Bill Nelson Archives - Page 6 of 30 - Florida Politics

The story from a primary election day in the not-too-distant future

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after Hillary Clinton became the nation’s first female president, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has become the second woman to win a major party’s nomination for Florida governor.

Graham, an attorney and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, held off her two Democratic rivals in a spirited primary election.

Graham now faces former state House Speaker Will Weatherford in November. The Wesley Chapel Republican edged out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP establishment favorite, in a free-wheeling, wide-open Republican primary.

The man Graham and Weatherford hope to replace, Rick Scott, easily won the Republican nomination in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. He’ll face three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the fall.

Spending only $9 million out of his personal fortune, it was the least amount Scott has spent to win an election. Instead, the still-powerful governor raised more than $30 million for his Senate campaign from the political allies who have long supported him. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donated heavily to “Let’s Get to Work America,” the super PAC backing Scott.

It was Scott’s nonstop fundraising after winning re-election in 2014 — especially as it became clear he would be back on the ballot in 2018 — that became one of the launching points for Graham’s gubernatorial bid. Her promise to “clean up the Governor’s Mansion” became a rallying cry for her and supporters on the campaign trail.

Graham captured 38 percent of the Democratic vote, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn finished second with 30 percent and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, despite spending more than $50 million of his own money, ended in third place with 28 percent. A handful of also-rans and gadfly candidates rounded out the results.

The clear difference for Graham was her strength with African-American voters, who were reminded in television commercial after television commercial of Tampa’s controversial “biking while black” ticketing scandal.

While Graham rarely brought up the topic, an anti-Buckhorn super PAC never let the issue drop, dogging Buckhorn press conferences with paid protestors who would buzz the events by circling around on bicycles. The video of Buckhorn jumping down from a stage to confront one of the young protestors went viral.

Levine entered the race with considerable fanfare, distributing virtual reality players to donors and reporters so they could watch the short film he had produced about his tenure as mayor.

And while the “Miami Beach Miracle” movie was the first use of VR on a campaign trail, Levine did not deliver at the box office. Polls indicated he never connected with either the conservative north Florida Democrats loyal to Graham or the voters of the I-4 corridor which Buckhorn hoped would be enough of a base to beat Graham.

The Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the GOP primary, with at least five candidates having staked some sort of claim to the state’s largest media market. Weatherford is from Wesley Chapel, Putnam from Bartow, Carlos Beruff from Parrish, Richard Corcoran from Land O’ Lakes, and Jack Latvala from Clearwater.

Beruff never stopped running for statewide office after losing to Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Although his consulting team was busy with Scott’s race, the prospect of Beruff writing another eight-figure check for his campaign kept the nucleus of his team together.

The Manatee County homebuilder parted with another $14 million in his bid to become governor, making it nearly $25 million Beruff has spent in the last two years for two losing campaigns.

Corcoran and Latvala, the two legislative powerhouses who brought the Capitol to a standstill earlier this year over Corcoran’s resistance to commit any taxpayer dollars to Latvala’s plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, really only flirted with running for governor.

Corcoran was in the race for about a month, Latvala less than that. But after the so-called “Waffle House Summit” at which Corcoran and Latvala agreed to drop their bids for governor and instead run for attorney general and chief financial officer, while backing Weatherford over Putnam, the governor’s race became a two-man affair.

Corcoran will square off against Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg in the attorney general’s race, while Latvala will face Democrat Jeremy Ring. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli faces nominal Democratic opposition in the race for agriculture commissioner.

For much of the race, Putnam held every advantage — in fundraising, endorsements, and name recognition. But Weatherford doggedly traveled the state, damning Putnam with faint praise.

“Adam has been a good politician for more than 20 years,” Weatherford would say, “And he would make a good governor. But what Florida needs now is a transformational governor.”

The charge of Putnam being a career politician began to stick as Weatherford won straw polls at county party meetings and the endorsements of national movement conservatives. To many observers, the Weatherford vs. Putnam race played out like the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist race of 2010.

By the time Goliath noticed David, it was too late.

Weatherford heads into November knowing that Florida Republicans typically outperform Democrats in non-presidential years.

But Graham is anything but a typical politician. With her father campaigning by her side and a legion of volunteers behind her, Graham may be the Democrats’ best chance to take back the Governor’s Mansion since the days of Lawton Chiles.

Retailers, health care gives Rick Scott committee big boost in August

The political committee backing Gov. Rick Scott has raised $135,000 in the second week of August, according to newly filed reports.

Since Aug. 6, “Let’s Get to Work” brought in $50,000 apiece from Sovereign Healthcare Disbursements and Wal-Mart, with an additional $25,000 coming from the Florida Retail Federation and $10,000 coming from Bradenton-based BI Services.

The income was offset by just $3,500 in expenditures between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12, including $1,882 in printing expenses to Gandy Printers and $1,565 for accounting services from Carroll and Company CPAs.

The haul shows a slight uptick from the last reporting period, covering July 30 through Aug. 5, when the committee brought in $112,500 and spent about $60,500.

The new numbers show “Let’s Get to Work” with about $1.67 million on hand Aug. 12.

Florida candidates and committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports for the period.

Scott cannot run for re-election due to term limits, though the two-term Republican may be eyeing a 2018 run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson.

Bill Nelson said he’s trying to get Zika funding urgency through Mitch McConnell’s ‘thick head’

An increasingly frustrated-sounding Bill Nelson said Thursday he has sent another letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to take action — even using arcane Senate rules — to try again to get major funding to fight the spread of the Zika virus.

Nelson, a Democrat, proposed to McConnell, a Republican, earlier this week that the leader could use a little-known Senate procedure to pass an emergency Zika-funding bill without reconvening the entire Senate. When that was ignored, Nelson said he sent McConnell a letter Thursday reminding him of ways Zika could quickly become a crisis outside of Florida and even spread easily to McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.

Florida is now dealing with the reality of the Zika virus being spread by mosquitoes in Miami, a prospect that could lead to an epidemic and spread up through the peninsula. Nelson said his letter to McConnell was sent to remind him of the prospect it will spread to other states.

Several attempts for major funding to combat the Zika virus died in Congress this spring, including a bipartisan, $1.1 billion funding bill that passed the U.S. Senate 69-30 only to go into the House and get weighed down with highly partisan, poison-pill amendments that assured its death.

Nelson, Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and others have been trying to get the Senate and the House leaders to try again, but Congress is in recess.

Thursday’s letter was signed by 41 senators, all Democrats, asking McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to cancel the remainder of the Congressional recess and call both chambers back into session to pass a Zika-funding bill.

“It is simply unacceptable that efforts to counter the spread of Zika and develop a vaccine are being held hostage by Republican partisanship,” the lawmakers wrote. “Congressional leaders should call both the Senate and the House back into session to pass a real and serious response to the burgeoning Zika crisis.”

The call comes as health officials in Miami-Dade County work to contain the spread of the virus to a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami where at least 15 people have been infected by mosquitoes carrying the virus.

“We’ve got to get it through their thick heads, the hard heads of the other senators and particularly the majority leaders, Zika can be spread by not only by a mosquito bite. But if one of the residents in Miami-Dade that has been infected travels to the state of the majority leader, Kentucky, and if another mosquito bites that infected person in Kentucky, and that mosquito goes and feeds on other people, Zika is spreading.

“Or that infected person, a male, can have the Zika virus in his semen for two months. And now the blood, the tainted blood,” Nelson said, referring to the prospect that the Zika virus could infect the donated blood supply and move elsewhere that way.

37% of Florida GOP voters back Mike Huckabee for governor in 2018

It’s never too early to think about the next election, and a new poll from St. Pete Polls has Floridians doing just that.

According to the survey, 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Gov. Rick Scott would make a good U.S. Senator. The survey found 16 percent of respondents said they were unsure, while 30 percent said he wouldn’t be a good senator.

Scott can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits. While he’s been mum on his future political plans, many Florida insiders believe he is gearing up to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work — continues to raise money, raising nearly $1.9 million in the first seven months of 2016. He’s also become the chairman of a pro-Donald Trump super PAC, giving a larger presence on the national stage.

With Scott vacating the governor’s mansion in a few years, speculation has already begun about who will replace the Naples Republican come 2018.

While Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial run, other possible contenders include CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Florida resident.

When it comes to the governor’s race, 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Huckabee; while 26 percent said they would pick Bondi. Nearly 8 percent of voters said they would pick Putnam, while nearly 7 percent said they would vote for Atwater.

About 1 percent of voters said they would vote for Corcoran, 3 percent said they would pick former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and less 1 percent said they would vote for former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Seven percent of voters polled said they would vote for someone else. And with more than two years until the election, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would vote for.

The survey was conducted Aug. 2, and polled 1,835 likely Republican primary voters through an automated calling system. Voters were chosen at random from the state’s registered voting lists. The margin of error is 2.3 percent.


Bill Nelson asks Senate leaders to pass Zika funding during pro forma session

Sen. Bill Nelson is once again pushing for a vote on the Senate’s $1.1 billion proposal to curb the spread of Zika.

Nelson sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday, asking him to reconvene the Senate so they can “take up and pass an emergency spending bill” to provide health officials with resources to stop the spread of the virus. If that isn’t possible, Nelson has asked McConnell to use a pro forma session to allow a senator to take up and unanimously approve the Senate’s Zika spending plan.

In May, the Senate approved a $1.1 billion proposal — much higher than the amount the House initially proposed — to stop the spread of Zika. After budget negotiations, the House approved a $1.1 billion plan and sent it back to the Senate for approval.

Senate Democrats blocked measure, faulting Republicans for packing the bill with provisions to defund Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico and ease rules on pesticide spraying.

Nelson said the Senate has used pro forma sessions to pass bills in the past, and the action is necessary to “protect the American people from this growing public-health crisis.”

“The threat we face from Zika has gone from serious to emergency,” said Nelson. “I urge you to work with Sen. (Harry) Reid and reach an agreement so that I, or another senator, may be recognized in one of the upcoming pro forma session(s) and — barring any objections — send to the House a Zika-funding bill that our health officials need now, more than ever, to stop the spread of the virus. We cannot afford to wait another five weeks for Congress to return.”

Mosquitoes are believed to have infected 14 people with Zika in a small part of Miami. The infections mark the first cases from mosquito bites on the U.S. mainland. Health officials are recommending pregnant women stay away from the Wynwood neighborhood where the virus was transmitted.

The company you keep: Sam Rashid turns up at Marco Rubio Tampa fundraiser

An old proverb goes: “You are the company you keep.” Another saying, not quite as old, is “stop saying dumb things on social media.”

That last one is a bit of wisdom Marco Rubio might have imparted on Republican activist Sam Rashid during Thursday’s $500-a-plate “Day One Marco” fundraiser in Tampa.

Florida’s junior senator has been very busy this summer, crisscrossing the state in his re-election effort. That means pressing a lot of flesh. So it should come as no surprise to see Rubio meeting with a wide range of supporters coming out for the GOP front-runner.

Nevertheless, when Rubio made his way to Tampa this week, one name stood out above the rest in the high-profile host committee: Sam Rashid.

Rashid, for those not familiar, has had a long — and infamous — reputation on social media, and also is a well-known figure in Rubioworld.

To put it another way, Rashid and Rubio are more than just Facebook friends; and that might not be a good thing.

Listed among the hosts were such big names as lobbyist Michael Corcoran and his brother, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as well as former Speaker Will Weatherford and Ambassador Mel Sembler and his wife, Betty.

However, no one on that list has a more colorful online profile as Rashid.

For example, Rubio appointed Rashid last year to a committee advising both Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on judicial appointees. It didn’t last long.

Rashid resigned in May 2015, after he was criticized for a Facebook post calling some local judges “dumbasses.”

Later, Rashid infamously resigned again in October, this time from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, after he called Tampa-based public relations consultant Beth Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut.”

Apparently, Rashid doesn’t think people actually read the things he posts on Facebook.

Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Rashid to the Aviation Authority in June 2014 and was reportedly under immense pressure to fire him for the comment about Leytham.

Instead of showing remorse for his blatantly misogynistic remark, Rashid doubled down, stubbornly refusing to apologize for the slur that led to his resignation.

So when a notorious Facebooker like Rashid appears at the top of a Rubio host committee — $5,400 to be a “Day One Marco Supporter” — it makes one wonder.

Is this really the company Rubio wants to keep?

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Lauren Book challenges Florida Democratic delegation to remember why they came to Philadelphia

One of Florida’s newest state senators, Lauren Book, addressed the Florida Delegation Breakfast Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Why are each and every one of you here today?” she challenged delegates shortly after her introduction. The Broward County Democrat was following such notables as Howard Dean and Terry McAuliffe.

“Why have you traveled a thousand or more miles to participate over the last few days? What is your motivation to be among this group of super Democrats? It’s taken a lot to get here.”

She answered her own question by saying it might be because of a passion for protecting a woman’s right to choose, to help Democrats to win back the Congress, or perhaps stop the epidemic of gun violence.

Or simply to help Hillary Clinton become the first woman to hold the highest office in the land.

Book won her first bid for public office last month in state Senate District 32 when no other candidate filed by the qualifying deadline.

Although she’ll be a freshman when the Legislature convenes in 2017, she’s already a well-known quantity both in Tallahassee and throughout the state, after making a name for herself as a vocal advocate on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse.

In 2007, Book founded Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit which aims to teach children and adults about sexual abuse prevention through education, awareness campaigns, and speaking engagements around the world.

She’s also the daughter of the extremely wired-in Ron Book, considered one of Florida’s most influential lobbyists.

While some delegates chatted among themselves quietly as Book began to speak, halfway through her address, the entire room hushed as she told her own tale of sexual and emotional abuse, which began at the age of 11 at the hands of a nanny.

“I was scared. Embarrassed. And ashamed. I felt trapped. And very, very alone.”

Book noted it took six years for her to tell others about the abuse. “I grew stronger!” she exclaimed to loud cheers from delegation members.

Ninety-five percent of sexual abuse is preventable, Book said, through education and awareness. Her annual treks across Florida — now totaling more than 9,000 miles walked — helped bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse. Book then mentioned those who had walked with her: Oscar Braynon, Arthenia Joyner, Bill Nelson, Bob Buckhorn and others.

As was the overall theme of the convention, Book gave some love to Hillary Clinton. She cited specifically the newly nominated presidential candidate’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund, which lobbied Congress to pass the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. The act requires all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education, as well as one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities.

Book added that, while in office, she intends to continue advocating for policies protecting women’s health, expanded access to mental health services and strengthening Florida’s criminal justice system.

“As we stand at the convention tonight,” she concluded, “and watch Hillary Rodham Clinton become our nominee … I am going to ask each and every one of you to ‘remember your why.'”

“Remembering your why” — or finding the meaning of your life through impactful events — was the topic of a Ted Talk Book gave earlier this year in Oxford, England.


Mark Kelly joins Patrick Murphy in attacking Marco Rubio voting record on gun issues

U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has received the endorsement of Americans for Responsible Solutions,”the super PAC led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

“We really strongly believe that Congressman Murphy is the best person in this race to fight for the responsible steps that we need to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Kelly said in a conference call organized by the Murphy campaign on Wednesday. “He’s the guy we need to help prevent gun tragedies, and he is the candidate that will help make Florida communities safer from gun violence.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions was created just months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013, and two years after Giffords was nearly killed after being shot at a town hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

Murphy said he was humbled by the endorsement.

“We know that the majority of Americans and the majority of Floridians favor reasonable measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent gun violence,” he said. “But we’re sorely lacking leadership in Congress to get commonsense proposals — like closing background check loopholes and closing the terror gap — across the finish line. In the U.S. Senate, I will always stand with Gabby and Mark in the fight to make Florida families and children safer from gun violence.”

Although Murphy is still very much locked in a competitive primary election against fellow Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, he wasn’t mentioned in the call. But GOP Sen. Marco Rubio definitely was.

Referring to his visit to Orlando on Tuesday as part of a statewide campaign tour he’s on this week, Murphy blasted Rubio for failing to meet with the families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last month, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured.

“Sen. Rubio held a closed-door meeting,” Murphy said. “He refused to talk to the many Floridians who made their voices heard outside this private event. He went so far as to call these constituents ‘petty protestors.’ That to me is insulting, to admonish citizens who are expressing his record of consistently opposing gun prevention measures, and instead of listening to these cries of Floridians who have been deeply impacted by this gun violence, Sen. Rubio played the blame game.”

According to an account in the Orlando Sentinel, Rubio was confronted by approximately 30 protestors at an appearance near the Pulse nightclub shooting scene. He said he was trying to help coordinate aid for Pulse shooting victims and their families from various federal agencies, including the FBI’s victim fund.

Kelly criticized Rubio’s voting record on guns on the conference call.

“Marco Rubio has voted repeatedly to protect the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers and even terror suspects get guns without a background check,” he said. “He did so after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and he did it again after the tragedy Orlando.”

Last month, the U.S. Senate voted on and rejected four different gun control measures, two sponsored by Republicans, two sponsored by Democrats. Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson voted along party lines on those votes, and the Florida Republican called the Democrats’ proposals “politically motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

“After lying about his own resume and getting caught delaying needed aid to Floridians for his own publicity, now he’s spreading even more lies,” responded Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign. “Marco has a strong record of fighting to keep Florida’s families safe.”

Left unclear at the conclusion of the conference call was whether Americans for Responsible Solutions will be supporting Murphy financially or by putting up a campaign advertisement backing his candidacy. Kelly said that as a 501(c)(4) and a super PAC, there are certain rules about independent expenditures that must be adhered to.

“I can’t really tell you because I don’t know, and I wouldn’t be involved because we have legally have set up a firewall between the folks who have been coordinating with Congressman Murphy’s office, and an I.E. (independent expenditure) if we chose to do that,” Kelly said.

Marco Rubio talks water quality during stop in Fort Myers

Sen. Marco Rubio is focused on getting a comprehensive water bill through Congress this fall, saying the legislation could be key in combating South Florida’s water woes.

“The single biggest thing we can do to improve the situation is called the Central Everglades Planning Project,” said Rubio. “It’s in the water bill, and our hope and our work is all focused on getting passage in September. It would not be the final step, but it would be the single biggest step taken on this issue in almost two decades.”

Rubio was in Fort Myers Monday to talk with local leaders about water quality issues. He attended a similar meeting on the Treasure Coast, where blue-green algae has clogged the waterways for weeks, later in the day.

While the Miami Republican said there was a sense of urgency to tackle the region’s water problems, he stressed the best option was to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project. But even if Congress approves the water package this fall, it could be years before any of the projects outlined in CEPP are completed.

Approval of the central Everglades projects, which Rubio said include a suite of projects to help hold and clean water, would allow engineers and experts to begin the planning process. Congress would need to come back at a later date to approve funding.

“We are closer than we (have) ever been to getting it done,” he said about CEPP. “We have to get that done in September, otherwise it’s going to be another year of waiting.”

Rubio said he wanted to focus on completing the projects laid out in the CEPP and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan before moving on to other possibilities, like buying land south of Lake Okeechobee to help move water south. Rubio said he was concerned that pushing for funding for land purchases might distract from the larger projects.

But environmentalists and some local leaders have said that buying land south of the lake is a key component to reducing discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Thick, green algae has plagued the Treasure Coast’s waterways for weeks. The governor has declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties, and has asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency. That request, however, was denied late last week.

The algae was slowing making its way to Southwest Florida. The city of Cape Coral closed the Cape Coral Yacht Club beach on Sunday after reviewing a letter of from the DEP indicating there were some risks. Algae, according to the Fort Myers News-Press, has been reported in the Caloosahatchee River for about a month.

Rubio’s visit to Fort Myers came just days after Sen. Bill Nelson visited the region to discuss water quality concerns.

Dana Young adds another $25K in SD 18 race, now at nearly $395K

Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young raised another $25,000 between June 25 and July 8 for an on-hand total of nearly $395,000 in her campaign account for the Senate District 18 race.

Young brought in the money though 47 contributions, including a pair of $1,000 checks from South Florida attorney John Hoffman and his law firm as well as max contributions from pari-mutuel companies Isle of Capri Casinos and PPI.

Young also spent $19,715 last month, mostly on consulting. Among the expenditures were $5,000 for Tallahassee-based Prosequence, $4,500 to Sydney Ridley and $3,800 to Trent Phillips, all for consulting work.

The House Majority Leader’s main competition is Democrat Bob Buesing, who raised $15,176 and spent $10,423 during the reporting period. The Tampa attorney’s donor roll included three $1,000 checks and an additional $13,895 in in-kind support from the Florida Democratic Party.

The report shows Buesing with a little more than $118,000 on hand.

SD 18 has also drawn a pair of no-party candidates, Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove, who have $3,700 and $110 on hand, respectively.

District 18 has a tight split in voter registrations, with Democrats making up slightly more of the electorate than Republicans. Back in 2012, President Barack Obama carried the district by about a point, while Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson won re-election by a 16-point margin.


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