democrats – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Philip Levine: Check to Marco Rubio ‘tiny’ compared with long, deep Democratic support

There’s that Sept. 30, 2009, check to the U.S. Senate campaign of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio:

It’s the $2,400 contribution to a Republican who then was seen as the darling of Florida’s Tea Party movement, an upstart whose explosive popularity on the right chased Charlie Crist from the Grand Old Party and made Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek a third-place finisher in 2010.

It’s the bank draft from Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who then was the future mayor of that city and who now is one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor in the 2018 election.

Privately, some Democrats have been whispering wonder about whether Levine’s erstwhile support of Rubio in 2009 reflected at all on his commitment to the Florida Democratic Party.

“Nope. Not at all. Zero,” Levine insisted in Orlando Tuesday when asked about whether that contribution meant he harbored an interest in Rubio or for what he stands.

“I have written millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, and that was just one small, tiny donation,” Levine said. “Friends of mine called me up and asked me for it, and I said ‘yes.’

“But he’s been a disappointment, and I’m not a supporter or a believer in any way, shape or imagination,” Levine continued. “Thank God my Democratic donations outnumber it about 5,000 to one.”

Levine is in a crowded race seeking the Florida Democratic primary nomination to run for governor, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; and terms such as “real Democrat,” “true Democrat,” and “lifelong Democrat” already have been tossed about in that contest, as if someone in the race is not. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

“Mayor Levine has raised millions of dollars for fellow Democrats, up and down the ballot,” spokesman Christian Ulvert stated. “Most importantly, his record of getting progressive policies done is crystal clear — and it’s exactly the leadership he will take to the Governor’s mansion.”

Levine tells his story often about how he left college to work as a Royal Caribbean cruise ship deckhand, later following his instinct to become an entrepreneur serving cruise ships, to starting up and then selling companies, to becoming very rich.

By the late-1990s he became an active political campaign contributor, and by early this century he was a prominent one, making him an extraordinarily unusual candidate for governor. Other wealthy candidates have run statewide in Florida before, notably Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Jeff Greene of West Palm Beach, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010; yet neither previously had been as financially generous to others’ political causes as Levine had.

Though they do not quite show the multiple millions he asserted, U.S. Federal Election Commission and the Florida Division of Elections records do show that Philip Levine — from addresses in Miami, Miami Beach and Tallahassee — has contributed more than $1 million to others over the past couple of decades. He also has donated nearly $3 million to his own campaign’s funds in the past year.

Levine donated at least $189,900 to various state campaigns and political committees in Florida, and another $893,385 to various federal campaigns and political committees in Florida and across the country.

Campaign finance activity reviewed by Florida Politics does not include any political contributions Levine may have made in local elections in Florida [he was a two-term mayor of Miami Beach,] nor any he may have made in local or state elections in other states. Those would have been recorded outside the FEC and the Florida Division of Elections.

Levine, in fact, has a clear record of donating to Democrats for many years. His donations for Democrats compared with those for Republicans do not entirely create a 5,000-1 ratio, but it is higher than a 200-1 ratio, at least in dollars.

Since 2000, he has donated $161,800 to the Florida Democratic Party [including $61,800 in 2016] and at least another $12,500 to specific Democratic candidates and committees. Another $16,600 of his state political contributions went to committees that at least on paper may be considered nonpartisan. No state-level Levine money went to Republicans, the Republican Party of Florida, or Republican committees.

On the federal side, since 1999, Levine made at least 270 donations totaling $876,791 to Democrats, Democratic parties, and committees associated with Democrats. He has made six contributions totaling about $12,000 to committees that have some claim to being nonpartisan, or have unclear partisan standing.

He’s made just four donations, adding up to $4,650, to Republicans, including the Rubio check.

Levine was a big backer of Hillary Clinton, donating $300,000 to her Hillary Victory Fund committee in 2016. He also was a significant backer of Barack Obama, donating $30,000 to his Obama Victory Fund committee in 2008.

In contrast with the $2,400 he gave to U.S. Senate Republican candidate Rubio, over the past two decades Levine contributed $31,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $25,000 to the Florida Senate Victory 2004 committee, and $15,000 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaigns.

Levine also has made direct donations to campaigns of Florida Democrats Dan Gelber, Bill McBride, Janet Reno, Alex Sink, Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Crist [when he ran for Congress as a Democrat,] Peter Deutsch, Betty Castor, Alex Penelas, Andrew Korge, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Elaine Bloom, Ken Gottlieb, David Richardson, Richard Steinberg, and Wilbert Holloway.

Besides Rubio, other non-Democrats who received support from Levine include Miami Republican Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who got $250 for his 1998 Congressional re-election campaign; Montana Republican Conrad Burns, who got $1,000 for his 1998 U.S. Senate re-election campaign; and New Jersey Republican Dick Zimmer, who got $1,000 for his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign. Levine also donated to the nonpartisan campaigns of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit judges Maxine Cohen Lando and Milton Hirsch.

Orange County appealing to Supreme Court in battle over non-partisan or partisan elections

A three-year fight over non-partisan elections in Orange County may be headed for the Florida Supreme Court — with the prospect of affecting county elections throughout the state.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs announced Monday she wants the state’s high court to consider whether Orange County — and other charter counties like it — can decide to make key county-wide elected offices such as sheriff, tax collector and property appraiser become non-partisan in elections.

Under Jacobs’ direction, Orange County tried to do so, twice, with county-wide charter amendment elections in 2014 and ’16. Both times voters overwhelmingly agreed with her effort to take partisan labels out of elections for those offices.

But the courts, most recently Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals last month, held against the results of those charter amendment elections. The courts ruled that Orange County does not have the authority to take offices initially created as partisan-election offices by the state, and transform them into non-partisan, even by asking voters.

On Monday, in announcing she and Orange County were appealing to the Florida Supreme Court, Jacobs said she was pursuing “the will of the voters;” and also fighting for county rights, for Orange County and other charter counties that already have taken, or might wish to take, partisan divides out of county-office elections.

“What’s at stake if we let that [appeals court] decision stand? Well, first and foremost, at stake is a very clear and decisive will of the [Orange  County] electorate, expressed by an overwhelming 70 percent, not once, but twice in the last three years, will not be honored, will not be upheld,” Jacobs said. “Second, the citizens of Orange County and other counties in this district will have less rights of self government than all other charter counties in the state of Florida. How can that possibly be right?”

Her appeal is a bit of a gambit that could have statewide ramifications: There currently are several charter counties that have what Jacobs wants in Orange County. None of them, however, is in the jurisdiction of Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals. If the Florida Supreme Court rules against her and upholds the lower courts’ decisions against Orange County, the ruling could make law affecting all Florida counties.

Jacobs insisted, as she has all along, that she is not fighting a partisan battle. Rather, she has insisted she wants to ensure that county voters can fill county-wide offices without partisan races, which she insists makes local government less-partisan in its approach to both elections and day-to-day governing. In Orange, the mayor’s office and those of county commissioners are non-partisan, as are municipal offices, school board offices and others. County-wide offices for sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts, and supervisor of elections are partisan, typically pitting Democrats and Republicans in elections.

On Monday Jacobs also went to lengths to talk about the rising prominence of independent voters, who now make up more than 30 percent of the county’s voting base. She insisted she is fighting to make sure voters don’t have to consider parties when voting, something apparently more and more popular among voters.

Yet the fight has very real partisan overtones, and Jacobs’ opponents insist it’s been partisan from the beginning. Jacobs is Republican, and Republicans controlled both the County Commission and the Orange County Charter Review Commission when those boards decided to ask voters to make the county-wide offices non-partisan.

They did so during an era when Orange County Republicans are losing their voting base, and Democrats are gaining. Today the county’s voter rolls are 42 percent Democrat, 31 percent independent or “other,” and 27 percent Republican.

Before the questions could even appear on the ballot, first in 2014, then in 2016, Democrats in several of the affected offices, who saw the effort possibly as a Republican way to make them more vulnerable in future elections, sued to stop the charter amendment elections. When the charter-amendment elections went forward anyway, they continued to pursue the cases to overturn the results, contending the questions should never have appeared on the ballots. Specifically, Sheriff Jerry Demings, Tax Collector Scott Randolph, and Property Appraiser Rick Singh sued.

Randolph called Jacobs’ decision Monday to appeal to the Supreme Court “a bad decision and a shame, just like when she appealed it the first time. I think we fully expect the Supreme Court to rule just like the other two courts have on that issue.

“Trust me, this has nothing to do, in her mind, with voters,” Randolph alleged. “This is about protecting the Republican Party’s chances of winning races in Orange County.

“But at the end of the day the charter amendment is unconstitutional. It should have never been put on the ballot in the first place. And at the end of the day, even the mayor has to follow the law,” he continued.

Darryl Paulson: Democratic tsunami is coming

Forget the talk about Democrats picking up Congressional seats in 2018. If Democrats don’t take control of the House, it will prove that Democrats are either inept, or God has intervened for the Republicans.

Almost every political indicator going into the 2018 election favors the Democrats.

Midterms: The party occupying the White House has lost seats in the House in all but three elections over the past century. The average midterm loss is 33 seats. Democrats need to flip only 24 seats to take control of the House

President’s Approval Rating: Unpopular presidents stir the passion of voters to turn out in larger than normal numbers. President Barack Obama had only a -3 rating (46 percent approval, 49 percent disapproval) in 2010, but Democrats lost 63 seats primarily due to negative reaction to Obamacare without a single Republican vote. Many see parallels in the 2018 midterm with voters upset about the tax reform passage without a single Democratic vote. President George W. Bush was at a -16 rating (39 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval) and Republicans lost 31 seats. President Donald Trump is at a historic low in approval at -22 — just 36 percent approval.

Generic Congressional Vote: The Democrats had been leading in the generic congressional vote by 7 percent during much of 2017. That lead has now grown to anywhere between 12 to 18 points according to three surveys. Each would be the largest lead in the generic vote in congressional election history. There are currently 58 Republican seats with a partisan lean of 12 points or less and 103 seats with a partisan lean of 18 points or less. If these numbers hold, Democrats could pick up far more than the 63 seats that Republicans won in 2010.

Special Elections: There have been 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017. Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of those elections. The Democratic margins have exceeded the lean by 12 percent. In April, a special election was held in Kansas to replace Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, who resigned to become director of the CIA in the Trump administration.

Trump carried the district by 27 points.  The Republican candidate won by only 7 points, a shift of 20 points to the Democrat. A 21 point rout by Trump in Montana was followed by a mere 6 point win for the Republican candidate in a May special election. A 19 point Trump victory in South Carolina’s 5th District turned into a 3 point squeaker for the Republican candidate in a June special election. In a state senate race in Miami, Annette Taddeo, who had lost multiple races for office, defeated a well-known and well-financed Republican to win a low-turnout special election.

Democrats had a long record of losing such races.

Democrats easily won gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia and picked up scores of seats in the Virginia legislature. Finally, a 28 point Trump victory in Alabama turned into an embarrassing Republican loss in a special election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become Trump’s Attorney General. Democrats had not won a Senate race in Alabama since 1992. It was so bad that only 41 percent of Alabama Republicans had a favorable impression of Republican Roy Moore, while 51% had a favorable impression of Democrat Doug Jones.

Republican hopes rest on the belief that circumstances will change between now and election day. They could change, but that also means circumstances could get even worse for Republicans. For example, many Republicans hope the recently passed tax bill will benefit them politically when many voters see extra dollars in their paychecks. However, the economy has steadily improved during Trump’s first year, and he has received virtually no benefit from that.

Second, Republicans hope that we are in a different political environment. They point to the fact that Trump’s approval numbers were lower than Hillary Clinton’s, but voters still elected Trump.  They are hoping that Trump’s low approval numbers will not have an adverse impact on Republican congressional candidates.

Finally, Republicans hope that Democrats will continue to blow political opportunities, just as they blew the 2016 presidential election. Democrats have often pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

As Ed O’Keefe and Dave Weigel recently wrote in the Washington Post: Democrats “can’t agree on what the party stands for. From immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country.”

Will Democrats push too hard on the Trump impeachment?  Will the party come up with a unified vision of the future? Finally, who will be the face and spokesperson for the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton is out, but are Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders any better?

Democratic hopes for 2018 may depend on Republicans being more inept than Democrats. It should be a great battle.

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and Elections.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell picks up more congressional endorsements in CD 26

Democratic congressional candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has picked up a couple more endorsements from sitting members of Congress, this time from notable Hispanic leaders, in her bid to be elected in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

U.S. Reps. Pete Aguilar and U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, both Democrats from California, endorsed Mucarsel-Powell, her campaign announced Thursday. Aguilar is whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Sanchez is the past chair.

The Democratic-dominated caucus last month rejected membership by Mucarsel-Powell’s Republican opponent in the race, incumbent U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, based on his positions and activities regarding the DREAM Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Republican tax bill that was approved this week.

Before anyone could consider taking on Curbelo in next year’s election, there is a Democratic primary to be decided. Mucarsel-Powell faces former Army officer Steve Smith of Miami and Steven Machat, a Miami Beach music producer and attorney

Mucarsel-Powell immigrated as a young child with her family to the United States from Ecuador.

“I am proud to support Debbie in her run for Congress. Like so many immigrants, Debbie and her family came to America in search of a better life for their children- and by working two and three jobs, learning English at night, and by never giving up, Debbie was able to achieve the American Dream,” Aguilar said in a news release issued by her campaign. “I know Debbie will fight for those same opportunities in Congress that helped her family get ahead for every family in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.”

Sanchez added, “As an immigrant and a Latina, Debbie is the champion Miami families deserve in Washington to advocate for this community. Debbie has spent her career expanding health care access to underserved communities in South Florida, predominantly serving communities of color. I know she will take that same dedication and passion to Washington, where she will continue to fight for what is right for the people of Florida’s 26th Congressional District.”

Earlier this month Mucarsel-Powell announced endorsements from South Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel.

“I’m honored to receive the support of Congressman Aguilar and Congresswoman Sanchez in my campaign for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. You will always know where I stand on the issues — DREAM Act: I would co-sponsor it, ACA: Yes, we need to expand quality health care access, GOP tax bill: No, a handout to the ultrawealthy and large corporations at the expense of middle-class families,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. “Congressman Aguilar and Congresswoman Sanchez want a colleague they count on and the families of FL-26 want a representative they can depend on, unlike my opponent who says one thing at home and does another in DC.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz files ‘#MeToo’ sexual misconduct ethics bill

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz filed legislation Wednesday that would require congressional sexual harassment cases to automatically be referred to the House Ethics Committee.

The “Me Too Congressional Ethics Act,” co-sponsored by Wasserman Schultz’s fellow Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, is aimed at lifting the shroud of secrecy cloaking sexual harassment lawsuit settlements involving members of Congress or their staff members, according to a news release jointly issued Wednesday by Wasserman Schultz’ and Frankel’s offices.

The bill would trigger Ethics Committee inquiries and possible sanctions for unwanted and improper sexual behavior that generates an official action, such as a legal settlement or a finding by the Congressional Office of Compliance.

“The current process for handling sexual harassment cases in Congress too often protects the perpetrators while leaving the victims exposed,” Wasserman Schultz, who authored the bill, said in the release. “In sexual harassment cases where a settlement is reached or wrongdoing is found, the Ethics Committee should immediately initiate an investigation.

“As we’ve just seen with so many troubling legal settlements coming to light, that is simply not happening now,” she continued. “The congressional culture surrounding sexual harassment must change immediately — and it must be much more transparent and accountable. Victims of sexual harassment deserve to be heard. There should be consequences levied when the accusation is found to have merit, including and especially within the halls of Congress.”

Wasserman Schultz is from Weston; Frankel, from West Palm Beach.

“The ‘Me Too’ movement has arrived, exposing the toxic nature of sexual harassment. Members of Congress who breach the trust of their office by violating civil rights law, including acts of sexual abuse, should be held accountable both to the victim and the institution,” Frankel stated in the release. “This legislation assures swiftness and fairness in responding to an ugly chapter in the history of Congress.”

Democrats, Republicans waste no time targeting opponents for tax votes

Let there be no doubt that the tax reform bill approved Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives will be a touchstone in 2018 congressional campaigns. It already has started.

Moments after the House approved the Republican-created tax reform bill Tuesday, Democrats took aim at Republicans in vulnerable districts, including Florida U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, Brian Mast of Palm City, and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, and Republicans began targeting vulnerable Democrats for their votes, starting with Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

The House passed the bill 227-203 Tuesday afternoon, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote no, and no Democrats joining Republicans to vote yes. DeSantis, Mast and Curbelo all voted yes, as did all Florida Republicans, and all Democrats voted no.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced about an hour later it is launching Christmas-themed social media ads targeting DeSantis, Mast and Curbelo, among others nationally, using the Democrats’ favorite description of the bill as a “Tax Scam.”

The Democrats’ ads will begin running immediately on Facebook at Instagram, and will run through the Christmas season, the DCCC announced Tuesday.

But the National Republican Campaign Committee also started their attack on Democrats who voted against the bill, firing at Murphy with a release declaring that she “wants the federal government to continue to overtax you.”

The Democrats’ messages will be sent with a meme of four Christmas stockings hung from a mantel: three looking empty and marked for “Families,” “Seniors,” “Middle Class,” and “Homeowners,” and a fourth stuffed with guides marked for “Corporations.”

“By Passing their Tax Scam, Republicans in Washington are stuffing the stockings of wealthy corporations while leaving nothing but a lump of coal for the middle class,” the ad reads.

Then it ads “Hold [DeSantis, Mast, Curbelo, or some other targeted member of Congress] responsible and demand better.”

“When House Republicans say ‘Merry Christmas,’ apparently it’s only to millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations,” DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a news release announcing the campaign. “This tax scam is loaded up with special interest loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthiest and biggest corporations, while the middle class in Florida gets stuck with higher taxes and coal in their stockings. Americans are making a list, checking it twice, and will hold Reps. Mast, Curbelo, and DeSantis responsible for this tax scam next November.”

As for the Republican effort, the release from NRCC Spokesman Madison Anderson targeting Murphy declares that on Tuesday she voted, “Against letting her constituents keep an average of $1,967.36 more of their hard-earned money. For a higher cost of living. Against a simplified tax code. For more government control over Floridians money.

“Murphy is not even attempting to fake bipartisanship anymore. Her allegiance lies with Nancy Pelosi, and against the middle-class,” it concludes.

Bobby Olszewski, Rene Plasencia, Anna Eskamani, lead Central Florida House campaign gains

Five Central Florida candidates for the Florida House each raised more than $10,000 for their campaigns in November, including incumbent Republican state Reps. Bobby Olszewski, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, and Bob Cortes along with first-time Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani.

Olszewski of Winter Garden, who took his seat after winning a special election in October, reported raising $14,000 in November — top among Central Florida candidates for the Florida House. That gave his re-election campaign about $17,000 after expenses going into December.

He has two Democratic opponents, neither of whom reported raising any money in November. Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden began and ended November with $1,355 cash in her campaign. Matthew Matin of Winter Garden has not yet reported any campaign financial activity.

Not far behind Olszewski in fundraising for November, Plasencia of Orlando brought in $13,500 for his re-election campaign in House District 50; Eskamani of Orlando raised $13,114 in her bid for House District 47; Santiago of Deltona, $13,100 for his re-election push in House District 27; and Cortes of Altamonte Springs, $11,125 in his re-election bid in House District 30.

Plasencia finished November with just over $61,000 in his campaign fund.

He also picked up an opponent, Pamela Joy Dirschka, 63, of Titusville, who filed to run on Dec. 8, and has not filed any campaign finance reports yet.

Eskamani finished the month with more than $110,000 in cash. She faces Republican businessman Stockton Reeves of Winter Park, seeking a seat expected to be open as Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Reeves reported raising $200 in November. He entered December with about $91,000 cash in hand, though almost all of that came from a personal loan.

Santiago finished November with almost $46,000 in the bank. His opponent, Democrat Tyran Basil did not report any financial activity in November and finished the month with $1,591 in hand.

Cortes finished November with $61,000 cash in his campaign account. His challenger, Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park, just entered the race in the last days of November and has not yet filed any campaign finance activity.

In other raises, Republican David Smith of Winter Springs reported raising $8,907 in November in the House District 28 race. He finished November with more than $139,000 in the bank. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry reported raising $1,972. He finished November with about $7,300 in his campaign. They’re both seeking to replace Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood reported raising $1,000, giving him about $38,500 in his re-election campaign in House District 29. His opponent Democrat Patrick Brandt of Longwood reported raising $150, finishing the month with $1,300 in hand.

In House District 31, Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan reported raising $7,800 in November, and entered December with just over $18,000 in her campaign. Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $165, finishing the month with $4,300 in her campaign.

In House District 42, Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud reported raising $6,725, and entered December with about $42,100 for his reelection campaign. Democratic challenger Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $335, and finished November with about $3,900. Independent challenger Lonzell Ivory of Poinciana raised the first $200 for his campaign, and finished the month with that in the bank.

In House District 43, Democratic state Rep. John Cortes did not report raising any money in November, and finished the month with about $18,000 in his re-election campaign. He does not have an opponent.

In House District 45, Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee did not raise any money in November and entered December with $10,350. She does not have an opponent.

In House District 46, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee did not report raising any money in November, and entered December with about $700 cash in his campaign. He does not have an opponent.

In House District 48, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando reported raising $2,050, and finished November with about $17,600. She does not have an opponent.

In House District 49, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando reported raising $2,110, and finished November with about $7,700. His opponent, Republican Pepito Aponte of Orlando, did not report any financial activity in November and entered December with $100 in his campaign.

In House District 51, three Republicans seeking to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson all had minimal campaign finance activity in November, and a Democrat entered the race in early December. Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge reported raising just $100, finishing the month with $5,900. Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island did not raise any money in November, and finished the month with $15,700. Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island reported raising $150, and finished the month with $37,800.

New to the race is Michael Cavis Blake of Cocoa.

In House District 52, Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic reported raising $1,500 and finishing the month with about $13,000. Republican challenger Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $2,535 in November, and entered December with $1,700.

In House District 53, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay report raising $4,000. His re-election campaign entered December with about $65,000.

Duval Democrats ‘aggressively organizing’ as Lisa King prepares to lead them

After winning her election for chair of the Duval County Democrats earlier this weekLisa King issued a statement that read more like a call to arms.

“The stakes have never been higher for our country. The ideals that we hold so dear seem to be under attack every day. While we are currently the minority in the federal and state government, there are proportionally more registered Democrats than Republicans. It is our duty as an organized party to not only engage our voters,” King wrote, “but to also fight for their rights and well being every step of the way.”

“We will not sit back and watch the rights of our citizens be challenged at every turn. We can and will bring the fight for human rights, health care, equality, and justice to the front steps of our Republican Legislators. We will be a force to be reckoned with on the public stage where these battles are fought. We will exude strength and grace – fighting for our values and pushing back against any individual or group who decides to challenge them. We are Democrats and we are ready to fight for American values,” King added.

Duval Democrats performed well for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She got more votes in Jacksonville than Donald Trump. King was instrumental in that effort as the regional lead for the Clinton campaign.

Next year is bearing down on Duval Democrats, and they are fielding interesting candidates, such as Tracye Polson in House District 15 (where one-half of the political team for the likely Republican nominee, Wyman Duggan, is headed to City Hall to work as Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff).

Polson, of course, is aggressively campaigning — canvassing every weekend, and offering social media commentary on news stories. As of this moment, she is the best chance Northeast Florida Democrats have to flip a seat.

Still, there are holes in the field. Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams have no 2019 ballot competition. State Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer lack even nominal opposition in next year’s general election. Are Dems going to concede these opportunities?

Time will tell on that.

“I can tell you that we are aggressively organizing so as to turn out Dems and dem leaning NPAs in every precinct in this County.   I’ve talked to most of our statewide candidates and they all know how well we did for HRC in 2016 so I expect we’ll see all of them here. We have a lot of work to do but we’ve never been more unified and committed to doing it,” King asserted.

King understands better than many how partisanship works.

Despite raising more money and getting more endorsements than Al Ferraro in her 2015 race for Jacksonville City Council, King was unable to beat him.

King gave us a candid interview after that ballot-box setback.

Her polling had her up two weeks before the election; however, King noted that the “top down partisan messaging from either team,” which drove party identification voting as the Lenny Curry team wanted.

In her hyper-Republican Council district, King was washed out.

Curry, once in place, looked to revamp the city’s boards and commissions — and in his sights was the Planning Commission.

King, who was by then chair, and fellow Democrat Joey McKinnon were targeted for removal, and by a 13-5 City Council vote, they were yanked.

The vote was especially notable because many Democrats, such as Garrett DennisKatrina Brown and Reggie Gaffneywent against King.

King asserted then that “nothing teaches you who your friends are quicker than who is on your side when they have something to lose.” [Worth noting: since that 2015 vote, Dennis may have learned the same lesson at the hands of Council].

King was said to have been too partisan for the comfort of Curry and his inner circle.

Now, in what could be construed as an irony, she takes the helm of the local party in the same week that Mayor Curry’s chief political strategist, Brian Hughes, became chief of staff (effective Jan. 2).

For King, that hire is an example of “blurred lines” between politics and policy in the administration.

“Mayor Curry has stated that Hughes has played a significant role in key issues of his administration such as pension reform and the [Kids Hope Alliance]. He played that role while on the payroll of the Mayor’s PAC. Have open government norms been violated?”

“This is a disturbing question that taxpayers have a right to have clarified. I served on the Planning Commission as a volunteer from 2012-2015. Before even my first meeting,” King said, “Jason Gabriel of the General Counsel’s Office briefed me on the requirements of the Sunshine Law and continued to remind me and my colleagues of its requirements. Our leaders owe us real transparency.”

Will the Democratic Party finally serve as a bulwark against what King and other Dems see as the Curry administration’s blurring of policy and politics?

Time will tell.

But their new chair is aware of the ineluctable partisanship of the game being played.

Stephanie Murphy CHIP reauthorization bill lining up as Democrats’ offering

With the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program and other health programs expiring, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy has introduced a reauthorization bill that is becoming the Democrats’ favored vehicle facing Republican alternative measures.

On Tuesday Murphy introduced House Resolution 4541, which would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) community health centers funding, and other critical public health initiatives like the Special Diabetes program, the National Health Service Corps, and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.

All of those programs had Sept. 30 reauthorization deadlines, which Congress missed.

The bill also provides funding to support the under-resourced Medicaid system in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories, and to support the Medicaid system in states like Florida that enroll displaced individuals from hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The cost of the bill is fully offset by modifying the timing, but not the amount, of federal payments to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, a move supported by numerous independent experts, according to a press release issued by Murphy’s office.

“A healthy nation is a strong and resilient nation,” Murphy said in the release. “My fiscally-responsible bill provides support for children and families, invests in the prevention and treatment of serious diseases, helps our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and other territories, and strengthens the health care systems in states like Florida that are welcoming Americans displaced by Hurricane Maria. It’s vital that we work across party lines to help the tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, who depend on these public health initiatives.”

There are several Republican and Democratic alternatives addressing CHIP and the other health programs. Murphy’s office said her bill has become the favorite among Democrats, drawing 30 co-sponsors already, including U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

Murphy’s bill provides a five-year extension for CHIP, a two-year extension for community health centers funding and other expiring health care programs. It also offers equity in the Medicaid programs for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other American territories, increases the Medicaid caps for those territories, and provides increased Medicaid reimbursement funding to Florida states for providing care to individuals from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Democrats seeing Michael Flynn plea deal as window to Russia collusion

Florida’s members of Congress are describing the FBI plea deal announced Friday with former White House Security Advisor Michael Flynn as the window they expect will shed light on broader and higher allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign team and Russia.

“Flynn’s guilty plea is another significant step in making the case that there was collusion with the Russians,” declared U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, said the news tells her the Trump administration thinks it is above the law.

“Let us be clear about this fact: a member of President Trump’s inner circle just admitted to a felony crime. As a 27-year law enforcement officer, it is deeply offensive to me that this administration has repeatedly hidden behind cries of ‘law and order’ while breaking the law themselves,” Demings stated in the release.

“Every American should be disturbed that the Trump administration considers themselves above the law,” she continued. “Before now, the question was whether this went all the way to the top. President Trump and his inner circle will have a sleepless night.”

She pledged to “do everything in my power to allow the special prosecutor to continue his independent investigation unimpeded. The American people deserve the truth.”

Alcee Hastings of Miramar called Flynn’s deal “the latest step in uncovering the degree to which the Trump administration colluded with the Russian government.”

“Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has admitted to contacting the Russian Government, under instruction from President Trump’s transition team, and then lying about it to the FBI. Even though today’s guilty plea was not unexpected, it is still an outrageous and shameful admission of purposefully misleading the American people.”

He said it is “profoundly telling” that Flynn is the fourth Trump campaign official to be charged in the investigation.

“Congress must take every step necessary to ensure that this independent investigation proceeds without interference from the Trump White House. We need answers, not misinformation.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said Flynn’s guilty plea only raises more questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“As I have repeatedly said, Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller must be allowed to continue his work unobstructed by the White House, and the House Judiciary Committee must independently examine any possible obstruction of justice,” Deutch said.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando said, “Flynn has dodged this investigation from the start, so this perjury charge is not surprising. The information he may reveal could be, though.”

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