Scott Powers – Page 4 – 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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

Andrew Gillum: Replace ICE with someone who cares

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum became the first Florida Demoratic gubernatorial candidate Tuesday to adopt a progressive position that’s growing in support and controversy nationally: the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“I support a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer,” Gillum stated in a news release issued Tuesday.

Donald Trump has turned ICE into a police and child separation agency — not a border enforcement agency that treats people humanely and compassionately,” Gillum continued. “A decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice; we can have them both, and I promise to fight for that as governor.”

The notion of abolishing ICE  had its rise with the revelations this summer that President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented or illegal immigrants led to the splits of thousands of families in a matter of months, sending young children alone to detention centers. The idea picked up national attention when progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an ICE abolitionist, won her surprise congressional primary in New York last month, and a handful of other Democrats nationally have picked up the rallying cry, though few as prominent as a Florida gubernatorial candidate.

Then again, governors have little say about federal agencies.

If Gillum wins the August 28 primary, or if the Democrat who wins takes the same position, it’s sure to lead to major rhetorical showdows this fall. At last week’s Republcian Party of Florida Sunshine Summit the Republican candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, and many of the speakers, ridiculed progressive Democrats for suggesting ICE should be abolished. It would be an issue with clear-cut diametric positions.

Gillum faces Winter Park businessman Chris King, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Aug. 28 primary.

Fracking appears to be out: group gets Ron DeSantis to voice support for ban

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis became the seventh and final major gubernatorial candidate to say he supports a ban on oil and gas fracking in Florida when the activist group Food & Water Action pinned him down at a campaign event Monday.

Following DeSantis’ rally in Tampa Monday he shook hands with members of the crowd, and that’s when Food & Water Action volunteer Ginger Goepper asked him if he supports a ban on fracking in Florida.

“Yeah, yep, yeah,” DeSantis replies, as shown in a video the group released Tuesday afternoon.

Last month Goepper asked Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam if he opposed fracking. Putnam replied a bit more loquaciously, “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’s campaign then confirmed that was his position. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, DeSantis’ campaign had not yet confirmed his support for a fracking ban.

With the two leading Republican gubernatorial candidates apparently in opposition to fracking in Florida, the group declared victory, since all five major Democratic candidates for governor,  Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Jeff Greene, are on the record supporting a ban.

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.

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.

“As the self-proclaimed most conservative major candidate in the Florida Gubernatorial race, Congressman DeSantis’s stance against fracking displays the growing bipartisan support for protecting Florida from the risks of fracking and offshore drilling,” the group stated in a news release. “Congressman DeSantis is the last of the seven major gubernatorial candidates to now be on the public record as being against fracking in Florida. We now must ensure that whomever is elected as Florida’s next governor will live up to their campaign pledge and pass an executive order to ban fracking in our Sunshine State.”

Gwen Graham tops Democratic rivals in outside contributions, but not June fundraising

With a combined haul of more than $633,000 for her campaign and independent political committee, and with all of it coming from outside donors – sort of – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is declaring her early June fundraising swamped her four Aug. 28 primary opponents.

Graham’s campaign is reporting it raised $152,291 and her independent committee Gwen Graham for Florida brought in another $481,350 during the just-posted campaign finance reporting period of June 1-22.

Graham’s campaign hailed that total as more than all four of her Democratic primary opponents raised from supporters combined during the same period.

“Florida Democrats get it. With Donald Trump in the White House and a woman’s right to choose on the line, they know we can’t afford to lose this election,” Campaign Manager Julia Woodward stated in a news release. “Florida Democrats know Gwen Graham is the best candidate to finally take back our state, which is why they’re supporting our campaign more than all of our primary opponents, combined.”

Yet those bragging rights comes with a few caveats that fuzz over the full financial pictures for any of the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls.

First, her Democratic rivals Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, and Chris King all bolstered their campaigns with big personal checks that Graham’s campaign is discounting because they’re not donations from supporters. As a result, in the end each of them brought in far more money in the 22-day period than Graham managed.

Second, while rival Andrew Gillum did not raise much at all from June 1-22, his Forward Florida independent political committee cashed contributors’ checks totaling $451,000 just in the next three or four days.

Third, while technically all of Graham’s money came from outside contributors, the biggest of those was her father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who donated $250,000 to the Gwen Graham for Florida political committee on the last day of the reporting period.

End result: Palm Beach businessman Greene raised $3.6 million during the period, all of it donated from his own bank account; former Miami Beach Mayor Levine raised more than $1.2 million during the period for his campaign and his independent committee All About Florida, including $1 million he lent his campaign; Winter Park businessman King raised $815,489 combined for his official campaign and his independent committee Rise and Lead, including $800,000 for his campaign; and Tallahassee Mayor Gillum managed just a paltry $108,778 in total contributions before his independent committee Forward Florida cashed the late-June checks from New York billioniare George Soros, the Barbara A. Stiefel Trust, and a couple of others.

Strictly counting outside contributions, including that of Bob Graham, former U.S. Rep. Graham’s total of $633,641 for June 1-22 compared with just $358,674 brought in by the other four candidates and their committees.

Graham also finished the period with more cash on hand than any other candidate. Graham had $3.7 million in the bank — $2 million more than her next closest competitor, at the end of the day on June 22.

“While other candidates are increasingly relying on out-of-state billionaires, secret money and their personal bank accounts, Gwen is continuing to widen her lead in grassroots supporters who are donating $5, $10, or $25 at a time,” Woodward stated. “This is more than just a campaign for governor, this is a movement to restore our public schools, conserve our environment, and protect our access to health care — and we’re going to win because we have real Floridians supporting our fight.”

College Dems endorse Sanjay Patel, Margaret Good, Anna Eskamani, Mark Lipton

The Florida College Democrats have endorsed Sanjay Patel for his run for Congress and Margaret Good, Anna Eskamani, and Mark Lipton in Florida House races, the organization announced.

Patel, running in Florida’s 8th Congressional District along the Space Coast against longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, was the only congressional candidate picked for the College Dems’ endorsements.

“Patel is a dedicated grassroots activist and has helped Brevard Dems rise to the ranks as one of the biggest grassroots organizations in the state. Brevard Dems knocked the most doors in any county of Florida and fundraising doubled under the Sanjay and Stacey Patel leadership of Brevard Dems,” the College Dems stated in a news release. “Patel is a fighter for progressive values and really shows his message of ‘People over Politics.’ Patel was endorsed recently by Our Revolution.”

Eskamani, of Orlando, is seeking a seat opening in Florida House District 47 covering central Orange County. An activist and consultant to a non-profit, Eskamani has Democratic primary competition from Apopka real estate agent Lou Forges, with Stockton Reeves VI and Mikaela Nix competing in the Republican primary.

“We are proud to endorse Anna for her tireless efforts for healthcare, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Anna recently received an endorsement from former candidate for president, [Maryland] Gov. Martin O’Malley and was featured on the TIME magazine cover ‘The Avengers.’ Eskamani is young, motivated and ready to bring much needed progressive change to Florida,” the College Dems noted.

Good, of Sarasota, was elected last year in a special election in Florida House District 72. She has no primary opponent but faces the winner of the Jason MillerRay Pilon Republican primary.

“Good is an advocate for important issues, such as environmental rights and women’s rights. Good cares deeply about education in this great state of Florida. Good plans to uphold these values and to ‘shake up’ Tallahassee,” the College Democrats stated.

Lipton, of North Fort Myers, is running for the House District 79 seat opening in Lee County. He has no primary opponent and will face the winner of the Matthew MillerSpencer Roach Republican primary.

“Lipton …  is a supporter of public education, even referring to it as a “backbone” of this country. Lipton believes affordable health care is a right, which is an important issue to Florida College Democrats. Lipton upholds Democratic values and plans to unfold his vision for a better Florida,” the College Dems stated.

The College Dems’ release concluded with a statement declaring that all of the candidates uphold the vision of Florida College Democrats with our mission statement ‘As the official Democratic Student Caucus of Florida and a College Democrats of America State Federation, we unite College Democrats on campuses and communities across the state of Florida to advocate on the behalf of the Democratic Party.’ We believe these candidates will help flip our great state of Florida blue during one of the most important crucial election cycles.”

Philip Levine adds to his South Florida endorsements list

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine added the backing of eight more local leaders to his list of South Florida endorsements.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, announced the endorsements Tuesday of Lake Worth Vice-Mayor Andy Amoroso, Miami Beach commissioners Ricky Arriola and Micky Steinberg, Boynton Beach Commissioner Justin Katz, former Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, Aventura Commissioner Robert Shelley, Golden Beach Mayor Glenn Singer, and Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman.

The endorsements add to his buffer of local support against the emergence of fellow South Florida businessman Jeff Greene in the battle for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the governor’s race. Also in the race are Winter Park businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“Mayor Levine has the executive experience necessary to bring Florida into the future,” Weisman stated in a news release issued by Levine’s campaign. “He is a public servant in the truest sense of the word, and he would serve Florida with the same honor and integrity that he did on Miami Beach. I’m proud to stand with him as he seeks to return a government in Tallahassee to the people.”

The other endorsers tackled key Democratic issues in their praise for Levine.

Amoroso highlighted Levine’s support for the LGBTQ community.

Arriola addressed his focus on building a 21st-century economy. Katz said Levine would be a champion for public schools.

Keechl expressed confidence that Levine would support local governments against state government pre-emption efforts.

Singer praised Levine’s understanding about and commitment to address climate change and sea-level rise.

Shelley spoke of Levine’s grassroots support. Steinberg spoke as a working mother confident in Levine’s commitment to public schools.

In the release, Levine stated:

“This election is so crucial for the future of Florida — it will decide the direction our state goes in for years to come. As I’ve traveled and met with community leaders and residents, I’ve heard the same thing from people from Pensacola to Little Haiti — it’s time for new leadership in Florida that respects the will and priorities of the people. I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of such honorable public servants and look forward to working alongside them, and the people of Florida, to come together and make history by flipping our state blue for the first time in twenty years.”

Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis going after each other by the numbers

By the numbers, the Republican gubernatorial primary may be scoring the themes of who knows Florida, and who Florida wants.

The campaigns for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis have been throwing around numbers Monday.

Putnam’s campaign went first, putting out a graphic noting that their candidate mentioned Florida 75 times in last Thursday’s FOX News debate, while DeSantis did so just 34 times, and some of those were referencing Putnam’s “Florida First” campaign slogan.

Among the other numbers offerd by Putnam’s campaign: 155, the number of grassroots events Putnam has had in his never-ending Florida tour over the past 14 months, versus “?” for DeSantis, who only started hitting the road in recent weeks.

And 96: the percentage of Putnam’s donors who are in-state, versus DeSantis’s 58 percent, according to Putnam’s campaign.

It’s a theme Putnam has both earned and pushed hard, that he’s been intimate with Florida for a long time while DeSantis has campaigned mostly by TV until very recently.

“In addition to mentioning Florida nearly triple the amount of times than by the Congressman, Adam Putnam is also the leading candidate for the number of sheriff endorsements [45 to 0 by Putnam’s count,] number of grassroots events, and percent of in-state donors. Congressman Ron DeSantis, Putnam’s opponent who is trailing by 15 points in the official Fox News Channel poll released last week, is behind Putnam on each count,” Putnam’s campaign declared in a press release.

But here are some numbers DeSantis responded with Monday:

First, 800: the number of registered attendees at DeSantis’ rally in Fort Myers Monday morning. Then: 1,200: the number of attendees at his rally in Tampa Monday afternoon. And 800-1,000: the estimated attendance for a third event Monday, in Pensacola in the evening.

“Ron DeSantis is tuirning out thousands of suppoerters from Fort Myers to Pensacola who are excited about an Iraq veterana nd proven conservative endorsed by the president,” his campaign declared.

Alan Grayson puts up ‘Dump Trump’ billboard for CD 9 race

If there is any doubt that progressive Democrats are ready to campaign against Trump, Alan Grayson already is doing so — as a primary campaign issue.

The former Democratic congressman seeking to win his seat back in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is putting up billboard’s declaring, in huge writing, “DUMP TRUMP,” as a campaign slogan.

At least one has appeared, on U.S. Highway 27 in Polk County, featuring Grayson’s picture and the message: “VOTE FOR ALAN GRAYSON AUG. 28 PRIMARY.”

Grayson declined to provide any details on the billboard campaign.

It could attract angry Democratic voters in a primary election who might otherwise not be doing much to compare Grayson with his August 28 Democratic primary opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

Soto has been critical of Trump. But Grayson always has been one to weaponize criticism. And he’s been firing at Trump a long time. Last year, back when he was still mulling a run this year, Grayson launched an organization and a website, Lock Him Up Now, dedicated to collecting evidence for a Trump impeachment.

The winner of the Democratic primary goes up against Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who has been supportive of Trump.

Jerry Demings hauls in $83K in early June for his Orange County mayoral run

In the first 22 days of June, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings‘ campaign for the Orange County mayor’s job had another big fundraising drive, bringing in more than $83,000 and leaving him more than $900,000 left to spend.

Demings official campaign raised $66,100 in the period covering June 1-22, while his independent political committee Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth picked up $17,500. His campaign spending picked up as well, spending $108,408, between the two accounts, during the period. Even with that level of spending, he still ended the period with $927,658 left.

His opponents, Winter Park entrepreneur Rob Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke both had decent fundraising efforts, for them. But both also picked up their campaign spending, and Demings’ fundraising prowess is opening a wide gap in money chase for the three-way race.

Panepinto raised $25,610 in his official campaign fund but just $4,800 in his independent committee, Vision Orange County. So far he has raised $671,843 between the two committees. With his spending, he finished the June 22 period with $367,679 left in the two accounts.

Clarke raised $2,325 for his campaign fund, which so far has mostly been fueled by his personal loans. He now has raised $301,906, and ended the period with $251,744 left.

Martin O’Malley endorses Anna Eskamani in HD 47 race

Potential Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is endorsing Anna Eskamani in the Florida House District 47 race, her campaign announced Monday.

O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who briefly ran for president in 2016 but bowed out after the Iowa caucuses, met with Eskamani and several other Central Florida candidates when he came to town June 4 to campaign with Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

He has set up Win Back Your State, a new PAC to support state and local Democratic candidates running this year, and build grassroots support for his potential ambitions.

Eskamani, of Orlando, a former Planned Parenthood executive who now the state strategic adviser for NEO Philanthropy, has an August 28 Democratic primary opponent, Lou Forges of Apopka. The Republicans are fielding Orlando lawyer Mikaela Nix and Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI.

They’re all vying for the seat to be vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller.

“Anna represents the American dream,” O’Malley stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “She grew up in Orlando as a daughter of immigrants, went to public school, and lost her mom to cancer when she was thirteen years old. That loss has shaped her into the authentic, bold, and committed service leader she is today. Florida needs more people like Anna in office, and I know she’ll fight hard for the families of House District 47 and for the families in her state.”

HD 47 covers much of central Orange County, from Winter Park through downtown Orlando and its surrounding neighborhoods and into Edgewood and Belle Isle.

“Governor O’Malley is one of the most effective public servants in the country, and we deeply appreciate his leadership in lifting up local races, and supporting the next generation of Democratic leaders,” Eskamani stated in the release. “State legislators are the firewall against poor policymaking, and it’s our responsibility to protect the rights and liberties of everyday Floridians. It feels good knowing that O’Malley has our back!”

Adam Putnam, Ashley Moody top another Central Florida straw poll

A third straw poll in a week found solid support among Central Florida Republicans for Adam Putnam for Governor and Ashley Moody for Attorney General.

This poll was taken Saturday evening among 191 attendees of the Red White & Blue BBQ hosted by three Central Florida Republican women’s clubs: Republicans in Action, Orlando Republican Women Federation, and the Winter Park Republican Women Federation.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam easily topped Republican gubernatorial primary rival U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis 125-40, with Bob White and Bruce Nathan each picking up a few votes.

Former Circuit Court Judge Moody beat state Rep. Frank White 115 to 41 among top Republican candidates for the AG’s job.

Those preferences and margins are consistent with the straw polls conducted last week by the Casselberry Chamber of Commerce and the Seminole Republican Executive Committee.

And as in those and all other polls, Gov. Rick Scott was the overwhelming pick for the U.S. Senate primary, 167-10 over Rocky de la Fuente.

There were a couple of distinct differences in the Republican women’s BBQ straw poll Saturday evening and the earlier two.

In the Republican women’s poll, state Sen. Denise Grimsley edged out state Rep. Matt Caldwell as the choice for the Republican Agriculture Commissioner nominee, 63-59. Mike McCalister picked up another 16 votes, and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, 7. Caldwell solidly won the previous two straw polls.

State Rep. Mike Miller was the women’s solid choice to be the Republican nominee in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Miller picked up 129 votes to Scott Sturgill‘s 33 and Vennia Francois‘s 11. Sturgill had solidly won the previous two polls, which were taken entirely in Seminole County, where Sturgill lives. The women’s poll was of two women’s groups from Orange County, where Miller is from, and one from Seminole.

In two Flordia House of Representatives races that have Republican primaries, the Republican women strongly supported Orlando lawyer Mikaela Nix over Stockton Reeves for House District 47 [138-20;] and state Rep. Rene Plasencia over George Collins in House District 50 [99-34.]

The women’s groups also were polled on some nonpartisan races in Orange and Seminole counties and managed to pick the Republicans in each race that had at least one, while giving Democrats in those races little support.

The partisan primaries and nonpartisan elections are August 28.

In the Orange County mayoral race, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke was the top choice with 89 votes, and businessman Rob Panepinto received 71. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, the only Democrat in the nonpartisan contest, got just nine votes.

And in the countywide Orange County School Board chair’s race, the attendees picked Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, with 77 votes, and gave almost no support to her chief rival, Orange County School Board Member Nancy Robbinson, who got 17 points. Jacobs is a Republican, Robbinson, a Democrat. Two minor candidates in that contest, teacher Robert Prater, and vocational school administrator Matt Fitzpatrick, both finished ahead of Robbinson, with 20 and 18 votes respectively.

In other contests, the groups preferred former state Rep. and former Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer in the Orange County Commission District 2 race; Pete Crotty in Orange County Commission District 3; Gina Perez-Calhoun in Orange County Commission District 4; and Robin Harris in the Orange County Commission District 5 race.

Also interesting was the District 4 and 6 contests.

In District 4, Perez-Calhoun solidly topped another Republican, Susan Makowski, 72-23 [with another 33 votes split among three Democrats in the field,] even though Makowski, a former aide to incumbent Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, has raised almost ten times as much money as Perez-Calhoun.

In the District 6 race, the Republican women picked the progressive Democratic activist, Harris, over the far more moderate incumbent Democratic Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin, by a 66-37 vote. There are no Republicans in that contest.

In Seminole County Commission races, the attendees picked Jay Zembower in District 2, and Ray Lockhart in District 4.

In Orange County School Board races, the top choices were Angie Gallo in District 1; Chadwick Hardee in District 2; Linda Kobert in District 3; Patricia Fox in District 4; and Melissa Byrd in District 7.

In Seminole County School Board races, the top choices were Alan Youngblood [by one vote over Cade Resnick] in District 1, and Ray Penneck in District 4.

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