Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 6 of 31 - Florida Politics

HD 60 Democrat David Singer says his campaign is about right vs. wrong, not left vs right

David Singer says that when he began his run for the Hillsborough County based House District 60 race in April, his goal was not to get into an ideological discussion about left vs. right, but “right vs. wrong.” And now that the primary election season is over, he says he intends to use the next eight weeks to make the clear distinction on the issues between himself and Republican Jackie Toledo.

Toledo narrowly defeated Rebecca Smith in the GOP primary last month, in part by pushing strongly conservative positions, such as saying that she would work to repeal the GOP-led Legislature’s recent laws on allowing instate tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. Singer pointed out other stances by Toledo which he says are out of the mainstream of the district.

“Our opponent is against gay marriage. In 2016. The law of the land is settled, that is not reflective of the people,” he said at an event kicking off his general election campaign Tuesday night at the Beck Group Building in Tampa. He also criticized her for opposing a proposal to allow big cities like Tampa to have the ability to put their own referendums on the ballot, an issue that Mayor Bob Buckhorn says would allow Tampa residents to pay for transit that the Hillsborough County Commission has shown itself reluctant to commit to.

“Our opponent is against allowing the residents of the city to determine its own destiny on transit. That is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s simply the right thing to do to let us as city residents, to have a choice. “

Although Singer never mentioned Smith’s name, he said that he’s been contacted by Republicans who backed her who now are supporting him in the general election.

“A lot of the moderate Republican supporters of the candidate who did not win, and have said ‘we’re excited to be with you, we are excited to support you, we are excited that someone is going to represent our community who understands business, who understands that the private sector needs to be able to succeed in order for municipalities to have the revenue they ned to serve all of its citizens, what I’m telling you is I believe we have a very big tent.”

Singer is a Chicago native who has been involved in local politics since moving to Tampa, including the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit initiative that went down to defeat in 2010. This is his first campaign for office, a challenge he said unto itself.

His campaign kickoff was a smash hit, with a large crowd filling the third floor of the Beck building, including virtually every other Democrat running for office this fall, such as Andrew Warren, Bob Buesing, Pat Kemp, Rene Frazier, Gene Siudut, Cathy James, Bob Henriquez, as well as other Democrats like Mike Suarez and Harry CohenBen Diamond, running in Pinellas County’s House District 68, also made an appearance.

While Singer pledged a campaign that wouldn’t be based on partisanship but more on shared principals, Ed Narain was there to bring some red meat to the crowd of progressives.

The House District 61 Representative, who lost by just 75 votes to Darryl Rouson last month in the Senate District 19 race, warned the audience to not underestimate the depths the GOP is willing to go in the race, referring to how he said the GOP spent more than $100,000 to aide Rouson in his contest.

And he called on the assemblage to cough up what they could financially to aid Singer.

“This is not going to be a cheap election,” he warned. They are going to rally around Jackie Toledo to try to make sure that they hold on to that seat.”

The candidates for District 60 are scheduled to participate in a Tampa Tiger Bay forum this Friday, though a spokesperson for Toledo told this reporter earlier this week that she had a conflict and would not be attending. Tiger Bay’s Vic DiMaio said on Tuesday that he’s still hoping to woo Toledo into attending the affair.

HD 60 includes all of South Tampa, much of south Hillsborough County, and Town N Country.

Dana Young urges Hillsborough PTC to reject new rules for Uber, Lyft

Writing that “Hillsborough County is better than this,” Dana Young is the latest Tampa Bay area lawmaker calling for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to reject proposed new rules that ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say would force them out of the local market.

In a letter Tuesday to PTC Chair Victor Crist, Young says the current proposal set for a vote by the PTC “is plainly designed to be an anti-competitive attempt to push ride-sharing companies out of Hillsborough County.”

“If this occurs,” she added, “our constituents will pay the price by losing a safe and reliable transportation option.”

Young’s letter was co-signed by 12 members of the local Tampa Bay area legislative delegation.

Last week, a PTC subcommittee approved new regulations representatives from Uber and Lyft have said are unacceptable. They include a seven-minute wait time for a passenger to get a for a vehicle for hire in the county, a $7 minimum fare, and Level II backgrounds checks that require fingerprinting their drivers. That last demand actually compelled Uber to leave the Austin, Texas market this past spring, so both companies appear serious about not bending on that issue.

On Monday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn headlined a news conference featuring members of Hillsborough County’s entrepreneur, tourism, and business sectors. They also called on the PTC to reject the proposed rules.

Although the state Legislature failed to come up with statewide regulations of ride-sharing companies, Young’s letter vows the issue will finally be addressed in the next regular Legislative Session, which begins March. Young says the PTC board should hold off on any action regarding ridesharing in Hillsborough until the 2017 legislative session ends next spring.

Joining her in co-signing the letter are two local Republicans well-known for their enthusiasm for ridesharing and loathing of the PTC — Jeff Brandes and Jamie Grant. Republican legislators Larry Ahern, Danny Burgess, Richard Corcoran, Bill Galvano, Jake Raburn, Shawn Harrison, Wilton Simpson, Ross Spano, Dan Raulson, and Democrat Darryl Rouson also signed onto the letter.

Some Hillsborough Democrats have been much less vocal in criticizing the PTC and speaking up for the ridesharing companies than their Republican brethren since Uber and Lyft began operating in Hillsborough in the spring of 2014.

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Mitch Perry Report for 9.13.16 — Florida’s Supreme Court is about to get a little more conservative

During the 2014 gubernatorial race, selecting Supreme Court justices was a campaign issue between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

Though Florida’s executive and legislative branches have been fiercely conservative for going on nearly two decades now, the judiciary has not, though that slowly could be changing.

On Monday, Justice James E.C. Perry, the fourth black ever named to Florida’s high court, announced he will be retire from the bench at the end of this year as required by law, giving Scott his first opportunity to appoint a justice.

The liberal bent of the court won’t be felt immediately, as the liberals’ current 5-2 majority will shift to a 4-3 split.

However, three other justices — Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince, all must retire due to the state law requiring justices to retire by the age of 70 (or at the end of their six-year term if they’re halfway through the term).

Perry was named to the bench in 2009 by Charlie Crist, which goes to show you what type of governor Crist was, and why he infuriated Republicans.

Crist had the opportunity to name four judges to the court: Ricky Polston, Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga, and Perry. The first two were white men, the latter were Cuban and black, respectively. Perry and Labarga have also been considered more moderate-to-liberal — showing that he wanted all parts of the state represented.

That’s different than what we expect from most in his position — and the selection of moderate-to-liberal justices enraged conservatives.

Meanwhile, it’s still not known for certain whether Scott will have the legal ability to replace Pariente, Lewis, and Quince when they step down on inauguration day of 2019. But that’s a discussion for another day.

In other news …

With a big vote on controversial new regulations promulgated by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission scheduled for tomorrow, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others in the business community told them on Monday to Just Say No.

Andrew Warren is making another charge that Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober has made insensitive remarks about teenage victims of rape.

Do you know who Jeff Zampitella is? He’s a Democrat running against GOP incumbent Sandy Murman in the Hillsborough County Commission District 1 race, but he’s vying for attention of any sort, eight weeks before Election Day.

Following his boss, Joe Biden is also now backing Charlie Crist publicly in his congressional bid against Republican David Jolly this November.

And Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio have agreed to participate in at least two debates and one candidate forum in advance of the Nov. 8 U.S. Senate election.

 

Bob Buckhorn, others call Hillsborough PTC to reject rules that Uber, Lyft say could drive them out

Two days before the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission looks to approve new regulations that representatives from ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say could compel them to leave town, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others in Hillsborough County’s business community had a simple message for them on Monday: Don’t do it.

Specifically, they warned the agency not to approve new regulations approved by a subcommittee of the PTC last week that include a $7 minimum fare and a seven-minute wait time for passengers — and absolutely do not approve Level II background checks which include having Uber and Lyft drivers fingerprinted.

“We are not going to a city that’s going to be held down hostage by any cabal of any industry,” Buckhorn said, a nod to the fact that the taxicab industry in Hillsborough — as has been the case all over the world — objects to the Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) operating under different rules of the road.

Since they began operating in Tampa in April 2014, the PTC has been unable to bring the two companies into compliance with their regulations, many of which the companies believe are onerous and out of date. It’s not unique to this community — the ridesharing companies also remain at odds with regulators in Orlando and Jacksonville, for example, while the companies have come into compliance in the past year with local governments in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

But Uber and Lyft did pull completely out of Austin, Texas, earlier this year over a similar impasse regarding those Level II background checks.

Buckhorn also used the opportunity at the press conference to once again call for the outright abolition of the PTC, the controversial agency created by the Legislature in the 1970s to craft regulations for vehicles-for-hire in Hillsborough County. It’s the only such agency in the state.

The PTC’s heavy-handed tactics in previous years have led to the belief by some that it is a handmaiden of the taxicab industry. It’s a perception that only gained more currency when former PTC Chair Kevin White was convicted of charges of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI after he was found guilty of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and a luxury SUV exchange for helping three prospective wrecker company operators win certificates from the PTC.

“I continue to believe it is a dinosaur,” Buckhorn said about the PTC, a belief shared by Tampa Bay area legislators like Jeff Brandes, Dana Young, and Jamie Grant. “Dinosaurs are extinct. The PTC should be extinct.”

“We are not trying to keep anybody out of the marketplace,” insists Kyle Cockream, the executive director of the PTC. “Instead, the focus is on consensus on regulations that ensure rider safety,” he said in a statement. “We want a solid framework that welcomes TNC’s while making the safety of our riding public a priority.”

Buckhorn was surrounded by more than a dozen people at the news conference, held at the Attic, a downtown coffee shop/bar. Many were representatives of the business community and entrepreneurs who don’t want Uber and Lyft to leave, saying such a loss will hurt with the recruitment of businesses and the retaining and/or luring millennials to stay in the Tampa Bay.

“The whole country took note when Austin passed its draconian legislation,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We ask that the PTC suspend consideration of this extreme rule, and work with the new business and responsible partners that are hoping to bring transportation solutions for Tampa and Florida’s future.”

Tony DiBenedetto is the chair and CEO of a tech company called Tribridge. He said he doesn’t even own a car these days, and instead takes Uber to wherever he has to go.

“I think it’s sending the wrong message to everybody,” he said about the proposed regulations, which could prompt the companies to leave the region. “I think this is a devastating decision on their part. I think it would hurt us from a recruiting perspective; it’s already hard to recruit to Tampa.”

Although the Level II background checks have garnered the most attention, Uber and Lyft have serious issues with other proposed rules going before the PTC board on Wednesday, such as a seven-minute wait time for anyone to hail a vehicle-for-hire car in Hillsborough County.

“You request a ride, said Blayn Shamble, a Tampa Bay area Lyft driver.”It takes two minutes to get there, and now I have to lock my doors and roll my window down and say, ‘I’m sorry, you cannot legally get into my car until five minutes passes.’

“In my opinion, that is just picking your winners and losers in a free market,” Shamble added.

The PTC has said the new rules were promulgated by members of the cab industry and would-be TNC DriveSociety, who are pushing the PTC hard to pass the new rules.

“Are you a believer in public safety?,” shouted out DriveSociety proprietor Marcus Carter after Buckhorn explained how he believed competition was good for business. “You’re not a member of the media,” barked Buckhorn, who later said that he “welcomed” DriveSociety to the industry.

The Tampa mayor also said the cab industry needed to “up their game” to stay competitive with the new technology.

Louis Menardi, the chair of the Florida Taxicab Association and president of Yellow Cab of Tampa, issued a statement shortly before the press conference took place.

“Uber and Lyft’s approach to this issue is not unique to Hillsborough County or Florida,” he said. “All across the U.S., many local communities, including Portland, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, and Orlando are raising significant concerns about fundamental public safety issues and background checks, whether TNC drivers have any or adequate insurance, and whether the local communities should require better service from them for passengers in wheelchairs.

“In response, TNCs flout the law, ignore local regulations and resort to threatening local cities and counties with leaving and/or state and federal forced deregulation when they are questioned about their business practices as they relate to public safety and well-being.”

The PTC board meeting on the new rules will take place Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy, Tampa, 2nd floor.

It’s (virtually) official: Darryl Rouson has won the SD 19 Dem primary over Ed Narain

With machine and manual recounts now finished in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Darryl Rouson is the winner in the Democratic primary for Senate District 19.

He defeated Ed Narain by a mere 66 votes (that’s what the Rouson campaign told us. The Florida Division of Elections website shows the difference to be 77 votes. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Rouson received 73 more votes than Narain).

The results will not be certified until Thursday, September 8, but the vote tally will not change.

Early polling in the Senate District 19 race that encompasses both parts of both Hillsborough and Pinellas County showed that while nearly three-quarters of the district was situated in Hillsborough, the quarter of voters in Pinellas County were more likely to go to the polls. And that’s what happened in Tuesday’s election that for now has given St. Petersburg-based Darryl Rouson an extremely narrow lead over Tampa’s Ed Narain, with a recount scheduled to take place on Friday. The two candidates remain just 75 votes apart on Thursday night, after more than 37,000 ballots were cast in the two counties.

Although only 26.4 percent of the district is in Pinellas, 42 percent of the total vote in the contest came from Pinellas County, says Barry Edwards, Rouson’s campaign manager, who says flatly, “We had the best field operation in the state of Florida in any Senate race, and that’s why he won.”

There were four candidates in the race, two based in Hillsborough (Narain and former state Representative Betty Reed), and two in Pinellas (Rouson and civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro).  Although Narain went after Ribeiro in some of his advertising materials, the fact is that Ribeiro’s late entry into the race split up some of that Pinellas vote that was clearly destined for Rouson. Of the 15,809 people who voted in the SD 19 race in Pinellas, 12,683 went to either Rouson or Ribeiro, with Rouson getting twice as many votes in Pinellas than Ribeiro did.

The conventional wisdom was that Narain and Betty Reed would share a bulk of the Hillsborough vote, and that’s exactly what happened in the early vote and on Tuesday night. Narain and Reed combined for more than 52 percent of the Hillsborough vote, while Rouson and Ribeiro took 28 percent of it. Ribeiro actually received nearly 1,000 more votes in Hillsborough than did Rouson.

Redistricting expert Matthew Isbell says that, “Narain was hurt by Reed’s entry into the race,” which is accurate, though Reed supporters would take issue that comment, since Reed had in fact declared for the seat months before Narain had entered into it. The Reed camp (and others in the district) were angered when Narain entered the race back in March, considering that Reed’s endorsement of Narain might have been the key factor in his winning his House District 61 seat over Sean Shaw back in 2014. As Florida Politics reported earlier this year, a meeting was held last December with the idea of Reed and Narain “trading seats,” with Narain entering the Senate 19 race and Reed going back to running for HD 61, a seat that she held from 2004-2012. Reed rejected the proposal.

What also shouldn’t be overlooked is the power that still resides with the region’s only major newspaper in town, the Tampa Bay Times, who endorsed Rouson in the race.

And while Narain had major endorsements from Kathy Castor and Bob Buckhorn in Hillsborough County, Rouson won the backing of the entire St. Petersburg City Council (including Republican Ed Montanari), Gulfport officials like Mayor Sam Henderson and Councilwoman Yolanda Roman, and all of the Democrats on the Pinellas County Commission.

An early poll that showed Rouson leading and Narain in third received huge criticism after it’s release, but Edwards says it was prescient. When it was released, St. Pete Polls pollster Matt Florell said that, “The geographical split is interesting in Senate District 19, with 25 percent of the population residing in Pinellas County and 75 percent in Hillsborough County,” Florell said. “But when it comes to the active Democratic primary voting population, Pinellas County jumps to a 41 percent share. Our poll had 43 percent of the respondents from Pinellas County, so it is a fairly accurate representation of who will vote in this primary race.”

Rouson himself said on Thursday that it was too soon to analyze how he (apparently) won the contest, but did share that “we are focused.”

“We had a strategy,” he said. “We did out best not to let other campaign’s take us off our game. The people came out all over the district. Hillsborough to Pinellas, From Riverview to East Tampa, from Midtown to downtown, and they expressed themselves.”

Mitch Perry Report for 8.31.16 — Moving on to November

Good morning, everyone.

Florida’s primary election is history. So, where to begin?

Patrick Murphy will face Marco Rubio in November. Murphy crushed Alan Grayson, 59  to 18 percent, with Pam Keith a close third at 15 percent. Rubio gets credit for honesty, saying that he can’t say for sure that he’ll fulfill all six years of his term if elected, which naturally Murphy is attempting to exploit.

Boy, this race is going to get tawdry.

In what has to be considered a mini-upset, St. Petersburg’s Darryl Rouson holds an ever-so-slight lead over Ed Narain when all the votes were tabulated in last night’s Senate District 19 race. With over 37,000 votes cast on both sides of the Bay, Rouson had 61 more votes, close enough to trigger an automatic machine recount after Thursday. A huge (probable) win for Rouson, and a big loss for not just Narain, but the Florida Democratic Party, who have viewed Narain as an up-and-coming star in the party. He likely will be back, but not in 2017.

Augie Ribeiro did decently in St. Pete in terms of votes, but there was no way he was able to get his name out effectively enough in such a short time. A lot of people are talking today about how big money came up short in this election, but in the case of Ribeiro, he was trying to go from zero to 60 in less than two months.

You don’t have Jim Norman to kick around anymore, Hillsborough Democrats, Republicans and members of the media. That comeback experience ended last night, and now his GOP opponent, Tim Schock, advances to the general election against Pat Kemp. That should be a good battle, and one would think the Hillsborough Dems would get strongly behind Kemp. If not, they’re looking at a board that will have a 6-1 Republican advantage.

Jackie Toledo narrowly edged out Rebecca Smith in the GOP House District 60 race. Congrats to Toledo, who absolutely outworked Smith in the grassroots to get more votes.

The trash talking has already begun in the CD 13 race between David Jolly and Charlie Crist after Jolly cruised to an easy re-election victory in his GOP race for the nomination.

In the end, it wasn’t all that close in South Florida, as former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated insurgent progressive challenger Tim Canova by 14 points, 57 to 43 percent in the race for Congress in Florida’s 23rd District.

Ben Diamond defeated Eric Lynn in the highly competitive House District 68 race in Pinellas County.

Tampa attorney Sean Shaw won a close contest against East Tampa businesswoman Dianne Hart in the House District 61 seat.

Pat Frank whipped Kevin Beckner in the Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts race.

Daniel Webster wins in CD 11.

It wouldn’t be Election Day in Hillsborough County with some report of shenanigans taking place. As this one went, however, it was pretty small potatoes.

Murphy’s comment to us on Monday that he’d likely pursue adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act continues to ruffle the waters, as this statement from Americans for Prosperity Florida indicates.

Sarasota area Republican Alex Miller says she’ll change her main TV ad now that she’s going to the general election in House District 72, after several members of the public stated that they didn’t appreciate her “one of us” tagline.

With a major storm approaching Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn used the occasion yesterday to lobby City Council members to approve his $250 million stormwater infrastructure improvement plan.

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.

Patrick Murphy says he’ll push for public option to be added to ACA if elected to the Senate

Patrick Murphy says if he is elected to the U.S. Senate in November, he’ll push to provide a public option to the Affordable Care Act.

“At least in rural areas, where you don’t have much competition,” the Jupiter representative and Senate Democratic hopeful said on while making a campaign stop on Monday morning in West Tampa. He said that would be an added option for people on the ACA, “and beyond that, to make sure that there is competition ultimately.”

Passed six years ago, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) still divides the country and the Congress. Most Republicans continue to call for repealing the entire measure, though they rarely have provided a viable alternative. Democrats have stood by it for the most part, but even some of the law’s biggest supporters say it needs an overhaul.

Earlier this month, health care giant Aetna announced it had lost more than $400 million on Obamacare policies since the insurance exchanges were set up in 2014, and was going to pull out of most of them, including in Florida. That followed similar announcements made by United Healthcare and Humana.

Which means fewer choices for those on the ACA. Lack of competition means higher premiums and/or lower benefits. A public option would be a federal option open to anyone on the individual market, and Murphy said he’d push for it if elected in November. Hillary Clinton has made similar comments on the campaign trail.

“The key is like any issue — it’s acknowledging that there are some things that are working, and that some things that need to be fixed,” Murphy said. “No legislation that is passed — or rarely I should say — is perfect, and you have to evolve with the times to see what’s actually working. Unfortunately, in Washington you have a group of people that basically want to shut down the government … they say throw the whole thing and start over, without offering solutions to it.”

Murphy was in the Tampa Bay area for the third straight Monday leading into Tuesday’s primary election, where he’s facing Congressman Alan Grayson and retired Navy JAG officer Pam Keith for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. However, Murphy never talks about his fellow Democrats on the campaign trail, instead looking ahead to a November matchup against incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy appeared shortly before 9 a.m. at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, a traditional stop for Democrats running for office to make an appearance at (Barack Obama was there in September of 2012). He was joined by state Rep. Janet Cruz, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, and Hillsborough County Commission hopeful Pat Kemp, among others. Murphy spent time speaking to other “regular voters” who had assembled at the table, which gave him the opportunity to discuss his plans for immigration, health care and the economy. And diss Rubio.

“Climate change — I believe it’s happening, I believe it’s real, I believe we have to get off this addiction to fossil fuels; Sen. Marco Rubio denies it’s happening,” he said while speaking to reporters after spending more than half an hour sitting at a table and talking about some of the issues he’s running on.

“It’s like infrastructure. I believe we need to make the investments. He doesn’t believe in that. I want to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He does not want to do that. He wants to support Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall, and deport 11 million people the first day. Sen. Rubio has completely lost sight of his values and his morals, because he’s so worried about running for president again.”

“Patrick Murphy promised voters that Obamacare’s state exchanges would bring down costs and create more competition, but Floridians are finding that the exact opposite has happened,” said Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens. “Obamacare has left them with fewer health care options and skyrocketing premiums they can’t afford, yet Patrick Murphy’s answer is to expand the program and make things worse for Florida’s families. Marco will keep fighting for a patient-centered alternative that improves choices for consumers, costs Floridians less, and helps everyone get the coverage they need.”

Following his West Tampa appearance, Murphy was scheduled to make campaign stops in Orlando and Miami. His campaign announced he will be spending election night in Palm Beach Gardens.

 

Jack Latvala says Michael Bay’s ’13 Hours’ one of two reasons he’s voting for Donald Trump

Nationally and in Florida, there are many, many Republican elected officials who seem to equivocate when asked whether or not they’ll support Donald Trump for president.

Jack Latvala is not one of those Republicans.

The always-irascible Pinellas County lawmaker made it clear Friday morning that while the Manhattan real estate developer is hardly his cup of tea, there are two reasons why he won’t be holding his nose when he pulls the lever for him this fall (or scribbles in a circle next to his name, to be more accurate).

One is the power the next president has to nominate what could be multiple selections to the U.S. Supreme Court — besides the already-open seat left bare as Senate Republicans have refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

The other is the visceral disdain Latvala says he feels toward Hillary Clinton, a feeling he says he’s had ever since watching “13 Hours,” the Michael Bay-directed dramatic portrayal account of what happened at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I will tell you that it had a very profound impact on me,” the Clearwater Republican told an audience in South Tampa Friday morning.

“I do not believe that Donald Trump would leave four American employees of our country — officers of our country — in a situation like that, and never try to help them, and that’s the tie-breaker for me,” he said.

Along with the burgeoning issues with her private email server and perceptions of “pay-to-play” that those emails have shown regarding the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the Benghazi attack has been an issue that Republicans have attacked her on since she officially became a candidate for president last year. She testified for nearly 11 hours last October before a House committee examining the attack.

“I’ve always been a Republican, and even though I don’t agree with the choice that our party has made, I still think that he’s a whole lot better than the candidate on the other side,” Latvala said, adding that he thinks virtually any other one of the original group of 17 Republican who vied for the nomination a year ago would be leading Clinton decisively at this point of the campaign.

Latvala also questioned the conventional wisdom regarding the potential nominees for governor in Florida in 2018, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in particular, who appears to be the Republican to beat. Latvala said a party that favors Donald Trump would hardly be the same one to support someone who’s been serving in Tallahassee and Washington for almost two decades.

He mentioned Southwest Florida congressional candidate Frances Rooney, CFO Jeff Atwater and incoming Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran as the ones to watch. “Richard Corcoran is running for governor,” he said definitively.

He also scoffed at the conventional wisdom that has Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the driver’s seat for the Democrats, calling it “incredible” that because of her last name (she’s the scion of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) she’s at the top of the charts.

He gave a shoutout to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine as possible contenders.

Jack Latvala says his GOP colleagues have their ‘heads in the sand when it comes to transportation’

Incoming Florida Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Friday a lack of mass transit in the Tampa Bay area has become a bigger problem than ever, and he blasted his fellow Republicans in Tallahassee for failing to lead on the issue.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in my party that just bury their head in the sand when it comes to transportation,” the always outspoken Clearwater Republican said, addressing dozens of people who gathered at 8 a.m. to hear him speak at the weekly “Cafe con Tampa” breakfast in Tampa’s Hyde Park.

Latvala said unless something changes soon, the lack of a capable transit system in the region will ultimately force the Tampa Bay Rays to leave the market.

“It’s not going to be a question of whether the Tampa Bay Rays are in St. Petersburg or in Tampa, it’ll be a question of whether they’re in Hartford (Connecticut), or Montreal. We WILL lose our baseball team,” he said with obvious disdain. “What a blow to the image of our area. All because of people who keep their head in the sand.”

Latvala said the lack of transit options was exposed nationally when the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa exactly four years ago. “Trust me, we will NEVER have another one because of the transportation embarrassments of the delegates getting back at to their hotel at three o’clock in the morning because of our lack of a transit and transportation system in the Tampa Bay area,” which happened on one notorious night of the 2012 RNC.

As has been widely reported, two transit referendums have gone down to defeat in the Tampa Bay area over the past six years. Resistance amongst the current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and elements on the left and right in Tampa ended any plans to put another type of sales tax on the ballot this fall. Several Democrats running for state office on the campaign trail this summer have talked about pushing for the Legislature allow large cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg to have the ability to place their own referendums on the ballot.

“I never had a problem allowing people to vote on whether they wanted to tax themselves,” Latvala said when asked about that proposal. “If people are tired of sitting still on the interstate and they want to do something, then why as government leaders should we tell them they don’t have the option of voting for that? Because we’ve got our head in the sand.”

He later added he didn’t think the measure had any chance of passing in the Legislature, though he did praise Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman for continuing to push that and other transit measures forward.

Four years ago, Latvala said it was time to examine consolidating HART and PSTA, the transit agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, respectively. Two separate studies were taken on looking at a merger. The first showed a savings of $2.4 million, but a second KPMG study in 2014 showed those savings to be more modest at $330,000.

When anti-tax activist Tom Rask mentioned to Latvala that HART was opposed to the measure, Latvala simmered. “Of course both agencies are opposed to it, because people are going to lose their jobs!” He said both agencies had CEOs who made six-figure salaries, had lobbyists who came close to costing nearly $100,000, as well as various administrative staffs that could be reduced. “I cannot imagine you would not support something to reduce bureaucracy!,” he barked at Rask.

Rebecca Smith, a Republican running on Tuesday in the House District 60 race, challenged Latvala about his emphasis on mass transit, instead waxing rhapsodically on a future of autonomous vehicles. Latvala was unmoved, saying, it sounded like she was from the “Jeff Brandes school of mass transit” (the St. Petersburg Republican is an enthusiastic champion of such technology).

“You’re still talking about a vehicle on the road,” he countered. “The only difference is that they don’t have a driver.”

Latvala said he’s taken it relatively easy regarding contemplating state issues this summer, but now will begin digging in as he becomes Senate Appropriations Chair after the November elections. He said transit and the Rays’ fate will two of his biggest priorities moving forward.

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