April 11, 2017

Tepid 2017 fundraising so far for Florida Republican and Democratic parties

via @adamsmithtimes

The latest quarterly campaign finance reports highlight the weakened state of both the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party in the era of super PACs and other political committees.

This is nothing new for the long-struggling Democrats, but the party had hoped newly elected Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel would prove to be a champion fundraiser. No sign of that yet. Even with Bittel personally stroking a $100,000 check to the party at the very end of the fundraising quarter, Democrats raised just $844,000. In the same quarter following the last presidential election cycle, the party raised more than $1.1 million.

The Republican Party of Florida, which Gov. Rick Scott has more or less abandoned to focus on his own "Let's Get to Work" political committee, reported raising $2.46-million in the first three months of the year. In that same quarter four years ago the state GOP raised $5.37 million.

The biggest check-writers to the state Republican Party included the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helps elect conservatives to state offices and donated $125,000 and the "Florida Roundtable" political committee of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is the only top Florida politician helping bankroll the state party.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the all but announced candidate for governor in 2018 -- facing a possible primary challenge from Corcoran -- is focused on his own "Florida Grown" political committee, which has about $7.7 million on hand. Republican state senators also have their own committee separate from the state GOP and raised $1.43 million in the first three months of 2017.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

January 18, 2017

Florida GOP wants to pay reelected chairman big bucks

via @adamsmithtimes

To the victor go the spoils.

Shortly after overwhelmingly re-electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, the party's board members this weekend voted behind closed doors to reward him financially as well. Ingoglia had forgone a salary as party chairman after winning election in 2015, but board members voted Saturday that he should not only receive the $115,000 annual pay in 2017 and 2018, but also receive $230,000 in back pay for 2015 and 2016.

"We did the impossible by Republicans taking Florida. All the way down the line we were successful, and it was because of all the programs that Blaise put together over the last two years," said Nancy Riley, a state committeewoman from Pinellas said of the vote.

Just because the party authorized the money doesn't mean he'll accept it, Ingoglia told The Tampa Bay Times.

"While I am thankful that my executive board recognized my hard work and dedication to our party this past election cycle in wanting to give me back pay for deferring my salary, I have not yet made a decision whether to take it," he said in a text.

National Committeewoman Sharon Day, who is also co-chairman of the RNC, voted against the authorization, which she said came as a surprise to her.

"He campaigned (for re-election) saying that he hadn't taken a salary in two years. It was just my personal opinon that he made a choice not to take a salary," said Day, who was one of only two people to vote against the payments. 

"I think we had new members that didn't understand what was going on, and Blaise was in the room, so that made it awkward," Day said.

Continue reading "Florida GOP wants to pay reelected chairman big bucks" »

January 13, 2017

Republicans make final pitch to lead state party


On the eve of Republican activists deciding who will lead the Florida GOP for the next two years, the two candidates battling for the helm were leaving nothing to chance on Friday night in Orlando.

Current Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia jumped from conference room to conference room at the Rosen Centre Hotel trying to shoot down what he called false rumors that he would use the party to help Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran if he decided to run for governor in 2018 in a field that could include current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Never mind that neither Corcoran, a Pasco Republican, or Putnam, a Polk County Republican have declared to run. Still, Ingoglia said he felt compelled to address the rumors that he said are flying around in emails.

“I just want to set the record straight here,” Ingoglia, a Hernando County Republican, told a room full of county Republican Party chairs. “The Republican Party will remain neutral and I will remain neutral in the primary as I always do.”

Coming off a year in which Republicans dominated Democrats at the ballot box, you would think Ingoglia’s position would be secure. But Sarasota Republican Christian Ziegler has aggressively campaigned against Ingoglia, saying the party needs to be more unified going into 2018 when the governor’s race will be on the ballot. Since Ingoglia first one the position in 2015, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate have worked more independently from the RPOF. Ziegler said if he wins Saturday morning’s election, he’d work to bring all the different segments of the RPOF back together.

"It’s a shame" that the governor isn’t more involved with the party, Ziegler told the same group of Republican Party chairs a few minutes after Ingoglia addressed the same group.

Later, before another group of activists in another conference room crowd, Ziegler emphasized that the has a “great relationship with the governor” and talks to him regularly.

Scott has not publicly backed either candidate for the post.

On Saturday morning, both candidates will get one more chance to appeal to party activists before a final vote is taken for the position which pays $115,000 a year.

The state leader is picked by county party leaders from each of the 67 counties. Each county has the potential of 3 votes, plus the governor, the House Speaker and Senate President each have 10 voters. In addition, Republican members of Congress from Florida, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and the four elected cabinet members all get a vote.

January 10, 2017

The intriguing subplots -- featuring Trump and Breitbart -- of the race for Florida GOP chairman

via @adamsmithtimes

Florida Republicans will elect their party chairman on Saturday and, knowing current Chairman Blaise Ingoglia knack for whipping and counting votes, I'd be surprised if Sarasota State Committeeman Christian Ziegler knocks him off. But state Rep. Ingoglia is not a lock, does face a serious challenge, and the race has some pretty juicy undercurrents and sub plots thanks to Ingoglia's second job as a member of the Florida House.

As a state Representative, Ingoglia is widely viewed as House Speaker "Richard Corcoran's guy." And Corcoran, fairly or not, is viewed as the de facto state GOP boss. That's especially true since Gov. Rick Scott pretty much disowned the Republican Party of Florida after its leaders elected Ingoglia party chairman, rather than his preferred candidate. Neither the governor nor the Florida Senate nor any Cabinet members is aggressively raising money for the Republican Party of Corcoran/Ignolia.

That's why this Florida GOP chairman's race at least symbolically represents several intra-party proxy battles:

**Scott vs. Corcoran (though there is no sign Scott is actively helping Ziegler).

**Likely gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam vs. potential gubernatorial candidate Corcoran.

**Scott vs. Marco Rubio. Rubio endorsed Ingoglia, while Scott has stayed officially neutral. Who really leads the Florida GOP today, the senator working well with the state party and could challenge President Trump in 2020 or the strong Trump supporter likely 2018 senate candidate who relies on his own political committee?

**Donald Trump, Scott vs. the GOP establishment. Corcoran was vocal early on with his contempt for "repugnant" President-elect Trump, and Ingoglia certainly kept his distance from Trump, regularly refusing to discuss his party's nominee publicly. Trump himself was mistrustful of Ingoglia during Florida's March, 2016 primary.

Continue reading "The intriguing subplots -- featuring Trump and Breitbart -- of the race for Florida GOP chairman" »

January 09, 2017

Lopez-Cantera backs Ingoglia's Florida GOP reelection bid


Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Monday endorsed Blaise Ingoglia's reelection bid as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, taking sides with the man who four years ago defeated Gov. Rick Scott's pick to head the state GOP.

"During the last three years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles across our wonderful state and have had the pleasure of spending time with so many dedicated members of our party," Lopez-Cantera said in a statement that also noted Florida Republicans' success in the November election.

"More times and in more counties than I can remember, our chairman Blaise Ingoglia was there too. As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can't tell you how much I appreciate a chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with our grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action."

In a statement of his own, Ingoglia thanked Lopez-Cantera: "We are blessed to have him as a member of our Republican Party and I am grateful for his support and friendship."

Scott has stayed out of the RPOF race among Ingoglia, an Hernando County state representative; Sarasota Republican Christian Ziegler and Lafayette County Alan Levy

In 2013, Ingoglia ousted then-Chairwoman Leslie Dougher, Scott's pick to remain in the job. The relationship between the RPOF and Scott has never mended; the governor is hosting his own ball during President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, an event usually organized by the state party.

But Ingoglia has secured endorsements from big-name Republicans across the state, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and a group of members of Congress. Lopez-Cantera also broke with Scott when he endorsed and campaigned for Rubio during the Republican Senate primary last summer -- and was sidelined by the governor's office as a result.

The party election will take place Saturday in Orlando.

October 15, 2016

Florida GOP chief: Clinton presidency more offensive than anything Trump has said or done

via @adamsmithtimes

Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who has been avoiding reporters since Donald Trump's Billy Bush tape surfaced, finally agreed to discuss his party's Republican nominee tonight before the start of the annual Republican Party of Florida Victory Dinner in Tampa.

"What Donald Trump said in that videotape was offensive. It was degrading to women, and I'm not going to defend it because it's indefensible," said Ingoglia, a state representative from Spring Hill. "But what's equally offensive is the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I think that's what a lot of Republicans are concerned....We're going to continue doing what we do, which is getting as many Republicans out to the polls as possible."

He acknowledged some loyal Republicans have reservations about Trump, saying he tells them to consider "everything they have worked for over the past 10, 20 years in trying to get good conservative Republicans elected and advocating for those types of policies, could all get wiped away in one election."

Headliners tonight are Marco Rubio and Mike Pence. At least 600 guests are expected that the downtown Tampa Hilton. Tickets started at $250.

We found only one Republican unwilling to say they support or plan to vote for Trump: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

"I support Marco Rubio," said Lopez-Cantera, when asked if he supports the GOP nominee. He did say he will not vote for Clinton, but declined to answer whether he will vote for Trump. 

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, Trump's top supporters in Florida, did not attend. Nor did CFO Jeff Atwater. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam introduced Pence, with whom he served in the U.S. House.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

September 20, 2016

Rubio to join Pence at GOP dinner in Tampa


The Republican Party of Florida announced Tuesday that Marco Rubio will speak at a dinner next month in Tampa. Rubio is the second big name on the program, after vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

RPOF's "victory dinner" will take place Oct. 15.

Rubio, who is running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, has not campaigned with Pence or Donald Trump.

September 12, 2016

Republicans launch mail campaign against Patrick Murphy


The Republican Party of Florida and Americans for Prosperity -- a conservative political group funded by the Koch brothers -- have both sent out mailers in recent days urging Florida voters to oppose Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in the November election.

In its mail piece, RPOF highlights the abortion positions for both Murphy and Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio. The mailer accuses Murphy of having an "extreme" record, while Rubio is "on the right side of life."

Rpof mailer 1    Rpof mailer 2

Party spokeswoman Yohana de la Torre wouldn't comment on the cost and distribution of the party's mailer.

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen defended Murphy's position on abortion in a written statement, noting that "Marco Rubio opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and even if a mother has contracted the Zika virus."

"Patrick knows that this decision should always be between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor and it is Marco Rubio's extreme position that hurts Florida families," Slayen said.

Meanwhile, the AFP mailer alleges that Murphy supports an energy agenda that "threatens to make life more expensive" for Florida families.

"Patrick Murphy is more concerned with standing behind President (Barack) Obama’s job-killing, rate-hiking energy mandates than acknowledging the tough realities Florida families are facing every day trying to make ends meet," AFP's Florida director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Murphy's ‘pay-more’ energy agenda could cost Florida thousands of energy jobs and force hardworking families to pay another $500 per year on their utilities." 

Afp mailer 2    Afp mailer 1

In response to AFP's mailer, Slayen criticized Rubio's stance on climate change.

"Marco Rubio has been too busy doing the bidding of the Koch brothers to care," Slayen said in a statement. "Of course, the Kochs and special interests are spending big to prop up their favorite senator, who is committed to their dirty energy agenda. Unlike Patrick, who will always fight to protect our environment, Marco Rubio won’t even acknowledge that the threat of climate change exists."

The mailer is part of a nationally coordinated effort by AFP -- which is funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch -- to attack Murphy's campaign, as well as Democratic candidates in other competitive U.S. Senate races.

Disclosure reports to the Federal Election Commission show AFP spent $121,500 on this anti-Murphy mailer. AFP also reported $113,000 in additional expenses so far in September against Murphy's campaign to pay for other mailers, phone banks, canvassing and staff salaries.

Both the AFP and RPOF mailers were sent to homes of Tallahassee voters who are registered as "no-party affiliation." The AFP's mailer was also received by a voter in Miami-Dade County.

Herald political writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this story.

August 26, 2016

Trump campaign chief was once registered to vote in Miami — but never did

IMG_1369 (1) (1)


The national media descended Friday upon an abandoned, trash-filled home in Coconut Grove.

The reporters weren’t there because the house on the peacock-lined street was the scene of a notorious crime. Or because there was an inkling that LeBron James had returned to the neighborhood he once called home.

The house was the address where Donald Trump’s new campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, was registered to vote from 2014 until this week.

He doesn’t live there, at least not now. The discovery of his voter registration, made Friday by the Guardian US news website, prompted a frenzy of questions about whether Bannon had run afoul of voter rules.

But county elections records show Bannon never voted in Miami. And he switched his voter registration Thursday to a Sarasota County property owned by a writer of Breitbart News, the conservative network Bannon ran until last week.

“He registered yesterday, and today we sent him a voter registration card,” Sarasota County elections supervisor Kathy Dent said Friday.

Sarasota records show Bannon sent his registration change by mail on Aug. 19, and the paperwork was formally processed on Thursday.

It is unclear whether Bannon ever lived in the rental Miami home, where a white curtain flapped in the breeze in the place of a large window Friday morning. The front of the house was littered with trash. A small mural in front read, “I trust in Jesus Christ.” A call to the landlord for comment was not returned.

August 19, 2016

Florida GOP forms 'Leadership Victory Committee' ahead of November election

via @learyreports

Allies of Marco Rubio will head up a Florida Leadership Victory Committee designed to get out the vote in November.

The state GOP announced the committee today, saying it will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Rubio is not mentioned in a release but he will raise money for the committee, which will in turn help his campaign and other down-ballot Republicans. The committee comes as Donald Trump is still organizing a ground game in Florida, creating some worry.

“It has always been our objective that Republicans up and down the ballot have success come November," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said. "As a battleground state, the Republican Party of Florida is spending its time and resources supporting candidates that stand for conservative principles that will reverse the course of President Obama’s failed agenda.  For the Sunshine State, this election is about keeping Hillary Clinton out of the oval office by delivering Florida's 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee and restoring prosperity to our country."

Continue reading "Florida GOP forms 'Leadership Victory Committee' ahead of November election" »