Jacob Ogles, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 41

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

College Football shows true political partnerships and divisions

Many of the political world’s differences erased as leaders rallied instead around the loyalties that truly matter—college football allegiances.

But an on-field injury that caused the entire sporting world to pause also led to introspection on the part of pols.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer took note on Friday evening of a major knee injury for University of Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton, which required emergency surgery. UCF beat home state rival University of South Florida 38-10, but the player’s condition elicited comments throughout the community.

“A big win for @UCF_Football over rival USF, but more importantly we’re all sending positive thoughts to McKenzie Milton,” Dyer tweeted. “He’s represented this team and university so well and I know the Knights will keep competing for him.”

But the game did create moments of bipartisanship.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith pulled together fellow representatives Anna Eskamani and Amber Mariano. Sure, Smith and Eskamani represent the most progressive members of the House Democratic caucus and Mariano has become a bit of a spokeswoman for pro-Trump millennials. This week, all were simply UCF Knights.

“Congrats @UCF_Football on another amazing victory!!!” Smith tweeted. “These three @UCF alumni were in Tampa cheering for you!!”

Of course, another rivalry this weekend pitted the University of Florida Gators against the Florida State University Seminoles. The 41-14 victory for the Orange and Blue drew some divisive gloating from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the type of commentary blue Gainesville will surely celebrate.

“After a 5 year anomaly, order has been restored,” the UF alum tweeted. “#GatorNation trending up. Great win & great future ahead for THE University of #Florida.”

Make America Festive Again? MAGA goes from campaign slogan to Christmas decor

Half political statement, half fashion choice, “Make America Great Again” has become much more than a campaign slogan. The red caps adorning the heads of Donald Trump supporters to rallies have become the signature of a movement.

But want a cap with festive Christmas lights? Drop $55 at the official campaign store and it’s yours. Maybe a Christmas ornament to celebrate the GOP incumbent? There’s one available that’s finished in 24k gold.

And they also remain a major business endeavor. Listed as a campaign expense, the caps sold at tents in parking lots before rallies or roadside 12 months a year have become a major enterprise all themselves, as reported by outlets like Quartz.

The news site reports Louisiana-based Ace Specialties on track to sell millions in MAGA merchandise in 2018, based on public reports filed to the Federal Elections Commission.

More than $902,074 was spent by Trump’s presidential campaign in the first nine months in 2018 alone.

MAGA rally in Fort Myers

And the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint effort between the presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, spent another $1.4 million on the products.

The hat, of course, remains the most prominent signature of the campaign. But the constant interest in goods shows how the MAGA brand has grown to mean much more than a signal who someone plans to vote for anytime soon.

Trump’s campaign stops in Florida a week before Election Day to help Sen.-elect Rick Scott and Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis win their new jobs became must-attend events for Sunshine State Republicans, but they also got billed as MAGA rallies, further emblazing the brand onto not just Trump’s re-election ambitions but the hops of his entire political party.

It’s no shock Ace Specialties CEO Christl Mahfouz has become such a vocal champion of Trump, whose candidacy has helped to generate more than $21 million in payments to her company from political entities alone.

But it’s also a sign that the slogan-as-brand has helped insert itself in people’s lifestyle and personal identity in ways the Obama ‘O” logo could only dream. And it shows the financial stake retailers outside the political world now has in these little red hats.

These freshmen lawmakers already filed for re-election weeks after winning office.

The 2018 campaign season has barely closed, but some freshman lawmakers already their eyes on re-election.

State Sen. Tommy Wright, a New Smyrna Beach Republican, became the first incumbent to already open a campaign account for 2022. He will seek a second term in Florida Senate District 14 after winning his first election over Democrat Mel Martin in November by more than 14 percent.

Republican leaders in Volusia and Brevard counties this year tapped Wright, a long-time donor to local campaigns, to run as the replacement nominee for the late Dorothy Hukill,

In the Florida House, several freshman have filed to run in 2020.

State Rep. Alex Andrade, Pensacola Republican, went ahead and filed for reelection back in September, shortly after winning a primary to succeed Frank White in Florida House District 2.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, Orlando Democrat, flipped Florida House District 47 in a victory and already has an eye on 2020.

State Rep. Dianne “Ms. Dee” Hart, a Tampa Democrat, one of several black women taking office in Tallahassee this year, has also already filed for reelection.

State Rep. Jennifer Webb, a Gulfport Democrat, flipped a Pinellas County seat in House District 69 and plans to stick around awhile.

State Rep. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat, won her race to succeed Joe Abruzzo in Florida House District 81.

State Rep. Joe Casello, a Boynton Beach Democrat, who won in Florida House District 90 without opposition, has his papers in for 2020.

State Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Doral Republican, held off Democrat Javier Estevez in Florida House District 105, will run again as well.

State Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, Miami Republican, who flipped a blue seat red on Election Day in Florida House District 118, also hopes to keep the seat in GOP hands in 2020.

State Rep. James Bush III, Miami Democrat, who previous served from 1992 to 2000 and again in 2008, plans to stick around as well.

Additionally, two red-shirt freshman have also opened campaign accounts for 2020. State Rep. Daniel Perez, Miami Republican, originally won election in Florida House District 116, in a special election in September 2017. State Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, won an election to flip State House District 72 in February.

Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle (HD 77)

Dane Eagle hopes both parties agree on election reforms

It would appear Florida lawmakers in both parties left recount season with election reform on the mind.

State Rep. Dane Eagle, now the House Republican Leader, lists the issue among his own priorities this year.

The Cape Coral lawmaker says changes to the state’s election laws will likely come up during the 2019 Legislative Session after the “tough election season” that just drew to a close in Florida.

His remark came a day after House Democrat Leader Kionne McGhee pledged to make the issue a top priority of his caucus.

Eagle was even hopeful there may be common ground between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

“We all want to see clear rules,” Eagle said. “There’s some ambiguity in the statutes, and that led to confusion all around.”

This week, McGhee also expressed hope at having a positive conversation with Republicans.

“Floridians deserve a democracy where voters decide elections, not broken machines or arbitrary deadlines,” said McGhee, a Cutler Bay Democrat. “We believe our colleagues across the aisle will work with us on this effort.”

Calls for a fresh look at voting laws come after Florida completed an unprecedented three statewide recounts — for U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.

In the midst of that, legal challenges from Democrats like U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who lost his seat to Republican Rick Scott, successfully sought to allow more time for voters to verify signatures on vote-by-mail ballots, and also called (unsuccessfully) for courts to allow votes to count that arrived by mail after polls closed.

Meanwhile, Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, who lost to Democrat Nikki Fried, filed his own complaints against Broward elections officials.

He demanded a better early accounting of how many votes came into the office, and also sought explanations on why thousands of votes got logged in after polls closed.

Additionally, populous counties like Broward and Palm Beach dealt with equipment issues.

Of course, McGhee had pushed a number of issues popular among progressives like automatic voter registration and eliminating voter purges.

But Speaker Jose Oliva had stressed to reporters on Tuesday that strict adherence to the law should be the goal of election reform.

So the shared interest in the broad issue doesn’t mean GOP and Democratic lawmakers will agree on everything — or even on exactly what problems exist.

“As always, the devil is in the details,” Eagle said.

Gun safety advocates claim victory with Nikki Fried win

Some of Florida’s biggest gun control advocates saw in Nikki Fried’s Agriculture Commissioner race a victory.

“This is a victory for those of us who believe we can do more for gun safety,” wrote Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the Parkland high school mass shooting in February, on Twitter.

“I am honored to now have the opportunity to be part of her transition. Nikki, thank you for running.”

Fried emerged victorious in Florida’s closest and most drawn out statewide election, besting Republican Matt Caldwell by 6,753 votes, about 0.08 percent of more than 8 million votes cast. She was in Tallahassee on Tuesday, attending both legislative chambers’ Organization Sessions.

After a court challenge regarding ballots in Broward County, Caldwell conceded, ending the last major showdown in a particularly testy recount season in the Sunshine State.

While Fried ran on a range of issues, most notably reform of marijuana laws, it was gun control advocates who quickly celebrated the Democrat’s victory.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in congratulating Fried, called the candidate a “strong advocate for gun violence prevention.”

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, tweeted Fried will soon be “making background checks great again.

That comment, of course, alluded to a scandal that broke this year under outgoing Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The Tampa Bay Times broke a story that Putnam’s office stopped conducting background checks on concealed weapons permits for a year.

The issue put Putnam, then a Republican candidate for Governor, on the defensive at the height of the party primary and, while hardly the only factor, contributed to his primary loss to now Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

Fried during the course of the campaign fought with gun rights groups, most notably in a public exchange with NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer.

The candidate told media she sent a letter to Hammer stating “I won’t be beholden to you.” Hammer, though, promptly called that a lie and issued a message to NRA members Fried was an “anti-gun extremist who will eliminate our freedoms.”

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts celebrated the news that, at least for now, Fried seems the winner of that particular political feud.

“Thoughts and prayers to @NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer,” Watts tweeted. “Nikki will now oversee the state’s gun permitting system that has been controlled by Hammer for years.”

Francis Rooney criticizes White House for ignoring Saudi murder of journalist

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney says a White House decision to stand by Saudi Arabia — despite evidence the Saudi prince had a journalist murdered — will hurt the United States’ reputation around the globe.

“I’m concerned about our standing in the world and what it says about the United States,” said the Naples Republican during an interview with CNN.

The intra-party criticism comes the same day Republican President Donald Trump issued a statement supporting Saudi Arabia.

That comes after a U.S. intelligence report that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The statement from Trump winds through a variety of rationales, from the fact Iran has been a worse player in Yemen, to the fact 17 other Saudis face sanctions for the Khashoggi murder, and a allusion to the Saudi position Khashoggi was a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ultimately, the president dismisses the notion that intelligence can definitively show bin Salman’s role.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump says in the statement.

“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran.”

Rooney, though, says the decision to look the other way in the murder of Khashoggi, a resident of the United State.

“From our very beginnings, we have been a country founded on important principals: Freedom, rule of law,” Rooney said. “The Declaration of Independence kind of sets the road map.

“I don’t think we want to back up on that and cut a break for Saudi Arabia murdering someone when we don’t cut anybody else a break for murdering people.”

And while Rooney declined to join in with pundits labeling Trump’s move a “catastrophic blow” to U.S. standing, he questioned whether appeasing the Saudi royals now would mean in the future.

“I am not sure that if we let Saudi Arabia get away with it that it’s going to helpful for our relationship with them either,” Rooney said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a press conference today said American interests ultimately remain in maintaining a relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a mean nasty world out there,” Pompeo said.

Ashley Moody

Ashley Moody puts John Guard in charge of transition team

Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody named former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Guard as executive director for her transition team, which includes a number of prominent leaders in the legal and law enforcement community.

In announcing her team, the Republican also laid out a list of top priorities, including the opioid epidemic, elder abuse, law enforcement, human trafficking and mental health.

Guard currently works as a partner and commercial litigator in the Tampa offices for Quarles & Brady. During his time as a federal prosecutor in the Middle District of Florida, Guard investigated and prosecuted a range of fraud acts. He previously worked in private practice representing industries in the telecommunications, technology and financial industries, including in class action defense.

As for the rest of her team? Moody will lean heavily on law enforcement and prosecutors during the transition.

The transition team includes six sheriffs, including Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, Glades County Sheriff David Hardin, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, and Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods. Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley will also play a role.

Four state attorneys will serve on the team, including Phil Archer from the 18th Judicial Circuit, Brian Haas from the 10th Circuit, R.J. Larizza from the 7th Circuit and Dennis Ward from the 16th Circuit.

Public Defender Diamond Litty from the 19th Circuit will represent the other side of the courthouse.

Rounding out the team with be former state Sen. Lisa Carlton, a Sarasota Republican and Constitutional Revision Commissioner; Panama City hotelier Julie Hilton, also an attorney; Tampa leader Marty Lanahan, a former Regions Bank executive; and Renee Lopez-Cantera, vice president of business development for the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and soon-to-be First Lady for less than a week.

All transition members must sign a pledge not to lobby the Florida Legislature for at least a year, Moody’s campaign said.

Moody will be in Tallahassee this week meeting with outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi and her staff.

Moody this month defeated Democrat Sean Shaw to become the next Attorney General starting in January.

Make no mistake, Florida’s recount results were historic

A 12-day recount process in Florida ultimately failed to change the outcome of three statewide races. But make no mistake, the result of this ballot scrutiny was historic.

For starters, of course, this election marked the first time the Florida vote was close enough to send three statewide races—U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner—to a machine recount.

But the motion in two of those races made history itself.

FairVote, a nonpartisan election reform group, released a study two years ago that looked at the history of statewide recounts dating back to the year 2000.

The study shows recounts for statewide races remain rare—only 27 races out of 4,867 statewide contests in 15 years ended up in a recount situation. Of those, only three such recounts — the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, 2004 Washington gubernatorial election and a 2006 Connecticut Auditor election— ever overturned the original outcomes of the races.

That hasn’t changed in the past three years, and presuming nothing changes in Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner contest this year, the Sunshine State won’t change the numbers either.

But the FairVote study also shows most recounts don’t significantly change the margins between the major candidates.

In fact, Florida still holds the record for margin shift. That’s from the 2000 presidential recount, the granddaddy of them all. There, an initial tabulation of Florida votes for President found Republican George W. Bush with a lead of 1,784 votes over Democrat Al Gore.

Few living here at the time will forget the dragged out legal and political fight that ensued over the next 36 days. The result, Bush’s lead dwindled to 537. That swing of a net 1,247 votes wasn’t enough to stop Florida’s electoral votes from delivering Bush the presidency, but it stood for nearly two decades as a record swing in totals before and after a recount.

That is until now.

Now, a machine recount in Florida’s three statewide races produced little shift. Republican Ron DeSantis’ lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Governor’s race shrunk by one vote, from 33,684 to 33,683.

There was more motion in other races. The margin between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson actually grew from 12,562 in the initial tabulation to 12,603. The margin between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell dwindled from 5,326 votes to 5,307.

The little motion in the Governor’s race did not force a hand recount of votes, and Gillum threw in the towel on Saturday. But the other races remained in the 0.25 percent margin to trigger a hand recount.

That produced significant motion in the races.

A Florida law passed in the aftermath of the 2000 recount says a hand recount only need look at undervotes and overvotes, not the entirety of more than 8.2 million votes in the race.

That means all candidates inevitably would gain votes as only ballots that didn’t register got this final look.

In the Senate race, the gap between Scott and Nelson dropped to 10,033 votes. That’s a 2,570-vote shift from the machine recount totals and a 2,529-vote shift from the original tabulation.

That’s more than double the shift in margin between Bush and Gore.

The manual recount also significantly changed the vote difference in the Agriculture race as well. There, the gap between Fried and Caldwell grew by 1,446 from the machine recount and by 1,427 from the original tally.

This means Florida lays claim to the three biggest shifts ever in the number of votes separating statewide candidates for office as a result of a hand recount.

That may alarm those who thought reforms put in place after 2000 guaranteed the initial tabulations of votes could be relied upon. But perhaps more disturbing may be that thousands of votes remain unaccounted for even now.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, following the revelation a machine recount found thousands fewer votes than the initial tabulation, says her office has misplaced over 2,000 ballots.

Palm Beach County also missed a deadline on the machine recount and didn’t start a hand recount of the Agriculture Commissioner race before the deadline to have it complete.

And Hillsborough County refused to submit its machine recount when it came up nearly 900 votes short of the initial tabulation.

In some cases, these actions may reduce the shifts in margin between votes in Florida’s biggest races. But in others, particularly that hand recount for Agriculture Commissioner in Palm Beach, it well could make the gap grow.

And none of this gets into some 150 votes in Bay County that may yet get tossed because they were sent via email or fax.

In any case, this recount proved historic and cemented Florida’s notorious reputation as a home to election count controversy.

Report: Brenda Snipes resigns as Broward elections supervisor

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation, according to a report in the Sun-Sentinel.

The departure comes after a contentious recount that drew national scrutiny on the office, and after a number of leaders called her for removal from office.

The Sun-Sentinel sources Burnadette Norris-Weeks, counsel for the Supervisor of Elections Office, who told the newspaper she had seen a draft of Snipes resignation letter. The paper could not confirm when Snipes planned to leave office but said she will likely stay no longer than early January.

Snipes already indicated earlier in the week she likely would not seek re-election.

She originally took office after an appointment by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, coincidentally after the Republican Governor removed Miriam Oliphant from the post following the mishandling of a midterm election.

Now Snipes has come under sustained fire for irregularities this year. Earlier this week, Bush joined a chorus of critics of the elections supervisor.

“There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process,” Bush tweeted on Monday. “Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts.”

But she suffered heavy criticism from all sides.

With a recount concluded and Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson conceding in the U.S. Senate race to Gov. Rick Scott, Democrats think poor ballot design may have contributed to an unusually high number of undervotes in the contest in Broward County. Nearly 25,000 fewer voters bubbled in that race than the Governor’s contest or even some constitutional amendments. The Senate race came down to 10,033 votes.

And after a machine recount on three statewide races this year, Snipes realized her staff had misplaced more than 2,000 ballots, prompting the office to leave in place original tabulations over the objection of Republican candidates.

The entire recount process became fraught with tension from the start when protracted vote counts in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both Democratic strongholds, dramatically tightened the margins in this year’s U.S. Senate and Governor’s races, and completely erased a lead Republican Matt Caldwell appeared to hold in the Agriculture Commissioner race on Election Day.

Caldwell declared victory on Nov. 6, he said, based on a belief his 40,000-vote lead over Democrat Nikki Fried at the time exceeded the number of outstanding votes left in the race. Then Broward County continued to add an additional 80,000 ballots into state totals over the next two days. Fried took the lead in Thursday and kept it through a statewide recount process.

Fried today declared victory herself after a manual recount that left her with a 6,753-vote lead. Caldwell, meanwhile, has sued Snipes office, his attorneys alleging elections officials logged in 6,873 vote-by-mail ballots accepted after polls closed on Election Day.

Andrew Gillum advises Ron DeSantis to prioritize diversity

A day after conceding Florida’s gubernatorial contest, Democrat Andrew Gillum offered advice to victor Ron DeSantis as he names an administration.

“Very quickly,” Gillum said, “bring in a diverse set of people.”

In an interview today with AM Joy on MSNBC, host Joy Reid asked what DeSantis should do after an election in which racial divides played a huge role, from DeSantis’ post-primary “Monkey This Up” moment to Gillum’s debate assertion that “racists believe he’s a racist.

Gillum said he remains concerned whether DeSantis has done enough to distance himself from fringe elements of the party.

“I was really disappointed to see him appoint Matt Gaetz to the transition team,” Gillum said.

Specifically, he called out Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, for inviting Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to the 2018 State of the Union.

“I don’t know if he is a known neo-Nazi,” Gillum said of Johnson, but he was “someone whose values are inconsistent, I would suggest, with a majority of people in my state.”

DeSantis invited Gillum for a summit to speak about the state’s future.

And as rhetoric escalated post-election about the U.S. Senate recount, The New York Times reports DeSantis actively sought to tone things down in the now-complete Governor’s race recount.

That may have prompted President Donald Trump yesterday to offer praise to Gillum on Twitter, calling him a “strong Democrat warrior.”

Gillum told Reid he would be fine meeting with DeSantis so long as it wasn’t merely a post-election “photo op” and provided “more of a sincere opportunity to have diverse voices at the table.”

“Mr. DeSantis, I would hope, would take this as an opportunity to acknowledge that half the people in this state voted differently, and they wanted a different outcome,” Gillum said.

“If he really means to be governor for all the people of the state of Florida and not just those that voted for him, that means he’s going to have to make some outreaches.”

And after a historically close election, one DeSantis won by 33,683 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast, Gillum said he wants election reform in Florida.

Gillum said in his opinion, one of the biggest problems with the election this year wasn’t during the recount but the fact that in Florida’s most dense (and Democratic) counties, early voting remains more limited. He called that “intentional voter suppression.”

“We need a statewide overhaul,” Gillum said, “that takes into account the fact that many of these counties, many of those counties in South Florida where you’ve got high Democratic participation, are not resourced in a way where they are able to have 21st century technology to count the votes and quite frankly to ensure that those who want to vote early have access to it.”

Gillum’s surprise primary win this year elevated his national profile, and Reid asked Gillum if he planned to run for President. Gillum laughed off the suggestion.

“I want to stay married,” he said, stating he and wife, R. Jai, planned a post-election vacation, and he would like to return to father duties attending his children’s soccer games.

He does plan to stay involved in state politics, and referenced passage of Amendment 4, which will automatically restore voting rights for 1.4 million ex-felons who already completed restitution to the state.

“We have 1.4 million people re-entering society who want a chance to be heard in this process,” he said.

He also discussed promoting a Medicaid expansion in Florida and fighting for better teacher pay.

“My eyes are going to be right here on Florida,” Gillum said.

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