Bill Nelson Archives - Page 6 of 31 - Florida Politics

Bill Nelson will “reserve judgment” regarding Jeff Sessions nomination as Attorney General

If Bill Nelson is concerned about the fact that his party appears to be in tatters following last week’s election, he wasn’t letting on while addressing reporters in Tampa on Friday afternoon. Nelson will be one of 25 Democratic Senators up for re-election in a map that already looked foreboding for the Democrats before Hillary Clinton lost in the electoral college to Donald Trump in the race for the White House next week.

“I only know one way to run, and that’s to run as hard as I can as if there’s no tomorrow,” he said, adding that whether it was Governor Rick Scott or another Republican challenging his bid for a fourth term in the Senate representing Florida, he’ll continue to run in that mode.

“I always say that I run scared, and that’s the way to win,” when asked about the fact that Scott spent more than $75 million to capture the governor’s mansion in 2010, and this time will have the power of the White House behind him in Trump.

The President-elect made more news on Friday by naming Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn to his administration

Some Democrats have reacted with alarm to the naming of Sessions to be the next Attorney General, who in 1986 became only the second federal judicial nominee in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for his comments in part regarding his remarks on civil rights. 

Nelson said little about how he might vote on Sessions when he comes up for a confirmation vote next year. “I will certainly reserve judgment if he is the nominee until we go through the hearings and it comes to the full Senate for a vote,” he said at a news conference at his downtown Tampa district office. “I can tell you that Jeff Sessions and I have worked on a number of pieces of legislation together in a bipartisan way and I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him.”

Last year the two worked on a bill that would reduce the number of H-1B visas from 85,000 to 70,000 a year. The filing of that bill came following reports Disney and other companies are using the visas to cut costs at the expense of American workers.

Nelson said he was briefed a few years ago by Flynn regarding an issue in the Intelligence Committee, but said he didn’t know him personally, and because he wasn’t subject to confirmation in the Senate, he had nothing else to say about him.

Regarding concerns from Latinos and Muslims about a Trump presidency after his harsh rhetoric in the campaign about those groups, Nelson took a relatively laid-back approach, saying there was no reason why anyone needed to be fearful of a Trump presidency. “Look at the Constitution,” he said. “It’s always worked for almost two-and-a-half centuries now. So I want the American people to stop worrying.”

The Florida Senator was not so benign when discussing Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who was named last Sunday by Trump to serve as his chief strategist. Critics have said he holds racist and anti-Semitic views based on some of the provocative reporting that’s gone on the Breitbart News website led by Bannon.

“If all these things are true about him and if he holds those views that have been articulated, if not by him by the organization he heads, then I think that is quite problematic, but again, the Senate has no role in that because the President ought to be able to have who he wants surrounding him, and in that case it is not subject to Senate confirmation,” he said.

The Democratic Party as a whole appears to be just beginning a period of soul-searching after the election. That includes an upcoming election to choose a new leader of the Democratic National Committee, as well as a challenge now to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s reign.

Regarding the DNC, Nelson told this reporter that “we obviously need somebody really good, and I think that person should be a full-time DNC Chairman. Beyond that, I have not made any judgments. “

By saying that, however, he’s effectively icing out Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman and favorite of the progressive wing who of course, already has a full-time job serving in the House.

And of the challenge to Pelosi, the 76-year-old San Francisco Representative who’s led the House Democrats for 14 years now and seen dozens of seats go from blue to red in recent election cycles?

“That’s in the bosom in the House,” Nelson declared. “I wouldn’t dare to speak for the House.”

Nelson said if Trump is sincere about seriously investing in the country’s crumbling infrastructure, he’d have a willing partner in himself. “We’ll just have to take it issue by issue.”

Bob Buckhorn says it’s a time for soul searching in the Democratic Party

Lifelong Democrat Bob Buckhorn admits it’s been rough adapting to a world where Hillary Clinton won’t be the next president. The Tampa mayor went all-out for the party’s presidential nominee, including a weekend winter trip to New Hampshire just days before the first primary in the nation last February. And while Clinton did take Hillsborough County (along with the other major metropolitan areas of Florida), she lost the exurban and rural areas big time in ultimately losing to Donald Trump by just 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State last week.

Both the national and state Democratic party are in crisis, with the Democratic National Committee and Florida Democratic Party to decide on new leadership in the coming months. Like so many other Florida Democrats, Buckhorn has been here before.

“Obviously anytime you have a loss like this, there’s going to be a lot of teeth gnashing and soul searching,” the mayor said Tuesday.

“There will be a debate at the national level as to whether or not you move to a more progressive agenda, with people like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders; or do you try to come back to the center a la Bill Clinton in 1991 and 1992 to drive a message that the middle class mattered, that those rural white working class folks that he could talk to so well have got to be included in the discussion, that it’s not just driving up minority participation but have a message that resonates with everybody.”

Although he didn’t tip his hand as to where he comes down to the different approaches that will no doubt be debated by Democrats going into the holiday season, the mayor historically has come down on the centrist side, and has previously argued that is the only way to win statewide in Florida.

Buckhorn says the conversation needs to begins now among party members in Florida if they’re going to successfully defend Bill Nelson’s Senate seat (Rick Scott admitted on Wednesday what everyone has assumed is a given — he’s looking at running for Nelson’s seat). There’s also the potential to pick up a cabinet seat (or more) with with all four state office positions — governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner — all open seats in 2018. “We need a message that resonates, not just in the cities, but everywhere in the state of Florida,” he said.

Inevitably, any conversation with Buckhorn about politics leads to his own potential participation for one of those seats in 2018 — specifically governor.

Although one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham has virtually declared her candidacy and there’s a movement afoot to draft Orlando attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan, Buckhorn isn’t showing his cards just yet, but admits he’ll need to decide by early 2017.

“Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead,” he said, adding, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.

“I’m lucky that I’ve got a job that I love coming to work everyday, and if I choose not to do this, I’m going to be perfectly happy, because I get to finish out an opportunity here as mayor that I have worked for my entire life. It’s a good position for me to be in. I do think the state needs new leadership, I think we need a regime change in Tallahassee. And I think that the Tampa renaissance is going to be a pretty compelling story to tell.”

Rick Scott considering bid for US Senate in 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who challenged the Republican establishment six years ago and stormed his way into the governor’s mansion, now says he is considering running for the U.S. Senate.

During a wide-range interview with reporters on Tuesday, Scott conceded that “an option I have” is to run for the seat held by Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018. Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, has already said he plans to run for a fourth term.

Scott, who has already said he’s not interested in a potential job in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, didn’t lay out any kind of time table for a decision and instead said that he would continue to focus on his current post.

Scott said that in business he figured out that “if I do well every day in my job there would be a next opportunity.”

Scott was re-elected in 2014, but is limited by law from seeking another term.

Scott spoke of his intentions while attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Orlando where he said he was “excited” about Trump’s victory because he now had someone he could call on for help. Scott said that he had already talked to Trump three times since the election.

“I now have a president I can talk to,” said Scott, who repeatedly criticized the administration of President Barack Obama on a myriad of issues.

Scott’s bid for future office could be helped out by Trump, who Scott called a friend and said he’s someone he has known for 20 years. Scott endorsed Trump right after he won the Florida primary and stood by even as Trump came under fire for some of his comments during the campaign. He also was a chairman of a super PAC that raised $20 million that was used on ads in battleground states that were won by Trump.

Scott has compared his upstart victory in 2010 to Trump’s since the former health care executive ran against GOP favorite and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. He noted that Republicans ran attack ads against him during the heated campaign.

During his remarks with reporters, Scott said it was time for Republicans who offered lukewarm support for Trump to now “embrace him.” He predicted that Trump could help the state on everything from flood insurance rates to securing federal funding for Everglades restoration and repairing the aging Lake Okeechobee dike.

Reprinted with the permission of the Associated Press

Joe Henderson: Looks like Donald Trump insider Pam Bondi is movin’ on up

It great to have choices, especially the kind in Pam Bondi’s world these days.

If there was any doubt about her clout with President-elect Donald Trump, that was put to rest when she was named to his transition team executive committee late last week.

This is as close to being brought into the official Trump family as one can get without bloodlines. It’s a team of power figures that includes Trump’s children, several important lawmakers, and key insiders whose work helped him win the election.

Trump clearly believes Bondi deserves “insider” status.

“I’m honored to serve President-elect Donald J. Trump in making this historic transition and assisting in finding the best individuals to bring change to Washington on Day 1, grow our economy, protect our children and families, and be unafraid to stand up for Americans,” Bondi said in a statement.

No one will be surprised if Florida is looking for a new attorney general soon. I don’t think Trump brought Bondi in this close to merely shake her hand when the transition is done and say, “Hey, thanks. Appreciate it. See you in four years.”

And Bondi, who is nothing if not ambitious, must know this is the time to jump. It won’t be long until the wrestling match for slots in the 2018 statewide and U.S. Senate races begin in Florida (I know, I know … sorry) and Bondi doesn’t seem to have a natural fit anywhere.

She hasn’t been mentioned in any serious chatter about running for governor. Her current boss, Gov. Rick Scott, seems to have his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat. Bondi’s best bet might be to get what she can now with Trump and see where that takes her.

If she does join the administration, there are a lot of people who will consider it a quid-pro-quo for Bondi’s look-the-other-way performance on questions about consumer rip-offs in Florida by Trump University. The $25,000 campaign check Trump wrote for Bondi’s 2014 race might come up a time or two — or several thousand.

It sure has the look of something cozy.

That’s the thing about her, though.

That ambition-driven interior is covered by a Teflon exterior. Nothing seems to stick to her. Don’t forget, Bondi originally backed Jeb Bush for president, only to swear allegiance to the candidate who insulted and trashed him.

Trump won Florida by 1.3 percent, or about 120,000 votes out of about 9.3 million cast. Did Bondi’s support help swing the necessary votes his way? I doubt it. I think Trump voters chose him for reasons that had nothing to do with Bondi’s endorsement.

Once she was on Trump’s team, though, she was all in — and the incoming president didn’t forget that. Now that the race is over, she has moved to the head of the line for whatever awaits. I suppose it’s possible she could come back to finish her remaining two years as attorney general.

At this point, though, it seems a lot more likely that she is headed uptown.

John Mica adds $160K, pulls far ahead of Stephanie Murphy in CD 7

Incumbent Republican Rep. John Mica added another $160,000 to his campaign account, according to a pair of notices filed with the Federal Election Commission last week.

Mica filed the notices on Oct. 26 and Oct 28, showing a combined 76 contributions totaling $158,500 for his campaign.

Among the donors were fellow Republican representatives Vicky Hatzler of Missouri, Garrett Graves of Louisiana, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.

Mica’s supporters also included dozens of political committees, such as the American Airlines PAC, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the New York Life PAC, and SunTrust BankPAC, among many others.

Democrat Stephanie Murphy, Mica’s opponent in the Congressional District 7 race, added $36,000 to her campaign account, according to a pair of FEC filings her campaign made Oct. 28.

Like Mica, Murphy received a good deal of support from other congressional campaigns, including Reps. Paul Tonko and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Julia Brownley and Mark Takano of California, and Bill Foster of Illinois.

Mica is far ahead of Murphy in total fundraising. Through the candidates’ last full campaign finance reports, Mica had raised more than $1.2 million with $167,000 cash-on-hand compared to about $777,000 for Murphy, who had about $174,000 on hand.

CD 7 covers Seminole County and part of Orange County and is shaping up to be very competitive. Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats in the district, though President Barack Obama and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both carried the district four years ago.

National Taxpayers Union gives Marco Rubio an A, Patrick Murphy an F

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, is out with its new grades of federal lawmakers, drawing a clear distinction in assessments of candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got an A, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy an F.

“Patrick Murphy’s F-rating from the National Taxpayers Union should come as no surprise after his years of casting liberal votes in Congress. Murphy supports higher taxes, a carbon tax, and wants to make it easier for the federal government to create new regulations. With a record like that, no wonder Murphy never actually worked as a CPA. Murphy’s liberal policies don’t work, and Florida families can’t afford them” Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens stated in a news release issued by Rubio’s campaign.

Both candidates are in good company within their parties. The taxpayers union’s annual Taxpayer Score also gave Fs to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and every other Democratic member of Congress from Florida except U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who got a D. Among Florida Republicans, U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, and Ted Yoho also got As. The worst grades among Florida Republicans were the Cs that went to U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Letinen.

Murphy’s 25 percent score from the taxpayers union was in fact the second-highest among Florida Democrats, after Graham’s 33 percent. Nelson got a 17 percent score. Rubio got an 87 percent score, tied for best among Florida’s congressional delegation.

The National Taxpayers Union was founded in 1969 and calls itself the”The voice of America’s taxpayers.”

“The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers,” according to the organization.

Bill Nelson predicts smooth election during stop in Southwest Florida

It’s been a contentious election cycle, but Sen. Bill Nelson said Americans are engaged and appear eager to cast their ballots.

“I think, on the one hand, people all across the country are so turned off at the degree of ugliness that has gone on in our politics,” said Nelson following a stop in Immokalee on Saturday. “But, on the other hand, I think that has sparked the interest of the American people, especially in a state like Florida.”

Nelson was in Immokalee on Saturday afternoon to talk with Collier County leaders about the U.S. Department of Agriculture Promise Zone designation. The community received the designation — which commits the federal government to partner with local leaders to address community revitalization challenges — in June. The Southwest Florida zone is the only Promise Zone in the state of Florida.

Nelson’s trip also came just days before the start of Florida’s in-person early voting period. Early voting is scheduled to begin in about 50 counties — including Duval, Collier, Hillsborough, and Orange — Monday.

Millions of Floridians are expected to cast ballots during the early voting period, including Nelson. The Orlando Democrat said he and his wife, Grace, plan to vote early when it begins next week.

Nelson pointed to long lines on the first day of early voting in North Carolina as an indication Americans are eager to get out and cast a ballot. According to ABC 11 News in Raleigh, some voters waited an hour and 15 minutes to cast ballots in Wake County, North Carolina.

“I think this is showing an interest,” said Nelson. “At the end of the day, even though it’s been an acrimonious, highly contentious presidential contest, I think what we’re seeing is that the American people are going to get engaged and they’re going to vote.”

Nelson dismissed claims by Republican Donald Trump that the election was rigged, saying “there is no election fraud.” He said Florida has taken steps over the years to make it easier for Floridians to vote, with early voting, vote-by-mail, and Election Day voting.

“As a result, I think you’re going to see a smooth election and I also think you’re going to see an election with hardly any voter fraud,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of voters are already casting ballots. According to the Florida Division of Elections, more than 1.1 million Floridians have already returned their vote-by-mail ballots. Records show 463,959 Republicans and 443,502 Democrats have returned their ballots.

Gabby Giffords’ super PAC hits John Mica with $20K direct mailer in CD 7

A political committee founded by former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords is funding a $20,000 direct mail campaign against incumbent Republican John Mica in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Gifford’s committee, “Americans for Responsible Solutions,” advocates for candidates and legislation to reduce gun violence, and has come out in support of Democrat Stephanie Murphy in the CD 7 contest.

Giffords, also a Democrat, was the victim of an assassination attempt outside a grocery store in 2011.

Mica, who has been in the U.S. House since 1992, has a significant financial advantage over Murphy.

The incumbent brought in nearly $400,000 in contributions between Aug. 11 and the end of September, according to his most recent quarterly report, and has more than $1.1 million on hand.

Murphy wasn’t far behind in third-quarter fundraising, banking $387,000, though her campaign has raised a total of $567,000 this cycle and her $166,000 on-hand total is dwarfed by Mica.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC also have stepped in for Murphy, with the DCCC spending more than $1 million on media buys in support of her since the last week of September.

CD 7 is competitive for both parties, though there are slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district. In 2012, President Barack Obama carried the district by a handful of votes, though U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson won by 15 points. Two years earlier, CD 7 voted for Republican Gov. Rick Scott by one point.

Marco Rubio decries new FDA cigar regulations while visiting Tampa factory

Marco Rubio‘s re-election campaign brought him to a 13o-year-old cigar factory in Tampa Wednesday, where he blasted proposed federal rules which could severely harm it and other cigar manufacturers in the U.S.

A recent FDA ruling initially intended to regulate smokeless tobacco products, but summarily expanded to include cigars, would compel manufacturers like the J.C. Newman Company to go through a rigorous and costly application before any new product could go on the market. Officials said the imposed verification process would radically slow the rate of new cigars going on shelves as well as the number of new cigars in general.

“This is one more added cost to production. It’s going to put these companies unfortunately out of business,” said Rubio, who received a tour of the factory before addressing the media. “When you tell any company you can no longer offer new products, without going through a very expensive process, any industry … I don’t care what you sell … you’re going to struggle to survive, especially facing unfair foreign competition.”

Eric Newman, president of the 130-year-old J.C. Newman Company located in Tampa’s V.M. Ybor section, calls the new proposal “draconian,” and said it would cost his company $2.5 million in compliance costs to fully implement.

Rubio and his U.S. Senate colleague from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson, initially introduced legislation called the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing & Small Business Jobs Preservation Act” in 2011, which would remove the FDA’s jurisdiction over the premium cigar industry by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor filed similar legislation in the House. They’ve introduced similar bills in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, to no avail. Rubio said that he and Nelson would again push for that bill’s passage before the end of the year.

Rubio was joined by Tampa state House District 60 Republican Dana Young, who, like Rubio, is on the ballot next month, where she is running for the Senate District 18 seat.

“This is a classic example of how in a bipartisan way, at the state and federal level, we can work together and try to stop both regulations of small businesses like this one and needless red tape involved with lumping in one product that is part of our culture with others that cause harm to the public,” she said.

Adding insult to injury, both Newman and Rubio said, was President Obama’s announcement last Friday that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island. Travelers can now purchase unlimited quantities of Cuban cigars in any country where they are sold but they can only be for personal use and cannot be sold.

“We love the competition,” insisted Newman, but said it wouldn’t be a fair fight between his cigars and the ones imported from Cuba, since they won’t be required to do the compliance costs the FDA requires of American cigar manufacturers.

“At a time when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talk about bringing back American manufacturing jobs … the American government wants to shut us down, ” Newman said. “We’re horrified by that.”

Rubio also fielded questions on his Senate campaign, where the polls have suddenly tightened with Democrat Patrick Murphy with less than three weeks to go before Election Day.

“You don’t win in Florida in a presidential year as a Republican by 10 points. Or even by five points,” he said. “It is becoming the race I knew it would, which is a close race.” He then spent several moments listing what he said were his achievements in the Senate in the past six years.

Bill Nelson endorses Beth Tuura in HD 47, predicts Hillary Clinton will win election

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, standing in the small living room of the Orlando Democratic Executive Committee on Park Lake Street Monday morning, announced his endorsement for Beth Tuura for the House District 47 seat.

In doing so, he recalled his own time running for HD 47, especially his early adventures going door to door to promote his candidacy.

“Going door to door, you learn a lot about life,” he said. “I repeated it when I went to Congress years later. People remembered me and said ‘you came to my door.’ Running that kind of personal campaign makes a difference. That’s harder in a state as big as this, but I am happy we have someone like you.”

He went on to say Tuura was the kind of candidate needed to help win back the Florida House for the Democrats — and, even if the Senate remained Republican-controlled, it was good to have that kind of parity in the state.

“This is the beginning,” he said. “One house should be check and balance against unlimited power by one party. That’s what’s important.”

Tuura said she was “so honored” to have Nelson’s endorsement, as he was a great example to her of everything from responsible government leadership to championing the environment.

She also vowed that, if she wins, she will “fight any legislation seeking to bring fracking to the community and put dangerous chemicals in the water,” and vowed to expand health care to thousands of families.

She also took time to comment on the much-publicized video released over the weekend in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made numerous offensive and inappropriate comments about women.

“What we’ve heard from the Republican nominee is horrible talk, and disturbing to anyone, whether you’re in a locker room or a board room,” she said. “I will have zero tolerance for discrimination. I will fight against discrimination whether it’s about who you love or what you look like.”

Nelson also spoke about the presidential election, stating he believed Hillary Clinton was going to win Florida and the election overall. But he still had his concerns, particularly with how he thought Trump may act after the election’s aftermath in that case.

“I think Hillary Clinton is going to win this election,” he said. “But I think it will be the first time the loser does not concede to the winner after the election. It will be the first time in the history of this country that the loser does not give credibility to the government’s ability to function. That’s a sad commentary.”

He also said he had “never seen politics more ideologically divided,” and stated he believed it wasn’t what America wanted or needed.

But Nelson also offered a positive spin on the idea, stating he believed the people of Florida were too good to fall for the divisive rhetoric of some in this election.

“Just look at the intolerance,” he said. “The ‘I know better’ attitude, the ‘My way or the highway’ attitude … you can’t run the country like that. People want a leader who is going to build consensus. That’s not going to cover it. Before all the stuff from last weekend, I predicted Hillary Clinton would win Florida by five points. Now, I think it may be more than that. If she wins, that’s it — and that helps candidates like Beth Tuura, too.”

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