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Does Adam Putnam still support Confederates in Veterans’ Hall of Fame?

Two years ago, Adam Putnam was the lone vote in the four-member Cabinet to support adding three members of the Confederacy into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame, but he’s not saying now if he would vote that way again.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater all opposed placing former governor Edward Perry; Florida’s first adjutant general, David Lang; and Samuel Pasco, a Harvard-educated prisoner of war and U.S. senator for whom Pasco County is named; to be included in the state’s Hall of Fame.

The issue came before them at a Cabinet meeting held at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa in February 2015.

Mike Prendergast, then serving as head of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs, recommended their exclusion. He rejected all three men for failing to comply with a requirement to have an honorable discharge from the U.S. armed forces, which he said did not include the Confederate States of America.

At the Cabinet meeting, NAACP Tallahassee Branch President Dale Landry testified that “these three men fought against the Union, and they symbolize a dark time in America’s and our state’s history — a period full of hatred and slavery. These men took up arms against the United States of America.”

Putnam later said, “If you’re throwing these guys out on a technicality, that’s just dumb.”

After the vote, Bondi suggested the law should be changed so that Confederate soldiers could be considered for honors in the future. Congress voted in 1958 that Confederate States’ veterans should receive the same benefits and services given to those who served the Union.

The Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame was only established in 2013. It’s a wall in the state Capitol with plaques commemorating inductees.

Speaking to reporters on Monday in Temple Terrace after holding a campaign event for governor, Putnam said that Americans should be more focused on calling out the hate and evil that manifested itself in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, and less concerned about “sanitizing history.”

“It’s also important that we apply the lessons of history today and the future,” he said, adding, “if you don’t know your history, you’re going to repeat the mistakes of the past. I think it’s important that people know the horrors of the Holocaust; I think it’s important that people know the horrors of what happened on 9/11. It’s important that we learn what happens to the world, when evil is allowed to prevail.”

In the past few weeks, Democrats in Florida have been calling for the removal of the Confederate monument that has stood in front of the old Capitol in Tallahassee. Putnam has said that he never noticed the monument. That comment was derided by Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on MSNBC on Sunday, who took Putnam to task for the comment.

“What a luxurious place to be, the fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbols of division and derision greet people as they enter the old Capitol,” Gillum said of Putnam.

Among those who attended Putnam’s “Up and Adam” breakfast at Lupton’s Buffet in Temple Terrace was David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Judah P. Benjamin Camp.

He’s the leader of the opposition which formed against removing a Confederate monument from outside the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa over the past two months. He said he’s supporting Putnam for governor, in large part because of his support in 2015 for voting for those members of the Confederacy to be included in the Hall of Fame.

“Adam Putnam was the only one who stood up and said, for good and bad, these are the men that came back from the war,” McCallister said on Monday. “I’ve been favorably disposed to him ever since.”

Florida Politics contacted the Putnam campaign to determine if Putnam stands by his support for adding Confederate veterans to the Hall of Fame. His campaign did not provide a response.

Ashley Moody promises no other political aspirations than becoming AG

By all indications, Ashley Moody was an extremely successful judge in Hillsborough County for more than a decade before stepping down from the bench earlier this year.

Ultimately, Moody wanted to make a bigger impact in Florida, she said during a nine-minute appearance Tuesday night before the Tampa Bay Young Republicans. Read more

Nat’l Democrats serve up trio of ads attacking Rick Scott

The committee backing Senate Democrats released a series of attack ads Tuesday against Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely considered to be U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s top challenger in 2018.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee campaign includes a trio of “bumper ads,” known as a “bumper flock” when viewed in order. The ads are short-format, unskippable and play across Google platforms such as YouTube.

The committee is also putting a more traditional 30-second ad from earlier this year back into circulation. That ad, called “The Price,” depicts parents selling their possessions to care for their sick child.

The three six-second-long anti-Scott bumpers, which DSCC said are the first of its kind this cycle, depict a son texting his mother about health insurance from an emergency room. The teen asks his mother what type of health insurance the family has, and she responds with “I’m sorry honey, we don’t”

“It’s going to be $$$$$. Why is it so expensive???” the son writes in the third ad. The mother responds with a link to a Miami Herald article titled: “Rick Scott Says He’s Helping Trump Craft Replacement Health Care Plan.”

DSCC said the bumpers are part of a six-figure digital ad buy and are “optimal for delivering critical messages while keeping viewer’s attention, especially across mobile platforms.” The ads will trigger in order ahead of YouTube videos or internet searches.

“The Republican’s health care plan is striking Americans families in their everyday lives and in their most challenging moments — spiking their costs and stripping away coverage they are depending on, so big insurance companies can get another tax break,” said DSCC’s David Bergstein. “This message reaches voters over a series of direct and compelling spots that tell the story of how Rick Scott’s agenda has hurt Floridians and their families.”

Scott, who is termed-out as governor, hasn’t formally declared for the SWillenate race and has remained tight-lipped about when he will decide whether or not to run.

“I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” Scott said in an interview earlier this year.

View the ads below:


Gwen Graham spends ‘workday’ as a high school student

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent a “workday” Monday in Lynn Haven shadowing Mosley High School’s senior class president.

Graham caddied around Caroline Noble’s backpack, listened to her classmates and participated in school assignments. The former congresswoman was also around for the morning announcement broadcast, lunch and a tour of the school’s technical classes and ROTC.

“I have been a mom, PTA president, public school official, and spent Workdays with teachers across the state, but it’s been a few years since I have been a student — and what better way to experience today’s public schools than as a student,” Graham said. “The politicians in Tallahassee have become caught up in ideological battles and sold out to the education industry. They’ve forgotten what public school is really about: educating our children.”

Graham also got to listen to a lecture or two from her father, former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who dropped by economics, government and history classes to talk about the importance of civics education.

The trip to the Bay County school was one her campaign’s “workdays,” where the candidate puts herself into the shoes of her would-be constituents to better understand their everyday lives. The events are a staple in her campaigns and those of her father, who served two terms as Florida governor in the 1980s followed by three terms in the senate.

Graham has spent a couple workdays now at Florida public high schools, and said the number of tests and the weight they have on student success is a top concern among the the students she’s met.

“At schools from Panama City to Miami, I’ve asked students what their number one challenge in school is and the overwhelming response is the ridiculous amount of high-stakes testing,” she said. “We all agree there’s an appropriate role for testing, to measure a student’s growth, but the current scheme benefits the for-profit education industry, not our children.”

Graham added that taking on the education industry would be one of her top priorities if Floridians elect her next year.

“I will end high-stakes testing, end the arbitrary system of school grades, and end the lottery shell game, which has diverted funds meant for our public schools,” she said. “It’s time to finally pay teachers what they deserve, reduce class sizes and renew our promise to public schools.”

Bay County School District Superintendent Bill Husfelt said he appreciated both Graham’s stopping by the school and their support for public schools.

“I encourage every public official to spend a day in a school and walk in the students’ shoes. There’s no better way to learn about today’s public schools than by visiting them and listening to teachers, parents, and students,” he said.

Enterprise Florida marketing takes hit

Florida’s business-recruitment agency isn’t giving up on marketing to executives just because its budget has been slashed.

But it might not market to as many.

In scaling back marketing efforts after a cut in state funding, the public-private Enterprise Florida has outlined a $3 million marketing plan for this fiscal year that will reduce national newspaper ads and limit what the agency does at Major League Baseball spring-training games and with NASCAR.

Joe Hice, who is leaving his position as Enterprise Florida’s chief marketing officer in September, said the agency is waiting for the 2018 spring training schedule to determine what cities, and thus what visiting executives, to focus on for the Grapefruit League games.

Also, while the intent is to keep up appearances at the Daytona 500, Enterprise Florida would like to be able to end its ties at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

“Those are rather expensive events,” Hice told members of the agency’s Strategic Partners & Policy Committee meeting Monday at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. “We think they’re bucket list events. People want to come to those events, so we’d like to continue to do it. But we’d like to get them (Daytona) to help us out with the events.”

Other “bucket list” events remaining on the marketing schedule include The Players Championship, a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, and the September 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota.

The Legislature during a special session in June created an $85 million funding pool for regional business-recruitment efforts called the “Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.”

That came after House leaders pushed during the regular session to eliminate Enterprise Florida. While the Senate refused to go along with the elimination, lawmakers eventually settled on a $16 million budget for the agency, down from $23.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

To handle the cut, the marketing program took the biggest hit, falling from what had been $10 million a year, of which $8.5 million came from the state.

“Just realize, our $3 million budget is going up against a $140 million budget from New York, a $110 million budget from California, a $50 million budget from Texas and a $30 million budget from Georgia,” Hice said.

Hice said the agency, which has faced a couple years of downsizing, has been able to roll over some of the marketing money from the past year.

Still, marketing will need to be more direct.

Enterprise Florida is setting aside $400,000 for ads with national newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, down from more than $1 million a year.

Don’t expect full page ads that could run in six figures, Hice said. Instead, the focus will be digital ads.

Another $400,000 is slated for marketing partnerships with Florida’s rural counties, which could double that pot.

Also, $350,000 is to be targeted through airline clubs and with fixed-base operators at regional airports, where corporate executives depart and arrive in private planes.

“In the earlier research that we’ve done, we found that 60 percent of every corporate executive that we interviewed had visited Florida at least once within the past two years,” Hice said. “So, we know they’re getting here by plane for the most part. So, let’s reach them when they’re coming into the state with a business message, but maybe when they’re coming in for a vacation.”

The marketing also includes $300,000 for social media outreach, through sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and $100,000 for print and video production.

Hice, who was hired by the state agency in 2015, is leaving to be chief marketing officer at the University of South Florida, where he will also teach branding and strategic communications.

Republished with permission of News Service of Florida.

West Palm Beach removes Confederate monument

Workers in a Florida city have started taking down a memorial to Confederate soldiers at a city-owned cemetery.

The Palm Beach Post reports that a crane arrived at Woodlawn Cemetery on Tuesday to remove the 10-foot-tall marble monument. West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio announced the removal a day earlier, saying the city had asked the Daughters of the Confederacy to remove the memorial for months and that the group had declined. The group erected the monument in 1941.

The monument is carved with a Confederate flag, as well as words honoring soldiers. It was vandalized over the weekend with red spray paint. Police have said the monument also was vandalized a few weeks ago.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Philip Levine: State should identify, protect pedestrian terrorism targets

Faced with the growing worldwide trend of terrorists using vehicles to mow down pedestrians, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is asking Gov. Rick Scott to identify and help protect high-volume pedestrian corridors in Florida’s cities and towns.

“In the past year, vehicular attacks by terrorists and extremists have been on the rise in major metropolitan areas around the world, in Nice, Berlin, Stockholm, Westminster and most recently, in Barcelona,” Levine wrote in his letter to Scott, citing the most recent attack last weekend in Spain. “In light of last week’s tragic events, I would like to submit an idea for your consideration that may help to protect citizens and tourists in cities throughout Florida.”

Levine recommended the state identify “any and all high-traffic pedestrian walking areas” that are possible targets; consider partially or fully funding the purchase and placement of anti-vehicle barriers at key access points; and, in conjunction with the federal government, help fund security and assistance expertise for local police forces.

Levine is contemplating a run for governor himself, as either a Democrat or independent candidate. As a Democrat, he would take on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park developer Chris King and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. The Republican candidates include state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Among possible examples of pedestrian targets for terrorism is Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall in Levine’s Miami Beach. It covers ten blocks of street, full of stores, bars and restaurants, which has been closed off largely for pedestrians only. The city bills Lincoln Road Mall as South Florida’s “premier outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment destination.”

Yet such pedestrian-oriented stretches are throughout the state, from beaches to revitalized small town downtowns, and from college campuses to major tourist corridors such as Orlando’s International Drive.

In a note to Miami Beach citizens, Levine pointed out a citywide assessment of potential terrorist targets is underway, and in the meantime, temporary concrete barriers are being placed on two streets intersecting Lincoln Road.

“The barriers will be temporary until a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing option can be implemented as part of the eventual redesign of Lincoln Road,” he wrote.


Candidates weigh in on question about Rick Scott making Supreme Court appointments in 2019

Unsurprisingly, Democratic candidates for governor say the power to appoint state Supreme Court justices in 2019 lies with whoever wins next November, while Republican candidates are divided on the issue.

Progressive groups are now battling Gov. Rick Scott in court over his authority to replace the three liberal-leaning justices—R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince—who will be retiring in early 2019.

Scott, a Naples Republican who is term-limited, has said he plans to name their replacements the morning of his last day in office, Jan. 8. That’s because, his attorneys have argued, their age-required retirements also will become effective Jan. 8.

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause counter that Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day they retire, and their final judicial terms last till midnight.

The Supreme Court itself, in a non-binding 2006 advisory opinion, said appellate vacancies may be filled by a governor only “upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.”

We asked the thus-far declared candidates in the race what they thought. The two major Republicans running, Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala, are split.

“We tried to pass a bill … in a constitutional amendment a couple of years ago, just for the very reason of taking away the doubt and the controversy on that and the voters didn’t deem it necessary to approve it, so I think that probably the new governor has the right to make the appointments based on the presentations that have been made to me,” Latvala told WMNF radio last week.

In 2014, lawmakers placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot, backed by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, that would have given Scott the power to name the new justices. But it failed to gain the required 60 percent approval.

Putnam won’t offer his opinion: “This is something that the Legislature attempted to clarify and we’ll see what the court decides,” Putnam said while speaking with reporters in Temple Terrace on Monday.

When asked what he personally believed, the current Agriculture Commissioner pleaded ignorance. “Look, I’m a farmer, man, I’m not a lawyer,” he replied. “I think it’s an appropriate decision for the courts to make.”

Meanwhile, the three major Democrats running for governor all believe the power lies with the incoming chief executive.

“Rick Scott’s last-minute power grab to pack and stack the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t just violate our Constitution — it’s an affront to the people of Florida who rejected Scott’s proposed court-packing amendment in 2014,” former Congresswoman Gwen Graham said. She represented north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in 2015-17.

Andrew Gillum “absolutely supports the League of Women Voters’ action to prevent Governor Scott from making these ‘Midnight Appointments,’ ” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said.  He added that Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee, is going to play an active role in the 2020 political redistricting effort.

Added the Chris King Campaign in a statement: “It’s telling that Republicans, (who) felt that President Obama shouldn’t be able to name one new justice to the (U.S.) Supreme Court in his entire last year in office, now think Rick Scott should get to name three to the state Supreme Court on his last day.” King is a Winter Park developer.

Donald Trump returns to Arizona – and a chaotic political landscape

Donald Trump was just a few weeks into his candidacy in 2015 when he came to Phoenix for a speech that ended up being a bigger moment in his campaign than most people realized at the time.

Trump savaged his critics and the media, vowed to fine Mexico $100,000 for each immigrant entering the country illegally, talked tough on trade, promised to return America to its winning ways and borrowed a line from Richard Nixon in declaring, “The silent majority is back.”

The packed crowd ate it up — the raucous enthusiasm an early sign of the overwhelming support among Trump’s base that would help carry him to the presidency.

As Trump returns to Arizona Tuesday in need of another big moment, he will find a place where his agenda and unconventional leadership style have consumed the political landscape and elevated the state’s status in the national fight for control of power in Washington in 2018.

It was Arizona senator John McCain who cast the vote that derailed Trump’s effort to repeal the health care law. The other Arizona senator, Jeff Flake, has become the poster child for Republicans who buck the president’s agenda and feel his wrath on Twitter. The president is almost certain to back a GOP challenger to Flake in 2018, complicating Republican efforts to maintain control of the Senate.

Trump has also revived the immigration debate and infuriated Latinos here with his talk of pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his recent conviction for breaking the law with his signature immigration patrols. The controversy over Civil War monuments has even spilled into Arizona, where the governor has faced repeated calls to take down a handful of Confederate memorials in the state.

And an overlooked item in Trump’s agenda, school choice, has made education a hot campaign issue in Arizona. With the strong support of Education Secretary Besty DeVos, Arizona passed the nation’s most ambitious expansion of vouchers this year, and public-school advocates recently submitted more than 100,000 signatures in a petition drive to get the law wiped out on the 2018 ballot.

If that isn’t enough fuel for a political bonfire, Trump’s visit to Arizona will be his first political event since the race-driven violence in Virginia and his divisive comments in the aftermath of the protests. That created a dilemma for Republicans like Gov. Doug Ducey on whether to take the stage at the Trump rally while running for re-election. Doing so would subject him to attacks from moderates and the left by appearing with the president so soon after Charlottesville and possibly at the same time as the president pardons Arpaio and throws his endorsement behind Flake’s challenger. But avoiding the stage could hurt him with the base.

Ducey’s plan is to greet the president on the airport tarmac and skip the rally, saying he wants to oversee the law enforcement response to protests. The governor supported Trump and appeared on stage at one of his rallies last year in Arizona.

Trump would be hard-pressed to find a state where his Republican base is as faithful and vocal as in Arizona, which is a big reason why he came to the state seven times during his campaign and refers to the “special place” it holds for him. The fierce, non-conformist political spirit evident at Trump rallies here traces its roots to the frontier days and allows hard-fisted politicians like him and Arpaio to thrive.

“The Republican primary base in Arizona is highly partisan, semi-libertarian in the sense that it’s against the swamp,” said longtime Republican political strategist Chuck Coughlin. “We’re the 48th state to join. We’re still acting like a juvenile. We still act like we’re the last one invited to the party which is sort of what Donald Trump is.”

The biggest consequence of Trump’s unorthodox governing style may be seen in Flake’s re-election effort. Flake has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump, taking him to task in pointed jabs in a recent book.

Trump has been sending out Tweets signaling his support for far-right former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is running against Flake in the primary. Other Republicans with less baggage than Ward could also enter the race and complicate things further, making it harder for Republicans to keep the seat in the general election. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is considered the top threat on the Democratic side.

“If the president himself is supporting a challenger to Jeff, it’s a serious problem,” said Coughlin, who has been polling voters about the intraparty turmoil that has unsettled the race.

Voters like Julie Brown are indicative of the GOP struggle in the Trump administration between the base and establishment. She attended a Trump rally last year and remains steadfast in her support of the president, even after Charlottesville.

“He’s not totally polished and everyone tears apart his words, but you’ll never have to guess what he’s thinking and I like that much better than a politician who just gets up there and buoyantly lies and is bought by lobbyists,” Brown said. “He’s just straightforward, and like I said, it rocks the boat but we need it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Sans bible quotation, Marco Rubio signals support for Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy

He may not have yet found the right biblical verse to commend President Donald Trump‘s new Afghanistan strategy, but Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is praising the president for his decision to stick with a conflict he has long opposed.

In a 26-minute address to the nation Monday, Trump alluded to more American troops deploying to Afghanistan, but refused to say how many. He said victory would be well-defined, but outlined only vague benchmarks for success, like dismantling al-Qaida and preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. He said the U.S. would not offer Afghanistan a “blank check,” but provided no specific timetable for the end of an American commitment that has already lasted 16 years.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials proposed plans to send in nearly 4,000 more to boost training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

During the speech, Rubio tweeted his support of Trump’s plan:

After a night’s rest, Rubio is even more generous with his comments, commending the Trump administration for “crafting a new strategy for victory in Afghanistan and South Asia that will be based on conditions on the ground, rather than on politics or arbitrary timetables.”

Trump offered up many of the same solutions tried by his predecessors. He vowed to get tough on neighboring Pakistan, to push for reforms in Afghanistan and to moderate ambitions. The U.S. will not be caught in the quagmire of democracy-building abroad, he said, promising a “principled realism” focused only on U.S. interests would guide his decisions.

Rubio said he believes preventing a terrorist safe haven from developing in Afghanistan is worth the cost of prolonged war.

“Our nation’s longest war has been costly in terms of human lives and national treasure, and too many mistakes have been made by both Republican and Democratic administrations,” said Rubio. “Nonetheless, the United States cannot afford to abandon this fight as it relates directly to the heinous terrorist attacks against our nation nearly 16 years ago. Ensuring a stable and functional Afghanistan is in the direct national security interest of the United States and the right thing to do for the American people, the Afghan people, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in this war.”

After Trump’s speech, one headline read: “’UNLIMITED WAR.” Another said: “What Does Victory in Afghanistan Look Like? Washington Doesn’t Know.” Yet Trump is promising nothing short of success.

“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” he said. “They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

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