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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Orlando leader, Fred Leonhardt, dies at age 65

Leonhardt-Fred-Headshot-10-11-199x300Fred Leonhardt, 65, a shareholder at GrayRobinson law firm in Orlando and prominent civic leader In Tallahassee and throughout the state, died early Saturday, his former law partner, Dean Cannon has confirmed. 

Leonhardt grew up in Daytona Beach, attended college and law school at the University of Florida and came to work in Tallahassee as a legal counsel to Democratic House Speaker Hyatt Brown in 1974.

Leonhardt represented clients before state and local governments as one of his firms top lobbyists and was a board certified real estate attorney. He was appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to the Enterprise Florida Board, the public-private partnership tasked with recruiting companies and developing Florida business. He served on Enterprise Florida's board for 12 years.

Leonhardt held several other leadership roles over the course of his career including serving on the boards of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the James Madison Insitute, Floridians for Better Transportation, the Orlando area Chamber of Commerce and The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, according to his law firm's web site. …

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Ron DeSantis super PAC raises $1.2-mil

The super PAC backing Republican Ron DeSantis for US Senate, Fighting for Florida Fund, reports that it pulled in $1.2 million on contributions as of September 30th of this year.

“From our start in late August, we set an internal goal of banking $1 million in our first month of operations.  Donor support for Ron’s conservative message proved to be so strong that we cleared that hurdle with room to spare,” said Fighting for Florida Fund’s senior advisor Nelson Warfield.

“The Florida US Senate race is always in some sense a national contest.  And Ron DeSantis’ powerful conservative appeal is already generating enthusiasm not only across the state but across the country,” Warfield declared. 

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Robert Lance Andrews, colorful South Florida judge, dead at 74

Robert Lance Andrews, whose biting wit and flair for high-profile and controversial cases made him a colorful and unpredictable fixture in Broward County's courts for three decades, died Friday. He was 74.

After a 30-year career on the bench, Andrews suffered a stroke in 2008 and retired, a year after his wife Carole, a member of the Broward school board, died of cancer. He remarried and moved to Texas, and was living with a son in Georgia at the time of his death.

Andrews' outside-the-box approach first drew national attention in 1982 when he offered a long-time Fort Lauderdale prostitute a stark choice: five years in prison or a one-way ticket to California. The woman went to Santa Monica, where she was quickly arrested for prostitution, and the police chief there sent an alleged sex offender to South Florida as payback. "We owed a few to Florida," the chief said.

During South Florida's epidemic of cocaine use in the '80s, Andrews struck down Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro's policy of random searches of bus passengers for drugs.

"This is not Hitler's Berlin, nor Stalin's Moscow," Andrews wrote in an opinion cited approvingly by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his decision. …

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Meet Jeb Bush's Broward County campaign team

Jeb 2016! Broward County Campaign Organization:
(this is the initial Broward County Campaign Organization)

Honorary Chairman
United States Senator George LeMieux*

Honorary Co-Chairs

State Representative George Moraitis
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca*

Campaign Committee Chairs
Ed Pozzuoli*
Paul Sallarulo
Shane Strum*
Campaign Committee Organizational Chairs

Maureen Jaeger
Rocky Rodriguez

Campaign Committee Co-Chairs
Milton Aponte
Jim Blosser
Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart
Sam Chagani
Berthy De La Rosa-Aponte
David DiPietro
Georgette Sosa Douglas
Cindy Guerra*
Sherry Hage
Jon Hage
Dr. Art Keiser
Belinda Keiser
Clarence McKee
Elaine Miceli Vasquez
Sally Musser
Ryan Reiter
Justin Sayfie
Colleen Stolberg
Norman Tripp
Kevin Tynan*
Sheela Van Hoose
Levi Williams, Jr.
Bob Wolfe, Jr.
Zach Zachariah, M.D.
Broward County Campaign Leadership

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bruce Roberts
Mayor of Lighthouse Point Glenn Troast
Lighthouse Point City Commissioner Michael Long
Oakland Park City Commissioner Shari McCartney
Hollywood City Commissioner Patty Asseff
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Judge rejects Legislature's redistricting map, recommends plaintiffs' plan

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday rejected the Florida Legislature's third attempt at redrawing its congressional districts and recommended a map proposed by the challengers to the Florida Supreme Court for its final review.

Lewis adopted the bulk of the map approved by lawmakers in the northern and central portions of the state but specifically rejected the proposed boundaries for seven districts, including District 26 in Miami-Dade, now held by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, potentially unseating at least three incumbents congressional candidates and opening the door for others.  Download Romo.Order Recommending Adoption of Remedial Map

The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, agreed with Legislature's configuration of 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but asked the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts. Lewis agreed. …

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Alan Grayson says he has closed his Caymans hedge funds

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson says he has closed down hedge funds that he set up in the notorious offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands, which have proven to be a considerable political headache for the populist congressman from Orlando. The moves comes on the heels of the millionaire Democrat recently changing the name of his hedge management company -- from Grayson Fund to Sibylline Fund - afer critics filed official House complaints against him for allegedly violating House rules for improperly using his name in the investment vehicles.

Grayson says that the Cayman funds were set up in 2011 at the advice of a lawyer he declined to name. Though his hedge funds were structured so that all trading would be done through an entity based in the Caymans, Grayson insisted the Cayman funds were never used. …

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'Dark money' group produces another Marco Rubio ad

Conservative Solutions Project, a nonprofit aligned with Marco Rubio, has produced another TV ad on his behalf. The spot, called American Dream, went up Monday, a spokesman says.

The group, which does not disclose its donors, has become a major asset for the Florida Republican. It has raised at least $16 million and likely a lot more. Conservative Solutions Project is "making a new push to peel away supporters of Mr. Bush’s by reminding them that campaign finance law allows them to give to the group anonymously," according to a New York Times report.

We explored the rise of "dark money" in a recent story.

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Advocates urge Florida Legislature to take up death penalty sentencing reforms

View of Florida's execution chamber

Florida Department of Corrections

View of Florida's execution chamber

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging the legality of Florida's death penalty sentencing procedures -- a case that could have far-reaching repercussions on past and present death penalty cases in the state, some fear.

A group of criminal justice advocates say the Florida Legislature could avoid such a chaotic outcome by simply updating state law to conform with the constitutional standard set by a prior U.S. Supreme Court opinion, one that most every other state follows.

At issue is the jury's role in determining whether a defendant should receive the death penalty. The Supreme Court previously ruled that it's the jury's responsibility, not a judge's, to decide that and that a jury must recommend that outcome unanimously on each count.

While almost every other death-penalty state changed its laws in the wake of that 2002 decision, Florida did not. Florida law allows for a death-penalty recommendation if only a simple majority of a jury -- seven of 12 jurors -- supports it. …

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David Jolly: Why I support Dan Webster for speaker

U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, has an op-ed column in today's Tampa Bay Times explaining why he supports Dan Webster for House speaker. An excerpt:

Dan Webster served honorably as speaker of the Florida House in Tallahassee at a time when Republicans controlled the Legislature and a Democrat was in the Governor's Mansion. Despite this division, he successfully delivered commonsense conservative results for our state.

Dan and I share a commitment to empowering all Americans by giving everyone's representative in Congress the right and the power to contribute solutions to the greatest challenges we face. We share a commitment to governing responsibly, to finally tackling the most difficult issues, and to reaching consensus on solutions from border security and immigration, to a budget that finally balances, to matters of national security, transportation, education, energy and the environment. …

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Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina added to Sunshine Summit lineup

Count Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina in for the Republican Party of Florida's Sunshine Summit next month in Orlando.

“The addition of Sen. Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina to the list of presidential candidates speaking at the Sunshine Summit is further proof that this is the most significant event in Florida politics this fall," Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "We look forward to them firing up the grassroots as we build the momentum to deliver our 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee in 2016.”

Already committed: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Donald Trump.

That leaves Florida resident Ben Carson, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki as unconfirmed for the Nov. 12-14 event.

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Dan Webster's dark horse drive for House speaker gets unexpected boost

Florida Congressman Dan Webster’s quixotic push to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives received an unexpected boost Thursday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stunned the political world and abruptly withdrew from the race to replace John Boehner.

“It’s been a whirlwind day,” said Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, told the Miami Herald Thursday after spending the afternoon doing media interviews and making phone calls to colleagues detailing his pitch for reforming the process.

The former speaker of the Florida House received his first surge of support Wednesday when members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of about 40 conservative Republicans — announced that they planned to vote for the Florida lawmaker, saying a McCarthy speakership would be an extension of Boehner’s.

Webster, 66, said that he does not consider himself the new favorite, but he does see McCarthy’s decision to drop out as a testament to the fact that the rank-and-file membership want a change. Central to his pitch is his record of reform in the Florida House, after Florida Democrats narrowly lost their majority in 1996 and he became speaker with a 61-59 majority. …

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Dem presidential primary debate set for Miami

The DNC confirms it will host a Democratic primary debate in Miami March 9, sponsored by Univision and the Washington Post. This assumes, of course, there still is a Democratic primary race on March 9.

“Florida is a critical swing state with a diverse population, and it’s one of the states that got hit the hardest by the recession – too many Floridians lost their homes, their jobs, or both. We’re thrilled to partner with Univision to host one of our six DNC debates in recognition of the important and growing role Latinos play in our electorate. Our Democratic candidates will provide a sharp contrast with Republicans – including two on their home turf -- not only on the issues impacting the Latino community, but on the entire middle class and families across the country,” said DNC spokeswoman Christina Freundlich.

Here's the full schedule, starting with next week: …

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Rubio raised about $6 million for Q3

Marco Rubio raised roughly $6 million for the quarter, an aide said.

Rubio is in Las Vegas today for a gathering with donors. Here is what was said at a gathering:

"October will be our best month so far. Campaign officials said that July was a very tough month as Walker & others got into race, and August was always expected to be slow as many donors were on vacation. But we budgeted accordingly and finished the quarter strong. The campaign raised over $1m online alone in September.

"We have raised about $18m from nearly 100k donors since starting campaign and start Q4 with about $11m COH. (Exact numbers still being finalized)"

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Fla House Dems hire political director

State Rep Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, sent this to her colleagues today:

After a nationwide search, I am excited to announce that House Victory has hired Steve Jackson to serve as our Political Director for House campaigns!

As your incoming Leader, I believe it is important for House Victory to have our own dedicated Political Director focused exclusively on electing more Democrats to the Florida House. In this role, Steve will travel the state recruiting candidates, developing relationships with our partners in our targeted areas, overseeing campaign staff in our targeted races, and working in-district with our current members to strengthen their campaigns. …

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Dan Webster: 'I have a problem with the way the House is run'

Rep. Dan Webster’s interview today on FOX News Channel’s Shepard Smith Reporting.

On the possibility that there aren’t enough votes to get him elected:

“Well, you never know. I think with Kevin out we could branch out and I think there might be an opportunity. I’m going to work as hard as I can to see as many members as I can given the new dynamic, a new group of candidates and we’ll see what happens.  I believe I can win some people over, I do.”

On why he thinks there won’t be a vote on the Speaker position today:

“Well, I haven’t asked that question publically or privately, but I have certainly thought about it and yes, I do have an idea. Well, maybe I’ll just reverse it and say, I think if I had dropped out the election would have gone on. I think the Speaker was shocked, our current shocked. The whole room was. I don’t think he knew it was coming either.”

On what he would do as House Speaker: …

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