Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 279

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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

Rick Scott might not campaign anymore; Ann Scott to take over

Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate campaign announced Monday that he expects to be so busy with Hurricane Michael recovery that he might not do any more campaigning before the Nov. 6 election and that First Lady Ann Scott will take over his campaign appearance commitments for at least the next couple of weeks.

The campaign held out the prospect that the governor might yet return to the campaign trail before Nov. 6, but cautioned against it.

“Gov. Scott will be focused on response and recovery from the devastating hurricane that hit the Panhandle for the foreseeable future. It’s unclear, at this point, whether he will hold any campaign events before the November 6th election, though it is still possible closer to election day.” the campaign announced in a news advisory Monday.

“Florida’s wonderful First Lady, Ann Scott, will be taking over his campaign schedule for the next few weeks. There is no better advocate for Governor Scott and his agenda to make Washington work than the First Lady,” the campaign added.

The campaign also expects to rely on other surrogates who are being dispatched to an “aggressive schedule of surrogate events for the coming weeks to make sure that Gov. Scott’s message is getting out across the state.”

Power outages limited to 11 counties in Hurricane Michael’s wake

The numbers of homes and businesses without electricity was cut by more than half over the weekend to 168,000 with power restored to many in Leon and Bay counties but 11 central Panhandle counties still have major outages five days after Hurricane Michael, with several still more than 80 percent dark Monday morning.

The latest report from the Florida Division of Emergency Management shows that Gulf County now is the place with the least electricity due to last Wednesday’s strike by Hurricane Michael, with 99 percent of the 11,000 customers still in the dark when the sun rose Monday morning.

According to the latest report, through 6 a.m. Monday, Jackson County also still had 90 percent of homes and businesses without power; in Levy County, 85 percent are without power; in Washington County, 77 percent; and in Gadsden County, 71 percent.

Bay County, where Hurricane Michael came ashore, 72,000 businesses and homes were without electricity. However, more than a third of the county’s 117,000 customers now have power back. Because most of the other affected counties are rural, the 72,000 Bay County customers in the dark remains more than 40 percent of the state’s total.

In Leon County, 11 percent of the county’s 142,000 homes and businesses were without power Monday morning. That’s down from 78 percent last Friday morning.

In Calhoun County, 56 percent awoke Monday morning without power; in Franklin County, 45 percent; Holmes County, 32 percent; and Wakulla County, 14 percent.

Chris King to teachers’ union: Help is on the way for public education

“Help is on the way,” Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Chris King vowed to a cheering Florida teachers union convention in Orlando Friday afternoon.

Before what in many ways was a home court crowd – the Florida Education Association has long backed Democrats and has endorsed the ticket led by gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum – King only briefly laid out the Democrat’s education plan, specifically to increase spending in public schools, particularly on teachers’ salaries, and to reemphasize teachers and deemphasize testing.

Instead, as King stood in Friday for Gillum at the Florida Education Association’s Annual Delegate Assembly at the Rosen Centre hotel, he sought to connect Gillum’s story with their own, seeking to energize and inspire the teachers and other employees in public schools to turn out for the Democratic ticket. He spoke of how public school teachers made a difference for Gillum, and how he was preparing to finish that circle.

“If there is anything about Andrew and I, we believe in public education. We are committed to public education,” King said. “We believe the future of economy is woven with the strength and vitality of our public schools. And at our best we value our teachers by paying them what they are worth, by creating a culture that seeks to end this high-stakes testing, by stopping this constant, divestment of resources into for-profit schools.”

King charged that under 20 years of Republican leadership in Tallahassee, “90 percent of the discussion and innovation, supposedly, has been about everything but public education,” and then vowed, “That stops with Andrew Gillum. That stops with Chris King.”

That played well with the 800-900 FEA delegates in the room, but King knows that outside of the teachers union, some of the Democratic ticket’s plans make some voters nervous about tax increases that are unlikley to be approved, and nervous about charter schools and private education scholarships that their families might be using.

Addressing reporters after his FEA speech, King stressed that Gillum’s $1 billion investment in public education proposal, while currently tied to his proposed $1 billion increase in the tax rate for big corporations, could wind up coming about through other means, including re-allocating money from savings King said they expect from prison and criminal justice reforms.

He also stressed that Gillum is not talking about withdrawing money for such popular private school programs as the McKay Scholarships, at least not initially; but in stopping the growth,  to reserve money for public education.

“The broader consensus is public education needs greater investment, in public schools,” King said. “I think we are going to see, and I’m a big believer, that we are going to win this election and next year in session there is going to be consensus around more investment in public eduation, particularly around teacher salaries and support-staff salaries, and investments in troubled or distressed public schools. I think there is growing consensus there.”

Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign says ‘false’ anti-Scott attack ad undermines trust in him

Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott‘s Republican U.S. Senate campaign have sent letters to television stations throughout Florida demanding they pull a commercial from the Senate Majority PAC that charges him with cutting education funding by $1.3 billion early in his tenure.

The letter contends the commercial is false and misleading.

Beyond that, the letter asserts that attacks such as those on Scott are dangerous right now, because they undermine public trust in him as he and his administration’s respond to Hurricane Michael.

The campaign charges that the commercial’s claims that Scott can’t be trusted is a false and dangerous message as he tries to organize public safety in the impacted areas. The letter implies that the state of emergency should apply to ward off negative advertising that undermines trust in government.

The letter actually was sent Wednesday as Hurricane Michael was preparing to hit, though Scott’s campaign. The campaign announced the effort Friday afternoon.

“During a time that the State of Florida is bracing for Category 4 Hurricane Michael, the station has an obligation to protect the public and a false negative adverisement being aired about the current Governor during a State of Emergency diminishes the ability of the state’s government to communicate emergency safety information to Florida residents and hurts the state as a whole,” the letter from Steve Roberts, counsel to Rick Scott for Florida, states.

Specifically, the SMP ad charges that Scott cut the state’s education budget by $1.3 billion, and also cut taxes for corporations, while also seeing his own wealth grow, implying that he moved that money from education to tax cuts that benefitted himself.

The letter counters that the bulk of the cuts were in federal stimulous grants that had expired by 2011 and ’12, not from the general fund, and that there was no connection between that and tax cuts, and no direct connection betwen tax cuts and his own investments. It also states that over the next seven years with Scott as governor, Florida’s education budget grew each year.

“It’s inexcusable that an out-of-state democratic group would run a false, negative ad attempting to portray Governor Scott as untrustworthy while he works day and night to keep families safe from one of the most devastating hurricanes we have ever seen,” Scott for Florida Spokesman Chris Hartline stated in the news release. “The people of Florida rely on Governor Scott for accurate storm response and safety information – and a false ad suggesting Floridians should not listen to the Governor isn’t just ill-timed, it’s dangerous. Senator Nelson has claimed that this hurricane is not about politics – if he truly believes that, the Senator should demand his democratic allies immediately take down this irresponsible ad.”

John Morgan posts video endorsing Andrew Gillum, mainly over marijuana

Orlando lawyer and medical marijuana champion John Morgan posted a video on social media Friday morning declaring his full support for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and attacking Gov. Rick Scott and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, mainly over marijuana.

“Electing this guy [Gillum] is so critical to everything marijuana in Florida,” Morgan declares in the five-minute a video on Twitter.

For decades Morgan was a big-time supporter of Democrats and Democratic causes. Last year he disavowed the Democratic Party, saying he was frustrated with both political parties and politics in general, and intended to become an independent. He still hasn’t, and still is registered as a Democrat, though he said earlier this week that’s just a matter of his not filing the paperwork yet.

In the video, he starts out trying to establish bipartisan credentials by expressing his support for Republican incoming state Senate President Bill Galvano and Republican incoming state Speaker of the House José Oliva.

From there, Morgan launches attacks on Scott, the two-term Republican Governor running for the U.S. Senate. In Morgan’s words, Scott is doing everything he can to thwart implementation of the state’s medical marijuana laws.

Morgan then goes after DeSantis.

“This fellow Ron DeSantis, he is a carbon copy of Rick Scott. His policies are exactly Rick Scott’s policies. The only difference between Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott is DeSantis is a lot shorter and has got a full head of hair. But everything about them is the same,” Morgan says.

“And who is going to lose? Really, really sick people. The veterans with PTSD, first responders, and the people who died in our midst. It has been a crime to watch this happen,” Morgan continues. “With Andrew Gillum, that won’t be the case. If we elect Andrew Gillum Governor, we are going to get the medical marijuana laws we voted on, day one, 71 percent of us.”

Morgan led the campaign to get medical marijuana legalization approved as an amendment to the Florida Consitution in 2016 and has battled with the Scott administration since on implementation of the law, including a lawsuit, now in appeal, to allow patients with medical marijuana cards to smoke marijuana.

Early on in his primary campaign, Gillum declared his support not just for medical marijuana but for legalization in Florida of recreational marijuana use. DeSantis has expressed concerns over the medical marijuana program and opposition to legalization.

With Gillum as Governor, Morgan declares in the video, “Smoke will be allowed. Have trouble getting a [medical] marijuana [authorization] card? No more. We’re going to fast track that.

“Even things like the full legalization of marijuana will be championed by this Governor, and people’s lives will not be ruined by being arrested for possession of marijuana, and our police officers can get out and be allowed to do real work, and people’s lives won’t be upended for life over a small arrest for a small amount of marijuana,” Morgan says in the video.

He doesn’t stop there. Morgan goes on to accuse DeSantis of being for billionaires, and says Gillum will fight for “the helpless, the hopeless, the powerless.”

“I am voting for  Andrew Gillum because he is the person that will put people first, he believes what I believe and what I believe is that every day our Governor should get up and fight like hell, not for the richest among us, not for the billionaires, but fight like hell for the people,” Morgan concludes.

Bill Nelson touring North Florida: ‘It looks like a bomb went off’

After touring devastated areas around Panama City Thursday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said “It looks like a bomb went off” and pledged he and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would do everything they could to make sure full federal aid comes to areas struck by Hurricane Michael.

Nelson also visited Tyndall Air Force Base, which he said suffered a catastrophic hit.

A release from his U.S. Senate office after Nelson spent all day Thursday in the Panama City Beach area said he is working with Rubio and other Senate colleagues to “Make sure the area gets everything it needs.”

“I was in the area where the eyewall of the storm passed and the destruction is substantial,” Nelson stated while standing before what was a boat storage site in Panama City Beach.

“It looks like a bomb went off.”

The release said Nelson toured areas of demolished buildings, overturned trailers and vehicles, downed utility lines and washed out roadways. He said residents were experiencing widespread power and cellular outages as well.

351,000 come through second night without power

People at more than 351,000 homes and businesses smashed by Hurricane Michael Wednesday are getting up in the dark for the second morning, though the numbers without power have been trimmed by about 50,000 since the peak of the blackout Thursday morning.

And Gov. Rick Scott announced he is authorizing state- and federally-backed push crews to go into affected areas to clear debris in advance of power companies’ power restoration crews.

Still almost entirely in the dark are Bay County, which took the brunt of Michael’s fury, and seven other Panhandle counties where more than 90 percent of residents and businesses still were wtihout eletricity at 6 a.m. Friday, according to the latest report from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

In Bay County a handful of customers have goten the power back, but still 94 percent, 111,000 homes and businesses, are without electricity Friday.

In Leon County, seated by Tallahassee, another 111,000 homes and busineses still are in the dark. That’s 77 percent of the state Capital’s electricity customers.

In Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson and Liberty counties no one has electricity. None of those counties has more than 30,000 electricity customers, but they’re all without power.

And more than 90 percent of homes and businesses in Franklin, Holmes, and Washington counties are without electricity, while Wakula County is about 80 percent dark, according to the latest FDEM update.

The push crews will be removing downed trees and debris that block the path of power restoration crews.

These crews are being provided through a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Florida State Emergency Response Team, and will be funded through Governor Scott’s emergency order.

Scott also requested assistance from Manny Miranda, Florida Power and Light’s senior vice president of power delivery, to advise and assist the state’s power restoration efforts. Mirandaa worked to help restore power in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and will be stationed in the State Emergency Operations Center.

“Restoring power in our communities quickly is one of the most vital things we can do to help families get back on their feet,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his office. “These additional crews will help get utility restoration workers into our communities faster, so they can do their jobs and bring back the power. We hope that every utility acts quickly and takes advantage of this offer for assistance. I appreciate Manny’s willingness to come and help. We must do everything we can to get the lights back soon.”

Also, to help restore power faster, Florida SERT made first responder fueling depots available to utility crews across the Panhandle. This helps ensure that utility restoration trucks have the fuel they need so they can restore power faster.

New Andrew Gillum ad features sheriffs riding to his rescue

Several Florida sheriffs lash out at an attack ad supporting Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis as “false”, “pathetic”, and “just not true” as they ride to the aid of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

In the 30-second commercial “Tell You” released by Gillum’s campaign, five county sheriffs [all Democrats] denounce a television commercial from the Republican Party of Florida that claimed Gillum was running from an FBI investigation and is corrupt.

Gillum’s campaign on Thursday sent letters to Florida television stations charging that those ads are false and demanding they be taken off the air.

The new pro-Gillum commecial, features Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Osceola County Sheriff Russell Gibson, and Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young defending Gillum as someone who fights corruption, not participates in it.

After Darnell and McNeil lead off the commercial touting their experience, Gibson declares, “I can tell you that Ron DeSantis’ attacks are false.

Demings adds, “Pathetic.”

Young adds, “They are just not true.”

“As mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum fought corruption,” Darnell states.

“And Gillum is working with law enforcement and the FBI,” Gibson adds.

“To crack down on politicians who break the law,” McNeil says.

They then take turns declaring that Gillum brought the police and community together to bring down violent crime 24 percent, and that is why they, as sheriffs, support him.

DeSantis campaign has not yet responded to an inquiry about the new Gillum ad.

Anna Eskamani accuses Republicans of putting fake words in her mouth

Democratic House candidate Anna Eskamani is accusing Republicans and her opponent of putting fake words in her mouth in campaign advertising, and Republican Stockton Reeves said Thursday he would look into it and if that is the case he does not want it used in his name.

On Thursday Eskamani accused the Republican Party of Florida and Reeves of falsely claiming, in recent campaign mailers and a television commercial, that she had said, “Hey hey, ho ho, capitalism has to go.” She sent the party a letter demanding it stop.

Eskamani and Reeves are running in Florida House District 47 to represent much of north and central Orange County. It’s an open seat.

“I never made that statement,” Eskamani stated in the letter she sent Thursday to the Republican Party of Florida. “These deliberately deceptive and untruthful advertisements amount to intentional misconduct and gross negligence on your part in communicating to the voters of House District 47.”

Her letter blames the party for mailers and Reeves for a TV ad. In the mailers, the quote is one of several set in quotation marks next to her picture. In the TV ad, the quote is one of several that play out in text across her picture as audio plays, although the audio clearly sounds as if those words are coming from someone else’s voice. Her campaign said Reeves has spent at least $60,000 on a cable buy supporting the commercial.

Eskamani demanded the party cease the use of “fake quotes attributed to me.”

The Republican Party of Florida did not respond to Florida Politics Thursday, but Reeves replied by email: “I will forward this on to others for their review. Even if she didn’t say that, there is so much more she did say.

“But if it is in fact not true, then I don’t want anything put out in my name that isn’t factual,” he concluded.

The spat is the latest round regarding several mailers the Republican Party of Florida has sent out in HD 47 charging Eskamani with, among other things, using various swear words in her rallies. Eskamani dismissed the swear words charge as evidence of her tough character as a fighter for progressive values.

In the Republican primary campaign, Reeves’ opponent accused Mikaela Nix also expressed outrage over mailers, and what they said about her.

In a news release Thursday, Eskamani accused Reeves and the Republican Party of Florida of “lies” regarding the capitalism quotation.

“When you can’t win on the issues, all you can do is lie,” she stated in the release.

Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

Focusing on storm, Rick Scott pulls from Senate debate, asks CNN to reschedule

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is pulling out of the U.S. Senate debate with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson set for next Tuesday, with Scott’s campaign saying he is needed to focus on response to Hurricane Michael and is asking the host network CNN to reschedule it for two weeks later.

“Due to the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Michael, Gov. Scott will be solely focused on response and recovery efforts. Ensuring Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend communities can rebuild and return to their homes and jobs is top priority. We are sure Sen. Nelson agrees. So, today, the Scott for Florida campaign has asked CNN to postpone the debate between Gov. Scott and Sen. Nelson for two weeks,” Scott’s Campaign Manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman stated in a press advisory.

Nelson’s campaign appears to be preparing to follow suit, though it was waiting Thursday afternoon to hear back from CNN.

“We appreciate CNN understanding the dire situation in North Florida,” she continued. “Floridians deserve the chance to see candidates debate so they can judge their leadership skills, experience, and differences. Gov. Scott looks forward to debating, but will have no time for campaigning in the next few weeks as he focuses exclusively on recovery efforts for the foreseeable future.

CNN had arranged for a 10 p.m. debate next Tuesday between Scott and Nelson, to be hosted by Wolf Blitzer at the WEDU PBS studio in Tampa.

Scott and Nelson debated earlier this month at the studios of Telemundo 51 in Miramar. In that debate, their first face-to-face of the campaign, the two men traded barbs on immigration, misleading campaign ads, gun control legislation, health care, minimum wage hikes as well as the red tide and algal blooms currently wreaking havoc on Florida’s coasts and waterways.

Nelson on many occasions sought to tie Scott to President Donald Trump, including on the administration’s family separation policy and Trump’s statement questioning the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last year. In each instance, Scott noted that he had distanced himself from the President. In June, Scott said he does not support families being separated, and in September he said he disagreed with Trump and defended Puerto Rico’s estimates, citing his seven visits to the U.S. territory in the aftermath of the storm.

Nelson one of 10 Democratic U.S. Senators running for re-election in a state that voted for Trump two years ago, and his battle against Scott has been lopsided, spending wise, since the term-limited Governor entered the race in April. Scott’s media blitz and high name ID translated into polling leads in the early phase of the race, but recent polls have seen Nelson bounce back.

A recent St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, and Scott essentially tied with 47 percent support apiece. Polls published by the University of North Florida and Public Policy Polling have also indicated Nelson has closed the gap since the general election began in earnest.

An aggregation of public polls produced by RealClearPolitics asserts that Nelson is up 2.4 percentage points in his re-election battle. However, Scott’s handling of Hurricane Irma gave him a boost in the polls, and depending on voters’ perception of his performance ahead of and after Hurricane Michael, he could be in for a rally.

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