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DLCC designates SD 40 as ‘Spotlight Race,’ commits $150K to help Annette Taddeo

Annette Taddeo is officially in the spotlight.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced Thursday it had named the Senate District 40 race as a “Spotlight Race.” Jessica Post, the committee’s executive director, also announced the DLCC has committed $150,000 to Democrats’ efforts to carry the district in the September.

Taddeo will face Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Sept. 26 special election to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April amid scandal, in Senate District 40. Taddeo defeated Ana Rivas Logan in the July 25 special primary, 71 percent to 29 percent.

“The Spotlight Races platform will highlight Annette to the national progressive community and help future supporters get to know her and her campaign,” said Post in a statement. “We will employ DLCC programs and lessons learned from our previous wins this year to ensure Annette’s campaign has a winning strategy in place, access to the best data, and an expansive field plan. DLCC is proud to stand with this community leader as she fights to protect Democratic values at the state level.”

Post said a Taddeo victory in September will bring Democrats “one step closer to taking back the chamber in 2018.”

Democrats see the Senate District 40 seat as a potential pick-up, but could face a tough road ahead. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has committed its full support to Diaz, and the Republican State Leadership Committee has committed $100,000 to the race.

Email insights: Congressional Leadership Fund targets Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26

The Congressional Leadership Fund has wasted no time in lobbing its first attack after Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who announced this week she would challenge Republican Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

The super PAC, which has the backing of the entire House Republican leadership, sent an email Wednesday saying Mucarsel-Powell is “slowly becoming a perennial candidate.”

“Despite having a war chest and strong establishment support throughout her campaign last year, including that of President Obama, South Florida strongly rejected her,” reads an email from Courtney Alexander, the press secretary for the Congressional Leadership Fund. “Mucarsel-Powell lost in a district where Hillary Clinton won by a whopping 10 points.”

Mucarsel-Powell ran against Republican Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016 in the newly drawn Senate District 39, which stretches from Miami to Key West. She was endorsed by then-President Barack Obama, and had the backing of other top Democrats. It wasn’t enough to get her to Tallahassee, though. Flores defeated Mucarsel-Powell, 54 percent to 46 percent.

The Congressional Leadership Fund email goes on to call Mucarsel-Powell a “soldier of the so-called extreme and at times violent ‘Resistance’ movement.” It also says she is the “handpicked candidate of Nancy Pelosi’s DCCC.”

“This makes sense, much like the DCCC, Mucarsel-Powell has no message, no strategy and no real reason to run – except to complain,” reads the email. “Not to be a Debbie downer, but voters rejected her and her campaign last year – and they’ll do it again in 2018.”

Curbelo, a second-term congressman, defeated former Rep. Joe Garcia 53 percent to 41 percent in 2016. However, his seat has been viewed as a possible Democratic pick-up in 2018.

Personnel note: Chester Spellman tapped to lead AmeriCorps

Chester Spellman, the long-time chief executive officer of Volunteer Florida, has appointed by the White House to serve as the director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“I believe there is no greater calling than the calling to serve,” said Spellman. “I am deeply honored to be appointed by the White House and thrilled for the opportunity to lead AmeriCorps at the national level. National and community service changes lives every day, and I look forward to working with the team at the Corporation for National and Community Service to strengthen communities across the U.S.”

Gov. Rick Scott named Spellman the head of Volunteer Florida in April 2012. Since then, he has overseen more than $32 million annually in federal, state and local funds supporting AmeriCorps and statewide volunteer programs to meet critical needs in Florida communities.

Spellman also led statewide coordination of volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters in partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Prior to joining Volunteer Florida, Spellman worked for Scott as the director of appointments in the Executive Office of the Governor. He also has more than 15 years of experience working in nonprofits, including several faith-based organizations.

“Florida is proud to be the home of many great volunteers who dedicate their time to helping others,” said Scott. “I appreciate Chester’s leadership at Volunteer Florida and wish him the best of luck as he continues to build on his commitment to serving families and communities.”

His last at Volunteer Florida is Aug. 25.

Ethics group wants Debbie Wasserman Schultz investigated over IT staffer

A right-leaning watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz because she continued to employ an IT staffer after he became the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust on Monday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation into “Wasserman Schultz’s apparent breach of House Ethics Rules.” According to the conservative ethics organization, Wasserman Schultz violated ethics rules by continuing to employ Imran Awan even after he was blocked from using the House IT system.

“There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems and a number of her colleagues severed ties with Awan,” said Matthew Whitaker, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan last week after he was arrested on one count of bank fraud while attempting to leave the United States for Pakistan, POLITICO reported. Awan and several family members, who also previously served as House staffers, have been at the center of a months-long House investigation.

The complaint says that since Awan was barred from accessing House computer system, he would have been prevented from “performing any reasonable IT work.”

“It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics rules,” wrote Whitaker in the complaint. “After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting — a position that he could not reasonably perform.”

David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, told POLITICO, the complaint was baseless and meant to undermine Wasserman Schultz.

 

Gas Pumps

Pam Bondi activates price gouging hotline ahead of Tropical Storm Emily

Attorney General Pam Bondi activated the state’s price gouging hotline, after Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 31 counties in preparation for Tropical Storm Emily.

State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities — like food, water, hotels, gasoline and equipment — that is needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency.

People who suspect price gouging during the declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.

Scott declared a state of emergency, which gives the state flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have the resources they need, on Monday morning. The declaration came as Tropical Storm Emily made landfall at Anna Maria Island, just west of Bradenton, around 11:10 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to high winds, and a flood watch is in effect for much of the Tampa area. The storm is expected to cross the state in the coming hours.

The emergency declaration covers all of the counties in the central and southern regions of the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Insurers say they’re ready for Tropical Storm Emily

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) “stands ready to help with any insurance related questions as the Tropical Storm Emily begins to make impact along the coast,” the group said in a Monday press release.

PCI and other industry groups work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, assisting Florida homeowners and business owners before and after any disaster.

“With Tropical Storm Emily recently forming off the coast of Tampa, PCI encourages Floridians to get prepared for a system that could bring potential flooding and property damage,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI Florida regional manager.

“Proper precautionary measures should include making sure you have your agent or insurance company’s information readily available,” she said. “We also encourage policyholders to take an inventory of your home or business, documenting your items with your smart phone. Should your home, business or automobile be damaged, be sure to call your insurer immediately.”

“PCI warns Floridians to be wary of any contractors that come by their home or business saying they can help with any damage ahead of you calling your insurer,” McFaddin continued. “While it may seem like they are trying to help you during your time of need, the unfortunate reality is that there are some out there that are looking to game the system and make a few bucks. Call and make a claim with your insurer before any work is performed.”

Here’s a list of hurricane precautions offered by the organization:

— Review your property insurance policy, especially the “declarations” page, and check whether your policy pays replacement costs, or actual cash value for a covered loss.

— Inventory your household items, and photograph or videotape them for further documentation. Keep this information and your insurance policies in a safe place.

— Keep the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer and agent in a safe and easily accessible place.

— Protect your property by covering all windows with plywood or shutters, moving vehicles into the garage when possible and placing grills and patio furniture indoors.

— Keep all receipts for any repairs so your insurance company can reimburse you.

— Check with your insurance adjuster for referrals to professional restoration, cleaning and salvage companies if additional assistance is needed.

— Make sure watercraft are stored in a secure area, like a garage or covered boat dock. A typical homeowners policy will cover property damage in limited instances for small watercraft, and separate boat policies will provide broader, more extensive property and liability protection for larger, faster boats, yachts, jet skis and wave runners.

Moreover, flood damage is not covered by a standard homeowners policy, and there is a 30-day waiting period before flood coverage goes into effect.  Check with your insurer to see if you have flood insurance, since flood damage is not covered by the standard homeowners policy.

For still more information:

— PCI Hurricane Headquarters: PCI’s Hurricane Headquarters page

— PCI Online Magazine: http://bit.ly/HurricanePrep2017

— PCI 2017 Have A Plan Insurance Checklist: http://bit.ly/HurricaneChecklist17

— PCI 2017 Hurricane Fact Sheet: http://bit.ly/HurricaneFacts17

Rick Scott declares emergency over tropical storm

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in 31 Florida counties in response to Tropical Storm Emily.

“A state of emergency gives the state the flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have all the resources they may need,” a press release from the Governor’s Office said.

“Tropical storm warnings are currently in effect for Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee Counties,” it added. “At this time, there are no evacuation orders in effect. The Florida National Guard stands ready to assist with any storm related impacts.”

“Earlier this morning, Tropical Depression Six was upgraded to Tropical Storm Emily and tropical storm warnings are currently in effect along Florida’s west coast,” Scott said in a statement.

“Upon learning of this tropical system from the National Hurricane Center, the State of Florida immediately engaged to prepare for any potential storm impacts,” he said. “… While this storm developed quickly overnight and will swiftly move across our state, storms can always develop rapidly and that is why is it so important to be prepared at the start of hurricane season.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to visit FLGetAPlan.com for preparation resources.

“We will keep monitoring and issuing updates on Tropical Storm Emily as it moves across Florida today,” the governor added.

Charlie Crist to travel to Israel as part of congressional delegation

Rep. Charlie Crist is headed to Israel.

Crist is part of a congressional delegation traveling to Israel from Aug. 1 through Aug. 9, his office said Friday. Crist and other members of the House are expected to get a firsthand look at the regional challenges and learn more about the nation’s strategic relationship with Israel during the trip.

The weeklong trip is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC. The foundation, according to Crist’s office, works to inform the public about Israel, the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and other issues impacting the Middle East.

Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, and other House members are expected to have a schedule filled with meetings with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including government officials, Knesset members, military leaders, defense experts, journalists and entrepreneurs.

The delegation is also expected to visit several key strategic sites, including defense and technology projects; the Gaza, Syrian, and Lebanon borders; the Golan Heights; Jewish, Christian and Islamic Holy sites; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

Civil-rights attorney Ben Crump to form own law firm

Ben Crump is breaking up the band.

Crump, a civil-rights attorney who has represented the families of Martin Lee Anderson and Trayvon Martin, Wednesday announced he’s leaving longtime friend and law partner Daryl Parks and teaming up with Orlando mega-lawyer John Morgan to open “Ben Crump Law.”

The new firm “will focus on civil rights, employment law, personal injury, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, as well as mass torts and class actions,” a press release said. Sachs Media Group will continue to handle Crump’s PR efforts.

“Ben Crump Law has established an affiliation with the Morgan & Morgan law firm to create linkages with some of the top lawyers in the country, allowing the firm to handle cases anywhere in the country as part of the Ben Crump Law network,” the release added.

“We are at a pivotal time in American history, when the hunger for social justice is spurring a renewal in our civil rights movement,” Crump said in a statement. “Tapping into a nationwide team of talent gives us the scale to help individuals across the country and the ability to bring class actions and mass tort cases that can spur the progress toward real change.”

His new offices will be in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Tallahassee.

“Crump speaks truth to power and gives hope to the hopeless,” Morgan said. “He is today’s seminal civil rights lawyer. The go-to guy. A modern-day Johnny Cochran.”

The firm also released a short video biography of Crump on YouTube:

Chris King to phone bank for Annette Taddeo this week

Chris King is lending a hand to Annette Taddeo.

King, an Orlando businessman and Democratic candidate for governor, will attend a phone bank Thursday for Taddeo, who on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in Senate District 40.

“I’m excited to congratulate Annette Taddeo on her primary victory and endorse her for State Senate,” he said in a statement Wednesday morning. “I look forward to joining her and her supporters for a general election kick-off phone bank on Thursday. In this tumultuous political time, it’s important that Democrats from around the state come together to support each other. I wish Annette the best of luck in the September general election.”

Taddeo handily defeated Ana Rivas Logan in the Senate District 40 Democratic primary. According to results posted to the Division of Elections website, Taddeo received nearly 71 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent for Rivas Logan.

“I’m so grateful to have Chris’s support and thrilled to be calling voters together on Thursday,” said Taddeo. “Chris has brought refreshing leadership and a hopeful, new energy to the party. And it’s great to see a candidate for governor who’s willing to work with progressive candidates up and down the ballot to get the job done.”

Taddeo will face Jose Felix Diaz in the Sept. 26 general election. Diaz defeated former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, winning nearly 58 percent of the vote. Diaz de la Portilla received about 25 percent of the vote, while Lorenzo Palomares brought in 16 percent.

The Senate District 40 seat is seen as a potential Democratic pick-up, and the general election is expected to be a hotly contested and expensive race.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to elect Republicans, has already pledged to throw its full support behind Diaz

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