Scott Powers – Page 7 – 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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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 scott@floridapolitics.com.
Philip Levine

Philip Levine campaign adds Broward County director

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is adding a presence in Broward County now, with the addition of Bob Sciranko as his campaign’s Broward regional area director.

Levine already has set up regional area directors in Tampa Bay and Central Florida to go along with his campaign headquarters in Miami.

Sciranko served as field director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Previously, he worked as regional organizing director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign for eastern Broward County and on Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign for northern Broward County. He also served as a deputy field organizer on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Levine, the businessman and former mayor of Miami Beach, faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor.

“Bob’s deep experience in Broward County will enhance the strength of our robust South Florida engagement plan as we work to bring Mayor Levine’s message directly to the people of Florida,” Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name stated in a news release. “We’re excited to have him join Team Levine as we continue to expand and develop a dynamic campaign infrastructure built to engage with voters in communities throughout every region of our state.”

Gayle Harrell, Rob Levy in for Joe Negron’s state Senate seat

Following Senate President Joe Negron‘s announcement he will resign effective in November, Republican state Rep. Gayle Harrell announced she is filing to run for his seat this year, as did Democrat Dr. Rob Levy.

Negron’s resignation means Senate District 25 can have a regular 2018 primary and general election cycle, though it will be only for the final two years of the term he was elected to in 2016.

Both Harrell and Levy, each of Stuart, already had filed for the 2020 field for the SD 25 seat, seeking to succeed Negron then. Now they are ready to move that contest forward to 2018, as soon as the elections are set.

“I’ve dusted off my red running shoes and will not be outworked when it comes to advocating for our community, our values and our unique quality of life,” Harrell stated in a news release.

“There was an anticipation that Sen. Negron would resign when his term as president was up, so we’ve been running hard in the past four months in anticipation of this very event,” Levy said.

Negron’s term as president ends this year.

Both Harrell and Levy committed financially to the contest when they first entered. Harrell staked her campaign with a $100,000 loan when she entered in October, and Levy loaned his $100,000 when he entered in February. Since then, Harrell’s 2020 campaign had raised $19,800 and spent very little of it, while Levy’s had raised about $8,300 while spending $26,000.

Harrell, who has lived on the Treasure Coast for 45 years, is completing her second eight-year tenure in the Florida House.

She has more than 30 years of experience in health care, including managing the practice of her husband, Dr. James E. Harrell, and founding the Breast Imaging Center, a mammography center specializing in preventive care for women. She currently is the CEO of Health IT Strategies and works as health information technologies consultant.

Levy is a first-time political candidate, who moved to the Treasure Coast 35 years ago. A retired primary care physician, he developed and sold a large practice, and then started several small businesses. He is now preparing to open a coffee roaster and vinyl record store.

Senate District 25 is a Republican-leaning district that voted for Rick Scott in 2010, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Donald Trump in 2016. Harrell’s current House District 83 makes up the largest portion of the Senate District.

Of whiskey, magazines, and the Republicans’ new targeting tools

Because modern elections, like many 21st century business transactions, now may be won in part by the computer geeks with the biggest servers, the Republican National Committee says it likes its chances in Florida.

The RNC’s operations already are in major position in Florida, which, as always, and particularly this year, is the state both parties see as a marquee battleground. The RNC field operations in Florida now boast 67 staff members and 1,068 trained volunteers the RNC calls “fellows,” organizing ground operations for this year’s elections.

But their key weapon, the one the RNC believes sets the Republican effort apart, starts in those servers, with billions of bits of data on Florida voters, acquired from consumer “Big Data” companies, voting records, and sometimes seemingly irrelevant public opinion surveys.

The thinking is, with information about someone’s consumer and social preferences, what children’s clothes they buy, what magazines they subscribe to, what whiskey they prefer, what they think about banks or baseball or beaches, that creates statistical models that geeks can use to both predict and find the key factors to influence whether and how that person is likely to vote. With internet reading and shopping – even just internet perusing and window shopping – such data now floods into Big Data servers.

“We’ve been working on this since 2014 and making improvements on it all the time,” said Brian Parnitzke, the RNC’s national turnout and targeting director. He, with other RNC staff members, laid out some of the RNC’s operation in a chat in Orlando with FloridaPolitics.

This is nothing new. Businesses have been fine-tuning marketing for decades based on Big Data insights and assumptions, and it’s now omni-present in any big-time marketing effort. Obama For America introduced it to politics in a big way in President Barack Obama‘s two elections. And the RNC was caught off guard and marveled at the sophistication of the Obama operations, staff members said.

So, after 2012 the Republicans set out to emulate it, and now claim their Big Data operations surpasses what Obama had, or anything the Democratic National Party could possibly have. Obama kept his proprietary, not sharing it with the DNC, leaving the national Democrats to have to start over, according to the Republicans.

The Republicans say they have invested $200 million in their Big Data operation and the efforts to use the voter targeting assessments in field operations.

They claim to have 3,100 points of data on every Florida voter, each point a chance to cross-compare values and habits, to come up with probabilities on actions, based on statistical models.

“We have this database. I believe it is the most powerful database in politics in the world,” Parnitzke said.

And what about the potential of a “blue wave?”

“It’s all baked in,” Parnitzke said.

Their counterparts at the Democratic National Committee did not reply to FloridaPolitics’ inquiry for comment or response to the RNC’s claims or on how the DNC operations might compare.

With the data, the RNC and the Republican Party of Florida are geographically carving out populations of targeted adults whom the data say are likely reachable swing voters. And, equally importantly, the data suggest on which issues they swing. That’s where the trained “fellows” come in. They’ll be calling, knowing a potentially-disturbing amount about the lifestyles and values of the individual voters.

With almost all recent big elections in Florida having been decided by a point or two, it doesn’t take much mobilization to change outcomes, though the Republicans are quick to point out the old saw: “This is just a tool; candidates and campaigns matter.”

Russell Peck, the RNC’s southeast regional political director, said that the RNC is sharing its Big Data and its findings on Florida voters, for free, with the Republican Party of Florida and with any Republican campaigns, at all levels.

Two issues have emerged from the data in the Florida U.S. Senate race, and both are seen showing up as early themes of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. First, that 27 percent of swing voters don’t really have an opinion about Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. And second, that 54 percent are upset with members of Congress they see as obstructionist to government.

“Make Washington Work,” has become Scott’s early campaign theme, and he’s going after Nelson, seeking to paint him as obstructionist.

“People want to see government do something,” Peck said.

Rick Scott pushing ‘supermajority’ proposal for Congress tax hikes

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he’ll be campaigning on a proposal to require Congress to recognize only super majority votes to pass tax or fee hikes.

Scott, who pushed for such a measure with the Constitution Revision Commission, now contained in Amendment 5 going before voters this fall, touted the tax proposal as the first component of his “Make Washington Work” plan, announced Wednesday morning in a campaign stop in Medley.

Scott said he would push for a proposal to require two-thirds approvals for any federal tax or fee increase.

In making the announcement, he characterized himself as a governor championing tax cuts, while charging that his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has voted in favor of higher taxes and fees more than 300 times.

“I know that many people will say this cannot be done, or that this has been proposed and failed before. That way of old thinking by career politicians is what has allowed Washington to become so dysfunctional,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Today, Florida is proof that we can get things done when others say we can’t. Just this year, we fought to get Amendment 5 on the November ballot so Floridians have the opportunity to vote to make it harder for politicians to raise taxes and fees in Florida.”

His campaign stated there will be more proposals coming for his “Make Washington Work” plan as the campaign continues.

Lee Mangold gets backing of Working Families Party in HD 28 race

Democratic Florida House candidate Lee Mangold has gotten the backing of the Working Families Party in his quest for Florida House District 28, his campaign announced Tuesday.

The Working families Party is a national, progressive, political organization that advocates for such things as increased minimum wages and paid sick days, and claims a grassroots operation reaching hundred of thousands of people each month. With its endorsement of Mangold, the party pledged to mobilize supporters to volunteer for his campaign.

“We are proud to support Lee Mangold for the Florida State House. Lee is the type of leader who will fight for the issues that matter most to working families in Tallahassee – quality public education, affordable access to healthcare and building renewable sustainable energy,” Ari Kamen, political strategist for Working Families Party, stated in a news release issued by the Mangold campaign. “Lee will be a powerful force for working families in the state House, and we enthusiastically support him.”

Mangold, of Casselberry, faces Republican David Smith of Winter Springs in the HD 28 contest to represent eastern Seminole County.

“The Working Families Party is a fantastic organization of progressive activists, working to ensure that we have processes and an economy in this country that work for all of us,” Mangold stated in the release. “I’m proud to receive this endorsement – and all my endorsements – because I truly believe in the causes they fight for. The Working Families Party stands with everyday people – and so do I!”

Mike Miller appealing to Donald Trump supporters for CD 7 fundraiser

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is making his appeal to supporters of President Donald Trump at a fundraiser tonight in Winter Park for his congressional run.

Tuesday evening’s fundraiser features state Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, advertised for the event in his role as chairman of Donald Trump for Florida. Also among the listed host committee members is Randy Ross, founder of the Trump 2020 Club in Central Florida.

Gruters had previously endorsed Miller, expressing confidence that he would support Trump.

Miller, of Winter Park, faces Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill in seeking the August 28 Republican primary nomination to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole County and north and central Orange County. Also in the Republican field are Vennia Francois of Winter Park and Patrick Weingart of Altamonte Springs.

In recent weeks Miller and Sturgill have been battling each other over who is more loyal to the party. On Monday the Miller campaign charged that Sturgillin a 2014 interview, had misstated his background of having once been a Democrat. Previously, Sturgill’s campaign had charged that Miller’s voting records in the Florida House of Representatives had undercut Gov. Rick Scott‘s agenda.

The happy hour event is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Bear and Peacock Brewery in Winter Park.

Puerto Rico U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón endorses Rick Scott

In the battle for the newly-emerging power of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he has gotten the endorsement of the commonwealth’s U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón.

González-Colón joined Scott at a rally in Kissimmee, the center of Florida’s Puerto Rican population, Tuesday, lauding the Florida governor’s efforts to support Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and his commitment to the Puerto Rican community.

She is a member of the Republican Party of the United States, as is Scott, though she serves in Puerto Rico through being a member of its New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico.

“Governor Rick Scott has been a consistent leader, supporter and advocate for the Puerto Rican community and for our families both on the island and here in Florida. He made a commitment to help our community even before Hurricane Maria made landfall and has truly followed through, which is something we need more of in Washington,” González-Colón stated.

“They say that hard times will always reveal true friends, and I cannot think of a better friend to the American citizens of Puerto Rico than Governor Scott. Furthermore, as Governor, he has been able to turn Florida’s economy around, cutting taxes, creating an environment for small and large businesses to thrive, creating millions of jobs, and reducing regulations,” she continued. “Thus, I am proud to once again announce my endorsement of Governor Scott, this time for the U.S. Senate, and I look forward to welcoming a dear friend and unconditional supporter of Puerto Rico to D.C.”

Scott is taking on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year’s election.

“It has been an honor to work alongside Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón on Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery and I have been proud to join her in fighting to make sure the families of Puerto Rico who are here in Florida have all the resources they need to succeed,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I appreciate Congresswoman González-Colón’s support as we continue to work together on behalf of the Puerto Rican community in Florida and across our nation.”

Democrats ripped the endorsement. Led by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, the Democrat who represents Kissimmee, they charged that Scott grandstanded while Puerto Rico was in desperate need.

“Rick Scott kicking Puerto Rican evacuees out of his last event in Kissimmee tells everyone all they need to know about where he truly stands – regardless of all of his political posturing and grandstanding,” Soto said in a statement issued by the Florida Democratic Party. “Sen. Nelson has been a champion for Puerto Ricans both in Florida and on the island, spending time in the communities, listening to the needs and leading efforts in Congress to secure critical funding for the island.”

Alan Grayson comes out ready to brawl

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is entering the Democratic primary field against his successor U.S. Rep. Darren Soto ready to brawl, already going after the incumbent as someone he said has done nothing meaningful regarding the district, Puerto Rico, or President Donald Trump.

In an interview Tuesday morning, Grayson took the fighting stance that recalled his image, during three terms in Congress, as a puncher, and he contended that a fighter is needed now in the time of Trump. And Grayson immediately took swings at Soto.

Grayson said his paperwork to run in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, “my old seat,” has been submitted.

“I take no pleasure in saying this saying this because my own sense is I want what is best for the people in Central Florida. But I think he’s been entirely ineffective,” Grayson said of Soto. “I literally can’t think of anything meaningful he’s accomplished in the 16 months he’s been on the job.”

Grayson compared his perception of Soto to his self perception of his own record, serving CD 9 from 2012-’16, and serving in Florida’s Congressional District 10 from 2008-’10. Grayson took credit for bringing the new Veterans Administration Hospital to Orlando; for getting funding to extend SunRail into “the minority southern end of town,” for “fending off the Obama administration’s decision to close [the air traffic control operations at] the Kissimmee Airport;” and for bringing in an extra $100 million in competitive federal grants for the district.

“And… I passed more legislation than any other member of Congress, 121 amendments, bills and resolutions, in four years,” Grayson said. “I don’t see that kind of activity or anything remotely resembling that activity from the Soto office. And I think both the region and Puerto Rico are suffering for it.”

Soto quickly responded with a written statement defending his record on progressive values, and on building local alliances. The latter observation was a jab back at Grayson, whose bombastic  character has often alienated him, even among party regulars.

“I have been endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and every Democratic member of the Florida House delegation precisely because I have stood up for progressive values in Congress and delivered for the district,” Soto stated. “I will be joined by numerous local and state officials and supporters on Thursday to launch my reelection campaign. In contrast, Grayson stands alone today pushing his typical self-promoting smearfest.”

Grayson contended that polls show him doing very well against Soto. And he argued that he did better with voters within CD 9 during the 2016 Democratic primary, when Grayson ran against eventual U.S. Senate nominee Patrick Murphy and Pam Keith, while Soto ran against Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson and Grayson’s former congressional office field director Susannah Randolph, in the CD 9 primary.

There is at least one Republican running this year in CD 9. Wayne Liebnitzky, whom Soto beat in the general election last time, said his paperwork also has been submitted for the 2018 election. Yet barring unforeseen developments, this seat, representing Osceola County, eastern Polk County, and southern Orange County, likely will be decided in the Democratic primary on August 28.

Liebnitzky said the race should be about integrity.

Grayson’s references to Puerto Rico essentially are preemptive. Soto is of Puerto Rican descent, in a district that has the largest concentration of Puerto Rican residents of any in Florida, a community that has grown dramatically in the past couple of years.

While Soto has been very active pushing for relief and support for Puerto Rico, and visited the island several times since Hurricane Maria devastated it last September, Grayson contends he was ineffective in actually getting help for the island, and that he failed in preventing tax changes that punish Puerto Rico in the new tax reform law Congress approved late last year.

“I was constantly blocking efforts, and reversing efforts, to discriminate against Puerto Rico when I was in Congress,” Grayson said. “And this has been the worst year in history for Puerto Rico, not only because of the hurricane, but because of the vicious discrimination that has been perpetrated against Puerto Rico since then that Darren has been unable or unwilling to try to stop.”

The former congressman didn’t stop there. He took on Soto over a wide range of progressive Democratic issues. Among them, Grayson contended that the incumbent abandoned U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi‘s call to vote against the budget continuing resolution because it did not extend the DREAMers program, and that he made statements in his 2016 campaign suggesting he was “open minded” about cutting Social Security benefits.

Then there is Trump. In the past year Grayson, a lawyer who specialized in whistle-blower cases, established a political action committee with the stated goal of ending Trump’s presidency, called LockHimUpNow.Org.

Grayson charged that Soto has twice voted against impeachment efforts in the House. Grayson vowed he would fully support impeachment, immediately, charging that evidence indicates Trump was complicit in the hacking theft of “tens of thousands” of Democratic Party files, and that coverup evidence already includes Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey “over that Russia thing,” paraphrasing Trump’s interview statements.

“Somebody has to stand up to this bully,” Grayson said of Trump. “And I don’t see that happening right now with Soto.”

New Rick Scott ad expands ‘Washington change’ theme

Gov. Rick Scott‘s second English-language ad in the U.S. Senate race picks up the term limits theme of his first commercial and extends it toward what Republicans have been claiming of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, that he accomplishes very little in Washington.

The new 30-second Scott U.S. Senate campaign ad “Results,” which will be airing both on television and on the internet, does not mention Nelson. But like Scott’s first ad it charges that it’s time for change in Washington D.C., while Nelson seeks a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

The latest ad is backed by a purchase of more than $2 million of airtime, Scott’s campaign stated.

In the commercial, after arguing that successful business people focus on results, and how successful business people need to be in Washington, Scott declares, “If you’re not accomplishing anything, you should not be in Washington.”

Alan Grayson entering CD 9 to take on Darren Soto

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson wants his old seat back, and is preparing to file Tuesday to take on fellow Democrat and incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson, who has been preparing for months for a last-minute announcement on a new run for Congress, holding back only the where, not the what or when, told WESH-TV News that he is filing in Florida’s 9th Congressional Disrict, which he represented from 2012-2016, before he left it for a failed run for the U.S. Senate.

Grayson also represented Florida’s 10th Congressional District from 2008-2010. In recent weeks he has hinted about seeking possible returns in either of those districts, as well as possibly in several others in the Central Florida area.

Soto, a former state senator, was elected in 2016 to represent the district covering Osceola County, eastern Polk County, and southern Orange County.

Grayson told WESH-TV that polling suggests he remains popular in CD 9, and that he believes he has more appeal among Hispanic voters than does Soto, who is of Puerto Rican descent, “because people know that I’ve done useful things.”

Both Soto and Grayson are lawyers.

The leading Republican in the race is Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky, who said he expects to qualify Tuesday for the ballot.

Soto is formally kicking off his re-election campaign at a rally Thursday morning in Kissimmee.

Grayson’s political star rose during his first term in Congress when he said Republicans’ health care plan for America was “Don’t get sick … and if you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.”

That and other provocative comments played well with the far-left contingent of the Democratic Party and earned him plenty of appearances as a talking head on shows such as HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, but they were less well-received by DNC higherups, who kept Grayson at arms length for most of his political career — a status he still wears like a badge of honor in campaign emails.

By 2016, Democratic leaders were openly contemptuous of Grayson, with former U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid telling him “I hope you lose” during the 2016 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.

And lose he did.

Democrats unleashed a torrent of opposition research on one of their own, alleging Grayson had a history of spousal abuse. While his culpability remains hazy — Grayson’s daughter spoke in his defense and said her mother’s domestic abuse calls, including one against her, were bogus — the allegations played no small part in Grayson’s dismal 18 percent showing in the primary race. He also faced serious questions over a hedge fund he managed while a congressman.

How those scandals and his at times abrasive personality will play in his former district remains to be seen. He was indeed popular among his constituents, who elected him to the new CD 9 in 2012 with 63 percent of the vote and re-elected him with 54 percent of the vote two years later in a Republican wave election that saw Democrats lose 13 seats nationwide.

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