Who’s attacking whom in final days of GOP primary for Patrick Murphy seat

Republican District 18 congressional candidates (from left) Carl Domino, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast, Mark Freeman and Rebecca Negron at an April forum in Stuart . (George Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican District 18 congressional candidates (from left) Carl Domino, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast, Mark Freeman and Rebecca Negron at an April forum in Stuart . (George Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Republican congressional rivals Brian Mast and Rick Kozell went after each other on camera — and off — during a Wednesday night debate taping at Palm Beach Post news partner WPTV Channel 5.

 

A pro-Mast political action committee, meanwhile, reported to the Federal Election Commission this week that it spent $10,613 on mailers opposing Rebecca Negron, the Martin County school board member and wife of powerful state Sen. Joe Negron who’s seen by many as the front runner in the six-candidate GOP primary for Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18.

 

Rebecca Negron, targeted by at least three of her GOP primary rivals, takes aim at two of them in this mail piece.
Rebecca Negron, targeted by at least three of her GOP primary rivals, takes aim at two of them in this mail piece.

Kozell also takes a shot at Negron in a TV ad that began airing last week.

 

A PAC backing Republican candidate Mark Freeman this week reported spending $6,800 on mailers opposing Negron and Mast. Freeman on Monday reported pouring another $70,000 of his own money into his campaign, bringing his total personal investment in the race to more than $1.6 million.

 

While Kozell, Mast and Freeman have spent money to go after Negron, one of Negron’s campaign mailers takes aim at Mast and Freeman.

 

Negron was the only Republican not to attend Wednesday night’s debate taping.

 

The National Republican Congressional Committee is officially neutral in the GOP primary. But it has reported spending $55,000 this week on digital ads and research opposing Randy Perkins, the Democratic establishment favorite in next week’s Democratic primary for District 18.

Dem Randy Perkins, GOP’s Rebecca Negron to miss only TV debate in congressional District 18

WPTV's Michael Williams, here interviewing Jeb Bush in New Hampshire, will moderate the Republican and Democratic debates for congressional District 18 candidates.
WPTV’s Michael Williams, here interviewing Jeb Bush in New Hampshire, will moderate the Republican and Democratic debates for congressional District 18 candidates.

Democrat Randy Perkins and Republican Rebecca Negron will skip the only televised debates before next week’s primaries in the nationally watched race for Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18.

 

WPTV Channel 5 is taping separate Democratic and Republican debate segments Wednesday night in West Palm Beach. The debates, moderated by news anchor Michael Williams, will air Sunday at 10 a.m. on the NBC affiliate. The Democratic and Republican primaries are next Tuesday, Aug. 30.

 

Democrat Randy Perkins and Republican Rebecca Negron say prior commitments prevent them from appearing in Wednesday's debates.
Democrat Randy Perkins and Republican Rebecca Negron say prior commitments prevent them from appearing in Wednesday’s debates.

WPTV says Democrats Jonathan Chane and John (Juan) Xuna have confirmed they’ll attend, as have five Republicans seeking the seat: Carl Domino, Mark Freeman, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast and Noelle Nikpour.

 

Both Perkins and Negron cited prior campaign commitments in declining WPTV’s invitation.

 

The District 18 race is expected to be one of the most hotly contested in the country this year.

 

Republicans hold a 38.1-to-34.6 percent registration edge over Democrats in the district. But Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter was elected there in 2012 and 2014. With Murphy running for U.S. Senate this year, both parties have made the District 18 race a top priority this year.

 

 

Republican PAC to make $1.3 million ad buy in race for Patrick Murphy House seat

Republican congressional District 18 candidates (top row, left to right): Carl Domino, Mark Freeman, Rick Kozell, (bottom row, left to right): Brian Mast, Rebecca Negron, Noelle Nikpour
Republican congressional District 18 candidates (top row, left to right): Carl Domino, Mark Freeman, Rick Kozell, (bottom row, left to right): Brian Mast, Rebecca Negron, Noelle Nikpour

Whoever wins the six-candidate Republican primary in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 can expect a $1.3 million shot of TV and digital advertising from House GOP leadership in October.

 

The Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC announced today that it has budgeted $1.32 million for TV and digital ads starting Oct. 18 in the West Palm Beach media market. The CLF is the political action committee endorsed by House Republican leadership to try to protect the GOP’s majority in the House.

 

District 18 has a slight Republican lean in registrations but has been held since 2013 by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

 

With Murphy leaving the seat to run for Senate, District 18 is one of the top GOP pickup targets in the nation. Six Republicans, three Democrats and a no-party candidate are running. Republican and Democratic nominees will be selected in the Aug. 30 primaries.

 

CLF announced the $1.3 million ad buy as part of an initial $10 million in ad spending aimed at 12 of the most competitive House districts in the U.S. The only other Florida race on CLF’s list: Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s tough re-election fight in Miami-to-Key West District 25. CLF has reserved $1.7 million in ads there.

 

 

 

New TV spot notes Rick Kozell ‘isn’t married to a politician’ in GOP House race

Two weeks out from the Aug. 30 primary, none of the six Republicans seeking the open Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 congressional seat has run a TV ad mentioning any of the other candidates.

 

"Not married to a politician," says new Rick Kozell ad. Rival Rebecca Negron is.
“Not married to a politician,” says new Rick Kozell ad. Rival Rebecca Negron is.

But a new 30-second spot by attorney Rick Kozell takes a clear shot at rival Rebecca Negron and the rest of the GOP field without naming them.

 

“Rick isn’t married to a politician — he’s married to a schoolteacher,” a female narrator says in a reference to Negron, the wife of powerful state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

 

“Rick didn’t move to our community just to run — he’s from here. Rick isn’t trying to buy your vote — he’s working to earn it,” the ad continues.

 

Three other Republicans in the District 18 primary — decorated war vet Brian Mast, physician Mark Freeman and pundit Noelle Nikpour — are recent transplants to the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district.

 

The “buy your vote” line is a jab at Freeman (who has poured $1.2 million in personal money in the race) and Carl Domino  (who spent $1.2 million of his own money on a losing 2014 campaign and has put more than $400,000 into this race).

 

On the Democratic side, District 18 primary rivals Randy Perkins and Jonathan Chane are both running 30-second spots blasting each other.

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Negron gets $615,682 boost from outside PAC in GOP House primary

 

From a pro-Rebecca Negron ad by Conservative Congress Now!
From a pro-Rebecca Negron ad by Conservative Congress Now!

A committee supporting Republican Rebecca Negron‘s congressional bid has spent $615,682 so far to help her in the crowded Aug. 30 GOP primary for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat.

 

Through Monday, according to Federal Election C0mmission reports, a committee called Conservative Congress Now! has spent $492,234 on TV ads and $123,448 on direct mail supporting Negron, a Martin County school board member and the wife of powerful state Sen. Joe Negron. Rebecca Negron is one of six Republicans in the Aug. 30 primary.

 

The committee has not yet revealed the source of most of its funding. It reported receiving $50,000 from the private prison company Geo Group and $15,000 from trial lawyers in June. But contributions received after July 1 don’t have to be reported to the FEC until October.

 

Two other Republicans in the primary — decorated war veteran Brian Mast and physician Mark Freeman — have also received help from outside PACs, but not on the same scale as Negron.

 

Valor Fund, which supports Mast, has spent $99,222 on printing, postage and online advertising.

 

The pro-Freeman Treasure Coast Committee lists $55,197 in expenditures on printing, postage and digital advertising.

 

 

 

 

Rick Kozell slams Rebecca Negron’s ‘sweetheart’ deal 7 times in 90 seconds

Rick Kozell and Rebecca Negron at a League of Women Voters forum on Wednesday.
Rick Kozell and Rebecca Negron at a League of Women Voters forum on Wednesday.

For the second time in three days, Republican congressional candidate Rick Kozell used a candidate forum to blast GOP primary rival Rebecca Negron for accepting more than $86,000 from contributors linked to a company that benefitted from legislation pushed by her husband in Tallahassee.

 

Kozell called it a “sweetheart deal.”

 

In fact, in a virtuoso display of message discipline, Kozell used “sweetheart” as an adjective seven times in 90 seconds during a St. Lucie County League of Women Voters forum on Wednesday. (The spree begins around the 1:05:00 mark on the video.)

 

 

Kozell mentioned “sweetheart dealmaking,” “sweetheart deals,” “sweetheart deal,” “sweetheart legislation,” “sweetheart deal proceeds,” “sweetheart dealmaking” and “sweetheart deal proceeds” to describe the $86,200 Negron received at the end of March from contributors linked to MCNA Dental. The checks rolled in after her husband, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sponsored a bill — favored by dentists and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support — that opens the door for Florida to implement a Medicaid prepaid dental health program for children in 2019.

 

Kozell made similar accusations at a news conference last week and at a forum on Monday night in Stuart.

 

Rebecca Negron dismissed Kozell’s accusations.

 

“I am honored to have the support of people in my community and the people who have contributed to my campaign…I’m very honored to have a grass-roots support,” she said.

 

As to all the “sweetheart” accusations, she said, “I am also a very principled conservative, will not be beholden to anyone and have made no promises to anyone.”

 

She also pointed to her service on the Martin County school board.

 

“You can ask anybody who has observed those meetings, they know I am a principled conservative and stand for what is right,” Negron said.

 

 

 

GOP congressional hopeful Rick Kozell links Rebecca Negron to ‘pay-to-play culture’

Republican congressional candidate Rick Kozell accuses GOP primary rival Rebecca Negron of taking special interest money.
Republican congressional candidate Rick Kozell accuses GOP primary rival Rebecca Negron of taking special interest money.

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Republican congressional hopeful Rick Kozell today accused GOP primary rival Rebecca Negron of being part of a “pay-to-play culture” for accepting $86,200 linked to a dental business that backed legislation sponsored by Negron’s husband in Tallahassee.

 

Rebecca Negron
Rebecca Negron

Kozell and Negron are part of a six-candidate GOP field hoping to replace Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18.

 

As The Palm Beach Post noted in April, Negron received $86,200 at the end of March from contributors linked to MCNA Dental. The money flowed into her account after her husband, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sponsored a bill — favored by dentists and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support — that opens the door for Florida to implement a Medicaid prepaid dental health program for children in 2019. It would replace dental care currently available to all poor Floridians under the state’s Medicaid Managed Care program.

 

“Within one week of getting beneficial legislation signed, MCNA Dental, its employees and their spouses gave Rebecca Negron more than $85,000,” said Kozell, who called on Negron to return the money.

 

“That is what is wrong with Washington — special interests supporting insider candidates as part of sweetheart political deals,” said Kozell. He accused Rebecca Negron of having a “Hillary Clinton mindset,” saying Clinton as secretary of state had made her office “the D.C. branch of the Clinton Foundation.”

 

In April, Negron campaign spokeswoman Kristen Bridges said that MCNA Dental CEO Jeffrey Feingold and Rebecca Negron “have been friends for many years. He also contributed to her prior school board race. Dr. Feingold is a nationally prominent member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and frequently contributes to candidates like Rebecca who unequivocally support Israel. It is important to note that Dr. Feingold also raised money for (Miami Republican) Congressman Carlos Curbelo.”

 

April’s explanation still stands, Negron spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said today. She called Kozell’s accusations “nothing more than an ill-informed and misguided mudslinging attempt by a candidate that has continued to fail to get traction with the voters.  Rebecca’s commitment to her hometown community has been proven by her past service, and her commitment to taking on Washington will be just as fiercely defended.”

 

 

 

N.C. Sen. Richard Burr endorses Rick Kozell in crowded Florida GOP congressional race

Republican District 18 congressional candidates (from left) Carl Domino, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast, Mark Freeman and Rebecca Negron at a forum in Stuart . Three other Republicans, three Democrats and an independent are also running. (George Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican District 18 congressional candidates (from left) Carl Domino, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast, Mark Freeman and Rebecca Negron at a forum in Stuart . Three other Republicans, three Democrats and an independent are also running. (George Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr has endorsed Rick Kozell in the crowded GOP primary for the nationally watched Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 seat.

 

A Burr endorsement might not sway many voters in District 18, but it helps Kozell’s efforts to impress national donors eyeing what is expected to be one of this year’s most competitive House races. Eight Republicans, three Democrats and an independent are running in the swing district to replace Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who’s running for Senate.

 

Burr, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently hosted a fundraising dinner in Washington for Kozell that was co-hosted by U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; and Todd Rokita, R-Ind. as well as former Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami.

 

Burr called Kozell, an attorney and former small business owner from Jupiter, “a conservative leader who will stand up for our principles in Washington D.C. He will fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, cut taxes, and rein in big government spending. In these troubled times I am confident we can count on Rick Kozell to help keep America safe and strong.”

 

One of Kozell’s rivals, decorated Army combat veteran Brian Mast, has lined up several Republican congressional endorsements: Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions, R-Tex.; Ryan Zinke, R-Mont; and Steve Russell, R-Okla.

 

Another District 18 Republican, Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.

 

 

Rebecca Negron first to get signatures for U.S. House race

Rebecca Negron
Rebecca Negron

Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron said Wednesday she’s gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the Aug. 30 Republican primary for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast U.S. Congressional seat Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate.

A press release for Negron — wife of State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County and who’s the incoming Florida Senate President — said she’s the first so far of the eight candidates to gather the 2,298 needed to get on the primary ballot without having to pay a $10,444 filing fee.

The registered nurse and mother of three has tapped many of her husband’s Tallahassee connections while raising some $400,000 for the campaign, as of February, and already has aired her first television ad.

 

Negron calls for more university, environmental spending in accepting the Senate reins

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart

Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican whose district includes a portion of northern Palm Beach County, was designated Wednesday as the next Senate president by the chamber’s Republican caucus.

Negron outlined priorities that include a $1 billion increase over two years for state universities, restoring the Bright Futures scholarships’ top level so that it provides 100 percent college or university funding for students, and heightened state efforts to ease environmental woes caused by runoff from Lake Okeechobee.

“I believe in the supremacy of the individual,” said Negron, a lawyer with the Gunster firm who works in West Palm Beach and Stuart.

“We’re here to serve. And the citizens remain our sovereign,” he added.

Negron’s Senate presidency was cinched following a lengthy leadership struggle with fellow Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, which ended last month when his rival bowed out, throwing him his support.

Latvala will be budget chairman under Negron, who will take office following next year’s elections, if Republicans maintain their Senate majority.

Negron delivered a wide-ranging acceptance speech Wednesday, mixing in memories of a childhood growing up on Military Trail in West Palm Beach — he moved to Martin County at age 14 — with an attention to public policy, introducing each with the title “Issue” followed by a number.

He had four of them, including a commitment to adjusting penalties for juvenile crime and respecting the right of Floridians to not have government breathing down their necks.

Negron finished with a lengthy quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the late German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, that affirmed the strength and limitations of the individual.

While Negron was largely cerebral and focused in his address, fellow senators recalled a lighter side of the lawmaker, who was first elected to the Senate in 2009, after serving six years in the House beginning in 2000.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, recalled Negron as somebody who prefers Chick-fil-A to a steak house, can quote Seinfeld and is an adept ping-pong player. As a surprise to Negron, a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, a videotaped salute from former slugger Dale Murphy capped the hourlong ceremony.

“Great leaders are great teammates,” Murphy said. “Their success will be your success as well.”

Negron’s wife, Rebecca, a Martin County School Board member, is a Republican candidate for Congress, seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter in a district that includes northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

Sen. Negron also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006, when Florida Republicans drafted him as its late replacement candidate after scandal-tarred U.S. Rep. Mark Foley resigned. Negron narrowly lost the race to Democrat Tim Mahoney.

Negron’s Senate presidency was cinched following a leadership struggle with fellow Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, which ended last month when his rival bowed out, throwing him his support.

Latvala will be budget chairman under Negron, who will take office following next year’s elections, if Republicans maintain their Senate majority.