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GOP strategist Rick Wilson tees off on Donald Trump

As the Republican field running for governor grows, a top GOP strategist offered some advice Wednesday to candidates seeking to follow term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.

“Just don’t be Trump’s mini-me, a simple rule,” Rick Wilson told the Capital Tiger Bay Club in a luncheon speech.

Wilson, a Tallahassee-based national Republican strategist who has become one of the most-outspoken critics of President Donald Trump, said most of the Republicans positioning themselves to run for governor next year “are pretty much onboard the Trump train to Trash Fire Mountain.”

Wilson, who has nearly three decades of political experience, said he understands the attraction of trying to appeal to Trump supporters in a Republican primary, but he warned it’s a “sugar high” that could have consequences in the general election.

“Their consultants are looking at that Trump base approval number and encouraging their guys to get an orange wig and rage tweet every morning at 6 a.m.,” Wilson said. “It’s a really bad look on most people. Trying to out-Trump Trump is the biggest sin in politics.”

Wilson said voters will “know you’re faking it.”

“Be real, guys, be yourself, be better than Trumpism,” Wilson said. “You’ll thank me in the general election, I promise you.”

In a nearly hour-long appearance before the political club, Wilson talked about his transition from a “rock-solid party guy,” who got his start with George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential campaign,” to a man who underwent a “political midlife change” in the 2016 election.

Wilson, who ended up supporting Evan McMullin’s independent bid for president, said Trump was not aligned with his political beliefs of limited government, individual liberty, an adherence to the Constitution and support for government restraint.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to pretend that Donald Trump was a conservative or that he was a Republican,” Wilson said. “He doesn’t believe in anything except himself, his celebrity and his brand. That’s not the party I signed up for.”

Wilson said the “real election” last year was “for the heart and soul” of his party.

“Republicans were hypnotized by a celebrity con man with a nationalist message, who was given virtually unlimited media attention,” he said.

With Trump’s recent equivocating on condemning racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., Wilson said “this is a bad time to be a Republican.”

“I have to call out not just Donald Trump right now but leaders of my party who will not call Donald Trump out by name for what he has done and said in the last few days to give aid and comfort to Nazis, Klansmen and racists,” Wilson said.

But he added he was “heartened” by remarks from Republican leaders, who unlike the president, directly condemned the actions by the nationalist groups in Virginia.

“They have recognized finally that this is a man who is off the rails,” Wilson said.

Wilson also warned that neither Republicans nor Democrats are “ready for the future.” He predicted that an accelerated cycle of change politically, socially and economically “will make the last 10 years look like the 1950s.”

He said voters are disengaging from both parties, reflected by the growing number of voters who claim no party affiliation.

“They increasingly sense that politics is disconnected from the things that affect their daily lives,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s outspokenness has drawn the ire of Trump supporters and the president, who has 36 million Twitter followers to Wilson’s 221,000 followers.

“One of the most amazing experiences you can have in your life is when Donald Trump tweets something terrible about you. Wow,” Wilson said. “You learn very quickly who your enemies and your friends are.”

Wilson said impeachment of Trump is not likely.

“Unless they find a note in Cyrillic from Trump, impeachment is a very high hill,” he said, alluding to investigations about alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and supporters to Russia.

But he raised the possibility that Trump might not seek re-election.

“I think Donald Trump is miserable. I think he hates this job,” he said.

Wilson also predicted that Trump, despite his controversies, will not change.

“It’s always the worst week. This is another worst week,” Wilson said. “I have two big theories. It never gets better. And everything Trump touches dies.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Budget boosted by gambling money from Seminoles

A new gambling deal between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe is providing a large boost to the state’s finances.

State officials on Tuesday drew up new forecasts to predict how much the state will collect in taxes. State legislators will use the forecasts when drawing up a new state budget next January.

Economists now predict that state’s main budget account will grow by 4.5 percent during the fiscal year that ends next June. That same account is estimated to grow an additional 4.1 percent in fiscal year 2018-19.

But that total has been boosted by an extra $500 million the state is receiving the next two years due to a settlement reached between Gov. Rick Scott and the tribe that owns several casinos.

Libertarian Party: Any white nationalists in party should resign

The national Libertarian Party executive director has issued a declaration denouncing racism and asking any white nationalists in the party to resign and leave the organization immediately.

“There is no room for racists and bigots in the Libertarian Party. If there are white nationalists who — inappropriately — are members of the Libertarian Party, I ask them to submit their resignations today,” Libertarian National Executive Director Wes Benedict declared in a news release. “We don’t want them to associate with the Libertarian Party, and we don’t want their money.”

That statement comes from the leader of a party that has had issues with white nationalists joining and seeking leadership posts in recent years. One, former lawyer Augustus Sol Invictus of Orlando, sought the Florida Libertarian Party’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate, a drive that had caused chaos at the top ranks of the state party, and in the Seminole County Libertarian committee. Invictus was not the only self-avowed nationalist to roil the party’s ranks.

Invictus lost in the Libertarian primary, and the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday he had left the Libertarian Party and registered as a Republican this spring.

Invictus, who was a key figure in the Charlottesville rally last weekend, the Sentinel reported.

Benedict cited the national Libertarian Party’s platform, which includes a plank that states, “We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual’s human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference, or sexual orientation.”

“I’m not expecting many resignations, because our membership already knows this well,” Benedict stated in a news release issued by his office.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for special session to replace Confederate statue

(UPDATED) South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene for a special session to deal with a Confederate monument that represents the state in the U.S. Capitol.

A bronze statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith continues to sit in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, despite legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session that approved removing it.

“While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country. We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Momentum to remove Smith from the congressional collection began in 2015 shortly after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. That seminal event took place after Dylann Roof went on a shooting spree in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black men and women. Roof had posed with a Confederate flag in photos.

Two competing bills regarding a statue that would have taken the place of Smith died in this year’s Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, while another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of GrassNeither passed.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

Wasserman Schultz says that leaving Smith’s statue in a place of honor “symbolizes a painful, disgraceful legacy.”

“It’s time to stop playing games,” she said on Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

Wasserman Schultz says Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Douglas, Bethune or George Washington Jenkins, a philanthropist and the founder of Publix Super Markets.

“These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state,” she said. “The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”

“Like most politicians in Washington, the congresswoman is out of touch,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We’ve already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Senate President Joe Negron did not respond to a request for comment.

Aerospace workers’ union endorses Gwen Graham

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers announced it is endorsing Democrat Gwen Graham for governor, her campaign announced Tuesday.

“With 39 lodges across the state of Florida, you’ll find our union members working in manufacturing and aerospace from Pensacola to Miami,” Frank Ortis, president of the Florida State Council of Machinists, stated in a news release. “We are excited to endorse Gwen Graham and ready to elect her Florida’s next governor. Gwen has the experience and leadership Florida needs to create jobs, raise wages and lift up working families.”

The Machinists and Aerospace Workers is the second major union to endorse in the race for governor, joining the United Steelworkers, which endorsed Graham in June.

Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018.

In Congress, Graham co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage and opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and authored the bipartisan Middle STEP Act to expand technical education.

“For almost twenty years the politicians in Tallahassee have had the wrong priorities for the wrong people. They’ve sold out to special interests and forgot the working men and women who built our state and drive our economy.” Graham stated in the news release. “We must do the common sense things other states have already done, like raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave — but those proposals alone aren’t enough. As governor, I will fight to protect Florida’s aerospace industry, create new manufacturing jobs and expand technical education in our schools.”

Frederica Wilson endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to be the next governor of Florida.

Wilson, from Miami Gardens, joins U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings as Democratic members of Congress who have endorsed Gillum over two Democratic rivals, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and developer Chris King of Winter Park.

“I am very excited to endorse Mayor Andrew Gillum for Governor of Florida. Mayor Gillum is one of Florida’s brightest young political minds and most energetic public servant,” Wilson said in a written statement issued by Gillum’s campaign. “He has the courage to confront Florida’s biggest challenges: protecting access to affordable healthcare, building a more inclusive economy, revitalizing public education, and addressing climate change and rising sea level crisis. Florida needs a leader like Mayor Gillum whom we can trust to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone,” said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive Congresswoman Wilson’s endorsement,” Gillum stated. “She has long been a “Voice for the Voiceless” and stands out as one of Florida’s most respected leaders. She’s a role model and I look forward to working with her to rebuild the Sunshine State into one that works better for all Floridians.”

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million

Protecting Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds cost the state nearly $3 million last fiscal year, up from $2.6 million the year before.

The annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services, issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, showed the cost to safeguard the governor alone rose roughly $218,000 from 2015-16, to almost $2.3 million in 2016-17.

Also last year, 75 “protective details were performed” at a cost of $304,000, the report says. All costs include agents’ and officers’ salary and any overtime, plus the cost of transportations and other expenses.

Those include “dignitary protection” details at the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit in Miami this May ($33,578), the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Orlando last November ($63,674) and a visit to Jacksonville that same month by former President Bill Clinton ($402).

Another $137,000 was spent to protect individual governors, their wives and other family members who attended the Orlando conference, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ($5,646, who came without wife Mary Pat).

Rick Scott reluctant to question President Trump’s call for possible military action in Venezuela

As Venezuela’s economy continues to spiral downwards, Governor Rick Scott has been championing the opposition to President Nicholas Maduro.

Scott is expected to ask the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday for a resolution prohibiting the State Board of Administration, which acts as the state’s investment manager, from investing in companies or securities that are owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela last Friday night, sparking condemnation from around the region, including from countries which are usually some of Maduro’s harshest critics.

Maduro has seized on Trump’s comments to reaffirm long-standing accusations that Washington is preparing a military attack. He called for military exercises on Monday, urging the public to join in a two-day operation on August 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.

“I know that the president is very concerned,” Scott told Florida Politics Tuesday when asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s provocative comment.

“I’ve talked to him about Venezuela a number of times. I think doing the sanctions was right against everybody involved with Maduro,” said the Governor, speaking to reporters at the Florida Aquarium after holding a press conference touting the record number of tourists who visited Florida during the first half of 2017.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said.

Scott derided the Maduro government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez under house arrest after he was released from prison following a three year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“Maduro needs to step down, he needs to release all political prisoners, we need democracy again, ” Scott said.

The Governor has not officially declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate, but is expected to at some point in the next year. He’ll face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. With the crisis in Venezuela exploding, both men have been competing with each other to show how devoted they are to the Venezuelan-American constituency in Florida.

Nelson has been seemingly trying to catch up to Scott in talking tough on the Maduro government. Last month he called the Trump administration to consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil. While limiting Venezuela’s oil imports to the U.S. is seen as a powerful weapon, it’s not clear how effective it would be, and is not something that even Marco Rubio has publicly called for (though he has said the issue should be on the table).

Nelson and Rubio introduced legislation in May to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and increase sanctions on the Venezuelan officials responsible for the ongoing crisis there. Meanwhile, officials close to the governor note that he has been concerned about the Venezuelan people going back to 2014.

Scott brushed off a question about whether he supported Nelson’s request, saying that the Trump administration is looking at everything that they can do to promote democracy.

Over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April, driven by anger over shortages of food and medicine and Maduro’s creation of a legislative superbody that governments around the world say is dictatorial.

“I’ve talked to a variety of people, including some people who do charity care down there and they can’t even get charity care in there,” Scott decried.

The governor then got personal, saying that his daughter is pregnant with twins, and said he couldn’t imagine having a daughter or wife in a country that is enduring a shortage of medicine, which is the case currently in Venezuela.

“Can you imagine that knowing that your wife or daughter or somebody is going to have a baby and you know that unfortunately you’re in a country where they won’t even allow in the right medicine to take care of their citizens?” he asked. “That’s wrong.”

Oops? Donald Trump retweets critic saying ‘he’s a fascist’

President Donald Trump appears to have mistakenly retweeted a message from one of his critics saying “he’s a fascist.”

Trump deleted his retweet Tuesday after about five minutes, but not before the message sent to his 35 million followers racked up a big response.

Trump seems to have been trying to draw attention to a Fox & Friends article on a possible presidential pardon for former Phoenix-area Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a crime for ignoring a U.S. court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

A Twitter handle identified as “@MikeHolden42” tweeted to Trump “He’s a fascist, so not unusual.” The user suggested in subsequent tweets that he was calling Trump a fascist, not Arpaio.

Trump retweeted the message to his massive following, triggering an avalanche of replies. @MikeHolden42 responded: “I’m announcing my retirement from Twitter. I’ll never top this RT.” He later updated his description on Twitter as “Officially Endorsed by the President of the United States.”

On Tuesday, Trump also retweeted and deleted a cartoon showing a train labeled “Trump” running over a man with “CNN” covering his face Monday morning.

The retweets come after a national uproar over race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. It took two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate before the president condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring “racism is evil.”

Late Monday, Trump had retweeted Jack Posobiec, a conservative Trump supporter who used social media to draw attention to “pizzagate,” an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims Democrats harbor child sex slaves at a pizza restaurant.

Posobiec’s tweet read: “Meanwhile: 39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott: State will help UF prepare for white supremacist’s visit

Gov. Rick Scott said he’s asked state agency heads to offer the University of Florida whatever help it needs to prepare for next month’s campus visit by a noted white supremacist.

Scott on Tuesday said he contacted the heads of the Departments of Law Enforcement, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida National Guard. He asked them to confer with university President Kent Fuchs and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell on what assistance the state could provide.

UF administration and campus police are working on a security plan for Richard Spencer, the head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute.

He’s scheduled to appear on the Gainesville campus on Sept. 12. Scott said he wants to make sure that if university officials have any concerns that they can reach out to those law enforcement officials, adding that “they can always reach out to me.”

Scott has criticized events in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday that led to the death of a progressive activist.

“Whether it’s the KKK or neo-Nazis or white supremacists, it’s evil,” he told reporters Tuesday, after speaking at a news conference on tourism at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium. “They don’t belong in our society. Of course, we all know we have the First Amendment, but we’re not ever going to condone violence in our state.”

Scott was also asked about the continuing saga about a Confederate statue in Tampa that is scheduled to be discussed again at Wednesday’s Hillsborough Board of County Commission meeting.

Commissioners voted last month to move the statue to a cemetery in Brandon, but a slow-moving private fundraising effort created to pay to remove the statue has prompted speculation that some members of the board may be considering an idea of placing the movement of the statue on the 2018 ballot.

“We have a democratic process in our state, so any conversations like that should go through that process, and then everybody figure out how we’re going to work together,” Scott said.

A protest in Durham, North Carolina on Monday night against racism took a turn when participants toppled a Confederate statue. “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable, but there is a better way to remove these monuments,” tweeted North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

Scott didn’t weigh in on what he thought about maintaining or removing such monuments, but merely emphasized that everything should go through a formal process.

He trotted out statistics touting how well Florida is doing regarding crime rates and job openings, “because we have a process that works. But everybody has to go through that process. If there are any changes that we make, just go through a logical process and have a conversation about that. That’s what’s great about our country.”

The news conference at the Aquarium took place at the same time as the Tampa Port Authority was meeting down the street on Channelside Drive.

When Scott named Tampa businessman Mike Griffin to the Authority’s board earlier this month, he mentioned how he was “concerned to see media reports detailing wasteful spending by the executives at Port Tampa Bay.

“It’s your money, let’s all remember this,” he said Tuesday, regarding the Port. “If you’re going to go spend taxpayers’ money, it’s all somebody’s money. Let’s watch how that money is being spent, and let’s make sure it’s transparent, make sure it’s accountable.”

“I think Mike Griffin’s first board meeting is today. But all boards, everybody who’s elected, everybody who’s appointed, you’ve got to say yourself, this is somebody else’s money.”

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