Bill Nelson – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Senate Ethics complaint filed against Bill Nelson

The race for Senate continues to heat up between Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson, with the Democratic incumbent being dinged with an Ethics Complaint this week that Nelson’s team is calling a “political stunt.”

Former Republican Party of Florida Chair Leslie Dougher, a Scott ally, charged that during an Apr. 3 event, Nelson used governmental funds for political activities, promoting an appearance in a government building for a political purpose.

The event in question, per Dougher’s complaint: a “meet and greet” in Port St. Joe at the Board of County Commissioners building, “an illegal campaign event on government property.”

Dougher contends that the Gulf County Democrats promoted this as a “political event,” even as the official position for the board was to “discuss issues of local importance.”

Dougher’s complaint also notes that a tracker was removed for trying to film the event; said tracker was told that only “legitimate press” could film the event, held in a public building.

Dougher cites an “appearance of impropriety” as a threshold bearing this complaint.

Nelson’s Senate comms director Ryan Brown was terse in reaction.

“This is the definition of a political stunt,” Brown said.

FEMA extends Puerto Rican transitional housing to June 30

Puerto Rican evacuees from Hurricane Maria’s wrath last fall have been granted another six weeks of federal assistance to live in emergency motel shelters in Florida, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced Thursday.

The latest extension, through June 30 according to social media posts Thursday afternoon from the Winter Park Democrat, means that families who migrated from the island to Florida, or to other states, will have federal assistance to stay long enough for their children to complete the school year.

Gov. Rick Scott also applauded the extension Thursday afternoon.

The extension also means the families living in motels and paying their rents with Federal Emergency Management Agency vouchers, because there is little  available affordable housing, will not face a last-day crisis, at least not any time soon. That happened on April 20 when FEMA agreed to extend the program through May 14 on the very day that the previous extension was set to expire. Hundreds of families were reportedly packed up and being told to leave, with no place to go, on the day the extension was approved.

On April 18 Murphy, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, four other members of Congress from Florida, Democrat Darren Soto of Orlando, Republican Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa, and Republican Dennis Ross of Lakeland, as well as U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico, all signed a letter urging FEMA to extend the program through June.

They also urged Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to seek the extension. FEMA could not extend the program without a formal request from the governor of the area affected, Puerto Rico.

On April 24, Rosselló told FloridaPolitics he would ask FEMA to extend the program through June, in part so that Puerto Rican migrant families with children could at least get through the school year.

“Pleased to report that FEMA will be extending the Transitional Shelter Assistance program for displaced Puerto Rican families in Florida and other states through June 30,” Murphy posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon. “This will give families more time to find permanent housing and won’t result in children being evicted during the school year. Another successful bipartisan effort! Thank you to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello for seeking the extension.”

Said Scott, in a press release: “Florida has done everything possible to help our neighbors in Puerto Rico with their continued recovery from Hurricane Maria. Over the past seven months since Maria made landfall, we have remained in constant communication with Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his leadership team and I have made five trips to Puerto Rico to offer our full assistance and guidance. Florida remains the only state with a Host-State Agreement with FEMA to help families from Puerto Rico.

“I also recently spoke with FEMA Administrator Brock Long about our joint efforts to make sure we are doing everything possible to help those who evacuated here. This includes keeping the FEMA case managers I requested on the ground across our state to offer assistance. I’m glad to hear that FEMA is once again extending Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) for the many families from Puerto Rico in the Sunshine State and we continue to stand ready to assist in any way possible,” Scott added.

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Rick Scott going to Jerusalem for embassy opening

Gov. Rick Scott will travel to Israel this month for the controversial opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem.

Scott’s office said Wednesday he will attend the May 14 opening, with more details to be announced soon.

The trip comes as Scott runs for a U.S. Senate seat against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

The embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Of whiskey, magazines, and the Republicans’ new targeting tools

Because modern elections, like many 21st century business transactions, now may be won in part by the computer geeks with the biggest servers, the Republican National Committee says it likes its chances in Florida.

The RNC’s operations already are in major position in Florida, which, as always, and particularly this year, is the state both parties see as a marquee battleground. The RNC field operations in Florida now boast 67 staff members and 1,068 trained volunteers the RNC calls “fellows,” organizing ground operations for this year’s elections.

But their key weapon, the one the RNC believes sets the Republican effort apart, starts in those servers, with billions of bits of data on Florida voters, acquired from consumer “Big Data” companies, voting records, and sometimes seemingly irrelevant public opinion surveys.

The thinking is, with information about someone’s consumer and social preferences, what children’s clothes they buy, what magazines they subscribe to, what whiskey they prefer, what they think about banks or baseball or beaches, that creates statistical models that geeks can use to both predict and find the key factors to influence whether and how that person is likely to vote. With internet reading and shopping – even just internet perusing and window shopping – such data now floods into Big Data servers.

“We’ve been working on this since 2014 and making improvements on it all the time,” said Brian Parnitzke, the RNC’s national turnout and targeting director. He, with other RNC staff members, laid out some of the RNC’s operation in a chat in Orlando with FloridaPolitics.

This is nothing new. Businesses have been fine-tuning marketing for decades based on Big Data insights and assumptions, and it’s now omni-present in any big-time marketing effort. Obama For America introduced it to politics in a big way in President Barack Obama‘s two elections. And the RNC was caught off guard and marveled at the sophistication of the Obama operations, staff members said.

So, after 2012 the Republicans set out to emulate it, and now claim their Big Data operations surpasses what Obama had, or anything the Democratic National Party could possibly have. Obama kept his proprietary, not sharing it with the DNC, leaving the national Democrats to have to start over, according to the Republicans.

The Republicans say they have invested $200 million in their Big Data operation and the efforts to use the voter targeting assessments in field operations.

They claim to have 3,100 points of data on every Florida voter, each point a chance to cross-compare values and habits, to come up with probabilities on actions, based on statistical models.

“We have this database. I believe it is the most powerful database in politics in the world,” Parnitzke said.

And what about the potential of a “blue wave?”

“It’s all baked in,” Parnitzke said.

Their counterparts at the Democratic National Committee did not reply to FloridaPolitics’ inquiry for comment or response to the RNC’s claims or on how the DNC operations might compare.

With the data, the RNC and the Republican Party of Florida are geographically carving out populations of targeted adults whom the data say are likely reachable swing voters. And, equally importantly, the data suggest on which issues they swing. That’s where the trained “fellows” come in. They’ll be calling, knowing a potentially-disturbing amount about the lifestyles and values of the individual voters.

With almost all recent big elections in Florida having been decided by a point or two, it doesn’t take much mobilization to change outcomes, though the Republicans are quick to point out the old saw: “This is just a tool; candidates and campaigns matter.”

Russell Peck, the RNC’s southeast regional political director, said that the RNC is sharing its Big Data and its findings on Florida voters, for free, with the Republican Party of Florida and with any Republican campaigns, at all levels.

Two issues have emerged from the data in the Florida U.S. Senate race, and both are seen showing up as early themes of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. First, that 27 percent of swing voters don’t really have an opinion about Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. And second, that 54 percent are upset with members of Congress they see as obstructionist to government.

“Make Washington Work,” has become Scott’s early campaign theme, and he’s going after Nelson, seeking to paint him as obstructionist.

“People want to see government do something,” Peck said.

Rick Scott pushing ‘supermajority’ proposal for Congress tax hikes

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he’ll be campaigning on a proposal to require Congress to recognize only super majority votes to pass tax or fee hikes.

Scott, who pushed for such a measure with the Constitution Revision Commission, now contained in Amendment 5 going before voters this fall, touted the tax proposal as the first component of his “Make Washington Work” plan, announced Wednesday morning in a campaign stop in Medley.

Scott said he would push for a proposal to require two-thirds approvals for any federal tax or fee increase.

In making the announcement, he characterized himself as a governor championing tax cuts, while charging that his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has voted in favor of higher taxes and fees more than 300 times.

“I know that many people will say this cannot be done, or that this has been proposed and failed before. That way of old thinking by career politicians is what has allowed Washington to become so dysfunctional,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Today, Florida is proof that we can get things done when others say we can’t. Just this year, we fought to get Amendment 5 on the November ballot so Floridians have the opportunity to vote to make it harder for politicians to raise taxes and fees in Florida.”

His campaign stated there will be more proposals coming for his “Make Washington Work” plan as the campaign continues.

Feds announce $340M grant for Florida citrus

A bit more money is on the way for Florida citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Monday that his agency will provide a $340 million block grant to the state to cater to Irma-affected farmers during the 2018-2020 crop year — that’s in addition to the $2.36 billion worth of farm disaster funding authorized by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in February.

According to USDA, the money from the grant will cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation, and repairs to irrigation systems.

“The Florida citrus industry was likely hit the hardest, and with such a high-value crop, they face a steeper financial burden and as a whole, have less coverage through our traditional insurance options,” Perdue said in a prepared statement.

Perdue said he was directed by President Trump to work “directly with Governor [Rick] Scott and [Agriculture] Commissioner [Adam] Putnam in Florida to put a process in place that will ensure the Florida citrus industry maintains its infrastructure and can continue to be the signature crop for the state.”

“Since Hurricane Irma hit our state, I have been fighting for Florida’s citrus growers to get the relief they need to rebuild their livelihoods, including taking immediate steps to provide relief from the state,” Scott said.

Added Putnam: “While no amount of relief can make the farmers who suffered damages from Hurricane Irma whole, this much-needed disaster relief will help Florida agriculture get back on its feet.”

The $2.36 billion, separate from the block grant, will be distributed by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency through the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.

Earlier in April, Florida leadership — Scott, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Putnam — increased the pressure on the USDA to disperse the funds, the News Service of Florida reported.  

Since then, the USDA’s offered a few details and a rough timeline.

Per the agency, here’s what we know: “Eligibility will be limited to producers in counties that experienced hurricanes or wildfires designated as presidentially-declared disasters in 2017; Compensation determined by a producer’s individual losses rather than an average of losses for a particular area (where data is available); Producers who purchased higher levels of risk protection, such as crop insurance and noninsured crop disaster assistance program, will receive higher payments; Advance payments up to 50 percent; and a requirement that payment recipients obtain future risk protection.”

A sign-up period to determine eligibility will begin no later than July 16.

Puerto Rico U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón endorses Rick Scott

In the battle for the newly-emerging power of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he has gotten the endorsement of the commonwealth’s U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón.

González-Colón joined Scott at a rally in Kissimmee, the center of Florida’s Puerto Rican population, Tuesday, lauding the Florida governor’s efforts to support Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and his commitment to the Puerto Rican community.

She is a member of the Republican Party of the United States, as is Scott, though she serves in Puerto Rico through being a member of its New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico.

“Governor Rick Scott has been a consistent leader, supporter and advocate for the Puerto Rican community and for our families both on the island and here in Florida. He made a commitment to help our community even before Hurricane Maria made landfall and has truly followed through, which is something we need more of in Washington,” González-Colón stated.

“They say that hard times will always reveal true friends, and I cannot think of a better friend to the American citizens of Puerto Rico than Governor Scott. Furthermore, as Governor, he has been able to turn Florida’s economy around, cutting taxes, creating an environment for small and large businesses to thrive, creating millions of jobs, and reducing regulations,” she continued. “Thus, I am proud to once again announce my endorsement of Governor Scott, this time for the U.S. Senate, and I look forward to welcoming a dear friend and unconditional supporter of Puerto Rico to D.C.”

Scott is taking on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year’s election.

“It has been an honor to work alongside Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón on Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery and I have been proud to join her in fighting to make sure the families of Puerto Rico who are here in Florida have all the resources they need to succeed,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I appreciate Congresswoman González-Colón’s support as we continue to work together on behalf of the Puerto Rican community in Florida and across our nation.”

Democrats ripped the endorsement. Led by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, the Democrat who represents Kissimmee, they charged that Scott grandstanded while Puerto Rico was in desperate need.

“Rick Scott kicking Puerto Rican evacuees out of his last event in Kissimmee tells everyone all they need to know about where he truly stands – regardless of all of his political posturing and grandstanding,” Soto said in a statement issued by the Florida Democratic Party. “Sen. Nelson has been a champion for Puerto Ricans both in Florida and on the island, spending time in the communities, listening to the needs and leading efforts in Congress to secure critical funding for the island.”

New Rick Scott ad expands ‘Washington change’ theme

Gov. Rick Scott‘s second English-language ad in the U.S. Senate race picks up the term limits theme of his first commercial and extends it toward what Republicans have been claiming of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, that he accomplishes very little in Washington.

The new 30-second Scott U.S. Senate campaign ad “Results,” which will be airing both on television and on the internet, does not mention Nelson. But like Scott’s first ad it charges that it’s time for change in Washington D.C., while Nelson seeks a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

The latest ad is backed by a purchase of more than $2 million of airtime, Scott’s campaign stated.

In the commercial, after arguing that successful business people focus on results, and how successful business people need to be in Washington, Scott declares, “If you’re not accomplishing anything, you should not be in Washington.”

Bill Nelson qualifies as congressional candidates line up

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, formally qualified to run for a fourth term Monday as he faces a challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson made his candidacy official as the qualifying period for federal offices opened at noon Monday.

Meanwhile, 17 of the state’s 27 incumbent U.S. House members also qualified when the period opened, with three — Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City and Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Democrat Val Demings of Orlando — facing primary challenges.

Scott did not qualify Monday. Instead, his campaign team touted raising $3.2 million since Scott announced three weeks ago that he was entering the Senate race.

But it’s still early in the week. Federal candidates, along with candidates for judgeships and state-attorney and public-defender posts, have until noon Friday to qualify.

The qualifying period for other state and local offices will be June 18 to June 22.

While almost every congressional seat is expected to be contested, the first day of qualifying set up 11 Republican-Democrat clashes in November, with Democratic challengers in place for incumbent Republicans Neal Dunn, Ted Yoho, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan and Carlos Curbelo. Also, incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist faces a Republican challenger.

Four Republican-held U.S. House seats are being vacated this year, with Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross and Ileana RosLehtinen retiring and Ron DeSantis running for governor.

Two potential high-profile candidates for congressional seats continued Monday to keep the pundits waiting.

State Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, has said he is looking at Ross’ seat but did not immediately qualify.

Also, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Orlando, has been making noise about running but did not file paperwork Monday.

Former state Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk County Republican, is among those who did qualify Monday for Ross’ seat.

Also state Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, filed for Rooney’s seat. Steube has submitted his irrevocable resignation from the Senate — effective Nov. 6 — to meet the requirements of a new resign-to-run law (SB 186), which Scott signed on March 30.

The law, which Steube supported, requires local and state office-holders to resign their seats if running for federal offices that overlap their current terms. A similar law had already been in place for state and local officials running for other state and local offices.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, these U.S. Senate and congressional candidates had qualified, according to the state Division of Elections website:

— U.S. SENATE: Nelson, DEM; Charles Frederick Tolbert, write-in.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1: Gaetz, GOP; Cris Dosev, GOP; Rep. Gaetz, GOP; John Mills, GOP.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2: Dunn, GOP; Brandon Peters, DEM; Bob Rackleff, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3: Yoho, GOP; Dushyant Jethagir Gosai, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 4: U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, GOP; Gary Koniz, write-in.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 6: Fred Costello, GOP; Nancy Soderberg, DEM; John Upchurch, DEM; John Ward, GOP.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 7: U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 8: Posey, GOP; Sanjay Patel, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 9: U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 10: Demings, DEM; Wade Darius, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 11: Dana Cottrell, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 12: Bilirakis, GOP; Chris Hunter, DEM; Robert Matthew Tager, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 13: Crist, DEM; Brad Sostack, GOP.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 15: Combee, GOP: Dave Johnson, write-in; Andrew Learned, DEM; Jeffrey Rabinowitz, write-in.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 16: Buchanan, GOP; Jan Schneider, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 17: Steube, GOP: Bill Pollard, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 18: Mast, GOP; Mark Freeman, GOP.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 19: Pete Pollard, write-in.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 20: U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, DEM; Jay Bonner, write-in.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 21: U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 22: U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 23: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DEM; Tim Canova, NPA; Don Endriss, NPA.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 25: Alina Irene Valdes, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 26: Curbelo, GOP; Demetries Andrew Grimes, DEM; Debbie MucarselPowell, DEM.

— CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 27: Angie Chirino, GOP; Michael A. Hepburn, DEM; Stephen Marks, GOP; Michael Ohevzion, GOP; Maria Peiro, GOP; David Richardson, DEM; Maria Elvira Salazar, GOP.

Rick Scott rides the money train for $3 million

Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that he’d raised more than $3 million in the first three weeks of his campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“It is clear that Americans are ready to see a change in Washington,” Scott said. “I appreciate the support of everyone who has helped us reach this incredible announcement today, but this is just the start. I look forward to continuing to tell Floridians why we need to get rid of the career politicians and make Washington work for us.”

That sum matches what Nelson was able to bring in during the first quarter of the year, and Scott’s Florida Finance chairwoman, Darlene Jordan, said it’s “only the beginning.”

“Every dollar raised gets us closer to electing a results-driven leader who will shake up Washington, D.C. We are thankful to everyone who has helped kick off this campaign, and we look forward to continuing to build on this momentum and accomplishment,” she said.

The campaign said the $3.2 million it reported came in through individual contributions and did not include any money from Scott – a necessary clarification considering his gubernatorial campaigns.

If Scott has boosted the campaign with some of his own cash, as many believe, the campaign’s war chest could be even higher.

“This fundraising triumph makes it clear that the excitement of sending a leader like Governor Rick Scott to D.C. can be felt all across the country,” said National Finance chair Thomas Hicks. “We are grateful to all those who have contributed so far, and we will continue to fight each day to keep this momentum going and get Governor Scott to the U.S. Senate.”

Scott, who faces term limits as governor, ended more than a year of speculation on his next move when he announced his bid for U.S. Senate three weeks ago.

Nelson is running for his fourth term in the Senate, and through March had about $10.5 million banked for his re-election bid.

Florida’s U.S. Senate race has national implications. Nelson is one of 10 Senators up for re-election in 2018 in a state that voted for Trump in 2016, and defending his seat is a near requirement for Democrats to have a shot at retaking the chamber.

A recent poll of the contest, conducted after Scott filed, showed Nelson with a six-point lead in the race. The poll assumes registered Democrats will outnumber Republicans at the polls by a point.

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