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Bob Cortes takes leadership posts in National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators

State Rep. Bob Cortes has been appointed the south region chair of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, his re-election campaign announced.

Cortes, the Republican who represents House District 30 in south Seminole County and a portion of north Orange County, also will serve as a member of the caucus’s executive committee leadership through 2019.

The nonpartisan NHCSL, founded in 1989, includes Hispanic legislators from all states, commonwealths, and territories of the United States, and it serves as a catalyst for action on issues of concern to the Hispanic community.the executive committee sets the agenda for the organization’s policy priorities and works with other stakeholders on behalf of the Hispanic community.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Florida, and I’m honored to be selected,” Cortes stated in a news release from his re-election campaign. “I look forward to providing leadership in our region and working with legislators from around the country to meet the challenges we face regarding housing, immigration, education, and health care.”

Cortes faces Democrats Clark Anderson and Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil in this year’s election.

Marco Rubio joins calls questioning federal financing behind Brightline

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday joined his congressional colleagues U.S. Republican Reps. Brian Mast and Bill Posey in questioning whether All Aboard Florida should have received $1.75 billion in federally authorized, tax-exempt private activity bonds to build its private, higher-speed railroad from South Florida to Orlando.

Mast, of Palm City, and Posey, of Rockledge, led a congressional challenge of the appropriateness of the bonds during a hearing last Thursday of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Government Operations.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Rubio raised the same question Mast and Posey posed, plus a couple more.

“AAF’s project has raised questions regarding whether federal financing was appropriately used. I urge the Department of Transportation to provide clarity,” Rubio wrote.

At issue is the interpretation used by the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine whether the privately owned and operated Brightline railroad being planned from West Palm Beach to Orlando would qualify under federal laws that restrict private activity bonds’ usage.

The federal tax-exemption on bonds is explicitly available in the law to either passenger trains that can go at least 150 mph, or to surface transportation projects that have previously received federal transportation funding.

The Brightline train, as envisioned, could go as fast as 110 mph between West Palm and Cocoa, and could top out at about 120 between Cocoa and Orlando. The current trek from West Palm to Fort Lauderdale has a maximum speed of 79 mph. The next leg, to Miami, opening later this year, also has a maximum speed of 79 mph.

At the hearing last week, a U.S. DoT official maintained that Brightline qualified for $1.75 billion of tax-exempt bonds as a surface transportation project that had previously received funding, up to $9 million for upgraded road crossings. Posey, Mast and other members of Congress at that hearing criticized that interpretation, saying they understood “surface transportation” to be defined as roads and highways, not railroads. They also argued that the road crossings that had received the federal funding were not owned by Brightline and thus shouldn’t have been considered a part of the Brightline project.

Brightline President Patrick Goddard testified that his company followed all the U.S. DoT rules, and that the approval of private activity bonds has been successfully defended in court, more than once.

Though Rubio appeared unconvinced in his letter Tuesday.

“It is not clear that Brightline’s proposal should have qualified for these funds,” he wrote.

He wanted to know three things:

– “Is DOT’s interpretation that any surface transportation project that utilizes Title 23 funds, no matter the dollar amount, would qualify for funding through private activity bonds?”

– Is there precedent for other rail projects that did not meet the 150 mph threshold receiving funding?

– Has DOT previously denied rail projects based on the 150 mph threshold not being met?

Ricardo Rosselló pushes to empower Florida Puerto Ricans to support the island

The Governor of Puerto Rico came to Orlando Tuesday to launch an effort aimed at getting island migrants in Florida and throughout the other states to register and vote for the territory’s interests.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expressed the same frustration Tuesday that he brought to a controversial speech he gave in Kissimmee in January when he essentially accused the federal government of letting down the island commonwealth and its residents during their times of need, the 2016 economic collapse and the 2017 Hurricane Maria devastation.

This time Rosselló came with the plan he promised in that speech, seeking to rally Puerto Ricans stateside. It involves a newly incorporated, non-profit, non-partisan organization called Poder [Spanish for power, or for to act] established to lead stateside efforts to organize the estimated 5.6 million Puerto Ricans to register, identify political candidates willing to support Puerto Rico, and vote.

“If we bind together, if we organize, if we demonstrate to the rest of the U.S. citizens who live in the United States that Puerto Ricans are a force to be reckoned with, we will define elections, and show we have political power, the sky is the limit for us,” he said, speaking at the Anna G. Mendez University System campus in Orlando.

Rosselló said his administration began hopeful in its dealings with the federal government even though he inherited the crushing economic and fiscal crisis of 2016 and the Promesa plan approved by Congress to force austerity measures on Puerto Rico’s government and people.

But after Hurricane Maria last September, which he called “the greatest devastation in the history of the United States,” and after Congress approved the tax reform package that imposed a new excise tax on Puerto Rico, Rosselló said he lost faith in promises and decided Puerto Ricans needed to mobilize.

“We are starting an effort that has been a long time coming,” Rosselló said.

Poder will pursue both traditional grassroots efforts and internet strategies to seek and organize Puerto Ricans in Florida and the rest of the mainland, Rosselló said. Luis Figueroa, formerly Rosselló’s regional director for Puerto Rico’s Federal Affairs Administration, will be Poder’s Florida director.

They will be endorsing candidates, Figueroa said.

Florida’s Puerto Rican population is notorious for not registering, or if registered, not showing up in elections. It has made the community a frustration for candidates, campaigns and organizations seeking to tap their rapidly growing presence in Florida, especially in Central Florida. Democratic political strategist Steve Schale projected Tuesday that Puerto Ricans likely will impact Central Florida politics, but not state politics.

Rosselló and Figueroa acknowledged the record. The Governor noted that the voting rate is about 85 percent on the island, but only about 30 percent for islanders who moved to Florida, so he insisted the Puerto Ricans who migrated to Florida are not apathetic, just not properly organized, yet.

A few victories, perhaps in local races such as school board contests, will whet the confidence of voters, Figueroa said.

Former U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams backs Scott Sturgill in CD 7

Republican former U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams is throwing her support behind Scott Sturgill in the Republican primary contest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which includes a large swath of her old district.

“Congress is broken, and it will take a new approach to fix it. Scott Sturgill has the real-life experience as a successful businessman that will be necessary to cut through government red tape and let the American economy grow,” Adams stated in a news release issued by the Sturgill campaign. “We need real conservatives like Scott in Congress to hold the line on spending, help the private sector create jobs, stand up to the Washington special interests, and enact policies to help get our economy moving again. I would ask all Central Florida conservatives to stand with me and help elect Scott Sturgill.”

Adams, of Oviedo, served one term, 2011-’13, representing Florida’s 24th Congressional District which included much of eastern Seminole County before the last redistricting. CD 7 now covers all of Seminole County, plus north and central Orange County.

Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, faces state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park, Vennia Francios of Winter Park, and Patrick Weingart of Altamonte Springs in the August 28 Republican primary to run in CD 7. They each want a shot at Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“I’m honored to receive the congresswoman’s endorsement in this important race to give the voters of the 7th district their voice back in Washington,” Sturgill stated in the release. “Congresswoman Adams never missed a vote in the House and always put her constituents first, regardless of the D.C dysfunction that took place around her. I’ll bring the same kind of work ethic to Congress after we win this November.”


Bob Cortes qualifies by petition for HD 30 re-election bid

Incumbent Bob Cortes has become the first candidate to qualify by petition in his bid for a third term in House District 30. The Altamonte Springs Republican represented HD 30 since 2014.

In a minute-long video Facebook video, Cortes said his campaign provided more than 1,100 signatures, and the process “should be completely done and ready to be qualified to be on the ballot.”

According to Florida Division of Elections website, Cortes needs 1,056 petitions for qualification to avoid paying a filing fee. As of March 15, the state certified 743 signatures: 126 from Orange County and 617 from Seminole County.


In the video, Cortes thanked supporters for their work, noting that his was the first campaign in the district to qualify and that neither Democratic opponent has submitted enough petitions.

“This is just the first phase, of course,” Cortes said in a statement. “We will now turn our eye toward November and do everything we can to make sure that we are re-elected so that the progress we have made of creating jobs and improving education is not reversed.”

In 2014, Cortes defeated Scott Sturgill in the Republican primary, later beating incumbent Democrat Karen Castor Dentel in the general election. In 2016, he defeated attorney Ryan Yadav to win a second term.

Drawing no Republican primary challenger for 2018, Cortes faces Democrats Daniel Anderson and Joy Goff-Marcil. As of April 16, Anderson submitted 147 petitions.

Lake Eola Park

Saturday’s March for Science Orlando releases speaker list

The March for Science is coming back to Central Florida Saturday, and nearly a dozen scientific and medical leaders are slated to speak before marchers get moving.

The science advocacy event will run from 10:00 am to 11:30 am and will start at the Northeast Corner of Lake Eola Park.

During the 10 o’clock hour, 11 speakers will address the crowd and after which advocates will march around Lake Eola and back.

After the March for Science ends, eventgoers are encouraged to drop by the Central Florida Earth Day celebration, which runs from 10 am to 6 pm on the east side of Lake Eola.

The speaker portion of the march will be emceed by Clayton Louis Ferrara, the executive director and CEO of IDEAS for US.

Event organizers said they “focused on building a speaker series that not only reflected the diversity of Central Florida, but one that also spoke to the intersectionality of science policy and the role that science plays in our daily lives.”

The speaker list includes:

— Dr. Daniel Batcheldor, Head of Physics and Space Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology.

— Dr. Shantel Hebert-Magee, an Orlando pathologist and founder of pancreatic cancer awareness group Under the Scope.

Chris Castro, the City of Orlando’s Director of Sustainability and founder of IDEAS for US.

Michelle Suarez, the senior lead organizer and climate justice organizer for for Organize Florida

Elaine Powell, the founder of Tech Sassy Girlz, which encourages school age girls to pursue careers in STEM fields.

— Dr. James Cooney, an associate lecturer in the UCF Physics Department.

— Dr. Sara Safder, a Lakeland radiologist and member of the Muslim Women’s Organization.

— Dr. Nina Orlovskaya of UCF’s Mechanical and Aerospace Department

— Dr. Pedro Quintana-Ascencio of UCF’s Biology Department

— Dr. Fernando J. Uribe-Romo of UCF’s Chemistry Department

The speaker flyer is below.

March for Science speakers

Adam Putnam to keynote Osceola Lincoln Day Dinner

Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will be in Kissimmee Friday evening to speak to Osceola County Republicans.

The keynote is part of the Republican Party of Osceola County’s Lincoln Day Dinner at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, 6000 W Osceola Parkway.

It’ll take a ticket to hear Putnam’s keynote – Lincoln Day Dinners are one of the top fundraising days of the year for local Republican parties, and Osceola’s is no different.

A seat at the event will run $125. The event begins at 6:00 pm with a cocktail hour, and the doors to the main ballroom open at 7 pm.

Entertainment includes music from the Cornerstone Family Baptist Church band. State Rep. Mike La Rosa will give the invocation and County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. will lead the pledge before Putnam’s keynote begins.

The full agenda and registration information is available on the Republican Party of Osceola County website.

The second-term Agriculture Commissioner was the first-in gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side, and he’s far in front of the crowded field when it comes to fundraising.

He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran expected to join in the coming weeks.

David Smith picks up endorsements of Bob Cortes, Scott Plakon in HD 28 race

Republican House District 28 candidate David Smith has picked up the endorsements of neighboring Republican state Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon, Smith’s campaign announced Thursday morning.

Smith, of Winter Springs, is a retired colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps who now is a business consultant.

“Colonel David Smith has a thirty-year career of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, including multiple deployments overseas defending our freedoms,” Cortes stated in a news release issued by Smith’s campaign. “He is also a successful businessman who has been actively involved in our community. A combination which makes him well qualified to represent House District 28. I enthusiastically endorse David Smith and ask all concerned citizens to work together to elect him this November.”

Smith seeks to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford in the northeast Seminole County district. He faces Democratic businessman Lee Mangold of Casselberry.

“I’m proud to offer my endorsement and full support to David Smith for Florida House District 28,” Plakon stated. “His proven leadership skills, high-tech business experience and dedication to public service are traits that will serve the people of Seminole County very well for years to come. I look forward to working with David up in Tallahassee and right here in Central Florida.”

Plakon’s House District 29 in Seminole County and Cortes’ House District 30 in Seminole and Orange counties abut HD 28 on the northwest and southwest.

“I’m honored to have the support of Rep. Bob Cortes and Rep. Scott Plakon,” Smith stated in the release. “They are both tremendous leaders and we share the same core values — faith, family and service. I look forward to serving with them in Tallahassee on behalf of the people of Central Florida.”

Tracey Kagan

Tracey Kagan enters HD 29 race

Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood announced her entry Wednesday into the race for Florida’s House District 29, seeking to take on Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon in the central Seminole County district.

Kagan, a lawyer with her own criminal defense law practice in Orlando, joins a race with Democrats Patrick Brandt of Longwood and Darryl Block of Lake Mary, both of whom also are lawyers. Plakon owns a publishing company.

“I was galvanized by the Parkland shooting to get off the sidelines and take action to protect our children,” Kagan stated in a news release issued by her campaign Wednesday. “With three daughters of my own, all of whom have come up through Seminole County schools, I can no longer stand by passively amid the public safety crisis of gun violence.”

Kagan’s campaign reported she is running on a progressive platform that supports public education, health care access, the economy, and natural resources, in addition to gun law reform.

The campaign also notes her entry in a year that is drawing numerous women Democratic candidates aiming to challenge Republican incumbents — and one that’s expected to see a ‘blue wave’. Her campaign website features the slogan, “Ride the wave.”

“Like so many of moms across the country, I believe the time is right to join the fight to protect our children,” Kagan stated. “I also believe that mothers have been vastly underrepresented in our Florida legislature for far too long. I’m grateful that’s finally starting to change — and I’m proud to be part of that change.”

In a legal career that began as a public defender in New York City, Kagan moved to Seminole County to work in the Seminole County State Attorney’s office, and has been a criminal defense attorney for 20 years. The experience, her campaign contends, gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement, social workers, mental health professionals and all those who are working to improve our community.

Kagan is on the board of the Jewish Pavilion, a support service for seniors in the Longwood/Central Florida area. She also serves on the Leadership Committee of SPARK, an organization that fosters education and empowerment among Orlando Jewish women.

Mikaela Nix fundraiser to feature Jennifer Carroll, Jason Brodeur, Chris Dorworth

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, state Rep. Jason Brodeur, former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, and Trump 2020 Club founder Randy Ross are helping host a Republican Mikaela Nix‘s campaign in Florida House District 47.

Carroll, Brodeur, Dorworth, and Ross are among host committee members for an event Mikaela has scheduled for April 25 at The Acre Orlando in College Park. Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari also is a member of the host committee.

Mikaela, of College Park, is in a Republican primary battle with Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park for the nomination to run in HD 47, which likely will be an open seat because Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress. Anna Eskamani is running for the Democrats in the district, which covers north-central Orange County.

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