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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.”

Rick Scott says entire state needs to be involved in Zika prevention

Florida has done its part to slow the spread of Zika, but Gov. Rick Scott said it is time for the federal government to step up.

There are 36 cases of locally acquired Zika in Florida, all of which were believed to be transmitted in Miami-Dade County. The Department of Health believes active transmissions are only occurring in Wynwood, a trendy arts neighborhood, and in the Miami Beach area.

“We all have to be part of this. We have to get rid of standing water, wear bug repellent, wear protective clothing,” said Scott during a stop in Fort Myers on Monday morning. “If we do that, then we’re going to continue to do well. This state does a good job with mosquito control.”

But the state can’t do it alone, and Scott said federal lawmakers need to do their part to help Florida. Scott said the state has asked federal health officials to send more Zika prevention kits, which it hasn’t done. He also criticized Congress for taking a recess before passing a Zika funding bill.

“The federal government has not been a good partner,” he said.

President Barack Obama in February requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus. The GOP-led House passed a $1.1 billion spending package, but the Senate Democrats blocked the bill.

Scott isn’t the only lawmaker calling for help from federal lawmakers. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are expected to hold a press conference Monday to urge Congress to return from recess to deal with the outbreak.

The outbreak in Miami Beach comes as the state reported more than 57 million visitors came to Florida in the first six months of the year. Miami Beach is a popular tourist destination, with 48 percent of all visitors to the Miami area staying in Miami Beach in 2015.

Last week, Scott called on the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Health to work with hotels and restaurants in Miami-Dade County on Zika prevention and education.

“We started preparing for Zika back in February, and we’ve kept everyone informed. We put out accurate information, timely information,” said Scott. “That’s why we’re going to continue to see outstanding tourism numbers in our state. People know we are prepared. We prepare for hurricanes, we prepare for storms, (and) we’ve prepared for Zika.”

Scott is scheduled to spend Monday afternoon in Miami. He’ll visit Jose de Diego Middle School in Miami, before hosting a Zika preparedness roundtable at De Hostos Senior Center in Miami. He’ll be joined at the roundtable by Commissioner Adam Putnam and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Florida GOP announcement about ‘Leadership Victory Committee’ never mentions Donald Trump

While Donald Trump may only now be getting serious about establishing a ground game in Florida, the Republican Party of Florida says they’ll be more than ready to get their voters to the polls this November.

On Thursday, the RPOF announced its Florida Leadership Victory Committee, which it says will work to ensure that Republicans up and down the ballot are successful. It will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Four Republicans each offered comments about the importance of getting the Republican vote out this fall, but noticeably none of them cared to mention Trump in their comments.

“It has always been our objective that Republicans up and down the ballot have success come November,” says party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who at least referenced the presidency.

“As a battleground state, the Republican Party of Florida is spending its time and resources supporting candidates that stand for conservative principles that will reverse the course of President Obama’s failed agenda. For the Sunshine State, this election is about keeping Hillary Clinton out of the Oval Office by delivering Florida’s 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee and restoring prosperity to our country.”

Lopez-Cantera and Putnam referenced the importance of getting Marco Rubio re-elected to the U.S. Senate in November, but mentioned nothing about their presidential standard-bearer.

“With control of the Senate comes the direction of the disastrous Iran Deal, the filling of potentially multiple Supreme Court vacancies and the economic future of our country,” said Lopez-Cantera. “This committee will work to elect Republicans up and down the ballot because this is a crucial point in our nation’s history, and I am honored to serve as a co-chair alongside CFO Atwater and Commissioner Putnam. The Republican Party of Florida’s efforts will ensure we do not have to see Chuck Schumer as majority leader, because that would be unthinkable.

“Once again, it all comes down to Florida. Without a continued majority in the Senate and House, including Marco Rubio’s leadership, we put America’s future at risk,” said Putnam. We need to elect principled conservatives now more than ever, and that is why we must work for Republican victories up and down the ballot. These races are too important to take for granted, and Florida and America’s futures depend on it.”

“We must all work to maintain Republican majorities at the local, state and federal level, and the grassroots effort here in Florida will be crucial,” said Atwater. “Florida is a key battleground state, and the committee is devoted to providing the resources necessary for a strong victory in November.”

RPOF officials say this committee will provide necessary resources to implement what they boast will be the “strongest ground game in the country,” as well as take responsibility for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Pat Neal will not be a candidate for Chief Financial Officer in 2018

Pat Neal, a Manatee County developer and former Florida state senator, will not run for Chief Financial Officer in 2018.

Facing a self-imposed deadline of July 1 to make a decision about a run, Neal told FloridaPolitics.com in an exclusive interview Wednesday he will not be on the ballot in two years.

“I have a wonderful business and a wonderful family, and I have concluded that I cannot continue to have both if I pursue elected office,” he said.

Neal was first elected to the Florida House in 1974, before being elected to the Florida Senate in 1978. He served until 1986, when he lost his re-election bid. During his time in the Florida Senate, he served as the chairman of the natural resources committee and helped spearhead several environmental protection measures.

Neal has often been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Jeff Atwater as the state’s CFO. While Neal insisted he never thought of himself as a candidate, he said he did enjoy the exploratory phase.

But this wasn’t the first time Neal’s name has been floated as someone who might be at home in the CFO’s office. When Atwater was in the running to become Florida Atlantic University’s president in 2014, Neal was an often mentioned as being a possibility to replace him. The same happened when Atwater considered a U.S. Senate bid.

While it’s been decades since Neal served in the Florida Senate, he hasn’t completely bowed out of politics. State records show he has given $405,700 to candidates and committees in Florida during the 2016 election cycle. Records show the vast majority of that sum went to “Floridians for a Conservative Future,” a political committee in Florida.

His decision not to run means the race is wide open, with candidates on both sides of the aisle pondering whether to run for the seat.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been mentioned as a possible CFO candidate, and Neal’s decision could make it a bit easier for him to jump in the race. The Miami Republican recently ended his U.S. Senate bid, but could be gearing up for another run at a statewide office in 2018.

Others who could be considering the office may include Sens. Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes. Much like Neal, Lee’s name was floated in 2014. Also under consideration back in 2014 were Sen. Don Gaetz, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former state Rep. Seth McKeel.

 

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