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Danny McAuliffe

Bill Nelson loses voice when asked about Brett Kavanaugh; Republicans send care packages

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson appears to be shying away from public questions regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based news outlet, reported earlier this week that Nelson, after being asked about his upcoming vote on Kavanaugh, “pleaded that he was losing his voice and urged one reporter for The New York Times to ‘look at my statement.’”

Nelson, who faces a tough re-election against Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott, is expected to vote against Kavanaugh during the judge’s Senate confirmation hearing. But unlike other Democrats, Nelson can’t afford to come out swinging against the nominee in the interim if he plans to in November appeal to an electorate that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. So far he has withheld criticism of Kavanaugh in his present state as a nominee.

“I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh to discuss his views on several issues such as protecting women’s rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions & protecting the right to vote, just to name a few,” Nelson tweeted after Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick Monday night. “I’ll make my decision after that.”

Scott, ahead of Trump’s announcement, released a television ad attacking Nelson for “toeing the party line” on judicial confirmations. The ad was timely and set up a negative backdrop for which Nelson’s upcoming actions can be compared against.

Now Republicans are having a field day attacking the sitting Senator.

Both the Republican Party of Florida and the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week delivered care packages, complete with throat lozenges and honey, in an effort to mock Nelson’s reported claim that he was losing his voice.

The NRSC delivered the package to Nelson’s office in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important that Bill Nelson finds his voice so he no longer has to dodge reporters’ questions about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and the NRSC is here to help,” said Camille Gallo, NRSC spokesperson. “We hope these remedies will work and look forward to learning if Bill Nelson plans to obstruct a qualified nominee again or support a fully functioning Supreme Court.”

Taryn Fenske, Republican National Committee spokesperson, said the items will be delivered to each of Nelson’s regional locations on behalf of RPOF. 

In a statement, she highlighted Nelson’s recent flip on a judicial nomination and said Nelson has never opposed a Democratic President’s pick for a judge.  

“We hope this care package will work because Floridians deserve a decisive leader not one that cowers to party-line politics,” added Fenske.

Democratic legislators weigh in on #AbolishICE

At least one Democrat between the state House and Senate is calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Other Democrats, meanwhile, are hesitant to say ‘abolish,’ but seem to agree that the scope of the agency’s work should be revisited and narrowed.

Calls to stop the agency began as a distant battle cry of the far left, but amid recent turmoil sparked by reports of the Trump administration’s embrace of the practice of separating detained immigrants from their children and fueled by reports of ICE raids across the country, pushes to disband the agency have gained somewhat-mainstream traction among staunch opponents of the country’s immigration laws.

Florida Politics reached out to several Democrats in the state Legislature, including both minority offices, for their takes.

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said he supports “the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form” — the strongest statement against the agency provided to Florida Politics.

He said ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have “become police and child separation agencies, known for terrorizing our communities and tearing families apart.” That’s a departure and a deterrent from what Smith claims even the employees acknowledge as their primary responsibilities: tracking down “drug cartel leaders, child pornographers and human traffickers.”

“Border security and compassion are not mutually exclusive, which is why I support the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form,” concluded Smith.

Smith’s statement echoed that of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s notice earlier this week that he supports a “comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer.”

Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, has attempted to stake claim to being the progressive option for primary Democratic voters. Smith, who helped found and led the first-ever Progressive Legislative Caucus, has backed Gillum in his quest for the governor’s mansion.

So as it stands, progressive leaders in the state seem to have no problem throwing the term ‘abolish’ around. Other Democrats, however, have had more hesitation.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who’s competing against incumbent Republican state Sen. Dana Young for the District 18 seat, said, “ICE, under [Donald] Trump‘s direction, has been an absolute disaster — separating children from their parents and criminalizing personhood. This needs to be fixed immediately through reforms at ICE or by other means that keep our borders both secure and humane.”

While not stated outright, the aforementioned “other means” could include abolishing the agency.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, also of Orlando, criticized the agency’s current state, but stopped short of calling for its abolishment.

“[ICE] needs to confiscate drugs, arrest drug traffickers, identify human trafficking and gang members,” Stewart said. She added that the current mission “has been redefined” and claimed agents “should not be involved with legal asylum seekers.”

In the House, Rep. Nicholas Duran, a Miami Democrat, also stopped short of calling to abolish the agency. He instead suggested Congress suspend ICE’s non-essential activities — like its widely-criticized raids — “until ICE’s policies are reviewed and a new framework can be put in place.”

“ICE should focus on actual, imminent threats – drug dealers, gangs, terrorist cells – not the father and grandfather with a misdemeanor from a decade ago, not the mom who calls the cops when her husband’s been beating her, only to be threatened with deportation, not rounding up DREAMers around college campuses,” Duran explained.

He pointed to President Donald Trump as the reason for the agency going awry.

“ICE is a government agency and like all government agencies, it takes its cues from the top,” Duran said. “And at the top, we have a demagogue who is using immigrant families to distract from his failure of a presidency.”

Both Duran’s and Stewart’s comments reflect what some higher-ticket Florida Democrats have been saying.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces tough reelection this year against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn’t support the abolition of the agency when asked by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. And in a statement, Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy shied away from calling for an end to ICE as well. Murphy, like Nelson, faces a tough reelection in her Orlando district.

SCOTUS pick should worry everyone, progressive group says

With the tapping of Judge Brett Kavanaughthe President is priming the high court to walk back values that transcend party lines, according to one progressive-minded organization in Florida.

“President [Donald] Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court should concern every Floridian,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo on behalf of the Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition. Progress Florida describes itself as an advocate “for progressive, pro-middle class policies and holds our elected officials accountable by empowering citizens in their communities,” according to its website.

“We’re fighting for social justice, economic fairness, strengthening public education, health care reform, environmental protection, and much more.” 

But the group views Kavanaugh as an affront to Americans who don’t consider their views progressive. It fears that Kavanaugh could reverse the status quo on a wide range of judicial interpretations on policies — health care, consumer protections, voting rights, environmental protections, LGBT equality, and criminal justice reform — that are held near and dear to Americans on both sides of the political spectrum.

Prior to Trump announcing the nominee Monday night, it was widely reported that Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman were among Kavanaugh as possible picks. In an interview with Florida Politics, Progress Florida Communications Director Damien Filer said Kavanaugh is a nominee who is expected to go against the grain of “mainstream America.”

Instead of replacing retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy with another “swing vote,” Trump selected a much more conservative justice who will act as a “rubber stamp” for polarizing policies, Filer said.

“We have fundamentally shifted the balance of the court,” explained Filer.

“He’s staunchly opposed to the [Affordable Care Act],” Filer said. “The ACA is something that not just progressives depend upon for health insurance.” 

Filer interpreted the Monday night prime-time announcement as a method of softening the blow. He said that Trump and Kavanaugh were “trying to paint a picture of someone who will be palatable to mainstream America despite his record.” In his speech, Kavanaugh gestured to his wife and two daughters and pointed to his selection of mostly-female judicial clerks as evidence he was in tune with women’s concerns and issues. His “remarks were fittingly political,” Filer said. 

Filer guessed the American electorate would prefer another pick like former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

“I think we’re in a very different place than we were when Neil Gorsuch was nominated,” added Filer. 

Kavanaugh’s appointment is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates on SCOTUS pick: Elect one of us

Following President Donald Trump‘s announcement Monday night that Brett Kavanaugh is his nominee to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Democratic candidates for Florida Governor coalesced around one message: there’s a lot at stake in November.

Per The Associated Press: “The 53-year-old Kavanaugh is a longtime fixture of the Republican establishment. He has been a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington since 2006. He also was a key aide to Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh also worked in the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency.”

Democratic candidates fear these GOP accolades and Kavanaugh’s resume of ruling to the right could mean the state is primed to start reversing course on issues ranging from abortion and health care to workers’ and LGBT rights.

They worry that these changes would be fast-tracked if another Republican Governor — either Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis — is elected to fill Rick Scott‘s current shoes.

Each responded as follows:

Gwen Graham

The lone woman in the race focused solely on the issue of abortion in her response to the nomination.

“Donald Trump has nominated another Supreme Court justice who does not believe women have the right to make our own health care decisions.

“If Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the court, Roe v. Wade is gravely at risk of being overturned. Florida: this is not a drill. If Roe v. Wade is overturned and Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis are elected governor, women will lose our rights to make our own health care decisions.

“They would outlaw abortion within a year and appoint judges who will decimate Florida’s constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy.

“As governor, I will veto any legislation that limits a woman’s right to choose and I will appoint state Supreme Court justices who will uphold our right to make our own health care decisions.”

Andrew Gillum

The Tallahassee mayor, who’s backed by the progressive flank of the party, in his response feared that a Kavanaugh confirmation will disturb not just the status quo of abortion, but other issues as well. He also emphasized the need to halt Scott’s effort to “stack” the state Supreme Court before leaving office.

“With his pick of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has done everything in his power to push the Supreme Court into the world of ultra-conservatism.

“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is at risk. Voting rights are at risk. Collective bargaining is at risk. Here in Florida, Rick Scott will try to stack our Supreme Court in his final hours in office.

“We must hold the line on the three impending Florida Supreme Court vacancies, and when I am Governor-elect, my administration will use every tool available to ensure Floridians have their voices heard in their justice system.”

Chris King

Like Gillum, King emphasized a wide range of issues that now “falls to the states.”

“In Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has picked a nominee who threatens to roll back the clock on America — and with few allies in Washington, this fight now falls to the states.

“We’ve got to elect bold, progressive leaders who will stand up to the political establishment and fight for civil rights, workers’ rights and women’s health care — no matter what Donald Trump and his nominee have to say about it.”

Philip Levine

The former Miami Beach mayor shied away from the conversation of electing a Democratic governor. Instead, he encouraged Senate Republicans — likely the moderate ones — to “complete a thorough vetting,” suggesting that he is confident that blocking the pick in the imminent Senate confirmation process isn’t too far-fetched a plan.

“It’s more imperative than ever that reasonable Republicans join Democrats to complete a thorough vetting.

“Too much legal precedent is at stake — from preserving Roe v. Wade to LGBT protections — we refuse to turn the clock back on the protections enshrined by a balanced court!”

(Image via Getty.)


Outside organization attacks Bill Nelson’s budget history in new TV ad

Floridians will soon see yet another television ad attacking their Democratic U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, as he vies to keep his seat in November against challenger Rick Scott.

In the ad, Nelson, a longtime federal lawmaker, is criticized for failing to pass federal budgets, which has happened eight times during his tenure in Congress, according to the ad. It also attacks the Senator for not preventing six separate government shutdowns and for voting for “trillions in spending and billions in higher taxes.” 

“Most Americans know how important it is that Washington stay within its budget. After all, our families have one,” the voice-over says in the ad. “But Washington has its own way and seems to ignore their responsibility to pass a budget.”

The 30-second spot ends by prompting Floridians to call Nelson and “tell him it’s time for him to finally do his job and pass a responsible budget.”

The ad follows a barrage of negativity flowing from the Scott campaign, the latest instance depicting Nelson as “toeing the party line” over judicial nominations.

The latest affront, however, isn’t funded by the Republican governor, or any committee attached to his Senate campaign. It’s backed by America Next, a conservative organization that claims to be uninterested in winning elections, instead focused on “winning the war of ideas,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

Still, the Scott campaign likely doesn’t mind the outside intervention; the Governor’s depicted himself as a Washington outsider who’s ready to change things up. And just last month he unveiled a campaign promise to push a proposal that would stem paychecks to members of Congress when they fail to pass a budget, a platform point complemented by America Next’s latest ad.

Scott has also promised to fight for term limits, supermajority approval for tax and fee increases, and a presidential line-item veto.

Watch the ad here or below:

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

A social media highlight reel from Saturday and Sunday.

As the election nears, more and more candidates are making use of Twitter to get their messages out.

In an attack towards incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Gov. Rick Scott released this video via his campaign account:

On the re-election trail, Sen. Nelson found himself in St. Petersburg on Saturday:

Sen. Marco Rubio corresponded with President Donald Trump about reevaluating Army Corps discharges from Lake Okeechobee:

Now onto the candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Gwen Graham is pictured here giving out her trademarked hugs on the campaign trail:

Andrew Gillum returned home to South Florida on Saturday:

Chris King tweeted about Florida’s wages:

This graphic from Jeff Greene’s campaign highlights his “working class roots”:

In Martin County, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine messaged on an issue close to home:

On the Republican side of the governor’s race, Adam Putnam touted an endorsement from a Miami-Dade commissioner:

Ron DeSantis, the other Republican, sent this pro-life accolade out this morning:

Now to the Cabinet races.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley stumped through the Space Coast on Sunday:

On Saturday, Ag Comish hopeful Matt Caldwell found himself in Indian River County:

Attorney General candidate Frank White responded to a political cartoonist’s rendering:

Now to the Florida Delegation.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, running for re-election this year, is flanked by veterans in this photo:

Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents the Parkland area in the U.S. House, is continuing his criticism of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

And lastly, some bits from down the ballot.

Nearby Democrats came out in full for state Rep. Jared Moskowitz‘ re-election bid:

State Rep. Dane Eagle is putting the algae on notice:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith met up with the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting:

State Sen. Dana Young is working hard for re-election, and has the Fitbit data to prove it:

Last year’s Senate budget chief Rob Bradley is happy the feds are coming through for the Herbert Hoover Dike:

Adam Putnam: Be mindful of our forests this Fourth of July

Since January, more than 1,500 wildfires have burned approximately 89,307 acres of Florida land.

To Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, that’s cause for concern this Independence Day. While he expects Floridians to use fireworks on Wednesday, he is encouraging them to do so with care.

“While recent rainfall has lowered wildfire risk across the state, Floridians and visitors should keep a few safety tips in mind while enjoying fireworks and cookouts with friends and family this Independence Day,” Putnam, who also oversees the Florida Forest Service, said in a prepared statement.

Among the recommended precautions: light fireworks away from debris and vegetation; always have a water source available; aim fireworks properly; discard used fireworks in water; and report fires to 9-1-1.

Putnam’s PSA comes a little more than a week after a wildfire in Franklin County consumed 36 homes in the town of Eastpoint. The blaze, which damaged four more homes, was caused by a controlled burn — proving that even despite the increased rainfall, wildfires in the Sunshine State continue to be a very real possibility.

According to the Florida Forest Service, there are county-wide bans on burning yard debris in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Orange and Duval counties.

The FFS encourages Floridians to check for active prescribed burns and wildfire conditions by using the “FLBurnTools” app. It can be accessed via the Apple App Store or Google Play.

An online tool here shows Floridians the exact location of active or contained wildfires in the state.

Child safety group: Sparklers, fireworks are better left at home

It may come as a surprise to patriots eager to launch explosives into the sky, but the safest way to celebrate Independence Day is by leaving the fireworks displays to professionals.

That’s according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping children out of harm’s way.

“We know fireworks are fun and young kids look adorable holding those sparklers. Unfortunately, fireworks can cause serious injuries to children, including devastating burns and other injuries,” a news release from the organization reads. “Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals. If you plan to use fireworks, make sure to follow these tips to keep your kids as safe as possible.”

A neat loophole in state law gives Floridians a great degree of access to fireworks. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are sent to the hospital each year across the country due to fireworks-related injuries, according to Safe Kids.

Of those injuries, Safe Kids notes, one-third affecting children under five are a result of sparklers, which most parents view as relatively harmless. Instead of giving a sparkler to a toddler, Safe Kids suggests implementing the use of glow sticks.

“They can be just as fun but they don’t burn at a temperature hot enough to melt glass,” according to Safe Kids.

Should one be unable to escape the vice grip of their pyro addiction, Safe Kids recommends following a few safety tips. Among them: Closely supervise children around fireworks at all times and always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby.

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

A digital highlight reel of Saturday and Sunday.

It was a weekend of hobnobs for each party; the GOP Sunshine Summit drew to a close as the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue summit kicked off. Scenes and quotes from each were shared online.

As well, politicians shared their Fourth of July plans, campaign updates and some even marched to #KeepFamiliesTogether.

Starting at the top, the Governor informed us all yesterday that he’d be traveling to Kuwait ahead of the holiday:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, spoke with some from the Parkland community at the Democrats’ gala:

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham shed light on her moderate roots:

Former Mayor of Miami Beach and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is quoted here speaking at the gala:

Tailing off a big endorsement from NextGen America, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced the opening of a new office in Miami Gardens:

Here’s a photo Jeff Greene, the newest candidate for governor, shared from the summit:

Chris King, an Orlando businessman and Democratic candidate for governor, gave a shoutout to his team after Leadership Blue:

Following the GOP Sunshine Summit, Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam went right back to the (BBQ) campaign trail:

Likewise for Ron DeSantis:

Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Baxter Troutman went to Webster:

Meanwhile, state Sen. Denise Grimsley, another GOP option for Agriculture Commissioner, went to Sumter:

Republican Ag Comish candidate Matt Caldwell found common ground with David Hogg:

Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner David Walker promised to #BringScienceBack to Tallahassee:

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody touted a straw poll victory:

Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw claimed he’ll win the race one county at a time:

CFO Jimmy Patronis celebrated a year of being in office:

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch is overseas for the holiday:

Orlando Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy attended a #KeepFamiliesTogether march:

CD 27 candidate David Richardson kicked off a canvass series:

Orlando Democratic state Senator Linda Stewart used her Twitter account to keep the public updated on the happenings of FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance program:

State Rep. Shevrin Jones made it clear which Democratic option he’ll be supporting for governor this year:

State Rep. Bob Cortes joined Putnam at the BBQ:

State Rep. Jamie Grant could be bringing on a few young designers to his camp:

Emma Collum and Trayce Polson, two female Democrats vying for state House seats, took this photo together this weekend:

Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis will skip Florida Press Association debate

An organization representing most of the state’s media outlets sought to vet the top two Republican candidates for governor in an early August debate. But on Friday, it became clear that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Congressman Ron DeSantis plan to play hookey instead.

“The Republican Party of Florida recently notified the debate project that its candidates for Governor will only participate in two debates – neither of which is “The Race for Governor,” reads a Friday news release from the Florida Press Association.

The group planned to host DeSantis and Putnam August 1 at the WPBF 25 studio, an ABC affiliate in West Palm Beach. The debate would’ve been televised in the 10 major media markets peppered across the state. 

It’s not clear why the two candidates have chosen only to participate in two debates leading up to the August 28 primary, nor why the Florida Press Association’s debate didn’t make the cut.

But the news comes after the two GOP gubernatorial options went toe-to-toe in a Fox News debate Thursday evening, and a closer examination of that debate’s discourse could lead some to make inferences that being against the media is the flavor of the election cycle for DeSantis and Putnam. Both candidates made a point of blaming the media for “incivility” during Thursday night’s dialogue.

“[Donald] Trump has almost the entire media against him. Fake news, day after day after day. He’s got the entire Democratic Party after him. He’s got the lobbyists after him. He’s got the bureaucracy after him. And he’s got some Republicans who’ve come after him to kneecap him,” DeSantis said during Thursday night’s debate.

“This method of incivility did not begin with President Trump,” Putnam concurred later. “It’s only reported by the left-wing media because they want to undermine our president and the conservative movement.”

It follows from these statements that the two candidates opt out of a media-backed debate just a day later.

The Florida Press Association still plans to host a Democratic gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m. on August 2 in the aforementioned West Palm Beach studio.

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