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Staff Reports

FMEA: North Florida public power customers fully restored

Less than two weeks after the nearly Category 5 Hurricane Michael, power has been “fully restored to all public power customers who can accept power,” according to the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) on Tuesday.

At peak, more than 400,000 customers in the region were without power, with nearly 122,000 of them from five Florida public power communities: Tallahassee, Havana, Quincy, Chattahoochee and Blountstown.

Tallahassee had more than 113,000, or 95 percent, of its customers out and lost nearly 60 percent of its transmission. Havana, Quincy, Chattahoochee and Blountstown were left 100 percent in the dark.

Crews from these communities, working alongside mutual aid crews from all over the state and other states, immediately began the process of restoring power as soon as it was safe, the FMEA said.

“For the third Atlantic hurricane season in a row, FMEA activated the American Public Power Association mutual aid network and put out a long-range call for mutual aid assistance several days before the storm made landfall,” it said.

“More than 600 power restoration personnel from 16 states and more than 80 utilities came to help restore power and rebuild the electric grid in the affected communities.”

“Thousands of peoples’ lives were forever changed Oct. 10 and it will take some time to fully rebuild the communities that bore the full brunt of Michael’s force,” FMEA Executive Director Amy Zubaly said.

“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone that reached out to help us and our neighbors, especially to all the lineworkers who suffered through some difficult situations to come to our aid and help restore power to our communities. Words cannot describe how incredibly grateful we are.”

The FMEA represents the “interests of 34 public power communities across the state, which provide electricity to more than 3 million of Florida’s residential and business consumers,” its website says.

Jimmy Patronis: Banks need to give a break to hurricane victims

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis urged financial institutions on Tuesday to waive late fees and charges for using ATMs in the Hurricane Michael impact zone, among other forms of disaster assistance.

“It is absolutely essential that financial institutions support those impacted by Hurricane Michael by waiving fees and penalties to aid the victims,” Patronis said in a written statement.

“Many financial institutions have already announced they are taking these steps to help families in the Panhandle, and I encourage all banks and credit unions to follow suit and help these communities recover.”

Areas suggested for leniency include late fees for credit cards, auto and personal loans, credit lines, and insufficient balances.

Patronis also suggested banks and financial institutions find other ways to assist customers with the recovery or limit financial hardship during the next 90 days.

Additionally, Patronis wants reports from all banks and credit unions about what they’re doing along these lines.

Delegation for 10.23.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Republican retirements pave way for Democrats

Among the reasons Democrats are in a position to flip the majority in the House is a large number of GOP retirements. With 26 Republicans retiring, open seats are much easier to grab than established incumbents.

The number of retirees marks the second-largest among the GOP in modern history, second only to the 27 who left in 2008. That year, Democrats gained 21 seats in the House, 8 in the Senate, and elected Sen. Barack Obama as President.

Paul Ryan is leading the GOP in retirements, giving hope to Democrats.

That does not include 14 other Republicans who are leaving to run for higher office. With 40 open GOP seats, Democrats need to flip 23 seats to take control of the House.

Why are so many Republicans retiring or otherwise leaving the House? Part of the blame comes from a self-imposed limit of 6 years that GOP members can serve as committee chairs. Many would rather move on after turning over the gavel instead of becoming a regular member.

House Speaker Paul Ryan leads GOP retirees that also include nine committee chairs and a few subcommittee chairs. The retirements include the chairmen heading the committees on policy, foreign affairs, administration, appropriations, transportation, oversight, and government reform, financial services, science and space, and judiciary.

Retiring Rep. Tom Rooney of Okeechobee served as chairman of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee. While Rooney’s district is safe, the districts of the already departed Rep. Ron DeSantis and retiring Rep. Dennis Ross, a deputy majority whip, are competitive according to recent polling.

Many Republicans question their party’s strategy of imposing term limits on their committee leaders, pointing to the current situation that could cost them the majority. Leadership responds that Democrats allow their committee leaders to hold the gavel indefinitely, thereby choking opportunities for younger members to move up.

Along with the political realities, large numbers of retiring members represent what some describe as a “brain drain.” So be it, according to Republicans supporting the practice.

“You can certainly make the argument about keeping people around longer, about the value of institutional knowledge,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said last year. “But the reality is, for most of our members, they’re willing to run those kinds of risks in order to have the potential for upward mobility.”

With the predicted, but not certain, loss of the majority, do they still feel that way this year?

Republicans supporting the temporary status of committee chairs could also point to Florida state government. Term limits have been in place for years with several open seats, including departing committee chairs, occurring every cycle.

Yet, the two-decade dominance has remained and is likely to continue next month.

If Republicans defy the odds, the polls, and money disadvantages to hold the majority, their leadership will claim vindication. If Democrats gain control, Republicans will not be heading any committee.

Rubio: Khashoggi murder response ‘disrespectful’

The killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi has brought strong criticism from around the world and both sides of the political aisle in the U.S. Among those blasting the Saudis accused of the killing as well as the government’s shifting responses is Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio was among those demanding answers soon after Khashoggi’s disappearance. Now that the government has admitted to Khashoggi’s death, Rubio is calling the claim that it came after a fight in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul “disrespectful” to President Donald Trump and allies in Congress.

Marco Rubio calls the Saudi explanation for killing columnist Jamal Khashoggi ‘disrespectful.’

“The #Khashoggi Murder was immoral,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “But it was also disrepectful (sic) to Trump & those of us who have supported the strategic alliance with the Saudi’s. Not only did they kill this man, they have left [Trump] & their congressional allies a terrible predicament & given Iran a free gift,” he continued.

Rubio has called for Saudi Arabia to face sanctions if their government, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is found to have authorized Khashoggi’s murder.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham took it even further, saying he feels “completely betrayed,” by the Saudis.

Trump has previously called Saudi explanations “credible” and characterized the arrests of 18 people by Saudi authorities as “a good first step.” But on Saturday, Trump acknowledged inconsistencies in the government’s statements.

Rubio, South Florida Republicans seek additional tariff exemptions

Florida’s junior Senator and three South Florida Republicans are urging expedited exemptions from steel and aluminum tariffs for American allies and partners, especially one of the closest South American allies of the U.S. Rubio, and Reps. Carlos CurbeloMario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking them to hasten negotiations for additional tariff relief.

Marco Rubio joins several South Florida Republicans in a letter commerce secretary Wilbur Ross to consider tariff exemptions.

According to the lawmakers, the goal is to isolate the People’s Republican of China (PRC), whom they describe as a “bad actor,” and not harm those who share the U.S. view on trade.

“We appreciate your successful efforts to negotiate steel and aluminum quotas for imports from Brazil and Argentina,” they wrote. “Therefore, we respectfully request that you expedite negotiations of additional exemption agreements with our allies and partners, both in South America and around the world, to isolate the PRC and other bad actors to fully address this global problem.”

They make the case that quick action on Colombia is warranted.

“Negotiations with Colombia should be a priority,” they continued. “Under outgoing President (Juan Manuel) Santos, Colombia pledged to cooperate on addressing a variety of deficiencies in the treatment of certain U.S. industries to strengthen the U.S.-Colombia relationship. It is essential that our government continue to work with President Iván Duque and his administration to ensure Colombian commitments are upheld.”

Four new polls have different results in Nelson/Scott race

With two weeks to go until Election Day, few are certain where the race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott currently stands. Four recent polls offer little clarity.

Going into the weekend, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls had the race in a tie. A new survey by SEA Polling & Strategic Design showed Scott with a two-point lead, while a poll for CNN by SSRS gave Nelson a 50-45 advantage.

In the Bill Nelson, Rick Scott race for U.S. Senate, polls are all over the map.

A third poll by Quinnipiac University, released on Monday, gives Nelson a 52-46 margin, “built on his large margin among independent voters,” according to Peter Brown, assistant director of the poll. The survey included 29 percent of independents, nearly equaling Republican and Democratic respondents.

St. Pete Polls also released their new survey on Monday, which gives Scott a statistically-insignificant margin of less than one point. A takeaway from this poll is Scott’s slight advantage among Hispanic voters, while Quinnipiac shows Nelson with a 20-point lead among this group of voters.

The RCP average on Monday, which does not include the SEA poll, gives Nelson a 2.4-point lead.

Gaetz, Deutch talk Trump, ‘mobs’

Two of Florida’s four members of the House Judiciary Committee joined CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday to discuss the volatile issues of the day, plus the governor’s race. Republican Matt Gaetz from Fort Walton Beach joined Ted Deutch of Boca Raton in a roundtable discussion that also included Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

While the exchange was civil, Deutch called out Gaetz for a “conspiracy theory” involving a video he released — and Trump retweeted — claiming the migrant caravan approaching the United States received cash as they were leaving Honduras. Gaetz corrected himself and said the payouts were taking place in Guatemala.

Matt Gaetz and Ted Deutch debate over the ‘conspiracy theory’ of the migrant caravan approaching the U.S.

Deutch blasted Trump for “talking tough” against “asylum-seekers” and “when he’s ripping kids away from their parents,” referring to the now suspended “zero tolerance” policy at the border. He also said Trump is “not tough standing up to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki” and is “weak when he talks about how much he loves Kim Jong Un.”

When the subject turned to “mobs,” Tapper played the video of an incident involving House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Miami (see below). After Bondi told her personal story of being confronted by a group of angry individuals, Deutch and Gaetz disagreed on what constituted a mob.

Deutch described the confrontations, including those protesting Kavanaugh, as “not a mob, it’s a movement.” After Gaetz questioned whether the protesters were moderate, Deutch repeated they constituted a “movement.”

One of the final exchanges included Deutch blasting DeSantis, who Deutch said spoke at an event that included speakers who want to see people get hurt. Gaetz brought up a report of an LGBTQ activist recently being attacked at a rally for Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

Dunn dealing with Michael aftermath

Republican Rep. Neal Dunn has been busy on behalf of his district, much of which was devastated by Hurricane Michael. In addition to working with Scott on behalf of District 2, he brought a prominent member of House leadership to the Panhandle.

“My good friend Majority Whip Steve Scalise came down to Port St. Joe to hear from local leaders and survey damage,” Dunn said in a weekly online newsletter. “We helped serve hot meals to hardworking folks in the area courtesy of Drago’s Seafood. Drago’s is a Louisiana-based restaurant that traveled down to Gulf County to provide 1,000 meals to victims of Hurricane Michael. Thank you to all who have donated time and efforts to helping out those who need it most.”

Steve Scalise joins Neal Dunn to inspect Hurricane Michael damage in Port St. Joe.

As he interacts with those affected and seeks state and federal assistance for his constituents, Dunn is also running for re-election. Television ads have begun airing from Tallahassee to Panama City.

He also picked up the support of Trump, not surprisingly delivered via Twitter.

“Congressman Neal Dunn (@DunnCampaignof Florida has done an outstanding job at everything having to do with #MAGA,” Trump said. “Now working hard on hurricane relief and rebuild. Strong on Crime, strong on Borders, loves our Military and our Vets. Neal has my highest Endorsement!”

Dunn is facing Bob Rackleff, a former Leon County Commissioner and former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter.

Miller boosted by GOP leadership

Scalise made another stop in Florida, visiting Central Florida on Friday stumping for what he hopes will be a future member of Congress. He was in the area on behalf of state Rep. Mike Miller, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy for the District 7 seat in the House.

“I love this guy. I want to serve in Congress with this guy, but this is a winnable race. You all know this. That’s why you’re out,” Scalise said told the rally. “This race is tightening up to where we can win this race; Mike can win this race and serve in Congress.”

Mike Miller is getting some help from GOP colleagues.

Scalise is traveling around the country campaigning for challengers and incumbents as his party tries to retain the majority in Congress. He is also potentially collecting future IOUs.

The veteran lawmaker from Louisiana is said to be a candidate to succeed Ryan as Speaker of the House should the GOP hold onto the majority. During his appearance for Miller, Scalise pushed hard for Republican economic policies, including last year’s tax cuts.

Scalise, who was the victim of an assignation attempt last year, argued that since the economy is doing as well as it is, it is a critical time to elect Republicans like Miller. while Democrats like Stephanie Murphy need to be ousted.

“What’s at stake is a whole lot about how we are going to keep our country moving forward, or are we going to go back to the days of when Nancy Pelosi was speaker,” Scalise said. “Go back especially to the period of 2008-2010, in that two-year period they wrecked our economy with higher taxes, higher regulation, things like Dodd-Frank,” referring to the legislation passed to address the 2008 financial meltdown.

Miller said Scalise gave him some good advice.

“He told me, you’ve got to remind voters, Stephanie Murphy voted against that stuff,” Miller told the gathering of about 100 people. “She voted against the tax cuts that led to this economic recovery.

“She wants to bring us back to where we were eight years ago, when we had one percent growth,” he continued. “Now there are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs that can’t be filled. Think about that, we have full employment.”

At the moment, Miller is trailing Murphy in the polls and campaign cash. The district was previously a reliable GOP area, but that changed in 2016 when Murphy upset 12-term Republican John Mica.

Feds follow Crist’s lead on Marlin Financial

The House Financial Services Committee is reviewing allegations against Marlin Financial that the company uses unfair and deceptive business practices that cost its customers money.

The decision, penned in a letter to Congress last week, is in response to U.S. Representative Charlie Crist who called for an investigation late last month.

At Charlie Crist’s insistence, the federal government is now launching an investigation of Marlin Financial.

Marlin Financial is a Florida-based business with offices in Tampa, Orlando and Miami. At issue are the company’s auto loans, which several complainants in lawsuits claim include a debt cancellation product the company claims is optional, but that stops the loan process dead in its tracks if customers decline it.

Choosing the debt cancellation option balloons customer’s interest rates to, in many cases, exceed state laws regulating how much interest companies can charge. The result has been several customers having their cars repossessed after defaulting on payments because the premiums were suddenly too high to afford.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to go after bad actors like Marlin Financial. As CFPB reviews and verifies their deceptive practices, I encourage any Floridians who have been abused by this company to make their voices heard,” Crist said. “Let this be a flashing red warning sign to all who would take advantage of the people. Your days of financial abuse are numbered.”

Victims of alleged abuses can file claims against Marlin Financial with the CFPB.

The letter to Crist calls the claims from local Marlin customers “troubling.” The Bureau explained they cannot confirm investigations, but said it takes the allegations seriously.

Also, at issue in the Marlin complaints are the company’s failure to allow customers whose vehicles have been repossessed access to the car to retrieve personal items, which is required under Florida law.

“Marlin Financial has engaged in unscrupulous business practices including requiring the purchase of unnecessary debt cancellation insurance, charging consumers usurious interest rates, seizing consumers’ personal items within repossessed vehicles, and failing to respond to customer complaints,” Crist wrote in his September 25 letter to the CFPB.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is already investigating the allegations.

Castor announces climate change coalition

The University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design’s Florida Center for Community Design and Research (FCCDR) is teaming up with the community to draft plans to deal with climate-related impacts to Florida such as red tide and hurricanes. Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa worked with each to develop the collaboration.

Kathy Castor has announced plans for a climate change coalition with the University of South Florida.

“Hurricane Michael has shown us with its devastation to Mexico Beach, Panama City and other areas that — no matter how large or small — our communities are not immune to the effects of climate change and the extreme weather events these global changes bring,” Castor said.

Castor met with both FCCDR and USF to inspire the collaboration. She also recently met with community stakeholders and scientists from throughout the state to discuss how climate change was affecting red tide and what they could do to address it.

“As I continue my push in the U.S. Congress for legislation dedicated to reducing carbon pollution and building more resilient communities, we must also work together in our local communities to overcome fragmented approaches to climate change and create a more resilient economic and environmental foundation to mitigate and adapt to this global issue,” she added.

Castor is the Vice Ranking Member of the House of Energy and Commerce Committee which has oversight responsibilities for environmental policies and has also championed the cause environmental issues.

Surprise brewing in CD 15?

Sometimes late in a campaign, a race that no one saw as a race comes out of nowhere. Is the campaign for the vacant District 15 seat one of those?

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano is favored to win the seat being vacated by Ross, but Democrat Kristen Carlson has significantly outraised Spano throughout the campaign. Now, a New York Times poll shows the race in a 43-43 tie.

Carlson Spano
Is a surprise brewing in the CD 15 race?

The pollster admitted the survey sample was small and that it was “only one poll” and the margin of error was plus or minus five points. Other polls have shown a tight race, but this was the second one to show it even.

On Monday, another poll surfaced from the district that is now on the national radar. Remington Research Group gave Spano a 6-point lead.

It is normally a solidly Republican district, which should give some comfort to the Spano campaign. Trump won the district by 16 points in 2016 and Mitt Romney had a 6-point advantage over Obama in 2012.

The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has the race as “leans Republican,” while FiveThirtyEight calls is a “tossup.”

Handicapper finds new opportunities for Democratic flips

A handful of delegation races are coming down to the wire with Democrats retaining at least some chance of flipping, while another could be moving away from them. The Tampa Bay Times has shifted races into the “vulnerable” category, highlighting the fundraising prowess and campaign efforts of women Democratic candidates.

In District 25, Republican incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart has moved into the “vulnerable” category after previously been tabbed as “potentially vulnerable” to the challenge of Mary Barzee Flores. The Times has moved the District 15 race between Spano and Carlson as “vulnerable” to a Democratic pickup.

Mario Diaz-Balart has now been moved into the ‘vulnerable’ category.

In District 6, Michael Waltz is now listed as “vulnerable” to the challenge of Nancy Soderberg.

A strong effort by Salazar has moved District 25 from “highly vulnerable” for a flip to “vulnerable.” Shalala remains a slight favorite.

Moving from “vulnerable to “potentially vulnerable” is the District 16 contest between Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democratic challenger David Shapiro.

GOP criticized for ‘angry mob’

Last week, Democrats and some Republicans criticized an “angry mob” of protesters that hounded House candidates Donna ShalalaDebbie Mucarsel-Powell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a campaign event in Miami. Shouts of “****ing Communist” followed the three as they closed a door behind them, followed by more vulgar taunts and pounding on the door.

After Trump began using the “Jobs Not Mobs” line against Democrats following the scenes during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, this was not helpful to their public appeals for civility. Following the event, Miami-Dade GOP Chairman Nelson Diaz apologized for how the protest got out of hand, but denied any linkage to the far right Proud Boys group, who were the lead agitators.

An ‘angry mob’ chants outside where Nancy Pelosi spoke at a get-out-the-vote event for Florida Democratic congressional candidates Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. (Image via Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

“I made a mistake and I apologize for it, but I have nothing to do with that group,” he said, adding that he only learned about the group’s existence a “few days” ago. “I am not a member of the Proud Boys group, nor do I support this group or their mission … I attended this protest because of my familial background and personal beliefs against those that support an oppressive Cuban government.”

Tensions rose when a rally on behalf of Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell was to include California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who said in 2016 Fidel Castro should be mourned following his death. Lee was disinvited when the candidates learned of her previous comments.

Some Republicans condemned the actions of the mob, including Scalise of Louisiana.

“I don’t agree with Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, but this is absolutely the wrong way to express those disagreements,” Scalise said. “If you want to stop her policies, don’t threaten her, VOTE! That’s how we settle our differences.”

Scalise was shot last year by a Democratic activist on a baseball field while practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game.

Retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whom Shalala seeks to replace in CD 27, was traveling in the Middle East on Foreign Affairs Committee business but did issue a statement through a spokesperson.

“(Ros-Lehtinen) does not believe that any individuals associated with hate or incitement to violence or bigotry have a place in civil political discourse,” the statement said. “Groups like the Proud Boys that also participated in the Nazi-sympathizing rally in Charlottesville do not contribute to the democratic and uniting values for which our country stands.”

Congressional Republicans dump shift $1 million into CD 27

Triage is a term best used in wartime when doctors are confronted with multiple patients and after medical assessments, determine who they can save. During the last few weeks of campaigns, a bit of political triage takes place when resources are shifted from hopeless campaigns to ones where extra attention might save the day.

Such a scenario has developed involving a Florida race. The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), has given up on Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and shifted $1 million from his race to Maria Elvira Salazar’s effort to pull an upset against Shalala in District 27.

Maria Elvira Salazar gets a $1M influx from the NRCC.

The NRCC is investing $1.5 million in broadcast and cable TV ads in the expensive Miami television market. The NRCC, along with the Republican National Committee and GOP-aligned PACS, has raised enormous sums during and following the confirmation of Kavanaugh.

Two recent polls show different results. A recent poll by Mason Dixon showed Salazar with a two-point lead, while a New York Times/Sienna poll released over the weekend puts Shalala on top by 7 points.

On this day in the headlines

October 23, 1962 — President John F. Kennedy ordered a U.S. “quarantine” blockade of Cuba last night, saying the Soviets are sending Fidel Castro offensive weapons able to rain nuclear destruction on the Americas. In a speech to the nation from the Oval Office Kennedy said, “Let no one doubt this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out … Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right …”

“The consensus of everyone was this had to be done,” said Florida Democratic Sen. George Smathers, who was part of a Senate leadership group meeting with Kennedy. “The principal consensus was there must be unity. The leaders — Republicans and Democrats — indicated they will join hands behind the president because he is the commander-in-chief.”

October 23, 2006 — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, whose political star is rising at dizzying speed, said he is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination and will decide after the midterms whether to enter the race. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Obama, who was elected to the Senate in 2004, said his commitment to serve out his full term is no longer valid.

“That is how I was thinking at the time and I don’t want to be coy about this,” Obama said. “Given the response I’ve been getting over the past several months, I have thought about the possibility. But I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required.

Meet Cynthia Brown, Democrat running for Florida House District 32

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running.

If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

 Significant other? Kids?

I have no significant other, and no two-legged children, but plenty of four-legged ones.

Education background?

Political Science Degree from University of FL.

Professional background?

Upon graduation, went to Washington, DC to work for Congressman Bill Young, a Florida Republican, from St. Petersburg. Served as his aide on Defense and NASA appropriation matters.

What was your first job?

Elevator operator at the Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL, when citrus was as far as the eye could see. Gave elevator speech to tourists.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

I am running to give back to the community that raised me. I have had a very successful career. My only purpose is to do good for the people of the 32nd district.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement?

I met with the Democratic Party of Lake County. After making a long list of the reasons to not run versus why to run, I can say that my above answer is the only one on the list for running. The negative list was very long. My nephew was a strong advocate for me running because he thought I was the only Democratic candidate that had a chance of winning this district.

Who do you count on for advice?

I know my district, and I have a good sense of what the people need and want. I also rely on my nephew, family, and friends for advice.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Deliver Strategies is my direct mail company.  I have multiple campaign advisors and managers.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

I reached out to my former clients and associates in the shipbuilding industry. They came through big time. I also reached out to my family members who also came in big.  They all respect me for my accomplishments and know that I will do a good job for district 32.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

As you know, the state government has been run by Republicans for more than 20 years.  They have passed terrible legislation regarding our environment and public-school funding. So, no one inspires me.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

People mistrust public officials because they think they are all bought off by big business and special interest. I can assure all 32nd residents that no one will buy my vote. I have had a very successful career and am doing this only for the people of the 32nd district – not special interests where they conflict with my agenda of reinvigorating our public schools, giving our teachers the pay raise they deserve, protecting our environment, supporting our agricultural community, and working for high paying jobs in the district.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”) 

Please see above answer.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e. ride-sharing) you are interested in?

I don’t understand the question.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee? 

More school funding to give our public schools the resources they need to exceed and to pay our teachers what they deserve. Infrastructure funding to make sure we have the roads to keep up with explosive growth. Environmental cleanup funds to keep our lakes clean.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Lawton Chiles

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

Support amendment #4 to reinstate felons voting rights once they have served their time and probation. This amendment doesn’t apply to murderers or sex abusers. It is a shame what Gov [Rick] Scott has put these people through – many times 10 years and lots of money in legal fees – it is criminal what Tallahassee is doing to the people who have served their time for their crime.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district? 

I don’t know. I had very few yard signs in the primary. I am putting out a lot more in the general because I do believe it helps with name recognition. But who knows the ultimate value.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

The lower third on MSNBC.

Where do you get your political news? 

Daily Commercial, CNN, MSNBC, and local news channels.

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

Donald Trump

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

 House of Cards is why I subscribed to Netflix.  Love 60 Minutes.

Social media presence? Twitter handle? 

Facebook, cynthiabrownfor32, twitter is @brownfor32.

In 140 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?

 Raised in the 32nd district, a champion for public and vo-tech schools, our teachers, our environment and agriculture.

Hobbies? 

Bridge, Horse-back riding.

Favorite sport and sports team? 

Tennis player and NFL, go Gators!

DeSantis Florida Chamber

Workforce quality tops small biz agenda in Florida Chamber survey

Florida’s small businesses are most concerned about the quality of the state’s workforce as voters prepare to pick their next governor Nov. 6, according to survey results released Monday by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

At the same time, the Chamber issued a guide showing that Republican Ron DeSantis ticks every box on the organization’s issues checklist.

Democrat Andrew Gillum doesn’t check any.

“With Florida small and local businesses creating one out of every 11 new American jobs, the Small Business Index Survey shows that job creators will be looking for a governor who further eliminates outdated regulations and further strengthens Florida’s workforce to ensure the available 245,300 jobs in Florida can be filled with quality employees,” said Marian Johnson, the chamber’s senior vice president for political operations.

The Chamber already had endorsed DeSantis in the race.

It was the eighth quarter running that workforce skills ranked as small business’ top concern. And it led by a considerable margin — 26 percent, compared to the next ranked concern, government regulations, at 9 percent.

Access to capital and economic uncertainty tied, at 8 percent each; followed by “lawsuit abuse,” taxes, and health care costs, all at 6 percent.

Confidence in the state’s direction was up compared to the third quarter, to 59 percent.

Some 48 percent of respondents expected to hire in the next six months, up from 45 percent last quarter.

Forty-three percent expected to invest in plants or equipment, down from 49 percent one year ago.

The Chamber conducted the survey electronically between Sept. 6 and Oct. 11. Of the respondents, 39 percent employed fewer than five employees, and 43 percent have five to 49 employees.

Tort reform group slams Florida for ‘excessive’ litigation

Florida loses more than $11.8 billion and 126,000 jobs each year to “excessive” litigation, according to an analysis released Monday by the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

The trend most hurts the retail sector, at a cost of more than 39,413 jobs, followed by business services, at 20,237, and health services, at 17,452, according to research conducted for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, another tort reform organization.

The analysis claims more than $7.5 billion in lost personal income, including wages, interest and rents — more than $357 for every person in Florida.

Additionally, such litigation trims almost $615 million from annual state revenues and $516 million for local government.

“These findings detail how Florida’s lawsuit abuse climate is holding back our economy and costing every person real money,” institute president William Large said in a statement.

“The Florida Justice Reform Institute’s entire mission is focused on fighting wasteful civil litigation. Now, this landmark report reveals just how much work we have to do in Florida.”

The Perryman Group, an economic forecasting firm, drew on surveys, industry information, and other sources to produce the report.

Tort lawsuits seek redress for wrongdoing that cause loss or harm, and include actions for personal injury and products liability. Tort reforms have included legislated limits on damages and mandatory arbitration of workplace and business disputes.

The civil court system “provides for systematic resolution of disputes, reduces conflict, and encourages production using safe practices that benefit society as a whole,” the report says.

“On the other hand, a flawed civil justice system which generates exorbitant levels of damages or numbers of awards and which is unpredictable in its outcomes may result in negative impacts through the misallocation of society’s scarce economic and human resources.”

After hurricane, Ken Detzner sends reminder on early voting

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections officer, sent out a reminder Monday on early voting options for the Nov. 6 general election.

Voters have three ways to exercise their right to vote, he said: Voting-by-mail, early in-person voting and voting at the polls on Election Day.

Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order that gives Supervisors of Elections in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties the authority to extend the amount of days for early voting and designate additional early voting locations.

“Early voting offers registered Florida voters another convenient way to cast their ballot and reduces the potential for waiting in line on Election Day,” Detzner said.

“All 67 counties will offer early voting from Oct. 27-Nov. 3 at designated early voting sites. Some counties may offer additional days of early voting and counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael have more flexibility in providing early voting and vote-by-mail options to their voters.”

The Division of Elections posts early voting dates, times and locations for all counties on its website. Also, go to the Hurricane Michael Election Resources webpage for information on early voting or contact your local Supervisor of Elections office.

Plus, the Division posts daily online statistics on early voting and vote-by-mail based on county-specific reports. For other information, please visit the Division of Elections’ website at dos.myflorida.com/elections.

sugar

Sugar farmers label Bullsugar a ‘radical hate group’

Citing threats of violence and ongoing law enforcement investigations, the Florida Sugarcane Farmers are now calling the anti-sugar grassroots organization Bullsugar a “radical hate group.”

“As you may know, Florida’s sugarcane farming industry provides more than 12,500 jobs and contributes more than $3.2 billion to Florida’s economy,” Frierson Farms owner Ardis Hammock wrote in an email. “Our industry is made up of generational, family farmers that have planted, harvested, and processed sugarcane for generations, dating back to the early 1900s when Florida was just getting started as one of our nation’s largest farming states.”

Hammock went out to say sugar farmers’ way of life “is under attack by radical hate groups such as Bullsugar, which is driven by an agenda aimed at shutting down farming in Florida.”

The email cited numerous articles published by POLITICO, Sunshine State News, the Orlando Sentinel and other outlets describing the behavior of Bullsugar representatives and allies. Also included in a 15-page packet compiled by Florida Sugar Farmers were snapshots of posts on Bullsugar’s Facebook advocating violence.

“All of this crap should have been run through a filtration system before it was discharged, who ever did this should be shot on national television,” one of the comments reads, presumably referring to the sugar farmers Bullsugar blames for the toxic blue-green algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee.

Hammock noted that similar threats of violence directed at Glades farming communities have spurred the sheriff’s offices in Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties to open investigations into Bullsugar members.

Also noted was the dissonance between Bullsugar’s attacks on politicians who have received campaign funds from the sugar industry and the group’s own status as a 501(c)4 organization. Such organizations are not required to disclose their funding sources.

Bullsugar is one of several organizations that place considerable blame on the sugar industry for Lake O algal blooms, though most scientific research concludes that even though human activity is the root cause of the blooms that the agriculture industry’s role in the recurring environmental crisis is minimal.

Florida Atlantic University professor Brian Lapointe recently presented research concluding that the tens of thousands of septic tanks surrounding Lake O as well the state’s aging and inadequate wastewater infrastructure were responsible for most of nutrients behind the algal blooms rather than agricultural runoff.

“Where reducing fertilizers tremendously in the Sunshine State, so where are the nutrients coming from?” Lapointe asked in a presentation last month. “All you have to do is read the headlines.”

“Septic tanks are the major source of nitrogen. Around the Tallahassee area, 50 percent of nitrogen is from septic tanks and only 8 percent is from agricultural sources,” he said.

Hammock concluded the anti-Bullsugar email by asking readers to “consider these facts, and consider facts from independent sources showing sugarcane farmers are not to blame for coastal water quality issues. We appreciate your careful consideration of these issues.”

endorsements

Florida Realtors endorse four more state legislative candidates

Florida Realtors PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest trade organization, announced Friday that it had endorsed four more candidates seeking election to the state legislature this year.

The nods went to four Republican candidates for the state House: Chuck Brannan, who is seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Elizabeth Porter in HD 10; Anthony Sabatini, the GOP nominee for HD 32; Mike Beltran, who is looking to replace exiting Rep. Jake Raburn in HD 59; and Ray Blacklidge, who is in a tough contest with St. Pete Democrat Jennifer Webb in HD 69.

The announcement marks the “fourth wave” of state legislative endorsements handed out by the Florida Realtors. The group has previously endorsed 108 legislative candidates running in the 115 elections that were not decided at the close of the candidate qualifying period in June.

Florida Realtors PAC has had to make some adjustments to its list of endorsements. In the “first wave” the trade group backed Marc Vann for HD 10 and Jeremy Bailie for HD 69, and in the “second wave” the PAC endorsed Shannon Elswick for HD 32. Sean McCoy earned the Florida Realtors backing in the “third wave.”

The trade association has also issued recommendations for four contenders in the statewide races for Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Ardian Zika

GOP group names Ardian Zika an up-and-comer to watch

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national group that works to elect GOP candidates to state legislatures, recently recognized Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika in its “18 in ’18 Races to Watch” List.

Zika, a first-time candidate for public office, is the Republican nominee in House District 37. The Pasco County-based seat is currently held by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.

“Republicans at the state level would not be reaching historical highs, without the growing diversity of our party, and candidates like Ardian Zika. Ardian represents the best from our Future Majority Project (FMP) and Right Women, Right Now (RWRN) initiatives,” said RSLC president Matt Walter. “The RSLC has invested over $20 million in these initiatives since 2011, electing 500 new female and 100 new diverse office holders in the process.”

Zika was the only Florida candidate recognized in RLSC’s list. Its decision to recognize Zika was based on the Kosovan immigrant “[pulling] himself up by the bootstraps and [emerging] as an example of an American Dream success story.”

HD 37 is a safe Republican seat that covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. Zika easily secured the GOP nomination in the August primary for the seat and now faces Democratic nominee Tammy Garcia, also of Land O’ Lakes, in the general election.

In addition to the district’s partisan lean favoring Zika, he has proved to be a prolific fundraiser.

As of Oct. 12, he had raised more $260,000 in hard money for his campaign and had $80,000 left to spend. Garcia, meanwhile, has raised about $16,500 and has a little over $8,000 in the bank.

Zika has also landed endorsements from a long list of GOP politicians, including nods from St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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