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Roger Stone gets behind Scott Sturgill in CD 7 race

Conservative politics iconoclast Roger Stone is endorsing Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill in the election contest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Sturgill’s campaign announced.

Stone, who has had long career as a controversial warrior of politics, dating to Richard Nixon and who was a close advisor of President Donald Trump, made his endorsement announcement at a surprise appearance at a Sturgill event in Winter Springs Wednesday night.

Sturgill faces state Rep. Mike Miller and Vennia Francois in the August 28 Republican primary. They all seek to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, whom Sturgill has dubbed “Steakhouse Stephanie” after criticizing her for holding a fundraiser at a Washington D.C. steakhouse a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017.

Stone picked up on that theme in his comments, and also picked up on the Sturgill campaign’s disproven contention that the fundraiser was after the hurricane instead of before.

“The arrogance of Steakhouse Stephanie gorging herself on lobster tails and filet mignon while her constituents were sweltering without electricity and water speaks volumes about her attitude regarding the people of this district,” Stone stated in a news release issued by Sturgill’s campaign.

“Everyone talks about the blue wave coming in November,” he added. “But that wave will be met with a big red wall right here in Central Florida and in Congressional District 7.”

Buddy Dyer, Teresa Jacobs talk of Pulse’s legacy

As crowds gathered around and across the streets from the interim memorial that had been the Pulse nightclub and then the scene of so much horror, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called for the city and nation to focus on the Pulse legacy for future generations and history books.

That legacy, each of them described in their own ways in separate speeches, is of how a tragedy changed hearts and minds and transformed an entire metropolis into an all-embracing community.

“We are one people. We are one country. We are one world. And we are one heart. And from this day forward we will always share one pulse,” Jacobs said.

Tuesday is the second anniversary of the Pulse massacre, the attack by a heavily-armed ISIS-pledging gays-hating madman who stormed Orlando’s popular gay nightclub and killed 49, wounded 53, and, in both Dyer’s and Jacobs’ words, transformed a city.

At the oneOrlando Foundation’s remembrance ceremonies Tuesday night crowds defied the storms, as they had last year, to hear reflection, inspiration, memorials, music, dance, and pledges of resilience, love and unity. They sat and stood under stormy skies at the site where Pulse owner Barbara Poma and the oneOrlando Foundation she formed plan to build an international symbol of resilience, love and unity in a permanent Pulse memorial.

And after the storms and darkest clouds passed, a rainbow appeared over Orlando.

Dyer, a Democrat, and Jacobs, a Republican who is now running to be elected chair of the Orange County School Board, sought to challenge the crowd and the greater community to be the living memorial, to not give up the changes they have embraced.

Dyer also spoke of another tragedy, just Monday night, when another crazed gunman killed four children and then himself during a 24-hour siege in Orlando, after he shot and critically wounded an Orlando police officer responding to a domestic violence call.

“As the eyes of the nation and perhaps the world turn back to Orlando today, we return to the spotlight with a lot of talk about what is the legacy of Pulse. There is talk about the significance of this tragedy in so many mass shootings in the last two years,” Dyer said.

“The national debate on guns. Questions about how is Orlando different today than it was two years ago. These are important conversations, and they should be part of a dialogue about what our country must do to be a safer country, to be a more accepting country, to be a more loving place, like Orlando,” Dyer continued.

“Pulse was a violent act carried out by a single individual. But the response to that act of evil and act of hate has been made up by thousands and thousands and thousands, maybe even millions of individuals, deciding to show what the opposite of hate looks like, and it looks like love,” Dyer said.

Jacobs took a more personal turn, discussing how she had changed from her religously-taught views toward the LGBTQ community before Pulse, and said it was her own adult children who brought her through the transformation. After Pulse, her evolved views helped make her one of the leading Republican advocates of the LGBTQ community in the nation.

“I am so proud of our children in this community,” she began, and then talked about how many people in Central Florida went through the same transformation, with younger people leading the way.

“I think about this often: how will the history books remember this day?” Jacobs said. “We know what we want them to say. But I know for certain what they will say, if we don’t make sure that we forever tell our half of the story. It will forever go down as the day that evil reigned and brought horrific pain and suffering to an obscure little nightclub in Orlando. That’s how history books would paint this day two years ago.

“But for the fact that when the sun rose in the morning – and when the citizens of Orlando and Orange County and Central Florida and the nation and the world, when they woke up to the news – the devil had met his match.

“Evil could not win,” she said. “There is no amount of evil that could turn back the overwhelming, enormous reaction of the human spirit and the heart and soul that we are innately in human beings. It was hard for anybody in this community no matter how they brought up, no matter what long-standing believes they had, it was hard for anybody in this community to ignore the fact that we really are one people, and we really have one dream, and we really have one goal as human beings and that is to be treated equally and to love who you want to love. Because if you can’t love who you want to love, what is the point of it anyway?”

Lee Mangold gets AFL-CIO endorsement in HD 28 race

Democratic state House candidate Lee Mangold has received the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO in his quest to be elected in Florida’s House District 28.

Mangold, who founded and runs a cybersecurity business and is an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, is a unionized member of the United Faculty of Florida, Florida Education Association, National Education Association, and AFL-CIO.

He offered a strong advocacy of unions.

“I’m honored to receive this endorsement from Florida AFL-CIO, and I’m proud to be a voice for the hard-working men and women in this state,” Mangold stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Unions ensure that employees have a collective voice in the organizations they serve; unions ensure that employees are treated fairly; unions ensure that employees get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. To suggest otherwise ignores the positive impacts unions have had on this country and the lives of working people and families across the US. I’m looking forward to voting against any attempts to compromise our unions here in Florida.“

Mangold, of Casselberry, faces Republican David Smith of Winter Springs in the HD 28 contest, covering northeast Seminole County. The incumbent, Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur, is not seeking re-election.

Through the end of May Mangold has raised about $20,000, including $10,000 he lent to his campaign, and has spent all but about $5,000 of that, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Smith has raised nearly $200,000, and had about $150,000 of that in the bank at the end of May.

Matt Matin withdraws from HD 44 race, endorses Melanie Gold

Democrat Matt Matin is withdrawing from the race for the House District 44 Democratic primary and has thrown his support behind activist Margaret Melanie Gold.

“I feel like she’s for the same things I am for, and I think she’d be a great representative in Tallahassee,” Matin said on Tuesday.

Matin’s exit leaves three Democrats vying in the August 28 Democratic primary for the chance to take on Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski in HD 44, serving southwest Orange County. The others include Gold, former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, and businessman Eddy Dominguez, who lost to Olszewski in a special election last October.

Matin, a real estate agent and former urban planner, is the second Democrat to withdraw, following Dawn Antonis, who dropped out in February.

He said he concluded that he could not commit the time and energy to a full-time campaign — not with a two-year old son back home — and he decided he should not run if he wasn’t making it a top priority in his life. With that, he determined that Gold deserved his support.

“I am humbled to have earned the support of Matthew Matin. Matthew has proven to be an honorable man throughout the primary process. His ideas and ideals are a clear reflection of his character and how much he loves our community,” Gold stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “With his support, I aim to prove that only together will we be able to take back District 44 and make government accountable to the people.”

Gold, known to her friends as Melanie, has operated her own stock brokerage and money management company and hosted a call-in talk show. Since moving to the Windermere area she established herself as an outspoken public leader and community activist advocating on behalf of healthcare, education, and gun safety. She also was a leader of weekly protests of Republican policies that took place outside of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office in downtown Orlando.

Matin actually was the leader among HD 44 Democratic candidates in money raised from contributors, having attracted $13,748 since he entered the race in October, shortly after Olszewski took office. Matin also lent his campaign $1,070, and had $13,376 left at the end of May. Matin said he was proud he ran a lean campaign and is glad he can return most of the money to contributors, on a pro-rata basis.

Gold is the overall campaign money leader among Democrats, thanks to $30,000 she donated to her campaign. She also has raised $7,331. She entered June with $28,358 in the bank.

Thompson, who entered the race in April, has raised $11,935, including $4,000 she lent her campaign. She entered May with $6,142 in the bank.

Dominguez has raised $16,600, including $12,000 he lent to his campaign. He also drew nearly $24,000 in in-kind contributions of staff time, mainly from the Florida Democratic Party, assisting the candidate who agreed to step up at the last minute last fall to give Olszewski a challenge. Dominguez entered June with about $5,317 in the bank.

Olszewski, on the other hand, has raised $91,900, including $20,600 in May. He entered June with $74,977 cash in hand.

Bells toll in Orlando

Grieving anew as a community in the wake of another horrific gun tragedy, Orlandoans bowed their heads Tuesday afternoon as bells tolled and names were called in remembrance of the 49 people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years earlier.

Others, including survivors and families of victims of the Pulse massacre, joined a solemn crowd from the Orlando community at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando for a 10-minute ceremony in which family members and Robin Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation read the names of those killed, and the church bell tolled their loss.

Also on everyone’s mind was the horrific event a few miles to the south, where, on Monday night a deranged man with a history of domestic violence apparently shot and killed his two children and his girlfriend’s two children during a hostage siege. The scene began with Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr., 35, also shooting and critically wounding an Orlando police officer, and ended with him killing himself, according to Orlando police.

The Pulse service already had enough tragedy to handle.

“It’s such a beautiful thing to know that your loved ones will never be forgotten, not here in Orlando, not in Florida, not in the United States, not just in Puerto Rico, everywhere, all over the world,” said Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation.

Among those attending were U.S. Rep. Val Demings and her husband Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who is also running for Orange County mayor; Rob Panepinto, who is running against Jerry Demings; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto; and state Reps. Mike Miller and Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Earlier a private, 10 a.m., remembrance ceremony was held in at the Pulse interim memorial, reserved just for survivors and families, plus appearances by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

And at 7:30 a.m. Gov. Rick Scott made an unannounced visit to the Pulse interim memorial, according to his calendar.

Mike Miller attending Miami fundraiser instead of Pulse ceremony in his district

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park will not be attending the big Pulse remembrance ceremony in his Orlando district Tuesday night and instead will be holding a campaign fundraiser in Miami.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge called Miller’s move “reprehensible” Tuesday morning.

The fundraiser is for Miller’s campaign to be elected to Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which, like Miller’s current Florida House District 47, includes the site of the Pulse nightclub and the horrific mass shooting two years ago Tuesday, which left 49 dead, 53 wounded and the whole Orlando community heart-broken.

Miller’s campaign said he would be attending another memorial event, the Ringing of the Bells ceremony scheduled for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, at noon in downtown Orlando. A campaign spokeswoman said he was not invited to participate in an official capacity in Tuesday evening’s remembrance ceremony, so his schedule permitted him to leave town for the Miami fundraiser.

Miller’s legislative office is about four blocks down the street from Pulse.

Miller’s fundraiser is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Veza Sur Brewing Co., of Miami, according to a notice on his campaign’s Facebook page.

The big Pulse remembrance ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pulse. The event was organized by the onePulse Foundation, and not all politicians were invited.

Miller hopes to be able to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy this fall. He does have a tough Republican primary first, with Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois.

Murphy will be attending the memorial service, invited as the member of Congress representing the district.

Miller also has a fundraiser set for Wednesday night in Lake Mary.

Miller had been on the ground, consoling and offering assistance, and mourning himself, on the morning of the Pulse massacre. And he co-sponsored a resolution, with Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, declaring Tuesday to be Pulse Memorial Day. He also co-sponsored, with Smith, a bill to provide assistance to Pulse first responders.

Tuesday, Hodge discredited Miller’s co-sponsorship of the Pulse Memorial Day resolution as “grandstanding.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that Representative Miller has decided to leave his district to grab cash instead of mourning with his constituents tells us all we need to know about his priorities,” Hodge said in a statement released by the Orange County Democratic Party. “Orlando United is more than just a hashtag or slogan, it resulted from the display of unity with which our community responded when it was confronted by hate. The fact that Representative Miller is putting his own aspirations ahead of those of a grieving community is troubling for us all.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson introduce Pulse remembrance resolution in U.S. Senate

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined forces to introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate noting the survivors and commemorating the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting that took place two years ago Tuesday.

The resolution refers to the massacre both as a terrorist attack and a hate crime – a distinction that has has created a bit of a partisan divide on which to emphasize – and calls for remembrance of the victims, honoring and supporting the survivors, applauding the dedication and bravery of the responders, Americans standing together against both hate and terrorism, and recognizing, “the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community.”

Here is the full text:

Whereas, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old man from Ft. Pierce, Florida, killed 49 and wounded 53 innocent people in a horrific terrorist attack on Pulse Orlando, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender nightclub, during Latin night;

Whereas the gunman, who was investigated in 2013–2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this preamble referred to as the “FBI”) for possible connections to terrorism, pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (in this preamble referred to as “ISIL”);

Whereas then-President [Barack] Obama called the attack an act of both terror and hate as well as an attack on all of the people of the United States and the fundamental values of equality and dignity;

Whereas the attack was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States and is the worst terrorist attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001;

Whereas the law enforcement professionals of the city of Orlando and Orange County, Florida, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other emergency and health care professionals responded to the attack bravely and admirably and in a coordinated manner, saving many lives;

Whereas following the attack, hundreds of people stood in long lines to donate blood for those injured in the attack, and the people of Orlando, the State of Florida, and the United States expressed overwhelming support for the victims, their families, and their loved ones regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation;

Whereas local organizations and caregivers came together with the Federal, State, and local government to support the victims and help the community heal;

Whereas the community of Orlando and communities across the State of Florida and the United States, in the spirit of unity and respect, continue to support the victims, their families, their loved ones, and all those affected by the attack, as well as the brave men and women of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and other emergency and health care professionals for their dedicated service to their communities;

Whereas Tuesday, June 12, 2018, marks 2 years since the attack; and

Whereas the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies persists, including the threat posed by homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) commemorates the victims killed in the horrific terrorist attack on the Pulse Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, and offers heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for their families, loved ones, and friends;

(2) honors the survivors of the attack and pledges continued support for their recovery;

(3) recognizes the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community after the attack;

(4) applauds the dedication and bravery of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and counterterrorism officials for their efforts to respond to the attack, prevent future attacks, and secure communities;

(5) stands together with all people of the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, in the face of terror and hate; and

(6) reaffirms the commitment of the United States and its allies to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups at home and abroad and to address the threat posed by homegrown terrorism.

Lori Harris withdraws from Orange County Commission race

Two months after making one of the biggest political debuts in recent Central Florida history, Lori Harris has withdrawn from the race for the Orange County Commission District 4 seat.

Harris is pulling out to care for a family member who developed a serious health issue, a situation that emerged after Harris first entered the race on April 11, her campaign said late Monday afternoon.

Harris submitted withdrawal papers Monday to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Harris had entered the contest with much fanfare: standing beside her former boss, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, as well as Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, at a well-attended downtown news conference. She had received Dyer’s backing after she served for more than three years as point-person on his staff for homelessness and other human services issues.

And she had come to the campaign with a dramatic personal story, a once homeless teen mother who pulled herself out of poverty, found her own housing, worked her way through college, and eventually achieved a high-profile career.

Yet she had entered a race that already had a fierce competition underway without her, between five candidates, Susan Makowski, Nicolette Springer, Maribel Cordero, Lance Ballinger, and Gina Perez-Calhoun. That resulted in plenty of grumbling in District 4 circles, charging that Dyer was trying to stack the Orange County Commission with his own people. Dyer and Harris denied that. But even assuming that normally there is no love lost between candidates, Harris found herself particularly disdained by some of the others.

The campaign finance leaders in that race, Makowski and Springer, have raised about $98,000 and $72,000 respectively. Harris had a strong first month in April, raising $14,000 in the 19 days after she filed. But she managed only another $1,375 in May.

Harris intends to “focus her efforts and time and energy on” her ill family member, said Tasi Hogan, a spokeswoman for her campaign. “I know it was a really hard decision for her.”

Anna Eskamani

Anna Eskamani has more than $200K banked for HD 47 bid

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani now has more than $200,000 at the ready for her campaign to flip House District 47 blue.

Eskamani raised $21,850 for her campaign account last month and added another $500 through her political committee, People Power for Florida. Those totals bring her overall fundraising to more than $272,000 with $203,645 of that sum on hand.

The campaign funds came in across more than 300 contributions. More than 250 of those contributions were from small-dollar donors who pitched in $50 or less. However, Eskamani also pulled in 11 checks for $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative candidates.

Those donors included CED Companies head Alan Ginsburg, attorney Michael Maher, OCI Consulting Engineers CEO Amir Kazeminia, art dealer Dennis DeVona, and political committees tied to the Florida Justice Association and Planned Parenthood. Eskamani is an executive with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

People Power for Florida’s lone contribution came in from Brian Henties, the director of corporate sponsorships at Valencia College.

May spending totaled $5,650, half of which paid for campaign staff. The report also showed a $1,000 printing job with Orlando-based Print Meisters, $415 to Credo Conduit for rent, $320 to Democratic voter data group NGP VAN and $250 to campaign support platform You Should Run.

In all, Eskamani has raised $244,322 for her campaign account and had $178,493 in the bank heading into June, while the committee has raised $28,251 to date and has $25,151 on hand.

Also running for the north-central Orange County district is a pair of Republicans — Orlando attorney Mikaela Nix and Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves, though neither had filed their May campaign finance reports as of Monday morning.

As of April 30, Reeves had raised $25,770 and kicked in another $94,700 in candidate loans. He has $105,584 on hand. Through the same date, Nix had raised $39,974 and loaned her campaign $2,600. She has $38,083.

HD 47 is currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who is running in a three-way Republican primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The seat has a slim Democratic advantage in voter registrations and it was held by current Democratic Sen. Linda Stuart before Miller edged her out by four points in the 2014 cycle. He followed that up with a 6-point win over Democrat Beth Tuura in 2016, when the seat voted plus-11 for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Alan Grayson launches new TV ad in CD 9 race

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has launched a second television commercial in his battle for the Democratic primary nomination to return to Congress again in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The new 30-second spot starts with a quick visit to Grayson’s roots, as he talks about “growing up in the tenements in the Bronx, surrounded by people who are different from me, and each other.”

“I’m proud to be one of the leading champions for equality of all kinds: social, political, economic and personal. This ad explains why,” Grayson said in a statement released by his campaign.

As images flow past of Bronx tenements, multiracial children playing, and then Grayson as an adult, he says that upbringing helped establish his appreciation of diversity and his beliefs in equality, respect and justice.

Grayson is trying to win back his old seat representing CD 9 and faces his successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in November.

“People of different races, different languages, different religions, and I learned from that, that our differences are not something to overcome, but something to cherish,” Grayson says in the commercial. “And with so much in common as human beings, we all deserve equality, dignity and respect.” He concludes the commercial by declaring it to be a message of “justice, equality and peace.”

The ad is Grayson’s second TV commercial, following Progressive Warrior,” which kicked off his campaign last month, showing national progressive leaders extolling his first three terms in Congress, from 2009-’10 representing Florida’s 8th Congressional District, and from 2013-’16 representing CD 9.

Soto’s campaign has not yet launched any television advertising.

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