July 15, 2015

Adam Putnam fundraising numbers add to 2018 governor race speculation

@JeremySWallace

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

@JeremySWallace

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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 -- reformwashington.org -- 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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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.

February 03, 2015

Why won't the governor move the Cabinet meeting from the fair grounds? Some reasons


Florida Cabinet slideThe governor’s handling of the firing of former FDLE commissioner Jerry Bailey, and subsequent dust-up over Cabinet affairs, has prompted the three members of the Florida Cabinet to call for a through vetting of the personnel policies, hiring and firing and oversight practices the state Constitution tasks them with.

But there is one problem: the next meeting of the Cabinet is scheduled to be held in Tampa during the State Fair. It’s a tradition Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has welcomed for years, and is in keeping with the Cabinet’s practice of occasionally moving the business meeting to other parts of the state. 

Aware that the deliberation is likely to be serious, intense, and interfere with the light-hearted photo op with 4-H clubs, fried ice cream and giant slides, Putnam asked Gov. Rick Scott to shift the venue back to Tallahassee. Scott said no.

We asked the governor's communications office why. They refused to answer.

Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t protest the failure to shift the venue but her spokesman released this statement: “Although the Attorney General is pleased to have the Cabinet meeting in her hometown to honor local heroes, she is prepared to discuss the recent issues involving FDLE at a Cabinet meeting anywhere in the state.”

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also didn’t complaint but his spokeswoman released this statement: “The CFO initiated the call for the Cabinet to address the matter of how Cabinet Agency directors are hired and evaluated. He is ready to get on with this urgent issue. Be it at the Tampa Cabinet meeting or a Tallahassee Cabinet meeting, the CFO is ready to get to it!”

Continue reading "Why won't the governor move the Cabinet meeting from the fair grounds? Some reasons" »

January 21, 2015

Florida Cabinet turns up heat on Rick Scott in FDLE scandal

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Cabinet members are turning up the heat on Gov. Rick Scott over the botched removal of a top state police official, with Attorney General Pam Bondi raising “serious questions” about Scott’s conduct.

Bondi on Wednesday became the last of the three elected Republican Cabinet members to distance herself from the ouster last month of Gerald Bailey as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bailey alleges that Scott and his aides meddled in law-enforcement business and used strong-arm tactics to pressure him to resign.

Taking indirect aim at Scott on his preference for secrecy over transparency, Bondi said she and the public have a right to know the truth, and that she would insist that the Bailey matter be discussed “thoroughly and in the sunshine” at the next Cabinet meeting Feb. 5.

“The recent process behind the appointment of a new FDLE commissioner has raised serious questions and those questions should be answered to ensure transparency and the public’s right to know,” Bondi said in a statement that held back on explicitly criticizing Scott or anyone in his administration.

The firing has mushroomed into the messiest controversy of Scott’s governorship and tarnished the start of his second term. At the same time, Cabinet members, at least two of whom are expected to run for governor in 2018, are frantically trying to extricate themselves from an issue that they could have avoided.

More here

January 19, 2015

Pafford: Gerald Bailey's ouster from FDLE is 'concerning'

In response to allegations that Gerald Bailey's resignation from the top job in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was both forced and politically motivated by the governor's office, House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford's reaction is clear but measured:

"What's been slowly coming out is concerning, obviously" Pafford told the Times/Herald on Monday.

Pafford said he would likely have a more complete statement later this week, as the Legislature returns to Tallahassee for committee meetings but said this is the kind of situation he's heard of happening before.

"There's always been hints of this type of thing for years," he said.

At issue in Bailey's removal from the job is what role was played by the other cabinet officials, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

They, together with Gov. Rick Scott, have oversight of FDLE. It appears Bailey was asked to resign by members of Scott's staff.

The other cabinet officials' versions of the story remain unclear: While they initially held to a similar line of comment -- that they respected Bailey and that he resigned -- all three had by last Thursday expressed their own concern about the behind-the-scenes processes that led to Bailey leaving office.

When asked about how he would have handled the situation if he had a seat on cabinet, Pafford said he thought the officials should have been made aware of any details about how and why Bailey resigned. But, he was sure to say, he isn't in the same situation.

"You want to be made aware of certain things," he said. "That's part of the gig. There are only three people doing that other than the governor, so you would hope that you would have the information, that it would be provided."

What is clear, Pafford said, is this:

"I think there's a lot more questions right now than answers, and I guess that will kind of unravel, and I'm sure there'll be a story to tell."