Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 344

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

In Tampa, Andrew Gillum speaks frankly about race

No African-American has ever won statewide office in the Sunshine State.

In fact, one of the last candidates attempting to do so had to contend with a former president asking him late in the campaign to drop out of the race.

Kendrick Meek was a U.S. Representative from Miami-Dade who in 2010 became the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. He faced not only Republican Marco Rubio, but also independent Charlie Crist.

Trailing in the polls with just weeks before the election, Bill Clinton asked Meek to drop out of the race, so that the party could rally around Crist. Meek declined, saying he never seriously considered it. He finished third while Rubio advanced to Washington.

Seven years later and it’s now Andrew Gillum attempting to do the unprecedented as he runs for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.

And while it’s not something he talks much about on the campaign trail, the Tallahassee mayor opened up about the reality he faces as a black man while addressing students in an appearance at the University of Tampa campus last week.

“There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by in my city where I’m not driving behind a truck on my way to work that has a big old Confederate flag,” he said.

“I know a lot of folks say you shouldn’t conflate the Confederacy with racism,” Gillum added. “Well, I don’t know another way to describe it. States’ rights? States’ rights to own slaves? … If I pause long enough to allow it to impact me, it would.

“But I psych myself out on a pretty regular basis that they’re not talking about me. That they don’t mean me, and I’m the mayor of this city, and all the other things that you tell yourself to be unpenetrated by the kind of inequality that you get to see and experience every single day that you live and breath.”

Big things have been expected from Gillum ever since 2003 when he became the youngest member of the Tallahassee City Commission at the age of 23.

His profile grew larger after he had an opportunity to speak last summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Now he’s trying to buck the odds in a state that has never elected a black person statewide (though some Democrats count Barack Obama‘s two victories in Florida in 2008 and 2012).

At UT, Gillum said it’s pertinent as an elected official to note and try to do something about the structural forms of racism and inequality. He referred to a row he had last month with Jim Cooke, Tallahassee’s treasurer-clerk, revolving around the fact that while three minority based firms do bond work for the city of Tallahassee, they generally are recommended only for some of the city’s smaller contracts.

“So I had to ask the question: ‘Why does it seem in the city of Tallahassee minority firms always seem to get the smallest piece?’ ” Gillum said, replying to his own question by saying that he wasn’t certain, and speculating that perhaps Cooke (who he never mentioned by name) had a “predisposition to ‘big’ ” explicitly mentioning Bank of America and other larger institutions.

Cooke later told Florida Politics that he did not want to comment.

Gillum said there is definitely structural bias within the criminal justice system, citing studies that show that penalties for blacks are much stricter than for whites who commit the same crimes. Gillum also said that didn’t mean that judges were racist, but speculated that “a lot of it might be unconscious bias.”

“We should have, moreover, conversations about race, racism, sexism, all the other -isms, because if it sits unconscious, we’ll allow it to continue to perpetuate,” he said.

He then launched into a discussion about his Longest Table program which he initiated in 2015 to spur conversation and strengthen relations between people from all walks of life in Tallahassee. The project won a Knight Cities Challenge grant earlier this year.

“I don’t want to be Pollyanna-ish about it,” he explained. “I know that’s not the cure all, end all, be all, but if we can start to have some deliberate conversations where we put people in places and try to encourage curiosity over judgment, it’d be interesting to see what happens.”

While he can’t mandate people of different walks of life to get together, Gillum said he can try to set an example.

“I think it would be much better to have a governor that encourages that conversation rather than the ‘other-izing’ of each other because Latinos are here and you don’t have a job, or black people are shiftless and on welfare, or all white people are racists, or Black Lives Matter people are unpatriotic,” he said.

“Those are simple platitudes, and they mean nothing, and they get us nowhere.”

Gillum has had a bumpy ride at times during this campaign season. An FBI investigation into Community Redevelopment Agency deals in Tallahassee has put a cloud over his campaign, though Gillum told reporters in August that a federal prosecutor informed him he wasn’t a target of the investigation.

The race is poised to get more competitive, as John Morgan and Phillip Levine contemplate entering the race to join Gwen Graham, Chris King and himself, all vying to become the state party’s standard-bearer next year.

Gillum is the choice among the progressive wing of the party. Whether that is enough in Florida will play out over the next year.

Editor’s Note — An earlier version of this story said Kendrick Meek was the last African-American political candidate to run for statewide office in Florida. In fact, Thaddeus Hamilton ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in 2014.

Will Weatherford endorses Ardian Zika for HD 37 seat in 2018

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford is endorsing Ardian Zika for the Pasco County-based House District 37 seat.

“I’ve known Ardian Zika for the past decade, and he is absolutely the best person to represent District 37 as our State Representative,” said Weatherford in a statement. “Ardian’s story is one of hard work and dedication. He is proof that if you have a dream and work hard, you can achieve success.”

The 37-year-old Zika was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997. He spent the past 14 years in the banking industry before starting up his own business advisory company, Guardian & Company I, earlier this year.

“His passion for our country and for Pasco County is evident from the moment you first meet him,” Weatherford added. “His strong financial background will help him fight for our shared values of lower taxes while growing and strengthening our economy for all us.”

“I am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of Speaker Will Weatherford,” said Zika.

Weatherford had previously contributed $1,000 to Zika’s campaign, as he and the rest of the Pasco County GOP establishment have shown that they are firmly behind his candidacy to succeed current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is term-limited out of his seat next year.

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson endorsed Zika last week.

Weatherford has stayed out of electoral politics since leaving the House of Representatives in 2014. He announced shortly before Christmas last year that he would not run for governor in 2018. He currently works as a managing partner of Weatherford Partners, a capital investment and strategist advisory firm that is based in Tampa.

George Agovino, Elle Rudisell and Bill Gunter have also entered the HD 37 primary.

Lawrence McClure with cash on hand lead in final days of HD 58 GOP primary

Dover businessman Lawrence McClure has more cash-on-hand than Plant City businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry in the final days of their contentious House District 58 Republican primary campaign.

With the latest financial figures coming in late Friday, McClure has raised a total of $135,485 versus Fry’s $112,790 through October 5. .

Fry has spent $96,813.30 however, while McClure has spent $85,992.70. That gives him a total of $49,492 cash on hand against Fry’s $15,976.

In addition, the political committee raising money for Fry brought in another $11,000 last month, boosting her overall dollars to spend up to $26,976.

Fry’s political committee, Florida Leadership Fund, has raised a total of $46,500, with all but $500 of that coming from two men — Plant City Mayor Rick Lott ($25,000) and former Crystals International CEO William Carr, who made the only two contributions to the PAC in September.

August was the first full month of the special election necessitated by the sudden resignation of former Republican incumbent Dan Raulerson. McClure raised $107, 205 in August; Fry raised $68,765 in late July and all of August.

The Republican primary election is this Tuesday, October 10. The winner advances to the general election on December 19.

Jeff Brandes wants Florida to prepare for future wave of electric cars

Soon, a lot more electric vehicles will be on Florida roads. Jeff Brandes wants the state to get ready.

At least seven electric cars are coming to market by 2020, according to Business Insider, with several considered to be relatively affordable. That will make a total of 39 different models of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles and 44 models of EV’s operating in North America.

This week, the state senator from St. Petersburg filed SB 384, which calls on the Florida Transportation Commission to review all sources of revenue for transportation infrastructure and maintenance projects and prepare a report to the Governor and the Legislature when electric vehicles are determined to make up a certain percentage or more of the total number of registered vehicles statewide.

“I think many states are going to wake up and realize that a significant portion of their fleet is has transitioned to electric vehicles,” Brandes said Friday.

The Pinellas County Republican explained the main goal of the bill is twofold: It triggers the FTC to come up with a plan on how to fund roads once two percent of all cars in Florida are electrified. That’s crucial since Florida roads are predominantly funded through gas taxes, which electric vehicle owners would not pay.

“At two percent it’s noticeable but not meaningful,” Brandes said. “But at five to ten percent it becomes a huge challenge to fund road projects.”

The bill also calls on the state’s Department of Emergency Management to think through what a large increase of electric vehicles on the road would mean when an approaching hurricane would require mass evacuations, as was the case last month as Hurricane Irma approached the Sunshine State.

“Imagine Irma when you have 10 percent of vehicles that can’t get gas someplace, but they have to physically plug in and charge,” he envisions. “We need to be thinking through those challenges as well, and the earlier we do it, the better we’re going to plan for the future.”

The legislation would be timely. EVs are on track to beat gasoline cars on price, without incentives or subsidies by 2025, according to “From Gas to Grid: Building Charging Infrastructure to Power Electric Vehicle Demand,” a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Meanwhile, Brandes announced the latest Florida Autonomous Vehicle summit is going to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay Hotel next month. Officials from Tesla, Lyft and Uber are scheduled to speak, and the event will feature expanded breakout sessions with guests from all parts of the industry.

That event takes place on November 14-15, and more information is available here.

Florida scientists urge Senate to oppose Donald Trump’s NASA pick

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have already lobbed objections to Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump‘s pick to head NASA.

Now, more than 30 Florida scientists signed a letter to the state’s U.S. senators, urging them to outright reject Bridenstine when he comes up for confirmation.

Among the criticisms that scientists around the nation have voiced about Bridenstine is that he has said that he doesn’t believe humans are causing climate change.

“We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising,” the scientists write to Rubio and Nelson. “Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.”

“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson told POLITICO last month.

Rubio concurred, saying that he shared the same concerns of Nelson and thought his “political baggage” would be a drag on his confirmation.

“I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Rubio told POLITICO.

The scientists say that they fear that Bridenstine will de-prioritize NASA’s Earth science research arm. Scientists also fear that climate satellites might lose funding and if so there could be a gap in the data that helps scientists understand the planet.

Bridenstine has been a congressman from Oklahoma since 2012. He was critical of Rubio during the Florida senator’s ill-fated run for the White House in 2015-2016, cutting two ads for Texas Senator Ted Cruz‘ campaign suggesting that Rubio was weak on terrorism. He also took a shot at Rubio for supporting comprehensive immigration reform

The signatories to the letter are many of the same Florida scientists who previously penned a letter to Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, which they say generated a dialogue between Nelson and Ross on climate change and scientific integrity. Ross is on record as stating, “science should be left to scientists.”

Here’s the full letter, and the scientists who wrote it:

re: NASA Administrator Nominee Jim Bridenstine

October 6, 2017

Dear Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio,

We are writing to thank you both for your outspoken concerns regarding Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to serve as NASA Administrator. We share those concerns.

As scientists, we wholeheartedly agree that leading NASA requires someone with qualifications in science, administration, engineering and technology. NASA satellites produce data that helps keep America safe.  Scientists use these data to measure changes in our oceans, moisture in our soil, rising seas, forecast hurricane tracks, and monitor drinking water supplies.

At this critical time, we can ill afford to allow this vital agency be subject to political whims. There is too much at stake.

Of all of the scientific agencies worldwide, NASA does the best job of observing our planet from space. We must continue to be the leader in Earth observation systems. Cutting funding for satellites will rob us of our ability to safeguard our planet and resources.

One satellite in particular — Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment — known as GRACE, uses gravity to measure mass. Grace is at the end of its life and needs to be funded for continuity. While originally conceived to help guide ballistic missiles, data from Grace has facilitated multiple scientific discoveries, including the following:  

— Grace measured the rate of melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic.  

— Grace kept track of diminishing groundwater supplies in California’s aquifers during the drought.  

— Grace helped scientists decipher how much sea level rise is caused by melting ice sheets and how much is caused by thermal expansion.

— Most recently, Grace allowed scientists to track flood patterns, soil moisture and power failures all over East Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  

Importantly for Florida — just recently, Geophysical Research Letters reported that scientists are using data from Grace to determine the world’s most vulnerable coastal area by “fingerprinting” sea level rise, which will help researchers predict how climate change will affect storm surges in flood-prone coastal areas.  

The original Grace mission launched in 2002 and is nearing its end-of-life with fuel running out,, and its important work must continue.   

Other important NASA Earth science missions include:  

— CLARREO Pathfinder Mission will set climate benchmarks critical for assessing changes in the Earth system to optimize strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

— The Orbiting Carbon Observatory measures, with high precision and high resolution, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

— DISCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, supports the sophisticated EPIC camera monitoring Earth.

— The PACE mission studies harmful algal blooms and volcanic ash eruptions among other things. Their work helps safeguard our shellfish supply.

— The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 known as ICESat-2 is a laser altimeter to measure elevation and provide mass balance of ice sheets and sea ice, to be launched in Sep 2018,

— Operation IceBridge deploys airborne missions over Arctic and Antarctic to measure sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers, and elevation. This work is ongoing since 2009 and is expected to continue into 2019

— Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP) is a microwave instrument to measure soil moisture and freeze/thaw state of ground (the main applicability to polar regions). It also has the potential to estimate thin sea ice.

— Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (Suomi VIIRS) is a joint mission with NOAA to examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent, surface reflectivity/albedo with a visible/infrared sensor. It was launched in 2011.

— Joint Polar Satellite System Program (JPSS-1) is a joint mission with NOAA, to follow up on Suomi and examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent and surface reflectivity/albedo. Launch scheduled for November 2017.

— Aqua/Terra: NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) missions launched in 1999 (Terra) and 2002 (Aqua), a suite of several instruments to provide information on sea ice concentration, snow cover (on sea ice and land), reflectivity/albedo, sea surface temperature, clouds and radiative fluxes.

— Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder (DMSP SSMIS) deploy DoD sensors for the sea ice time series developed by NASA and archived at NASA centers.

— Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR2) is a JAXA (Japanese) sensor which NASA uses to create data products on sea ice and snow.

— CryoSat-2: an ESA sensor, radar altimeter measures surface elevation, and NASA is creating data products from it, including on sea ice thickness.

The vital work of NASA’s Earth observation systems must continue without political interference.

We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising.

Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.   

NASA must remain an independent scientific agency, and its critical Earth science missions must continue and expand. We agree as you have both said, that NASA should remain free of politics and partisanship.

We urge you to oppose Jim Bridenstine’s nomination. He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency.  

Make no mistake; our Earth is getting warmer. As humans continue to add heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere, we must keep a close eye on how our changing climate will impact society and our way of life. Florida, in particular is vulnerable to rising seas and more extreme weather events.  Sea level rise is an existential threat to our state.  

Thank you again for speaking your mind about the Jim Bridenstine nomination and we trust you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate will do the right thing to protect Floridians and all Americans.


Senthold Asseng, Professor

Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department

University of Florida

Leonard Berry, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor of Geosciences

Florida Atlantic University

Henry O. Briceño, Professor

Southeast Environmental Research Center

& Department of Earth and Environment

Florida International University

Mya Breitbart, Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

Kristen Buck, Assistant Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

William S. Castle, Professor Emeritus [Horticulture]

Citrus Research & Education Center

University of Florida

Linda M. Callejas, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor

Department of Child & Family Studies

University of South Florida

Jeff Chanton, Professor

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science,

Florida State University

Eric Chassignet, Professor and Director

Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS)

Florida State University

Dr. Allan J. Clarke

The Adrian E. Gill Professor of Oceanography

Distinguished Research Professor

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Dr. Amy Clement

Department of Atmospheric Science

University of Miami

Anne J Cox, Professor of Physics

Natural Sciences

Eckerd College

Jeffrey A Cunningham, Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of South Florida

Kimberly Dobrinski, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biology

University of Tampa

Robert G. Ellingson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Shannon Grogan, Master’s Candidate

Integrative Biology Department

The University of South Florida

Jude W. Grosser, Professor of Citrus Breeding and Genetics

Citrus Research and Education Center

University of Florida

David Hastings, Professor

Marine Science and Chemistry

Eckerd College

Nicole Hernandez Hammer


Chuanmin Hu, Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

Daniel Huber, Associate Professor

Biology Department

The University of Tampa

Elizabeth Kiebel, M.S., doctoral student

Department of Psychology

University of South Florida

Ben Kirtman, Professor

Department of Atmospheric Science

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Miami

Marguerite Koch, Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

Florida Atlantic University

Cory J. Krediet, Assistant Professor

Marine Science and Biology

Eckerd College

William M. Landing

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Steve Leitman

Department of Urban and Regional Planning  

Florida State University

Juliana Leonard, Ph.D. Student
Environmental and Ecological Microbiology
Department of Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Ken Lindeman, Professor

Sustainability Program Chair

Florida Institute of Technology

William Louda, Research Professor

Environmental Biogeochemistry Group

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and The Environmental Sciences Program

Florida Atlantic University

Talea L. Mayo, Assistant Professor

Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

University of Central Florida

David Mertens

Assistant Professor of Physics

Eckerd College

Karena Nguyen, Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Integrative Biology

University of South Florida

John H. Parker

Vern Buchanan indicates preliminary support for restricting ‘bump stocks’

In the wake of Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas where nearly 60 people died, Florida Republicans are indicating they will support a gun-control measure.

South Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he will introduce a measure to prohibit bump stocks, a device that modifies rifles to allow them to fire faster.

Several of the 23 guns used by Stephen Paddock in his shooting spree were equipped with bump stocks.

Sarasota area Republican Vern Buchanan indicated Thursday that he would support such legislation.

Automatic weapons — aka machine-guns — are tightly regulated. Since 1986, the transfer or possession of machine-guns has been prohibited. Exceptions were made for transfers of machine-guns to, or possession of machine-guns by, government agencies, and those lawfully possessed before May of 1986.

However, in 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled bump stocks were considered a part and therefore would not be regulated as a weapon.

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein announced a Senate version that would prohibit bump stocks. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Democratic lawmakers file bill restricting guns for ‘at-risk’ individuals

Following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history earlier this week in Las Vegas, two Florida lawmakers announced legislation designed to temporarily prevent access to firearms for individuals at a high risk of harming themselves or others.

The bill (HB 231), filed Thursday by Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson and Lantana Rep. Lori Berman – both Democrats – would allow family, household members and law enforcement to obtain a court order with “demonstrated evidence” the person poses a significant danger to themselves or others, including danger as a result of a mental health crisis or violent behavior.

Both legislators say the intent is to reduce gun deaths and injuries by allowing an order to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms, while simultaneously respecting constitutional rights. Court orders are intended to be limited to situations where a person possessing a firearm poses a significant danger of harming themselves or others.

The measure includes standards and safeguards to protect the rights of respondents and due process of law.

“It is critical to address senseless gun deaths that now seem to be more the norm than a rarity,” Gibson said. “This bill is designed to remove from harm’s way individuals who are at high risk of harming themselves or others through an act of gun violence.

“A temporary, evidenced-based court order to remove a firearm from the home can be extremely helpful in curbing dangerous crisis behavior,” she added.

“In light of Sunday night’s tragedy in Las Vegas, it is more important than ever that we address how to limit gun violence,” Berman added. “This bill provides a mechanism for family or household members and law enforcement to stop bad actors before [a] tragedy happens.”

The legislation also “gives family members a pathway for removing firearms from individuals in the throes of a dangerous mental health crisis, including suicidal ideations.” he said.

A similar bill filed in the 2017 Legislative Session would have required someone applying for a concealed-weapons permit to undergo a mental health evaluation by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist and be deemed “competent and of sound mind.”

That proposal failed, as did almost every other gun-related bill that year.

The bill is the second gun-control issue to be introduced by Democrats in the Legislature in the past two days. On Wednesday, state Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, both of Orlando, unveiled proposed legislation to ban the sale of assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Andrew Gillum: GOP will go ‘overboard’ on guns

While some Republicans are criticizing Democrats for “exploiting” the Las Vegas shooting, Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says he worries it might only embolden state Republicans to come up with their own pro-gun legislation when they convene in January.

“Without a doubt, somebody is going to propose a bill that says we got to have guns everywhere,” Gillum told about two dozen University of Tampa students who gathered to hear him make the latest round of his tour of state universities. “It happened last session. It’s the answer that the NRA and their friends go back to at every single recourse.”

Gillum then segued into recounting his own experience dealing with gun violence shortly after becoming elected mayor in November 2014, when a former student shot at three victims inside Florida State University’s packed library before he was killed by campus police (one of the victims remains paralyzed from the waist down).

It gave him the opportunity to bash GOP efforts in the state legislature the past few two sessions where a bit that would allow college and university students on campuses was debated but ultimately died in committee.

“Can you imagine if every student in that library had a gun? And law enforcement showed up on the scene had to figure out and discern at a moment’s notice what was good, what was bad, what was the threat and who was being self-defending?” he asked, disputing that the law would make students safer.

He told students that, as legislative committees begin meeting next week, they need to be attentive to what gets proposed, claiming that some legislators heading into an election may try to go “overboard” in displaying their conservative bona fides to the NRA.

Sarasota Republican Senator Greg Steube sponsored 10 such pro-gun bills leading into the 2017 session, including separate proposals that would legally allow for guns on college campuses, airports, religious schools and career centers — all of which failed.

Gillum was originally scheduled to speak at UT back during the first full week in September, but the visit was cancelled as Hurricane Irma began moving closer to Florida.

He gave his traditional stump speech to the students, including a brief mention of what he has described as “taking on” the NRA.

That’s when he and his colleagues on the Tallahassee City Commission (which he served on before becoming mayor) were sued in 2014 by gun rights groups Florida Carry and Second Amendment Foundation because they didn’t repeal an ordinance that bans the shooting of guns in public parks. The NRA was not part of that original lawsuit, but later joined.

“Radical,” he said with a mocking tone. “Can’t shoot guns in city parks where kids play and families picnic.”

Gillum also told the students that he welcomes what could be a large influx of Puerto Ricans to his city, as residents relocate to Florida to resume their lives following the devastation that occurred on the island since Hurricane Maria pounded it two weeks ago.

He said he wanted to have “seamless integration” in the K-12 system in the city’s schools, and said every benefit given to a Floridian ought to be made available for those relocating from the island, which he said should include waiving the one-year requirement of living in Florida before qualifying for in-state tuition to the state’s colleges and universities.

“There’s already enough disruption in the lives of those individuals. We’ve got to figure out how to reduce that level of disruption,” he said.

Gillum is one of three Democrats who are officially running for governor, along with Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan also are considering a run.

Florida Latinos down big time on Donald Trump, GOP, polling shows

With Florida’s Cuban population, the state’s Latino vote has generally skewed more conservative than other states with large groups of Hispanics.

In the Donald Trump era, new polling shows that’s no longer the case.

Taken two weeks ago, a Latino Victory-Latino Decisions poll of 369 Florida Latinos gives only 36 percent support to the president; 64 percent oppose his efforts in the first eight months of the Trump administration.

Polling also showed only 21 percent saying they “generally agree” with the GOP on most issues and are likely to vote Republican in the future. Another 35 percent felt that the Republican Party was so anti-Latino they will never support them in the future.

“I want to say that we expected Florida to be an outlier. Florida had been a Republican Latino stronghold for generations, but attitudes have shifted in the last eight months,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, during a conference call.

“Despite being a more conservative population, relative to other Latinos in the U.S., this poll finds that a clear majority of Latinos in Florida are upset and oppose Trump policies,” said pollster Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions.

Referring to Trump’s pardon of controversial former Phoenix, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his rescission of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, Alex said the president “hasn’t missed an opportunity to demonstrate his disdain for Latinos,” which helped unite the country’s disparate Latino groups.

“The poll is significant because it’s proof that President Trump and the Republican Party are alienating Latinos of all backgrounds and all political stripes,” said Congressman Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat.

Soto cited Trump’s “terrible tweets” in the past week about Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. They had been “ricocheting and reverberating” across the state, he said.

The poll showed that only 20 percent of those surveyed believed Trump’s comments about the violence which occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was strong enough, while 64 percent said they didn’t go far enough.

Soto said that Latino groups are now looking at a Trump attack one group as an attack on the entire demographic, particularly incendiary comments made during his campaign kickoff in summer 2015.

It was then Trump famously talked about Mexicans crossing the border: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“It’s going to have a big effect when it comes to the election in 2018,” Soto said, referring to Democrat Annette Taddeo‘s victory last week over state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the hotly contested state Senate District 40 race in Miami-Dade County.

In her win, Taddeo became the first Latina-Democrat in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

The poll also shows 74 percent of Florida Latinos opposed Arpaio’s pardon; only 32 percent support a proposed border wall on the Mexican border. Taddeo says the pardon sent the message that, in Trump’s eyes, “looking Latino or speaking Spanish is reason enough to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.”

However, a platform of opposing Trump in 2018 won’t be enough for Florida Democrats, Taddeo said.

“We need to give Latinos and all Americans a reason to vote Democrat,” she said, adding that part of her winning platform was talking about the quality of public schools, access to health care, affordable housing and retiring with dignity.

The bilingual survey of 369 Florida Latinos, taken between Sept. 12-19, carries a 5.1 percent margin of error. The poll did not list the breakdown of Republicans versus Democrats surveyed. Instead, full data was weighted to match the adult population in the 2015 census for age, gender, education, nativity, ancestry and voter registration.

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