Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 207

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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

John Boehner brings support, challenge for Scott Sturgill backers in CD 7 race

Republican congressional candidate Scott Sturgill got the backing of former Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner Thursday night as he offered a challenge to Republicans to go “all in” for the businessman in the contest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, hosted Boehner at a Lake Mary fundraising event attended by about 125 on Thursday for his Republican primary race against state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park. According to a news release issued by Sturgill’s campaign, the retired Ohio congressman indirectly referenced Miller and a third Republican in the contest, Patrick Weingart of Altamonte Springs, with a call to clear the field for a Sturgill challenge in the fall to Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

In addition to Boehner, the event also drew former U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams of Oviedo, Seminole County Republican State Committeewoman Susie Dolan and businessman and philanthropist David Maus, among others.

“This impacts the race because we are the campaign with the momentum right now and leaders and Republicans in the 7th District know that,” said Frank Torres, a campaign consultant and former local political journalist recently hired as campaign communications director by Sturgill. “The speaker is just the beginning of a list of leaders from Washington and here in Central Florida that will be publicly supporting our campaign. We’re out of the gate and picking up speed. The other candidates in this primary can’t say that right now. You’re not going to win in November if it’s March and your campaign hasn’t gotten out of bed yet.”

The district covers Seminole County and north-central Orange County. Nationally, Republicans are targeting the seat as one they hope to win back this November.

Pride Fund launching on-line video focusing on the emotions of gun violence

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a national gay rights organization launched in response to Orlando’s 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in order to advocate gun control, is releasing a new video focusing on the pain and anger surrounding mass murders, with the intention of keeping emotions high.

The video makes a direct accusation toward the National Rifle Association, charging that the group does not care about the impacts on people from a pro-gun culture that the Pride Fund links to the availability of assault weapons to the shooters at Orlando, Parkland, and other massacres.

Dubbed “The NRA Doesn’t Care About Jack,” the video runs nearly two and a half minutes. It features clips of mass shootings, of survivors and family members talking later about their suffering, of TV news reports, and of both Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama commenting. But mostly it focuses on a fictional toddler named Jack, and creates a video narrative wondering what his life can be like in an America where guns are prevalent and massacres common.

“This is Jack,” text reads as video appears of the boy. “By the time he can walk alone, hundreds more will die by gunfire.”

The Pride Fund was established after the June 12, 2016, massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, which killed 49 people. The group was organized in part by LGBTQ activists in Orlando, and set out to mobilize the national LGBTQ community to push for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and for universal background checks.

The video is being launched in response to the Feb. 14 massacre, which killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The group is placing the video on social media and pushing it to its mailing list of more than 100,000 through email and soliciting them to do the same. The group also plans to raise money for a targeted internet advertising campaign featuring the video.

Pride Fund Executive Director Jason Lindsay said the campaign in part hopes to convince people to adopt the group’s positions for gun control, but the larger effort is to keep the emotions stirred among supporters, to encourage them to keep up pressure.

“It’s a good, stark reminder. It elicits the emotions of how people felt as all these tragedies unfolded,” he said. “The only way we’re going to get stuff done is for people to remember how it felt. We’ve got to keep emotions alive in this life-or-death battle for gun reform.”

Bill Nelson bemoans snub to White House gun meeting as ‘counter productive’

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was conspicuously absent from a meeting President Donald Trump convened Wednesday in the West Wing with key lawmakers and stakeholders in the gun violence debate following the Parkland massacre, and on Friday he dismissed the meeting as show, and predicted Trump will pivot from assurances he made there.

Speaking on the MSNBC show Morning Joe Friday, Nelson said his snub by White House officials who did not invite him to the meeting was “counter productive that they would want to exclude me” from efforts to seek any bipartisan reforms in the wake of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting that left 17 dead.

Nelson is likely to face Florida Gov. Rick Scott in this year’s U.S. Senate election. Scott has been a strong supporter of Trump.

The meeting did have both Florida and Democratic representation. Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was there. So was Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando, who solicited the president’s support for her House Resolution 1478, a measure with some bipartisan backing, which would lift the ban on federal research into gun violence.

Friday morning, Nelson dismissed anything that Trump did offer, embracing some gun control measures, as unreliable, especially since the president followed that meeting with one Thursday night with NRA officials. Trump tweeted last night, “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”

Nelson accused Trump of making promises and then rejecting them days later, and said that appears to be happening already with his interest in certain gun reforms.

“It’s symptomatic of what’s happening in our society today, where everybody is retreating to polls, they’re getting very self-interested, highly partisan, highly-ideological rigid, and we’re seeing that play into this question about what do we do in the aftermath of these massacres,” Nelson said.

Nelson expressed strong pessimism that any significant reforms will clear Congress, noting that 60 votes are needed to get passage in the U.S. Senate.

“It depends on the NRA If they go and threaten our Republican brothers and sisters, that they’re going to take them on in the next election, I think it makes it very difficult for them even on something as common sense as comprehensive universal background checks,” Nelson said. “You’re right. That’s off the charts, not only nationally, but in Florida as well.”

David Smith picks up more local officials’ endorsements in HD 28 contest

Republican House District 28 candidate David Smith has picked up several more endorsement from local officials in Seminole County including County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, and officials who praised his education and environmental views.

In addition to Greenberg, Smith’s campaign announced the new backings of Seminole County School Board Member Abby Sanchez and Seminole County Soil and Water District Vice Chairman David Mahnken on Thursday.

“He is a true patriot and will serve House District 28 well and faithfully,” Greenberg said of the retired U.S. Marines colonel, in a news release issued by Smith’s campaign.

“He is a proven leader and I’m confident that education will always be a priority for him,” Sanchez stated.

“His working knowledge and understanding of the environmental changes facing Florida comes from his willingness to listen and learn,” Mahnken said.

Smith, of Winter Springs, faces Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry in the contest seeking to succeed Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur in the eastern Seminole County HD 28.

In addition to announcing the new endorsements, Smith’s campaign also announced a new fundraiser to be hosted by Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma on the evening of March 12 at the Cork & Olive restaurant in Lake Mary.

“I’m very pleased to have the full support of School Board Member Abby Sanchez, Vice Chair David Mahnken and Tax Collector Joel Greenberg” Smith stated in the release. “They are all principled leaders in their respective roles, serving our community to make it a better place for our residents, students and businesses. Their support is greatly appreciated.”

Darren Soto gets perfect score from Conservation Voters, tops Florida members

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the national League of Conservation Voters, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.

The league’s annual “National Environmental Scorecard” for the 2017 session of Congress, gave Soto checkmarks across the board on 35 issues the organization tracked in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, putting him the company of 84 members of the U.S. House nationally who got the league’s perfect score.

The scorecard found widespread support for the league’s positions among Democrats, and widespread opposition among Republicans. Nationally, Democrats averaged a score of 94, and Republicans, 5.

In Central Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando got a score of 97; and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, 91; while Republican U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Lake County and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both received a score of 3; and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, 0.

Elsewhere in Florida, the next highest-scoring Democrats were U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings, who both got 94; and the lowest-scoring Democrat was U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who got 69. The highest-scoring Republicans were U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who all got 23. Several other Republicans got zero.

On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a 95 and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a 0.

Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee River and the Everglades. His and the other members scores, however, also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA to global warming, and from California water resource management to pesticides.

“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV Scorecard,” Soto stated in a news release issued by his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”

The league has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, and states that the selected issues, positions, and scores represent a consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations. The issues include energy, climate change, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.

Marco Rubio post-Parkland plan focuses on school security, restraining order seizures

Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday announced his Senate plan to respond to the Parkland massacre, which includes strengthening school security, providing for “restraining order” powers for police to confiscate weapons from dangerous individuals and adding to the gun purchase background-check databases.

Rubio said his plan, which he called a comprehensive response, has emerged from his meetings over the past two weeks with law enforcement, firearms sales experts, students, teachers, and administrators, including discussions at his CNN town hall appearance last month.

“I have also been in constant contact with several of the parents of the victims who lost their lives,” he said.

However, it does not explicitly address two things he declared on CNN that he would support: raising the minimum age for weapons purchases, or limiting capacity sizes for ammunition magazines. He said Thursday he would “explore” such reform prospects, in the face of their current unlikelihood in Congress.

Much of Rubio’s plan involved supporting or adopting ideas pushed by his colleagues. He outlined it in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“After the tragic events of February 14, the Parkland community, the residents of Florida, and the entire nation have demanded action,” he said. “While there are sharp differences on restrictions to the Second Amendment, there is widespread agreement that we must act now to prevent another tragedy like Parkland from happening anywhere else, ever again. “

Rubio reiterated his focus on the reports that the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI had plenty of reasons to suspect that charged attacker Nikolas Cruz was about to commit an atrocity, but failed to take action before he allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17. His plan addresses several responsibilities and potential changes in procedures for federal, state, and local law enforcement, and for schools working with them.

“I believe this attack could have been prevented if current law had been fully enforced. This killer was a well-known danger to the school district and the Broward Sheriff’s office. He was also the subject of two separate and specific warnings to law enforcement agencies. People saw something and said something. And yet this deranged and violent individual was able to pass a background check and buy 10 separate firearms, and ultimately walk right into a public school and take the lives of 17 innocent Floridians,” Rubio said in a news release issued by his office.

“This tragedy is the result of a massive multi-systemic failure involving federal, state and local authorities who failed to identify the threat he posed and coordinate a response to stop him before he took action. It is this failure which we should focus on by addressing the shortcomings and vulnerabilities in our current laws and policies,” he added.

Among his plan:

– He said he would join the Utah Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch‘s “Stop School Violence Act,” to strengthen school security, provide school training to identify threats, and create school-threat assessment and crisis intervention teams to coordinate with law enforcement.

– The introduction of a “Gun Violence Restraining Orders” bill, similar in concept to others previously introduced by such members of Congress as U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Democrat from Winter Park, and California Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, which would give law enforcement protocols to remove guns from individuals who pose a threat.

– Support for the “Fix NICS Act,” introduced last year by Texas Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, which would require all federal agencies, and would incentivize states, to fully report all relevant information to a national background check database that could be used when background checks are run on people purchasing guns.

– Support for a new bill called “Lie and Try,” modeled after some states’ legislation, which would alert law enforcement and prosecutors of individuals who attempt to purchase guns and fail background checks, “so that they can be investigated and prosecuted.”

“I will continue to explore additional reforms involving age limits and potentially magazine capacity,” he said. “These reforms do not enjoy the sort of widespread support in Congress that the other measures announced today enjoy. In order to successfully achieve passage of these ideas, they will need to be crafted in a way that actually contributes to greater public safety, while also not unnecessarily or unfairly infringing on the 2nd Amendment right of all law abiding adults to protect themselves, hunt or participate in recreational shooting.”

Ron DeSantis calls Parkland massacre a failure of FBI, sheriff; denounces state gun proposals

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Thursday denounced Florida Legislature efforts to tighten gun restrictions and said the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Parkland high school should be seen as “a catastrophic failure” by the Broward County sheriff and the FBI.

DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, has made similar comments in television appearances on Fox News in the past two weeks, but otherwise has been largely silent within Florida about his response to the massacre, drawing heat from other gubernatorial candidates, particularly Democrats. On Thursday he broke that, taking a hard line against any gun measures, and condemning those being considered now in the Florida Legislature.

He also called for the resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for not having responded to numerous reports, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, that suggested Nikolas Cruz was dangerous; and for the firing of anyone in the FBI who might have failed to pick up in advance on the shooter’s intentions.

And while DeSantis called on the Florida Legislature to back off proposed gun restrictions, presumably such as one to raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, he was not specific in his statement.

DeSantis said he supported much in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed school safety package to “harden schools” and also supports one idea Scott rejected: arming teachers. He also said the state should enlist the help of veterans and law enforcement officers to help protect schools.

DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow in the contest for the Aug. 28 Florida primary nomination to run for Governor. The leading Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, DeSantis contended, was the result of law enforcement failures and mental illness, and should be addressed as such.

“Given that the issues of bureaucratic incompetence, school safety and mental health demand immediate attention, I’m disappointed that the Florida Legislature is rushing to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis said in his statement.

“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective. The goal should be to keep our students safe, bring accountability to the officials and institutions that failed, and protect the rights of Floridians,” DeSantis continued.

Chris King releases video ad on Parkland, Pulse, seeking ‘transformation’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King has released a new online campaign video declaring that the massacres in Pulse and Parkland demand a transformation of Florida politics, stressing his commitments to banning assault weapons, pushing for universal background checks, and expanding Medicaid.

The 90-second video “This is the Year” includes footage of vigils held for the mass shootings and King giving a speech in which he talks about attending the vigils, and believes that the last two weeks must spark a transformation. The ad is being targeted to Democratic voters on Facebook across the state.

“The next Governor of the State of Florida in my view has to be committed to transformation when it comes to gun safety,” King says. “So let me make it very clear to you what this governor would do: I would not take money from the NRA. I would work hard to pass an assault weapons ban, as I said for my very first speech as (a candidate for) governor. I would stand up for universal background checks. I would work to pass Medicaid expansion because there is no bigger idea for caring for the needs of the mentally ill in this state.”

King is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Democratic candidate Tina Polsky switches House districts to run for Joe Abruzzo’s seat

Democratic candidate Tina Polsky of Boca Raton is switching districts to run for the House District 81 seat being vacated by Democratic state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo.

Polsky is one of four Democrats and two Republicans who had filed to run in House District 89 in northern Palm Beach County, seeking to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Bill Hager.

Now she’ll be the first-in to seek to take HD 81 in western Palm Beach County.

Polsky is a lawyer, a mediator and longtime civic activist. A wife and mother of two, Polsky holds volunteer leadership positions with the Anti-Defamation League and the Mitzvah Club, a local women’s organization with over 100 members which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local and national charities in the past three years.

Her departure from the HD 89 race will leave Democrats James BonfiglioDeborah Wesson Gibson and Ryan Anthony Rossi, and Republicans Michael Allen Caruso and Matt Spritz to sort out that contest.

In her first month of fundraising for HD 89, Polsky raised $10,437 in January, and lent her campaign $1,000.

Parkland meets Pulse, uniting in grief, anger and frustration

Survivors, family, and community members battered but not beaten by Florida’s two great recent tragedies met in Orlando Wednesday at Pulse nightclub, uniting in their grief, anger, determination and a frustration over how things do or do not change.

A busload of Parkland community members, including families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, came to pay their respects at the Pulse nightclub, and to share in their experiences both of and following the mass shootings of Feb. 14, 2018, and June 12, 2016.

These are not happy groups, but they were joyful to meet one another Wednesday, in the company of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, two Democratic politicians as closely affected by the massacres as any. Dyer oversaw much of Orlando’s response, coming out of it Orlando United. Ring is a Parkland resident, running for Florida Chief Financial Officer, with his campaign temporarily suspended since the school shooting.

The group, part of the much larger contingent that spent the past week in Tallahassee seeking legislative responses to the Douglas High School shooting, was not put together for any ideological positions, but at Pulse Wednesday their anger and frustration appeared widespread: angry that their community suffered another shooting, frustrated that many believe the Florida Legislature let them down.

Kim Bankoff of Weston, mother of three children in the school district, said many of the families who went to Tallahassee were generally pleased and some even excited by the proposals that Legislature leaders laid out to them Monday. Then, she said, hours later, in the middle of the night, they learned of the amendments coming in, and much of the support many felt was replaced by jadedness.

“Pass this or not we need to recognize this does not go far enough,” she said.

Ring, who spent much of the time with the group in Tallahassee and traveled separately to Orlando Wednesday, said of most of the members of the group, ‘They’re ticked off. They’re not happy.”

Ring said Bankoff’s frustration was caused because members of the Florida House had explained their bill Monday night and then changed it, making the Parkland community members feel deceived.

“I’ve seen that countless times,” Ring said. “The other thing that frustrated them that the Florida Senate in a, I don’t know how long, seven hours? meeting, somehow ran out of time. And I’ve seen that countless times.”

He said he understands the processes and politics, but the desperate families who came to Tallahassee were caught completely off-guard, and left aghast.

The 25 or so Parkland community members who came to Pulse met with about a dozen Pulse survivors and family.  Up until a few days ago they would have been able to make an intimate visit to what had become a makeshift shrine to what, until the Las Vegas massacre last summer, had been the country’s worst mass murder in recent history. But they had to get together outside a new, eight-foot, mostly-tarped fence surrounding the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a barrier erected only last weekend to allow for construction of an interim memorial.

 As both Parkland and Pulse community members placed single white roses into the fence, Luciel Tschumy, an LGBTQ transgender female activist from Broward County, read the names of the 49 people murdered at Pulse, punctuating her reading with anger for the lives cut short. “We’re standing here putting 49 roses. We shouldn’t have to freakin’ be here!” she exclaimed.

Margate Elementary School teacher Monique Wilson read a poem she wrote expressing deep frustration and anger. “Honestly America? What’s a parent to do, when a child is stripped from you?” she read. “So much change is needed, America, we’ve needed it for such a long time.”

Dyer sought to unite the groups, and pledged Orlando’s support. “We love you. We feel your pain. We want to do everything that we can to help you,” he said.

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