Ryan Nicol – Page 6 – 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.

Republican challenger to Carlos Curbelo: Syrian chemical attacks were staged

Souraya Faas, the sole Republican set to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo for the GOP nomination in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, believes the reported chemical attacks by Syrian President Bashar Assad were all staged. That’s according to an interview published by the Miami Herald.

“All those attacks are staged by the White Helmets,” Faas was quoted as saying. The White Helmets are a volunteer rescue force that served during the Syrian Civil War.

Faas says recent chemical attacks carried out by Assad’s government in 2017 and 2018 never happened, according to the Herald. Those attacks prompted responses from the U.S. and its allies as President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes shortly after the attacks.

Though Faas filed as a Republican, she was sharply critical of that decision by Trump, saying he was duped by false reporting blaming Assad’s regime for the attacks. “Trump was spot on with fake news until he started believing the fake news himself.” Faas even called on Trump to resign following the U.S. strikes.

She also bashed Trump’s appointment of Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley had harsh words for both Syria and Russia regarding their actions in the region.

Faas is no fan of Haley’s critical comments: “Nikki Haley is the worst thing that has happened to the United States, the worst thing that Trump did was appoint her.”

Faas, who is of Syrian descent, also called Putin and Assad “heroes” for purportedly fighting against terrorism during the Syrian conflict.

The remarks are sure to draw attention to Faas’ fledgling campaign, though she doesn’t appear to pose any serious threat to Curbelo’s nomination. Neither she nor her campaign committee has filed any fundraising information with the Federal Election Commission.

This isn’t Faas’ first time running for federal office. She launched a failed write-in bid in the 2016 presidential election as an independent.

Tim Canova: Broward Supervisor of Elections must go

Tim Canova, a candidate for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, is now calling on Gov. Rick Scott to suspend and remove Brenda Snipes as Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

Canova’s call follows a court ruling that Snipes’ office illegally destroyed paper ballots from Canova’s 2016 primary challenge to current CD 23 Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Florida Division of Elections agreed to send monitors to Broward for the 2018 election cycle, but Canova says that remedy doesn’t go far enough.

“Brenda Snipes has shown herself unfit to supervise another election and Gov. Scott needs to suspend and replace her,” he said. “Appointing yet another monitor is not a solution.”

After the 2016 Democratic primary, Canova decided to challenge the results of the election, where he lost to Wasserman Schultz 57 to 43 percent. During his lawsuit, Canova tried to get his hands on paper ballots, but those ballots were lost after Snipes signed an order to destroy them.

That happened just 12 months after the election. Legally, ballots in federal elections must be preserved for 22 months. In addition, a judge would have been required to approve the ballots’ destruction as they were relevant to an ongoing lawsuit.

Snipes has called her signing off that order a “mistake.”

But Canova isn’t buying Snipes’ explanation. “Snipes has failed to perform the basic duties of an elections supervisor to preserve original ballots in accordance with state and federal laws,” he said in a statement calling for her removal.

In addition, Canova said he now supports the elimination of using digital scans for elections, arguing they are too unreliable.

Canova says future elections should use paper ballots to be counted by hand in public, “just as we did in this country for two centuries, before the hanging chads in the 2000 presidential election unfairly discredited all paper ballots and ushered in this failed experiment with electronic voting machines.”

Canova is once again mounting a challenge to Wasserman Schultz’s seat, but this time he’s doing it without any party affiliation. He recently resigned from the Democratic Party in protest of its support of Wasserman Schultz.

That leaves Wasserman Schultz uncontested in the Democratic primary. Three Republicans are competing for the GOP nod. The general election for CD 23 will take place Nov. 6.

Ron DeSantis blasts FBI efforts regarding Donald Trump campaign as “not normal”

Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is siding firmly with President Donald Trump in the so-called “Spygate” controversy, calling the FBI’s actions to uncover Russian interference in the 2016 campaign “not normal.”

Trump has repeatedly accused the FBI of implanting a spy within his campaign during the 2016 election. According to what we know so far, that’s not quite the case.

Instead, it appears the FBI used an informant to contact Trump staffers who the FBI suspected may have information about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election. That informant was not “implanted” into the campaign but instead met with members of Trump’s team to ferret out any ties to Russia.

Still, DeSantis says those actions were inappropriate. In an interview on “Fox and Friends” this morning, DeSantis says the FBI should have carried out those efforts differently.

“If you had a problem with somebody on the periphery of the campaign, the obvious thing to do is to go brief the campaign and brief Donald Trump,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis seems to be echoing concerns by some that the FBI appeared to be targeting Trump himself rather than the Russians.

“When you are deploying surveillance powers, counterintelligence powers, against an opposition party’s campaign, that is not normal, and I think that is not what Americans want the FBI to be doing.”

That’s a break from statements from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Rubio defended the FBI’s actions: “As far as what I have seen to date, it appears that there was an investigation not of the campaign, but of certain individuals who have a history that we should be suspicious of, that predate the presidential campaign of 2015, 2016.”

“And when individuals like that are in the orbit of a major political campaign in America, the FBI, who is in charge of counterintelligence investigations, should look at people like that.”

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also said the FBI’s actions during the 2016 campaign were appropriate.

“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do,” said Gowdy, a Republican.

That DeSantis is splitting with other high-profile Republicans is nothing new for him or supporters of the president more broadly. Trump has routinely attacked Republicans such as Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, John McCain and others who have occasionally acted against the president’s interests.

DeSantis has clearly thrown himself behind Trump in his bid for the governorship, now supporting attacks on the FBI that even his fellow Republicans say are unsubstantiated.

How that will play out in the Republican primary remains to be seen.

Republican voters will choose their nominee for Governor August 28.

Virginia Gardens mayor latest to back Manny Diaz Senate bid

A seventh South Florida mayor is endorsing Manny Diaz in his bid for Senate District 36.

Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno IV became the latest to throw support behind the Diaz campaign.

Diaz is looking to make a move to the Senate after representing House District 103 since 2012.

Deno says he’s the right man for the job: “Manny Diaz is a strong leader whose commitment to our community has served us very well.”

“In the Florida House, Manny has demonstrated his commitment to improving Florida’s education system as well as addressing practical local and constituent concerns. I am confident he will continue to serve with the same tenacity and dedication to our community in the Florida Senate.”

Deno was the youngest mayor ever elected in Virginia Gardens; he worked for the United States Postal Service for 20 years.

SD 36 covers portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So far, Diaz has earned the support of seven mayors from Miami-Dade County including the mayors of Miami, Hialeah and Doral. Diaz was also recently endorsed by term-limited state Sen. Rene Garcia, who Diaz is running to replace.

The seat is all but a sure thing for Diaz unless another big name decides to challenge the Republican. Diaz has brought in more than $500,000 to his campaign. The only other entrant into the race, Democrat Muhammad Amin, has not declared any fundraising information with the Division of Elections.

Diaz doesn’t appear to be taking anything for granted, however. He’s continuing to court support from South Florida officials, resulting in this latest endorsement from Mayor Deno.

“I am honored to receive Mayor Deno’s endorsement,” said Diaz. “He has served Virginia Gardens very well for many years, and I am grateful to have him join our team. I look forward to continuing our partnership in improving the communities we are privileged to call home.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen praises possible Democratic replacement

Longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen may be ready to retire after her current term ends, but she’s still got plenty to say in a new interview with the Washington Blade, the oldest LGBT newspaper in the U.S.

She again spoke about one of her main sticking points with the Donald Trump administration: Its efforts to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

“We’re looking at Americans who want to sign up and serve our country,” she told the Blade. “It just doesn’t make any sense when we are still fighting in so many parts of the world.”

Ros-Lehtinen concluded, “We need patriotic, committed, able to serve individuals, whether they are male, female, transgender.”

It’s a position long-held by Ros-Lehtinen whose son, Rodrigo, is trans. But with the recent signing of President Trump’s newest version of the ban, Ros-Lehtinen felt the need to speak up once again.

“These are the bravest individuals, the most patriotic folks that we would want there.”

Ros-Lehtinen reiterated that she still does not support Trump after previously saying he would not get her vote in 2016.

However, Ros-Lehtinen remains a Republican and says she will support the Republican nominee for her seat in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. It remains to see who that will be, as a staggering nine people have filed to run on the Republican side.

Despite her promise to support the CD 27 Republican nominee, Ros-Lehtinen did praise one of the Democratic candidates in her interview with the Blade.

Ros-Lehtinen called current state Rep. David Richardson, one of Florida’s first openly gay state representatives, a “great guy.” She also told the Blade that Richardson is running “a great grassroots campaign.”

Saying something nice about a member of another political party shouldn’t be a big deal. But in this era of partisanship, it is noteworthy. Ros-Lehtinen has often joined the other side of the aisle to push for issues important to her.

One of those issues is gun reform. In light of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Ros-Lehtinen reiterated the need for new gun control measures, saying, “I’m not throwing anybody under the bus. We just haven’t done enough.”

Ros-Lehtinen supports efforts to temporarily confiscate guns from people showing “red flags” of possible violence. Florida did offer some reforms following Parkland but the federal government wasn’t as reactive.

“Shame on all of us” for not doing more, Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen has served in Congress since 1989, but says it’s time to step aside. “Like the Bible says, to everything there is a season and this was the time to say ‘OK, let’s try something new,’ ” she told the Blade.

Both parties will pick their nominees to replace Ros-Lehtinen on Aug. 28, followed by the general election on Nov. 6.

Nation’s largest public employee trade union backs Jason Pizzo for SD 38

Support for Jason Pizzo‘s primary challenge to state Sen. Daphne Campbell continues to pour in, as the nation’s largest public employee trade union has now endorsed Pizzo’s bid.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced it is backing Pizzo. AFSCME has more than 1.6 million working and retired members according to its website.

The organization represents workers from a diverse set of fields including nurses, corrections officers, and sanitation workers.

Pizzo promised to fight for AFSCME’s goals after receiving news of the endorsement.

“Our public employees work tirelessly to serve the state of Florida and deserve a champion who is fighting for them, not the special interests and well-connected,” Pizzo said. “Together with AFSCME’s support, we will stem the anti-labor legislation that has hindered our state for far too long.”

Pizzo decided to challenge Campbell for the Senate District 38 seat after finishing second place behind Campbell in the 2016 Democratic primary. As of now the winner of the primary will take over the seat, as no other candidates have officially filed to run.

Ketha Otis, who chairs AFSCME’s PEOPLE program for South Florida, explained why Pizzo is the organization’s preferred candidate.

“After reviewing where Jason stands on the issues that are most important to our members, we believe he is the best choice for our families, our communities, and those we serve,” said Otis. “We appreciate and recognize his past dedication to issues that affect working families.”

The AFSCME announcement is the latest in a long line of endorsements for Pizzo, a former federal prosecutor who currently works as an attorney in Miami. Earlier this month he nabbed endorsements from several South Florida mayors. SD 38 covers a portion of northeast Miami-Dade County.

Pizzo seems confident that with the backing of the AFSCME, he’ll be able to come out on top this time against Campbell.

“A dedication to service has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember,” said Pizzo. “With today’s endorsement, I’m recommitted to the fight for every working family in District 38 and beyond.”

The Democratic primary for SD 38 will be Aug. 28.

Progressive Democrats of America back David Richardson in CD 27

Current state Rep. David Richardson has positioned himself as one of the more progressive candidates in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. His latest endorsement makes that pitch even stronger.

Progressive Democrats of America has announced support for Richardson’s bid. The advocacy group was founded in 2004 and has chapters in 26 states across the U.S. and seeks out candidates “who are demonstrably progressive.”

“It is an honor to be recognized for my progressive bona fides by the one and only Progressive Democrats of America,” said Richardson. “From the first day of my campaign, I have supported Medicare-for-All and a comprehensive progressive platform that will reverse years of disastrous Republican rule.”

Indeed, Richardson has made note of that platform in three ads released last week. Each targets former University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who is also running for the Democratic nomination in CD 27.

In the ads, Richardson paints himself as a “courageous progressive” while hammering Shalala for past donations to Republicans, her time serving on the board of UnitedHealth and other issues seeking to paint Shalala as insufficiently liberal.

However, all five Democratic CD 27 candidates were universal in their support for progressive policies at a recent primary debate. That has complicated Richardson’s push to paint himself as the best progressive option in the race.

Richardson can now use this latest endorsement, along with continued emphasis on his record, to continue to make the case to voters that he is the man to take over for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“With Donald Trump in the White House, it is now more important than ever that we say ‘no’ to corporate Democrats and elect courageous Progressives in Congress,” said Richardson after the endorsement was announced.

Richardson is a retired forensic auditor and one of Florida’s first openly gay state legislators. In the past he’s pushed for Medicare-for-all, stricter gun control measures, and reform of private prisons.

The CD 27 primary will be held Aug. 28.

Jon Meacham on divisiveness: We’ve been here before

Listening to historian Jon Meacham speak at the Forum Club of Palm Beaches Tuesday, you’d be forgiven for forgetting one of the biggest political rallying cries of the past few years: “This is not normal.”

Instead, Meacham says, we’ve been here before.

He would know. Meacham’s newest book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels” covers past episodes where Americans overcame periods of seemingly intractable divisiveness.

America is certainly divided right now, at least politically. The Pew Research Center has measured political polarization since 1994, and their most recent numbers show the sharpest division ever between Republicans and Democrats.

“It’s not a great moment if you are measuring overall social happiness in the United States,” said Meacham Tuesday. “Tribalism is the great problem of the age.”

Though ultimately hopeful, Meacham says tribalism is something Americans need to try to get past in order to solve the biggest problems of the day.

“One of the things that worries me most is in some precincts it is impossible to say something positive about the president. And in other precincts it’s impossible to say anything critical of him.

“And that’s a paralyzing place for us to be. It is not a good place. If he gets something right, say so. If he gets something wrong, say so. That’s the nature of self-government. That’s what’s gotten us this far.”

However, Meacham’s outlook was ultimately positive, saying later in the speech, “I have nothing but confidence in the broad future of the country.”

That positivity comes at least in part from previous episodes highlighted by Meacham where Americans overcame, at least temporarily, some of the major issues concerning people today.

Meacham first pointed to the 1920s, where the Ku Klux Klan experienced a sort of rebirth, driven at least in part by anxiety about immigration.

“50,000 Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1925 without their masks on. It was very much an open thing.” Many people likened last year’s rally in Charlottesville to these sorts of open displays of hatred.

But Meacham credits our major institutions for beating back the rise of the Klan. He says the press did its job uncovering the group’s atrocities, and noted the courts upheld laws designed to weaken the Klan’s influence.

“By 1927-28, [the KKK] had fallen apart.”

Then, the early 1950s saw the rise of McCarthyism in the fight against communism. Taking note of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s often wild and unprovable claims, Meacham said the press back then struggled with deciding “whether you simply reported what a person in power said, even if you had every reason to believe it was not true.”

Ultimately, the press turned a more critical eye toward McCarthy. Eventually he was discredited and censured by the Senate.

Meacham said there are similarities between McCarthy and President Donald Trump, who often says things later proven to be false, but says these comparisons aren’t driven by partisanship. “I would be saying exactly the same thing to you if a Democrat had been elected and a Democrat behaved the same way.”

He added, “I have voted for Republicans and I have voted for Democrats. I plan to continue to do so.”

This era of divisiveness isn’t isolated to debates about the president. Just last week, Florida saw widespread protests targeting Publix for donating to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam due to his support of the National Rifle Association.

Though Publix was not promoting the NRA directly, gun control activists were outraged about the company’s support of someone who did. That was enough for gun control activists, who have targeted the NRA for its resistance to certain gun control measures following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Ultimately, Publix ceased all campaign donations.

Earlier in the month, the script was flipped when new NRA President Oliver North harshly criticized those activists, calling them “civil terrorists.”

Thought these types of flare-ups seem commonplace in 2018, Meacham says the defeat of the KKK and McCarthyism show that Americans can evolve past chaotic events and get back to periods of relative normalcy and working together. But he says it may take an effort from the population at large to make change.

“If we decide we want something different, then guess what? We’ll get something different.”

Rene Garcia backs Manny Diaz in bid for Garcia’s SD 36 seat

As Rene Garcia gets ready to leave the Florida Senate, he’s now officially named Manny Diaz as his preferred replacement.

Diaz, who currently represents House District 103, elected to run for the seat held by Garcia, who is term-limited. Now, Garcia says the Diaz is the right man to take his place.

“Manny Diaz is a proven and effective leader,” said Garcia. “I have worked with Manny for a number of years, and I know his dedication to his constituents and our community. His leadership on education issues as well as his consistent support for policies that strengthen our economy make him the right fit for District 36, and I’m proud to support him and encourage all District 36 voters to do the same.”

That’s the same message sent by a number of Miami-Dade County mayors who have thrown their support behind Diaz’s campaign as well.

Garnering the support of the man he’s looking to replace is certainly a big get, though the race for Senate District 36 appears all but over unless Alex Penelas or another big-name Democrat files within the next few weeks.

Diaz is the only Republican filed to run. His only declared Democratic opponent, Muhammad Amin has not listed a single donation so far with the Florida Division of Elections.

Diaz, meanwhile, has raised more than $500,000 between his campaign and political committee.

Diaz was grateful for Garcia’s support. “For more than two decades, Rene Garcia has been an effective public servant,” he said following news of the endorsement. “I am grateful for his friendship and support, and I’m honored by his vote of confidence in me.”

Garcia served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008 before moving over to the Senate in 2010. He now chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs and is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.

Diaz noted Garcia’s years of political service, saying of the outgoing Senator, “He has a track record of outstanding leadership, and I look forward to continuing the excellent representation he delivered for District 36.”

Endorsements pour in for campaign of Lori Alhadeff, mother of slain Parkland student

It’s been just two weeks since Lori Alhadeff announced a run for Broward County School Board. Already, it appears the seat will be hers.

Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed in February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, has earned endorsements from a wide array of state and federal politicians. Most notably, Rep. Ted Deutch, who serves the district covering Parkland, has thrown his support behind Alhadeff in her bid to represent District 4.

“I know that on the School Board Lori will be a voice for common sense safety reforms and quality education for all Broward County students,” said Deutch. “I’m excited to endorse her candidacy.”

Alhadeff made a call for gun control in an emotional message at a CNN town hall just days after the shooting. She has also criticized Broward County’s PROMISE Program, saying in her announcement speech the program needs to be “revamped.”

However, she has stopped short of calling for the resignation of Superintendent Robert Runcie, who instituted the program, saying she is willing to work with him on reforms.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who serves House District 97, noted Alhadeff’s push for change in his announcement endorsing her candidacy.

“Lori has faced an unbelievable tragedy and is now on a mission to make schools safer for my kids and yours,” said Moskowitz. “Our kids can’t learn if they aren’t safe. We must all do our part to help her get elected.”

Joining Deutch and Moskowitz in endorsing Alhadeff are State Sens. Kevin Rader, Lauren Book and Jeremy Ring. Coral Springs City Commissioner Dan Daley and Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen also say they’re supporting Alhadeff.

“I am incredibly grateful for the endorsements of so many leaders in our community,” said Alhadeff in response to the series of endorsements. “The outpouring of support for my agenda of school safety, increased transparency, more accountability, and providing a quality education to every student in Broward School has been heartening.”

Joining Alhadeff in a run for the School Board is Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina also died in the February’s shooting. He has echoed Alhadeff’s calls for change, including to the PROMISE Program.

Alhadeff seems secure in her run, as current District 4 Commissioner Abby Freedman has said she would not run for re-election. That leaves Alhadeff with a clear path to the seat, an opportunity she says of which she’ll take advantage.

“I look forward to working with everyone supporting my campaign, everyone in the community, and everyone in the Broward school system to make Broward schools into a model that other school districts around the country look to and try to emulate.”

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