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Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

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With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements — both on and off — of the legislative merry-go-round. Off: Mary Kassabaum is no longer legislative assistant for Trilby Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson. Off: Caroline Crow is no longer district secretary for Rockledge Republican state Sen. Thad Altman. On: Matthew Hunter is returning as legislative assistant for Fort Myers Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Off: Sean Nixon is no longer legislative assistant for Cutler Bay Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard. Off: Kyle Langan is no longer…

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Personnel note: Eric Edwards moving to U.S. Sugar

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Eric Edwards, the longtime Tallahassee-based legislative assistant to Republican state Sen. Don Gaetz, is joining U.S. Sugar Corporation’s in-house influence team, the company announced. His title will be Assistant Vice President of Governmental Affairs. “We have wanted to strengthen and expand our internal government relations operation for some time, and we have patiently searched for just the right combination of experience, personality, and potential,” said Robert Coker, Vice President of U.S. Sugar and its head lobbyist. “We hit the trifecta with Eric Edwards,” he…

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Will Weatherford the latest Republican to join the #NeverTrump camp?

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The league of Republicans against Donald Trump may have found another member in Will Weatherford. The former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, a Wesley Chapel Republican, suggested in a text message today that the real estate tycoon-turned-reality TV star won’t get his vote. “Sadly, I find both candidates to be unworthy of the office of President,” he wrote, also referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. When asked to clarify his position on the GOP’s presidential pick, Weatherford responded: “Would…

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Lizbeth Benacquisto raises more than $50K in SD 27 race

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Lizbeth Benacquisto raised more than $50,000 in June, bring her total fundraising haul to more than $300,000. State records show Benacquisto raised $52,600 between June 1 and June 24. The three-week haul brings the Fort Myers Republican’s fundraising haul to $306,571. Benacquisto received $1,000 donations from Working for Florida’s Families, the political committee backing Sen. Ron Bradley, and Citizens for Fiscal Leadership, which is associated with Sens. Denise Grimsley and David Simmons. Her campaign also received $1,000 contributions from Kathleen…

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Don Gaetz: We don’t need special session for gun control

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State Sen. Don Gaetz is telling constituents not to take the special-session-on-gun-control bait. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who was Senate president in 2012-14, sent out an email Monday. It reprinted and linked to an op-ed he wrote for the Northwest Florida Daily News, Okaloosa County’s newspaper. It appeared Sunday. He wrote on the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The shooter, later killed by police, called 911 to claim allegiance to the Islamic State…

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George Gainer becomes instant winner in SD 2

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George Gainer is on his way to the Florida Senate. The Bay County Republican won the Senate District 2 seat Friday after no other candidate qualified for the race. “I am humbled and honored to have been elected without drawing another candidate to run against me,” Gainer said in a statement. “From the first day I announced my candidacy, I have worked to visit with as many voters as possible throughout the district. They have my pledge that my door is…

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Mike Hansen to be next Senate budget staff head

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Incoming Senate President Joe Negron tapped Mike Hansen to head the staff for the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, a spokeswoman said Monday. Hansen will take over when Negron officially becomes president in November. Hansen, 63, had left state government to become president and CEO of The Florida Council for Community Mental Health in Tallahassee. He served as Negron’s staff director when the Stuart Republican was Appropriations chair under former Senate President Don Gaetz. The nearly four-decade veteran of state government is considered a budgeting…

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