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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

New Andrew Gillum ad pushes ‘bold progressive platform’ from son of a construction worker

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s new digital ad lays out the six key planks in what he calls a ‘bold, progressive platform,’ delivered from the son of a construction worker and a school bus driver.

With shots of him in front of school buses, with his family, as mayor of Tallahassee, and in various campaign moments, the one-minute ad “Our Moment & Path to Victory” is the third digital ad his campaign has released recently under a six-figure advertising buy.

“I’m running for governor for anyone who has been told that they don’t belong, for anyone who has ever been told that they don’t deserve a chance, because Power cedes nothing without a demand,” the Tallahassee mayor states in the ad. “It’s our moment, it’s our time to demand.”

And then he lays out the planks: affordable healthcare and Medicare for all; an assault weapons ban; a $15 minimum wage; a $50,000 starting salary for teachers; equal pay for equal work; and for Florida’s largest corporations to pay more taxes, what he calls a “fair share.”

“I believe this bold, progressive platform is our only path to victory,” he declares.

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

Gwen Graham digital ad focuses on PTA mom, schools lawyer

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is turning to her life as the PTA mom and as a school district lawyer in her latest digital ad, which her campaign is reporting is backed by a significant though unspecified advertising buy.

The two-minute, 13-second video is a quick biography of her, touching on her relationship with her father, former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, her early career, her children, her divorce, her second marriage, and her careers as a lawyer, PTA president, counsel for the Leon County School District, and in Congress.

But the themes seeks to portray her as an everywoman, and something of a political moderate, almost acknowledging contrasts with her Democratic rivals, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who occasionally have attacked her for not being enough of a progressive for Democrats’ tastes. Gillum’s campaign took such a shot Thursday.

“As a mom and as a woman, you’re juggling a lot. Just making sure that you’re doing the best job at your professional responsibilities, but also making sure your kids have all they need at home,” Graham says in the video.

“I’m not a career politician,” she contends during a segment on her term in Congress representing north Florida, 2014-’16. “I built relationships and friendships across the aisle, and as a result I was able to get things done for the people of Florida.”

Her campaign said she is placing “a significant buy behind the ad across various digital platforms to share her positive message and story with Florida Democratic voters.”

House defense bill advances with several provisions from Stephanie Murphy

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced Thursday that the National Defense Authorization Act has been advanced from the House Armed Services Committee with several key provisions she pushed, including transitional help for newly departing service members, authorization for the military modeling and simulation centers in Orlando, and money to fight opioid trafficking.

The Armed Services Committee, on which Murphy serves, approved the bill early Thursday morning. The full U.S. House of Representatives must now consider the bill.

“The United States has the most powerful military in the world, made up of brave Americans who risk their lives to defend liberty and protect this nation. As someone who used to work in the Pentagon, I know how important it is that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to safely and effectively do their jobs,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by her office. “I’ve worked hard on the Armed Services Committee to ensure this bill supports our troops and veterans; combats emerging threats like cyber; and strengthens Orlando’s modeling, simulation, and training sector—all as part of a bipartisan effort to keep our country safe.”

Among the provisions she said she helped get into the bill:

– Key language from her House Resolution 4954, the “BATTLE of Servicemembers Act,” provides workshops for departing service members to attend to prepare them for transition to civilian life.

– Key language from her House Resolution 2056, the “Microloan Modernization Act of 2017,” helps more entrepreneurs obtain low-interest loans.

– Language authorizing that the modeling and simulation centers and the National Cyber Range complex in Orlando are critical to national security, and full funding for the cyber range and for the Army’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment program.

– Key language from her House Resolution 5126 to help Israel defend against missile attacks.

– $20 million to combat opioid trafficking, funding Murphy has sought for the past two years.

The Winter Park Democratic congresswoman faces Chardo Richardson in a Democratic primary challenge this year, with state Rep. Mike Miller, Scott Sturgill, and Vennia Francois battling in the Republican primary.

Alan Grayson gets backing of Blue America PAC in CD 9 Democratic race

Former Congressman Alan Grayson has garnered the backing of Blue America PAC in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District Democratic primary battle.

The national progressive organization dedicated to replacing “to replace the bipartisan Conservative Consensus in Congress with a strong and activated progressive movement,” endorsed Grayson while blasting the elections of “more Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.”

Soto, who succeeded Grayson in 2016 after beating his wife Dena Grayson in the Democratic primary while Alan Grayson ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, is a member of the New Democrats Coalition, but is not a member of the Blue Dog Democrats Coalition. He also has been pushing his own progressive Democratic chops, and has announced several endorsements by progressives and progressive groups, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which he is a member.

Grayson was a leader of that caucus and is running as he always has, as an unabashed progressive Democrat.

The winner of the primary will face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election. Soto beat Liebnitzky in 2016.

“I’m running for Congress because our progressive goals — justice, equality and peace — need a champion in Congress,” Grayson stated in a Blue America PAC statement issued by his campaign. “Think about it. Who can you think of, in the U.S. House of Representatives, whom you would call a champion for progress? On a good day, one or two or three of them. On a bad day, none.

“We need someone in Congress who actually knows how to get things done. And I passed 121 pieces of legislation — more than anyone else — even when the Republicans were in charge,” he added.

Blue America PAC blasted Soto, calling him, “a bump on a log New Dem who slithered out of the state legislature.”

Grayson, the PAC stated, is “better than your garden variety bump on a log congressmember — making people’s lives better, not just a career in self-service.”

Chris King adds campaign staff for Tampa Bay, Central Florida

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is expanding his campaign’s presence in the I-4 corridor with the appointments of regional directors from Tampa Bay and Brevard County, the campaign announced Thursday.

Lisa Perry, a leader in Tampa Bay area progressive activism, will serve as the King campaign’s Tampa Bay regional director. Before joining the King campaign, Perry served as Pinellas County chair for Women’s March Florida, mobilizing thousands of volunteers and activists around key progressive issues. Perry also organized for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the “Fight for $15” movement.

Tess Martin, a grassroots organizer for progressive causes and organizations across Florida, will serve as Central Florida regional director. Martin is co-founder and president of “Speak Out Brevard” and managed Sanjay Patel’s campaign in Florida’s 8th Congressional District earlier this year.

King faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. His campaign points out he is the only Democratic candidate from the I-4 corridor, though Graham, from Tallahassee, has set up campaign headquarters in Orlando.

“We’re excited to grow our capacity in the crucial I-4 corridor to help spread Chris King’s message of fresh ideas and new leadership that rejects the conventional politics of the past,” King’s campaign manager Zach Learner stated in a news release. “Tess and Lisa will help share Chris’s bold, progressive solutions with Democrats in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area who want leaders with the courage to stand up to special interests like Big Sugar and the NRA.”

Gwen Graham calls out Andrew Gillum over dark money after new outside attack ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham expressed disgust toward Democratic rival Andrew Gillum Thursday after an outside group backing Gillum launched an attack ad against Graham.

Graham’s response includes a reminder that Gillum had previously expressed a warning about “dark money” coming into the gubernatorial race, and she called him out on allowing dark money to attack her on his behalf, while her surrogates went so far as to accuse him of coordinating the attack.

The attack comes from The Collective Super PAC, a group reportedly related to Collective Future, which had donated $235,000 to Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida, through April. The Collective Super PAC is spending $782,000 in Florida, starting with a commercial attacking Graham as a fake progressive, according to POLITICO reports.

“I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” Graham stated in a news release Thursday morning.

In reply, Gillum’s campaign did not respond directly to Graham’s campaign’s assertions that Gillum was coordinating the attacks, or that he could or should have any say over what The Collective PAC is doing. However, the campaign didn’t disagree with the attacks either.

“In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we’d want Mayor Gillum’s progressive record to be the focus. The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record,” Gillum’s Communications Director Geoff Burgan said in a written response.

Graham and Gillum both are chasing former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic gubernatorial race polls, with Graham most commonly appearing a close second and Gillum a distant third, followed by Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Graham’s campaign statement included a reminder that Gillum appeared to repudiate dark money on a Twitter post.

“It’s only a matter of time before we see dark money flowing into Florida to silence the voices of Florida voters,” Gillum tweeted on Feb. 13.

While Collective Future might be described as a dark money organization since it does not report its donors, Collective Super PAC does report its donors. Through the first quarter of this year, its biggest contributor is New York progressive activist billionaire George Soros, who gave it $70,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets web portal. However, FEC filings still show the PAC had only raised $167,000 through March, so the sources of the rest of the money now being spent on the current Florida campaign are not yet disclosed. Planned Parenthood and a small handful of other donors also contributed. Soros also is the single largest backer of Gillum’s Forward Florida committee, having donated $450,000.

The ad in question, which POLITICO said is running on TV in the West Palm Beach market and on selected cable channels across the state, declares that “Gwen Graham says she is the progressive Democrat for governor. But while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time. Graham trashed Obamacare. Voted with the big banks. And she voted for the Keystone XL pipeline — twice. Graham stood with Republican leaders over President Obama and Florida Democrats. Gwen Graham is not the progressive she claims to be.”

Graham’s surrogates defended her from the attacks and demanded that Gillum tell Collective Super PAC to back off.

“Andrew Gillum looked the other way when his supporter called Gwen Graham a disgusting, sexist slur. Now he’s embracing secret money to slander Graham’s record,” state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando stated in Graham’s release. “These type of dirty tricks have no place in our state or our party and he should immediately call for the ad to be taken down.”

“Andrew Gillum is clearly coordinating this negative, false attack against Gwen Graham and he must demand it is taken off the air immediately. Florida voters deserve better than this. There is no place for secret money PACs interfering in our elections,” state Rep. Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens stated in Graham’s release. “Gwen has a record of fighting to support President Obama’s progressive policies and is the only candidate in this race who voted to defend the Affordable Care Act, protect consumer protections and support the President’s Clean Power Plan.”

Airbnb, Puerto Rico, announce partnership initiatives to foster tourism

Airbnb and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló jointly announced new partnership initiatives Wednesday for the vacation rental-home marketing giant to promote tourism returning to the island.

The initiatives will include promotions of Puerto Rico through Airbnb, the launch of an “Experiences” program, essentially private package tours to what Airbnb calls authentic Puerto Rican activities, and the agreement to give three months of fees for homes and tours to nonprofit organizations helping with Hurricane Maria relief efforts on the island.

The company also pledged to increase marketing efforts to promote Puerto Rico tourism.

“The future is bright for the tourism sector of Puerto Rico. Leveraging the power of the Airbnb platform, we have the opportunity to increase visibility of the Island as a travel destination, making it more sustainable, more diverse, and allowing more residents to benefit from the economic opportunities that tourism provides,” Rosselló stated in a news release issued by the company after Wednesday’s news conference.

The company stated its business in Puerto Rico has rebounded since Hurricane Maria devastated it last September. Since October, nearly 112,000 guests have stayed with nearly 3,000 hosts on the island, earning the hosts more than $17 million, the company stated in the release.

“Puerto Rico has long been a top destination for travelers looking to experience its rich culture, beautiful scenery, and incredible hospitality,” Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky stated in the release. “Its determination in the face of such daunting challenges has amazed and inspired us, and we look forward to working with these important partners to unlock the magic of the Island for more travelers from around the world, and empower Puerto Rico’s businesses and people to build an even stronger travel industry than before the hurricane.”

Leading the nonprofit efforts supported by Airbnb is All Hands and Hearts, which addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters by engaging and leveraging volunteers, partner organizations and local communities. Airbnb has worked with the organization since 2015, leveraging its host community to accommodate its volunteers. So far in Puerto Rico, All Hands and Hearts has completed nearly 250 projects on the Island and volunteers have dedicated nearly 25,000 hours to rebuilding and recovery efforts.

Through its voluntary collection agreement signed in August 2017 with the government of Puerto Rico, Airbnb has already remitted $1.6 million in taxes to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to help promote tourism to the Island, and Airbnb pledged to work with that office to further market the island and destinations in the Experiences program.

Tiger Bay puts CRC officers on hot seat over bundling ‘poison pills’ and ‘SweeTARTs’

Are Tiger Bay Club members regular people, or are they the kinds of Tallahassee insiders that Brecht Heuchan dismissed as the only people who really care that voters will be asked to consider multiple Florida Constitution amendments bundled together in multi-change proposals?

If the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida reflect the views of regular people, then the eight proposals the Florida Constitution Revision Commission put on the November ballot last month could be in trouble.

After Heuchan, Frank Kruppenbacher and state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez defended the commission’s decision to bundle multiple law changes into single amendment proposals, the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida largely rejected their explanations at a forum held Wednesday in Orlando.

“I think everyone in this room understands that the rationales of lengthy ballots and voter fatigue are bull,” said Jason Johnson, a lawyer and past president of the club.

“Your argument that someone’s poison pill is another person’s SweeTART is making the point, for people who are against grouping, that you’re just doing it to get poison pills passed by getting people to vote for the SweeTARTs,” he continued. “Why not just separate them all and let the chips fall where they may?”

Heuchan, who was the architect of efforts to combine law changes into single proposals, expressed strong disagreement with Johnson’s premise, and argued again that separating everything out, creating a situation that could put 25 or so constitution amendments on the ballot, “would be a problem to half the people in the room.”

Moderator Susan MacManus, a now-retired political scientist from the University of South Florida, decided to test that assumption, and asked for shows of hands for those who opposed bundling, versus those who agreed with the CRC’s bundling strategy to make sure the November ballot isn’t ridiculously long.

It wasn’t a pretty result for Heuchan, Kruppenbacher and Nuñez. Conservatively, 90 percent of the hands shot up in favor of separating individual changes, and maybe 10 percent favored “keeping them grouped.”

This was after an hour-long panel discussion which focused largely on the trio of commissioners explaining why they chose to bundle the proposals, fending off, or, in some situations agreeing with the assessment that some ballot proposals included what MacManus characterized  as “SweeTARTs” and “poison pills,” professing how much politics went into the process.

Some of the audience, 150 strong, also expressed dismay when the three commissioners declared confidence that the final result, the eight proposals sent to the ballot, showed that the CRC was largely able to fend off partisan politics this year. “Do you find anything in here that is highly partisan?” Heuchan rhetorically asked the audience, forgetting, for a moment, the old saw about never asking a question to which you don’t know the answer.

“Yes!” someone shouted from the back of the room, drawing applause and laughter.

Not everything the trio described was rosy about the commission’s year-long effort to come up with proposed amendments to the constitution, something that is done every 20 years in Florida.

Kruppenbacher, in particular, expressed frank criticisms of some of the activities and actions of the commission, and those seeking to influence it, saying there were too many instances when special interest groups and, in his words, “Republican lobbyists,” tried to push legislation on the CRC.

Nuñez, the Republican Speaker pro tempore from Miami, also expressed criticism that too many times the CRC was asked to consider proposals that should have been left to the Florida Legislature.

On the other hand, Kruppenbacher, a lawyer and Republican fundraiser who chairs the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, also expressed dismay that the commission refused to have any discussions about amendments regarding guns, which had become a huge issue at all the CRC hearings following the Feb. 14 mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Responding to a question from Orlando’s Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, perhaps the strongest advocate of gun law reforms in the legislature, Kruppenbacher said he was frustrated when the CRC rules committee ruled the guns issue was not germane.

“It is incomprehensible to me that we do not at least talk about guns, particularly when we sat in Saint Petersburg and watched, and I heard the father of the Parkland girl talk to us about his daughter,” he said.

John Rutherford, Val Demings bill to add federal penalties for attacks on officers

Two Florida former top cops now in Congress — Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville and Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando — are teaming up to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.

Rutherford sponsored and Demings co-sponsored House Resolution 5698, which they dubbed the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018,” to create federal penalties for people who deliberately target local, state, or federal law enforcement officers with violence. In addition to any sentences culprits may receive for the standard crimes, the fact the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.

Their bill was introduced Tuesday, the day after Highland County Deputy Sheriff William Gentry was killed, and three weeks after Sgt. Noel Ramiriez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey of the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s office were killed.

The bill appears to be on a fast-track toward approval, as it was quickly marked up and approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

Rutherford is the former sheriff of Jacksonville. Demings is the former chief of police of Orlando.

“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office. “With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”

This year alone, 87 officers have been shot in the line of duty; 28 of them died, the release states. The trend this year represents a 75 percent increase over last year.

“After 27 years in law enforcement, I believe that officers must hold themselves to the highest standards, be accountable to their communities, and perform their duties with honor and integrity. There has been a 75 percent increase in officers shot and killed this year. Ambush-style killings have taken numerous officers’ lives. Last month, two sheriff’s deputies here in Florida were assassinated while eating lunch,” Demings stated in the release. “We must give our officers the tools, training, and protections needed to be safe on the job. I call on my colleagues in Congress to do our job so our officers can do theirs.”

The National Association of Police Organizations, Major County Sheriffs, Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the National Fraternal Order of Police are endorsing the bill.

“These troubling numbers show a significant, growing trend of armed attacks on law enforcement officers, and steps need to be taken to deter these actions,” the release states.

The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration of passage.

Ron DeSantis campaign on Richard Corcoran endorsement of Adam Putnam: Who cares?

The imminent endorsement Wednesday morning of Adam Putnam for governor by the man who almost made it a three-Republcian field, Richard Corcoran, is being mocked by the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis’ campaign characterized the expected endorsement by Florida House Speaker Corcoran of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam as a “career insider” endorsing “fellow career insider.”

This is what career political insiders do, suggested David Vasquez, press secretary for Ron DeSantis for Governor.

“Insiders only know how to play one game, and that’s making deals to save their own skin,” Vasquez stated in a news release issued Wednesday morning. “After a year of campaigning and millions of dollars of special interest money spent, career insider Adam Putnam’s campaign has flatlined. So, he’s turning to dealmaking in the Tallahassee swamp. Today he’ll stand in the shadow of the state capital in the middle of the Tallahassee swamp and receive the endorsement of a fellow career insider, one that will only matter to his fellow swamp dwellers.”

DeSantis is the congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach riding the endorsement of President Donald Trump. In a news release issued Wednesday morning, Vasquez characterized the two-man field for the August 28 Republican primary nomination for governor as  a candidate endorsed by Trump “vs. a Never Trump career politician.”

“Conservative principles don’t matter to career insiders, just deals and dealmaking,” Vasquez continued. “That’s why we’re not surprised to see this corrupt bargain even after Richard Corcoran accurately called out Adam Putnam’s support for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Or after Adam Putnam said he wouldn’t have signed Richard Corcoran’s signature school choice legislation. But when you’re in the Tallahassee swamp, conservative principles are expendable for political expediency.”

“Career politician, Adam Putnam, will now get the two-man race he’s been fearing for a year,” he concluded. “A conservative Iraq Veteran endorsed by Donald Trump vs. a Never Trump career politician who supported amnesty for illegal aliens. We like our odds.”

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