Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 332

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

Kathy Castor weighs in (sort of) on abortion litmus test

California Gov. Jerry Brown believes the deciding factor for Democratic candidates should be intelligence, suggesting that as a litmus test, abortion would not be helpful nationwide.

“The litmus test should be intelligence, caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt used to call it, the common man,” Brown NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press over the weekend. “We’re not going to get everybody on board. And I’m sorry but running in San Francisco is not like running in Tulare County or Modoc, California, much less Mobile, Alabama.”

Brown’s comments come at a time when Democrats nationally are debating the idea that support for abortion rights should be a requirement for candidates looking for Party backing.

As a strong supporter of abortion rights, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor is somewhat ambiguous on this growing debate.

“I love the Democratic Party!” she exclaimed Tuesday after a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility. “But women’s health issues and the ability to control our own bodies is one of a whole host of issues, and I don’t think in America and in any political party you can say there’s a litmus test for anything, but people certainly have the right to say that this is important to me and judge those candidates based on their position.”

Discussion of a litmus test began after Ben Ray Lujan, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), recently told The Hill that the Party will not withhold funding from candidates who do not support abortion rights, as Democrats attempt to win back the House in next year’s midterms.

Lujan’s comments have ignited a firestorm from abortion rights supporters.

“Women’s health & rights are nonnegotiable — incl. access to safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards tweeted last week. “We’ll hold any politician who says otherwise accountable.”

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean expressed similar outrage, tweeting: “I’m afraid I’ll be with holding support for the DCCC if this is true.”

“The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of equality, freedom and justice. You cannot deny those guarantees to women and call yourself a Democrat as far as I’m concerned,” wrote Susan Smith, chair of the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus. “If the DCCC and DSCC and DNC don’t make that clear, then don’t expect us to support your anti-choice candidates or your organizations.”

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Democrats (75 percent) support abortion rights. Overall, 57 percent of Americans support a woman’s right to choose an abortion, which is “as high as it has been in two decades of polling,” Pew reports.

Democrats need to win 24 seats in the 2018 congressional midterm to retake the U.S. House. Some areas where they may be able to win over GOP seats are in socially conservative Southern states. When asked if she could find herself supporting a pro-life Democrat in a congressional contest next year, Castor couldn’t answer that without other factors to consider.

“It would really depend on that candidate and their background and their position on a whole host of issues,” she said.

Lawrence McClure collects enough signatures to qualify for ballot in HD 58 special election

Lawrence McClure, the 30-year-old Plant City Republican who announced last week that he was entering the special House District 58 election to succeed Dan Raulerson, has qualified for the ballot by petition, his campaign announced Wednesday.

“It’s humbling to have hundreds of voters from across our community respond so enthusiastically to our campaign and the conservative principles we stand for and believe in,” McClure said. “I’m excited for the coming weeks where we will continue to spread our conservative message to every corner of District 58.  I have to thank our great volunteer network and all those who gave their time and signature to help us qualify for the ballot.”

McClure is a partner with environmental consulting firm Streamline Environmental and says he has spent a decade working closely with state legislators on legislation impacting the environment, as well as agriculture and small business communities.

The other major Republican in the race is local businesswoman and civic leader Yvonne Fry.

Raulerson announced last week that he was resigning from his House District 58 seat effective Aug. 15. Governor Rick Scott has set Oct. 10 for the primary election and Dec. 19 for the general election.

District 58 covers much of east Hillsborough County, including areas of Plant City, Dover, Mango, Thonotosassa and Temple Terrace.

Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto join ‘New Democracy,’ to win back middle-class voters

Two Central Florida first-year members of Congress — Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto — are joining former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and a group of Democrats determined to extend the party’s reach to centrist voters.

In what reads like an update of the earlier center-leaning Democratic Leadership Council, New Democracy has the explicit mandate to expand the party’s appeal, both demographically and geographically.

Leading New Democracy is Will Marshall, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute and a co-founder of the now defunct DLC, created in the aftermath of Walter Mondale‘s landslide 1984 loss to Ronald Reagan. Alumni include Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Florida’s Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman.

“New Democracy is a ‘home base’ and support network for pragmatic Democrats determined to make our party competitive in every part of America,” Marshall said. “These leaders — governors, mayors, state officials and Members of Congress — know how to reach beyond core partisans and build governing majorities from the ground up,” he added.

Since Hillary Clinton‘s November defeat much has been made about the Democratic Party losing white, middle-class voters to Donald Trump, particularly in the industrial Midwest. In addition to losses in the House, Senate and White House to Republicans, Democrats have also dropped 900 seats in state legislatures over the past nine years.

Marshall said New Democracy will focus on four key priorities for building a bigger Democratic tent: reclaiming economic hope and progress; engaging voters across America’s cultural divides; decentralizing power to more effective and trusted local governments, and putting national and personal security first.

“Democrats don’t need to choose between center and left — we need to expand in all directions,” he added. “Building a broad coalition is the Party’s best chance of rectifying today’s dangerous imbalance of political power and stopping the harmful Trump-Republican agenda.”

Along with Florida Democrats enlisted to help guide New Democracy’s strategy is Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. 

Democratic ad attempts to link Rick Baker to Donald Trump

With Rick Kriseman trailing Rick Baker in the latest poll of St. Petersburg’s mayoral race, the Florida Democratic Party is paying for a new ad linking the former mayor with President Donald Trump.

Whether national politics will trickle down to the local level is something the Kriseman team is banking on, though it hasn’t been reflected yet in the polls.

The 30-second ad also tries to connect Baker with other Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Rick Scott.

“Rick Baker is on the extreme team, siding with climate change deniers, silent on Donald Trump’s countless discriminatory policies, Baker is weak and out of touch with our values,” a female narrator says to begin the ad.

The spot then segues into praising Kriseman for working with Democrats like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Charlie Crist.

From the beginning of his campaign, Baker warned St. Pete residents that the Kriseman campaign would criticize him for being a Republican in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

The mayoral race, in theory, is nonpartisan, but both campaigns are being heavily supported by their respective political parties.

“Republican Rick Baker is happy to take big checks from right-wing conservatives and Trump Republicans, but doesn’t want to talk about whether or not he supports the Trump agenda,” said FDP spokesperson Johanna Cervone. “Mayor Rick Kriseman, on the other hand, has been clear about his support and partnership with the former Obama administration as well as his firm opposition to Donald Trump’s harmful GOP policies. Since Rick Baker insists on misleading voters about his Republican ties, the Florida Democratic Party’s new ad will let voters know where he really stands.”


Andrew Learned launches digital ad for CD 15 bid

Andrew Learned, one of six Democrats who has filed to run in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, is up with a digital ad touting his candidacy.

CD 15 is currently held by Republican Dennis Ross.

A Navy veteran who was stationed in Bahrain and now runs GradePower Learning in Valrico, this is the 30-year-old Learned’s first ad of the season.

“I want to take the skills I learned in the Navy, and from being a small business owner, to stand up … and fight back,” he says in the 30-second spot.

 Gregg Williams, Greg PilkingtonRay Pena Jr. Cameron Magnuson and now Jeffrey Rabinowitz are the other Democrats who have filed in the primary, which takes place a year from now. Rabinowitz had originally filed as a non-party affiliated candidate.

Loretta “Leah Lax” Miller is the only Republican to file against Ross, who won the seat in 2010 and has never seriously been challenged in his previous three reelection campaigns.

CD 15 includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties.


ACLU plans to spend millions on campaign to restore felons’ voting rights surprised Desmond Meade

No one in Florida has worked harder than Desmond Meade to expand felons’ voting rights.

Starting in 2015, Meade and his organization, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, have blanketed the state, collecting signatures to place on the ballot an initiative that would overturn the automatic ban on felons voting. Although the group fell short for the 2016 election cycle, language to get the measure on the 2018 ballot won the approval of the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year.

So when the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel broke the news this week that the American Civil Liberties Union would invest “at least $5 million” towards collecting the more than 700,000 signatures needed, you’d have thought that the venerable civil liberties organization would have given Meade a heads-up.

However, that wasn’t the case.

“I think I got the news at the same time that you did, which was from the Washington Post article that was posted a few days ago,” Meade said on Thursday, adding that he couldn’t really “speak to the mechanism of the thinking beyond that.”

While Meade isn’t upset about the lack of advanced notice, he’s not ecstatic, either.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” is what he says, hopeful that the news doesn’t give advocates a false sense of security that it’s now a done deal to get the 753,000 plus signatures that will be required by early next year to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition cobbled together more than 71,000 signatures this spring to have the measure’s ballot language reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

But the group still needs to get hundreds of thousands more signatures over the next six month.

“We really welcome support from a broad range of sources, and we have been getting that,” Meade said, trying to curb his enthusiasm.

“Anytime we get support to help move our measure forward, it’s definitely welcome,” he acknowledged.

The Fair Elections Legal Network filed a class-action lawsuit earlier this year challenging the state clemency board’s process for restoring rights.

According to the lawsuit, more than 10,000 citizens are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications, which can take as long as 10 years. In addition, the Network argues there are no clear guidelines or standards for who is approved or who isn’t, giving Gov. Scott and his cabinet “unfettered discretion” in the decisions. The group’s lawsuit quotes Gov. Rick Scott himself as admitting at one of the clemency board’s last hearing that “Clemency is … is — there’s no standard.  We can do whatever we want.”

Senate passes Vern Buchanan bill making hearing aids more affordable

A measure that would make hearing aids available over the counter passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

The measure, co-sponsored by Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan, was included in a broader bill to fund the Food and Drug Administration, which passed the Senate in an 94-1 vote.

“This bill could help improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans who struggle to hear everyday conversations,” Buchanan said after the passage of the vote. “Many people who need the hearing aids cannot afford the high price tag of $4,000 or more.”

The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act is expected to drive down costs by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. It’s predicted to reduce the cost of a pair of hearing aids down from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars.

The bill passed despite opposition from the hearing aid industry, and some hearing specialists, who warned that it’s dangerous to encourage people to self-diagnose hearing loss and it’s important to have professionals involved in the process of diagnosis and fitting hearing aids, according to the Boston Globe.

Currently, a formal medical evaluation is required before seniors can purchase hearing aids. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists — professionals trained in treating hearing problems — or licensed hearing aid sellers after the evaluation.  The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would remove these requirements so the hearing aids could be purchased in a simple, over-the-counter fashion.

Darryl Rouson’s past used against him by local official during homestead expansion debate

Darryl Rouson says that he was legitimately undecided days before the Florida Senate would vote on whether to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to increase Florida’s homestead exemption.

A late amendment that would exempt 29 of the state’s poorest counties from being affected by the loss of property tax revenues ultimately led him to become one of six Democrats in the state Senate to support the measure. But it was a comment by a local elected official who wanted him to oppose the measure that really fueled his support.

“”Rouson, don’t be stupid. The voter is stupid. You can’t trust the voters,’ ” were the words of an unarmed official, according to the St. Petersburg Democrat who was speaking in Tampa’s Seminole Heights Wednesday night.

“‘In fact, you ought to be able to relate to this, Rouson,'” he recounted. ” ‘The voter is like a drunk that you give a glass of wine to and walk away and say ‘do the right thing.’ “

Rouson has talked frequently about his addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine — an addiction which undoubtedly the local official was referring to in attempt to make a point. Rouson declined to tell this reporter who he was referring to, saying only that it was a locally elected official in the Tampa Bay region

Although there was no official Democratic position to put a measure to expand the homestead exemption to $75,000 on next year’s ballot, it was strongly opposed by the majority of Democratic legislators, as well by most city council and county commissioners throughout the state, who say passage of the measure will lead to major reductions in property tax revenues and, therefore, a reduction in local services.

Those says the expansion would only worsen a tax unfairness problem caused by Save Our Homes, a provision in the state constitution that limits increases in the assessed value of homesteaded property to 3 percent a year.

Hillsborough County officials say they could see a reduction of at least $30 million in revenues if the measure passes, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said the city is looking at a $6 million cut in revenues.

Rouson was narrowly elected to Senate District 19 last fall, the majority of which resides in Hillsborough County. He was crashing the intimate town hall meeting at the Seminole Heights Exchange that was hosted by Tampa state Representative Sean Shaw, who couldn’t be more vocal about his opposition to the measure.

“I voted against it because I don’t believe everything needs to go on the ballot to the voter,” Shaw says. “If there’s stuff that’s atrocious enough that I don’t think deserves the attention of the Florida Constitution, I’m going to vote against it.”

Rouson does not support the passage of the measure. He simply says that the voters should be given the option, and thinks with education, they will oppose the measure.

“I believe that between now and 17 more months, people like you will become educated and will learn about the impact that this will have on their communities and will exercise the right decision, ” he said. “I’m not your parent, keeping something away from you that you can’t be trusted with.”

The measure was strongly supported by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  His office strongly contests the notion that counties in Florida will see their revenues reduced if the measure passes.

In addition to Rouson, five other Democrats in the Senate supported the measure, which ensured its passage, since it needed to get two-thirds support in the Senate.  If all 15 Democrats had opposed it, it would not be on the ballot.

It was the measure by Tallahassee Senator Bill Montford to protect the state’s 29 poorest counties from losing any more property tax revenue that Rouson said gave him comfort in putting the measure on the ballot.

Florida TaxWatch opposes the measure because of the inequality that it says that it’s passage will create.

“It’s just a tax shift,” Robert E. Weissert, executive vice president and counsel to the president and CEO with TaxWatch said at a Tampa Tiger Bay meeting last month. Weissert says that local governments will rely less on getting revenues 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.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ready to take on Carlos Curbelo in CD 26

In front of the West Perrine Health Center in Miami, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell officially announced her candidacy for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she hopes to take on Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo next year.

Although Curbelo is considered extremely vulnerable in the Democratic leaning district that stretches from Miami to Key West, Mucarsel-Powell is the first Democrat to officially file a challenge in CD 26 for 2018.

Last year, Mucarsel-Powell lost a bid for a state senate bid against Republican Anitere Flores.

“I immigrated to the United States as a young girl with my mother and three sisters — in search of opportunities to better our lives,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “My mother worked tirelessly as a home health care provider and attended school in the evenings and weekends to learn English. She instilled in me the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, your potential is endless in America. I lived those values — got a good education and built a successful twenty-year career working to improve the lives of underserved communities right here at home.”

Mucarsel-Powell blasted Curbelo for his vote in support of the GOP health care bill in the House.

“It’s shocking that Washington politicians, like the one who claims to represent this community, would vote to rip away health care access from our families,” she said. “That’s not what we want and it’s not what hardworking families like the one I grew up in need. We need to improve on what’s working and fix what’s broken in our health care system, not recklessly scrap the whole system and abandon people who need it the most.

Murcasel-Powell also said she’s seen first hand the negative effects of climate change.

“We must invest in green energy, reduce carbon emissions and invest in infrastructure that will protect South Florida from sea level rise.  We cannot continue to elect politicians that say one thing here at home and do another in D.C. — the issues are too big; the stakes are too high.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been targeting Curbelo for months. Although Curbelo defeated Democrat Joe Garcia last November by 12 points, Hillary Clinton won CD 26 by 10 points over Donald Trump.

Rick Scott names Mike Griffin to Tampa Port Authority, slams agency’s wasteful spending

Gov. Rick Scott has named Mike Griffin, a well-regarded local leader and current chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, to the Tampa Port Authority.

While announcing Griffin’s appointment, Scott took a shot at the agency over reports of excessive spending.

“Recently, I was concerned to see media reports detailing wasteful spending by the executives at Port Tampa Bay,” Scott said in a statement Tuesday. “The actions detailed in these reports should serve as a reminder of the importance of the oversight every appointee is charged with providing.

“I look forward to the Tampa Port Authority Governing Board reviewing policies to prevent wasteful spending by employees.”

This summer, WFTS-ABC 28 reported that over the past three years Port Tampa Bay’s CEO Paul Anderson and seven top aides had spent more than $870,000 on Port Tampa Bay credit cards.

Spending included more than $30,000 in golf club memberships as well as on outings at TPC Tampa Bay and Cheval Golf Club.

The report also accused the executives of charging thousands for Tampa Bay Lightning season tickets, with another $44,551.61 in related expenses at Amalie Arena.

Following a public records request, WFTS reported that former executive Ed Miyagishima, who resigned two days after the first investigative report, was forced to reimburse more than $11,000 in unexplained charges on dinners, bar tabs, flowers and more.

Blasting spending at the Port, House Speaker Richard Corcoran is calling for a state investigation, WFTS reported Friday.

Scott has full confidence in Griffin, saying he will do a “great job on the Tampa Port Authority and will work with the entire board to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

“Mike has committed to conducting a full analysis of prior and future expenditures by the Port,” the governor added. “We know that the Board is focused on reviewing policies that concentrate on its core mission of serving as one of the state’s major economic and trade drivers.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Anderson pushed back.

“Although we are currently reviewing all Port Tampa Bay expense policies,” he said, “I believe there is a misperception about the integrity of how we spend Port Tampa Bay dollars.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to provide a detailed explanation of our budget and illustrate how our investments have vastly improved the economic landscape in the Tampa Bay area,” Anderson added. “We are excited to work with Mr. Griffin and welcome him to the Port Tampa Bay family.”

Griffin, 36, has also served as a senior managing director for Savills Study Occupier Services, a real estate services corporation.

A 2003 graduate of the University of South Florida, Griffin served two-terms as its student body president. He is a charter member of the USF board of trustees and a member of its Hall of Fame.

Griffin will continue to serve as chair of the Tampa Chamber until December; he is also rumored to be considering a run for the Hillsborough County Commission in 2018.

Griffin fills a vacant seat at the Port and is subject to Florida Senate confirmation.

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