Lawyers, guns and money: The week in Florida politics
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are on the ballot; Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson; several congressional seats will be competitive; and Floridians will vote on 13 proposed constitutional amendments, ranging from property tax cuts to banning greyhound racing. The following are items of political interest from the past week:
TAXPAYER MONEY FLOWS TO CAMPAIGNS
It’s been called “welfare for politicians” by some Republican leaders, but members of both parties are getting help with public matching money this election year.
The state Division of Elections distributed $3.48 million to seven candidates on Friday, with most of it going to the three major candidates running for governor.
Any candidate running for a state office can qualify for matching money from taxpayers. The amount of matching money each candidate receives is based on how much money is raised from Florida residents.
Democrat Gwen Graham got the largest amount of public matching money: $991,597. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam got more than $932,000; while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis collected more than $643,000. Putnam and DeSantis are Republicans.
Other candidates who are getting public matching money are Republican Ashley Moody and Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw, who are both running for attorney general. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for agriculture commissioner, also got taxpayer help.
DEMOCRAT SUES TO GET RIVAL OFF BALLOT
Shaw is trying to get a judge to remove his primary opponent from the ballot.
Shaw this week filed a lawsuit that contends that Ryan Torrens relied on an illegal contribution in order to have enough money to pay the $7,738 qualifying fee. The lawsuit asserts that Torrens improperly characterized a $4,000 check as a loan in order to bypass the $3,000 limit for statewide candidates.
The move against Torrens comes just weeks before the Aug. 28 primary.
On Twitter, Torrens called it a “sham lawsuit” and a “desperate attempt” by Shaw to win the primary.
The mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has injected political debate over gun laws into several Florida campaigns since 17 people were killed at the school on Valentine’s Day. Now Democratic billionaire Jeff Greene is featuring a Parkland student and parent in one of his campaign ads for governor.
It shows Sarah Brodsky in tears talking about texting her dad while her classmates and faculty were being murdered. Her father, Keith, says he told her to hide under her desk.
“I didn’t think that at 16, I would be going to six funerals,” she says.
The ad then shows Greene talking with Keith Brodsky as an announcer says, “Jeff Greene will stand up for Florida’s children by standing up to (President Donald) Trump and the NRA.”
Keith Brodsky then appears and says, “The NRA buys politicians in Florida, but they can’t buy Jeff.”
Greene is self-funding his campaign.
DOG RACING AMENDMENT TARGETED
Attorneys for the state and opponents to a proposed dog racing amendment squared off in a Leon County courtroom this week.
The Florida Greyhound Association, which represents greyhound dog owners and breeders, contends that Amendment 13 should be tossed off the ballot because the title and summary do not accurately reflect what the amendment could do.
If passed by the voters, the amendment would ban betting on dog racing in the state. It was one of several amendments placed on the November ballot by the Constitutional Revision Commission.
Major Harding, a former state Supreme Court justice, argued to Judge Karen Gievers, however, that a clause in the amendment that calls for humane treatment of animals could be used to justify ending horse racing or banning the use of animals in university research. Harding also said that voters are not told that South Florida dog tracks could continue to offer other slot machines and other types of gambling even if dog racing is banned.
Jordan Pratt, an attorney representing the state, said that Harding’s arguments mischaracterized the extent of the amendment. He said that voters will be clearly aware that voting yes will only end betting on dog racing and nothing else.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’d never been outside of Polk County, hardly, and she’s been all over the world — lived in Moscow, lived in Guam, lived in Garmisch, and on our second date she gave me a piece of the Berlin Wall that she had chiseled out herself because she was in high school in Berlin when the wall came down, and I thought, ‘I’m going to marry this girl.’” — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on dating his wife, Melissa, who he described as a military brat.
AP correspondent Brendan Farrington contributed to this report.