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Nancy Pelosi Orlando visit brings charge from Mike Miller, denial from Stephanie Murphy

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expanding her South Florida trip on Wednesday to include a stop in Orlando Thursday; and since little is being disclosed about it, Republican congressional candidate Mike Miller charged that Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is doing something with her. But Murphy’s campaign said, Nope, not us.

The issue is a little raw in the congressional race for Flordia House District 7 covering Seminole County and north and central Orange.  Republicans particularly Miller, a Republican state representative from Winter Park trying to take her seat, have been trying to paint Pelosi as the ultimate liberal, out of touch with Central Florida values, particularly on the Seminole County portion, and trying to tie her to Murphy.

Pelosi did campaign for Murphy in 2016, and even helped get her selected to run for the CD 7 seat in the first place. But since getting into Congress, Murphy has carefully sought to set a course away from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

In a Tiger Bay debate on Tuesday Murphy went so far as to say she could not, as of now, support Pelosi for House Speaker if the Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, not unless Pelosi agrees to demands that a bipartisan congressional group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which Murphy joined, has set forth.

Yet here comes Pelosi on a still publicly-unidentified mission to Orlando Thursday, after a roundtable meeting with Parkland students and a couple of private events Wednesday.

“Leader Nancy Pelosi is not scheduled to participate in any public events during her limited time in Orlando,” was all her spokesman Jorge Aguilar said in a brief inquiry from Florida Politics about why she was coming to Orlando.

Miller’s campaign fired a charge that Pelosi was coming to raise money for Murphy, and that the Democrats were keeping the visit secret.

“Why would Stephanie Murphy hide the fact her party’s leader will be in town raising money that will benefit her campaign?”  Miller inquired in a news release issued by her campaign.

Because it’s not true, Murphy’s campaign responded. Murphy has a couple of events set for Thursday, including a public roundtable discussion in Orlando on environmental issues in the afternoon, and a keynote address to the Seminole County School Administrators Legislative Dinner in the evening. Neither of them involve Pelosi.

Even if Pelosi is just generically raising money for the party or one of its principal political action committees, so far in this election Murphy hasn’t received much support from any of those entities for her re-election effort.

“This is another swing and a miss from Mike Miller,” responded Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson.

Bobby Olszewski TV commercial promotes community pride, unity

Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski is launching the first television commercial of his re-election campaign pushing upbeat messages of Floridians coming together for each other and pride in the community.

The 30-second spot features images of Central Florida points of pride including theme parks, the University of Central Florida, Kennedy Space Center, and of happy people, as the freshman Florida House member narrates a message of unity in divisive times.

“While there are some who try to divide us, there is so much that can unify us,” Olszewski starts.

As he speaks and the images of Central Florida roll through in rapid fire, so do text messages highlighting some of Olszewski’s work, Republican Florida Legislature’s talking points of policy achievements, and other statements, such as “Record K-12 Education Funding”, “Record Tourism Numbers”, “Florida is #1 in Higher Education”, “Florida Records the Largest Net Job Gain in the Nation”, and “Fighting for Our Veterans and Seniors.”

Olszewski faces Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in the Nov. 6 election for House District 44, which covers southwest Orange County.

The video offers a positive look at Central Florida, then turns to Olszewski.

“That is what we were going for,” he said. “We wanted something that would stand out.”

As the commercial’s images and texts roll, Olszewski says, “We are an international destination, and the home of national champions. We reach for the stars and bring our feet back to the ground. We honor the heroes of the past and care for those who gave us life.

“I’m Robert ‘Bobby O’ Olszewski,” he concludes as the video finally shows various images of him. “Florida is strong because her people are strong. And only together will we build a better future.”


Bill Posey ramps up re-election campaign money in CD 8 race

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey had the most significant fundraising drive yet for his re-election campaign during August and September, bringing in $182,000 to fuel his battle with Democratic challenger Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

In this latest reporting period, the incumbent Posey easily outraised Patel, who nonetheless once again put up fairly impressive fundraising numbers for a first-time candidate with little or no outside backing, in a race for what most observers consider a very safe Republican congressional seat.

Posey, who entered both the 2018 race and the most recent campaign finance reporting period with big cash advantages because of a big rollover of unused funds from his 2016 re-election campaign, also is outspending Patel significantly. Posey continues to have a huge cash advantage for the stretch run, though his Democratic challenger entered October with a war chest larger than those held by some incumbent members of Congress in Florida.

CD 8 covers Brevard County and parts of east Orange and north Indian River counties. Republicans have about a 12-point voter registration advantage.

Going into October, Posey had raised $780,000 in this election cycle and spent $642,000 of that, including $170,000 during the Aug. 9-Sept. 30 period, according to campaign finance reports posted Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission. That left him with $650,000 left to spend in October and early November.

Patel brought in $76,000 in August and September. With the $39,000 his campaign raised before the pre-primary Aug. 8 reporting deadline, Patel has managed to attract six-figure contribution money in consecutive quarters. In the second quarter of 2018, he outraised Posey.

Patel now has raised more money for his 2018 bid, $307,000, than Posey’s previous four challengers combined. Patel spent only $97,000 of that, including $58,000 in August and September. So he enters the final weeks of the campaign with $210,000 left.

Posey received $479,000 of his campaign contributions from individuals and $303,000 from political action committees.

Patel picked up $289,000 from individuals and about $12,000 from PACs.

Stephanie Murphy, Mike Miller draw distinctions on guns, abortion, climate change, economic plans

Although multiple attempts failed by Republican challenger state Rep. Mike Miller to get Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy to allign herself with her party’s left wing, the two nonetheless offered stark differences on guns, abortion, climate change, and their economic policies during a debate Tuesday.

At the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Murphy held fast to the centrist position the freshman congresswoman has sought in Washington even when questions and Miller sought to get her commit to supporting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi‘s potential speakership bid, or possible impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

But as more concrete issues were posed in questions from WESH-2 News Anchor Adrian Whitsett and others, the two separted themselves, with:

– Citing his Catholic faith, Miller voiced strong anti-abortion positions, saying life begins at conception; and Murphy said she supports women’s rights to decide whether to have abortions. Whats more, she did not dispute his charge that she voted for live-birth abortions, while he did not dispute her charge that he favors outlawing abortions even in the cases of rape or incest.

– Murphy called repeatedly for “common sense” gun law reforms and touted her success in getting the 22-year federal ban lifted on gun violence research, while Miller held stedfast to Second Amendment arguments against gun laws.

“I reject the notion that there isn’t more we can do to keep our families safe in this community against gun violence,” Murphy said.

Miller expressed his strong anguish for the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, but dismissed it as a reason to consider gun law changes, but rather to address those who would do such massacres saying, “But that was a terrorist act, I do believe President Trump and the adminisration are making our borders and our military stronger so we do not have terrorist acts in our country.”

– Miller stated his belief that climate change is not man-made, while Murphy insisted there can be no argument that it is, railing against “environmental deniers,” and that it’s time for government to start addressing it.

“I think it’s a travesty that we stand alone in the entire world having withdrawn from the Paris Climate accords,” Murphy said. “We need to take this issue head-on, because it has an impact here in Florida and we will be ground-zero for it.”

“Yes, I believe climate is changing. It’s really hot outside right now,” Miller responded. “If you want to look at the last 25, 50 or 100 years, it has been getting hotter around the world. That doesn’t mean it’s man-made. … I don’t believe climate change is man-made. I believe the climate is changing and unfortuatnely none of us is going to live 10,000 years to see what it’s like in 10,000 years.”

– And Murphy laid out an economic vision focusing on middle class tax cuts and government investments in public education and infrastructure, while Miller whole-heartedly supported the free economy policies of Trump, pointing to high economic growth, low employment and the robust stock market, declaring, “Let’s keep it going!”

Miller, a two-term state representative from Winter Park, is challenging Murphy, also from Winter Park, in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which has gone from solidly red to solidly purple with a slight blue tint over the past decade. The district covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

While the pair sometimes battled over their economic views, once the charges and counter-charges of the debate are set aside, they boiled down to Miller’s belief in the Republican’s freest-market economy possible economic theories, while Murphy expressed support for the Democrats’ commitments to doing more to address middle class workers and invest more in public education and infrastructure for long-term growth.

I think it’s economic theory, and I think it’s proving itself out right now with 4-percent growth, and it needs to be sustained,” Miller said. “Remember, we’re coming out of eight years of 1 and a half and 2 percent growth and I think that we are seeing right now the results of a tax package. We not only have 4.2 percent growth, but we also have record employment, and record employment in some of the areas that most needed help, that is African-American commuinities, Hispanic communities, those places are now finding jobs. You know what happens when the job market is tight? You raise wages. And then when you raise wages, everybody can afford to buy a house and send their kids to college.

“So it is an ongoing battle to get government out of the way,” he added.

“I support tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class. But the Republican tax bill disproportionately benefited the wealthiest among us: 80 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent and the largest coprorations,” Murphy responded. “And it blew a hole in our debt, which basically mortgages your children’s future at the expense of providing the wealthiest in this company a tax benefit.”

Trump was only explicitly discussed when the moderator asked how either of them felt about impeachment, and both declined to answer the question explicitly.

However, Miller offered several endorsements of Trump’s policies, mentioning him by name several times in such matters as border control, the economy and Internet neutrality, while Murphy offered a couple subtle digs at at anyone offering allegience to him.

Murphy repeatedly offered herself as an independent, given accolades for bipartisan independence and effectiveness, and shied away from questions and Miller’s efforts that might suggest strong partisan ties. At one point Miller noted she had campaigned with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, and charged that if he wants universal health care, then she probably would ultimately support “government run health care” too. She ignored the allegation.

“My allegiance is to my constituents, and this community and not to any president, or any party,” she said a couple of times. “And I think my record will represent that.”

The two tussled repeatedly while trying to define each other’s positions on taxes and balanced budgets, the subjects of Miller’s television commercials, and he again criticized her for opposing the tax cuts package and a Republican-sponsored balanced budget amendment bill.

Murphy turned the tables on Miller in both cases, charging that the tax cuts bill did not do much for the middle class, and that the balanced budget amendment would have forced cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which she vigoursly defended against cuts.

“I think it’s the ultimate height of hypocrisy to support a tax bill that blew a trillion, almost 2 trillion dollar hole in our debt and then claim to be fiscally responsible,” Murphy said.

Miller said he intends to work under the ideals of his first boss, Republican former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, “And that’s less taxes, less spending, less government, means more freedom. And I believe if I can take that to Congress, I think we will all benefit.”

At heart, both candidates actually have established well-known legislative track records of working across the aisle and showing respect for their colleagues on the other side. Miller quickly put down his marker on that in his opening remarks, when he acknoweleged the presence of Democratic progressive lion state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and congratuated Smith for his new marriage engagement to long-time partner Jerick Mediavilla at Orlando’s Come Out With Pride event Saturday.

There also were a few awkeard moments, mostly through unforced errors by Miller. Murphy pounced on him.

After she had criticized Republicans for proposing an “age tax”, Miller responded that was her misunderstanding of the tax cuts bill Republicans pushed through in December. She corrected him on follow up, saying she was referring to the Republicans’ health care reform packages, which included provisions for higher costs for seniors.

After Murphy declared she would only support a new House Speaker who agreed to the points being pushed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus she joined, which currently means she could not voice support for Pelosi, Miller said he would eagerly support House Majority Leader Andrew McCarthy. Murphy then corrected him, pointing out that the leader’s name is Kevin McCarthy.

When asked about higher education, Miller proudly boasted how his alma mater, the University of Florida, is now ranked 9th in the country for public universities. He mentioned UF several times in his answer. When Murphy responded, she pointed out that Miller failed to hail the University of Central Florida or any of the several other colleges and universities in CD 7.

Darren Soto coasts into October with $122,000 in the bank

Fresh off a bruising Democratic primary victory in his re-election campaign, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto entered the homestretch of the general election campaign with just $122,000 left in his campaign coffers, less than most Florida House incumbents have for their state-district campaigns.

Soto’s campaign cash balance on Oct. 1 is the result of a high-spending primary fight to stop his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson‘s challenge for the Florida’s 9th Congressional District seat, and a lack-luster fundraising effort since the Aug. 8 pre-primary reports were posted with the Federal Election Commission.

His opponent, Republican St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky, has never been very adept at campaign fundraising, yet Liebnitzky’s $44,000 campaign cash-on-hand balance was within striking distance of Soto’s at the end of the third quarter of 2018.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, much of south Orange County, and much of east Polk County.

Soto’s campaign raised $245,000 in August in September, with almost two-thirds of that coming from political action contributions to his campaign. It also spent $374,000 during the same seven-week period. Overall, the campaign had raised about $1.4 million and spent about $1.3 million.

Liebnitzky meanwhile raised about $27,000 for his campaign during the period ending Sept. 30 and spent about $11,000. Overall, he’s raised about $63,000 in his rematch of the 2016 election, and spent about $19,000.

Soto’s Democratic primary campaign was aided in large part by more than $1.2 million in outside advertising from groups wanting to see him stop Grayson. So far, they’ve provided little for his general election. So far, the only outside spending in the race has been from Boricua Vota, a dark-money political action committee that has spent $10,000 on Spanish-language radio advertising supporting Soto in October.

Bruce Antone officially re-elected to fourth term in HD 46

Orlando Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone faced only token opposition in his campaign for a fourth term in House District 46, but the early exit of his write-in challenger leaves him as the only candidate running for the Orange County seat.

Sandra Lewis, an Orlando resident, filed as a write-in candidate for HD 46 in the final days of the qualifying period for state elections, which is usually a strategy to lock down partisan primary races. No other Democrat filed to challenge Antone, however, virtually assuring he would win his fourth and final term in the state House.

According to Florida Division of Elections records, a withdrawal letter from Lewis was received on Oct. 3, and the Division accepted and responded to the letter on Oct. 4.

State law requires candidates who withdraw from races to dispose of all surplus funds in their campaign accounts and send in a final campaign finance report within 90 days of their exit. Lewis raised $0 for her campaign and instead filed a waiver for every reporting cycle since she entered the race on June 21.

HD 46 covers part of Orange County and is a majority-minority seat with substantial advantage for Democrats. Hillary Clinton took 82 percent of the vote in HD 46 two years ago, compared to a 15 percent share for now-President Donald Trump.

Along with 2012, this cycle makes for two elections in which Antone faced Election Day challenger. His only opposition in 2014 and 2016 came from write-ins.

Mr. (Carlos G.) Smith goes to Jacksonville: Re-election fundraiser set

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an East Orlando Democrat representing House District 49, will fundraise in Jacksonville Tuesday evening, in another sign of his increasing prominence statewide.

The event will be in the tony Avondale neighborhood, hosted by Kevin Clair, the husband of local state House hopeful Tracye Polson.

Clair and Polson have become increasingly prominent this cycle, aggressively fundraising and self-funding in an effort to flip the House District 15 seat currently held by Republican Jay Fant.

Smith’s host committee is helmed by yet another state Representative, HD 13’s Tracie Davis, who was unopposed for re-election.

Smith had roughly $83,000 in his campaign account as of Oct. 5. Ben Griffin, his Republican opponent, has just under $46,000 on hand.

Griffin’s campaign has been mostly funded by the Republican Party of Florida, which doled out $50,000 in June.

Since that disbursement, his fundraising has been erratic: his last reported fundraising was over a month ago, when he collected $7,000 from a group of political committees, including those of Northeast Florida powerbrokers.

Sen. Travis Hutson‘s Sunshine State Conservatives and Rep. Paul Renner‘s Florida Foundation for Liberty each cut $1,000 checks.

Rep. Smith is in little danger of defeat. His district is 41 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican, with the remaining third of voters independent or registered to a third party.

Stephanie Murphy swamping Mike Miller in CD 7 money race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy entered October with more than $1 million left to spend in her re-election bid for Florida’s 7th Congressional District while her opponent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller‘s campaign came into the homestretch almost broke.

Miller has managed to raise $304,000 since the pre-primary report filed on Aug. 8 but he also spent a half-million dollars, in part on his Aug. 28 primary victory and in part on September and early October advertising to take on Murphy.

As a result, his campaign had just $36,872 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, according to Federal Election Commission reports posted late Monday.

Murphy has both out-raised and out-spent Miller during the period, and still had $1.1 million in the bank left for more campaign spending on Sept. 30, according to the FEC reports. The latest reports show she raised $482,000 since the Aug. 8 pre-primary report, and spent $967,000.

Overall, Murphy has raised nearly $3 million; Miller, $869,000, including a $125,000 loan.

Murphy’s campaign touted the advantage and a key past endorsement that signaled a tough time for Miller in September, and then declared that the Miller campaign “is running on fumes.”

“Stephanie Murphy is recognized as one of the most effective and bipartisan legislators, including by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It follows that she has a broad base of support as she seeks to continue representing this community in Washington,” Murphy campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson stated in a news release issued Monday evening. “Her campaign for jobs, security, and equality is heading into the final weeks with a strong war chest whereas Mike Miller is running  on fumes and still recovering from a bruising primary battle.”

The two are battling for a district, covering Seminole County and north and central Orange County, which once was a Republican stronghold but now appears to be Murphy’s to lose.

Unlike the 2016 election in which Murphy upset 12-term Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, there is virtually no outside money flowing in to aid either campaign, signaling that no outside groups are riding to Miller’s rescue or assuming that Murphy needs a boost. In 2016 more than $7 million poured into the district from outside groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This year so far: $208,000, two-thirds of that on Murphy’s side.

Murphy’s money in August and September included $256,000 from individuals and $222,000 from political action committees. Miller’s included $219,000 from individuals and $80,000 from PACs.

Harris Corp., NY company merge to form 6th largest defense contractor

In a combination of North and South, Melbourne-based Harris Corp. and New York-based L3 Technologies announced Sunday that they had agreed to an all-stock “merger of equals,” creating the sixth largest defense contractor in the U.S.

Billed as “the largest merger in defense history,” the new company — L3 Harris Technologies —  is expected to generate $16 billion in yearly revenues and has 48,000 employees worldwide, a press release said.

Harris CEO Bill Brown will serve as chairman and CEO, and L3 Technologies CEO Christopher E. Kubasik will serve as vice chairman, president and COO.

The company would be ranked about 180 on the latest Fortune 500 list, it added.

It will continue to have corporate headquarters in Melbourne, becoming the eighth largest company in Florida.

“This transaction extends our position as a premier global defense technology company that unlocks additional growth opportunities and generates value for our customers, employees and shareholders,” Brown said in a statement.

“Combining our complementary franchises and extensive technology portfolios will enable us to accelerate innovation to better serve our customers, deliver significant operating synergies and produce strong free cash flow, which we will deploy to drive shareholder value.”

Kubasik added, “This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone. The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming more agile, integrated and innovative.”

“… By unleashing this potential, we will strengthen our core franchises, expand into new and adjacent markets and enhance our global presence.”

Walt Disney Company donates $1 million to Florida Disaster Fund

The Walt Disney Company announced $1 million in support for communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. The money will go to the Florida Disaster Fund.

Gov. Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida thanked the corporation for the philanthropic gesture.

“We are extremely thankful for Walt Disney Company’s support of the Florida Disaster Fund,” Scott said.

“This funding will support disaster response and recovery efforts and help Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. This funding will go directly toward relief efforts in areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

Disney CEO Robert Iger said the strong connection to the state of Florida inspired the donation.

“All of us here at Disney have the families and communities impacted by this powerful storm in our hearts,” Iger said.

“Florida has been our home for almost 50 years, and our contribution will support our neighbors as they rebuild their communities in the wake of this powerful storm.”

In addition to monetary support, the company announced any donations made by Disney employees to eligible relief and recovery efforts will be met dollar-for-dollar by the Walt Disney Company Foundation’s Disney Employee Matching Gifts program.

David Mica Jr., CEO for Volunteer Florida, hopes the generous contribution will inspire individuals who want to make a difference right now.

“So many people are watching the news, seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael and asking what they can do,” Mica said. “This is what they can do — donate to the Florida Disaster Fund and provide both immediate relief and long-term recovery for their friends, neighbors and affected Floridians.”

The Florida Disaster Fund, a private fund established by the state government, helps communities responding to and recovering from emergencies and natural disasters.

Credit card donations can be made online to the Florida Disaster Fund at volunteerflorida.org/donatefdf and checks can be made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and sent by mail, attention Florida Disaster Fund, to 3800 Esplanade Way, Suite 180, Tallahassee, FL, 32311.

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