Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 183

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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

Donald Trump to hold campaign rally in Pensacola

President Donald Trump plans to hold a re-election campaign rally in Pensacola next Friday, his fourth visit to the city since he first began campaigning for president in 2015.

The Donald J. Trump for President campaign announced he will be appearing at a 7 p.m. Dec. 8 rally at the Pensacola Bay Center.

“We are pleased to confirm that President Trump will be attending a campaign rally in Pensacola next Friday evening,” Michael Glassner, executive director of the campaign said in a media advisory.

“Nothing inspires President Trump as much as connecting with hard working Americans at campaign rallies across the country. He especially enjoys meeting with our courageous veterans and their families at these patriotic events. As the President’s historic tax reform plan, which he has said will be like rocket fuel in our economy, gets closer to passage, the timing for our campaign rally in Pensacola could not be better.”

Democrats seeing Michael Flynn plea deal as window to Russia collusion

Florida’s members of Congress are describing the FBI plea deal announced Friday with former White House Security Advisor Michael Flynn as the window they expect will shed light on broader and higher allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign team and Russia.

“Flynn’s guilty plea is another significant step in making the case that there was collusion with the Russians,” declared U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, said the news tells her the Trump administration thinks it is above the law.

“Let us be clear about this fact: a member of President Trump’s inner circle just admitted to a felony crime. As a 27-year law enforcement officer, it is deeply offensive to me that this administration has repeatedly hidden behind cries of ‘law and order’ while breaking the law themselves,” Demings stated in the release.

“Every American should be disturbed that the Trump administration considers themselves above the law,” she continued. “Before now, the question was whether this went all the way to the top. President Trump and his inner circle will have a sleepless night.”

She pledged to “do everything in my power to allow the special prosecutor to continue his independent investigation unimpeded. The American people deserve the truth.”

Alcee Hastings of Miramar called Flynn’s deal “the latest step in uncovering the degree to which the Trump administration colluded with the Russian government.”

“Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has admitted to contacting the Russian Government, under instruction from President Trump’s transition team, and then lying about it to the FBI. Even though today’s guilty plea was not unexpected, it is still an outrageous and shameful admission of purposefully misleading the American people.”

He said it is “profoundly telling” that Flynn is the fourth Trump campaign official to be charged in the investigation.

“Congress must take every step necessary to ensure that this independent investigation proceeds without interference from the Trump White House. We need answers, not misinformation.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said Flynn’s guilty plea only raises more questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“As I have repeatedly said, Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller must be allowed to continue his work unobstructed by the White House, and the House Judiciary Committee must independently examine any possible obstruction of justice,” Deutch said.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando said, “Flynn has dodged this investigation from the start, so this perjury charge is not surprising. The information he may reveal could be, though.”

Gary McKechnie riding into SD 12 race

Travel writer, speaker, history enthusiast, and motorcyclist Gary McKechnie has filed as a Democratic candidate to run for the Florida Senate against Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley in Senate District 12.

McKechnie, 55, of Mount Dora, is promising a platform that will be heavy on Florida-centric advocacy and perhaps lighter on Democratic ideology, in a district that is heavily Republican, covering parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties, including The Villages.

“I’m registered as a Democrat; I’m running as an American. I’m running as a Floridian,” said McKechnie.

Calling himself a “motojournalist,” he has made most of his career riding the backroads of Florida, as well as all of America, then writing about it. He and his wife Nancy also have a bed-and-breakfast and some other small businesses, he said.

For years McKechnie was VISIT FLORIDA’s “Off the Beaten Path Insider.” And for decades he has published his writings in magazines, newspapers, and books, including a series of books published by National Geographic, as well as a top motorcyclist touring book, winning two major national travel writing awards. He also leads school student tours in Washington D.C., lectures to international audiences on America’s history and cultural heritage aboard on Cunard cruise ships, and is frequently interviewed on television and radio talk shows about travel and American culture and history.

History and cultural heritage, and respect for how they have molded the best government, he said, fuels his desire to go into politics, and will hone his messages, which he said he’s still developing. He said he’s not interested in “red meat” issues, but what makes sense for Florida, citing President Harry Truman as his “North Star” of politics.

“I know what I’m passionate about, but… I want to prioritize it,” McKechnie said.

“It’s just what you do. It doesn’t have to be nasty. It doesn’t have to be vindictive. It doesn’t have to be character assassinations. You run a good race, you present your ideas and the people with the better ideas will win. If it’s a level playing field, the people with the better ideas will win.”

Baxley is a staunchly-conservative incumbent from Ocala who had spent 16 years in the Florida House, before beating state Rep. Marlene O’Toole in a primary and then winning the SD 12 seat against only a write-in candidate in 2016. There also is another Republican in the field, Kaesha Gray of Ocala.

Baxley’s re-election campaign has raised $65,000 so far, including $33,000 just last month.

“I know I will be outspent. I know Dennis Baxley has a lot of money. But I know: ‘shame on me’ if I don’t run,” McKechnie said.

And the Fake News Trophy winner is…

Taking up President Donald Trump‘s challenge that the media ought to award a “Fake News” trophy, Rasmussen Reports conducted a survey this week that finds stark differences, with Republicans on one side and Democrats and independents on the other, as to who ought to win it.

Overall, Fox News was the top pick among more than 1,000 likely-voters nationally whom Rasmussen surveyed by phone and online on Nov. 28 and 29.

Fox News was the one national television network Trump did not mention when he proposed a trophy in a tweet Monday morning.

Not surprisingly, the survey found a huge divide of opinion not just by party affiliation, but by loyalty to Trump. CNN was the top choice for the trophy among Republicans, but finished 15 points behind Fox News, overall.

And the more a respondent supports Trump, the more likely he or she is to think fake news is a really bad problem.

Rasmussen reported the survey has a 3 percent margin of error 3 percent.

Support or opposition to Trump very much colors respondents of the media, Rasmussen showed.

“Among voters who [indicated they] Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing, 85 percent say fake news is a Very Big problem; 53 percent think CNN should win the first annual Fake News Trophy,” with MSNBC finishing second at 23 percent, Rasmussen reported.

“Just 21 percent of voters who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s job performance regard fake news as a Very Big problem. Among these voters, 67 percent say Fox News should take home the fake news honors, and no one else is even close.”

Gwen Graham moving campaign HQ to Orlando

Gwen Graham is moving to Orlando.

At least her gubernatorial campaign is doing so. The campaign confirmed Thursday that it’s moving its headquarters from Tallahassee, her home for decades, to settle into the City Beautiful, taking advantage of its centralized location to better accommodate campaigning and putting focus on the I-4 corridor battle.

The campaign expects to open an Orlando-area headquarters “in coming months” while keeping its Tallahassee office open, according to a statement.

“Gwen learned in 2014 to win in Florida you have to talk to every voter in every community. From day one of her gubernatorial campaign, we have been dedicated to building a statewide operation,” campaign manager Julia Woodward said in the statement. “Opening an Orlando area headquarters will allow us to reach even more voters along the I-4 corridor and easily travel to any corner of this state.”

She’ll be moving her campaign from sharing a town with Democratic rival candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to sharing a town with Democratic rival candidate Chris King, a Winter Park businessman. It also will put her in a much easier distance to South Florida, with its critical mass of Democratic voters. Graham has roots there, and it’s also home to her other Democratic rival, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

“I was born and raised in Miami, started a family in Tallahassee and have spent my life traveling this state,” Graham said in the statement. “Wherever I am in Florida, whether it’s talking to members of our military in Pensacola or discussing environmental protection in the Keys, I feel at home.”

Since announcing in May, Graham has put more than 50,000 miles on her SUV, which she calls the “Chev Victory,” according to the statement.

She is not, her campaign implied, giving up on North Florida, where her father, former U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Bob Graham, always fared well, and where she was elected to Congress.

Winning the election from Tallahassee in her off-year 2014 race, Graham outperformed Barack Obama in North Florida by 4.5 percent — a wide margin in a year only one other Democrat in the nation was able to defeat an incumbent Republican congressman, the campaign noted.

“By opening offices in Leon County and conservative counties like Bay and Jackson in 2014, we were able to energize progressive voters in deep blue areas and win over older Democrats, independents, and even Republicans in cities and towns Democrats typically don’t campaign in,” Woodward said.

Graham is planning to keep her Tallahassee office active and already has an active volunteer base in Miami, along with her parents, Bob and Adele Graham.

“We are replicating that same 2014 strategy by exciting our base in North Florida, South Florida and the I-4 corridor — along with reaching out to voters in conservative counties and rural areas,” Woodward said. “We are building an Obama-style coalition to take back the Governor’s Office,” she added.

King sent a welcome basket, of sorts.

“Kristien & I are pleased to welcome @GwenGraham to Central FL,” King tweeted. “This community raised me, educated me & has lifted my candidacy to serve as the next #FlGov. I Trust Gwen will find my hometown a diverse, dynamic & welcoming place.”

Ron DeSantis seeks to end secret sex suit settlements in Congress

Contending that too much sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in Congress may be hidden forever by secret settlements with non-disclosure agreements, Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is leading a bipartisan effort to end such practices.

“What does it say about the sincerity of Congress in combating harassment when members and staff can have taxpayers cover for their misconduct while keeping it all secret?” DeSantis said in a news release issued by his office.

The Ponte Vedra Republican was joined by Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and Kathleen Rice of New York in announcing late Wednesday they are introducing a bill that would ban tax dollars paying sexual misconduct lawsuit settlements, and ban the requirement of non-disclosure agreements in such settlements involving members or staff of Congress.

The bill also seeks to nullify existing non-disclosure agreements, so that alleged victims of sexual misconduct by members of Congress or their staff members would become free to talk about it.

The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would seek to make it more difficult for congressional sexual misconduct perpetrators to make allegations go away with payoffs and secrecy clauses. It also would out previous settlements.

Specifically, the bill would:

– Prohibit the use of public funds for settlements in connection with acts of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

– Require a public website report on all payments with public funds prior to date of enactment. The reports would include: the amount paid for each settlement; the source of the public funds; and identification of the employing office, and the individual who committed the violation. The names of the victims would remain secret.

– Require anyone who settled claims of sexual harassment or abuse with federal money since 1995 to pay it back.

– Prohibit any requirement for a non-disclosure clause in any future sexual harassment or sexual assault lawsuit settlements.

– Waive and nullify all previous non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment or sexual assault lawsuit settlements against members of Congress or their staff members, so that the victims could come forward later, if they decide to do so.

“Members of Congress and staff cannot live under special rules,” DeSantis continued in the release. “The current system incentivizes misconduct and makes it difficult for victims. By exposing these secret settlements and by discontinuing using tax dollars to pay for member misconduct, this bill will reduce the incentive for bad behavior and bring more accountability to Congress.”

Chris Anderson withdraws from HD 28 race

Republican Christopher Anderson has withdrawn his candidacy for Florida House District 28.

Anderson’s withdrawal, recorded Wednesday by the Florida Secretary of State, clears the Republican field for front-runner David Smith of Winter Springs for a showdown with Democrat Lee Mangold for a seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

The district covers northeast Seminole County.

Anderson, a Seminole County deputy sheriff, entered the race in June and came in with almost $10,000 raised that first month, but has raised no money since then.

Smith, a business consultant, by contrast, has raised more than $130,000, including $70,000 he donated to his own campaign.

Clark Anderson following his mother’s footsteps, seeking HD 30 seat

Political involvement is in D. Clark Anderson‘s blood.

The 64-year-old Democrat from Winter Park hadn’t acted on it in a big way — until now, filing this week to run for the Florida House of Representatives District 30 seat.

Anderson has spent much of his life and career in computers, specifically in cyber security for government contractors that have, among other things, sent him to Afghanistan for two years during the 2010 U.S. military surge there.

But there’s that blood.

His mother, the late Joan G. Anderson, was a fixture for decades in Illinois politics, holding various offices in and around Chicago and the capital Springfield. She once helped rewrite the state’s constitution as a delegate to the state’s constitution convention, writing and advocating numerous environmental regulations, and once even running [unsuccessfully] for Illinois lieutenant governor.

“I grew up with a political family, with a very political background,” Clark Anderson recalled.

“I have reached a point in my career where I have the time and the resources to devote to something like this. You know, my whole life has been spent building my career,” he continued. “Looking at the current political climate, I feel I have a lot to offer.”

Anderson, who recently moved from Tampa and also has lived in West Palm Beach since coming to Florida in the early 1990s, filed Monday to take on Republican two-term incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes in a district that covers much of southwestern Seminole County and a small part of north-central Orange County.

What he learned about politics from his mother includes the notion that one person can make a difference, and changes can have major impacts on people’s lives, he said.

“With my mother’s background as an environmental advocate, I’ve seen major changes the government can bring. She worked at cleaning up our environment,” Anderson said. “Florida itself, with climate change probably is the most sensitive state in the nation right now. We’re seeing effects all the time. I think that smart people in science, engineering, and industry can come together and come up with practical solutions, as opposed to ignoring the issues.”

He also said that as Florida is approaching full employment, the state now needs to direct its attention and energy to those being left behind. In South Florida he worked with drug courts and rehabilitation programs, and the same kind of cooperative government-industry partnerships he envisioned to take on climate change could address issues such as drug abuse and employment.

“You can’t say just government will solve it; you can’t say industry. It’s got to be a partnership,” Anderson said.

Anderson has not yet approached any campaign consultants. He said he is being counseled by the Seminole County Democratic Executive Committee and intends to reach out next to the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee. He said he’s been active in numerous campaigns, but that was decades ago in Illinois.

He offered no criticisms of Cortes, but said he believes its time for a more progressive direction for the state.

“What I bring, and the background I’ve got, is going to help drive Florida forward,” he said. “I grew up seeing how real forward progress can be made with government and programs, and not just trying to preserve a past. I’ve seen it in action. I saw my mother do it.”

Bill Nelson slams tax bill; Marco Rubio makes final pitch for child credit

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday to slam the Republican tax reform bill and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio followed him a few minutes later to make a last pitch for the childcare tax credit he’s been seeking to make the reform more “pro-worker.”

The Senate is debating the bill Wednesday afternoon.

“What we’ve done before and have now in front of us is not what the American people want, it’s what large corporations want – large multinational corporations who get their corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. It’s what the well-to-do want. That’s what’s before us,” Nelson declared. “Now, let me explain. Anyone who says that this bill is all for the middle class is not giving the full story. What they are not telling you is that the tax cuts for the middle class expire in seven or eight years.”

In his turn on the floor, Rubio said there are a lot of good things in the bill but that it needs the child tax credit toward payroll taxes that he and Sen. Mike Lee proposed.

“I hope that in tax reform we would do what we should try to do in all of our policies, that is come up with ideas that are both pro-growth, and pro-worker. There are a lot of good ideas in this tax bill but we can make it better,” Rubio said.

Rubio and Lee’s proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 22 percent, rather than the 20 percent in the current bill. Rubio argued that 22 percent was just as good for growth, because it would put the United States in the same competitive position internationally as a 20 percent rate.

And the revenue savings from the difference, he argued, would “allow us to do the pro-worker reform that we desperately need.”

“Here’s what it allows us to do,” Rubio continued. “It allows us to change the child tax credit in the current bill to help working families even more.

“But the one thing I want to emphasize, is: Who does this help?” he challenged.

Rubio said he’s heard criticism of their proposal as a form of welfare, and he passionately responded to such claims.

“I find that offensive,” Rubio said. “I find it offensive not because I am offended by people who need the help and are in the safety net programs because they’ve come upon difficult times, but because the people we are trying to help are not on government assistance. They’re workers. You have to be working to get this credit. The credit applies to your tax liability.”

Nelson argued that any breaks for the middle- and working-class are going away.

“They’re not telling you all the other ways that CBO says that this bill will hurt ordinary Americans. So, for example, beginning in 2019, CBO says that anyone making under $30,000 a year will take a hit from this bill if it becomes law. Then in 2021, anyone making under $40,000 will start to feel the pinch. And then in 2027, anyone making under $75,000 is actually going to get a tax increase,” Nelson said.

Nelson also argued that the tax reform would hurt small businesses, cause health care premiums to go up 10 percent, force 13 million people to lose health insurance, and that it is not the jobs bill that Rubio and Republicans declared it to be.

Nelson also decried the partisan foundation of the bill, saying that’s not how tax reform worked the last time, in 1986, when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Isn’t it time to revert to what we did back in 1986, where we came together in bipartisan consensus?” Nelson implored. “As long as there is a will, there is a way. And what I hope in the midst of this extreme toxic atmosphere of high partisanship that we might find a will to cut through that and say indeed there is way and it is a bipartisan way. We just need willing partners on both sides. I pray that that will occur between now and Christmas before we do something that we are going to regret.”

Rick Scott’s office: Governor is aware of Groveland Four case, reviewing all options

Hours after Gov. Rick Scott declined to talk specifically about the posthumous pardons requested for the Groveland Four — 1940s victims of racial injustice that led to two being killed and two going to prison — the governor’s office said Wednesday he is aware of the case and reviewing options.

“Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy communications director said in a written statement responding to a request to clarify the governor’s statements earlier Wednesday.

“Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review which conducts clemency investigations per standard procedure and the Florida Constitution,” Lewis continued. “After the commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency. We will continue to review all of our options.“

Lewis did not indicate whether the governor had sought to have the commission expedite those requests, or another request from Josh Venkataraman, who is seeking pardons for both Irvin and Greenlee. There are more than 22,000 applications pending at the Commission on Offender Review, which takes them up in the order they were filed, unless a member of the Florida Cabinet requests a case be expedited.

It typically takes many years to reach the Board of Executive Clemency.

Lewis also did not specify what options were being reviewed.

In April, the Florida Legislature unanimously approved CS/HCR 631, which requested one option: that clemency requests for Irvin and Greenlee be expedited and the pair be granted full pardons.

The Groveland Four were young, black men who were accused of raping a white woman in Lake County in 1949. Two of them, Sam Shepherd and Ernest Thomas, were killed in custody. Irvin and Greenlee were convicted and sent to prison in a trial that NAACP attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall later exposed as a notorious example of Jim Crow-era injustice. Irvin and Greenlee have since died.

In 2013 Gilbert King‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Devil in the Grove brought worldwide attention to the case. Last Spring the Florida Legislature approved CS/HCR 631 acknowledging injustice, apologizing to the families, and requesting the pardons.

Wednesday morning, when asked about the pardons in Jacksonville, the governor said nothing to indicate he knew about the case. He responded that he does what he can for citizens around the state, and that pardons go through a process.

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