Chris Christie – Florida Politics

Environmental attorney says Florida more vulnerable to offshore drilling after Ryan Zinke’s remarks

An environmental law professor said Thursday that Ryan Zinke saying last month that drilling off Florida’s coasts was “off the table” in reality gives the state no legal protections at all.

Alyson Flournoy believes the Interior Secretary’s comments may make it more difficult for the Office of Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to defend a final decision that excludes Florida from the White House’s announcement to consider allowing drilling nearly everywhere along the Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and almost anywhere off the coasts around Alaska.

Flournoya professor with the University of Florida Levin College of Law, said Zinke’s January 4 statement at the Tallahassee airport with Gov. Rick Scott was not an official decision, and was without legal meaning, since it was made well before the conclusion of the 60-day comment period required for the proposal, which officials unveiled Dec. 29.

“An announcement on the fifth day of the comment period is jumping the gun,” Flournoy said Thursday during a conference call.

Ironically, Flournoy said Zinke’s premature declaration now makes Florida more vulnerable to offshore drilling than if he had merely kept his mouth shut since a final decision could be interpreted as being “tainted.”

“President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice,” Zinke said after meeting with Scott.

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique, and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of a discussion with Gov. Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Zinke’s decision to bypass Florida outraged legislators from both parties in states on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, citing the same argument as made by Scott. In addition to California Democrats, criticism rained down from Republicans, such as (former) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina’s Republican Gov. (and Trump supporter) Henry McMaster.

Interior Department officials seemed to be wary of the legal jeopardy that Zinke had put the agency when he refused to back up his statement ten days later when speaking at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Until such time as all those analyses are complete and we have all those comments to put in the record and consider, we will not have any indication of where the secretary wants to go,” said Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, on Jan. 19.

The original plan announced by the Trump administration would reverse the Obama-era order placing 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off-limits to drillers. Obama’s 2017-2022 plan would be replaced by the new program when finalized.

Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor encouraged Floridians to oppose Trump’s proposal by contacting the Interior Department before the 60-day comment period ends March 9.

Castor is also co-sponsoring a bill in the House, from Naples Republican Frances Rooney, to make permanent a moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Environment Florida State Director Jennifer Rubiello said removing Florida doesn’t mean it’s entirely out of danger. An oil spill in a neighboring state could still end up on Sunshine State beaches, she said.

“That’s why we’re working to reject this reckless plan in its entirety,” Rubiello added.

Pam Bondi to become part of Donald Trump drug panel

Attorney General Pam Bondi will formally become part of President Donald Trump‘s anti-drug abuse efforts next week, her office said Friday.

The appointment to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which requires an executive order, won’t force Bondi to leave office.

“The president always intended for the attorney general to be on the commission,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email. “However, (New Jersey) Gov. (Chris) Christie chose to begin the commission with only himself and four others. The announcement is protocol before the executive order is signed next week.”

The commission, created March 29, is expected to submit a final report of its findings by Oct. 1, unless an extension is needed. Ray said an extension is anticipated. Others on the commission are Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Harvard Professor Bertha Madras.

Bondi was a member of Trump’s transition team and had been rumored earlier in the year to be headed toward a job in the Trump administration. In January, speculation centered on Bondi as a possible candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position informally known as the drug czar.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Donald Trump’s turn to face tricky politics of natural disasters

George W. Bush never recovered from his flyover of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Barack Obama got a bipartisan boost late in his re-election campaign for his handling of Superstorm Sandy.

Now, President Donald Trump confronts the political risks and potential gains that come with leading the federal government’s response to a deadly and destructive natural disaster. Hurricane Harvey, the massive storm that has dumped torrents of rain across Texas — flooding Houston and other cities — is the first major natural disaster of Trump’s presidency, and the yet-to-be-determined scope of the damage appears likely to require a years-long federal project.

Trump, who is suffering through a long stretch of low approval ratings, has been particularly eager to seize the moment. He will visit Texas Tuesday — and may return to the region again on Saturday. The White House announced the first visit even before Harvey made landfall. On Monday, Trump promised Texans will “have what you need” and that federal funding would come “fast.”

“We will come out stronger and believe me, we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before,” Trump said Monday during a White House news conference. Trump was scheduled to be briefed on relief efforts with local leaders and relief organizations during a stop in Corpus Christi, then touring the state emergency operations center in Austin and receiving a briefing on the storm before returning to Washington.

The president’s unconventional style has still oozed out. Trump sent about two dozen tweets about the storm since Friday, marveling at the size of the hurricane and cheering on emergency responders: “You are doing a great job — the world is watching!”

Indeed, he argued Monday he specifically timed his controversial pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to capitalize on all the viewers tuned into storm coverage. The Friday night pardon wasn’t an attempt to hide the news, he said: “I assumed the ratings would be higher.”

Trump advisers are well-aware that the hurricane poses a significant test for the White House, which has largely been mired in crises of its own making during Trump’s first seven months in office, including the president’s widely criticized response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump, who ran a real estate business and starred in a reality show before taking office, has no experience in the kinds of recovery efforts that will be required in Texas and has struggled at times to show competency in governing.

Administrations often tread carefully in planning visits to disaster-ravaged areas. Mobilizing a president, his staff and his security is an enormous logistical undertaking and can pull local law enforcement resources away from the disaster recovery efforts. But Trump hasn’t been cowed.

Aides said it was Trump who pushed for the White House to make his desire to travel to Texas known early. He won’t be visiting Houston, where flooding has wreaked havoc on the nation’s fourth-largest city. Instead, he is meeting with local leadership and relief organizations in Corpus Christi, then visiting the state’s emergency operations center in Austin.

“Conditions haven’t cleared in Houston yet so probably not appropriate for him to go up there, probably not safe for him to go up there,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. “But I do think having your own eyes on the devastation that I have seen is important.”

The optics of a president’s initial response to a natural disaster can be long-lasting.

Bush was haunted by his now-infamous declaration that then-FEMA Director Michael Brown was doing “a heckuva job” — a statement that appeared wildly off base after the full scope of the devastation became clear. Images of Bush peering down at the flooding in New Orleans from Air Force One also furthered the impression that he was detached from the horrific conditions on the ground.

“He understands why that picture became a metaphor,” said Dana Perino, who was serving as deputy White House spokeswoman at the time.

Trump has played storm politics before. During his campaign, he rushed to Louisiana, in his signature “Make America Great Again” hat, to view damage from massive flooding. Trump made it to the battered neighborhoods before Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and while President Barack Obama was vacationing.

“We’re glad you’re not playing golf at Martha’s Vineyard,” one woman told him, a jab at Obama.

“Somebody is, somebody is that shouldn’t be,” Trump replied.

Over the weekend, Trump offered a sunny assessment of the response efforts while the rain was still pouring down on Houston and other Texas towns. He cited the “great coordination between agencies at all levels of government” and declared, “We have an all-out effort going, and going well!”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has so far praised the federal response to Hurricane Harvey, which has been blamed for at least three confirmed deaths. But with nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.

On its own, a successful federal response to Hurricane Harvey is unlikely to reshape Trump’s presidency. But with his approval rating perilously low, it could help Trump convince some Americans that he has the capability to lead the nation through difficult moments.

Trump’s predecessors have also benefited from the political opportunities that can arise after natural disasters.

When Superstorm Sandy barreled across the East Coast days before the 2012 election, Obama paused his campaign to monitor the federal response from Washington. He traveled to hard-hit New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a strong supporter of the president’s rival, lavished praise on Obama.

Obama advisers said then that while they didn’t believe the president’s Sandy efforts were a deciding factor in the election, the praise he received from Republicans was helpful in the midst of a highly partisan campaign.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million

Protecting Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds cost the state nearly $3 million last fiscal year, up from $2.6 million the year before.

The annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services, issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, showed the cost to safeguard the governor alone rose roughly $218,000 from 2015-16, to almost $2.3 million in 2016-17.

Also last year, 75 “protective details were performed” at a cost of $304,000, the report says. All costs include agents’ and officers’ salary and any overtime, plus the cost of transportations and other expenses.

Those include “dignitary protection” details at the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit in Miami this May ($33,578), the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Orlando last November ($63,674) and a visit to Jacksonville that same month by former President Bill Clinton ($402).

Another $137,000 was spent to protect individual governors, their wives and other family members who attended the Orlando conference, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ($5,646, who came without wife Mary Pat).

Donald Trump drawing criticism for not explicitly rebuking white supremacists

President Donald Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, addressed the nation Saturday soon after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a college town where neo-Nazis and white nationalists had assembled for march. The president did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

He did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

GOP Chris Christie of New Jersey, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

On the Democrat side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said “of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.”

The president’s only public statement early Sunday was a retweet saluting two Virginia state police officers killed in helicopter crash after being dispatched to monitor the Charlottesville clashes.

The previous day, Trump tweeted condolences to those officers soon after the helicopter crashed. His tweet sending condolences to the woman killed in the protests came more than five hours after the incident.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack in Charlottesville to be terrorism:

“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

“It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”

The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s statement by suggesting that some of the counter-protesters were violent too.

When pressed, he specifically condemned the racist groups. The president’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump, tweeted Sunday morning: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Blake Dowling: Embarrassing moments of 2017

For those in the spotlight, the internet is not so fun. Not a moment can go by when the world isn’t critiquing politicians, athletes, celebrities and various other public figures.

I joke with my fraternity brothers (with whom I hold football season tickets) about how it was such a blessing to have attended college right before smartphones, social media, etc.

I remember Friday afternoons and calling my girlfriend; if she didn’t answer (or if I didn’t see her at Po Boys/Brick City/Purple Porpoise/Salty Dog Saloon), I would not hear from her until the next day. Amazing.

Going out on a limb here; I seem to remember there might have been a rowdy night was on the calendar. Guess what? No one posted about it, no one saw it, it only lives where it should, in our memories.

But these days, to get a glimpse of what college kids are up to today — via sites like Total Frat Move or Total Sorority Move — is almost unbelievable. Do these kids realize they will need jobs someday?

A digital reputation follows you everywhere. Anyway, returning to my point before I started thinking about “college” … elected officials and scandals. The web really puts it out there.

Let’s take a look:

Who can forget Chris Christie and working together for bongs, deleted fast, but not fast enough; the internet is unforgiving.

The former first lady and the turnip:

While this is the least embarrassing of today’s examples, it still is so not funny that it makes you cringe. But I guess she and someone else thought it was funny. If you haven’t seen the revamp of the Gong Show, check it out. I bring this up because this clip is obviously gong-worthy.

Moving on to more recent events … the current resident of the White House posted:

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” Trump said in a commencement speech Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. “No politician in history. None eh?

(Hmmmmm … and yes, surety is a word I just looked it up.)

And, of course, the “basket of deplorables,” while not an actual post on the internet through memes and constant press it might as well have been. Thanks to the relentless online commentary it was blasted out to the masses, again and again, and again and again …

What is one to do?

As I tell people if you want ultimate security from online threats and a zero percent chance of digital embarrassment? There is a solution. It’s free too.

It’s called “stay off the internet.”

Practice those speeches boy and girls, double-check those posts and — if you are in a highly visible position — have someone else approve them also.

There is also the don’t post/text after 10 p.m. That is a good rule, it should block any post motivated by a cocktail (or two). I occasionally appear on local TV here in Florida, so I know all about saying stupid things on TV.

Keep it simple, and your audience will appreciate it.

Social media is an excellent tool for broadcasting news and other tidbits that offer an opinion. The rapid-fire delivery will continue to catch us by surprise, and mistakes will happen.

Use common sense and have another set of eyes on things, with luck, you will need to ultimately minimize your risk somehow — since staying off the internet is simply not going to happen.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at, and his favorite beer is Harpoon IPA.


Blake Dowling: Wise Kim meets Leon County

The “Leon Consulate of Florida” was overthrown this week, thanks to the chumps at the Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail.

I suppose they meant Leon County, since this hacking wing of ISIS hasn’t quite mastered English.

What they refer to is the Leon County (North Florida) website; it was indeed hacked for a couple of minutes, replaced with this creepy message:

Welcome to the Leon Consulate of Florida.

County officials responded immediately that the attack was only “surface level” and all sensitive data was protected behind a firewall. Perhaps the county needed a little distraction from the FBI-fueled barrage of media coverage over the past couple of weeks. Good job Kim.

If you check out the Facebook page — although I would not recommend it, as the National Security Agency and FBI might be tapping on your door, or you might make a list you would rather not be on — you will see a warning to all that this group is going to be attacking “the most important sites in the world” over the next few days.

So look out Andrew Gillum, Chris Christie, John Morgan and — this means you.

Tighten up those websites. Apply patches, run updates, don’t host sites in an unsecured location etc. Although it appears this particular hack did squat in our Capital City, what happens when one actually wreaks havoc?

Get your hands off of me, you damn dirty hackers.

In last week’s Petya ransomware attack, a few firms got hit hard.

Reckitt Benckiser (Britain), the maker of Norofen tablets, Durex condoms, and other quality products, are still partially down as of this writing. They got pummeled; manufacturing, shipping, ordering, all disrupted. The global tab for this attack could reach $100 million, the company estimates.

Some firms pay ransom to try and get their data back, but the bitcoin payments were made and (poof) nada.

So, unlike similar recent attacks, this one appears to have launched just to create chaos and digital destruction in a specific area.

We will see a lot of this in the near future as nation-states wish to wage cyberwarfare with one another versus more traditional combat.

Besides Wise Man Kim, no one else seems to want WW3, but if it came down to that, here are the current Top 5 militaries most likely to come out on top.

A local CBS affiliate is about to enter my office for a quick segment about cybersecurity, so allow me to wrap this up with some ways to protect your business or organization from hackers and threats.

Step 1: Strong password.

Step 2: Antivirus and antispam solutions.

Step 3: Firewall.

Step 4: Robust backup.

Step 4: Don’t piss off CNN.

Step 5: Training.

No, don’t piss off CNN.

Steps 1 through 4 used to be enough, but people aren’t getting the message. Users are still clicking where they shouldn’t, so they must be trained, followed up by intrusion testing (try this test for your staff).

Next, more training; even then, you won’t be 100 percent protected, but you will minimize risk.

As far as best practices go, that is a good path.

In closing, I hope Wise Kim gets back to his party island and stops with the missile shenanigans, that will only end badly for him and the world.

I hope CNN gets back to broadcasting news, and that no one else gets subpoenaed in Tallahassee for CRA-Gate. We need some good news in our region (like local hero Walter, nice work sir:

That’s it for today, have an awesome weekend.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, enjoys the Allman Brothers Band, the writings of Hemingway, and any movie with Pauly Shore. He can be reached at

department of transportation

Mike Dew now vying for top spot at Dep’t of Transportation

Mike Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, now has applied to be Secretary of the department, according to a list of applicants released Monday.

As of Monday’s deadline, 125 people had applied for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm. Dew applied Monday morning.

Richard Biter, one of two unsuccessful finalists for the top job at Enterprise Florida and a former assistant secretary of the transportation department, also had applied.

The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, will interview some applicants and nominate three candidates for Gov. Rick Scott’s consideration.

Other applicants from within the agency include Alexander Barr, the department’s Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator for its Treasure Coast-South Florida district; and Phillip Gainer, its District Secretary for northwest Florida.

Brandye Hendrickson, who was Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation under then-Gov. Mike Pence, previously applied but appears to have withdrawn. Her name was not on Monday’s list.

Lloyd “Luke” Reinhold, a U.S. Navy commander and principal strategist for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, has applied, as did Raymond Martinez, chair of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and Chief Administrator in the Cabinet of Gov. Chris Christie.

The list is below.

Trump Taj Mahal

Guitars oust minarets as Hard Rock redoes Taj Mahal casino

Donald Trump, domes and minarets are out.

Rock ‘n’ roll and guitars — lots of guitars — are in as the Hard Rock chain re-does Atlantic City’s former Trump Taj Mahal casino.

The company owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe on Wednesday unveiled its $375 million plan for the shuttered casino resort, which it bought last month from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, and plans to reopen by summer 2018.

It will draw on the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia to help brand the new resort, with a decided New Jersey slant.

Few things are more New Jersey than the mob and Bruce Springsteen, and Hard Rock rolled out someone who embodies both to help reintroduce the resort. Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street band and “Sopranos” TV fame, said he’ll periodically broadcast his radio show, “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” from there, and will help organize beach concerts.

“It’s a timeless place where you can come, and for the younger generations that feel like they missed the rock ‘n’ roll era when it first came along, we make sure that they get the experience,” said Van Zandt, who plays guitar with Springsteen and portrayed mobster Silvio Dante on the HBO mob series. “The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is still alive; you didn’t miss it.”

Now-President Trump built the Taj Mahal in 1990, but lost control of it and two other Atlantic City casinos in a series of bankruptcies that happened before Icahn scooped it up last year from yet another bankruptcy.

Icahn shut the casino in October after a crippling strike that sought to restore workers’ health insurance and pension benefits that were eliminated in bankruptcy court.

Its literally over-the-top decor of Indian-inspired domes and minarets soon will be a thing of the past; the purple carpet that Trump loved was ripped out long ago.

“There will not be one — and underscore the word ‘one’ — piece of design, architecture, minaret or anything left over from the Taj Mahal,” Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen said. “We are removing it all.”

In its place will be items from the world’s largest music memorabilia collection. Hotel guests will even be lent Fender electric guitars to play in their rooms.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration seized Atlantic City’s assets and major decision-making power last November, said Hard Rock’s investment in Atlantic City shows that the state’s tough love is working in the cash-strapped city.

“Hard Rock’s willingness to come in and invest in Atlantic City shows you that they appreciate the hard things that have been done to restructure the city and make it a place where investing makes sense,” Christie said.

Since the takeover, Christie’s administration has negotiated a tax settlement with the Borgata casino that will save the city nearly $100 million. It also is seeking drastic cuts to the police and fire departments.

Others feel that recent encouraging developments such as the Hard Rock purchase, the planned reopening of the former Atlantic Club casino as a water park, and the rebirth of the former Showboat casino as a non-gambling hotel, are due more to market forces in a less competitive environment than to anything Christie has done.

Allen resisted getting drawn into a political debate, but he did say that if Atlantic City had declared bankruptcy — something that loomed as a real threat before the state takeover — Hard Rock would not have invested there.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, a fellow Republican, was less reticent.

“Tell me something the governor has done” to make Atlantic City better, he said. “Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything.”

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press. 

Search for Florida Democratic Party’s next Executive Director continues

An official with the Florida Democratic Party says that while the search to find a successor to Scott Arceneaux as executive director of the Florida Democratic Party does include Jonathan Ducote and Josh Wolf, it is by no means limited to those two candidates.

Juan Penalosa, who is working with newly elected FDP Chair Stephen Bittel on his transition team, tells FloridaPolitics that the search to replace Arceneaux remains a national search, and goes beyond Ducote and Wolf. He does say that the two are definitely in the mix, however.

On Sunday, FloridaPolitics had reported that sources said that the race to replace Arceneaux was down to Ducote and Wolf. Penalosa says that that there are several other candidates being considered.

Ducote has served as political director for the Florida Justice Association since 2014. He previously served as campaign manager for Loranne Ausley’s unsuccessful 2010 bid for CFO, as financial director for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s 2011 election victory, and as campaign manager for Barbara Buono’s unsuccessful challenge to Chris Christie in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election.

Wolf most recently served as campaign manager for Patrick Murphy‘s U.S. Senate bid. Prior to that, he served as campaign manager for Steve Grossman’s unsuccessful 2014 campaign for governor in Massachusetts. In 2012, he managed U.S. Rep. Ami Bera‘s successful campaign in California.

Arceneaux’s departure after more than seven years as Executive Director was announced in January, shortly after Coconut Grove developer and fundraiser Stephen Bittel was elected as chairman. Arceneaux’s tenure had been contentious in recent years, as some Democrats openly wondered why he had maintained his position while the state party continued to lose statewide elections.

Arceneaux was initially hired during Karen Thurman‘s term in 2009. He lasted through the regimes of Rod Smith and Allison Tant.

2016 proved to be another desultory year for Florida Democrats. After being a blue state for two successive presidential elections, Republican Donald Trump eked out a narrow, but clear-cut victory over Hillary Clinton, while Marco Rubio easily defeated Murphy to maintain his seat in the Senate.

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