Phil Ammann, Author at Florida Politics

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and nightclub reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for an online metaphysical website among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A puzzling vote

As House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s priority education bill is pushed through the Senate committee process, some watching this week were perplexed by the vote of one sometimes perplexing Republican lawmaker.

Sen. Tom Lee, who has helped carry Corcoran’s policy in a sometimes-hostile Senate, voted with Democrats to gut language from the omnibus bill that would decertify teachers’ unions if their membership does not stay above 50 percent of total eligible employees.

Versions of the language, deemed “union busting” by opponents, have been the subject of partisan slugfests all session.

Lee told Florida Politics he voted for Sen. Perry Thurston’s amendment out of an “abundance of caution.” But insiders said there may be another reason: former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Jimmy Patronis for chief financial officer, a role Lee says he is mulling a run for.

The connection is this: An education reform foundation founded by Bush has been a big supporter of the House measure, and by him voting down on that provision, it would be a jab at them.

Lee says he is not always in lockstep with the foundation, as many Republicans are, but his vote was based on needing more information on the impact of the issue, which critics say is a “spiteful way of taking rights away from workers.”

“I tend to be an ally of the Speaker and expect to continue to be so, but at the end of the day, you take your orders from the people who elected you,” Lee said, “and not the former governor or the House Speaker.”

Lee said he gives Senate President Joe Negron “a lot of credit” for sending HB 7055 through the Senate committee process. The bill will be heard next week the Appropriations Committee, according to Senate Budget Chairman Rob Bradley.

Whether the proposal will be a hiccup in budget talks remains to be seen.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Arming teachers — A week after the worst school shooting in the state’s history, the Republican-controlled Legislature unveiled their proposals, which include training school employees to become armed “marshals.” It’s something President Donald Trump agrees with, but Gov. Rick Scott does not. House Speaker Corcoran said teachers who have the requisite hours to act as trained law enforcement officers would be allowed to carry guns in schools, adding that it is a “first of its kind proposal” in the nation. With two weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers and the governor are also pushing for more school resource officers and boosting funding for mental health services.

In response to last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Gov. Rick Scott outlines his plan to keep students safe while at school during a news conference Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Colin Hackley

Unprecedented gun law proposals — After thousands of students, parents and teachers came to Tallahassee to speak to legislative leaders seeking more restrictions on the purchase of “war weapons,” both chambers and the governor all agreed to raise the minimum age of owning and possessing “all firearms” to 21 and banning the sale of bump stocks. Gov. Scott said a ban on assault weapons would “not fix the problem” and would hurt “law-abiding citizens.” The House and Senate plans also include a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases.

Scott on mental health services — Gov. Scott wants to expand mental health services teams statewide to serve youth and young adults with early or serious mental illness by providing counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services. He also wants every Sheriff’s Office to have a crisis welfare worker embedded in their departments to work on repeat cases in the community. This would mean adding 67 more employees at the Department of Children and Families by July 15.

Budget slap fight — With less than three weeks to go in a legislative session, the direction of which has now been overcome by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, budget negotiations between the House and the Senate aren’t just stalled, they’re not happening. The first indication that the annual back-and-forth between the two chambers is not on track surfaced Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout reported that House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo said there has been “no progress” on allocations and, instead, that legislators are focused on responding to the tragedy in Parkland.

Criminal justice reforms move ahead — A sweeping criminal justice bill that would upend how the state collects data on offenders in an attempt to better determine who is incarcerated and for how long is moving in the Senate. The measure would require the Department of Corrections to use risk-assessment instruments that can identify the appropriate intervention and program for offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill (SB 1218) could be used as the foundation for “meaningful” criminal justice reform in the future. Another measure that would ease mandatory minimums in certain drug trafficking cases also headed to the Senate floor this week.

Instagram of the week

Scott to sign bill replacing Confederate statue with McLeod Bethune

Gov. Scott will soon sign a bill that will make Florida the first state to commemorate an African-American historical figure in the U.S. Capitol.

The state House and Senate have approved legislation that will honor civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune at National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Her statue will replace that of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. The Legislature agreed to remove Smith’s statue in 2016.

Mary McLeod Bethune.

Daytona Beach Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry sponsored the initiative in the House, which cleared the measure Tuesday. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, sponsored the Senate version.

“Bethune’s life and values illustrate the best of Florida,” Thurston said. “Choosing her likeness for the Hall sends a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity.”

Bethune served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. She was an appointee of President Herbert Hoover to the White House Conference on Child Health and was an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt. Bethune also founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The school has offered to cover the cost of Bethune’s statue.

Each state is allowed two representatives in Statuary Hall. The Sunshine State’s other statue commemorates John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

The week in appointments

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority — Scott appointed Maggie Montalvo to fill a vacant seat in the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Montalvo, 53, is the executive vice president and the chief operations officer of First Colony Bank of Florida. She received a degree in banking from the American Banking and Accounting Institute.

Her term ends April 16, 2020, and her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

St. Johns River Watch Management District — Scott appointed Allan Roberts, the owner and operator of First Coast Cattle, to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Roberts, 70, is currently a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

He will fill a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 1, 2020. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Floridians flocked to CRC hearings in Melbourne, Jacksonville

The Constitution Revision Commission held two meetings in its “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour this week, and much like the first stop in Ft. Lauderdale, turnout was healthy.

An estimated 600 people went to the Feb. 19 meeting at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. Among them were 240 individuals who filled out a speaker card.

The Constitution Revision Commission came to Jacksonville Tuesday for a marathon public hearing on the 37 proposals that are still live.

The Jacksonville stop, held on the University of North Florida campus Feb. 20, more than 500 showed up, with 210 requesting a chance to speak before the commission.

Video of both hearings is available online through The Florida Channel.

The next tour stop is a Feb. 27 hearing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, followed by a March 5 hearing at The Westin in Cape Coral and a March 13 stop at University of South Florida — St. Petersburg.

House Democrats still working on AR-15 ban

Among the state House’s most visible actions while Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors were in Tallahassee was a no vote on advancing an assault weapons ban bill to the chamber floor for debate.

The 71-36 party-line defeat in the HB 219 vote was met with astonishment and tears by students in the gallery, but Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t giving up on getting a bill to ban semi-automatic rifles to the House floor before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Senate President Joe Negron announces a comprehensive package of legislation to improve the safety and security of Florida students and schools. Those bills will be heard in the committee on Monday.

McGee said semi-automatic assault rifles, particularly the AR-15 model used in the Parkland shooting, are a “common denominator” in mass shootings and lawmakers need to discuss the issue before they can “move on.”

McGee didn’t reveal his strategy for getting such a ban through the GOP-controlled House, but Senate Democrats this week said they would attempt to attach gun legislation, including an AR-15 ban, to bills moving through the Legislature.

FDP chair calls out Republicans for AR-15 vote

The Florida Democratic Party chair said state House Republicans turned their backs on the survivors of the Parkland shooting this week when the chamber voted not to hear a bill banning semi-automatic assault weapons.

FDP chair Terrie Rizzo blasts lawmakers for ‘turning their backs’ on Parkland survivors.

“[Tuesday’s] vote is just one more reminder that Gov. Scott, Corcoran and the GOP-led legislature continue to fail to provide the leadership needed to put an end to senseless mass shootings,” said FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.

“If tragedy strikes again and innocent children and citizens are gunned down in a classroom, a dance club or an airport, we can look to yesterday as another example of elected officials that care more about special interest money than keeping our kids safe from harm.”

The House voted 71-36 against hearing the bill, HB 219. No Republican voted in favor of the measure.

Car dealer bill stalls in House committee

A bill aimed at making changes to car dealership regulations stalled out in its second House committee this week over objections it was tailored to hand a single industry association a monopoly on dealer training.

The bill (HB 595) by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel would make changes to various legal definitions relating to car dealers.

Rep. Bob Rommel’s auto dealership bill is running out of gas.

But a strike-all amendment also by Rommel would have required new car dealers to take a four-hour course each year to keep their license. That would put them in line with requirements set for used car dealers.

That training could only be offered by “a Florida-based, nonprofit, dealer-owned, statewide industry association of franchised motor vehicle dealers.”

Only one group in the state (probably not coincidentally) qualifies under that definition: the Florida Automobile Dealers Association.

FADA representative John Forehand testified that the cap isn’t necessarily indicative of the charge the group would levy but was there as a protection since the language would make it the sole source for the training.

“Why not $200? $300?” asked St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton. No matter: The bill later was temporarily postponed.

FCUA names Jones ‘Lawmaker of the Year’

The Florida Credit Union Association this week named West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones as their “2017 State Lawmaker of the Year.”

FCUA recognized Jones as a longtime friend of credit unions, and for sponsoring a bill in the 2017 Legislative Session to exempt credit unions from regulation and lawsuits under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trades Practices Act.

Shevrin Jones has been named Legislator of the Year by the Florida Credit Union Association.

“Representative Jones has served credit unions in Florida as a true champion,” said Patrick La Pine, who heads FCUA’s parent organization, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.

“He has sponsored legislation to include credit unions in an exemption under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act and understands the critical role that credit unions play in Florida’s economy and in serving Floridians throughout the state.”

FCUA honored Jones in Tallahassee last month during the Florida Advocacy Conference, where the lawmaker addressed credit union leaders gathered to help promote the industry at the state capitol.

Senate fracking ban bill on life support

A fracking ban sponsored by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young didn’t make the agenda for the Feb. 27 Senate Appropriations Committee, and anti-fracking groups are laying the blame on Appropriations Chair Bradley.

Floridians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of anti-fracking groups and businesses, put out a statement this week blasting Bradley not allowing the bill to be heard.

Some blame the failure of an anti-fracking bill on Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Bradley.

“The fracking ban has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers because the people of Florida have been demanding it to protect our water, our tourism economy and our natural resources. If a fracking ban does not end up on the Governor’s desk to sign this session, it will be seen by the people of Florida as a failure of leadership,” said Brian Lee, the group’s legislative director.

Floridians Against Fracking suggested in the same release that Senate President Negron bring the ban bill up for a vote directly on the Senate floor, or in a future, unscheduled Appropriations Committee.

The fracking ban was a major campaign pledge of Young’s in the 2016 cycle. The House companion has not yet been heard in any committee, though the House has said it would take up the Senate version of the bill should it pass.

Business rent tax debate flares up on Twitter

The National Federation of Independent Business/Florida and the Florida AFL/CIO’s Rich Templin had a little back and forth on Twitter this week about the business rent tax cut when the tax package was up in House Appropriations.

It’s the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation. Gov. Scott and trade groups have long called to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.

Avid Twitter user Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO.

Shot by NFIB: “The small and independently owned businesses NFIB represents overwhelmingly support the biz rent tax cut; #smallbiz drives the economy, and saving them money creates jobs, improves benefits and keeps the dollars in our backyards.”

Chaser by Templin: “This bumper sticker sloganeering doesn’t equate to sound fiscal policy. The overwhelming bulk of this tax cut will go to larger retailers based out of state. The taxpayers shoulder the burden & services workers & small businesses need are hindered.”

Background: Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.

AOB reform ad hitting Florida airwaves

Radio stations across the state this week started playing an ad warning Floridians of the dangers of “Assignment of Benefits,” which allows insurance policy rights to be signed over to third-party contractors.

The Consumer Protection Coalition, one of the chief organizations pushing AOB reform is led in part by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a member of the coalition, is footing the bill for the ad.

Listen to the new ad here:

“On the heels of the Florida Justice Reform Institute releasing a new report showcasing the need for AOB reform, the Consumer Protection Coalition felt it was important to alert Florida home and auto owners on how the AOB scheme works and why it is important for them to engage in asking Florida lawmakers to support meaningful AOB reform,” said Florida Chamber VP Edie Ousley.

The ad goes over how AOB works — or at least how it can be abused by unscrupulous lawyers and vendors. The radio ad is available on CPC’s website.

FSU prof to help on Hamer doc

A Florida State University professor is teaming up with Tougaloo College in Mississippi and the Kellogg Foundation to produce a new documentary on civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

FSU’s Davis Houck, the current holder of an endowed chair named after Hamer, will serve in an advisory capacity on the film, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” and the corresponding civil rights K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice.”

Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer will be the subject of a new FSU doc.

“Having Fannie Lou Hamer’s name attached to my work and Florida State University is inspiring and daunting,” said Houck, a professor at FSU’s School of Communication.

“The project is inspiring because of the life she led in pursuit of justice, and it is daunting because her fearlessness — often in the face of grinding and lethal adversity — sets an enormously high bar for anyone seeking to walk in her footsteps.”

Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement known for her powerful speeches, songs and activism. The K-12 component focuses on youth empowerment and community engagement in the Mississippi Delta, and it intends to connect students and teachers to the region’s history during the civil rights movement.

Tallahassee a ‘Great Small Town for Big Vacations’

The Travel Channel listed Tallahassee as one of “10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations” this week, much to the delight of the capital city’s officials and its tourism marketing arm.

“The uniqueness of our area continues to gain the attention of national media that recognize Leon County’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “We know that we live in an exceptional part of Florida and we think it’s time the rest of the nation, and the world, knows it, too.”

A great small town for big vacations.

The slideshow article says what Tallahassee “lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in Florida culture and adventure.” Recommendations included Ernestine Fryson’s famous fried catfish at the Bradfordville Blues Club, and the abundant nature tourism in the area.

Article author Steve Larese’s visit resulted from an invitation by Leon County to give the area a look. He was one of many of travel writers who visited the Leon County area while researching stories for various publications.

“To be counted among the country’s small towns for big adventure demonstrates the hard work of Leon County Division of Tourism in elevating and promoting what our community has to offer both visitors and residents,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Jacksonville Bold for 2.23.18 — The Steamroller

On Wednesday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held a media event in which he and City Councilman Al Ferraro filled potholes in roads in a Northside industrial park.

Curry wanted to focus on the hard work being done, day in and day out, by city employees to maintain public infrastructure.

A laudable goal. Especially given where things have been lately.

Politics in Northeast Florida has been particularly parlous since the beginning of the year, as you will read below.

The Texas Death Match between Al Lawson and Alvin Brown. The No DQ tag match between those close to the Mayor and those on the side of the Council Resistance. The “JEA on the pole” match.

The prevailing image of the Curry event was the mayor on a steamroller.

Lenny Curry mans the steamroller.

Some quipped that it was apropos — symbolic of a political machine that overwhelms opposition as a matter of course.

Curry, the kind of Jacksonville public official who tweets from “On War” by Clausewitz, often uses these public works events as a “back to basics” reset when time or events riddle smooth narratives.

They are a reprieve from the heated narrative of February, spats with Council members, and the like.

They are what the business of running a city comes down to.

No one argues about the mechanics of filling potholes; yet, Tallahassee hasn’t figured out how to take away home rule for that local function.

The takeaway from the event: sometimes it’s nice to just get on the steamroller and smooth out the rough road.

Even if it’s hard to steer sometimes.

Blood money

More drama in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

On Monday, as has been the case for weeks, challenger Brown laid into Rep. Lawson.

Parkland cast a shadow on the congressional race this week.

The former Jacksonville Mayor noted, via a media release, that Lawson was the sole Florida Democrat to take money from the National Rifle Association.

“Despite Rep. Al Lawson’s statement last week decrying the ‘stranglehold of the gun lobby,’ Rep. Al Lawson is just another Washington politician who has taken campaign contributions from the NRA in return for inaction on gun violence. Late last year, Lawson proudly took $2,500 from the NRA — making Lawson the only member of Florida’s Democratic delegation to accept money from the gun lobby.”

However, Lawson said he had NOT taken any NRA money.

Lawson responded Monday, saying flat out that Brown was “lying” about his record.

“Once again, Alvin Brown and his campaign are lying. Not only have I not taken any money from the National Rifle Association or any of its affiliates, [but] I also have scored a zero on issues important to the NRA,” Lawson began.

“If Mr. Brown did some actual research, he would see that there are no contributions from the NRA on my campaign report, or any expenditures from the NRA, or their political action committees to my campaign,” Lawson added, saying that “Brown is trying to use this national tragedy to fundraise and revive his failed political career.”

Lawson has a history of being friendlier to the gun lobby than many Democrats.

Will that matter in the August primary?

Lawson pans Trump’s ‘heartless’ budget

Lawson, who Brown is doing his best to link with President Donald Trump, panned POTUS’ proposed budget this weekend in the Florida Times-Union.

Al Lawson bashed the Donald Trump budget, but will it help him shake DINO charge from Alvin Brown?

The “irresponsible and extreme budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the deficit …  hits our most vulnerable citizens the hardest, reflects a terrible disdain for working families, as well as a disheartening lack of vision for a stronger society.”

This editorial includes recurrent Lawson themes, including noting the high rate of poverty in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, and decrying proposed changes in the food stamps program.

The president proposed sending boxes of food to people instead of the SNAP disbursements.

Save the Date

Nancy Soderberg, a Democrat running in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, opens her campaign HQ in Daytona Sunday afternoon.

Nancy Soderberg is ramping up an impressive structure early in her congressional bid.

Soderberg recently hired a campaign manager and field director, and she is testing the theory that the seat currently held by gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis can be flipped.

Soderberg, who served as Ambassador to the United Nations during Bill Clinton’s presidency, has shown momentum since entering the race in summer 2017. She raised $207,949 last quarter, putting her above the $544,000 mark. She has $376,000 cash on hand.

While this does not give Soderberg the total cash on hand lead (Republican John Ward has $644,216 on hand), Soderberg will have the resources to be competitive.

In a quest for more resources, Soderberg has a DC fundraiser lined up for March 8. On hand: James Carville and Rep. Darren Soto.

Levine makes the scene

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a candidate for Governor, was in Jacksonville Monday evening to address Duval County Democrats.

Philip Levine was in Duval as part of his ’67-county strategy.’

Levine, on his second trip to Jacksonville in recent weeks, had a “living room” conversation earlier in the day. Even as Gwen Graham has a strong foothold in the area, what is clear is that Levine thinks Northeast Florida is in play as part of his “67 county strategy.”

“The message has been resonating … I’ve been to towns you’ve never heard of … with a message many Democrats has never heard before.”

That message: deliberately “pro-business.” Levine notes that corporate HR policies tend to be progressive.

“The only way we’re going to win a general election is to make purple … mix red and blue,” Levine said.

Read more here.

Constitutional conclave

The Constitution Revision Commission came to Jacksonville Tuesday for a marathon public hearing on the 37 proposals that are still live.

And some that weren’t, such as Proposal 22, perceived as an affront on abortion rights, and Proposal 62, which would allow for people to vote in primaries regardless of party identification. The green cards of support outweighed the red cards by a factor of 20.

Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission visits the University of North Florida for public input.

“There are 3.4 million Floridians whose right to vote is denied,” said Jackie Bowman of St. Augustine on Proposal 62.

“To me, this looks like taxation without representation.”

Jackie Rock, a mosquito control commissioner from St. Johns County, bridged from closed primaries to consequences, noting that the Legislature did not pass an assault weapon ban, eliciting a gasp from the crowd.

The same held true for a nonexistent proposal to ban assault weapons. Anytime a speaker sounded that theme, the green cards flapped.

If there was a leitmotif to the six-hour meeting, it was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for proposals. Read more here.

Brown makes it official, challenges Gibson

The paperwork was filed Friday: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown threw down the gauntlet for a primary challenge against state Sen. Audrey Gibson.

Councilman Reggie Brown denies Mayor Lenny Curry put him up to running for Senate.

But Florida Politics readers knew already.

“I am running,” Brown said in mid-January.

And contrary to what some in Gibson’s orbit are saying, it’s Brown’s decision and his move to make.

Gibson — the Senate Democratic Leader-designate — would seem like an unlikely primary target.

She has been in elected office since the 1990s and gets donations from national corporations and political committees. Gibson carried $121,000 in her campaign account at the end of January.

Brown thinks he can bring more money to the district, however.

Gibson doesn’t want to talk about the challenge, which sets the stage for the most compelling primary race in Northeast Florida this year outside of the Brown/Lawson demolition derby for Congress.

Boys Club?

WJXT, typically a friendly outlet to Curry, postulated this week that his office may be a “boys club.”

Where the boys are: WJXT story goes in on the Lenny Curry machine.

The article focused on the aftermath of a conversation between Chief of Staff Brian Hughes and Council President Anna Brosche’s assistant, Jeneen Sanders, which led to Sanders saying she felt threatened.

The Office of General Counsel backed Hughes’ version of events, saying no laws were broken.

WJXT asserted that “some people” said they felt uncomfortable around Hughes after the initial charges were made.

The money quote: “One prominent Republican in Jacksonville who works outside of City Hall said that he’s ‘very headstrong’ and ‘a classic bully’ who can ‘get in a person’s face and invade their personal space.’”

Council President Anna Brosche, meanwhile, offered her own thoughts on the City Hall dynamic and a Florida Times-Union article that essentially mansplained Brosche off the dais.

Brosche asserted that ”if my name was Allen Brosche, I would not be receiving the kind of feedback some are offering me: Take the high road, understand he is a competitive person, learn to bite your tongue, and (repeatedly) don’t take things so personally.”

“The questions to the community, the media and leaders who want me to be quiet, to be nice,” Brosche added, “are:  Is competition among community leaders the best thing for Jacksonville? As a man, is Mayor Curry getting the same advice I am?”

Meanwhile, a mysterious poll is probing Brosche’s appeal versus Curry, leading to claims and counterclaims in the consultant set as to who is pushing this poll and why.

GOP gun control push?

Peter Rummell is among the leading names in Jacksonville’s Republican donor class, and he made news himself this weekend as part of a New York Times article detailing prominent GOP donors who no longer will back candidates who support assault weapons sales.

Peter Rummell wants a ‘debate’ on Second Amendment prerogatives in the GOP.

Rummell, described as “a Jacksonville-based donor who gave $125,000 to Jeb Bush’s ‘super PAC’ in 2016, said he was on board with Mr. Hoffman’s plan and would only contribute to candidates supportive of banning assault weapons.”

Rummell said, per the NYT, “the Parkland shooting was a turning point: ‘It has to start somewhere,’ Mr. Rummell said, of controlling guns.”

Rummell has donated majorly to candidates and causes in the Jacksonville area also, including but not limited to the last two successful mayoral campaigns and the pension reform referendum of 2016.

“Al Hoffman has made a bold and decisive statement and his ultimate point is we need to do something major and radical-nipping at the edges isn’t working. Starting is hard and he’s taken what he considers to be an important first step. And, I totally agree that we as a nation need to focus on laws that would create a safer world for all. I am not sure that starting with just an ‘ultimatum’ is the right first step,” Rummell told Florida Politics in a statement, drawing a subtle but important distinction between his position and the rhetorical absolutism of Hoffman’s as documented by the NYT.

“We need a plan, a strategy and tactics. Starting any process is hard — especially one that is as serious, complicated and emotional as this is. Now is the time for us to have a debate that is honest, thoughtful and complete, taking into account all the important issues about how we live practically under the Second Amendment, which I fully support. The discussion needs to end with real transformation and actionable items that bring about real reform, protections and change,” Rummell said.

Keep it 100?

The National Rifle Association endorsed Curry for Jacksonville Mayor in 2015, yet when we asked Curry about NRA support, he said he wasn’t in “100 percent alignment” with donors and supporters Wednesday.

“Not issue specific. Any supporter, any donor, any endorser, you’re not going to have 100 percent alignment on,” Curry said at a media availability.

“At least I don’t. They don’t expect that. They expect independent thinking,” Curry said of donors and endorsers.

The NRA endorsed Lenny Curry in 2015.

We asked Curry where he diverged from NRA positions; he offered no answer, potentially a reflection of the balancing act Republican politicians currently face with the gun lobby.

“I’m a constitutional conservative, believe in the rule of law, and the firearm issue is regulated at the federal and state level,” Curry said. “My commitment to public safety has been demonstrated in real investments and real actions here in Jacksonville.”

When asked about the assault weapon ban that the Florida House effectively voted down Tuesday, Curry said it was another example of a state regulation and offered no comment on the Republican legislators in this region who voted to not even give the bill a hearing.

“Recognizing that we are in very sad times right now, tragic times, I’m going to do what I can in Jacksonville to keep our city safe,” Curry said, citing his reforms of children’s programs via the Kids Hope Alliance as an example of such action.

Stormy weather

Reimbursements will come sooner or later for the city of Jacksonville from the federal government for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

Flooding was a major impact of Irma, and thus far Jacksonville’s general fund remains soaked.

Until then, however, the impact of the storms will be felt in the city’s general fund budget.

The Jacksonville City Council Auditor’s quarterly report for the final three months of 2017 puts the figures in sharp relief.

“The latest Hurricane Matthew projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $45.1 million. As of Jan. 31, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $28.0 million related to Hurricane Matthew,” the report contends.

“87.5 percent of the total allowable expenses are subject to reimbursement, leaving the City to fund the remainder. The fiscal year 2017/18 approved budget includes an appropriation of $7.0 million from the GF/GSD to cover the City’s estimated obligation,” the report adds.

Irma is worse: the fiscal impact will be approximately $86.4 million, with no less than a $10.8 million charge to the city even if all reimbursements come through.

With slow reimbursements, one wonders if the discussion of reserve levels will be a more forceful one this summer.

The city has already been dinged by analysts for high fixed costs. These, combined with a reluctance to hike taxes, are leading influencers and policymakers to take a hard look at JEA privatization, which could net the city $3 to $6 billion.

Meanwhile, the city has worries regarding increasing interest rates and the equity market volatility of recent weeks.

Conditions to JEA sale for Curry

While on the JEA subject, Curry tells the Florida Times-Union that he’s not, contrary to opinion in some quarters, married to a JEA sale.

Lenny Curry continues to maintain public agnosticism toward utility sale.

Curry said: “There’s a whole lot of questions that would have to be answered.”

“From my perspective, I would not be supportive of anything that took a lump sum of cash in any scenario — JEA or anything else — and spent it,” Curry said. “Future generations and future taxpayers always have to be protected … people working at JEA need to be protected as well, and their families honored.”

The sale could net the city $3 billion to $6 billion, though there is a lot of salesmanship ahead between Curry and members of Council.

On Tuesday, Council President Anna Brosche took a proactive measure, setting up a special committee that will run through June looking at the issue.

She believes that if the proposal is sound it will survive scrutiny. And she, along with other skeptics, will be on the panel.

More skepticism abounds: the city’s ethics commission wants to firm up rules to avert the temptations and potential abuses of the sale process, should it go forward.

JEA straw poll bill coming, and so are ‘bounties’?

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis is introducing a bill that would force a straw poll on JEA privatization, he said this week at a meeting of the Duval Democrats.

Garrett Dennis is a marked man, he says, by the Mayor’s office.

Privatization, Dennis said, would be “bad for our city … a cover for a shortfall for a bad pension plan that we were all duped into passing.”

Also of note: Dennis claims there is a “bounty” on five Council members from the mayor’s office.

“The mayor, who we all know is a bully, has bounties on five Council members’ heads.”

Those Councilors: President Anna Brosche and Danny Becton, two Republicans, along with Democrats Dennis, Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown.

Dennis, Becton, and Brosche are all on the JEA privatization committee.

‘Senseless violence’ again on Jacksonville streets

Seven-year-old Tashawn Gallon was gunned down in Durkeeville Sunday night. Per the Florida Times-Union, he died hours after being shot in a drive-by.

Curry took to Twitter hours later.

“Last night a 7 yr old was killed in a drive-by shooting in our city. We must come together as a community and stop this senseless violence to give our kids a sense of hope and peace.”

Durkeeville, a rough neighborhood for decades now, is on the periphery of Downtown Jacksonville.

“This happened Less than 2 miles from City Hall, Within 2 miles of our government and churches and schools and FSCJ and firehouses and sheriff substations, all institutions designed to help keep a community safe and allow kids the security to grow and learn how to make choices and follow dreams,” Curry continued.

“In the shadow of all that opportunity and assistance, a 7 yr old had life stolen by someone so hopeless and directionless that they didn’t hesitate to recklessly turn our streets into a war zone. We have to break through to these young people. We have to find a way to make them recognize there is so much more for them than they can imagine, if they choose to believe in hope and peace.”

Small children being shot: a running theme in Jacksonville homicides, and something that Curry has all too routinely had to address during his two-and-a-half years in office.

Fishweir Creek to be swimmable, fishable again

A Jacksonville creek restoration project awaited by Avondale area residents for over a decade is finally on the verge of a City Council green light.

Clearing committees Tuesday and Wednesday: a bill (2018-8) to move forward on the restoration of Big Fishweir Creek.

Making Big Fishweir Creek great again.

Urbanization and development over the course of decades made the tributary inhospitable to swimming and fishing, per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The USACE outlines some benefits to the project. Included among them, making the creek “swimmable and fishable,” creating a navigable habitat for the still endangered manatee, improving water quality generally, and creation of a marsh island.

The project is estimated to cost $6,549,000; the city of Jacksonville has appropriated $2,566,375, with the USACE picking up the other 65 percent of the tab. If the federal contribution goes up, the local share will do likewise. The federal cap is $10 million.

Construction is expected in 2019.

Departures

A Jacksonville City Council candidate left the Public Service Grants Council this month, while the head of sports and entertainment also moved on.

The TaxSlayer Bowl will be someone else’s problem this year, with Dave Herrell gone.

Tameka Gaines Holly, running in District 8 to replace fellow Democrat Katrina Brown, resigned the PSG by email.

The candidate leads the money race: she posted $10,800 in January — her first month as an active candidate. Holly is the cash on hand leader, with candidates Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks and Albert Wilcox each under $2,000 on hand.

Also out the door: Dave Herrell, after almost four years handling Jacksonville sports and entertainment.

Herrell was responsible in a previous role for elevating the status of the Fiesta Bowl; however, the TaxSlayer Bowl was not particularly raised in his term.

Budget hearings between Herrell’s department and the Mayor’s senior staff, at times, were contentious, with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and others questioning the necessity for the department as it was constituted.

Herrell’s Resignation Letter indicates that, while the resignation is effective April 10, the actual departure date was Feb. 9.

Endorsement watch

Katie Dearing is unopposed in her bid for 4th Circuit judge. And every sheriff in the circuit backs her.

In addition to being supported by sheriffs, Katie Dearing’s nuclear family backs her as well.

“Katie is highly respected by her peers and the law enforcement community. She brings a wealth of experience and courtroom knowledge as well as practical wisdom. I proudly endorse her for Circuit Judge,” said Sheriff Darryl Daniels of Clay County.

Sheriff Mike Williams called Dearing “qualified, capable, and caring and she will be an asset to the judiciary.” And Sheriff Bill Leeper of Nassau “heartily endorse[s]” the candidate.

UNF names new leader

Jacksonville’s University of North Florida has a new president.

The UNF Board of Trustees selected University of Cincinnati business-school dean David Szymanski to become the school’s sixth president.

David Szymanski is the new president of UNF.

Szymanski currently serves as dean of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business and a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati. The board authorized Chairman Kevin Hyde to negotiate a contract with Szymanski, whose appointment also is subject to confirmation by the state university system’s Board of Governors.

Anonymous gift brings special ed school closer to new campus

An anonymous $1.5 million gift has helped the North Florida School of Special Education get significantly closer toward a new campus.

The donation brought the school to $5 million of its $6 million goal in a three-year “Angel of the Woods” fundraising campaign. The new campus will be called The Christy and Lee Smith Lower School Campus and Therapeutic Center.

A rendering of The Christy and Lee Smith Lower School Campus and Therapeutic Center.

“This is a beautiful tribute,” school head Sally Hazelip told circlecharityregister.com. “The gift honors our past and helps plant the seeds for our future; we are so thankful for this donor’s generosity.”

The campaign is for the facility to build a 32,000-square-foot facility and a Therapeutic Equestrian Center on 5 acres of land bestowed to the school in 2014 by the Ida Mae Stevens Foundation and Doug Milne, trustee. One of the first donations to the campaign was a $1 million gift from Delores Barr Weaver to name the Therapeutic Equestrian Center.

The Smiths were among the first four families who founded the school in 1992. The school’s current Anderson Smith Campus is named after their son.

Groundbreaking is set for fall 2018 with a targeted completion sometime in 2019. The new buildings will join the current 9,000-square-foot classroom structure on the 3-acre campus at 223 Mill Creek Road. When finished, the school will cover 41,000 square feet over 8 acres.

Jax driverless vehicle prototype passes first on-road test

Soon, driverless vehicles will begin having a profound change on Jacksonville streets.

“This is not a question of if. It’s a question of when,” said Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford to Action News Jax.

Rosalie Simcoe was one of the riders on a prototype autonomous vehicle operated by Transdev tested on the Easy Mile this week.

“It was incredible. It was very smooth,” Simcoe told reporter Jenna Bourne. “I felt very safe.”

It was the same type of vehicle that soon will be seen Jacksonville streets and the Skyway. Ford expects the infrastructure conversion to support autonomous vehicles on the Skyway to take five about years.

“This vehicle here is the one that we currently have on our test track over by EverBank Stadium,” Ford explained. “And we’ll be running that vehicle for the next few months and then we’ll swap out, every so many other manufacturers’ vehicles.

“So, we’re in a test and learn phase.”

White the model tested can travel up to 28 miles an hour, for the demonstration – at the University of North Florida – it only traveled about 10 miles an hour.

As for safety, the demonstration had a person step in front of the vehicle, which came to a full stop until he moved away.

Rick Scott announces 14 state board appointments

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott announced ten appointments and four reappointments to a variety of state boards. All the following appointments are subject to Florida Senate confirmation.

New College of Florida Board of Trustees

Felipe Colon, 36, of Sarasota, is a financial adviser. He received his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College. Colon succeeds Bradford Baker for a term ending January 6, 2021.

Mark Aesch, 51, of Spring Hill, is the chief executive officer of TransPro Consulting. He received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York, College of Brockport. Aesch will fill a vacant seat for a term ending January 6, 2020.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Charlotte Flynt, 72, of Miramar Beach, is a retired general contractor and owner of Two Oaks Construction, Inc. She will fill a seat previously held by her late husband Michael Flynt, for a term ending May 31, 2018.

Lori Kelley, 51, of Fort Walton Beach, is a certified public accountant with Warren Averett, LLC. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida. Kelley fills a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2018.

Tom Wright, 64, of Niceville, is a retired Major General in the United States Air Force and served as the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations for SHAPE HQ. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University, and a master’s in National Defense Strategy from the National Defense University. Wright fills a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2020.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees

Lee Maggard, 31, of Zephyrhills, is the assistant vice president and commercial relationship manager for CenterState Bank. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. Maggard fills a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Polk State College District Board of Trustees

Ashley Bell-Barnett, 33, of Winter Haven, is a community advocate in Polk County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and her master’s degree from the University of South Florida. Barnett fills a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2019.

Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees

Eric Grant, 42, of Tallahassee, is the president of the Municipal Code Corporation. He previously served in the United States Marine Corps from 1998 to 2004. Grant received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy, his master’s degree from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Services, and his juris doctoral degree from the University of Virginia. He succeeds Kevin Vaughn for a term ending May 31, 2021.

Higher Education Facilities Financing Authority

John Hooker, 36, of Gainesville, is the Associate Director of Development at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He received his bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Florida. Hooker fills a vacant seat for a term ending January 17, 2021.

The Higher Educational Facilities Financing Authority of Florida (HEFFA) is a statewide tax-exempt bond channel specifically chartered for nonprofit institutions of higher education to provide an economical and efficient way for private institutions of higher education to access the tax-exempt market.

Florida Building Commission

Jay Carlson, 60, of Port Charlotte, is the president of Carlson and Soforth. He will serve as chair of the board for a term ending February 20, 2022.

Robert Hamberger, 70, of Pompano Beach, is the chief building official for the School Board of Broward County. He will serve a term ending January 9, 2021.

Jim Batts, 61, of Jacksonville Beach, is the president of The Batts Company. He is reappointed for a term ending November 5, 2020.

Drew Smith, 55, of Parrish, is the chief operating officer of Two Trails, Inc. He is reappointed for a term ending November 5, 2020.

Brian Langille, 45, of Palm Harbor, is an assistant director for the City of Clearwater. He is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2021.

The Florida Building Commission is composed of 27 members — appointed by the governor — of architects, engineers, contractors, fire protection, building officials, product manufacturers, insurance industry representatives, public education representatives and green building representatives.

The mission is to adapt and update the Florida Building Code, the state’s Accessibility Code, approve advanced training courses and evaluate waivers for the Florida-specific accessibility requirements.

Andrew Vargas overwhelmingly takes GOP primary in HD 114

Andrew Vargas has won the Republican primary in House District 114, vacated last year by Daisy Baez.

Vargas is a 35-year-old political newcomer who works as an insurance attorney and a law partner of influential Miami-area state Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

From the 7 p.m. poll closing, Vargas took a definitive lead, getting more than 76 percent of the vote, a clear sign of his significant financial advantage in the race.

Jose Pazos, a 42-year-old U.S. Marine, combat veteran and owner of a condo association management business took 24 percent. This is his second attempt at elected office and ran a grassroots campaign as “a regular Joe.”

Pazos had also received endorsements from both the Miami Herald and the South Florida political blog PoliticalCortadito.

By Feb. 15, Vargas raised $189,323, as well as loaning $50,000 to his campaign. In comparison, Pazos raised only about $30,580, loaning the campaign $3,000.

Baez, a Coral Gables Democrat, resigned her office in November before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying about her address on a voter-registration form. She agreed to serve one year of probation instead of a possibility of a third-degree felony for lying on an official form.

HD 114 covers part of the Miami-Dade coast including Cutler Bay and Coral Gables, extending north and inland to cover parts of South Miami, West Miami and Coral Terrace.

The seat is considered a toss-up, as voter registration is somewhat split evenly between the two parties. There are about 34,000 registered Republicans in the district.

In 2016, Baez won the seat 51 percent of the vote, another in a series of close races in HD 114, with former Republican Rep. Erik Fresen winning in 2014 with 52 percent, compared to 48 percent for Baez.

Vargas will now face Democrat Javier Fernandez and independent candidate Liz de las Cuevas in the May 1 special election.

Whoever becomes the ultimate winner could hopefully break the curse of HD 114.

As the Miami Herald notes, every candidate who represented HD 114 since its formation in 2012 has pleaded guilty to criminal charges: “In April, it was Fresen, a Republican who failed to file his income tax returns for eight consecutive years. In November, it was Daisy Baez.”

Josie Tomkow KOs Jennifer Spath in HD 39 special primary election

In what may be shaping up as the political “Year of the Woman,” Josie Tomkow has won the Republican primary for House District 39, which opened up over Thanksgiving with the departure of Neil Combee.

Tomkow, a 22-year-old University of Florida student, took a decisive 65 percent of the vote to become her party’s nominee for the Republican-leaning seat covering Auburndale, Polk City, North Lakeland and a portion of Osceola County.

Combee had won re-election in HD 39 by more than 62 percent in 2016.

“The community, especially the agricultural community, showed up!” Tomkow said in a statement. “As I’ve said from day one, I’ll never stop fighting for the people of this district, our heritage and our way of life.”

Tomkow’s opponent, 34-year-old Jennifer Spath, was trounced with only 35 percent of the vote.

Tomkow previously worked in the office of Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, and in her parent’s business, Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Lakeland. Throughout the race, she has led in fundraising, taking in nearly $120,000 by Feb. 15.

“Josie was one hell of a campaigner,” said Republican consultant Tom Piccolo.

Spath, a former prosecutor in the 10th Judicial Circuit, raised only $27,325 in the race, and loaned her campaign $31,500.

The race became contentious after a political-action committee supporting Tomkow sent six flyers in the last month to HD 39 Republican voters, which described Spath as a “liberal” fan of Hillary Clinton and soft on crime as a prosecutor.

“You can’t trust liberal lawyer Jennifer Spath’s judgment,” one of the mailers said, pointing out that, in 2012, she agreed to a plea deal to a man charged with battering a law enforcement officer.

“The man only spent 120 days in jail with 12 months’ probation for this crime of battery on a law enforcement officer,” the flyer stated. The flyers were paid for by the Venice-based Make America Great Again political action committee.

Another flyer showed a picture of Spath next to Clinton with a heart between them.

On Nov. 24, Combee resigned his seat to take a post as state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow now faces Democrat Ricky Shirah in the May 1 special election.

Facing uphill battle, Republican Kurt Jetta ends CD 21 bid

Republican Kurt Jetta faced an uphill battle in his bid for Florida’s 21st Congressional District, looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach.

First, as a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, the Delray Beach businessman needed to overcome a sure-to-be difficult GOP primary.

Next, Jetta would have to prevail in a heavily Democratic district.

Jetta decided the challenge was too much, announcing Tuesday is quitting the race to work elsewhere on “public service.”

“I could keep grinding away in some hope of a breakthrough, but the odds of success are low and the opportunity cost of me not attending to my company, TABS Analytics, is high,” Jetta said in a recent email to supporters, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

Jetta has taken in $114,000 in contributions, which he intends to refund to donors. Jetta also loaned his campaign $250,000.

“You did not invest in this campaign to see me quit so early in the process, so I will be putting in enough money to the campaign account so that you will receive your donation back by the end of the year,” Jetta said. “While I don’t regret taking a run at this office, I am very disappointed that it will end like this, and I’m sorry to disappoint you, as well. Going forward, I will be dedicating my public service efforts to organizations that are addressing the opioid epidemic, the issue that propelled me into this campaign in the first place.”

Remaining in the CD 21 race is Republican Derek Schwartz.

Currently in her third term, Frankel won re-election in 2016 with 62.7 percent over Republican Paul Spain.

Compilation of reactions by Florida politicians to Broward school shooting

Suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz

A mass shooting took place Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, shot and killed an estimated 17 people.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed 17 people were killed, including both students and adults; two of the victims were killed outside the school, one in the street, 12 inside the school and two died from their wounds at the hospital.

National and Florida lawmakers, many in shock and anger, are speaking out on the tragedy:

President Donald Trump:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“I said a little prayer, for all of them, then the next thought that popped into my head was, do we have to go through this again? Look how many of these mass shootings have occurred and we say enough is enough and then nothing is done. Here in the Senate, we cannot even get Senator [Dianne] Feinstein’s bill that would prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“A mass shooting at one of Florida’s schools is a day you pray will never come. Jeanette and I are devastated and saddened by today’s inexplicable tragedy at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We join millions of Americans in praying for the victims, their families and all the students and teachers impacted by today’s events. We are grateful to the emergency responders, law enforcement officials, nurses and doctors who assisted the victims of today’s tragedy. Over the next few hours and days, we will learn more about why and how this killer carried out this carnage.

“My office and I remain ready to assist state and local officials and anyone impacted by this horrible tragedy.”

Gov. Rick Scott:

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“I am truly heartbroken for the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School today. These lives — full of promise and potential — have ended far too soon, and we deeply mourn with their families, friends, and community. Seventeen people went to a place of learning this morning with every intention of returning home tonight, and instead, their loved ones are left with a loss so cruel it defies description. While I am prayerful for them, I am not satisfied with that singular act. I am not satisfied with the status quo of politicians sending thoughts and prayers to victims of gun violence, while they cash campaign checks from the gun lobby. I am not satisfied with politicians who decry mental health’s role in these mass shootings and do nothing to address the fact that they would happen less frequently with fewer weapons on our streets. I am not satisfied with those who lack the courage to follow their condemnation of these acts with equally strong actions to stop their occurrence. I am heartbroken over this needless bloodshed in our state and our country and as Governor, I will work with anyone, and do everything possible, to stop them.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“As a mother, I am crushed. And as a Floridian, I am incensed. It is immoral that this senseless violence continues to plague our schools and communities, and rob our children of their lives, their future and their innocence. We must act to prevent these tragedies. We must turn our anguish into the will to protect our children, teachers and families.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“On days like this, prayers are not enough. Thoughts are not enough. Our broken hearts are not enough. For too many families in Florida tonight, no time will go by to heal this wound. And there will be no ‘moment’ when it is right to address this crisis if we continue to allow these shootings day after day, week after week, month after month.

“Since 2010, there have been 13 school shootings in the state of Florida. Today marks the fourteenth.

“We are told by politicians that debates over gun laws are debates over freedom. I think there is no freedom when a mother cannot drop off her son at school without fearing it could be the last time she sees him.

“We are told that any loss of American life is unacceptable. If any loss really is too much, then letting mass shootings occur without any action is an unforgivable dereliction of a government’s sacred duty to protect its citizens.

“We have failed, completely, to enact meaningful legislation to prevent mass shootings in this decade. This is an epidemic the United States suffers in a way no other developed country on earth does.

“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. I am reminded tonight of these words from President Kennedy: ‘With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.’

“There are commonsense steps we can take that would keep weapons out of dangerous hands. It’s time to act.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

U.S. Rep. Val Demings:

“My heart goes out to the families of the children and school staff who lost their lives. I am heartbroken about this tragedy. And I am outraged that Congress has done nothing to keep children and families safe. Members of Congress lack the courage to act, and think more about their next election than the right of our children to go to school in safety.

“We live in a country where 150,000 children have experienced a school shooting. We are inflicting the horrors of war on our own children.

“The president will talk about mental illness as a reason for this attack. But while sufferers of mental illness must get the treatment they need, it’s a distraction from the real issue: guns. The president and the GOP must keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them in the first place.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I had a duty to enforce laws to protect the innocent. As Members of Congress, we have a duty to create laws to protect the innocent. With each day of inaction, our government grows more complicit in the violent deaths of children.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis:

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“Today was a horrible day for Parkland, South Florida, and our nation. We are grateful for our first responders, local, state and federal law enforcement, and especially the teachers and staff who heroically fought to protect their students. We mourn the lives taken, and we will be here as a community for the families and for one another.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

U.S Rep. Al Lawson:

“My heart breaks for the teachers and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following today’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Our children go to school to learn, but are now faced with this reoccurring epidemic. It is unfortunate we are at this place again, and these senseless tragedies are happening far too often. There have been multiple school shootings in just the last two months and it is imperative that we do more to keep our children safe.

“Gun violence should not be tolerated and our government has to do its part by providing resources and proper security measures to ensure the safety of our children.  My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims’ families and the entire Broward County community.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto:

“It never gets easier to bear the news of a school shooting in America. It devastates me, along with our community, that children faced such horror in their schools today. This senseless shooting claimed the innocent lives of 17 and injured many.

“We’re especially grateful for all of the brave law enforcement officers who risked their lives today, and every day, for our safety.

“I spoke with the FBI today and offered my support on providing federal resources as necessary. During my time in the Florida legislation, I supported funds for more school safety officers in all Florida schools, increasing the response time for scenarios like these. And in Congress, I will continue to fight for sensible gun safety legislation.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“As a Broward County resident for nearly 30 years and an elected official for most of that time, my heart breaks for the victims, their families, friends, and loved ones.

As a parent of a Broward County high school student, and as someone with friends whose children attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it is gut-wrenching that another senseless school shooting has occurred, this time in our community.

“In the United States of America, it is simply unacceptable that we allow children to run for their lives with their backpacks on. Unacceptable that we allow parents to fear for the worst while they wait to hear back from their kids, and unacceptable that we allow survivors of school shootings to live with a trauma that can never be explained away.

I stand with my community and our families and ask all Americans to keep the parents, siblings, spouses and loved ones in their prayers this evening. No American anywhere should have to feel the pain that Broward County feels today, and too many communities have felt across our country countless times before. We must do something about this senseless epidemic of gun violence and we must do it now.”

Florida Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano:

“The events yesterday are nothing short of devastating and tragic.  My heart breaks for the students, families, administrators, first responders and law enforcement officers and all who have been impacted by this shooting.

“As we learn more in the coming days and weeks about the perpetrator responsible for these senseless killings, I am asking my colleagues in the Florida Senate and House to join me in findings ways to immediately direct funds to our schools statewide, so they can evaluate and implement a school hardening plan that will strengthen the presence of armed resource officers and harden the entry points for our schools.

“I am asking all of my legislative colleagues to support an appropriation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training, as well as the hardening of our or schools in the K-12 budget, which Senator Passidomo has already included in the Senate education budget.  It is imperative that a portion of this allocation goes toward ensuring that we have the necessary number of armed resource officers at our schools across Florida.  While currently, we have armed resource officers at a number of our schools coupled with other law enforcement personnel, we must identify where the gaps exist and immediately work to fill them.

“Further, we need to make sure that all schools have, and are utilizing, the NSA security audit that was put into place after the Sandy Hook tragedy and look into how we can expedite the implementation of these audits and assist these schools where needed.

“And finally, we must have the conversation about how this individual, with noted and apparent mental health issues, was able to obtain a firearm such as this and discuss measures to prevent this from happening again.  The safety of our children in Florida schools should be the No. 1 priority for all of us in public service.  Enough is enough.

“I look forward to discussing this proposed immediate plan of action with my colleagues as we continue to keep all of those impacted by this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers.”

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson:

“On a day meant to celebrate love, 17 promising futures came to an end in Parkland yesterday.  As I watched the events unfold and the stories told of terror and heroism today, I want to echo the sentiment of condolences followed by the need for immediate action.”

“As elected leaders, we have no greater responsibility than protecting our children. Our schools should be shrines to learning and possibility where our students feel safe and secure.  We are working today to immediately identify and direct funding to hardening our schools and provide for armed resource officers on every campus for safety and prevention. We must  stand together and support the allocation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training.”

“In the days and weeks to come, the Florida Senate will work to ensure our students and teachers are safe. Increased security for both safety and prevention, hardening our schools, mental health resources, active shooter training and improving how we communicate with our students – everything must be a part of the discussion as we work to secure Florida’s schools.”

State Sen. Lauren Book:

“We hear about school shootings all the time. Sadly, they have become a part of our national news cycle. As a mom and a former classroom teacher, I am left more and more horrified and agonized with each tragedy. And yet, despite the seemingly endless reports, nothing prepares you for the reality of a school shooting unfolding in your own community. I am devastated. I remain in communication with Broward officials and will do all I can to support them during this time. Unending thanks to our First Responders for their courage in the face of the unthinkable – you are our heroes. Fellow parents, let’s all hug our babies a little closer tonight.”

State Sen. Daphne Campbell:

“The tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School deeply troubles me. The time for a “having a conversation” is now. We must take substantive action to ensure that acts of violence like this never happen again. I call on Governor Scott and my colleagues in the House and Senate to support legislation banning the sale of assault weapons (SB 196/H219) in our state.

“Mass shooting like Aurora, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Las Vegas and Sutherland TX all have one thing in common and that an assault weapon was used to kill a large number of innocent citizens in a short period of time.  It baffles me that a teenager in our state can walk into a gun store and purchase a machine of death without a mental evaluation, or a waiting period, before walking out of the store with a gun.

“How many Floridians must die before we take action? Now must be different, now is the time that we must buck the gun lobby and enact common-sense solutions that will protect our children, our cities, and our state. No Floridian should be able to possess a weapon that was developed for use on a battlefield.

“Let’s end these senseless killing in our state, let’s make Florida a safer place for our children and neighbors. We have the power to make a difference. Let’s start now.”

State Sen. Gary Farmer:

“I am heartbroken by the devastating act of evil that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Every one of these too often occurring incidents is a tragedy, but as a former resident of Parkland and the Chairman of the Broward Delegation, this particular act of violence has left a brutal and lasting scar on my heart. I want to express my condolences and support to both State Senator Kevin Rader and State Rep. Jared Moskowitz who represent the districts where the school is located.

“I have been personally affected by the tragedy that unfolded yesterday. My family previously lived just 7 miles from the school. My daughter had friends in the school that day, and her life and the lives of my entire family have been forever changed. While my fight for proper gun safety measures began long before today, this incident has only hardened my resolve to protect our children from the horrors of gun violence.

“In the wake of this life-shattering event, our initial reaction must be to provide aid and comfort to the victims and their families. Last afternoon the lives of every student in that school and our entire community were shattered, and we need to be ready and available to assist them in any way possible. We cannot, however, lose sight of the major gaps in current statutes which allowed this tragic event and those before it to occur. The Florida State Senate and House of Representatives must act immediately to close these holes and provide our students and teachers with the protections that they so desperately need.

“Legislators and pundits who have been misguided or corrupted by the powerful pro-gun lobby will say that it is too soon to act. To that, I say that it is too late. It is too late to prevent the horrors that unfolded yesterday, and it is too late to prevent the evil acts that have occurred elsewhere. However, it is never too late to take action and prevent this evil act from ever happening again.

“Today a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas accurately summed up the current situation as he reminded politicians that “Ideas without action remain ideas, and children die as a result.” For years I and many of my colleagues have proposed legislation that would take the necessary steps to address our State’s lack of gun safety measures. These proposals have been ignored amongst the majority leadership in both Chambers, and Floridians have paid the price with their blood and tears. The time to act is now, and those who refuse to do so whether knowingly or not are providing material support to the continuation of violence in our State.

“In the State Senate, a bill has been filed to ban the same type of assault weapon that was used to carry out the mass murder that occurred in Parkland. Despite the clear need for such legislation displayed both this week and by numerous incidents before, such as the Pulse shooting, this bill by Sen. Stewart (SB 196) has remained unheard in any committee.

“The weapon used in yesterday’s shooting has been described as an “AR-15 style rifle.” This style of weapon has become the weapon of choice for those seeking to commit mass murder in our schools, businesses, and other community gathering places. These weapons have the ability to carry more rounds than could ever be required for recreation or self-defense. They are loaded using detachable magazines, which allow the user to quickly reload and continue to unleash a stream of lethal ammunition upon their victims. Let there be no doubt about it, AR-15 style rifles and other assault weapons are designed to be instruments of mass slaughter, and have no place in the hands of any civilian. With the devastating result of the widespread civilian access to weapons of war staring us directly in the face, I find it unconscionable that any legislator could oppose an effort to take them off the streets. I once again urge the majority leadership in the State Senate to immediately take up SB 196, to address this threat to our children and communities.

“In the hours following yesterday’s shooting, news quickly surfaced that there were clear warnings about the intentions of the evil perpetrator of this act. Despite online threats made by the shooter which specifically stated his intentions to commit violent acts (both in his former school and against law enforcement) state, local, and federal authorities did not possess the tools that they needed to prevent the shooter’s access to deadly weapons. Currently our State statutes prohibit the registration of firearms in Florida. This means that when threats are issued, our law enforcement is unable to determine if a suspect has access to weapons that would allow them to carry out their threat. My bill, SB 1476, would eliminate the Florida statute that currently bars the creation of a statewide firearm registry.

“The gaps in our current gun safety laws are so major and so numerous that the prospect of taking action may seem daunting. My fellow state legislators need to be aware that the vehicles to provide for gun safety in Florida exist in current bills that have not yet been given the chance to be heard. We can take action to prevent future violence before the legislative session ends in March, and our legislators must be held accountable if they fail to do so.

“It is too late to stop the horrors of yesterday, but it is not too late to prevent tragedy from occurring tomorrow. What we saw yesterday is the direct result of a failure by the Legislature to act. The students of Parkland suffered from that failure, and in the wake of this tragedy, they are calling upon us to act. Broward County School Superintendent Runcie has told us that in the hours following this tragedy students have reached out to him telling him that now is the time for us to have a “reasonable conversation about gun safety legislation.” We owe it to the victims of this horrifying event to take immediate action to address comprehensive gun safety legislation.

“One of the most common descriptions of this event that I have heard and read on social media is that this was a “senseless tragedy.”  That is wrong.  This wasn’t senseless.  It was the logical, even likely result of our failure to regulate the sale of firearms.  It was the result of a steady stream of obstruction by the gun industry.  And it was the result of law enforcement not being provided with the tools needed to stop events like.  What is senseless is that mass killing after mass killing occurs in this country, but we only express remorse and call for thoughts & prayers but fail to take action to stop these events from happening.  Enough!!

“As a State Senator, and more importantly as a father, I will not rest until we can ensure the safety of our children and communities. I will fight tooth and nail against every dangerous and nonsensical pro-gun piece of legislation in the State Senate. I will not allow our State Legislature to act as a contributing factor to the horrifying violence that we saw this week, and I demand that my fellow legislators do the same.”

For those affected by this tragedy, the following resources have been made available:

Grief counselors are available for all of our students, families and staff.

To speak to a BCPS Family Counselor from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 15 and Friday, February 16, call 754-321-HELP or 754-321-4357.  You can also email wesupport@browardschools.com.

In addition, for Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, grief counselors are on site at the following locations:

Pine Trails Park Recreation Center and Amphitheater

Coral Springs Gymnasium

Coral Springs Center For The Arts

For Marjory Stoneman Douglas staff members, grief counselors are available at Parkland Library.

For those seeking to provide help to those affected by this tragedy, a GoFundMe account has been established to help provide for their needs: https://GoFundMe.com/stonemandouglasfund or http://BrowardEducationFoundation.org.

Minority Leader Janet Cruz (with Broward County House members):

“Today’s senseless massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is horrific. We want to extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the victims who were viciously attacked this afternoon. Our hearts are with you as we mourn lives lost far too soon. Thank you to our law enforcement officers, first responders, teacher, and students who put their lives on the line on behalf of their fellow Floridians today.

“There are no words to accurately describe what these families are going through. Tonight, while attempting to process what happened today, one feeling will stay with them; Florida’s children are unsafe in their own schools.

“As we mourn together, we must pledge to do everything we can to prevent other families from experiencing the grief and pain that have been inflicted today. As more information is uncovered on the causes behind today’s tragedy, one thing will remain clear: we must increase our efforts to improve safety for students throughout Florida. This cannot be the reality of our state in 2018.”

State Rep. Roy Hardemon:

“Yesterday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was a terrible tragedy. These senseless shootings of our youth, in our schools, on our streets, in our neighborhoods, must stop. Having recently lost a grandson to gun violence, I understand what the parents and family members of the victims are going through. We need better legislation to protect our children and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz (who represents Parkland, where the school is located):

State Rep. David Silvers:

“This afternoon’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland is heartbreaking. This is a tragic occurrence for the state and the families that have been affected. We’re grateful for the quick response of school staff and first responders. This senseless act deeply shakes us, but I know we will stand together, offering our hearts and hands to those who are suffering.”

Anna Eskamani, candidate for House District 47:

“My heart aches. The students impacted today will live with trauma for the rest of their lives. Their families will forever be in pain, and first responders will only face more PTSD as they do their part to manage this latest tragedy.

“Orlando is all too familiar with gun violence, and we don’t just need comprehensive gun safety legislation, we demand it.

“What is our Republican-controlled legislature doing instead? Attempting to expand access to guns while also attacking our public schools and teachers. Teachers, the very people who served as heroes in today’s tragedy.

“The irony is painful. I promise you, that when you send me to Tallahassee I will fight for Floridians on every level and on every issue, with gun violence being one of the problems we work to solve. Stay strong Broward, we are with you.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

“Our hearts are broken yet again by the senseless and tragic shooting in our nation’s public schools, this time in Parkland, Florida. We are monitoring closely the still developing and tense situation, but we have confidence in the ability of the first responders and the school staff and administrators to help students and families at this time. While our thoughts and prayers are with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, educators and their families, we know that we, as a country, need to do more to end these senseless shootings.

“As educators, our foremost priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students. Our focus now is on supporting the educators, students and their families in the Broward County community today and in the future. We all have a responsibility to create safe schools and communities. As a state and a country, we can and must do more to ensure that everyone who walks through our school doors — educator, student, parent or community member — is safe and free from violence.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo:

“It is painful to again have to say the words mass shooting and Florida in the same sentence. There are no words to describe the immense heartache the students, parents, staff, emergency responders and community must be feeling right now. Our hearts are breaking. Our prayers and thoughts are with Parkland tonight.”

Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall:

“At this moment we know little about today’s shooting in Broward’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is a devastating, heartbreaking and all too frequent occurrence. Our hearts go out to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School families, the school staff and the Parkland community.”

“Our union family stands ready to help ensure the Marjory Stoneman Douglas families, students and staff have the support they need as they confront the inevitable grief and fear in the aftermath of this horrendous loss of innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families tonight.”

Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence:

“This shooting is further proof that semiautomatic weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians. They are weapons of mass destruction. The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the League of Women Voters of Florida call upon our Legislature currently in Session to hear and pass the ban on assault weapons — HB 219 and SB 196.
“Our hearts break for the young lives that were ripped away in a senseless and all-too-common act of brutality. The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is committed to fighting for smart, responsible gun legislation. The federal government will not change these laws; the state of Florida can and should protect its citizens, and most importantly its children.”

Blue wave forming? Margaret Good wins special election in House District 72

Democrat Margaret Good won Tuesday’s special election in House District 72 in a victory that will likely set off a round of Republican recriminations … and angst.  

Good led the race throughout Tuesday night, leading the early balloting and ending with over 52 percent of the vote, compared to 45 percent for Republican James Buchanan, to represent HD 72 — which covers Siesta Key, parts of the city of Sarasota and parts of Sarasota County — for the next nine months.

Alison Foxall finished a distant third with 3 percent, despite relatively strong fundraising for a Libertarian running in a state legislative race.

Gov. Rick Scott called the special election following the sudden resignation of former Rep. Alex Miller in September. Miller stepped down after less than a year in office, citing business concerns and raising two teenagers.

It is the second special election in recent months in which Democrats captured a formerly Republican legislative seat, with the other being a win by Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami.

Good, an attorney, said ithat the victory wouldn’t have been possible without the “thousands of individuals, who like me, have had enough of the divisiveness that permeates Tallahassee.”

“The voters have spoken,” Good said. “People in District 72 want leaders who listen and act boldly to better our community. I will be accessible, transparent and fully committed to this community that has provided me and my family so much.”

While HD 72 has just over 122,600 eligible voters, the race attracted attention from local, state, and national leaders, which helped the special election hit some of the highest turnout levels of any in recent memory. More than 44,100 voters had cast ballots, a turnout of over 36 percent.

For example, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden cut a last-minute get-out-the-vote robocall for Good. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum also campaigned on her behalf.

As an indication of the national interest in the race, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez issued a statement Tuesday night about the win.

“Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject (Gov.) Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda,” Perez said in the statement.

As for Buchanan, a Sarasota businessman and son of longtime Longboat Key congressman Vern Buchanan earned high-profile endorsements from Republican, including both Gov. Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Last weekend, Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, joined other Republican leaders to headline a rally of about 200 supporters in Sarasota to bolster the final days of Buchanan’s campaign. This backing from Trump cohorts at Saturday’s event (which included state Reps. Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General, and Joe Gruters, who served as one of Trump’s top Florida supporters) gave HD 72 an echo of the contentious 2016 presidential race, complete with audience chants of “lock her up” — a popular Trump refrain against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Libertarian Foxall also nabbed a rare endorsement from “The Observer,” a Sarasota-area newspaper.

What also makes the race notable is that Good remained competitive throughout, despite HD 72 having about 13,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats or unaffiliated voters — and has been reliable GOP territory for more than a decade.

Much of Good’s viability can be credited to energized Democrats from across the nation, who came to her aid through a flood of small-dollar donations, canvassing and phone banks from liberal bastions as far away as San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C.

The result was early voting that saw roughly equal participation from registered voters of both major parties — notwithstanding the significant Republican registration advantage — as well as numbers that suggested the best Election Day turnout of any offseason contest.

By 2 p.m. Monday, voters had already cast 27,525 votes, a turnout of just over 22 percent. Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that in a typical special election — without the glare of a national spotlight — turnout usually runs about 15 percent. On Monday, 11,965 registered Republicans voted early (either in-person or vote-by-mail) compared to 11,798 Democrats — for a turnout already well over 22 percent.

Regarding polls, the race remained a squeaker to the end, with Good and Buchanan swapping the lead — always within the margin of error — and no clear front-runner right up to Election Day.

Among early returns, Good bettered Buchanan 55 to 43 percent with vote-by-mail and early in-person voting.

But pollsters also found that with voters who planned to cast ballots Election Day, Buchanan outperformed Good, which suggested a surge of eleventh-hour Republican support.

But it was ultimately not enough to pull off a Republican win.

Either way, for local and national Democrats, Good’s victory will be seen as another bellwether for an expected national “blue wave” of anti-Trump sentiment at the polls. Buchanan’s decisive loss — particularly in traditionally red HD 72 — could also be taken as a measure of rising dissatisfaction with Republicans in 2018, nominally led by an increasingly unpopular president.

However, some Republicans view Buchanan’s underperformance as more of a repudiation of GOP extremism than a Democratic uprising.

“This was less a blue wave than a red revolt,” Republican consultant Anthony Pedicini told POLITICO. “Republicans turned out on Election Day, and looks like there was little benefit to our campaign.”

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Florida Democrats congratulate Margaret Good on HD 72 win

Democrat Margaret Good decisively won the Sarasota-area House District 72 special election Tuesday, defeating Republican James Buchanan 52 to 45 percent.

Florida Democrats were quick to praise Good on flipping HD 72, which was reliably Republican for at least a decade, citing her “positive message of growing Sarasota’s economy, fully funding our public schools, and protecting our coastline.”

Many Democrats view the race as a precursor to a national “blue wave” of anti-Donald Trump sentiment at the polls. They say Buchanan’s loss — particularly in traditionally red HD 72 — is a sign of dissatisfaction with Republicans in 2018, nominally led by an increasingly unpopular president.

A sampling of Florida Democrats congratulating Good on her win:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Congratulations to Margaret Good on a huge win! The people of Sarasota will be well represented with her in Tallahassee.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Floridians made a great choice tonight in electing Margaret Good to the State House. After 20 years of one-party rule, Floridians want leaders who will fight for health care, create jobs, improve public education, and protect the environment—​ and that’s exactly what Margaret will do. I look forward to working with her as governor to create change in Tallahassee and a better Florida for everyone.”

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“Congratulations to Margaret Good on her incredible victory in HD 72! She stepped up to run, because she believes, like so many, that Tallahassee needs fresh leadership with a clear vision. Today, Margaret Good and the Democrats flipped this seat because they offered a real vision for Sarasotans, and in November, we will flip the Governor’s mansion!”

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez:

“Congratulations to Representative-elect Margaret Good on her victory tonight’s special election, which flipped yet another Republican-held seat from red to blue in a district that Trump carried in 2016. Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda. I’m confident Margaret will fight every day for working families across Florida. The DNC is proud to stand with Margaret and the Florida Democratic Party, and we will continue working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

The DCCC’s Cole Leiter:

“Margaret Good’s overwhelming victory in Florida’s HD 72 demonstrates that voters are energized to cast their ballot for a candidate who can shake up our broken political system, not the son of a Washington establishment politician. While this big Democratic victory should put the elder Buchanan on notice, he cannot undo his steadfast support for the House Republican agenda that puts the very rich and biggest corporations first, and middle class Sarasotans last. Democratic candidate Dave Shapiro has already hit the ground running in the race for Congress, and will be a very strong competitor in November.”

The NLCC’s Jessica Post:

“Representative-elect Margaret Good’s campaign was dedicated to the people of Sarasota County who are tired of Florida Republicans peddling a Trump agenda counter to their values. Rep.-elect Good went door-to-door, talking with voters about affordable health care, fully funded public schools, safeguarding LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, and protecting Florida’s beautiful environment. The DLCC is proud of the investments we made to support Rep.-elect Good in her fight to flip HD-72, and we look forward to continuing our work alongside Florida Democrats as we prepare to elect more Democrats to the Florida Legislature ahead of 2020 redistricting.”

Florida Democratic Party:

“We couldn’t be more proud of Margaret, for the campaign she ran. She was the better candidate, her message resonated with voters in Sarasota, and the results showed that. This win shows us that Floridians are rejecting the same tired rhetoric we saw with Donald Trump’s campaign, which was the same rhetoric Buchanan used to try and win. This is a referendum on Trump and the GOP.

“Republicans across the state continue to campaign on issues like the border wall, that are not actual state issues and only serve to divide and demonize the immigrant population. We are going to continue to focus on the real issues effecting this state, like the fact that nearly half the state is struggling — living paycheck to paycheck, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are without health care because Republican leadership refused to expand Medicaid. This is the beginning of a movement here in Florida. We will continue to work hard in every race, up and down the ballot, because Floridians deserve better.”

State Rep. Kionne McGhee, Democratic Leader-designate:

“Tonight’s victory is a testament to the power of the grassroots campaign we built in Sarasota, as well as the appetite for change in Tallahassee that’s growing all over this state. I’m looking forward to Margaret joining us in the Legislature beginning tomorrow in the fight for expanded access to health care and stopping attacks on our public schools.”

Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director, Florida Conservation Voters:

“Margaret Good will be a breath of fresh air in Tallahassee. We are thrilled to welcome her as another outspoken advocate for Florida’s environment. Our quality of life and our economy are intertwined and both depend on a clean and healthy environment. We need leaders like Margaret Good to fight for our water, conservation lands, and clean energy. Sarasota may be 327 miles away from Tallahassee, but tonight, voters sent a loud and clear message to the Capitol that can’t be ignored.”

Joe Saunders of Equality Florida:

“Equality Florida Action PAC played a key role in rallying support within the Suncoast and across the state for Margaret Good, including working with local volunteers to raise campaign contributions and building satellite phone banks across the state to turn out progressive votes. Florida’s LGBTQ and allied community is under attack by forces in Washington and Tallahassee. This year we’re going to make clear that those who stand with us will earn our support and those who ignore us or attack us will be held to account. Margaret is ready on day one to fight for our families, which is why we’ve shown up for her.”

Reggie Cardozo of House Victory:

“Margaret’s win shows that grassroots Democratic campaigns can and will defeat the cynical House Republican machine funded by special interests and run by Tallahassee insiders. This great victory is just the beginning of the Blue Wave to come in 2018.”

Email insights: James Buchanan closes HD 72 race with Donald Trump playbook

For the closing moments of the House District 72 special election, Republican James Buchanan ripped a page from the Donald Trump campaign playbook – holding a Trump-like rally, complete with a chorus of “lock her up.”

While intended to excite supporters, the demonstration also set Democrats on fire.

The hourlong rally in Sarasota County – featuring a visit from Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – sent a familiar message to many of the president’s supporters.

But the highlight of the event – and one that riled Democrats the most – came courtesy of state Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican in the race for attorney general, who asked the crowd of about 200, “Are we Trumpers?”

That applause line was quickly followed by another, more familiar chorus, where Fant compared Buchanan’s opponent, Democrat Margaret Good, with Hillary Clinton – chanting the popular Trump refrain “lock her up.”

Predictably, Democrats sprang into defense mode, with a call to supporters on the day before voters go to the polls in HD 72.

“The tone of the rally and the visit is on par with the campaign that Buchanan has ran, tying himself to Trump, and his father, Congressman Vern Buchanan, not to his own merits,” says an email from Florida Democratic Party representative Caroline Rowland.

Rowland continued: “This kind of rhetoric has no place in Southwest Florida in 2018 … Republicans continue to make defending Trump and his priorities their top issue, ignoring the fact that half of our state is in a recession … James Buchanan has made it very clear who he stands for, and it’s not the people of Sarasota.”

It should come as no surprise that tying a Republican candidate to Trump, one of the most of unpopular figures in politics, is a strategy many Democrats across the country will embrace in 2018. Then again, Republicans are increasingly using Trump cohorts (like Lewandowski and state Rep. Joe Gruters, who served as the candidate’s top man in Florida) to motivate supporters and boost turnout in special elections like HD 72 and the upcoming midterms.

It’s a battle we will see play out nationwide in the coming months. And Tuesday could show ultimately which narrative is more effective.

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