Florida governor money chase: Putnam outraises DeSantis in first head-to-head month

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, shown campaigning for governor in Riviera Beach last year, remains the top fundraiser in the 2018 race for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ campaign for Florida governor has the Twitter backing of President Donald Trump and a finance team that includes Sheldon Adelson and other Republican heavyweights — but DeSantis raised less new money in January than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican race for governor, according to finance reports filed Monday.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast.

DeSantis’ campaign advertised a gaudy $3.3 million January haul — but more than $2.4 million of that figure was raised last year by a pro-DeSantis PAC and transferred to a new PAC in January.

Putnam and DeSantis topped the Democratic candidates for governor in January fundraising. Here’s a look at the latest numbers:

• Putnam collected just over $1 million in January between his main campaign account ($379,452) and his Florida Grown political committee ($654,000). He began February with nearly $16.8 million in cash on hand between the two committees.

• DeSantis, who announced his candidacy on Jan. 5, raised $894,020 in new contributions in January. That includes $131,019 collected by his main campaign committee and $763,001 raised by a new PAC called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC also received more than $2.4 million from the Fund For Florida’s Future, a PAC formed by DeSantis supporters last year that raised more than $2.6 million through the end of December. The Fund For Florida’s Future nearly zeroed out its account last month, giving $2 million to the new DeSantis PAC on Jan. 18 and another $447,394 on Jan. 31.

All told, DeSantis began February with more than $3.3 million in cash on hand.

• A third Republican who is expected to join the governor’s race, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, began this year with more than $5 million in his Watchdog PAC. A January report for the PAC was not available online early this morning. Corcoran is expected to announce his candidacy in March after the legislative session ends.

• Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned from the state Senate amid groping and sexual harassment allegations, has not formally shuttered his campaign for governor and has more than $4.3 million cash on hand between his campaign committee and Florida Leadership Committee. His January expenditures included $105,100 in legal fees.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

• In the race for the Democratic nomination, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine raked in the most January money. His All About Florida PAC collected $647,000 while his main campaign raised $105,894. Levine began February with  $4.1 million in cash on hand between the two entities.

Levine so far has poured more than $3.6 million of his own money into the race.

• Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham raised a combined $453,906 during January and began February with nearly $3.3 million in cash on hand.

• Winter Park businessman Chris King raised $260,683 in January and started this month with almost $1.7 million in cash on hand.

• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum started this month with $676,528 in available cash between his campaign and his Forward Florida PAC after raising $148,746 in January.

 

 

Negron declares ‘zero tolerance for sexual harassment’ as Florida Senate opens

Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, addresses the chamber at the start of the 2018 session. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

TALLAHASSEE — After two members resigned amid controversies over their sexual behavior, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, opened the Senate’s 2018 session this morning by declaring “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment or misconduct and pledging to update the Senate’s policies for addressing the issue.

Former Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Atlantis resigned in October after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist and Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater resigned last month after an investigation found credible evidence of sexual misconduct.

“Let me be clear, the Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind against any employee or visitor,” Negron said at the beginning of his remarks to the Senate. “State government should lead by example in instituting policies that ensures employees feel safe when they come to work and comfortable to confidentially report inappropriate behavior by any person.”

Negron said that Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, is leading the Senate’s effort “to update its administrative policy on sexual and workplace harassment to make it even more abundantly clear to employees to anyone else that they can and should report sexual or workplace harassment to anyone they feel comfortable speaking with.”

Negron added: “I want every Senate employee to hear me when I say that as your president I am committed to ensuring that we all have a safe workplace environment to do the people’s business.”

Latvala on leave from committee post; Scott weighs in on allegations

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, talks to reporters in August after launching his campaign for governor in Hialeah. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Facing a Florida Senate investigation of allegations he has groped and harassed women, state Sen. and Republican governor candidate Jack Latvala is taking a temporary leave of absence from his powerful perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The status of Latvala’s GOP bid for governor was not immediately clear. He has vehemently denied the allegations, which were initially reported by Politico based on accounts from six unnamed women who work in in the Capitol as lobbyists or legislative staff.

Gov. Rick Scott today weighed in on the matter for the first time, calling the allegations “disgusting.” The News Service of Florida quoted Scott as saying: “It’s very important that there’s an investigation and we know what happened. If anybody has done anything wrong, they need to be out of office.”

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced this morning that he has installed Sen. Rob Bradley as Appropriations chairman while Latvala is investigated. Negron’s announcement was accompanied by a letter from Latvala requesting temporary leave “until this matter is resolved.”

Latvala, in his letter, added: “I look forward to defending myself against these untruthful allegations and believe I will be fully exonerated.”

Politico reported that it spoke to six women who said Latvala “inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” Politico said the women making the accusations did not want to be identified because they feared losing their jobs or other reprisals.

 

 

Web makeover for Richard Corcoran as he weighs run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new website looks like it belongs to a candidate for governor.

As he ponders a 2018 run for governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, has given his richardcorcoran.com website a major overhaul.

Corcoran’s site until recently featured a three-paragraph bio and video and text of his 2015 speech when he became speaker. Corcoran rolled out a new site Tuesday night — first flagged by FloridaPolitics.com  — with snazzier photos, an expanded biography and seven “my philosophy” links as well as a bumper sticker-ready slogan of “Less Talk. More Action. Strong Conservative Leadership.”

The website is the handiwork of Washington, D.C.-based Go Big Media, which was paid $33,089 last month by Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC.

Since its launch in June, Watchdog PAC has raised nearly $4.4 million and began October with $3.9 million in cash on hand. Watchdog has hired veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio and paid his firm $162,605. The Corcoran PAC has also paid A-list Republican media firm Jamestown Associates $54,504 so far.

Corcoran has said he’ll wait until the 2018 legislative session concludes in March to decide on whether to enter the governor’s race. The Republican field already includes Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, could enter the race soon.

 

 

 

 

The Hurricane Irma effect on Florida’s campaign money chase

Top row, from left: Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. Bottom row, from left: Republicans Richard Corcoran, RonDeSantis, Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam.

For a few days around the Sept. 10 landfall of Hurricane Irma, fundraising for the 2018 Florida governor’s race nearly came to a standstill.

By the end of the month, however, most declared and potential candidates had raised about as much campaign cash in September as they did in August.

Click here to read the details on who raised what in September.

Florida Chamber poll: Scott-Nelson tight; undeclared John Morgan tops Dems for governor

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, left, is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

An expected 2018 Senate showdown between three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is too close to call, according to a poll released today by the business-backed Florida Chamber Political Institute.

John Morgan at a 2014 event supporting medical marijuana. (Gainesville Sun photo)

The Chamber poll also finds 44 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans undecided about their parties’ candidates for governor in 2018.

Among voters with an opinion, trial lawyer and marijuana legalization advocate John Morgan leads the Democratic field for governor even though Morgan hasn’t said whether he’ll run. In the race for the Republican nomination for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big early advantage over his declared and potential rivals.

Scott, who faces term limits as governor next year and has been urged to run for Senate by President Donald Trump, edges Nelson by a 47-to-45 percent margin in the Chamber poll — essentially a tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

The survey of 615 likely voters was conducted Sept. 17-24 — a week after Hurricane Irma — by Cherry Communications using live telephone interviews.

Scott is viewed favorably by 57 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent in the poll. Nelson’s favorable/unfavorable score is 50/22.

Three Democrats have opened 2018 campaigns and raised serious money for governor: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. But the undeclared Morgan tops the field with 23 percent to 16 percent for Graham and other candidates in single digits.

Morgan is viewed favorably by 26 percent of voters in the poll and unfavorably by 20 percent, with 35 percent saying they’ve never heard of him. Graham has a 19 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable rating, with 58 percent saying they haven’t heard of her. Gillum is unknown to 72 percent and King 77 percent.

Among Republicans, Putnam leads the gubernatorial field with 26 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, at 9 percent. DeSantis has said he’ll announce this fall whether he’s running for governor. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who opened a campaign for governor in August, gets 2 percent and another potential candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, gets 1 percent.

Trump-NFL anthem controversy: Some Florida candidates weigh in, some silent

Some Miami Dolphins kneel rather than stand for the national anthem before Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On a day when many NFL players around the U.S. — and in London — sat, knelt or raised a fist during the national anthem, Florida Republican candidates for governor Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala echoed President Donald Trump in saying athletes should stand during The Star Spangled Banner.

None of the three Democrats running for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — commented on the controversy on Twitter or Facebook on Sunday or early this morning.

Some players have been refusing to stand for the anthem since last year, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling before preseason games and declared: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Trump drew new attention to the protests on Friday when, during a speech in Alabama, he said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

As the anthem protests became the dominant story of Sunday’s NFL games, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam tweeted a photo of the American flag and wrote: “I agree with President Trump that professional athletes should stand for our National Anthem. RT if you agree.”

State Sen. Latvala said he’s been on record since 2016 in condemning the anthem protests.

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem. This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed. Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala said on Facebook and Twitter.

Villanueva, a West Point grad who served three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, is the Pittsburgh Steeler offensive tackle who stood outside the tunnel at Soldier Field in Chicago with his hand on his heart during the national anthem Sunday while the rest of his teammates remained in the locker room.

A potential Republican candidate for governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, praised Villanueva on Twitter on Sunday.

“This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote as he re-tweeted a post about Villanueva.

Another potential candidate for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, didn’t comment on the issue on social media.

 

 

 

Adam Putnam’s big money lead continues in Florida governor’s race

Top row, from left: Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. Bottom row, from left: Republicans Richard Corcoran, RonDeSantis, Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam.

Republican Adam Putnam began September with more than a 3-to-1 cash advantage over his nearest GOP rival in the 2018 Florida governor’s race and more than a 5-to-1 money edge over the leading announced Democrat, Gwen Graham.

•Between his main campaign account and his Florida Grown political committee, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam ended August with more than $13 million in cash on hand.

How much money declared and potential candidates for Florida governor had as of Aug. 31.

• State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who formally launched his campaign last month, ended August with just over $4 million in the bank, nearly all of it in his Florida Leadership Committee PAC.

• House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, says he won’t decide until next year whether to enter the race. In the meantime, his Watchdog PAC took in $1.1 million last month and began September with $3.7 million on hand.

• U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, is expected to announce his intentions in the fall. If he runs, a committee called Fund For Florida’s Future is expected to back him and has more than $1.4 million in the bank.

• On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Graham has a combined $2.45 million on hand between her formal campaign and her Our Florida committee.

• Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has been considering the race, pumped another $66,000 into his All About Florida PAC last month, putting his personal stake above $2.6 million. The committee began September with nearly $4.7 million on hand.

• Winter Park businessman Chris King has nearly $1.7 million on hand between his campaign and his Rise And Lead Florida PAC.

• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum began September with $604,975 in available cash between his campaign and his Forward Florida committee.

Poll: Floridians on Nelson-Scott Senate race, Trump, Confederate statues

Floridians’ views on Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Nelson, President Donald Trump and Confederate statues were measured in a new FAU poll.

An expected 2018 Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is a virtual tie, according to a new Florida Atlantic University poll, which also finds wide-open Republican and Democratic primary races for governor and mixed views on President Donald Trump‘s “both sides” remarks about Charlottesville.

While Floridians appear unclear about which candidates they prefer for Senate and governor, they have more pronounced views on statues of Confederate figures in public places. Forty-nine percent say the statues should remain. Thirty percent say they should be removed, as three Democratic candidates for governor advocated Monday in West Palm Beach.

FAU’s poll of 800 registered Florida voters, conducted last Thursday through Saturday, shows three-term incumbent Sen. Nelson getting 42 percent and term-limited Gov. Scott getting 40 percent in a hypothetical Senate race. That’s a virtual tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

Scott hasn’t announced his 2018 plans, but the expectation he’ll run for Senate is so great that no other Republicans have entered the race.

In the race to replace Scott as governor, 53 percent of Republican voters say they’re undecided on a nominee a year before the primary. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the leading GOP candidate with 27 percent, while recently declared state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, gets 2 percent. Two potential candidates — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast — get 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The Democratic gubernatorial race is also very much up for grabs, with a 47 percent plurality saying they are undecided and trial lawyer John Morgan — who hasn’t said whether he’ll run — leading the field with 19 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham gets 14 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum 9 percent, undeclared Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine 8 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King 4 percent.

Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump gets a 37 percent job approval rating in the FAU poll, with 47 percent disapproving. Nationally, the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls shows Trump with a 38.5 percent approval score and 55.6 disapproval rating.

Asked about Trump’s declaration that “both sides” bore blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 44 percent of Floridians disagreed and 42 percent agreed, with 14 percent undecided.

 

 

 

Firefighters from West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton endorse Jack Latvala

Republican governor candidate Jack Latvala talks to reporters in Hialeah after kicking off his campaign.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, today announced three more endorsements from local firefighter unions for his 2018 Republican gubernatorial bid.

The West Palm Beach International Association of Fire Fighters Local 727, Boca Raton IAFF Local 1560 and Boynton Beach IAFF Local 1891 are endorsing Latvala, who earlier scored endorsements from Miami IAFF Local 587 and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365.

Latvala’s main GOP rival, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been endorsed by the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County, which represents 2,500 first responders in unincorporated areas and some municipalities.

Latvala and Putnam have opened 2018 campaigns for the GOP nomination for governor and could be joined in the Reppublican race by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast.

Three Democrats running for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — will appear today at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch in West Palm Beach.