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Darryl Paulson: Selecting party chairs: The Florida experience

(Part 2 of 2)

 In the first part of this series, I discussed the process and candidates used by the Republican and Democratic parties to select their national party chairperson. We will now look at the process and candidates used to choose the Florida Republican and Democratic chairs.

After a disastrous showing by the Florida Democratic Party in the 2016 election, a fate which has become all too common for the party, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party decided not to seek a second term. Like recent Democratic Party chairs, Allison Tant agreed that “one and done” was the proper course of action.

Given Donald Trump‘s Florida victory, as well as a better than expected showing by Republicans in the Congressional and state legislative races, one might have expected incumbent party chair, Blaise Ingoglia, to be a cinch for re-election. That is not the case. Ingoglia faces opposition from Christian Zeigler, a Sarasota County Republican State Committeeman.

The race pits House member Ingoglia versus Senate Republicans who do not want the House and Speaker Richard Corcoran to control the supply of money. It also pits Gov. Rick Scott against party pragmatists.

Scott was incensed in 2015 when his choice to lead the party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by Ingoglia. This rare rebuke of a governor’s prerogative to select the party chair, resulted in Scott telling donors to give money to his political action committee, Let’s Get to Work, instead of to the Republican Party of Florida. Senate Republicans pulled $800,000 out of the GOP account.

Twenty years ago, the Florida Republican Party, under the leadership of Tom Slade, was considered to be the premier state party organization in the nation. Today, after the fiasco of the previous chair Jim Greer and the efforts of Scott to decimate the state Republican Party, it more closely resembles the Keystone Kops.

At the very least, it more closely resembles Democratic Party operations (and that is faint praise).

Although the Florida Republican Party operations have been a mess for a number of years, the Democrats are approaching its third decade as a nonfunctioning party organization. The Democrats, due to their poor showing, have had a difficult time recruiting quality candidates and raising sufficient funds to support their efforts.

The Democrats lack of success at the polls has accelerated party squabbles. Every Democrat is looking for someone to blame for their poor showing, and the party chair is the easiest person to blame. The pettiness of Democrats can be seen in the 2016 election, where several potential Democratic candidates for chair were defeated in internal elections.

Alan Clendenin, Susannah Randolph, and Annette Taddeo were all defeated in races they needed to win to run for chair. The winner of the battle for state committeeman between Stephen Bittel and Dwight Bullard in Dade County will determine which candidate will run for party chairperson.

After losing the race for state committeeman in Hillsborough County after a controversial ruling by the county chair, Clendenin has moved to Bradford County in North Florida and was sworn in as the committeeman for Bradford County, making him once again eligible to run for state party chairperson.

Clendenin lost the election for the Democratic chair four years ago when he lost to outgoing chair Allison Tant by 139 votes.

It appears that Bittel is emerging as the last man standing, although there is still sufficient time for his campaign to be torpedoed. Bittel has been a major Democratic donor, which has led some Democrats to accuse him of trying to buy the position of chair.

Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat who will be up for election in 2018, says: “I think Stephen Bittel would bring that type of professionalism to the organization. We need a professional to run the organization and raise money.”

Bittel received a surprise endorsement from Keith Ellison, who is running for National Democratic Party chair. Ellison supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary, while Bittel was a backer of Hillary Clinton. One Revolution, an organization of Sanders supporters, has announced its support for Bullard, saying that “An extremely wealthy donor wants to buy his way to lead Florida’s Democratic Party and the only thing between him and control of the party is our political revolution.”

Bittel also won the endorsements of the Florida Educational Association and the Florida Service Employees Union, two important constituency groups within the Democratic Party.

Ingoglia, the incumbent Republican Party chair, is backed by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Sen. Marco Rubio and Susie Wiles, who managed Trump’s campaign in Florida. Wiles said that “I can say that the organization built under chairman Ingoglia’s leadership was a critical element in our success.”

With that backing and the Republican success in 2016, Ingoglia should be favored. But, with Scott sitting on the sidelines, he is really encouraging Republicans to back Zeigler.

On the Democratic side, no one should be foolish enough to predict what Florida Democrats will do. After all, they seldom know what they are doing.

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Darryl Paulson: Selecting the national party chairperson

(First of two parts)

The state and national elections are over. At least most of them are over. Still to be decided is the person who will chair the Florida and national party organizations. Is it much ado about nothing, or do party chairs make a difference?

Selecting the party chairperson is normally easier for the victorious party. Whoever wins the governorship or presidency usually can handpick the leader of the party. This was not the case in 2015 when Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s choice to head the Florida Republican Party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by challenger Blaise Ignoglia.

After winning the presidential race against Hillary Clinton, President-Elect Donald Trump selected Ronna Romney McDaniel to head the Republican Party. McDaniel, the niece of Mitt Romney, replaces party chair Reince Priebus who was chosen to be Trump’s chief of staff. McDaniel served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and played a key role in Michigan voting for the Republican presidential nominee for the first time since 1988.

McDaniel will become only the second woman to chair the Republican Party, the other being Mary Louise Smith, who was appointed by President Gerald Ford to head the party in 1974. The 168 members of the Republican National Committee will confirm McDaniel at their January 2017 meeting.

With the surprising loss of Hillary Clinton, the race for party chair is wide open. As the outgoing president, Barack Obama can influence, but not select the incoming party chair. As the losing candidate, Clinton will have no voice in picking the new head of the party.

The last Democratic Party Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, left the position in the midst of widespread controversy. Bernie Sanders supporters accused Wasserman Schultz of blatant favoritism for Clinton. The scarcity of Democratic presidential primary debates and the scheduling of those debates at non-prime viewing times was a major criticism of Wasserman Schultz.

The final straw occurred when WikiLeaks released emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) showing favoritism for Clinton, led to Schultz’s resignation at the close of the Democratic convention. Her fate was sealed when Schultz was loudly booed after addressing the Florida delegation and agreed not to gavel open the convention.

Donna Brazile was selected as interim chair of the Democratic Party until a permanent chair is elected by the DNC at its February meeting. The selection of a new party chair may help mend divisions within the party, or it may further divide the party and lead to an internal civil war between the establishment and progressive forces. Three months ago, everyone thought this would be a battle that Republicans, and not Democrats would be facing. Brazile warned Democrats that they need to “pick ourselves up” and not “pick each other apart.”

If an establishment candidate wins, the progressives will be angered that their views have been once again neglected by the party and some may seek to form their own political movement. If the progressives win, the Democrats run the risk of moving too far to the left and moving even further away from voters who gravitated to Trump. A similar problem confronted Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s when Republicans effectively branded Democrats as “San Francisco Democrats” who moved too far to the left.

Among the potential Democratic Party Chair candidates are South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison and New Hampshire Party Chair Ray Buckley, along with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

On December 15, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced his candidacy for party chair, and many believe he is the preferred candidate of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Ellison is backed by the progressive wing of the party and has the endorsement of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He is also supported by the outgoing Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, as well as the incoming leader, Chuck Schumer.

Critics have several concerns about an Ellison candidacy. As the only Muslim member of Congress, some are concerned that Dems will be accused of engaging in identity politics with a group that is not trusted by many American voters. Ellison’s writings have been critical of Israel and supportive of Louis Farrakhan and the Black Muslims. Ellison supported Farrakhan after he was attacked for his racist and anti-Semitic views, as well as his support for a separate state for blacks.

Another problem for Ellison is an issue that faced Wasserman Schultz. Can a sitting member of Congress have the time for both jobs and doesn’t that create conflicts of interest? Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, among others, has said the Democrats need a full-time chair. As a result of this criticism, Ellison has vowed to resign his congressional seat if selected as party chair.

Former presidential candidate and former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean flirted with serving as chair before backing away. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm‘s name was often mentioned for the job, but she has announced that she is supporting Perez, the most recent candidate to enter the field.

Where Romney McDaniel has the race for Republican Party Chair all wrapped-up, the Democratic field is wide open, and some of the announced candidates may drop out before the February vote of the DNC; others may enter the race if they see all of the current candidates unable to attract widespread support.

Also, Democrats have had a dual chair system before, so it is possible that both an establishment and progressive candidate might emerge. Wouldn’t that make things fun?

(Part 2: Selecting the Florida party chairs)

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

 

Alan Grayson: Florida Democrats need someone with a message

Imagine a populist Democrat who not only bucks the party but has to battle against it, funded only by small donations and passionate followers lured to a message about what’s in it for THEM.

Bernie Sanders? Alan Grayson? The party’s only hope in Florida if it wants to elect someone statewide, other than Bill Nelson? Or just another dreamer who mistakes popularity for electability, and goes down in flames in a party primary? Or Donald Trump, had he been a Democrat this time?

Grayson is wrapping up his third and, for now, final term as a Democratic congressman from Orlando, a never apologetic liberal lion with perhaps as much name recognition in California and New York as he does in Florida.

While looking ahead to his announced plans to run a legal or Florida constitutional amendment campaign to restore civil rights for felons, Grayson also  reflected on his own accomplishments, his collapsed campaign for the U.S. Senate, and his opinions for what it would take for the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee,and other Democratic establishments to win.

Grayson got crushed in the Aug. 30 primary, losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy by more than 40 points,. That was just a few weeks after many polls had the race fairly tight and an occasional survey even found Grayson ahead.

A lot contributed to Grayson’s pummeling, including renewed, ugly reports about his personal life, and his stubborn refusal to ever acknowledge that either his personal or business controversies were anybody’s damned business, or that he ought to address them. But so, too, did a late advertising blitz by Murphy and by various Democratic groups in support of Murphy or nasty opposition of Grayson, which the small-donors-only Grayson campaign couldn’t dream of matching.

Yet the lesson Grayson seemed to take from it was the one he’d expressed all along, that the Democratic Party wanted to back a safe, moderate, mainstream and, if possible, self-funded, candidate; and that such a candidate would surely lose big in Florida’s general election, like almost all the similar safe, moderate, mainstream, self-funded candidates the party had backed for a couple of decades. And Murphy did.

And so once again Grayson is calling, really wishing, for a new approach.

“Unless there is substantial structural change, the Blue Dogs will continue to make the argument that a populist Democrat, or for that matter a progressive Democrat, which is not exactly the same thing, has no chance of winning – because that’s the way they continue to dominate the statewide machinery,” Grayson said. “Even though they’ve been proved wrong in every single race except for Alex Sink’s race for CFO, every single race for a quarter century.”

Grayson said the party needs to stop relying on identity coaltion-building politics – black, Hispanic, gay etc. – and focus clearly on basic issues people can believe will improve their lives, and which can be delivered. In the senate campaign, his was “seniors deserve a raise,” which referred to his plans to expand Social Security and Medicare. Trump and Gov. Rick Scott won populist campaigns on bringing back jobs.

“There are populist issues that would actually bring the whole state together and galvanize the groups that we did extremely poorly with in the national election, for instance high school dropouts, where the Democratic Party got wiped out,” Grayson said. “The polls showed Bernie did 40 points better than Clinton with high school dropouts. 40.”

A populist campaign, he argued, that focuses on those issues as Sanders did, while paying little attention to issues that have only regional support in Florida, could win.

“There are a number of issues that play just as well in the Panhandle as they would play in South Florida and the polls show it. For instance, increasing the minimum wage. There’s basically majority support all around the state except for Fort Myers,” Grayson said. “There are certain issues, actually, that you do see regional differences like for instance gun control, like abortion, and not the way you might think. Abortion is not that popular in South Florida.”

He also railed against what he called “the commentariate and the political industrial complex” for writing off attempts to appeal to certain segments of voters, like much of the working class, because they don’t vote. This year they voted, for Trump.

“I think if the Democratic party stopped ignoring them, they might vote,” he said.

Tim Canova considering another run against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Despite losing his first bid for Congress to Debbie Wasserman Schultz by 14 percentage points last August, Democrat Tim Canova is considering taking another shot at the former DNC chair in 2018.

“I’m seriously considering it. An awful lot of folks are putting that bug in my ear and urging me to do so,” Canova told this reporter on WMNF radio’s MidPoint program on Thursday afternoon.

Canova says a lot has happened since his first ever bid for elected office ended on August 30, when his effort to defeat Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, fell short.

The biggest change, of course, since Canova’s loss was Donald Trump’s stunning election victory on November 8, a defeat that the ever-combative Nova Southeastern University law professor doesn’t give his former opponent a pass on.

“Just the weekend before the election she was on HBO’s Vice News doing an interview in which she played the victim,” he recounts.

“She complained about how Bernie Sanders supporters had demonized her for her role at the DNC. Even if there was validity to that argument, and I don’t think there is – I think she earned all the criticism that she got – but even if there was validity to it, why would somebody in her position, go on the air, three days before the presidential election, to alienate Bernie Sanders supporters who Hillary Clinton needs to get elected?”

“It showed the typical arrogance and overconfidence and really stupidity to be doing something like that,” he said, adding, “So yes, I am thinking of running against her again.”

Wasserman Schultz did not return our request for comment.

Just weeks after he lost to Wasserman Schultz, Canova announced the creation of a political and community action group last month called “Progress For All,” that he said would “will harness the power of our movement.”

In October, Canova announced the group would be working on a series of five different referendums to attempt to get on the November 2018 ballot, some of which other activists in the state have been working for years on.

Canova has been meeting with some of the organizations that have been working on some of those initial five proposals, such as those working on making Florida an open primary state and on getting ex-felons automatic restoration of their voting rights.

“We’re trying to create those coalitions that can work together on that,” he says.

And he’s looking forward to getting to know more about the candidates running for both the Florida Democratic Party chairman position and the Democratic National Committee. In both cases, though, Canova says that the Democratic Party makes it difficult to feel part of the process.

“I feel some frustration we’re talking at the state level, the local level and the national level, these choices are made in what seems like a dark room,” he says. “We don’t know enough about the candidates. They’re not in public forums in which we can hear their views, their experiences and their vision, and I think that’s very unfortunate. It was what we were up against in my primary.”

Canova’s choice for DNC chair is someone who isn’t running (at least yet).

That’s Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law school professor who lost a bid for Congress last month in New York.

While many Democrats remain in depression more than a month after Trump’s victory, Canova sounds more enthusiastic about making change within the Democratic party.

This is not the time for Democrats or anyone to be putting up the white flag.

“This country is in a dangerous spot right now,” Canova says. “We had two of most unpopular candidates in history. The Democrats complain about the FBI, James Comey, and the Russians and on and on.

“They really need to look in the mirror and say: what is it about our process and the candidates that we offered up that was not compelling to the American people. I think Democrats have unfortunately missed the boat on where the country is at.”

 

Mitch Perry Report for 12.8.16 – Al Gore gets punk’d

For the #NeverTrumper Republicans out there, this Trump presidency might work out pretty well, after all.

Jeb Bush was seen doing cartwheels after Trump selected Betty DeVos to become his Secretary of Education.

“I’m so excited,” Bush said last week at the National Summit on Education Reform, sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush founded and chairs and on which DeVos serves as a board member.

“President-elect Trump made an extraordinary choice with Betsy DeVos,” he added.

Similar hosannas are being thrown out today from the business community and Jim Inhofe’s of the world regarding The Donald’s choice of noted climate change denialist Scott Pruitt to serve as his EPA secretary.

Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, wrote in National Review in May that “the debate is far from settled” over whether human activity has contributed to the warming of the earth.
I’m wondering how Al Gore is feeling today about that?

On Monday, the former Vice President traveled to Trump Tower to discuss climate change with Ivanka Trump, but instead got face time with the soon to be most powerful man in the world.

“I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect,” he told reporters afterward, describing the meeting as “a sincere search for areas of common ground.

“I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued. And I’m just going to leave it at that,” he added.

He didn’t quite leave it at that, going on MSNBC later today that Ivanka “is very committed to having a climate policy that makes sense for our country and for our world, and that was certainly evident in the conversation that I had with her.”

There have been other clues that Trump’s team will lean closer towards Pruitt’s view of the world that Ivanka’s.

The head of his EPA transition team is Myron Ebell, who has never believed in the idea of global warming.

Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders are talking tough about Pruitt when it comes to his confirmation pick.

As Gore would say, to be continued.

In other news…

The blowback has been intense in some quarters regarding Monday night’s Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting. Hillsborough County School Board head April Griffin now says that DEC Chair Ione Townsend blocked her path to challenging her for the chair position a year ago. Townsend says she was just following the rules.

Following the Florida House of Representatives vote last month, Hillsborough County Commissioners may pass their own version of a no texting while lobbying bill.

And that idea that Les Miller had last month to rotate who gets to serve as the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners? Forget all that, please.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.6.16 – “Run, Joe, Run” was so 2015, wasn’t it?

One of my favorite sections of Bernie Sanders interview with Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone is when the curmudgeonly Vermont Senator bitches about the corporate establishment media.

“They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office,” he says. “Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.”

I write that as a prelude to the stories that floated yesterday that Joe Biden made some offhanded remark about perhaps running for president in 2020.

Really?

“I’m going to run in 2020. For president. So, uh, what the hell, man,” the departing vice president told reporters Monday with only a slight smile on his face. He then took it back. Slightly.

Asked if he was joking, he said: “I’m not committing not to run. I’m not committing to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “based on those remarks, Jon Cooper, who was national finance chairman for last year’s Draft Biden effort to coax the vice president into the 2016 presidential campaign, purchased a series of web domains including draftbiden2020.com, biden2020.net and runjoerun2020.com.”

Is this the time we mention that the 74-year-old VP will be 78 in 2020?

The obsession in this country with who will be president is so complete that when Donald J. Trump actually takes the oath of office in January 20, there will be some (maybe even the President) who are bored with the fact that there will be at least a year’s moratorium on speculating on who is running in 2020 – unless issues of impeachment come up.

We can’t forget that, since there were certainly Republicans hinting that they would go after Hillary Clinton if she were elected in the ugliest presidential election of our lifetime.

Look, from all the reports, Biden though hard of running for office as last as September of last year. There was considerable concern in Democratic circles that the FBI investigation into Clinton could result in an indictment, and then who’s your backup? But not only was Barack Obama firmly “with her,” but so was the entire Democratic Party establishment -embodied by the leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the DNC. There was no path for Biden, as much as he wanted to pursue the presidency for a third time.

So we should let Biden spout off – it’s something he’s done a lot in his professional career, which spans 46 years. But let’s not take it too seriously. There’s enough going on in the world today.

Meanwhile, Democrats at a local level are having their issues. We were at last night’s Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee meeting – and our story on that event will be up by 8:30 a.m. today. Check it out.

In other news..

Rick Scott is staying mum about the proposal that would repeal the law he signed in 2014 that allows for undocumented immigrant students qualify for in-state tuition for Florida colleges and universities.

The Governor was in Tampa on Monday, championing the men and women who work in state law enforcement and hyping his proposal to give them a raise.

Early and voting by mail totals favors Democrats in the Tampa City Council District 7 race taking place tonight.

North Carolina GOP Governor Pat McCrory finally gave up his month-long quest to save his job, and Equality Florida couldn’t be happier.

Bob Buckhorn disappointed that TPP is dead

Donald Trump made it official earlier this week: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is DOA in his upcoming administration.

“On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said on Monday in a brief video outlying his first 100 days that was posted on YouTube. Instead, he said, he said he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back”.

The TPP, a 12-country Pacific Rim trade agreement signed in 2015 but not ratified, did not have a lot of support in Congress, at least not while Barack Obama remained in power. It certainly had its supporters in the U.S., including farmers and ranchers. The TPP had promised to slash tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods in large markets such as Japan and Vietnam, as well as eliminate agricultural subsidies that gave competitors in the trade bloc an edge.

Several world leaders say without U.S. participation, the deal is completely dead.

Among those disappointed by the decision is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was chair of the TTP task force with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. His unbridled support entitled him to an invitation to a White House State Dinner in August when the Prime Minister of Singapore came to Washington. Singapore was one of the signatories to the pact.

Speaking to FloridaPolitics last week, Buckhorn said he was disappointed that Trump would not commit to the agreement, largely because he says the U.S. can’t retreat from competing in a global environment.

“We have relationships, we have alliances we want to reduce barriers, we want to reduce tariffs we want to engage and produce made in America products all over the globe. That’s good for America, that’s good for American jobs,” he said.

The TPP was opposed by labor group groups in the U.S. and their champions in Congress like Bernie Sanders. But Buckhorn says it’s wrong to think that trade agreements cause the economic dislocation that has so negatively hurt American workers.

“It’s the technology that is changing the way that American workers are working,  and so to hear the demogogery on both sides of the aisle over trade, was disappointing, because I don’t think that’s  reflection of American values and the way that America has competed around the globe,” Buckhorn said. “We need to be the leader, because if we don’t, then other people will, and if certainly in the case about TPP. The void by our absence will befilled by China, and the TPP criteria, whether it was on intellectual capital,whther it was on labor, whether it was on unions, the environment,  will not be nearly to the standard that the TPP would have been. So yeah, for me that’s disappointing and I hope it’s only a temporary condition in America.”

Donald Trump auditions Cabinet prospects high above Manhattan

Donald Trump held court from his perch high above Manhattan on Monday, receiving a line of former rivals, longtime allies and TV executives while overseeing a presidential transition that at times resembles a reality show like the one he once hosted.

Trump met with nearly a dozen prospective hires, all of whom were paraded in front of the cameras set up in the Trump Tower lobby as they entered an elevator to see the president-elect. Out of public view himself, he fell back on his TV star roots by filming a video that touted his legislative goals once he takes office.

Trump; did not immediately announce any appointments after the meetings, which came on the heels of a two-day whirlwind of interviews at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Unlike his predecessors, who often spoke with Cabinet candidates under a cloud of secrecy, Trump has turned the search into a very public audition process. The extraordinary exercise took on a routine feel on Monday: First, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown stepped off the gold-plated elevator into the marble-coated lobby after his meeting to declare to waiting reporters that he was “the best person” to become Veterans Affairs secretary.

Next, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a candidate for interior secretary, did much the same, striding off the lift to say she had “a wonderful discussion” with Trump. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry declined to speak to reporters, but he did take time for a photo with the Naked Cowboy, the underwear-sporting, guitar-strumming New York institution who is normally a fixture at Times Square but has spent recent days camped out at Trump Tower singing about the president-elect.

Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who resigned her post on the Democratic National Committee after endorsing Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, also met with Trump but entered and exited out of sight. She later defended crossing party lines to meet with Trump about U.S. involvement in Syria, saying in a statement she would never “play politics with American and Syrian lives.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a longtime Trump ally, also arrived with his wife, Callista, and told reporters that he indicated to Trump that he was interested in being a “senior planner” to coordinate long-term political efforts among the Republicans in control of all three branches of government.

Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said of the visitors, “Not all of them will be in his Cabinet and his federal government, but they are all incredibly important in offering their points of views, their experience and certainly their vision of the country.”

No one was saying whether Trump would announce more appointments before heading to Florida for Thanksgiving. He was planning to leave Tuesday or Wednesday to spend the holiday at his Mar-a-Lago estate, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence will spend Thanksgiving in Mississippi, where his Marine son is stationed.

Trump has largely remained out of sight since winning the election, save for a flurry of brief public appearances over the weekend, often with Pence at his side, to flash thumbs-ups and provide quick updates on his progress in building a government. He remained in the upper floors of his skyscraper Monday, seeking counsel on the phone and interviewing candidates all while keeping an eye on the cable news coverage of the day’s events.

He appeared in a two-and-a-half minute video released late Monday in which he pledged to the American people that he was appointing “patriots” to his administration and reiterated a number of his campaign promises, including plans to renegotiate trade deals, scrap excessive regulations and institute a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists.

The video — which made no mention of key pledges to build a border wall with Mexico or repeal the Affordable Care Act — continues the president-elect’s practice of trying to go over the heads of the media and take his case directly to the American public. Since Election Day, he has twice ditched the group of reporters designated to follow his movements and has so far eschewed the traditional news conference held by the president-elect in the days after winning.

Trump has not held a full-fledged news conference since July.

But the media were clearly on his mind as he met with executives and on-air personalities from TV networks. He frequently singled out the media — declaring them “so dishonest” — for criticism during the campaign, but it’s not unusual for presidents to hold off-the-record meetings with journalists when trying to promote policies or programs.

Among the attendees were NBC anchor Lester Holt and “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, ABC’s “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos and anchor David Muir, CBS’ “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and several executives at the networks.

None of the attendees would discuss the meeting with reporters in the lobby, though Conway said it was “very cordial, very productive, very congenial.”

Those Trump met with over the weekend included former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a former critic now being considered for secretary of state; retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who Trump dubbed an “impressive” prospect for defense secretary, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, who is under consideration for Commerce secretary.

“We’ve made a couple of deals,” Trump said Sunday. He gave assurances that “incredible meetings” would be bringing “incredible people” into the government.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.20.16 — Bill de Blasio’s big moment?

In New York City today, Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to give a “major speech” on the presidential election’s impact on the city. De Blasio wants help from the feds to pay for the additional security costs in dealing with the fact that the president-elect’s home is literally in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

The NYPD has already put about an additional 50 officers on each shift during daytime hours to manage the flow of traffic in the immediate area of Trump Tower, de Blasio said Friday, and he wants Washington to help pay for overtime costs.

Although being mayor of New York already presents a huge national platform, de Blasio’s profile could grow larger as a dominant liberal voice in opposition to the new Donald Trump administration, along with the usual suspects (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, etc.)

“The mayor has an enormous opportunity to stand up on behalf of New Yorkers and our values. Lots of New Yorkers are afraid of Trump and the mayor can be their voice,” political consultant Howard Wolfson, who advised Michael Bloomberg and served on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign team, told the NY Post on Sunday.

It also may help him as he begins his quest to be re-elected in 2017.

If you’ve followed de Blasio’s tenure to date so far, you know it’s been somewhat checkered, to say the least, following 12 years under Bloomberg. Scorned by conservatives, he hasn’t exactly fired up his own liberal base, and his poll numbers have been pretty average throughout his first three years.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows the populace split in half as he received a 47/47 percent approval rating. However, that was his BEST rating since January and up from a negative 42/51 percent approval rating in August.

However, that same poll shows that by a  49-39 percent margin, NYC voters say they don’t support his re-election. To date, no major players have surfaced to challenge the mayor, but there’s still nearly a year for a serious opponent to surface.

Another big mayoral election will take place a year from now in St. Petersburg, where Rick Kriseman’s poll numbers have been solid, though he could be vulnerable if a strong challenger emerges.

In other news …

Local reporters/pundits discussed the 2016 presidential election at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday.

Donald Trump has been busy nominating men for his Cabinet, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Bill Nelson says he’s withholding judgement on his Senate colleague.

Eckerd College president Donald Eastman is one of 110 college presidents to pen a letter to president-elect Trump on the need to speak out against violence being committed in his name.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel call on Donald Trump to withdraw appointment of Steve Bannon

Calling the appointment over the weekend of former Breitbart news executive Steve Bannon to serve as White House senior counselor “an incendiary decision,” South Florida Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel are calling on president-elect Trump to withdraw the selection.

“President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as White House senior counselor is an incendiary decision that shows the president-elect is not committed to healing our nation after a hard-fought and divisive election,” the two legislators said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

In the week since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton for president, no single action by Trump has caused as much uproar from Democrats, the media, and even some Republicans as has been the selection of Bannon to move into the White House after Trump is inaugurated in January.

Bannon’s defenders say he is getting a bad rap: that he is a former Goldman Sachs banker who holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and has produced several documentaries.

Critics highlight his role at Breitbart, which he called “the platform for the alt-right” in July, referring to the online movement that sometimes traffics in racism and anti-Semitism.

In August, Trump hired Bannon to be the CEO of his campaign on the same day he chose Kellyanne Conway to be his new campaign manager.

Other high-profile legislators also are calling on Trump to withdraw the selection of Bannon, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who called him “a racist individual.”

“We do not simply disagree with Bannon’s legislative or political agenda and philosophy; we have grave misgivings about his professional career history, in which he provided a megaphone for intolerance and hatred of the diversity that makes our nation truly great,” write Wasserman Schultz and Frankel.

“Bannon’s allies include the American Nazi Party, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and a variety of other white nationalist groups. As Jewish-American leaders and policymakers, we cannot stand silently by while Steve Bannon assumes a senior position at the highest level of our government. We call on president-elect Trump, in the interest of all Americans, to withdraw his choice because rewarding anti-Semitism, bigotry, and misogyny with such a position of power and influence is tantamount to embracing it.”

 

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