Headlines – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis, Philip Levine and Chris King rallying voters this weekend

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Philip Levine and Chris King will rally voters throughout the state today, while Republican candidate Ron DeSantis brings another conservative power-pundit to his cause.

DeSantis, a Ponte Verde congressman, may boast the most famous campaign trail companion, with radio host Mark Levin joining him for a meet-and-greet at the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club for at 3 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, former Miami Beach Mayor Levine will blitz all corners of the state today to organize voters behind his campaign.

Levine kicks off a statewide “Day of Action” with an event in Miami Beach at 10 a.m. alongside sitting Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. Then he jets to Tallahassee for a 1 p.m. canvassing event with Madison County School Board member Reggie Daniels before finally racing to Jacksonville for a 4 p.m. canvassing event.

Meanwhile, Levine’s campaign will host separate canvassing events with a variety of supporters, including Mitch Caesar in Coral Springs, Herman Robinson in Lake Worth, Gina Driscoll in St. Petersburg, Bernie Parness in Deerfield Beach, Gary Resnick in Wilton Manors, Al Johnson in Redington Beach, Jose Alvarez in Kissimmee and Khalid Muneer in Orlando.

Orlando businessman King in the meantime will attend an environmental rally in Clewiston to draw attention to algal blooms impacting South Florida.

Toxic algae and water pollution in Lake Okeechobee prompted a state of emergency and a change in discharge schedule by the Army Corps of Engineers.

King says he will address environmentalists at a 10:30 a.m. rally at the Clewiston City Marina. The Orlando Democrat says he will fight Big Sugar interests, which he fingers as the responsible party behind toxic discharges.

For his part, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign will host canvassing events today Merritt Island and Tampa.

Philip Levine campaign releases ad on algae

Democratic candidate for governor Philip Levine has dropped a new ad focused on Lake Okeechobee’s algae crisis.

The ad comes “as discharges are set to resume and bring toxic blue-green algae flowing into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers,” the campaign said in a Friday release.

The new 30-second spot, “Toxic,” highlights Levine’s “commitment to take action and protect Florida’s waterways” and will air in the Palm Beach media market.

“This is where Floridians will fight to protect our future,” Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor, said in a statement. “Algae pollution is poisoning the water and threatening local jobs, while moms are losing sleep over their children’s health.

“The answer (is) to move quickly and with a high sense of urgency, get help to businesses needing it most, and bring in our best ecologists to end this nightmare,” he added.

“We’ve waited long enough. And rest assured, I’ll take on Rick Scott, or anyone, who turns their back on us now.”

Marion Hammer files million-dollar lawsuit against alleged harassers

Veteran Florida-based National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer is seeking $1 million in damages, saying she was harassed and threatened by four men from across the country.

Hammer filed a lawsuit, including a motion for preliminary injunction, in federal court in Tallahassee on Friday. The case was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat.

She described herself as “a 79-year-old grandmother and nationally renowned civil rights advocate who has spent the better part of her life protecting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Hammer is the “victim of cyberstalking, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intrusion upon seclusion under Florida statutory and common law,” her complaint says.

Her verified complaint says her troubles began after “the tragic shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and continuing after the national debate over gun control took center stage.” A Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Broward County high school left 14 students and three staff members dead.

She lobbied against the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” eventually passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, billed as a “comprehensive approach to addressing issues (of) firearm and school safety, and community mental health resources.”

Hammer soon became “the target of a coordinated attack intended to humiliate, harass, and cause substantial emotional distress,” the complaint says.

“For example, Hammer received the same postcards from various individuals throughout the United States, often mailed from the same location,” it says. “In several instances, the content of the communications (including email and social media) Hammer received used the same specific terms and phrases, thus demonstrating direction and cooperation.”

The complaint includes a long list of vituperative messages she says she has received, most using epithets and foul language.

“Whenever she is in public she worries that the people who have been harassing her will confront her and that a confrontation could turn violent,” it adds. “… She adjusted her schedule and the places she eats with her family so that they are not predictable. Her entire family group does not go anywhere together any more.”

The named defendants “sought out Hammer’s e-mail address” and one sent her “graphic photos of gunshot victims, including an unidentified person in a hospital bed with gaping leg wounds, and a photo of President John F. Kennedy’s head after he was assassinated.”

Others consisted of “indirect and/or direct threats accompanied by humiliating and abusive personal attacks.”

Hammer said she’s not alone, mentioning Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi being recently “confronted and harassed by protestors” coming out of a theater in Tampa where she had watched a Mr. Rogers documentary, and state Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, being yelled at that she had “blood on her hands” and called a “killer” and “murderer.”

She seeks an court order forbidding further communication to her from the defendants, calling it “beyond all bounds of decency” and “odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

“Harassment is not speech: It is wrongful conduct that may take the form of speech,” the complaint says. “Consequently, it can be enjoined without running afoul of the First Amendment.”

She’s represented by attorney Shane B. Vogt of Tampa.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. — The News Service of Florida reports a similar second lawsuit was filed later in the day by Hammer in Leon County Circuit Civil court against Brian Fitzgerald, identified as a 66-year-old resident of Miami-Dade County.


As GOP Governor’s race tightens, Adam Putnam messages on veterans’ issues

Friday saw Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, in Jacksonville pushing his “Florida Military and Veterans First Agenda.”

Among the planks to that agenda: expanding nursing home beds and offering veterans’ support hotlines; extending homestead exemptions to surviving spouses, and “protecting and growing” the military; and protecting the Joint Gulf Range and Jacksonville Range Complexes for training.

Putnam has a history of drawing strong crowds in Jacksonville, but Friday’s was not one of them. The event started late, and attendees were urged to sit close to the front.

Putnam, who seemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee for months, has a fight on his hands. He’s running against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who actually was a veteran and reminds audiences statewide that his opponent went from college to a career in politics. President Donald Trump backs DeSantis (in spite of Putnam’s boosterism on Twitter), and so does the Koch machine.

Meanwhile, more than one consultant polling the governor’s race says that the DeSantis swing in recent public polls is reflected in their internals.

The candidate, when asked if he worried that the campaign was slipping away, said “I wake up every day worried. I’m fighting to the bitter end.”

“We’re running a grassroots campaign … a Florida First campaign … a substantive campaign,” Putnam said, noting that he’s rolled out “a jobs agenda, a family agenda, a public safety agenda, and now a veterans’ agenda.”

We asked Putnam why Trump and the Koch brothers back his opponent. His answer was non-responsive to the question.

“I’m focused on my campaign, and I’m focused on a Floridians’ campaign,” Putnam said, noting that 2/3 of Florida’s elected sheriffs have endorsed him.

With Donald Trump Jr. coming in to stump with DeSantis, and the President himself potentially doing the same, we asked Putnam if his criticisms of Trump during the 2016 primary season would come back to haunt him.

Putnam, as a Breitbart hit piece noted, “called Trump ‘abhorrent and dishonorable,’ ‘vile and obscene,’ and asserted that Trump is not “a level, steady, consistent guy who is well-read.”

We wondered, specifically, what has changed since 2016 and now.

“I support the President. I support Trump’s agenda. I’ve been very clear about that,” Putnam said.

“I think that what he’s doing to lower our tax burden, to unleash the power of American entrepreneurs is outstanding. I love what he’s doing on denuclearizing North Korea. And so many other things.”

“Like many people, including my opponent, we supported other people first, but we both support the President.” Putnam said.

Florida police union endorsing Jimmy Patronis for CFO

The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police (Florida FOP) is backing Jimmy Patronis in his bid to remain Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

Patronis is running for election against Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. Richard Paul Dembinsky also qualified as a write-in candidate.

Patronis, a Republican, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last year to replace CFO Jeff Atwater, who stepped down early to become chief financial officer of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Scott had previously tapped Patronis, a former state representative, for the state’s Public Service Commission and Constitution Revision Commission. He left both panels upon becoming CFO.

“The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police are proud to endorse and stand with Chief Financial Officer Patronis in his bid to continue as CFO,” said Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins.

“His dedication and passion for all of Florida’s first responders is truly remarkable. CFO Patronis consistently proves that he firmly stands with law enforcement and it is clear that we are a top priority for him.”

“CFO Jimmy Patronis has kept supporting Florida’s law enforcement and corrections at the top of his agenda,” added Florida FOP Vice President Lonnie Miller.

“He made such a profound impact for first responders with the passage of his PTSD bill this past legislative session. We are extremely pleased to be endorsing him.”

The Florida FOP is a union representing thousands of law enforcement officers throughout the state.

“I am extremely honored to be officially endorsed by the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police in my campaign,” said Patronis.

“I am appreciative of the service of the brave men and women who are sworn to protect Florida and uphold our laws. I will continue to advocate for all of Florida’s first responders, including law enforcement and corrections, to ensure they have the resources they need to continue successfully protecting communities all across this great state.”

The endorsement is another sign of good news for the Patronis campaign. Financial reports showed Patronis tripled Ring in fundraising during the month of June.

However, polls on the race have been split. The CFO election will take place Nov. 6, as voters head to the polls for the midterms.

Gwen Graham

Panama City mayor backs Gwen Graham

Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki is supporting Gwen Graham’s quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

Brudnicki endorsed the lone female Democratic gubernatorial candidate on Friday, citing her congressional service as his rationale for support. Graham was elected to the 2nd Congressional District in 2014 and served two years before opting out of a re-election bid after the area’s redistricting. CD 2 encompasses Panama City.

“Representing Panama City in Congress, Gwen Graham always put people first. She worked on behalf of Florida’s men and women serving in uniform. Gwen fought to ban oil drilling off our beaches. And she brought more than $2.5 million dollars back to veterans, seniors and families,” Brudnicki said. “Her service to our state has earned my support and I’m excited to vote for her this August and November.”

This isn’t the first time Brudnicki has waded into Graham’s politics. He supported her opponent, then-incumbent Steve Southerland, during Graham’s 2014 congressional bid.

Brudnicki credited Graham’s victory to her ability to appeal to both sides of the political aisle.

“Despite running in a Republican-leaning district in a Republican wave year, Graham won her first campaign for public office in 2014 by turning out voters in traditionally Democratic areas like Leon County and being competitive in more Republican areas like Bay County,” Brudnicki said.  

News of Brudnicki’s endorsement comes just two days after  NARAL, one of the nation’s largest pro-choice political action committees, endorsed Graham.

The Graham campaign highlighted other endorsements from North Florida, the bulk of which are composed of local leaders in Tallahassee, Leon County, Duval County and Jacksonville.

In accepting Brudnicki’s endorsement, Graham said she “will end Tallahassee’s attacks on local control, and work with elected officials from both parties from Pensacola to Key West to move Florida forward.”

Graham is among four other candidates — Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Andrew Gillum — who will compete for the Democratic nod in the Aug. 28 primary.

Supreme Court blocks appointment of judge

In an unusual move, a divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday at least temporarily blocked Gov. Rick Scott from appointing a Jacksonville-area circuit judge while a legal battle plays out over filling the post.

The Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, rejected a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal and effectively kept in place a preliminary injunction in a case that centers on whether Scott should be able to appoint a replacement for 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster — or whether voters should elect a new judge in November.

The Supreme Court did not detail its reasoning, but justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga were in the majority, while Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson were in the minority.

The majority ruled in favor of a request from Jacksonville attorney David Trotti, who wants to run in the November election to replace Foster in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. Trotti’s attorneys allege that Foster has engaged in “electoral gamesmanship” to try to clear the way for Scott to make an appointment.

Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of a mandatory retirement age. But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.

The Scott administration takes the position that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that should be filled by appointment, rather than election. If Foster retired on Jan. 7, the post would be filled by election.

Trotti filed a lawsuit arguing that the replacement should be elected in November. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson issued an injunction that, in part, sought to block a judicial nominating commission from continuing with a process to recommend replacements for Foster to Scott.

The Scott administration immediately appealed, which placed an automatic stay on Dodson’s ruling. The case then bounced back to Dodson, who vacated the automatic stay. But the 1st District Court of Appeal then reinstituted the automatic stay — effectively allowing the appointment process to advance while the case continued.

Stymied by the 1st District Court of Appeal, Trotti asked the Supreme Court to step in and halt the appointment process, with Trotti’s attorneys noting in a filing last month that it is not a “routine case.”

In another document filed at the Supreme Court, Trotti’s attorneys argued that the injunction was necessary to prevent Scott from making an appointment while the two sides continue to battle about the underlying legal issues in the case.

“Given that the ‘vacancy’ at issue will not even arise for another six months, it would seem a simple matter to let the litigation play out and allow this (Supreme) Court (as the Florida Constitution envisions) to have the final say on whether Judge Foster’s successor should be chosen by election or by appointment,” Trotti’s attorneys wrote in a document filed Tuesday. “Instead, though, the governor’s approach has been to aggressively push forward with the nominating process and try to run out the clock on this important constitutional issue before it can be presented to this court on its merits.”

In a document filed last week, attorneys for Scott said the 4th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission on June 20 sent the names of six nominees for Foster’s seat to Scott. But it said Scott has not made an appointment and argued that the Supreme Court did not need to step into the case before the 1st District Court of Appeal rules on the underlying legal issues.

Also, Scott administration attorneys pointed to court precedents that have allowed the governor to make appointments in similar situations, including in a case filed by Trotti in 2014.

“Here, the undisputed facts establish that Judge Foster’s resignation was tendered and accepted by the governor before the election process commenced at the beginning of the candidate qualifying period,” attorneys for Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote. “The governor is therefore constitutionally authorized and obligated to fill the vacancy by appointment, and the secretary of state is prohibited from qualifying candidates for a judicial seat that will not be filled by election. Because petitioner’s arguments raised below are contrary to the language of the Florida Constitution and well-established precedent, the trial court (Dodson) erred as a matter of law in issuing the preliminary injunction order.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Jimmy Patronis warns of electric car fires

Firefighters need training to quench fires caused by lithium ion batteries in electric cars, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said Thursday — especially since they’ve been known to re-ignite, sometime more than once.

“New technology helps us live our lives more efficiently, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand and tackle the risks that can be associated,” Patronis said in a statement.

“In 2017, there were more than 16,000 electric vehicles registered in Florida and more than 321,000 electric/gas hybrids. Our fire departments around the state should be equipped with the latest information on how to best manage electric vehicle fires so that they can do their job safely and effectively,” he said.

Patronis told his staff to offer specialized training to rank-and-file firefighters in putting out these fires.

Electric cars are no more prone to burning than gasoline models, but require special treatment, he said.

For example, a Tesla that crashed in Fort Lauderdale in May required between 200 and 300 gallons of water plus foam to put out, and even then broken pieces of the battery reignited — once when loaded on a truck for removal, and again in the storage yard, Patronis said, citing a National Traffic Safety Board report.

The first thing is to identify the make and model, to know where the battery is located and the best way to shut down the vehicle. Stored energy in different battery compartments are liable to ignite independently.

Patronis advised keeping wrecks away from built structures, and bearing in mind that electric vehicles are silent and may be “on” when they don’t seem so, and present a shock hazard.

Finally, he advised wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses when fighting electric vehicle fires, for protection against toxic vapors.

“It’s important that firefighters and fire service professionals are aware of the following potentially life-saving practices when dealing with electric vehicle fires.”

Florida asks businesses about algae blooms

Florida will survey businesses to determine the economic impact of the algae blooms spreading in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday issued an emergency order Monday for Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties over the reemergence of toxic algae outbreaks on both coasts.

On Thursday, Scott’s office announced that the Department of Economic Opportunity has activated the FloridaDisaster.biz Business Damage Assessment survey. The survey is expected to help the agency develop a business-relief strategy.

“It is important to understand the full impact that this situation is having on local businesses,” Scott said in a press release. “That way, we can respond to help provide the resources they need to minimize any impact.”

According to the release, “the survey will assess businesses affected by the event and share the results with various state and local agencies to implement appropriate relief programs.”

State sets deadlines for mail-in votes

The first ballots of Florida’s Aug. 28 primary election need to be in the mail by Saturday, according to deadlines announced Thursday by the state Division of Elections.

The July 14 deadline applies to ballots being mailed overseas to absent stateside voters as well as overseas uniformed service members and overseas civilians, Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced.

The initial window for supervisors of elections to get ballots in the mail to other voters is from July 24 to July 31. The last day for voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Aug. 22, and the last day for supervisors to send out the mail-in ballots is Aug. 24. Voters can also pick up vote-by-mail ballots from their local supervisor’s office up to the day before the election.

According to the Division of Elections, all 67 Florida counties will offer early voting at select polling locations from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25. The deadline to be registered to vote in the primary election is July 30.

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