Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
ON THIS ELECTION DAY, TAKE A MOMENT TO LOOK AT GEORGE BINGHAM’S “THE COUNTY ELECTION”
George Caleb Bingham painted a series of canvases celebrating elections in newly created states along the western frontier.
Here, gathered around the polling place is a crowd of characters, including the happy drunk whose vote has been bought with liquor and the downcast loyalist whose candidate has lost and who bows his head with more than a hangover. The sole African American, excluded from the voting process, stands at the left edge of the canvas serving hard cider. Women are notably absent from the scene.
Bingham himself was a disappointed politician, denied election to the Missouri statehouse in 1846 by crooked dealing. He swore never to get involved in politics again, but, in the end, he found himself addicted to the competition, was elected a legislator in 1848, and served as state treasurer during the Civil War.
NEARLY 2 MILLION FLORIDIANS HAVE ALREADY VOTED IN PRIMARY via the Associated Press
The Florida Division of Elections on Monday posted new totals that showed that nearly 536,000 voters cast their ballots during the early voting period that wrapped up this weekend. Another 1.15 million voters have voted by mail bringing the total ballots cast at more than 1.69 million overall. An additional 1.18 million ballots were requested but haven’t been returned yet to election officials. Florida has nearly 12.4 million registered voters and may surpass the voter turnout from the 2012 primary election. That year 2.34 million voters cast ballots in the primary.
TWEET, TWEET: @Crowleyreport: Apparently Tropical Depression 9 is encouraging folks in Florida to vote tomorrow by remaining away from the state until Wednesday.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE TOP 44 FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE PRIMARY RACES
The recent redistricting of the state’s congressional and Senate districts has added to the usual election-year chaos, along with some incumbents who just decided to hang up their gloves.
For our readers’ reference, here are capsule summaries of congressional and state House and Senate races the FloridaPolitics.com team has been following:
CD 1, 2: The 1st Congressional District, home to many active military and vets, is in the “red meat” conservative Panhandle. State Rep. Matt Gaetz and state Sen. Greg Evers have been duking it out among a slew of GOP contenders, including combat veteran James Zumwalt. Steven Specht is the lone, sacrificial lamb Democrat. Over in the 2nd District, urologist Neal Dunn and Mary Thomas, a state government lawyer, have attacked each other’s ties to Charlie Crist, but both have solidly conservative bona fides. Former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia boasts sterling anti-abortion cred. Attorney Walt Dartland led a campaign to find a Democratic candidate and wound up drafted for the role. He faces Live Oak tree farmer Steve Crapps in the Democratic primary.
CD 4: The 4th Congressional District race started out looking like John Rutherford’s to lose, and as Aug. 30 approaches, it looks the same. Rutherford, the retired Duval County sheriff, is up 11 points over area state Rep. Lake Ray (33-22) in the most recent St. Pete Polls, and Ray’s current support is coming at the expense of political scion Hans Tanzler, who spent the most on this race to get the least traction. Um, surging at the end is St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure, who may end up in double digits on election night. Other candidates for the R-leaning area include David Bruderly, Stephen Kaufman, Gary Koniz, Ed Malin, Daniel Murphy, and Deborah Katz Pueschel.
CD 5: This race is a hot soup sandwich. That’s mostly thanks to longtime Jacksonville congresswoman and incumbent Corrine Brown. Now looking for a fourth team of lawyers (after firing the first three), she’s under indictment on federal corruption charges. She’s compared herself to former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who was caught smoking a crack pipe in a 1990 FBI sting, and she has asked reporters, “What if I accused you guys of being pedophiles?” Brown faces a primary challenge from former Tallahassee state lawmaker Al Lawson. Also at play are regional differences in this newly redrawn “Jacksahassee” district, which now stretches from Jax to Tally. Democrat LaShonda “LJ” Holloway and Republican Glo Smith have been relegated to supporting roles as these two political titans have hogged the stage.
CD 9, 10: In the 9th, Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto is leaning on his Hispanic roots against physician Dena Grayson — newly married to Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson — and progressive Susannah Randolph, Alan Grayson’s former congressional aide. Wayne Liebnitzky and Wanda Rentas are fighting for the GOP nod. In the 10th, former Orlando police chief Val Demings, former state Democratic Party chair Bob Poe, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and newcomer Fatima Rita Fahmy are vying for this newly Democratic-leaning seat. The winner there faces lone Republican Thuy Lowe.
CD 11, 13: Lion-in-winter Daniel Webster, the icon of Florida conservatism, had to run in the 11th Congressional District after his seat was redrawn to lean Democrat. Fellow GOPer Justin Grabelle, who used to be retiring incumbent Congressman Rich Nugent’s chief of staff, is also in the mix. Democrat Dave Koller is unopposed. In the 13th, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is unopposed as the Democratic candidate, but incumbent GOP Congressman David Jolly faces Mark Bircher Tuesday. Jolly had been running for Marco Rubio‘s U.S. Senate seat but decided to run for re-election to his House seat after Rubio’s presidential bid failed.
CD 18, 19: A scrum of 17 candidates is battling over these two seats. In the swing 18th Congressional District, covering the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach, the best known are Republicans Rebecca Negron, a Martin County school board member and wife of state Senate President-designate Joe Negron, and Carl Domino, a former state legislator and congressional candidate. Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy is running instead for U.S. Senate. Over in Southwest Florida, in the 19th, billionaire businessman Francis Rooney is aiming for the GOP nomination against ex-Secret Service agent Dan Bongino and Sanibel City Councilman Chauncey Goss. Democrat Robert Neeld has no opposition — and virtually no chance of winning this overwhelmingly Republican district.
CD 23: Will renegade Democrat Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, overthrow veteran congresswoman and former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for this South Florida seat? Polls show her comfortably ahead, but Canova continues to hammer her with negative ads, most recently for her ties to Big Sugar. Also, attorney Marty Feigenbaum and Middle East researcher Joe Kaufman (most famous for being lampooned on The Daily Show) face off there in the GOP column. But, as the Sun Sentinel recently put it, “The chances of a GOP candidate defeating a Democrat in this district are slim.”
CD 26: Incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo is unopposed but could face Democrat Annette Taddeo in November. She was Crist’s running mate in 2014. She first has to defeat Joe Garcia in the primary for this South Florida seat. He’s the former congressman who lost to Curbelo in 2014. The incline is steep: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has endorsed Taddeo over him. Then again, she took a big hit with the release of hacked DCCC emails fretting that she might be perceived as an “incompetent campaigner” and a “wealthy elitist.”
SD 1: Republicans Mike Hill and Doug Broxson have been throwing elbows in their state Senate race. Hill called Broxson a liberal and the latter cried foul. Must make it awkward on Sunday — they reportedly attend the same church. Hill has served in the state House since 2013; Broxson has held an adjoining House seat since 2010. The seat opened when incumbent Greg Evers announced for Congress. Hill, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, is running as a “constitutional conservative.” Broxson has been endorsed by Rick Scott and the NRA. Two write-in candidates — but no Democrats — are running in the general.
SD 11, 12, 13: Mid-state, it’s a battle of Democrats for the 11th Senate District after Alan Hays dropped out to run for Lake County elections supervisor. They are state Rep. Randolph Bracy, former state Sen. Gary Siplin, environmental activist Chuck O’Neal, and former Orange County Commissioner Bob Sindler. In the 12th, two current state representatives, Dennis Baxley and Marlene O’Toole, are angling for the GOP vote, as is radio station owner David Gee. No Democrat qualified to run. Over in the 13th, firefighter-turned-lawyer Mike Clelland is up against former Orange County School Board member Rick Roach and Linda Stewart, a one-term member of the House ousted in 2014 by current GOP state Rep. Mike Miller. Republican Dean Asher is unopposed.
SD 17: How do you spell ugly? “S-D-1-7.” This Florida east coast race has been dominated by the nastiness between GOP competitors Ritch Workman and Debbie Mayfield, both House members. And its, well, peculiarity. Workman had his wife and ex-wife together in a campaign ad. And Mayfield may not live in the district she’s running to represent (she says she lives in Rockledge). But then Workman was accused of sending a taxpayer-funded newsletter to voters outside his House district. Republican Mike Thomas has gotten little traction as his two competitors suck all the media oxygen. Democrat Amy Tidd is unopposed.
SD 19: This Tampa Bay seat is coveted by freshman state Rep. Ed Narain, former state Rep. Betty Reed, current state Rep. Darryl Rouson, and St. Pete trial attorney Augie Ribiero, all Democrats. John “Mr. Manners” Houman is the lone Republican in the field, though he’s a long shot in this D-leaning cross-bay district. Reed, who endorsed Narain to succeed her in 2012, now says she regrets doing so. She says he promised to not run against her; he has said the community “thought I was the better person for the position.” The seat is being vacated by outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner.
SD 23: This Senate seat is sought by a trio of Republicans with House ties: former state Rep. Doug Holder of Venice and current state Reps. Ray Pilon and Greg Steube, both of Sarasota. Other GOP contenders include former Sarasota City and County Commissioner Nora Patterson and businessman Rick Levine. Democrats Frank R. Alcock III, a New College of Florida political science professor, and Frank Anthony Cirillo, a recent University of South Florida grad, also are squaring off. Incumbent Nancy Detert, a Republican, is term-limited.
SD 28: This primary was another one of those that devolved into a You’re-Not-a-Real-Conservative name-calling contest. Republican state Reps. Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo, both of Naples, have been almost at each others’ throats. Or rather, the PACs that support them have. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will most likely win the general election since the primary victor will face only write-in candidates. This race is to replace outgoing state Sen. Garrett Richter.
SD 30, 31, 34: The race for the 30th mainly pits West Palm Beach attorney Michael Steinger against state Rep. Bobby Powell, a contentious Democratic primary that has seen the two get personal. Steinger’s campaign ran an ad featuring a mugshot of Powell’s father, and Powell fired back by bringing up Steinger’s father, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will face Republican Ron Berman in the general election, though the coastal Palm Beach County district carries a sizable advantage for Democrats. In the 31st, more Democratic animus, this time between state Rep. Irv Slosberg and state Sen. Jeff Clemens. Slosberg jumped into the race just hours before the end of qualifying, challenging Clemens, who has represented the area for years. The 34th, another Democratic safe zone, has former House Democratic Whip Jim Waldman, trial attorney Gary Farmer, and state Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed all in it to win the (D) nomination there.
SD 40: The drama that is Senate District 40 certainly has its stars. Current state Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Democrat, just was ordered to pay $2,000 in fines for filing faulty campaign finance reports. The main qualification of his primary opponent, Andrew Korge, seems to be that he’s the son of a prominent Democratic fundraiser. Ana Rivas Logan, a Republican-turned-Democrat who previously served in the House, qualified to run for the seat but has since dropped out. Waiting for the winner in the general election is the sole Republican, state Rep. Frank Artiles, the ex-Marine who allegedly punched out a college student at a Tallahassee bar last year.
HD 5: In the 5th, yet another down-in-the-dirt Republican primary fight. Incumbent Brad Drake is fending off a challenge from former state Rep. Bev Kilmer. She moved back to the Panhandle from Texas in 2014 and now is running in the mostly rural district. That had Drake and others questioning her residency, noting a constitutional provision that candidates must “have resided in the state for a period of two years prior to election.” Kilmer has said her residency status is legit. Still another former House member, Jamey Westbrook, will face the winner in the general. He’s a Democrat-turned-independent who served one term in the 1990s.
HD 11, 14, 19: The 11th, now held by Janet Adkins, finds a four-way fight among Republicans Sheri Treadwell, Donnie Horner, Cord Byrd and Wayne Bunk for the conservative seat that spans eastern Duval County and Nassau County. The 14th has a Democratic field of controversial pastor Kim Daniels, as well as Leslie Jean-Bart, Terry Fields, Don Gaffney and Gracie Bell McCastler, with the victor facing the GOP’s Christian Whitfield in November. In the 19th, former Republican Party of Florida Chair Leslie Dougher is up against Katherine Van Zant, wife of current incumbent Charles Van Zant, and utility worker Bobby Payne. That winner faces a Democrat and two write-ins.
HD 21: Chuck Clemons, a Santa Fe College administrator and past Alachua County commissioner, is running against Republican businesswoman Wenda Lewis and pharmacist Tim Rogers in the primary race for this district. It’s currently held by Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who is running for the District 8 seat in the Florida Senate. The winner faces Democrat Marihelen Wheeler and two write-ins. Despite being home to 9,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, it should remain safely in GOP hands because of low turnout among the district’s college students.
HD 43, 45: The District 43 race featured an ad highlighting Democratic incumbent John Cortes’ 1999 arrest for domestic violence. He faces former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, whom he beat in the 2014 primary, and Kissimmee city commissioner Sarah Shaw, who was clocked doing 105 miles per hour in a city vehicle in 2014. A vacancy in majority-minority House District 45 drew five Democrats: Kamia Brown, a former aide to state Rep. Vic Torres; pastor Kelvin Cobaris; trial attorney Gregory Jackson; investor Peter Pham; and real estate salesman William Jusme.
HD 46, 47: District 46 incumbent Bruce Antone is seeking his third term against a challenge by fellow Democrat Sheena Meade, who derides him as practicing the “same old politics.” Treminasha Holmes is a write-in candidate. In the 47th, Republican incumbent Mike Miller of Winter Park drew no primary opposition. But three Democrats are competing to take on Miller in the general election: immigration attorney Henry Lim, who was arrested in 2015 for carrying a gun into a federal building (an “oversight,” he said); TV producer Beth Tuura; and attorney Clinton Curtis, all from Orlando.
HD 52: A vacant seat in safely Republican House District 52 — Ritch Workman was term-limited out — has drawn four candidates to the GOP primary. They are Melbourne businessman Brian Hodgers; Robert “Fritz” VanVolkenburgh, an auditor in the Brevard County clerk of court’s office; Monique Miller, a business manager in the computer industry; and Thad Altman, a state senator who’s being termed out. Altman originally filed in District 51. There’s a write-in candidate — Edward Bollinger.
HD 54: Incumbent Republican Debbie Mayfield is termed out in this upper Treasure Coast seat. The GOP candidates (no Democrats are running) are Baptist minister Dale Glading, personal injury attorney Erin Grall, gastroenterologist Greg MacKay, and businessman Lange Sykes.
HD 60: You want conservative? Republican candidate Jackie Toledo says if elected, she’d work to repeal two immigration laws passed by the Republican majority. Both bills passed in 2014, as Gov. Rick Scott was battling for the Hispanic vote as he faced a tough re-election campaign against Charlie Crist. Toledo, a former Tampa City Council candidate, is battling businesswoman Rebecca Smith, who’s backed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater. Democrat David Singer waits for one of them in the general, to replace House Republican Leader Dana Young. She’s running for the state Senate.
HD 61: Rep. Ed Narain‘s candidacy for a state Senate seat leaves this district open again. In the mix is attorney and Democrat Sean Shaw, who lost to Narain in 2014. He had accused Narain of being too Republican-friendly, while Narain and his supporters called Shaw a carpetbagger, emphasizing his lack of roots in the district. (He grew up in Tallahassee while his father, Justice Leander Shaw Jr., served on the Florida Supreme Court.) Narain ultimately took the seat 41 percent-35 percent. Shaw also is allied with Democratic former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. He served as the state’s insurance consumer advocate, which reports to the CFO. Shaw is being challenged by Dianne Hart and Walter Smith II in this safely Democratic Tampa district.
HD 68, 70: When incumbent Democrat Dwight Dudley decided to forgo re-election for a run at local judgeship, the jockeying began to replace him. Ben Diamond, a St. Pete attorney, jumped in. Then Eric Lynn, a former Obama campaign staffer and Department of Defense official, dropped out of the race to succeed GOP Congressman David Jolly. The House district has parts of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound, and can be expected to swing Democrat. The winner faces Republican JB Benshimen in November. Over in the 70th, St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton is running against fellow Democrats Dan Fiorini and Christopher John “CJ” Czaia for the seat now held by Democrat Darryl Rouson. He’s looking at a Senate spot. Republican Cori Fournier awaits one of them in the general election.
HD 91, 95, 106, 108, 118: Democrat Emily Slosberg, daughter of state Rep. Irv Slosberg, is up against Kelly Skidmore in the 91st. In the 95th, a quintet of D’s — Patrick Jabouin Sr., Robert Lynch, Anika Omphroy, Barrington Anthony Russell and Roxanne Valies — is vying to succeed Hazel Rogers. The 106th finds Republicans Bob Rommel, Lavigne Ann Kirkpatrick and Nick Ballo out to take over from Kathleen Passidomo. In the 108th, another slew of seven Dem’s, including Miami Herald “20 Under 40” awardee and immigrant advocate Francesca Menes, are competing for the spot now held by Daphne Campbell. And in the 118th, David Rivera — former congressman, one-time housemate of Marco Rubio, and selected by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for the 2012 Class of “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” — is running against four other Republicans to replace Frank Artiles, now running for state Senate.
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MARCO RUBIO, PATRICK MURPHY LOOK CONFIDENT BEFORE FLORIDA’S SENATE PRIMARY via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press – Rubio and Murphy are campaigning as if Tuesday’s primary was already over and they won their parties’ nominations for U.S. Senate. And it may be for good reason. Rubio’s main challenger, Beruff, appeared to throw in the towel, essentially shutting down the campaign he’d sunk $8 million of his own money into. And Murphy’s main challenger, Grayson, has been damaged by ethics and domestic abuse allegations, leaving Murphy to focus on Rubio.
With comfortable leads in the polls, Rubio and Murphy took a similar strategy: Ignore the primary opposition. Both declined to debate their opponents, choosing instead to attack each other.
Rubio said he didn’t debate Beruff because there wasn’t enough time. “He didn’t really seem that interested in debates not that long ago,” Rubio said in the days leading up to the primary. And when asked about the primary, Rubio turned the subject to Murphy, saying, “I take every race seriously. I’ll have more events today than Patrick Murphy will have all week.”
Rubio’s campaign has been issuing near-daily attacks on Murphy while virtually ignoring Grayson. It was clear, though, that Beruff wanted a debate, particularly investing so much money trying to build his name recognition. He repeatedly criticized Rubio for not agree to an exchange, saying he should “man up” and calling him a coward.
Murphy called off the only debate schedule with Grayson after the mother of Grayson’s children said he abused her over the two decades they lived together, an accusation he has denied. Instead, Murphy focused nearly all is attention on Rubio. Murphy’s second ad of the campaign, released four weeks before the primary, attacks Rubio for missing votes while running for president.
During a phone interview, Murphy said Rubio is more concerned about his political ambition. “He constantly says ‘I’m in this for Florida,’ but he’s clearly not running for Senate for Florida. He’s never been there for Florida; he’s never been there for a local issue; he’s never shown up for work. He’s in this for himself,” Murphy said.
BEST READ ABOUT THIS RACE – THE U.S. SENATE PRIMARY THAT NEVER WAS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Over the summer, the campaigns of Rubio and Murphy have unleashed a barrage of narrative-setting attacks against each other because each was clearly perceived as the front-runner. For months, it has been the primary that never was. Both have overt support from their party’s infrastructures, are sitting on big piles of campaign contributions from traditional Beltway special interest groups, already raised large amounts of general election money, and skipped debates over opponents they were dominating in the polls. Despite taking overt actions to the contrary, both have tried to give the appearance that they are not overlooking their primary fight, but their focus is clear: November’s general election. The clearest sign that the primary season was never really going to feature competitive contests was the early support from national party leaders. On the Democratic side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Murphy over primary opponent Alan Grayson, and reserved $8.3 million in general election air time. On the Republican side, a lackluster five-person field left national Republicans concerned Murphy would have an easy path to victory. They openly clamored for Rubio to get in the race even as he said he wanted to return to private life after his failed presidential bid. To sweeten the deal, the National Republican Senatorial Committee — with the help of the state and national Republican parties — funded an early $2 million ad buy that featured ads blistering Murphy. He is seen by many as the favorite, but Florida is notorious for close statewide elections and Rubio does face a different electorate than when he won the seat in 2010 with less than 50 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Murphy will meet with voters at polling locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. He’ll start the day at 7 a.m. with Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Gwen Graham at Mary Collins Community Center, 5151 NW 82nd Avenue in Miami Lakes. He’ll then head to the North Dade Library, 2455 NW 183rd Street in Miami Gardens. At 11:30 a.m., Murphy is scheduled to meet with voters at Melrose Park Community Center, 3810 SW 2nd Court in Fort Lauderdale. Murphy will hold an election night party beginning at 6 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 4431 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. Media is asked to RSVP to Press@MurphyForFlorida.com.
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AMENDMENT 4 WOULD MAKE SOLAR CHEAPER FOR PROPERTY OWNERS via The Associated Press – A proposed Amendment 4 calls for tax breaks that could help both commercial and residential property owners install solar or renewable energy systems or devices more affordably. The proposal requires the consent of 60 percent of the voters casting ballots in the Aug. 30 primary. The measure was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Tallahassee and is endorsed by diverse groups such as Audubon Florida, the Christian Coalition and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It would expand property tax exemptions covering only residential property to cover renewable energy equipment on commercial property, so that if adding solar increases a property’s value, the owner won’t be taxed extra for that. The amendment would also remove Florida’s “tangible personal property tax,” which taxes solar equipment installed on properties. Without it, leasing solar systems will be a more profitable business in Florida. Right now, despite abundant sunshine, Florida lags nationally in solar power production. Solar arrays are getting cheaper but are still costly, so providing more access to leasing for all property owners will increase the sun power generated in the state. “Florida’s solar market is underperforming, and we identified that the tax abatement was a big piece of the puzzle as to why,” said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Amendment 4 has received little opposition so far. Jason Hoyt, chairman of a political action committee called Stop Playing Favorites, said in a statement on its website that the measure unfairly gives tax breaks to some, not all, Floridians.
— “Greg Evers, Matt Gaetz among candidates in Florida’s 1st Congressional District” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press
— “U.S. House district in Florida Panhandle likely to flip to GOP” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press
— “Tea Party enthusiast Marsha Blackburn endorses Mary Thomas in Florida’s CD 2” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics
— “Despite indictment, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown trying to stay in office” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press
— “Charlie Crist aims low for political comeback, running for U.S. House” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. David Jolly will vote in the primary at 8:30 a.m. at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, 13001 Starkey Road in Largo. He will then hold an election night gathering at 7 p.m. at his campaign headquarters, 3993 Tyrone Blvd. N., Suite 300 in St. Petersburg. He will be available for media interviews at both locations.
TED CRUZ ENDORSES DAN BONGINO IN CD 19 via Florida Politics — Bongino snagged a big endorsement … just one day before the Republican primary. Sen. Cruz announced Monday he was backing Bongino in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. In a statement, the Texas Republican and one-time presidential hopeful said there was “no doubt” in his mind that Bongino would defend the Constitution. “Dan spent his life in public service, first as a police officer, and then as an agent in the United States Secret Service,” said Cruz in a statement on Facebook. “There’s no doubt in my mind that in our nation’s capital Dan would be a relentless advocate for and defender of our Constitution – just as he has been his entire life.”
LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS BACKS DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ IN CD 23 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The endorsement comes just hours before voters in the Broward/Miami-Dade County district go to the polls to decide on whether they’ll keep her in office, or go with insurgent challenger Tim Canova in the Democratic primary election. “She has long recognized the threat that climate change poses to South Florida and she has been a leader in working to address this crisis,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski. “Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has time and again stood up to the Big Polluters who want to drill off Florida’s coasts, pollute our drinking water and spew unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air” … “Wasserman Schultz has a demonstrated track record when it comes to putting South Florida’s environment first,” said Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief. “Whether fighting to protect our unique and beautiful wildlife, working to bring in critical funding for Everglades restoration, or conserving our oceans, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz is a critical voice for our state in Congress.” Wasserman Schultz has earned a 92 percent lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard.
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ELECTED UNOPPOSED, FLORIDA LAWMAKERS MUST DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER CAMPAIGN CASH via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – With nearly $3.5 million in the bank and no races to spend it on, some Florida lawmakers are left figuring out what to do with the last of their campaign cash … 42 members of the House and Senate are looking for ways to spend down the war chests they didn’t end up needing … State law requires candidates to dispose of any surplus funds within 90 days of either being elected, eliminated or winning unopposed. That means the more three dozen House and Senate candidates who won in June have until Sept. 22 to dispose of excess funds. Their options are limited. Return a portion back to donors or donate to charity. Set aside $20,000 for their re-election campaign, give up to $25,000 to their party, or transfer some to an office account. And for some candidates, the best answer to do a little bit of everything … Rob Bradley won re-election in June when no one challenged him in the newly drawn Senate District 5 … it left him with $280,047 in his campaign account. So what’s he going to do with it? Bradley said he was giving $25,000 to the party to help with Senate re-election campaigns. He’s also planning to set aside $40,000 — or $10,000 a year for each year he’ll be in office — to fund his office account. The rest of the money will be given to charities, most likely ones that help at-risk teens and children in his district. Of the 42 House and Senate candidate who were elected unopposed … Bradley ranked among the Top 5 fundraisers this election cycle. Lauren Book … was in the top spot … Book raised $586,659. Steve Vancore, a Democratic political consultant who worked with Book, said she made sure to communicate with her would-be constituents early on in the campaign. She qualified by the petition method, working the community to get twice as many of the signatures she needed to get on the ballot. “It’s a poor strategy not to be spending money,” said Vancore. “It takes a lot to get on the ballot by petition. You want to do polling, so you’re not freaking out, and you should be communicating with voters in the late spring and early summer.”
DONATIONS TO LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGNS TOP $294 MILLION — Legislative campaigns raised more than $294.8 million through Aug. 25. An analysis by Contribution Link found $223.2 million of that went to committees. The analysis found 77 percent of donations, or $171.6 million, went to political committees, while $29.2 million went to the state party. The analysis found $71.6 million went to candidates. Fifty-two percent of that money, or $37.3 million, went to Republicans; while 30 percent, or $21.6 million, went to Democrats. No party affiliate candidates brought in $12.7 million through Aug. 25.
TOP 10 MOST EXPENSIVE LEGISLATIVE PRIMARIES IN FLORIDA via Michael Auslen with the Tampa Bay Times — Here … break down the 10 legislative districts where candidates are spending the most. They all have two things in common: They’re Senate seats, and they’re districts where one party has a clear advantage — or even no opposition — in the general election.This doesn’t include spending from political committees, which are pouring their own money into ads and mailers in some races, including the SD 19 Democratic primary in Tampa Bay. The Democratic primary in SD 31 between Rep. Irv Slosberg and Sen. Jeff Clemens tops the list with $2.12 million; followed by the Democratic primary in SD 34 between Gary Farmer and former state Rep. Jim Waldman at $1.32 million; the Republican primary in SD 17 between Reps. Debbie Mayfield and Ritch Workman at $1.11 million.
GOOD READ — ERIC ROBINSON: BEYOND DARK MONEY via Michael Braga of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Robinson can’t stand being called “The Prince of Dark Money.” He gained the reputation as one of the most connected campaign money men in the state, helping bring bare-knuckle campaign tactics long common at the federal level to local races. Robinson, sometimes reveling in the job and typically profiting mightily along the way, has helped pro-development interests gain or maintain influence, determine who sits in the Florida Legislature and on school, city and county boards and boost or kill local referendum proposals – all while concealing the source of many donations.
REALLY? FRACKING ISSUE LURKS IN PRIMARY RACES AFTER DEATH OF BILL LAST LEGISLATIVE SESSION via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Some Democrats are accusing others in the primary of supporting fracking, which environmentalists say is a threat to groundwater. During the legislative session earlier this year, a bill opposed by environmentalists that would have provided regulations for hydraulic fracturing was killed in the Senate after passing the House … the group Floridians Against Fracking provided … a list of 101 candidates in state and local races that it said had signed a pledge to ban fracking in Florida. “We know what we were successful in doing in the last legislative session was not enough, and we need a ban,” said Kim Ross, vice president of ReThink Energy Action Fund and member of the Floridians Against Fracking steering committee. “And we need the Legislature on board with that.” But David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, said the economic benefits of oil and gas hydraulic fracturing should be considered. He said there is “ample” evidence to show it isn’t a threat to groundwater and that the legislation is being “mischaracterized” by opponents. “Unfortunately I think it (the fracking issue) will be used in a political manner in the future again by a crowd of folks that have a ‘leave-it-in-the-ground’ mentality or a no-fossil-fuels use mentality,” Mica said.
ENTERPRISE FLORIDA FUNDING BECOMES LATE-HOUR ISSUE IN SD 23 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — A new ad from Taxpayers in Action is targeting for what it calls Doug Holder and Nora Patterson’s support for the private-public jobs organization. The 30-second spot calls Enterprise Florida “a slush fund for politically connected big businesses.” “Sadly it’s what some politicians and special interests in Tallahassee call job creation,” an announcer says in the advertisement. “Doug Holder and Nora Patterson won’t stop this. But Greg Steube will. Greg Steube voted to stop Enterprise Florida. We have a choice. Greg Steube, the conservative choice.” Steube faces Holder and Patterson in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Recent polls showed the race to replace Sen. Nancy Detert is a tight, with just four point separating the three Republicans.
TWEET, TWEET: @ClemensFL: Good luck to all the candidates tomorrow! Even the ones who spent $1.9 million to label me “dangerously conservative.”
ACTUAL EMAIL FROM JEFF CLEMENS: “Seriously… I feel like when we win… when TOMORROW’S ELECTION DAY (TUESDAY) is over… rainbows will come out and I will ride a unicorn to the press interviews. It will be like defeating Sauron.”
EAST BROWARD VOTERS BURIED UNDER $1 MILLION IN MAIL IN SCORCHED EARTH SENATE RACE via Buddy Nevins of Browardbeat.com – The bloody battle for state Senate District 34 was fought with roughly 60 mailed advertising flyers from candidates Gary Farmer and Jim Waldman. Farmer and various political committee’s supporting him sent around 35 pieces in the last months of the campaign, while Waldman and his committees sent approximately 25. The majority of ads from both campaigns were attacks on their opponent, say voters who received them. Farmer was accused of lying during the campaign. He was also criticized for his previous role as a lobbyist and for not paying taxes. Waldman was attacked for allegedly not being Democratic enough and for lying about Farmer. Although the numbers receiving the ads were a fraction of the Senate District’s 136,000 Democrats, the cost was high. One political consultant not working in the Senate race estimated the price tag at roughly $1 million including postage, production costs and profit to the consultants. Both campaigns also used cable television and internet buys, but the mail pieces were the most pervasive effort of the campaigns.
TWO HOT TAKES by Peter Schorsch
TRIAL LAWYERS WITH MOST TO GAIN IN FLORIDA’S PRIMARY ELECTIONS for Florida Politics – When the dust settled after Florida’s 2014 elections, there was one clear loser: Florida’s trial attorneys … what I wrote in my column identifying the winners and losers of that election cycle: I don’t know what the Legislature can do to inflict further damage on trial lawyers, but I am sure the Republicans will find some way to punish them. And yet that punishment never came. I would write after the 2015-16 legislative sessions that the Florida Justice Association, the statewide organization representing plaintiffs’ attorneys, belonged on my winners list. Now, on the eve of the 2016 primary elections and looking forward to the 2017 legislative session, the lawyers are looking to shoot the moon. Trial lawyers’ interests are already in good shape going into next year. The recent Supreme Court ruling on workers’ compensation attorney fee caps gives them the opportunity to win back some of the fee money they surrendered. Also, it’s conventional wisdom that the trial lawyers won’t be burned under incoming leaders Richard Corcoran and Joe Negron, both lawyers. And all of that is before Tuesday’s outcomes. Across the state, in both House and Senate races, trial lawyers — some directly aligned with the FJA, others simpatico with its agenda — are making the kind of power play unseen in Florida politics for decades. Trial attorneys’ push for power may be a bit subtler, albeit just as prevalent, in the Florida House. There trial lawyers are funneling millions of dollars through political committees to support candidates. Three groups — “Truth in Politics,” “Conservatives for Truth,” and “Stop Benefits to Illegals NOW” — have been playing in several state House races across the state … the three groups have received $50,000 directly from the Florida Justice Association.
WILL FLORIDA’S ‘EYEBALL WARS’ FLARE UP AGAIN DOING THE 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION? for Florida Politics – The Florida Optometric Association is pouring millions of dollars into legislative races this election cycle … through July 29, the Florida Optometric Association and associated organizations have given more than $2.1 million to committees and candidates across the state. The biggest contributor was OD-EYEPAC, the political arm of the Florida Optometric Association, which gave more than $1.1 million to committees and candidates through July 29. The Florida Optometric Association gave $535,000; while the Florida Optometric Eye Health Care Fund gave $260,000. Local associations, including the Palm Beach County Optometric Association, the Broward County Optometric Association, and the Southwest Florida Optometric Association, have also poured a significant amount of money into the races. Are the optos making all of those contributions because they believe in good government? Undoubtedly. But they may also be looking to have the rules and regulations governing the profession changed and/or softened. Specifically, the optometrists’ lobbyists, the well-skilled David Ramba, Bill Rubin and Michael Corcoran, could push during the 2017 Legislative Session for optometrists’ scope of practice to be expanded. That’s what the last war was about. It was between optometrists, who test vision and fit patients for eyeglasses, and ophthalmologists, medical (or osteopathic) doctors who specialize in eye care. They skirmished over scope of practice — what kind of care a health care professional can provide — and how optometrists were allowed to care for patients. Indeed, the Florida Optometric Association has long had its own well-established stable of influence professionals … this has always been a fight with serious implications for interested insiders of The Process, combining regulation, prestige and good ol’ fashioned money. War could break out at any time.
HENRY LIM CALLS ELIZABETH TUURA MAILER ‘FALSE’ IN GUN CHARGE CLAIM via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Democratic House District 47 candidate Lim is crying foul over a mailer primary opponent Tuura sent out this weekend declaring that Lim was arrested on a gun charge. Lim was arrested Nov. 5, 2015, when security found a loaded handgun in his bag while he attempted to enter a federal building in Miami, but he was never formally charged. The arrest occurred because Miami police alleged he had committed an offense under a gun charge. But the state attorney never filed a formal charge and the case went away in December. Lim once had a concealed weapons permit, but it had expired at that time. He has since reapplied for such a permit. “In reality, Lim has never been charged with a crime in his life. He has no criminal record,” read a statement from Lim’s campaign. “The mailer appears timed to frighten and mislead voters just before Election Day Tuesday … Tuura’s mailer is based on a November 2015 incident at a Miami immigration services building, where Lim was stopped with a handgun in his briefcase … Contrary to the mailer’s claim, no charges were filed and Lim was able to apply for a renewal of his concealed carry permit.” Tuura’s mailer also includes the words “HENRY LIM brought a loaded gun into a federal building,” which Lim has never denied. It also notes that the safety was off and a bullet was in the chamber, which was noted in the arrest report.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Democrat Eric Lynn will cast his ballot at 7:45 a.m. at The Coliseum, 535 4th Ave. N. in St Petersburg. He will be joined by his family. At 8 a.m., Lynn will greet voters at the The Coliseum, 535 4th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. He is scheduled to attend an election night party at 7:05 p.m. at Reno Downtown Joint, 27 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg.
NEW PAC USING OLD VOTERS COALITION NAME MAKES ENDORSEMENTS, DRAWS FIRE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – A new entity using the name “Voters Coalition” — the same name as a respected nonpartisan organization that disbanded in 2013 — has emerged just in time to send out endorsement mailers on the eve of Tuesday’s primary elections. It’s drawing condemnation from some candidates who weren’t endorsed and say using the Voters Coalition name is deceptive. The Palm Beach County Voters Coalition PAC filed its first report with the Palm Beach County Elections Office Aug. 19. On Friday, it reported that Mary Brandenburg, a former Democratic state House member and former West Palm Beach city commissioner, had given the group a $25,000 contribution. Brandenburg is listed on the group’s website as its treasurer. The chairman is attorney Leonard Feuer. “I think the website makes it clear that this is a new organization…Len and I intended to be very transparent,” Brandenburg said. The website says the organization is “carrying on in the tradition of the former Voters Coalition” and that it was formed “to carry on the name of the highly respected Voters Coalition that was disbanded in 2013. The Old is New Again.”
A BIG SURGE OF ‘UNLIKELY’ PRIMARY VOTERS? NOT IN TAMPA BAY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Election supervisors in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties say they’re seeing nothing statistically out of the ordinary. In fact, Pinellas says more first-time voters cast ballots in the last primary in 2014 than so far in this one. Through Friday, Aug. 26, Pinellas said 20.5 percent of its voters had voted in none of the last four statewide primary elections, and two years ago, the figure was 21.3 percent. “It’s not an anomaly by any means,” said Jason Latimer, a spokesman for Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark. In Tampa, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer‘s office said that through Friday, 21,329 county voters had not previously voted in a primary, which also equals about 20 percent of Hillsborough ballots cast through that date.
WHERE TAMPA BAY CANDIDATES WILL SPEND PRIMARY NIGHT – Republican Justin Grabelle, running for Florida’s 11th Congressional District, will be spending the evening at home with family and friends. Democrat Augie Ribeiro, running for Senate District 19, will be at Three Birds Tavern beginning 7 p.m., 1492 4th St. N in St. Petersburg. Democrat Sean Shaw, running for House District 61, will spend primary evening with his family. Democrat Eric Lynn, running for House District 68, will be at Reno Downtown Joint, 27 4th St N in St. Petersburg, beginning at 7 p.m. Democrat Ben Diamond, also running for HD 68, will be at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House starting at 7 p.m., 400 Beach Dr. in St. Petersburg. Pinellas County School Board candidate Matt Stewart will spend the night with his family.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a Zika preparedness round table at 10 a.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County, 2573 North Courtenay Parkway in Merritt Island. He’ll then head to Orlando, where he’ll hold a ZIka preparedness roundtable at the South Side Health Center, 6101 Lake Ellenor Drive in Orlando.
RICHARD CORCORAN, JANET CRUZ TEAM UP TO CALL ON FEDS TO LET STATE USE GENETICALLY MODIFIED MOSQUITOES TO FIGHT ZIKA via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran on Monday told members he planned to ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency and grant an emergency use authorization to make the technology immediately available. House Minority Leader Janet Cruz joined Corcoran in making the request, and both Corcoran and Cruz are asking their fellow members to sign on as well. “The outbreak of the Zika virus, coupled with the inability of current measures to stop the spread, clearly demonstrate that time is of the essence if we are to beat back the spread of this disease. I am pleased that this request to the federal government to cut red tape and allow Florida to protect itself is a bipartisan and unified petition,” said Corcoran in a statement. “I am especially honored to be joined by Leader-designate Cruz in pursuing a solution to this public health crisis. We all hope that the federal government grants this authorization quickly, enabling our public health officials to deploy this solution before more Floridians are infected.” Corcoran said lawmakers hope obtaining the authorization “will be quick and enable our public health officials to deploy these solutions before more Floridians are infected.”
ZIKA QUESTIONS? FEDS GIVE ANSWERS AT TWITTER TOWN HALL via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that public health experts will answer Zika-related questions live on Twitter all day [today]. Twitter users should submit their questions about Zika using using #AtoZika Burwell said, announcing the town hall on her Twitter account, @SecBurwell. As of Friday, there were 662 Zika infections in Florida; 42 were non- travel related. There are at least 75 cases involving pregnant women, according to the Florida Department of Health. The town hall is the first time public health experts are being made available to answer questions on Twitter, according to HHS officials. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said on his Twitter account – (@DrFriedenCDC) – that he would be answering questions between 3-4 p.m.
HAS ALGAE CRISIS PASSED? STATE OF EMERGENCY ON LAKE O MAY HAVE EXPIRED via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – The possible expiration comes after Rubio last week criticized the Obama administration for not declaring a federal state of emergency as requested by Scott. A spokeswoman for the governor did not answer when asked whether the declaration remained in place. The governor signed the declaration for Martin and St. Lucie counties June 29 as algae was washing up on beaches. Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said the emergency continues. But asked whether he thinks the declaration should be extended, he said the decision is up to the governor’s office. “This is not a crisis that ends because a sheet of paper expires,” he said. “We have to have a solution on this,” said Eikenberg. “It is clearly – send the water south, build the reservoir Senator [Joe] Negron wants and get on with it.” Last week, the Obama administration denied Scott’s appeal of his request for a federal state of emergency. A Scott spokeswoman said last week that the governor’s office is reviewing its options on the state declaration.
APPEALS COURT OVERTURNS RULING, SAYS PRISON AGENCY DOESN’T NEED TO SPECIFY WHY IT’S REDACTING DOCUMENTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – A Florida appellate court has ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections did not violate the public records law when it redacted prison documents and inmate records sought by the Miami Herald but failed to specify the legal authority for each redaction. In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee concluded that Florida’s Sunshine laws do not require the agency to explain each redaction when it responded to the Herald’s public record requests in 2014 and 2015. However, Judge Stephanie Ray acknowledged in a concurring opinion that an agency’s use of exemptions could render the state’s Sunshine law “meaningless.” She said the ruling should “not foreclose a future challenge” to an agency’s use of the public records act. The dispute arose after the Miami Herald sought numerous documents from FDC as part of its extensive investigation, Beyond Punishment, that uncovered details about inmate deaths and allegations of abuse and cover-up at the state’s prison agency. The department provided many documents with numerous sections blacked out, and attached a standard form with checkboxes identifying five statutory citations it claimed justified the exemptions. The process did not allow the Herald to validate whether the redactions were appropriate because the agency did not specify which exemption applied to which redaction. The Herald filed a complaint for injunctive and mandamus relief pursuant to Chapter 119, Florida’s public records law, and asked a court to compel FDC to provide the information.
AGENTS, FACING COMMISSION CUTS, QUESTION AMERICAN COLONIAL’S SOLVENCY via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – A group representing insurance agents has urged Florida regulators to investigate the solvency of American Colonial Insurance Co., one of the private insurers tapped to take over property coverage from the state’s insurer of last resort. The Professional Insurance Agents of Florida cited a letter dated Aug. 5 in which, the group said, American Colonial informed agents it would cut commissions from 12 percent to 5 percent. “While it is within their contractual rights to modify their commission structure, the drastic and unsustainable attack on their agents, combined with their refusal to respond to repeated calls for further explanation, suggests that this carrier, and its insureds — our clients — may be in real danger,” Corey Matthews, the agents’ group’s chief executive officer, wrote in a letter dated Aug. 15. The situation, he wrote, “combined with other irregular behaviors” from carriers to which Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has been turning over property coverage, “suggest that reform may be needed for evaluating the sustainability of these new carriers.” Depopulation — encouraging private carriers to assume the coverage burden from the state-sponsored Citizens — is one of the keys to regulators’ plan to reduce reliance on the public sector.
PERSONNEL NOTE: BLAKE DOWLING PROMOTED AT AEGIS via Florida Politics – Dowling, now the company’s chief business development officer, tells us he will assume the CEO mantle when current exec Pam Butler transitions to chairman of the board on Sept. 1. Tallahassee-based Aegis is one of Florida’s leading business technology companies. Dowling joined Aegis in 2006 as a consultant and rose through the ranks as account executive and director of sales before assuming his current position in 2013. As CEO, Dowling will be responsible for all day-to-day operations at Aegis, as well as continuing to grow business and open new revenue streams.
PERSONNEL NOTE: KATIE FLURY JOINS GRAY|ROBINSON via Florida Politics — She becomes the Orlando-based law firm’s newest government consultant, working in Central Florida. Flury has been involved in Florida politics since 2009, serving as a campaign and strategy consultant to several Florida House members. Most recently, she was the chief legislative aide to state Rep. Jason Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who chairs the Health & Human Services Committee. “Katie’s relationships in the halls of the Capitol are an asset to our growing lobbying team,” said Byrd F. “Biff” Marshall, firm president and managing shareholder. Flury is currently pursuing an MBA from the University of Central Florida.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin.