Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics

Scott Powers

Carlos Curbelo, Stephanie Murphy to lead congressional ‘Future Caucus’

A new congressional caucus has been formed aimed at millennials with two Floridians, Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, among the leaders.

Curbelo and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona will be co-chairs of the newly-announced “Future Caucus,” and Murphy and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin will serve as co-vice chairs.

The caucus was organized by the Millennial Action Project, which says it to to create a bipartisan block of young lawmakers, under the age of 45, to focus on next-generation leadership and policy issues.

The organization also is arranging state-level “Future Caucuses” in state legislatures, including Florida’s, with Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores, Republican state Rep. Holly Raschein and Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw all serving as co-chairs.

“I’m excited to be co-chairing the Future Caucus with my friend and colleague Representative Sinema,” Curbelo said in a press release from Millennial Action Project, and forwarded by his office. “I look forward to working together and building consensus on issues important to our generation and finding opportunities for legislative initiatives. We will do everything we can to make sure America’s youth is a priority in the 115th Congress.”

“Young Americans in our country are facing a unique set of challenges that require a new approach to problem solving,” Murphy said in a statement released by her office. “I am proud to be part of this bipartisan group of legislators and look forward to working with them to overcome the obstacles of future generations, like student debt, climate change and access to well-paying jobs and affordable housing.”

The release states that Curbelo, 37, and Sinema, 40, backed by Murphy, 38, and Gallagher, 33, will seek to lead a national movement of young elected officials breaking through partisan gridlock to re-establish political cooperation and create meaningful progress in government.

They are to focus on issues millennials care about, including student loan debt relief, veterans’ employment, and entrepreneurship, according to the release.

“These leaders are countering the notion that Congress is no longer functional, and I can proudly say that the Future Caucus members give us hope for the well-being of our democratic institutions,” said Steven Olikara, President and Co-Founder of Millennial Action Project.

‘Morally repugnant,’ ‘cruel,’ ‘obscene,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘heartless:” Democrats react to Donald Trump budget

Florida’s Democratic congressional caucus reacted Tuesday to President Donald Trump‘s proposed 2018 budget with a shower of outrage over cuts to Amtrak, environmental programs, food stamps, student loans, disability funding, infrastructure grants, food stamps, and Medicare, while one Republican responded: “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”

“The president’s cruel and inhumane budget should be dead on arrival,” demanded Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando.

If Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall has anything to do with it – and he’ll have more say than Demings or any of the other Democrats, it mostly could be.

“As the House looks to begin its own budget and appropriations process, my colleagues and I will work to ensure many of these programs remain adequately funded,” Curbelo stated in a news release that issued almost as many objections to cuts as many of the Democrats raised.

“Today’s budget proposed by the Administration does not reflect the appropriate allocation of funds to get our country back on sound fiscal footing,” Curbelo stated. “From cuts to agencies needed to protect our environment and combat the threats of climate change, to cuts to our safety nets for the most-needy Americans, to complete slashing of public broadcasting funds, this budget abandons progress already made on programs that enjoy bipartisan support.

And as he and many of Florida’s other members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – Curbelo pledged to look out for key environmental protections.

“I’m committed to standing together to advocate for the many bipartisan priorities of our Florida delegation such as funding for transportation projects, the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program, and Everglades Restoration,” he stated in a news release.

By early Tuesday evening, no other Florida Republicans had publicly weighed in on Trump’s budget proposal.

Democrats lined up to express outrage not just over proposed cuts, but over tax cuts and incentives offered elsewhere, to the rich, they said.

Demings pointed out numerous proposed cuts she said “would will have devastating effects on working families, women and children, and those with disabilities.”

Among items she decried: additional Medicaid cuts, together with those in the American Health Care Act, would total $1.4 billion over ten years. The Home Investment Partnership Program, which fuels efforts like Habitat For Humanity, would be eliminated. After school early learning center grants would be cut. Funding for community-based drug abuse centers would be slashed. Homeland Security grants to cities would be cut 25 percent. The Social Security Administration’s administrative funding would be reduced. Prices would be raised on student loans.

“While a balanced budget is a top priority in this country, leaving working families, seniors and children without services they need, and veterans without coverage they deserve, is not a practical solution to going about it,” she wrote.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa also found a long list of objections, calling the proposed budget, “an immediate threat to my neighbors, families and small business owners. If we were discussing the budget around the kitchen table, you would be aghast at its fundamental policy choices,” she stated in a release.

Among the items she denounced: elimination of Meals on Wheels, reduced help for Alzheimer patients in nursing homes, reduced basic living allowances for disabled people relying on Social Security SSI assistance; reductions in assistance for victims of sexual or domestic abuse and basic access to reproductive health care; a $7 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, which she said will impact cancer treatment centers like Moffitt in Tampa; and elimination of TIGER grants to help communities with local infrastructure improvements.

“If Trump really wanted to help working families he would reject policies and budgets like this one that put his millionaire and billionaire family and friends first,” Castor added. “Instead he would invest in research, education and our crumbling roads and bridges and create jobs for families struggling to achieve the American Dream.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee also had plenty of specific beefs, adding cuts in food stamps to many of those cited by Demings and Castor.

“President Trump’s budget calls for extreme cuts to vital funding for programs that help our nation’s poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments,” Lawson said in a news release. “It is a short-sighted plan that seeks to give tax breaks to the wealthiest while taking away lifelines for those who need it most.”

Among other reactions:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson expressed alarm over elimination of Amtrak’s long-distance routes, which include all three routes in Florida, the Auto Train running from Sanford to Virginia, and the Silver Meteor, which connect numerous Florida cities from Miami through Orlando to Jacksonville, before going on to New York.

“Eliminating Amtrak service in Florida not only affects the nearly one million Floridians who ride the train each year, it would have a real impact on our tourism-driven economy,” Nelson stated.

Nelson also sent a separate release declaring, “This plan cuts some of our most critical programs including Medicaid and food stamps. It also cuts funding to agencies such as NIH, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the EPA, which protects our environment. Slashing these vital programs will hurt millions of hardworking families. We should be focused on helping people, not hurting those who need our help the most.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg called the proposed budget “fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant.”

“A budget is a reflection of our principles and this proposal illustrates a complete lack of values. It decimates vital programs – from environmental protections to public education to medical research. It cuts taxes for the very wealthy while leaving the poor, sick, and disabled out in the cold. It doubles down on cruel cuts to Medicaid – despite promising not to touch it. In Pinellas County where 40 percent of our children depend on Medicaid and CHIP for their care, what could be more heartless?”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park offered a similar observation, calling the budget proposal “both morally and fiscally irresponsible.

She accused it of “using smoke and mirrors to make false claims about its real fiscal impact. It also makes us less safe, cutting critical anti-terrorism programs—which hurts cities like Orlando—and slashing State Department funding during a perilous time in the world. This budget especially punishes children and families, seniors in nursing homes, college students with debt, families that rely on Planned Parenthood for life-saving health care, communities that need better roads and bridges, and all of us who depend on clean air and water.”

“Congress has the final authority over our nation’s budget, and I plan to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to pass a bipartisan budget that keeps us safe, upholds our values, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path to prosperity for all,” she added.

Democrat U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach called the budget “a broken promise to hard-working families.”

“I call on Congress to reject this and instead focus on protecting Social Security and Medicare, fixing crumbling roads and bridges, and preparing students and workers for jobs in an ever-changing economy,” she said in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando took to the floor of the House of Representatives to denounce the budget as “more broken promises.” He read some of Trump’s past statements promising to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid whole; offer insurance for everybody; and a strong safety net for the nation’s farmers.

“Yet he cuts $50 billion in over ten years from farm subsidies, including critical citrus greening research dollars for Central Florida,” Soto said on the floor. “He says, I quote, ‘I’ll be the greatest president for jobs that God’s ever created.’ He’s cutting the National Institute for Health, crucial research dollars does by $5.8 million, cuts NASA by $200 million, cuts the National Science Foundation, by $776 million.”

Soto also took to Facebook, and posted: “Pres Trump unveils his heartless 2018 budget that hurts seniors, children, families and students in order to pay for tax cuts for millionaires,” Soto posted. “He cuts Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, School Lunch, Kidcare, Meals on Wheels, Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness and so many other programs critical to America’s working families. Another promise broken!”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston said the budget should be “cast aside.”

“The Trump budget ignores the needs of America’s hard-working families and brutally assaults our health care and public education system, while all but abandoning those struggling to make ends meet. It hollows out crucial commitments to housing, nutrition assistance, and the environment, along with job training and medical research investments. Yet it delivers obscene tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, and relies on unrealistic revenue projections that no respected economist would embrace.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miami wanted to know: “who is the President fighting for?”

“President Trump’s budget envisions an America that has abdicated its responsibilities to its citizens; an America that takes a back-seat in innovation, education, research, and economic progress in order to funnel millions in taxpayer funding to corporate executives and special interests. His proposal continues the cruel Republican trend of targeting poor people, eviscerating nutrition assistance programs and cutting $1.4 trillion from Medicaid. All the while, the proposal relies on pipe-dream mathematics in a poor attempt to mimic sound economic policy,” he said in a written statement. “This entire proposal should immediately be rejected out of hand.”

Opioids epidemic crisis blamed on careless doctors, unsupervised children

The crisis of heroin and other opioids that is pounding Orlando, every part of Florida and every part of America might not be any easier to solve than it is to blame, as panelists from Orange County’s Heroin Task Force blamed doctors, middle schoolers and dealers.

It’s a crisis that is causing three to five overdoses a day in Orange County, and killing 100 people a day nationwide, surpassing gunshot wounds and car crashes for the first time in history, the panelists said.

For timeshare mogul David Siegel it’s a personal crisis, as he and his wife Jackie lost their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to a heroin overdose in 2015. Orange County Health and Public Safety Director Dr. George Ralls, its a broad crisis touching every neighborhood, straining treatment assets, and crying out for innovative efforts. For Orlando Health ER doctor and medical toxicologist Josef Thundiyil, its a day-to-day crisis, as he sees overdose victims parade through the emergency room. And for Orange County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Carlos Espinosa, commander of the narcotics unit, its a crisis of supply, where heroin is “very easy” to get, he said.

The quartet of members of the Orange County Heroin Task Force that was set up two years ago by Sheriff Jerry Demings and Mayor Teresa Jacobs spoke before the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida Tuesday. They agreed on the magnitude of the crisis, but not entirely on the necessary responses.

Siegel, the Westgate Resorts president who has become a nationally-outspoken critic of all illegal drugs including marijuana since his daughter died, pushed his call to random drug test middle-school students in public schools, saying too many heroin addicts like his daughter started out smoking marijuana a few years earlier and then stepped the stones.

“Since our children are starting to experiment with marijuana when they are 14, 15, it only makes sense to stop them then, before they go further. Every heroin addict didn’t start with heroin. They started with marijuana,” Siegel said.

“This new marijuana law is the beginning to the end,” he said. “The fear of getting caught is the best deterrent. Peer pressure…. ‘My school is testing. My parents are testing. I’m afraid I’ll get caught,'” Siegel said

But moments before Siegel made his appeal, Thundiyil made the case for why so many older heroin addicts are showing up, and dying, and it’s not because they smoked pot as kids.

“It’s a sad story how we got here. It started many times with well-intentioned physicians trying to mediate pain and suffering. If you talk to heroin addicts now, about three-fourths say they got their start through prescription drugs,” Thundiyil said. “Reversing that trend and educating physicians, educating citizens, that even as little as three days of narcotics, oral, prescribed, medical narcotics, is enough to start addition and create drug-seeking behavior.

“Drug-seeking behavior is the tendency to then go looking for more drugs. If you can’t find it in the medical system, the place you might go next is to look for heroin,” he added.

“My focus for the last two years has been to end the drug epidemic. Not to build timeshares, not to sell real estate, but to save lives,” Siegel said.

“From a law enforcement point of view, I can tell you we’re attacking the supply side of this. The demand side, that’s another animal,” Espinosa said.

“It’s a problem that has affected the entire county…. It used to be that we had pockets of Orange County that weren’t affected by this stuff. Heroin affects the entire county, all sectors, including our tourist areas,” he added.

Eric Eisnaugle makes House departure official

Call him former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle now.

The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of Florida’s Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week.

With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Richard Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Rick Scott to set dates for special elections in Florida’s House District 44, covering western Orange County.

Already that race has drawn five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Eisnaugle asked Corcoran to leave the district office open so that the staff may continue to serve the district.

Haitian refugees get six-month extension, split reactions from advocates

Tens of thousands of Haitian refugees living in Florida received another six months to stay, news that some political leaders — primarily Democrats — are hailing as a victory.

Others say it’s not enough.

On Monday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security John F. Kelly announced his decision to extend — for an additional six months — the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti. This extension is effective July 23, 2017, through Jan. 22, 2018.

That drew applause from Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum.

At the same time, Kelly indicated that Haitian refugees should get ready to go home soon – a message that some Democratic supporters of Florida’s Haitian refugees, particularly U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz denounced, at least in part.

Estimates show that more than a quarter million Haitians are living in Florida, though most are not refugees covered by the TPS designation. There are an estimated 58,000 who have TPS status nationwide, with Florida having the most.

An estimated 28,000 Haitians live in the Orlando area in 2014, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Migration Policy Institute. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach area had the most in the nation, 197,000. The Naples-Fort Myers region also had nearly 20,000.

“Extending temporary protected status for Haitian nationals living in the United States is the right decision, both morally and economically,” Murphy, whose Orlando-Seminole County-based district is home to many Haitians, said in a release.

“The decision to extend temporary protected status, announced during Haitian Heritage Month, is welcome news for Florida and all those displaced by the devastating earthquake who now call our state home,” Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, declared in a news release.

“Today’s decision was a victory for the Haitian community, particularly here in Florida,” Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, stated in a release. “The Trump Administration and Congress have not always been welcoming to refugees in recent years, but I’m glad today’s decision will provide relief for those in need.”

Not so fast, said others, upset that the extension is for six months, not the usual 18, and noting that Kelly suggested the extension is only to give everyone time for repatriation.

“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients,” Kelly stated in a news release on his announcement.

“This is a ‘pack your bags’ extension, not a real one,” said Jeremy Cruz-Haicken, president of the UNITE HERE Local 737 labor union that represents nearly 500 Haitian refugees who work at Walt Disney World.

His union and others in the Orlando hospitality industry are planning a rally near Universal Studios to demand that the Trump administration grant a long-term TPS renewal.

“I continue to believe, and will continue to champion, that a full TPS renewal of 18 months is in the best interest of both Haiti and the United States,” Hastings said in a statement from his office. “Haiti continues to face daily challenges from the earthquake that laid waste to the country in 2010, the subsequent introduction of cholera by United Nations’ troops, and Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the country just last year.

“As noted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director James McCament in his memorandum to Secretary Kelly, TPS extensions of less than 18 months create needless operational challenges related to adjudicating re-registration applications and employment documents for the more than 58,000 Haitian nationals residing in the United States,” Hastings added.

In a statement, Deutch offered both applause and concern:

“I am pleased that the administration gave Haitians a temporary six-month extension of TPS rather than abruptly ending the humanitarian measure and throwing thousands of lives in limbo, But it’s quite clear that conditions in Haiti won’t improve sufficiently in six months to justify letting TPS expire. This six-month extension keeps tens of thousands of Haitians uncertain of their future.

“Progress has been made in Haiti, but the country is still far from recovered. Sending these people back into dangerous conditions directly violates the principle reason for granting TPS in the first place.”

Wasserman Schultz added similar thoughts.

“Today’s decision to provide a six-month grace period from deportation for more than 58,000 Haitians is a welcome but temporary solution, and it falls woefully short of what is needed,” she stated in a release. “The move appears to be designed to allow families time to voluntarily return to Haiti or prepare to leave the country. It’s the absolute minimum that the Department of Homeland Security could have done.

“However, this additional time does provide an opportunity to make the very compelling case that sending people back to a country still ravaged by earthquake, food shortages, disease and other harsh conditions is simply inhumane,” Wasserman Schultz added. “I will continue to work with advocates, the Administration and other lawmakers to extend this deadline as quickly as possible. America needs a smart, compassionate deportation policy in cases where a safe return can’t be guaranteed, or a home country cannot successfully reintegrate its own people. Haiti is clearly such a case.”

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, enters HD 44 race

Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area.

Portigliatti, 29, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC.

He’ll be running on a platform topped by his passions for reducing regulation and red tape for businesses, creating businesses, and fostering education.

He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

“As an entrepreneur and CEO of a small business, I know what it’s like to face tough decisions and make payroll,” Portigliatti stated in a news release. “Central Florida can’t afford politics that simply show up – we need a fresh face, a new voice with real world business experience and true understanding of our community.”

He is a rookie candidate but said he has contributed and assisted in other campaigns.

“I know it’s going to be a very spirited campaign, a very spirited race,” he said. “But I strongly believe that out of all the options I feel I will be the strongest voice in Tallahassee. I will bring a fresh face, a new voice, with real-world business experience that the others don’t have.”

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Portigliatti has been a Central Florida resident since 1999. He graduated froM Dr. Phillips High School, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and a master of business administration degree from Florida Christian University in Orlando

He was recently married, and he and his wife Stephanie are both active members of the First Baptist Church of Orlando. He’s also a board member of the Dr. Phillips YMCA, Chairman of the City of Orlando Minority & Women Business Enterprise Certification Board, and a member of the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips. He’s also president of New Beginnings Global Outreach, a non-profit charitable organization, and manages several of his families real estate properties and developments.

Andrew Gillum picks up Julian Castro’s endorsement in Governor’s race

Democrat Andrew Gillum has picked up the endorsement of former HUD Director Julian Castro in his quest for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Castro, from San Antonio, was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.

He also will participate in a fundraising event in Miami early next month for Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum’s campaign announced.

“Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That’s the essence of the American Dream,” Castro said in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King heading toward a Democratic primary. So far Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has the Republican path pretty much to himself.

“When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State,” Castro continued. “He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient,” Castro continued.

Gillum called Castro’s endorsement an honor.

“As HUD Secretary and San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian has put children’s health, well-being and opportunity at the forefront of his work. He has worked to ensure all of our children — no matter if they grew up in a big city or rural town — have every chance to succeed,” Gillum said. “It is an honor to have his endorsement as we continue sharing our vision for a Florida that works for everyone.”

Linda Stewart urges Rick Scott to veto education bill

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the late-passed education bill, charging its new funding formula would cut public school budgets in a non-recession year for the first time in memory.

“This bill has a consequential, negative impact to our state’s school system, and not only hurt our state’s children, but would, for the first time in memory of our state’s professional educators, actually cut budgets in a non-recessionary year for public school districts,” Stewart argued in a letter she sent to Scott.

The Florida Legislature conference committee substitute for House Bill 7069 was unveiled to and then approved by the Florida House and Florida Senate on May 8, the extra day of the session. It passed the Senate 20-18.

Stewart, who, like all Democratic senators, voted against the bill, argued that it bypasses the state’s principal funding formula for public education to deny teachers permanent eases “they so richly deserve in favor of a yearly ‘bonus’ that may or may not be funded.” She said no fewer than 18 counties would receive fewer funding formula dollars, and local tax dollars the districts raise would have to be shared with for-profit, out-of-state charter school companies.

“Negotiating the final, 274-page amendment on the final day of session was inconsistent with the pledges of transparency and openness our state’s constitute,” its laws, and its long tradition requiring scrutiny of the budget,” Stewart wrote.

She urged Scott to “heed the calls of our state’s teachers, superintendents, parents, and exercise the prerogative of your office by vetoing this bad bill.”

Ron DeSantis condemns Turkish violence in D.C., Turkish president

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis Friday condemned the security forces of Turkish President Recep Erdogan for attacking protesters in Washington D.C. and also condemned Erdogan.

DeSantis, of Ponte Vedre Beach, chairs the House Subcommittee on National Security. His First Coast district includes Volusia County.

In a news release issued Friday morning, DeSantis did not address how he feels about President Donald Trump inviting Erdogan to the White house earlier this week, but he expressed nothing but contempt for the Turkish leader.

DeSantis also expressed outrage over the attacks that happened outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, documented in videos. He said Erdogan must be held accountable.

He called Erdogan’s security detail “a goon squad.”

The New York Times is reporting today that new videos show that Erdogan was in a car. An aide spoke to someone in the car, then spoke to another aide, who went off to the group of Turkish security forces. The Turkish security forces then charged the protesters, attacking them. Nine protesters were injured requiring hospital treatment.

“It’s bad enough Turkish President Recep Erdogan refuses to recognize freedom of speech and religion at home and has suppressed political opposition to his rule. It’s worse that he stands at the nexus of support for nefarious jihadist groups,” DeSantis stated in the release.

“That his security detail has now engaged in such behavior on our own soil against American protesters is unconscionable. The Erdogan government must be held to account immediately and apologize for their anti-democratic violence,” DeSantis continued.

“The men responsible for this brutality should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, this goon squad should be declared persona non grata and removed from the country forever. Nobody is immune to violations of the laws of our land when it involves mass violence against our people,” he added.

“Mr. Erdogan must be reminded that he cannot stomp on the rights of the citizens of the United States. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, not an Islamist tyranny.”

Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet

The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead.

“Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com.

Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

The race also has a long-shot Republican, Dr. Usha Jain, and Democrat Paul Chandler, an Orlando businessman. The western Orange County district is considered fairly safe for Republicans, especially if there is a low-turnout special election. And it could give the winner a legs-up as a candidate for Florida House Speaker.

The seat is open because Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving take a judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals. A special election primary and general election are yet to be set.

Boyd, whose confirmed earlier this month that he was contemplating a run in HD 44 himself. His county commission seat, which he won for two terms before being term-limtied out, covered much of the same territory.

On Friday he wrote, “I’m out; 150 percent behind Newstreet.”

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