Carlos Lopez-Cantera Archives - Page 2 of 31 - Florida Politics

At annual meeting, Republicans contemplate their place at the top after election wins

With big wins in the November elections and now about to control the House, Senate and the presidency, the Republican Party of Florida didn’t feel the need to shake up party leadership much — re-electing Blaise Ingoglia by a sizable margin at the 2017 annual leadership conference Saturday morning.

The RPOF spent much of the rest of the morning at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando on top of the world and in good spirits. But they also focused on the future and action, now that they have so much power in government.

Sen. Marco Rubio spoke about the need to not waste the chance to take action.

“We’ll veto a lot of the regulations put in place,” he said. “The Senate has moved to start repealing Obamacare. Donald Trump will be presenting his plan for a replacement within the next few weeks.”

Rubio said in the first half of this year, he anticipated Obamacare to be repealed and replaced.

He also said Republicans could look forward to a new Supreme Court justice replacing the late Antonin Scalia, who would hopefully serve for 20 to 25 years, and tax reform and fiscal plans in line with what they said would help fix the economy.

“We can provide an opportunity for the American dream,” he said. “The party will be organized around limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense. If we don’t do our jobs, there are no excuses. We control the House, the Senate and the White House. We can set the country on the right course.”

Palm Beach County official Michael Barnett won the Vice Chair seat, and he and others spoke of moving forward and expanding the party to include everyone.

Barnett, who previously served as the party’s Chairman of their Minority Engagement Committee, said it was important to show various minority communities that the Republican Party could serve their interests.

“We’ve made a good start with this election,” he said. “Eight percent of the black vote went to Donald Trump — double what Mitt Romney was able to get.

“We need to keep reaching out to the Haitian, Caribbean and other communities, and become a part of their community. We don’t all come from the same background, but we can share the same values.”

Though Ingogilia’s win was easy enough, not everyone was happy. Challenger Christian Ziegler was touted as the candidate who could devote full attention to RPOF chair, rather than wear more than one hat as Ingoglia does as a member of the Legislature. Ingoglia currently represents the Florida House in District 35.

Ziegler said he could act like a “CEO of a business” for the party, and always be available to people, no matter what.

Orange County Republican chair Lew Oliver voiced some displeasure with this to FloridaPolitics.com. Oliver thought the chair should be someone with no other interests or positions in politics.

“In politics, there are a lot of battles already,” Oliver said. “Members of Legislature are involved in a lot of struggles, factions and groups. You don’t want someone who may be motivated to have another set of battles.”

Ingoglia’s acceptance speech focused on the ability of the RPOF to create “a dynasty” that could keep the state in Republican control for the foreseeable future.

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera noted it might be unwise for Republicans to get too complacent in their place at the top — the 2018 election cycle could be even more difficult.

“The Democrats suffered losses in this election,” he said. “They’re doing pretty bad. As low and as bad as they are, they may only have one place to go, though — unless we keep our place and not take this for granted. Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

“Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

Carlos Lopez-Cantera endorses Blaise Ingoglia for RPOF Chair

Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the latest high profile Republican to back Blaise Ingoglia in his bid for re-election to be the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

“I have been active in the RPOF for 20 years and I cannot recall a chairman that has shown the commitment and dedication to the Republican Party of Florida as Blaise Ingoglia,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued out by Ingoglia on Monday. “That is why I am proud to stand behind him for his reelection as our Chairman, and I encourage our entire Republican Party of Florida to do the same.”

Lopez-Cantera joins his fellow cabinet member, CFO Jeff Atwater, in backing Ingoglia in his election bid. The other members of the cabinet – Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – have yet to weigh in on the race.

Ingoglia is being challenged by Sarasota committeeman Christian Ziegler for the position.  Governor Rick Scott has also to weigh in, but he and Ingoglia have never been on the same page, ever since Ingoglia defeated Scott’s hand picked choice for chair, Leslie Dougher, two years ago.

The Senate Republicans and Scott still fundraise separately from the party, an issue that Ziegler has seized on as part of his candidacy. Ingoglia responds that while fundraising is down with the RPOF, it’s still going to the same places to help Republicans win races, and he points to the state turning red with Donald Trump as the most concrete proof that he’s on the right track in leading the party.

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a good friend of Lopez-Cantera, has also previously endorsed Ingoglia.

In his statement, the Lieutenant Governor said that he has traveled tens of thousands of miles across the Sunshine State in his duties to meet with Republicans, and says more than he can remember, Ingoglia was always there too.

“As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a Chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action,” Lopez-Cantera said.

The election for the RPOF chair takes place this Saturday in Orlando.  A third candidate in the race, Lafayette County Republican state committeeman Alan Levy, has announced that he is withdrawing from the race.

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

Florida leaders react to the death of Fidel Castro

Florida leaders are reacting to the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who died Friday at the age of 90.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

“Now that Fidel is gone, the U.S. should continue to press hard against his brother Raul and continue to take steps to support the Cuban people until he provides basic rights and freedoms to all the people of Cuba. In the meantime, the new Trump administration should continue the policy of opening travel and communication with Cuba.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“Fidel Castro seized power promising to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba, but his communist regime turned it into an impoverished island prison. Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed. Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people. The future of Cuba ultimately remains in the hands of the Cuban people, and now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with them against their brutal rulers and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights.”

Gov. Rick Scott:

“I join Cuban-Americans and Floridians across the country who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba.  After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy.  I have met so many Cubans who have come to Florida to flee the tyranny, brutality, and communism of the Castro brothers’ oppressive regime and now is the time to look at policy changes that will demand democracy in Cuba.  Today’s news should usher in an era of freedom, peace and human dignity for everyone in Cuba and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in that mission.  I spoke to President-elect Trump this morning to let him know that the State of Florida will help his administration in any way to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba.”

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera:

“Has it finally come? FIDEL IS DEAD! I pray this is beginning of a free and democratic Cuba. Wish my Abuelo & Abuela were alive to see this.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, via Twitter:

“Florida is richer for all the families who arrived after Fidel took all they had. More to be done. Cuba libra!”

Attorney General Pam Bondi:

“Fidel Castro leaves behind a legacy of repression and tyranny. History will not absolve him. We must work and pray for a free Cuba.”

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis:

“After decades of oppression under Fidel Castro, I celebrate with freedom-loving Cubans everywhere the hope for a brighter future. But until all Cubans are allowed basic human rights, democracy, and freedom, the Castro regime continues. Now more than ever, we must stand with the Cuban people against this brutal dictatorship. May the decades long oppression of human rights be tossed into the trash bin of history.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“Cuban families and small business owners are eager to accelerate economic and human rights reforms and America must continue to support them, especially Tampa Bay area community leaders who have been at the forefront of progress and change. With the election of Donald Trump, hardliners opposed to diplomatic relations and engagement with everyday Cubans have urged an end to new flights, travel, and cooperative efforts. Slamming the door shut at this point in time would be disastrous. Instead, Fidel Castro’s death should encourage all of us to meet the challenge of better diplomatic relations, economic opportunities for Cubans and Americans, expanded travel, and support for the dignity of the Cuban people.”

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, via Twitter:

“Fidel Castro’s disappearance was necessary for the horror of the present to be able to end and for the future of Cuba to be able to begin.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham:

“Growing up in Miami, I saw firsthand how Fidel Castro’s control of Cuba tore apart families and destroyed lives in both our countries. Castro will forever be remembered as a failed tyrant who neglected human rights and brought more than 50 years of poverty to Cuba. Fidel and his followers are relics of the previous century. I pray that with Fidel Castro’s passing, we double our nation’s resolve to see Cuba libre, a free nation and free people at last.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

“The passing of the dictator marks the end of a long, horrifying chapter in Cuba’s history. The Cuban people need our solidarity.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“Today, a tyrant is dead. Although his totalitarian dictatorship deeply scarred a once prosperous nation, his death ushers in a renewed hope that the Cuban people finally will be free. Now we must work even harder toward achieving liberty, basic rights and free, multi-party elections for the Cuban people.

The dictator has the blood of innocents on his hands, and his dictatorship is guilty of torture, murder and numerous other atrocities. As an evil dictator finally faces his Creator, the malevolent Castro dictatorship continues. Shamefully, President Obama has spent the past eight years attempting to cede important leverage to the ailing Castro regime. Despite President Obama’s collaboration and betrayal of America’s longstanding mission to promote freedom, the American people continue their strong solidarity with the Cuban people in their struggle for free elections, human rights and liberty.”

U.S. Rep. David Jolly, via Twitter:

“The last vestiges of the Cold War have passed. Now is the time to move forward.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 

“The day that the people, both inside the island and out, have waited for has arrived: A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western Hemisphere.  The message is now very clear to those who think they will continue to misrule Cuba through oppression and fear. Enough is enough. The Cuban people have been shortchanged for too long to continue down this reviled path.

“Those who still rule Cuba with an iron grip may attempt to delay the island’s liberation, but they cannot stop it.  Castro’s successors cannot hide and must not be allowed to hide beneath cosmetic changes that will only lengthen the malaise of the Cuban nation. No regime, no matter who leads it, will have a shred of legitimacy if it has not been chosen by the people of Cuba in free and fair elections.

“Fidel’s apologists around the world can help to restore freedom and human rights for Cuba by joining the call for the new regime to free the hundreds of freedom fighters and pro-democracy activists still locked in Castro’s prisons.

“Not until the gulags are closed, elections are held, political prisoners are freed and liberty is restored can the United States lawfully end its embargo against the communist regime in Havana. The time to act is now.

“We must seize the moment and help write a new chapter in the history of Cuba; that of a Cuba that is free, democratic and prosperous. A Cuba where faith in God has prevailed over tyranny, a Cuba whose people rose up to meet the challenges placed before them and overcame them through sheer patriotism and love of country.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“Fidel Castro’s death ends his personal tyranny of the Cuban people and ushers in the possibility of a new era for Cuba. However, the legacy of his oppression continues today in Cuba and as we look ahead to the future, the Cuban government should hold free and fair elections that allow all Cubans a true voice in their government, fully embrace human rights, recognize opposition parties, cease imprisoning people for expressing their views and release all political prisoners. I look forward to working with the Cuban-American community and my colleagues to ensure a bright, prosperous and free future is a reality for all Cubans.”

U.S. Rep-elect Charlie Crist:

“History will remember Fidel Castro as a tyrant, a represser of democracy, civil rights, and human rights. But my heart isn’t full of hate today, it’s full of optimism due to the progress we’re already seeing in bringing our American ideals of freedom and prosperity to Cuba through improved diplomatic and economic relations.”

State Sen. Rene Garcia, via Twitter:

“Hopefully with the death of the oppressive tyrant #Castro our family’s can finally witness the beginning of an open and free Cuba.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

“At the death of any man, all we can do is measure his life based on his actions and choices.  Fidel Castro brutalized and murdered a great people. He pillaged a tropical paradise.  He promulgated a Godless ideology that destroyed the lives of countless families. He was a thug.  His passing only makes this world a safer, better place.  Florida has deep historical, geographic and familial ties to Cuba.  I know I join all Floridians today in praying that Castro’s death will somehow pave the way for freedom and democracy to at last emerge and flourish on the island. It also seems appropriate this day to remember the many heroes in Miami and elsewhere who stood up to this terrible dictator and never lived to see this day. May their children and their grandchildren take comfort in the memory of their courage.”

State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz:

“Tonight we close a dark chapter in the history of Cuba – a day after Thanksgiving – we give thanks and pray for a free Cuba.”

State Rep. Manny Diaz, via Twitter:

“The death of the despot dictator and thug Fidel Castro marks the end of an era, you will see an emotional response 56 years in the making.”

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, via Twitter:

“A despot died last night. ¡Viva Cuba libre! With great hope for the future of human rights in #Cuba.”

State Rep. Jeanette Nunez, via Twitter:

“Fidel was a monster who murdered, tortured and imprisoned countless individuals. The Cuban people are one step closer to a #CubaLibre”

Former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, via Twitter:

“Castro put his political opponents to death via firing squads. Folks who are romanticizing him should stop and think about that”

Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia:

“The death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro should be the beginning of the end to an era of relentless oppression on the lives of families inside and outside the island. Unfortunately, this does not close the door on tyranny; it just reminds us of the brutal dictatorship Castro had over his very own people.  As Americans, we stand for a Cuba who will no longer struggle for human rights, free-elections or true liberty.  We anxiously look ahead towards the future of a free Cuba that embraces democratic ideals!”

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez:

“Early this morning, I learned of Fidel Castro’s death. His passing closes a very painful chapter for Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans throughout the world, including for thousands of Miami-Dade County residents who were personally affected by his cruel and brutal dictatorship. Despite this historic moment however, we know that Fidel’s brother Raul continues to lead one of the world’s most repressive governments. My hope is that a free and democratic Cuba with the same freedoms we treasure here in the United States will soon emerge. It is what the Cuban people deserve. Miami-Dade County does not currently have plans to activate its Emergency Operations Center. I ask that all our residents who choose to demonstrate do so peacefully. May God bless the people of Cuba, Miami-Dade County and the United States of America.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“Today, I stand in solidarity with the Cuban people. In my birthplace of Miami, countless people fleeing Fidel Castro’s oppressive regime worked to build a new life for themselves and their families against all odds. Their children and grandchildren have greatly strengthened Florida, and have influenced the world through their many talents in the arts, business, and sports. It is my hope that today marks an opportunity for a new direction toward democratic freedom and human rights for all those who remain in Cuba. Fidel’s legacy will always be one of repression.  But hope remains that the future will be brighter, and bring with it the light of liberty and equality for all.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn:

“As one of the birthplaces of Cuban independence in the late 1800’s, Tampa has long and storied history with the island of Cuba and its people. Generations of Cubans have helped to build this amazing city and we are forever grateful for their contributions. Many arrived in our City fleeing the totalitarian policies of the Castro government with nothing more that the shirts on their backs and a yearning for freedom. They have never strayed from the belief that one day Cuba would again be free. The passing of Fidel Castro offers hope that one day the Cuban people will enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.”

Cubans in Miami, Hialeah take to streets in celebration of Fidel Castro’s death

South Florida cities are erupting in celebration of the death of former longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida reports that throughout Miami, a city of Cuban immigrants, can be heard shouts of: “Libertad! Libertad! Libertad!”

Cubans of all ages took to the streets in Miami Friday evening throughout Saturday morning party over the demise of the man they believe stole their homeland.

“Words really can’t express how I feel,” a Cuban man told NBC-6 in Miami. “My parents died waiting for this day. And I’m here I’m here to celebrate for them.”

Many celebrants were seen waving the Cuban flag.

Miami Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American and frequent critic of the Castro regime, tweeted in both English and Spanish about the news that Castro was finally gone.

“After so many decades of oppression the tyrant #Castro is dead and a new beginning can finally dawn on #Cuba and its people,” Ros-Lehtinen wrote.

“We must seize the moment and help write a new chapter in the history of Cuba,” she said in a statement Saturday morning. “That of a Cuba that is free, democratic and prosperous.”

“The passing of the dictator marks the end of a long, horrifying chapter in #Cuba‘s history,” tweeted Miami Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo. “The #Cuban people need our solidarity #Castro.”

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who grew up in Miami told POLITICO how she saw “firsthand how Fidel Castro’s control of Cuba tore apart families and destroyed lives in both our countries.”

“He will forever be remembered as a failed tyrant who neglected human rights and brought more than 50 years of poverty to Cuba. Fidel and his followers are relics of the previous century, and I pray that with his passing, we double our nation’s resolve to see Cuba libre, a free nation and free people at last,” she said in a statement.

Graham, who currently represents North Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, also took to Twitter with comments.

Throughout Saturday morning, hundreds were seen celebrating in both Miami and Hialeah, which Bustos notes is a city of 250,000 people where six in 10 residents are Cuban.

“Now we are waiting for Raúl to die, too,” another Cuban man told NBC-6, speaking of Cuban President Raúl Castro, 85, who is Fidel Castro’s brother.

Todd Wilcox launches Restoring American Leadership super PAC

Todd Wilcox, the former combat veteran and CIA case officer who ran for nearly a year as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, announced Wednesday he is forming a Super PAC called “Restoring American Leadership.”

Wilcox will serve as chairman of this new committee.

We are at a crossroads in this country where we must decide whether we continue on the destructive path we have been on for eight years, or do we renew our commitment to American leadership,” said Wilcox. “I am fighting to do everything in my power to ensure we elect only those who will fight for the conservative principals of limited government, free market capitalism, strong national defense, and the liberty ensured by an originalist interpretation of our Constitution.”

Wilcox announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Marco Rubio on the 4th of July in 2015. He declared at that time he was “fed up with the status quo and I’m fed up with career politicians who care more about re-election or the next higher office than they do about their neighbors. That’s why I am declaring my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.”

For months he was the only non-politician in the GOP field, which also included Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Earlier this year, Manatee developer Carlos Beruff joined the party.

But the race changed dramatically when Rubio’s chances for president faded and he decided in June to re-enter the contest. Although resistant at first to dropping out, Wilcox ultimately did exactly that, leaving Beruff to get manhandled by Rubio in the August primary.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported last month, Wilcox, a millionaire, has been giving out campaign contributions to federal candidates running in the Sunshine State since dropping out of the Senate race. And as POLITICO’s Marc Caputo reported Wednesday, Wilcox is getting behind Brian Mast, a combat veteran running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District against Democrat Randy Perkins.

Wilcox alluded to a spat the two candidates had at a meeting in front of the TC Palm editorial board recently when he wrote in an ad published in the Post on Wednesday that, “As a Green Beret in the United States Army, I had the tremendous honor of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the bravest, hardest working Americans to ever step on a battlefield. Like most who saw your recent meltdown, I watched in total disgust as you questioned ‘why the sacrifices and the services’ Brian Mast provided for this country make him ‘capable of solving issues’ affecting seniors, children, single mothers, veterans, and families.”

Charlie Crist CD 13 campaign continues psychological warfare offensive

David Jolly easily handled Mark Bircher in the GOP primary contest in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Now, the Indian Shores Republican is turning his full attention to defeating Charlie Crist, which won’t be easy.

Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a special election in March 2014 by just 1.8 percentage points. That was when the district did not include more liberal enclaves of downtown and South St. Petersburg, making it much more favorable for a Democrat to win in 2016.

Trying to set the mood from the onset, Matthew Van Name, Crist’s campaign manager, issued a memo to the media on Wednesday laying out the reasons why his candidate is the man to beat on Nov. 8.

“On Day 1 of the General Election, Charlie Crist is leading Republican David Jolly in polling, fundraising, and grassroots support,” the memo begins.

Van Name goes on to compile information that is statistically accurate — that Crist won the newly configured district by 15 percentage points in the 2014 gubernatorial run against Rick Scott in a year where turnout was less for Democrats than is expected to be the case in a presidential election year. That 15-point margin is twice as better than how Crist did in the old CD 13. In the 2012 presidential election, Van Name notes how Barack Obama won the new district by ten percentage points — and says the breakdown of voters that year was 40 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans, and 23 percent non-party-affiliated or other third party groups.

Last fall, Jolly admitted that CD 13 was one that “no Republican can win.”

“We were leaning very strongly into staying in the House. I ran to be in the House,” he said while speaking to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in Clearwater last October. “The truth is the Supreme Court later created a district that virtually every person in the political sphere will tell you, no Republican can win.”

Jolly made those comments while he was already well into his race for the U.S. Senate, a race that he dropped out of this past June when Marco Rubio decided that he would run for re-election to the seat. Three other Republicans running in that race — Ron DeSantis, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Lopez-Cantera — also dropped out, while the lone Republican who remained in the race, Carlos Beruff, was crushed by Rubio in Tuesday night’s Senate primary, losing by 54 percentage points.

Also in the memo, Van Name giddily recounts the chill existing between Jolly and the National Republican Congressional Campaign — a chill that exploded after NRCC officials strongly denied Jolly’s assertion on “60 Minutes” this past spring that he was told at a meeting shortly after being elected that he needed to raise $18,000 every day.

Officials with the NRCC so far have indicated they won’t be providing financial resources to aid him this fall.

“The NRCC was not included in his ‘deliberations’ and has not had any discussions with David about him running for re-election,” said Katie Martin, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, after Jolly announced he would run for the seat again in June. “We do not — and will not — comment about commitments for financial support or anything else.”

The NRCC issued its own memo Wednesday, where they praised Jolly as a “strong advocate … who has spent his entire career working on behalf of the people of Pinellas County.” Conversely, they lambasted Crist, saying, “Democrats are left with perennial candidate Charlie Crist who has been consistently rejected at the ballot box ever since he hightailed it out of Tallahassee when things got tough. Under Crist’s failed leadership as governor, Florida lost nearly 800,000 jobs and saw unemployment skyrocket 217 percent. That is a record Crist will have to answer for in the general election.”

However, Van Name is right to say that it’s questionable whether or not the NRCC will help out Jolly financially in his tight re-election campaign. There have been conflicting reports, but as of now, the NRCC has not said they will provide financial support.

“Most importantly, Jolly isn’t right for Pinellas County,” he writes. “First as a Washington lobbyist, and now as an out-of-touch Republican congressman, he is failing the middle class, women, and seniors.

“He has advocated for privatizing Social Security and Medicare, wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and defund Planned Parenthood, lobbied for offshore oil drilling, and voted against millions in VA funding increases that would help veterans get the care they need.”

Van Name also notes that a recent poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research showed Crist beating Jolly by a 50-38 percent margin.

The Jolly campaign released their own poll in June showing their man leading Crist by the same 50-38 percent margin.

On election night, Crist issued out a statement, saying that “it saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County.” However, Jolly has made a big deal about how “he’s not there yet” in regards to supporting Trump.

“Charlie lied to voters in his very first statement of the general campaign,” says Jolly spokesman Max Goodman. “And in the midst of an impending hurricane is engaged in gutter politics.”

“Charlie’s latest memo of misleading smears against Congressman Jolly is nothing more than the typical garbage and lies Florida has come to expect from an untrustworthy, disgraced former governor who once again is trailing in the polls and thinks the only thing he needs to recover his lost political legacy is a lot of money in the bank and Washington politicians in his pocket,” Goodman added in an email to FloridaPolitics. “As with Jolly’s last four election victories, the congressman knows the only thing that counts is having the people of Pinellas behind you. To that end, and unlike what Crist did during his 18 years in office, David Jolly will continue doing what he always does — his job.”

Carlos Beruff: Why I ran for the U.S. Senate

I’m going to say a few things in here that folks in the political arena know to be true, but that they refuse to say publicly.

Our country is miserably off track; this is something that all but the far left agree on. I personally came to the point where I felt a responsibility to try to do something about it, and I’ve been blessed enough in business to be able to take a shot at running for office.

Here’s the American situation – we have moved from a culture of independence to a culture of dependence. We have moved from capitalism into the direction of socialism. We have moved from being a beacon of strength internationally to a position of weakness. And we have moved from a strong financial base to an unprecedented level of debt beyond description or compare.

Of one thing I am certain – we are foolish if we think we will achieve change by sending the same crowd of people back to run our government again and again. This is the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

I got into this race because the Senate seat was open and was underwhelmed by our potential choices to represent the Republican Party. In fact, prior to Marco Rubio going back on his word, our campaign had moved into first place in the Republican primary.

But sometimes life throws you a curveball. I made the miscalculation of taking Mr. Rubio at his word that he wouldn’t seek re-election if he lost the Presidential Primary. Even in March, he reiterated that he has told people “10,000” times that he is not running for re-election. I guess I was silly to believe the words of a Washington politician.

Once Mr. Rubio went back on his word, all the other candidates (being the politicians that they are) ran scurrying for the exits. David Jolly went back to running for Congress, Ron DeSantis went back to running for Congress, and Carlos Lopez-Cantera went back to doing whatever it is that he does, which is basically nothing except collect a check from the Florida taxpayers.

The directive out of Washington was for everyone to kiss the Senator’s ring and bow out of the race. We did not yield to the Washington political establishment, and even though we did not win, I make no apologies.

Herein lies the big problem in America today – the folks in Washington, in both parties, think they can give orders to us. It is supposed to be just the opposite. They are supposed to take orders from us. I do not take orders from Washington, and I suggest that no one else should either.

Critics will say it was a fool’s errand to stay in the Senate race. They will say we had no chance of beating Rubio, and they will say I wasted money. But of course, critics are most often those people who lack the courage and commitment to enter the arena.

I care deeply about the direction of our country. I wanted to go to Washington to say enough is enough and to fight for the American dream that has been so good to my family, and is clearly slipping through our fingers today with the mindless and naive liberalism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

We came up short, but I make no apologies for fighting for what is right.

One last thing – I will vote for both Trump and Rubio in November. With all of his sins, and we all have them, Trump’s primary message is one of change, and of America embracing those values that made us the greatest country in the world.

With regard to young Mr. Rubio, in my judgment he made a life mistake. A man’s word is the most important thing he has. Mr. Rubio must live with that decision. Sadly, he could have learned a lot about America and about himself by leaving politics and spending some time in the real world. Nonetheless, he is the best of the remaining options.

We as a campaign, and I personally, am appreciative of the support of those who sought change for this country. I will never have the right words to show my sincere appreciation to all those friends who gave of their time and resources. Thank you for your efforts and most importantly, your votes of confidence.

___

Manatee homebuilder Carlos Beruff was defeated Tuesday evening by incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican primary.

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy look confident before Florida’s Senate primary

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy are campaigning as if Tuesday’s primary was already over and they won their parties’ nominations for U.S. Senate.

And it may be for good reason. Rubio’s main challenger, Carlos Beruff, appeared to throw in the towel, essentially shutting down the campaign he’d sunk $8 million of his own money into. And Murphy’s main challenger, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, has been damaged by ethics and domestic abuse allegations, leaving Murphy to focus on Rubio.

That leaves congressional races as some of the more exciting to watch during Tuesday’s primary, the first since court-mandated redistricting undid advantages for some incumbents and prompting one of the liveliest campaigns in many seasons. Congresswoman and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is receiving an unexpectedly strong challenge from a Bernie Sanders-backed political novice.

Voters will also decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow a property tax break to promote solar power. And many of the state’s congressional primaries almost certainly assure the victor will be elected in November because of the political makeup of the district.

Republican primaries to replace retiring GOP Congressmen Jeff Miller, Ander Crenshaw, Curt Clawson and Richard Nugent will likely decide who is sent to Washington in November. The same goes for the Republican primary to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who is exploring a run for governor after her district was redrawn in a way that favors the GOP. Democratic primaries to replace Grayson and Murphy will also likely choose the next members of Congress in those districts.

Still, the Senate race is the main event, and one that took several twists along the way. Rubio wasn’t even supposed to be on the ballot, declaring he’d run for president instead of seeking a second term. Rubio dropped out of the presidential race when Donald Trump trounced him in Florida, but he still said he was done with the Senate. Then, two days before the deadline to get on the ballot, he changed his mind, chasing all Republicans but Beruff out of the race.

The Democratic primary pits former Republican and party establishment favorite Murphy against Grayson, a fiery liberal whose outspoken candor makes him unelectable in the minds of party leaders. Despite voting with Republicans far more often than Grayson, Murphy is backed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Grayson has run a maverick campaign, condemning his party’s leaders and saying Murphy will be a puppet for leadership and special interests.

With comfortable leads in the polls, Rubio and Murphy took a similar strategy: Ignore the primary opposition. Both declined to debate their opponents, choosing instead to attack each other.

Rubio said he didn’t debate Beruff because there wasn’t enough time.

“He didn’t really seem that interested in debates not that long ago,” Rubio said in the days leading up to the primary. And when asked about the primary, Rubio turned the subject to Murphy, saying, “I take every race seriously. I’ll have more events today than Patrick Murphy will have all week.”

Rubio’s campaign has been issuing near-daily attacks on Murphy while virtually ignoring Grayson.

It was clear, though, that Beruff wanted a debate, particularly investing so much money trying to build his name recognition. He repeatedly criticized Rubio for not agree to an exchange, saying he should “man up” and calling him a coward.

Murphy called off the only debate schedule with Grayson after the mother of Grayson’s children said he abused her over the two decades they lived together, an accusation he has denied. Instead, Murphy focused nearly all is attention on Rubio. Murphy’s second ad of the campaign, released four weeks before the primary, attacks Rubio for missing votes while running for president.

During a phone interview, Murphy said Rubio is more concerned about his political ambition.

“He constantly says ‘I’m in this for Florida,’ but he’s clearly not running for Senate for Florida. He’s never been there for Florida; he’s never been there for a local issue; he’s never shown up for work. He’s in this for himself,” Murphy said.

It’s a similar message Grayson has made about Murphy, that there is no substance behind the candidate. Grayson repeatedly points out that Murphy was a Republican until he decided to run for Congress. He has voted with Republicans on bills that would have weakened Obama’s health care overhaul and he supported a committee to investigate Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attacks that killed four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya.

“They’re desperately trying to take this empty suit and make him into a plausible candidate for U.S. Senator and they’re failing,” Grayson said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Marco Rubio makes final swing through Florida ahead of primary

Marco Rubio looked to define his opponent Monday, telling Southwest Florida voters there will be a clear contrast come Election Day.

“The Democrats will have a primary tomorrow, and we’ll see who their choice is,” said Rubio during a stop at the Cape Coral Military Museum. “I can tell you who the Democratic choice is … it’s a congressman from Palm Beach named Patrick Murphy. If he is their nominee, I look forward to the choice voters have.”

Rubio made no mention of his own primary challenge during his remarks Monday morning. Instead he used the speech as a chance to highlight the differences between himself and Murphy, and encourage voters to get to the polls come November.

Rubio faces Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder, in Tuesday’s Republican primary. He is largely expected to win the primary, and recent polls show Rubio leads Beruff by double digits.

“We’re very confident. Obviously we worked very hard and we feel good about tomorrow, and we’ll see what voters decide,” he told reporters. “But no matter what, we got to win in November — and that’s true across the ballot, so I thought today was a good day to kind of focus on November and what’s at stake.”

And what’s at stake, Rubio told the crowd, is the future of the country. The Miami Republican said Murphy has a “sense of entitlement.”

“The U.S. Senate seat doesn’t belong to the people who want to buy it, it belongs to the people of the state,” said Rubio. “I’m running for re-election, and I have to earn the right to continue to represent you. And that’s what I intend to do.”

The stop in Southwest Florida was the first of four campaign stops Monday. He was also scheduled to attend events in Bay County and Pensacola, before ending his day in Miami. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who ended his own U.S. Senate bid when Rubio jumped into the race.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican and a member of Rubio’s Southwest Florida grassroots leadership team, introduced Rubio, saying she was supporting him because “of who he is and where he came from.”

“He’ll tell you the story … about his father who is the bartender and his mother who was a maid. It really is that simple — when you come from nothing you know what it is to push, to work, to ask people to believe in you to achieve your own maximum potential,” she said. “He thinks of the least among us, to make sure … those that want to realize the American dream can do it here in an environment that wants them to be successful.”

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