Florida’s jobs agency gives checks to departing employees

Amid a major shakeup pushed by Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida agency responsible for luring jobs to the state is paying nearly a half-million dollars to departing employees.

Florida taxpayers are picking up the majority of the cost for severance payments and payouts for unused leave. Records requested by The Associated Press show that 10 departing employees at Enterprise Florida are receiving more than $430,000.

Rank-and-file state workers are not allowed to receive severance payments, but employees at Enterprise Florida aren’t considered state workers even though taxpayers pick up most of the tab for the economic development organization.

Many Enterprise Florida employees — including the president and CEO — have resigned or were forced out as part of an overhaul initiated by Scott, who also serves as the chairman of the Enterprise Florida board.

Scott and the board agreed earlier this month to streamline the operations of the 20-year outfit, including eliminating jobs, shuttering international offices and canceling contracts with outside consultants. The cuts are expected to save about $6 million.

“EFI is current undergoing a restructuring of its core functions to ensure our personnel contacts are the most cost effective,” said Mike Grissom, a senior vice president with Enterprise Florida.

But those employees who are leaving had contracts that guaranteed them severance payments.

Bill Johnson, the head of the organization who appears to have been forced to resign earlier this year, received a severance check of $132,500 and he also was paid more than $14,000 for unused leave. Grissom said that private donations were used to pay Johnson.

Johnson took over the post in 2015 at the start of Scott’s second term. But he wound up clashing several times with the Florida Legislature over the amount of money needed to lure new companies to the state.

Scott wanted legislators this year to set aside $250 million for a new fund that would be used for business incentives. But legislators rejected the entire request and some top Republicans such as incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran contend that the incentives are a form of “corporate welfare.”

Nine other employees at Enterprise Florida — ranging from an office manager to a senior vice president — received severance payments paid from public money that ranged from $5,000 to $60,000. Two senior vice presidents were given nearly $30,000 in lump sum payments for unused leave.

So far, Scott and Enterprise Florida officials have not said what they will do with the roughly $6 million cut from the budget of the organization. Enterprise Florida can’t legally direct it to the programs that the Legislature refused to fund. Grissom said the board will discuss in September what it plans to do with the savings generated from the cuts.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Rick Scott gearing up for GOP convention speech

Gov. Rick Scott brushed off questions about whether Donald Trump would be able to secure the nomination next week, saying the New York Republican is the clear winner.

“He clearly won the delegates,” said Scott during a stop in Naples on Friday. “My goal is that we have a great convention, and we highlight where we’re going as a country and a party, and we have a big win and change the direction of this country.”

Scott is one of dozens of people slated to speak during the Republican National Convention next week. The Naples Republican praised Trump early in the primary cycle but did not endorse him until after Florida’s March 15 primary. Since then, he has been a vocal supporter of the New York Republican and was often mentioned as a potential running mate.

Trump announced Friday he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate. During his stop in Naples, Scott told reporters he had made it clear to Trump he wasn’t interested in the No. 2 spot.

“I’ve been clear all along,” he said. “I have a great job, and I want to keep this job.”

Scott said he is excited to go to the convention, noting he missed most of the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa because of a hurricane. Republicans cut the conference short by a day because of the storm threat. Scott was also scheduled to speak at that event.

“I’m going to talk about why we ought to elect Donald Trump,” said Scott. “We need a business person. We need someone who is going to destroy ISIS. We need someone who is going to focus on jobs. And that’s what he’s going to do.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is also scheduled to speak at the convention.

Floridians heading up to Cleveland for the event will have a jam-packed schedule, including breakfasts, tailgate parties and a reception.

The Republican Party of Florida released a rundown of events Friday morning. Delegates will be able to participate in a breakfast speaker series hosted by the state party and Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran. Speakers at the breakfasts include Frank Luntz, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Dick Morris, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson is scheduled to attend a breakfast hosted by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“With Florida being front and center as the largest swing state, we are excited to welcome these great speakers to the conversation of Making Florida Red Again and Making America Great Again,” said Blaise Ingoglia, the chair of the Florida GOP and a state representative.

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Personnel note: Brad Swanson named president of FCTA

Brad Swanson has been tapped to lead the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association.

Derek Cooper, chair of the association’s Board of Directors, announced Thursday Swanson has accepted the position of FCTA president.

“On behalf of FCTA, I am excited that we have someone of Brad’s caliber to lead the association,” said Cooper. “We welcome Brad and look forward to the dynamic energy and varied skill sets he brings to the post.”

Swanson fills a vacancy created by the departure of longtime FCTA President Steve Wilkerson.

Swanson is the former executive director of the Florida Transportation Commission. Prior to joining the commission, he served as the state freight, logistics and passenger operations administrator at the Florida Department of Transportation. Swanson also spent several years at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, including serving as the organization’s vice president of corporate and strategic partnerships.

“Congratulations to the FCTA and its new President Brad Swanson. The FCTA and the cable industry have embraced the importance of innovation and competition, which has expanded the availability of broadband access to the people of Florida,” said House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran. “I look forward to their continued investment and expansion in Florida.”

Florida cable companies have invested over $6 billion in Florida, and continue to invest in the state to offer Floridians more choices. According to the Association, about 13.5 million Floridians benefit from cable innovations every day.

“My congratulations to Brad Swanson,” said Senate President Designate Joe Negron. “I’ve enjoyed working with the association, and I look forward to working with Brad in his new position with this dynamic team.”

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Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran flexes muscles with $53K June fundraising

The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.

As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.

“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.

That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.

Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.

Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee Florida Roundtable, which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.

That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.

And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?

He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.

He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency that was created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.

During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.

Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.

___

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

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Without opposition, Richard Corcoran has big June, committee raises $40K

Incoming Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $53,000 across his campaign and committee accounts last month, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Corcoran, who won re-election without opposition a week ago, raised $13,000 for his campaign and another $40,000 for his political committee, Florida Roundtable, between June 1 and June 24.

The bulk of the committee money came in through a $25,000 contribution from GOPAC Election Fund, a Republican national committee chaired by David Avella, which describes itself as “educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.”

Florida Roundtable also brought in $5,000 each from Coastal QSR, Florida Bells and Southeast QSR, all three of which are associated with Clearwater businessman and restaurateur Nicholas Peters.

Corcoran’s direct campaign contributions came in across 15 checks, including 11 for the campaign maximum of $1,000. Among the June donors were attorney and former Democratic House Speaker H. Lee Moffit, the Ford Motor Company Civic Action Fund and lobbying mega-firm Greenberg Traurig.

Despite spending more than he brought in last month, the third-term Pasco County representative finished the reporting period with nearly $80,000 on hand in his campaign account and another $653,000 on hand in his committee.

Corcoran was briefly opposed this cycle by Republican Ronson Biedrzycki, though he failed to get any traction in fundraising and formally dropped out of the race in May.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Future House speaker Richard Corcoran gets no opposition

The next Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives appears to have received no opposition and should return to his next year.

Incumbent state Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican was the only candidate to qualify for his House seat Friday.

Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. A spokeswoman for state elections officials said she expects all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.

Corcoran, who represents District 37, is slated to be the Speaker for the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Sessions.

Oliva, who represents District 110, will follow Corcoran as the speaker for 2019 and 2020. He drew an today opponent in Democrat Carlos Puentes, Sr. of Hialeah.

That assumes the GOP maintains its controlling majority in the 120-member House after the 2016 election. It is expected to, currently holding an 81-39 edge.

Corcoran, 51, first elected in 2010, was chief of staff to then-Speaker Marco Rubio, now a U.S. Senator. Last Session, he served as the House budget chief. He’s an attorney and father of six.

Oliva, 43, first elected in 2011, is CEO of the Oliva Cigar Co. Most recently, he chaired the House Economic Affairs Committee and its select committees on Affordable Healthcare Access and Redistricting.

Chris Sprowls, a third state representative slated for the speakership after Oliva, will face opposition as well.

Bernie Fensterwald qualified as a Democrat, records show, and will face the incumbent Sprowls in the November general election for the Pinellas County seat.

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Richard Corcoran wants you to read ‘Grit’

The concept of “grit” has become increasingly popular of late, aided and abetted by the release of a book (GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance) by MacArthur Genius Fellow Angela Duckworth.

Duckworth, a former consultant who took a job teaching public school in New York City, learned that IQ was not the sole predictor of success for students.

Rather, “grit” or perseverance is an essential factor.

There has already been pushback on the importance of grit, as covered on NPR earlier this year.

However, House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran is not a grit skeptic. Indeed, the Pasco County Republican endorsed the book recently in a note on Speaker-Designate letterhead to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a note which accompanied a copy of Duckworth’s book.

Corcoran, after telling Curry that “it was great to spend time with [him] at Mr. [Gary] Chartrand’s a few weeks ago,” said that he thought Curry would find this “new bestseller” to be “fascinating.”

Interestingly, given the Chartrand context, the New York Times review of the book notes that Duckworth has worked with the founders of the KIPP School Network … a charter-school consortium of which Chartrand is a national partner and the local board chairman.

For his part, Curry would seem to be a receptive audience to this book. His victory in the 2015 mayoral campaign was credited, in no small part, to his gritty work ethic and willingness to plan long-term.

Whether Curry will have much spare time to read between now and the pension-tax referendum Aug. 30 is an open question; however, he now has at least one unread book at this disposal.

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Florida GOP picks its final delegates to convention this summer

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia on Saturday selected the 15 delegates and 15 alternates chosen as at-large delegates who had yet to be determined to be part of the state’s contingent of  99 delegates that will represent the Sunshine State at the Republican National Convention:

They include former Miami-Dade Rep. Adam Hasner, who worked on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign; incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who campaigned for former Gov. Jeb Bush in New Hampshire; and Senate President Joe Negron, who also endorsed Bush.

Donald Trump won the Florida GOP presidential primary last month, and all 99 pledged delegates are bound to vote for him at the party’s convention in Cleveland in July.

Electing a president is never easy, but our party is strong, focused, and ready,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “We have made incredible gains in the past year that outpace the Florida Democrats’ best efforts, and I know every single member of our party is prepared to keep up the hard work to ensure we are successful in November.”

Here’s the entire list:

Automatic Delegates

RPOF Chairman:                           Blaise Ingoglia

Ntl. Committeewoman:                 Sharon Day

Ntl. Committeeman:                      Peter Feaman

At-Large Delegates

Brian Ballard

Majority Leader LizBeth Benacquisto

Robin Bernstein

Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran

Mayor Lenny Curry

Jeffrey Feingold

Adam Hasner

Belinda Keiser

Frmr. U.S. Sen. George LeMieux

Congressman Jeff Miller

Senate President Joe Negron

Speaker-DD Jose Oliva

Mike Barnett

Nancy Watkins

Susie Wiles

At-large Alternates

Rep. Jason Brodeur

Cynthia Crowe

Ron Howse

John Falconetti

Barbara Feingold

Janet Glassman

Karen Harrington

Scott Hoppes

Julie Ingoglia

Fred Karlinsky

William Lasky

Susan Moore

Mitzi Prater

George Scarborough

Robert Wakins

CD 1

Delegate 1          Martin Simmons

Delegate 2          Charlotte Flynt

Delegate 3          Tim Norris

Alternate 1         Dorothy Davis

Alternate 2         Sam Mullins

Alternate 3         Jeremy Evans

CD 2

Delegate 1          Clint Pate

Delegate 2          Evan Power

Delegate 3          Thelma Rohan

Alternate 1         Bill Helmich

Alternate 2         S. Curtis Kiser

Alternate 3         James Wyckoff

CD 3

Delegate 1         Layne Schultetus

Delegate 2          Kay Durden

Delegate 3          Sherri Ortega

Alternate 1         Delores Lansford

Alternate 2         Sherrie McKnight

Alternate 3         Sally Beach

CD 4

Delegate 1          Cindy Graves

Delegate 2          Lake Ray

Delegate 3          Ander Crenshaw

Alternate 1         Danny Norton

Alternate 2         Charles Cordes

Alternate 3         Alexander Pantinakis

CD 5

Delegate 1          Patty Redlich

Delegate 2          Mike Cribby

Delegate 3          Clarence Allen

Alternate 1         Thuy Lowe

Alternate 2         Gloreatha Scurry-Smith

Alternate 3         Caleb Spencer

CD 6

Delegate 1          Tony Ledbetter

Delegate 2          Bill Korach

Delegate 3          Alan Burton

Alternate 1         Jospeh Fieldus

Alternate 2         Paul Porter

Alternate 3         Stuart Epperson

CD 7

Delegate 1          Al Schwarz

Delegate 2          Ray Valdes

Delegate 3          Dana Dougherty

Alternate 1         Kathy Gibson

Alternate 2         Wade Vose

Alternate 3         Phil Kaprow

CD 8

Delegate 1          Carlie Rogers

Delegate 2          Barbara Davis

Delegate 3          Lew Oliver

Alternate 1         Richard Lacey

Alternate 2         Joseph Semprevivo

Alternate 3         Carole Jean Jordan

CD 9

Delegate 1          Rich Crotty

Delegate 2          Tammy Celeste

Delegate 3          Mark Cross

Alternate 1         Ruth Coberley

Alternate 2         Bertica Cabrera-Morris

Alternate 3         Chadwick Hardee

CD 10

Delegate 1          Jim Guth

Delegate 2          Wendy West

Delegate 3          Mark Oxner

Alternate 1         Robbie Ford

Alternate 2         Ronald Janssen

Alternate 3         Patricia Sullivan

CD 11

Delegate 1          Mike Moberley

Delegate 2          Darilyn Dolimpio

Delegate 3          Daniel Wright

Alternate 1         Sandy Balfour

Alternate 2         Lucy Sullivan

Alternate 3         Ana Trinque

CD 12

Delegate 1          Sandy Graves

Delegate 2          Tina Harris

Delegate 3          Chris Sprowls

Alternate 1         Steve Graves

Alternate 2         Pam McAloon

Alternate 3         Mary Gaulden

CD 13

Delegate 1          Nancy Riley

Delegate 2          Dan Tucker

Delegate 3          Nick DiCeglie

Alternate 1         Todd Jennings

Alternate 2         Dorine McKinnon

Alternate 3         Chely Hernandez-Miller

CD 14

Delegate 1          Terry Castro

Delegate 2          Marjorie Mittleman

Delegate 3          Spencer Rogers

Alternate 1         James Buntyn

Alternate 2         Tony DeSisto

Alternate 3         Mike Mikurak

CD 15

Delegate 1          Debbie Hannifan

Delegate 2          Tina Pike

Delegate 3          Dena DeCamp

Alternate 1         Tony Jackson

Alternate 2         Judith Wise

Alternate 3         Mark Proctor

CD 16

Delegate 1          Kathy King

Delegate 2          Joe Gruters

Delegate 3          Christian Ziegler

Alternate 1         David Matthews

Alternate 2         Donna Hayes

Alternate 3         John Colon

CD 17

Delegate 1          Bill Folchi

Delegate 2          Jimmy Nelson

Delegate 3          Kathy Rapp

Alternate 1         Jane Sturges

Alternate 2         Allen Goldstein

Alternate 3         Natalie Schmidt

CD 18

Delegate 1          Bill Paterson

Delegate 2          Mary Ann Russell

Delegate 3          Don Pickard

Alternate 1         Darlene Fuggetta

Alternate 2         Julie Paterson

Alternate 3         Linda Stoch

CD 19

Delegate 1          Mike Lyster

Delegate 2          Jonathan Martin

Delegate 3          Lisa Musial

Alternate 1         Rosealie Lesser

Alternate 2         Jesse Purdon

Alternate 3         Mike Hook

CD 20

Delegate 1          Rico Petrocelli

Delegate 2          Roger Gingerich

Delegate 3          Daniel Diaz

Alternate 1         Patrick Castronovo

Alternate 2         Terrance O’Loughlin

Alternate 3         Camille Petrocelli

CD 21

Delegate 1          Bob Sutton

Delegate 2          Maureen Jaeger

Delegate 3          Tami Donnally

Alternate 1         Marion Frank

Alternate 2         Jay Goldfarb

Alternate 3         Richard Eddins

CD 22

Delegate 1          Cindy Tindell

Delegate 2          Ed Pozzuoli

Delegate 3          Gay Gaines

Alternate 1         Mike Barnett

Alternate 2         Sue Snowden

Alternate 3         Al Massey

CD 23

Delegate 1          Sanjay Narang

Delegate 2          Corey Brier

Delegate 3          Eric Shure

Alternate 1         Richard DeNapoli

Alternate 2         Kevin Cooper

Alternate 3         Florine Goldfarb

CD 24

Delegate 1          Jessica Fernandez

Delegate 2          Kelly Mallette

Delegate 3          Stephanie Woodard

Alternate 1         Uri Benhamron

Alternate 2         Nikita Mizgirev

Alternate 3         Steve Karski

CD 25

Delegate 1          Steve Nisbet

Delegate 2          Margie Nelson

Delegate 3          Carlos Trujillo

Alternate 1         Manny Diaz

Alternate 2         Doug Harrison

Alternate 3         Doug Rankin

CD 26

Delegate 1          Carey Goodman

Delegate 2          Alex Trujillo

Delegate 3          Jeanette Nunez

Alternate 1         Jose Felix Diaz

Alternate 2         Harry Hoffman

Alternate 3         Debby Goodman

CD 27

Delegate 1          Nelson Diaz

Delegate 2          Liliana Ros

Delegate 3          Bernie Navarro

Alternate 1         Rey Lastre

Alternate 2         Rudolfo Milani

Alternate 3         Marili Cancio

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Richard Corcoran endorses Carlos Lopez-Cantera in U.S. Senate race

Carlos Lopez-Cantera can add House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran to his list of backers.

Lopez-Cantera announced Thursday that Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, has endorsed his U.S. Senate bid. The lieutenant governor said he appreciated Corcoran’s support.

“I’m grateful to have Richard’s support, and having worked side by side, I know his steadfast approach to limited government does not waver,” said Lopez-Cantera. “His dedication to his family, and to the people of Florida is truly honorable, and we are happy to have him on the team as we work to ensure a win in November.”

According to the Lopez-Cantera campaign, more than half the Republican members of the state Legislature have backed him. So have Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

In a statement, Corcoran said he was proud to endorse his friend.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand his dedication and commitment to all Floridians and know him to be a passionate advocate for our shared values,” said Corcoran. “Carlos, along with his wonderful family, embody the American dream and represent a bright future for our party and our country.”

Lopez-Cantera faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. The Republican primary is Aug. 30.

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