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New Democratic ad hits Rick Scott on education cuts

A new television commercial being launched Thursday by the Democrats’ Senate Majority Political Action Committee is attacking Republican Gov. Rick Scott over the education cuts he oversaw early in his administration, bringing the cuts back for consideration in Florida’s U.S. Senate race.

The new commercial, “Cuts,” focuses on the $1.3 billion that Florida cut from the state’s education budget during the first two years of Scott’s administration, as he and the Florida Legislature focused on budget and tax cuts as their strategy to address the Great Recession still miring Florida in 2011-’12.

The commercial takes aim at some of the ramifications of those cuts, which have since been restored as Florida increased education funding gradually, now topping 2010 levels.

Scott is trying to oust Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the Nov. 6 election.

““He promised us…” a narrator begins. It then quotes an Scott declaring, “Zero cuts out of state general revenue for education.”

“But it wasn’t true,” the narrator responds. The commercial then goes to clips of students, schools and teachers as the narrator reminds viewers of the $1.3 billion in education cuts and the tax cuts “to corporations”, and then goes into detail:

“Scott cut $20 million from Pre-k. Slashed Bright Futures scholarships. And over a thousand teaching jobs…gone. Today Florida’s schools have fallen to 40th in the nation.”

On Tuesday Scott is focusing on preparations for Hurricane Michael, and his campaign responded to the new ad simply by saying so: “The Governor has suspended campaign events for the coming days and Governor Scott’s first responsibility is to keep the people of Florida safe”

Senate Majority PAC is leading a national drive by Democratic groups to back Nelson in the election. Through late September the committee had spent more than $6.5 million on a half-dozen commercials so far, starting last spring.

“Rick Scott cut over a billion dollars from Florida’s schools while he gave tax cuts to his fellow millionaires; leaving Florida families to suffer while the wealthy continued to line their pockets,” Hannah Hurley, spokesperson for SMP, stated in a news release. “Thanks to Rick Scott’s cuts, Florida schools don’t have air conditioning, teachers don’t have jobs and young Floridians are left without critical scholarships for college, but Rick Scott does not care. Rick Scott has demonstrated time and time again that he only looks out for the wealthy. At the end of the day he is just another shady millionaire that Floridians cannot trust.”

Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida backs Joe Lopez for Orange sheriff

The Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida has endorsed retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez for Orange County Sheriff, his campaign announced.

The endorsement was offered Lopez for his support of the Hispanic community, his campaign stated in a news release.

Although Lopez is registered as a Democrat, he is running as an independent and is not the Democrat on the Nov. 6 ballot for sheriff. That would be businessman Darryl Sheppard. They also face Orlando Police Chief John Mina, the front-runner, who also is a registered Democrat running as an independent candidate. Both Lopez and Mina changed their party status in late 2017, too late to qualify for the 2018 election as Democrats.

“Throughout the campaign, what I’m hearing is the voters want change,” Lopez stated in the release. “They want a sheriff who will build bridges and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community. To the voters of Orange County – I hear you loud and clear.”

This is the second recent endorsement Lopez has announced from a Hispanic group, following the Hispanic Civil Alliance of Central Florida, which announced its support last week.

As I-4 mayors endorse him, Andrew Gillum pledges interest in mass transit

The three mayors of major Interstate 4 cities came together in Orlando Thursday to endorse Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s bid for Governor because they’re all Democrats, they’re all mayors, and they all want to see more investment in mass transit.

As Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman gathered with Gillum and his running mate Chris King beneath the seemingly never-ending I-4 construction in downtown Orlando, Gillum pledged he, too, wants what those three mayors have pushed for, to see trains running between their cities.

It’s an issue that unites Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman: a train that does not unite their cities.  Gov. Rick Scott canceled the planned Orlando-to-Tampa Bay high-speed rail system in his first year in office when he turned down $2 billion in federal stimulus funding.

Gillum got on board.

“They know as well as I do that when Barack Obama tried to send us more than $2 billion for high-speed rail, what did our current governor say? He said no. Can you imagine the number of people who could have gone to work, the jobs that could have been created across the I-4 corridor?” Gillum said. “We, instead of building more lane miles, could have moved thousands of people a day across the I-4 corridor to go to work, to play, to see friends, and to grow the economy of the central part of Florida.

“It’s my belief we deserve a governor who is going to act in the interest of all the people in the state of Florida, and it would have been in the best interest of the people of our state to build high-speed rail in this corridor,” Gillum said.

The press conference led the mayors to discuss the reasons they believe mayors would make good governors, notably that they work close to the citizens, that, as Kriseman suggested, they have no place to hide, and that they are, virtually by job description, problem solvers, and that they are more likely to collaborate and fight for local control. They also shared the basic Democratic tenants on such things as gun law reform, LGBTQ equality measures, Medicaid expansion, and dramatically increased spending in public education, as well as their own records of business development.

As election politics has increasingly divided Americans among several lines, not the least of which being between city people and those of small towns and rural areas, Buckhorn stated the case for cities like Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Orlando leading the state’s future, with progressive residents and progressive visions.

“It’s the cities of Florida that have pulled this state out of the recession,” Buckhorn said. “It’s the cities where the jobs are being created, where entrepreneurs are going, where high-tech is growing and being funded, where young people are flocking. It is the cities of Florida that are making a difference in this state. And what matters to us is we have a partner in the Governor’s office.”

They also took a couple of quick shots at Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who Kriseman accused of showing no interest in mass transit.

“The big city mayors all agree that the more connected we all are, the stronger we all are,” Kriseman said. “Now Ron DeSantis has a different view. He said he is skeptical of state investment in mass transit, and that we need to work on expanding our roadways. That’s not exactly visionary, and that’s not what Florida needs.

The press conference outside of Orlando’s Amway Center was occasionally disrupted by Republican protesters shouting anti-Gillum chants and once by Orlando-area conservative activist Jacob Engels shouting at Gillum about one of his former staffer’s offensive remarks. Kriseman, Buckhorn, Dyer, and Gillum took turns both welcoming the protesters and suggesting they were part of a problem of divisive politics that Democrats seek to overcome.

“The other side is mastering in politics of division, of hatred, of derisiveness, and what we are majoring in is politics of the future, politics of the people, politics that put the regular working-day people ahead of everybody else,” Gillum said. “Not the high-paid interests, not the special interests, not even paid protesters.”

Andrew Gillum’s team defends tax plan as overdue investment in economy

Blasting Republican claims that Andrew Gillum‘s tax plan is a form of socialism, Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Chris King and other members of the gubernatorial nominee’s team on Thursday defended an increase in corporate taxes as an overdue investment in education and Florida’s economy.

King, Greenbank CEO Ken LaRoe and Orlando entrepreneur Harold Mills charged that the Republicans’ efforts to continuously cut taxes has led to a routine lack of investment in Florida’s schools and other services that have left the state uncompetitive for top companies and high-paying, high-skill jobs.

The trio responded to criticism, showing up in television commercials, of Gillum’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to generate an additional $1 billion in tax revenue, which he said he wants to invest in Florida’s public schools. Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent. He contends that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent.

On Thursday, the Democrats rankled at Republican charges, led by Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, that Gillum is pushing a form of socialism.

“Our economic plan, it was charged by some Republicans and DeSantis, is just all about socialism. That could not be further from the truth. That is really an offensive attack for people who have come from countries who have faced the pain and challenges and terrorism of terrorist regimes. That’s not what we’re doing,” King said.

“I’m an entrepreneur. I believe I’m the only one on the ticket. … I believe in business. Mayor Gillum believes in business.  He is in the fastest growing economy in the state of Florida for business [in Tallahassee]. We have two guys who believe in business but who want to make sure that everybody has got a fair shake at pursuing their dreams. And so the type of growth we want to see is real investment in public education.”

LaRoe said the issue for him is that Florida needs to make investments in the economy. He charged that Amazon passed on a chance to open its second headquarters in Florida, and other major businesses are passing over the state, “because our school systems are so bad.”

LaRoe said that as a bank CEO he would welcome the corporate tax increase at his business, which he said would amount to a tiny hit on his bank’s profits.

“To pay a tiny little bit in extra taxes to make sure our school system is at least at parity with the rest of the country, to me, is a very, very smart sacrifice to make,” he said.

Mills argued that the tax plan would affect only Florida’s biggest businesses and that 98 percent of Florida’s other businesses, including virtually all small businesses, would not see any tax increase. Like LaRoe and King, he argued that Florida needs to invest the money to be more competitive for high-paying jobs.

“The irony of it is the number one priority for the Florida Chamber of Commerce … is how do we build the workforce of the future? Andrew Gillum and Chris King agree with that. They agree with the Chamber, they agree with business,” Mills said. “They are the only ones, Andrew Gillum and Chris King are the only ones that have an actual plan that enables us to make massive investments in education.”

Outside spending tops $25 million in Florida’s U.S. Senate contest

Outside spending has exceeded $25 million already in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, with Democratic groups behind U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson outspending Republican groups behind Gov. Rick Scott by a margin of three dollars to two so far.

According to the latest outside expenditure reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission, covering campaign expenses running through last Friday, almost all the outside money coming to Scott’s aid is from the super political action committee he set up to help his election, the New Republican PAC. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pitched in some last spring, and another five groups have contributed small amounts, mainly for ground-game support.

It’s a different picture on the Democratic side, where three national PACs already have spent well into seven figures, a union PAC is approaching $1 million, and four other PACs are well into six figures, either campaigning for Nelson’s re-election or in opposing a U.S. Senate quest by Scott.

The result: so far outside groups have spent $15.2 million on Nelson’s side, and $10.3 million on Scott’s side.

Leading the charge so far for Nelson’s re-election is the Senate Majority PAC, controlled by the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leadership. They want Nelson back, and through last Friday the PAC had spent $6.5 million on various media buys, mainly television. Their TV commercials have been on Florida airwaves since last spring, and on Tuesday the group announced its latest spot.

The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, founded by a couple of President Barack Obama‘s former advisors, has spent $4.3 million, mainly on digital advertising, much of that in coordination with Senate Majority PAC efforts. Majority Forward, a super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, has spent $1.8 million, mainly on television advertising. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees PAC has spent $972,000 on a variety of items including a TV commercial, canvassing, and mailers.

Four other Democratic PACSs, For Our Future, Win Justice, United We Can, and the Service Employees International Union’s SEIU COPE each has spent between a quarter million dollars and a half-million on such things as ground-game staff, canvassing and mailers. Five other groups have each provided less than $100,000 apiece for similar efforts.

On Scott’s side, the New Republican PAC, which he left before declaring his candidacy, has spent $9.4 million on media placement, mainly television commercials. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $750,000 on media, though that all was spent in April, timed with the kick-off of Scott’s campaign. Three groups associated with Americans For Prosperity have reported a combined $120,000 in expenses, almost entirely for staffing a ground-game in Florida. Four other groups have provided less than $100,000.

If it looks like most of the outside spending is going into attacks, that is true.

The Republican PACs’ FEC filings indicate that more than $9.9 million of the $10.4 million they’ve spent on Florida’s U.S. Senate race was explicitly spent to oppose Nelson.

The Democratic PACs indicate that $6 million of the money $15.3 million they’ve spent was explicitly spent to oppose Scott.

That’s a total of nearly $16 million in attack ads and other opposition activity.

Of the positive advertising and activities, the Democrats groups have reported $9.2 million in expenses to support Nelson, while Republican groups have reported only $414,000 in support of Scott. Most of the pro-Scott spending was done by the U.S. Chamber, with some by Club for Growth and the Susan B. Anthony List. That’s a total of $9.6 million in positive ads and related support activity.

Florida Conservation Voters announce backing of Anna Eskamani, Geraldine Thompson

Florida Conservation Voters announced that it is backing two Democrats in key Florida House elections in Orange County: former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in House District 44 and Anna Eskamani in House District 47.

“Orlando residents are fortunate to have two strong women leaders ready to serve in the Florida Legislature on day one,” Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign.

”Geraldine Thompson is a tireless leader and a respected voice when it comes to defending Florida’s drinking water and public parks. And Anna Eskamani is the fierce advocate Orlando needs to protect our rivers, lakes, and remarkable natural beauty,” Moncrief added. “They understand the importance of our environment to our quality of life and economy. FCV looks forward to working with both Geraldine and Anna in Tallahassee.”

Thompson is challenging Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski in HD 44, covering southwest Orange County. Eskamani and Republican nominee Stockton Reeves are competing for an open seat for HD 47, representing much of north and central Orange County.

Thompson was on the Florida Conservation Voters’ Board of Directors until earlier this year, but did not have a vote on her own endorsement.

Bill Nelson

Andrew Gillum to make first Pinellas appearance since primary win

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is making his first campaign stop in Pinellas County since his surprise victory in the Democratic primary for Governor.

Gillum and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are featured speakers at the Pinellas County ‘Democrats’ Wave to Victory’ dinner this Saturday at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon.

The event is the party’s biggest fundraiser benefiting Pinellas County Democratic candidates.

While the hotel is nowhere near Pinellas beaches, red tide will likely be a topic of conversation. Gillum is considering touring some of the devastation this weekend, according to campaign sources.

The giant bacteria bloom, known as red tide for discoloring water to a rust-like color, is covering Florida’s Gulf Coast from southwest Florida all the way north to Clearwater.

Mounds of dead fish have been piling up on beaches. The foul odor and even respiratory distress caused from bacteria in the air has pushed visitors away from the beach, leaving popular spots like John’s Pass looking like ghost towns.

The issue has become a talking point, particularly in Nelson’s campaign. His opponent, term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott, was booed out of a Cuban restaurant in Venice this week by critics.

While the campaign and the Governor’s Office continue to emphasize red tide is a naturally occurring event that has been ongoing since the 1840s, Democrats and other critics fire back that his environmental policies have exacerbated the situation.

A Real Clear Politics poll released this week found 32 percent of respondents believed the state government was to blame for the outbreak.

Nelson’s race is one of the most important Senate races in the nation this year. While Democrats hope to overtake a majority in the Senate by unseating incumbent Republicans, they also must protect incumbent Democrats.

Polls show Nelson faces a credible risk of losing to Scott, and the Real Clear Politics poll put the two neck-and-neck this November.

Other guests at the Wave to Victory Dinner include Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.

Congressman Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are also attending. The event includes a cocktail hour from 6-7 p.m. and dinner and program from 7-10 p.m.

Orlando airport contract workers get Democratic support

The union organizing an effort to raise wages and benefits for thousands of contract workers at the Orlando International Airport is becoming a symbol of Democrats’ living wage push in Florida.

On Tuesday, several dozen workers, some making as little as $5.23 an hour working for airport contractors, declared the airport to be a sweatshop.

They received full-throated backing from Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Chris King, as well as U.S. Rep Darren Soto, state Sen. Victor Torres, and state Rep. Amy Mercado.

The Service Employees International Union, together with Orlando Local 32BJ, are trying to organize contractor employees at the airport, with the goal of $15 an hour wages and benefits, as has been done at other airports.

All summer long, the union highlighted the low wages paid to airport workers who carry bags, push wheelchairs, greet visitors and other jobs, while working for contract companies hired by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

The minimum wage at the airport does not include tips those employees may receive, but the employees said tips are unreliable (and frequently nonexistent).

On Wednesday, the union released findings of a study of wages at the Orlando airport; 78 percent of employees make less than $20,000 a year, with 13 percent making less than $12,000 a year. The study highlighted efforts at other airports, including at Fort Lauderdale, to raise wages universally.

“This airport that is the gateway to the ‘happiest place on Earth’ is run like a sweatshop,” declared Sheyla Ascencios, political director for the SEIU in Orlando.

“We are committed, [Tallahassee] Mayor Andrew Gillum and myself to righting this wrong and making this airport work like it should,” King declared in response, citing his running mate, gubernatorial candidate Gillum.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority put out a statement Wednesday that the airport authority itself employees only 850 of the 21,000 or so who work at the airport, and that the rest are employed by private companies or federal agencies. GOAA declared it pays its direct employees at least federal minimum wage.

At a separate news conference announcing the airport received a JD Power award as the top-ranked major airport in the country, GOAA Board Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher said he was asking for an independent review of the union’s study and would discuss it at the October board meeting.

But Kruppenbacher expressed skepticism about the report, cautioning that he had heard from “a number of employees” that they would rather have the low wages plus tips than a $15 an hour minimum wage and no tips.

King, Soto, Torres, and Mercado called for changes soon, and even suggested that if the current GOAA board won’t do it, an election of Gillum and King would bring a new board that would.

“It’s a disgrace,” Mercado said. “But I tell you what; it is a good time to come to the table and negotiate.”

Said Torres: “Guess what: You can change the board with a new government.”

For them, the Orlando airport symbolizes the Democrats’ call for mandated living wages. King and Soto cited the deal struck two weeks ago between Walt Disney World and its unions to raise the minimum wage there over time to $15 an hour.

“Orlando is not unique, but it is a microcosm of a very large problem in Florida, which, for too long, we have not cared for, we have not invested in, we have not built a fair economy that works for all of our families,” King said. “It’s why Mayor Andrew Gillum and I will be fighting for a living wage and a $15 an hour minimum wage in the state of Florida.”

The call reflects the stark difference in the economic theories on the table in the Nov. 6 election, where Gillum and King face Republican nominees U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and state Rep. Jeanette Nunez; Soto is facing Wayne Liebnitzky, and Mercado faces George Chandler, who argues that a free economy lets businesses prosper, and wages would rise naturally as a result.

Democrats say they see a thriving economy at Orlando airport, but with stagnant low wages.

“No one in this nation should work 40 hours a week or more and live in poverty,” Soto said. “It also good for the economy as well as being the right thing to do. That deal for Disney pumps another billion into our Central Florida economy over the next four years. When Central Floridians have more money than just to pay their bills, small businesses win, everybody wins.”

Jerry Demings weighing in on Orange County Commission race

Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings is setting out to help shape the Orange County Commission with which he’ll work.

He’s hosting a fundraiser set for next week to support Mayra Uribe‘s quest to be elected in District 3.

Demings, currently the Orange County Sheriff, was elected Mayor of the county in the Aug. 28 election, when he bested two opponents and managed to top 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He takes office in December.

Uribe came out of the Aug. 28 election headed for a runoff election with Pete Crotty. They finished first and second, respectively, among six candidates.

Although the Nov. 6 election is officially nonpartisan, and the positions of Orange County Mayor and Orange County Commissioner are both nonpartisan, there are major partisan ramifications. Demings is the first Democrat to be elected county mayor since Linda Chapin left office [then called Orange County Chair] in 1998. The Orange County Democratic Party now is eyeing the potential to place a majority on the commission for the first time since 1998, needing to flip one of three seats open on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Uribe is a Democrat and Crotty a Republican. The other two Orange County Commission elections feature Democrat Patricia Rumph against Republican Orange County School Board Member Christine Moore in District 2; and Democrat Maribel Gomez Cordero against Republican Susan Makowski in District 4. They also emerged from multi-candidate Aug. 28 elections, headed for runoffs.

The new Orange County Commission also will be seated in December.

The fundraiser hosted by Demings is set for Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the law office of Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel in Orlando. Chapin is among other listed hosts for the event.

Donald Trump: Puerto Rican deaths fake news; Darren Soto: Trump dancing on graves

President Donald Trump has responded Thursday morning to mounting reports of high death tolls in Puerto Rico in the wake of last year’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria, contending in tweets that 3,000 did not die as a result, and such reports are the result of Democrats trying to make him look bad.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

Democrats and Puerto Rican activists are expressing stunned disbelief of Trump’s tweets. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Celebration whose district includes Florida’s largest concentration of Puerto Ricans and who is of Puerto Rican descent himself, accused Trump of “dancing on their graves to disguise your tragic incompetence.”

Republicans scrambled to accept the 3,000 figure as a believable estimate without sounding overtly critical of the president’s tweets.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum tweeted, “No death is partisan and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserve better from @realDonaldTrump before, during and after the hurricane.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom Scott is challenging, called Trump’s tweets “shameful.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando called the tweets “awful” and declare that Trump “has once again made it all about him.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park found Trump’s comments “very distrurbing,” according to her chief of staff.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, running for the U.S. Senate this year, said he disagreed with Trump and declared “the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor and a staunch Trump supporter, “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” and is “committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community,” according to his campaign.

And Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio essentially defended the 3,000 estimate, and cautioned everyone to stop playing politics over it.

Said state Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat who also is of Puerto Rican descent, called Trump delusional. “This president cannot admit that he did not do all that he should have done to help those in the dire situation on the island. It’s a wonder he can still pound his chest and say he was outstanding in what he did, and not realize he failed, he failed the Puerto Ricans miserably.”

The 3,000 figure, actually 2,975, came from his own government’s estimates of people who died from lack of water, electricity, medicine, and health care on the island in the aftermath of Maria, which left most of the island without power for months, and much of the island without potable water.

A separate study by Harvard University researchers, predicted the government estimate. Released in May, the Harvard study analyzed the probabilities of Puerto Rico deaths with and without the storms concluded the range of difference would be anywhere 793 to 8,498 additional deaths, and set its estimate on 4,645, as the statistically most-probable point. That study was conducted by a collaboration of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweets come as the Carolinas prepare for the next monster hurricane, Hurricane Florence, bearing down for a strike tonight or tomorrow.

Soto’s full tweet, “Mr. President: we had nearly 3000 Americans die in Puerto Rico due to your slow, failed response to Hurricane Maria. And now you dance on their graves to disguise your tragic incompetence.”

Demings tweeted: It’s times like these when we need the President to lead. But once again he has made it all about him. The death count from #Maria is real. Thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico died as a direct result of the storm. When America faces a tragedy, we HAVE to come together.

Murphy put out a statement that read, “No objective observer believes the federal government’s preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria was adequate, given that nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico died. However, this is a symptom of a much deeper problem. For too long, under both Republicans and Democrats, the federal government has treated Puerto Rico in an unequal and sometimes indifferent way. American citizens in Puerto Rico should have the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens in Florida or any state. Ensuring genuine equality for Puerto Rico is one of the best ways to avoid a repeat of what we saw with the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria.”

Scott’s full tweet: I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and [Puerto Rico] Gov. [Ricardo] Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

“These days even tragedy becomes political. 3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes,” Rubio tweeted.

Nelson’s full tweet: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

The full statement from DeSantis’s Campaign Communications Director Stephen Lawson is:

“Ron DeSantis has always worked to help the Puerto Rican community, both on the Island and here in Florida. As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, he conducted an oversight hearing earlier this year to identify deficiencies in the federal response to Hurricane Maria. He has worked alongside Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon to secure support for rebuilding efforts. In August, he visited the island to meet with elected leaders and get the latest briefing from FEMA regarding recovery efforts. Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated. Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”

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