A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 514

A.G. Gancarski

‘Ridiculous’: Rick Scott campaign rejects criticism of blind trust holdings

When one’s financial disclosure has over a quarter-billion dollars of holdings, it’s perhaps understandable that some of those holdings may be more controversial than others

This is the case with Gov. Rick Scott, who has seen his investment holdings scrutinized by the media since the release of his Senate financial disclosure last week.

Revelations have been regular and the latest is that Scott has holdings in a Taiwanese company that has continually done business with Chinese telecom giant ZTE, including during a recent American trade ban.

Per the disclosure, Scott personally has an interest of $1,001 to $15,000, and Scott’s wife has an interest between $50,001 and $100,000 in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing — which, via a subsidiary, has continued to transact with ZTE … a company so controversial that concerns about it led Sen. Marco Rubio to vote against the defense bill this week.

The company, per its president, found a workaround to trade ban restrictions: “TSMC is not a direct supplier to ZTE. It’s not a direct supplier to ZTE. So indeed, some of the — they do have a subsidiary of ZTE and — but according to the rule you need to have a certain percentage of value-added from the U.S. And so for that particular subsidiary, the value-added is mostly from China and from TSMC. So that also is beyond the restriction scope.”

Rubio has been blunt about the company.

ZTE should be put out of business. There is no ‘deal’ with a state-directed company that the Chinese government and Communist Party uses to spy and steal from us where Americans come out winning. We must put American jobs and national security first, which is why I have urged NDAA conferees to ensure the bipartisan provision to reinstate penalties against ZTE is included in the final bill’,” Rubio said in July.

Ultimately, however, those penalties were not part of the final package. And the trade ban has been lifted after ZTE cut a deal. However, at least for Marco Rubio, the national security implications present an existential concern.

For Rick Scott, per his Senate campaign, the question is “ridiculous.”

“Governor Scott does not have investments in ZTE and any assertion that the Governor Scott is attempting to avoid U.S. restrictions is ridiculous,” posited Scott spox Lauren Schenone.

“Furthermore,” Schenone contended, “the Governor had no role in selecting that investment. The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.”

Scott’s ZTE stake is not the only entry in the 125 page document that has concerned Florida media. Scott’s media shop offered vigorous defenses of the Governor to us about each of them.

The Miami Herald reported Scott made over $50,000 from the sale of stock in Navigator Holdings, which does business with a Kremlin-connected energy company called Sibur. Vladimir Putin‘s son in law is among that company’s stakeholders.

This is not an issue, per Schenone: “Governor Scott no longer has an investment in Navigator Holdings. When asked recently, Governor Scott was clear he believes that Putin is not our friend or ally and should not be trusted.”

Beyond these entries and their foreign intrigue, Scott’s investments reveal controversial stateside ties as well.

Scott’s investments in Gilead Sciences, maker of Hepatitis-c medicine, have also drawn scrutiny via GateHouse.

Schenone’s defense: “The Governor has consistently fought against the national opioid crisis, including securing major state and federal funding and signed multiple pieces of legislation to combat opioid abuse and support law enforcement officers.”

And as the Florida Bulldog reports, the Scott administration doled out $200,000 of tax incentives to 21st Century Oncology, a company owned by Vestar Holdings, which Scott has between $50,001 and $100,000 of interest in.

Those, per Schenone, are coincidences, as Scott “does not unilaterally decide how state incentive projects are awarded.”

Under Scott’s watch, “the state has reformed the incentive process” rooted in “strict performance metrics, including total jobs and capital investment.”

“This highly accountable process works to recruit businesses to Florida, while at the same time protecting taxpayers’ hard-earned money,” Schenone maintained.

Physicians back Ron DeSantis: FMA PAC endorsement latest sign of momentum

In yet another sign that the Republican primary race for governor has a clear frontrunner, the Florida Medical Association PAC endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, the beneficiary of President Donald Trump offering unambiguous endorsement Tuesday at a Tampa rally, now will enjoy the backing of the state’s self-described “leading advocate for electing pro-medicine candidates.”

FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete noted that the FMA PAC is “the first statewide association to endorse” DeSantis, “a true friend of medicine” who “will represent Florida’s more than 22,000 physicians on issues impacting our patients, policies and the quality and availability of health care.”

DeSantis, “proud to have the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association and all of the physicians the organization represents,” anticipates “working with the FMA to find ways to make the doctor-patient relationship stronger and to reduce costs.”

Gloves off: Alvin Brown, Al Lawson bash each other in heated interview

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and current U.S. Rep. Al Lawson were jointly interviewed by the Tallahassee Democrat Thursday.

There were some highlights, both in terms of policy distinctions and personal attacks, in what was the most substantive interview either candidate has conducted during this campaign.

The session heated up with discussion of gun rights — a big talking point in this campaign.

Lawson stood his ground on voting for Stand Your Ground, noting that it protected homeowners from prosecution when protecting themselves.

“We really need to go back and have the Florida Legislature look at it … the law is being interpreted wrong,” Lawson said, repeating that homeowners need protection.

Brown, meanwhile, wanted to “scrap” Stand Your Ground altogether, citing the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.

“People use it as an excuse,” Brown said.

Brown was compelled to defend his record as Jacksonville Mayor, noting that he’d brought jobs and companies and private investment to Jacksonville, repeating scripts the Florida Democratic Party wrote in his failed re-election campaign.

“The Mayor’s record was a disaster … the budget was in disarray … areas like Eureka Gardens looked like a third world country,” Lawson said.

“Alvin was absent. Sleeping on the job … with chauffers and everyone carrying him around in Jacksonville. The people decided they didn’t want him back as Mayor. He didn’t do a good job,” Lawson contended.

Brown contended he “showed up for work every day” and did “tremendous work” for the people of Jacksonville, focusing on “long-term economic development to get people back to work.”

“You don’t get approval deepening the harbor by not showing up,” Brown contended.

Brown also defended his response to crime as being rooted in “prevention and intervention,” with the sheriff “whose job is for public safety.”

Brown also had to address his botch of the Human Rights Ordinance process, eliding what some say was active opposition, saying he’d enacted protections for LGBT employees in City Hall, but “City Council didn’t pass it.”

Brown said he “at no time was against the legislation at all.” Lawson called him a liar.

“That community is totally against the mayor,” Lawson said. “If he had done what he stated, they would support him. They don’t support him. He had the opportunity and he went out the back door.”

Lawson had to answer for characterizations that he was Trump’s lackey and on the right of Brown, a liability in a closed Democratic primary.

Lawson noted he “clapped for the President” at the State of the Union when he said unemployment was low for blacks and Hispanics, but Brown was only using the issue because he had no issues to run on.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a moderate,” Lawson said, noting that he represented very conservative counties in the Florida Legislature.

Brown was asked if he thought Lawson was racist (an echo of the 2015 mayoral campaign, when racism became a talking point in a debate); Brown said Lawson supported “Trump’s agenda.”

“He’s not showing up for work … at the end of the day, he supports Trump’s agenda … supports ICE,” Brown said. “He supports Trump more than any Congressional Black Caucus member.”

“He says one thing, and he’ll do another,” Brown said.

Lawson said he voted with Democrats 98 percent of the time, and repeated his claim that Brown lacks issues to run on.

Lawson also noted that he wants to “reform ICE,” and “all of us know they need to be reformed.” Brown noted that he also wants ICE reform.

Lawson offered surprises, including advocacy for decriminalizing marijuana, citing Denver (!!!!) as a model; Brown concurred that it should be decriminalized.

“It’s clogging up our legal system,” Lawson contended.

Brown went on to say, like Lawson did, that Colorado offered a model for the future of cannabis.

Both also agreed that they would vote to impeach the President.

Corrine Brown (who Lawson defeated in 2016) came up, as well, with Alvin Brown noting that in her case, “the justice system has spoken.” Brown stands by a letter he wrote on Corrine’s behalf “100 percent.”

Lawson, who some say wanted to write a letter on behalf of Corrine himself, noted that the Browns had been in D.C. and elsewhere “soliciting support.”

“It could be his relative. They have the same last name. They’re very close,” Lawson said, “even though he ran against her twice.”

“Mayor Brown was saying he’d wait until after her sentence and get in the race,” Lawson said, noting that Brown used to “say he wanted to be like” him.

Brown denied flatly that he had been to D.C. as a pre-candidate with Corrine Brown or that he had worked with her on fundraising, then went pious.

“Corrine Brown is a Christian … I don’t think it’s appropriate to kick someone when they’re down,” Brown said.

Florida Family Action president taps Frank White as AG choice

State Rep. Frank White earned the endorsement of John Stemberger, president of the Christian conservative Florida Family Action group, Thursday in the GOP primary race for attorney general.

White and his opponent, retired Hillsborough judge Ashley Moody, both vied for the endorsement.

“Our FFA Board of Directors had the opportunity to interview both candidates privately and I personally have watched and moderated debates between the AG candidates. Based on our interviews, each candidates’ record, and extensive background research, we believe Frank White is a conservative we can trust,” asserted Stemberger.

Stemberger touted White’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, noting White “is a strong family man who has consistently promoted family and conservative values both within his home and in the legislature. Frank White has a clear voting record, which shows that he doesn’t shy away from opportunities to support pro-life and conservative principles.  Frank just earned an A+, 100% score from Florida Family Action’s Legislative Scorecard released earlier this week.”

Chris King, wife reminisce over first date, backward ball caps in new digital ad

Ahead of the final debate between Democratic candidates for Governor, Orlando-area businessman Chris King, running fifth in most polls in the five-way race, tried a new tack in reaching voters.

Namely, the personal appeal — with his wife by his side to recount the details of and have a few laughs about their adolescent courtship.

“So I met her when I was 15. She was a lot older woman,” King recalled, leading to wife, Kristen, noting that she had to pick him up for their date.

King also divulged that he complimented the color of her eyes, though got the color wrong.

Additionally, the two agreed that backward baseball caps, a feature of their early courtship, were no longer acceptable attire.

King faces long odds as Democratic undecideds are deciding, and choosing other candidates in recent polls.

According to St. Pete Polls, Congresswoman Gwen Graham has 29 percent support, while Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene is up on former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 23-19 percent. King and Andrew Gillum are, per the poll, off the pace.

Only nine percent of those surveyed are undecided.

King is spending money, but time is short, and voters seem to know what they want more clearly in each poll.

ashley moody

Ashley Moody’s Jacksonville area endorsements reveal local splits in AG race

GOP Attorney General hopeful Ashley Moody, a retired judge from Hillsborough County backed by most of the Florida Republican establishment, rolled out three meaningful Jacksonville area endorsements Thursday.

Florida State Sens. Aaron Bean and Travis Hutson and former Mayor John Delaney were the names rolled out; they join Sheriff Mike Williams (and his friend, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels) in backing Moody.

All three new endorsers effused over Moody in statements provided by her campaign.

Bean lauded Moody’s “experience, will and muscle to put bad guys behind bars.”

Hutson used the word “conservative” three times in his statement: “As a conservative Senator from northeast Florida, I’m proud to endorse Ashley Moody. As a former judge for over ten years, Ashley believes that we must strictly follow the conservative principles of the U.S. Constitution. She is a strong believer in Christian, pro-family values and will always defend religious freedom and the rights of Christians. It is my hope that voters from all across Florida will stand behind strong conservative Ashley Moody.”

Delaney noted that “Ashley’s top priority will be to fight the prescription drug and opioid epidemic which has affected hundreds of thousands of Floridians.”

Moody, for more than a year, has cultivated Jacksonville support — notable especially because a local, state Rep. Jay Fant, was in the race.

A 2017 fundraiser saw Sheriff Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson, still officially neutral in this race a year later, on hand.

On the host committee: Gary Chartrand, the charter school impresario (who since has given money to Moody’s opponent); Hank Coxe, one of the leading defense lawyers in the state; Buddy Schulz, another key Nelson ally.

However, Moody does not have Northeast Florida on lock.

Her opponent, Pensacola state Rep. Frank White, has local support all his own.

Back in November, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford endorsed White, again despite Fant being in the race.

It helped that White, Curry, and Rutherford all work with political consultant Tim Baker. As does Rep. Jason Fischer, who endorsed this summer.

Also in with White: Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, Rep. Cord Byrd, Rep. Clay Yarborough and St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar.

There are those who see the endorsements in this race, at least in Northeast Florida, as a referendum on the Lenny Curry political machine.

Delaney (openly) and Bean (according to sources) have both expressed disquiet at times over Curry’s leadership style, which pushes the limits of even the “strong mayor” form of government.

That theory does not explain entities like Gary Chartrand and local gambling concern bestbet playing both sides, however.

Shad Khan’s Jacksonville Shipyards redev plan includes convention center, hotel

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan‘s vision for the Jacksonville Shipyards redevelopment was unveiled Thursday morning, via a news release from the team.

A 490,000-square-foot riverfront convention center (a long-standing local wish list item) and a 350-room hotel will be included on the site, according to the release.

In April 2017, Khan’s Iguana Investments was approved to develop the site, which it is doing in conjunction with the DeBartolo Development Company and Rimrock Devlin Development.

“Today’s proposal represents the first step in delivering the vision we first shared three years ago for the rebirth of downtown Jacksonville,” Khan said.  “The Shipyards is the optimal and obvious site for a new Jacksonville convention center.”

“First, you have the prime riverfront access and the sense of being a true destination that only the Shipyards can offer.  Then, you have the synergies with the existing sports venues plus the anticipated mixed-use development planned for Lot J.  We’re doing big things in Jacksonville and this plan with DeBartolo and Rimrock is our boldest plan to date,” Khan said.

“Our goal at DeBartolo Development is to focus on extraordinary development opportunities that will create a catalytic impact on the cities in which they are located,” said Edward Kobel, president and COO of DeBartolo Development Group.

“We were naturally drawn to this opportunity because of the impact it will have on downtown Jacksonville, and it’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with in my career. With the development team we have assembled, we have the leadership and resources to make this vision a reality,” Kobel added.

“Jacksonville is our home, and our goal has always been to be involved with, and contribute to, the transformation of downtown Jacksonville into a vibrant city core,” said Micah Linton and Wallace Devlin of Rimrock Devlin Development.

“We are ecstatic to take the first step in making this vision a reality, and believe that our vision for the convention center and hotel will serve as the impetus to spur future development downtown,” the two said.

The proposal solidifies long-standing hopes by Khan and the Lenny Curry administration to revitalize the sports complex area.

In 2017, Khan took Curry and senior aide Sam Mousa on a three-city tour of sports complexes in other areas, as a way to workshop visions.

Earlier this year, Curry said he wanted to bring the NFL Draft to Jacksonville. It is easy to imagine a revitalized sports complex as central to that aspiration.

As all this is happening, the city will begin tearing down the off-ramps to the Hart Bridge. The state will provide $12.5 million to match city money should it be approved in the next budget. Traffic would be routed onto Bay Street, rolling past the sports complex, which will be juiced up considerably should Khan’s proposal and redevelopment plans for the Lot J parking area coalesce as expected.

Wood treatment plant contamination drives $10M Audrey Gibson claim bill

Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat poised to lead the Senate caucus after November’s elections, seeks $10 million for the former employees of a contaminated wood treatment plant.

Jacksonville’s Fairfax Street Wood Treaters, according to Gibson’s claims bill (SB 52), used chromated copper arsenate to treat wood from 1980 to 2010.

Employees of the plant were subject to “excessive, persistent, and prolonged” exposure to arsenic, because of what the bill calls a “catastrophic failure” of oversight from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health, and Department of Financial Services.

These employees got neither training nor protective gear, per the bill, nor guidance on how to avoid arsenic.

The $10 million requested would come from the general fund, allowing for $100,000 compensation for each affected employee.

The bill was filed Wednesday, the same day U.S. Rep. Al Lawson announced that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would spend $25,000 on exploring contaminated soil at a school near the site.

According to the EPA: The Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site is in a residential area, near a school and houses, and over decades the property became increasingly toxic because of the company’s use of chromated copper arsenate, stored in seven above ground tanks the EPA described as being in “poor condition.”

The EPA was pressured by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as far back as 2010 to move on this. The project has been on the EPA radar since, and testing in March 2018 revealed arsenic contaminated soil. Soil at the nearby Susie E. Tolbert Elementary School is being cleaned up, the Feds assert.

Congressional incumbents back Nancy Soderberg in CD 6 primary

Amb. Nancy Soderberg, one of three Democrats competing for the party’s nomination in east-central Florida’s 6th Congressional District, trumpeted endorsements from five Congressional incumbents Wednesday.

Reps. Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Darren Soto all back the Clinton administration alumna.

Soderberg was “honored” and “humbled” to get the endorsements from the five, all of whom extolled the candidate in statements offered by the campaign.

Crist predicted Soderberg would “be a strong leader on the issues critical to helping Florida’s families. She’ll work tirelessly for good public education, good wages, and commonsense solutions.”

“As a diplomat and United Nations Ambassador, Nancy negotiated tough deals around the world. I have no doubt she can do the same in Congress to get legislation passed for her constituents,” Demings noted.

Deutch said “Soderberg will help strengthen public education, bring economic opportunities to Florida, and fight to protect Medicare and Social Security.”

Frankel spotlighted Soderberg’s “vast experience, a commitment to fight for the middle class, and strong leadership skills.”

Soto extolled the candidate’s “experience to create better paying jobs, protect Florida’s environment and keep our country safe.”

These endorsements boost a strong, disciplined campaign intent on flipping the east-central Florida seat from Ron DeSantis red to Democrat blue.

survey released last week from St. Pete Polls showed Soderberg up big, with her 30 percent support amounting to more than opponents Steve Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) had combined.

Soderberg is well-positioned to make her case with undecided voters, with nearly $1.5 million in total fundraising since she entered the race and $981,790 cash on hand.

Sevigny and Upchurch both have resources, respectively with $365,662 and $171,874 on hand. But Soderberg has a national network of support that appears especially formidable, including backing from former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

The winner of this primary will face one of three Republicans: either former state Rep. Fred CostelloMike Waltz or John Ward.

Waltz and Ward, both heavily self-financed, have on hand more than $616,000 and $467,000 respectively. Costello, at $51,000 cash on hand, is more cash-poor.

Worries over China compel Marco Rubio to vote no on defense bill

Sen. Marco Rubio took an unprecedented step Wednesday, opposing the National Defense Authorization Act in protest of the NDAA’s omission of penalties against Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

“I have never opposed an NDAA, and I have supported every single one of them, despite the fact that they didn’t have everything I wanted or everything I liked — until today … We have yet to realize what a significant threat China poses to this country and in every realm and sphere. And until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life and our place in the world,” Rubio asserted in remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The Senate voted 87-10 Wednesday to approve the measure, an annual policy bill that authorizes $716 billion in total defense spending for the coming fiscal year. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted in favor of the bill. The U.S. House of Representatives approved it last week 359-54, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

This latest decision amplifies a position established months ago when Rubio began calling attention to ZTE as a part of a larger offensive against Chinese expansionism. Rubio was willing to challenge Trump on the matter after the president cut a deal with the company imposing a $1 billion fine for flouting sanctions on Iran.

China, according to Rubio, believes itself “predestined to be the world’s most powerful country and … predestined to surpass the United States, and by mean surpass I mean surpass us geo-politically, economically and militarily.”

“It’s time we open our eyes. We are engaged in a geopolitical competition not with some poor agrarian country trying to catch up, but with a global superpower who is quickly nipping at our heels and doing so unfairly, with the intent of replacing us in the world as the most powerful country militarily, economically, geopolitically and technologically,” Rubio said.

ZTE, Rubio said, “is a part of a broader problem, and that is that we have yet to realize what a significant threat China poses to this country and in every realm and sphere. And until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life and our place in the world, and if we do that, the world will be worse off for it and we will have no one to blame but ourselves for failing to act.”

In opposing the NDAA, Rubio was compelled to go against a measure larded with military spending for Florida.

“There is a lot of good in this legislation, and it makes it difficult to be an opponent of it. For Florida, it’s authorized over $200 million for military construction in the state. Littoral Combat Ship facilities at Naval Station Mayport, Air Traffic Control Towers at Whiting Field, F-35 facilities that are important at Eglin Air Force Base, KC-135 flight simulators at MacDill Air Force Base, it authorizes the Secretary of the Air Force to build a cyberspace test facility at Eglin,” Rubio asserted.

However, the issue of China — at least for the Senator — outweighs the immediate political benefit.

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