Ryan Nicol – Page 5 – 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.

Bill Nelson to Congress: Help us stop algae bloom

With spring coming to a close, school is ending, the temperature is rising — and algae bloom season may have just begun.

Blue-green algae pouring from Lake Okeechobee has been the bane of many Floridians, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says it’s time for the federal government to do something about it.

Nelson released a letter calling on the Senate to include the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project to this year’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Nelson says the project would increase water storage and treatment to help lessen the stress on Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding areas.

“It couldn’t be more critical to residents, fishermen, and business owners in South Florida who fear another ‘lost summer’ plagued by toxic algae blooms in their waterways,” Nelson said. “Today, Lake Okeechobee’s water level is at 14.22 feet, approaching the high end of the Army Corps’ preferred management levels, especially as we enter hurricane season.”

The blooms have become a common problem during this time of year. Causing the issue are nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Lake Okeechobee, which helps the blue-green algae grow. When the lake rises high enough, water pours out into nearby waterways, spreading the algae elsewhere throughout the state.

The toxic and foul-smelling algae caused severe problems for the Treasure Coast back in 2016, causing Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in four counties.

Nelson says his proposal would help address the problem — if Congress is willing to approve it.

“Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a favorable report on the project to the Office of Management and Budget, moving it one step closer to being included in the broader water bill that will soon be considered in the Senate,” said his office in a statement backing the EAA project.

Gov. Scott, who is campaigning against Nelson for Senate in 2018, called into question Nelson’s efforts to solve the algae issue. “Under [Scott’s] leadership, Florida has stepped up multiple times to secure state funding for Lake Okeechobee and he championed legislation to accelerate the EAA reservoir,” said Ryan Patmintra, communications director for Scott’s Senate campaign.

“Meanwhile, Nelson dragged his feet for decades and Congress did nothing to fund repairs for the Herbert Hoover Dike. Suddenly showing up just in time for an election year won’t cover up Nelson’s decades of failures on Lake Okeechobee.”

The WRDA is expected to come up for a vote soon, perhaps as early as this month.

Stuart city commissioner backs Toby Overdorf in HD 83 race

Treasure Coast businessman Toby Overdorf added another endorsement in his bid for House District 83, pulling in support from Stuart City Commissioner Troy McDonald.

The announcement comes on the heels of an endorsement from Port St. Lucie Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan, who announced her support for Overdorf late last week.

“There’s no question that Toby Overdorf is the right choice for District 83,” said McDonald, who has served on the Stuart City Commission since 2011. “He is a strong leader and has the conservative vision and values we need to keep Florida strong. I look forward to working with him.”

McDonald is also vice president of the Board of Business Development of Martin County and a board member of Redeem the Shadows, a nonprofit that works on preventing human trafficking.

Overdorf is battling Sasha Dadan for the Republican nomination in HD 83. The race will be open as current Rep. Gayle Harrell is term-limited. Harrell has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012.

The seat leans Republican and covers parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties. Only Tiffany Parisi has filed to run as a Democrat.

In a statement following McDonald’s endorsement, Overdorf said, “I am honored to have Commissioner McDonald on our team. His leadership has been behind significant improvements in our community, and I look forward to continuing to work with public servants like him.”

Overdorf currently serves as the chair of the Martin County Republican Party.

The HD 83 primary will be held on August 28. The winners will then face off November 6 in the general election.

Two more lawmakers endorse David Richardson

David Richardson continues to earn support from state House colleagues in his run for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

State Reps. Robert Asencio and Patricia Williams announced they’re backing the Miami Beach Democrat’s CD 27 bid. According to Richardson’s count, a total of 16 state Representatives now lining up for his campaign.

“For the last two years it has been my pleasure to serve alongside Representative David Richardson in the Florida House of Representatives,” Asencio said. “I have seen firsthand his keen ability to fight for progressive policy initiatives that would most benefit Floridians. I humbly and wholeheartedly endorse David in his campaign for Congress.”

Asencio represents House District 118 in Miami-Dade County, while Williams serves HD 92 in Broward. Both are first-term representatives.

“I want to thank Representatives Asencio and Williams for endorsing my campaign for Congress,” said Richardson in response to the news. “Working together in the Florida House of Representatives has been a pleasure, and it means a lot to me that they and more than a dozen other Democratic representatives have given me their endorsement.”

These are the latest in a line of recent endorsements for the Richardson campaign, as he was also backed by the Progressive Democrats of America and the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

Richardson is attempting to separate himself from a field of five Democrats in the CD 27 primary. He’s competing for the nomination against Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and Donna Shalala.

Richardson has made Shalala his main target in the race, taking aim at her in several different ads, including one aired on Spanish television. Voters will choose the Democratic nominee for CD 27 on August 28.

As more state representatives align themselves with Richardson’s campaign, he says it’s a clear sign he’s the right man to represent Democrats come November.

“It’s important to me to have so many of my colleagues supporting me at this crucial time in our country. This is a clear sign that Florida elected officials believe in progressive policies and that they’ll support my progressive candidacy for Congress.”

Fort Lauderdale mayor endorses Gwen Graham for governor

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham has announced another endorsement, earning support from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“As we mark the beginning of Pride Month, I’m excited to announce my endorsement of Gwen Graham, a champion for LGBTQ rights and equality,” he said.

Trantalis became the first openly gay mayor ever elected in Fort Lauderdale after he won the seat back in March. He praised Graham’s history on LGBTQ issues in his statement announcing his endorsement.

“Running for Congress in a conservative district, Gwen wasn’t afraid to stand up for marriage equality and our rights. In Congress, she followed through on her promise and fought for LGBTQ Floridians, co-sponsored the Equality Act and earned a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.”

Trantalis’ endorsement may help Graham win over members of the LGBTQ community, a group she has voiced support for in the past. Graham recently came out in favor of a statewide ban on gay conversion therapy, a practice deemed harmful by many in the medical community.

Graham has also said she will push for passage of for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which she says would help prevent discrimination of LGBTQ citizens.

Graham reiterated her promise to focus on LGBT issues in a statement thanking Trantalis for his endorsement.

“I was honored to support Dean Trantalis in his race for mayor and proud to see him become Fort Lauderdale’s first LGBTQ leader,” Graham said. “As governor, I will work with Dean and LGBTQ leaders across the state to protect their civil rights, and ban conversion therapy.”

Graham is competing in a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for governor. Her primary opponents include Andrew GillumChris King and Philip Levine, among others. That field grew even larger earlier today, when Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene entered the race.

Voters will choose the Democratic nominee for governor Aug. 28. The qualifying period is noon, June 18 through noon, June 22, although qualifying papers will be accepted beginning today (Monday, June 4).

Daniel Perez to face Republican challenger for HD 116 seat

State Rep. Daniel Perez is now set to face a Republican primary challenger in the race for House District 116. That’s according to a report from The News Service of Florida (NSF).

Miami Republican Frank E. Polo Sr. officially opened a campaign account with the Florida Division of Elections Monday. He’s the first Republican this cycle to challenge Perez, who is also from Miami. One Democrat, James Alexander Harden, has also entered the race.

Perez won the HD 116 seat last year in a special election after Rep. Jose Felix Diaz quit to run for Senate District 40 following the resignation of Frank Artiles. Perez previously worked as an attorney at Cole, Scott & Kissane.

HD 116 covers a portion of southwest Miami-Dade. The seat favors Republicans, as Perez easily defeated Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón 66 percent to 34 percent.

However, it’s not clear who will emerge from the now-contested Republican primary. As noted by NSF, Perez has raised more than $57,000 for his campaign, with just under $35,000 of that still on hand. Polo has not yet filed any fundraising information with the Division of Elections.

Perez defeated Jose Mallea, his primary opponent in last year’s special election, 55 percent to 45 percent.

The candidates have less than three months to win over voters. The primary election for HD 116 will be held on August 28, followed by the general election on November 6.

Miami Springs mayor backs Manny Diaz in SD 36 race

Yet another Miami-Dade County mayor has thrown his support behind Manny Diaz in the race for Senate District 36.

Miami Springs Mayor Billy Bain became the eighth Miami-Dade mayor to give Diaz the nod.

“There is no question in my mind that Diaz’s record makes him the best choice for this Senate seat,” said Bain. “He has dedicated his career to serving his community, in education and in the Florida House, and I know we can count on him to deliver the kind of strong leadership we need in the Florida Senate.”

Bain is a local businessman who was elected Mayor of Miami Springs last year.

The news comes after endorsements last week from Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno IV and outgoing state Sen. Rene Garcia, who Diaz is running to replace. Diaz has also been endorsed by the mayors of Miami, Hialeah and Miami Lakes, among others.

“I’m proud to have Mayor Bain’s support,” said Diaz in a statement on the endorsement. “Serving as mayor is not easy, and I’m grateful for the public service of Mayor Bain and all the mayors supporting our campaign. I look forward to continuing to work with all of them as we serve our friends and neighbors in our communities.”

Diaz is pursuing the SD 36 seat after representing Florida House District 103 since 2012. He’s the overwhelming favorite in the SD 36 race, as his only Democratic opponent, Muhammad Amin, has not listed any fundraising activity with the Florida Division of Elections.

SD 36 covers portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus backs David Richardson in CD 27

David Richardson has pulled in another endorsement in his bid for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, this time from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

“David has been a champion for equality in the Florida House and has distinguished himself working to hold the Florida prison system accountable and protecting the environment,” said Caucus President Terry Fleming. “Florida needs a fighter like David Richardson to represent us in Congress.”

It’s another step forward for Richardson’s campaign. The current state representative is competing against four others for the Democratic nomination in CD 27.

The seat is one the Democrats have their eye on, as longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she would not seek re-election following the end of her current term. That’s given the Democrats an opportunity to flip the seat. The Cook Political Report currently rates the seat as “leaning Democratic.”

Richardson, one of the first openly gay representatives elected to the Florida House, thanked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus in a statement following the endorsement.

“It is an honor to be endorsed by the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus,” said Richardson. “I have made it a priority to fight for the rights of the LGBT community — a community that has been long overlooked and discriminated against by policymakers.”

He also took shots at the Donald Trump administration, a move Democrats are sure to echo throughout the 2018 midterms.

“In Congress, I will oppose Trump and Pence’s backwards ideas, co-sponsor Equality Act, and co-sponsor the Student Non-Discrimination Act. I am proud to have members of the LGBTA community standing behind me in this race.”

Florida primary voters will head to the polls on August 28 to select their nominee in CD 27. Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Donna Shalala are also running for the Democratic nod. That will be followed by the general election on November 6.

Gwen Graham: Florida should ban ‘conversion therapy’

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham is now asking the Florida legislature to ban the controversial practice known as “conversion therapy.” Graham’s call comes on the first day of LGBT Pride Month.

Conversion therapy is a process that attempts to “treat” gay people by promoting a transition to a heterosexual lifestyle.

As summarized by the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT rights, numerous medical organizations have denounced conversion therapy, saying it promotes risks among patients and lacks scientific credibility.

Graham echoed those concerns in her statement announcing her push for a statewide ban. “Conversion therapy is junk science. It’s hurtful and cruel, and there is no place for it in Florida.”

She added, “We need to welcome and love our young people for who they are. Period. Nine states and in 15 municipalities in Florida have banned this horrible practice, and it’s time for it to be outlawed by the whole state.”

That would be an uphill climb in Florida, where previous legislative attempts have failed, including bills by openly gay Democratic state Rep. David Richardson in 2016 and 2017. But 12 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed the therapy, citing potential harm to patients.

Those patients are often children and adolescents. Experts worry efforts to alter their behavior at that age can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Graham also called on the legislature to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which according to her statement, “would extend non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Floridians.” She also promised to sign an executive order which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes in the state.

“Every major city in our state has now passed a human rights ordinance, but almost half of all Floridians are still subject to legal discrimination across the state.” She added, “As governor, I will prioritize passing legislation that protects all Floridians.”

Graham is currently competing for the Democratic nomination for governor along with several others including Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Philip Levine. Graham says she will make LGBT issues part of her campaign and tenure as governor, if elected.

“I am proud to live in a state with vibrant LGBTQ communities from Key West to Pensacola. LGBTQ Floridians have never given up in their fight to make Florida a more equal and welcoming home for everyone, and I am proud to stand with them.”

David Richardson releases Spanish-language ad targeting Donna Shalala

David Richardson is intent on getting his message out: Donna Shalala is not fighting for you.

That’s the tone of a new Spanish-language television ad released by the Richardson campaign. It is the fourth such ad taking on Shalala, one of Richardson’s opponents in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Like his previous ads, this one highlights Shalala’s changing stance on universal health care.

The ad flashes back to 2007 when Shalala was a guest on “The Colbert Report.” Asked by host Stephen Colbert whether she was “one of those universal health care people,” Shalala responded, “No, actually, I’m not.”

Shalala now says she does favor Medicare-for-all, a form of universal health care. That’s a position shared by all four of her Democratic primary opponents.

“It is my responsibility to show the voters that while Donna was profiting off of her public service, I’ve been fighting for the people,” said Richardson in a statement on the ad’s release.

Richardson’s statement also hit Shalala on other issues. “Look at guns—I supported legislation to ban bump stocks and assault weapons whereas she donated to pro-gun Republicans. On top of that, she got rich while ordinary people overpaid for housing and healthcare.”

Richardson is referring to Shalala’s time on the boards of UnitedHealth and Lennar Corp., a homebuilding company. He also notes Shalala’s past endorsements to Republicans in the Florida House.

At the Democrats’ most recent debate, Shalala responded to criticism of those donations, saying, “I gave much more to Democrats, hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats compared to what I gave to Republicans while I was president of Hunter [College] and they were representing this district.”

The back-and-forth between Richardson and Shalala is emblematic of a primary where each candidate seems to be moving as far to the left as they possibly can. Richardson received a boost in that regard earlier this week, when he was endorsed by the group Progressive Democrats of America.

Richardson’s new ad will air on multiple Spanish-language networks. Voters will make their choice in the CD 27 primary when they take to the polls on Aug. 28.

Matt Haggman says ICE should be abolished

Matt Haggman, a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, is now calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be abolished.

This comes as Democrats have criticized the Donald Trump administration for numerous policies they deem to be unnecessarily harsh toward undocumented immigrants.

The elimination of an entire federal agency may seem like an extreme step; Haggman says otherwise.

“Abolishing ICE is not a radical idea,” he argued. “ICE was created in 2003. We’re talking about a 15-year-old agency that has far overstepped its intended, national security function and is sucking up government resources to deport families and detain children.”

Haggman has his timeline right. ICE was created in the aftermath of 9/11 as part of the Homeland Security Act. Though now seen as a fairly high-profile agency, it has not been around for all that long.

Haggman, however, says it’s been around for long enough.

“I intend to be an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress and abolishing ICE is a necessary part of that picture,” he said.

ICE has come under scrutiny from some Democrats given the Trump administration’s focus on tackling the issue of illegal immigration. Recent moves by The Trump administration to separate some children from their parents at the border have only inflamed those tensions.

Advocacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have called out ICE over their role enforcing these policies. Haggman says the only solution is to get rid of ICE altogether and shift their role elsewhere in the government.

“This is not who we are as a nation,” Haggman said. “There’s no reason that the limited, necessary functions of immigration enforcement can’t be carried out by other government organizations that don’t have ICE’s track record of cruelty.”

Haggman says he still supports deporting criminals and allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to do its job. “Our borders will still be secured, but we cannot continue to support and fund an organization whose only purpose is carrying out sweeps to check for people’s papers.”

Haggman’s proposal isn’t a new one for Democrats. Liberals seeking to push back against the Trump presidency have argued in favor of abolishing ICE as a rallying cry of sorts.

California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a rumored Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, even took heat from some liberal outlets when she criticized ICE for abusing its power but argued that agency should still exist.

It’s not clear whether the issue will serve as a liberal litmus test in 2020, or even 2018. But Haggman has already chosen his side.

“My wife’s parents came to the United States through the Freedom Tower 50 years ago. Our family knows firsthand the importance of an immigration system that treats immigrants as human beings. Let’s not take incremental steps. Let’s take bold action and demand an end to an agency which inspires terror in millions of people.”

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