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Meet the Long Shot Candidates Running for Florida Governor

August 20th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
As voters head for early voting sites, those that haven’t studied their voters guide could be in for a surprise when they see who’s running for Governor.
Eight candidates appear on the GOP ballot and seven on Democrat’s ballots.
Bob Langford is one of the candidates appearing on the GOP primary ballot for Governor.
Never heard of him?
You’re not alone, but he and five other unknowns each plunked down $7,800 to get their name on the ballot.
Langford says his nine years as a state auditor is why he can be Governor.
“It taught me that I know Florida Government better than anybody that I know,” said Landford.
Perhaps the best known of the unknowns is Bob White.
White is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida.
He’s been vocal at pro second amendment rallies.
“And what I want people to understand is that our rights to life and liberty are secured by our right to keep and bear arms,” said White.
White is the only one who has raised real money.
$65,000 so far, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the more than $130 million spent by all of the top contenders.
Most of the unknown republicans running for Governor appear to be states rights advocates.
Democrat John Wetherbee says he is last on the ballot, but first for Flordia.
“My vision is to make sure our children are safe,” Wetherbee says in a campaign ad.
So how are voters dealing with the slew of choices?
“Don’t know who they are. Don’t know anything about them,” said Tallahassee resident Susan Foley.
“And I didn’t vote for either of those either,” said registered voter Bill Bodiford.
And when it comes to the long shots, one voter told us it’s good for Democracy.
There are five serious candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and just two mainstream GOP Gubernatorial hopefuls.

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Circuit Court Rules to Remove Amendment 8 From Ballot

August 20th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled to remove Amendment 8 from the November ballot Monday morning.
The lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters argued the ballot summary and title failed to inform voters of the purpose of the amendment.
The League also challenged the bundling of three separate ideas into one ballot item.
Amendment 8 would require civics be taught in school, put term limits on school board members and take away the authority of a school board to control schools it didn’t establish.
“There’s a lot of language about imposing term limits, there’s a lot of language about requiring civic education, but there’s only a few words that don’t clearly explain anything that takes away the power of elected school boards to control all of the schools in the district. What the court found is that’s deceptive, that’s misleading, that’s hiding the ball,” said Ron Meyer, an attorney representing the League.
The ruling is likely to be appealed by the state. The League says it will request the case be expedited to the Supreme Court to ensure a decision in time for Election Day.

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Wells Fargo Cancels Attorney General Candidate’s Account for Medical Marijuana Support

August 20th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democratic candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried is an outspoken supporter of medical marijuana.
“That has been my primary motivation for embarking on this campaign,” said Fried.
Fried says that support resulted in her campaign’s checking account with Wells Fargo being canceled.
“These actions by Wells Fargo are totally unprecedented and crystallize the reason why I chose to run for office,” said Fried. “The failures of our laws, institutions, politicians to respect patients and doctors, the will of the voters.”
In an email exchange between a Wells Fargo representative and Fried’s team, the bank asked for Fried to clarify if she had or planned to receive any contributions from medical marijuana lobbyists.
Fried, a former lobbyist for the industry herself, confirmed and was notified her account would be closed.
Wells Fargo issued this statement regarding the closure of Fried’s account, “It is Wells Fargo’s policy not to knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for activities related to those businesses, based on federal laws under which the sale and use of marijuana is illegal even if state laws differ. We continually review our banking relationships to ensure we adhere to strict regulatory and risk guidelines.”
While Fried says she was able to move her funds into a new account with BB&T medical marijuana treatment centers and other who do business in the industry simply don’t have that option.
“Their accounts are not longer accepted. They’re being put on notice and so a safe compliant banking system is needed,” said Taylor Beihl with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.
Although a west coast bank called GRN Funds is looking to fill the vacancy.
Fried says if elected, she’s interested in the possibility of helping the bank move in.
“I will certainly have a conversation with them and see what I can do to get them access here,” said Fried.
Fried says while she can’t say for sure if Wells Fargo acted illegally her team will be looking into the matter and may take legal action if they deem it necessary.

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Gillum Launches Last Minute Bus Tour Ahead of Primary

August 20th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew is taking to the road for a final push to earn the support of voters.
On Monday, in the state’s capital city Gillum held the first of eight rallies scheduled as part of his bus tour across the state.
The tour will travel from the panhandle as far south as Miami-Dade.
Gillum is an underdog in the race, generally fighting for fourth place in the polls, but he says he reaches an often overlooked demographic.
“We’ve been losing this race for governor repeatedly for the last 20 years, for the last five consecutive races because we have failed to nominate a candidate who has the ability to move more of our voters who typically don’t participate in midterm elections,” said Gillum. “Many of those voters are black voters, they’re brown voters, they’re poor voters and I honestly feel like I offer the best opportunity in November to win a general election. I believe we have the ability to move more of those voters to the polls than anybody else running.”
The tour’s last stop will be back in Tallahassee next Monday.
Gillum says he plans to stay with his family in the city on the day of the Primary Election.

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Amendment 8 Challenge Heard By Circuit Court Judge

August 17th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A circuit court judge heard arguments in a case to remove amendment 8 from the November ballot Friday morning.
Amendment 8 would require civics be taught in public schools and put term limits on school board members.
The League of Women Voters argues those two ideas only seek to conceal a more controversial part of the amendment, which would take away a local school board’s authority over schools it didn’t establish.
“They take these two disjunctive things to distract you from the unintelligible part in the middle,” said the Leagues attorney Ron Meyer.
But the state says the choice for voters is clear.
“This constitutional change is really a very simple fundamental change and we believe that really the voters have a right to see this,” said the attorney representing the Secretary of State, Blaine Winship.
The League argues the change would allow the state to hand over control of charter schools to a state agency and eliminate local control.
It argues the language voters will see doesn’t fully explain what the amendment does and should therefore be removed from the ballot.
“The real meat of this amendment, the damage that’s being done to public education by it, it’s not explained anywhere,” said Meyer.
Both sides agree if Amendment 8 passes, the longterm effects are unclear and subject to the Legislature’s interpretation.
“This would be something that would presumably be up to the legislation that’s turned out by our elected Legislators and subject to judicial decisions,” said Winship. “You know in this state almost everything in this area tends to get litigated.”
Judge John Cooper says he hopes to issue a final ruling on the case by Monday morning.
Amendment 8 is also being challenged in a separate suit brought by a former State Supreme Court Justice.
That lawsuit is seeking to remove a total of six amendments from the November ballot for breaking the multiple subject rule.

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Democratic Attorney General Primary Candidates Trading Lawsuits

August 16th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The two Democratic Candidates for Florida Attorney General are trading lawsuits. 
Attorney General Candidate  and State Representative Sean Shaw filed suit against his primary opponent Ryan Torrens last month, claiming Torrens received an illegal campaign contribution. 
Shaw argues Torrens should be disqualified.
“We took that action because I’m going to hold everyone accountable, including my primary opponent, including anyone committing medicaid fraud, including the people in this building,” said Shaw.
Now Torrens is firing back by suing Shaw for libel.
Torrens tells us he worries the legal battle between the two candidates might hurt Democrats chances in the Attorney General race. 
 
Shaw’s campaign declined to comment on the countersuit.
Torrens has acknowledged that he received a $4,000 contribution.
 
$3,000 is the max allowed by law. 
Torrens says the money came from a join account that he shares with his wife. 
Candidates have no limits when contributing their own cash to their campaign.
“I don’t know about whether it was an illegal contribution. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t an actionable slander or liable,” said GOP Political Consultant Mac Stipanovich.
Stipanovich says the suits are more likely about drawing eyeballs than seeking justice.
“I believe that both lawsuits are mostly just for attention that they can’t buy for lack of resources,” said Stipanovich. “And they are succeeding or you and I wouldn’t be talking.”
The suits are scheduled to be heard on August 22nd, just six days before the Primary Election. 
A quick decision could give a last minute boost one way or the other.
 
Both candidates have released statements highlighting the needs for Democrats to remain unified to ensure a blue victory in the 2018 general election.

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Explore Offshore Coalition Wants Florida to Consider Offshore Drilling

August 15th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A coalition calling itself “Explore Offshore” wants to encourage the exploration of the oil and natural gas off the coast of Florida and other states.
“Reliable and affordable energy greatly bolsters economic security, which bolsters national security,” said Explore Offshore Co-Chair Jim Nicholson.
Nicholson previously served as the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President George W. Bush.
Explore Offshore says drilling could bring in $2.6 billion a year, and create 56,000 jobs in Florida alone, but Jonathan Webber with Florida Conservation Voters says Florida can’t afford another disaster like the 2010 BP oil spill.
“Anything that would put our coastal tourism in jeopardy needs to be considered long and hard by our elected officials and the people of Florida,” said Webber.
Also serving as a co-chair of the coalition is former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp.
Kottkamp and Nicholson both say developments in technology have made off shore drilling safer than ever.
“We can do this in a balanced and responsible way to protect the environment of Florida,” said Kottkamp.
But Webber says no technology is fool-proof.
“There’s no human endeavor that’s ever been without any kind of human error,” said Webber.
President Donald Trump announced earlier this year offshore drilling would be on the table for The United States’ coastlines.
Soon after the announcement U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Florida would be exempt.
“We are going to take the new oil platforms, new oil and gas platforms off the table,” said Zinke in January.
How much weight that commitment holds is unclear.
A constitutional amendment appearing on the November ballot would ban off shore drilling in state waters if it receives 60% voter approval.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday is seeking to remove the amendment from the ballot because it also would ban vaping in the workplace.

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BS Ranch Decision Partially Overturned

August 14th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The Governor and Cabinet have sided with Polk County in a land use dispute over a solid waste composting company know as BS Ranch.
The four officials voted unanimously to overturn portions of an administrative law judges order that found the county exceeded its authority to regulate odors coming from the ranch.
BS Ranch officials could decide to appeal the decision to a district Court of Appeals.

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Environmentalists Double Down, Blasting Governor for Red Tide

August 14th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
More than two million pounds of dead and rotting fish have already been removed from Florida beaches.
On Monday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven affected counties.
The declaration allows local governments to access additional funds to aid clean up efforts.
A half million will go to Visit Florida to help local businesses.
“There’s some money in there to help communities essentially deal with the mass of dead fish and dead organisms,” said Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters.
But Moncrief says the order doesn’t do anything to prevent future outbreaks.
“It doesn’t go to the root of the problem, which is pollution in our water ways fueling these ever virulent algal blooms,” said Moncrief.
Scott and his opponent in the race for the U.S. Senate Bill Nelson have blamed one another for the environmental disaster.
While Nelson and Scott continue to point the finger at on another environmentalists say Scott’s cuts to water management districts outweigh any actions by Nelson.
Scott touted the cuts as a success in 2011.
“I took action on the proposed budgets of Florida’s five mater management districts. All together these budgets reflects a reduction of more than $700 million dollars over last year,” Scott said in his Weekly Video Update from August of that year.
“700 Million dollars,” said Moncrief. “Those are the agencies that are responsible for making sure that pollution is under control.”
When asked about the cuts Tuesday, Scott pointed the finger at the water managers.
“The water management districts decide their budgets,” said Scott.
However, the Governor appoints water managers and has final approval over their budget.
Scott says his efforts to expedite repairs to the  Lake Okeechobee dike will help prevent future blooms by allowing water levels to be raised and reducing discharges.
Environmental groups warn raising water levels could kill the ecosystem in the lake.

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Districts Find Creative Solutions to Meet Safety Officer Mandate

August 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Every school must have at least one school resource officer starting this year.
It sounds simple, but Florida school districts say meeting the new requirement has proven a daunting task.
“Finding a way to pay for that, that really is the challenge,” said Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association.
A lack of funding in the state’s new school safety law forced districts to fork out a large portion of the cash themselves or find creative ways to meet the requirement temporarily.
In the State’s capital city, the school district is allowing off-duty officers to pick up shifts at schools.
“Over 140 police officers volunteered to step up on their day off to help us in off duty capacity,” said Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
Hanna says the solution is cheaper than hiring and training new officers.
“Without that support from our sheriff’s department and Tallahassee police we would not be able to accomplish this,” said Hanna.
Other counties like Clay County have put a referendum on the ballot that would increase taxes to help cover the cost.
In the meantime, some aspects of the law like school hardening have been put on hold while schools work to make sure the resource officer mandate is addressed.
“Some of the money that could have gone to hardening is actually going into the SRO funding,” said Messina. “So we may see a delay in some of the physical hardening of facilities.”
Lawmakers and school officials say more funds will need to be allocated in next year’s budget to ensure all counties in the state have a way to hire permanent school resource officers for all of Florida’s more than 4,200 schools.
Starting this year students, faculty and staff will be required to take part in active shooter training once a semester.

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Denise Williams Charged with Three Counts of Insurance Fraud

August 10th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
In a case drawing national attention, a Tallahassee woman already charged with the planning, and murdering her husband was back in court this morning, charged with three counts of insurance fraud.
Mike Williams disappeared while duck hunting 18-years ago.
His wife, Denise collected $1,750,000 from several insurance policies.
Denise was arrested after her husbands best friend told police the two had conspired to kill Mike and collect the life insurance.
The best friend and Denise married five years after Mike’s disappearance.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said in a statement, “The insurance fraud charges are just one part of this case, and I assure the community we will work diligently toward a successful prosecution. Insurance fraud is a very serious crime, one that impacts every single insurance consumer.”
Denise has pled not guilty to all of the charges.

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Confusion Mounts Following Sen. Nelson’s Allegations of Russian Election Hacking

August 10th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson made the claims of Russian hacking twice in the last week.
“They’ve already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free reign to move about,” said Nelson.
When asked to elaborate, he called the information classified.
Now, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has written a letter asking the US Senate intelligence Committee Chair to confirm if there has been any meddling, and if so where.
“We’ve got non-disclosure agreements in place for those kids of things so they should feel safe to tell us,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Early.
Early says sharing that information with state and local officials is imperative.
“We’re trying to conduct elections,” said Early. “We want people to feel secure about their ability to vote and that their vote is safe and they will be able to have a good experience at the polling place whether that’s early voting or Election Day.”
Elections experts say the threat of hacking shouldn’t deter people from voting.
Instead, they say, if people have problems at the polls, they can help fight back by letting their local supervisor of elections know.
And if you do have an issue, insist on casting a ballot, even if it’s only a previsional one.
“This is critical. Instead of just getting angry and walking away from the polls and blaming the election system, which is quite frankly what the Russians want people to do, people need to become more active,” said former Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.
The Department of State has reached out to Homeland Security, the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
All three agencies say they have no information to back up Nelson’s claim of a breach.
As of Thursday all 67 counties in Florida have submitted applications for a piece of a $19 million Federal grant aimed at boosting election security.
So far $10.3 million has been approved for 43 counties.

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Levine Highlights Ron DeSantis as Major Threat to Democrats

August 9th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is visiting campaign offices ahead of the primary election at the end of the month.
Levine traveled to offices in both Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Thursday.
He interacted with supporters and staff, asserting his belief that Republican front-runner Ron DeSantis poses the greatest threat to a Democratic victory in November.
“This election is about the future of our nation,” said Levine. “We have to stop Donald Trump and radical Ron right here and we need the best person out there who can fight Donald Trump. Not someone who says they’re going to fight Donald Trump. Someone who’s actually done it already and I have a year and a half under my belt.”
Levine will participate in a televised forum with the four other major Democratic candidates Thursday night at Jacksonville University.

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Sean Shaw Promises Immediate Action on Gun Violence if Elected

August 9th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Representative Sean Shaw says if he’s elected Attorney General in November, his first action would be to establish a task force on preventing gun violence.
“Eradicating the type of violence that resulted in the live of Floridians being cut too short at places such as the Pulse Night Club, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Clearwater convienience store,” said Shaw.
The task force comprised of legislators, law enforcement and others would travel the state and make policy recommendations to reduce gun violence.
The task force would have between 60 and 90 days to submit their report.
“This is going to take a concerted effort, a wholistic approach and I believe Florida is worth that effort,” said Shaw.
A similar task force was established by Governor Rick Scott in 2012 to look at the state’s stand your ground law.
Reverend R.B. Holmes was the vice chair.
“We have to do something about this Stand Your Ground law and I think the next Attorney General ought to be the one to kind of talk about this very forthrightly and transparently,” said Holmes.
Shaw’s opponent in the Democratic primary Ryan Torrens responded to Shaw’s announcement saying in a statement, “I am the only candidate in this race who would not defend the Stand Your Ground law. This is an unconstitutional license to kill, and I will not defend it in the courts.”
Shaw was asked how he would handle stand your ground if elected.
“That will be one of my number one priorities, to get that law repealed,” said Shaw. “We have to convince the Legislature to repeal that law.”
But that would likely prove an uphill battle in the Republican led Legislature.
Republican Attorney General Candidate Ashley Moody responded to Shaw’s announcement saying in a statement, “My politician Democratic opponent who has plenty of experience in running political campaigns has never prosecuted a case, led investigations, or taken one gun away from criminals who pose a danger to our community. His “solution” is more gun control laws which will only take guns away from law abiding citizens.”
Our attempt to reach out to candidate Frank White went unanswered.

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Elections Supervisors Not Aware of Breaches Announced by Sen. Nelson

August 9th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Elections supervisors are reacting after U.S. Senator Bill Nelson announced some Florida county’s voter databases have been penetrated by Russian hackers.
The Florida Association of Supervisor of Elections says it was not aware of any breaches prior to Nelson’s comments, but are not surprised that the Russians would be trying to interfere.
Executive Director Ron Labasky says the news adds to the need to prioritize the strengthening of elections systems.
“We have been working diligently for the last 18 months to ensure that we’ve fortified our registration system and our methodology,” said Labasky. “So that no one can get into the system without us stopping it or knowing about it and then stopping it.”
$19 million in Federal funds have been approved to beef up the state’s election systems.
The hope is to put the money into action before November.

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