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Replacement process in Dorothy Hukill’s Senate race looms

As the community mourns the death of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, the daunting task of naming a replacement nominee still lays ahead.

Mike Thomas, Republican state committeeman for Brevard County, says numerous applications have already come in to replace Hukill as the GOP nominee in Senate District 14.

“The names are still coming in and it would not be appropriate to render a partial listing,” he said.

The Port Orange community today pays their respects to Hukill, who died Oct. 2 days after announced she could no longer campaign.

But there will be just a seven-day window in which Republicans can choose and submit a replacement nominee to run against Democrat Mel Martin.

Ballots have already been printed, and will have Hukill’s name listed as the Republican nominee, but once a replacement nominee gets selected, election officials will send letters with vote-by-mail ballots and post notices in polling locations explaining all votes for Hukill will count toward the replacement.

The decision on a nominee falls on six people—the county chairs, state committeemen and state committeewomen for Brevard and Volusia counties. District 14 spans part of both counties.

In Brevard, that’s Rick Lacey, Thomas and Cheryl Lankes. In Volusia, that’s Tony Ledbetter, Paul Deering and Dana Dougherty.

But Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, explains that because more Volusia represents a larger part of the district, those three votes will be weighted more. Theoretically, if the counties deadlock, the three Volusia officials would get their preference.

Ledbetter delined to discuss the selection process now, and asked his Volusia colleagues to do the same.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports a list of candidates who have expressed interest: Titusville City Councilman Matt Barringer; DeBary City Councilwoman Erika Benfield; former Deltona City Commissioner Zenaida Denizac; Marilyn Ford of Port Orange, retired director of corrections for Volusia County; state Rep. Tom Goodson of Merritt Island; former Florida House District 52 candidates Brian Hodgers and Monique Miller; Cindy Roberts, a Brevard precinct committeewoman; Melbourne City Councilman Tim Thomas; and Cindy Thompson of Mims.

However, state law could stomp on some ambitions. A statute prevents anyone who already qualified for a separate election earlier this year from being selected as the replacement.

Notably, two Democrats looking to become replacement nominees in Florida’s 17th Congressional District earlier this month challenged that law in federal court and lost.

Part of that case challenged whether state law could regulate a choice in a federal election, not a concern with the state Senate race, but that likely means anyone who lost a primary for a different office won’t qualify as a replacement nominee.


Meet Tracye Polson, Democrat running for Florida House District 15

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email

Significant other? Kids?

My husband and I have five adult children – three from his first marriage and two from mine. Our kids work in a range of fields: science, law, business, public policy and social work. Of course, I think they are the most intelligent, hardest working young people I know. As the mom and step-mom of them, who range 24 to 33 years of age, I don’t relate personally to disparaging comments about millennials because I’ve met so many of their friends and those other young people, too, give me hope for our future.

Education background? Professional background?

I was the first in my family to graduate from college – my parents did not – and I did so at the age of 31 while working full-time, already a mom to my 7-year old daughter and four months pregnant with my son. One of the reasons I don’t like the message “not everyone wants or needs to go to college” is it misses the more important point of assuring the opportunity to attend college for those who want to, even if they come from a background of financial hardship. I’m a champion for personal choice, setting one’s own direction. Every person should have an opportunity to build their career, in college, trade school, the military, or elsewhere that their interest and ability takes them. Let’s promote a love of learning, valuing of hard work, and support of options that lets each person pursue a path to financial security and meaning that they themselves choose – that options aren’t limited severely by the family into which one is born or their home’s zip code.

I have a master’s degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work. I defended my doctoral dissertation on high-conflict divorce and its potentially corrosive effect on children while undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer and was the class speaker at graduation in 2014.

What was your first job?

I was 15 when I went to work as a sales associate for a small, family-owned woman’s clothing shop. I loved working for this entrepreneurial and civic-minded family and am still friends with them today. I learned about my personal responsibility at work, business, sales, and more in that job. It was a great experience that I’m fortunate and grateful to have.

In 25 words or less why are you running for office?

I was moved by women in Jacksonville, alarmed by President Donald Trump’s behavior toward women. I felt the need to step forward and serve.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

I spoke with many people, across party lines, before filing including Democrats Senator Audrey Gibson, former candidate Lisa King and former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg as well as Republicans such as Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche and former mayoral candidate Audrey Moran, to name just a few.

Who do you count on for advice?

I have a wide range of friends and family, from different backgrounds including business, the military, and education that provide me advice, perspective, and support. They are people active in both parties and not at all political as well. One cannot have too many good friends, and it’s best when they have different perspectives, as many of us now are subject to hearing over and over the thoughts of those encased in their own ‘bubbles’ or narrow points of view.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Scott Arceneaux is my political consultant and my campaign manager is Haleigh Hutchison, Councilman Tommy Hazouri’s former executive assistant. I really like my team; they are experienced locally and statewide, and deeply ethical. As a first-time candidate, immersed before filing in the running of my own small business, I wanted thoughtful assistance. That’s the process I’ll use as a legislator – one similar to my response to this and the previous question – listening to a wide range of knowledgeable input.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

Patty Forbes. She worked most of her career as a lawyer and small business program manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration in D.C. and later as Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During her career, she developed and refined many Federal small business programs aimed at providing access to capital and business education to new or growing small business owners. One of her proudest accomplishments was the enactment of the Small Business Administration’s Microloan Program which has provided small loans to budding entrepreneurs for more than 25 years. After her retirement in 2014, she taught low-income children in the Virginia public schools.   

Patty has known me for decades and knows I am ethical, caring, hard-working, a good listener and a fighter for what is right and if elected, she knows I will do everything I can to address the real needs of ALL of the people in District 15.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Tracie Davis. They are two strong, approachable, and effective legislators who care about their constituents and Jacksonville. I can’t wait to work with them in Tallahassee.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

I think many people see elected officials as unapproachable or distant, non-transparent or opaque. As a professional working in the field of human behavior, I know definitively that we are all human, unique, fallible and, yet, redeemable. Some officeholders become swayed by power, money, and fame; their identity becomes fused with ‘a role’ versus seeing themselves as simply ‘a person’. I am fully aware that I’m just a person, with my own unique abilities and needs and aspirations for our community common to many. My many roles in life include being a mom, mental health professional, a business owner, wife, daughter, and now candidate. Each of these roles is a part of my overall identity, which remains essentially unchanged by the political process. During my campaign I have been very approachable, and I’ll remain so. I sit with anyone willing to have a conversation about the needs of our community. I will bring that openness and availability to Tallahassee as the next State Representative in District 15.

What are the three issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

I’m reluctant to not mention as one of my top three issues – education – as voters in House District 15 have told me over and over that (a) it is the issue that matters most to most, though not all, people and (b) they want addressed Florida’s school and student performance, which has fallen far behind many states.

My work’s focus has been on families for as long as I can remember. I’m deeply engaged in why some families struggle to get by financially, why some families are devastated by domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and why other families seem more caring, stable and successful. From this focus on families it’s clear that nearly every issue our community struggles to improve requires support of the family, including these issues important to me as House District 15’s Representative: 1. high-quality and affordable health care, the absence of which can devastate families financially; 2. public safety, crime prevention and its clear connection to drug abuse and, more generally, mental health; and 3. improved public education and its undeniable linkage to good, well-paying jobs.

What is a disruptive issue you are interested in?

In the state of Florida, it is unambiguously apparent, by the science and what’s happening in our repeatedly flooding streets that rising water levels and climate change rise is a “disruptive” issue. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the need for a comprehensive plan to address the infrastructure improvements needed to address this; the potential effects if unaddressed are too severe, financially and environmentally. Furthermore, there is great economic opportunity in Florida and Jacksonville becoming a leader in “green” and sustainable environment industries.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

A representative that will fight for every person and family in Jacksonville, no matter of party affiliation, economic condition, age, gender, race, sexual orientation or background. I believe most of us want similar things – to feel safe in our homes and communities, a good job paying a wage from which a person can support oneself, opportunities for advancement for those who strive, to raise our children with excellent public schools nearby, to be able to go to a doctor and get medical treatment without the fear of bankruptcy or losing one’s home.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Reubin Askew. He was an early champion of civil rights and was instrumental in helping move Florida in the right direction during the 1960’s and 70’s. He was known for his honesty and integrity and ushered in an era of transparency and good government that we still benefit from in the form of our Sunshine laws and an independent judiciary. We could all learn from his example.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

For me they’re a fun part of campaigning; I enjoy talking with voters as they let me place a sign in their yard. One morning while I was out canvassing my campaign manager messaged me saying: a person had seen my yard sign, ‘googled’ me to learn more about who I am, then called our office to ask for a sign, and had just made a very generous donation to the campaign. All without having met me in person yet. After I finished canvassing I delivered a sign to them and we spent some time discussing issues that matter most to them.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

I reach for my phone first thing each morning to make sure none of my patients or family members are in crisis, then I read my email where there are links to articles in the Florida Times Union, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and other news sources.

Where do you get your political news?

The local and state newspapers I mentioned above and Florida Politics, public radio (WJCT here in Jacksonville), and other sources such as national newspapers and reliable websites.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Yes, my campaign can be found online at, on Facebook and Instagram at “Polson For Jacksonville,” and on Twitter @PolsonForJax.

In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

I’m a mental health professional, small business owner, cancer survivor and an Army veteran’s daughter. I’ve spent my life studying why some families thrive and others struggle to survive. I will bring my professional expertise to Tallahassee and fight every day for working families in Jacksonville.


Between my business and the campaign, I do not have as much time for hobbies now, but I enjoy biking for fitness, working out with a helpful local trainer, reading clinical journals to stay up with best practices in my field, traveling to interesting places with our kids, and going to dinner out at some of my favorite spots in Jacksonville.

Favorite sport and sports team?

I love watching college football and basketball. I became a Gator fan when my daughter attended UF during the era of Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. I’d never been to games where there was so much enthusiasm – and orange and blue. I also enjoy attending The Players Championship every year. And, of course, go Jags.

Former DCF Secretary Mike Carroll appointed to state public safety panel

Mike Carroll, who stepped down last month as Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, has been named to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office announced the appointment on Friday. Carroll, 57, now is Executive Vice President of Lutheran Services of Florida.

Carroll is actually returning to the panel; he had served on it in his role as DCF Secretary, a press release explained.

The commission was created as part of legislation passed after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, in which a former student of the school killed 17 students and staff members.

Carroll’s tenure as DCF Secretary — Scott appointed him in December 2014 — was the longest in the department’s 21-year history.

He worked at DCF and its predecessor, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS), since January 1990. He was replaced by Rebecca Kapusta, now the interim secretary.

Carroll oversaw “expanded substance abuse treatment services statewide, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders; achieved record numbers of adoptions; (and) championed anti-human trafficking efforts,” among other achievements, according to a statement from Scott’s office when Carroll announced his resignation in August.

On the other hand, a 133-page internal review commissioned by Carroll in 2016 depicted the agency he led as dysfunctional, with workers feeling “unsupported,” “overwhelmed,” and “defeated.”

David Perez SD 36

New poll puts David Perez in the lead in battleground SD 36

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP) puts Democratic candidate David Perez ahead of his Republican opponent, Manny Diaz, in the race for Senate District 36.

The results show Perez leading Diaz 41 percent-38 percent, with 21 percent of voters still undecided.

The poll ran from Sept. 28-Oct. 1 and consisted of 358 registered voters in SD 36.

The news comes after Perez was included on the latest list of endorsements from former President Barack Obama.

“With just over a month until Election Day, it’s clear our team has the momentum behind us,” Perez declared.

“Every day when I’m out knocking doors, voters tell me they’re sick and tired of the same old pay-to-play politicians like Manny Diaz. We’re looking forward to continuing to get our message out and to give Northwest Dade a state Senator who will always be on their side.”

PPP also found both candidates with net positive approval ratings. For Perez, 21 percent viewed him favorably and 15 percent unfavorably. More voters were aware of Diaz, with 34 percent rating him favorably and 25 percent unfavorably.

Perez has also reduced the fundraising gap between he and Diaz, though Diaz maintains a lead according to the most recent reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

The race for SD 36 is open due to incumbent state Sen. Rene Garcia being term-limited. Garcia, a Republican, has already endorsed Diaz as his preferred successor.

SD 36 covers parts of northwest Miami-Dade County including Hialeah, Miami Lakes, Miami Springs and Doral.

Rick Scott orders flags at half-staff for Dorothy Hukill

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday ordered flags at half-staff on Sunday in honor of the late state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

The Port Orange Republican, who served in the Senate since 2012, died Tuesday after a recurrence of cancer first diagnosed and treated last year.

Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand, the Brevard County Courthouse in Melbourne, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset.


The attorney, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, had long been interested in education, legal and technology issues. She is a former public elementary school teacher.

Hukill also served in the House 2004-12 and was mayor of Port Orange 2000-04. She last represented Senate District 14, covering southern Volusia County and northern Brevard County.

The 72-year-old “was a true leader in the Florida Senate and served the public with distinction,” Scott said in a statement.

“She worked to make our state a better place to live and leaves an incredible legacy. We are all grateful for her commitment to Florida families.

“Our prayers are with Dorothy’s family and to those closest to her. We are also praying for our friends and colleagues in the Florida Senate who loved and admired Senator Hukill so much.”

Constituents and others can pay their respects noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange, Senate President Joe Negron said.

In lieu of flowers, her family asked for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where she spent her final days.

Personnel note: Jeremiah Hawkes now state Senate’s top lawyer

Jeremiah Hawkes, formerly a top official under Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, is now general counsel of the Florida Senate, its spokeswoman said Friday.

Hawkes, who started Monday, will be paid $135,000 a year. He replaces Dawn Roberts, who served as the Senate’s top lawyer under outgoing Senate President Joe Negron.

Roberts is returning to her previous job as staff director of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

Hawkes, who unsuccessfully ran for a Pasco County judgeship this year, was asked to take the position by Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Betta said. Hawkes also has previously applied for judicial appointments.

The 41-year-old is the son of Tallahassee lobbyist Paul Hawkes, a former 1st District Court of Appeal judge.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the younger Hawkes was commander of the Management Services bureau under Nocco, overseeing budgeting, finance, and legal operations.

“He joined the department in 2009 under then-Sheriff Bob White as part of a post-election shake-up among the sheriff’s top aides that also saw (outgoing) House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Nocco come to the agency,” the Times reported.

“All three had worked under (U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio during his tenure as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, with Hawkes serving as the House’s general counsel.”

In other moves in the general counsel’s office, Christie Letarte moves to “special counsel to the President” from deputy general counsel, and Ashley Istler replaces Letarte as deputy general counsel. Istler was the attorney for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

Lauren Book backs Pam Bondi’s investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests

State Sen. Lauren Book, a child sexual abuse survivor, said she supports Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s investigation into possible abuse committed by Catholic priests in Florida.

Bondi “has sent a clear message to any person using their position of power to exploit and manipulate children: Your actions are not tolerated, and you will not get away with harming children,” the Plantation Democrat said in a statement issued Friday.

As a child, Book endured sexual abuse for six years at the hands of a trusted caretaker. She later created the “Lauren’s Kids” organization to “educate adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in-school curricula, public awareness campaigns, and speaking engagements.”

The organization also leads a yearly statewide “Walk in My Shoes” awareness walk across the state of Florida – 1,500 miles from the Southernmost Point of the U.S. in Key West to the Capitol in Tallahassee.

“Anyone who has contributed to the institutional victimization of children is a criminal and must receive the maximum punishment,” she added. “Attorney General Bondi is once again shining light in dark places as she works to protect victims and stand up for those who have been silenced.”

Bondi this week launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests after a Pennsylvania grand jury report this summer that found more than 1,000 children were molested over decades by hundreds of priests whose wrongdoing was covered up by church leaders.

Bondi, whose office is investigating all seven Catholic dioceses in Florida, said Thursday that she had launched a tip site “to allow victims and anyone with information about priest abuse to report what they know.”

“Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said during a Tampa news conference.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, “I know how scary it is to come forward, but I want all survivors to know that your voice matters, the guilt is not yours to carry, and you will be believed,” Book said. “If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse, I promise it is OK to tell.

“… Please visit the tip line created by Attorney General Bondi’s office. Together, we will work to ensure justice is served.”


Updated 3:45 p.m. — Bondi released this statement Friday afternoon:

“We cannot comment on the specifics of our ongoing criminal investigation, but I am pleased with the response from the public so far, and the growing number of reports from victims. Based on these confidential reports, I believe the tip site is providing us the information we need to conduct a successful investigation and protect children.

“I want to thank the media for helping us spread the word about our tip site. Please let viewers and readers know they can report past priest abuse at” 


Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

Dorothy Hukill to be remembered Sunday

The family of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who died this week, will host visitors Sunday in Volusia County.

People may pay respects from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange, Senate President Joe Negron said in a memo to lawmakers and staff members.

Negron said a formal memorial service will be a small, family gathering.

Hukill, 72, died after battling cervical cancer. She had served in the Senate since 2012, after eight years in the House.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

‘Vote no’: FanDuel comes out in opposition to gambling amendment

Saying it will “make it impossible to bring sports betting to Florida,” FanDuel is telling Florida voters to vote down a proposed ‘voter control of gambling’ constitutional amendment.

The amendment’s main backer, however, says the national fantasy sports website has got it all wrong. It won’t be impossible, he said: It’ll just require a vote.

In a Thursday email shared with Florida Politics, FanDuel said “Amendment 3 was written to try to deceive you … It pretends to give voters more power, but the reality is it … makes it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports.”

Moreover, the ballot measure “would stop any chance of bringing sports betting to Florida dead in its tracks.”

It goes on: “Sports fans like you are now able to legally place bets using the FanDuel app in New Jersey, and at locations in West Virginia, Delaware, and Mississippi, with more states coming on soon. And fans LOVE it.

“But if Amendment 3 passes, the Legislature will no longer have the power to authorize sports betting in Florida. Our opponents will also use Amendment 3 to make it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports.

“Preserve the opportunity to have legal, engaging, and exciting sports betting in Florida. Please vote NO on Amendment 3.”

The amendment, backed by Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, aims at limiting gambling’s expansion in the state. The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

But it “does not prohibit sports gambling,” said John Sowinski, chairman of Voters in Charge, the political committee behind the initiative.

“What it does do is gives the final say on this and other casino gambling decisions to Florida voters,” he added. “Likewise, it does not affect traditional fantasy sports pools.” The amendment has largely been polling above the required 60 percent needed to be added to the state constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a challenge brought by the State of New Jersey, opened the doors to sports betting in a decision against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), finding it unconstitutionally “dictate(d) the extent to which the states must maintain prohibitions on sports wagering.”

Florida has struggled with fantasy sports in recent Legislative Sessions, letting die measures that would have explicitly legalized online fantasy play.

Lawmakers also moved omnibus gambling bills just this year without addressing sports betting, citing fears that allowing wagers on sports would violate the Seminole Compact, the Seminole Tribe’s gambling contract with the state.

Environmental group launches ad buy supporting Kayser Enneking, Lindsay Cross

The Florida Conservation Voters Action Fund said Wednesday that it’s putting $250,000 behind a digital ad campaign supporting the Democrats challenging Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry and St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes in the fall.

The ad supporting Gainesville Democrat Kayser Enneking’s campaign in Senate District 8 hits Perry for his “disastrous ‘toilet to tap’ bill.” That measure, which was panned by environmental groups and vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, would have allowed chemically treated, recycled water to be pumped into the state’s underground aquifer.

“You have a choice for Florida Senate District 8,” the 15-second ad says. “Keith Perry, author of the toilet to tap bill that even Rick Scott thought was too disgusting to become law, or Dr. Kayser Enneking, a physician who knows the value of clean water and our natural resources. On Nov. 6, who will you pick.”

The ad backing St. Pete Democrat Lindsay Cross hammers Brandes for his “votes to cut important funding to our water management agencies.” That statement refers to a 2011 bill Brandes voted for that capped the funds Water Management Districts can collect to perform their duties.

“Voting on Nov. 6? Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes voted to cut red tide funding. We could use some of that right now,” the SD 24 ad says. “Environmental scientist Lindsay Cross will fight for funding to combat red tide disasters. Vote Lindsay Cross for Florida Senate District 24.”

In a press release announcing the ads FCV Action Fund’s deputy director, Jonathan Webber, said Floridians could pin the blame for “our almost never-ending environmental problems” on Perry and Brandes.

“Year after year, bill after bill, Perry and Brandes have supported some of the most irresponsible ideas to ever pass through the Legislature,” Webber said. “Their abysmal record speaks for itself, and it’s clear: Perry and Brandes lack the basic common sense to be trusted with our water.”

The group also crafted a list of environmental bills it opposed that earned a yes vote from Perry or Brandes stretching back to when both Republicans were members of the Florida House.

SD 8 and SD 24 are top targets for the Florida Democratic Party in November.

Democrats hold an 8-point registration advantage in SD 8, which includes Alachua and Putnam counties as well as northern Marion, though Perry and Donald Trump both won the district two years ago. In 2018, Enneking has been competitive on the fundraising front but trails in the most recent public poll of the contest.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. It voted twice for Barack Obama  before going plus-7 for Trump in 2016. A recent poll of the race showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross with 42 percent of those polled unsure of who they’ll vote for come Election Day.

The ads are below.

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