Danny McAuliffe – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Danny McAuliffe

Jeff Greene: Father’s Day is a reminder of ‘inhumane’ immigration policies

Jeff Greene, a billionaire developer from Palm Beach and the newest Democratic option for Governor, is using the upcoming Father’s Day holiday to call for an end to the Donald Trump administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border.

In a statement Saturday, Greene said the policies are “inhumane.” He framed that conclusion as one arrived at while reflecting on paternity.

Greene, who is married with three children, called his family “the greatest gifts I have ever received.” That acknowledgment, he said, brings him to realize a “stark contrast between my family’s own joy and the indescribable heartache being felt by those families on our country’s southern border.”

Recently published national stories focused largely on how frequently children are separated from adults near the border under the zero-tolerance, hardline immigration policy of detaining immigrants ahead of scheduled court dates. Some news outlets reported that close to 2,000 children were separated from adults over a six-week period, those figures are based on data from the Department of Homeland Security.

“No matter where you are from, the language you speak, religion you practice, or the color of your skin, families are families and people are people — yet they are not being treated as such,” Greene said. “Under the guise of being tough, the Trump administration has proven to be despicable, heartless, and inhumane.”  

Greene said “respect” is the “backbone of our United States,” and the immigration practices at the border are “spineless.”

In being critical of Trump-backed decisions, the newly minted candidate is distancing himself from the President, whose Mar-a-Lago getaway is just doors away from Greene’s Palm Beach residence.

Greene also is staking claim to a viewpoint on immigration that is primed to be polarizing for candidates who make it to November. On the Republican side of the gubernatorial race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam released an ad this week in which a popular Republican sheriff extols his faith in Putnam’s ability to crackdown on immigration. But Putnam’s primary opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, has nicknamed the Commissioner “Amnesty Adam.”  

Meanwhile, other Democrats in the Governor’s race undoubtedly would align with Greene’s comments. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum even tweeted an almost identical sentiment on Saturday.

But to Greene, the issue should transcend party lines: “Democrats or Republicans, we are all Americans — and we cannot stand for this. I will not be silent, and neither should you. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to end reprehensible policies such as these,” he said.

And in Florida, as Greene suggests, the stories of immigrant children have resonated with politicians across the aisle. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who’s competing against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate seat on the ballot, told Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski on Friday that “Your heart goes out to these families that are struggling with these issues. It shows you how messed up our immigration policy is, that these things are happening.”

Democrats link roller coaster failure to Adam Putnam

Florida Democrats are framing a recent roller coaster crash in Daytona Beach as the “latest example of incompetence at Adam Putnam’s Agriculture Department.”

In a news release emailed statewide Saturday, the Florida Democratic Party highlighted how the Thursday night derailment came hours after state inspectors approved the Sand Blaster roller coaster for operation. The incident injured nine when “a car derailed and sent two riders plunging three stories to the ground,” the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that employs the inspectors, is overseen by Putnam. In a Friday statement, an agency spokeswoman confirmed the inspectors OK’d the roller coaster.

“Just [Thursday], department inspectors conducted a thorough inspection of the ride, and it was found in compliance with state law,” reads an agency news release. The department has launched a follow-up investigation. 

But that’s too little, too late, according to FDP.

“Putnam has spent almost a year running for governor instead of doing his job — and Floridians are paying the price,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.

The Democrats point to a Tampa Bay Times report last week that detailed how an employee at the Agriculture Department failed for more than a yearlong period to conduct a sometimes-required background check on Floridians who applied for a concealed-carry weapons permit.

“Every week, there’s a new report about Adam Putnam’s department failing to do its job,” Donohoe charged. “Putnam has created a culture of mismanagement, lack of accountability and incompetence at the Department of Agriculture.”

When it comes to who should receive the Republican nod in August, the Democratic Party appears to prefer Putnam’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. This suggests that the Democrats think they have a better chance of beating the Donald Trump-endorsed Ponte Vedra Beach Congressman in November than they do with Putnam. Included the email are a few DeSantis’ recent attacks on the Agriculture Commissioner.

Avenue Eat & Drink joins growing list of shuttered Tallahassee restaurants

Elected officials aren’t the only ones subject to brief stints in the capital city.

Avenue Eat & Drink, a popular downtown eatery on East Park Avenue just blocks from the Capitol, has indefinitely shut down, according to owner and operator Chris Clark. Clark said the location “hopefully” could be up and running again soon — perhaps under the same name — but financial woes forced Clark to file bankruptcy on what’s evolved into one of a few staple eateries for anyone looking to grab a bite downtown.

Avenue and Clark in late May were sued for defaulting on a cash advance, according to court records. That resulted in Clark, a veteran of the service industry and longtime Tallahassee restaurateur, bankrupting the business, although he told Florida Politics he has faith in its redemption.

But Avenue’s closing isn’t isolated, which seems to point toward future troubles for anyone looking to cater to the intimate corridors in the heart of Tallahassee. Nearby restaurants Fat Noodle and The Southern Public House, owned by Roger Unger, announced earlier this week they’d too be shutting their doors. Brew’d Awakening, a now-closed coffee shop, recently couldn’t make the cut downtown as well.

Clark said fluctuations of work in the capital city makes for inconsistent business. Legislators and interested parties come for the legislative sessions and the committee weeks leading up to them, and all but desert the city after their work’s finished. It’s cyclical; when they’re in town, business is good, but when they leave, he estimates business drops by 65 percent.

“It’s not a very business-friendly environment,” Clark said.

Further complicating the problem is the inconsistency of session dates. When legislators convene earlier, as they did this year and plan to do again in 2020, “it makes it very difficult for businesses to get through summer,” Clark said.

“[Session] drives the economy downtown,” Clark added. “I wish [lawmakers] were here full-time.”

Clark also pointed to projects downtown that could have deterred business altogether. Among them: the recent construction of the new Florida State University School of Entrepreneurship and additions to the DoubleTree hotel on Adams Street, which resulted in the closure of a popular block on Adams Street stretching between Park and College avenues.

“The downtown revitalization is a slow process,” Clark said.

Avenue’s doors have been shut for a little more than two weeks. A sign outside the restaurant reads, “Closed For Renovations.” The restaurant’s website claims it will be open by July 13. But that’s not a given, according to Clark.

Still, he has high hopes for the location and doesn’t want recent financial shortcomings to be a defining legacy for Avenue.

“A whole new look, new menus, and some fantastic improvements to the front of house as well as the back of house. Keep on the lookout for our new website which is now under construction,” a post on Avenue’s Facebook page reads.

Rick Scott talks pot, Donald Trump

Gov. Rick Scott made his way through his first Cabinet meeting as a candidate for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, and while the meeting focused exclusively on state matters, the questions that followed from reporters unsurprisingly centered on federal issues.

Scott is leading his Democratic opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, in a few early polls and handily outspending him in advertising — at least for now. The race will undoubtedly be competitive and there’s a real chance Scott takes the top of the ticket in November.

So it follows that the Governor was asked on Wednesday for comment on legalizing pot, for his opinion of President Donald Trump and for his thoughts on the Affordable Care Act. 

A bipartisan effort is bubbling in Congress to ease the federal ban on marijuana. If passed, it would give states more discretion with the drug. The President has indicated mild support for the idea, though it would need Congressional approval first. 

“Well, I’ll deal with that when I make it to the Senate,” Scott said.

The Governor also was asked about the issue of medical marijuana — which is currently in the fore in the Sunshine State. A judge recently ruled unconstitutional a state ban on smoking the drug for treatment. Scott’s attorneys have appealed the ruling.

“What’s important to me is that everyone has access to the health care that they need,” Scott said. He said “plenty of doctors” make the drug available and “thousands of people” use it without smoking.

“What this issue is about is how you get to take it,” Scott said. “I’m going to continue to follow the law. The constitutional amendment passed, the Legislature by a bipartisan manner overwhelmingly passed a bill, and I’m going to support it.”  

Another reporter brought up the Justice Department’s decision to no longer fight for patients with pre-existing medical conditions who face higher rates or no option for coverage. Reports the New York Times, “If that argument is accepted by the federal court, it could eviscerate major parts of the Affordable Care Act that remain in place despite numerous attacks by President Trump and his administration.”

Scott remained vague on the issue.

“I think everybody ought to be able to get health care insurance,” Scott said. But he said the Affordable Care Act needs to be fixed because it’s “caused our premiums to skyrocket.”

He added: “But I don’t believe in grand bargains, I believe in incrementally trying to make change.” Among his brief suggestions: more competition, plans that fit individual families, and rewarding “people who take care of themselves.”

After being prompted by reporters to discuss Trump’s presidency, Scott lauded the administration’s work to secure funding for the dike at Lake Okeechobee. Scott said, “I’m optimistic that’s going to happen.”

As well, he said he appreciated the efforts of the Trump administration to reconsider oil drilling off Florida’s shore.

But when asked if Trump was doing a good job, Scott responded: “What I want is results.”

Citizens rolls out new lobbying disclosure requirements

Lobbyists representing clients before the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation will soon have to disclose their efforts publicly.

Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway told Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis at a Wednesday Cabinet meeting that a new lobbying disclosure system will be operating August 1 and those who wish to lobby the state’s insurer of last resort will have until September 1 register into the system.

Gilway told Patronis the new disclosure requirements mirror those set in place for the lobbyists who work with the executive branch. Although attorneys, agents, and adjusters who are representing claims clients will be exempt.

The increase in transparency follows Patronis’ request last month for Citizens to develop an internal requirement that their lobbyists disclose the details of their work. Unlike lobbyists who work with other governing bodies, like the Legislature, those who seek to influence Citizens’ board and staff members unbounded by transparency laws. A state-backed company of Citizens’ magnitude should “ensure all lobbying activities are conducted in the sunshine,” Patronis wrote to Gilway in May.

“Considering the lack of a statutory requirement, I am requesting Citizens attend the next meeting of the Governor and Cabinet to discuss the Corporation’s plan of action and timeline to correct this shortcoming,” Patronis wrote. “Citizens should examine its internal Code of Ethics and consider options such as publicly documenting entities that lobby Citizens.”

A former state legislator, Patronis anticipated in the May letter that the Legislature would follow-up on any internal change within Citizens with a shift in state laws.

“These options would be a proactive approach while awaiting the next legislative session to address this statutorily,” Patronis wrote.

But with a swift response from Gilway, Patronis said after the Cabinet meeting that a formal statute change might not be necessary if Citizens’ internal policy change works well.

USDA predictions end 30 million boxes short of pre-Irma orange forecasts

While unchanged from May, the latest and last forecast of the 2017-2018 orange growing season is a brutal reminder of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture forecast Florida would produce 44.95 million boxes of oranges in total. That’s a continuation from May forecasts, which saw a slight dip from April.

But before Hurricane Irma, private estimates claimed Florida growers were on track to produce roughly 75 million boxes — or more than 30 million boxes than what’s currently projected by the USDA. Florida growers produced close to 69 million boxes of oranges during last year’s season after harvesting 81.7 million boxes during the 2015-2016 season. Each box weighs 90 pounds.

“This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall.”

Grapefruit forecasts dropped to 3.88 million boxes — down 2 percent from May’s prediction. The USDA estimates tangerines and tangelos should be down 54 percent in total from last year’s growing season if forecasts hold steady.

When Irma swept through the state last year, authorities described the storm’s path as one that could not have been “more lethal” to Florida citrus. In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated the citrus industry suffered a $760 million blow.

The state’s citrus industry also has been hit by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease attacks the fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. The epidemic has waned citrus production in recent decades, though farmers were on track to bounce back — until Irma.

Currently, Florida farmers await remedy at the federal level. Congressionally authorized funding spawned the creation of the USDA’s 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP), which seeks to distribute $2.36 billion worth of federal funding to “agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,” according to the USDA.

The program will cover losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines for producers. Per the Florida Citrus Commission, Irma “uprooted trees and left many groves sitting in standing water for up to three weeks, potentially damaging the root systems and impacting future seasons’ growth.”

In discussing the final forecast of the season, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pointed to federal aid as the silver lining of Irma’s devastation.

“While today’s final citrus crop forecast brings this horrible season to a close, it’s important to remember that the industry is still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage last year,” Putnam said. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida’s agriculture industry and our elected leaders, much-needed disaster assistance is on the way to help Florida’s growers.”

Additionally, the WHIP will distribute individual payments to farmers worth up to $125,000. But, per the USDA, “Producers who derived 75 percent of their income in tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be subject to a $900,000 payment limitation.”

As well, producers who did not insure crops will receive 65 percent of their expected crop value if they are eligible for WHIP funding. Meanwhile, insured producers could receive up to 95 percent of their expected crop value.

Accompanying WHIP aid for Florida farmers is a $340 million block grant announced by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in May. That money will be used to cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation, and repairs to irrigation systems.

Florida leaders have pressured the USDA to disperse the WHIP funding sooner than later. The USDA expects to launch a sign-up period for the program no later than July 16.

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd endorses Adam Putnam in new illegal immigration ad

Floridians won’t hear Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speak in his latest television ad.

Instead, they’ll hear testimony and a de-facto endorsement from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who delivers a 30-second spiel on the need to deport “illegal immigrants” to keep communities safe and promises Putnam, who’s running for Governor, will help law enforcement do so, if elected.

The ad, which will begin airing across the state Tuesday, opens with Judd saying, “I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to keeping Florida families safe and I know Adam Putnam has our back.”

The focus of the ad then turns to illegal immigration — particularly in cases when immigrants who are not citizens are convicted of a crime.

“Adam believes we have the responsibility to keep our borders, cities and neighborhoods safe and secure,” Judd continues. “He’ll make sure that illegal immigrants who commit crimes will be held accountable and deported — not released back into our communities.”

Judd closes with: “Adam Putnam will stand with law enforcement and enforce the rule of law.”

It evokes memories of Republican state House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s January ad cut by his Watchdog PAC, which focused on the issue of sanctuary cities, or the concept that local authorities could, in theory, refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, effectively creating a ‘sanctuary’ for immigrants who are not citizens.

But there are stark differences between the Speaker’s television venture and Putnam’s latest. Corcoran’s ad depicted the killing of a woman in California by an undocumented immigrant, whereas Putnam’s features only him and Judd, and avoids the term ‘sanctuary city’ altogether.

Corcoran, then widely expected to enter the Governor’s race after the 2018 Legislative Session, aired the ad after the House quickly passed a bill banning sanctuary cities in the state. He decided in May to stay out of the race and subsequently endorse Putnam.

For Putnam, messaging on immigration through television marks an investment in a strategy that tracks to the right as he competes against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republican nomination. DeSantis has the backing of Donald Trump, and is frequently on Fox News defending the President.

The ad also is a working endorsement of Putnam from Sheriff Judd, who is influential in Republican circles and known well beyond the borders of Polk County (where Putnam is originally from). Judd helped lead a series of workshops called by Gov. Rick Scott immediately after the Parkland shooting. He is a staunch advocate for arming teachers and championed what eventually became the Guardian Program. He is one of Corcoran’s appointees to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

The ad also could act as quick damage control for a story published last week that undoubtedly called Putnam’s leadership into question. Although, a poll that coincided with that story still reflected strong support for the Agriculture Commissioner.

More sheriffs back Denise Grimsley’s bid for Agriculture Commissioner

State Sen. Denise Grimsley received endorsements from five more Florida sheriffs on Monday, bringing the total amount of law enforcement authorities who’ve backed her quest for Agriculture Commissioner to 27.

In a news release announcing the endorsements, Grimsley, of Sebring, tied one of the many responsibilities of Agriculture Commissioner to working with local authorities.

“If elected to be our state’s next Chief Consumer Advocate, I pledge to work with various entities and agencies to help fight fraud and protect Floridians from criminal predators and scam artists,” Grimsley said in a prepared statement.

The latest batch of supporters includes DeSoto County Sheriff James Potter, Jefferson County Sheriff Mac McNeill, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods and Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John.

“Sheriffs have a strong ally in Denise Grimsley and that’s why I’m proud to announce my support for her campaign to become our next Agriculture Commissioner,” said Sheriff Woods of Marion. “I have no doubt in her ability to get the job done.”

Vying alongside Grimsley for the Republican nod for Agriculture Commissioner are Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Caldwell, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman and Mike McCalister

In similar fashion to Grimsley, Caldwell’s been rolling out endorsements in waves. He’s backed by local politicians and authorities across the state and has the support of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Troutman has focused heavily on advertising his campaign. He’s aired two statewide television ads, the second of which debuted last week.

As of May, reports Drew Wilson of Florida Politics, Grimsley had raised just under $1.9 million. Caldwell had raised roughly $1.93 million through the same period, and Troutman had $2.8 million on hand — though most of it from self-contributions.

The anti-gun effect: Simple ads, big returns

Thanks in part to retweets from high-profile Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Philip Levine and Gwen Graham went viral through quick digital shorts that were conceived and produced in less than a day. 

Levine was the first to strike, releasing an ad Wednesday in which he provides his answers to a candidate survey distributed by the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Graham shortly afterward tweeted a more succinct version of Levine’s idea.

Both ads were shared by Hogg’s Twitter account, transmitting the candidates’ messages instantly to his 829,000 followers. Levine’s ad is floating above 222,000 views and Graham’s ad (shared first by Hogg) is just below the 140,000 mark. Both ads do not appear as sponsored content, though it’s unclear whether the campaigns used any money to boost them.

Even so, in a race in which millions of dollars are spent to reach voters on television, a viral ad is priceless and rare; the return on investment can be enormous, but there’s no step-by-step method for creating something that hundreds of thousands of people will voluntarily watch.

In hindsight of its popularity, Levine’s ad demonstrates the campaign’s ability to create something casual, clever and entertaining within a timely manner — all of which seem like a few good steps in the right direction toward creating something viral. As news media across the state caught word of an NRA questionnaire on Tuesday that vetted candidates on their pro-gun ideologies, the former mayor from Miami Beach’s team saw an opportunity to create something that would mesh well with the day’s minutiae and resonate with potential voters.

The production isn’t spectacular, but it doesn’t need to be. In the ad, Levine approaches a whiteboard that very plainly lists the NRA’s stances on gun issues in the state and explains that he stands opposite each position. The creative direction of the ad is what draws viewers in.

The clip is also unlike any other ad that candidates have produced this cycle — even Levine. The typical pan shots, music, and supportive headlines are absent, and Levine appears on camera in one rolling shot, with the exception of a few cuts to his dog and zooms on the whiteboard.

Graham’s bit came well after Levine’s, and took the idea of being casual and ran with it. It likely took all of 10 minutes to throw together. The quality is similar to what’s produced by an iPhone camera, and Graham simply uses a red marker to write “NO NRA MONEY” across the questionnaire in one shot while talking.

Hogg retweeted the clip with a quote, “The young people will win.” And with minimal effort, Graham got her message out. 

On Facebook, the ads haven’t picked up the same traction, but the reach still is noteworthy for Levine. A new database recently made available to the public shows that the mayor’s grabbed around 25,000 views with the ad on Facebook and anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 impressions, or the number of instances an ad is on-screen for the first time for a user. It’s backed with anywhere between $500 to $999. The data is presented in ranges.

Graham hasn’t promoted her video with money on Facebook. It had around 3,100 views as of publishing.

The testament to the power of social media likely won’t be forgotten by either candidate. And It could lead to politicians across the board, in any race, producing more timely campaign ads, sacrificing overall production value for getting the message out quickly — especially when there are influencers online who’ve demonstrated they’re willing to boost ideas friendly to their causes.

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