September 30, 2015

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater reconsidering U.S. Senate race


Almost six months after Jeff Atwater unequivocally declared he would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, the state’s elected chief financial officer is once again considering jumping into the contest saying there is still a possibility he will run in 2016.

Atwater said friends and people he has deep respect for have been constantly asking him if he might be a candidate, despite his April declaration he would not run.

“Yea, I would say there is still a possibility of that,” Atwater, a Republican from Palm Beach County, said in an interview with the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

The GOP field for the U.S. Senate is crowded, but mostly with candidates who have never run for statewide office before. The field already includes U.S. Reps David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, and Ron Desantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, as well as Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox. U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are the leading candidates running for the Democratic nomination. 

Early polls have shown voters unfamiliar with any of the GOP candidates running. While Atwater is far from a household name, he has run two statewide campaigns in 2010 and last year’s 2014 re-election.

Atwater was thought to be a front runner if he got in the race because of his elective experience. Prior to being chief financial officer he was a member of the Florida Legislature, where he rose to become Senate President in 2008. But Atwater stunned GOP insiders in April when he told the Times/Herald he would not run for the U.S. Senate.

"While I have certainly taken these words of support under consideration, I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016," Atwater later posted on Facebook.

But it was a different answer this week asked about running for the seat.

“We won’t rule that out,” Atwater said.

The U.S. Senate seat open in 2016 is currently held by Marco Rubio, who is not seeking re-election so he can run for president.

July 22, 2015

Does Greece have three times as many government workers as Florida as Jeff Atwater says?

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater capitalized on news about the floundering Greek economy to point out a new report that said the Florida economy was doing just fine.

In an "open letter to the people of Florida," Atwater said the Sunshine State had been ranked fifth in fiscal solvency by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. He then contrasted Florida’s success with the beleaguered European nation.

"A country in economic peril, Greece’s priorities have historically been very different from Florida’s," Atwater wrote on July 13, 2015. "For example, Greeks depend much more on their government for employment and services. Although we have twice the population of Greece, the State of Florida employs three times fewer government employees."

PunditFact previously confirmed that Greece’s economic output is comparable to Miami, but could that 3-to-1 comparison of public-sector workers be accurate? Yes, if you’re looking at Florida’s direct employees, but experts we talked to said Atwater’s comparison is deeply flawed.

Read more from Joshua Gillin at PolitiFact Florida.

July 17, 2015

State CFO Atwater still politically active even if next political move unclear


Jeff Atwater cannot run for re-election as the state’s Chief Financial Officer because of term limits.

And he declared earlier this year that he will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 as once was expected.

But you wouldn’t know either by recent activity in a fundraising committee the Republican runs or his political travel schedule last month.

Last week, the Atwater's committee, Government That Works For You, paid a West Palm Beach political consultant $15,000 – his largest single expense since he created the committee in August 2014. He also used the fund to pay $5,000 each to consultants based in Jacksonville and Tallahassee in May.

He also raised another $20,000 for the account in June. All told, he’s now raised $145,100 for the campaign account and has only spent $32,527 of that as of his July 9 payment to the West Palm Beach political consulting firm, Public Concepts.

And Atwater has been a regular on the Republican speakers circuit, acting as the keynote speaker at two Republican Party Lincoln Day dinners in June (Leon County and Brevard County), and giving a speech at another in Miami-Dade.

The activity in June and July comes even though Atwater has not offered any new hints about whether he’s considering running for another office when his term as chief financial officer ends in 2018. He could not be reached for further comment on Friday.

July 15, 2015

Adam Putnam fundraising numbers add to 2018 governor race speculation


Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam has ramped up his fundraising activities, amassing nearly $2 million for a political committee he controls just since March.

Putnam, frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for governor in 2018, reported raising more than $460,000 just in June alone. He now has raised $1.8 million total for a political action committee called Florida Grown.

His biggest donors since March have included Jupiter beer distributor J.J. Taylor Companies, Manatee County insurance company FCCI and Little River Plantation Holdings, a company with ties to Mike Fernandez, a major GOP fundraiser in Florida. Each gave Florida Grown $100,000 each since April. Another $100,000 combined came on the last day in May from U.S. Sugar Corporation and South Central Florida Express Inc, a rail line owned by U.S. Sugar.

Putnam’s largest contribution came from another political action committee he previously ran called the Sunshine State Leadership Project. That fund transferred nearly $400,000 to Putnam’s new committee on April 30.

Continue reading "Adam Putnam fundraising numbers add to 2018 governor race speculation" »

July 13, 2015

Florida CFO slams Greece for fiscal irresponsibility


Florida's elected chief financial officer Jeff Atwater is trying to use Greece’s fiscal troubles to tout how much better he believes Florida is managed.

Atwater, a Palm Beach County Republican first elected in 2010, sent out "An open letter to the people of Florida" in which he lists out Greece's financial short comings as proof Florida is well managed.

"Through the lens of current events across our nation and globally, we see the catastrophic consequences of failing to exercise fiscal responsibility," Atwater says in the two-page letter. "A country in economic peril, Greece’s priorities have historically been very different from Florida's."

The Greeks rely too much on their government for employment and services, Atwater says. Also the European nation has a 26 percent unemployment rate and a gross domestic product output far worse than Florida’s, he said.

"This fiscal irresponsibility has profoundly affected the lives of Greek citizens," Atwater said.

Read his full letter here.

June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush secures endorsements from top Florida Republicans ahead of campaign kickoff

@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Jeb Bush will gain endorsements Friday from a host of top Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Bush will also be endorsed by 11 of the state’s 17 Republican members of the U.S. House.

The endorsements, obtained first by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, come as Bush prepares for his official announcement on Monday in Miami, home also to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has emerged as a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

With people beginning to talk up Sunshine State showdown between Bush and Rubio, the list is a way for Bush to show off the depth and geographical range of his support.

Bondi, Putnam and Atwater plan to attend the event as do some of the congressional members, subject to duties in Washington.

They are: Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor; Vern Buchanan of Sarasota; Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville; Carlos Curbelo of Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami; David Jolly of Indian Shores; Jeff Miller of Chumuckla; John Mica of Winter Park; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Dennis Ross of Lakeland; and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush secures endorsements from top Florida Republicans ahead of campaign kickoff" »

April 11, 2015

Florida GOP scramble: Jeff Atwater tells donors he's not running for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat


Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the leading Republican candidate for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat, stunned political donors Saturday when he told them he will stay out of the race for family considerations.

“Over the past weeks I have received a tremendous amount of encouragement to consider a run for the United States Senate in 2016,” he later told reporters in a statement.

“While I have certainly taken these words of support under consideration, I will not be a candidate in 2016. I remain committed to only one endeavor and that is to be the best CFO I can be for the people of Florida.”

Atwater appeared ready to declare his candidacy soon after Rubio’s expected presidential announcement on Monday in Miami. Atwater’s absence opens the door for other potential contenders, such as Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach. DeSantis, in particular, has indicated he’s likely to run.

More here.

April 08, 2015

New Florida Republican super PAC alert


Time for a political guessing game: Which Florida Republican may have created a new "super PAC" to raise big bucks for the 2016 election?

A new political action committee, Reform Washington, to benefit an unnamed candidate was registered Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. Its treasurer is Nancy Watkins, a top Florida GOP political accountant based in Tampa.

The only other bit of information available on the registration form, the super PAC's website, links to a page that has yet to be created, though the domain -- -- has been purchased, with the owner's name hidden by a proxy.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has yet to announce a super PAC benefiting his likely presidential bid, but "Reform Washington" doesn't necessarily sound like a Rubio slogan (his existing PAC is named Reclaim America; his books are titled An American Son and American Dreams). So the new organization could benefit a GOP contender to replace Rubio -- perhaps Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

There are also a number of other possible candidates, such as Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

No one's talking for now. Expect more news after Rubio's announcement next week.

UPDATE: The super PAC is indeed Atwater's, Politico reported Thursday.

April 06, 2015

Quinnipiac poll: Jeff Atwater leads early Florida Senate field, though few voters know potential candidates


Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater tops the early field of possible 2016 U.S. Senate candidates in Florida, according to a new poll, though the four potential contenders in the survey are still largely unknown to voters. A tough race is expected if Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announces next week that he's running for president.

The Republican Atwater bests Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, the only declared candidate in the race so far, by 38-34 percent, the new Quinnipiac University poll found. Atwater also leads Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando 42-32 percent.

Murphy holds a 35-31 percent lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Lopez-Cantera's advantage over Grayson, 33-32 percent, is essentially a tie, given the poll's 3 percent error margin.

A key figure: all of them have a high proportion of voters -- 58 percent or more -- who said they don't know enough about the politicians to form an opinion. Quinnipiac did not survey primary-election match-ups.

"If U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio runs for president, the fight for his Senate seat will be a test of relatively unknown candidates on both sides of the aisle," Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director, said in a statement. "Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has a small edge in exposure to the voters, but we have a long way to go. Whoever wins will be the candidate who does the best job introducing themselves to the voters."

The poll also found that voters continue to disapprove of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's job performance by 49-42 percent. Rubio has a higher approval rating (54-35 percent) than his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson (45-30 percent).

Quinnipiac also found 84 percent of respondents favor legalizing medical marijuana, compared to 14 percent who oppose it. A constitutional amendment to that effect failed despite garnering nearly 58 percent support because it failed to meet the state's 60-percent amendment threshold. A new amendment is in the works for the 2016 ballot, with a different wording than what the pollsters used in their survey, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible.

According to the poll, outright marijuana legalization -- not just for medical uses -- is supported 55-42 percent.

March 10, 2015

Mason-Dixon poll: Marco Rubio leads Democrats if he runs for Senate reelection


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would be favored to win if he were to seek reelection next year rather than run for president, a new Florida poll has found.

The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows the Republican with ample leads over two potential Democratic challengers, U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston (53-36 percent) and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter (50-38 percent).

While Rubio's advantage is hardly surprising -- he is a well-known incumbent -- it's interesting to note that Murphy polled better than the better known Wasserman Schultz. Thirty-six percent of respondents viewed the congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair unfavorably and 19 percent unfavorably. Murphy's unfavorable number was only 3 percent.

While Murphy has indicated he plans to run regardless of whether Rubio seeks the presidency, Wasserman Schultz has not.

Should Rubio leave the Senate seat, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater would lead the GOP race 45-35 percent over Wasserman Schultz and 46-32 percent of Murphy. 

The poll did not include any other possible Republican candidates, though several are said to be mulling runs if the seat opens. The telephone survey of 800 registered voters was conducted from March 3-5. It has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.