February 24, 2017

Andrew Gillum 'seriously considering' 2018 governor's race



It’s been no big secret that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has had his eye on the Florida governor’s mansion, but now the Democrat is acknowledging it out loud.

Speaking Friday at the Central Florida Urban League’s Cornerstone Awards in Orlando, Gillum announced officially that he is “seriously considering running for governor.”

The announcement is not unlike recent ones by those of fellow Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham — who also have all-but-announced formal campaigns for 2018.

“I feel strongly that the direction our state government has gone these last 20 years is out of step with the majority of Floridians, from the environment to wages, to education and job creation,” Gillum said, according to prepared remarks. “I believe this is a moment that requires not just people who quietly agree on these issues, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.”

The 37-year-old Gillum is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. The affable African American politician was among the featured speakers at last summer’s Democratic National Convention and he has been a standout in Tallahassee city politics for 14 years.

However, Gillum faces some big obstacles if he does embark on a statewide campaign.

Full story here.

Photo credit: CateComm

February 23, 2017

Florida's Democratic race for governor is already under way

via @adamsmithtimes

Politico speculated the other day that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum could announce for governor Friday at an appearance in Orlando for the Central Florida Urban League's Cornerstone Awards. Seems unlikely that a mayor would announce formally for office outside his own city, but it's a safe bet that both Gillum and Miami Beach Beach Mayor Philip Levine will sound very much like gubernatorial candidates when they address the gathering Friday.

That's because for all purposes they already are running for governor. So is former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. They're traveling the state, interviewing and hiring campaign consultants, meeting with key donors, activists and others.

Levine has even launched his own political committee, "All About Florida," and  hired former Charlie Crist campaign manager Matthew Van Name to coordinate his political activities. 

Gillum and Graham could announce formally any time now. So could little known Winter Park businessman Chris King. Levine we assume will wait until after April 15, because that's when Miami Beach hosts a National League of Cities conference. The NLC would be reluctant to give him a big platform if he were actively campaigning then against other mayors.

Meanwhile, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told us last week that he will make a decision about running within 60 days. Our hunch is he doesn't run. That leaves (so far) Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene and Orlando area personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who have the vast resources that they can wait until next year if they prefer.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

February 22, 2017

GOP web ad compares Bill Nelson to Elizabeth Warren

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - In what may be the first campaign ad against Sen. Bill Nelson, Republicans today debuted a Facebook spot that asserts the Florida Democrat is not much different than liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The NRSC said the ad will target people who “lean conservative” and independents statewide; it would not reveal how much money is behind the ad. Nelson is up for re-election in 2018.

The selection of Warren illustrates her rise on the national stage and she may have supplanted Nancy Pelosi as the bête noire of the right. The NRSC says it used Congressional Quarterly to compare voting records and has launched ads against a number of other Democrats from GOP-leaning states.

The liberal tag is a common attack line for Nelson’s opponents and so far he’s been able to wave it off.

"I'm a political moderate," he told the Tampa Bay Times ahead of his 2012 election. "In the mainstream of American politics and the mainstream of Florida politics."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 18, 2017

Billionaire Democrat's name surfaces in Florida governor chatter

via @adamsmithtimes

Add another potentially game-changing name to the prospective Democratic candidates for governor in 2018. Billionaire Palm Beach resident and former U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene.

"I've been approached by a lot of people, and I've had conversations with people that have approached me," said Greene, who lost the 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to Kendrick Meek after spending about $23 million of his own money.

Though we hear Greene has been talking to political consultants about a potential run, Greene downplayed his interest to The Tampa Bay Times and said he is not actively looking at it.

Greene said he is largely focused on his "Closing the Gap" conference set for April in Palm Beach. It will explore how to improve opportunities for all of society. Scheduled speakers include former British Prime Minister David Cameron, former Apple CEO John Sculley, columnist Thomas Friedman, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"It's certainly something that I haven't ruled out if it made sense," Greene said.

At this point likely Democratic candidates include Mayors Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee and Philip Levine of Miami Beach and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. Others considering it include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Orlando businessman Chris King, and Orlando area attorney John Morgan.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

February 15, 2017

Negron names 6 Republicans and Chris Smith to the Constitution Revision Commission

Florida Constitution Florida MemorySenate President Joe Negron named eight Republicans and one Democrat to the powerful Constitution Revision Commission Wednesday that he said each have a "tireless work ethic" and a commitment to revising the state constitution to reform state education laws.

"The appointees are strong advocates for school choice opportunities that celebrate the power of the parents to determine what form of education is best for their child,'' Negron said in a statement.

Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran each have nine appointments to the 37-member commission that meets every 20 years to put constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 ballot.

Gov. Rick Scott has 15 appointments to the panel, and will name its chair, and Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga made his three appointments to the panel last week. Attorney General Pam Bondi is also automatically a member of the commission. 

Negron made his selections from a list of 100 applicants and among those he rejected were  two sitting senators, Dana Young, R-Tampa and Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. 

Negron and Corcoran have both indicated they will choose applications to the panel who are committed to education reform and increasing school choice options for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Corcoran has said he wants the panel to recommend disabling the "Blaine Amendment," which prohibits state money from going into religious education programs, and both have been vigorous defenders of Florida's school voucher programs and the state's expansion of charter schools.

Continue reading "Negron names 6 Republicans and Chris Smith to the Constitution Revision Commission" »

February 14, 2017

Orlando housing investor emerges as 2018 Democratic contender for Florida governor

02132017_205054_chrisking_8colvia @adamsmithtimes

Christopher King, a 38-year-old housing investor from the Orlando area, is exploring a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018 and sounds more likely to run than not. The President and CEO of Winter Park-based Elevation Financial Group has been interviewing with potential campaign staffers and we hear has all but lined up several top tier consultants, including Obama alums Larry Grisolano of AKPD Message and Media and Jeremy Bird of 270 Strategies.

"We have to make a decision in the next 30 to 60 days," said King, whose father, David King, was the lead attorney for the Fair Districts redistricting reform coalition in 2014.

King specializes in affordable housing and said what drew him initially into exploring a run was state leaders steadily depleting the state's affordable housing trust fund. That, combined with watching the redistricting process and state leaders balk at expanding access to health insurance for hunndreds of thousands of Floridians, fired him up.

He has never run for office before and faces the prospect of taking on experienced politicians including mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee and Philip Levine of Miami Beach, as well as former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and personal injury lawyer John Morgan. King said he would bring a businessman's perspective to the debate about best to grow jobs and opportunity in Florida.

Hat tip to Scott Powers

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

February 08, 2017

GOP says it will target Crist, Murphy in 2018

via @learyreports

Florida Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy are among GOP targets for the midterm elections.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday named 36 seats it will focus on in 2018. Crist and Murphy are in their first term.

The DCCC recently named its targets, which include FL-18, held by Rep. Brian Mast; FL-25, Mario Diaz-Balart; FL-26, Carlos Curbelo; and FL-27, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 07, 2017

'Alligator Ron' Bergeron considering run for Florida governor

via @adamsmithtimes

One of the more colorful business leaders in Florida, "Alligator Ron" Bergeron, tells the Tampa Bay Times he is considering -- "reasonably seriously" -- running for governor in 2018. 

"I've had an awful lot of people approach me," said Bergeron, 73, a rodeo champ, alligator wrestler, and eighth generation Floridian who grew up swimming in the Everglades and made a fortune in the development, road construction and cattle business. "I think I have to first of all look at my family and how it would effect my family and make the decision after that."

A Republican who describes himself as a "moderate conservative," Bergeron says private sector experience is critical in government, as is building consensus, listening, and bringing people together. He is a big fan of Gov. Rick Scott, but also is complimentary of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

"We'd have to have a hitchin' post at the governor's mansion for my horse," mused Bergeron, who expects to make a decision within four months or so.

Asked if he would be capable of spending as much money as Scott did in 2010 -- about $75 million - Bergeron said, "I could," but has made no decision.

 "Getting the support of the people of florida. I think that's probably more important than financing your own campaign," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner who drives a gold-plated Hummer.

John Morgan versus Ron Bergeron: A political writer's dream.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times


February 06, 2017

Labarga appoints to CRC three candidates who will watch the court's back

Roberto Martinez Arthenia Joyner HenryCoxeAs rhetorical attacks mount against the judiciary in Florida and in Washington, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court on Monday named three people who value “judicial independence” to serve on the powerful panel to revise the Florida Constitution.

Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga appointed Miami lawyer Roberto Martinez, Jacksonville defense attorney Henry Coxe III and former Democratic leader of the Florida Senate Arthenia Joyner to serve as his appointees to the Constitution Revision Commission, the 37-member panel assembled every 20 years to review the constitution and put proposals directly before voters in 2018.

They each were chosen because they value an independent judiciary, Labarga told reporters at a press conference on Monday at the Florida Supreme Court. He called them "extremely qualified people who care about our state" and said he looked for candidates with "wide-ranging knowledge about our system and appreciation for separation of powers and the independence of the judicial branch of government."

While the chief justice has only three appointees, Republican Gov. Rick Scott will appoint 15 members of the panel, including its chair. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, each have nine appointees. Members of the commissioner are volunteers who will serve until the November 2018 election. The appointments must be made before the legislative session begins March 7.

Labarga’s three appointees are each prominent lawyers in their fields with experience working in the political process.

Continue reading "Labarga appoints to CRC three candidates who will watch the court's back " »

February 02, 2017

DCCC targets Miami congressman Carlos Curbelo's district



Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo easily beat his Democratic challenger Nov. 8th, but national Democrats are targeting his swing district in Miami-Dade in 2018.

Curbelo's district is one of 20 districts that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified as part of it's "March into 18" project which includes hiring full-time organizers and launching digital ads in each district.

"Organizers will focus on the importance of the midterms to provide a check on Republicans, like Representative Carlos Curbelo, and give them the tools to register voters and turn out Democrats in their communities in 2018," states the press release. 

The DCCC describes the project as an "earlier-than-ever" effort but Democrats will face an uphill battle against Curbelo.

On Nov. 8, Curbelo easily beat former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia 53-41 percent to hold on to his seat in District 26 which spans Westchester to Key West. Curbelo first ousted Garcia in 2014.

Curbelo succeeded by distancing himself from Trump in the immigrant-rich district and bashed Garcia, the former head of the Cuban American National Foundation, for his support of President Barack Obama's reset with Cuba. Curbelo also reminded voters that Garcia's campaign chief was sentenced to jail in an absentee ballot scheme in 2014 although Joe Garcia himself wasn't charged. Curbelo didn't vote for Trump and instead voted for a third-party candidate.

In 2016, the DCCC initially backed Annette Taddeo in the primary but when she lost it switched gears and backed Garcia.

So far, no Democrats have filed with the state Division of Elections to challenge Curbelo. The district is the only one in Florida targeted by the DCCC for this project.

Here's a look at Curbelo's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact Florida.