January 13, 2017

John Morgan doesn't know if he'll run for governor. But he's talking like he will.



Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan isn't a candidate for public office and says he's still not sure he'd ever be one. But he sure was talking like one Friday in a speech to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola.

In a half-hour speech during a club luncheon, Morgan -- who is considering a run for governor in 2018 -- spoke like a politician testing the waters and trying out a potential stump speech.

He recounted his youth in Lexington, Ky., his wealth and success owning multiple businesses from a billboard company to hotels, and his recent high-profile work to get Amendment 2 passed in Florida, which legalized medical marijuana.

He said he had hoped the Legislature would take action first and when lawmakers didn't, he was forced to step up to the plate.

"They wouldn't do it in Tallahassee," Morgan said. "You all ask yourselves a question: When is the last time in the last 10 years that Tallahassee's ever done anything -- anything -- to help you? That's benefited your life?"

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January 12, 2017

Miami Beach mayor will not run for third term and possibly run for governor



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appears to be preparing a run for governor after announcing Thursday that he will not seek a third term in the Beach this year.

He would enter what is shaping up to be a crowded field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates for the state's highest office, which will be vacated when Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited in 2018. Other names circulating statewide as possible Democratic candidates: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and trial lawyer John Morgan.

Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to lead the Republican field.

Read more here.

January 09, 2017

Former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli won't run for Ag Commissioner



Previously expected to run for state agriculture commissioner in 2018, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced Monday that that campaign isn't in the cards for him.

"After much consideration and prayer, I have decided not to run for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018," Crisafulli said in a statement shared on social media. "I plan to remain politically active, but after years of travel to fulfill my obligations to the House Republican Conference and as Speaker of the Florida House, there is nothing I want more than to spend time with my wife Kristen and our daughters as they finish out their final years of being at home before going off to college."

Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, had been a Florida House member since 2008, before finishing his legislative career as House speaker in the 2014-16 term. He left the House due to term limits, and running for agriculture commissioner had long been thought to be his next move. (His official House portrait depicts him standing next to a table with an orange on it.)

"Agriculture is a vital part of my family’s history and of Florida’s history; in order for this state to continue to prosper, agriculture must remain a significant part of our state’s economy," Crisafulli said. "Commissioner (Adam) Putnam has done an outstanding job, and his successor will need an equally deep understanding of the fundamental role agriculture plays in Florida and how to address the challenges facing the industry. I look forward to supporting our next Commissioner of Agriculture, and I have no doubt a capable field of candidates will emerge who will be dedicated to the success of this critical industry.”

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

January 05, 2017

Tallahassee mayor blasts gun lobby, launches campaign against special-interest 'bullies'

Andrew Gillum


In advance of oral arguments before an appeals court next week, Tallahassee's Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum is taking aim at the gun lobby -- and using that as a stepping stone to launch a "grassroots effort" to protect local governments' control on an array of high-profile issues.

Gillum is among a short-list of Democrats believed to be considering a run for governor in 2018, and an initiative of this kind could help boost his name recognition outside the state's capital city.

Gun-rights groups sued Gillum and other Tallahassee officials a couple years ago when city leaders declined to repeal an ordinance prohibiting the shooting of guns in a public park. The lawsuit goes before the First District Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

In a post published Thursday on Medium, Gillum criticizes the NRA -- although Florida Carry, Inc. initiated the lawsuit -- and laments their "spending big money to take away local voices and local control, using tactics called preemption and super-preemption."

"We hope to set a precedent for challenging these 'super-preemption' overreaches," Gillum wrote. "Our partners recognize that if these threats are deployed today by the gun lobby, there’s nothing stopping special interests from coming after protections for immigrants, the LGBT community, the environment, and others. We want to stand up to these bullies everywhere they show up."

That's why Gillum says he's launching the "Campaign to Defend Local Solutions." He said the grassroots group wants to "send a message to state lawmakers" and has plans for events to address "looming threats on issues like minimum wage and health benefits, the environment, local hiring practices and water quality."

The campaign is using a hashtag (#DefendLocal) to promote itself on social media, and a website has been launched -- although, for now, the only information on it is a form to collect names, zip codes and email addresses of its supporters.

Besides Gillum, other Democrats said to be weighing campaigns for governor are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando attorney John Morgan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

December 27, 2016

Orlando Republican wants to be state's next agriculture commissioner



An Orlando real estate professional has his eyes on being Florida’s next elected state Agriculture Commissioner.

Republican Paul Paulson said he has filed papers with the Florida Division of Elections to run to replace current commissioner Adam Putnam, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits. The Florida Division of Elections had not posted Paulson as an official candidate for the 2018 race as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I look forward to the race,” Paulson said. “It will be a challenge.”

Paulson has never run for statewide office, but in 2015 ran for mayor of Orlando, losing badly (63 percent to 33 percent) to incumbent Buddy Dyer. He currently is a Republican state committeeman for the Orange County Republican Executive Committee.

Paulson said his father was a cattle farmer and he himself is a member of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association giving him insight into the agriculture world. But Paulson said being agriculture commissioner goes beyond farming, given that the agency also has jurisdiction over consumer services. In that role, the agency regulates things like motor vehicle repair shops, charitable organizations, pawnbrokers, health studios, travel agencies, moving companies, sweepstakes/game promotions and telemarketers.

“My goal is to help streamline regulations,” Paulson said in an interview.

Paulson said he’s been happy with Putnam’s tenure as commissioner, but says it is good to get a new set of eyes to look at various regulations in the state.

Paulson is the first Republican to openly declare for the 2018 contest.

December 23, 2016

Will Weatherford says he's not running for governor in 2018


Will Weatherford won't run for governor in 2018, the former Florida House speaker said Thursday.

"Running for governor is a pretty big commitment, and it's something that is certainly of interest," he told the Herald/Times. "My focus right now, which I'm really enjoying, has been growing a business with my partners who are my brothers and being there for my four young children."

Weatherford, a 37-year-old Republican from Wesley Chapel, isn't ruling out a run in the future. His children are all young — 8, 6, 4 and 2 years old — and he said he has years ahead of him to return to politics.

"While I'm compelled at some point to re-engage in the political arena, I just think the timing right now is not right," he said.

More here.

December 22, 2016

Florida Republican legislative leaders host January fundraiser for Artiles, Diaz

Artiles-diaz fundraiser invite@ByKristenMClark

When the Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee in early January for its first committee work week ahead of the 2017 session, two Miami-Dade Republican lawmakers will also use the time to get a head-start on raising money for their 2018 races.

And they'll have the help of some powerful party backers.

Newly elected Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles and Hialeah state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. -- who's running for a Florida Senate seat in 2018 -- are planning a joint fundraising reception for Jan. 10 at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee, according to an invitation obtained by the Herald/Times.

The host committee for the reception includes five influential Republicans, four of whom are current or future chamber leaders: current Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart, Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano, Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson, Miami Lakes state Rep. Jose Oliva and Hialeah Sen. René García.

As Senate president, Negron is in charge of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money to assist top party candidates. Galvano and Simpson are both on track to be future Senate presidents after Negron: Galvano in the 2018-2020 term and Simpson in 2020-2022. And, Oliva is poised to take over as House speaker in 2018.

García's presence on the host committee indicates an endorsement of Diaz as his successor. García is in his final term representing Senate District 36 and Diaz, a three-term representative, is running for that seat.

Expect that Artiles and Diaz won't be the only ones fundraising in January. Committee weeks often attract evening fundraising receptions since lawmakers are already convened in Tallahassee. House and Senate rules bar lawmakers from fundraising during the official legislative session, which in 2017 begins in March.

December 15, 2016

Husband's cancer is a factor in Graham's decision to run for governor

Gwen1_apFrom Brendan Farrington at the Associated Press:

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham says she wants to run for governor, and she plans to run for governor. But there's one very important factor that's weighing on her decision: her husband has cancer.

"Every part of me wants to run for governor, that's what I feel passionate about, that's what I know I need to do for the state of Florida, but things happen in life that could take me off that path. I hope not," Graham said Wednesday evening while conducting her last "work day" as a congresswoman - helping sell Christmas trees at an outdoor stand.

The work days were a signature of her father Bob Graham's time as Florida governor and a U.S. senator. Like her father, she spends time experiencing different jobs as a way to reach out to constituents and voters.

She decided not to seek a second term in Congress after the Florida Supreme Court ordered new congressional districts be drawn so that don't favor incumbents or political parties. Graham's district became far more Republican and she decided to explore a 2018 run for governor rather than risk re-election.

She sounded a lot like a candidate when talking with reporters outside the Christmas tree stand, saying she plans to campaign in all 67 counties and discussing her campaign strategy. But she said she's waiting to see how treatment progresses on her husband Steve Hurm's prostate cancer.

"He absolutely wants me to run. He's very supportive of that and I couldn't do it without him by my side," she said. "I wouldn't do it without him by my side."

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leaving office in 2019 due to term limits. Among other Democrats believed to be considering a run are Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also considering a run.

The Republican Governors Association is already preparing for a potential Graham candidacy, wasting little time after this year's election to begin attacking Graham in press releases. The association called Graham "just another Washington politician." Graham hadn't held elected office before winning her House seat two years ago.

Photo credit: AP

December 14, 2016

Former prosecutor will challenge Campbell for Miami-Dade Senate district


Democrat Jason Pizzo says he hopes he'll be "pleasantly surprised" by the work of new state Sen. Daphne Campbell, who took office barely five weeks ago.

But for now, Pizzo is so concerned by the election of the Miami Shores Democrat and former state representative that he's already ramping up plans to run against her again in two years.

Pizzo, a 40-year-old former Miami-Dade prosecutor who unsuccessfully ran against Campbell for an open state Senate seat this year, plans to file paperwork on Wednesday in Tallahassee to launch his 2018 candidacy -- giving him 20 months to take on Campbell, or any other challengers who might arise.

"Unfortunately, the outcome in November was the election of a senator who doesn't and will not and cannot represent our district the way it should be represented, the way it should represent everyone's families -- including mine," Pizzo told the Herald/Times.

Pizzo cited Campbell's recent legislative record in the Florida House where he said she didn't advocate for women's rights for abortion, efforts to halt climate change or proposals to reduce gun violence in vulnerable communities, including Liberty City and parts of Overtown, both of which are in Senate District 38.

"There are so many critical, absolutely critical issues pending right now that will affect everyone's life -- their life, their health, their education, the climate," Pizzo said. "Within the same district, we have kids killing kids, we have climate change occurring and so everyone's interest is for the best, most professional, most ethical representation in the state Senate, and I continue to believe I'm that person."

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December 08, 2016

Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham



Gwen Graham hasn't officially launched a campaign for Florida governor in 2018 -- but that's not stopping the Republican Governors Association from taking a pre-emptive swipe at the outgoing Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee.

In a statement Thursday, the RGA accused Graham of not being transparent, saying her congressional office hasn't responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the RGA.

However, the federal FOIA applies only to the executive branch, i.e. federal agencies. Congress, like federal courts, is exempt so Graham -- or any other member of Congress -- is under no obligation to respond to FOIA requests.

Nonetheless, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said, "when it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another."

"Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power," Thompson said.

Graham dismissed the RGA's criticism, saying in a statement: "We are 23 months away from the governor's election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks."

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