Election 2014: Lizbeth Benacquisto points to record in re-election bid

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, center, receives a standing ovation from her Senate colleagues upon her return to the Senate April 23, 2014 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Benacquisto had taken time away from Tallahassee to compete for the congressional seat vacated by Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers. She placed second in the four-way republican primary, losing to Curt Clawson who will face Democrat April Freeman, Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Ray Netherwood and write-in candidate Timothy Rossano in the June 24 special general election. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, center, receives a standing ovation from her Senate colleagues upon her return to the Senate April 23, 2014 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

When she first ran for office, Lizbeth Benacquisto just wanted someone on the Wellington City Council to represent people like her.

She was a young mother at the time, with kids in the local schools. She and her friends decided one of them needed to run for council, to represent the families of the community.

“I drew the straw that put your name on the ballot,” she said.

More than a decade after that first campaign, the 46-year-old Fort Myers state senator said she’s still doing whatever it takes to make sure her friends and neighbors are represented. And even after a hard-fought and bitter congressional bid earlier this year, Benacquisto said the thought of not going back to work or not running for re-election never crossed her mind.

“I was back in Tallahassee at 8 a.m., the Wednesday morning after the primary,” she said. “There was work to be done. I was proud to finish strongly, yet I know this is the last term I will seek in the Florida Senate.”

Benacquisto faces Bokeelia resident Michael Dreikorn in the Republican race for the District 30 state Senate seat. The winner of the Aug. 26 primary will serve a four-year term.

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Billionaire environmentalist takes aim at Scott

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

A hedge fund billionaire-turned-environmentalist who is seeking to boost the political importance of climate change has his eye on knocking off Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

San Francisco-based NextGen Climate Action Committee last month gave $750,000 to its Florida committee, the first contribution in the state. On its website, Scott is listed as one of seven Republican candidates the group is targeting.

The group was founded by Tom Steyer, who built a $1.6 billion net worth as a hedge fund manager. He’s now using that personal wealth to bankroll campaigns against those he sees as bad for the environment.

“Floridians can’t afford to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott. As a climate denier who refuses to accept basic scientific fact, he has put Florida’s communities, infrastructure and economy directly in harm’s way,” said Suzanne Henkels, a NextGen spokeswoman.

“Maybe Tom Steyer didn’t get the memo that Charlie Crist’s commitment to

the environment is all hot air,” Scott’s campaign responded Thursday. “After all, Charlie flew on a polluter’s private jet last week from Gainesville to Tallahassee (a two-hour drive), then hopped into a Prius to get to an event where he pretended to care about the environment.”

The chairman of the NextGen organization’s Florida political arm is Chris Fadeff, NextGen’s chief financial officer. Its political director is Joshua Romero, the former legislative assistant for state Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando.

NextGen also has received $100,000 from Barbara Stiefel, a Democratic donor from Coral Gables. This election cycle, she has given nearly $1 million in support of a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana and another that aims to boost conservation spending.

It is organized as a so-called “electioneering communication organization,” groups that are set up to buy television commercials and mail pieces. The group also will focus on a program designed to get segments of the electorate, including Hispanics and the young, out to vote that don’t go to the polls during non-presidential elections.

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Brent Batten: City seeks to put pot in its place

Brent Batten, (@NDN_BrentBatten)

It is called the Planning Board, after all.

Months ahead of a referendum on whether or not to allow medical marijuana in Florida and perhaps a year or more before any such marijuana would be dispensed, the city of Naples is looking into how to handle the prospect of pot for sale.

City administrators are drafting an ordinance and considering options to put before Naples City Council.

The city’s Planning Advisory Board, the first stop for such proposed ordinances, will get a look at the ideas at its Aug. 13 meeting.

City Council could then take up the measure as early as September, according to City Manager Bill Moss.

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Crist vs. Rich: Democratic primary candidates have eyes on different opponent

William March, (@WmarchTBO)

The race for governor in Florida will begin in the Aug. 26 primary with a dark-horse challenge by former state Sen. Nan Rich against former Gov. Charlie Crist to pick the Democrat who runs against Gov. Rick Scott.

Rich, who has never run for statewide office, is far outgunned in money and name recognition by Crist but contends she’s the true Democrat in the race and the one to take on Scott. She’s getting backing from some in the liberal wing of the party who are put off by Crist’s record and issues stances as a former Republican.

Crist, meantime, says he’s keeping his eyes on the prize — the race against Scott— because unseating him is important to the state. He has avoided Rich during the primary campaign, refusing to debate her or appear on the same stage.

While Rich blasts Crist in every campaign appearance, Crist’s advertising and campaign messaging are aimed solely at Scott.

“The mission is to make a change in Tallahassee and defeat Rick Scott,” Crist said in an interview. “I’ve got $100 million coming at me” — a reference to Scott’s expected campaign spending — “and if I take my eye off that ball for one second, I’m doing the voters a disservice.”

Speaking of Rich, he said, “I’ve got all the respect in the world for my opponent, but I’ve got to face what the facts are.”

Democrats, who haven’t won a governor’s race since 1994, are hungry for a victory and polling suggests most accept Crist as their best hope against Scott.

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Port St. Lucie has buyer for Digital Domain site

Nicole Rodriguez, (@NicRodriguez)

The city has found six potential buyers for the defunct Digital Domain property, which has cost the city more than $3 million a year since the company failed in 2012.

At a special meeting Friday, the City Council will discuss entering into a contract for the sale and purchase of the Tradition property with one of the six entities that placed offers on the building. It’s possible City Council could choose the buyer Friday or ax all six and ask staff to continue the search, City Manager Jeff Bremer said.

Details about the potential buyers are expected to be released later Wednesday as part of the meeting’s agenda packet, city officials said in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

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