Carlos Lopez-Cantera Archives - Page 7 of 30 - Florida Politics

Mitch Perry Report for 5.24.16 — Hillary nixes a last Dem debate in California

Last night in Santa Monica, Bernie Sanders called Hillary Clinton‘s decision not to debate him in California “insulting” to the voters in the Golden State.

“A number of months ago our campaign and her campaign reached an agreement on a number of debates, including one here in California,” Sanders told the crowd, according to a release issued by the Sanders campaign overnight. He added that it was “insulting to the people of California — our largest state — that she is not prepared to have a discussion with me about how we address the major crises we face.”

Both Democratic candidates are in California today and will be there a lot this week, some two weeks before registered voters go to the polls on June 7, with some 475 pledged delegates at stake.

It’s a fact that in February, both candidates agreed to add four more debates to the primary calendar, including one in May. So far they have had three of those four debates, the last one in New York on CNN before that state’s April primary.

Adding an interesting twist to all of this is that the debate would have been broadcast on Fox News, which hasn’t hosted a Democratic debate since 2004. There were discussions to do so in 2008, but at that point, the Democratic National Committee had virtually declared war on the conservative news network, though there were candidates (like Dennis Kucinich) who said the party was making a mistake in not trying to appeal to more independents and even conservatives.

Fox News execs were selling the debate as a way for the candidates — especially Clinton — to appeal to moderates. Sanders was up for it; Hillary wasn’t.

It should be noted that following the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee said they would control their presidential primary debates in 2015-16, and they’ve done so by controlling the sponsors — which is why you haven’t seen one GOP debate on MSNBC.

In other news …

Jeff Atwater doesn’t regret not getting into the U.S. Senate race. The CFO also touted the Florida economy in an appearance in St. Petersburg on Monday.

David Jolly voted again last week against adding yet another congressional panel to investigate those Planned Parenthood videos from last summer. After a pro-life group castigated the Pinellas lawmaker, Senate opponent Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined in yesterday with a digital ad.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald stuck his foot in his mouth again yesterday, not a good thing when there are plenty of folks who don’t believe he’s cleaned up his troubled agency nearly that much. Among those critics would be CD 12 Republican Gus Bilirakis.

And after President Obama signed the reauthorization of the National Estuary Program, Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan gave POTUS a shout-out.

Jeff Atwater has no regrets about not entering run for U.S. Senate

It was 13 months ago when Jeff Atwater stunned the Florida political world by announcing he would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

A Quinnipiac Poll taken just a week earlier showed him leading the two major Democratic candidates in the race, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, and he was considered to have by far the best name recognition of any Florida Republican considering entering the contest. His decision unfroze the field, with David Jolly, Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox all filing to declare their candidacies in the months that followed (joined by Carlos Beruff earlier this year). Though at one point last fall Atwater talked about the “possibility” of getting back into the race, he never did. Now Florida’s Chief Financial Officer says he’s content not making the move for Washington was the right move.

“No, no, no. The timing just wasn’t right for us,” Atwater said after speaking to the St. Petersburg Republican Club at Parkshore Grill on Beach Drive on Monday afternoon. He said he made the decision roughly around three months after being inaugurated for another four-year term as the state’s CFO, and wasn’t prepared to engage in another year-and-half of campaigning in an attempt to succeed Marco Rubio in Washington.

“We’re loving what we’re doing,” he said about his current state of affairs, adding that he wished all five of the GOP senate candidates well. “They’re hustling,” he said. “It’s been far to get out of the shadow of the presidential conversation, but they’re hustling, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Atwater said for now he’s staying neutral in the race, but will back whomever survives the Aug. 30 primary.

Earlier, the CFO presented a glowing report card on the state of Florida’s economy to the 30 or so people in the attendance, and he particularly seemed to relish comparing the state’s financial  health with the economies of the nation’s four other largest sized states — California, New York, Texas and Illinois.

Atwater referenced a George Mason University study that listed Florida as having the fifth-best economy in the country. Actually, last fall the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index rated Florida the fourth most financially sound state in the nation, trailing only behind Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska. He then went into some details about the where the state was financially in 2004 — when top-line revenues were $27 billion and the average home price was $258,000, and how upside down they were in 2009, at the apex of the Great Recession, when the top-line had been reduced to $21 billion with 500,000 homes in foreclosure and the average priced home had slumped to a miserable $121,000.

He said the state was at a financial crossroads about how to fill that $6 billion funding gap, and said if it had been up to editorial writers throughout the state, that gap would have been patched up by raising taxes.“Instead the answer was, we’ll reduce our run rate of spending to match the run rate of revenue,” he said. “We will not pull revenue up. “

Unlike some other high-ranking state officials, Atwater intentionally avoids saying that the state has created conditions that allowed the economy to recover better here than in other parts of the country. Instead he continuously emphasized to the audience that it was “you” who had done the work to keep business conditions positive.

“Every time the government can trust the marketplace to bring us back, it does,” he said.

He now says top-line revenues are at $28 billion, the median price of a home is $209,000, adding that “you’ve created more jobs in the country the last three years.”

His only notes of discord in an otherwise sunny trip thorough recent history was when he discussed the federal debt and deficit.

“There’s just not that much time,” he fretted. “I’m not saying that the country is going to disappear, it’s just going to be a far different place to the extent that my children’s income will have to be extorted, to be able to cover the cost of what’s being built,” adding that he also feared that the younger generation won’t ever have the opportunities that he had growing up. He said that should motivate the fellow Republicans in the room regarding this fall’s election.

Senate Majority PAC slated to spend $10.5M in Florida this fall

A super PAC aimed at helping Democratic U.S. Senate candidates is prepared to spend more than $10 million in Florida this fall.

The Senate Majority PAC, a political committee aimed at helping take back the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, said it is poised to spend $10.5 million on cable and broadcast advertisements in Florida starting in September.

“Republicans are going to nominate a far-right, Tea Party candidate who is out of touch with Florida’s middle class,” said Shripal Shah, Senate Majority PAC’s director of communications. “We’re going to be ready to hold their eventual nominee accountable.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson are battling it out for their party’s nomination to replace Republican Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Many Democrats have lined up behind Murphy, who many in the party believe has the best shot of winning in the fall. It’s unclear if Senate Majority PAC will still spend in the state if Grayson is the nominee.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox are running for the Republican nomination. The primary is Aug. 30.

The group is also expected to spend $7.5 million in Nevada, $8.5 million in New Hampshire, and $9.5 million in Ohio this fall.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera attacks David Jolly on Planned Parenthood vote

Carlos-Lopez Cantera is taking direct aim at David Jolly in a new digital ad released on Monday. The ad targets the Pinellas County Representative for refusing to support another congressional investigation into the allegations that Planned Parenthood harvested and trafficked in fetal body parts.

“David Jolly refused to hold the largest abortion provider in the country accountable last week by voting to end the investigation of the harvesting and trafficking of fetal body parts,” said Courtney Alexander, a spokesperson for Lopez-Cantera. “What’s worse? This isn’t the first time Jolly has refused to stand up for life.”

Indeed, Jolly also opposed a similar vote to create another House panel to investigate Planned Parenthood last fall, something he boasted about during his one-on-one debate with Democrat Alan Grayson last month.

“When my side of the aisle asked for an investigation of Planned Parenthood, I actually voted no,” Jolly said during that debate. “I was the only Republican to vote no. Should the issue be looked at? Yes. But there were already three committees looking at the issue. We didn’t need a fourth. We’re either going to be the party of less government or not.”

“Leave it to Carlos to want to spend millions of your taxpayer dollars on a fourth committee to investigate a matter that is already under investigation by three others,” added Jolly campaign spokesman Max Goodman in a statement on Monday. “But don’t worry, he swears he’s a fiscal conservative.”

The Jolly Senate campaign also forwarded an op-ed the congressman penned last fall explaining his vote against another committee. He wrote that if the allegations that Planned Parenthood executives sold fetal body parts were correct, it was “both heartbreaking and shocking,” and “should offend every American.” However, he wrote, “As a conservative who believes in smaller, more efficient, less costly government, I consistently argue against attempts by the current administration to expand government, create more bureaucracy, and obligate taxpayers to redundant and duplicative expense.”

Jolly’s vote opposing the latest panel occurred last Tuesday during an Appropriations Committee mark-up, in which an amendment was offered to disband the Select Panel.

In their statement, the Lopez-Cantera campaign also took note of the fact that the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List condemned Jolly for his vote last week opposing the creation of another congressional panel looking into the videos. In a statement listed on that organization’s website from May 17, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the group, asked why Jolly would “buy into Planned Parenthood’s talking points to half the inquiry?”

“He has just allied himself with the underbelly of the abortion industry and disqualified himself from the Florida Senate Republican primary,” Dannenfelser said. “He has betrayed the pro-life movement and does not deserve the support of conscientious Floridians.”

Jolly has been an early front-runner in some of GOP polls taken this year of the five candidates running for Senate this year. On certain issues, he is by far the most moderate candidate in the five-person field, which also includes Carlos Beruff, Todd Wilcox and Ron DeSantis.

While that moderation label may make him the party’s best hope to retain the seat in the fall, it could lead to his undoing in the primary.

You can watch the video, labeled “Jolly’s Folly,” below.



Alan Grayson: At least they’re not calling me Hitler

Democrat Alan Grayson has been dubbed “Angry Alan” by his Senate opponent, compared to Republican Donald Trump for his penchant for earning headlines with his mouth and has become the whipping post for some in the Washington party establishment who hope he loses Florida’s primary.

But he said things could be worse.

“At least they’re not calling me the Adolf Hitler of the Democratic Senate race. They haven’t quite gone there yet. It’s only a matter of time before they accuse me of both cannibalism and necrophilia,” Grayson, who is Jewish, said during an interview at a Florida Democratic Party fundraising dinner Saturday. “Nobody buys that!”

A not-so-angry Grayson made his way through a crowd of top Democratic donors, activists and elected officials at the event — the anti-establishment candidate working the establishment itself. He was pleasant and gracious, telling U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, “If there’s anything we can do for you while you’re here, please let me know.”

Ironically, establishment-backed candidate Congressman Patrick Murphy didn’t attend the Florida Democratic Party fundraising dinner. His campaign said he had a previously planned dinner with his family.

The Democratic primary has become increasingly nasty, with Murphy repeatedly criticizing Grayson over ethical questions about his management of a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has called for Grayson to quit the race, saying he has no moral compass. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have endorsed Murphy, as has the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Grayson has been called bombastic. He cursed during a live television interview while criticizing a New York Times article detailing the alleged ethics violations. He’s known for cursing at reporters.

“I’m saying what other people are thinking and nobody else is saying,” Grayson said. And to all the critics who get worked up over his inflammatory comments? He says quit taking his words so literally. Like when he said the Republican health care plan was to “die quickly” if you get sick.

“Did I really think that that was their health care plan? Did Jonathan Swift really think that the Irish should eat their children when he wrote a book about that? No. That’s satire. I assume that the voters have enough intelligence to be able to understand figures of speech, hyperbole, metaphors — the tools of public communication that have fallen by the wayside,” he said. “I don’t feel I have to pay a price for being interesting.”

Still, the Murphy campaign is making Grayson’s temperament an issue and notes that Grayson himself does a lot of name-calling. Grayson routinely calls Murphy a “sock puppet” and says he’s the establishment choice because he’s obedient.

“Grayson’s schoolyard insults fall lamely short of the truth. On the day Grayson announced his campaign, he launched negative, misleading attacks on Patrick,” Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in an email. “Grayson loves to hear himself talk on TV, but the time to judge someone is when the stakes are high and voters are watching. Alan Grayson fails the test, because time and time again he uses angry, bullying tactics to avoid the truth.”

Murphy and Grayson are seeking the seat Republican Marco Rubio is giving up after his failed presidential campaign. Republicans running for the seat include Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and businessmen Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox.

Despite many in the Democratic Party establishment lining up behind Murphy, state party Chairwoman Allison Tant, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz all said Saturday they’d be comfortable with Grayson as the nominee should he win the Aug. 30 primary.

“Alan Grayson is a colleague, and if he’s the nominee, I’m going to support him,” Wasserman-Schultz said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Todd Wilcox brings ground-level view of foreign affairs to U.S. Senate race

If companies want to know who to trust to do business in civil-war-torn Ukraine, they might contact Maitland-based Strategic Risk Management LLC for privately researched background intelligence reports.

Companies that need to move goods through the dicier parts of Afghanistan might call on Winter Park-based Innovative Logistics LLC to handle the planes, warehouses, trucks and security.

And if the U.S. Department of Defense, or a trusted American ally, wants special operations training and support services to prepare missions in some other unstable backwater nation, they might turn to Maitland-based Patriot Defense Group LLC.

All of these companies are founded, owned and operated by Todd Wilcox, the Orlando Republican running for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.

When Wilcox talks about foreign affairs, he can draw from ground-level experiences of his personal deployments in Army special operations and as a CIA paramilitary officer, and from the private, international intelligence, security, logistics and training services his businesses sell for a living.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I probably have more from tactical- to strategic-level experience in national security … than anybody in this race, and comparable to the most experience of those currently sitting in the Senate,” he said.

Wilcox faces U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and David Jolly of Seminole, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and homebuilder Carlos Beruff of Bradenton for the Aug. 30 Republican U.S. Senate primary. He said he has repeatedly offered to debate any of them anywhere, anytime, particularly on national security.

His foreign affairs positions may be colored conservative by his life in the military, business and Republican Party. But they’re also nuanced by his own public service and business requirements to understand countries down to the level of rival warlords and ethnic tribes.

So Wilcox’s statements sometimes take on Barack Obama‘s foreign policies in broad terms, saying the president only uses carrots and not sticks to forward American interests, or accusing him of neutering the military and botching negotiations with Cuba and Iran.

But he also cautions about some of the fine-print complexities in places like the Middle East, which he calls “a mosaic of ethnic, tribal and religious isles.”

“Part of the problem is career politicians who don’t understand the issues we are dealing with,” he charged. “I think we as a nation should focus more on stability and education before democracy.”

Consequently, he decries U.S.-imposed democratization efforts as doomed in places ranging from Iraq under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, the Gaza Strip, under Bush, and various countries following the Arab Spring uprisings under Obama. Wilcox also disagrees with Obama’s goal of deposing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“Our precipitous pullout of our forces in Iraq, which is what led to ISIS, was right in advance of the 2012 presidential election,” he said. “It’s a campaign promise this president made to his base, that turned out to be almost as disastrous as the decision to invade Iraq in the first place.”

With rising international terrorism, globalization of business and communications, and what he calls “this borderless environment we are now in,” Wilcox also advocates updating and overhauling U.S. laws that draw lines of power, responsibility and authority between American national security intelligence and covert operations, the military and law enforcement.

He conceded risks to American civil liberties but said much needs to be clarified when it comes to everything from border security responsibilities to American legality of enhanced interrogation techniques (which he says have worked) and indefinite confinements in Guantánamo Bay.

He also pushes an unconventional position on North Korea. Wilcox advocates a long-term effort, using those pillars, to work toward Korean reunification.

As a former Army infantry officer and Green Beret, he talks about war as a very last resort and belittles politicians who don’t.

“There will be nobody more deliberate about the decision than elected leaders who have led men into combat. We have too few elected leaders who have that experience,” Wilcox said. “And what we see time and time again is a political class of chicken-hawks who beat the drums to go to war, who never have served in combat themselves.”

Among his opponents in the U.S. Senate race, only DeSantis, a former U.S. Navy Seal commander and judge advocate general, and Democrat Pam Keith, have military experience. Keith, of Palm Beach Gardens, also has the unique background of growing up all over the world as the daughter of an American Navy officer and diplomat, before being commissioned as a Navy officer herself.

Wilcox cited the pillars of American power as diplomacy, economic sanctions and investments, intelligence, covert action, cultural, cyber, military and space resources and said they should all be focused “first and foremost on peaceful resolution to instability.”

“But once we decide to go to war we should use ever pillar of American power at our disposal to destroy our enemies,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox’s companies open him up to two criticisms he vehemently denies. His companies, he insisted, are not war profiteers. Nor are they, he declared, so-called “black ops” companies, which perform, under contract to governments or private interests, dirty work internationally.

“We compete on those contracts competitively. And because of where we’re at, we only take contracts where we see that we are value-added. So this notion that somehow we’re war profiteers is a false notion,” Wilcox said. “We only go after contracts that we feel are contributing to America’s strength, or the strength of our friendly foreigns. There’s a lot of philosophical approach to all three of these businesses.

“Those are the skills I’m bringing to the table. And I’m not doing it because I need a job. I’m doing it because my wife said, ‘Quit yelling at the TV. If you’re not going to do anything about it sit down and shut up.’ I’ve never been one to sit down and shut up.”


Carlos Lopez-Cantera says he wants to ‘un-do’ things in Washington in new ad

If you’ve heard GOP senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera at all on the campaign trail, he makes his disdain for Washington and D.C.-based politicians very explicit.

He’s doubling down on how ineffective he believes government has been in people’s lives with a new digital ad called “Contempt.”

“I think anybody who serves in public office should have a little contempt for government in their heart,” proclaims Lopez-Cantera in the opening scene of the ad.

“A lot of people say they want to Washington to ‘do this and do that’ — I want to go to Washington to un-do this and un-do that,” he continues.

The Florida lieutenant governor, a former Miami-Dade County state legislator for eight years, also talks in the ad about how he was able to save taxpayers money in Tallahassee.

Lopez-Cantera is one of five major Republican candidates vying for the Senate nomination.

Ron DeSantis: ‘Donald Trump has released a list of outstanding jurists’

Republican Senate hopeful Ron DeSantis is applauding Donald Trump for his potential Supreme Court picks.

On Wednesday, Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Scalia died in February, creating a vacancy on the Supreme Court. President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy, but Republicans have said they will not fill the seat before the election.

Trump’s list of potential nominees is made up of eight men and three women, all of whom are judges. Six sit on federal appeals courts and five are state appellate judges.

“Donald Trump has released a list of outstanding jurists who all understand the proper role of the courts and have demonstrated a commitment to upholding the Constitution,” said DeSantis in a statement Thursday. “One of the most significant duties of a U.S. Senator is to confirm nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court and these are of the types of nominees that I hope to see nominated to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia and to fill any additional vacancies.”

DeSantis is one of five Republicans vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. He’ll face Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera calls feds’ school bathroom edict an “egregious overreach”

A hot-button topic in Northeast Florida this week was the Barack Obama administration asserting Title IX funding should be conditional on students being allowed to use the bathroom of their choice because of “gender identity” assertions.

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have not weighed in on school bathrooms, but in Jacksonville for a stop on his campaign-related Florida First jobs tour, Thursday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera did.

Lopez-Cantera, running for the GOP nomination for Senate, called the Obama directive an “egregious overreach” by the federal government, which is again “meddling in states’ rights” issues.

He spoke as a father of two girls, ages 3 and 8, citing concerns for their safety, and asserting that “whatever is done should be done at the local level.”


Another topic related to the president that Lopez-Cantera addressed: Carlos Beruff calling the president an “animal” during Beruff’s trip to St. Johns County last week.

Lopez-Cantera would not repudiate or endorse the comments, saying that Beruff’s comments “speak for themselves.”

Lopez-Cantera was similarly reticent on the delayed endorsement of him by Sen. Marco Rubio, which some observers interpret as a lack of faith in the lieutenant governor’s viability in the Senate race.

Lopez-Cantera wouldn’t address that, saying that he is “grateful for [Rubio’s] friendship,” and advising a reporter to “talk to [Rubio’s] team.”


When he was in town, Lopez-Cantera visited the River City Science Academy, a charter school on Jacksonville’s Southside.

An amusing highlight of the visit, happened when he appeared before a seventh grade civics class.

“I’m the lieutenant governor of Florida,” said Lopez-Cantera. “Does anybody know what my role is?”

The students did not.

It was explained that the position is “like being the vice president of the state.”

When asked the toughest thing about the job, CLC said it was “how big the state is.”

“We drive a lot,” Lopez-Cantera said. “That’s probably the hardest thing about the job.”

When asked how he can “deal with people” by a student, Lopez-Cantera said that he likes “hearing more than talking.”


Lopez-Cantera has one more Jacksonville appearance on Thursday, a visit to the River City Republican Club meeting at 5:30 p.m..

Super PAC forms to back Todd Wilcox

A new super PAC designed to support Todd Wilcox in his bid for the Florida U.S. Senate race has been formed.

Wilcox, a former combat veteran and defense military contractor, is one of five Republicans in the contest to succeed Marco Rubio in the Senate. He had been the only Republican candidate in the race who did not have a super PAC.

Restore American Leadership is the name of the super PAC. Its finance director is Steve Roche, who previously worked with Right to Rise, the super PAC that raised over $100 million for Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful bid for president over the past year.

Previously Roche was national finance director for Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing former governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Wilcox is challenging Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, Ron DeSantis and David Jolly in the Aug. 30 primary.

The National Journal’s Andrea Drusch first reported the news via Twitter.

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