Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 289

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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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

Rick Scott launches new Spanish TV ad focusing on family

Rick Scott the family man is launching his latest Spanish-language TV commercial in which the Republican Governor pitches his commitment to family for his U.S. Senate campaign.

The 30-second “Familia” has Scott narrating the entire commercial in Spanish, as video shows him with his grandchildren and at various points on the campaign trail, mostly meeting with Hispanic voters.

The ad is launched a day after a Telemundo poll shows him badly trailing Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson among Hispanic voters; especially with non-Cuban Americans in Florida.

In this ad he seeks to identify himself with Hispanic family values and with hard work.

“For me, family is everything,” Scott begins, in Spanish. “I know how hard families in Florida work. That’s why I work – so that you have the best opportunities, from good paying jobs to good schools. It’s not about one political party versus the other. It’s about making sure your family has what you need to succeed.”

Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

St. Pete Polls: Bill Nelson up 2 on Rick Scott

A new survey from St. Pete Polls shows Florida’s U.S. Senate race still airtight and within the margin of error, with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson grabbing 49 percent and Republican Gov. Rick Scott 47 percent.

The latest poll, taken Tuesday and Wednesday, shows the same demographic trends that have appeared in surveys throughout the campaign, with Nelson doing better among independent voters, women, voters of color, and younger voters, while Scott’s support is based on white voters, men, and older voters.

It also shows Nelson leading handily among voters who already have cast their ballots. Among those who’ve voted, Nelson leads 53 percent to 45 percent, according to the new St. Pete Poll on Florida’s U.S. Senate race. Scott’s campaign’s hope is based on those who say they still intend to vote; among those, he leads, 50 percent to 45 percent, according to the new survey.

The poll shows an almost three-point swing in Nelson’s direction since the last St. Pete Polls survey of the race, which had Scott up by less than one point on Oct. 22.

The poll was conducted of 2,470 voters interviewed through an automated phone call polling system, with the results weighted to account for proportional differences in demographics of political party, race, age, gender, and media market.

The 2-point advantage for Nelson is the same as the poll’s reported margin of error: 2 percent.

It’s also the same as the running average of recent polls tracked by 2 percent. In the last 10 polls tracked by that organization, including this one and the previous St. Pete Polls survey, Nelson has been leading in seven and Scott in two, with one poll showing an absolute tie.

The overall finding: The race still is too close to call, though it leans toward Nelson.

Among the break-outs, Nelson is leading among independent voters by 50 percent to 45 percent; black voters, 76 to 16; Hispanic voters, 54 to 42; and women, 51 to 45, Nelson also has majorities of support among voters younger than 30 and in the 30-49 age bracket.

Scott leads among white voters by 56 percent to 42 percent; leads among men, 50 to 47; has a slight lead among voters in the 50-69 age bracket, and a solid majority among voters age 70 or older.

Each candidate is receiving 79 percent support within his own party.

Telemundo poll: Hispanics favoring Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson

Republicans still have a solid block of support from Florida’s Cuban-American community but Puerto Ricans and other Hispanic voters are breaking strongly toward Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson, giving the Democrats sizable leads overall among Hispanic voters, according to a new poll commissioned by Telemundo.

Overall, Gillum has a 51 percent to 40 percent advantage versus Republican Ron DeSantis among Hispanic voters in Florida’s governor’s race; and Nelson has a 54 to 39 advantage among Hispanic voters over Republican Rick Scott in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, according to a poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy for the Spanish-language TV network of Telemundo’s Florida stations.

The poll found majorities — in some cases, huge majorities — of Hispanic voters favor a number of policy positions supported by many or all Democrats and generally opposed by Republicans, notably for national health care, various immigration reforms.

The poll also broke down results by Hispanic origin for voters, and found the traditional partisan biases are still holding solid.

Cuban Americans favor former U.S. Rep. DeSantis and Gov. Scott by more than 30 points over their Democratic opponents; while Puerto Ricans and other Hispanic voters are going with Mayor Gillum and Sen. Nelson by huge margins compared with the Republicans.

Those preferences appear to have influenced regional breakouts too, where DeSantis and Scott are doing best among Hispanics in South Florida where the Cuban-American contingent still dominates the Hispanic population. The races are close there: Gillum leads DeSantis by one point, while Scott leads Nelson by one point. The races are not close among Hispanic voters in Tampa Bay or Central Florida. Gillum and Nelson lead by more than 20 points among Hispanic voters in the Tampa Bay area, where the once Cuban-American dominance has receded; and by more than 40 points in Central Florida, where Puerto Ricans’ dominance is growing within the Hispanic population.

Other polls of Florida’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races have shown much tighter spreads among Hispanic voters in Florida. Some polls have even shown the Republicans leading among Hispanic voters. However, the other polls have been of general populations of Florida voters, and have not drawn large samples of Hispanic voters, only proportional subsets, so that the accuracy levels were not high for the Hispanic trends they found.

Mason-Dixon interviewed 625 Hispanic voters by both landline and cellphones between last Thursday and Tuesday. The pollsters say the results have a margin of error of 4 percent.

The Telemundo poll found many of the other sub-demographic trends reported in general polls: Hispanic women, like sets of all women voters, are breaking far more strongly toward Democrats than men. Likewise, younger voters are trending more toward the Democrats than the older voters.

Respondents also were asked to give favorable/unfavorable ratings for the four major statewide candidates, and all wound up with overall favorable ratings, though Scott’s was close, at 39 percen favorable and 37 percent unfavorable. Gillum had the most positive spread among Hispanic voters surveyed, at 45 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable.

The top issues for all Hispanics were health care, jobs and the economy, followed by immigration. Once again, there was a split between Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics. Cuban-American voters named jobs and the economy as their top issue; Puerto Ricans and all-other Hispanics named health care as the top concern.

Forty-six percent of respondents said the state was on the wrong track, and 44 percent on the right track. Once again, there was a big difference between Cuban-Americans, who overwhelmingly said the state was on the right track, and Puerto Ricans and others who strongly disagreed.

Thirty percent said they believe they have benefited from the tax cut bill approved by Republicans last year, while 53 percent said they have not. Again, this was a big point of disagreement between Cuban-Americans [53 percent said yes], Puerto Ricans [13 percent yes], and other Hispanics, [18 percent yes.]

A huge margin — 78 to 15 percent — said they would support a national health care plan such as “Medicare for all” assuring health care coverage for all. Even Cuban-Americans signed up for that idea, by a 70 to 22 percent spread.

Hispanics polled in the survey oppose the immigration policies of President Donald Trump, with 51 percent opposed and 38 percent supporting. A majority of Cuban-Americans support it, but a landslide of Puerto Ricans oppose it, as do 59 percent of other Hispanics.

Almost all Hispanic voters support DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that President Barack Obama initiated to allow children of undocumented immigrants to stay, and which Trump ended. There wasn’t much disagreement on this; Cuban-Americans offered the least support, but still support it by an 83 to 9 percent ratio.

Strong majorities of Puerto Ricans and others, and a plurality of Cuban-Americans, also support the restoration of the Temporary Protected Status programs that Trump is ending for refugee immigrants.

Solid majorities across the board — 78 percent overall — favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

And just about everybody supports an extension of federal assistance for Puerto Ricans who settled in Florida after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Bernie Sanders calls on college generation to vote their values

Declaring that he believes them to be the most progressive generation in history, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a rally of University of Central Florida students Wednesday that the future is in their hands.

“I happen to believe that the younger generation of America today is the most progressive generation in the history of America,” Sanders said. “You should be very proud of that. You should be proud that you are leading our country in opposition to racism, oppsition to sexism, in opposition to homophobia, in opposition to religious bigotry, and unlike the president of the United States, you know that climate change is real.”

Yet while many polls and social surveys back that up, Sanders and the Democrat he came to promote, Florida gubernatorial nominee Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and everyone else knows that the younger generation also, normally, is the least impactful in elections.

On Wednesday about 400 people, mostly students, filled half the floor and a smattering of seats at the UCF CFE arena, a crowd less than half of the one that came the last time Sanders came to UCF to campaign for Gillum in August. That rousing crowd, which also heard Gillum speak, was perhaps the first major signal that the long-shot Gillum had a real chance to win the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

Wednesday’s crowd, though drawn by a rally announcement that came just hours before the rally itself, was far short of that. Sanders and the warm-up speakers, who included Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Chris King Democratic attorney general candidate Sean Shaw, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Florida House nominee Anna Eskamani, all laid into the students to vote their progressive values. Afterwards, Smith even led a march from the arena to UCF’s early voting site.

“You are a great and wonderful generation,” Sanders said. “But let me again be very blunt with you about our ideas about economic justice and social justice and environmental justice and racial justice. They don’t mean anything unless participate in the political prociess, unless you come out to vote.”

While Sanders talked briefly about Gillum, he spent much of his speech focusing on issues that he could talk about from a national perspective such as climate change, criminal justice reform, and combating injustice.

It was left largely to Shaw to frame statewide issues, and he framed them as the things that are on the ballot Nov. 6, and to King to go after Gillum’s rival, Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Poll: Andrew Gillum 45%, Ron DeSantis 44%

A new poll from Suffolk University is finding a near dead-heat in Florida’s gubernatorial election, with Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum getting 45 percent and Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis 44 percent.

With a 4.4 percent margin of error among the likely election voters surveyed, the race is a toss-up a week out from Election Day.

The same poll found similar results in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson holding 45 percent and Republican Gov. Rick Scott 43 percent.

“Both the U.S. Senate and governor’s races will come down to get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day because both races are too close to call,” a statement from the Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network poll declared.

The survey used live interviews via cellphones and landlines of 500 voters who said they already have voted or intend to vote, and was conducted from last Thursday through Sunday.

The Suffolk poll continues the running consensus of polls in recent weeks that have the Democrats slightly on top, leading by one or two or three points in almost every survey, but all within the margins of error., which tracks more than a dozen Florida polls, is giving Gillum a running 3 point advantage in the poll consensus, and Nelson a 2 point advantage.

As in other polls in recent weeks, the Suffolk poll found both Gillum and Nelson with strong leads among women voters and younger voters, and an overwhelming lead among black voters. DeSantis and Scott have solid advantages among men, older voters, and white voters.

Unlike in most previous polls, DeSantis and Scott also found slight edges among independent voters in the Suffolk poll.

Voters said their top issues in the governor’s race are the economy (22 percent), health care (20 percent), education (19 percent), taxes (12 percent), corruption (8 percent), and gun control (7 percent).

As for gun control, the Suffolk poll found a solid majority of voters wanting to see a ban on assault-style rifles such as the AR-15s used in many of the mass shootings, including at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February and at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. The survey found 56 percent want the next governor to move to ban semi-automatic weapons, while 34 percent were opposed and 10 percent undecided. Among gun-owning households in the Sunshine State, 43 percent support the move to ban the weapons, Suffolk reported.

Democrat Barbara Cady hoping HOA reform message is game-winner in HD 42

Can a single issue of the most local of impact become a game-winner for a Democrat trying to flip a district?

Democratic Florida House District 42 candidate Barbara Cady has been pounding turf since she entered the contest 16 months ago, mostly talking about home-owners association law reform. It’s a common interest in the sprawling development areas of HD 42, particularly for many residents of Poinciana, where there’s been long-running and highly contentious legal and public fights between homeowners and an umbrella group governing homeowners associations there.

“I do believe it is a critical issue in this race and my opponent apparently does too, because suddenly he’s put out a flier saying he’s sponsoring a bill to ‘reign in HOAs,’ which is very contrary to his behavior the last three years,” Cady said.

Her opponent is three-term Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud. He agreed that HOA reform is an issue in the district, but refuted Cady’s charge that he’s new to it with his latest campaign mailer, which cites legislation to “rein in out-of-control homeowners associations.” That, he said, is a reference to his 2013 bill, which passed to reform home-owners association laws. And, he said, he also filed bills in 2014, and ’15 seeking additional reforms, although they did not pass.

Yet La Rosa downplays how critical the issue might be to this election. He argued that HD 42 residents, like most others in Florida, are first and foremost interested in statewide issues of jobs, education and opportunities for their children. And he said he thinks the Poinciana HOA situation has gotten better in recent years because he has not heard any serious complaints for a while.

“At the end of the day, jobs and education are still number one,” La Rosa said.

“I would hate for my opponent or anyone to try to take this one issue and highlight it to say, ‘This is what I am running on,’ and ignore everything else,” he added.

Cady, of Kissimmee, is running on a broader slate of issues too, albeit from the Democratic platform that defines them as higher-paying jobs and public education.

But yes, for her, the overriding issue, the one she expects to make a difference, is whether homeowners respond to a candidate crusading to reform HOA laws, promising to provide relief and protection from what she says many residents complain are predatory HOAs. That’s an especially common and deep-rooted complaint in Poinciana, where the issue has been heated for decades, she said.

This is actually what Cady does for a living: she is a licensed HOA manager.

“This is why this issue is important for this election: it’s not just Poinciana. Miami has the same issues. The entire state of Florida is being run by corporate developers that have pretty much had free-rein for an exorbitant amount of time,” Cady said. “So my feeling is we need to put time limits on it [developer’s control over HOAs.] And we need to tighten the statutes to protect the homeowners. That’s the way it should be. Right now it seems like it is protecting developers.”

Founded in the 1970s, Poinciana stretches a good 15 miles through southwest Osceola and east Polk counties. It is becoming a heavily Hispanic community, populated by a large influx of Puerto Ricans. Population estimates run between 53,000 and 83,000, depending on how the unincorporated community is defined.

HD 42 sprawls across most of Osceola County [not including most of Kissimmee and Celebration], plus a good chunk of eastern Polk County, covering more than a thousand square miles. HD 42 represents four of Poinciana’s nine villages. The others are in House Districts 41 and 43.

Cady said she frequently hears horror stories of battles between residents and the Association of Poinciana Villages, the umbrella group over Pinciana’s nine village HOA’s. She said those stories focus on what residents say are unfair fees, fines, liens, and foreclosures, and of residents being shut out of HOA decision-making.

Similar allegations against the Association of Poinciana Villages and the developer, now AV Homes, are charged in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Friends of Poinciana Villages, an organization formed to represent a group of frustrated homeowners. That suit also alleges fraud, election violations, and breach of a 1985 contract that the Friends organization argues required the company to relinquish control a long time ago. The company denied all the allegations in its responses, and also argued that the company and the homeowners association are wholly independent of each other, so that the company cannot be blamed if anyone thinks the HOA is not acting properly. The suit still is being litigated in Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit, in Polk County.

Two Democratic lawmakers who represent all or parts of Poinciana, state Sen. Victor Torres and state Rep. John Cortes, who represents House District 43, also have been active in the issue. They both have introduced bills seeking HOA law reforms that would impact Poinciana. In particular, the bills would set up an arbitration process for disputes between homeowners and HOAs. But the bills died quick deaths. Cady pledged to join their effort.

“The issue that we have is the homeowners are very frustrated that they don’t have control,” Cady said.

The HD 42 election contest should be no cakewalk for anyone.

La Rosa has the advantages of incumbency, name recognition, and presumably popularity in a district he’s represented for six years. He’s also got a mountain of money, raising nearly $300,000 for his re-election, through the Oct. 19 reports. He has spent it generously, more than $225,000 to date, about half of that just in the past month. La Rosa has put up television, radio, and digital advertising, and sent out numerous mailers. Cady, by contrast, had raised about $58,000 and spent all but $5,000 of that through the most recent campaign finance reports, through Oct. 19. Her money has mostly gone toward digital advertising and mailers.

Cady has the advantage of the voter-base makeup. The district has been trending blue for a while in voter registration, and in the book-closing for the Nov. 6 election, Democrats have 37 percent of the electorate, Republicans just 31 percent.

“Here’s the issue I have with La Rosa: He is nowhere to be found, and people are very frustrated with that,” Cady charged. “When I ran against him in the beginning he didn’t take me seriously. And now that the numbers are looking a little more favorable for Democrats, he has stepped up his game, and he just put out this flier that says he has fought for legislation that would rein in HOAs, and that he is there for Poinciana, and he has been there for Poinciana.

“Those,” she alleged, “are just flat-out lies.”

La Rosa strongly disputes that. A key part of the issue, said La Rosa, whose background is in real estate, is that Poinciana’s HOA is probably one of the most complex in the state, maybe in the nation.

But he added, “The truth of the matter is, at the end of the day, HOAs are contractual relationships in which someone knowingly purchases, knows what the structure is, and has to sign the disclosures, and so forth.

“And when I talk to folks of what the problem is, I think 90 percent of the time it comes down to, OK, get involved, and vote in new board members,” La Rosa said.

Jimmy Patronis Spanish-TV ad focuses on service

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is launching the first Spanish-TV commercial of his Republican bid to be elected next week, with a simple introductory message focusing on public service.

Patronis, battling Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring for the post Patronis was appointed to in 2017, uses simple images of him talking to people, meeting with firefighters and police, and being with his family, as a narrator introduces him.

“A family man, a great public servant dedicated to Florida,” the narrator says in Spanish. “Patronis has dedicated leadership in protecting the state finances. He has demostrated compassion helping our firemen and police who suffered trauma. Paronis is dedicated to serve.”

The 30-second spot “Servidor” (“Servant”) is being released Tuesday.

Marsy’s Law launches another round of victims’ rights ads for Amendment 6

The group pushing to have crime victims’ rights detailed in the Florida Constitution through the Amendment 6 proposal is launching another round of four TV commercials featuring stories of crime victims and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle of Miami-Dade County.

In one of the commercials, Laura DeHarde, an abuse victim from Coral Springs, explains how isolated she felt at the trial of her alleged abuser. “I was not notified of the court hearings. I was not notified of all the plea deals that they were trying to set up. Every victim should know that they have these rights up-front,” DeHarde says.

The quartet of 30-second TV ads are among about a dozen that Marsy’s Law for Florida has aired this fall pushing Amendment 6, which would detail a list of crime victims’ rights in the Florida Constitution. The group, which put up $30 million for its Florida campaign,  was created by a national group pursuing “Marsy’s Law” victims rights laws much like those adopted in California and other states. The effort is pushed for by the family of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student murdered in 1983.

Opponents of Amendment 6, including the Florida Public Defenders Association and the League of Women Voters, argue that much of what is portrayed in the Marsy’s Law ads already is on the books as law in Florida, including in the Constitution, and that the amendment would go too far, actually, eroding time-honored suspects’ rights’ traditions.

Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit, disagrees with the opponents in the commercial she made for Marsy’s Law for Florida.

“Amendment 6 is an opportunity for every Floridian to stand up, to speak up, to say, ‘Victims have rights. They should be protected. They should be in our Constitution, and we should be on equal footing with those that victimize,'” she says in her commercial.

The other two new commercials feature the stories of Aleta Jarrett of Tallahassee, whose father and brother were murdered; and Jo-Lee Manning of St. Augustine, whose daughter was murdered. “I felt like I had to be my own advocate,” Manning says of her experience in seeking justice for her daughter Haley Smith.

The Amendment 6 proposal was created by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, which bundled the Marsy’s Law provisions with two other proposed changes of law in Florida unrelated to victims’ rights.

If approved by at least 60 percent of the voters in the Nov. 6 election, Amendment 6 also would raise the mandatory retirement age of Florida judges, including Supreme Court justices, to 75, from 70; and it would revise how courts are permitted to interpret Florida law, forbidding judges from deferring to state agencies’ own interpretations as the default legal interpretation.

Grandma rips Bill Nelson as ‘more and more confused’ in New Republican PAC ad

New Republican Political Action Committee is launching its latest attack ad charging that Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is getting confused and does nothing but raise taxes and cut Medicare, this time with those words coming out of the mouth of a grandmother during a three-generation breakfast.

The 30-second spot “Generations” launches today in a statewide TV campaign from the independent super PAC that Gov. Rick Scott set up to support his Republican bid for Nelson’s Senate seat.

As a trio of women, apparently a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter sit in a diner, the mother observers that Nelson has been running for office as long as she has been alive.

“And the things he’s been saying lately? Poor man seems more and more confused,” Grandma tells her daughter and granddaughter, hitting as hard as any of the New Republican commercials yet on the still-not-explicitly stated open suggestion that Nelson, 76, is losing his mental competence.

Grandma’s not done.

“He’s cut my Medicare and raised taxes,” Grandma asserts, as daughter and granddaughter look shocked. So Grandma adds the theme of the New Republican PAC campaign: “Bill Nelson has been in Washington way too long. It’s time we bring him home.

Grandma’s assertions have been cited in almost every New Republican PAC ad as well. Nelson’s campaign has responded by pointing out that he did not cut Medicare benefits; the cuts Grandma refers to were in Medicare reimbursement rates to hospitals, which were part of the 2009 Affordable Health Care Act bill that brought about ObamaCare. They did not reduce benefits. Nelson’s campaign also insists the tax raise claims are exaggerated.

Hispanic Leadership Fund launching ads supporting Rick Scott

The Hispanic Leadership Fund is launching two radio and digital advertisements — one in English and one in Spanish — in support of Gov. Rick Scott‘s Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

The ads declare that Scott understands how hard Hispanics work and that is why he has been working so hard to support them. It extolls Scott’s jobs creation record in Florida — more than 1.5 million new jobs in eight years — and dismisses his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, as an “out-of-touch career Washington politician.” It does not name Nelson.

Hispanic Leadership Fund was founded in 2008 as a “center-right non-partisan national Latino advocacy organization governed exclusively by Latino political and public policy professionals,” according to its website. It is placing the ads on multiple platforms throughout the state. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, the organization has received the bulk of its money from the LIBRE Initiative Trust, an organization affiliated with Americans for Prosperity.

“Hispanic constituents and voters deserve to know who is implanting policies that help our communities grow and which candidate is providing opportunities for families to achieve the American Dream,” HLF President Mario H. Lopez stated in a news release. “There is no question that the jobs Rick Scott has helped create as Governor in Florida have been a benefit to Hispanics and to all communities in Florida.”

The English ad declares, “As a successful businessman, Rick Scott knows how to create jobs better than out-of-touch career politicians. Those jobs help us care for our families, buy a house, start a business, pay for health care, or get a college degree.” The Spanish ad says the same.

“Thank him for helping Hispanics achieve the American Dream,” it concludes.

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