Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Mary Barzee Flores enters race to succeed Illeana Ros-Lehtinen

Former state judge Mary Barzee Flores is the latest Democrat to run for the Congressional District 27 seat being vacated by Illeana Ros-Lehtinen next year.

“I’m running for Congress because I believe our politics and our politicians have gotten too small and the challenges we face are too big,” Barzee Flores said in a statement issued Wednesday. “I refuse to sit back and watch as tens of millions of Americans lose their health care, our public schools fall into ruin, our environment is ravaged, our heroes are neglected and disrespected, and our children’s futures are squandered away by stupidity and greed.”

A lifelong Miami resident, Barzee Flores spent 12 years working as a Federal Public Defender in the U.S. Southern District of Florida. In 2002, Mary left the Public Defenders office when she was elected, without opposition, to a seat on the Miami Circuit Court. After retiring from the bench in 2011, she was nominated by President Obama for a federal judgeship.

She never became a judge though after fellow Miami resident Marco Rubio blocked her nomination in the U.S. Senate. In her press release announcing her candidacy, Barzee Flores cites her past support for the ACLU and EMILY’s List, a group that elects pro-choice, women Democrats as reasons why.

Rubio said Barzee Flores wasn’t candid about her involvement in a case involving claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and that she wasn’t forthcoming enough about prior support for groups such as EMILY’s List. POLITICO reported last year that Rubio staffers said Barzee Flores gave conflicting answers about the groups to the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee and to the Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends attorneys for the bench in Florida.

Other Republicans disagreed. Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Al Cardenas told POLITICO that Barzee Flores was “not a partisan pick.”

She enters an extremely crowded Democratic field in a seat that has been occupied by a Republican for the past 29 years. But CD 27 is a decidedly Democratic seat, with Hillary Clinton winning there by more than 20 points over Donald Trump in 2016.

State Representative David Richardson, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Miami DEC member Michael Hepburn.

Dr. Maria Peiro is the only Republican to enter the contest.

The 27th includes all or portions of Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne, Miami, Miami Beach, Pinecrest, South Miami and Westchester.

Florida awash in $36M of stolen firearms, new report estimates

An estimated 80,000 guns are stolen from individual gun owners in Florida between 2012 and 2015, costing around $36 million, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The Center for American Progress, a progressive group based in Washington, released a state-by-state analysis of the scope of guns thefts in America, finding that a firearm  is stolen in the U.S. every two minutes and every 26 minutes from a private gun owner in the Sunshine State.

“In just one day, there are 720 guns stolen in the U.S. In Florida, it’s 55 a day. And those are just the reported thefts. Stolen guns put us all at risk,” said Patti Brigham, 1st vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida and co-chairs the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Using data supplied by the FBI, the authors report that nearly half a billion dollars worth of guns were stolen from individual gun owners between 2012 and 2015, amounting to an estimated 1.2 million guns. Just nine states and Washington, D.C., have laws mandating that gun owners report when guns in their possession are stolen or lost, and there is nothing in federal law that requires gun dealers to implement any specific security measures to help protect their dangerous inventory.

The authors report that more than 80,000 guns in Florida were stolen between 2012-2015, but that number is only an estimate. The FBI just reports on the value of guns reported stolen, and the Center for American Progress then calculated a number of guns based on an average gun price of $450.

An official with the Center for American Progress provided the breakdown by year in terms of the number of stolen guns: 20,745 in 2012; 19,521 in 2013; 19,411 in 2014 and 20,502 in 2015.

Illinois Democratic Representative Brad Schneider on Tuesday introduced legislation to help prevent thefts from gun stores. That bill would require licensed gun dealers to implement certain security measures to ensure that guns are stored securely during nonbusiness hours, and will direct the U.S. Attorney General to implement regulations requiring additional security measures for licensed gun dealers.

 

Rick Kriseman: ‘NRA-owned politicians’ should pay legal fees from ‘Docs. vs. Glocks’

While serving in the state Legislature, Rick Kriseman was so repelled by a 2011 bill that prohibited pediatricians from asking any questions about gun use or ownership unless it was relevant to their patients’ care or safety that he filed a bill to repeal it.

Though that proposal went nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature, critics of the bill — dubbed as “docs versus Glocks” — have received the last word on the issue, after a federal judge struck down the law last month.

Governor Rick Scott has now approved a deal to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to groups that successfully challenged the NRA-backed Florida law, and Kriseman says that money should come from the lawmakers who supported the law, not Florida taxpayers.

“The NRA-owned politicians in Tallahassee, not Florida taxpayers, should be forced to pay these legal fees,” Kriseman told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday.

Kriseman served in the state Legislature representing St. Petersburg and other parts of Southern Pinellas County from 2006-2012. He opted not to run for re-election in 2012, and instead focused on the 2013 St. Petersburg mayoral contest, where he defeated incumbent Bill Foster. He is now running in a contested re-election battle this summer.

The Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act, as the bill was officially called, was enormously controversial from the time it was introduced during the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee. Supporters said it was a reaction to a handful of highly publicized cases, including an incident in which a health professional privately asked children if their mother owned guns and an Ocala pediatrician who, in 2010, dropped a patient after she called his query about her gun ownership an invasion of privacy.

Shortly after it was passed in the Legislature, doctors challenged it in court.

“Each year, Florida children are harmed when they or other children gain access to firearms that have not been stored properly,” said the 2011 suit. The case, which became known as “Doc vs Glocks,” wound its way from the state to the federal court system over the course of six years.

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the matter was not one of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms, but the First. The court ruled in a 10 to 1 decision that the law infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech.

At the time he filed his bill, Kriseman called his Republican colleagues who supported the bill in the legislature as being “hypocritical,” declaring such a law is antithetical to traditional conservative concerns about excessive government regulations and government involvement in health care.

Ropes & Gray, one of the law firms on the case that will receive legal fees, immediately announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, enabling the center to “expand its initiatives to protect children from the risks posed by guns,” the release said.

“Florida taxpayers just paid $1.1 million because of the gun industry’s unconstitutional, anti-truth agenda designed to increase gun sales at any cost — including children’s lives,” said Brady Center president Dan Gross in a statement.

“Physicians have a critical role to play in preventing these deaths by talking to patients about the true dangers of guns in the home, and we will not allow their voices to be silenced by the gun industry,” he added. “This award is a message to states to think twice before enacting or defending laws that put lives at risk just to boost the gun industry’s bottom line.”

Vern Buchanan tells Mitch McConnell to vote on hearing aid bill before August break

As the Senate is poised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eventually come up with some sort of alternative on Tuesday, Congressman Vern Buchanan has a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have a vote on legislation that would make hearing aids more affordable for Americans.

The Sarasota Republican is a co-sponsor of the “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act,” a bipartisan bill that would drive down costs by allowing people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The legislation was included in the “FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017” which passed the House earlier this month.

“Let’s help reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan writes to McConnell. “Before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess, I urge you to pass bipartisan legislation that will make hearing aids more affordable for our nation’s seniors.”

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley are the co-sponsors of the Senate version.

In 2016, 3.65 million hearing aids were sold in the United States. Since the average price of a hearing aid pair is $4,700, with some prices climbing as high as $8,000, according to the Huffington Post. Medicare has never paid for hearing aids; following Medicare’s lead, private insurance companies have almost always refused to pay for hearing aids as well. This means that typically the patient alone must cover the cost of a hearing aid.

Read Buchanan’s letter below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

Before the Senate adjourns for its August recess, I urge you to approve House-passed legislation to make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.

Nearly 50 million people have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision impairment. The impact of hearing loss, particularly among seniors, can lead to isolation and other health problems including anxiety and depression.

Buying a hearing aid is a complex and costly process. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists or licensed hearing aid sellers after a formal medical evaluation. Because the aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, out-of-pocket costs for a pair of hearing aids average $5,400.

The U.S. House recently passed legislation I co-sponsored to reduce the cost of hearing aids by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase devices without a doctor’s prescription. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which was included in the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, could lower the cost of a pair of hearing aids from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars, according to The New York Times.

Moreover, in a study published earlier this month, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that hearing aids purchased over the counter perform essentially the same as prescription hearing aids.

Let’s help reopen the world to seniors and others who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends. Washington dysfunction must not get in the way of passing this life-improving proposal. I urge swift Senate approval of this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

 

 

Kathy Castor likes Democrats new ‘A Better Deal’ slogan, agenda

The Democratic Party unveiled its new economic plan Monday, which includes the tagline: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

Despite some on Twitter mocking the slogan as sounding a little too much like a Papa John’s ad, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor digs it.

Among the policy proposals include focusing on lowering prescription drug prices, reforming corporate merger policies, pushing for a $15 an hour living wage, and creating jobs for 10 million Americans.

“These are the things that I talk about all the time,” Castor said Monday at an occasion celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicare held in the West Tampa building housing her district office. “We need better wages in the Tampa Bay area. We are still below the median wage when you compare us to other communities across the country,” she said, adding: “We can’t rely on tourism and real estate any longer. We have to support small business entrepreneurs that are often the pathway to better-paying jobs.”

As has been well-documented, the Democratic Party has been severely dismantled in both national and statewide elections around the country since 2010. The party has lost more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress during the Obama presidency, according to the AP.

As far as rebranding the party is concerned, Castor said it was “natural” to renew and refresh the Democratic message every few years.

“I think it encapsulates very well a lot of the policies that we’ve been working on,” she said, citing the push to lift wages to supporting students to attend college without getting hit by loft student loans.

“We’ve been waiting for the president, who said we’re going to do infrastructure, but there’s been no conversation about that,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are poised to vote Tuesday on a bill that punishes Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea and its ongoing military activity in eastern Ukraine.

The Senate passed its version, 97-2, earlier this year, but the House had dithered for months on bringing up the bill, reportedly because of resistance by President Donald Trump.

“There was no rational reason to delay or postpone it, and I was disheartened that there was pressure by the White House to stall it,” she said. “But the reports are now that even the president is likely to sign the Russians sanctions bill. This is important. This is a response to Russian meddling in our election and people are asking me about it. They’re asking me about health care, but they also want to know how is the U.S. going to respond to the Russian meddling, and this is one important step.”

 

Michael Gongora now says he always had ‘serious doubts’ about World OutGames

Miami Beach Commission candidate Michael Gongora now has “serious doubts” about the financial viability of the World OutGames.

The OutGames, a premier LGBTQ sporting event that was scheduled to take place this spring in Miami Beach, was canceled just hours before kickoff in May because of serious financial problems. This has led to a fraud investigation.

“The reason that I left the board of directors when I did was that I had serious doubts about their ability to pull off the games,” Gongora told members of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club at a June 6 meeting at Puerto Sagua restaurant in Miami Beach.

That comment would seem to contradict a comment Gongora made last month when he told the Miami Herald that during the time he served on the board it had only met a few times and that “no financials were provided whatsoever.”

World OutGames organizers in Miami raised more than $1 million for the scheduled 10-day event. But just hours before the competition was set to start May 26, organizers informed the thousands of registered athletes (who had flown into Miami from around the globe) that they didn’t have the money to put on the games.

Since then, government agencies have opened investigations into the event, one of the world’s largest high-profile competitions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes.

Miami Beach had waived municipal fees and provided $200,000 in cash to sponsor the event, and is now demanding an audit of OutGames’ books.

Gongora served on the Miami Beach City Commission between 2006 to 2013, before losing a mayoral bid to Philip Levine. He came up short in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 38 in Miami Beach last August. He’s now running to return to the Commission against attorney Zachary Eisner and restaurant owner Adrian Gonzalez, who has seized on the controversy surrounding the World OutGames.

“It’s all about accountability and transparency,” Gonzalez said Monday. “The bottom line is he knew they were in trouble, he knew they were sinking, yet he did nothing to advise the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community or more importantly, the city of Miami Beach, which, at the end of the day, is the one that took the biggest financial hit in this thing.”

When first questioned about his involvement with the World OutGames, Gongora had said that he left its board in 2015. The Miami Herald reported last week that it was actually in 2016 after the Gonzalez campaign unearthed a video of Gongora identifying himself as a member of the OutGames board.

Now feeling the political heat over his involvement, Gongora wrote last week to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales to inquire when funds from Miami Beach began to be allocated for the World OutGames.

“Since I am now being dragged into World OutGames politically, I have an easy public records request,” Gongora wrote Thursday. “Can you please advise when the monies were paid from the City of MB to World OutGames?  It’s my understanding that the first portion was given in October 2016 which would be after I resigned from the board.”

Morales wrote back that the first $100,000 check for the games was dated May 1, 2014, “and deposited intact by the nonprofit organization.”

Gongora now says his time on the board was limited to between eight and a half months between 2015 and 2016.

The first openly elected gay politician in Miami Beach, Gongora traveled to Antwerp, Belgium with more than a dozen other local officials in 2013 to recruit organizers of the World OutGames to come to Miami Beach in 2017.

In his comments to the Breakfast Club, Gongora speculated that the reason that the Miami City Commission and Mayor Levine funded the event was that they didn’t want to be perceived as being anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

“Why did the Commissioner give them the money?” he asked. “I’ll say it since I’m gay and they’re not. I think that the commissioners don’t want to vote against anything that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. I think it came up and they were like, ‘Oh we don’t want to be perceived as being anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.’ So, they gave them money.”

When contacted by FloridaPolitics.com, Gongora initially responded that he didn’t have much to say since he briefly served as a volunteer on the OutGames board “which seldom met.”

“I left the board 8.5 months prior to the games,” he wrote in an email Sunday. “During the short time of my tenure, OutGames received no public money nor was I privy to their finances. There is really nothing else to say.  Unfortunately, a political opponent is trying to tie me into a story where there is none.”

“I haven’t accused him of anything,” Gonzalez responds. “I’m a taxpayer. I’m a resident on the Beach. He wants to blame me for putting the spot on the obvious? So be it.”

Tampa local officials bemoan expected expansion of Florida homestead exemption

While it won’t go into effect for another year and a half, the expected passage of a Florida constitutional amendment expanding the homestead exemption is already giving local officials severe headaches.

On the 2018 ballot, Amendment 1 asks voters to approve an expansion of the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 of the first $100,000 of a home’s taxable value.

State lawmakers who supported it said the average homeowner would save about $275 per year, based on the statewide average home value of $220,000 and an average tax rate of 10 mills ($10 for every $1,000 of taxable property value).

Local government officials statewide are already assuming taxpayers will support the measure and are already beginning to budget accordingly.

In calling for an increase in the city of Tampa’s millage rate for the first time in 29 years on Thursday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn attributed part of the reason to the fact that passage of the amendment would reduce approximately $6 million in revenue to his city’s budget.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen acknowledges that while that reduction may appear modest in a proposed $974 million budget, it will cut funding that would otherwise be used to expend on sidewalks, fixing potholes, making stormwater improvements and funding parks and recreation.

“I think it’s very important as we evaluate these tax policies, that we understand that the money for these things that we want has to come from somewhere,” Cohen told a Tampa Tiger Bay Club audience gathered at the Ferguson Law School School on Friday. “We’re all sensitive to the tax burden, but local government does have to be paying for the things that people expect of us.”

“If the citizens want fewer services,” Polk County Commissioner Robert Braswell groused, “then we’ll provide fewer services.”

“It will be a litmus test for what kinds of things should government do, and how much,” said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Merrill added that if the amendment passes, Hillsborough would have its budget reduced by $30 million in its first year. That would be on top of the fact — like most local governments in Florida — the county is still contending with the aftermath of the Great Recession starting in 2007, which began bringing in dramatically lower property tax revenues.

Merrill said that the size of his county’s government is 25 percent smaller than it was a decade ago, still down $100 million in general revenues.

Robert E. Weissert, the executive vice president and counsel to the president and CEO for Florida TaxWatch, also doesn’t support Amendment 1, because of the inequity it creates. Though that sentiment might surprise those who assume TaxWatch is an anti-tax organization, Weissert says it shouldn’t.

“It’s just a tax shift,” he said, with local governments shifting from owner-occupied homes to businesses and non-homestead properties, such as vacation homes and apartment complexes. He also noted that the higher exemption would protect the state’s 29 poorest counties from losing any more property tax revenue.

Local government officials have complained for months about maneuvers by the Florida Legislature which they call an assault on home-rule. Add to that sources of income like the communications services tax which have dried up significantly over the past decade as fewer people use landline telephones, and Cohen said cities are becoming like “discount airlines.”

“We’re basically making it so that we live on a cheap carrier, where you can’t get peanuts, you can’t check a bag, and you have three inches left on your seat,” quipped the Tampa Council member. “Eventually it’s going to become very, very uncomfortable for the people who live here because we are degrading the quality of our lives.”

Getting the homestead exemption expansion on the 2018 ballot was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran during the 2017 legislative session. When asked to justify the amendment while speaking in Tampa last month, Corcoran said: ” I care more about the people of this state than I do the governments of this state.”

And Corcoran dismissed what he seemed to say were crocodile tears by local government officials.

“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolute crap,” he said.

Corcoran’s drive to get the measure on the ballot was noted Friday, and not positively.

“I think the motivation behind this was Richard Corcoran running for governor,” Braswell said.

“I have no comment on that,” Merrill followed up.

Richard Corcoran proud of Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is proud to hear the Trump administration is escalating crack down on undocumented immigrants is only going to crank up in the coming months, and he says the Legislature will attempt to do their part in 2018.

The Pasco County Republican, still very much contemplating a run for governor next year, issued a statement on Friday in response to comments made earlier this week by Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who said that illegal border crossings have dropped by almost 70 percent this year, allowing ICE agents to now target the more than 300-plus sanctuary cities and counties that have ignored ICE requests that they detail criminal undocumented immigrants for ICE arrest and deportation proceedings.

“The idea that a city decides what laws it will follow and what laws it will ignore should offend every American,” Corcoran said. “Politicians who believe they are above the law by adopting ‘sanctuary’ policies are violating their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

Corcoran notes that the Florida House passed Groveland Republican Larry Metz‘ “Rule of Law Adherence Act in the past legislative session. That bill would have required state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to assist and cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Testifying before Congress last month, Homan said that no illegal immigrant is safe from deportation, though the administration is prioritizing criminals, fugitives, threats to national security and those who illegally re-entered the U.S.

He went on to say that arresting any undocumented person is a good thing: “Most of the criminal aliens we find in the interior United States, they entered as a noncriminal. If we wait for them to violate yet another law against the citizens of this country, it’s late. We shouldn’t wait.”

Standing up against illegal immigration is popular among Republicans, especially those who vote in primary elections. If he were to enter the GOP gubernatorial primary for governor next year, it’s clear that Corcoran would take a tougher stance on the issue that either Adam Putnam or Jack Latvala, who was one of 21 co-sponsors of a sponsored a measure several years ago to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants.

Ryan Torrens, political outsider running for Attorney General, says he’s what Florida Democrats need

Consumer protection attorney Ryan Torrens is quite aware that he’s not an established political presence, but he says that should be an argument for his fledgling candidacy to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

“Look, I get it,” the 32-year-old told an audience who gathered Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange to hear the Hillsborough County resident speak as part of the Cafe Con Tampa lecture series.

“I’m young. First-time candidate. A lot of people look at me and think, ‘Can he really win this thing? He’s never run for office before. He’s been practicing for five years? Come on.””

The answers are hard to dispute.

“In the Democratic Party in Florida, what we’ve been doing the last 20 years isn’t working.”

Torrens says he’s offering something different. Energy, passion, new ideas and the fact that he is decidedly not a politician, which he has surmised during his brief time as a statewide candidate is something that voters are hungry for.

A fifth generation Tampa native with Cuban roots, Torrens became the first (and still only) Democrat to file for Attorney General two months ago. Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the GOP primary.

Under previous AG’s like Charlie Crist and Bob Butterworth, the position as Florida’s top cop was about being a consumer advocate for the people, something that Torrens says has been missing under Pam Bondi’s direction.

“A lot of people think it’s like the state attorney prosecuting murders and things like that,” he says of the AG’s job description.”That’s really not what the Attorney General does. If I’m Attorney General, I’m supposed to fight for all the people of Florida, and not simply take big contribution checks from companies and give them a pass.”

Working on the opioid epidemic he says will be a top priority in his administration, and if elected, he says he’ll sue the pharmaceutical companies for their role in perpetuating the crisis.

“They need to be held liable,” he says, “and we could use those proceeds from a settlement or a verdict to help get treatment from those who are currently suffering.”

That’s not such a radical idea, as attorneys general in Ohio and Mississippi have already done so.

Torrens recently outed himself as being a recovering alcoholic, and said that experience allows him to identify with  Floridians working through their own addictions.

Referring to the controversy over the recent “school of hope” education bill, he talked about the state constitution, which says that the state must adequately fund public schools.

“I would like to see if the AG could possibly file a lawsuit against the Legislature, for not adequately funding the public schools, and fulfilling its constitutional obligation,” he said.

Torrens also says he’ll go after predatory student lenders and abusive debt collectors. But he insists that he’s not some “left-wing radical” who wants to pick on Wall Street.

“When I talk all over the state with Democrats and Republicans they want the same thing, which is, they need to follow the same rules.”

A political science major at the University of Tampa, Torrens sounds like an analyst when he told the crowd he understands that it’s been the Democratic party’s arrogance that led to the election of Donald Trump last November.

“They feel that the Democrats are not speaking to them. That we make promises that we’re going to fight for working class people, but we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we get into office and we don’t really fight for them,” he said, adding that “we have a  tendency sometimes to talk down to working class people and they feel like we’re trying to dictate to them how they need to live their lives.”

Torrens will certainly be an underdog to the Republican nominee if makes it that far next year when it comes to fundraising. He announced that he had raised a little more than $22,000 after two months on the campaign trail recently.

Fant raised over $79,000, and Moody more than $600,000 between her own campaign and her political committee.

Dennis Ross blasts GOP Senate in wake of ACA debacle

A day after an attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act crashed and burned, Lakeland GOP Congressman Dennis Ross blasted members of his own party, saying he’s “sick of the excuses.”

“The Senate has failed the American people and abandoned voters who were promised that they would repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare. The House did its job. We honored our pledge and passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in early May. There is no need to sugar coat this: I’m very upset with the Senate,” Ross said Wednesday.

Referring to the fact that Congress has been in session for nearly seven months with little to show for their efforts, Ross said both he and the American people “are sick of the excuses from Senators.”

Like Rand Paul, Ross says he doesn’t understand why 52 GOP Senators were willing to vote on a bill to straight up and repeal the ACA in 2015, but now suffer from cold feet now that they know Barack Obama isn’t going to veto that bill.

Regarding the upcoming August summer break, Ross says that the Senate should stay in the nation’s capital for “all of August, September, October and however long it takes to pass legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare.”

“If they don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, like they promised and were voted to do, they are going back on their word and have some serious explaining to do when they go back home and face those who sent them to Washington to protect and help them. They will be held accountable,” Ross vowed. “When premiums and deductibles continue to skyrocket, when more and more insurers flee the exchange, when increased health care taxes and mandates shut down local businesses and leave Americans with nothing to keep their families afloat, the Senate will be taking the blame. Not the House, and not the President.”

POLITICO reported Wednesday that Texas businessman Doug Deason, a backer of President Donald Trump, said he and other major GOP donors were warming to the idea of funding primary challenges to senators who had opposed the health care bill.

In a text message referring to three senators who played a role in sinking the bill — Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Shelley Moore Capito — Deason ripped “the spineless Republican members from Maine, Arizona and West Virginia who seem to believe that Obamacare is actually succeeding.”

Ross was an enthusiastic supporter of the American Health Care Act, the GOP House bill to repeal the ACA which was not very popular with the public. As Senior Deputy Majority Whip, his job was to corral the votes to support the measure, which was no easy feat. “If we don’t pass this out of the House, this is the beginning of the end for us as a Republican Party,” Ross told the Tampa Bay Times Alex Leary back in May.

The Lakeland Republican has not faced a serious challenge in his Polk/Hillsborough/Lake County seat since being elected in the Tea Party-wave election of 2010. Five Democrats and one Republican have filed to run against him in 2018.

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