May 25, 2017

Jeb money trickles into Putnam's bid for governor


Money from a Jeb Bush super PAC has made its way into Florida’s 2018 governors race.
A year ago, Bush’s Right to Rise PAC put $1,171 in money left over from his failed presidential run into a fund called SSLP Political Committee, which Adam Putnam used for his 2014 re-election campaign for Florida Agriculture Commissioner. After the Right to Rise donation, SSLP was up to just over $221,000 and has not spent any money since, according to records with the Florida Division of Elections.
But on Tuesday, Putnam moved all of SSLP’s unused money over into Florida Grown, a new committee he runs that has already raised $11 million since the start of 2015.
Since Putnam kicked off his campaign with a rally in Bartow on May 10, the Polk County Republican has now brought in at least $370,000 - including the SSLP transfer - into Florida Grown, according to a website maintained by the political committee.
It’s no surprise Jeb Bush money would end up in Putnam’s campaign. For years, Bush has been encouraging Putnam to run for governor. Even in 2014 while Putnam was still seeking re-election as agriculture commissioner, Bush used an event in Charlotte County to hint that Putnam should run for governor in the future.

While Right to Rise is one of the more notable donations in SSLP, its hardly the biggest donation. That title goes to the Florida Phosphate Political Committee, which put $100,000 into SSLP over two months, including $50,000 on Dec. 31, 2014 - nine weeks after Putnam had already won his re-election in a landslide. The money from Florida Phosphate is in addition to $150,000 they gave directly to Florida Grown.

May 24, 2017

Corcoron has a new political committee, ahead of possible run for governor

via @adamsmithtimes

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has opened a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, that may or may not bankroll his campaign for governor in 2018. The Land O'Lakes Republican says he will remain speaker of the Florida House through the 2018 session and decide after that whether or not he will run for governor.

In the meantime, it apears virtually every special interest wanting something done or not done in the legislature can bankroll the ironically named Watchdog PAC to curry favor with Corcoran. We haven't heard back from Corcoran yet, but this new committee fits exactly what he said he intended to do.

"If I can't raise the money, I can't raise the money, and if I raise the money and I don't want to run for governor, I don't run for governor. I'll use it for constitutional amendments, I'll use it for helping real conservatives, or I'll turn it over to the (Republican) party," Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month.

Adam Putnam already has north of $8 million for his gubernatorial campaign, and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater seems increasingly likely to get into the race as well. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of northeast Florida is also a prospect.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Regalado casts herself as Ros-Lehtinen's political heir


As she mulled a run for Congress, Raquel Regalado was nagged by a question she said was posed to her again and again that might not usually be asked of male candidate.

"The first question that I was asked was, 'How are you going to be a mother and a congresswoman?'" Regalado said Tuesday at a women-centered Miami Young Republicans event where she kicked off her candidacy. "I think it's sad that we're in a place where people still ask those questions."

With that, Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member, portrayed herself as the political heir to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the retiring GOP congresswoman Regalado is hoping to replace.

Regalado didn't explicitly draw the line between her nascent candidacy and Ros-Lehtinen's trailblazing political career. But it was clear that, as the most prominent Republican woman who's filed for the Democratic-leaning 27th district, Regalado plans to campaign as a politician cast in Ros-Lehtinen's centrist mold.

Ros-Lehtinen has been a frequent GOP critic of President Donald Trump. Regalado didn't endorse him last year, and preemptively dismissed the suggestion that Republican voters -- especially in blue Miami-Dade -- want candidates to echo the president. (Her biggest opponent so far, Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, appeared as a Trump surrogate at South Florida rallies.)

"This is not about a particular person," Regalado said, referring to Trump. "This is about having a party that represents its residents.... The party, to be successful, has to have different voices." 

Regalado's answer to how she'd juggle motherhood and Congress, by the way, was that her children were born into a political family and are used to the balance. Her father is Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

"They don't know any better," Raquel Regalado said, citing her school board experience as positive for her two children, since they benefited from her focus on policies to help kids on the autistic spectrum, as they are.

"I told them, 'Going to Congress would be the best thing that could happen to my family,'" she said.


Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana



Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

"I think that it's important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session," he said Tuesday. "Since they didn't, I think a special session is in order."

Lawmakers failed to reach agreement on sweeping legislation that would have put into state law the will of 71 percent of voters who supported medical pot. A breakdown in backroom negotiations among top members of the Legislature meant they left their regular session this year without putting a system into place, kicking the issue to the Department of Health, which Putnam and others have been critical of.

"I think for a constitutional amendment's implementation, it's important for the elected officials to do it, not the bureaucrats at the Department of Health," Putnam said.

He joins more than two dozen other Florida politicians who have called for a special session, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and possible candidate John Morgan, who were both among the first to demand a special session. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also rumored to be considering a run for governor, said two weeks ago that he supports bringing the Legislature back.

"I watched my husband battle cancer & the effects of chemo. Patients could use medical marijuana to treat their pain," Graham tweeted early this month.

As well, 13 state lawmakers have written letters to Secretary of State Ken Detzner asking for a special session: Sens. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Greg Steube, R-Sarasota; and Victor Torres, D-Orlando. And Reps. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Nick Duran, D-Miami; Katie Edwards, D-Plantation; Roy Hardemon, D-Miami; Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg; Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena; Sean Shaw, D-Tampa; Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton; and Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando.

If 32 members of the Legislature, Detzner's office would have to poll the House and Senate. A three-fifths majority of each chamber is required to call a special session. In addition to the 13 listed above, at least 14 other lawmakers have said on social media or in interviews with the Times/Herald that they support a special session.

The other two options, which are far more common: Gov. Rick Scott could call a special session (he has routinely said he will "consider his options"), or Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron could jointly do so.

Photo: Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam (OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times)

May 23, 2017

Putnam on early campaign shakeup: 'You're always adjusting'

via @adamsmithtimes

In a sign of unsteadiness for what had looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner for governor suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director.

Hard-charging campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join Putnam's senior political team, along with former National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Ward Baker, who remains with the campaign.

The sudden shakeup came after the completion of an ambitious, ostensibly successful and well-organized 10-day bus tour immediately after Putnam's long expected announcement for governor. The firings threaten to overshadow the strong rollout and raise doubts about the readiness of Putnam, 42, who has never faced a truly competitve campaign since his first primary for the Florida House at age 21.

The good news is he still has a veteran team of political hands at his side, including Baker and longtime Putnam adviser Mac Stevenson, among others.

"We're very grateful for her efforts to help this campaign get off to the strongest possible launch," said Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis. "We wish her the best."

On Tuesday, talking to reporters after Cabinet, Putnam had this to say about staff turnover: "This is a grassroots movement and I’m very excited about the team that we have and I wish the team members who’ve moved on to other things the very best. ... You’re always adjusting and modifying as you move forward."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Too much of education bill done ‘behind closed doors,’ top GOP contender for governor says



Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam joined the chorus of critics of the Florida Legislature’s massive K-12 education bill that heavily favors charter schools over traditional public schools.

“I have concerns about the way that that bill along with much of the budget was fashioned completely in the dark and behind closed doors,” Putnam told reporters on Tuesday about House Bill 7069.

A key part of HB 7069 is $140 million for a new “Schools of Hope” program, which is largely an incentive for specialized charter schools to set up in low-income areas and essentially compete with struggling traditional public schools. The bill also allocates $234 million in teacher bonuses, both through the controversial “Best & Brightest” program and through a new scheme — whereby “highly effective” teachers would be guaranteed $1,200 bonuses for each of the next three school years and “effective” teachers could get up to $800 each year, depending on how much money is available.

Aside from the numerous other policy reforms not related to spending that are also in the bill, the legislation includes $30 million to expand the Gardiner Scholarship, a voucher program that helps students with disabilities pay for alternative education options.

Putnam didn’t specifically take issue with provisions of the bill, but stressed the way the bill was assembled was cause for concern.

“Not only the public, but many of the members who were asked to vote on it were unaware of all the things that were taped together at the last second and shoved in the pipeline,” Putnam said.

The Legislature voted out the bill on May 8, but it has still not been officially sent to Gov. Rick Scott, who will have 15 days to sign the bill into law or veto it once he gets it.

PHOTO CREDIT: GOV. Rick Scott and 2018 gubernatorial contender Adam Putnam talk during the first day of the Legislature's annual session in March.

May 22, 2017

A Castro brother (no, not those Castros) backs Gillum for Florida governor


Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has been getting some national attention for his Florida governor bid, what with a mention last week in the New York Times.

On Monday, he notched another little bit of attention: an endorsement from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who will host a fundraiser for Gillum in South Florida on June 3.

"Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That's the essence of the American Dream," Castro said in a statement released by Gillum's campaign. "I'm proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams--and he's worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs."

Castro had previously tweeted praise at Gillum when he announced his candidacy.

May 20, 2017

Another sign Latvala may run for governor?




State Sen. Jack Latvala continues to make moves that suggest he is serious about running for governor in 2018.

A political committee the Clearwater Republican runs is scheduled to meet on Sunday at 5 p.m. on Treasure Island with group of top political consultants. Latvala told the Times/Herald last week that his interest in running for governor is real and he expects to make a decision later in the summer.

Latvala has raised $8.2 million in that political committee, called the Florida Leadership Committee, since 2013. He has spent $5 million of that, leaving him with more than $3 million in the committee. That puts him well behind fellow Republican Adam Putnam, who has already declared for the governors race. Putnam has raised $11.4 million for the political committee he calls Florida Grown. He has spent about $3.1 million, leaving him with $8.3 million in the committee.

While Latvala is hardly a household name statewide, his long tenure in Tampa Bay politics would be a key part of any decision on whether he runs. The Tampa Bay area represents more than one-quarter of the Republican electorate in a potential primary race. Latvala was in the Florida Senate from 1994 to 2002 and then was elected again in 2010 and has been in office since.

 PHOTO: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater (SCOTT KEELER/Tampa Bay Times)

May 19, 2017

DCCC to hold fundraiser with Nancy Pelosi and Ted Deutch in South Florida

Congress Pelosi (2)


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will appear in South Florida May 26th for a fundraiser for Democrats and at a public event with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

The luncheon fundraiser is for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and will be hosted by Deutch at a private home in Fort Lauderdale. The minimum donation is $5,000.

Pelosi will also appear at an event organized by Deutch at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors about the Equality Act, a bill to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to guarantee protections to LGBT individuals. Deutch is one of 194 co-sponsors.

The DCCC has two key targets in South Florida for 2018 currently held by Republicans in left-leaning districts: the open seat created by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's retirement and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo's seat. Ros-Lehtinen's district is in Miami-Dade while Curbelo's seat stretches from Westchester to Key West.

While several Democrats intend to run for Ros-Lehtinen's seat, Curbelo faces no Democratic challengers.




Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine open to running as independent for Florida governor


via @adamsmithtimes

Maybe multimillionaire Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine was just trying to be provocative, earn a little extra attention as he mulls a run for governor. Maybe he was just spitballing an unlikely idea before the Tampa Tiger Bay luncheon Friday. But the Miami Beach Mayor and close friend of Bill Clinton said he is keeping the door wide open to running for governor as an independent candidate.

"There's one assumption that you made there - that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor," Levine, a Democrat, responded when asked how he would work with a GOP-dominated Legislature. "Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. ... Maybe possibly it's time we do something different."

Levine has been one of the biggest Democratic fundraisers and donors in the state, but he describes himself as a "radical centrist" and noted that successful mayors usually don't govern based on partisanship but on getting things done.

"I'm a Democrat right now, and I hope that I stay in the Democratic Party. I love the Democratic Party. But you know what's interesting? I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas, and I like a lot of the people in the Republican party as well. I think that's where we need to go as a country - and start in a state like Florida and make that decision that we're going to change and do it the right way," said Levine, 55, who is worth at least $100 million earned largely as a cruise industry concessionaire.

He has invested $2 million in a political committee to fund his exploration into a possible run for governor, but said he has not made up his mind yet and is in no rush. Other Democrats actively campaigning are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

The best experience for governing, Levine told the Tampa crowd, is no experience governing. Both parties claim to be the parties of working people and job creation but too often field candidates who have never created jobs or barely worked in the private sector. It was a clear dig at Gillum, Graham, and Republican candidate Adam Putnam, the agriculture commissioner.

His top priority would be improving Florida's economy, and he derided Gov. Rick Scott's emphasis on big tax breaks to lure corporations.

What will bring top-tier companies to Florida is creating "a culture and an ecosystem where they want to relocate, where their workers want to be around. It means unbelievable infrastructure, it means connecting our cities, it means making sure you have fresh water. ... NASA to us is our Silicon Valley and it hasn't been exploited to the level it really can be," Levine said.

"We should have innovation zones. Our universities must be the best. You make a decision -- do you want to invest in the state or do you want to cut everyone's taxes?. You can cut everyone's taxes, that's a great short-term solution and people will vote for you. ... I travel all over the world, all over the country. I have never had anyone say to me, 'We were thinking of coming to Florida, but it's a high tax state.' I've heard them say that your schools aren't as good as they could be."

Pressed after the luncheon if he is seriously considering running without party affiliation or considering even running as a Republican (a senior campaign adviser is Republican Adam Goodman of St. Petersburg), Levine said he has not decided.

"I'm keeping every door open right now, but I'm running as an American and I'm running as a Floridian and I'm running as someone who I believe has a good message for the times, which is not about being left and not about being right. It's about being in the center and being a Floridian, taking care of everybody and creating better and better opportunities for our state," Levine said. "I don't know if that's being Republican or Democrat, and as I go through my journey I'm going to figure that out."

Running as nonpartisan candidate would present enormous challenges, considering that more than 73 percent of the state is a registered Democrat or Republican and unaffiliated voters tend to be the most unreliable voters to turn out. The last major statewide candidate to run without party affiliation, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, received less than 30 percent of the vote in 2010 running for U.S. Senate against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.