Ryan Nicol, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 28

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.

Ron DeSantis’ race to win? Another poll shows him leading Adam Putnam

We saw the Donald Trump effect in action in Tuesday’s Georgia gubernatorial primary. We may be seeing a repeat in Florida come Aug. 28.

A new poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative has Ron DeSantis up nine points over former front-runner Adam Putnam in the GOP race for governor.

That continues the trend of polls showing DeSantis, a northeast Florida congressman, leading or tied with Putnam, the term-limited state Agriculture Commissioner, after DeSantis was endorsed by Trump.

It started with a Remington Research Group poll at the beginning of the month showing DeSantis up 17 points. Given Remington’s middling reputation as a pollster, it was fair to wonder whether that poll was an outlier rather than a sign the race was shifting.

But just over a week later, another poll showed DeSantis with a double-digit lead. Then, a third survey had DeSantis up 20 points.

This past weekend, the Florida Chamber of Commerce had the race tied. But that was a shift of 17 points toward DeSantis since the group’s previous poll.

Now, FAU’s survey has DeSantis earning 36 percent of voters’ support, with Putnam pulling in just 27 percent. And analysts say that’s due in large part to Trump’s decision to insert himself into the race.

“President Trump’s backing of Congressman DeSantis appears to have pushed the congressman past the early favorite Adam Putnam in the Republican primary,” said Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative.

While Trump’s endorsements have had limited success in the past (most notably in the Alabama Senate race, where his candidates of choice lost in both the primary and general elections), the president has had more wins recently.

That trend was most recently highlighted in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, where Brian Kemp coasted to victory Tuesday night after earning Trump’s support.

Nevertheless, Wagner warns Trump could be a liability come November.

“While the President can help Congressman DeSantis in the primary, Mr. Trump’s underwater approval ratings may be a drag in the general election.”

Indeed, the poll shows Trump’s overall approval rating dropped two points from the poll’s previous results in May. He now sits at 41 percent approval, with 47 percent of voters disapproving.

Other notable points from the FAU survey show Republicans ranking immigration as their top concern in 2018, with 43 percent of voters citing that issue.

The survey was conducted July 20-21 among 800 registered voters, with a margin of error of 3.4 points. Party breakdown among the survey respondents was 35 percent registered Democrats, 33 percent registered Republicans and 32 percent registered independents.

Javier Enriquez challenges opponent to three debates in HD 114

Republican challenger Javier Enriquez says voters deserve to hear from the candidates ahead of November’s election in House District 114.

As a result, Enriquez has offered to debate his Democratic opponent – incumbent state Rep. Javier Fernandez – three times before the Nov. 6 election.

Enriquez is running unopposed on the Republican side. No Democrats offered to challenge Fernandez either. That leaves HD 114 a one-on-one race between the two candidates.

“Voters deserve to know where candidates stand on the issues affecting their daily lives,” Enriquez said.

“There’s a lot at stake in this election, including increasing traffic issues, rising toll costs, unaffordable housing, and disproportionate property taxes, among other important issues. Debates provide one of the best forums to clarify what distinguishes one candidate from another, and I hope Mr. Fernandez will accept my invitation. The voters of District 114 deserve nothing less.”

Enriquez argues debates are especially important in the HD 114 race, as Fernandez only took office in May of this year after winning a special election. That leaves him with a scant voting record that doesn’t offer enough information to voters, according to Enriquez.

“This campaign gives voters a real choice between my experience as a lifelong resident of the district, understanding the real-life, day-to-day struggles of folks in the community, and yours as a government employee with a record of raising taxes and allegations of unethical behavior as a lobbyist,” said Enriquez in a letter to his opponent.

“I have real solutions to offer for public safety, cutting property taxes for seniors, and job creation, and I look forward to making my case directly to voters.”

Enriquez worked as an attorney before jumping into the HD 114 race.

The district covers parts of Miami-Dade County including West Miami and Cutler Bay. It’s expected to be a tight race in 2018, as three of the last four elections have been decided by less than five percentage points.

Americans for Prosperity bashes Carlos Curbelo carbon tax plan

Americans for Prosperity Florida (AFP-FL), the conservative/libertarian group funded by the Koch brothers, is trashing a carbon tax bill put forward by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo that Curbelo says would help combat climate change.

The Republican  broke from his party to offer up the legislation. His bill, the “MARKET CHOICE Act,” would repeal federal taxes on certain fuels and replace them with a carbon tax.

“I truly believe that one day this bill, or legislation similar to it, will become law,” Curbelo said in comments reported by Reuters.

“It will spark an important debate about investing in our country’s infrastructure, the way we tax and what to do to protect the environment.”

But a spokesperson from AFP-FL said the bill would result in a tax increase that Americans shouldn’t stand for.

“Rep. Curbelo’s tax hike proposal would resurrect bad ideas and produce even worse alternatives,” said Chris Hudson, state director of AFP-FL.

“A carbon tax paired with a border adjustment tax would mean higher prices for essentials like gasoline, electricity, food, and clothing—and those price hikes would hit the least fortunate hardest.”

Hudson called for members of Congress to vote against Curbelo’s legislation.

“With the current strong economic outlook, we should seek ways to empower consumers, get out of control Washington spending in check, and build on the promise of the historic tax reform Congress passed late last year. The ‘MARKET CHOICE Act’ would be a harmful proposal that should be swiftly rejected by members of Congress.”

The group has long pushed back against tax increases, particularly those tied to efforts to tackle climate issues.

AFP-FL pointed to a 2013 Congressional Budget Office report, which noted, “The costs of a carbon tax would not be evenly distributed among U.S. households. For example, the additional costs from higher prices would consume a greater share of income for low-income households than for higher-income households, because low-income households generally spend a larger percentage of their income on emission-intensive goods.”

Nevertheless, Curbelo argues his bill would help curb the effects of climate change. That’s an issue he’s long been passionate about, often in conflict with other Republicans.

Curbelo’s seat in Florida’s 26th Congressional District could be at risk in 2018. If he gets past a primary challenge, by Souraya Faas, he will then take on the winner of the Democratic primary between Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Demetries Grimes.

Analysts currently rate the CD 26 race as a toss-up.

New ad hits Ashley Moody for ‘fearmongering’ over crime stats

A new ad from Frank White‘s political committee is hitting Ashley Moody over alleged “fearmongering” in a recent ad.

The group, United Conservatives, says Moody was misleading voters in a recent ad for her campaign in the Attorney General’s race.

In Moody’s 30-second spot, the narrator beings by saying, “Our streets aren’t safe.” Moody then jumps in to say she will fix the problems plaguing the state.

But that reference to unsafe streets doesn’t jibe with the facts, according to United Conservatives.

The group’s new ad, titled “Ashley Moody Facts,” points to statements made by the state’s current Republican administration, touting a drop in violent crime in 2017.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office put out a news release in May which pegged Florida’s crime rate at a 47-year low in 2017. The ad also features a news conference where Scott said, “Florida’s crime rate dropped by six percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crimes by more than three percent.”

Current Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi followed up with a statement highlighting the “dramatic drop in the state’s crime rate.”

The ad closes by urging voters to “call Ashley Moody and tell her Floridians deserve leadership, not fear-mongering.”

But Moody’s campaign says that some areas are still dealing with the effects of violent crime, and highlighted that fact in their response to White.

“It’s disturbing that a candidate running for Attorney General would think our crime problem is solved,” said Nick Catroppo, campaign manager for Moody.

“If Frank White had spent even a second working with law enforcement, leading investigations, or prosecuting a case instead of being a politician, he would understand Florida’s next attorney general will face significant criminal threats not the least of which are escalating violent crime rates in parts of the state and attacks on law enforcement.”

Moody and White are the only two Republicans competing in the AG race.

The Democrats also currently have two candidates running, though that race was upended Wednesday as Sean Shaw sued to have his opponent, Ryan Torrens, removed from the ballot.

Non-affiliated candidate Jeffrey Marc Siskind is also running.

Democrats to Pinellas State Attorney: Reject ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense

Two Democratic lawmakers are out with a joint statement Tuesday urging the Pinellas County State Attorney to reject the “Stand Your Ground” defense in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.

The shooting drew headlines after McGlockton was shot dead following a dispute over a handicapped parking space at a Clearwater convenience store.

Now it’s up to State Attorney Bernie McCabe to decide whether charges will be filed against the shooter, 47-year-old Michael Drejka.

Rep. Shevrin Jones issued a statement, which was joined by Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, urging McCabe to pursue the case.

“The Florida stand your ground law is a license to kill,” argued Jones.

“Not only does it disproportionately affect African-American communities and exacerbates racial disparities in our justice system, it has ‘justified’ the murder of many innocent people and has profoundly shattered the lives of their families.”

He went on to call for changes to the law, and also added, “I want justice for the family of the victims. These aggressors need to be held accountable for their despicable actions.”

In a letter addressed directly to the McCabe, the lawmakers argue Drejka initiated the confrontation by “verbally harassing” McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs. After noting McGlockton did shove Drejka, they say Drejka only fired his weapon after McGlockton “backed away to de-escalate the situation.”

The lawmakers conclude that “‘Stand Your Ground’ is not applicable in this case because Mr. McGlockton was attempting to end the altercation that Mr. Drejka initiated, and did not pose a threat to Mr. Drejka, given that Mr. McGlockton was moving away from Mr. Drejka, and that Mr. McGlockton did not have a weapon.”

They close the letter by urging McCabe to “see this case as we do: Michael Drejka murdered Markeis McGlockton.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says his sheriffs are unlikely to arrest the shooter with action by the state attorney, as he says surveillance video appeared to show Drejka him defending himself.

But the sheriff did have criticisms of the law in a statement to CNN. He noted for charges to be filed, the state attorney must prove a shooter is not entitled to the “stand your ground” defense by “clear and convincing evidence.”

“That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state,” said Gualtieri.

Florida’s “stand your ground” law previously attracted attention in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The shooter, George Zimmerman, ultimately did not invoke the law in his defense at trial. Rather, he used the traditional argument of self-defense to beat charges in the case.

Matt Caldwell accuses Facebook of censorship after ad is removed

GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell has a message for Facebook after he says his pro-Second Amendment ad was removed: “Don’t tread on me.”

The candidate, also a North Fort Myers state representative, argues Facebook was motivated by “institutional liberalism” in choosing to ban the ad.

The 15-second spot, titled “That’s All There Is To It,” is still available on YouTube. It features Caldwell shooting a clay target before he addresses the camera directly while holding the gun.

“I’m Matt Caldwell. I like guns. I love the Second Amendment. And I support our president. That’s why I’m endorsed by the NRA. I’m Matt Caldwell, and that’s all there is to it.”

That was apparently enough to get the ad taken down.

Facebook’s advertising policies include the following language: “Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.”

The page then gives a list of acceptable and unacceptable advertisements. “Ads promoting the brandishing of firearms” are disallowed by the website, according to that page. A request for comment from Facebook is pending.

“Facebook’s liberal agenda is keeping our campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture from sharing our message,” Caldwell said. The site “has mislabeled our ad in an effort to censor our pro-Second Amendment support and endorsement from the NRA.”

Caldwell then directly addressed Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

“The U.S. Constitution could not be clearer: Our Second Amendment rights are inalienable. These God-given rights were enshrined in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers and Facebook’s censorship regime cannot get away with waging a war against conservative ideals and our pro-liberty message. Washington, Jefferson, and Madison are the names on the U.S. Constitution, not Zuckerberg.”

It should be noted that while George Washington and James Madison did sign the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson did not as he was in France at the time.

Caldwell is competing for the Republican nomination in the Ag. Commissioner race with state Sen. Denise Grimsley, retired Army Colonel Mike McCalister, and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman. They are running to replace term-limited Commissioner Adam Putnam, now running to be Florida’s next governor.

Caldwell and Grimsley are at the top of the heap in fundraising and endorsements — Caldwell added more than a dozen last week — while Troutman has so far kept up by dumping millions of his own cash into his campaign account.

The primary election is Aug. 28.


Debbie Mucarsel-Powell launches new digital ad campaign

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is out with a new digital ad campaign that aims to highlight her policy agenda as she tries to unseat Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

The first of the series of three ads is a 15-second spot that focuses on Mucarsel-Powell’s environmental advocacy.

“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an immigrant, a Latina, worked with the Coral Restoration Foundation to protect our coasts,” the ad’s narrator says.

“In Congress, she’ll champion the fight against climate change and protect the environment because that’s who she is.”

The campaign plans to release two more ads this week, which will focus on taxes and health care. They’ll also highlight Mucarsel-Powell’s career in the nonprofit sector.

Former naval officer Demetries Grimes is battling Mucarsel-Powell for the Democratic nomination in CD 26.

Democrats see this as a flippable seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Mucarsel-Powell to its “Red to Blue” program, which aims to support candidates in competitive districts throughout the midterms.

“Congressman Curbelo portrays himself as a moderate here in Florida, but time and time again he has voted with extremist Washington Republicans,” said Melvin Félix, communications director for the Mucarsel-Powell campaign.

“We want voters to know that Debbie has worked on the issues they care about, and that they can trust her to vote with her conscience when she’s elected in November.”

Watch the ad below.

Closing the gap with Mario Diaz-Balart? Mary Barzee Flores campaign says yes

The Mary Barzee Flores campaign says its candidate is picking up steam, calling her battle for Mario Diaz-Balart‘s seat “increasingly competitive” just over 100 days from Election Day.

Sam Miller, campaign manager for Barzee Flores, pointed to recent polling “that clearly indicates he’s increasingly vulnerable this year.”

That poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed Diaz-Balart up just seven points over Barzee Flores, 46 percent to 39 percent. Fifteen percent of voters were undecided.

A race that close could be seen as an upset in itself, as Diaz-Balart has not faced a competitive election in Florida’s 25th Congressional District in years.

It’s worth noting that this was an internal poll, which means it should be seen more skeptically than usual.

Miller also hit Diaz-Balart over his inaugural ad in the campaign, which targeted the law firm of Barzee Flores’ husband.

“As Mary has used her campaign to introduce herself to voters and highlight her clear strengths — including her time as a public defender and judge in the community, Diaz-Balart is using his first advertisement to attack Mary Barzee Flores’ family,” said Miller.

“Perhaps he is concerned that focusing on his record won’t isolate him from South Florida’s shifting political environment, where Republicans are losing seats that were once thought to be safe.”

Miller says he’s also excited by the campaign’s fundraising. While Diaz-Balart crossed the $500,000 mark in the second quarter, Barzee Flores came close with $450,000.

“This is especially notable considering that over 60 percent of his funds come from corporate PACs and special interest groups, and less than 1 percent comes from small dollar donors,” said Miller.

“Comparing that figure with the Barzee Flores campaign, you see that Mary outraised the incumbent by a factor of over 100-to-1 in grassroots donations.”

Whether these signs predict a close election in November is anyone’s guess. But Miller says Barzee Flores is intent on riding a “blue wave” into office.

“In a race where neither party’s candidate has a primary opponent, our general election campaign is in full swing in Florida’s 25th District. This race is getting closer by the day and should be on the radar of everyone following Democrats’ fight to take back the House.”

Chip LaMarca

Firefighters unions back Chip LaMarca in HD 93

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca on Tuesday announced the endorsements of several state and local firefighters unions as he campaigns in House District 93.

LaMarca earned endorsements from:

— Florida Professional Firefighters,

— Broward County Council of Professional Fire Fighters,

— Metro-Broward Professional Fire Fighters, and

— Broward County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics.

In addition, Fort Lauderdale Professional Firefighters and Pompano Beach Professional Fire Fighters are also backing LaMarca’s campaign.

“It is truly an honor to receive the endorsement of our firefighters at the state level and throughout our Broward County community,” LaMarca said.

“Firefighters put their lives at risk each and every day to protect our families, and I am proud to call so many of these heroes my friends,” he added. “On the County Commission, I fought tirelessly for eight years to support our Broward firefighters when they needed a voice for the airport, seaport and throughout the community.

“I will take that same commitment to Tallahassee, serving in the Florida House of Representatives. I will always be an advocate for our first responders.”

HD 93 covers eastern Broward County including Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale.

LaMarca is the only Republican who filed to run in the district. The lone Democrat running is attorney Emma Collum. Attorney Kelly Milam is filed to run as a non-party affiliated candidate.

The candidates are running to replace outgoing state Rep. George Moraitis, a Fort Lauderdale Republican.

Gwen Graham gets hands-on during cleanup duty in the Keys

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham and ‘Team Graham’ were all hands on deck Sunday, as she and her family were on cleanup duty in Big Pine Key.

Graham was there to join the Conch Republic Marine Army (CRMA), a group formed after Hurricane Irma slammed the Keys last year. The group was formed after several volunteer groups combined together to lead the area in its clean-up effort.

“We are are usually ones calling politicians for help, or at least awareness of the challenge we face here in the Florida Keys,” said CRMA’s founder, Brian Vest.

“In this case, the Grahams called me and asked if they could come see what we do.”

Vest’s life was uprooted by Irma when he lost his home in the storm. But he decided to take the lead when it came to getting the area back to normal.

Since it began eight months ago, CRMA says it’s cleaned more than 90 tons of trash. The all-volunteer force has worked more than 6,000 hours so far. Some of those volunteers still live in transitional housing after losing their homes.

“Almost a year after Irma hit, there is so much work left to do to restore the Keys,” Graham said.

“It’s inspiring to see how much progress the Conch Republic Marine Army, a volunteer organization, has made in cleaning up the beach on their own — but they should not have to do it alone.

“As governor, I will always fight for communities hurt by hurricanes to have the resources and responders they need to get back on their feet.”

Graham was there along with her parents, sisters and children to help with the work. The visit began a statewide tour labeled “Grassroots with the Grahams,” which serves as a way to connect with voters.

The campaign continued those efforts Monday, canvassing in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Graham plans to attend the opening of a new office in Wynwood tomorrow, followed by a community grilling event Wednesday in Miami Lakes.

On Thursday, she will be volunteering in Fort Myers and attending a grassroots fundraiser in Sarasota. Friday will see her on a tour of Ulele Springs in Tampa.

Graham is competing for the Democratic nomination with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach real estate billionaire Jeff Greene, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine.

Vest says today’s efforts helped influence his vote in 2018.

“Gwen showed up with her whole family and got right to it. It was inspiring to see a candidate who takes action and does the hard work. We need a governor who cares and Gwen showed us she cares.”

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