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Delegation for 8.7.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Will Ohio special election leave any takeaways for Florida?

On Tuesday, the last special election before the November election, was playing out in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. The final results can provide some useful information on whether the “blue wave” is alive and well and if Florida Republicans in competitive races should be concerned.

This contest between Ohio Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson and Franklin County (Columbus) Recorder Danny O’Connor to fill the unexpired term of retiring GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, has the attention of the political nation. With good reason because even before the votes were counted, some interesting forces favoring both sides were in play.

Will the race to replace Ohio’s Pat Tiberi be a bellwether for Florida?

The latest poll showed Balderson with a statistically-insignificant one-point lead.

District 12 is comprised of parts of Columbus and surrounding areas. It is 87 percent white and the median income is over $60,000.

President Donald Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016. While redistricting has altered it to some extent, District 12 has been represented by a Republican for most of the last century, including several terms by Gov. John Kasich.

Fundraising is close with O’Connor raising $1.5 million and Balderson with $1.26 million. Democrats have reason to be excited by the fact that a staggering 53 percent of O’Connor’s donors are small donors of less than $200, while only 5 percent of Balderson’s contributions fit that description.

That could translate into enthusiastic voters and worthy of attention in Florida. The most recent fundraising reports from Florida’s competitive House races reveal that very few reach even the 20 percent mark in small donors.

Among Republicans in competitive races who have raised at least $1 million, only Brian Mast in District 18 tops the 20 percent mark in small donors. His $4 million total includes 31 percent from small donors.

Among Democrats, state Rep. David Richardson reported 37 percent of his $1.8 million raised came from donations under $200. Richardson, like his District 27 opponent Donna Shalala, has also self-funded at least 25 percent of their campaigns.

Among Sen. Bill Nelson’s $17.9 million haul, 20 percent came from small donors.

If there is a bright spot for Republicans in Ohio, it is the possibility of a strong voter turnout. In the primary, O’Connor earned the votes of 40 percent of the 43,910 percent of Democratic voters.

Balderson barely edged Melanie Leneghan by less than 1,000 votes but 67,120 Republicans showed up to vote, or 65 percent more than Democrats. Perhaps Democratic enthusiasm has increased since the primary, but Balderson has a larger pool of available voters.

Trump visited the district Saturday and Republicans are hoping he can inspire the base to embrace Balderson as Florida primary voters seem to be doing for Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary for governor. The president’s endorsement of DeSantis has turned the race around.

In the end, whether it be in Ohio or Florida, independents and swing voters will make a choice as to whether they like a candidate. For his part, O’Connor says he will not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker, which is becoming more appealing even to a growing number of Democrats.

If O’Connor wins despite the inherent disadvantages, Florida Republicans will know District 27 will not be the only one in true danger of flipping. Even if Balderson squeaks by, the two will likely square off again in November.

Nelson preparing to hit the airwaves in a big way

Gov. Rick Scott has dominated the airwaves since announcing he would challenge Nelson for the incumbent’s Senate seat. The two-term governor has raised $22 million since announcing his run in the spring and spent $18 million, most of that on television ads attacking Nelson.

Nelson has been able to return a few punches and put out a positive ad through the help of the Senate Majority PAC (SMP), who paid for the recent ad hitting Scott on health care. Nelson supporters may have reason to believe the cavalry is on the way.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


The Nelson campaign has confirmed a Politico report that they have reserved $18 million in television airtime to begin the day after the Aug. 28 primary. The amount is likely to keep Nelson on the air for the remainder of the campaign.

He will need to keep a strong fundraising effort to fund the ads and the rest of his campaign operations. He had $13.7 million on hand through June 30.

Nelson will get even further help from SMP, who has already committed $23 million more on pro-Nelson/anti-Scott ads. Those will begin October 2.

Rubio takes up cause of paid family leave

Last year, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio championed an issue normally associated with Democrats poll better than Republicans and he is doing it again this summer. Last week he unveiled the Economic Security for New Parents Act, which would give new parents the option of using some of their Social Security benefits to take at least two months of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

In late 2017, Rubio and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee took the lead on expanding the Child Tax Credit as part of the GOP tax cut bill under consideration. In the end, Rubio voted for the bill, but earlier threatened to vote “no” unless the Child Tax Credit was increased.

Marco Rubio and Mike Lee take a stand on paid leave for new parents.

Rubio has joined with Missouri Republican Rep. Ann Wagner in the effort to help low-income families earn paid family leave, which they describe as the “social insecurity of our time.” Wagner introduced the House companion bill.

“Far too many new parents take on new debt or fall onto welfare programs just to pay for their basic living costs after having a child,” Rubio and Wagner wrote in a recent op-ed for USA Today.

“Stories abound of mothers returning to work just days after giving birth. This sad reality threatens our nation’s ability to provide for safe and healthy moms and kids during one of the most important periods of their lives,” they added.

Trump, Jr. visits Panhandle for Gaetz, DeSantis

Last Monday, Trump was in Tampa whipping up the crowd for Republicans in general, DeSantis’ bid for governor in particular. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach was also in attendance.

Three days later, Donald Trump, Jr. was in Niceville campaigning for Gaetz, while DeSantis joined in. About 1,000 people gathered at Northwest Florida State College’s Raider Arena.

Trump Jr. touted his father’s successes and promoted a staunchly conservative agenda, coming out strong in support of DeSantis, Gaetz and other Republican candidates who he said would support and bolster his father’s policies. Like his father, he blasted Democrats and the media.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a Niceville rally for Matt Gaetz. (Image via Jim Little/

“If Donald Trump came out in favor of oxygen, the other side would be against it,” he said to raucous applause. “They’re overplaying their hand. Real Americans, hardworking Americans like yourselves … they see what’s going on and they’re going to come to our side.”

Once he reached the podium, Gaetz took verbal shots at his primary opponent, Cris Dosev, but then got to the red meat that the president is known to deliver. After touting his help in securing $70 million in funding for local military operations, Gaetz said it was time to “drain the swamp.”

“Special interests still have too much control in Washington, D.C., and there are really only two types of people in Washington: those who believe there’s a swamp that needs to be drained, and those who think it’s a mud bath to be enjoyed,” he said. “People like me and Ron DeSantis, we are going to drain that swamp.”

The crowd responded accordingly.

Gaetz is expected to have little difficulty in winning a second term. As of June 30, he had $455,000 cash on hand while his two Republican and two Democratic opponents had less than $35,000 combined.

Lawson, Brown go at it in CD 2 joint interview

Sitting side-by-side, Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee and his Congressional District 2 challenger Alvin Brown went at it late last week. The venue was not a formal debate, but a joint interview with the editorial board of the Tallahassee Democrat.

The two argued on several issues, including Lawson’s past support for the Stand Your Ground law. Brown, the former Mayor of Jacksonville wants the law repealed while Lawson stood by his support, but said it could be tweaked and the controversy surrounding a killing in St. Petersburg is about the law being interpreted incorrectly.

Al Lawson and Alvin Brown throw down.

Brown criticized Lawson’s vote that went against those Democrats calling for the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). Lawson pointed out that ICE does more than merely arrest illegal immigrants.

Lawson described Brown’s record as mayor as “a disaster” and offered a retort to Brown’s description of his accomplishments during his term. “If you did all those things, then the people would have probably sent you back as mayor, Alvin.”

Brown came back by calling Lawson “a conservative,” and “Donald Trump’s favorite Democrat.”

“His voting record (in the Florida Legislature) before he went to Congress was always a conservative,” Brown charged.

In response Lawson said he was a moderate, “and there’s nothing wrong with being a moderate.”

The exchange was for informational purposes only. The newspaper does not make candidate endorsements.

Sturgill brings abortion into CD 7 race with new attack ad on Miller

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for U.S. Supreme Court justice, the issue of Roe v. Wade, and abortion in general, has taken center stage. It is also trickling into primary and general election campaigns for Congress.

In District 7, Republican Scott Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, launched a new ad against his primary foe, state Rep. Mike Miller in which Sturgill seeks to reaffirm his pro-life bona fides. The ad’s title, Thank You Liberal Mike Miller, sets the tone.

To see the ad, click on the image below:


The ad features a young woman praising Miller’s support for women’s abortion rights, then takes a further step attempting to peel Republican support from Miller. It thanks Miller for “resisting President Trump’s ‘assault on Roe v. Wade.’”

About halfway through, the video screeches to a halt with Sturgill appearing on the screen saying “I’m the only candidate that is 100 percent pro-life, and endorsed by Florida Right to Life.”

Sturgill’s campaign said the ad is based on Miller’s vote on House Bill 41, which involved a vote on funding for Planned Parenthood. The campaign said Miller was one of only three Republicans to vote for it.

The Miller campaign blasted Sturgill, citing Miller’s record on pro-life issues.

“It looks like Planned Parenthood has either teamed up with Scott Sturgill or this ad is a complete fabrication, which presents even larger problems for our opponent’s campaign,” Miller campaign spokeswoman Dana Loncar said in a written response. “It is appalling that Sturgill would stoop to such desperate levels to mislead voters when Mike is an “F” ranked legislator by them, because of his pro-life stance.”

Both Miller and Sturgill reported under $400,000 cash on hand as of June 30. The winner will most likely take on Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy, who has $1.6 million left to spend.

Soto blasts deportation of veteran’s spouse

A controversial deportation of the wife of an Iraq veteran has some in the Orlando area upset with the procedures for selecting who among undocumented immigrants are targeted for removal. Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando is outraged it came to this.

On Friday, Alejandra Juarez boarded a plane for Mexico after attempts by Soto and others to prevent her deportation failed. Soto proposed legislation called the Protect Patriot Spouses Act and publicized his constituent’s plight, but to no avail.

Alejandra Juarez says goodbye to daughters Pamela, 16, and Estella, 8, as U.S. Rep. Darren Soto looks on.

“We are utterly disappointed in the decision by ICE to deny Alejandra’s stay of removal. Alejandra deserves to stay in the country she has called home for over 20 years,” Soto said in a news release. “The country her husband patriotically served as a Marine and Florida National Guardsman. The only country her two American-born daughters have known. The Juarez family deserves to stay together in the United States.”

Juarez has no criminal record, but was subject to deportation following her illegal entry into the U.S. in 1998, according to ICE. Spokesman Bryan Cox said Juarez was apprehended after initially trying to enter the U.S. illegally in 1998, but illegally re-entered, which is a felony.

Soto also sought a stay of removal under the parole in place program. Her youngest daughter accompanied her to Mexico, while her 16-year-old is remaining in Central Florida with her father.

“It is a sad day for our entire community as we will all be affected by this insensitive deportation order,” Soto said.

U.S. Chamber backs Gonzalez in tight CD 17 primary

The contest to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Tom Rooney has been a tight race since the veteran from Okeechobee announced his intention to leave Washington. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez and state Sen. Greg Steube have been evenly matched, but one has just recently received a big boost.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced late last week that it was endorsing Gonzalez. He has been a reliable vote for the Chamber’s priorities while in the House, earning an A rating, while Steube was given a C.

Julio Gonzalez gets thumbs up from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“As a state representative, Dr. Gonzalez has been a strong ally for job creators and consistently voted to reform regulations and cut taxes to help small businesses grow,” said Rob Engstrom, national political director for the Chamber.

“As a doctor and surgeon, he has been an advocate for real health care reform that focuses on the patient, not the government, as well as the impact health care costs have on small business. We need experienced leaders like Julio in Congress.”

Both candidates have been engaged in strong fundraising efforts since joining the race. As of June 30, Gonzalez had raised $467,000 and had $349,000 remaining, while Steube raised $400,000 and had $313,000 remaining for the last four weeks of the campaign.

“As a small-business owner, and health care professional, I deal with the challenges of government regulation on a daily basis,” said Gonzalez.

“I’ve worked to cut taxes and regulations so that small businesses can focus on growing and creating more jobs, not more paperwork. That is the focus I will bring in Congress.”

Veteran and conservative activist Bill Akins is also running in the GOP primary, but has raised only $26,000. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates District 17 as “Safe Republican.”

Deutch, Wasserman Schultz file legislation blocking 3D guns

The controversy surrounding the Trump administration’s decision to settle a case allowing plans for making 3D guns to be published online is not going away any time soon. A federal judge in Seattle blocked the move before it was scheduled to be published Aug. 1.

A hearing is set for Friday.

Two South Florida Democrats joined with two of their colleagues to file legislation that would make it a crime to publish online plans for making guns. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston claim there is no reason to make it easy to create untraceable firearms.

Ted Deutch argues there is no reason to make it easy to create untraceable firearms.

“At a time when Congress hasn’t done anything tangible to prevent gun violence, the widespread availability of untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed guns would further threaten our ability to keep our children and our communities safe,” Wasserman Schultz said in a joint release. “This vital legislation is urgently needed to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Cox pointed to the fact that the 3D guns are already illegal, making any ban on their publication moot.

“Many anti-gun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms,” he said.

Deutch called that line of reasoning “unacceptable,” and blasted the Trump administration’s legal strategy.

“President Trump should never have allowed this settlement to happen, and now, Congress needs to step in to ensure that internet access does not equal gun access.”

The effort by Wasserman Schultz and Deutch put the delegation in a leadership position on the issue. The House bill is a companion to legislation already filed in the Senate sponsored by Nelson.

Curbelo climate change bill attacked in new ad buy

Anyone running in a swing district understands the term “walking a fine line” between moderation and partisanship. Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo understands that more than most.

While he is a Republican running in a district won big by Hillary Clinton in 2016, he also strongly supported the GOP tax cut passed in December and also favored the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Curbelo also supports finding a solution for DREAMers (which many in his party call “amnesty”) and is the co-founder and co-chairman of the House Climate Change Caucus.

Carlos Curbelo is coming under fire for a proposed national carbon tax.

It is in the latter role where he is coming under fire from conservatives. After Curbelo became the first Republican in a decade to introduce a national carbon tax to help combat climate change, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) launched a $75,000 digital ad campaign in Curbelo’s district.

“This new and innovative solution invests in American infrastructure, accelerates the transition to clean energy, repeals discriminatory taxes, and provides regulatory relief and stability that shows protecting our environment and strengthening the economy are not mutually exclusive,” Curbelo said upon launching the bill. “I look forward to the continued discussion around this proposal and thank all those offering support and adding to the constructive dialogue this bill has begun.”

The AEA claims the bill would lead to “inescapable economic harm.” In a release announcing the ad buy, they said: “Virtually no significant sector of our economy would go unscathed since this tax would impact the electricity and transportation sectors that are so central to commerce.”

The Curbelo bill, dubbed the Market Choice Act, is co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Naples.

On this day in the headlines

Aug. 7, 1945 — The most terrifying engine of destruction ever devised by man — an atomic bomb-carrying the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT — was turned loose against Japan Sunday as American airmen opened a “surrender or else” assault against the enemy homeland. President Harry S. Truman delivered the ultimatum.

“If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth,” he said. “Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already aware.”

Aug. 7, 2015 — For the first time, Americans were able to see billionaire businessman and reality television star Donald Trump in a debate format as 10 candidates took the stage in the first Republican presidential debate. Trump immediately made news by not pledging to support the GOP nominee if it is not him.

A total of 17 candidates are seeking the nomination to succeed outgoing President Barack Obama, but only 10 were invited to the event staged in Cleveland, site of next year’s Republican National Convention. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, were part of the debate, but Trump was the center of attention.

House candidates play possum

Campaigns often entail rough-and-tumble politics, while some might fit the old stereotypes of kissing babies as well as taking selfies with voters. Few, if any, have a tradition quite like the one held Saturday in the Panhandle.

An event known as the “Possum Festival” takes place in the town of Wausau during the summer months attracting local candidates as well as those running for statewide office. Often, more people come from out of town to attend the festival as there are residents of Wausau.

Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City was there for the 49th annual festival Saturday, as was Democratic challenger Bob Rackleff of Tallahassee, who threw in money toward a charitable cause to shake one of the critters by the tail. Dunn paid $950 through an auction to claim one of the possums.

It is far more than just participating. It is all about being seen participating.

Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam appeals to voters at the 49th Annual Wausau Possum Festival and Parade.

“This is the single most high-profile and fun political event in the state and it supports the local volunteer firefighters,” Dunn said. “If you’re not here at the possum festival, you’re toast.”

Rackleff does not agree with Dunn’s politics but agrees with the need to hang around possums and District 2 voters on a blistering August afternoon.

“This is the place to be, and you can’t campaign in Northwest Florida without being,” Rackleff said. “I wouldn’t risk missing it — meeting the good people of Washington County and the surrounding area. It’s great to meet all the people.”

The two North Floridians were joined by other candidates like Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is seeking to succeed Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture.

“This is where you meet old Florida,” Grimsley said. “There is more to the state than coasts.”

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