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Rick Scott pours another $18 million of his money into U.S. Senate campaign

Republican Gov. Rick Scott tapped his own wealth in August and September to the tune of more than $18 million to fuel his U.S. Senate campaign.

The contributions, listed in the latest campaign finance reports covering the period of Aug. 9-Sept. 30, brings Scott’s total personal contributions to his campaign to almost $39 million, accounting for 70 percent of the nearly $54 million his campaign had raised through the end of the third quarter of 2018, and the campaign had spent nearly all of that going into October.

Meanwhile the re-election campaign of his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has raised just under half as much  – but none of it through Nelson’s wealth – and spent about a third as much so far as Scott’s campaign has done.

And as a result, Nelson entered the stretch run on Oct. 1 with more campaign cash on hand, though Scott’s personal contributions may continue.

On Oct. 2, Nelson’s campaign reported having $8.6 million in the bank for the stretch run. Scott’s campaign reported having $2 million, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted by Tuesday by the Federal Election Commission.

Since the pre-primary campaign finance report for the period that ended Aug. 9, Scott’s campaign reported raising $4.9 million from individuals, $306,000 from political action committees, and $18,275,528 million from Scott’s own contributions. That presented a total raised during the seven-week period of $23.5 million.

Scott’s personal donations included $275,528 in his in-kind contributions, mainly campaign transportation aboard his private jet.

He also made pretty much weekly contributions in the millions of dollars cash. On Aug. 15, he gave his campaign $2.5 million; on Aug 21, $3 million; on Aug. 28, $3 million; on Sept. 7, $1.5 million; Sept. 17, $4 million; and Sept. 24, $4 million.

Scott’s campaign also spent $24.9 million during that period ending Sept. 30.

That brought the total spent to date by Rick Scott for Florida to $52.7 million, with five weeks left in the campaign.

During the same period Nelson’s campaign reported raising $5 million from individuals, $176,000 from PACs. With a few other receipts and refunds, that meant his campaign cleared $5.3 million in the seven weeks after Aug. 8.

Nelson’s campaign spent $11.3 million during the period.

Yet the campaign had held back spending for months, so through Sept. 30 Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate had spent only $18 million.

All of this is in addition to the money being spent on the race by outside groups. Various political committees trying to get Nelson elected have spent $25 million campaigning in Florida so far, and political groups trying to get Scott elected have spent $17 million.

Bill Nelson campaign charges Rick Scott with dodging voters

Since Hurricane Michael became an imminent threat and then made a catastrophic landfall last week, Gov. Rick Scott has been in emergency management mode.

That role, familiar for the two-term Republican governor, has insulated Scott from  campaign events and inconvenient questions from media about issues ranging from Donald Trump to his blind trust.

The Scott campaign has already teased the possibility of Scott no longer appearing on the trail at all, with his wife Ann Scott serving as a surrogate — of the sort who can’t be expected to answer policy questions.

However, contends Dan McLaughlin (an adviser and former spokesperson for Nelson), Scott leaving the trail is simply a “cynical attempt to avoid facing voters.”

“We’re not going to let Rick Scott hide from voters in the last three weeks of a major election — especially while he’s significantly increasing his negative TV attack ads,” McLaughlin vowed.

McLaughlin charges Scott with wiring $18 million of his own money for these ads, though it should be added that Scott has been adding positive messaging to the mix.

Piggybacking off an item in POLITICO Florida, McLaughlin noted that Scott “can’t campaign around the state without protesters; he can’t risk having to answer people’s questions directly; he can’t campaign across a state that’s plagued with red tide and green algae; he can’t campaign and answer questions on how he’s enriched himself in public office.”

McLaughlin bemoaned the rescheduling of a CNN debate from Oct. 16 to Oct. 30, describing it as “very late in the election,” and suggested a town hall … a format that the Governor likely wouldn’t prefer.

Nelson soon enough took to Twitter himself to slam Scott for a contrast/attack ad in which the Governor compared his storm relief work to Nelson’s negative campaigning. Below, just a few of the tweets from the afternoon.

Republicans were quick to pounce on what one op called a “bizarre Twitter rant.”

Camille Gallo, NRSC Regional Press Secretary: “Meanwhile, nobody seems to know where Senator Nelson even is today….  So, we have to ask, is everything ok over there?”

Gallo spotlighted “laughably claiming the Governor is hiding from voters” and “having ranted about the CNN debate being cancelled because of the storm, claiming he’d debate on October 22nd before voting starts…but Floridians have been able to vote by mail for weeks.”

Additionally, Gallo notes “Nelson doubled down on the ad his liberal pals are running for him that shamelessly mocks Governor Rick Scott’s military service.”

New Rick Scott ad spotlights storm relief efforts

Gov. Rick Scott is dedicated largely to post-Michael recovery these days, and a new ad from his campaign is designed to remind voters of that fact.

“With the campaign nearly over, let’s take a behind the scenes peek at both candidates,” the narrator observes.

Scott is “leading hurricane recovery, directing relief efforts, and even housing state troopers in his own home.”

The aforementioned home is the Governor’s Mansion.

“And Sen. Nelson? Running false attack ads mocking Gov. Scott’s service in the Navy,” the narrator chides, calling it a “new low” and “dirty politics” from Nelson.

One tripwire for this spot: a third-party group (VoteVets) accusing Scott of using his familiar Navy ball cap for political optics while he “cheated” veterans, in an ad that got national coverage in outlets like Fox News.

Another tripwire: a senior Nelson campaign hand charging Scott with using storm recovery as a way to dodge voters and media on the campaign trail, while spending $18 million on ad buys … including negative ads targeted against the Democratic incumbent.

The Scott campaign decried all of this, somehow invoking the Senate Minority Leader in the process.

“Sen. Nelson and his Democratic Party boss Chuck Schumer have truly reached a new low by mocking the Governor’s military service. Considering that Schumer controls Nelson’s vote and is funding his campaign, it hardly comes as a surprise that Democrats have gotten this desperate. Regardless, while Nelson continues to play dirty politics, Governor Scott will continue to focus on leading hurricane recovery,” asserted Chris Hartline, Scott for Florida Spokesman.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

New commercial fills Bill Nelson’s suit with scary things

The Republican political committee that brought Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s “empty suit” commercials running constantly for weeks released a new ad that fills the suit with everything from tax increase votes to a confused mind.

The new 30-second spot, “Lining,” from New Republican Political Action Committee, the committee Republican Gov. Rick Scott set up to support his U.S. Senate campaign, brings up all the charges pushed earlier: Nelson voted to raise taxes; he’s been collecting government paychecks for 45 years, now totaling millions of dollars in pay; he voted to cut Medicare; and making up a story about Russian interference … all because he’s confused.

Nelson’s campaign has rebutted most of those charges repeatedly, stating, for example, that the Republican’s assertion that he voted 375 times for tax increases is inaccurate; and that the vote referenced as a Medicare cut was no such thing, but rather a vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, which included reductions in the amounts that Medicare would reimburse to hospitals, not cuts in coverage for patients.

“Lining” doesn’t get into such detail.

“We know Bill Nelson is an empty suit. But look inside,” the narrator begins as an empty suit flips open to show lining and pockets.

“Forty-five years in office, Nelson has earned millions and a huge pension we’re paying for. Controlled by his party, Nelson has voted 89 percent of the time with them, even voting to raise taxes 375 times, and cutting our Medicare. A confused Nelson even made up stories about Russian election interference.

“Bill Nelson’s suit is empty. But it’s lined with danger and confusion that hurts Florida families,” the narrator concludes.

New Republican PAC has spent $15 million so far on the race, including on more than a half-dozen TV commercials attacking Nelson, almost all of them asserting that he’s been in office way too long, and that he is “confused.”

Outside money now at $42 million in Florida’s U.S. Senate race

Outside groups have spent almost $17 million just in the past two weeks on advertising and other campaigning in the battle between Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Florida’s U.S. Senate election.

That spending ramped up from an already impressive $25 million that outside groups previously had spent in 2018, fueling waves of television commercials, stacks of campaign mailers, and other campaign support, according to the latest U.S. Senate independent expenditure reports, through last Friday, posted by the Federal Election Commission.

Nelson continues to be the biggest beneficiary of outside money, as more than $10.3 million was spent in the past two weeks either supporting him or attacking Scott, while $6.6 million was spent supporting Scott or attacking Nelson.

The grand total in outside spending so far: $25.6 million spent to support Nelson or oppose Scott; $17 million to support Scott or oppose Nelson.

Yet the spending is led by the pro-Scott New Republican Political Action Committee, the PAC that Scott set up as an outside group to support his campaign, and then left. It spent $5.4 million in the past two weeks and now has spent $14.8 million overall.

Not far behind was the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, the Democrats’ PAC supporting Nelson, which spent $4.5 million in the past two weeks, and now has spent $11 million in Florida, mostly bashing Scott.

Two other PACs, the Democrats’ Majority Forward and Priorities USA Action, each spent more than $2 million for Nelson’s benefit since the Sept. 30 reports, while Americans for Prosperity Action dropped more than $1 million to aid Scott’s campaign.

Priorities USA now has spent $6.4 million overall, and Majority forward, $4.5 million. Americans for Prosperity and several of its related groups have combined to spend about $1.2 million so far in Florida.

Ten other political committees have spent at least $100,000 apiece on the Nelson-Scott race. Most of them support Nelson or oppose Scott.

Though with three weeks to go, the 2018 outside spending still has not eclipsed the record set in 2016 when outside groups, mostly supporting Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and attacking Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, combined to spend $54.2 million. In 2012, the last time Nelson ran, the outside spending reached only $22.5 million.

Missing this year, compared with 2016 when Rubio last ran, is any major participation from the two primary groups supporting Republicans running for the U.S. Senate, the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In 2016 the Republican leadership PACs combined to spend more than $18 million to aid Rubio. This year the Senate Leadership Fund has spent just $18,000 on online advertising to support Scott, while the NRSC has not entered the Florida contest.

The Sunshine State is not the biggest national battleground for outside groups, although it is close. The FEC reports show that more than $53 million has been spent in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, and $42 million also has been spent in the U.S. Senate race in Indiana.

Lawmakers vow to rebuild damaged Air Force base

Northwest Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where pilots train to fly the F-22 stealth fighter, won’t be abandoned because of major damage it sustained in Hurricane Michael, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson vowed Monday.

Speaking to reporters at Tallahassee International Airport, Nelson sought to dismiss growing concerns that the storm-battered base outside Panama City will follow the path of what had been Homestead Air Force Base, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and subsequently became an Air Force Reserve base.

“I think that fear is unfounded,” Nelson said. “As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I can say that Tyndall will be rebuilt, and it will be an example of a modern U.S. Air Force base. That is because it is critically located right next to one of our greatest national assets, the Air Force Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range, which is the largest testing and training range for the United States military in the world.”

Nelson, a Democrat, is up for re-election and has been touring the storm damage in the Panhandle as his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, has overseen the state’s response.

On Friday, Nelson joined U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican from Panama City, in a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Pentagon Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein showing support for rebuilding Tyndall.

“Each of us stand ready to work with the Air Force to rebuild Tyndall AFB and advocate for the resources needed to do so,” the lawmakers wrote.

After Andrew devastated Homestead, the Pentagon failed to get funding to rebuild the Air Force base. Later, the military and civilian workforce were reassigned, and the facility reopened as a smaller Air Force Reserve base.

A year ago, the Pentagon put a $3.4 billion value on the facilities at Tyndall — which encompasses 29,000 acres in southeastern Bay County and has about 11,000 military and civilian personnel. The Pentagon estimated the base’s annual economic impact — combining payroll, expenditures and jobs created — at $596 million.

Tyndall is home to the 325th Fighter Wing, which trains pilots for the F-22 Raptors, which are each valued at up to $339 million.

Of the 55 F-22 stealth fighters housed at Tyndall, at least 33 were sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio before Michael made landfall in nearby Mexico Beach with 155 mph sustained winds.

The base also houses the 601st Air Operations Center, which directs operations for NORAD Defensive Counter Air activities and responds to natural and man-made disasters.

Base command at Tyndall last week called the hit from Michael “widespread catastrophic damage,” with every structure damaged, including hangars where planes that could not be flown out — due to maintenance or safety reasons — had been sheltered.

Wilson, the Air Force secretary, said — after touring the base and meeting with 93 airmen who rode out the storm — that Tyndall will reopen when safe, but she couldn’t offer a timeline for operations to return.

“Right now, it is still not safe to do so,” Wilson said in a video posted Monday on Facebook.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright added in the video, “I feel pretty good about the future of Tyndall” when discussing the recovery efforts.

Wilson, Goldfein and Wright issued a statement Sunday that noted no injuries occurred during the storm.

“That’s a testament to the base’s leadership and sound judgement in the face of rapidly changing storm predictions,” the statement said.

The statement also didn’t indicate when personnel would return other than to say “it will take time to recover, but we’ve been through this before and our airmen are up to the challenge.”

They added that the damage to the aircraft that remained on the ground “was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

“We also looked into each of the hangars that housed aircraft which weathered the storm for maintenance or safety reasons,” the statement said. “Visually, they were all intact and looked much better than expected considering the surrounding damage to some structures. Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies.”

The statement posted on Facebook didn’t say how many aircraft had been left on the base.

Parkland parent endorses Rick Scott in new ad

Rick Scott, Florida’s outgoing Republican Governor, is out with a new ad in the race for U.S. Senate, highlighting the endorsement of Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter in February’s shooting in Parkland.

Scott is attempting to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

In the new minute-long ad, titled “Meadow,” Pollack speaks of the loss of his daughter during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I get my strength when I think of my daughter and how much she means to me,” Pollack begins.

“I just didn’t want to believe it that out of all the people that it could’ve been my daughter on that third floor. And I also lost a big part of my life that day. I might as well have been buried with her because I’ll never be the same.”

Pollack then turns to discussing the work he did on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was signed by Scott.

“I put my mind into working. So I picked a battle that we’ll all agree on no matter what party you’re affiliated with, and that’s protecting our kids in the schools. The Governor said to me numerous times, ‘Andy, you stay focused. Don’t get distracted and stick to your mission.’ And we did it. We got that bill passed in Florida.

“Rick Scott wasn’t worried about the politics that came with that bill, and he did what he thought was right. We need a politician that’s going to do what’s right. I truly believe that, that Rick Scott loves this country, and he wants to get up to Washington and make a difference.”

That bill raised the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21. It also banned bump stocks, the type of modification used in last year’s Las Vegas shooting, among other new restrictions.

Other Parkland parents have endorsed Nelson in his re-election bid, including Fred Guttenberg.

You can watch Scott’s new ad below.

Bill Nelson: Tyndall won’t close over Hurricane Michael damage

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says Tyndall Air Force Base won’t close despite tremendous damage caused by Hurricane Michael.

Tyndall officials this week briefed the Florida Democrat, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the impact of the storm.

“Tyndall is totally devastated,” Nelson said. “The older buildings will have to be razed and rebuilt The newer structures on the base that have survived the monster storm will need substantial repairs.”

But he said the base remains a “vital component of our national defense.”

The proclamation comes despite a New York Times article this week stating the base was “a total loss.”

Base leadership meanwhile continues to tell service members and families stationed there that progress continues.

“Today is a better day than yesterday, and things are going to keep getting better,” wrote Col. Brian S. Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing Commander, in an open letter Saturday.

“Each day we recover more of Tyndall Air Force Base. Teams from around the country have arrived with the people and equipment we need to recover from Hurricane Michael.”

The letter does allude to continued evacuation of the base, as well as the arrival of recovery teams there. Laidlaw said minimum evacuation distance requirements have been reduced.

Anxiety about the significance of the base economically for the Panhandle ratcheted up, especially when it became clear Michael brought storm strength on par or greater than Hurricane Andrew.

In 1992, that infamous storm struck Homestead Air Force Base and largely leveled the facilities.

The following year, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended to President Bill Clinton that the base be shuttered. It remains in use as the Homestead Air Reserve Base but no longer houses the same level of activity.

But Nelson said Tyndall won’t suffer the same fate. One of the world’s largest testing and training grounds for the military remains in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. He said that greatly reduced the chance of closure.

Nelson’s office thinks the senator was the first federal official to tour the storm-impacted area of the state. He said he also continues to work with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on bipartisan efforts to bring federal resources to the coast for assistance with recovery and rebuilding.

Michael mangles campaign schedules

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s tremendous destruction, this no longer looks like a typical campaign weekend, as many of the candidates for office instead devote 100 percent of their time to storm-struck areas.

Gov. Rick Scott, Republican U.S. Senate candidate, called for a delay in a Tuesday debate with incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Instead, he says he will focus exclusively on recovery efforts. The governor plans to tour every county affected by the storm, he told MyPanhandle.com.

Nelson, meanwhile, has also been touring the Panhandle and continues to do so, while also working with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to align federal resources for storm recovery.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, also has job duties keeping him off the campaign trail. He will remain in Tallahassee helping with disaster response. But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will campaign on his behalf in West Palm Beach and Delray Beach today, according to the Palm Beach Post. Surrogates will be filling in through the day regarding pre-planned events in South Florida today. Gillum’s wife R. Jai Gillum, along with running mate Chris King‘s wife Kristen, will participate in the Miami Susan G. Komen Pink Walk and hold a talk on Gillum’s health care platform.

In the morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis , Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody and Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell will join forces to delivery supplies to storm-ravaged areas. The candidates will connect at the Busy Bee Truck Stop in Live Oak at 10 a.m.. Then the “Working for Florida” caravan rides with Bikers for Trump to Rutherford High School in Panama City, where they expect to arrive around 1:30 p.m. The Republican Party of Florida also organized a relief supply shipment that will arrive at Grayton Beer Company in Santa Rosa Beach sometime between 10:30 a.m. and noon, and encouraged volunteers that can get to the location to assist.

DeSantis later today plans to attend an event at the Temple Kol Ami Emanuel in Plantation at 4 p.m. He plans to discuss Israel policy and the BDS Movement. Yesterday, he swung through South Florida yesterday to pick up a police union endorsement. His running mate, Jeanette Nunez, meanwhile, visited the Bay County EOC of Friday.

Tyndall AFB

Members of Congress to feds: Speed up Tyndall recovery

In a rare moment of bipartisanship during a fierce campaign season, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson joined Panhandle Congressman Neal Dunn to send a letter to the Department of Defense urging them to expedite repairs at Tyndall Air Force Base.

The base was critically damaged during Hurricane Michael.

The storm made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach, southeast of Panama City. Tyndall is directly in between the two cities and was in the path of Michael’s eye.

The Air Force described the damage sustained as “catastrophic.” High winds shredded hangars that were housing fighter jets.

An F-15 on display was flipped on over onto the ground. Vehicles were tossed around the parking lot. Even brand-new roofs were ripped from buildings.

The group of two Republicans and a Democrat explained that the base is home to the F-22 Raptor, the nation’s premier air-to-air fighter jet that ensures American military dominance in the skies.

The base also is home to the 601st Air Operations Center that serves as the front-line defense against threats to homeland security and conducts critical relief efforts after natural disasters like Hurricane Michael.

“The base serves a critical role in protecting and promoting U.S. national security interests and it is vital that we rapidly repair infrastructure and restore operations in the wake of the storm,” the group wrote.

The trio requested “consistent, immediate and detailed communication of the funding and support needed to repair infrastructure, restore operations and provide for local service members, civilians and their families.”

The storm made landfall as a strong Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph around the eyewall. That’s just 2 mph less than a Category 5, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit north Florida.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power as others suffered devastating wind and flood damage.

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