Headlines – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Democratic gubernatorial candidates slam Rick Scott for education budget

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gwen GrahamAndrew GillumPhilip Levine, and Chris King took aim at Florida Gov. Rick Scott Friday afternoon, charging that the state budget he signed fails to adequately fund public education, with Graham declaring, “This will be the last budget… that underfunds Florida’s students.”

“Rick Scott’s education budget includes a measly 47-cent increase for education — it fails to even cover the rate of inflation,” Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, declared in a statement issue by her gubernatorial campaign Friday. “The governor is so out of touch with Florida families he may actually think that’s enough to fund our schools, but 47 cents won’t even buy Rick Scott a gum ball.

On Friday Scott signed the 2018-’19 state budget with $88.7 billion in spending, and also vetoed $64 million worth of line items. Scott’s office maintains the budget offers a record amount of spending on public schools, but Graham contends it falls far short of what is needed. Earlier, Graham had called for Scott to veto the budget, call the Florida Legislature back to a special session, and demand more money for public schools.

“When Rick Scott leaves the Governor’s Mansion this year, he’ll leave behind a legacy of cutting and underfunding public schools in Florida. This hasn’t just hurt our students — it hurts our economy and the entire state,” she continued. “Budgets, whether they’re made over a kitchen table or in the Capitol, are about priorities. For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have failed to make public education a priority, and, in 2018, voters will hold them accountable for their failures.”

She added this pledge: “As governor, I will pick apart the Republicans’ budget piece by piece to eliminate their wasteful spending and use those tax dollars where families will benefit — in our schools. Mark my words. This will be the last budget for next eight years that underfunds Florida’s students and schools.”

Gillum’s response took a similar tact he posted on Twitter Friday afternoon.

“A failure to properly fund our students education & not just a response to Parkland, is no surprise from @FLGovScott. Teachers & schools do some of the most important work on Earth: educating our kids. This budget falls well short of what our students need to learn and be safe,” Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, tweeted.

 Levine, a businessman and former mayor of Miami Beach, also ripped into Scott over the schools spending, and also criticized the state’s spending for health care.

“Governor Rick Scott is ending his tenure as Governor the same way he started it––short-changing our schools, our teachers and our students,” Levine said in a statement issued by his campaign. As governor, I would never sign this out-of-touch budget. This budget does nothing to improve our state’s back-of-the-pack status in teacher pay, and continues to leave too many Floridians without access to health care. We need leaders that will invest in our education and healthcare, not leave them with pennies on the dollar.”

King, a Winter Park developer of affordable housing and senior housing, noted that any budget is a statement of priorities.

“Rick Scott’s [priorities] are dead wrong,” King said. “Our students and teachers deserve better than a paltry 47-cent increase, but nothing will change in Tallahassee until we change the types of leaders we send there.”

The leading Republican candidates are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam.

Release of tourism numbers delayed again

Gov. Rick Scott’s office said Friday that a planned release of 2017 tourism numbers would again be postponed because of the collapse Thursday of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami.

At least six people died in the collapse. Scott had been expected to release the tourism numbers Friday in Naples.

His office did not immediately give a new release date.

Scott also had planned to release the tourism figures last month but put the announcement on hold because of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The shooting killed 17 people.

Rick Scott to announce tourism numbers today

Gov. Rick Scott will release the state’s 2017 tourism numbers on Friday, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson told members of Enterprise Florida on Thursday.

Scott was set to announce the numbers Feb. 15. But he put the announcement on hold because of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Florida attracted a record 112 million visitors in 2016.

State legislators Sunday approved a 2018-2019 budget that includes $76 million for the tourism agency Visit Florida to market the state, matching the current fiscal year’s funding.

Scott, who is reviewing the budget, had sought $100 million for next year. Lawson said Scott will announce the latest tourism numbers in Naples.

South Florida politicians react to FIU pedestrian bridge collapse

Multiple news outlets are reporting that at least eight stopped vehicles were crushed by a 950-ton footbridge that collapsed at Florida International University in Miami on Thursday.

The exact number of injuries and fatalities are unknown. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Miami Herald that “he was aware of one person killed, one person who had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and six victims in serious condition.”

While the crisis will continue to unfold, some South Florida politicians already have issued official responses.

Here’s what they are saying:

South Florida U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart:

“I am shocked and horrified by the FIU Pedestrian Bridge collapse. I am praying for the victims and families of this tragedy.

“I was grateful to have received a phone call from Transportation Secretary Chao, who offered her condolences and utmost support during this time. As the NTSB has announced they will be conducting an investigation, I will fully review their findings so we can address how this happened and how to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Miami-area state Sen. Daphne Campbell:

I write to you today regarding the recent events that took place earlier this afternoon in relation to the collapsing of the Florida International University Sweetwater Pedestrian bridge.

The newly installed bridge, scheduled to open early next year, was built as a walkway to connect the FIU campus to the town of Sweetwater where the university estimates some 4, 000 students live.

It saddens me as it has been confirmed that there are several fatalities as multiple vehicles were crushed by the span of the bridge near Florida International University’s campus.

As the state Senator representing Florida International University, I want to express my deepest condolences and support to the students and staff of Florida International University as they find strength to endure during this time.

To the parents, friends, and anyone who may have been effected by this horrific event, I extend to you my sincerest apologies and condolences.  If there is anything that myself or my staff can do during this time please do not hesitate to contact my office at 305-493-6009 or 850-487-5038.

Miami-area state Rep. Robert Asencio:

“I am extremely alarmed by the sudden collapse of the pedestrian bridge on eighth street that directed students to and from Florida International University, here in Miami. The structural failure and subsequent deaths and injuries are tragic, to say the least. I and other local leaders are monitoring the situation closely.

“This is a public access point that many residents from across Miami Dade County, including House District 118, take very frequently. I and many others, seek an immediate investigation to identify why this occurred. This is a new bridge. We have enough to worry about with mass casualties in schools due to gun violence. The last thing we need is school infrastructure killing and injuring more students in Florida. This is beyond unacceptable.”

Robert Andrade hits $75K raised in HD 2 race

Gulf Breeze Republican Robert Andrade hit the $75,000 mark in total fundraising after bringing in $7,825 for his House District 2 campaign in February.

HD 2 is currently held by freshman Republican Rep. Frank White, who decided last year he would forego re-election to run for Attorney General.

Andrade opened his campaign account in November, shortly after White’s announcement, and raised more than $50,000 in his first month in the race, including $10,000 in loans.

His February report shows 22 contributions, including $1,000 checks from Pensacola engineer Fred Donovan and a political committee tied to the Florida Transportation Builders Association.

Following the top donors were eight contributions at the $500 level – one from the Good Ideas for Government PC and another seven from individuals. More than half of Andrade’s February haul came from within, or very near, the district, which covers a coastal strip of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

Spending came in at just under $2,000 for the month. Campaign shirts and hats made up $1,200 of that total, followed by $250 for a sponsorship at the Greater Pensacola Chamber. Most of the rest went toward travel and catering expenses.

In all, Andrade has raised $75,366 and pitched in another $10,000 of his own money through four months on the trail. He heads into March with $73,637 in the bank.

Andrade is the only Republican running for HD 2. William Bussing signed up for the seat in December, but withdrew shortly after New Year’s.

Democrat Ray Guillory, who also ran in 2016, opened a campaign account in March 2017 and only has about $30 on hand.

HD 2 is one of the least crimson districts in Northwest Florida but is still firmly GOP.

In the 2016 cycle White trounced Guillory with 61 percent of the vote. President Donald Trump ran a few points behind White, beating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 56-36 while Libertarian Gary Johnson took 3.5 percent.

Rebekah Bydlak crosses $100K mark for state House campaign

Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak has raised nearly $108,000 for her campaign to take over for Rep. Clay Ingram in House District 1.

Bydlak raised $6,725 last month, bringing her fundraising total to $107,987 since filing for the seat in August. She also sent $2,656 during the reporting period, leaving her with about $88,000 on hand heading into March.

The February numbers follow nearly $14,000 in contributions received in January.

Bydlak brought in 28 contributions last month, including a pair at the campaign maximum of $1,000.

The max checks from Rich Howard and Cliff Maloney were complemented by another four checks for $500, one each from the Pensacola Indoor Shooting Range, health care exec Anna Benson, former Rep. Susan Goldstein and Jason Broxson, the son of Gulf Breeze Sen. Doug Broxson.

Spending included $2,141 in payments to Gainesville-based Data Targeting Research and $350 to Robinson Hanks Young & Roberts for accounting work. The remainder took care of credit card fees from fundraising platform Anedot.

Bydlak is far ahead, moneywise, in the HD 1 race. She faces former Rep. Mike Hill in the primary for HD 1. Democrat Vikki Garrett is the only other candidate to file for the seat.

Hill, who served in the House from 2013 through 2016, added $1,220 in February and spent $2,416. Since filing in September, he’s raised $32,265 and had about $22,000 of that money in the bank at the end of last month.

His report showed 11 contributions, with retiree Diane Dobson, attorney Edmund Holt, rancher Jamie Siegmeister and investor Michael Price tying for the top spot with $200 checks.

Garrett showed $620 of new money in her report and has raised $12,575 through seven months in the race – somewhat impressive, given the district’s hefty Republican advantage.

Only one Democrat has made the ballot in HD 1 since it was redrawn – Gloria Robertson-Wiggins in 2014 – and without counting loans, she raised just $750 throughout her campaign.

Garrett finished the month with about $7,500 on hand.

HD 1 covers the western inland portion of Escambia County, including Brent, Bellview, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Gonzalez and Molino. Ingram went virtually unopposed in 2012 and 2016, and in 2014 defeated Robertson-Wiggins with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

All four Democratic gubernatorial candidates commit to Tampa debate

The Tampa debate is on for all four major Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

The campaigns for Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine joined those of Chris King and Gwen Graham Thursday in announcing they have committed to a debate being planned in Tampa on April 18.

After Gillum challenged his rivals to agree to a series of debates Thursday, in quick succession King’s and Graham’s campaigns, and then Gillum’s and Levine’s all announced they have committed to one at WTVT-TV, the Fox affiliate in Tampa.

Gillum’s campaign said they were the first to pledge to that debate but kept quiet about it, waiting for the station to firm everything up and announce.

“We’re pleased two of the other campaigns [King and Graham] have agreed to debate on stage there, and we look forward to adding more debates. Democrats deserve to hear from all of the campaigns all over the state,” said Gillum’s Campaign Communications Director Geoff Burgan.

Around the same time he was issuing that statement, Levine’s campaign also announced his commitment.

“Mayor Levine looks forward to participating in the April 18th debate in the Tampa Bay area, and share his vision for Florida, coupled with his record of progressive accomplishments as a successful two-term Mayor,” said his consultant Christian Ulvert.

The station has not announced any details about time or format.

Andrew Gillum issues debate challenge; Chris King, Gwen Graham say they’ve confirmed

Is a debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a Tampa TV station on April 18 in the works? The campaigns for Chris King and Gwen Graham say yes, while the campaign for Andrew Gillum, who’s been challenging his rivals to debates, and the campaign for Philip Levine are mum.

On Thursday afternoon, Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, renewed his call for a series of debates between Democratic gubernatorial candidates. King’s campaign quickly responded by not only saying he agrees with the call for debates, but that he has committed to one on April 18 in Tampa.

Graham’s campaign then confirmed that she, too, has agreed to a proposed debate at WTVT-TV, the Fox affiliate in Tampa.

Since those responses raising the prospect of the Tampa debate came in, there has been no reaction from Gillum’s campaign, nor any response from the campaign of Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor.

Officials at WTVT-TV were not immediately available Wednesday to confirm their plans, or those of any candidates.

“Last October, we challenged our fellow Democratic campaigns to at least six debates in red and blue counties across our state. We are now less than six months from primary election day, but unfortunately we’ve been met with silence,” Gillum’s campaign Communications Director Geoff Burgan said in a news release. “As the policy differences between the candidates have become clear recently, we know it’s time to take this discussion directly to voters. Floridians deserve to know where we stand on expanding health care to every Floridian, transforming the economy for working people, consistently fighting for gun safety, standing up for public schools, and protecting our environment. We hope our fellow candidates will stop avoiding these debates and give our voters a chance to kick the tires.”

We’re in, responded King’s campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe.

“Our campaign has already accepted a televised debate invitation from WTVT-TV in Tampa and we hope the other candidates will join Chris at their studios on April 18,” Jaffe said in a written response issued by King’s campaign.

When advised of King’s campaign statement, Graham’s campaign said that she also has agreed to be in the WTVT-TV debate, and that she has received a confirmation from the station.

In the statement released by his campaign, King said, “Voters deserve to hear where the candidates stand and I’m ready to offer Floridians my vision for new leadership and fresh ideas. If Florida Democrats want to win, we should face the voters and offer them real solutions in a debate, not stale talking points. We must compete in every corner of our state and take no one for granted, and that means making sure Spanish-language, African American, Haitian, Caribbean, LGBT and other diverse media outlets are included in these debates.”

Is Florida drilling off the table?

Enterprise Florida, the state’s business-recruitment agency, expects waters off the Florida coast won’t be included in the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans, despite U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s warning that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told members of Congress this week that “Florida is still in the process.”

“The secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, in front of the Senate Energy Committee today (Tuesday), has just said very confusingly — but bottom line — Florida is still on the table for drilling off of the coast of Florida,” Nelson said in a prepared statement. “This is exactly the opposite of what the people of Florida want.”

Zinke flew to Tallahassee on Jan. 9, meeting briefly with Scott and reporters, and announced that currently protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida would not be included in a federal five-year offshore oil and gas drilling program.

Nelson, who is expected to face a challenge this fall from Scott for his Senate seat, called Zinke’s announcement in January a “political stunt” to further the governor’s career.

On Wednesday, Amy Gowder, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Training and Logistics Solutions and a member of the Enterprise Florida board of directors, said officials expect Zinke to keep his word.

“The department has still not revised their maps yet to reflect that agreement, but we expect a report that is due to Congress by the end of the month,” Gowder told members of an Enterprise Florida committee.

As with Nelson, Enterprise Florida views potential drilling as a threat to military installations and the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

Philip Levine announces Ed Rendell’s endorsement

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has picked up an endorsement from Pennsylvania’s former governor Ed Rendell.

Rendell served as general chair of the Democratic National Committee during the last two years of the Clinton administration. He served two terms as Pennsylvania’s governor after that, and two terms as mayor of Philadelphia before his DNC post.

Levine is a former mayor of Miami Beach.

“I am proud to support Mayor Philip Levine to be the next governor of Florida,” Rendell said in a news release issued by Levine’s campaign. “As a former two-term mayor myself, I am happy to stand behind another mayor with a strong record of success, who has done the right thing for his community by taking bold action on climate change, raising the minimum wage, and fighting for the values that improve the lives of residents. During my time as governor, I realized I was incredibly well prepared for the challenges I would face because of my service as a two term mayor. As the former chair of the DNC, I also know what it takes to win tough races. Philip has everything it takes to win the Governor’s mansion after over 20 years of one-party rule and bring Florida Democrats together with a bold progressive vision for the future.”

Levine is battling with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Winter Park businessman Chris King for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republican candidates are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“Ed is a good friend, an incredible mayor, and an accomplished governor in his own right,” Levine said in the release. “Our campaign continues to grow its support because Floridians know we will shake up Tallahassee and focus on getting things done. As governor, I’m committed to move Florida forward as a leader in the 21st century economy by investing in our public schools, our environment, our healthcare, and fighting for the real needs of Floridians.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons