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How to counter Donald Trump? Democrats still searching

Nine months into the Donald Trump era, Democrats are still searching for a standard-bearer and a crisp message to corral widespread opposition to an unpopular president and a Republican-led Congress.

The minority party has put that struggle on vivid display this week in Nevada, site of Democrats’ first national party gathering since a contentious chairman’s election in February. The party’s congressional leaders and potential presidential candidates mostly stayed away, with the exception of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose name has surfaced among possible 2020 hopefuls.

The activists and party leaders who did attend expressed optimism over their rebuilding efforts, but also lingering resentments from the 2016 presidential primary, confirming that the battle between liberals and establishment Democrats continues long after Hillary Clinton dispatched Bernie Sanders but lost to Trump.

The months since the election have brought plenty of frank public assessments about how far the Democratic National Committee has to go to catch up to Republicans on fundraising and technology — twin pillars of how a national party helps its candidates win elections across the country.

The lingering debate was enough for party Chairman Tom Perez, still putting his stamp on the party, to warn that the discord distracts from laying the groundwork for the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential contest.

“This is a Rome-is-burning moment,” he said Friday, his summation of Trump’s presidency so far. “We may be playing different instruments, but we are all in the same orchestra. We need more people in that orchestra.”

Democrats need to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats next November to reclaim the House. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate advantage, but Democrats must defend 10 incumbents in states Trump won. In statehouses, Democrats have just 15 governors, and Republicans control about two-thirds of legislatures.

Democrats hope to hold the Virginia governorship and pick up New Jersey’s next month. The party is tantalized by an Alabama Senate race pitting the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, against former jurist Roy Moore, a controversial figure who wasn’t the GOP establishment’s first choice.

Perez is selling confidence. “We’ve got game,” he roared to an exuberant audience at one reception.

Behind that hope, there are plenty of reasons for caution, mostly rooted in an uncomfortable reality: No Democrat has emerged as a leader and top rival to Trump in 2020, with a line-up of previous candidates like Joe Biden and Sanders and little-known House and Senate lawmakers.

Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s deputy who hails from the party’s left flank, pushed back against any notion that the Democrats don’t have a clear leader.

“We are not a leaderless party. We are a leader-full party. We have Tom Perez. We have Keith Ellison. We have Leader Pelosi. We have Leader Schumer,” he said.

Still, that reliance on Capitol Hill means the party is touting a leadership core much older than the electorate. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is 77. Sanders is 76. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is 66. Other national figures, Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are in the same generation.

“You will see a new generation out there — good messengers with the right message,” said Henry Munoz, the party’s finance chairman, though he declined to speculate about individual names.

A prominent DNC member who backed Clinton in 2016 tried to convince Democrats on Friday to call on Sanders to join the party. “The first word in DNC is ’Democratic,’” quipped Bob Mulholland. But the party’s Resolution Committee, led by Sanders backer James Zobgy, jettisoned the idea. Zogby said taking a shot at Sanders would “feed a Twitter debate that will not be helpful in bringing together” voters on the left.

Trump’s approval ratings are mired in the 30s, levels that history says should spell scores of lost Republican House seats next year. Yet Trump has never had consistent majority public support. Democrats also face an uphill path because Republican state lawmakers drew a majority of congressional districts to the GOP’s advantage.

Trump’s election has sparked an outpouring of volunteer energy and cash on the political left, but the money hasn’t flowed to the national party. Munoz, who helped former President Barack Obama haul in record-setting sums, says the DNC has taken in $51.5 million this year, compared with $93.3 million for Republicans.

Party treasurer Bill Derrough acknowledged that he’s found frustrated Democratic boosters asking about “a damaged brand, what are we doing, what do we stand for.”

The party’s “Better Deal” rollout earlier this year — a package of proposals intended to serve as the economic message to counter Trump’s populist nationalism — hasn’t been an obvious feature at Democrats’ national meeting at all.

Perez is seeking to inject younger blood into the party leadership structure with his 75 at-large appointments to the DNC. But his appointments meant ousting some older DNC members, including Babs Siperstein. The New York at-large member whom Perez did not reappoint warned her fellow Democrats not to underestimate the fellow New Yorker in the White House — Trump.

“He may be weird. He may be narcissistic. But he’s not stupid,” Siperstein said. “He’s smart enough to get elected. He’s smart enough to get away with everything. … So we have to stay united.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Democratic chairman: Donald Trump ‘most dangerous’ president ever

Trying to quell accusations that he is ousting activists from the party’s left flank, Democratic Chairman Tom Perez told fellow Democrats on Saturday that unity is crucial in the fight against President Donald Trump, whom he lambasted as an “existential threat” to the nation.

“We have the most dangerous president in American history and one of the most reactionary Congresses in American history,” Perez said as he addressed the first Democratic National Committee gathering since his February election.

The former Obama Cabinet official blistered “a culture of corruption” that he said extends to Trump’s Cabinet, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but he warned that internal ruckuses over party priorities and leadership would distract from the goal of winning more elections to upend Republicans’ domination in Washington.

The chairman’s plea comes amid a rift over his appointments to little-known but influential party committees and the 75 at-large members of the national party committee. Perez and his aides plug his choices as a way to make the DNC younger and more diverse, but the moves also mean demotions for several prominent Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries and then supported Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez in the postelection race for party chairman.

Perez spent time during this week’s proceedings meeting privately with frustrated DNC members, including some he did not reappoint. He apologized publicly Saturday for not reaching all of those members before he announced his appointments, but he defended his overall aim.

“If someone ever asks you which wing of the party you belong to, tell ’em you belong to the accomplishment wing of the Democratic Party,” he said, “because you’re trying to get s— done. That’s what we’re trying to do here, folks. We’re trying to move the ball forward.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have exalted in the internal wrangle, painting the DNC as incompetently discordant.

“The Democratic Party’s message of doom and gloom has left them leaderless and nearly extinct in most of the country,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said. “If Tom Perez wants his party to stick with that same failed strategy, Republicans will gladly keep working to help the middle class by cutting their taxes and fixing our broken health care system.”

To some extent, the Democrats’ developments reflect routine party politics after an unusually contentious chairman’s race, but they also fit into the ongoing philosophical tussle on the left.

Sanders’ backers accused the DNC in 2016 of stacking the nominating process in Clinton’s favor and shutting out the Vermont independent who still seeks to pull the party toward his ideology. Those frustrations carried over into the DNC chair race between Perez, the former labor secretary, and Ellison.

Now, Perez’s appointees will hold sway over setting the primary calendar in 2020 and, perhaps most importantly, whether the party’s superdelegates, including the 75 at-large members, will continue to cast presidential nominating votes at Democratic conventions without being bound to any state primary or caucus results.

Democrats are looking next month to hold the Virginia governor’s seat and wrest the New Jersey governor’s seat from Republican control. Next year, Democrats need to flip at least 24 Republican congressional seats to regain control of the House. They face an uphill battle in gaining control of the Senate, because they must defend 10 incumbents in states Trump won last November. Democrats also want to increase their gubernatorial roster from the current 15 state executives.

Separately, former Attorney General Eric Holder urged the party to play the long game necessary to overcome Republican advantages scored when GOP-run legislatures drew congressional and legislative districts around the country after the 2010 census.

Holder leads a political action group, with fundraising support for former President Barack Obama, to back candidates in states where gerrymandering gives Democrats an uphill path to majorities. He singled out Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, among other states, where Republicans “picked their voters” with districts that “are impressive in their geographic creativity but they are destructive to representative democracy.”

The Supreme Court earlier this month heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Wisconsin districts. Legal analysts expect Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court’s swing vote, will decide whether the court for the first time declares partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Motorola Solutions steps up with expertise, volunteers for Hurricane Irma aid

Last month, Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida and the Caribbean, a massive storm that overwhelmed millions of people in its path.

In response to the devastating weather event, Motorola Solutions, through its communications systems, staff and officials, took the lead in a variety of ways — as responders and volunteers — to help those most affected in the moments that mattered.

Irma made landfall Sept. 10 as a Category 4 storm in the lower Keys, bringing fierce winds and damage mostly from flooding and fallen trees to a vast section of South Florida from Miami through Naples and up the Gulf Coast.

In some areas, power and internet were not fully restored until nearly 10 days later, with much of the state still reeling more than a month after Irma hit.

For example, Miami-Dade County collected more than two million cubic yards of storm-related debris through Oct. 21, with 3 million cubic yards of debris in Miami, according to the Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management.

Following natural disasters such as Irma — as well as Hurricanes Harvey and Maria — members of Motorola Solutions’ response team tirelessly worked to ensure radio communications stayed up and running, working around the clock to make its customers whole again.

A week ahead of Irma’s landfall, Motorola Solutions proactively reached out Florida customers to help prepare and meet all needs. Workers tested generators, located extra equipment, and verified systems were in good working order. When needed, Motorola also sent extra supplies and resources with radios, batteries and more.

During the Irma, Motorola was standby through a staging area in Rome, Georgia, to deliver truckloads of gear — everything from spare radios and batteries to replacement antennas and transmission lines, generators and satellite phones.

At its Plantation facility, the company also staged response teams made up of electricians, technicians, tower crews, logistical support and company leaders. When deployed, those teams were equipped with supplies to be self-sustained for at least 7 days, with a possibility for resupply — including a 10,000-gallon fuel tanker, food and accommodations. They also came prepared to help with not just equipment needs, but also bringing comfort items for victims of Irma, like air mattresses.

While on site, Motorola Solutions staff stayed in contact with local authorities, 911 centers, emergency management authorities and regional emergency operations centers to assess needs and offer aid. Those staff members were granted the authority to make decisions in the field, so they could get the job done as quickly as possible.

In total, more than 200 Motorola Solutions employees were on hand to help Floridians recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma.

Another story of success in Irma’s aftermath was in Monroe County.

On September 12, less than 48 hours after Irma’s arrival in Monroe County, Miami-Dade police escorted Motorola triage response team members during an initial supply run to the county line. From there, team members inspected several locations while moving south through the Keys, and was the first such team to reach the site in North Key Largo.

During inspections, workers faced a series of blocked roads, where they helped clear debris and cut paths to previously unreachable locations, including Long Key and Sugar Loaf Key. Motorola staff were also in charge of reporting generator fuel levels to Monroe County officials, and refilled generator fuel tanks when possible.

Following Irma, the primary site at the 911 center in Marathon — which allowed officials throughout all of Monroe County to communicate directly with each other — was down after a power outage at the facility. After the local utility decided the master center was a repair priority, Motorola worked closely with electricians on site to restore power quickly.

By the end of Motorola’s first day of access in Monroe County, the system was brought back online areawide.

With most of the Keys without power or cell service in immediately after Irma, Motorola Solutions also programmed radios for Homeland Security agents, allowing them to communicate with Monroe County officials to better assess the situation on the ground.

Motorola Solutions enables public safety agencies and businesses to communicate and work more efficiently. Connecting millions of people through devices, networks and software are essential for them to do their jobs and create safe, thriving communities.

When it comes to staying connected during a disaster, Motorola Solutions’ land mobile radios (LMR) and infrastructure provide reliable technology, to support mission-critical voice communications in life-or-death situations across the country.

From hurricanes like Harvey, Irma and Maria, to blizzards, earthquakes and forest fires, land mobile radios offer the performance to keep responders and citizens safe.

First responders in Pinellas County relied on Motorola Solutions radio systems — featuring data-sharing capabilities — to stay connected during Irma. When storm winds reached 40 miles per hour, dispatchers were prevented from sending off rescue teams. Nevertheless, Motorola personnel were there to help perform “CPR on the phone” with doctors in the call center. During and after the crisis, responders reported never experienced a single transmission drop.

In nearby Coral Springs, a pregnant woman went into labor during the storm, calling 911. Taking an armored vehicle to navigate the storm damage, first responders, using Motorola Solutions radios, helped with a safe delivery for the mother and her baby girl.

“Radios were crystal-clear” during the incident, one county official said afterward.

Motorola radios — with push-to-talk connectivity — were also essential for the Lake County Sheriff Department, taking advantage of backup generators to stay connected before, during and after the storm.

“There was a 228 percent increase in push-to-talk communications between county and local police from the day before Irma hit to the day of the hurricane,” said Public Safety Communications Director Greg Holcomb. With push-to-talk, Lake County’s radio system connects users in less than a second, which could mean the difference between life and death.

“In that time, there were no sites down, no outages and all LMR communications worked flawlessly,” Holcomb said.

Following the storm, backup generators powered the radio systems’ 18 network sites, some running nonstop six days.

“Our officers were working in flood-prone areas, and in those areas, LMR was the only communication working,” Holcomb added.

As for individual Motorola employees in Florida, many either donated or volunteered for post-Irma relief efforts.

Evacuated ahead of Irma, Motorola Solutions’ Plantation facility reopened four days later as a collection site for necessity items to be the benefit of the South Florida Red Cross, including toiletries, cleaning kits, air mattresses, blankets, clothes and more.

Continuing its commitment to provide technology to first responders and public safety workers worldwide, the Motorola Solutions Foundation is working with the American Red Cross for financial support for communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as the earthquakes in Mexico.

To date, the Foundation has committed $85,000 to the Red Cross’ relief efforts, with employees donating more than $100,000. The money was on top of $320,000 in Motorola Solutions Foundation grants provided to Red Cross programs in Chicago, Florida, California and worldwide.

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Former presidents call for unity at hurricane aid concert

The five living former presidents put aside politics and appeared together for the first time since 2013 at a concert on Saturday to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, to try to unite the country after the storms.

Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event. His wife, Barbara, and George W. Bush’s wife, Laura, were in the audience.

Grammy award winner Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance at the concert that also featured country music band Alabama, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31 million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush.

President Donald Trump offered a video greeting that avoided his past criticism of the former presidents and called them “some of America’s finest public servants.”

“This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another,” Trump said in the greeting, played during the concert.

Four of the five former presidents — Obama, George W. Bush, Carter and Clinton — made brief remarks that did not mention Trump. The elder Bush did not speak but smiled and waved to the crowd. They appealed for national unity to help those hurt by the hurricanes.

“The heart of America, without regard to race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems,” said Clinton.

The last time the five were together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.

There is precedent for former presidents joining forces for post-disaster fundraising. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised money together after the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year. Clinton and George W. Bush combined to seek donations after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake.

“It’s certainly a triple, if not a home run, every time,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Presidents have the most powerful and prolific fundraising base of any politician in the world. When they send out a call for help, especially on something that’s not political, they can rake in big money.”

Amid criticism that his administration was initially slow to aid ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump accused island leaders of “poor leadership,” and later tweeted that, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes” while saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency, first-responders and military personnel wouldn’t be able to stay there forever.

But Rottinghaus said ex-presidents are seen as less polarizing than the current president.

“They can’t get away from the politics of the moment,” he said of current White House occupants. “Ex-presidents are able to step back and be seen as the nation’s grandfather.”

Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as “One America Appeal.” In it, George W. Bush says, “People are hurting down here.” His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, “We love you, Texas.”

Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A website accepting donations, OneAmericaAppeal.org, was created with 100 percent of proceeds pledged to hurricane relief.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Volunteer Florida gave large bonus to former CEO Chester Spellman

The former head of Florida’s volunteer agency got a hefty bonus of more than $12,000 shortly before he left to take a job in the administration of President Donald Trump.

Chester Spellman, the chief executive officer of Volunteer Florida, got the bonus in July. In August, Spellman was appointed director of AmeriCorps.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Spellman as Volunteer Florida CEO in 2012. The governor on Friday sent a letter to Volunteer Florida officials that asked them to stop handing out bonuses.

Volunteer Florida administers more than $32 million in federal, state and local volunteer programs.

Scott said that while he believes in “fair compensation,” he does not support bonuses.

Records from Volunteer Florida show the organization paid nearly $33,000 in employee bonuses in 2016 and nearly $16,000 in 2015.

Trump jabs back at ‘wacky’ congresswoman as spat rolls on

Unwilling to put the tussling behind, President Donald Trump on Saturday jabbed back at the Democratic lawmaker who has slammed him for his words of condolence to a military widow, calling Rep. Frederica Wilson “wacky” and contending she is “killing” her party.

Trump’s broadside came a day after the White House defended chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized Wilson’s remarks and called her an “empty barrel” making noise. A Trump spokeswoman said it was “inappropriate” to question Kelly in light of his stature as a retired four-star general.

The fight between Trump and the Miami-area Democrat began Tuesday said Trump told the pregnant widow of a service member killed in the African nation of Niger that her 25-year-old husband “knew what he signed up for.” Wilson was riding with the family of family of Sgt. La David Johnson to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone.

The administration has attempted to insist that it’s long past time to end the political squabbling over Trump’s compassion for America’s war dead.

But Trump added to the volley of insults with his tweet on Saturday morning: “I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!” That came after she had added a new element by suggesting a racial context.

His tweet came hours before mourners were to attend Johnson’s funeral in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Kelly asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Wilson, in an interview Friday with The New York Times, brought race into the dispute.

“The White House itself is full of white supremacists,” said Wilson, who is black, as is the Florida family Trump had called in a condolence effort this week that led to the back-and-forth name calling.

Trump, in an interview with Fox Business Network, then called Wilson’s criticism of Kelly “sickening.” He also said he had had a “very nice call,” with the late sergeant’s family.

The spat started when Wilson told reporters that Trump had insulted the family of Johnson, who was killed two weeks ago in Niger. She was fabricating that, Trump said. The soldier’s widow and aunt said no, it was the president who was fibbing.

Then Kelly strode out in the White House briefing room on Thursday, backing up the president and suggesting Wilson was just grandstanding – as he said she had at the FBI dedication in 2015.

After news accounts took issue with part of that last accusation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chastised reporters for questioning the account of a decorated general.

“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Video of the FBI office dedication in Miami, from the archives of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, shows that Wilson never mentioned the building’s funding, though she did recount at length her efforts to help name the building in honor of the special agents.

That did nothing to deter Sanders, who said “If you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel.”

Sanders also used a dismissive Southwest rancher’s term, calling Wilson, who often wears elaborate hats, “all hat and no cattle.”

Wilson was in the car with the family of Johnson, who died in an Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger, when Trump called to express his condolences on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.” Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.

The Defense Department is investigating the details of the Niger ambush, in which Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others. The FBI said it is assisting, as it has in the past when American citizens are killed overseas.

Sanders said Friday that if the “spirit” in which Trump’s comments “were intended were misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate.”

FPL proposes replacing two Broward units with clean energy center

Florida Power & Light filed a request Friday to replace a power plant in Broward County with a more modern and powerful clean energy center that will cost an estimated $888 million to build.

The Juno Beach-based company submitted a petition for a determination of need to the Florida Public Service Commission with plans to build a “combined cycle generating unit” that will rely primarily on natural gas at its Lauderdale power plant in Dania Beach. The new unit is projected to cut primary air emissions by 70 percent and, over its projected 40-year life, to be $337 million less expensive than continuing to use two existing units at the plant, according to the petition. The new facility, planned to open in 2022, is projected to produce 31 percent more power than the two facilities that would be shut down in 2018, if utility regulators approve the proposal.

“Denying the need determination will result in lower system reliability for FPL’s customers and in FPL having to acquire new resources earlier than if this need determination is approved, likely at a higher cost,” the company said in its petition.

The commission is expected to a hearing on the request early next year and rule by the end of March.

PAC tied to Javier Manjarres’ possible CD 22 bid raised $89K

Conservative blogger Javier Manjarres, who is still mulling a run in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, and a political committee with ties to his prospective run brought in about $89,000 through the end of September.

America First Agenda started up in April and through the end of the third quarter had raised $88,706, with $13,458 of that money in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

Most of that income isn’t itemized, which the Federal Elections Commission allows for contributions of $200 or less, including multiple contributions by one donor.

Only a couple dozen itemized contributions are viewable for the committee, the largest of which was a $2,500 check from Janet Haeger of Arizona. Florida-based Minimally Invasive Surgery PA gave $1,000, as did Tatnall Hillman of Colorado, with the remaining contributions clocking in between $250 and $500.

Manjarres, who runs The Shark Tank blog and is a contributor to Breitbart News, said over the summer he was mulling a run in CD 22, which has a sizeable Democratic lean.

The potential congressional bid is viewed by some as an attempt to bury headlines about the his rap sheet – including an arrest for attempted murder last year – as well as a way to drum up direct mail business. The committee’s expense report does indeed include plenty of mailer-related payouts.

Virginia-based company Direct Mail Fundraising, LLC, got by far the biggest payday from the PAC, with more than $34,000 heading to the company for mailers and postage.

Printing and mail shop Colortree Group, another Virginia company, took in nearly $11,000 for advertising, while HSP Direct took in $7,000 for design work. In all, the committee spent $75,248 from inception through the end of the third quarter.

District 22 includes Boca Raton and Highland Beach in Palm Beach County and coastal Broward County from Fort Lauderdale north. The district voted 57 percent for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, and incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch enjoys strong popularity district voters.

Governor lifts Alachua County State of Emergency

With white nationalist “identitarian” Richard Spencer and his adherents now safely out of Alachua County. Gov. Rick Scott lifted a state of emergency Friday.

Scott thanked law enforcement, which included state and local reinforcements from nearby counties, saying he was “grateful that their unified efforts, in coordination with leadership at the University of Florida, kept all involved in yesterday’s rallies safe.”

“Florida is a state that respects the First Amendment,” Scott said, “but we do not tolerate violence of any kind.”

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell asserted that a “successful, coordinated response from public safety to this event was vastly due to the unprecedented capacity to mobilize well-trained, well-equipped, agile personnel, and the immense preparation and lessons learned from similar incidents in the nation.”

Indeed, though the feared Charlottesville-style violence did not manifest on the U.F. campus, there was a shot fired by a trio of male white supremacists at a group of people off campus.

Time reports that after the Spencer speech at UF Thursday afternoon, those white supremacists taunted a group of people at a bus stop, yelling “Heil Hitler” and the like. This led to an escalated confrontation, followed by a gun shot from one of the racialists.

All three men are in custody, having been arrested by an off-duty Alachua Sheriff’s officer just hours later.

Alan Clendenin elected chair of National Dems Southern Caucus

Tampa’s Alan Clendenin was unanimously elected chair of the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus, which consists of 13 southern states.

Clendenin was named to the job Thursday night during the DNC’s fall meeting in Las Vegas.

The caucus chair serves as an advocate for the southern region and the national party and comes with a coveted spot on the DNC’s Executive Committee.

“It really reflects well also on the state of Florida that we’re now represented on the DNC executive committee, and it shows the confidence that the national committee has on Florida, and the importance they place on our state,” Clendenin said Friday morning from his Las Vegas hotel room.

Clendenin has been a DNC Committeeman for several years, and most recently finished second to Stephen Bittel in January’s race for the Florida Democratic Party’s chair. He was also runner-up to the FDP chair job in 2013, losing out to Allison Tant. Clendenin was named vice chair in 2013, where he served on the Association of State Democratic Chairs, forming relationships with other DNC officials that he says helped pave the way for moving to caucus chair.

In Las Vegas, DNC members are learning about new technology tools that are being employed to elect more Democrats in 2018. That emphasis on technology was demonstrated in June, when DNC Chair Tom Perez hired Raffi Krikorian, a former top engineer at Uber’s self-driving car program, as the Party’s next chief technology officer.

Since his election as chair in February, Perez increased funding to all 50 states by 33 percent, doubling down on Howard Dean‘s famed “50 state strategy” employed while leading the DNC over a decade ago.

Clendenin is thrilled Perez is using an aggressive strategy to target down-ballot races.

“For too long they were focused on the top of the ticket and federal races,” Clendenin said. “Tom is committed to getting the DNC involved in races as far down the ballot as school board races.”

Clendenin was a fierce critic of former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and says the Perez strategy is similar to the platform he espoused during both his campaigns for FDP chair.

The 58-year-old Clendenin was able to compete for the FDP chair position earlier this year only after he relocated to a different county, after he lost his bid for reelection as state committeeman in Hillsborough County under disputed circumstances last December

 

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