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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

Adam Putnam declares opposition to fracking in Florida

In a brief exchange with an volunteer for an anti-cracking group, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared his opposition to fracking over the weekend.

“We don’t need to be fracking in Florida. Our geology, our limestone, we do not need to be fracking in Florida for oil and gas. It is just not the right spot,” Putnam is seen and heard saying in an exchange with anti-fracking volunteer Ginger Goepper, in a video released Wednesday by the Food & Water Action Fund.

Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the statements “are consistent with his platform.”

The organization said the exchange took place at a Putnam campaign event in Sun City Center on Saturday, and was the first statement they’ve seen in which Putnam has declared opposition to fracking. The Food & Water Action Fund is an organization that is campaigning for the reduction of fossil fuel extraction and burning for energy in general, and against fracking in particular.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an oil and gas extraction technique in which drillers inject high-pressure water and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture the rock and thereby provide the drillers better access to oil and gas reserves. It is not practiced in Florida but has been the topic of intense debate in the Florida Legislature and in local governments for several years. Last year Senate Bill 462, to ban fracking, made some advances but died in the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House of Representatives died in infancy.

Opponents charge fracking risks contaminating groundwater, and they also charge it is the cause of unusual earthquakes hitting such states as Oklahoma and Ohio. The oil and gas industry disputes those risks and insist fracking is an effective and safe way to increase America’s domestic energy supplies.

All of the major Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew GillumChris King, and Jeff Greene, have come out in opposition to fracking.

“This is the first time we have heard Commissioner Putnam take a stance on fracking and as a major candidate for governor,  we are happy to see Commissioner Putnam take such a strong stance against the dangerous drilling practice,” the organization stated in a news release issued Wednesday.

“We hope Congressman [Ron] DeSantis [the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate] will stand with the other gubernatorial candidates in calling to protect Florida’s clean water and environment by banning fracking,” the release continued.

Dark-money committee attacking Ron DeSantis on Orlando TV

A dark-money committee that has been attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis for months with radio and cable commercials is now going after him on broadcast TV, with a $200,000 buy on Orlando broadcast TV stations.

The National Liberty Federation, a 501(4) organization based in Palm Beach Gardens, began running commercials on broadcast TV Tuesday in Orlando and reportedly in other markets, charging that the Republican U.S. Rep. DeSantis has missed numerous important votes in Congress involving immigrants, but voted for an amnesty bill.

DeSantis’ campaign responded Wednesday that the claims in the spot are ‘lies” and counter charging that DeSantis’ opponent in the August 28 Republican gubernatorial primary, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is the one supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The National Liberty Federation’s sources of money, are unreported, though Politico and the Tampa Bay Times both have reported it has close ties to Florida’s sugar industry, which is unhappy with DeSantis’s congressional votes on sugar subsidies.

Federal Communication Commission records show that the group has purchased $239,000 worth of time, through Sunday, on Orlando’s top three television stations.

“This is another lie from the same special interest group who’s been lying about Ron DeSantis for months,” DeSantis’ spokesman David Vasquez stated in a written response. “The record on immigration is clear and simple, Adam Putnam has stood against E-verify and he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants to help his special interest friends. Ron DeSantis has never supported amnesty and Florida voters aren’t falling for these fake news attack ads.”

New Florida Majority endorses Andrew Gillum in governor’s race

The New Florida Majority, the progressive organization focused on racial justice that co-sponsored Monday’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate, has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor.

The 501[c][4] organization‘s board unanimously ratified a committee decision to endorse Gillum Tuesday, a few hours after he, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King took part in the Florida Freedom Forum Gubernatorial Debate at the Miramar Cultural Center Monday night.

“We looked at the candidates, their answers to our survey and their performance at tonight’s debate and determined that Andrew Gillum is the leader Florida needs to guide the state towards a more equitable future,” NewFM Executive Director Andrea Mercado stated in a news release. “His performance today and his campaign so far has proven that he is willing to be bold and unapologetic in standing up for our communities.”

Gillum was the clear favorite among the Spanish and English speaking New Florida Majority endorsement committee who assembled Monday night, according to the organization’s press release.

Buddy Dyer, Teresa Jacobs talk of Pulse’s legacy

As crowds gathered around and across the streets from the interim memorial that had been the Pulse nightclub and then the scene of so much horror, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called for the city and nation to focus on the Pulse legacy for future generations and history books.

That legacy, each of them described in their own ways in separate speeches, is of how a tragedy changed hearts and minds and transformed an entire metropolis into an all-embracing community.

“We are one people. We are one country. We are one world. And we are one heart. And from this day forward we will always share one pulse,” Jacobs said.

Tuesday is the second anniversary of the Pulse massacre, the attack by a heavily-armed ISIS-pledging gays-hating madman who stormed Orlando’s popular gay nightclub and killed 49, wounded 53, and, in both Dyer’s and Jacobs’ words, transformed a city.

At the oneOrlando Foundation’s remembrance ceremonies Tuesday night crowds defied the storms, as they had last year, to hear reflection, inspiration, memorials, music, dance, and pledges of resilience, love and unity. They sat and stood under stormy skies at the site where Pulse owner Barbara Poma and the oneOrlando Foundation she formed plan to build an international symbol of resilience, love and unity in a permanent Pulse memorial.

And after the storms and darkest clouds passed, a rainbow appeared over Orlando.

Dyer, a Democrat, and Jacobs, a Republican who is now running to be elected chair of the Orange County School Board, sought to challenge the crowd and the greater community to be the living memorial, to not give up the changes they have embraced.

Dyer also spoke of another tragedy, just Monday night, when another crazed gunman killed four children and then himself during a 24-hour siege in Orlando, after he shot and critically wounded an Orlando police officer responding to a domestic violence call.

“As the eyes of the nation and perhaps the world turn back to Orlando today, we return to the spotlight with a lot of talk about what is the legacy of Pulse. There is talk about the significance of this tragedy in so many mass shootings in the last two years,” Dyer said.

“The national debate on guns. Questions about how is Orlando different today than it was two years ago. These are important conversations, and they should be part of a dialogue about what our country must do to be a safer country, to be a more accepting country, to be a more loving place, like Orlando,” Dyer continued.

“Pulse was a violent act carried out by a single individual. But the response to that act of evil and act of hate has been made up by thousands and thousands and thousands, maybe even millions of individuals, deciding to show what the opposite of hate looks like, and it looks like love,” Dyer said.

Jacobs took a more personal turn, discussing how she had changed from her religously-taught views toward the LGBTQ community before Pulse, and said it was her own adult children who brought her through the transformation. After Pulse, her evolved views helped make her one of the leading Republican advocates of the LGBTQ community in the nation.

“I am so proud of our children in this community,” she began, and then talked about how many people in Central Florida went through the same transformation, with younger people leading the way.

“I think about this often: how will the history books remember this day?” Jacobs said. “We know what we want them to say. But I know for certain what they will say, if we don’t make sure that we forever tell our half of the story. It will forever go down as the day that evil reigned and brought horrific pain and suffering to an obscure little nightclub in Orlando. That’s how history books would paint this day two years ago.

“But for the fact that when the sun rose in the morning – and when the citizens of Orlando and Orange County and Central Florida and the nation and the world, when they woke up to the news – the devil had met his match.

“Evil could not win,” she said. “There is no amount of evil that could turn back the overwhelming, enormous reaction of the human spirit and the heart and soul that we are innately in human beings. It was hard for anybody in this community no matter how they brought up, no matter what long-standing believes they had, it was hard for anybody in this community to ignore the fact that we really are one people, and we really have one dream, and we really have one goal as human beings and that is to be treated equally and to love who you want to love. Because if you can’t love who you want to love, what is the point of it anyway?”

Lee Mangold gets AFL-CIO endorsement in HD 28 race

Democratic state House candidate Lee Mangold has received the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO in his quest to be elected in Florida’s House District 28.

Mangold, who founded and runs a cybersecurity business and is an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, is a unionized member of the United Faculty of Florida, Florida Education Association, National Education Association, and AFL-CIO.

He offered a strong advocacy of unions.

“I’m honored to receive this endorsement from Florida AFL-CIO, and I’m proud to be a voice for the hard-working men and women in this state,” Mangold stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Unions ensure that employees have a collective voice in the organizations they serve; unions ensure that employees are treated fairly; unions ensure that employees get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. To suggest otherwise ignores the positive impacts unions have had on this country and the lives of working people and families across the US. I’m looking forward to voting against any attempts to compromise our unions here in Florida.“

Mangold, of Casselberry, faces Republican David Smith of Winter Springs in the HD 28 contest, covering northeast Seminole County. The incumbent, Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur, is not seeking re-election.

Through the end of May Mangold has raised about $20,000, including $10,000 he lent to his campaign, and has spent all but about $5,000 of that, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Smith has raised nearly $200,000, and had about $150,000 of that in the bank at the end of May.

Matt Matin withdraws from HD 44 race, endorses Melanie Gold

Democrat Matt Matin is withdrawing from the race for the House District 44 Democratic primary and has thrown his support behind activist Margaret Melanie Gold.

“I feel like she’s for the same things I am for, and I think she’d be a great representative in Tallahassee,” Matin said on Tuesday.

Matin’s exit leaves three Democrats vying in the August 28 Democratic primary for the chance to take on Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski in HD 44, serving southwest Orange County. The others include Gold, former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, and businessman Eddy Dominguez, who lost to Olszewski in a special election last October.

Matin, a real estate agent and former urban planner, is the second Democrat to withdraw, following Dawn Antonis, who dropped out in February.

He said he concluded that he could not commit the time and energy to a full-time campaign — not with a two-year old son back home — and he decided he should not run if he wasn’t making it a top priority in his life. With that, he determined that Gold deserved his support.

“I am humbled to have earned the support of Matthew Matin. Matthew has proven to be an honorable man throughout the primary process. His ideas and ideals are a clear reflection of his character and how much he loves our community,” Gold stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “With his support, I aim to prove that only together will we be able to take back District 44 and make government accountable to the people.”

Gold, known to her friends as Melanie, has operated her own stock brokerage and money management company and hosted a call-in talk show. Since moving to the Windermere area she established herself as an outspoken public leader and community activist advocating on behalf of healthcare, education, and gun safety. She also was a leader of weekly protests of Republican policies that took place outside of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office in downtown Orlando.

Matin actually was the leader among HD 44 Democratic candidates in money raised from contributors, having attracted $13,748 since he entered the race in October, shortly after Olszewski took office. Matin also lent his campaign $1,070, and had $13,376 left at the end of May. Matin said he was proud he ran a lean campaign and is glad he can return most of the money to contributors, on a pro-rata basis.

Gold is the overall campaign money leader among Democrats, thanks to $30,000 she donated to her campaign. She also has raised $7,331. She entered June with $28,358 in the bank.

Thompson, who entered the race in April, has raised $11,935, including $4,000 she lent her campaign. She entered May with $6,142 in the bank.

Dominguez has raised $16,600, including $12,000 he lent to his campaign. He also drew nearly $24,000 in in-kind contributions of staff time, mainly from the Florida Democratic Party, assisting the candidate who agreed to step up at the last minute last fall to give Olszewski a challenge. Dominguez entered June with about $5,317 in the bank.

Olszewski, on the other hand, has raised $91,900, including $20,600 in May. He entered June with $74,977 cash in hand.

Bells toll in Orlando

Grieving anew as a community in the wake of another horrific gun tragedy, Orlandoans bowed their heads Tuesday afternoon as bells tolled and names were called in remembrance of the 49 people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years earlier.

Others, including survivors and families of victims of the Pulse massacre, joined a solemn crowd from the Orlando community at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando for a 10-minute ceremony in which family members and Robin Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation read the names of those killed, and the church bell tolled their loss.

Also on everyone’s mind was the horrific event a few miles to the south, where, on Monday night a deranged man with a history of domestic violence apparently shot and killed his two children and his girlfriend’s two children during a hostage siege. The scene began with Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr., 35, also shooting and critically wounding an Orlando police officer, and ended with him killing himself, according to Orlando police.

The Pulse service already had enough tragedy to handle.

“It’s such a beautiful thing to know that your loved ones will never be forgotten, not here in Orlando, not in Florida, not in the United States, not just in Puerto Rico, everywhere, all over the world,” said Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation.

Among those attending were U.S. Rep. Val Demings and her husband Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who is also running for Orange County mayor; Rob Panepinto, who is running against Jerry Demings; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto; and state Reps. Mike Miller and Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Earlier a private, 10 a.m., remembrance ceremony was held in at the Pulse interim memorial, reserved just for survivors and families, plus appearances by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

And at 7:30 a.m. Gov. Rick Scott made an unannounced visit to the Pulse interim memorial, according to his calendar.

Mike Miller attending Miami fundraiser instead of Pulse ceremony in his district

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park will not be attending the big Pulse remembrance ceremony in his Orlando district Tuesday night and instead will be holding a campaign fundraiser in Miami.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge called Miller’s move “reprehensible” Tuesday morning.

The fundraiser is for Miller’s campaign to be elected to Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which, like Miller’s current Florida House District 47, includes the site of the Pulse nightclub and the horrific mass shooting two years ago Tuesday, which left 49 dead, 53 wounded and the whole Orlando community heart-broken.

Miller’s campaign said he would be attending another memorial event, the Ringing of the Bells ceremony scheduled for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, at noon in downtown Orlando. A campaign spokeswoman said he was not invited to participate in an official capacity in Tuesday evening’s remembrance ceremony, so his schedule permitted him to leave town for the Miami fundraiser.

Miller’s legislative office is about four blocks down the street from Pulse.

Miller’s fundraiser is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Veza Sur Brewing Co., of Miami, according to a notice on his campaign’s Facebook page.

The big Pulse remembrance ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pulse. The event was organized by the onePulse Foundation, and not all politicians were invited.

Miller hopes to be able to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy this fall. He does have a tough Republican primary first, with Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois.

Murphy will be attending the memorial service, invited as the member of Congress representing the district.

Miller also has a fundraiser set for Wednesday night in Lake Mary.

Miller had been on the ground, consoling and offering assistance, and mourning himself, on the morning of the Pulse massacre. And he co-sponsored a resolution, with Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, declaring Tuesday to be Pulse Memorial Day. He also co-sponsored, with Smith, a bill to provide assistance to Pulse first responders.

Tuesday, Hodge discredited Miller’s co-sponsorship of the Pulse Memorial Day resolution as “grandstanding.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that Representative Miller has decided to leave his district to grab cash instead of mourning with his constituents tells us all we need to know about his priorities,” Hodge said in a statement released by the Orange County Democratic Party. “Orlando United is more than just a hashtag or slogan, it resulted from the display of unity with which our community responded when it was confronted by hate. The fact that Representative Miller is putting his own aspirations ahead of those of a grieving community is troubling for us all.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson introduce Pulse remembrance resolution in U.S. Senate

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined forces to introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate noting the survivors and commemorating the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting that took place two years ago Tuesday.

The resolution refers to the massacre both as a terrorist attack and a hate crime – a distinction that has has created a bit of a partisan divide on which to emphasize – and calls for remembrance of the victims, honoring and supporting the survivors, applauding the dedication and bravery of the responders, Americans standing together against both hate and terrorism, and recognizing, “the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community.”

Here is the full text:

Whereas, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old man from Ft. Pierce, Florida, killed 49 and wounded 53 innocent people in a horrific terrorist attack on Pulse Orlando, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender nightclub, during Latin night;

Whereas the gunman, who was investigated in 2013–2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this preamble referred to as the “FBI”) for possible connections to terrorism, pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (in this preamble referred to as “ISIL”);

Whereas then-President [Barack] Obama called the attack an act of both terror and hate as well as an attack on all of the people of the United States and the fundamental values of equality and dignity;

Whereas the attack was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States and is the worst terrorist attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001;

Whereas the law enforcement professionals of the city of Orlando and Orange County, Florida, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other emergency and health care professionals responded to the attack bravely and admirably and in a coordinated manner, saving many lives;

Whereas following the attack, hundreds of people stood in long lines to donate blood for those injured in the attack, and the people of Orlando, the State of Florida, and the United States expressed overwhelming support for the victims, their families, and their loved ones regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation;

Whereas local organizations and caregivers came together with the Federal, State, and local government to support the victims and help the community heal;

Whereas the community of Orlando and communities across the State of Florida and the United States, in the spirit of unity and respect, continue to support the victims, their families, their loved ones, and all those affected by the attack, as well as the brave men and women of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and other emergency and health care professionals for their dedicated service to their communities;

Whereas Tuesday, June 12, 2018, marks 2 years since the attack; and

Whereas the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies persists, including the threat posed by homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) commemorates the victims killed in the horrific terrorist attack on the Pulse Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, and offers heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for their families, loved ones, and friends;

(2) honors the survivors of the attack and pledges continued support for their recovery;

(3) recognizes the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community after the attack;

(4) applauds the dedication and bravery of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and counterterrorism officials for their efforts to respond to the attack, prevent future attacks, and secure communities;

(5) stands together with all people of the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, in the face of terror and hate; and

(6) reaffirms the commitment of the United States and its allies to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups at home and abroad and to address the threat posed by homegrown terrorism.

Democrats play nicer in Freedom Forum debate

Four leading Democratic candidates actively running for Governor stopped taking shots at each other Monday night, instead saving their punches for Republican leadership, mainly on how they spend money from the Florida Lottery, affordable housing fund and land conservation fund.

During the third 2018 Democratic gubernatorial debate, a two-hour forum Monday at the Miramar Cultural Center, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King showed mostly unity as they went over the familiar ground on guns, affordable housing, marijuana legalization, education, the environment, and criminal justice reform.

They also got chances to discuss other topics — abortion, senior care, union support, and sanctuary cities — again, mostly in agreement (at least in broad terms, if not in details) of their plans.

For example, they all pledged to veto laws that would limit abortion; each supports a woman’s right to choose. In perhaps the only moment of light comedy, King described how his daughter had inspired him to declare, “Girl Power!”

Graham lifted her arms and bowed, saying: “I agree on the ‘girl power!'”

There were a few exceptions on the unity. Graham is the one candidate not committing to seeking legalization of marijuana. Levine opposes corporate tax hikes. King made it clear that he believes environmental improvements can only be addressed after eliminating the sugar industry’s influence.

The debate also was nearly entirely free of the explicit attacks launched back and forth in the first two, taking on Graham for her congressional record, Levine for his past political support, or Gillum for troubles in Tallahassee.

Gillum tried once early on, reminding the audience, without being specific, that someone on stage gave money to a Republican who sought to cut Planned Parenthood. Chris King declared it wasn’t him, and he and Gillum shared a bromance handshake. But Levine — they were talking about Levine — shook it off, decking a rebuttal, at that moment redirecting the debate away from Democrat-on-Democrat attacks. Each candidate was allowed only two rebuttals, but that turned out to be more than they needed over two hours and dozens of questions.

Perhaps the most swarming came as several questions led the quartet to discuss, and mostly agree upon, what to do with the Florida Forever Fund, intended for the purchase of conservation lands; The Sadowski Trust Fund, dedicated to promoting the development of affordable housing; and the Florida Lottery, which was set up to support public schools.

Each of the candidates pledged to end the transfers — Democrats call them raids — of money from those funds to other budgetary needs.

“In business, we call that embezzlement,” Levine said.

“To me, this is the issue that most inspired me to run for governor,” said King, whose companies build affordable housing.

“We ought to have citizens to get their own lawsuits to sue the state of Florida for not living up to its promise,” Gillum said. “That money was determined for this express purpose.”

There were no new policy announcements, and the candidates tried again to define themselves with themes.

King, the entrepreneur, declared all of his ideas to be big and bold. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, pushed again the notion that he intends to represent the people who’ve not had a voice in Tallahassee. Levine reminded people repeatedly that he is the candidate who had taken on progressive changes, as mayor of Miami Beach.

Graham, the former congresswoman who more often defines herself as a one-time PTA mom, attempted a more soulful message.

“The soul of our country is under attack by Donald Trump. The soul of our state has been crushed by 20 years of one-party Republican rule in Tallahassee,” Graham said. “I am running to make sure that the soul of Florida is restored to the people of Florida.”

The four also took the chance to reiterate the anger they each had expressed Friday at the news that one of the leading Republicans running for Governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, had overseen a concealed weapons program that failed for more than a year to use a key federal database to do background checks on applicants. Putnam blamed a clerk: after discovering her practice, he said they rechecked all the appropriate permits.

The issue did not come up during the second debate, just two nights ago in Pinellas Park.

On Monday the four Democrats were not only unswayed by Putnam’s explanations, but they also accused him, variously, of a list of transgressions: throwing the clerk under the bus, not following the law, or bragging about how easy he had made it for people to obtain concealed weapons permits.

“Adam Putnam should resign, should resign immediately,” Graham stated flatly, renewing the call she first made Friday afternoon. “What happened in the state of Florida was under his watch. And so he is responsible for all the concealed weapons permits that were issued under his watch.”

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