Scott Powers – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

Bill Nelson again blasts Jim Bridenstine as nominee for NASA administrator

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took another swing Wednesday morning at the nomination of Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. James Bridenstine‘s appointment as the next NASA administrator, calling him partisan and unqualified.

During a 16-minute speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Nelson suggested that Bridenstine could be dangerous overseeing NASA missions that had previously ended in tragedy when higher-ups dismissed scientific and engineering warnings about potential problems.

Bridenstine, a three-term Republican, is a former U.S. Navy pilot, and a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.

But Nelson said that is not enough. After recounting the tragic errors that led to the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, Nelson declared that the space agency is not a place for someone as divisive as he said Bridenstine has been in Congress.

“To make those decisions, the administrator must draw on all of his or her knowledge of engineering principals and of space flight, and all of his experience of managing large technological organizations, and every bit of judgment, reason and impartiality he or she can muster,” Nelson declared.

“Because leading NASA is for an experienced and proven space professional. The success or failure of leadership at NASA is quite literally a matter of life or death,” he added.

It’s not the first time Nelson has gone after Bridenstine’s nomination, not even the first time on the floor of the Senate. He did so back in November, and in the Senate Commerce Committee, which supported the nomination along party lines.

Nelson’s opponent in this year’s election, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, came out in support of Bridenstine Wednesday, tweeting: “I hope Jim Bridenstine gets confirmed. It isn’t helping NASA to have obstructionist Senate Democrats delay the confirmation process. Like me, he served in the Navy and will fight for our space program- not just talk about helping it like so many of the career politicians in DC.”

Tracey Kagan enters HD 29 race

Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood announced her entry Wednesday into the race for Florida’s House District 29, seeking to take on Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon in the central Seminole County district.

Kagan, a lawyer with her own criminal defense law practice in Orlando, joins a race with Democrats Patrick Brandt of Longwood and Darryl Block of Lake Mary, both of whom also are lawyers. Plakon owns a publishing company.

“I was galvanized by the Parkland shooting to get off the sidelines and take action to protect our children,” Kagan stated in a news release issued by her campaign Wednesday. “With three daughters of my own, all of whom have come up through Seminole County schools, I can no longer stand by passively amid the public safety crisis of gun violence.”

Kagan’s campaign reported she is running on a progressive platform that supports public education, health care access, the economy, and natural resources, in addition to gun law reform.

The campaign also notes her entry in a year that is drawing numerous women Democratic candidates aiming to challenge Republican incumbents — and one that’s expected to see a ‘blue wave’. Her campaign website features the slogan, “Ride the wave.”

“Like so many of moms across the country, I believe the time is right to join the fight to protect our children,” Kagan stated. “I also believe that mothers have been vastly underrepresented in our Florida legislature for far too long. I’m grateful that’s finally starting to change — and I’m proud to be part of that change.”

In a legal career that began as a public defender in New York City, Kagan moved to Seminole County to work in the Seminole County State Attorney’s office, and has been a criminal defense attorney for 20 years. The experience, her campaign contends, gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement, social workers, mental health professionals and all those who are working to improve our community.

Kagan is on the board of the Jewish Pavilion, a support service for seniors in the Longwood/Central Florida area. She also serves on the Leadership Committee of SPARK, an organization that fosters education and empowerment among Orlando Jewish women.

Marco Rubio hires new chief of staff away from Heritage Action

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio today announced he has hired Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, as his new chief of staff.

Needham fills a position vacated in late January when Rubio fired Clint Reed for violating policies “regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates.”

Deputy Chief of Staff Jessica Fernandez served as acting chief in the interim

Heritage Action is the political action arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

There, Needham was responsible for setting strategy and vision, and overseeing policy decision that held members of Congress such as Rubio accountable. Prior to that, he served various roles at the Heritage Foundation, and in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.

“Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century,” Rubio stated in a news release issued by his office. “Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions.”

Victor Torres leads effort demanding Spanish materials in Florida elections offices

Warning that Florida may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act, state Sen. Victor Torres on Tuesday led a group of eight mostly-Hispanic Democratic lawmakers in urging Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to respond to reports that some Florida counties are not providing Spanish-language elections materials.

Torres and the others wrote to Detzner Tuesday, following up on letters sent earlier this month by a coalition of social-justice, civil rights, and progressive-politics groups led by Demos and LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, to 13 Florida county supervisors of elections. Anticipating that the mass migration from Puerto Rico had spread statewide, those groups urged the supervisors to provide bilingual voting materials for their Puerto Rican residents and other Spanish speakers, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin. Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle. Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process,” the letter from Torres and the other Florida lawmakers states.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish- language elections materials,” the letter continues. “We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information.”

In addition to Torres, of Orlando, the April 17 letter to Detzner was signed by state Sens. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami, state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami. State representatives Robert Asencio of Miami, John Cortes of Kissimmee, Amy Mercado of Orlando, and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando all joined. Each a Democrat.

Torres cited the April 3 letter, declaring that “it raises concerns that currently 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections offices are failing to provide Spanish-speaking voters with election materials and voter registration information in their native language.”

Late Tuesday Detzner’s office said they were reviewing the letter, and released this statement from Detzner:

“It is of the utmost importance to Secretary Detzner and the Florida Department of State that all registered voters in Florida have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without any barriers. Supervisors of Elections must comply with state and federal law and they are in the best position to determine the needs of their constituents to ensure compliance.”

The letters from Demos and LatinoJustice went to the supervisors of elections in Alachua, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Hernando, Highlands, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties.

“The Florida county supervisors of elections addressed should act immediately and comply with the Voting Rights Act before Florida’s August 28, 2018 federal primary election,” those groups stated in a press release.

Those letters also were signed by representatives of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Common Cause Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida, VAMOS4PR, and nine other groups.

Mikaela Nix fundraiser to feature Jennifer Carroll, Jason Brodeur, Chris Dorworth

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, state Rep. Jason Brodeur, former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, and Trump 2020 Club founder Randy Ross are helping host a Republican Mikaela Nix‘s campaign in Florida House District 47.

Carroll, Brodeur, Dorworth, and Ross are among host committee members for an event Mikaela has scheduled for April 25 at The Acre Orlando in College Park. Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari also is a member of the host committee.

Mikaela, of College Park, is in a Republican primary battle with Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park for the nomination to run in HD 47, which likely will be an open seat because Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress. Anna Eskamani is running for the Democrats in the district, which covers north-central Orange County.

Mike Miller digital ad highlights Marco Rubio endorsement in CD 7

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller has launched a new digital video ad that offers U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s endorsement praise in Florida’s 7th Congressional District race.

The ad shows Miller and Rubio together at a recent fundraiser for Miller’s campaign, walking a corridor of Orlando’s Amway Center with Miller, stating, “The people of Central Florida will have a pretty clear choice to make. I know Mike will win. And I believe with all my heart that he will make a difference, and I look forward to working with him and making that difference.”

Miller worked on Rubio’s campaigns, and Rubio endorsed Miller last summer.

The new ad also uses footage featuring Gov. Rick Scott, who was featured in Miller’s first ad. Scott also praised Rubio at a recent event in Central Florida, though he did not endorse him in the race, which includes fellow Republicans Scott Sturgill, Vennia Francois and Patrick Weingart.

They all seek to win the August 28 Republican primary for the chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

Charlie Crist, Carlos Curbelo push bipartisan bill on misleading, foreign political ads

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo have joined 16 other members of Congress to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would seek to stymie foreign political online advertising like that alleged in the 2016 campaign by Russia.

The bill, House Resolution 4077, dubbed the “Honest Ads Act,” seeks to improve disclosure requirements for political digital advertising so that other countries or their agents cannot seek to influence American elections by buying advertising on social media or elsewhere online.

The bill aims to expand existing Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements from applying just to “broadcasting stations, or in newspapers, magazines, or similar types of general public political advertising” to applying to “in any public communication.”

It also would require very large online platforms to “maintain, and make available for online public inspection a complete record of any request to purchase on such online platform a qualified political advertisement.”

“Radio, TV, and print political advertisements are required to be transparent — social media should not be exempt,” Crist stated. “Disclosure helps protect the integrity of our elections from foreign interference. This is a smart and much-needed bipartisan election reform.”

The effort is a response to increasing revelations that foreign agents, particularly from Russia, attempted to flood Facebook and other social media with unidentified political advertisements.

The bill is being pushed by Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government reform group, which has just published a white paper that found that 14 percent — a total of $1.4 billion — of the money spent on political advertising in 2016 went toward online political ads, but “because of legal loopholes and the nature of digital advertising, who paid for these ads designed to influence the election has been a secret.”

The bill’s preamble declares:

“It is the sense of Congress that the dramatic increase in digital political advertisements, and the growing centrality of online platforms in the lives of Americans, requires the Congress and the Federal Election Commission to take meaningful action to ensure that laws and regulations provide the accountability and transparency that is fundamental to our democracy;

“Free and fair elections require both transparency and accountability which give the public a right to know the true sources of funding for political advertisements in order to make informed political choices and hold elected officials accountable; and transparency of funding for political advertisements is essential to enforce other campaign finance laws, including the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals.”

In addition to Crist and Curbelo, initial sponsors of the bill include Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom Reed of New York, and David Young of Iowa; and Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Costa of California, Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Derek Kilmer of Washington, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, and Tom Suozzi of New York.

Gwen Graham ‘the mom’ addresses Parkland, guns in new digital ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has launched a new digital advertisement in which she says she thinks about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre as a mother, and about gun laws as someone who wants to be Governor

The minute, 41-second video, “It’s Time,” released Monday shows Graham getting emotional talking about how the Parkland shooting affected her. It then shows her appearing at post-Parkland memorials and rallies, and concludes with her talking about how she defeated an NRA-backed congressman.

Graham faces Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor. The leading Republican candidates are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas is every parent’s worst nightmare. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a child. My heart breaks as a mom. That’s how this issue resonates with me,” she says, her voice cracking, in the video’s first section.

Then, as the visuals turn to the rallies that occurred statewide in the weeks after the Feb. 14 massacre, Graham’s says, “Time after time after time we have done nothing in the face of these horrific tragedies. This time will be different. This time must be different.”

And as the commercial fades, she declares that the gun lobby, “will lose again when I’m governor.”

Bill Nelson calls for safety probe into Allegiant Air

Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called Monday for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate safety at the low-cost carrier Allegiant Air that is the dominant carrier at Orlando-Sanford International Airport and also serves a half-dozen other Florida cities.

Nelson’s request comes on the heels of a scathing report aired Sunday evening on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that raised questions about the airline’s safety record and the FAA’s record of responding to it.

In a letter sent today to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Nelson, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said the FAA’s potential lack of oversight warrants scrutiny.

“The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant. Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences,” Nelson wrote.

“Therefore, I request you conduct a full audit or investigation into the FAA’s current policies regarding enforcement actions, its role in working with airlines to correct noncompliance issues and how the agency identifies larger trends that may be the result of specific incidents. I urge you to specifically review all internal communications between the FAA and Allegiant to ensure that no efforts are being undertaken to impede a full and forthright investigation of the airline’s maintenance and operational issues.

“Given the critical implications of your findings may have with regard to aviation safety, I urge you to expedite this review,” he concluded.

Allegiant responded contending that, while the airline maintains the CBS report was a misleading narrative based on biased and uninformed sources, “we welcome any analysis of our operation and safety culture, at any time. Citing labor issues resulting in a heightened media environment, the FAA in 2016 moved up the timeline of its regularly-scheduled audit of Allegiant operations. The resulting extensive examination found no regulatory or systemic issues; we promptly addressed and rectified any minor issues raised.

“Safety is at the heart of our operations and is the guiding star for our company. Our employees and families fly on our airline, along with the nearly 90 million passengers who have traveled with us since Allegiant began,” the airline concluded.

Monday’s letter isn’t the first recent instance of Nelson taking a stand on air travel. Last year, the third-term U.S. Senator chided major airlines for their “basic economy fares,” which often times end up costing travelers more money than a regular tickets once the cost of formerly included amenities, such as a carry-on bag, are added on to the fare.

Nelson is running for a fourth term in the Senate this year. He faces Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who filed for the seat last week.

Rick Scott’s first U.S. Senate ad on term limits

Rick Scott has found something else to talk about on the campaign trail: term limits.

The Republican Florida governor’s first television commercial in his campaign to be elected U.S. Senator is not about his calling-card issue, jobs, but on a new issue his campaign hopes to use against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — term limits.

In the new television commercial, which POLITICO is reporting is backed by a $2 million statewide buy, Scott spends 30 seconds at a whiteboard explaining that the only place in America that is opposed to term limits is Washington D.C., and he disparages “career politicians.”

Nelson is seeking his fourth term as Florida’s senior U.S. Senator.

Scott’s campaign did not respond Monday to inquiries from about the new commercial.

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