Ryan Nicol – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

Two more candidates to compete against Manny Diaz in SD 36

Manny Diaz is by all measures the current front-runner to take the Senate District 36 seat. But that’s not stopping others from entering the race.

Two more Democrats have decided to run. David Perez filed paperwork Thursday, while Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad made his official entry into the race earlier today.

The pair joins Muhammad Amin in the fight for the Democratic nod in SD 36. Only Diaz has filed to run as a Republican.

SD 36 covers portions of Miami-Dade County. The race for the seat will be open as current state Sen. Rene Garcia is term-limited.

Diaz, who currently represents House District 103, remains the overwhelming favorite in the race. He’s received widespread support through a series of endorsements from Miami-Dade County mayors, most recently from the mayor of Miami Springs. Diaz has also pulled in support from the departing Garcia.

On top of that, Diaz has built up a healthy war chest, pulling in more than $500,000 through April.

Amin, meanwhile, has yet to file any fundraising since entering the race early last month. Neither of the newly-filed candidates has offered any fundraising information as yet.

It remains to be seen whether any big-name Republicans will step in to challenge Diaz, or whether any of the Democrats currently running can compete with him in the general election.

There are currently three candidates running for Diaz’s HD 103 seat: Frank Mingo, Cindy Polo, and the newest entrant, Rick Tapia.

Primary voters will head to the polls Aug. 28. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Rick Tapia enters race to replace Manny Diaz in HD 103

Cindy Polo no longer has a free path to the general election in House District 103, as Miami-Dade College professor Rick Tapia has filed paperwork to challenge her for the Democratic nomination.

Tapia has experience in local politics, serving on the Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board. He is a graduate of FIU and received a Master of Liberal Arts degree in government at Harvard.

In a statement to Florida Politics, Tapia noted some of his top issues were public education funding, combating income inequality, and pushing for sensible gun reform. He led a delegation from Miami-Dade College to attend the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Tapia also touted votes against urban development projects while on the Planning Advisory Board that he says would have hurt the environment.

He and his opponents are running to replace state Rep. Manny Diaz, who decided to run for the Senate District 36 seat. Diaz, a Republican, has represented HD 103 since 2012.

The only Republican to enter the HD 103 race is Frank Mingo, who has raised more than $90,000 through April.

That far surpasses Polo’s numbers, as she has declared just $130 with the Florida Division of Elections. Tapia, who just entered the race, has not yet filed any fundraising information.

The primary will be held Aug. 28.

Newt Gingrich talks culture wars in Palm Beach speech

To hear Newt Gingrich tell it, America has a bright future just on the horizon, full of technological advances we never thought possible … if it wasn’t for those darn leftists.

That was the brunt of his message Thursday as the former House Speaker spoke at the Palm Beach Republican Club during a luncheon at The Colony Hotel.

“The moment we are in is among the most important in American history.”

Gingrich describes the current moment as “a cultural civil war” thanks to the left’s efforts to push values that “are antithetical to a free society.”

The framing of Democrats as the enemy was a constant through the roughly 45-minute talk. “Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet empire, but he did not defeat Marxism on American college campuses. And the result was that at a time where we were winning over our foreign opponent, we were losing to our domestic opponent.”

That opponent, a socialist and Marxist ideology that was left unchecked, has now seeped into the Democratic Party and infected most of the government, according to Gingrich. “The system’s not working. What you have is a war.”

Gingrich argued that the left’s effort to expand government and regulation was standing in the way of technological breakthroughs. He raved about advances in stem cells, genetics and artificial intelligence.

But he spent the most time on the topic of on space travel, highlighting successes in the private sector and bashing NASA for falling far behind. He detailed Richard Branson’s work on Virgin Galactic, Paul Allen’s efforts to launch deliveries into space, and Elon Musk’s success at creating reusable rockets.

However, the Donald Trump-supporting Gingrich reserved his greatest support for an unlikely target. “The person who I think is the most interesting is Jeff Bezos,” who says he plans to spend his savings to spend people to space. Those savings are pretty hefty, as Bezos was listed the richest man in the world by Forbes.

Bezos has also been a constant target of Trump, with the president repeatedly bashing Amazon and The Washington Post, both of which are Bezos properties.

Contrasting the billionaires’ work to NASA’s efforts, Gingrich said, “It’s like watching a government bureaucracy design the last great stagecoach next to the transcontinental railroad.”

Unfortunately, in Gingrich’s worldview, the Democrats and their big government dreams just keep getting in the way. “There is a potentially stunning, extraordinary, exciting America just on the other side of the bureaucracy.”

To that end, Gingrich argued the only way to truly unlock America’s potential is to defeat liberals on the battlefield of ideas. He says one key to that goal is the Trump presidency. “What Trump represents is a breakthrough that begins to totally disrupt the principles and the assumptions of the old order.”

But with efforts to frame roughly half the country as the enemy, it’s not clear what the endgame is here.

Gingrich is right that the country is divided, with the Pew Research Center showing opposing party members growing increasingly distant. In his mind, the left started it, and he and conservatives are simply fighting back.

But does that battle end with more combativeness? Or, as historian Jon Meacham argued in a recent appearance in Palm Beach, do both sides need to tone things down in order to get back to solving the big issues of the day?

Gingrich clearly chose his side, supporting a president who has often gone on the aggressive against political opponents. Gingrich had high praise for Trump’s efforts, despite working in a jab at the president’s own ideology.

“I don’t know that Trump is in any serious way a principled conservative. But he is the most successful anti-left leader of my lifetime.”

The Palm Beach Republican Club crowd loudly cheered that remark. It seems they’ve chosen to keep the fight going.


Victor Torres endorses David Richardson for CD 27

Another member of the Florida Legislature is endorsing Democrat David Richardson is his bid for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

State Sen. Victor Torres, who represents Senate District 15, became the latest to support Richardson’s efforts for the Democratic nomination; it brings the total number of state lawmakers backing his congressional campaign to 18.

In his announcement of the endorsement, Torres focused working with his colleague to draft universal health care bill.

“This year, State Representative David Richardson and I worked on a Medicare-for-All bill for the State of Florida that we believed would change the lives of millions of Floridians,” Torres said.

“Although the GOP refused to bring the bill to a vote, David has continued his fight by campaigning on Medicare-for-All nationwide. That type of progressive spirit and his history as an effective legislator demonstrate that he will be an effective Congressman for FL-27. As such, I’m proud to endorse his campaign for Congress.”

Richardson also recently received endorsements from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus and the Progressive Democrats of America.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of Senator Torres, and I will work every day to take our fight for Medicare-for-All to Washington,” Richardson said in response to the news.

“It is encouraging to see my peers in Tallahassee rally around my progressive campaign for Congress during the Democratic primary. Their endorsements add even more support for the progressive policy platform I’ve campaigned on since day one.”

Richardson is competing for the Democratic nod against Matt HaggmanMichael HepburnKristen Rosen Gonzalez, and Donna Shalala. The winner will get a chance to take the CD 27 seat from Republicans, as current Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she would not run for re-election after this term.

The CD 27 primary is August 28.

Oscar Ganem set for rematch against Richard Stark in HD 104

Oscar Ganem is ready for round two as he has once again filed to run against incumbent House District 104 Rep. Richard Stark.

The pair first faced off in 2016, with Stark easily defeating his Republican opponent 62-38 on Election Day. Ganem, who hails from Southwest Ranches, officially declared his candidacy Wednesday, with hopes this year’s election will be different.

It will be a tough slog for Ganem, as Stark has had a fairly easy go in previous elections. Aside from his handy defeat of Ganem in 2016, Stark also won by more than 20 points in 2012. In 2014, the Weston Democrat ran unopposed.

Stark has raised $66,500 for his re-election campaign and has $61,500 on hand. That includes newly-filed May reports showing the incumbent pulled in another $1,500 last month. Ganem has not yet filed any fundraising information with the Florida Division of Elections.

As noted by the Sun Sentinel in a piece endorsing Stark back in 2016, Ganem got in some trouble last time around for failing to properly file his financial reports. It remains to be seen whether the candidate will repeat those mistakes. His first report, covering June 1 through June 22, is due to the state in three weeks.

HD 104 covers a portion of Broward County including Weston, Southwest Ranches, Davie and Pembroke Pines. It is a Democratic stronghold.

Currently both Stark and Ganem are running unopposed in their respective primaries.

Water Resources Analysis Coalition tries to temper algae bloom fears

Though multiple outlets are reporting blue-green algae sightings this week, the Water Resources Analysis Coalition (WRAC) has a message for the public.

It’s not time to panic, just yet.

Not all forms of algae are toxic, and it’s not yet clear whether the algae spotted by some is the same type that troubled Floridians during the bloom in 2016. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is taking samples of recent algae sightings to determine whether it is toxic.

According to a DEP representative at Thursday’s meetings, no proof of toxic algae has yet been found, but testing is still ongoing.

Nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Lake Okeechobee aid the growth of toxic algae, which can then spread throughout the state as it exits the lake into nearby waterways.

During the public comment period, Ramon Iglesias, manager of the Roland Martin Marina in Clewiston urged the group to focus on the source of the problem north of Lake Okeechobee.

“We hear an awful lot about the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee to the coastal communities, and while I agree it’s a problem, we need to start talking about stopping the water coming into Lake Okeechobee,” said Iglesias.

Recently, Iglesias took a boat to the Kissimmee River, where the vast majority of the water enters into Lake Okeechobee and posted a video of what he saw on Facebook.

The WRAC meeting did describe Lake Okeechobee’s water level as “high” after it rose 1.3 feet in the last 30 days. That could contribute to the spread of toxic algae if a large bloom occurs. The lake is currently below its 2016 levels, but well above where it was last year.

Satellite imaging presented at the WRAC meeting was also not able to pick up any presence of excessive algae blooms inside the lake. But members noted that things could change in coming weeks.

The 2016 bloom overwhelmed parts of the Treasure Coast. The episode caused several beaches to close and forced Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in four counties.

WRAC members are appointed by the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). According to its website, members “represent a broad range of business, agricultural, environmental, tribal, governmental and public interests.”

Mario Diaz-Balart votes against amendment barring offshore drilling

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart may have just helped open the door to more offshore drilling in parts of the U.S. But Florida appears to be in the clear for now.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee voted today on an amendment to prevent the expansion of offshore drilling into new areas, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and Alaskan waters. The amendment was to be attached to an appropriations bill for President Donald Trump’s planned expansion of offshore drilling.

The text of the amendment, proposed by Congressman Chellie Pingree of Maine, read, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to prepare a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would schedule any Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale before 2022.” It would have been a temporary delay, but a delay nonetheless.

Of the four representatives from Florida that serve on the Appropriations Committee, only Diaz-Balart voted against the amendment. John Rutherford and Debbie Wasserman Schultz voted in favor of the amendment, while Thomas Rooney was not present for the vote.

However, the failure of the amendment does not affect Florida as of now. A federal law passed in 2006 already bars drilling off the coast of Florida until 2022. And the Trump administration has signaled a desire to exempt Florida from any plans to expand offshore drilling.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit group advocating for a cleaner environment, released a statement slamming the vote by Diaz-Balart.

“Representative Diaz-Balart has passed up a chance to protect Americans from Trump’s extreme offshore drilling plan, which he has said he opposes,” remarked Franz Matzner, director of federal affairs for the NRDC.

“His vote instead helps pad oil industry profits, and abandons the beach communities who’ll bear the risk of oil spills, along with every citizen who’ll experience the effects of the extreme weather made worse by increasing carbon pollution.”

The bill still must be voted on by the full House of Representatives, but it will do so without Pingree’s proposed amendment.

Philip Levine bashes federal school safety commission for ducking review of guns

Following February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people, President Donald Trump set up the Federal Commission on School Safety. The commission, chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was tasked with reviewing ways to keep students safe in light of recent acts of gun violence.

One issue the commission apparently won’t examine? Guns.

DeVos was asked yesterday by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy if the group would review “the role of firearms as is relates to gun violence in our schools.”

She replied: “That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se.”

“So we’ll look at gun violence in schools, but not look at guns? It’s an interesting concept,” concluded Leahy.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine pounced on the secretary’s remarks in a statement. “Betsy DeVos’ decision to not investigate the role of guns in school safety reflects the Trump administration’s continued disregard for our children’s safety. This year, more children are dying in our schools than servicemen and women on the battlefield.”

Though shocking, that statistic comparing student deaths and military deaths is actually correct, according to PolitiFact. However, the site also notes that the number of deaths as a result of school shootings this year is abnormally high.

Still, Levine says the refusal to look at guns in a review of school safety is unacceptable. “As the federal government continues to turn a blind eye to the problem staring us right in the face, it’s time our state had a leader who will take on the tough issues and stand up to the gun lobby.”

Levine continued, “As governor, we won’t ignore reality. We will rise to the challenge and tackle this issue head-on with common-sense gun reforms. My administration will put our kids first.”

Interestingly, DeVos’ comments yesterday contradict the commission’s mission statement listed on its own website. The site notes explicitly the commission should provide recommendations regarding a “minimum age for firearms purchases.”

Other issues the commission is set to look at include “social-emotional support, recommendation on effective school safety infrastructure … and the impact that video games and the media have on violence.”

Other members of the commission include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

New ad pumps up Carlos Curbelo’s efforts on climate change

A new ad is supporting Congressman Carlos Curbelo‘s work to address the effects of climate change.

The 30-second spot, released by The Alliance for Climate Solutions, replays pieces of a speech the South Florida Republican gave on the House floor regarding the conversation around climate change.

“Enough of the demagoguery. Enough of the fact-less conversation. Let’s focus on what’s happening in the world. And let’s try to make this situation better.”

Curbelo added: “Neither the deniers or the alarmists have much to offer. It’s the men and women who are willing to sit at the table and have a sober conversation that can really help solve this problem.”

The ad urges viewers to thank Curbelo for his work on the “Climate Change is Real Act.” According to its text, the bill would “require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to reinstate information about climate change that was removed from, or redacted on, the Agency’s website, and for other purposes.”

That’s in reference to Donald Trump‘s EPA removing references to climate change from government websites on multiple occasions. under the leadership of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

In the ad, a picture of Pruitt flashes on the screen when Curbelo references “deniers” of climate change. Pruitt now says he accepts climate change is real, but has sought to downplay its negative effects.

This is the second ad campaign released by The Alliance for Climate Solutions on behalf of Curbelo, who is competing to hold on to his seat in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Curbelo faces a primary challenge on the Republican side from long-shot candidate Souraya Faas. If successful he’ll take on either Demetrius Grimes or Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the general election.

The seat is winnable for Democrats. It’s rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.

The ad closes with a final message from Curbelo on the climate. “Let’s work together and let’s change the world for the better.”

A 15-second version is viewable here.

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott spar over shortened Senate recess

In a move Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling “raw politics,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has canceled most of the Senate’s August recess, forcing would-be campaigning senators to remain in Washington for most of the month.

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said in a statement.

“Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Senators will reportedly be able to spend the first week of August in their home state. But that’s a far cry from the full-month break senators were expecting.

Republicans have hit Democrats for their “obstruction” of Donald Trump‘s nominees in the past. The truth is a bit more complicated, but Democrats have used tactics to stall some of Trump’s selections.

Now, McConnell says he aims to make them pay by taking away their vacation time. Nelson, however, sees the move more cynically.

Speaking to reporters, Nelson says McConnell’s real intent is to block Democrats in competitive elections from hitting the campaign trail. By scheduling votes in Washington, senators face the choice of skipping votes to campaign in their home state or giving up on valuable campaign time to remain in Washington.

Though the move affects all senators, it hits Democrats especially hard. The 2018 election map is an incredibly harsh one for Democrats, as Democrats hold 26 of the Senate seats up for re-election this cycle. Ten of those seats are in states won by Trump, including Nelson’s here in Florida.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican trying to take Nelson’s seat, used McConnell’s move as a way to jab at his incumbent opponent.

“It’s promising to see the Senate cancel its month-long vacation and try and get some work done,” Scott said in a statement. “Working Floridians don’t get to take the month of August off, and neither should career politicians.”

The amount of resources Scott has poured into this campaign has not gone unnoticed. It remains to be seen whether the loss of three weeks of campaign time will harm Nelson’s chances to hold his seat, or whether he can find time to fundraise and stay connected to Florida voters while hundreds of miles away.

The race is widely expected to be a close one. Intended or not, McConnell’s move may just help tip the scales.

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