Ryan Nicol, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 46

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.

Face off: Bill Nelson and Rick Scott trade shots in first debate

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Rick Scott met face-to-face Tuesday for the first debate in their U.S. Senate race.

Both candidates came armed with clear-cut messages they hammered throughout the discussion. Scott accused Nelson of failing to get anything done during his long tenure in Washington. And Nelson repeatedly framed Scott’s statements as untrue, arguing the election is about integrity.

The candidates met at the studios of Telemundo 51 in Miramar for the taping, which will air Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The debate was moderated by Jackie Nespral of NBC6 and Marilys Llanos of Telemundo 51.

Candidates were given 90 seconds to answer each question, and the first candidate to answer was offered 30 seconds for a rebuttal. No time was allotted for an opening statement, leaving the moderators to jump right in with questions.

The first topic was immigration, where Nelson called for a comprehensive immigration reform plan. He also hit Gov. Scott over the child separations which have occurred under the Donald Trump administration.

“While that was happening, my opponent was silent,” Nelson said of those separations.

That’s not exactly true, as Scott did say back in June he does not support families being separated. However, Scott blamed the problem on the failure to “secure our borders,” rather than on the Trump administration’s actions.

Scott also used the topic to begin his attacks on Nelson’s alleged inaction as a lawmaker, saying “My opponent has had 40 years to do something on immigration and he has absolutely done nothing.”

However, as Nelson noted, he and the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill back in 2013. That bill later died in the House.

But Scott followed up on those attacks by saying Nelson should have advanced legislation to stop the separation of immigrant families. Trump eventually attempted to reverse course on the policy, though larger bills to address the immigration system failed.

Nelson battled back against Scott’s accusations by noting a finding by Politifact that nine out of nine Rick Scott ads reviewed by the organization contained falsehoods.

“He tries to distract,” said Nelson. Scott responded by asserting Politifact was an “arm of the Tampa Bay Times” and was a de facto part of the Democratic Party.

The topic then turned toward gun reform. Nelson referenced Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed during February’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. Guttenberg was in the audience for Tuesday’s debate.

“I hope that you will look Fred in the face and tell him that you are not going to support those kinds of policies that you have with the NRA,” Nelson said to Scott.

The Governor said that while he feels for the victims of mass shootings, “I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I believe in the 1st Amendment. I believe in all the Amendments in the Bill of Rights.”

Scott did point to the bill Florida passed following the Parkland shooting, and once again accused Nelson of inaction at the federal level.

Candidates were then asked how they would increase economic security for Floridians. Nelson claimed an increase in the minimum wage law is necessary.

“Raise the minimum wage to $12 at least, if not $15, to raise the income level so people can pay for the necessities of life and feed their families.”

Scott shot back, saying “I think this is an example of why we need term limits.” He argued Nelson’s support of tax raises and increased regulation would hurt employers’ ability to hire more workers.

The two traded similar barbs over health care and the red tide crisis. Scott bashed Nelson for not solving these issues during his time in the Senate, arguing the Affordable Care Act did not live up to its promises.

Meanwhile, Nelson hit Scott over rejecting Medicaid expansion for Florida and cutting the state budget to combat the red tide problem.

“This election is about integrity and trust,” Nelson argued.

Scott was also challenged on his efforts to distance himself from President Trump after Trump called into question the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

When asked by the moderators whether he was simply attempting to recruit the votes of Puerto Ricans who have fled to Florida, Scott said, “I don’t think about politics that way. I think about how you help families.”

Scott then talked about his various trips to the island and efforts to work with Gov. Ricardo Rossello throughout the storm and its aftermath.

That’s when Nelson reminded Scott that Rossello endorsed Nelson’s campaign on Monday, though Rossello did call it a tough decision.

Nelson also hammered Scott over saying “I don’t know what I’d do differently” than the federal government following the storm. The latest estimates put the death toll in Puerto Rico at close to 3,000 people.

Scott’s strongest line of attack was arguably regarding Nelson’s unsubstantiated claims of Russian interference in Florida’s election systems.

“I don’t know what his plan was,” Scott said of Nelson’s claims.

“Did he want to make people uncomfortable?”

When given the chance, Nelson dodged directly answering Scott’s questioning over the assertions of interference, which Scott made sure to note for the audience.

The final topic of the night was the Governor’s race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis. Scott reiterated his support for DeSantis and attempted to tie Nelson to the Democratic candidate.

“Sen. Nelson and Andrew Gillum will kill the economy,” Scott argued.

That’s when Nelson once again returned fire over Scott’s alleged falsehoods, saying, “Apparently you never got your mouth washed out with soap after telling a lie.”

Nelson asserted that voters’ reaction to Scott’s tenure as Governor will drive Gillum to victory in the race.

It’s hard to say whether the back-and-forth will push either candidate into a comfortable lead. Polls have shown the race as a close contest. While Scott held the lead in most surveys throughout the summer, Nelson has been ahead in more recent polls.

The next debate between the two will be aired on CNN on Oct. 16. That discussion will be moderated by Wolf Blitzer.

Ground game: Florida Democrats to open 40 new ‘grassroots offices’

The Florida Democratic Party has announced the opening of 40 new “grassroots offices” as campaigns try to close out the final five weeks of the midterm elections.

A statement released by Democratic Party officials say the openings will kick off Wednesday, Oct. 3 and will continue through the weekend alongside several get-out-the-vote activities.

“Opening 40 offices in one week is a monumental feat and it is truly a team effort – with massive support from the entire ‘Democratic Winning Ticket,’ including Sen. Bill Nelson, Mayor Andrew Gillum, our Cabinet nominees, state legislative candidates and Democrats running for local office across the state,” party Chair Terrie Rizzo said.

The offices are slated to open in West Palm Beach, Plantation, St. Augustine, Orlando, Jacksonville and Panama City, among other places. Florida Democrats also say they recently trained an additional 200 field organizers.

New Carlos Curbelo ad details girl who ‘inspired the world’

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo has taken some hits over his health care record from Democrats. On Monday, his campaign released a new ad looking to push back against that criticism.

The 30-second spot, titled “She Inspired the World,” highlights the story of Bella Rodriguez-Torres.

Rodriguez-Torres fought a long battle with a lethal form of cancer, surviving years beyond expectation before passing away at age 10. The Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation was created in her memory.

Bella’s father, Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, reflects on his daughter’s life in the ad before thanking Curbelo for supporting legislation to fund treatment for children like his daughter.

“She had cancer in her spine and in nine other parts of her body,” Rodriguez-Torres begins.

“When she was only four years old, she suddenly became paralyzed overnight without any symptoms or any warning. And in the process of her six-year fight with cancer, she inspired the world.

“Because of Congressman Curbelo’s support, two federal pieces of legislation have been made possible to advance research for children battling cancer.

“At those very difficult moments in life, you see the heart of an individual. Without equivocation, he cares about people, and he cares about children, and he cares about their health care.”

Rodriguez-Torres is referring to Curbelo’s involvement in securing the passage of the Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity (RACE) for Children Act and the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2018.

The RACE for Children Act was passed last year and increases access to certain cancer drugs for children. The Childhood Cancer STAR Act of 2018 was approved earlier this year and provides increased funding for cancer cures. Curbelo was a supporter of both measures.

The incumbent is defending his seat in Florida’s 26th Congressional District against Democratic nominee Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The ad is set to run on television and digital platforms.

Bill Nelson leading Rick Scott by 4 points in latest poll

The turnaround may be real for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, as he is leading Republican challenger Rick Scott in yet another poll.

The newest Public Policy Polling survey puts Nelson up 4 points against Scott, the outgoing Florida Governor.

Nelson grabbed 48 percent while Scott earned 44 percent. A total of 9 percent say they remain undecided.

The survey sampled 779 registered voters Sept. 28-30.

Nelson also earned better favorable numbers than Scott, though both were underwater.

The incumbent pulled in 41 percent approval while 44 percent of voters disapproved of his performance. Just 39 percent approved of Gov. Scott’s performance, while 51 percent disapproved.

Majorities of voters also said they “trust Democrats and Bill Nelson more” on the issues of Medicare and health care generally.

According to polls aggregated by RealClearPolitics, Scott led or was tied in the vast majority of polls conducted from May until early September. Recently, however, Nelson has turned it around with leads in several consecutive surveys.

FiveThirtyEight still pegs it as a close race, though sees it “leaning” toward the Democrats.

Meanwhile, Scott is attempting to regain ground with a new ad appealing to Hispanics and Democrats released earlier Monday morning.

Another poll, another lead for Andrew Gillum; PPP pegs him up 4 points over Ron DeSantis

Another poll, another lead for Andrew Gillum.

The newest survey from Public Policy Polling has Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor, ahead by four points in his race against Republican Ron DeSantis.

The survey sampled 779 registered voters Sept. 28-30. Gillum earned 48 percent support while DeSantis sat at 44 percent.

Gillum has now led DeSantis in every major poll released since the two secured their nominations on Aug. 28, according to analysis by RealClearPolitics.

Florida Democrats have also taken to mocking DeSantis over lackluster turnout at a recent event. The Democrats used those photos to make the case that momentum is behind their candidate.

Gillum also issued an address to a fired-up crowd of Democrats over the weekend at the Miami-Dade Democratic Party’s Blue Gala.

He also recently earned the endorsement of the Sun Sentinel, as well as a group of Puerto Rican leaders throughout the country.

If Gillum were to “bring it home” in November, he would be Florida’s first elected Democratic Governor in 20 years.

Boricua backers: Puerto Rican leaders endorse Andrew Gillum for Governor

More than a dozen Puerto Rican leaders across the U.S. have announced their support for Andrew Gillum‘s campaign for Governor.

Gillum, the Democratic candidate in the race, currently serves as Mayor of Tallahassee. He is competing against former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee.

Among Gillum’s new spate of backers are former Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

State Reps. Robert Asencio, John Cortes and Amy Mercado also endorsed Gillum’s campaign, along with state Sen. Victor Torres.

Rounding out the list of 19 new endorsements for Gillum are:

— U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York.

— U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. 

— Gurabo Mayor Rosachely Rivera Santiago.

— Puerto Rico Senator Margarita Nolasco Santiago. 

— Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer. 

— Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla. 

— Greenacres Mayor Joel Flores. 

— Melbourne Councilwoman Teresa Lopez. 

— Former Chairman of Democratic Party of Puerto Rico Charlie Rodriguez.

—  Alianza for Progress President Juan Marcos Villar.

— Democratic Hispanic Caucus President Noemi McGregor. 

— Florida Puerto Rico Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sam Lopez. 

— Former Puerto Rican Bar Association President Anthony Suarez. 

In total, 15 of those 19 are based in Florida. Gillum issued a reaction thanking them for their statement of support.

“It’s an incredible honor to have the endorsement and support of Puerto Rican community leaders across the state who are working every single day for the people of Puerto Rico – on the island and here in Florida,” Gillum said.

“As Mayor, I’ve stood up for our Puerto Rican brother and sisters and as Governor, I will work to build a Florida that works for everyone – and I will ensure Puerto Ricans are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Many Puerto Ricans who fled to Florida as a result of Hurricane Maria say they plan to stay in the state. That’s led members of both parties to pursue the support of that community ahead of Nov. 6.

Gillum hammered home that pitch, emphasizing the need to get involved in the midterms: “The best tool we have this year to send a message that nuestros Boricuas are just as American as you and me is to register to vote before Oct. 9!”

Julián Castro

‘Julian Castro 2020’? Former HUD head addresses Democrats in Miami

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro sure sounded like a potential 2020 presidential candidate as he addressed South Florida Democrats at this weekend’s Blue Gala in Coral Gables.

Castro was the keynote speaker for the Saturday night event, which was held at the Biltmore Hotel. He has said he’ll make a decision on a presidential run by the end of the year.

But Castro sure hit all the right notes for a Democratic presidential candidate in his talk Saturday night, calling for universal health care, education reform and a comprehensive immigration plan.

He also hit on several policy notes key to the Florida political scene, such as calling for approval of Amendment 4.

“We have to reform our criminal justice system so that everybody can get an effective second chance,” Castro said. “Florida has the opportunity on the ballot to make sure that you do that here in November.”

Castro also provided commentary on the recent shooting death of Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater: “Laws like Stand Your Ground have no place in any state in the United States and ought to be changed immediately.”

And he added some shots at his anticipated opponent in a 2020 matchup, President Donald Trump.

“What we’re watching is the most corrupt government we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Castro asserted of the Trump administration. “Nobody is above the law.”

Castro added some moments of levity throughout the speech, such as when he described his fondness for Miami.

“It’s also always wonderful to be here in Miami, a city that has become an international city, a gateway city, and a city that in my life is special because I always feel self-conscious about my last name,” Castro joked.

The former Obama Administration official also sounded confident about Andrew Gillum‘s chances in the race for Florida Governor against Republican Ron DeSantis. Castro was an early backer of Gillum’s primary campaign.

“I am so proud of the work that he has done over the last decade-and-a-half in public service and I’m looking forward to calling him Governor of Florida after November,” Castro said of Gillum.

He also argued Florida would serve as an indicator of Democrats’ success nationwide.

“Miami is leading the way in so many ways, including the fervor and the effectiveness in our Democrats,” Castro argued. “We’re looking forward to a sweep in the state of Florida.”

The Texas native closed his talks reminding those in attendance of the importance these statewide and federal races hold not just in Florida, but across the country.

“Thank you very much for working on behalf of Democrats. You guys can do it. Texas and the nation is watching you.”

Andrew Gillum lights up the crowd at Democrats’ Blue Gala

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Governor, delivered a rousing speech Saturday night in remarks at the Miami-Dade Democrats’ Blue Gala in Coral Gables.

Gillum was one of several speakers on the night but arguably earned the best reception of them all as he talked about his race against Republican nominee Ron DeSantis.

The current Mayor of Tallahassee was introduced by Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who pumped up Gillum’s primary campaign and has pledged millions more for the general election.

“What he’s doing is talking straightforwardly and bravely on the issues and not ducking,” Steyer said of Gillum.

“We have an opportunity to do something we haven’t done in 20 years,” Gillum added.

“We have an opportunity to flip this state blue. And, by the way, when we flip this state blue in 2018, we’re going to flip this country blue in 2020. And it’s going to start right here in the state of Florida.”

Gillum also referenced recent polls showing him in the lead. But he argued those numbers don’t mean much.

“The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, which means we’ve gotta get out there, we’ve gotta organize, we’ve gotta vote. And we’ve gotta vote like our lives depend on it.”

But despite his modesty regarding his apparent lead in the race, Gillum sounded confident he’ll be able to finish on top.

“We’ve got the firepower and the energy and the momentum to get this thing done,” Gillum asserted.

“We’re going to win this race by being willing to go everywhere and talk to everybody. But y’all, we cannot take this thing to granted.”

He also called out his GOP counterparts for deciding to bar the press from their Saturday night event, the 2018 Victory Dinner, where several statewide candidates were slated to appear.

“They decided to close the doors to the press,” Gillum said of the Republicans.

“They kicked them out, didn’t want them to know what was being said, what was being done, what plans were being plotted. But more importantly, they don’t have a vision for the future of the state of Florida, and didn’t want these cameras to capture the fact that they have no vision, no north star.”

As his voice escalated, the Democratic candidate closed out his speech with a call to arms to those in attendance, along with a promise to his supporters.

“My name is Andrew Gillum. I’m the Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida. And the next time I greet you, I will greet you as the next Governor of the great state of Florida. God bless you. Let’s bring this thing home everybody.”

Those comments were met with a standing ovation from the Democratic crowd, followed by chants of “bring it home.”

Democrats celebrate in style at Blue Gala in Coral Gables

Democratic bigwigs were out in full force Saturday night as the Miami-Dade Democratic Party held its annual Blue Gala fundraising event at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Headlining the night were Democratic nominee for Governor Andrew Gillum and possible 2020 presidential candidate and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

The swanky event began outdoors at the Biltmore as a live band set the mood for candidates, campaign workers and Democratic donors to hobnob in an effort to raise money for competitive races this November.

Tickets to the dinner began at $300 while access to the after just party set you back $50. According the to the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, “every dollar raised will go to get-out-the-vote for Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

At around 8 p.m. the event moved inside the Grand Ballroom for speeches from Miami-Dade Democratic Party officials as well as several candidates.

As advertised, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, State Attorney Aramis Ayala and longtime activist Ruth Shack were also on hand.

Ayala’s appearance courted criticism from Republicans over her decision not to pursue the death penalty in any cases. Current Attorney General Pam Bondi bashed Gillum for appearing at the event alongside Ayala.

Gillum fired back at those remarks on Twitter, calling Ayala “one of Florida’s smartest, toughest, and most accomplished State Attorneys.”

While several members of the press were on hand to document the night’s event, the same can’t be said for a similar GOP event which also took place in Orlando Saturday. The Republican 2018 Victory Dinner, where several statewide candidates were set to appear, was closed to the press.

Democrats have had a good bit to celebrate recently, with poll after poll after poll showing Gillum leading his Republican challenger Ron DeSantis in the race for Governor. Nelson, the incumbent Senator, has also seen his fortunes turn around for the better, with recent surveys seeing him ahead as he defends his seat against outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Mary Barzee Flores issues debate challenge to Mario Diaz-Balart

Mary Barzee Flores, the Democratic challenger in Florida’s 25th Congressional District, is demanding a debate with her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Sam Miller, the campaign manager for Barzee Flores, says he sent a letter to Diaz-Balart’s team outlining a possible debate schedule.

Miller has proposed six total debates or forums between the candidates. At least one debate will be televised in English in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers-Naples media markets.

Another would be televised in Spanish in the Miami market.

“Mario would likely agree that this race is a clear contrast in candidates,” Miller said. “Voters should be afforded the opportunity to see that contrast outside the strictures of 30-second ads.”

Barzee Flores says she’s already accepted potential debates with various broadcasters including Univision, WPLG Local 10, and CBS4 Miami.

A statement sent to Florida Politics by the Diaz-Balart team said, “Congressman Diaz-Balart’s campaign is reviewing the requests and will release the agreed to debates, once the terms and logistics have been finalized.”

“It’s been far too long since the voters of Florida’s 25th district have had a real choice on their representative in Washington,” Barzee Flores said.

“Mario Diaz-Balart owes it to the people of this district to explain his positions and his record – and so do I. Voters deserve to know where their Congressman – or Congresswoman – will stand on healthcare affordability, gun violence prevention, protecting our land, water and beaches, and a host of other issues large and small.”

A recent survey from Public Policy Polling showed Barzee Flores within striking distance of Diaz-Balart.

However, analysts still see Diaz-Balart as the favorite in the race. Diaz-Balart also remains on top of the fundraising contest, according to the last numbers filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Miller said his candidate is willing to do whatever it takes to make a debate happen.

“Mary is willing to do just that on a virtually ‘any time, any place’ basis. Mario owes his constituents a real conversation about his record after two decades in Washington.”

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