Alan Grayson – Page 4 – Florida Politics

At Sun City Center, Marco Rubio derides Patrick Murphy as an ‘old-fashioned liberal’

Marco Rubio has been making the case that Patrick Murphy hasn’t accomplished much of anything during his four years in the House of Representatives. Now, with the polls tightening, he’s saying the voting record of his Democratic rival in the U.S. Senate race is also too liberal.

“Why does someone lie about their background, about things that they have done? Apparently because they haven’t done anything,” Rubio told a couple dozen supporters at a golf clubhouse in Sun City Center in South Hillsborough County early Monday morning. “Here’s what’s worse: When he’s not lying, he’s actually incredibly liberal.”

Rubio citied Murphy’s support of the Iran nuclear deal and his support for closing down Guantanamo Bay as evidence that the Jupiter representative is too left for Florida voters.

“I’ve seen this ad the other day. It says he’s an independent voice,” Rubio said, adding, “Not on the issues that count.”

“On the issues that count, he doesn’t just mislead people, he’s a good old fashioned liberal, and Florida cannot afford to have somebody that liberal in the U.S. Senate, particularly on issues of national security,” Rubio said.

“Patrick Murphy is one of the most independent members of Congress and it’s clear that Marco Rubio is desperate,” replied Murphy spokesperson Galia Slayen. “Despite millions of dollars in special interest money being spent against Patrick, we’re tied in the polls, Rubio’s hometown paper endorsed Patrick, and President Obama exposed Rubio for the coward that he is for continuing to support Donald Trump. Marco Rubio is devoid of political courage and lying about Patrick’s record. Floridians deserve better.”

Murphy’s voting record was certainly not considered that liberal to Florida progressives when he first declared his candidacy for Senate in early 2015. Murphy actually was a Republican before switching to become a Democrat, and his votes in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline and for a House committee to investigate Benghazi were frequently invoked by Alan Grayson, Murphy’s top opponent in the Democratic primary.

Campaigning on the first day of early voting in Hillsborough County (and in 49 other counties in Florida), Rubio said while much of the focus is on the presidential race, he emphasized the importance of his Senate race, referring to the power a senator has in approving or rejecting Supreme Court justices. He said if the next nominee happens to be in their mid-50s, they’ll likely be on the court for the next 20-25 years, “which is the equivalent of three eight-year presidencies.”

“That means that for the next 25 years, the very balance of the Supreme Court is at stake,” he added.

With Donald Trump speaking in Tampa Monday night, the Murphy campaign issued out a statement with the headline, “Will Today Be The Day?” asking mischievously if the two could end up on stage together. “We’re not doing presidential events,” Rubio said, not looking pleased to answer the question.

The Florida senator continues to be hammered by members of the media for not disassociating himself from the GOP nominee, who he blasted during the presidential primary season, but is now backing because he says Trump is preferable to a Hillary Clinton presidency.

On “This Week in South Florida” on Sunday, Miami WLPG-TV host Michael Putney blasted Rubio as a “smart, talented guy who earned our respect when he first sought elected office,” but “now it seems he’ll do or say anything to stay in office, even swallow his pride and vote for a presidential candidate he clearly detests, all to advance his own political ambitions.”

Rubio said when it comes to Trump, he’s letting such criticism roll off of him.

“I’ve talked about that race repeatedly. People know how I feel about it,” he said regarding his continuing support for a Trump presidency. “I’m focused on the Senate race. If people want to continue talking about other things, they certainly have the right, it’s a free country. We’re blessed to have such freedoms in this country.”

“We’ve reached this point in America where people hate each other because of who they’re voting for,” Rubio later said, alluding to how divisive the Clinton-Trump race has become. “People hate each other because of what bumper sticker they have on their car. We’ve got to back away a little bit from that. We should feel passionately about our issues, but ultimately we all have to share the same country. There is no scenario where half of us do better and the other half does worse — that’s not a country that works. We can all be better off, and we should be able to disagree on political issues while still working on issues that we agree on.”

Rubio has spoken critically for years about Hillary Clinton, prompting FloridaPolitics to ask the senator if he could work effectively with her if the two of them both won on Nov. 8?

“When she agrees with me,” he immediately quipped. “I’ll look forward to working with her.”

He then went on to say the majority of his major legislation passed in his six years in the Senate have had major buy-in from Democrats, referring specifically to his “Girls Count Act” with New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen (that will direct current U.S. foreign aid to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries by working to establish birth registries in their countries) and proposed higher education legislation with Virginia’s Mark Warner.

“When we agree on something, I enjoy working with people who I disagree with on other issues,” he said.

Rubio was scheduled to then attend a forum on the opioid crisis with Congressman Vern Buchanan in Bradenton.


Mitch Perry Report for 10.17.16 — Will recent experience play a factor in tonight’s U.S. Senate debate?

Floridians will get their first chance to observe Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy in the same room together when they engage in their first debate of Florida’s U.S. Senate contest in Orlando tonight.

Trailing by an average of around five percentage points through all of the polling, Murphy needs to have a big performance in him to begin to narrow that gap, especially with so many people already voting on every day in early mail voting.

First impressions matter — this the first time many Floridians will ever have seen Murphy (other than in commercials depicting him as the worst congressman in the country who lies about his resume). But if he can convincingly portray Rubio as an absentee senator who still isn’t interested in fulfilling a six-year term, he might score some points.

But if you were going to make a prediction beforehand, you’d have to like the Republican Senator’s chances. He’s much more battle tested on the debate stage, having participated in more than a dozen high-stake debates over the past year during his unsuccessful run for president (Yes, OK, there was that one moment in Manchester, New Hampshire with Chris Christie, but let’s forget about that for a moment).

And Murphy’s experience on the debate stage? Not much, lately.

You might recall back in July where Murphy was frustrating his Democratic primary opponents, Alan Grayson and Pam Keith, by avoiding to commit to a debate. After domestic-violence allegations made against Grayson from his ex-wife went public, Murphy said his opponent didn’t deserve “the platform,” and opted to not engage in any debates.

Some people (OK, me, for one) thought that was a bad idea on a number of fronts, one of them being that going ahead and conducting such a debate could help prep him for his ultimate confrontation with Rubio.

He opted out. Was that a mistake? We’ll know more by 8 this evening.

And will there only be two men on the stage in Orlando tonight? Independent candidate Steven Machat is back in court this morning to see if he and the other handful of independents can get on the debate stage in Orlando tonight.

In other news …

At a candidates forum Saturday, two Tampa City Council District 7 candidates got into it on the issue of the police.

The PPP survey released Friday showed Hillary Clinton with just a four-percentage point lead over Donald Trump in Florida, though his favorable/unfavorable rankings are tanking and hers are improving.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has been besieged by for years, but now it’s their boss, Kyle Cockream, making headlines for all the wrong reasons.


With Patrick Murphy’s campaign, has the DSCC lost their minds?

Up until a few weeks ago, one could argue that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had been doing a reasonably good job in the Sunshine State.

One could even make the point that in a presidential year, one most likely to bring a D pickup, the DSCC had positioned themselves pretty well to take back Marco Rubio’s seat.

It began with a few elbows to the side of Alan Grayson’s head and continued with a strong centrist positioning of Patrick Murphy.

By most accounts, Florida was in a relatively strong position, at a minimum, to compete for this highly prized U.S. Senate seat.

With the GOP presidential nominee bottoming out, thanks to an awful debate performance — as well as his “is this mic on?” eye-opener — the situation could only get better for Murphy.

Add to that a disclosure that Trump’s companies traded with Cuba, and there should be a noticeable down-ballot impact, turning out a core South Florida voting constituency.

One would think the Rubio versus Murphy race is in play, with a Murphy victory more than just an academic possibility.

With a statewide polling average (according to showing the better-known Marco Rubio at only 2 points above the lesser-known Murphy (Rubio is still below 50 percent), one would also think the DSCC smells blood and is going to pounce.

One would think.

Over the past week, there have been developing reports that essentially show national Democrats are walking away from Murphy.

That makes absolutely no sense.

For starters, helping keep Murphy afloat helps the top of the ticket. And while this may be shockingly obvious, it needs to be said: If HRC wins Florida, she is POTUS.

Helping the undercard has an up-ballot effect, although not a large one.

It’s not like I am suggesting they support a down-ballot candidate in a deep red state.

Furthermore, help could be nested in a few swing congressional seats to (at least) weaken Paul Ryan’s grip on the House. It would be money very well spent.

Oh, and did I mention, they could also help make Patrick Murphy a U.S. Senator?

So with a close U.S. Senate race, a few potential congressional pickups and the big electoral college swing-state prize … the DSCC walks away.


In my not-so-humble opinion; that is insane.

Nearly half of Floridians think assault weapons ban is step in right direction

Floridians think banning the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons would be a step in the right direction.

Almost half (49 percent) of Floridians view a ban of the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons as a move in the right direction, according to the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. Thirty-seven percent said they thought a ban would be a step in the wrong direction, while 13 percent did not give an opinion.

Gun control has been on the minds of many in the Sunshine State since the June attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Rep. Alan Grayson said in June he was going to introduce legislation banning assault weapons; and state Sen. Darren Soto called on the state Legislature to pursue legislation prohibiting people on watch lists from buying a weapon.

The Sunshine State Survey found 60 percent of women think banning semi-automatic assault weapons is a step in the right direction, compared to 39 percent of men. The survey also found 56 percent of college graduates, 56 percent of retired Floridians, and 61 percent of African-American Floridians, thought a ban was a step in the right direction.

The survey also looked at whether Floridians thought it should be easier or harder for felons to regain gun rights. The survey found 57 percent of Floridians thought it should be harder and 3 percent said it should be impossible for convicted felons to have their gun rights restored.

Convicted felons can currently have their rights restored, but need to wait eight years before they can apply and the governor must approve their request.

One-third of Floridians said they supported the current policy.

Sixty percent of females said it should be harder for felons to have their rights restored, compared to 53 percent of men. Among those Floridians with children still in their homes, 59 percent said it should be more difficult for felons to get guns.

The Sunshine State Survey was conducted by The Nielsen Company from Sept. 1 through Sept. 9. The company surveyed 1,248 Floridians, and the survey has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.


Florida Democratic delegation calls on Rick Scott to extend registration deadline to Oct. 14

(UPDATE) As Gov. Rick Scott continues to offer updates on Hurricane Matthew while it slowly moves up Florida’s Atlantic Coast, members of Florida’s Democratic delegation are calling on him to extend the voter registration deadline from next Tuesday to Friday, Oct. 14.

“We strongly urge you to extend the deadline for our citizens to register to vote in November’s election, at least from October 11th to October 14th,” reads the letter. “It goes without saying that our democracy is stronger when more people vote. With a natural disaster on our doorstep, registering to vote understandably will not be possible in the immediate aftermath of such a significant storm. Of course, clean up and dealing with storm-related damage will be many Floridians’ primary focus.”

The letter was sent by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and co-signed by Sen. Bill Nelson, and Congress members Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Alan Grayson, Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy, and Gwen Graham.

Scott rejected such a request made on Thursday by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“I’m not going to extend it,” the governor told reporters Thursday. “Everybody has had a lot of time to register. On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote: early voting, absentee voting, Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”

Another Republican governor whose state is preparing to be hit by Hurricane Matthew, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, has extended her state’s registration deadline, which was scheduled for Saturday. That prompted the ACLU of Florida to join the Democratic delegation in calling on Scott to extend Florida’s registration deadline.

Later on Friday the ACLU of Florida made their own request to extend the voter registration deadline.

“This is a simple, non-partisan request for the governor to use his authority to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate in this important election,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon. “Preparing our state for a natural disaster and enabling full and fair participation in our democratic process aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, they should go hand in hand.”

There has been some speculation the Democrats may sue Scott to extend the registration deadline if he doesn’t adhere to their request. But as election expert Rick Hasen wrote on Thursday in Slate, Scott could be sued for actually extending the deadline on the basis that such an extension is illegal, since only the Florida Legislature is allowed to set the rules on presidential elections.

The request to extend the deadline is hardly trivial, as parts of the state contend with the hurricane. As as has been widely reported in the past 24 hours, University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith has estimated “roughly” 50,000 people were registered in Florida over the last five days before the deadline in 2012.

Read the letter below:

Dear Governor Scott:

Thank you for your leadership and all of the hard work that you and state employees are doing to ensure the safety and security of Floridians as we prepare for Hurricane Matthew and related tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings.

We appreciate your steady communication with federal, state, and local leaders, as well as public health, transportation, and law enforcement experts, to ensure our state is fully prepared for evacuations, shelter openings, prevention of power outages, monitoring of fuel supply, search and rescue, and provisioning of resources and supplies.

As you have rightly cautioned our citizens, Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening storm that Floridians must take seriously, or risk being killed by it. President Obama has officially declared Hurricane Matthew’s expected impact in Florida to be a federal emergency, and we will work with you to ensure Florida has the federal recovery resources and support we need.

Some of the potential impacts of the storm include structural damage to even the sturdiest buildings, which will be worsened by large airborne projectiles, and make some locations uninhabitable for months. In addition, we can expect trees to snap or uproot, rendering many roads impassable and causing widespread power and communications outages.

The federal government has further cautioned that surging and deadly winds are not the only areas of concern — major rainfall flooding can also be life-threatening, with rivers and tributaries rapidly overflowing their banks, causing flood control systems and barriers to become stressed, and escape routes to become submerged.

The bottom line is that Floridians do not and should not have anything on their minds right now other than keeping themselves and their families safe from what could be a historic Category 4 blow to a large part of our state. As a result, it will be logistically challenging and likely impossible for many who would like to register to vote to be able to do so before the impending deadline on October 11th.

We strongly urge you to extend the deadline for our citizens to register to vote in November’s election, at least from October 11th to October 14th. It goes without saying that our democracy is stronger when more people vote.  With a natural disaster on our doorstep, registering to vote understandably will not be possible in the immediate aftermath of such a significant storm. Of course, clean up and dealing with storm-related damage will be many Floridians’ primary focus.

Therefore, we respectfully request an extension of the voter registration deadline so that we may ensure the franchise, the integrity of our democracy, and the rights we as Americans hold dear, are fully protected.

As elected officials, we must do all that we can to keep our citizens safe as well as safeguard the freedom of every individual to elect their representatives, from the state house to the White House.



Orlando facing prospect of all-freshman lineup in Congress

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her nearly 24 years in Congress – gone.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his nearly six years in Congress – gone.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster and his nearly six years in Congress – gone, moved to an outside district.

U.S. Rep. John Mica and his nearly 24 years in Congress – more at risk than he’s faced in more than a decade.

This year, Orlando is losing most and potentially all its seniority, experience, leadership and clout in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Whoever gets elected, the voters’ choices for change may wind up being for the better. And in the long run, who knows, at this point, how effective the new class might become?

But at first it could be like replacing an entire college basketball team starting lineup with freshmen for the coming year. And it’s not about wins or losses. At least in the short term, it’s about attracting Washington’s attention to Central Florida’s needs and priorities, and about finding and bringing federal money for such discretionary goodies as transportation improvements, veterans’ facilities, military simulation center support, social services’ grants, and college and university research funding.

Might Central Florida’s next congressional starting line-up be able to compete?

“It certainly might have a big effect when you lose so many people who are established in Washington and have been serving this area for at least some time,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “How much it hurts will be determined by which party is in control of Congress. That’s going to play a big role.”

Technically, Orlando still has U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, the Rockledge Republican, assuming he wins re-election in Florida’s 8th Congressional District. But he’s always been first and foremost about the Space Coast, not the inland counties, though his district includes a sparsely-populated corner of Orange County.

Technically, Orlando may be picking up U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Flagler County Republican, whose newly-redrawn Florida’s 6th Congressional District, assuming he wins re-election, stretches into the northernmost Orlando suburbs in Volusia County. But his attention more likely would be focused east and north, from Daytona through St. Augustine, where his base always has been.

Technically, Orlando may be able to count on Webster, the Clermont Republican, assuming he wins re-election, because he’ll still be representing Orlando’s western-most suburbs in Lake County, if he’s elected in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. But he no longer has any responsibility toward Orlando voters. And any congressional clout Webster had was largely stripped away in 2015 anyway, after he first challenged John Boehner and then Paul Ryan for the house speakership. Insurgents who lose are not rewarded with shared power.

That leaves Mica, the Winter Park Republican who is the only Orlando-oriented member of Congress with a chance to still be in office next year. Suddenly he is getting a stiff challenge from Stephanie Murphy in a race the national Democrats are trying very hard to win, for Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat representing north Orange County and Seminole County. A poll commissioned by Democrats last week showed her in the margin of error against him.

Mica, first elected in 1992, is almost a poster child for how a member of Congress grows in power with seniority, key committee assignments, and longterm relationships, and using them to bring federal support for his district. SunRail, the Interstate 4 expansion, Orlando International Airport expansions, the Orlando Veterans Administration Medical Center, Orlando’s National Center for Simulation, and other Orlando projects have gotten federal approval and money, due in part to his his connections, and in part to his work with Brown, Grayson, and Webster, who had their own clout.

Mica makes congressional seniority and the power that comes with it a key part of his campaign message.

“I do have a senior position in Congress and because there are 435 members it takes many years to gain positions of importance,” he said.

Mica offers another advantage, as big brother to the new members of Congress. Orlando will have two freshmen for sure, either Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto or Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in Grayson’s old Florida’s 9th Congressional District; and either Democratic former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings or retired businesswoman Thuy Lowe in Webster’s old Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Brown’s entire district is gone. First her district was pulled from Orlando in last year’s redistricting, then she lost her primary.

Statewide, there will be at least seven freshmen, out of 27 Florida members of Congress.

“If I’m re-elected one of the things I’m going to work with both Republicans and Democrats in my position – I’m fairly well respected – to help them get on committees that they want. Eventually they will benefit our community and our state, and of course our country too,” Mica said. “That’s one of my goals: to help place and mentor the new kids on the block.”

But there’s that word “if,” which seemed unnecessary and modest until recently, though Mica always says he never takes re-election for granted.

Mica also has political policy positions and records, particularly conservative views on social issues, which Murphy and the Democrats are portraying as out of step with the changing, younger, more diverse, more Democratic new CD 7, which covers much of north Orange County and all of Seminole County.

Murphy is asking voters to trade Mica’s seniority and experience for fresh ideas and more liberal policies. National Democrats are investing millions of dollars to help her knock off Mica. A recent poll – commissioned by Democrats – showed the race within the margin of error.

She also says that Congress simply doesn’t work anymore, adding that Mica votes with the Republican line 97 percent of the time. So his seniority is partisan, she said.

“I think seniority is important if you are willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner and actually lead on issues,” she said.

She dismissed any notion that the next class of Orlando members of Congress would lack experience.

“I have deep experience in business, in national security and academia and I would be able to draw on those real-world experiences to bring fresh perspectives to Congress, and a willingness to work across the aisle to get things done,” Murphy said. “I’m excited about the prospect of having a trio of members of Congress representing the Orlando area who will be a powerhouse representing the area with fresh new ideas that actually represent the people as opposed to being very partisan.”

Meanwhile, Orlando leaders are bracing for changes that are likely to require them to start over in building relationships with member of Congress, whether Mica or Murphy wins. The lobbyists and institutional leaders across the region insist they play no political or partisan favorites – they just want someone they can talk to who can get things done.

“We’ve been very fortunate in terms of the team we have there, not just who’s there, but the length of them they’ve had there, and their abilities to be effective. I’m very mindful about the changes that might take place. I’ve had discussions with board members about what that might mean,” said Harry Barley, executive director of MetroPlan Orlando, Central Florida’s transportation planning agency.

He noted both Brown and Mica have had senior positions on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, saying, “They’ve worked well together over the years. I’m not sure they’ve agreed on anything other than transportation. But that’s been a very great team. They’ve both been very, very helpful to us.”

Michael Waldrop, chair of Orlando’s Veterans Advisory Council, said the issue is making sure the new members of Congress are willing to work together to forward veterans’ and defense concerns, which he said must be non-partisan matters.

“You would hope a newer delegation that represents us in Central Florida realizes this and if they can work together on any one or two topics then it is the defense of our nation nd supporting our veteran community,” he said.

UCF Senior Vice President Dan Holsenbeck, who has overseen the university’s lobbying for decades, said there is reason to be concerned, but ultimately reasons to be hopeful.

“Seniority is the way you get a principal voice in budgeting, the way you get access to make meaningfully comments on policy,” Holsenbeck said. “So if you lose your seniority in the eleciton, then it does have a significant impact on policy and budgeting, on persuasion opportunities.”

But, he added, new relationships eventually lead to new opportunities.

“We’ve done very well over the years, our president and others, to build new relationships,” he said. “That would be our challenge, to build new relationships of trust and support for UCF.”

Patrick Murphy to debate Marco Rubio two times before Nov 8 election

Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio announced Monday they would debate three times and participate in a separate campaign forum, bringing an end to speculation Murphy was reluctant to engage in debates with the GOP Senate incumbent. However, there’s still a dispute about how many events they will actually have, because Rubio says two of the events have ties to Murphy supporters.

The first debate will be held in Orlando on October 17, and is sponsored by POLITICO, ABC affiliate WFTV, and Cox Media, and will be broadcast statewide on ABC affiliate stations. That’s still one.

The next debate will the Leadership Florida and Florida Press Association at Broward College in Davie on Oct. 26, also broadcast on ABC affiliates (that debate had previously been announced).

The candidates’ third scheduled debate is in question: that’s the event co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Telemundo and broadcast on Telemundo stations from Tampa. That, along with a separate forum at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, may not happen, because the Rubio camp says they’re affiliated with Murphy supporters.

Nevertheless, the news will undoubtedly please statewide Democrats who weren’t enthused about the perception that Murphy was not eager to debate Rubio, who he trails in virtually every poll published on the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

“I’m excited to debate Marco Rubio and talk about the issues that matter most to Florida families,” said Murphy. “Floridians face an important choice this November, between someone who will show up and work hard for them, and Marco Rubio, who abandoned our state and has the worst vote attendance record of any Florida Senator in nearly 50 years. I look forward to making that choice clear in our upcoming debates.”

The day after the Florida Primary on Aug. 31, Rubio immediately challenged Murphy to six debates. Murphy initially called it a “stunt,” and said he’s only do so if Rubio committed to serving a full six-year term (something that Rubio has not done). Rubio brought the issue back up on Monday.

“As he’s done in every election he’s been a part of — Patrick Murphy is ducking debates yet again. I did six debates six years ago. Why only do half now? ” Rubio said in a statement. “Floridians today deserve no less than what they received in 2010, and they deserve to know where we stand on the important issues facing our country. I will ask Patrick, once again, to join me in committing to six media-sponsored debates between now and Election Day.”

Murphy did not debate his challengers — Alan Grayson and Pam Keith — in the Senate Democratic Primary.

David Jolly accuses Charlie Crist of lying about his stance on student debt

For the second time in a little over a week, the David Jolly campaign is accusing Charlie Crist of lying about Jolly’s record.

At issue on Thursday was a tweet by Crist, in which he said Jolly opposed the refinancing of student debt.

Not true, countered the Jolly campaign. They responded by providing a link to a videotape of Jolly’s debate against Alan Grayson April 25, where he said, “There are some simple things we can do right now by allowing student loans to be refinanced, by making them eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy cases — those are two initiatives I have supported …”

Jolly added he would also like to create additional flexibility for accelerating and expanding Pell Grants, and would also like to tie the performance of longterm student loans to what the universities receive in federal funding.

Jolly is also one of just two Republican co-sponsors on a bill (H.R. 449) that would make student loan debt eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy and other relief provisions. Congresswoman Kathy Castor is a co-sponsor of the same bill.

Jolly does not support the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” (SB 2432) first introduced in the Senate by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2014. The bill has more than 170 co-sponsors, including Castor.

“Then why hasn’t he co-sponsored the bill?” Crist spokesman Kevin Cate responded. “Actions speak louder than words.” The Crist camp also says they’d like to know any other examples in which Jolly has come out in support of refinancing student debt.

According to the Jolly campaign, this is Crist’s second misstatement, or lie, of the campaign. On Election Night last week, Crist said Jolly was supporting Donald Trump‘s agenda. The Jolly camp took offense to that, saying the GOP congressman has not endorsed Trump for president.

The Crist campaign responds their candidate never said Jolly had endorsed Trump, but that he supported Trump’s agenda.

“This Republican primary season has been pretty frightening,” Crist said in that statement. “It saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County. And I look forward to sharing our vision for seniors, veterans, women, students, and our environment in the weeks ahead.”


Bill Rufty: Polk becoming a two-Party county?

Polk County will likely never return to the Democratic bastion that was home to four U.S. senators, three governors, and four presidents of the Florida Senate.

But from Tuesday’s primaries and the fielding of candidates for the Nov. 8 general elections, Polk Democrats are slowly learning to make the now-GOP bastion a two-party county again.

There was a big Democratic Primary in eastern Polk County for Florida’s 9th Congressional District, but not one of the four candidates were from Polk.

However, for the first time in a decade, there was a Democratic Primary for Florida House District 41, which is fully contained within the county’s borders.

As the I-4 corridor begins to turn Democratic in performance, eastern Polk County appears to be following the trend. But the western side, which includes Lakeland, Bartow and Mulberry, is still the Republican stronghold it has been since 1996.

The highest level race in the county and much of Central Florida was a congressional race where a Democrat is almost certain to win a general election run after court-ordered redistricting.

State Sen. Darren Soto’s win over former Alan Grayson aide Susannah Randolph, Grayson’s wife Dr. Dena Grayson, and former Osceola County Democratic Party Chair Valleri Crabtree can be credited to the significant margin in Osceola County, a Democratic stronghold among the three counties making up the district. He barely won the Orange County section and came in third in the Polk County section of his district.

Democrats in Polk County are hoping to win a Florida House seat in Polk County for the first time since 1998.

Former Circuit Court Judge Bob Doyel handily won the Democratic Party’s nomination over Nicholas Garcia in the primary and now faces former contractor and Republican fundraiser Sam Killebrew, a formidable Republican activist.

Killebrew won the GOP nod by a narrow margin over former 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Davis.

It was Davis’ first run for a partisan political office and, although running as a Republican, he failed to adhere to what has become a tenant of the GOP: get the absentee voters first.

Davis won at the polls Tuesday, but longtime political planner and activist Killebrew won the race with the mail-in and early vote ballots.

The anticipated overhaul of the sometimes intransigent and stagnant Polk County School Board wound up about 50-50. After a scandal involving the then-superintendent and a top aide and the board’s slowness to do anything, many believed there would be tight contests for the four school board seats up for election this year.

One board member drew no opposition, while another, perhaps in part sensing public anger, did not seek re-election. That left two seats with incumbents and an open seat for the nonpartisan election in Tuesday’s primary.

Incumbent Lori Cunningham received more than 50 percent of the vote and was returned for her fourth four-year term.

But the other incumbent, Hunt Berryman, was a very distant second to the first-time candidate and school board critic Billy Townsend in the three-way race. Still, Townsend must now contend with Berryman in a runoff.

Becky Troutman, wife of former Florida House member and potential 2018 Cabinet candidate Baxter Troutman, led by 9,000 votes in the four-way race for the open school board seat, but did not get the required 50 percent of the vote. She will face Sara Beth Reynolds in the general election.

The most surprising win from a vote-margin standpoint was the re-election of Polk County Judge Susan Flood Barberdisciplined for an alleged romantic relationship with her bailiff.

She had been the target of some Republican leaders, who released photos of her looking at state attorney’s evidence against her while a deposition was in recess. Barber apparently didn’t realize the room’s security cameras were on, they said. It is a nonpartisan race, but so what? Parties don’t care when trying to elect one of their own.

But Barber was returned to the bench, winning by a margin of 5,500 votes over challenger Carson Bassett, due in part to a last-minute Facebook post from a well-known local attorney who endorsed her.

The results of Tuesday’s Primary elections in Polk County:

Polk Democratic Primary 9th Congressional District

Susannah Randolph – 4,791/34.67 percent

Dena Grayson – 4,534/32.81 percent

Darren Soto – 3,526/25.52 percent

Valleri Crabtree – 968/7 percent

Democratic Primary Entire 9th Congressional District

Darren Soto – 14,496/36.26 percent

Susannah Randolph – 11,267/28.18 percent     

Dena Grayson – 11,122/27.82 percent

Valleri Crabtree – 3,093/7.74 percent

Polk Republican Primary 9th Congressional District

Wayne Liebnitzky – 9,662/66.33 percent

Wanda Rentas – 4,904/33.67 percent

Republican Primary Entire 9th Congressional District

Wayne Liebnitzky – 22,725/67.56 percent

Wanda Rentas – 10,911/32.44 percent

Polk Republican Primary Florida House District 41

Sam Killebrew – 5,134/51.26 percent

Charles Davis – 4,881/48.74 percent

Polk Democratic Primary Florida House District 41

Bob Doyel – 5,360/64.95 percent

Nicolas Garcia  2,892/35.05 percent

Polk County Commission (Universal Ballot)

Bill Braswell – 40,889/66.21 percent

J.C. Martin – 20,868/33.79 percent

Polk County Judge

Susan Barber – 36,026/54.13 percent

Carson Bassett – 30,530/45.87 percent

Polk County School Board District 1

Billy Townsend (Runoff) – 27,978/42.64 percent

Hunt Berryman (Runoff) – 21,500/32.77 percent

Ed Shoemaker – 16,135/24.59 percent

Polk County School Board District 2

Lori Cunningham (Elected)  33,391/51.99 percent

Ronnie L. Clark – 17,202/26.78 percent

Kevin J. Kitto – 7,000/10.90 percent

Tim James – 6,634/10.33 percent

Polk County School Board District 4

Becky Troutman (Runoff) – 25,105/38.26 percent

Sara Beth Reynolds (Runoff) – 16,466/25.10 percent

Ed Smith – 16,085/24.52 percent

Rebekah Ricks – 7,956 /12.13 percent


Mitch Perry Report for 9.1.16 —The debate about the debates begins in Florida

I think I speak for a lot of Florida political observers in expressing my disappointment that, for whatever reason, Patrick Murphy never debated his Democratic Senate opponents, Pam Keith and Alan Grayson, during the just-concluded primary campaign.

Murphy avoided debates organized by Florida Public Radio stations and Bay News 9/News 13 in Orlando well before news broke that Grayson’s ex-wife accused him of abusing her. When that news broke, Murphy said Grayson was not worthy of a debate (ignoring Pam Keith at the time).

Now that he’s an underdog (if just slightly) against Republican Marco Rubio in the general election, however, Murphy hardly can be the one dictating terms. Right?

Not exactly. After Rubio went bold and challenged Murphy to six (!) debates yesterday, Murphy came back and challenged Rubio to say he will commit to serving for six years. Since Rubio won’t do that, Murphy said he’ll do just one debate, in late October.

There probably would never be six debates, but just one? Why not at least two or three?

Look, Rubio has had to suck it up big-time now that he has gone against his vows not to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, after he faded out badly in his run for the presidency. But with a real chance that he could compete again in 2020, he’s made the political calculation that it’s better to be part of the system in Washington to try another run.

If he were to be quoted on tape as saying that he was committed to serving all six years, and then announced in 2019 that he was running for president, well, his Republican rivals would shred him to pieces. Carlos Beruff didn’t lay a hand on him during the primary, so now it’s mano-a-mano against Murphy until Nov. 8.

Rubio seems pretty confident against the two-term Democrat from Jupiter, thus the bold announcement of six debates, immediately putting Murphy on the spot.

Murphy has been hammering all week how Rubio shouldn’t be seriously considered because of his failure to declare to serve a full term if elected. That’s a smart strategy, but he can’t say it for 70 more days. It’s going to come down to policy.

As it stands now, submitting to just one debate feels somewhat insubstantial, and an extension of what happened this past summer.

In other news …

Despite having no money and little name recognition, Pam Keith came close to getting more votes than Alan Grayson in the Florida Democratic Senate primary. Keith says she “feels like a winner” while still realizing the name of the game in politics is winning.

And they’re off: HD 60 Democratic candidate David Singer says Republican Jackie Toledo’s stances on illegal immigrants in Florida “on board” with Donald Trump.

While some people may be stunned to have seen Tim Schock trounce Jim Norman in Tuesday night’s attempt by Norman to make his political comeback, Schock said he wasn’t.

Sarasota poli sci professor Frank Alcock is going to kick off his general election campaign against Republican Greg Steube in Florida’s 23rd Senate District by doing the “Tour de Frank” this weekend.

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