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Danny McAuliffe

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

Catching you up to speed while you were away from the Twittersphere during the weekend.

Mother’s Day saw most pols message on the holiday. It turns out the issue isn’t partisan.

This week’s review includes some of the holiday’s highlights — whether it be vintage photos of your favorite Florida leaders and their mothers or unique takes on celebrating maternal parenthood.

But, as is standard for politics in the Sunshine State, the holiday didn’t slow the news cycle nor campaign activity.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who’s vying for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s seat, spent the weekend in Israel, where he welcomed the Donald Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem Monday morning:

Meanwhile, Nelson took some time on Saturday to message his support for Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain:

Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, has been miffed at the media. He isn’t holding back on Twitter:

In the statewide race for Governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam gave the internet a touching message and a throwback photo:

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, another Republican candidate for Governor, also went abroad this weekend to the Holy City:

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Sen. and former Florida Governor Bob Graham showed his daughter some fatherly support — and mom did too:

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor’s candidate Philip Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, opened yet another campaign office:

In South Florida, Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum spoke with Haitian-American voters:

Orlando businessman Chris King, another Dem gubernatorial candidate, opined on the economic benefits of investing in renewable energy:

South Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings had a political take on Mother’s Day:

Retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took part in a photo shoot to campaign against LGBTQ intolerance:

Democratic U.S. House hopeful Nancy Soderberg, of Jacksonville, picked up one of the party’s coveted endorsements:

Republican Carlos Reyes, who’s challenging Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, showed he isn’t shying away from oppo during the 2018 midterm. 

At the state level, term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who announced last week he’ll be absent from the 2018 ballot, wondered publicly why he wasn’t invited to the Lightning playoff game:

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith visited a mother on Sunday who lost her only son in the 2016 Pulse shooting (and it looks like Sen. Nelson did too):

Tampa Republican state Rep. Jamie Grant chimed in on Sen. McCain:

Altamonte Springs Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes reminded his followers who he’s backing in the U.S. Senate race:

And not too far away from Cortes, Longwood Democrat Tracey Kagan, who’s challenging area-incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon, was pictured messaging on felons’ voting rights with Nelson.

Citrus projections dip, but remain ‘relatively stable’

There’s good and bad in the latest United States Department of Agriculture citrus forecast; projected numbers are down, though not by much, signaling stability.

USDA projections released Thursday estimate Florida growers will produce 44.95 million boxes of oranges in the current growing season.

At the start of the citrus season in October, USDA officials estimated the Sunshine State would produce 54 million boxes of oranges. Since then estimates have fallen to the tune of more than 9 million boxes. (These estimates, however, are informed guesswork and the real numbers come after the growing season ends.)

The drastic change, of course, is a result of damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, which swept through the state in September on a path that officials have described 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. 

But despite May’s forecast being down 50,000 boxes from April’s, those with knowledge of the industry said the estimate is unsurprising and a sign of steadiness.

“With everything Florida Citrus growers have gone through this year, we consider today’s forecast to be relatively stable and not unexpected,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “This is an industry choosing to remain optimistic about the future. And part of that optimism comes from the support we’ve received from policy makers, industry and consumers.”

Projections of grapefruit, another citrus crop, also decreased by 50,000 boxes. That margin is more severe than the anticipated reduction of orange production, as the total expected amount of grapefruit is just 3.95 million boxes.

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.

Referencing Irma, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the anticipated reductions were a “reminder of the continued struggles of Florida’s iconic citrus industry.”

But he also highlighted work done in April at the federal level, which is expected to be a game changer for Florida growers. In early April, Putnam, along with Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, increased pressure on the USDA to disperse funds to Florida farmers authorized by the federal government’s $2.36 billion disaster-relief package.

Later in April, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a few details and a rough timeline for implementing the relief plan, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program

Perdue also announced that a $340 million block grant would be made available to Irma-affected farmers during the 2018-2020 crop year. That’s in addition to the $2.36 billion package.

Thanking everyone involved, including the agriculture industry and elected officials at every government level, Putnam assured again on Thursday, “A much-needed disaster relief package is on the way to help growers get back on their feet.”

Republican super PAC changes approach ahead of November

What’s old is new for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to maintaining the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

During a conference call with media ahead of the 2018 midterms, CLF emphasized its paradigm shift in campaign strategy; rather than focus almost exclusively on big TV buys, the group is investing heavily in groundwork in the field.

The move is evident in Florida, where two CLF field offices operate in districts held by Republican congressmen Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo, both of whom are considered vulnerable by pundits and pollsters alike.

CLF’s field strategy has been in play since February 2017, but the group has continued to demonstrate its dedication to the old-fashioned, localized approach — one that it hopes will work for the other 29 districts across the nation where Republican incumbents face tough Democratic challenges.

“This micro-targeted focus on ground game will be a key component to maintaining the Republican majority in 2018,” said CLF Executive Director Corry Bliss.

The field advocacy is data-driven, backed by surveys of local electorates. In each district, the PAC conducted issue surveys and developed messages accordingly. Give or take, the group targets between 50,000 and 80,000 voters per district. High school- and college-aged volunteers make up the typical demographic for CLF field workers who are making phone calls and knocking on doors.

In CD 18, held by Mast, organizers are messaging on veterans’ issues, highlighting Mast’s opening of an office in the local VA, along with his work on Lake Okeechobee.

In Curbelo’s South Florida district, CD 26, the group’s strategy is different.  

“For Curbelo, our biggest focus is talking about his work on immigration, protecting the Everglades …  as well as the Keys and national marine sanctuaries,” CLF Communications Director Courtney Alexander told Florida Politics.

The messaging is part of a three-pronged strategy CLF has adopted: ensuring the middle class is aware of Republican-backed tax cuts and their anticipated benefits, localizing each election, and reminding voters that if Democrats usurp the majority, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, someone the group describes as divisive, would become Speaker.

In close races in the Sunshine State, the ‘localizing’ tool appears to be most apparent. Though, notably omitted is discussion of gun issues, which could make or break Mast and Curbelo in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Both candidates have separately messaged on gun control, with Mast going as far as penning a high profile op-ed supporting an assault-weapons ban.

When asked if CLF planned to incorporate gun control in its messaging on behalf of the two congressmen, Alexander maintained the group’s work would focus on their congressional achievements.

“Both Congressman Mast and Congressman Curbelo are strong incumbents that run good campaigns and are doing a really good job — a really good job representing their constituents,” Alexander said. “Our job at CLF is to promote the policies that they’re doing, or what they’re accomplishing on behalf of their constituents and the work that they do on local issues.”  

And while CLF is investing heavily in groundwork, it’s not planning to skimp on television spending — at least not to a noticeable degree.

Ahead of the midterms, CLF set out to raise and spend $100 million. According to the group, it’s on pace to break that goal and has surpassed previous fundraising records. Florida Politics reported in April that Mast and Curbelo are reaping the benefits of that fundraising, with early ad buys reaching $1.67 million for Curbelo in Miami-Dade airwaves, and a bit of digital spending coming Mast’s way. CLF has dedicated $10 million — an unprecedented amount for the group — on digital ads in targeted districts across the nation.

CLF did not have details ready for other congressional races, notably CD 7 held by Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. She will face a potentially tough battle against the Republican nominee, from a bench that includes Scott Sturgill, state Rep. Mike Miller, Vennia Francois, and Patrick Weingart.

Alexander, however, hinted that Murphy will be affronted with opposition research from the super PAC.

“There is oppo on everybody, and there is certainly oppo on Stephanie Murphy,” Alexander said.

Richard Corcoran endorses Adam Putnam; won’t appear on ballot

State House Speaker Richard Corcoran, once widely expected to enter the Governor’s race, has endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, made the announcement Wednesday morning at the Florida Association of Realtors. The move ends long-running speculation the Speaker would run for Governor — or any other office in 2018

Corcoran, who is term-limited this fall, framed the decision to stay off the ballot as sticking to his “word.” He told media repeatedly that he’d run for Governor or otherwise “go home.”

“I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home,” Corcoran said after delivering his endorsement of the Agriculture Commissioner.

News broke Tuesday night of Corcoran’s intent to back Putnam and stay out of the gubernatorial race. He teased a “big announcement” last week, at which point guesswork from political circles produced theories of an entrance into the Attorney General race or maintained he’d make a late debut into the Governor’s race.

In endorsing Putnam, Corcoran lauded the Bartow native’s character and commitment to the state.

“Adam is sincere, he is authentic, he is principled, he is passionate,” Corcoran said. “He loves this state.”

The Speaker also pointed to the field of gubernatorial competition, particularly Democrats, and messaged his support as a move to avoid the consequence of a potential Democratic victory.

He listed the accomplishments of Republican control in Florida. Among them: cutting taxes and red tape, reducing state debt, adding to reserves, building up the state university system and contributing to overall job growth.

All Democratic candidates, Corcoran said, intend to walk back those successes.

“What’s daunting, what’s troubling is that we have every Democratic candidate taking the position that they’re going to roll back and overregulate as much as they possibly can. They’re going to raise taxes, they’re going to take all of those victories and put those burdens back on the people of the state that can ill-afford them — while right now [Floridians] are prospering to a tremendous degree,” Corcoran said.

Corcoran said he isn’t one to “sit on the sidelines” after making a decision. After opting not to run for the Governor’s Mansion, it took him “2.2. seconds” to determine he’d back Putnam.

Fundraising totals evidenced the Speaker’s early intent to run. At the end of 2017, Corcoran-affiliated Watchdog PAC had amassed more than $6 million in contributions. Testing the waters of the electorate, the PAC doled out early spends on issue-based ads and self-promos in 2018, so much so that at the end of April Watchdog had under $2 million at the ready. The amount pales in comparison to Putnam’s cash prowess; he’s raised more than $28 million to date.

As far as the remaining cash in Watchdog is concerned, Corcoran said he’d sit down with leadership to discuss where the money should go. He hinted it might shift over to competitive statewide legislative races.

“I think what’s also important is that we maintain a majority in the [state] House and a majority in the [state] Senate,” Corcoran said. He added he’ll be meeting with state Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, who chairs the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, or the GOP campaign arm of the state Senate. 

Some of the cash also could end up in Putnam’s hands, Corcoran said.

“I think it’s important that Florida is a bellwether state; what happens in Florida goes to every other single state,” Corcoran said.

The Republican primary now boasts just two candidates. Putnam will compete with full-throated support from Corcoran as a longtime concierge of the Sunshine State, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra, will run with the backing of President Donald Trump.

The DeSantis campaign has framed the recent endorsement as something that “only matters to insiders.”

“Conservative principles don’t matter to career insiders, just deals and deal making,” DeSantis camp press secretary David Vasquez said. “That’s why we’re not surprised to see this corrupt bargain even after Richard Corcoran accurately called out Adam Putnam’s support for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Or after Adam Putnam said he wouldn’t have signed Richard Corcoran’s signature school choice legislation. But when you’re in the Tallahassee swamp, conservative principles are expendable for political expediency.”

Talk of DeSantis was limited Wednesday morning, though Corcoran showed that he won’t refrain from campaigning against the congressman on Putnam’s behalf.

When asked about DeSantis’ remarks, Corcoran quipped, “Was it from a studio in New York?”

Ron DeSantis: I would not disinvite Dinesh D’Souza

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said although he disagrees with a controversial guest of the Florida GOP’s 2018 Sunshine Summit, he doesn’t think the speaker should be disinvited.

In a video clip sent to media Monday from progressive advocacy group American Bridge 21st Century, DeSantis is seen speaking with media.

When one reporter asks DeSantis for comment on summit guest Dinesh D’Souza, who mocked on Twitter students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were murdered during a February mass shooting, the Congressman responds: “I disagree with what [D’Souza] tweeted but I would not disinvite him.”

DeSantis’ rationale is that condemnations and revoking invitations are actions that disproportionately affect those with conservative views. He said there are imbalances in “scrutiny” if “you go down this road.” Specifically, it “comes down” on people on “the right.”

The Republican Party of Florida announced last week that D’Souza would be speaking at its summer summit in Orlando. But because of the conservative influencer’s February tweets about students from Parkland, RPOF was widely criticized for courting D’Souza to speak.

Following RPOF’s announcement, POLITICO Florida reported Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner and primary opponent to DeSantis Adam Putnam, and Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo all released statements critical of D’Souza. Democrats, seemingly under a party consensus, sharply criticized RPOF and called on the party to revoke D’Souza’s invitation.

While speaking to reporters, DeSantis distanced himself from D’Souza, but maintained that disagreements shouldn’t warrant a disinvite.

“Guys like me can make it clear, I would not have tweeted that,” DeSantis said. “[D’Souza] says a lot of things I disagree with and that’s just the reality of the situation.”

In the email to reporters, American Bridge interpreted DeSantis’ remarks as a defense of D’Souza.

“It’s unfortunately not surprising that Ron DeSantis would defend a crackpot conspiracy theorist who bullied the Parkland survivors,” said American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson.

Hudson also said Putnam’s criticism of D’Souza was an attempt to “have it both ways.”

“Meanwhile, like a typical politician, Adam Putnam is trying to have it both ways by criticizing D’Souza’s comments but legitimizing them by sharing the stage with him. The Republican Primary for Governor continues to be a race to the bottom of who is more out of touch with Florida voters,” Hudson said. 

On disenfranchisement anniversary, voting rights activists push for Amendment 4

For some, Friday is a special day.

The date marks the 150-year anniversary of Florida’s constitutionalized disenfranchisement of voters, a Jim Crow-era policy that’s still relevant in 2018, as the state revokes voting rights for convicted felons — even after they’ve completed their sentences.  

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Florida is one of just three states with a “lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions.” The Center estimated in 2016 that around 1.6 million ex-cons await restoration of their voting rights.

Restoration, or clemency, is an issue that’s come into the fore. The state’s clemency process,  headed by Gov. Rick Scott along with the Florida Cabinet, was deemed unconstitutional in February by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker. In March, Walker ordered the Executive Clemency Board to devise a new method for restoring voting rights within 30 days.

Walker’s actions and sharp critiques of the state’s clemency system followed the success of a voter-driven amendment to automatically restore voting rights to some felons in the Sunshine State. In November that language (Amendment 4) will appear on the ballot. If it’s approved by 60 percent of voters, rights will be restored to Floridians who have served their sentences, barring convicted murderers and sexual offenders.

That pro-felons’ rights momentum, however, was interrupted in April, when a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Scott and the Cabinet a stay for the 30-day mandated deadline, meaning no immediate changes would come to Florida’s clemency system. It was considered a win for the Executive Clemency Board.

Now, on the birthdate of disenfranchisement in Florida, Second Chances, a group backing Amendment 4, is attempting to remind Floridians that the disenfranchised walk among them, whether the distinction is merited or not.

Second Chances says Angel Sanchez, a former prison inmate who is now attending law school at the University of Miami, is one of many who’ve had their rights taken away — despite serving a sentence and showing a commitment to contributing to society.  

“I know I have made mistakes in my past, and I have also served the sentence that was the consequence of those mistakes,” Sanchez said in a Second Chances news release. “I am so proud to stand with Floridians of all walks of life who believe that returning citizens like me have earned a Second Chance and deserve an opportunity to earn back the eligibility to vote.”

Veterans, according to Second Chances, are particularly affected by disenfranchisement.

Cynthia Fussell O’Donnel, a Navy veteran and Panhandle native who supports Second Chances, said the total number of veterans who’ve been disenfranchised is “incalculable.” Though in the last five years, about 10,000 vets have completed sentences and have not had their voting rights restored.

“Florida’s lifetime voting ban has a major impact on people who have served our country in the military,” Fussell O’Donnel said.

For Sheriff Leon County Walt McNeil, the issue is public safety.

Citing statistics from the Florida Parole Commission, McNeil said returning citizens who vote are three times less likely to re-offend.

“One-hundred and fifty years is long enough,” McNeil, a former secretary of the Department of Corrections, said.“Let’s make our communities safer by fighting for Second Chances.”

Adam Putnam

Adam Putnam has ‘another’ $2M month

Another 30 days, another $2.11 million banked.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam‘s campaign announced late Thursday that it again crossed the $2-million threshold, perpetuating the narrative that the Agriculture Commissioner has no trouble grabbing cash in his quest for the Governor’s Mansion.  

The newest numbers mean Putnam has raised $28.88 million to date.

Putnam’s April haul saw $566,701 go to his campaign account, along with more than $1.5 million added to his affiliated political committee, Florida Grown PAC. Contribution and expenditure details are not yet available; the campaign has until May 10 to file state fundraising reports. 

Current on-hand cash amounts also are not available, though Putnam’s PAC and personal account had about $19.26 million cash on hand at the beginning of April.

Putnam’s financially successful month coincides with the candidate’s first television ad, which reportedly set him back $627,000. On Thursday, the Ag Comish also received a key endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

And through the pro-Putnam lens, the Bartow native’s numbers talk.

“The financial strength of this campaign mirrors the strong grassroots momentum we’re seeing for Adam Putnam from every corner of the Sunshine State,” campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said. “It’s clear that Adam Putnam is Florida’s choice for Governor. He knows Florida best, and he’ll always put Florida first.”

Fundraising details from other gubernatorial candidates have not been made available, though chances are Putnam leads by a longshot. As Scott Powers of Florida Politics reported in March, the next-closest candidate in the money chase is Democrat Philip Levine the former mayor of Miami Beach, who as of April had raised about $11 million.

Putnam’s primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, had raised just shy of $7 million as of the beginning of April, with $6.5 million at the ready.

Richard Corcoran, a potential gubernatorial candidate who teased a big announcement on Thursday, had raised about $6.8 million in his Watchdog PAC with roughly $2.2 million on hand at the beginning of April.

Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran teases ‘big announcement’

Widely expected to seek another political office, Florida state House Speaker Richard Corcoran delivered a cryptic update on Thursday via Twitter.

To those curious of the term-limited Land O’ Lakes Republican’s next move: “stay tuned.”

Following the tweet, Florida Politics reached out to Corcoran’s affiliated political committee, Watchdog PAC, for more context. A Watchdog spox said they had “nothing to add” but “will be in touch.”

The state ballot qualifying period is June 18 – June 22.

Several factors have illustrated the Speaker’s intention to seek a higher office.

Florida Politics reported that through the end of March Watchdog PAC had raised close to $7 million and currently has $2 million cash on hand. Corcoran’s name also has been polled alongside other gubernatorial candidates.

He championed a high-profile bill during the 2018 Legislative Session to ban sanctuary cities, a phrase coined for local governments that do not comply with federal immigration authorities. Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC, which had amassed more than $6 million in contributions through 2017, dished out nearly $100,000 to air an ad touting Corcoran’s dedication to preventing such cities. POLITICO Florida reported that number eventually crossed the million mark. The Speaker later debated Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on immigration.

Corcoran also hasn’t hesitated to criticize Democratic candidates in the contest for Governor. Following April’s televised Democratic debate, Watchdog PAC aired a video mocking the candidates — Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Orlando businessman Chris King — for their responses to a question on public education.

But while most signs point toward a 2018 bid — a few of which suggest a run for Governor — the specific seat remains unknown.

Florida Politics reported last week that sources close to Corcoran confirmed the Speaker’s eventual entrance into the gubernatorial race and suggested he would do so during the week of May 7. Corcoran would join Republicans U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The timeline remains the same, but now chatter in political circles suggest the Speaker is once again considering a bid for Attorney General. The current officeholder, Pam Bondi, is term-limited. And Corcoran, a rule-of-law ideologue with a background in the field, fits the bill. He’d face Republican candidates former Hillsborough Judge Ashley Moody and state Reps. Jay Fant and Frank White. Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw and attorney Ryan Torrens make up the primary Democratic ticket.

Though in March, as the Legislative Session drew to a close and speculation of Corcoran entering the AG race ramped, a source inside Watchdog quelled the idea.

“Richard Corcoran has never considered and will not run for Attorney General,” Corcoran’s right-hand man James Blair said then. “Period. The end.”

So the guessing game continues. But for now, it looks like we’ll know by next week.

Stay tuned.

Democrats: Sunshine Summit speaker Dan Bongino is bad, too

Dinesh D’Souza isn’t the only Republican Party of Florida 2018 Sunshine Summit guest catching heat.

The Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday criticized Dan Bongino, a former secret service agent and Republican pol who has tried — and failed — to capture high-profile elected seats in Maryland and Florida and is scheduled to speak at the Orlando GOP conference this summer.

The move follows the public furor that ensued in the wake of RPOF announcing D’Souza as a summit speaker on Monday. D’Souza in February disgraced himself after mocking students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In one instance he tweeted, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” over a photo of students crying after the Florida House did not approve a motion to consider an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

FDP is now attempting to shift criticism to Bongino — for the same reason.

It looks like a bit of a stretch.

The party claims Bongino “like D’Souza, has a record of publicly disparaging Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.” A news release from the Democrats cites a Daily Beast article recounting a Bongino appearance on Fox News. Writer Matt Wilstein titled the piece, “Fox News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theory About Parkland Students.”

The article sources Bongino’s February conversation with host Tucker Carlson. A quick review shows his remarks pale in comparison to D’Souza’s; he questioned the media’s focus on MSD students’ takes on gun issues, such as “supply-side control measures for guns” (something they likely don’t know much about, he added at the time), and suggested a liberal bias exists in mainstream media.

“The media is focused more on a teenager’s expertise in supply-side control measures for guns, which, Tucker, let’s be candid, they probably have not studied a very complicated, layered issue,” Bongino, who has a segment on a network associated with the National Rifle Association, told Carlson.

Bongino’s comments raised brows, but by no means did he outright mock MSD students like D’Souza did.

Still, the Democrats appear to be taking the bit and running with it. Perhaps because Bongino doesn’t evoke the best in the Sunshine State. His expletive-fueled tirade against a prominent POLITICO Florida reporter in 2016 made national headlines and preceded his third-place finish in the GOP primary in that year’s race for a Southwest Florida congressional seat.

The Democrats also are using it as a means to call out Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who appeared alongside Bongino Tuesday on Fox’s “Hannity” with host Sean Hannity. The discourse focused on the Robert Mueller investigation.

FDP noted that DeSantis still hasn’t denounced D’Souza’s planned summit appearance (Gov. Rick Scott and DeSantis’ primary opponent Adam Putnam have, per POLITICO).

And by compiling all the context, FDP was able to churn out some calculated spin.

“Ron DeSantis has refused to denounce Dinesh D’Souza’s cruel rhetoric and now he’s showing up on TV with NRA TV contributors who spread conspiracy theories about Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” said FDP spox Kevin Donohoe. “The fact is the Republican Party of Florida and the far right fringe have completely merged. By Refusing to withdraw from the Sunshine Summit, Putnam and DeSantis are both condoning D’Souza and Bongino’s cruel conspiratorial rhetoric.”

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