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New Rick Scott ad spotlights storm relief efforts

Gov. Rick Scott is dedicated largely to post-Michael recovery these days, and a new ad from his campaign is designed to remind voters of that fact.

“With the campaign nearly over, let’s take a behind the scenes peek at both candidates,” the narrator observes.

Scott is “leading hurricane recovery, directing relief efforts, and even housing state troopers in his own home.”

The aforementioned home is the Governor’s Mansion.

“And Sen. Nelson? Running false attack ads mocking Gov. Scott’s service in the Navy,” the narrator chides, calling it a “new low” and “dirty politics” from Nelson.

One tripwire for this spot: a third-party group (VoteVets) accusing Scott of using his familiar Navy ball cap for political optics while he “cheated” veterans, in an ad that got national coverage in outlets like Fox News.

Another tripwire: a senior Nelson campaign hand charging Scott with using storm recovery as a way to dodge voters and media on the campaign trail, while spending $18 million on ad buys … including negative ads targeted against the Democratic incumbent.

The Scott campaign decried all of this, somehow invoking the Senate Minority Leader in the process.

“Sen. Nelson and his Democratic Party boss Chuck Schumer have truly reached a new low by mocking the Governor’s military service. Considering that Schumer controls Nelson’s vote and is funding his campaign, it hardly comes as a surprise that Democrats have gotten this desperate. Regardless, while Nelson continues to play dirty politics, Governor Scott will continue to focus on leading hurricane recovery,” asserted Chris Hartline, Scott for Florida Spokesman.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Central Florida Sheriffs slam ‘anti-police’ Andrew Gillum, back Ron DeSantis

A group of Republican Sheriffs from Central Florida endorsed Republican Ron DeSantis for Governor on Tuesday, spotlighting the alleged “anti-police” radicalism of Democrat Andrew Gillum in the bargain.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd distilled the pro-DeSantis case neatly: “When I looked at this election, I asked myself a simple question that every voter should ask themselves: Do you want a governor who is a decorated veteran and former prosecutor, or a governor who ignored pleas from police for more support and more officers while crime skyrocketed in his city?”

Seminole Sheriff Dennis Lemma echoed these themes: “Andrew Gillum’s Tallahassee has become the most dangerous city in Florida four-years in a row, that’s not the kind of record that deserves a promotion. His anti-law enforcement way of thinking has made it more dangerous for the people of Tallahassee.”

The Gillum camp disputes that characterization, a Republican staple. Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, a Democrat, noted that “violent crime is down 24 percent, and overall crime is down 10 percent with crime at a five-year low in Tallahassee.”

Brevard’s head lawman, Sheriff Wayne Ivey, said, “When I found out that Andrew Gillum pledged his allegiance to the ‘Freedom Papers,’ an anti-police manifesto from the Dream Defenders organization, I was appalled.

“I am tired of this rhetoric that demonizes our law enforcement officers. It makes the jobs of our deputies harder and more dangerous,” Ivey lamented.

(Worth noting: The Freedom Papers case extends beyond the police, with such insights as “billionaires use Florida as a playground because 20 million of us live on little to nothing.” The DeSantis campaign has already spotlighted the Dream Defenders in advertising.)

The other Sheriffs endorsing the candidate include: Carmine Marceno (Lee), Sheriff Al Nienhuis (Hernando), Sheriff Bill Farmer (Sumter), Sheriff Arnold Lanier (Hardee), Sheriff Steve Whidden (Hendry), Sheriff Wayne Padgett (Taylor), Sheriff Rick Staly (Flagler), and Sheriff Billy Woods (Marion).

Ahead of the primary, Adam Putnam was the runaway choice of most Sheriffs and police unions. Since late August, however, their support has largely (with the exception of a handful of Democratic Sheriffs) fallen in behind DeSantis.

For his part, DeSantis sounded like Gov. Rick Scott when accepting the lawman backing.

 “I am proud to have the support of this group of Florida’s finest here today, along with the support of law enforcement officers from across this state. There is nothing more fundamental to the job of the next governor than ensuring safety for our residents and our visitors. And as I stand here today, I stand where I will as governor, next to our law enforcement and in support of them,” DeSantis vowed.

“Crime is currently at a 47-year low thanks to these Sheriffs and the work of law enforcement officers from across the state who are on the front lines. However, they don’t just need our praise, they need support, they need resources, and they need a governor who will stand alongside them at every turn. So, while I am honored to have their support, I want to take this opportunity to restate my commitment to them and to ensuring Florida has the safest, most well-enforced communities in the country,” DeSantis added.


All hands on deck: Ron DeSantis campaign staffs up for final sprint

The Ron DeSantis campaign has added a plethora of high-power politicos for the closing weeks of the race for Florida Governor, including reinforcements in campaign communications and political consulting.

Under the leadership of Susie Wiles, who helmed Donald Trump’s Florida campaign two years ago, Team DeSantis has added numerous campaign veterans. Wiles started bringing on key staffers shortly after taking the chair position on the Republican gubernatorial campaign, onboarding Jennifer Locetta to oversee operations and Tim Page to manage local and national surrogates.

Also among the new faces joining the Republican nominee’s campaign is Matt Parker, who will serve as Team DeSantis’ senior consultant for all things related to field operations.

“These staffers are the best of the best and dropped everything to come join this team. They know what’s at stake in Florida and gladly offered their help a few weeks ago,” Wiles said. “I am proud to have them on the DeSantis team and Ron is grateful for their willingness to help.”

Lending their talents in consulting are veteran GOP operative Pat Bainter of Data Targeting Inc. and longtime Florida GOP strategists David Johnson and Rich Heffley.

Wiles didn’t disclose the exact responsibilities of the additions to the consultant corps so as not to reveal the campaign’s strategy in the closing stretch, but she said “we are very grateful to have them on the team. DJ, Rich, and Pat are tested strategists with many wins under their belts. This expanded team is made up the leadership of winning GOP campaigns in Florida.”

The new additions back up campaign manager Brad Herold, senior campaign adviser James Blair and communications director Stephen Lawson, political director Jordan Wiggins, strategist Tim Baker and GOP communications expert Sarah Bascom and her team at Bascom Communications.

DeSantis and his LG pick, state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, are up against Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum and running mate Chris King in the general election.

Most polls have shown Gillum with a slight lead — RealClearPolitics’ average of all public polling the Tallahassee mayor up 3.7 percentage points — though DeSantis has recently surged in fundraising thanks to a $5 million check from Chicago billionaire Kenneth Griffin, fueling him up for the final stretch.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Former Vice President Joe Biden endorses Sean Shaw

The statewide race for the open Attorney General post is attracting national involvement.

Calling state Rep. Sean Shaw a “fighter with a proven track record of standing up for the little guy,” former Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his political weight behind Florida’s Democratic option for Attorney General.

In an endorsement announced on Tuesday, the former two-term Vice President said, “Sean Shaw will be the kind of Attorney General that the state of Florida desperately needs.”

Shaw responded, likening himself to the former Veep.

“Much like Vice President Biden did during his time in the White House, I plan to give issues surrounding common-sense gun reform and tackling sexual assault, the focus, and attention that they deserve,” Shaw said. “The grace with which Vice President Biden has carried himself, through both triumph and tragedy, is a lesson in the resilience of the human spirit.”

This isn’t Biden’s first wade into races down the ballot. He has offered support for candidates running in special elections during the past two years, even going as far as recording robocalls to go out ahead of February’s House District 72 race, which saw Democrat Margaret Good secure an upset victory.

Shaw faces former Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican who has long carried support from term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi. Moody faced a brutal primary challenge from Frank White, which exhausted much of her campaign funds. Currently, Shaw leads in the money chase with $1.2 million on hand, while Moody’s close behind at $870,000 — although her weekly hauls have recently topped Shaw’s.


Backers press case for Amendment 2

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to keep the 10 percent non-homestead tax cap pressed their case at a Tuesday press conference.

“I’m asking Florida voters to vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 2 this November,” said Anna King, owner of a Tallahassee salon.

“As a business owner who rents my salon space, the 10 percent non-homestead tax cap is one of the few protections I have, along with every other non-homestead owner and business owners,” she said. “Amendment 2 is a protective of every Florida citizen including renters and consumers.

“If my landlord’s taxes go up, it will be passed on to me. That will impact my ability to keep my costs of the salon services at a competitive, fair, affordable price.”

The press conference was organized by Everybody is for Amendment 2, supporters of passage of the amendment who include thousands of small business owners across Florida, and residential renters.

Ten years ago, Florida voters realized that property taxes were getting out of hand and approved a temporary 10 percent cap on non-homestead properties, which includes businesses, residential rentals, and vacant lots.

“After seeing the positive effect it has had since then, we need to make it permanent by passing Amendment 2,” said Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch.

“It allows for businesses to keep their prices at a degree of stability as they can accurately project their budgets for months and even years to come, and this benefit is passed on to the consumer, every Florida citizen.”

Added French Brown, a tax attorney with Dean Mead: “The largest number of non-homestead properties are used for residential rentals. So if Amendment 2 fails, renters will get hit first and hardest.”

Marsy’s Law group offers crime victims’ pleas in new Amendment 6 ads

Two new television commercials are being launched Tuesday telling the stories of a rape victim and the mother of a murder victim, who explain how helpless they’ve felt in pursuing justice and why they want Florida voters to adopt Amendment 6.

The commercials are part of the $30 million campaign being run by Marsy’s Law for Florida, a group created to push for “Marsy’s Law” victims rights laws much like those adopted in California and other states, pushed for by the family of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student murdered in 1983.

For the two new Florida campaign TV commercials, the fifth and sixth from Marsy’s Law of Florida, the real-life Florida victims are Ann Rowe of Tallahassee and Mary Futrill Petersen.

In the first new 30-second ad, Rowe tells her own story, about how she was brutally raped and beaten outside her Tallahassee home two years ago.

“Regrettably, to this day I have no justice,” she says. “Amendment 6 is an initiative that will give victims the same level of rights that the accused currently have.”

As she says that, several of the rights in question appear on the screen in text: rights to restitution,  to notification, to be heard in court, and to have a voice in sentencing and parole.

In the other ad, Petersen’s mother, Francis Futrill of Jacksonville, tells of her daughter, who was murdered in her own bed in 2002, her body discovered the next day by her 8-year-old son. The case remains unsolved.

“We would call over to the detectives. It would be weeks or even never that they would return our calls,” Futrill recalled.

The issue raised by opponents of Amendment 6 – and they include the Public Defenders Association of Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and the ACLU – is that many of the rights included in Amendment 6 already are in Florida law, including some already in the Florida Constitution. Opponents contend that Amendment 6 would go beyond equal rights between victims and perpetrators, to infringe on Constitutional rights of the accused.

In fact, opponents of Amendment 6 argue that Florida already is on the cutting edge of victims’ rights law.

The Amendment 6 proposal was created by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, which bundled the Marsy’s Law provisions with two other proposed changes of law in Florida unrelated to victims’ rights.

If approved by at least 60 percent of the voters in the Nov. 6 election, Amendment 6 also would raise the mandatory retirement age of Florida judges, including Supreme Court justices, to 75, from 70; and it would revise how courts are permitted to interpret Florida law, forbidding judges from deferring to state agencies’ own interpretations as the default legal interpretation.

Marco Rubio, Puerto Rican legislator pitch for Ron DeSantis in Spanish-language ads

Florida Republicans released a trio of Spanish-language ads Tuesday on behalf of Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

These spots will air in the Tampa, Orlando, and Miami markets.

Making the pitches, produced by the Republican Party of Florida, are two prominent Hispanic leaders: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón.

Rubio actually cut two spots, with the Congresswoman picking up the third.

One Rubio pitch was soft-focus and positive, with Rubio maintaining DeSantis “understands the importance of the state helping your family prosper.”

“DeSantis is a veteran of the Iraq War with a clear vision, and I know he will be a great governor. Do not let others decide the well-being (or welfare) of our families,” Rubio said.

In his second spot, Rubio made a more express appeal to the base, warning of “special interests from the extreme left, that are not from our state, spending millions of dollars in the governor’s campaign race.”

“They are looking to force their agenda which goes against the interest of our families here. Ron DeSantis is standing up to them. As a veteran,” Rubio maintains, “DeSantis understands the importance of families having an opportunity to prosper. But he can’t accomplish this alone. That’s why it’s important that you vote. Don’t let others decide for you!”

González-Colón, meanwhile, affirmed DeSantis’ credentials.

“Elections are to choose who will work for you. That is, Ron DeSantis. A War Veteran. An Effective legislator. A Believer in equality. He looks out for our community. I know this first hand. Because in Congress he has been one of our best allies. Giving support and efforts for our recovery. DeSantis is approved, I know him. We have worked together for Puerto Rico. That’s why today, I am asking you to vote Ron DeSantis for Governor,” the Congresswoman said.

New commercial fills Bill Nelson’s suit with scary things

The Republican political committee that brought Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s “empty suit” commercials running constantly for weeks released a new ad that fills the suit with everything from tax increase votes to a confused mind.

The new 30-second spot, “Lining,” from New Republican Political Action Committee, the committee Republican Gov. Rick Scott set up to support his U.S. Senate campaign, brings up all the charges pushed earlier: Nelson voted to raise taxes; he’s been collecting government paychecks for 45 years, now totaling millions of dollars in pay; he voted to cut Medicare; and making up a story about Russian interference … all because he’s confused.

Nelson’s campaign has rebutted most of those charges repeatedly, stating, for example, that the Republican’s assertion that he voted 375 times for tax increases is inaccurate; and that the vote referenced as a Medicare cut was no such thing, but rather a vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, which included reductions in the amounts that Medicare would reimburse to hospitals, not cuts in coverage for patients.

“Lining” doesn’t get into such detail.

“We know Bill Nelson is an empty suit. But look inside,” the narrator begins as an empty suit flips open to show lining and pockets.

“Forty-five years in office, Nelson has earned millions and a huge pension we’re paying for. Controlled by his party, Nelson has voted 89 percent of the time with them, even voting to raise taxes 375 times, and cutting our Medicare. A confused Nelson even made up stories about Russian election interference.

“Bill Nelson’s suit is empty. But it’s lined with danger and confusion that hurts Florida families,” the narrator concludes.

New Republican PAC has spent $15 million so far on the race, including on more than a half-dozen TV commercials attacking Nelson, almost all of them asserting that he’s been in office way too long, and that he is “confused.”

State waits to consider possible election changes

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Monday he’s waiting for requests from elections supervisors in hurricane-ravaged counties before considering any changes for the Nov. 6 election.

“The department is in regular communication with supervisors of elections in affected counties, and they are still in the process of assessing potential damage to early-voting and election-day voting sites as well as any other impacts that could affect voters in their area,” Detzner said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with supervisors and provide any needed assistance, as well as ensure updates are communicated to voters and the media once more information is available.”

Detzner traveled to hard-hit Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf and Liberty counties on Monday.

“I saw firsthand the devastation Hurricane Michael brought to these areas and my heart goes out to them,” Detzner said.

The deadline to register to vote in the November election was last Tuesday. But Detzner granted a partial extension to counties where elections offices were closed that day because of Hurricane Michael, which hit Wednesday as a Category 4 storm.

Counties where elections offices were closed last Tuesday will be able to accept paper voter-registration applications to the day they reopen.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 334,000 people statewide had cast vote-by-mail ballots for the election, including 121,594 by Democrats and 152,191 by Republicans.

But Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty, Jackson, Holmes, Washington and Gadsden counties hadn’t updated their vote-by-mail numbers since before Michael came ashore.

Early voting statewide runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, though county supervisors can add some extra days.

AIDS Foundation, Governor’s office argue over records

Attorneys for the nation’s largest non-profit AIDS health-care provider squared off Monday against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over Florida’s broad public-records law and how it applies to the governor’s travel records and meeting schedules.

The Scott administration does not dispute that information the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is requesting is a public record. Instead, the administration argued to a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal about the timing of the release of the information.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation in July requested the governor’s travel schedule, including his overnight accommodations, for three months in advance. The foundation requested the information after the Scott administration made contracting decisions that locked a foundation health plan, Positive Healthcare, out of the state’s Medicaid program for the next five years.

In legal briefs filed with the 1st District Court of Appeal, Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard, representing the Scott administration, argued that while the schedule isn’t exempt from the public-records law, there is a law that exempts from review “any information revealing surveillance techniques or procedures or personnel. “

“If you tell a person where the governor is going to be every time three months in advance — what time he’s going to arrive ,what time he’s going to leave, where he’s going to be lodging — effectively you are giving them the opportunity to learn the surveillance techniques, procedures and personnel,” Richard told The News Service of Florida. “Because all you have to do is get there ahead of time and watch the (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and how they are setting up their surveillance perimeter.”

Richard said the governor’s office releases Scott’s schedule daily and that the current distribution cycle “balances the public policy of open public records with the necessity of protecting the safety of public officers and law enforcement personnel.”

But AIDS Healthcare Foundation attorney Brian Finnerty said the Scott administration is citing an exemption that doesn’t apply.

“This is a very unusual case for us, and it’s because the executive office of the governor is not claiming these records are not public record,” Finnerty told the court. ”They’re just claiming that there’s a time component or a public policy component that should be read into the particular exemption that they have cited that would preclude them from having to produce the records that we requested.”

Judge Joseph Lewis Jr. asked Finnerty whether the release of the information could give people an opportunity to access surveillance-related information, but Finnerty said it would not.

“It simply would allow somebody to know what the governor’s plans are, and I think it’s consistent with the Sunshine law,” he said, referring to Florida’s public-records law.

The Scott administration took the case to the appeals court after Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled Sept. 5 that the information was a public record. Dodson initially ordered Scott’s office to provide it within 10 days, but the appeals court delayed the effect of the decision while it considered the case.

The lawsuit is part of a series of legal battles that came after the state Agency for Health Care Administration did not renew a five-year Medicaid contract with the foundation’s Positive Healthcare to provide Medicaid services in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

In one of the other cases, the foundation is asking a judge to nullify Medicaid managed-care contracts. The Agency for Health Care Administration tried unsuccessfully to have the case tossed from administrative court, and a decision in the case is pending, according to the state Division of Administrative Hearings website.

Also, another case has been filed in Leon County circuit court arguing that the Scott administration is violating the public records law.

Both parties agreed last month to push back a hearing in that case, saying they were working on a possible agreement.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation attorney Ryan Andrews, however, said progress on that case has slowed. Andrews said he would give the state additional time to respond to his client’s request for information because Tallahassee was affected by Hurricane Michael. But Andrews said “it may be brought back up.”

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