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Bill Nelson backing Terrie Rizzo for Florida Democratic Party chair

The most powerful Democrat in the state has endorsed Terrie Rizzo to be the next leader of the Florida Democratic Party, giving her a clear path to the chairmanship.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson publicly backed the Palm Beach County Chair on Friday, a day before elected party officials get to elect the next party chair.

Nelson has 42 votes toward the next chair. While it is not the most of any other members — Committeeman Stephen Bittel and Committeewoman Francesca Menes each have 62 votes — Nelson definitely has the most sway.

In a press release announcing the endorsement, Rizzo said his support “seals the deal in the bid for chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement from such a diverse group of electors. It means a great deal to have the support of both the grassroots and current and former elected leaders like Alex Sink, Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman (Val) Demings,” Rizzo said.

Miami-Dade Democrats have a very big influence on who gets elected, and on Friday an electronic vote was opened to members. The results of that electronic vote will be published early Saturday morning.

DEC member JeffreyDocSolomon will be casting Bittel’s 62 votes.

Solomon said in a Facebook post he’d be “honoring the vote of our Miami-Dade DEC membership.”

Hillsborough County Democrat Alma Gonzalez and Brevard County Chairwoman Stacey Patel are still in the race and will face Rizzo at the election in Orlando.

Monica Russo backs Stacey Patel for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Two days after bowing out of the race, Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union is endorsing Brevard County DEC Chair Stacey Patel in the election for Florida Democratic Party Chair.

“We are at a moment where we need to embrace our young leaders and bring them into the fold to help us reach that finish line together and united,” Russo wrote on Facebook.The grassroots energy we have across the state should be uplifted, not sidelined.

“The values that guide Stacey Patel’s #OurParty movement exemplifies this vision. The history and heart of our party lies in the grassroots organizing. We must build bridges across our communities in order to have the strongest movement for justice, dignity and respect for all.

“We will live or die by these principles. Twenty years of Republican leadership has left Florida near the bottom in national rankings around affordable housing, access to health care, education, incarceration and more.

“Clearly, twenty years of the current Democratic strategy has been ineffective and has not brought Floridians together. It is time for a new path to victory.

“Together we Rise!”

“Unbelievably honored and humbled to have earned the support of Monica Russo, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida and executive vice president at 1199 SEIU. Her decades of grassroots organizing and advocacy for workers’ rights and gender justice is an inspiration,” Patel responded later on Friday.

I look forward to standing with Monica and working people across Florida to elect Democrats who are deeply committed to creating economic, social and environmental justice for all. The time has come to build a grassroots movement that unleashes the power of the people to transform #OurParty, our state and our country.”

Patel is running against Palm Beach County DEC Chair Terrie Rizzo and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez in the race for FDP Chair that will be decided Saturday in Orlando.

Earlier on Friday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson announced his support for Rizzo. That vote represents 42 votes in the weighted system that the FDP uses to elect a chair.

 

Alma Gonzalez backed by Kathy Castor and Democratic Labor Caucus as chair election nears

Less than 48 hours before a select group of Florida Democrats chooses their new state leader, Alma Gonzalez announced a series of new endorsements in the race for the party’s state chair.

Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor announced that she was backing the Hillsborough County State Committeewoman, who is competing against Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Terrie Rizzo and Brevard County Democratic Executive Chair Stacey Patel.

“Alma Gonzalez has been fighting for working Floridians, students and seniors her entire career,” Castor said in a statement. “Alma is a passionate advocate for affordable health care, high-quality education, higher wages and a healthy and clean environment.  She is the right leader at the right time for our diverse and growing Florida Democratic Party, and I am proud to endorse her for Chair of the Party.  With Alma’s leadership, we are going to win the Governor’s mansion, keep  U.S. Senator Bill Nelson working for us, and win seats at every level — up and down the ballot — to benefit our neighbors across our great state.”

Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and state Reps. Bobby Dubose of Fort Lauderdale and Joseph Geller from Hollywood also announced their endorsements for Gonzalez, as did the Democratic Labor Caucus of Florida.

“Her long-held support of the struggle for economic justice for all working men and women, continuous union membership, professional legal background, institutional knowledge and experience as a past executive officer in the FDP, two-term member of the Democratic National Committee and experience as an elected county committeewoman has resulted in a majority vote of our governing council, in her favor,” said John C. Parker, the president of the Democratic Labor Caucus.

“As a lifelong union member and activist, my labor brothers and sisters are family. I am proud to have their support,” Gonzalez said. “My involvement in the labor movement has taught me the importance of standing together in solidarity to face the challenges that our working families are dealing with every day.”

That previous labor background includes years serving as legal counsel for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the state’s biggest government employees union and a potent political force in Tallahassee.

The Florida Democratic Black, Hispanic and Caribbean caucuses have each previously endorsed Gonzalez.

Approximately 182 Florida Democrats will decide on who will become the next party chair Saturday in Orlando.

Bill Nelson: ‘Al Franken should step aside’

As Sen. Al Franken prepares for an all-but-certain resignation Thursday, former allies in the Senate are calling for him to step down.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable. I agree with a majority of the Democratic senators that Sen. Franken should step aside,” said Sen. Bill Nelson Wednesday evening.

Nelson joins Minority Leader Charles Schumer and over half of the Democrats in the Senate to call for Nelson to step down, per The New York Times.

Nelson had booked Franken for a November fundraiser, which was to have happened just as the first stories about Franken began to circulate in the media.

Franken was said at the time to be “no longer available.”

Hours from now, he likely will no longer be available in the Senate.

Nelson may face questions as to why he was one of the later Democrats in the Senate to call for his colleague’s resignation.

Hmmm … poll shows Rick Scott with 10-point lead over Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate seat

A new poll from St. Leo University found Gov. Rick Scott has surpassed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in for Nelson’s seat in 2018.

The poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided.

Eight months ago Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead.

Scott, a Republican, has not formally entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he is termed-out as governor and is almost sure to challenge Nelson, a Democrat, in his campaign for a fourth term next year.

“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said polling institute director Frank Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”

Scott has also made considerable strides over the last two months when it comes to voters’ perception of his job performance.

Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light.

Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.

The poll also touched on the leading candidates to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, though the bulk of the survey was conducted when Orlando attorney John Morgan was still considering a run in the Democratic Primary.

Morgan, who said the day after Thanksgiving he would not run for governor as a Democrat, had the most support among Dems at about 13 percent, followed by former congresswoman Gwen Graham at 9.4 percent.

Among all voters lumped together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — Morgan again came out on top with 24 percent support, followed by Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam at just under 19 percent.

About 53 percent of Democratic voters said they were unsure, leaving the race wide open for fellow Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum (6 percent), Orlando-area businessman Chris King (3 percent) and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (2 percent).

“No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest,” Orlando said.

Putnam, who has gone gangbusters on the fundraising trail, leads the Republican field with 15 percent support, though nearly 63 percent of GOP respondents were unsure.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, not yet a candidate, was second-place among named options at 4.8 percent, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and embroiled Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, both with under 3 percent support.

“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando said. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”

The poll took in responses from 500 Florida voters — including 181 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and has a 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. More detailed information on the poll’s methodology and findings can be found on the St. Leo University polling website.

Blake Dowling: Vols, Lane Kiffin, Jimbo Fisher and all the social media #goodstuff

Have you ever lost an election, been fired or run out of an organization? Lane Kiffin has.

Currently, Kiffin coaches the Florida Atlantic University football team. Before that, he had stopped at the Raiders, USC and (for today’s purposes) the University of Tennessee.

I never met Lane, but I knew his ex-wife Layla in college. We went to an ATO date function together; she was a first-class individual, so I assumed Lane was a putz, mostly based on him not being married to her anymore — as well as all the football firings.

Perhaps I was wrong.

Kiffin showed the world the hilarity and power of social media this week with a (far beyond) humorous post about his former employer, the Tennessee Vols.

As you may know, the Vols have had a heck of a time filling its vacant coaching position. They tried to hire Greg Schiano, but the campus protested.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit asked: “Why would anyone want to go there?

So, Lane takes an opportunity to tweet the above image, lighting up the internet like Frank the Tank at the Governors Club on a Monday night. As of this minute, 84,000 likes.

Well played, sir; revenge is a tweet best served frigid.

Mike is about to get jacked.

And, of course, at Florida State this week, the rumor mill is going crazy about Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M, with which the school was struggling until Friday’s announcement.

The Jimbo era is over.

The last week struggles included, a fan on the call-in show gets shoved and microphone yanked out of his hand for asking Jimbo about loyalty to the program.

He responded so politely, he earns a round of applause.

The school, thanks to social media and traditional media, is being raked over the coals. Way to be a good fan, Mike.

CBS tells the whole story, and the must-watch video is here.

In North Florida, everyone is weighing in; my pal Skip Foster makes a very good point (see above).

Now the administration must clean up the mess, and find a new head coach.

How about UF and their recent frantic coaching search, you might ask? Comedian Scooter Magruder hits the home run describing it in his own words.

For the betterment of humanity, for getting elected, snarky revenge comments and pointing out the miscues of others, social media is there, in your face each and every day.

Your online brand, behavior, and participation can make the difference in being hired, elected or even getting a date.

It’s a crazy world out there; make sure to behave, in reality, and cyberly (new word).

I bumped into Sen. Bill Nelson last weekend; his online presence, web, social media, etc. is on point and a splendid example of how to be conservative and well-mannered online (pun intended).

The first thing you see when you look at his Twitter feed is how to reach him. Well done.

So, whatever the future holds for Lane, Jimbo and Bill, we will be watching.

Happy holidays and start ordering those Christmas gifts!

___

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

Democrats seeing Michael Flynn plea deal as window to Russia collusion

Florida’s members of Congress are describing the FBI plea deal announced Friday with former White House Security Advisor Michael Flynn as the window they expect will shed light on broader and higher allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign team and Russia.

“Flynn’s guilty plea is another significant step in making the case that there was collusion with the Russians,” declared U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, said the news tells her the Trump administration thinks it is above the law.

“Let us be clear about this fact: a member of President Trump’s inner circle just admitted to a felony crime. As a 27-year law enforcement officer, it is deeply offensive to me that this administration has repeatedly hidden behind cries of ‘law and order’ while breaking the law themselves,” Demings stated in the release.

“Every American should be disturbed that the Trump administration considers themselves above the law,” she continued. “Before now, the question was whether this went all the way to the top. President Trump and his inner circle will have a sleepless night.”

She pledged to “do everything in my power to allow the special prosecutor to continue his independent investigation unimpeded. The American people deserve the truth.”

Alcee Hastings of Miramar called Flynn’s deal “the latest step in uncovering the degree to which the Trump administration colluded with the Russian government.”

“Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has admitted to contacting the Russian Government, under instruction from President Trump’s transition team, and then lying about it to the FBI. Even though today’s guilty plea was not unexpected, it is still an outrageous and shameful admission of purposefully misleading the American people.”

He said it is “profoundly telling” that Flynn is the fourth Trump campaign official to be charged in the investigation.

“Congress must take every step necessary to ensure that this independent investigation proceeds without interference from the Trump White House. We need answers, not misinformation.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said Flynn’s guilty plea only raises more questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“As I have repeatedly said, Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller must be allowed to continue his work unobstructed by the White House, and the House Judiciary Committee must independently examine any possible obstruction of justice,” Deutch said.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando said, “Flynn has dodged this investigation from the start, so this perjury charge is not surprising. The information he may reveal could be, though.”

Rick Scott: ‘There is no place like Florida right now’

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott begins to make the inevitable pivot to a Senate candidate, his remarks from Thursday’s Enterprise Florida board meeting in Jacksonville were worth noting.

Scott crystallized the case for his economic strategy, one that has allowed him to frame a narrative of having brought the state back from recession.

“We’ve got to continue to do the right investments,” Scott said, noting the importance of ROI.

Scott noted the state’s “50 percent increase [in tourism],” a source of “1.4 million jobs.” And he said that he’s “committed to spreading the message worldwide” that there is “no place like Florida right now.”

The Governor noted the trip to Israel this weekend, citing the importance of international trade for Florida.

Excised from remarks was another illustration of Scott’s dual political role: comments made in a press release Wednesday, where Scott stressed the importance of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — a rhetorical priority of the right, though one that President Donald Trump has yet to push to completion.

“We’ve got to continue this. We’ve got people getting out of school, moving to our state, they need jobs,” Scott said, regarding his administration’s economic programs.

Scott’s rhetorical pivot — to the frustration of press that covers him — is to “jobs,” even on questions that have nothing to do with the job market.

Worth watching: how he’s able to take his economic story, one that seems to be a refrain to every song he sings, and translate it to the Senate race.

Political committees — such as For Florida’s Future — laid the groundwork for a potential counterargument by Sen. Bill Nelson.

That argument: that Florida’s recession has been largely an urban phenomenon, and that nearly half of Florida households are the working poor.

Can Nelson counter Scott’s economic narrative?

That may be the question that determines the next eleven months.

Bill Nelson slams tax bill; Marco Rubio makes final pitch for child credit

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday to slam the Republican tax reform bill and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio followed him a few minutes later to make a last pitch for the childcare tax credit he’s been seeking to make the reform more “pro-worker.”

The Senate is debating the bill Wednesday afternoon.

“What we’ve done before and have now in front of us is not what the American people want, it’s what large corporations want – large multinational corporations who get their corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. It’s what the well-to-do want. That’s what’s before us,” Nelson declared. “Now, let me explain. Anyone who says that this bill is all for the middle class is not giving the full story. What they are not telling you is that the tax cuts for the middle class expire in seven or eight years.”

In his turn on the floor, Rubio said there are a lot of good things in the bill but that it needs the child tax credit toward payroll taxes that he and Sen. Mike Lee proposed.

“I hope that in tax reform we would do what we should try to do in all of our policies, that is come up with ideas that are both pro-growth, and pro-worker. There are a lot of good ideas in this tax bill but we can make it better,” Rubio said.

Rubio and Lee’s proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 22 percent, rather than the 20 percent in the current bill. Rubio argued that 22 percent was just as good for growth, because it would put the United States in the same competitive position internationally as a 20 percent rate.

And the revenue savings from the difference, he argued, would “allow us to do the pro-worker reform that we desperately need.”

“Here’s what it allows us to do,” Rubio continued. “It allows us to change the child tax credit in the current bill to help working families even more.

“But the one thing I want to emphasize, is: Who does this help?” he challenged.

Rubio said he’s heard criticism of their proposal as a form of welfare, and he passionately responded to such claims.

“I find that offensive,” Rubio said. “I find it offensive not because I am offended by people who need the help and are in the safety net programs because they’ve come upon difficult times, but because the people we are trying to help are not on government assistance. They’re workers. You have to be working to get this credit. The credit applies to your tax liability.”

Nelson argued that any breaks for the middle- and working-class are going away.

“They’re not telling you all the other ways that CBO says that this bill will hurt ordinary Americans. So, for example, beginning in 2019, CBO says that anyone making under $30,000 a year will take a hit from this bill if it becomes law. Then in 2021, anyone making under $40,000 will start to feel the pinch. And then in 2027, anyone making under $75,000 is actually going to get a tax increase,” Nelson said.

Nelson also argued that the tax reform would hurt small businesses, cause health care premiums to go up 10 percent, force 13 million people to lose health insurance, and that it is not the jobs bill that Rubio and Republicans declared it to be.

Nelson also decried the partisan foundation of the bill, saying that’s not how tax reform worked the last time, in 1986, when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Isn’t it time to revert to what we did back in 1986, where we came together in bipartisan consensus?” Nelson implored. “As long as there is a will, there is a way. And what I hope in the midst of this extreme toxic atmosphere of high partisanship that we might find a will to cut through that and say indeed there is way and it is a bipartisan way. We just need willing partners on both sides. I pray that that will occur between now and Christmas before we do something that we are going to regret.”

Website blasts Rick Scott’s policies for working Floridians

UPDATE

A progressive group is attacking Gov. Rick Scott with a new website — Rick’s Recession — for what they claim is the state’s unequal recovery from the Great Recession and the detrimental cost of his policies for Florida families.

The site, published by progressive group “For Florida’s Future,” highlights what it contends are the majority of Florida counties still mired in a recession.

“Not a single thing Scott has focused on — slashing funding for public schools, refusing to expand Medicaid for millions of low-income Floridians or giving taxpayer funding to corporations who donate to his campaigns — has helped everyday Floridians,” says the group’s communication director, Blake Williams.

“To think that almost half of households qualify as working poor is galling,” Williams continued. “To think that over half of Florida’s counties are still living in a recession that should have ended years ago is unconscionable. If we’re going to dig our way out of Rick’s recession, the first thing we need to do is start prioritizing working and middle-class families, something Scott clearly hasn’t done.”

Citing data from the Florida Chamber Foundation, the website claims that a majority of Florida’s counties, especially those in rural areas, are actually worse off today than they were before the recession hit in 2008

Nearly half of Florida households (45 percent) qualify as working poor and struggle to afford even basic necessities like health care, transportation and housing despite being employed,” the site claims.

There is a petition calling on the governor to “stop prioritizing policies that help wealthy campaign donors and corporations, and start prioritizing policies that help working and middle-class Floridians.”

Williams says the site will be backed by a “significant” digital ad buy on social media.

A spokesman for the governor blasted the website later Wednesday.

“This political website is chock-full of out-dated and misleading information,” said John Tupps, the communications director for Scott. “Florida has been a national leader in job creation since Governor Scott took office and the state has gone from losing 800,000 jobs in the four years before he took office to adding more than 1.4 million in less than seven years.”

Scott’s office also said that since he took office seven years ago, “he has worked to cut taxes 75 times saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion, paid down $9 billion in state debt and made government more efficient to save even more taxpayer money.”

Scott’s office also cited Florida’s unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, the lowest in more than a decade, and that Florida’s annual job growth rate of 2.6 percent is exceeding the national rate of 1.6 percent.

Scott is beginning his final year as governor. He is strongly expected to challenge Democrat Bill Nelson for his Senate seat next year.

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