Sunburn for 5/6 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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DRIVING THE NAT’L DISCUSSION – POLL SHOWS BIGGEST ADVANTAGE FOR REPUBLICANS IN 2 DECADES via Susan Page and Kendall Breitman of USA Today

A nationwide USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan “waves” in 1994 and 2010 … By more than 2-1, 65 percent to 30 percent, Americans say they want the president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration, rather than similar ones.

In the 2014 elections, registered voters are inclined to support the Republican candidate over the Democrat in their congressional district by 47 percent to 43 percent.

… GOP POISED TO CONTROL MORE STATE LEGISLATURES via Beth Reinhard of the Wall Street Journal

Four years after Republicans grabbed their largest number of legislative seats since the Great Depression, the party is positioned to gain House and Senate majorities in more states, putting energy regulation, social issues and taxes in play … Control of five state senates would swing to the GOP with a gain of no more than three seats, and the party is targeting four additional state legislative chambers … The party already has full legislative control in 26 of the 50 states and holds 29 governorships heading into 2014 elections. …[Target states include:] Colorado…the Nevada Senate…Iowa Senate…Oregon…and Maine.

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ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE — GOV. SCOTT STATEMENT ON CINCO DE MAYO: With their work and talent, the Mexican community has been growing for many years in Florida, coinciding with my efforts to make Florida the best state in the country to livefind a jobraise a familyeducate our children and achieve the American dream.”

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersblog: Correct me if I am wrong, @maxasteele, but did Scott just attempt to take credit for growth of Mexican community in Fla?

WITH SESSION OVER, RICK SCOTT STARTS CAMPAIGNING via The Associated Press

Now that the Legislature’s business is over, Gov. Scott is turning his focus to winning a second term.

Scott kicked off a week-long tour on Monday, stopping at a Jacksonville car dealer to boast about cutting vehicle registration fees while attacking Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

He started the rally by urging the crowd to chant “let’s keeping working.”

Scott focused mainly on $500 million in tax and fee cuts passed during the legislative session that ended Friday, including a $400 million reduction in vehicle registration fees.

FLORIDA DEMS SLAM SCOTT “VICTORY TOUR” BEFORE IT EVEN BEGINS via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing Tampa

Scott is scheduled to tour in major cities across the state, beginning at a Honda dealership in Brandon. It’s all part of his campaign to tout his successes during the just-completed legislative session, which included his No. 1 goal — a $400 million tax cut for Florida motorists who will save on average about $25 when they get their car re-registered.

But on a conference call, Florida Democratic Party Vice Chairs Annette Taddeo and Justin Spiller slammed the idea of a so-called victory tour, with Spiller claiming the idea was “as misleading as his TV ads.”

Taddeo blasted the governor on a number of fronts. When asked if there was anything positive he accomplished during the legislative session, she mentioned his support for granting undocumented high-school students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition for Florida universities and colleges. But that prompted the Palm Beach Post‘s George Bennett to ask her about Charlie Crist’s flip-flop on the issue.

“We have to get through our primary first to see who our nominee is,” Taddeo said. “But I most certainly know where the Democratic party stood for more than a decade.”

So, Bennett responded, does that mean Taddeo isn’t supporting Crist in his race against Nan Rich for the Democratic nomination?

“I am very glad that he is supporting [in-state tuition] now and I do trust him,” Taddeo said. “I do trust that he has come to the Democratic side and is a proud Democrat,” adding that she is pleased that Crist has been an unabashed supporter of the Affordable Care Act, for starters. After bemoaning the fact that Medicaid expansion continues to be a problem, she said, “there are so many things that we need to do, and with a Democratic governor we’ll be able to change that.”

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CHARLIE CRIST STUMPS AT VERSAILLES, BASHES RICK SCOTT OVER TAXES AND TRIES TO DENY FLIP-FLOPS via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Crist campaigned like a Republican Monday when he visited Little Havana’s Versailles Restaurant and attacked Gov. Scott over an issue commonly associated with GOP candidates: Taxes.

“Rick Scott is trying to boast that he increased education funding. Well, he did it by raising property taxes about $400 million,” Crist said.

What Crist didn’t mention: property taxes used to pay for education rose under him as well.

Crist’s new message – that Scott raised taxes – coincides with the governor’s statewide tour to tout his successful push to repeal auto-tag and title taxes that Crist signed into law in 2009, when the former governor broke a pledge to never raise taxes.

“When I took office, Florida was deep in the hole,” Scott said in a statement issued by his campaign. “At a time when Floridians could least afford it, Charlie Crist raised taxes by $2.2 billion and let tuition climb year after year.”

Scott didn’t mention that he once called for tuition increases and that his current lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, voted for tuition and tax hikes that he’s now taking on. Also, Scott has kept the higher revenues in the budget for a longer period than Crist did.

But the Scott campaign pointed out that, under Crist, school funding was cut and thousands of public-school employees lost their jobs. Unlike Crist, Scott was able to give “$480 million in well-deserved pay raises” to teachers, the Republican’s campaign said. Crist’s campaign hit back by noting that Scott would have refused to take stimulus money, which saved thousands more government jobs, and that Scott had called for large cuts to education when he first took office in 2011.The day’s tit for tat on who cut more spending, raised more taxes and flip-flopped the most is a prelude to a long mean-season of a governor’s race.Crist is nominally ahead in most polls, but Scott has more money and is on pace to spend $100 million, of which he might have already spent a fifth.

A good portion of Scott’s money has been spent on negative ads that bash Crist over his support for Obamacare and for the sorry state of the economy while he was governor. Crist ran for Senate in 2010 as a Republican, left the party during a tough primary and lost anyway.

“Charlie ran away!” a handful of young Republican protesters chanted during Crist’s visit.

BOUSQUET COLUMN: RICK SCOTT, CHARLIE CRIST READY TO RUMBLE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott is taking a celebratory victory lap around Florida, taking credit for a $25 cut in auto tag fees that legislators approved and he signed into law, all the while hammering the record of Crist.

For starters, Scott and the Legislature did not “cut taxes” as he claims. They cut the cost of annual fees that went way up under then-Republican Gov. Crist and the GOP-dominated Legislature in 2009. When it suits them, politicians make distinctions between taxes and fees, or lump them together.

And when Scott calls it “Charlie Crist’s vehicle registration tax,” he ignores the fact that the idea came from the Legislature and that most Republican lawmakers voted for the increases, including Scott’s lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who was in the House in 2009.

Crist was on the trail too, and also not telling the whole truth as he feasted on what he called Scott’s failings at Versailles, a popular Cuban restaurant in Miami.

The “record” education budget Scott will brag about from now until Election Day is in fact the highest in total dollars for public schools, but it’s not the highest spending per student ever. That happened under Crist in 2007-08, right before the economy crashed.

Nearly half of the money to run schools next year, $7.2 billion, will come from local property taxes in each of the 67 counties. The rest comes from state taxes that everybody pays.

MEANWHILE … RELEASE OF INMATE JIM GREER’S ‘SHAKESPEAREAN’ TELL-ALL MIGHT BE DELAYED UNTIL HIS OWN RELEASE IN JULY via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

A tell-all book about former Republican Party of Florida Chairman and Crist friend Jim Greer‘s plunge from political power to incarceration might be delayed five weeks to coincide with Greer’s July release from custody on grand theft and money-laundering charges.

Authored by Peter Golenbock and published by NewSouth Books, The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer, is billed on Amazon as nothing less than “a Shakespearean tale of friendship and betrayal to rival Hamlet.”

The book — which appears likely to take shots at Crist, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Attorney Gen. Bill McCollum and the Tea Party movement — has been scheduled for June 1 release. But NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa said the date might be pushed back to July 7. She mentioned possible “safety concerns” for Greer, who is scheduled for release from the Bridges of Orlando work-release facility on July 5.

According to the book’s promotional blurb on Amazon: “Despite evidence that supported Greer’s claim that top party officials knew about the arrangements, Greer chose to end his trial and surprised many by pleading guilty in 2013. Greer trusted Crist to protect him from the onslaught of the Tea Party wing of the party, only to watch as Crist stabbed him in the back and helped send him to prison in order to try to save his own political career.”

AND … 88 PERCENT OF FLORIDIANS SUPPORT MEDICAL MARIJUANA, SAYS NEW Q-POLL 

Support is over 80 percent among all listed groups, including 84 – 13 percent among voters over 65 years old. By a smaller 53 – 42 percent majority, voters support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. There are gender, age and partisan gaps: Only 45 percent of Florida voters admit they’ve tried marijuana. Among voters 50 to 64 years old, 62 percent admit smoking pot, more than any other group. Marijuana is equally as dangerous as alcohol, 43 percent of voters say, while 39 percent say it is less dangerous and 12 percent say it is more dangerous. Marijuana use does not lead to the use of other drugs, voters say 54 – 38 percent. “If Vegas were giving odds on medical marijuana becoming legal in Florida, the bookies would be betting heavily,” said Brown. “With almost nine in 10 voters favoring legalization for medical purposes, and bills allowing such use advancing in the State Legislature, the odds seem pretty good Florida may join the states which already have done so.”

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HOUSE SPEAKER WEATHERFORD EXITS PUBLIC STAGE, SAYS HE’LL BE BACK via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

As he looks ahead to an uncertain future, Speaker Weatherford wants to be remembered as a compassionate conservative who promoted the hopes of the working class with measures like lower auto tag fees for all and in-state tuition for undocumented children.

Yet the Pasco County Republican may best be remembered for what he didn’t do: expand Medicaid, leaving at least 750,000 Floridians without affordable health care.

His sunny, upbeat conservatism was supposed to be an antidote to the win-at-all-costs brinksmanship of his predecessor, Dean Cannon. But the publicly unflappable 34-year-old didn’t hesitate to retaliate against those who got in his way.

Since joining the Legislature in 2006 with the help of his father-in-law, former House Speaker Allan Bense, Weatherford has made friends who foresee a big political future for him.

He’s being forced to leave office later this year because of term limits, but says he plans to return to public office. How and when, however, are unclear. His name came up for chair of the Republican Party of Florida last week, but he took it out of the running on Saturday, partly at the behest of his wife, Courtney, who is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child.

His private sector sources of income last year included two vaguely described consulting jobs, including one for Sen. Wilton Simpson that earned him a total of $83,000.

He made a mark on conservative issues such as teacher merit pay, school choice, and, in a lurch to the middle this year, in-state tuition for undocumented students. Though Gov. Rick Scott needed the tuition measure to appeal to Hispanic voters, the bill faced serious opposition from Senate President Don Gaetz. Weatherford’s tenacity earned respect from Democrats and nonpartisan observers.

MORE 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION WINNERS

The Counterintuitive Argument for Uber

To most Floridians, prior to the 2014 legislative session, “uber” was a throwback term meaning “excessively” or “the ultimate”, and almost always said while channeling some ghost of Keanu Reeves’ past.

But to those in Florida’s political process, and to the general public who bothered to pick up nearly any newspaper at least once during session, Uber is known as the innovative, stylish, high-tech transportation outfit, struggling against the Goliath of taxi moguls to gain a foothold in Florida.

No, Uber didn’t win this year. At least not in the sense of having a bill carve out its own regulatory home in the state.

Instead, Uber won because it became known, garnered some substantial support, and didn’t give up in the face of strong pushback by Mears Transportation and other taxi allies. Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jamie Grant were champions for the issue to the end, and no doubt, will continue their efforts to bring more transportation options to Tampa Bay, Miami, and beyond.

Kudos to the two PR shops — Mercury and On 3 Public Relations — hired to build support for Uber’s dogged pursuit of regulatory freedom.

Uber’s 2014 win was that it got in place, rallied troops, and made big waves. That’s more than most groups can garner in the first year of advocacy, and means there’s a lot more to come.

FMA Again Flexes Its Political Muscle

Every legislative session, there are few organizations that have as much on their legislative agenda as the powerful doctors’ lobbying group – the Florida Medical Association (FMA). Whether they are playing defense in stopping the scope of practice expansion of non-M.D.’s, taking on trial lawyers on med mal, or fighting the health insurance industry, none of their issues are ever easy and this year was no exception.

Early in this year’s session, it looked like the FMA was going to lose some major battles as the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation made independent practice for nurses and telemedicine the centerpiece of their bold proposal to reshape health care in Florida.  The  nurse bill would have greatly expanded the scope of practice by allowing some nurses to practice independently without any physician supervision and to prescribe dangerous narcotics such oxycodone.  On telemedicine, the House proposal would have allowed physician to practice telemedicine on Florida patients without a Florida license.  The FMA insisted that out-of-state physicians get a Florida license before engaging in telemedicine in the state.

However, the FMA prevailed on these issues when their allies in the Florida Senate unanimously voted to strip the nurse scope of practice and telemedicine provisions out of the House Health Care train.

In addition to killing scope of practice expansion for nurses and stopping a telemedicine proposal that they felt went too far, the FMA was a key player in the passage of legislation to make low-THC, non-euphoric cannabis available to cancer patients and children with intractable epilepsy.  The FMA was able to help shape the regulatory framework for medical marijuana through the creation of a “compassionate-use registry” and by requiring that doctors recommending the drug to their patients to go through eight hours’ of training (provided exclusively by the FMA).  It is fair to say that the FMA’s endorsement of this bill gave many legislators the comfort they needed to vote for this measure.

The FMA was also one of the driving forces behind the Miam-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Pilot Program, a public health initiative aimed at preventing the spread of blood-bourne diseases such as HIV.  Different versions of this legislation passed the House and Senate and the bill was poised to pass the Senate before time expired late Friday evening.  The FMA earned much respect from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for championing this important public health issue, which was pushed by a coalition of medical students.

Once again, the FMA has shown that on all issues related to health care, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Josh Aubuchon

In another David vs. Goliath of the session, craft beer took on “Big beer,” delivering a win for Josh Aubuchon despite making less movement than the craft brewers sought.

Aubuchon, chief lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild, used his uncanny grasp of Florida’s beverage laws to keep his issue making waves. Even in rooms full of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists, with people twice his age and far more experience.

To one lobbyist working on the issue who nominated Aubuchon, it was “Josh Aubuchon>Mitch Rubin”.

“It was a pleasure of mine to be in the trenches in the craft beer vs. big beer war and I have to offer tremendous kudos to Josh Aubuchon,” this lobbyist said. “In short, the craft beer industry would’ve gotten rolled this session without his acumen and backbone.”

The craft breweries will be back. But for now, the 2014 win goes to Josh Aubuchon for making quite a name for himself in a short period of time.

NRA’S HAMMER: ‘FSA HAS DECLARED WAR ON 2ND AMENDMENT’ via Sascha Cordner of WFSU

The president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association says he’s offended by comments made by the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer over a gun bill that died this legislative session. It’s a measure that would have allowed people to legally carry a firearm without a concealed weapons permit during a mandatory evacuation.

The bill was one of the priorities of the NRA and its failure to pass the full Legislature has upset Hammer. Law enforcement voiced some concerns over language in the bill as it moved through the process, and a Florida Sheriff’s Association-backed amendment tacked onto the bill when it came to the Senate floor in the last days of session effectively killed the bill, according to the bill’s own author.

Hammer says sheriffs simply don’t want to be “inconvenienced by more citizens carrying guns.” She also made similar remarks during the session’s halfway point.

“This bill is about law abiding people being able to protect themselves and their families during a state of emergency. It is not about the convenience of law enforcement. They’re not going to be there to take care of you. They’re going to be doing all manner of things. They need to trust the people,” said Hammer in late March.

In a letter to NRA members and Unified Sportsmen of Florida—another group she represents—Hammer also claimed the Florida Sheriff’s Association declared war on the Second Amendment.

“I would tell you I suspect the majority of the Florida Sheriffs are NRA members. We’re all staunch supporters of the 2nd Amendment. We are personally and professionally offended by her statements,” responded Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the FSA’s President.

Speaking to Tallahassee reporters Monday, Judd says Hammer’s statements are far from the truth, adding that they tried to cooperate with the NRA lobbyist during the process.

“Certainly, our goal was for us to work together to craft legislation so our law enforcement officers would know exactly how to respond. She didn’t want any of that. She wanted a very vague bill, which for all intense and purposes would have left us into a quandary as to 1) how to enforce the law, and certainly set innocent people of the state of Florida up to be inappropriately arrested,” added Judd.

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DCCC CHAIRMAN STEVE ISRAEL ANNOUNCES COLONEL ED JANY’S CD-13 CAMPAIGN NAMED TO EMERGING RACES PROGRAM

Colonel Ed Jany, Democrat running as an NPR in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, has been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Emerging Races program.

“In just a few short days in the race, Colonel Ed Jany’s campaign has already generated enthusiasm among Pinellas County voters, and his strong start and the fundamentals of this district have earned him a spot on the Emerging Races program,” said DCCC Chair Steve Israel. “Colonel Jany’s proven ability to bring Americans of all backgrounds and political stripes together is exactly what the people of Pinellas County are looking for, and will serve as an antidote to David Jolly’s broken Republican Congress that stacks the deck for special interests at the expense of seniors and the middle class.”

Emerging Races is part of the DCCC’s Red To Blue program, and highlights candidates and districts that are making themselves competitive by running smart campaigns which are becoming increasingly competitive.

MODERATE CANDIDATES’ CAMPAIGNS ARE EXPENSIVE – VERY EXPENSIVE via Anne Kim of Washington Monthly

Winning or defending a seat in Congress is more expensive than ever. And among Democrats at least, it’s especially pricey for Congressional candidates who run as “moderates.”

In 2012, self-described “moderate” Democrats in the House – members of either the New Democrat or Blue Dog coalitions – directly spent an average of $1.91 million on their campaigns, according to an analysis of data from OpenSecrets.org by Republic 3.0. In contrast, members of the liberal Progressive Caucus spent an average of $1.24 million on their races.

Counting all expenditures – including those by challengers and outside groups – the differences were even greater. Campaigns in these moderate districts cost an average total of $5.1 million in 2012, while total spending in liberal seats averaged $2.0 million.

Even among veteran members – for whom incumbency gets cheaper to maintain – moderates spent significantly more than liberals. Moderate House Democrats first elected in 2000 or earlier spent an average of $1.51 million in 2012, versus an average of $1.04 million for equally veteran liberals. Total spending in these races averaged $2.89 million for veteran moderates, versus $1.47 million for veteran liberals.

Not surprisingly, however, freshmen moderates spent the most of all, averaging $2.53 million in direct spending in 2012, compared to $1.89 million for freshmen liberals. In these races, total spending averaged $8.49 million for moderate campaigns, versus $4.1 million for liberals.

Of the 10 most expensive “moderate” candidate campaigns in 2012 (New Democrat or Blue Dog Coalition), at the top was FL-18/Patrick Murphy with $29,491,024.

Moderates are also more likely to face challengers from both the left and the right, in primaries and in the general election. These challengers are also more likely to be relatively well-heeled. For example, Republican challengers in 2012 races spent an average of $1.29 million in their efforts to unseat New Democrats and Blue Dogs, while challengers of progressive candidates spent an average of $357,738.

Competitive races are also much more likely to draw “independent expenditure” spending by outside groups.

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JAY TRUMBULL QUALIFIES BY PETITION FOR HD 6 GOP PRIMARY Full blog post here

Panama City business executive Jay Trumbull has qualified by petition for the House District 6 ballot in November.

Trumbull announced 1,083 signed petitions verified by the Bay County Supervisor of Elections. A minimum of 1,070 petitions are required for candidates to qualify in the HD 6 race to succeed term-limited Rep. Jimmy Patronis. The seat covers southern Bay County and Panama City, Panama City Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base.

“I’m proud of my team, and our effort to qualify by petition,” Trumbull says. “We are committed to taking our message to every door in Bay County, and the outpouring of support we’ve received in this petition gathering process is a great sign that the voters are embracing our vision for a path to permanent prosperity.”

SANFORD MAYOR JEFF TRIPLETT ENDORSES SCOTT STURGILL IN HD 30 Full blog post here

House District 30 contender Scott Sturgill received an endorsement on Monday from Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett.

Sturgill faces incumbent Democrat Karen Castor Dentel in 2014 for the seat covering parts of Seminole and Orange Counties.

Elected Sanford Mayor in November 2010, Triplett is also Senior Vice President at United Legacy Bank.

“Scott Sturgill is a successful entrepreneur and community leader who is committed to representing the best interest of all citizens,” Triplett said in a statement released Monday. “Scott is accustomed to taking on tough challenges and finding workable solutions that are fair to all involved, this is the type of leadership we need in Tallahassee and I am proud to endorse him for State House District 30.”

TERRI SEEFELDT AIRING RED MEAT RADIO AD IN HD 31 Full blog post here

House District 31 hopeful Terri Seefeldt launched a radio advertising campaign on Friday highlighting her positions a number of key conservative issues, such as Obamacare, veterans, and out-of-control spending in Tallahassee.

Seefeldt, committee member of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, seeks to replace Rep. Bryan Nelson, who is term-limited after serving eight years. Nelson also endorses Seefeldt for the seat covering Lake and Orange Counties and includes Eustis, Tavares, Umatilla, Mt. Dora and Apopka.

She faces Randy Glisson, Belita Grassel, Joseph Stephens, and Jennifer Mae Sullivan in the GOP Primary, which will be held on Aug. 26.

Voters will hear ads that touch on Seefeldt’s upbringing and outline the reasons she is Central Florida’s only conservative choice for HD 31.

HOUSE DISTRICT 38 HOPEFUL DANNY BURGESS QUALIFIES FOR BALLOT BY PETITION Full blog post here

The Pasco County Supervisor of Elections has verified that state House District 38 hopeful Danny Burgess collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by petition process for State House District 38.

Burgess, who currently serves as Zephyrhills Mayor, is running as a Republican to succeed term-limited House Speaker Will Weatherford. As of April 30, Burgess has the required 986 verified signatures for inclusion on the ballot in November.

Burgess faces Minerva Diaz in the GOP primary in August, where the winner will run against Democrat Beverly Anne Ledbetter.

WEATHERFORD ENDORSES SHAWN HARRISON TO RETAKE HD 63 SEAT Full blog post here

House Speaker Will Weatherford has become the latest leading state Republican to endorse former Rep. Shawn Harrison in his effort to retake state House District 63.

Harrison faces Democratic incumbent Rep. Mark Danish for the seat covering parts of north Hillsborough County. Harrison lost to Danish in 2012 after only one term in the House.

“Shawn Harrison’s commitment to his community is unmatched.  Shawn is a successful small business owner who creates local jobs for his neighbors,” Weatherford said on Monday. “Shawn is effective, having sponsored a successful constitutional amendment protecting the families of fallen first responders while only a freshman in the Florida House.

“District 63 deserves someone in Tallahassee who will fill a need, not just fill a seat.  That person is Shawn Harrison.”

LARGO COMMISSIONER CURTIS HOLMES ENDORSES CHRIS LATVALA FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 67 Full blog post here

House District 67 candidate Chris Latvala received an endorsement on Monday from Largo City Commissioner Curtis Holmes.

Latvala, the son of state Sen. Jack Latvala, is seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Ed Hooper for the district covering sections of Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park. Holmes is a two-term council member, first elected in 2009, and then again in 2012.

“It’s paramount that all freshman legislators know the system, especially if we want them to hit the ground running,” Holmes said in a statement released on Monday. “Due to his experience working with Representative Hooper, I’m confident that he can and will put in the effort and time necessary to do just that and be a strong conservative voice in Tallahassee.”

DEMOCRAT GREG PARA WON’T RUN IN HD 72 via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

While Lawrence was qualifying, another Democratic candidate was pulling the plug — at least for now — on his bid to win a state legislative seat.

“Due to my inability to generate interest in my candidacy coupled with no support from local or state leadership of the Democratic Party, I will be suspending my campaign,” Sarasota Democrat Greg Para said in an email to the Herald-Tribune.

In September 2013, the U.S. Navy veteran announced plans to challenge Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, for re-election. He is the only candidate to file to run against Pilon in District 72, which includes most of Sarasota County north of Osprey and east of U.S. 301.

Para told his Facebook friends on Saturday that he may still get back in the race “if enough support arises” before the June qualifying period begins for the race.

Para has raised about $16,000 for his campaign, but has already spent $15,600, mostly on campaign personnel.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: SUSTAINABLE GROWTH, VOUCHERS & ACCOUNTABILITY, AND VAM EVALUATIONS

On Context Florida: Strong, sustainable economic growth will be the Republican strategy that wins the midterm elections, says former U.S. Under Secretary of State James Glassman, beginning with tax reform that lowers rates and simplifies an absurdly complicated system, immigration reform that makes America more productive and expanded trade to increase our export markets and lower costs for consumers at home. Daniel Tilsonsees the passage of an unpopular voucher expansion bill in the final minutes of the final day of the 2014 legislative session as another attack in a very well-funded, well-organized and well-executed campaign to gradually undermine most of the state’s public schools and ultimately privatize them. Voters might remember that Julie Delegal has long opposed voucher schools because, among other reasons, they do not administer the same high-stakes tests to their students that public schools do. Many of Florida’s public school teachers see little value in the value-added-model (VAM) teacher evaluation process used this year, writes Marc Yacht. It does not take into account the student’s home environment, intelligence, family income, natural abilities, or parental involvement.  It targets the teacher, Yacht adds, and that is wrong.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to 2014 TallyMadness runner-up Jim Magill and Susannah Randolph. Celebrating today is state House candidate Scott Sturgill.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.