George P. Bush to visit Tampa April 12 for fundraising luncheon

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will be in Tampa this month at a fundraising luncheon hosted by former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will appear Tuesday, April 12, at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Co-hosting the event, which begins at noon, is A-list lobbyist Slater Bayliss of Cardenas Partners.

Although his father recently ended a presidential bid, the grandson of George H.W. Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush is expected to continue making his mark on both the Lone Star and national political landscapes. Before his election in 2014 as Texas Land Commissioner, George P. made the most of his political pedigree, starting with a major address for his uncle at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Rumors abound that the ambitious young Bush will one day run for president.

“Viva George P! Speculation is already growing that Jeb Bush’s eldest son may make a bid for the White House,” The Independent wrote in 2012. That same year, The Atlantic referred to him as “a political dynasty’s young hope.”

Most recently, Bush and his brother, Jeb Bush Jr., co-chaired “Mission: Next,” a committee that tailors events toward Republicans under age 40 with fundraising skills. The group was formed to support their father’s presidential bid.

The Oxford Exchange is at 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. RSVPs with Lavana Harvey at, Ann Herberger at or (305) 772-4311.

Mitch Perry Report for 3.16.16 – How does Bernie Sanders move on from here?

We’ll save you our post-mortems about Marco Rubio‘s failed candidacy for the presidency, since you can find them all over the web this morning. We wrote last week how startled we were about the lack of support in his own state, and that was before Alex Leary‘s devastating portrayal in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times

A notable thing about Rubio – his inability to raise a lot of money. Though it’s become chic this year to say that money doesn’t matter as much as it used to (referring to how poorly Jeb Bush did compared to Donald Trump), but Rubio is no Bernie Sanders in raising money. And oh yeah, he wasn’t too good at having a basic ground game to gather up votes.

Now, what about the Dems?

Boy, it was a rough night for Bernie Sanders supporters here in Florida. The polls were modest, actually, in comparison to what actually happened last night, as Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by 32 percentage points.

So is Bernie So Over Now?

His strategists say that the calendar looks more favorable to him.

“We’re now entering a period where we think we’ll win most if not all of the contests before the April 19 primary in New York,” said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Sanders. “Regardless of how much momentum we have after Tuesday, the calendar is shifting in our favor. Now we just have to win some major showdowns, like in New York and New Jersey, to raise questions about whether she can really win the presidency.”

That’s extremely optimistic.

Will Bernie go negative? Probably not. He’s already had a significant influence on how Clinton is running this race. Can he continue to do so, while still needling her? He’s got the money to stay on the trail for awhile. How does he do it? He’s got to win upcoming states.

Oh, by the way. I’ll never be called a “pundit,” because those folks make sh*t up to fill airtime. I couldn’t believe how some folks were saying yesterday afternoon on cable news how Marco Rubio could still take his delegates with him and continue to campaign, even if he were to lose last night.

WTF? There is a thing called dignity. There is no way that Rubio was going to continue to go out on the stump today in Utah and say … well, what? “We’re going on to Cleveland with little chance of winning, but we’ve got our delegates to maintain to stave off Donald Trump!”

Too many people are being paid too much money to pontificate on TV because of the demands of the medium.

In other news …

Political pros Adam Goodman and Steve Schale break down the election results today at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

Over half a million dollars was spent by a super PAC on Marco Rubio’s behalf over the next couple of weeks.

Donald Trump Florida Chair Joe Gruters says the RPOF will come together in support of Trump later this year.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford isn’t so sure.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor will be joining Barack and Michelle Obama when they travel to Cuba this weekend.

Joe Gruters confident Florida GOP will come together to back Donald Trump

Joe Gruters‘ association with the Donald Trump campaign is controversial, because, well, Donald Trump is controversial.

Gruters was named last fall to be the campaign chair for Trump in Florida. That’s in addition to his other public duties, which include being the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida, the chair of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, and a member of the board of trustees of Florida State University.

Those conflicting roles have led some of his critics to say that he should step down from one of those public positions. Gruters has rebuffed the critics, and is feeling more confident than ever that his candidate will be the nominee this fall. And he has no qualms about the party coming together in November.

“Listen, primaries are tough,” he said while standing outside the room used by Trump at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon. “A lot of things get said in primaries. People are unhappy. Their candidate loses, and just like me, there’ve been times before where I didn’t like who are nominee was going to be. But by the end of the day, I was one-hundred percent doing everything I could for the person, and I think the same will happen here.”

Members of the GOP establishment continue to maintain that the majority of Republicans don’t support Trump, referring to how his victories in previous primaries and caucuses rarely exceed forty percent of the total vote.

That’s among a scattered field, however, and Gruters says that Trump’s numbers are growing as candidates like Ben Carson and Chris Christie drop out of the race.

“Eventually, all will be forgiven, and the Republican Party will come together, stronger and united and bigger and better than before, and I think we’re going to win,” he maintains.


Earlier on Tuesday, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a former surrogate for Jeb Bush, who is now supporting Marco Rubio, says he has certain expectations of who the GOP’s standard bearer should be, and says Trump is lacking in those qualities at the moment.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.

Gruters says that Trump has ignited a movement, referring to the dramatic increase in Republicans turning out to vote in some of the nation’s first primaries and caucuses.  Democratic strategist Steve Schale told the Wall Street Journal that based on the early vote in 14 counties across Florida, more than half didn’t cast ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

“I think at the end of the day we have to win the general election, and I think that Donald Trump has the ability to expand our base, to increase the size of our tent,” says Gruters. “You’ve seen it in the primaries; I think that the energy and enthusiasm that’s been created will be transferred over to the general election, and I think it’s going to be a historic election with DT carrying states that we were never even considered to have a chance of winning before.”

Will Weatherford denounces Republicans for failing to define Donald Trump earlier

When Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio opted to both compete in the 2016 Republican presidential race last year, Florida Republicans had to make a decision about which Miami area candidate to support, both vocally and with their dollars.

In the majority of cases, those Republicans supported Bush. But after the former Florida Governor’s campaign flamed out in South Carolina last month, one might expect many of those same people to support the state’s other native son.

It hasn’t exactly worked out like that.

A notable exception is Will Weatherford, who joined Team Marco immediately after Bush’s exit. The former Florida House Speaker in 2013 & 2014 went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday to advocate for Rubio, but spent more time blasting the GOP for failing to knock down front-runner Donald Trump earlier in the race.

“I’ve just been shocked at the way that the Republican Party has just allowed this man to hijack what I believe are our principals and where we stand as a party,” Weatherford said. “The things he’s said and done are so offensive, I don’t know how he wins in November. ”

Jeb Bush was the first Republican presidential candidate to strongly criticize Trump, joking at one time that his colleagues were in the “witness protection program” when it came to speaking out against the surprise front-runner. Weatherford agrees.

“We had an opportunity back then to really define Donald Trump, and we lost it, and now here we are.”

Weatherford wouldn’t completely reject the idea of voting for Trump in the fall. But only if Trump changes what’s brought him so much success to date with Republicans.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he said. “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.”

“Now, is there an opportunity for him to earn that? Maybe, but he has not shown it thus far. And the divisiveness that he has created in this political environment and ecosystem is dangerous.”

Weatherford concluded that the only thing going well for Republicans is that the party will face either “a socialist” or a candidate “under criminal investigation” in November, a reference to Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Sanders describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” while there is a State Department inquiry and FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server. There is also a separate State Department investigation into the Clinton Foundation and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.


Mitch Perry Report for 3.10.16 – Why hasn’t the Florida GOP establishment rallied around Marco Rubio?

In what is being dubbed by critics as the “low-energy” summit, Jeb Bush is scheduled to meet today in Miami separately with John Kasich and Ted Cruz, after reportedly already meeting with Marco Rubio on Wednesday.

The idea being, I take it, is that Jeb might come out with an endorsement. If he’s going to do that, it should happen today, when it would have maximum impact, hours before tonight’s GOP presidential debate on the UM campus.

One would assume that Jeb won’t endorse Rubio. If he were to, what’s he been waiting for? What is remarkable is how many Florida Republicans who supported Bush (most of the Tallahassee establishment) have failed to lift a figure to help Rubio out once Jeb bowed out after his fourth-place performance in South Carolina last month.

Neither has former RPOF chair Al Cardenas, who allegedly is friendly with Marco and isn’t backing anyone in the race.

Richard Corcoran, Marco’s former chief-of-staff when he was House Speaker, notably endorsed Bush this year, as did Will Weatherford or many other former state legislators.

Has Marco become a creature against the Washington establishment that he castigates on a daily basis? The fact is that he does have a number of endorsements from Republicans – who he works with in Washington.

Not that it’s helped much.

An anecdote related by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn earlier this week I believe says volumes about Rubio’s outreach to the state that he’s represented in Washington over the past five years.

Buckhorn told MSNBC that he’s never met the senator, despite the fact that they’ve both been in office for the past half-decade.

The fact is, Rubio has rarely shown his face in Tampa at all since he was elected. He was a frequent visitor to the Bay area during his 2009-2010 campaign for Senate, but has been a stranger to these parts since.

I don’t have the statistics, but I would dare say it may have been less than a handful of times. The only time I can recall observing Rubio here was when he spoke before the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in 2011.

In other news..

There are SO many polls in Florida regarding next week’s primary, , but they all come to the same conclusion regarding the GOP race – Marco Rubio is in deep against Trump. Then again, another poll shows Rubio within six points.

Bernie Sanders is calling on Rick Scott to veto the most recent bill limiting abortion in Florida that will soon reach his desk.

According to Facebook “interactions” over the past 30 days, Floridians are most interested in Cuba, followed by immigration when it comes to national issues. That differs from the rest of the country, where it’s religion and the economy who are one-two (we’ll have an update on that in an upcoming story today).

Some Florida immigration activists say they intend to register more Latino voters than ever this spring and summer, all so they can vote against Donald Trump this fall.

Well, it’s certainly exciting for all of those who are participating in the Florida presidential primary. Unless you’re an independent, non-party-affiliated voter, in which your s*it out of luck.

Darden Rice tells Florida Democratic leaders, “thanks, but no thanks,” to the suggestion that she run against GOP incumbent state senator Jeff Brandes this fall.

Florida Chamber of Commerce launches 100th anniversary celebration

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is turning 100.

The annual Florida Chamber Capitol Days kicked off the year-long celebration of the Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Founded in 1916, the organization has grown over the years along with the state.

“On hundred years ago, the biggest threat facing Florida’s economy was a parasite — the cattle tick,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, in a news release. “While the threats to Florida’s economy have changed, the Florida Chamber’s mission to secure our state’s future, create jobs and economic opportunities, remain the same.”

The Florida Chamber kicked off the celebration Wednesday with three past legislative leaders: former House Speaker Will Weatherford; Florida State University President, former House Speaker, and former Sen. John Thrasher, and former Lt. Gov. and former Senate President Toni Jennings. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also spoke to the group Wednesday night.

The Chamber’s 2016 Capitol Days continue Thursday.

Despite intraparty tension, state Senators pony up cash to Florida GOP

The financial cold shoulder Republican state Senators had been giving to the Republican Party of Florida appears to be thawing.

As reported by several outlets after Monday’s campaign finance reporting deadline, the RPOF’s fundraising totals are their lowest in years. They even failed to double up the Florida Democratic Party, as was standard most years.

Observers blamed internecine conflict spurred by the defeat of Gov. Rick Scott‘s handpicked party chairman in favor of Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. Scott no longer raises money for the RPOF, while its Senate Victory arm moved out of the party’s headquarters, taking its campaign cash with it.

But campaign finance reports reveal that some state Senators are giving generously to the party.

The state party’s $2.29 million quarterly totals were bolstered by major checks from committees affiliated with leaders in the legislative upper chamber, including $8,400 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

President-to-be Sen. Joe Negron recently took the reins of the FRSCC, but that didn’t stop him from digging deeper to help the party.

Negron’s Treasure Coast Alliance PAC gave $50,000 on New Year’s Eve, surpassed only by Disney for the largest single check of the quarter.

Sen. Bill Galvano gave $25,000 to the cause in December through a committee, Sen. Wilton Simpson gave $25,000, and Sen. Jack Latvala‘s Florida Leadership Committee ponied up $20,000.

Other senators, such as Sen. David Simmons, chipped in smaller donations with their formal campaign accounts.

All told, contributions with senatorial origins exceeded $130,000 for the quarter.

Current and former House members also continued to give.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford gave $5,000 and the Building on Your Dreams committee afiiliated with Bradenton Rep. Jim Boyd kicked in $10,000, among others.

Florida Chamber: Capitol Days focus on issues important to business community

Florida Chamber of Commerce members are taking over Tallahassee.

The 2016 Florida Chamber’s Capitol Days kicks off Wednesday. The two-day event is meant to give the business community a chance to interact with lawmakers and advocate for issues that are important to them.

Edie Ousley, the chamber’s vice president of public affairs, said the annual event offers the business community a chance “to talk about issues concerning job creators throughout Florida.”

“We’ll focus on business climate issues,” said Ousley, who said, among other things, the discussion will focus on target tax reform, small business issues and quality of life issues.

The event kicks off Wednesday at the Florida State University Turnbull Conference Center. Ousley said they can expect to hear from all of the Cabinet members, House and Senate leadership, and past legislative leaders.

On Wednesday, attendees will start the afternoon with a presentation called “The Florida Scorecard.” That 30-minute presentation will feature Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

In December, Gov. Rick Scott announced Proctor, the agency’s former chief of staff, would take over the helm, succeeding Jesse Panuccio. She took over on Jan. 9.

According to the agenda, Proctor will be joined by Tracy Duda Chapman, the senior vice president and general counsel for A. Duda & Sons, Inc., and Jerry Parrish, the chief economist and director of research for the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. That presentation is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Ousley said other speakers include former House Speaker Will Weatherford; FSU President and former Sen. John Thrasher, and former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings. Several current lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Galvano, Rep. Jay Trumbull and Sen. Joe Negron, are also expected to attend.

The annual event also marks the start of a yearlong celebration of the Chamber’s 100th anniversary. The Florida Chamber, Ousley said, was founded in 1916, when there was a population of about 900,000. Today, the state has about 20 million residents, and Ousley said the chamber expects the population will grow by another 6 million people by 2030.

“While we know things are fragile in Florida, because of political risk and uncertainty, the one thing we know is the Florida Chamber has a long-standing position to make Florida more competitive, and to be the voice of the Florida business community,” she said.

Jeb Bush donates $2,000 to Tampa Bay’s Metropolitan Ministries

Christmas is all about happy endings, and no story about the holidays would be complete without one.

What happened to Metropolitan Ministries is no different – a sad tale with a very happy ending, brought upon, in part, by Jeb Bush.

As you may remember, the week before Christmas, someone made off with a trailer filled with $4,500 worth of toys for needy families.

Metropolitan Ministries was already short more than 6,000 gifts for teens and infants of the nearly 19,000 toys usually given out during the holiday season.  It was shaping up to be a sad tale taken straight from Charles Dickens, or – more appropriately – Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch That Stole Christmas.

Fortunately, the world has many more Santas than grinches.

Word of the theft quickly spread throughout the Tampa Bay area and on social media, former House Speaker Will Weatherford pledged to match donations to help replace the stolen items.

“So sad! I’ll match any gift up to $2000. Who wants to help?” Weatherford said on Twitter.

Within a few hours, donations began pouring in, as Florida politicos rallied to Weatherford’s call to support Metropolitan Ministries and the work they do.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that by 10:30 a.m. that Friday, more than a dozen people pledged about $2,500, including former state Rep. Seth McKeel and current members James Grant, Chris Latvala, Ed Narain, Alan Williams, and Dana Young. By noon, the amount raised reached $9,000 — more than twice the value of what was stolen.

In that same story, Weatherford told the newspaper he was headed to New Hampshire to campaign for Bush. He joked that he might hit up the former governor for a donation.

Bush beat him to the punch, he and his wife Columba donated $2,000 to Metropolitan Ministries before Weatherford landed in the Granite State.

Think about that: Bush took time from his hectic campaign schedule to help those back in his home state. And he didn’t do it for the publicity: were it not for this story, no one would know of his generosity.

“The fact that he is so busy fighting for his political career and still took the time to do an act of kindness reminds me why I am supporting him for President,” Weatherford said.

No matter who ultimately makes it to the White House in 2016, Bush’s generosity this Christmas reveals why some people are so devoted to him and his candidacy.

Tampa Bay elite gathers to dedicate USF’s new Channel District med school

A crowd filled with members of the Tampa Bay political and business elite, along with USF donors and members from the USF medical community congregated Tuesday morning where the USF College of Medicine and Healthy Heart Institute will be built in the city’s Channel District.

The medical facilities are the “anchors” of the massive development being envisioned by Strategic Property Partners, the development company owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and Cascade Investment.

“For the record, as of this moment, Strategic Property Partners has built one tent,” Vinik quipped after receiving a standing ovation as he began his remarks. The crowd laughed lustily, but he was telling the truth.

For all of the expected success that the $2 billion Vinik grand plan is expected to bring to the area over the course of the next several years, there isn’t much to show besides a lot of dirt at the corner of Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue in the 40 acres that his team was able to purchase in recent years near the Amalie Arena, though that undoubtedly should change over the course of the next few years.

Mentioning the physical assets that surround the area such as the arena, The Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Convention Center, the Tampa Bay History Museum, Vinik insisted that he was no visionary, but in fact a fortunate businessman who arrived at the right time and place to attempt to “changing hopefully the trajectory of this city and this entire area.”

Although he emphasizes that it’s not about him, Vinik isn’t nearly as self effacing about the project itself that he’s spearheading.

“If we have a reasonably good economic result out of this and get some vibrancy down here, what have we accomplished? Not that much,” he said. “The whole idea is to lift this entire region as best we can.”

At the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City in September, Strategic Property Partners announced a partnership with the Delos Corp. to create the first WELL Certified city district in Tampa. The two organizations intend to invest more than $20 million specifically for health and wellness-focused, state-of-the-art technologies and design strategies for the project.

Vinik gave shout-outs to local legislators who have helped get financing for the project. A a number of state lawmakers sat in the front row under the large tent that hosted the news conference. They included Jeff Brandes, Dan Raulerson, Shawn Harrison, Dana Young, Ed Narain, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and, of course, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

In his remarks, Buckhorn thanked Gov. Rick Scott and the Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee who were able to procure funding to help begin the process of construction of the USF medical building. “All of us joined together and put aside our differences, and said this matters for our community.”

In June, the state Legislature set aside $17 million in funding in the state budget to get the project started. The project has an anticipated cost of about $150 million, with that coming from a combination of private and state funding.

Once completed, the two facilities will become closer to Tampa General Hospital, USF’s main teaching hospital, and even closer to CAMLS, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. “The greater connectivity creates a world-class learning and research training environment for our students, faculty and staff,” USF President Judy Genshaft said.

The Morsani College of Medicine had a 24 percent increase in applications this past year, and Genshaft said USF officials think part of that has to do with the downtown center. In 2015, there were 5,000 applications for 170 slots.

Vinik said that the project is lucky to have a great anchor in USF.

“How much is this going to add to our district, in terms of the energy levels? Students, faculty, water taxis going over to TGH,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be prouder to have the university being a key part of his development.

In addition to the USF medical facilities, the project includes a new 500-room hotel, an officer tower and 200,000-square feet of shopping and entertainment space and renovations to the Waterside Marriott hotel and Chanelside Bay plaza.

The USF facility is expected to be open by early 2019.