Headlines Archives - Florida Politics

Bernie Sanders to join Andrew Gillum for Tampa, Orlando rallies

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is coming to Florida to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced late Tuesday that the Senator from Vermont will join Gillum at two rallies on Friday — less than two weeks away from the Aug. 28 primary.

The first of the rallies is set to take place in Tampa, where Sanders and Gillum will speak to voters at 11 a.m. in Armature Works — Gathering Room. In the afternoon, the two will head to Orlando for a 2 p.m. rally at the CFE Arena at UCF.

Sanders endorsed Gillum at the beginning of the month, christening him as the progressive option for Florida voters.

“As governor, Andrew Gillum will work to provide health care for all through a Medicare-for-All program, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, invest in sustainable energy, improve education, make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and be welcoming to immigrants,” Sanders said then.

With respect to the Democratic field, Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, billionaire investor Jeff Greene, former Mayor of Miami Beach Philip Levine and Orlando businessman Chris King. Most recent polls have shown Gillum trailing Graham, Levine, and Greene, though a large swath of likely Democratic voters still haven’t picked their candidate yet, according to the same polls.

Whether a rally could give the Tallahassee Mayor the much-needed boost is unknown.

On the Republican side, candidates Adam Putnam, the Agriculture Commissioner, and Ron DeSantis, the Congressman from Ponte Vedra, were “virtually tied,” according to a Florida Chamber poll in July.

But that was before President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis on Twitter (for the second time) and came to Tampa to rally on the Congressman’s behalf. Now DeSantis appears to be firmly in the lead in the Republican primary.

Trump, however, is battle-tested against Florida’s electorate. He captured 45 percent of the party’s vote in the Republican primary in 2016. Sanders, in the same primary, lost to Hillary Clinton, who captured more than 64 percent of Democratic votes.

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott continue sparring over election security

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is sticking to his comment that “Russians are in Florida’s election records,” as Gov. Rick Scott pushes for more information and questions the veracity of the claim.

With the two set to square off in the November general election for the Senate seat, Nelson’s office said Tuesday the focus needs to be on election security not personal political gain and that “it would just be wrong, shortsighted and foolish to think that Russia is not doing in Florida what it did in 2016.”

Nelson made similar comments to reporters Monday night while at a campaign stop in the Gadsden County community of Quincy, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The statement from Nelson’s office came as Scott continued to lash out at the Democratic senator’s assertions last week about ongoing Russian meddling.

“The only conclusion I have is, one, if he does have classified information, how did he get it? Because I don’t think he’s entitled to it. And why would he release it to a reporter?” Scott said after a state Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “Two, if it’s not true, why didn’t he just come and say it’s not true?”

Scott added there is a concern that Nelson’s statement could impact the Aug. 28 primary elections.

“We’re in the middle of a primary election, people are voting, absentee ballots are out, early voting has started in some places, and people need to know the facts, and I don’t think he’s being transparent,” Scott said.

Nelson, who is the ranking member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, told reporters Aug. 7 in Tallahassee that local election officials could get help to secure their databases and records from Russian cyber-hacking, noting, “The Russians are in Florida’s election records” and that they had “penetrated” some voter-registration systems.

When pressed at the time on the issue of election-system breaches, Nelson, said details of the information remained “classified.”

Nelson had been asked in June to work with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to get elections supervisors in Florida to push for federal cyber-security assistance as a follow up to attacks on the state system in 2016. The request by leaders of the Intelligence Committee was intended to provide a more bipartisan front to the push.

In response to Nelson’s statement in Tallahassee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner first asked Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, to provide some clarification to Nelson’s comments.

Burr’s response on Friday didn’t shed light.

“While I understand your questions regarding Senator Nelson’s recent public comments, I respectfully advise you to continue engaging directly with those federal agencies responsible for notifying you of and mitigating any potential intrusions — specifically, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Burr wrote. “Any briefings or notifications about ongoing threats would, rightfully, come from those agencies.”

Detzner, a Scott appointee, then sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for “an official response that confirms your previous statement that you ‘have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure’ and reaffirms your commitment to sharing any future knowledge of potential threats to Florida’s voting systems.”

Detzner in the letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI noted that voting has already started in Florida for the primary elections.

“To the best of our knowledge and the knowledge of our federal partners, Florida’s voting systems and elections databases remain secure and there has been no intrusion of the Florida voter registration system and no reported breaches from locally elected supervisors of election,” Detzner wrote.

State legislators have accepted $19.2 million from the federal government to further secure voting systems that were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.

Detzner has described hackers’ failure to breach election systems in 2016 as a “success story” for Florida.

Scott on Tuesday backed Detzner’s outlook on the 2016 election.

“We don’t believe that anybody was able to get into the system. We had a free and fair election. They have been clear about that, all along,” Scott said. “My understanding is that the secretary of state’s office has reached out to Homeland Security and the FBI, and they’ve said they don’t know of anything.”

Gwen Graham gets backing of Democrats’ disability caucus

The Florida Democratic Party Disability Caucus has endorsed Gwen Graham for Governor citing her unwavering commitment to individuals with disabilities, her campaign announced Tuesday.

“Gwen has demonstrated, in her past service, a strong commitment to individuals with disabilities regarding health care, education, community integration, criminal justice and voting rights,” Florida Democratic Disability Caucus President Karen Clay stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign.

The Disability Caucus provides representation for those with disabilities, both visible and invisible, and allies within the Florida Democratic Party.

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, is battling with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, businessman Jeff Greene, and businessman Chris King for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination for Governor.

Graham’s announcement of the support comes the same day that Levine introduced his latest television commercial highlighting his commitment to helping people with disabilities.

Graham said in the news release, “I am proud to earn the endorsement of the Florida Democratic Disability Caucus. I strongly believe that all Floridians with disabilities should enjoy equal rights, independence, dignity, and freedom from abuse, neglect, and discrimination. As Governor, I will work with the caucus to expand care and lower costs for all Floridians.”

New Philip Levine ad is about disabilities, ‘heart’

With one television commercial, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is managing to highlight his own efforts to help people with disabilities, bash President Donald Trump for mocking them, and accuse Gov. Rick Scott of being heartless.

The new 30-second TV commercial “Sabrina” that launched Tuesday, also offers a counter to Democratic rival Gwen Graham’s announcement that she has been endorsed by the Democratic Party’s Disabilities Caucus.

The ad focuses on a woman named Sabrina Cohen, a Miami-area advocate for people with disabilities and founder of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation. She explains a car accident took away her ability to walk when she was 14, and she praises Levine for his efforts when he was Miami Beach Mayor and calls him someone with “heart.”

Along the way, the commercial shows a beach identified as “the nation’s first adaptive beach,” and video of Trump mocking New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a joint condition that affects his movement. It also declares Florida has “a Governor with no heart.”

“During his tenure as Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine worked with a local community advocate, Sabrina Cohen, to pass the nation’s first adaptive beach, granting access to the beach for the first time for people with disabilities,” Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert stated in a news release issued by the Levine campaign. “As Florida Democrats come together to put up their best against Donald Trump’s chosen candidate, Philip Levine offers a stark contrast to their divisive and cruel brand of politics. One thing that has been sorely lacking from Tallahassee and Washington these days is compassionate leadership — as Florida’s next Governor, Philip is ready to stand up, do what’s right, and lead our state with heart.”

First Levine needs to get past Graham, businessman Jeff Greene, businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, while the man Ulvert obviously was referring to as “Trump’s chosen candidate,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary.

In the ad, Cohen and Levine praise each other and then go after the Republicans.

“Together, we created the first adaptive beach in the nation, that will serve veterans, moms, and children,” Cohen says.

“All despite a President who ridicules people and a Governor with no heart,” Levine adds.

“With Philip, it’s all about heart and getting things done. And we haven’t had that for a very long time,” Cohen concludes.

Jeff Greene puts more money into Governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene loaned another $4.35 million to his gubernatorial campaign in late July and early August, bringing the total to more than $22 million, according to a new finance report.

Greene, a billionaire investor, had loaned $22.45 million to the campaign as of Aug. 3 and had received $2,315 in contributions. The campaign had spent $22.43 million, the report shows.

Greene, who entered the gubernatorial race in June, is running in the Aug. 28 primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Adam Putnam to head out on “Florida First” campaign tour

The Adam Putnam campaign for Governor on Tuesday announced a “statewide tour of Florida with at least one stop planned in every major region of the state.”

The tour comes as Putnam is hurting in the polls and in recent fundraising against President Donald Trump-endorsed GOP candidate Ron DeSantis.

The state’s primary election is two weeks away.

“From Perdido Key to Key West, Florida is a prize and you must be present to win,” Putnam said in a statement – a swipe at Congressman DeSantis’ regular absence from the state.

“Over the next two weeks I will be making stops in communities across our great state and sharing my vision to make Florida the launchpad for the American dream,” Putnam added.

“This is a grassroots-driven campaign and as our state’s next governor I will fight to keep power in the hands of Florida families, not Washington or Tallahassee.”

The Florida First statewide tour will kick off Wednesday and continue through Saturday, Aug. 25.

Planned stops include, but are not limited to Santa Rosa Beach, Panama City, Lake City, Winter Park, Ormond Beach, Jacksonville, Fruit Cove, Clearwater, Brandon, Dade City, Bradenton, Sarasota, North Port, Moore Haven, West Palm Beach, Miami, The Villages, Sanford, and Temple Terrace.

For more information, visit the Adam Putnam for Governor Eventbrite page.

Greg Steube hits Julio Gonzalez for touting non-existent Rick Scott endorsement

Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez has been pushing an online ad backing up his campaign for Florida’s 17th Congressional District that features Gov. Rick Scott praising the Republican lawmaker and insinuating Gonzalez is his pick in the primary race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

According to an article by Brenden Farrington the Associated Press, the 30-second spot features the term-limited Governor making some effusive remarks about Gonzalez, and ends with an announcer saying Scott “stands with” Gonzalez, and asks voters to “Join Governor Scott in support of pro-Trump, tax-cutting conservative Dr. Julio Gonzalez.”

Short of a nod from President Donald Trump, the official backing of Scott would be the biggest coup a Republican congressional candidate could hope for. The problem: It’s not true.

Those clips were from a fundraiser benefitting Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, and while Scott is likely appreciative of Gonzalez’ support in his quest to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, he hasn’t weighed in on the Republican primary for CD 17.

If it weren’t clear enough by the lack of endorsement-style language, the bottom of that AP article puts to rest any lingering doubts: “Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schultz, said Scott hasn’t endorsed in the race.”

Gonzalez’ chief rival in the Republican primary for CD 17, Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube, seized on the misrepresentation in a Tuesday campaign email hammering Gonzalez

“Julio Gonzalez, candidate for Congress, has been falsely touting the support of Governor Rick Scott in an effort to boost his failing campaign,” the email read, citing the AP report.

“Last week, Gonzalez sent an email to supporters calling on them to ‘Join Governor Rick Scott in supporting Dr. Julio Gonzalez.’ His campaign then released a short video with footage from a recent rally for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. As of August 13, the video is being promoted online by the Gonzalez campaign.”

Similar to the recent drama in the race for House District 62, Gonzalez may be violating state elections laws depending on the language and images he used. In the HD 62 case, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chastised School Board member Susan Valdes for using her picture in a campaign mailer that insinuated the congresswoman had endorsed Valdes, and went even further by alleging the act was a violation of Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

Team Steube is doing the same in regards to Gonzalez’ ad.

The statute reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

“This is the latest attempt to mislead the voters from a campaign that is desperately trying to revive itself,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “First, they tried to dismiss Gonzalez’s Never Trump past, and now they are trying to mislead voters about Governor Scott’s support. I think the voters will see past the deceit and will support Greg Steube’s positive, pro-Trump, conservative vision for Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins. The winner of the GOP nomination will go up against the Democratic nominee — either April Freeman or Bill Pollard — in the Nov. 6 general election, though the Republican candidate will be the odds on favorite come Election Day.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger with 62 percent of the vote and Trump earned the same share of the vote at the top of the ticket.

Marsy’s Law effort gets $6M boost

A national group seeking to pass a Florida constitutional amendment that would expand crime victims’ rights has provided another $6 million infusion to the campaign.

The California-based Marsy’s Law for All Foundation contributed the money July 30 to the Marsy’s Law for Florida political committee, according to a newly filed finance report. That brought to $24.35 million the amount the foundation has sent to the committee.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission this year approved putting the proposal, designated as Amendment 6, on the November ballot.

Supporters of the proposal, which has become commonly known as “Marsy’s Law,” argue it would establish a series of rights for crime victims, including the right to be notified of major developments in criminal cases and the right to be heard in the legal proceedings. The amendment also would increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. And it would provide that judges should not necessarily defer to the interpretation of laws and rules by governmental agencies in legal proceedings.

The proposed constitutional amendment is part of a broader national movement that stems from the 1983 death of a California woman, Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend.

Marsy Nicholas’ brother, Henry, is the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. and has spearheaded the Marsy’s Law movement.

The proposed Florida constitutional amendment, however, faces a legal challenge aimed at keeping it off the ballot.

Southwest Florida defense attorney Lee Hollander has filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court arguing that the wording of the proposal would mislead voters. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers is slated to hear the case Aug. 24.

Justices agree to decide ballot fight on county offices

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously agreed to take up a challenge to a proposed ballot measure that has drawn opposition from some counties.

Justices issued an order accepting the case, though they put off a decision about whether they will hold oral arguments. The order came a day after the 1st District Court of Appeal quickly sent the case to the Supreme Court. The appeals court pointed to a “question of great public importance” that it said needs “immediate resolution by the Supreme Court of Florida.”

The case stems from a proposed constitutional amendment that the state Constitution Revision Commission placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. The measure, known as Amendment 10, would make the five local constitutional offices — sheriff, tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of the court and property appraiser — mandatory and require elections for the offices in all 67 counties. It would also prohibit charter counties from abolishing or modifying those offices.

Charter counties have opposed the amendment, arguing that local voters through the charter process should have the power to decide how constitutional offices are structured and whether they should be elected positions.

Challenges filed in Leon County circuit court argued that the ballot language and summary were misleading and that, as a result, the proposal should not go to voters.

But Circuit Judge James Shelfer last week rejected those arguments, prompting Volusia, Miami-Dade and Broward counties to file notices of appeal Friday at the 1st District Court of Appeal, according to online dockets.

The appeals court, instead of following the usual process of considering the issue, essentially forwarded it to the Supreme Court.

Ballots for the November election will begin to be sent out to voters next month.

Former Supreme Court justice challenges constitutional amendments

Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead is challenging six proposed constitutional amendments on grounds they violate voters’ First Amendment rights.

Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court 1994-2009, on Tuesday filed a petition with the court for a writ of ‘quo warranto,’ a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action — in this case, against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s “chief election officer.”

The court did not immediately accept jurisdiction but later Tuesday “requested” Detzner to respond to the petition “no later than 5 p.m. (next) Monday.”

Anstead is challenging six of the eight amendments placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), because each one “bundles independent and unrelated proposals in a single ballot question.”

That “requires a voter to vote ‘yes’ for a proposal that the voter opposes in order to vote ‘yes’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter supports, and to vote ‘no’ for a proposal the voter supports in order to vote ‘no’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter opposes,” the petition says.

“This is logrolling and a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific independent and unrelated proposals to amend the constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports,” it says.

“This court has long acknowledged that a ballot question that requires a voter to vote ‘no’ to support a measure the voter approves cannot remain on the ballot.”

Anstead, an appointee of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles and chief justice in 2002-04, filed the petition with former High Springs City Commissioner Robert J. Barnas.

They’re represented by Joseph Little, a retired professor of the University of Florida’s law school and a constitutional scholar.

The amendments at issue, by ballot title and summary, are:

Amendment 6 — Rights of Crime Victims (also known as “Marsy’s Law”); Judges.

“Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.”

Amendment 7 — First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities.

“Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.”

Amendment 8 — School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools.

“Creates a term limit of eight consecutive years for school board members and requires the legislature to provide for the promotion of civic literacy in public schools. Currently, district school boards have a constitutional duty to operate, control, and supervise all public schools. The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.”

Amendment 9 — Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces.

“Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.”

Amendment 10 — State and Local Government Structure and Operation.

“Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.”

Amendment 11 — Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes.

“Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.”

Another CRC amendment banning betting on dog races already has been invalidated by a circuit judge and is under appeal at the Supreme Court.

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