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Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson ‘asleep at the wheel,’ says new Rick Scott ad

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, is out with a new ad replete with news coverage clips critical of Nelson’s efforts during the campaign.

The ad’s title, “Asleep at the Wheel,” comes from a clip of Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson using that term to describe Nelson’s re-election campaign.

That clip is played twice in the ad, along with analysis from POLITICO’s Marc Caputo, MSNBC’s Katy Tur, and other media figures regarding Nelson’s at-time lagging campaign.

A request for comment from the Nelson team regarding Scott’s new ad is pending.

Multiple reports have chronicled Democrats’ worries that Nelson could lose the seat to Gov. Scott, even in the event of a solid year for Democrats in the midterms overall.

However, there have been some recent signs of good news for the incumbent Nelson. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed him leading Scott by a whopping seven points. While that poll is an outlier, an NBC News/Marist survey released the same day showed Nelson up by three points.

Nelson now leads in an analysis of the race by both RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight, though his margin remains slim. So while Scott continues to push the narrative that Nelson is asleep at the wheel, the incumbent may be in the process of shifting his campaign into a higher gear.

Deflating the political football on beach access

In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, it’s open season on almost any topic.

The latest political football: beach access.

Democrat Bill Nelson touches upon the issue in “Salty,” a new animated digital ad criticizing Republican opponent Rick Scott for signing a controversial beach access bill.

In the ad, which debuts this week, Nelson mentions HB 631: “Rick Scott wants to make it illegal for you to go to some of your favorite beaches.”

However, the beach access “controversy” is one political football that could use just a bit of deflating.

After several attempts to turn the newly signed law into a talking point, the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald PolitiFact tries to bring a little context to the beach access debate. In rating a similar claim “mostly false,” PolitiFact notes: “It’s unclear at this point how the law will change private beach access because that depends on the actions of local governments and private beach owners.”

It’s important for everyone to take a breath, step back and re-examine the intent and real-life impact HB 631 — before turning it into a campaign talking point.

At its core, the law is straightforward — it seeks to implement a process (governed by judicial oversight) to protect the private property rights of all Floridians by preventing local governments from infringing upon such rights.

Yes, many people attended a recent public hearing in the Panhandle’s Walton County on the matter of customary use. However, if the county didn’t want to restrict beach access, it should not have allowed deeds up to the mean high-water line, taxing beachfront property owners for the land.

The group Florida Coastal Property Rights is taking up the crusade for the truth on the subject of beach access, in the interest of scores of beachfront property owners statewide — as well as advocates for property rights as well as due process — to ensure there is judicial oversight for claims of customary use over privately owned land.

“Bill Nelson should be ashamed of himself,” said Sarah Bascom, representing Florida Coastal Property Rights, “for knowingly perpetuating this false narrative.”

Bascom explains: “The new law does not block public beaches, it simply ensures that a third-party, neutral arbiter — a court — must be the one to declare customary use over a piece of privately-owned land. This process ensures that a local government cannot infringe on private property rights by unilaterally declaring customary use without judicial oversight.”

Independents, women push Bill Nelson ahead of Rick Scott in NBC News/Marist poll

On the same day a Quinnipiac poll showed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson up seven points over Gov. Rick Scott, a Marist/NBC News survey revealed Nelson is also ahead, but by less.

The poll conducted from Sept. 16-20 showed Nelson up 48 to 45 percent, a lead inside the 4.7 point margin of error.

One reason Nelson is up: per the survey, voters are beginning to sour on Scott, whose unfavorable rating of 45 leaves him at a paltry +1. Conversely, 44 percent of likely voters like Nelson, and 36 percent do not, giving him a mpre palatable +8.

The Q poll saw women with a 17 point lean to Nelson; the NBC/Marist poll shows the Senator up 13 (53 to 40), illustrating that the gender break to Nelson is now becoming a poll trend.

Independents are also breaking Nelson’s way (53 to 37), and with Scott’s unfavorable rating climbing, reversing that trend will be a challenge for the challenger.

The Scott/Nelson race is one of the most expensive in the country, with Nelson struggling to match Scott’s pace in the air war. A new ad attacking Nelson for being too old, too far left, or too absent from the Senate drops seemingly every day.

However, the polls suggest that the big spend may be having diminishing returns, with Nelson’s moderate persona seeming to pay off in the polls.

With six weeks until Election Day, they will soon reflect the trends of actual voters.

Here comes promised Democratic hits on HCA, wealth against Rick Scott

Long before Republican Gov. Rick Scott entered Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Democrats vowed they would attack him for his leadership of the scandal-plagued Hospital Corporation of America and his prospering personal finances since then.

A new ad dropping Tuesday delivers on that pledge.

Majority Forward, a Democratic political action committee that has been pounding Scott with negative television commercials this summer and fall, announced Tuesday it is launching a new television commercial in Florida painting Scott as “a shady millionaire” who got rich as his company was investigated for massive Medicare fraud [and found guilty after he left it,] and then got richer as governor when his investments prospered under his state policies.

The 30-second commercial “Soared” starts by resurfacing the notorious video of a nervous-looking then-HCA President Scott being deposed in the federal government’s fraud investigation, footage which was used extensively by Democrats trying unsuccessfully to stop his gubernatorial bids in 2010 and ’14. The commercial then tries to connect dots between his actions as governor for nearly eight years and his expanding personal wealth, implying the get-rich mindset pattern that Democrats have been alleging.

“Rick Scott. Another shady millionaire who doesn’t look out for you,” the PAC’s commercial concludes.

Scott resigned from HCA in 1997, more than 20 years ago — and well before he ran for Florida Governor. The company has undergone several changes since then.

In those earlier races (as well as the current one), Scott’s campaigns have reminded that he was not charged personally with any wrongdoing in the federal case against HCA. And his campaign has pointed out that throughout his tenure as governor his personal business interests were held in a blind trust over which he had no knowledge or control, while his pro-business agenda helped all businesses in Florida prosper.

“These misleading and outdated attacks are exactly what we have come to expect from a career politician like Bill Nelson,” Scott’s campaign replied Tuesday.

Majority Forward is a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Democrats’ Senate Majority Political Action Committee, though the exact sources of its money are not reported. The Senate Majority PAC is backing the re-election campaign of Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen.Nelson, who faces Scott on Nov. 6.

Earlier Majority Forward sponsored commercials blaming Scott for the algae blooms and red tide disaster along the coasts, and for his policies on health care issues.

“Despite the millions of dollars Rick Scott has poured into his Senate campaign, his standing in the race is diminishing and that is because of Scott’s disastrous record of enriching himself at Floridians’ expense,” Chris Hayden, spokesperson for Majority Forward stated in a news release.

Heather Fitzenhagen keeps well ahead of Parisima Taeb in fundraising

Incumbent state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen reported a modest increase in dollars in early September, but still holds a hefty cash advantage over Democratic challenger Parisima Taeb.

Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican representing Florida House District 78 since 2012, pulled in just $1,400 in early September, less than $200 more than the $1,242 raised by Taeb in the same time. But the incumbent holds about $95,211 in cash on hand to the Democrat’s $18,776. And she’s hosting a fundraiser at Bell Tower Shops in South Fort Myers today.

Fitzenhagen recently sat alongside Republican gubernatorial candidate during a meeting at Florida Gulf Coast University where he spoke with academic leaders about red tide.

Taeb, meanwhile, has served on roundtables on the subject of algal blooms put together by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the region. The medical doctor has been part of a Democratic trio of candidates campaigning heavily in Southwest Florida on science issues at a time when both red tide and blue-green algae deliver a brutal hit to the region’s ecosystem and economy.

But Fitzenhagen remains a leader within her own party. She claimed the Civil Justice committee in the Florida House last session and would enter her last term in the state House before term limits force her retirement.

Earlier this year, DeSantis considered Fitzenhagen as his running mate before instead tapping Jeanette Nuñez. And like DeSantis she earned the endorsement of the Everglades Trust earlier this year.

Neither Fitzenhagen nor Taeb faces primary challenges this year. Thus far, Fitzenhagen spent more than $148,000 on her re-election, while Taeb has spent more than $5,000.

Since her election to the district in 2012, Fitzenhagen has never faced a Democratic candidate on the November ballot. In 2012, she defeated Independent Kerry Babb with 67 percent of the vote to his 33 percent.

Taeb, a Fort Myers physician, earned media attention this year as one of multiple Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School graduates running for office in the wake of a national shooting at the school in February.

Republican Donald Trump won this House district with 53 percent of the vote over Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 42 percent.


New Bill Nelson ads attack Rick Scott, reflect on space flight

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaign is launching two very different new television commercials, one attacking his election opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the other drawing inspiration from Nelson’s moment as an astronaut.

Nelson’s first ad, “Speak”, shows no mercy for Scott, setting him up to take blame for the red tide disaster devastating Florida’s waters, the ranks of uninsured Floridians, cuts in education funding, and scandals over hurricane contracts, while also noting that the governor’s personal wealth soared while he was in office.

The first charge comes from Nelson’s and Democrats’ contention that this year’s algae blooms are at least in part worsened by Scott’s record on environmental protection over eight years; the second on the governor’s refusal to seek the federal Medicaid expansion offered Florida to cover uninsured residents through the Affordable Care Act; the third from media reports regarding cleanup contracts in Monroe County following last year’s Hurricane Irma; and the fourth from financial disclosures that revealed Scott’s blind trust finances have been performing very, very well while he’s been governor.

“The worst toxic algae crisis in Florida’s modern history,” the narrator declares. “Eight hundred thousand Floridians denied health coverage, $1.3 billion cut in education. Gave donors secret contracts after Hurricane Irma that cost taxpayers $30 million. Made half a billion dollars in one deal as governor and hid it.”

“The results speak for themselves,” Scott declares after each point, in a brief video clip that keeps repeating.

Previously, Scott and his office and campaign have vigorously defended his record on addressing the algae blooms, including funding released Monday, have defended his decision to reject the Medicaid expansion as a potential financial obligation for Florida down the road, and noted that after initial education cuts to balance the state budget in the Great Recession, Scott oversaw increased spending on education through much of the rest of his tenure. The Monroe County issues were dismissed as outside the governor’s actions, as Scott’s campaign declared, “his top focus was on the safety and recovery of our communities and he did that while protecting taxpayer dollars.”

Nelson’s other new commercial, “Strapped,” has an entirely positive tone. It renews Nelson’s reflections on his time as a U.S. Congressman sent into space as a payload specialist astronaut on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. At what appears to be a town hall meeting, Nelson recalls looking down on the Earth and seeing “we’re all in this together.”

“I look back at Earth. I didn’t see religious divisions. I didn’t see political divisions. I didn’t see racial divisions,” he says in a speech, a point that’s been a staple of his speeches for many years. “What I saw is, we’re all in this together. If we just remembered that, we’d get a lot more done.”

As for that spot, Camille Gallo, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senate Committee, charged that all Nelson ever wants to talk about is space, because he has no other accomplishments.

“With such a weak record, it’s no wonder Nelson would rather talk about outer space than Florida,” she said in a response statement.

The two 30-second spots began airing throughout Florida over the weekend, his campaign announced Monday.

Rick Scott directs $2.2 million for red tide mitigation

Gov. Rick Scott is directing another $2.2 million to red tide mitigation efforts, his office announced Monday.

The state is funding testing on technologies to reduce red tide, including ozone treatments and specialized clay.

The funding will expand Mote Marine Laboratory Ozone Treatment System in Sarasota. Mote has successfully tested ozone systems in tanks at the Sarasota lab and in canals in Boca Grande.

Those experiments injected ozone into the water, successfully cleaning it and ridding it of the algae that causes red tide.

The funding follows a partnership announced last week between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and the Department of Environmental Protection to study using clay to mitigate red tide.

“Florida will not stop working until our communities recover from red tide and the innovative and deliberate steps we have taken over the past week show our resolve to act quickly and do whatever it takes to get results for the families of our state,” Scott said.

The expanded research will allow Mote Marine Laboratory to determine the most effective and ecologically sound way to mitigate impacts of K. brevis, the organism that causes red tide, according to Mote President and CEO Michael Crosby.

“The initiative will be structured to rapidly examine novel potential mitigation products … that may have applications for other harmful algal blooms throughout Florida and around the world,” Crosby said.

Scott also recently urged FWC commissioners to create the Florida Center for Red Tide Research and re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force in a letter last week.

Red tide has turned into a political issue.

Scott has pointed out in all of his red tide-related announcements that red tide is a naturally occurring event, present since the 1840s. But his critics blame his environmental policies and lack of regulations for exacerbating it.

Since red tide began rapidly expanding along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Scott’s lead in his U.S. Senate bid against incumbent Bill Nelson has shrunk from six points to a nearly neck and neck race.

Democrat groups’ new ads seek to inspire young people of color to vote

Two Democratic political committees that have been pounding Florida’s airwaves and social media pushing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and opposing Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate bid are launching new ads that turn in another, more subtle direction.

Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA are jointly launching three new 15-second internet ads that encourage voter turnout, particularly among women of color and younger voters, without making references to any particular parties, candidates, or election contests.

Instead, the ads talk issues, including the rise of white nationalism, concerns over health care, and a desire for representation for people of color.

The three ads launched Monday in Florida and four other states where Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA are backing Democrats in tight U.S. Senate races. Each ad features young African-American or Latina women declaring why they and other people should vote and how they are ready to vote this year.

The two groups pledged a million-dollar-plus advertising campaign to place the videos on various online platforms, including Facebook, Google, Pinterest and video and audio streaming services such as YouTube, Hulu, and Spotify.

“There is too much at stake right now for anyone to stay home and not vote this Election Day,” SMP President J.B. Poersch stated in the news release. “Voters across the country need to see that their access to health care, equal rights, and educational opportunities are on the line, and they get a say in the matter. SMP and Priorities are committed to making sure every voter is motivated and ready to make their voices heard this November 6th.”

The first, “They Think This Is America” features brief video footage of a white nationalists marching, followed by the declaration, “Our magic is in our communities, our magic is our people.” Next are videos of young progressives marching.

The second, “This November I Plan To Vote” features a young black woman saying she wants access to contraception and education about her health care options, so she plans to vote in the midterm elections. She also declares, “As an African American who might be unfairly targeted just because of the color of my skin, I want to represent, to see black people rise.”

The third, “Today is the Day” shows a young black woman before a bathroom mirror, getting ready for the day, and expressing confidence as she says, “People are counting on me. I am everything I need. Let’s do this.” That is followed by text declaring, “You are more than ready to vote.”

“Over the past two years, the American people have marched in the streets, called their representatives and demanded accountability at town hall meetings — and now it’s nearly time for them to vote,” Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA Action stated. “In this crucial election, we can’t afford to take any community or any vote for granted. That’s why Priorities and SMP are launching this digital campaign to make sure that Americans know what’s at stake this November and feel ready to show up and use the power of their vote.”

Photo finish? Bill Nelson, Rick Scott in dead heat, new UNF poll says

The University of North Florida released a poll Monday showing the race for U.S. Senate between Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott and third-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson as an absolute dead heat.

The vast majority of polls have shown the candidates within the margin of error; this survey is close even in that narrow range.

Nelson and Scott were each the choice of 45 percent of those surveyed; another 8 percent was up for grabs. The new measure includes slightly more undecideds that a recent St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by Florida Politics that found the two men deadlocked at 47 percent apiece. Scott has led in most polls that show separation between the candidates, such as the recent FAU measure that gave him a 3-point lead over Nelson.

The UNF polling director says the results are good news for Nelson, who is one of 10 Democratic U.S. Senators up for re-election this year in a state carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

“Nelson and Scott are currently tied, but one bit of hope for Nelson is that more Democrats are unsure who they will vote for and partisans will come home in November,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF.

“With polling numbers this close, the candidates that are most successful getting their voters to the polls are the ones who are going to win. Historically, Florida has had very close statewide elections, and this year is shaping up to be no different,” Binder added.

Nelson carries Democrats 77 to 9; Scott holds Republicans 83 to 12. The real split is with NPAs, who break to Nelson 52-35.

The survey comes after Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight declared that Nelson was the most vulnerable Democratic Senator up for re-election this year.

The poll of 616 likely voters, conducted Sept. 17-19 using live calls, saw respondents split 41 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat, and the balance independents. Margin of error is 4 percent.

Rick Scott ad: Retire ‘No Show’ Bill Nelson

A new ad from Republican Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign nicks incumbent Bill Nelson for working a three-day work week and missing national security meetings.

“It’s time to retire ‘No Show’ Nelson and give him the rest of the week off,” a narrator says at the ads closing.

Specifically, the ad takes Nelson to task for missing national security meetings 45 percent of the time, missing out on information about the Islamic State, Russia and North Korea.

It’s similar to a claim with an ad released by Scott’s campaign last week. At that time, Nelson officials dismissed the claim as  “another false attack” by a “phony politician.”

Nelson “attended about 80 percent of the Armed Services meetings this year and 86 percent last year,” Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said then.

But the Scott team says anyone wondering about Nelson’s work ethic can simply check out the energy he brings to the campaign trail.

He’s in the fight for his political life, campaign officials suggest, but remains the only one who doesn’t see it. With just five weeks to go, Nelson’s operation gets dismissed as “lackluster.”

Nelson for his part could be found this weekend at a Pinellas County gala alongside other statewide Democrats running for office.

Scott, meanwhile, have been traversing the state of Florida on a bus tour campaigning with surrogates like Gov. Jeb Bush.

The RealClearPolitics polling aggregate finds the race tight but with a lead for scot of under 1 percent, with conservative outlet Rasmussen ironically the only major outlet putting Nelson up by a point.

Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both peg the race a startup and FiveThirtyEight last week ranked Nelson the most vulnerable Democratic senator on the 2018 ballot.

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