Debbie Wasserman Schultz – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Tim Canova wants a state and federal investigation into why Broward County SOE destroyed ballots in 2016 race

South Florida law professor and 2016 Democratic congressional candidate Tim Canova is calling for a congressional investigation into why Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes destroyed all of the ballots in his 2016 primary race against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

Canova lost to Wasserman Schultz by 13 points in their bitter Democratic primary in the CD-23 race in the summer of 2016.

The revelation that Snipes’ office had destroyed all of the ballots came about only after both Canova and independent reporter Lulu Friesdat made several different public records requests over the past year for access to the paper ballots used in the August 2016 primary. Canova, a law professor at Florida International University, then iled a lawsuit against the Broward County elections head under Florida’s public records law this June after he grew weary of waiting for her to respond to his request to inspect the ballots in his August 2016 primary. The lawsuit revealed that Snipes ordered the destruction of all the ballots in October, several months after he made his initial request. According to election law, Snipes was required under federal law to maintain the ballots for 22 months, and voting experts quoted in a POLITICO Florida published on Friday maintain that there’s no question that Snipes’ office has broken the law.

“The ballot destruction raises serious questions: Why engage in this blatant lawbreaking? To cover up something worse? What has the Supervisor of Elections been hiding?” Canova asked in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “We demand state and federal investigations into the ballot destruction and prosecution of illegal wrongdoing.”

Canova also is calling for Gov. Rick Scott to replace Snipes and her directors and top staff, noting that there is precedence to do so in that same office.  In 2003, then Gov. Jeb Bush replaced Miriam Oliphant, who had been accused of mishandling the 2002 gubernatorial primary, with Snipes.

Florida Politics contacted Snipes’ office on Friday afternoon for comment.  An official took down a reporter’s contact information,  but never replied back.

An attorney for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections’ office told POLITICO that they did not break the law because they made electronic copies of the ballots. Canova disagrees.

“Destruction of ballots prevents any reliable audit of the election results. We are left dependent on scanned ballot images created and sorted by scanning software that requires inspection by software experts,” the progressive Democrat says, adding that scanning software is considered proprietary software, owned and and controlled by the private vendors, and often protected from independent inspection and analysis.

After he lost his congressional challenge to Wasserman Schultz last summer, Canova chose not to contest the results. But Friesdat, the independent journalist, was curious about the contest and made two public-records requests in November of 2016, and then submitted a third request this past March. Canova joined the requests and filed his lawsuit in June.

Snipes’s order to destroy the requested documents was dated Sept. 1, 2017. It authorized the destruction of 106 boxes containing vote-by-mail certificates and 505 boxes of in-person cast ballots and 40 boxes of early-voting ballots, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Canova says the only way to deal with the issue now is for Congress to investigate and hold public hearings on what happened during the primary election. And he thinks the Congress should investigate therelationships between the vendors that control the electronic voting machines and software, their officers and directors, the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Democratic party officials,
and candidates for public office.

Late Friday afternoon, Canova sent out a fundraising email to supporters, requesting funding that could help in a lawsuit against Snipes’ office.

Jeremy Ring announces ‘hat trick’ of congressional endorsements for CFO bid

Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring scored a “hat trick” of endorsements for his CFO campaign from Florida’s congressional delegation Thursday, and now has the support of seven of the 11 Florida Democrats in the U.S. House.

U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson announced they were supporting the former state senator for CFO, joining Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson and Darren Soto, who endorsed him earlier this month.

“Now more than ever Florida needs fighters,” Wilson said. “I had the opportunity to serve with Jeremy in Tallahassee and saw first-hand how he fought to protect the Florida Retirement System from the Republicans who wanted to tear it apart. This is why I’m excited to endorse him in his race to be Florida’s next Chief Financial Officer.”

Frankel added that “although the CFO isn’t someone you see in the headlines a lot, their actions arguably touch more Floridians than any other statewide office — from regulating insurance rates and serving as a vital check-and-balance to the Governor and Legislature. Jeremy Ring will ask tough questions, stand up to insurance companies and stand up for consumers. I enthusiastically support him.”

Ring, the only Democrat in the race, said he was “humbled to have earned the support” of the three congresswomen.

“I’ve been fortunate to know or work alongside all of them for many years. They are three of the most dedicated members of the U.S. House of Representatives and I am thankful to have them in our corner fighting on behalf of the people of Florida in Washington and excited to have them join our campaign,” he said.

Also in the race are sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, whom Gov. Rick Scott has said is his hand-picked choice, as well as fellow Republican Antoanet Iotova, who lost to Democrat Gary Farmer in the race for Senate District 34 last November and is surely outmatched in the GOP primary for CFO.

Patronis is likely to also face Brandon Sen. Tom Lee in the Republican Primary, though Lee has not given a timetable for when he would enter the race.

Gwen Graham backs push for Haitian residency

Gwen Graham endorsed federal legislation on Wednesday that would grant permanent residency to Haitians and Central Americans who are living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status.

Known as the ESPERER Act, the bill would benefit the more than 300,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Salvadorans currently living in the U.S. through TPS, according to Graham.

There are an estimated 32,500 Haitians living under TPS in Florida alone.

Graham’s endorsement of the legislation, which is sponsored by Miami Republican U.S. Rep Carlos Curbelo, is her way of following through on what she described as her “fierce criticism” of the Trump administration’s decision last week to end TPS for the Haitians who sought refuge to the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.

Donald Trump lied to Florida’s Haitian community on the campaign trail and stabbed them in the back,” Graham said in a release, referring to Trump’s 2016 promise to support the community. “Haitian Floridians have contributed to our economy, lived in our communities and enriched our state.”

Graham, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former congresswoman, didn’t shy away from attacking current Gov. Rick Scott for being silent on the issue in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement last week.

But in May Scott had asked the administration to extend the TPS deadline for Haitians.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is a 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is highly anticipated to announce his candidacy after the 2018 Session, also were criticized by Graham.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — this is about who we are as Floridians,” Graham said. “Do our state’s elected officials have the courage to speak out against Trump or will they turn another blind eye as he harms Floridians and our state?”

She added that she hopes the Republican trifecta joins her and the South Florida delegation consisting of U.S. Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson, who all back the bill.

Tim Canova vows progressives will push back on status quo at Orlando Democratic event

While the media focuses on Steve Bannon‘s intent to blow up the Republican Party, there also is a definite discord within the Democratic Party.

Last week in Las Vegas, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez removed several party officials from central party committees who backed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison’s chairmanship bid.

In February, Perez defeated Ellison as chair of the DNC in a race that some depicted as a continuation of the 2016 battle between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Perez backed Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president last year; Ellison supported Sanders.

Bounced from the DNC executive committee were Ray Buckley, James Zogby and Barbra Casbar Siperstein; Buckley was also taken off the rules committee, on which he served as well. Alice Germond lost her at-large appointment.

Among those Perez named as replacements include Harold Ickes, a lobbyist for a nuclear energy company; Manny Ortiz, a lobbyist for Citigroup; Joanne Dowdell, a lobbyist for News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News; and Jaime Harrison, a former lobbyist for coal companies, big banks, and tobacco companies. (Tampa’s Alan Clendenin, a supporter of Clinton last year, also was named by Perez to the executive committee.)

Tim Canova, the Nova Southeastern University law professor who lost a congressional challenge last year to former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and intends to run against her again in 2018, emailed a statement to supporters Monday. Canova said that with news of the DNC purge, he has registered to be a delegate to the Florida Democratic Party State Conference, taking place this weekend in Orlando.

“It’s more important than ever for progressives to push back against the establishment status quo,” Canova writes.

In a brief telephone conversation Monday, Canova said it “added insult to injury” that Perez also appointed former interim DNC chair and CNN commentator Donna Brazile as a DNC delegate and to the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

“It’s really disappointing. There are folks who are speculating that this is intended to drive progressives out of the party, and it will be a smaller, weaker party if there’s more of a ‘DemExit.'” 

Susan Smith, the head of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, hadn’t seen Canova’s email, but she hopes the media and others don’t depict the schism in the party as a battle between Bernie and Hillary, but as the grassroots versus Wall Street.

Smith specifically cited a New York Times op-ed published by Doug Schoen last week, entitled, “Why the Democrats Need Wall Street,” as being “a little scary.”

Schoen, a former pollster and adviser to President Bill Clinton, wrote: “If the party is going to have any chance of returning to its position of influence and appeal, Democrats need to work with Wall Street to push policies that create jobs, heal divisions and stimulate the American economy.”

Florida Democrats are scheduled to meet this weekend for their annual state conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Canova hopes to start a conversation about what’s going on within the party.

“I’m not fueling the ‘DemExit,’ they are,” Canova says of the Perez/Wasserman Schultz wing of the party. “I’m fighting for the party to return to its New Deal roots.”

Alan Clendenin elected chair of National Dems Southern Caucus

Tampa’s Alan Clendenin was unanimously elected chair of the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus, which consists of 13 southern states.

Clendenin was named to the job Thursday night during the DNC’s fall meeting in Las Vegas.

The caucus chair serves as an advocate for the southern region and the national party and comes with a coveted spot on the DNC’s Executive Committee.

“It really reflects well also on the state of Florida that we’re now represented on the DNC executive committee, and it shows the confidence that the national committee has on Florida, and the importance they place on our state,” Clendenin said Friday morning from his Las Vegas hotel room.

Clendenin has been a DNC Committeeman for several years, and most recently finished second to Stephen Bittel in January’s race for the Florida Democratic Party’s chair. He was also runner-up to the FDP chair job in 2013, losing out to Allison Tant. Clendenin was named vice chair in 2013, where he served on the Association of State Democratic Chairs, forming relationships with other DNC officials that he says helped pave the way for moving to caucus chair.

In Las Vegas, DNC members are learning about new technology tools that are being employed to elect more Democrats in 2018. That emphasis on technology was demonstrated in June, when DNC Chair Tom Perez hired Raffi Krikorian, a former top engineer at Uber’s self-driving car program, as the Party’s next chief technology officer.

Since his election as chair in February, Perez increased funding to all 50 states by 33 percent, doubling down on Howard Dean‘s famed “50 state strategy” employed while leading the DNC over a decade ago.

Clendenin is thrilled Perez is using an aggressive strategy to target down-ballot races.

“For too long they were focused on the top of the ticket and federal races,” Clendenin said. “Tom is committed to getting the DNC involved in races as far down the ballot as school board races.”

Clendenin was a fierce critic of former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and says the Perez strategy is similar to the platform he espoused during both his campaigns for FDP chair.

The 58-year-old Clendenin was able to compete for the FDP chair position earlier this year only after he relocated to a different county, after he lost his bid for reelection as state committeeman in Hillsborough County under disputed circumstances last December

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz again questions Rick Scott on debris removal

(UPDATED)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is again pressing Gov. Rick Scott on his decisions about debris removal in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The South Florida Democrat says she was already perplexed about why the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) refused to submit to FEMA local requests for full reimbursement. The local communities were forced to pay higher rates when other debris removal companies refused to honor lower rate contracts entered into before the storm, she said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz writes in a letter to Scott, she is “dumbfounded” to hear reports of the Governor’s office entering into contracts for debris removal in Monroe County at costs far higher than those pre-storm negotiated rates.

“Communities throughout Florida deserve an explanation, they deserve to have their debris removed expeditiously, and they deserve assurance that they will not be taken advantage of by those seeking to gain windfalls from the suffering of others — windfalls that reportedly your administration is unnecessarily paying,” writes Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Co-signing the letter were five other Democrats in Florida’s congressional delegation: Tampa’s Kathy Castor, South Florida’s Alcee Hastings and Fredericka Wilson, and Orlando-area freshmen Val Demings and Darren Soto.

There have been widespread complaints around the state about the delays in picking up debris after Irma barreled through the state last month.

In several cases, debris cleaning companies — mostly in North and Central Florida — bolted communities where they had existing contracts with local governments, leaving them for other jurisdictions where they could make more money.

It is the second time in the past week Wasserman Schultz questioned Scott about his handling of debris removal. Last Wednesday, the two got into a spirited exchange after the Broward/Miami-Dade-area congresswoman said Scott deserves some of the blame for the piles of debris remaining in front of homes throughout Florida.

At that meeting, Scott dismissed her complaints, saying that he was looking out for taxpayers by refusing to go along with paying much higher rates to companies that don’t live up to their agreements.

“I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers,” he told the delegation, “not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.”

Wasserman Schultz also complained to Scott during the meeting that her office contacted his D.C. office several times by phone and email, to no avail.

Scott said he had no evidence that the congresswoman had tried to contact him.

Early Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for Scott strongly push backed on the Democrats complaints.

“After the storm, the Governor heard from many local communities, including Monroe County, that many of these companies were not providing the agreed upon service and were demanding higher prices. This is unacceptable,” said spokesperson Lauren Schenone.

“Monroe County asked for additional help to pick up debris following the storm. FDOT went above and beyond the requirements of Florida law and bid the contract to supplement their debris removal. Any other suggestion is falseGovernor Scott will continue to fight for consumers – not businesses who attempted to take advantage of their communities after this massive and deadly storm.”

 

Can Matt Gaetz get through big tax increase on NFL?

Progressives have an opportunity to get behind a bill that would end certain tax exemptions for a group they would normally refer to as “fat cats.”

One Member of Congress went on television this week promoting a bill that targets the corporate headquarters for wealthy business owners, saying it’s time for them to pay up.

“The current millionaires and billionaires associated with professional sports leagues, including the NFL, have a tax exemption,” the member said. “They don’t have to pay taxes. That’s special treatment that is not afforded to just regular folks (who I represent) or the small businesses on Main Street throughout America.”

That sounds like something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco might say, or ultra-progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; or Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In reality, it was said by conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.

Gaetz is now the lead sponsor of a bill originally filed in January by the now-retired Utah Republican, Jason Chaffetz. The PRO Sports Act would end a sports league’s 501(c)(6) tax exemption (as a non-profit) if they generate more than $10 million each year. He links the bill to the actions of NFL players “taking a knee” or sitting during the national anthem.

This is good politics for two reasons. For Gaetz and the conservative First Congressional District, it’s a slam dunk, or touchdown, if one prefers.

On the other hand, the left can, and will, make the free speech argument in siding with the protesters. But wouldn’t most of their constituents want the “tax breaks for the wealthy” to go away whether players stand or kneel?

Gaetz is rallying support. The quote above was uttered during an interview Monday night on Fox News.

On Tuesday, he wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, formally asking the committee to consider ending the exemptions. Protesters, he wrote, “have every right to do so, but they should do it on their own time and on their own dime.”

This week, Gaetz picked up his first two co-sponsors with Alabama Republican Mo Brooks and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold signing on. Is all of this getting the attention of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Lagging attendance and dropping television ratings certain are.

While polls do not show strong majorities for either side, people are voting with their feet. Attendance is lagging and television ratings are going down.

This week, Goodell wrote to all 32 NFL teams saying “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem.” While offering respect to the players, he also wrote: “We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

In the meantime, another weekend of games will take place before owners gather next week for their fall meetings. Thursday night’s Eagles vs. Panthers game in Charlotte saw no kneeling, just two Philadelphia players conducting symbolic gestures while standing.

If an understanding soon develops between players and owners, perhaps with locking arms replacing the kneeling, Gaetz’ bill may well wither on the vine. Even President Donald Trump gave the thumbs up for that gesture.

Goodell could only hope for such an occurrence. If controversy continues, look for more of Gaetz in the media and more co-sponsors for his bill.

It might actually get a hearing.

 

Darren Soto: Congress must quickly approve robust relief package for Puerto Rico

After touring Puerto Rico earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto declared the island is in emergency need of robust emergency federal funding, not just to assure full federal relief efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but to keep the commonwealth’s government operating in a place where almost no one can work.

“The stories that you’re reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true,” the Orlando Democrat, who is of Puerto Rican descent, stated in a release issued late Tuesday. “Our fellow American citizens are facing unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the city waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most areas lacked electricity, cell phone service, and functioning traffic lights. Debris still covered many roads. Most buildings sustained minor or major damage. Hopefully President [Donald] Trump’s visit today will tell him what I already saw firsthand: the damage is real and people need our help.”

In related news, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced they are leading a bipartisan push to urge the Trump administration to send Congress an official request for additional disaster relief funding. The letter was co-signed by 21 of Florida’s 27 members of Congress, including Soto, as well as more than a dozen other members of Congress from other states.

Soto issued a lengthy report on his findings that ranged from the widespread obvious problems [an island without electricity, cell phone service and massive destruction]; to pending problems, such as the government’s anticipation that it will run out of operating money in two to three weeks; to minor issues that could result in public health matters, such as ad-hoc trash dumps appearing everywhere because there is no refuge service.

In tours that included briefings from Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, local officials, and aid workers, Soto reported that he confirmed that relief supplies are moving slowly and said that many people in the interior told him they have never seen federal relief workers, let alone supplies.

He said FEMA officials told him the agency will need $1.7 billion to cover its operations for the next six months, and that the government of Puerto Rico has only enough money to operate for another two to three weeks.

Among findings and observations Soto mentioned in his report:

Damage estimates across the island run from $40 billion to $70 billion, more than 100,000 homes were completely destroyed, and “vast parts of the transportation, communication and electric infrastructure will need to be rebuilt,” Soto reported.

– “The official death toll stands at 16. Several sources believe the death toll related to Hurricane Maria will ultimately be much larger due to lack of medical supplies and treatment, lack of potable water and food, as well as the continued harsh living conditions.”

– “Known transportation obstacles include lack of cell phone service, clogged roadways, no street lights and lack of available local truck drivers (many were still dealing with the disaster themselves).”

– “A substantial force of military transportation professionals is desperately needed. In the meantime, hundreds of containers of essential food, water and medical supplies will continue to be slowly transported to the hardest hit communities.”

– “It was apparent from the air that thousands of homes had been destroyed, and few had received blue tarps. Flooding had begun to subside but many neighborhoods were still very wet. Due to high winds, most trees were destroyed or leafless.”

– “Many brick and mortar businesses still appeared to be closed. Since many residents operate small businesses out of their homes, many of these were also affected.”

– “Hurricane Maria decimated the banana crop and damaged the coffee plants. Various agricultural structures such as chicken coops and barns had also been destroyed.”

– “We flew over the Guajataca Dam, and observed that it had been breached on the right side, had flooded adjacent roadways and was overflowing the river. Numerous homes are in danger of flood damage should the river continue to rise.”

– “While in the air, I saw no other helicopters flying, no military vehicles driving around, and no federal personnel. Rural towns will continue to suffer if resources and personnel are not dispatched to these areas.”

– “The pilot pointed out a disturbing trend of large trash piles beginning to form in empty lots on the side of roads and next to rivers. This growing trash problem coupled with rotting debris could pose a major potential health hazard if not corrected soon.”

In addition to Wasserman-Schultz, a Weston Democrat; Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican; and Soto; the letter calling for emergency funding was signed by U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat; Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican; Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican; Carlos Curbelo, a Kendall Republican; Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat; Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat; Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat; Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat; Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican; Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat; Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican; Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Republican; John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican; Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican; Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat; Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican; and Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican.

Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

Nine Florida Democrats urge Donald Trump to rescind transgender ban

Nine of Florida’s 11 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter Tuesday urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his recently announced ban on transgendered people in the military.

“There is no place for discrimination in our Armed Forces or indeed anywhere else in American society,” the letter signed by most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives reads.

“Enforcing your ban could mean discharging active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and members of the Air Force who serve honorably. It also would mean barring other patriotic Americans from serving in the future. Both actions are detrimental to our national security, ill-advised, and contrary to the values upon which our nation was built,” it continues.

The letter states there are thousands of active-duty transgender service members and refutes Trump’s contention that they have been a disruption or burden on the military, saying they serve with equal distinction, and are “equally deserving of our gratitude and respect.”

The letter also argues that the ban is likely unconstitutional.

The 143 signatories Tuesday afternoon included Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, both of Orlando, had not signed the most recent copy sent to FloridaPolitics.com, but Soto’s office said he fully endorsed the letter and wanted to sign it but did not get the chance before the letter was closed.

Last month, after Trump signaled, in a Twitter post, his intention to ban transgendered people, Soto released a statement that included, “There are over 15,000 transgender military service men and women currently risking their lives every day protecting our country. Now, we must also protect them. I proudly stand with the transgender troops serving in the U.S military, you make us proud to be American! “

Demings office did not respond to an inquiry about why she had not signed the letter.

In a Facebook post Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote, “All people who are willing and qualified to defend our nation and to protect those who fight alongside them should be free to serve.”

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