Barack Obama Archives - Florida Politics

Bill Nelson ‘died three years ago,’ Roger Stone quips to Palm Beach Trump supporters

Longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone was his usual self in remarks to Trump Club 45 PBC Monday night, spouting several attention-grabbing comments to the audience of Trump die-hards.

Stone dropped several eyebrow-raising one-liners (mostly in jest) during his speech at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, one of which concerning a prominent Florida contest.

“You have a U.S. Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and Bill Nelson,” Stone started. “Bill Nelson died three years ago. Somebody forgot to tell him about it.”

As for Stone’s famous tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back: “I’m the only guy you know that has a dick on the front and the back.”

In addition to punchlines, Stone offered the Trump-loving crowd plenty of red meat.

First, there was media bashing: “I don’t get my news from CNN for the same reason I don’t eat out of the toilet.”

Next, about The New York Times, Stone harped on the fact that the paper’s top shareholder is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Clintons.

“Why would we believe a single word that is printed in The New York Times?” Stone charged.

He then moved into the realm of the conspiratorial. On the recent anonymous op-ed printed by the Times, Stone argued it was all a fabrication.

“Folks, I can tell you right now who wrote that editorial. No one. It’s a fraud. It’s a MacGuffin. It’s a con job on the American people.”

He once again called into question whether Russia even hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

“There’s more forensic evidence that would indicate that the DNC was never hacked at all by anyone.”

Stone also touched upon the recent abuse allegations lobbied against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Stone framed the “dastardly accusations” as a “smear” against Kavanaugh, shredding the media for even reporting on them given the lack of a corroborating witness.

Stone, rumored to be a potential target of the Robert Mueller investigation, further elaborated on his current legal situation.

While describing claims of any sort of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign utter “bullshit,” Stone maintained: “I will never roll on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, I am not.”

Toward the end of his remarks, Stone injected a minutes-long pitch for his legal defense fund.

“Everything you can send will be a godsend. This threatens to bankrupt my family. They have systematically attempted to ruin my business.”

Stone saved some of his most fiery comments for Republicans 2018 midterms strategy. He parroted the notion that the real wrongdoing of the 2016 election was the Barack Obama administration’s investigation into Russian collusion, rather than any potential collusion itself.

Midterm voters need reminding of that fact, Stone said, calling for some high-profile arrests.

“We need to expose the constitutional abuses, far worse than Watergate, of the administration of Barack Obama. And we have to demand the prosecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Of course, that elicited chants of “lock her up” from the audience, with one member suggesting Hillary be sent “to Guantánamo.”

With a closing shot, Stone clarified there’s no love lost between him and the Clintons.

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of the American body politic.”

Integrity Florida report questions Donald Trump judicial nominations

Donald Trump‘s nominations for judgeships are ensuring a federal bench that looks like the president, according to Integrity Florida: Older, white and male.

The Tallahassee-based ethics-in-government watchdog’s latest report, released Thursday, also questions Trump’s assertion that he would prioritize “qualifications” over diversity. The group says that in fact the 72-year-old president is focusing on neither.

“Trump has already nominated more federal judicial nominees than three of his four predecessors did in their entire first two years,” the report says.

At the same time, “Trump has put forth a lower percentage of ‘well qualified’ nominees (as defined by the American Bar Association) than each of his four predecessors,” it said.

The report, “Courts at the Crossroads” (posted below), examines how the “quality and diversity of judicial nominations has changed under the Trump administration, and what those changes mean for the country and for Floridians who rely on the courts for the fair administration of justice in criminal and civil cases,” a press release said.

Key findings include:

— Ninety-one percent of President Trump’s nominees for federal judgeships have been white, compared to 57 percent of President Obama’s nominees and 80 percent of President George W. Bush’s nominees.

— Only 1 percent of Trump’s nominees for federal judgeships have been African American and only 4 percent have been Hispanic.

— President Trump’s nominees for federal judges have been 77 percent male. In contrast, President Obama’s nominees were 55 percent male and President George W. Bush’s nominees were 80 percent male.

Todd Marks unleashes attack ad on Aakash Patel

Hillsborough Commission candidate Todd Marks has already attacked Republican opponent Aakash Patel for past donations to Democrats, but now he’s doing it over the airwaves.

Marks, a Tampa attorney, is out with a new ad that intersperses clips of Patel’s first ad with his Jan. 28 interview on LeaderCast Tampa, where the Tampa businessman said he doesn’t have a “Republican or Democrat philosophy. I’ve given money to Democrats. I’ve supported Democrats.”

That line, which comes halfway through the 36-minute interview, was highlighted in an attack email sent out by Marks back in April. The new ad is trotting it out again, and Marks uses it to label the Tampa businessman as Aakash “Too Liberal” Patel.

The 30-second spot begins with the portion of Patel’s ad where supporters say, “My county commissioner should be a trusted conservative, who protects our values,” before a narrator interrupts and says “Aakash Patel betrays those values” and rolls the aforementioned interview clip.

The back and forth continues with a woman from Patel’s ad saying, “I don’t want a career politician,” followed by the narrator asking “Then why does Patel brag about meeting with Barack Obama and other liberals?”

“Aakash Patel donated to Democrats as they bashed President [Donald] Trump,” the voiceover continues as pictures of Patel with Obama and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist fill the screen. “Aakash Patel: Two-faced and too progressive.”

According to campaign finance records with the Florida Division of Elections and the Federal Elections Commission, Patel did not donate any funds to Obama. Nor did he donate to Crist — either personally or through his business, Elevate Inc. — during the Pinellas politician’s independent run for U.S. Senate or his campaigns for Governor and Congress as a member of the Democratic Party.

However, Patel did donate to Crist’s opponent, then-U.S. Rep. David Jolly, last cycle as well as in 2014.

Patel has donated to dozens of Republicans over the years, among them Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi, Richard Corcoran, Matt Gaetz, Adam Putnam, Jimmy Patronis and Ross Spano. Bondi, Corcoran and Gaetz are among the many conservative politicians who have endorsed Patel in the county commission race.

As far as Democrats go, six have received a check from Patel according to state and federal database searches: State Attorney Dave Aaronberg, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, state Rep. Ben Diamond, state House candidate Rena Frazier, former state Rep. Ed Narain and former CFO Alex Sink.

All told, those Democratic donations totaled $1,853, while his contributions to Republican candidates and political committees clocked in at $21,875. A similar search for past political contributions from Marks found no indication he’s given to any politician or political committee.

Florida Politics reached out to Patel for a response after the ad was released.

“I’m disappointed that my opponent decided to use his campaign dollars to attack me rather than focusing on the issues that matter to Hillsborough County,” he said.

Patel and Marks are the only Republicans running for the countywide District 7 seat currently held by retiring commissioner Al Higginbotham. Both men were previously candidates for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandra Murman but they switched races after she decided to serve out the remainder of her term rather than make her own run for District 7.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Ray ChiaramonteMark NashKimberly Overman and Sky White as well as Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

Through July 6, Patel led the money race with more than $364,000 raised for his campaign and about $130,000 in the bank. He has also raised another $124,000 via affiliated political committee, Elevate Tampa, and had $43,500 of that cash in the bank on July 20.

Marks is the only other candidate to break the six-figure mark in fundraising. As of July 6, he had raised $108,768 in hard money and had $99,365 in the bank.

The ad is below.

Frank White

New website slams Frank White as ‘liberal’ using ‘family money’

While Frank White continues pumping money into his campaign, newly formed political committee Truth in Politics is up with a new website blasting the Republican Attorney General candidate as a ‘liberal’ using his ‘family money’ to seek the statewide seat.

The website, FamilyMoneyFrank.com, promises to be updated daily and the first round of attacks shows the financial connection between White’s Attorney General campaign and liberal politicians and organizations — namely, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama.

The connection: The Automotive Free International Trade PAC.

White’s father-in-law and employer, auto dealership mogul Sandy Sansing, donated to the fund during the 2008 election cycle. The fund later made contributions to Democratic politicians. During the 2018 cycle, Sansing Holdings has contributed $150,000 to his son-in-law’s political committee, United Conservatives, while several of his businesses have chipped in $3,000 apiece to White’s official campaign account.

“The same shady money that has bankrolled liberals like Obama into the White House and Pelosi into the Speaker’s chair is now bankrolling liberal Frank White as he attempts to go from the showroom to the Attorney General’s office,” the website says. “We can’t trust this salesman with his family’s money. Florida shouldn’t trust him as Attorney General.”

The website also highlights a recent complaint filed with the Florida Elections Commission accusing White of accepting political contributions outside the legal limits.

That complaint, filed by Raymond Mazzie of Tallahassee, seeks to source the large cash infusions White has made to his campaign —his first month in the race saw him pump $1.5 million into his campaign account, and he followed that up with another $1.25 million in May.

Citing White’s 2015 and 2016 financial disclosures, the complaint alleges White would have had to liquidate all of his assets to come up with that money. The White campaign says his wife, Stephanie White, contributed the money from a stock dividend.

White is running against former circuit court judge Ashley Moody in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Current AG Pam Bondi cannot run again due to term limits. The winner of GOP nomination will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election.

Florida Politics reached out the Frank White campaign and it responded by sending a press release about an unrelated attack on Moody.

Images from the website are below.

#4 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Rick Kriseman

As the 2017 mayoral race ramped up last year, re-election was never a sure thing for incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. It was far from it at times.

Yet despite a significant challenge from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who was often ahead in the polls, he and his allies pulled it off.

Whether it was a sign of a blue wave or the result of constant door-knocking or one of many other potential factors, we’ll never know. But Kriseman’s re-election helped solidify the city’s status as a (mostly) progressive haven.

A former state Representative who’s a lawyer by trade, observers say Kriseman is as likable as he is serious about policymaking.

“It’s not often you meet an elected official you want to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert with and also work with on major policy issues. Mayor Kriseman is that guy. Faced with many challenges, Rick has shown that he is not only extremely well-liked but is leaving behind a legacy of progressive leadership,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer.

Since sworn in for his second time, Kriseman has championed a proposed ban on offshore drilling, joined a lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott over a 2011 barring cities and counties from passing local gun laws and renamed the main branch of the city’s library after former President Barack Obama. While he and other mayors’ hands are tied on gun laws per se, he’s also vowed to divest city dollars from gun manufacturers and vendors.

The city (downtown in particular) is seeing an influx of development under Kriseman’s watch. While Chamber of Commerce types herald these projects for their economic development potential, some are concerned that the diverse population that made downtown appealing are being priced out of their neighborhoods and Central Avenue storefronts.

Remaining to be seen is whether the Pier will finish on time. There’s also that little thing that almost cost him his re-election: whether the city’s wastewater system overhaul will be completed in time to prevent any more sewage dumps.

What significantly boosts Kriseman’s power factor is the fact that the majority of St. Petersburg City Council members support his agenda. It can’t hurt to have the bulk of the Pinellas County Commission generally on his side, either.

Unlike Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who terms out in early 2019 with an uncertain, Kriseman has more than three-and-a-half years to go as mayor. That gives him room to step up as a regional figure. We saw that potential in his willingness to let the Rays look at potential stadium sites in Tampa (even though he seemed to think team officials would ultimately stay in St. Pete) and in his ability to get Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to pitch in for a ferry service pilot in 2016.

Kriseman ranked seventh in 2017.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Steve Schale: Florida, persuasion or turnout, or both?

In the never-ending quest to simplify Florida, one of the ongoing debates about winning the state is whether Florida is a state won by winning persuadable voters, or whether it is all about turning out one’s base.

I remember when I started with Barack Obama, I got a ton of advice — most of it unsolicited (much was helpful), though a significant portion went something like this:

“Steve, nothing matters but I-4 … Steve, if you don’t maximize the Jewish vote, you can’t win … Steve, the field is dumb, it is an air war state … Steve, TV is dumb, it is a field war state … Steve, you have to do better with absentees … Steve, don’t waste money trying to convince Democrats to vote by mail … Steve, you have to watch your floor in North Florida, or you can’t win … Steve, you have to take Obama to Condo X, or you won’t win … Steve, you have to pay for bus benches in Miami, or you can’t win.”

You get the point.

Here is the secret — all of it matters. Florida is neither a persuasion state or a turnout state. It is, in my honest opinion, both. It doesn’t matter if it is a presidential cycle or a midterm year, Florida is a state about managing margins, everywhere.

Avid readers of my blog (thank you to all three of you) have read me refer to Florida as a self-correcting scale. The bases of both parties do a nice job of balancing — or canceling themselves out, almost regardless of population or demographic shifts.

Before we go any further — it is important to note that this phenomenon is almost exclusively a result of my party losing vote share among non-Hispanic whites. If we were winning non-Hispanic whites at a level anywhere near Obama 2008, based on the demographic shifts in Florida, we would be a leaning to likely Democratic state.

At the same time — if Florida wasn’t experiencing demographic changes — and the Republicans weren’t losing share among voters of color — particularly Hispanics, we would be a predictably Republican state. Functionally, if either party can broaden their own coalition, Florida quickly gets less competitive.

But these two factors have largely canceled each other out — hence the self-correcting scale.

Let’s review quickly how Democrats and Republicans win Florida.

Because I am a Democrat, let’s start there. Democrats earn their votes in a handful of counties, specifically: Leon, Gadsden, Alachua, Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Winning Democratic candidates typically do a few other things: win Pinellas, win St. Lucie, win a few North Florida counties like Jefferson, maintain reasonable margins counties like in Duval, Sarasota, Volusia, and Seminole. They also maintain a reasonable floor in North Florida, suburban/exurban counties around I-4 and the Fort Myers media market.

For Republicans, their math is a little different — they win a lot more counties but by relatively smaller counties. Their win comes from winning in places like Pinellas and St. Lucie as well as running up the score in places like Duval, the suburban and exurban counties around I-4, and in southwest Florida.

I’ve written extensively about this dynamic in presidential cycles. You can read my primer on Florida here, or my 2016 debrief here and here, but in short, I would argue there was a lot of misreading of the Obama wins in Florida.

Yes, they were driven by significantly increasing the margins in the Democratic base counties over John Kerry and growing them in 2012. But here’s the thing — that alone wouldn’t have won the state. In both 08 and 12, Obama generally kept the margins in check in the GOP counties — and he won the few battleground counties that exist in Florida.

Take Obama 12 and Hillary Clinton 16 — both races decided by a roughly 1 percent margin. For all the chatter about a “less than enthusiastic” Democratic base, Clinton won the base Democratic counties by more than Obama did.

Her problem wasn’t turnout. Her problem was Trump winning the few battleground counties and setting records in both share of the vote and actual vote margins in those places where they must run up the score to win, and where we need to keep it in check.

I can read your mind — “That’s interesting Steve, but this is a midterm cycle, and you know it is different.”

Yes, it is — and no it isn’t.

Yes, it’s different because the electorate is smaller, and at least in the last two cycles, been more Republican (a fact impacted by two consecutive midterm waves for the GOP), which was a change from 06, where turnout marginally leaned Democratic (and Dems won 2 statewide races).

But there are a lot of similarities between the presidential and midterm cycles. Both Republicans and Democrats still need to carry their margins in the same counties as they do in presidential cycles. While the vote totals are different in individual regions and counties are different, the functional roadmaps for winning isn’t.

Rick Scott won two elections by a point. However, the shape of those wins was quite different, and in those differences lies the path to how the Democrats can win in 2018.

In 2010, the Democratic struggles were a creature of three real problems: Hispanic drop-off from 2008, lower participation among white Democrats particularly in Central Florida, and a wave of GOP and GOP-leaning NPA voters who saw voting for the GOP as a way to send a message to President Obama.

From a math standpoint, this led to lower than necessary margins in South and Central Florida base counties. But here is the thing, Scott ran up some very large margins in parts of the state, Alex Sink kept him in check in many others. In fact, she kept him in check by more than enough in many GOP counties to have a winning coalition if the Democratic counties had performed well. But they didn’t.

The lesson of Sink: Florida isn’t alone a persuasion state.

Charlie Crist’s math in 2014 was quite different. Crist ran on a far more progressive platform than Sink, with a fairly robust turnout operation — certainly not the size of Obama, but the largest in midterm cycle history for Florida Democrats, and as a result succeeded to run up the score in the base Democratic counties, winning the three South Florida counties by almost 100,000 more votes than Sink. He also did well enough in the “Crist counties” — the stretch from Pasco through Sarasota, where his brand is most established, winning those counties by almost 2.5 percent, where Sink lost them by a half of a point.

But the floor fell out for him in North Florida. Despite North Florida shrinking as a percentage of the electorate from 2010 (20 percent) to 2014 (19 percent), Crist lost the region by 8 percent more than Sink did, netting Scott’s margin roughly 107,000 more votes, more than wiping out the gains Crist made in the base Democratic counties (97,000 votes).

One other way of looking at it, Crist won the base Democratic counties by 92,000 more votes than Sink did. He lost everything else by 95,000 more votes than Sink. The lesson of Crist, as was also the lesson of Clinton: Florida isn’t alone a turnout state.

If Clinton has her margins in the base counties, plus Obama’s elsewhere, she wins by a point or two.

If Sink had her math, plus Crist’s margins in the base counties, he wins by about a point. If Crist has his margins, plus Sink’s margins only in North Florida, he wins by almost a point.

2018 will be different yet.

The Democratic nominee will benefit from an electorate that is more diverse, meaning the base county margins should rise, and I think there is a lot of room for growth in the Orlando urban core. However, at the same time, they will be unlikely to be able to count on some the margins Crist won in his corner of the state and will have to contend with areas where the GOP population is growing.

The questions aren’t as simple as how do we turnout more voters, but also have to include questions like how do we keep Duval looking more like it did for Obama, Clinton, and Sink than it did for Scott in 14 or Rubio?

For Republicans, they must deal with the fact demographics are changing in a way that helps the Democrats, and that 2018, unlike 2010 and 2014, will almost surely not be a very good Republican year, as we’ve seen in each of the competitive special and off-cycle elections this year.

I believe that in Scott/Nelson, as well as in the Governor’s race, Florida starts this year somewhere around 47-47 — maybe even 48-48, and we will be fighting over the path to that remaining 150,000 votes or so that a winning candidate will need.

Some of those votes are found by increasing turnout, others won and lost in the persuasion fight. The candidate who wins in 2018 won’t find those votes by getting just one of those things right, they will succeed in building the right answer to a puzzle.

That is just how Florida works these days.

Blake Dowling: Latest in political campaign tech

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit Pebble Beach outside Carmel, California.

Pretty gal and some clown at Pebble Beach.

As I basked in the glory of the extraordinary West Coast scenery, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Cambridge Analytica and its micro-targeting techniques, as well as the disruptive and deceptive Internet Research Agency and the trail of havoc and misinformation created in the last presidential election. (The sarcasm button is on, clearly.)

For a couple of days, I didn’t even check email. It was a grand escape, indeed.

If you have never visited Carmel/Big Sur, get there ASAP.

In fact, the only political thought on my trip was when John Dailey called to discuss his campaign for Tallahassee mayor.

“Can’t talk now, how about next week?” I replied.

Anyway, I am back in the swing of things and thought we could look around the political landscape and see what tech folks are using to get themselves into office – without fake ads and stealing/borrowing data.

During his last run, Ted Cruz used a very innovative suite of mobile apps called uCampaign. The app actually makes campaigning a game (to some, it already is) and you are awarded points for reaching specific achievements.

“Political Pokémon,” I call it.

Apps like uCampaign can really change how a supporter engages with those they support. His fans were (literally) all tied together in a digital community. Very cool.

Here in Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson is doing great things with his digital presence. Last year, I gave him a hard time about his website in a column; I just retook a look and it is actually pretty slick. He integrates a photo album, videos and several other calls to action right on the home page.

The past two presidential elections have been outstanding examples of tech usage. President Barack Obama was the first to use Social Media (Twitter – 102 million followers) aggressively in a campaign. President Donald Trump’s use of social media and firms like Cambridge Analytica during the election was also aggressive. And we all know about his use of Twitter in the White House.

Also, doing the little stuff, like making sure to send out e-newsletters is a strong way to keep your constituents and or supporters in the loop during and after an election.

In 1812, Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry signed into law legislation redistricting his state to help his party with an election. With that, the term “Gerrymandering” was born, describing the activity of redistricting areas.

Some experts argue that the fact the U.S. is the only democracy on earth where the politicians are involved in the process of drawing boundaries is terrible – causing even more party division.

For example, England has a “Boundaries Commission” which claims to be “independent.”  Which I am sure it bloody is, mate (British accent).

Even more interesting is throwing “big data” into the gerrymandering equation to see what that looks like. There is a ton of information here on that. However, this also might veer back into the shady side of things vs. cool. But it is a reality.

Back to cool tech, have you heard of Nation Builder? It’s software to run every facet of an election.

Check out the story of Alabama’s Randall Woodfin Nation Builders to help capture the Mayor’s office in Birmingham. Nation Builder puts social media, finances, emails all in one place.

Also, check out ActBlue, it is an exciting fundraising platform that gathers together small donors all in one place to support Democrats.

“ActBlue is an invaluable tool not only to the DCCC but to the whole party,” says Julia Ager, Chief Digital Officer of the DCCC. “They make it easy for supporters to give with a single click.”

So, there you have it – some cool tech to help get you or your favorite aspiring politician elected.

Keep in mind, all the tech in the world can’t replace a phone call or face to face dialogue.

Nice work, Mr. Dailey, pounding the phones, and best of luck with your campaign. I hope everyone is having a wonderful day and thank you for reading.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Space Florida backs new NASA leader

Florida’s aerospace agency praised the long-delayed confirmation Thursday of Oklahoma Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine as the next leader of NASA, pointing to further growth coming to the private space industry.

Space Florida officials said they anticipate Bridenstine will reinvigorate the industry, noting that he’s been hands-on in Congress.

“We look forward to working with him as the nation moves to leverage the relationships between government and the private sector and between states and federal agencies,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said in a statement after the Senate confirmed Bridenstine in a vote along party lines.

“His leadership of a NASA focused on research and exploration will be critical to reinvigorating U.S. leadership in space by bringing the true strengths of all facets of American ingenuity together for the expansion of human activity in space,” DiBello added.

But President Donald Trump’s choice of Bridenstine for the job was controversial, drawing opposition from lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who as a member of Congress traveled as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia in January 1986. Nelson maintained that Bridenstine is too partisan for the post.

“The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional,” Nelson said while on the Senate floor Wednesday. “That’s what this senator wants, a space professional, not a politician as the head of NASA.”

Nelson said the administrator should also be “technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive.”

“More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to bring us together to unite scientists and engineers and commercial space interests and policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration,” Nelson said.

NASA’s administrator position has been vacant since Charles Bolden, who led the agency under President Barack Obama, stepped down in January 2017. The vacancy was the longest the federal agency has gone without an administrator.

Before the confirmation vote, Gov. Rick Scott tweeted his support for Bridenstine, who was named to the job last September by Trump.

“I hope Jim Bridenstine gets confirmed,” Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, tweeted. “It isn’t helping NASA to have obstructionist Senate Democrats delay the confirmation process. Like me, he served in the Navy and will fight for our space program — not just talk about helping it like so many of the career politicians in DC.”

Bridenstine’s confirmation was able to advance after Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida agreed to support the confirmation, which had been deadlocked in the Senate.

“While I wish the president would have nominated a space professional to run NASA, the unexpected April 30 retirement of the acting administrator would leave NASA, an agency whose mission is vital to Florida, with a gaping leadership void …,” Rubio said in a prepared statement.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, called it “terrifying” to have Bridenstine in the job as the Republican is a climate-change “denier” and doesn’t have a scientific background.

“Either Mr. Bridenstine has not bothered to read up on the scientific consensus on the most pressing scientific issue of our generation or he does not agree with that consensus,” Schatz said on the floor. “Either explanation makes him unqualified to run NASA.”

However, Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said Bridenstine, who has served on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, will help bring a “renaissance” needed at NASA, as the U.S. has been “retreating” from space since astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969.

“From that position (Bridenstine’s) been a thoughtful leader on American space policy as it relates to national security, commerce and weather forecasting,” Lee said.

Former congressman Jason Altmire says, today, it’s hard to be a centrist

When the National Journal ranked the relative conservative-to-liberal leanings of the members of Congress, No. 218 was Pennsylvania’s Rep. Jason Altmire. He was the man in the middle.

After being elected to three terms in the state’s 4th District, he’s now-former Rep. Altmire, serving between 2007 and 2013.

Altmire wrote a book about his experiences, “Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided American and What We Can Do About It,” and was making the penultimate appearance of a six-month book tour with an appearance at The Village Square in Tallahassee Monday night.

“His record got him both a great title for his book … and a one-way ticket back home, since centrism and compromise aren’t exactly trending in Washington,” is how the event’s promotional material described his voting history.

Altmire was speaking before a receptive audience — a sell-out crowd of 160 people and a group dedicated to providing a forum for civil discourse. The Village Square mascot is a flying pig and, if the commentary should get a bit testy, offenders are reminded to be nice by a ringing bell.

That bell stayed silent throughout the evening as Altmire conversed with pollster and political strategist Steve Vancore. The pair have a history that dates back to 1990, when they met waving campaign signs during the first Congressional campaign of Pete Peterson.

Altmire said the impetus for his book was the Pulse shooting in June 2015.

“The Pulse nightclub was really the inspiration to turn random writings that I had into the book,” he told the group. “This horrific tragedy used to be something that would bring the country together in a shared sense of grief. But in this instance, it touched on every hot-button issue that exists,” referring to the fact that most of the victims were gay, the shooter was an American-born Muslim and that he had amassed an arsenal of weapons.

While the outpouring of donations and vigils and the actions of first responders showed “the best side of America,” he said, “you also saw the worst of America mostly through the social media of people who immediately took a tragedy and tried to find a way to gain political advantage.”

Altmire outlined a few common tropes about why Congress is so polarized, including closed primaries that effectively lead to representatives being elected by hyper-partisan voters on either end of the political spectrum — effectively shutting out the broad swath of moderate voters in the middle.

The Democrat also spoke about his personal experience, such as the challenge of representing a diverse district that encompassed Rust Belt Western Pennsylvania and the wealthy suburbs of Pittsburgh. One vote, in particular, would follow him throughout his time in Congress. Despite courting from as high as President Obama, he voted against the Affordable Care Act and got punished by his own party. While the president seemed to understand that Altmire’s vote “was the right vote for my district … Speaker [NancyPelosi did not speak to me for three years after that,” he said.

When Pennsylvania lost a seat in reapportionment, the new district pitted him against another Democratic incumbent. The party supported his opponent, and he lost in the primary.

But he also offered solutions.

One would be to not limit primary voters to party members, opening them to the growing number of NPA voters or giving a vote to members of the opposing party in deep red or blue districts.

An even more radical solution would be to switch Florida to a “Top 2” primary, similar to what’s being done now in California, Louisiana and Washington state. In these elections, all those running for office are on the primary ballot, and every registered voter is eligible to vote. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election.

“If you are someone who runs in that primary and you only appeal to your narrow extreme within the base of your party, you are going to lose,” he told the group. “In order to win that primary, you have to appeal not just to your own people, but the people in the center and even members of the other party. It totally changes not only the way you campaign for that seat but the way you legislate and the way you carry yourself when you vote and the way you talk.”

He also suggested that House should require 60 percent of votes to elect a Speaker rather than the 50 that is required now. “That means you’re going to have to get members of the other party to support your nominee for Speaker to have any chance to win,” he said. “When you build that coalition to get that 60 percent, you build it from the center out rather than from the extremes in. And you would start with somebody who knows how to work with both sides and accomplish something.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Altmire attended and played football for Florida State University in the mid-80s. After Peterson’s election, he worked him as a congressional aide, becoming an expert in health care policy. He worked as a lobbyist in Pennsylvania before challenging and beating a Republican incumbent. After leaving Congress, Altmire moved to the Jacksonville area, working as a lobbyist for Florida Blue. He left the company to promote his book.

Personnel note: Justin Day heads to Capital City Consulting

Capital City Consulting (CCC) has hired Justin Day away from The Advocacy Group (TAG), the company has announced.

Day now will open a new office in the Tampa Bay area with CCC partner Dan Newman.

It’s the first satellite office for INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Lobbying Firm of the Year, which is looking to have a greater statewide presence and will continue to grow in other local markets.

“With CCC’s strong growth over the few years, a local office in Tampa is a natural progression,” said Nick Iarossi, the firm’s founding partner. “In fact, we have an eye toward future offices in key local markets to expand the services we can provide clients.”

Added Ron LaFace Jr., another founding partner: “Local market expansion has always been a goal to enhance our client services, but finding the right people is paramount.  

“Justin is a great fit for our firm’s culture, and to enhance our capabilities,” LaFace said. “We are excited to have him and Dan representing us in the Tampa Bay market.”

Day’s departure from The Advocacy Group was an amicable one and the two firms will continue to partner on local and state work, they said.

“We wish Justin the best of luck with CCC’s new Tampa Bay Office,” The Advocacy Group’s Slater Bayliss said. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial strategic relationship with CCC to better serve current and future clients.”

Day said, “I enjoyed my time at TAG and appreciate the smooth transition the great professionals provided me. Opening CCC’s first local office in Tampa Bay with Dan is an exciting endeavor and I’m very happy to be part of such a well-established and growing organization.”

And Newman said, “With our combination of public affairs, campaign and lobbying experience, Justin and I will bring an impactful team to Tampa Bay.”

Day has over 15 years of experience in the political and governmental fields to the firm. He provides guidance to clients that perform business with state, county, and municipal governments, as well as public-private partnerships, public transit, airports, and seaports.  

He also assists clients in all aspects of government affairs and business development including: procurement, regulations, legislation, solicitations, negotiations, teaming, and strategic planning. Day’s clients have interests in the areas of transportation, construction, education, public works, technology, consulting, affordable housing, and the environment.

Prior to joining CCC, Day worked with several Tampa Bay based public entities and private businesses.  

He also worked in senior finance roles on various political campaigns in Florida including U.S. Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and various local campaigns. Day has raised over $13 million dollars for local, state, and federal candidates.  

He is active in national Democratic politics serving on Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committees, and as the Tampa Bay Regional Finance Chairman for President Obama’s re-election campaign.  

In addition, he was a National Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee’s Gen44 program. Currently, Day is the Deputy Treasurer for the Democratic Governors Association.  

Day has an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and a Masters Degree in Applied American Politics and Policy from Florida State University.  

He is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee, and sits on numerous community boards including, Hillsborough Community College Foundation Board of Trustees, the Greater Tampa Chamber Board of Directors, AMIkids Inc, Board of Trustees. Additionally, Day serves as an Advisor to Avant-Garde Growth Capital, LLC. He resides in Tampa with wife Elena.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons