State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, appears to have stirred a hornet’s nest by announcing publicly that he intends to run for state chief financial officer in 2018.
It’s long been known that Lee wanted to run for the office -- he ran in 2006 -- and he’s made it no secret that he was considering it.
Still, many political insiders expected Lee would eventually decide to run for re-election to his state Senate seat instead of starting a primary fight with the current CFO, Republican Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Patronis to the vacant post in June and solidly backs Patronis to run to hold it in 2018.
But without filing officially, Lee told a local reporter this week he intends to run – and did so on the day before attending a high-profile public event with Scott and Patronis in Brandon.
On Friday, Lee stood with Patronis, Scott and other Republican luminaries at Brandon Honda, while Scott and Patronis touted Scott’s election-year proposal to make it harder for the Legislature to impose tax or fee increases.
Then a reporter asked Scott about the CFO race and about Lee’s announcement, and Scott made it clear where his loyalties are.
“I’ve known Jimmy for a long time,” he said. “I appointed Jimmy because I think he’s going to do a really good job as CFO. I know he’s concerned about whether he’s going to run or not. If he runs I’ll be a big supporter … I’ll do everything I can to see that he wins.”
Patronis hasn’t said whether he intends to run in 2018 to hold onto the CFO post, but he’s acting like a candidate.
He recently founded an independent political committee, Treasure Florida, and Scott will headline a fundraiser for that committee in Orlando in September.
Lee, however, has a substantial head start over Patronis in both statewide name recognition and money – nearly $2 million in his own committee, The Conservative.
Scott, of course, is expected to run for the U.S. Senate next year.
In the past, Lee and Scott have been allies. Scott appointed Lee’s wife, Laurel Lee, to a circuit judgeship in 2013, and Lee took over the Hillsborough County Republican Party, a time-consuming and thankless task, during Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign.
However, the relationship has been less smooth lately. In the 2016 legislative session, Lee opposed Scott’s plans for public school funding, and in the 2017 session, Lee was considered an ally of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who clashed with Scott over economic incentives.
Lee sought the appointment as CFO, but Scott picked Patronis instead.
Also attending the Brandon event were a couple of the local state House members who’d be interested in running to replace Lee in the Senate if he vacates his District 20 seat to run for CFO, Ross Spano of Dover and Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills.
They and Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, all said they’d be interested if Lee left the seat vacant.
That means dominoes lined up to fall. If one or more of the GOP House members run, it will set off a scramble in GOP-leaning East Hillsborough to replace them. If Harrison runs, it would open up a House seat in a swing district that could easily go Democratic.
Jack Latvala, Florida’s newest Republican candidate for governor, struggled Wednesday to fully blame the deadly violence that took place during a Charlottesville rally over the weekend on white supremacists.
Latvala formally launched his 2018 bid in Hialeah with a moment of silence for the 32-year-old woman and two state troopers who died in Virginia. But he later declined to lay all responsibility for their deaths on the racist neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that staged two days of demonstrations.
“I wasn’t there,” Latvala, a state senator from Clearwater, told reporters. “I condemn all violence of people that are protesting. If people are peacefully exercising their rights — whether they be, you know, white supremacists, or whether they be Black Lives Matter folks — you know, they have a right to demonstrate without having a mob attack them.”
The three dead were “innocent,” he said. Pressed on whether he was equating neo-Nazis with the Black Lives Matter activists, Latvala added: “No, I’m not supporting Nazis.”
Latvala also said he did not see President Donald Trump’s extraordinary news conference Tuesday in which the president appeared to put white supremacists and those who protested them on the same moral plane.
“I’ve been focused on what Jack Latvala’s doing. I don’t know what you’re even talking about,” he said. “I denounced [white supremacists] and all of us — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, all of us that look at these things responsibly — denounced it. So, specifically what he said yesterday, I can’t comment unless I saw it.”
Latvala’s Charlottesville exchange with reporters came moments after a campaign-launch speech in which he portrayed himself as the straight-talk candidate.
Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times
Gary Morse, the man who developed the Villages, died in 2014 but his family continues to play a role in politics, and recently gave $100,000 to a super PAC chaired by Gov. Rick Scott.
The Holding Company of the Villages contributed to the New Republican PAC, which Scott announced in May, and is the biggest single donation to date. The super PAC took in $270,000 in the first six months of 2017.
Morse over the years gave millions to Republicans and the new donation illustrates his family intends to remain politically active.
Among other major donors to New Republican PAC: New Yorker financier Roger Hertog ($25,000); Dosal Tobacco Corp. ($25,000); and Friends of Mike H, the committee controlled by Mike Haridopolos ($25,000).
New Republican PAC spent just under $50,000, for consulting and travel.
In their first radio ad against Sen. Bill Nelson, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is attacking the Democrat up for reelection over his perceived softness towards Venezuela and Cuba.
The ad, titled "Accomplice," is the latest evidence that the ongoing crisis in Venezuela will become a political issue in South Florida, where Venezuelan voters are concentrated in parts of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. It will air on four Spanish-language radio stations in the Miami area.
"Our government in Washington has to stop (Nicolás) Maduro and his accomplices," the ad says. "What has our Senator Bill Nelson done? In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators. Look at him with Cuba. He supported (Barack) Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers. When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with (Hugo) Chavez and now with Maduro."
Nelson is one of 10 Democratic Senators up for reelection next year in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. He figures to face a challenge from outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2018, though Scott has not announced a bid.
That hasn't stopped national Republicans from going after Nelson.
The ad also charges that Nelson visited Chavez in Venezuela in 2005 and that he went to Venezuela to "admire Chavez's revolution."
Politicians from both parties, including Nelson, have vocally opposed Maduro in recent months. Nelson, along with others from Florida, are urging the Trump administration to impose a ban on Venezuelan oil imports after Maduro moved forward with a constituent assembly stocked with Maduro loyalists that can rewrite the Venezuelan constitution.
“It’s time that we consider cutting the imports of Venezuelan oil,” Nelson said on the Senate floor recently. “We are now dealing with a Cuban-style dictator.”
The ad isn't the first attack by the NRSC on Nelson this year. In July the group tasked with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate ran an ad on Facebook saying that Nelson wants a single-payer health care system championed by liberals like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Politifact rated that claim "mostly false," as Nelson is on record saying that he doesn't support single-payer and instead wants to preserve and improve Obamacare.
Listen to the ad here:
From the News Service of Florida:
Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, joined the 2018 race for governor on Friday, filing papers to make his campaign official.
“My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!” Latvala tweeted shortly after noon, including a picture of the smiling boy in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding the candidate’s paperwork.
Latvala, 65, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, is a veteran lawmaker, serving 15 years during two stints in the Senate.
Friday’s announcement was not a surprise. He will formally kick off his campaign on Wednesday, with stops in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City. Latvala will appear at 9 a.m. in Hialeah outside Fire Station #7, 7590 West 24th Ave.
Keep reading here.
Of the $6.5 million his political committee, Let's Get to Work, has spent since his 2014 re-election, $4.5 million of it went to consultants and services outside of Florida, according to a Herald/Times review of the committee's expenditures since January 2015.
The bulk of the out-of-state money -- $3.9 million -- was delivered to his political consultant, OnMessage, based in Annapolis, Md.
In addition to consulting expenses, the political committee's website service is based in Alexandria, Va.
When the governor needed some robo-call assistance in June -- as he fended off an attempt to gut his economic development agency -- his committee spent $12,000 on an Arlington, Virginia-based company to make telephone calls.
His most recent hire appears to be Taylor Teepell, a Louisiana native who ran former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's five-month campaign for president in 2015. Scott hired him to be finance director of the New Republican Super PAC which he now serves as chair. Melissa Sellers Stone, Scott's former chief of staff and campaign manager, serves as the director of the pac. She also came to Florida after working in Louisiana, where she served on Jindal's staff.
Stone has been paid $188,800 in the last year from LGTW, including $18,800 in reimbursement for travel and other expenses.
Since June, Teepell has also created a company, Traction Capital LLC, that was paid $10,816 in May and June by LGTW for "fundraising, consulting and office supplies." New Republican also paid Teepell's company $13,400 in May and June. Before that, Scott had given Teepell a $110,000 job as head of the agency overseeing Florida's growth management, a position for which the Louisiana native had no planning experience.
As Scott positions himself for a likely run for U.S. Senate next year, he continues to tap the Louisiana vein. On Message, headed by Curt Anderson, employs Teepell's brother, Timmy, in Baton Rouge.
And Stone was among those FDLE agents originally referred to as the "Louisiana Mafia" because of the heavy-handed way they attempted to use state law enforcement vehicles for the 2014 campaign. The others are Frank and Meghan Collins. Frank is policy director at the Florida Department of Transportation and Meghan, his wife, is director of communications at the Department of Education.
Arkansas transplant and BBQ expert Josh Cooper has been on a monthly retainer with LGTW of between $5,000 to $8,000. He earned more than $192,000 since 2015 for two Florida-based corporations he has established.
There are some exceptions to the out-of-state link. LGTW's biggest Florida hire appears to be Debbie Aleksander, a Tallahassee based fundraiser who has been paid $363,000.
In 2015, Scott's committee had Tony Fabrizio on retainer and paid him $43,000. As Scott increased his presence in Miami this year, he has Miami political consultant Ana M. Carbonell and her company, The Factor, $249,000 since his re-election.
Much of Scott's Florida operation is run out of the offices of Tallahassee consultant Brecht Heuchan, the refurbished Fire Station #2. Stone lists Heuchan's Contribution Link office as her address. The governor does too -- when the campaign reimbursed him $461 in food and beverages in 2015. And Cooper also runs a consulting business located in Heuchan's headquarters.
Heuchen has been paid $116,000 for consulting and $80,000 for database services since 2015, the reports show.
Photo: Curt Anderson of OnMessage, the chief political consultant for Gov. Rick Scott.
American Action Network, a center-right group with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, will spend $2.5 million in the next few weeks to promote an overhaul of the nation's tax system, the next big legislative fight for Republicans in Congress.
The TV ad buy includes Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Key West-to-Miami district and the ad argues that the current tax system causes American workers to lose their jobs.
"We are committed to standing up for Americans who have been left behind by our broken tax code, and sharing real stories to raise awareness on how jobs have fled to countries like China," said American Action Network executive director Corry Bliss. "It’s time for Congress to act and defend hard-working Americans and their families across the country.”
Curbelo is one of 24 mostly moderate House Republicans who are part of the August ad buy. The list also includes Florida Rep. Brian Mast, who won Patrick Murphy's seat after he ran for Senate. Curbelo and Mast's districts are being targeted by Democrats as potential 2018 pickups.
Three Democrats, including Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, are challenging Curbelo while former Senate candidate Pam Keith has filed to run against Mast.
American Action Network has gotten involved in Curbelo's district before. In 2014, when Curbelo successfully challenged Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, American Action Network spent $1.2 million against Garcia.
The organization is expected to spend up to $20 million on an efforts to change the tax code in the coming months, including a $1 million radio campaign launched two weeks ago that also included Curbelo's district.
Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump are pushing for a lower corporate and personal tax rate along with eliminating many deductions, but an overhaul of the nation's tax system hasn't occurred since Ronald Reagan's administration.
Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Verda Beach, a potential candidate for governor in 2018, is swinging into South Florida to talk about the next big item facing Congress: a comprehensive tax overhaul.
DeSantis will speak at an "Un-Rig the Economy" town hall event at the Miami Airport Sheraton on August 24th in conjunction with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.
Conservatives like DeSantis and Americans for Prosperity are aiming to drastically reduce the country's corporate tax rate, change personal tax rates and revamp tax deductions for the first time since Ronald Reagan's administration.
"We hope the rest of the Florida delegation will join Congressman DeSantis in fighting back against the current rigged tax system by joining our effort to pass pro-growth tax reform," said AFP Florida director Chris Hudson in a statement. "Americans want a system that’s based on simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and creates no new burden on taxpayers. We want to speak directly to Floridians who want to help fix our broken tax code."
Americans for Prosperity and Republicans in Congress are pushing for a tax plan by the end of the year, but it will be harder to pass a tax overhaul that doesn't require 60 Senate votes after the effort to repeal Obamacare stalled two weeks ago. A tax plan can only pass with a simple majority if the legislation doesn't increase the federal deficit after 10 years, and repealing Obamacare would have shaved billions off the deficit. Republicans only have 52 seats in the Senate, so a bill that requires 60 votes will need Democratic support.
DeSantis, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 before ending his bid after Marco Rubio ultimately sought reelection. Last week, DeSantis asked the Department of Justice to investigate a former information technology worker fired by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
DeSantis also has tax speeches with AFP set for September 19th in Fort Lauderdale at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North and September 28th in Orlando. All three events run from 6:30 to 8pm. AFP plans to hold 50 tax overhaul events around the country in August and September.