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Sept. 11 also brings thoughts of hurricanes past, future, and climate change

Now that Sept. 11 has, on some level, a double function as an anniversary and memorial, Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres led a moment of remembrance in Orlando for the 2011 terrorist attacks — then for hurricanes of the past, present and future, raising concerns of the long-term threat to Florida and the islands posed by climate change.

Torres, a former New York City police officer with bonds to many of those lost in the 9/11 attacks, paid respects at Orlando’s Lake Eola Park and then turned to the more immediate threats, that of Hurricane Irma which hit Florida with its full force one year ago, Hurricane Florence, set to strike North Carolina Thursday, and hurricanes of the future.

Torres, who represents south Orange County and Osceola County, and Rollins College environmental studies Assistant Professor Leslie Poole pushed alarm Tuesday that Florence, Irma, and Hurricanes Maria and Harvey last year may become the norm as climate change warms the oceans, leading to bigger, stronger, slower-moving, more rain-producing, and more dangerous storms.

“One year ago Hurricane Irma revealed what the future has in store for Floridians, as warmer waters brought by climate change produced stronger, more dangerous hurricanes, wider than the state of Florida and roughly the size of Texas,” Torres said. “Irma threatened every community in our state.”

The issue that brought Torres, Poole and a small handful of activists, led by For Our Future Florida, together Tuesday had to do with the prospect that Irma, Florence, Maria and Harvey may be precursors of a future. Poole, who described herself as an environmental historian, discussed the science trends, declaring, “climate change is real, and trying to ignore it is only going to lead to bigger problems for Florida.”

Torres pursued political trends, essentially accusing Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans running for elections this fall of denying climate change and thereby denying pursuit of strategies to address it.

He also praised Scott’s opponent, Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum for their positions on climate change, saying Florida cannot afford to not change leadership.

“More than anything Irma highlighted how unprepared our leaders have left us in the face of stronger hurricanes,” Torres said. “That shouldn’t come as a surprise from a governor who banned employees from even discussing climate change,” he said.

“We live in a state uniquely at risk from climate change. Even now there are three hurricanes threatening the United States,” Torres continued, noting the tracks of Florence, Isaac and Helene. “The time to kick the can down the road to the next generation ends now.”

Poole said there may yet be time to address climate change so that enormous hurricanes don’t become a permanent norm for Florida, other coastal states, and the Caribbean. But she insisted there is no mistaking that the recent enormous hurricanes were not previously the norm.

“Storms are getting bigger, and more violent, and moving slower, and dumping more water,” she said.

Top House Republicans holding fundraiser for Central Florida incumbents

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and the two Republican lawmakers set to succeed him in that post will be in Orlando next week for a fundraiser benefitting the re-election campaigns of their Central Florida colleagues.

Oliva, Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner will headline the Sept. 12 fundraising reception at The Groove, 6000 Universal Blvd. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will benefit 10 incumbent Republicans representing Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties in the state House: Mike La Rosa, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Bobby Olszewski, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan and Josie Tomkow.

Also on the invitation is Stockton Reeves, the Republican nominee in House District 47, which is open this year due to current Republican Rep. Mike Miller opting to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix by 10 points in the Republican primary for the seat last week. He now moves on to a general election showdown against well-funded Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Most of the incumbents on the invite are running for re-election in safely Republican districts.

Cortes, who represents HD 30, and Olszewski, who holds HD 44, are both running for re-election in seats carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, however, they both went uncontested in August and have substantial fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Rick Porter via 407-849-1112 or Ivey Rooney via Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

The invitation is below.

House Republican Majority Fundraiser 9.12.2018

Mike Miller says yes to three congressional debates, awaits Stephanie Murphy

The congressional campaign for Republican state Rep. Mike Miller announced Monday it has signed off on three debates being proposed in Central Florida and said it is awaiting word from Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy on which, if any, work for her.

Miller’s campaign on Monday said it was accepting invitations from two Orlando television stations, WFTV Channel 9 and WESH Channel 2, plus from the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. The WFTV debate has a proposed date, Oct. 9, while the other two await word from Murphy’s campaign on which dates, if any, might be acceptable, Miller’s campaign spokewwoman said.

“Our community and the voters in Central Florida deserve to hear from the candidates seeking to represent them in Congress, and that’s why I’m pleased to accept recent invitations from WFTV, WESH and the Tiger Bay Club to debate Rep. Stephanie Murphy,” Miller stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I’m willing to debate my opponent as many times as we are invited, so I am hopeful that other highly respected media outlets like WKMG, Univision, WOFL, Spectrum13 and the Orlando Sentinel will sponsor or co-sponsor debates.”

Murphy of course has the position of incumbent in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and as the apparent front-runner, leaving Miller hoping for as many public face-offs as possible. The district covers Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

On Monday Murphy’s campaign sounded less than pleased that Miller’s campaign accepted first and made it public, implying that his campaign was not negotiating debate options in good faith.

“We are eager to highlight the differences between our campaigns, which is why we made an initial outreach to the Miller campaign to begin debate negotiations. These debates should occur across a variety of mediums, including broadcast, print and radio, which is why we proposed a schedule with an unprecedented number of general election debates. Proposing an initial framework for debates is not the same thing as limiting debates and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise,” Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson said in a wrtten response Monday.

“It’s disappointing that Mike Miller is more focused on scoring political points than negotiating in good faith. We need less of that in Congress, not more,” Stephenson added.

Miller’s campaign spokeswoman Dana Loncar said both campaigns had signaled acceptance of the Oct. 9 debate at WFTV. Loncar said the issue then became whether to accept a second televised debate.

“The Mike Miller campaign is not going to turn down WESH and in fact would encourage the hard-working professionals in our local media to ask questions, schedule debates and forums so that the people of Central Florida can listen to and evaluate the candidates for Congress,” Loncar stated in the news release.

Communications workers’ union backs Anna Eskamani

The Communications Workers of America Local 3108 is endorsing Democrat Anna Eskamani in the Florida House District 47 race, her campaign announced Monday.

The labor union represents telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, news media, broadcast and cable television, education, health care and public service, law enforcement, manufacturing, and other fields.

“The hard-working men and women of the Communications Workers of America, Local 3108, have wholeheartedly thrown their support to the candidacy of Anna Eskamani for Florida House District 47,” Steve Wisniewski, president of CWA Local 3108, stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign.

“Anna has been a longtime friend of the CWA and has demonstrated that she shares our concerns, and our hopes, for a better future. She has the tenacity and determination to fight for the rights of working-class Floridians and to push forward in the struggle to provide better jobs, better schools, safer communities, and economic and social justice for the good people of Central Florida. Get out and vote, and encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same, for Anna Eskamani for Florida House District 47,” he continued.

Eskamani faces Republican Stockton Reeves in the HD 47 race to represent north-central Orange County. Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller is not seeking re-election.

“Our government from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee has become an embarrassment because too many politicians care more about special interests than our working families. It doesn’t have to be this way,” Eskamani stated in the release. “I am honored to have the support of Communications Workers of America, Local 3108, and cannot wait to be a voice in the Florida House that protects our unions, and balances the needs of our workers, business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs.”

BusinessForce endorses 12 in Central Florida races

BusinessForce, a political committee supporting the business sector of Central Florida, on Monday announced a dozen endorsements for the general election including all six Republicans seeking re-election to Florida House seats.

The organization that spun off from Orlando Inc., the Orlando area Chamber of Commerce, recommended the election of Republican David Smith in Seminole County’s District 28, and the re-elections of Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon in District 29 in Seminole County; Bob Cortes in District 30 split between Seminole and Orange counties; Jennifer Sullivan in District 31 split between Lake and Orange counties; Mike La Rosa in District 42 in Osceola County; Bobby Olszewski in District 44 in Orange County; and Rene Plasencia in District 50, split between Orange and Brevard counties.

BusinessForce also made three endorsements in races for open seats on the Orange County Commission: Christine Moore in District 2; Mayra Uribe in District 3; and Susan Makowski in District 4.

In Seminole County, BusinessForce announced it was backing Jay Zembower in the District 2 race for the Seminole County Commission.

And for the Orange County School Board, BusinessForce endorsed Melissa Byrd for the District 7 seat.

“The candidates we endorsed are a solid representation of BusinessForce’s commitment to helping candidates who are pro-business and embrace a free market economy. We look forward to working with each of them on issues that align with our values and mission,” Craig Swygert, chairman of the board of BusinessForce, stated in a news release.

Andrew Gillum at Orlando rally: Cowardly Donald Trump ‘won’t @ me, y’all’; RNC responds

Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for governor, told an Orlando crowd Saturday that President Donald Trump fearfully avoids him on social media.

“The president is real savvy on his Twitter feed. He tends to talk about me in Montana and other places,” Gillum said. “But he’s unfortunately a little cowardly. He won’t @ me, y’all.”

Indeed, the only time Trump has mentioned Gillum via Twitter came when he congratulated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis for winning Florida’s GOP primary. Then, Trump called Gillum a “Socialist Mayor” who let crime flourish in Tallahassee. But he failed to use Gillum’s Twitter handle, @AndrewGillum, which would have sent a notification to the Democratic candidate.

Regardless, Gillum did see the tweet, and he (or campaign team members managing his Twitter account) offered a response 13 minutes after Trump’s original post that did employ the president’s favored handle.

Republican National Committee officials, for their part, say Trump had Gillum pegged, and said an FBI investigation of the Tallahassee mayor would bear that out.

“President Trump was correct when he called Gillum a ‘failed socialist mayor,’” said Taryn Fenske, RNC spokesperson.

Fenske alleged the FBI investigation would determine Gillum used his office for personal gain in accepting gifts from undercover agents and awarding lucrative contracts to his campaign treasurer. The Gillum campaign maintains the candidate is not the subject of the investigation but his critics have hammered him on an incomplete release of receipts.

“Gilllum has no idea how to run the city of Tallahassee, let alone the entire state of Florida,” Fenske said.

Trump came up Saturday at a Gillum’s official campaign kickoff, which drew about 1,200 people the Orlando Downtown Recreation Center to hear he and running mate Chris King, as well as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, rally supporters around the Democratic ticket’s message of restoring dignity to Florida’s working class.

In Gillum’s speech, he spoke more often about Trump and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, than he did of DeSantis.

But he did mention his Republic opponent in an effort to tie him more directly to the president.

“Ron DeSantis wants to call names. He wants to divide,” Gillum said. “He wants to return to the politics of Donald Trump. But on Nov. 6, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, they have another thing coming.”

While Gillum won the nomination largely through winning strong Florida’s major cities, he told supporters in Orlando he planned to campaign everywhere in the state leading up to the general election.

He referenced a primary visit to The Villages, a Republican bastion, where he said around 500 people showed up. “Almost none of them with a face that looked like mine, but that’s okay,” said Gillum, the first black Democratic nominee for governor.

The event, he said, turned into a small-donation fundraiser and his campaign pulled in about $6,000.

In terms of succeeding Scott in the governor’s mansion, DeSantis said he would accept money to expand Medicaid and any federal grants for high-speed rail, money he said Florida turned down because of a dislike of ObamaCare and the Obama stimulus.

He also promised to trust scientists on climate change and global warming.

But in an apparent pushback on that ‘socialist’ label from Trump and others, he also stressed the importance of business owners getting access to capital and promised to make Florida a leader in innovation in the nation.

See Gillum’s full speech here:

Wayne Liebnitzky endorsed by former Puerto Rico senator

Republican congressional candidate Wayne Liebnitzky has received the endorsement of former Puerto Rico Sen. Miriam Ramirez in his quest to be elected in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which has a large population of Puerto Rican residents, his campaign announced.

Ramirez, a medical doctor, had a long career in public health and politics in Puerto Rico including a term in the Puerto Rico Senate from 2000-’04, before moving to Florida. Most recently, until 2013, she served as Federal, Health and Legislative Affairs Advisor to then-San Juan Mayo Jorge Santini, Mayor of San Juan. She continues as an active advocate for Puerto Rico statehood from Florida.

In the Nov. 6 election, Liebnitzky, of St. Cloud, is facing Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, who in 2016 became the first Florida congressman of Puerto Rican heritage. Soto defeated Liebnitzky in that 2016 election.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, south Orange County and east Polk County, all areas with large and growing populations of Puerto Ricans. The area was ground zero for the migration of people fleeing Puerto Rico last year after Hurricane Maria devestated the island almost a year ago.

Stephanie Murphy ad touts immigrants’ shot at the American dream

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is launching a pair of internet videos, one in Spanish, one in English, touting her personal story of an immigrant pursuing the American dream and saying she’s fighting for others to have the same fair shot.

Murphy, the first-term congresswoman from Winter Park, came to America with her family after fleeing communist Vietnam on a refugee boat, eventually settling in the United States. Her commercial briefly references that and then tells of her parents working hard cleaning offices so the family could have a better life.

She then pushes her work-across-the-aisle credentials in Congress, seeking to position herself as a moderate Democrat in Florida’s very purple 7th Congressional District, representing Seminole County and central Orange County. She faces Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in the Nov. 6 election.

The Murphy campaign stated in a news release that the 30-second ad, “Fair Shot,” is targeted to Hispanic voters and that it is part of a significant digital advertising investment for the campaign.

Murphy narrates both the English and Spanish versions.

“When you work hard, you deserve to get ahead,” she says in the English ad. “So I’m working with both parties to improve veterans care, invest in schools, and create good paying jobs. And I’m holding Washington accountable – because they work for the people.

“I’m Stephanie Murphy, and I’m fighting for your fair shot at the American dream,” she concludes.

Group pushing Democrats in ‘flippable’ state districts

A national group backing Democrats in state districts that could go from red to blue is getting behind state Rep. Janet Cruz‘s run for the Florida Senate and Anna Eskamani and Fentrice Driskell in Florida House districts in Orlando and Tampa.

Flippable is pledging to target 100 state races across the country with the intention of reversing Republican control in those states before the next U.S. Census and the resulting congressional redistricting. On Thursday it announced Cruz, Eskamani, and Driskell among its latest endorsements.

Cruz is running in Senate District 18, based in Tampa, against Republican incumbent state Sen. Dana Young.

Eskamani is running for an open seat in House District 47 in Orlando, against Republican Stockton Reeves. The seat is currently held by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller.

Driskell is running in House District 63 in Tampa against Republican incumbent state Rep. Shawn Harrison.

They join a list of 18 other candidates in Florida the group has endorsed, including Kayser Enneking in Senate District 8, Bob Doyel in Senate District 22, David Perez in Senate District 36, Tracye Polson in House District 15, Tracey Kagan in House District 29, Geraldine Thompson in House District 44, Adam Hattersley in House District 59, Debra Bellanti in House District 60, Alex Heeren in House District 66, Jennifer Webb in House District 69, Margaret Good in House District 72, Jim Bonfiglio in House District 89, Emma Collum in House District 93, Cindy Polo in House District 103, Javier Estevez in House District 105, Jeffrey Solomon in House District 115, James Harden in House District 116, and Steve Friedman in House District 120.

“Our government from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee has become an embarrassment because too many politicians care more about special interests than the people they serve,” Eskamani stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “I am honored to be building a new vision for our state, one that prioritizes public education, builds a diversified economy, protects our environment, reduces gun violence, and ensures access to high-quality health care, regardless of pre-existing conditions.”

Disney World workers voting on $15 minimum wage

More than 38,000 workers at Walt Disney World have a chance Wednesday and Thursday to vote on a new labor contract, which includes raising the resort’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Members of the six unions represented by the Service Trades Council will be able to vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday in break rooms around Disney property. The last time unionized workers cast ballots on a proposed deal, it was opposed by 93 percent of the more than 9,000 workers who voted.

“By contrast, this week union leaders expect an overwhelming vote in favor of the new contract which will bring historic and life-changing raises to 38,000 workers represented by the unions,” the unions said in a press release.

The results of the vote will be announced Thursday night.

The contract would result in a series of wage increases over the next three years. The minimum wage would rise to $11 in December 2018, $12 in March 2019, $13 in September 2019, $14 in October 2020 and then $15 in October 2021, in time for the park’s 50th anniversary. Disney had initially offered an increase to $10.25 when talks began in August 2017.

For employees who collect tips, their minimum wage would go up by 15 cents every December through 2021.

On Sept. 27, workers would also receive a $1,000 bonus and a retroactive pay bump of 50 cents an hour or 3 percent, whichever is greater, for hours worked dating back to Sept. 24, 2017. The bonus had previously been announced by Disney after the Republican tax cut law reduced corporate tax rates.

While unions characterized the deal as containing “no major concessions,” Disney did win two small changes in its favor. New hires would have to wait one year, up from six months, before transferring to a new position. The contract would also raise the cap on the number of part-time workers Disney can employ, from 35 percent to 38 percent of the total workforce.

If approved as expected, the new contract at Disney World could pressure other theme parks to match the increased wages or risk losing employees. For example, Universal Orlando’s minimum wage remains at $10 per hour. The last time Disney gave its unionized workers a raise in 2014, with the minimum then going from $8 to $10 per hour, Universal and SeaWorld Orlando boosted pay for their own workers within two months.

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