Bill Nelson – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Bill Nelson says Rick Scott to blame for ‘Florida health care crisis’

Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sat with a room full of public health officials Tuesday morning who declared that Florida is suffering through a crisis of health-care access and he put the blame squarely on his Republican rival in this year’s election, Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson, holding a roundtable on health care in Orlando Tuesday as part of his re-election campaign, waffled somewhat in talking with reporters earlier about whether the access-to-health-care problems were all Scott’s doing, or shared by him and the Florida Legislature.

But sitting down with public health and mental health services advocates, he pointed to Scott, who in 2015 took a firm stand against Florida accepting the federal offer of $5 billion a year to expand Medicaid to serve people who did not qualify for Medicaid and were too poor to afford health insurance. Scott and the Florida Legislative leaders raised concerns that the long-term costs to Florida might be too high.

Thirty-one other states accepted the Medicaid expansion program, while Florida continues to pass.

“Why didn’t they do it? Well, I’ll tell you exactly why. It was Gov. Scott,” Nelson said.

Estimates on how many Floridians that decision affected by Florida not accepting Medicaid expansion have ranged from 650,000 to over 1 million, with the consensus coming down on 800,000. Those at the table with Nelson Tuesday, including Brendan Ramirez, executive director of Pan American Behavioral Health Services of Florida, and Marni Stahlman, president of Shepherd’s Hope, said that Florida is now in crisis for people needing mental health services, for children without health care, for Puerto Rican migrants who qualified for Medicaid on the island but don’t in Florida, and also for veterans.

Ramirez hosted the round-table discussion at his Medicaid-based mental health center in Orlando. He and others spoke of Orlando being an epicenter for people who cannot afford health care services.

“We have a man-made disaster in this state,” said Candice Crawford, president of the Mental Health Alliance of Central Florida. “I don’t know what the end result is going to be but unless something changes, I’m going to be really, really bad. My last research has 66,000 adults with major mental health issues in this state, without access. Sixty-six thousand adults. Serious mental health issues.”

A new governor would be a good start, Nelson suggested. He said he looks forward to working with whomever succeeds Scott.

The Scott campaign’s Deputy Communications Director Kerri Wyland discountetald any k of crisis, saying the state’s Medicaid program is operating at the “highest level of quality in its history” and that Nelson has done nothing.

“Bill Nelson has had decades of opportunities to take action on healthcare services for Floridians, but instead, he only decides to take up the issue during an election year,” Wyland wrote. “While Nelson continues to be all talk, Florida’s Medicaid program is operating at the highest level of quality in its history and Governor Scott will continue to work toward real solutions for lowering healthcare cost and improving access.”

Nelson had pushed for Florida to accept the Medicaid expansion since it became available through the Affordable Care Act in 2011, and has long been a critic of Florida not accepting it, most recently last week when he took to the Senate floor to criticize the decision. But Nelson generally has been more generic about the target of his ire, blaming the state’s Republican-controlled government. At this event, organized by his re-election campaign, Nelson made it a clear issue with Scott and the election campaign.

Nelson compared Scott’s decision with the governor’s earlier decision to refuse more than $1 billion in federal grants to build the high-speed rail system that once had been planned to connect Orlando and Tampa.

“Gov. Scott said, ‘No, I’m not having anything to do with Obama.’ It was purely partisan, ideological politics,” Nelson said. “So, same thing comes along with the ACA, Obamacare, [and he is] not expanding health care. And by the way, of those 31 states there are a lot of Republican governors and Republican legislatures in those 31 states that expanded it, because they saw the value of poor folks being able to have health care.”

‘New ideas’ spot launches with $2.2M ad buy from Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his aerial onslaught against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, with a $2.2 million budget for “New Ideas,” a spot launched Tuesday.

The segment, on both television and digital formats, spotlights the “lack of enthusiasm” Florida voters have with Nelson, whose career in politics and slender volume of legislative achievements has been a major talking point for Scott’s team this spring.

The ad features various “Floridians” marveling at Nelson’s tenure, with lines like “He started in politics in 1972. That’s just a little bit less than I am old … and I’m no spring chicken.”

The rollout comes on the same day that Nelson’s team released its first digital spot.

Stars,” narrated by Nelson, focuses on what his campaign calls “his fight for Florida values in the U.S. Senate.”

“Bill Nelson has worked his entire career to put the people of Florida first,” Nelson campaign manager Marley Wilkes said in a statement. “He stands up for the values that make Florida great, and in the U.S. Senate he puts politics aside and focuses on doing what’s right for the people of our state because that is who he cares about. That’s why Floridians know Bill has their back and that he’ll keep fighting every single day to help create a future that works for every family and every child.”

Despite this buy, and a $2.2 million buy from Chuck Schumer‘s Senate Majority PAC, reports are that Nelson’s campaign will stay mostly dark until the fall.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that Gov. Scott will fill the void until Nelson goes on TV, as he continues a robust series of ad buys.

25 big questions facing Florida politics heading into Summer

Summer is here — well, unofficially at least. And with it comes cookouts, summer vacations, and the final six months of the 2018 campaign. With the busiest election cycle in Florida’s modern history, the answers to these 14 questions (plus a fill-in-the-blank) could shape the future of the state.

Will Marco Rubio fully embrace his role as a counterbalance to Donald Trump? As close as Florida’s junior Senator appears to be with Trump and as much as the president seems to have abdicated foreign policy decisions on Latin America affairs to him, Rubio has recently been one of the most forceful critics of the administration. On China, the FBI investigation, immigration policy, and several other issues, Rubio is articulating an alternative to Trump’s vision. Rubio is anything but Lil’ Marco right now. How long this lasts, however, is anyone’s guess.

— Does Bill Nelson have an answer for the Rick Scott juggernaut? Even Democrats acknowledge that Scott’s first months back on the campaign trail have been impressive, so much so that he turned a four-point polling deficit to Nelson into a four-point lead. He’s done it by barraging Florida’s senior Senator with one TV ad after another. Scott is also working to reshape Florida’s electoral math by aggressively campaigning to Hispanic subgroups (Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans) that traditionally vote Democratic. Meanwhile, Nelson’s re-elect is bare-bones (the political director is splitting time between the campaign and her Senate job) and only recently received air cover from Senate Majority PAC. Nelson recently said he would keep his powder dry until the fall. That strategy did not work for Charlie Crist in 2014, but maybe Pete Mitchell (Nelson’s longtime consigliere) knows something we don’t.

Follow-up: Will an active hurricane season lockout Nelson from campaigning while Scott gets to don his Navy ball cap and SERT jacket and play Action Figure Governor?

— How often does Donald Trump campaign for Ron DeSantis? — With polls showing Adam Putnam and DeSantis running neck-and-neck for the GOP nomination for Governor, it seems like the entire race may come down to how much shoulder Trump puts behind the U.S. Rep. he has described as one of his “warriors.” POTUS recently said he’d soon be in Florida to stump for DeSantis, but with a trade war with China and peace talks with North Korea occupying so much of Trump’s time, how often can he campaign in the Sunshine State? Putnam supporters are prepared for a rally or two, plus a robocall and some tweets, but if Trump sets up shop at the Florida State Fairgrounds, there may not be much they can do to stop DeSantis.

Follow-up: Will DeSantis do anything that resembles traditional campaigning, such as hire an expanded staff, establish campaign HQs, or issue policy positions? Or is his only path to the Governor’s Mansion via Fox News?

Follow-up: Will Florida Man Roger Stone, indirectly linked with a dark-money campaign attacking DeSantis, be indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation?

— Can Adam Putnam stop shooting himself in the foot? He’s raised $30 million, has built a statewide organization that would make Jeb Bush envious, and his knowledge of Florida and its issues is, arguably, unparalleled among those running for Governor. Yet, where it stands now, there’s never been more doubt about whether Adam Putnam can win his party’s nomination, much less the general election in November. It seems like just as he is gathering momentum, his campaign does something to trip over itself, as it did by scheduling a fundraiser at the home of a man videotaped in 2008 shooting two dogs. Putnam eventually canceled the event, but not after losing another news cycle. The hard truth is he never fully recovered from the cringe-worthy moment when he described himself as an “NRA sellout.” And that was before the Parkland school shooting. It’s become so bad for Putnam, even his hometown allies at Publix had to promise to stop contributing to him. Putnam’s saving grace? There’s still time to right the ship. Maybe.

Follow-up: Will any other significant corporate contributors to Putnam be boycotted similar to what happened to Publix over Memorial Day Weekend?

— Is the Democratic field for Governor set? Ever since John Morgan (wisely) closed the door on a statewide bid, the Democratic field has remained static with Philip Levine and Gwen Graham leading in the polls, Andrew Gillum insisting he has momentum, and Chris King looking to breakout. Perhaps because none of these four has been able to emerge as the clear front-runner, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and former U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene are both eyeing entering the race, with Greene the more likely of the two to get in. Murphy has floated the idea of running on a bipartisan ticket with former Republican Congressman David Jolly and has met with high-level donors about underwriting their maverick bid. It’s unclear how much of an appetite there is for a two-white-dudes ticket in a Democratic primary, just as it’s unclear if Greene is willing to part with the $40 or $50 million (at least) he’d need to be competitive. One thing you can bet on is Graham hoping one or both of them join the race and further divide the vote.

Follow-up: Will Morgan continue to plow money into a 2020 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15? What will he do next to push for full legalization of marijuana (and not just the medical kind)?

Follow-up: If Murphy doesn’t run, what does Jolly do next? He’s ubiquitous on cable news, but he doesn’t live in a winnable congressional district. Read his Twitter account and try to tell yourself he doesn’t want to mount a primary challenge against Trump in 2020.

— How much money is Phil Levine willing to spend to win the primary election? He may not be getting the best ROI on his money, at least in terms of television points purchased versus his standing in the polls, but the former Miami Beach Mayor can claim ‘scoreboard‘ when it comes to his decision to spend millions of dollars on early TV ads in his pursuit of the Democratic nomination. He’s entering the summer with a 10 point lead over Graham, according to one poll. Of course, Graham hasn’t really gone up with her own ads, but even when she does Levine can still flood the airwaves with his spots. That’s if he wants to write a check for another $15 or $20 million. The increasing chatter among many insiders has Levine narrowly winning his primary, then facing off against DeSantis in the fall.

Follow-up: When does Graham go up on the air? More importantly, can she raise the money to be on the air for the final post-July 4th weeks of the campaign?

Follow-up: Will Gillum have the resources needed to communicate to African American voters and the progressive wing of the party, the two pillars he’s basing his campaign on?

Follow-up: Now that he’s rolling out his agenda and spending money on TV ads, will King finally see a bump in the polls?

Follow-up: Will any of the Democrats emerge victorious from the series of debates planned for over the summer? Or will they regress to their performances on display during the first televised debate?

— What kind of campaigns — for and against — will spring up around the CRC’s ballot questions? The Constitution Revision Commission tacked on a slew of proposed amendments to the state constitution. And almost all of these amendments address multiple, albeit linked, issues. And with each of these issues, there’s a special interest who will be impacted by whether the amendments pass. Energy companies are opposed to the ban on offshore drilling, tobacco interests should be opposed to the vaping ban, and the education establishment should be very afraid of the proposals dealing with charter schools. Both sides of the proposed ban on greyhound racing are already gearing up for a loser-leaves-town match. Political consultants should be able to pay their kids’ tuition with the money they can make off these races.

Follow-up: Will city and county governments be able to muster a defense against the expansion of the homestead exemption?

Follow-up: Will the push to restore voting rights find bipartisan support?

— Will any of the undercard candidates breakout? There are multi-way GOP primaries for Agriculture Commissioner and Attorney General and, after that, there are promises to be competitive races for at least two of the Cabinet positions. But if you polled any of these races, undecided would probably capture three-fifths of the vote. Who the heck knows who Jeremy Ring (he’s running for CFO) or Baxter Troutman (he’s running for Ag. Commissioner) are? With limited budgets, these candidates are hoping for a breakout moment in July or August. Meanwhile, they’ll keep up with the grassroots campaigning, clawing for endorsements, working the county parties, winning straw polls, etc.

— Where will state Democrats find the money to fund their Senate campaigns? In at least six districts, Republican incumbents face legitimate threats to their re-election as Democrats seek to win four of those races in order to regain a share of control of the Florida Senate. But these races are brutally expensive; some other states’ races for governor are not as costly as those in battleground Senate districts. Perennially cash-strapped, Florida Democrats probably need to raise $10 million to fund all of these challengers, but Republican Senate leaders have warned special interests not to play in these races. The bottom line: Democrats have the table set … they’ve got their forks and knives … they’ve even got the A-1 sauce. Now all they need is the steak.

Follow-up: Can Senate Democrats actually work together to gain seats or is the recent formation of two political committees by a faction of Senators a sign of dissension to come?

Follow-up: Will former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas decide to run for Senate District 36?

— What kind of surprises are in store for the last day of candidate qualifying? This is Florida politics, so you know there will be some kind of shenanigans on the final day of candidate qualifying on June 22? Perhaps a veteran pol will decide at the last moment to not seek re-election? Maybe (or almost certainly) someone hoping to run will screw-up their check or paperwork and, in the end, be kept off the ballot? How many faux candidates will qualify as write-ins, thereby closing legislative races to only one party? All of this and more will likely happen, so pull up a chair outside of the Division of Elections and watch the drama unfold.

— What is David Hogg’s next target? The Parkland student has taken down Laura Ingraham, Publix, and, somewhat, Putnam? If you are a corporate executive, right now you are praying Hogg doesn’t turn you into his next hashtag. And if he does, there’s working strategy for how to respond. Conservatives increasingly despise Hogg’s activism, especially as he threatens to get more involved in the upcoming elections. But good luck fighting with this teenager (that’s right, he’s still just a teenager). Hogg could be, if he’s not already, the most dangerous individual currently operating in Florida politics.

We always close this article with a reminder that it is the truly unknown unknowns that make Florida politics so maddeningly interesting. As much as we know there will be elections in August and November, we don’t know if there will be another hurricane or shooting that will change the trajectory of #FlaPol and all of the players involved. Best to pray that nothing tragic occurs, but be prepared for the eventuality that something will.

Bill Nelson releases first statewide ad

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has released the first statewide ad of his re-election campaign.

“Stars,” narrated by Nelson, focuses on his fight for Florida values in the Senate.

The spot mentions Nelson’s moment as an astronaut in 1986, but little else other than his statement that everyone shares the same values, and those include public service.

Unlike the ads being released by his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, this ad does not have any negativity, whether toward his opponent or some generalized concern that makes people angry. Nelson’s ad begins with a call for inspiration. As video plays of people working out, studying, working and playing, he declares that Florida is for doers, dreamers, builders and adventurers.

The narrative transitions as the video transitions from a boy playing with a toy rocket to a real rocket, and then to Nelson onboard the space shuttle Columbia, and then a contemporary Nelson in campaign mode.

“When I looked back at our planet, I didn’t see political divisions, I saw how we’re all in this together,” Nelson says in the ad. “Bound by timeless values we all share — a call to serve — our country, our state, to fight for every family here in Florida. And every child who dreams one day to touch the stars.”

“Bill Nelson has worked his entire career to put the people of Florida first,” Nelson campaign manager Marley Wilkes said in a statement. “He stands up for the values that make Florida great, and in the U.S. Senate he puts politics aside and focuses on doing what’s right for the people of our state because that is who he cares about. That’s why Floridians know Bill has their back and that he’ll keep fighting every single day to help create a future that works for every family and every child.”

The 47-second ad will reach Florida voters through several digital platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Camille Gallo, regional press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, poked at Nelson’s ad while touting Scott’s media blitz over the past two months.

“After just about 8 weeks of silence, Bill Nelson’s lagging campaign has finally decided to get in the game and release its first digital ad,” she said in a Tuesday email. “In case you forgot, Governor Rick Scott has already run 6 TV ads and has announced a new ad buy today.

“It seems Bill Nelson’s campaign has run into a problem though. While the ad waxes poetically about ‘doers’ (and that 1980s-space trip), Bill Nelson has been the exact opposite. After over 30 years in office, Nelson has been the primary sponsor of just 10 bills that have become law and nearly half of Floridians don’t even know who he is.

“With a record like that, no wonder Bill Nelson’s campaign would rather talk about a space trip from 20 years ago.”

To watch the full ad, click the image below:

A brief history of time: Here’s what Florida candidates are doing on Facebook

Social media giant Facebook recently unveiled its database of candidate and issue spending. It archives all political ads dating back to May 7.

The information provides insights to what extent candidates are prioritizing digital spending on Facebook along with its subsidiary Instagram.

The changes are a direct result of Facebook coming under scrutiny for giving way to Russian trolls during the 2016 election and enabling some to disperse messages of hate. The changes bring with them more intense verification and thorough disclosure processes. The most noticeable change to the average user is likely the “paid for by …” descriptor now attached to candidate- or issue-related ads.

In announcing the changes Thursday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “One of my top priorities for 2018 is making sure we help prevent interference and misinformation in elections. These changes won’t fix everything, but they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.”

Zuckerberg also suggested the changes would result in more careful and message-conscious approaches, as each ad would now be easily traced back to who purchased it.

“I hope they’ll also raise the bar for all political advertising online,” wrote Zuckerberg.

The search option for the database is simple; typing in a candidate’s name or a political organization’s title will yield ads related to the search term, including who’s paid for them. Also provided: an estimated amount it took to advertise the ad, its status currently (active or not) and the number of impressions it has garnered.

Florida Politics has queried some terms related to 2018 races. It’s early yet, and results vary by candidate and group, but there already are some takeaways. For example, the Florida Democratic Party is inundating Facebook with anti-Rick Scott ads, meanwhile, U.S. Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, who’s running for Governor, can’t quite seem to figure out the new rules.

Here’s a brief breakdown, as of Friday:

U.S. Senate

Republican Gov. Scott has run 30 ads since May 7, each one with less than $1,000 behind it. Eleven of the ads are either in Spanish or prefaced with Spanish and interpreted in English below.

Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the same time has launched 53 ads, a majority of which were solicitations for campaign donations.

Governor’s race

In the Republican primary race for Governor, Adam Putnam‘s Florida Grown committee has run 12 separate digital ads touting the Agriculture Commissioner’s vocational-technical program announced last week. Most of those were backed with buys ranging between $100 to $499, though one sits below $100, two are within the $1,000 to $5,000 range, and one has crossed into the $5,000 – $10,000 range.

Florida Grown also backed three ads with pro-life abortion messages, one fell in the $100 to $499 range, the other two were fueled by $500 – $999 buys.

Putnam’s spending on Facebook draws a stark contrast with DeSantis, who attempted to run one ad in May — only to see it taken down “because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies,” reads the archive.

On the Democratic side, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has run 35 ads on Facebook since May 7. Most of the ads fall within the less than $100 or $100 to $499 range, but two have crossed the $1,000 mark: a video touting his progressive record as mayor and another expressing his support for teachers.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, in contrast, doesn’t seem to be focusing as much on digital spending — on Facebook, at least. A search of her name reveals that she’s only had two ads, both spanning a day, since May 7. Both were backed with less than $100.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has run 37 ads on Zuckerberg’s platforms. And at first glance it appears Gillum is getting the most bang for his buck — good news for a campaign behind in the money chase. The Gillum camp dished out between $100 – $499 to push out an Orlando Sentinel editorial on Florida’s record on health care. Over the article, Gillum wrote, “Our state ranks at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to access to affordable healthcare — we have a health care crisis. As Governor, I’ll fight for ‘Medicare for All’, an expansion of Medicaid, and protections for women’s health care and pre-existing conditions.”

It grabbed the mayor anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 impressions, or the number of instances an ad is on-screen for the first time for a user. To reach the same amount of screens, Levine spent in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, though that amount of spending also netted the Miami Beach Mayor impressions exceeding 200,000 in one instance.

Orlando businessman Chris King, who’s consistently in third or fourth in the polls, has launched 33 ads since May 7, all but one of which was accompanied with $100 or less. He is, however, the second Democrat, following Levine, to finance a TV spend.

Cabinet races

In the recorded period, the candidates for Cabinet seats who’ve advertised on Facebook are as follows: Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who’s running for reelection, Agriculture Commissioner candidates state Senator Denise Grimsley and Baxter Troutman, and state Rep. Jay Fant, who’s running for Attorney General.

U.S. Representatives

Two of the most vulnerable Florida Republicans, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast, both are active on Facebook. Mast has run 19 ads on his own accord since Facebook began archiving posts. Curbelo has just one, but has been supported with two others from a climate change-focused group. The Congressional Leadership Fund has dedicated a decent amount of digital spending for both candidates, though as of now it has yet to show up.

Former congressman Alan Grayson and incumbent Darren Soto, who will duke it out in the Aug. 28 primary, both were not active during the recorded period.

In the closely watched Democratic primary for CD 27, Donna Shalala has spent between $100 and $499 on five ads, while state Rep. David Richardson has spent similar amounts on five ads as well. The three other candidates did not spend anything.

Dems and Republicans

The Florida Democratic Party has hit Facebook consistently during May, sharing just two messages: defeat Scott and reform gun laws. Of the 133 ads by Dems in the recorded period, 55 targeted Scott while also solicitng donations. Only one Scott-focused buy exceeded $100.

Interestingly, a search for “Republican Party of Florida” yields a goose egg.

Bill Nelson, Democrats to canvass state through holiday

Amid the barbecues and other festivities this holiday weekend, Democrats will be knocking on doors in 23 of the state’s 67 counties and encouraging Floridians to register to vote.

Partnering with Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will face a tough challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November, the Florida Democratic Party has dubbed the Memorial Day campaign an “‘I Will Vote’” weekend of action. The party will join a team supportive of Nelson, “Nelson’s Neighbors.”

During the weekend, the Democratic senator is scheduled to join volunteers in Orange County. Meanwhile, his wife, Grace Nelson, will be in Duval County also doing fieldwork.

In announcing the campaign, the party noted it’s less than 100 days from the Aug. 28 primary. The Democrats said the three-day weekend marks “a kick-off to a summer of activism,” which they hope will result in thousands of newly registered physical and mail-in voters.

In a news release, FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo expressed confidence in the party’s ability to capitalize on grassroots missions — such as what’s planned this weekend — in 2018. One supporting piece of evidence: Florida was the top state in the nation this week to have volunteers sign up for training with the Association of State Democratic Committees, according to FDP.

“The momentum we are seeing in our Democratic clubs and progressive groups across the state has been outstanding,” said Rizzo, “There is tremendous enthusiasm about our candidates, and it shows by the engagement we are seeing in this weekend of action, and beyond.”

Rizzo, who replaced ousted former Dem chief Stephen Bittel in December, said the party is focused on getting Democrats elected “up and down the ticket.”

Though, with the primary still months away, it makes sense that incumbent Nelson is the only named ‘partner’ in this weekend’s activities. He’s the only formidable Democrat running for his federal seat, whereas the Democratic gubernatorial race boasts four strong candidates in Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King — meaning FDP will hold its tongue on that ticket until voters determine who makes the cut in August. 

And while Democrats have capitalized on the holiday, Republicans have been active in their Days of Action across Florida.

To date this cycle, the GOP has knocked on 290,000 doors. Per the Republican National Committee, there are more Florida field workers for the 2018 midterms working for the party than there have been for any other cycle before.

“In Florida, this year alone we’ve put almost 1,400 people through our intensive Republican Leadership Institute program,” said Taryn Fenske, RNC Spokesperson. “Seventy paid ground staffers are busy training the party’s volunteer army as quickly as they can. Those graduates form the core of neighborhood-based teams then add layers and grow as the cycle progresses. When crunch time arrives this fall, RPOF and RNC will have thousands of trained volunteers ready to knock on doors in their own neighborhoods to defeat Bill Nelson.”

Bill Nelson splits with Marco Rubio, Rick Scott over NoKo summit withdrawal

The push to give President Donald Trump a Nobel Peace Prize for solving the seven-decade-long conflict between the Koreas is imperiled, after the President on Thursday called off the scheduled peace summit with North Korean ‘supreme leader’ Kim Jong Un.

“I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

The President had trumpeted the summit, and a commemorative coin had already been crafted; however, the summit is off now, with the brief detente having collapsed.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson was the first Florida elected official to offer a statement.

“The cancellation of this summit reveals the lack of preparation on the part of President Trump in dealing with a totalitarian dictator like Kim Jong Un. We’ve seen similar lack of preparation by the president in dealing with the leaders of China and Russia,” Nelson asserted.

Sen. Marco Rubio, conversely, “100 percent” supported the President’s decision.

“I 100 percent support the President’s decision. For two weeks now, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un has been trying to sabotage the summit and set the United States up to take the blame. He made a big show of freeing hostages and supposedly dismantling a nuclear site to make himself appear reasonable and conciliatory,” Rubio asserted.

“But in the end it is now apparent his goal was either to gain sanctions relief in exchange for nothing, or to collapse international sanctions by making the U.S. appear to be the unreasonable party. If other leaders in North Korea want a better future,” Rubio added, “they should get rid of Kim Jong Un as soon as possible.”

Nelson’s likely general election opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, likewise aligned with the President.

“Governor Scott believes the interests of the United States must always remain our first priority and he is sure the president and our military and diplomatic leaders made the right decision,” asserted Lauren Schenone on behalf of the Scott campaign.

Complaint alleges Bill Nelson campaigned on Senate business

One of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s constituents is claiming the Florida Democrat violated federal laws by campaigning during a recent event billed as official business.

The complaint, filed Tuesday by Alan L. Swartz, a Pinellas accountant, takes umbrage with an April 6 townhall held at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, or PSTA, in St. Petersburg.

Swartz charges that the event was carried out in Nelson’s capacity as a U.S. Senator, but instead served only to aid Nelson’s re-election campaign. That, Swartz claims, is a violation of federal laws limiting the scope of taxpayer-backed Senate resources. He’s asked the Senate Committee on Ethics, chaired by Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, to launch an investigation into Nelson’s alleged wrongdoings.

“There can be no more direct affront to the American system of campaign funding than to exploit taxpayer dollars to support a campaign; yet Senator Nelson appears to have directly engaged in this practice by using official resources to hold a political event in a government building,” Swartz writes in the complaint. 

Ryan Brown, Nelson’s Senate-side communications director, disagreed.

“This was an official event organized by official staff,” Brown told Florida Politics. He suggested that other members of the media have dismissed a similar complaint as “bogus” and that covering the story follows the mantra of being “all about the clickbait.”

At the crux of Swartz’ complaint is correspondence (subjected to public records requests) sent between PSTA and Nelson’s Senate office. 

Local media coverage, Swartz asserts, proves that the event was for campaign purposes — not official business. An article from the Tampa Bay Times about the event was titled, “Bill Nelson, in campaign mode, talks guns at St. Pete town hall.” It’s cited in a footnote in the complaint. 

Nelson is quoted in the Times’ story saying, “Whoever my opponent is, I always take them very seriously and I run like there’s no tomorrow.” Swartz relies on this, in part, to allege the townhall was a campaign event. It is not clear whether Nelson was prompted by a reporter to speak about campaign-specific details or whether he did so with volition. 

Republican Governor Rick Scott officially challenged Nelson three days later.

One of Nelson’s staffers named in the complaint is Sharah Anderson, who took a spot as Nelson’s political director in March — before the Senator’s town hall in Pinellas. Email records obtained by Swartz show Anderson setting up the event using a government email address and “Regional Director” as her title, a position she’s held for 14 years. Anderson splits time between the campaign and Nelson’s office — which is ethical under Senate guidelines. Nelson’s office told Florida Politics that Anderson’s correspondence with PSTA was made through her role with Nelson’s office.

But Swartz contends the April 6 event was for campaign purposes, and so “use of an official email address indicates that Senator Nelson directed official resources to be used to arrange and promote this event,” reads the complaint.

Swartz writes that “at the bare minimum” Nelson created “the appearance of impropriety,” and should therefore be admonished for reflecting “dishonorably upon the U.S. Senate.”

The complaint against Nelson is well-timed as the incumbent fights against Scott for his seat in 2018. It also follows a different complaint filed last week alleging Nelson leveraged his power to get a lower valuation on a property he owns, so he could pay less yearly in property taxes. Nelson himself dismissed that charge as a perennial political attack.

Scott’s campaign communications director, when asked, denied any affiliation shared between Scott’s campaign and Swartz. But the two have crossed paths before; the Governor appointed Swartz to the Pinellas County Housing Authority in 2015 for a four-year term.

And later on Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party made a charge against Scott that he, too, is using his public office to advance his campaign.

In an email to media, the Democrats highlighted that Scott’s former official press secretary Lauren Schenone, who’s since switched over to the campaign side, attended a state-backed Scott appearance Tuesday. A representative from Scott’s campaign has refuted the charge from the Democrats, clarifying with Florida Politics that Scheone attended the event as a member of the public and her presence was not supported by taxpayer dollars.

Bill Nelson blasts government of Florida for not expanding Medicaid

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday blasted “the government of my state, the state of Florida,” for not expanding Medicaid, during a speech on the Senate floor.

Nelson did not name names beyond that, but his reference to the government could be directed at his opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate election, Gov. Rick Scott, who once, briefly, supported the federal offer to expand Medicaid in Florida under the Affordable Care Act, then backed down, and then turned against it.

In 2015 Florida rejected the offer that would have provided billions of dollars to Florida on a matching and sliding scale, to cover an estimated 800,000 residents who make too much money to qualify for existing Medicaid programs and not enough to afford insurance.

“There’s almost $5 billion a year that is sitting on the shelf,” Nelson said, “that is Florida taxpayer money that is going elsewhere.

“In my state of Florida, that is 800,000 people, almost a million people, poor people, disabled folks that would be getting health care,” Nelson continued. “What do they do? They end up going to the emergency room.”

Nelson’s blast came in a friendly exchange with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat elected last fall in a special election, who began by criticizing his own state’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion.

Nationally, 18 states including Florida and Alabama turned down the federal expansion program authorized through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Kerri Wyland, spokeswoman for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, responded, “If Bill Nelson is truly concerned about healthcare services for Floridians, he should propose real solutions instead of campaigning from the Senate floor.”

Bill Nelson’s Brevard County property valuation challenged

A Brevard County taxpayer is challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s appraisal of land he owns there, alleging it has been undervalued for years, costing the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions” in under-taxation.

It’s not a new issue, and Nelson, in a brief conversation on Friday, dismissed the complaint as something that comes up from political opponents in every election, while he insisted the property’s appraisal is appropriate as the land’s use is for grazing cattle.

The complaint was filed last week by James Peter Fusscas of Malabar with the Brevard County Property Appraiser’s office. It charges that Nelson’s property has been far undervalued, with the office listing the land’s market value at $3,038,750, while assessing its value for tax purposes at only $210,630, when Nelson had once listed the property, and a smaller adjacent parcel, for sale for at nearly $10 million.

That was a reference to a listing from the Allen Morris Company, a real estate agent based in Maitland, which had sought $9.975 million for the 75.7 acres along the coastline and U.S. Highway 1 near Malabar. That listing covered two parcels owned by Nelson, the agricultural area and an adjacent parcel that is zoned for single-family houses but also vacant. The listing included the projection that the two parcels combined could bring $21.5 million if redeveloped for housing.

Fusscas inaccurately contended in his complaint that the property is for sale.

In an email, agent Henry Pineiro told Florida Politics: “This property is not currently for sale and has not been for sale for the last couple of years.”

Nelson’s campaign staff also confirmed that the property is not for sale.

Fusscas’s complaint also refers previous media reports on the land that noted that Nelson leases it at no cost, and also notes that his federal financial disclosures have reported no income from the property for at least the previous seven years.

Fusscas argues that Nelson’s property should not be getting a tax break, and adds, “even if Senator Nelson is somehow entitled to a green belt exemption, his tax burden has nevertheless been much lower than the exemption contemplates.”

Last year Nelson paid $3,687 in taxes on the larger property and $4,309 on the smaller parcel.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Nelson’s re-election campaign.

In a brief conversation Friday, Nelson said he has not seen the complaint but said that Republicans try to make an issue of the agricultural appraisal on his property and the taxes in every election cycle, and said this is no different.

“It is agriculture, cow pasture for 60 years,” Nelson said. “This comes up every election.”

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