discharged, and as a result of that, he was able to gain his citizenship, that’s sort of a latter-day dreamer, if you will,” he said.

Crist said that “as a nation of immigrants” it was important for the country to continue to embrace that type of opportunity.

Crist defeated Republican incumbent David Jolly in November. He will be sworn into the 115th Congress on Tuesday.

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Infamous dates: The moments that influenced Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

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