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Bill Rufty: House District 41 candidates going for the money

RuftySam Killebrew, Republican candidate for Florida House District 41, has raised a campaign war chest double that of Democratic candidate Bob Doyel, who nevertheless raised more than any Democrat running for the district in 16 years.

The battle for the open seat is the only competitive race among the seven legislative seats in Polk County that have elections.

In the latest campaign finance reporting period, Sept. 3 through Sept. 16, Killebrew reported raising $7,400 to bring his total contributions during the primary and general election campaigns to $135,499.

He has loaned himself $51,000. By Sept. 16, he had spent $109,498.

During the same two-week reporting period, Doyel collected $5,280 in campaign contributions, bringing his campaign total to $60,885 and loaning himself $10,000. He had spent $38,616.

The annual salary for a legislator is $29,697.

District 41 includes the eastern portion of Polk County. Latest voter registration numbers show the district with 41,357 Democrats, or 38 percent of the 107,900 registered voters in the district. Registered Republicans number 36,715, or 34 percent of the electorate.

Another 29,828 list themselves as no party affiliation or members of third parties. They make up 28 percent of the registered voters in District 41; those are the voters both candidates are spending money to attract in the final six weeks.

Killebrew has spent more than $32,000 for campaign consulting and $19,000 in campaign mail-outs.

Doyel has paid around $5,000 for consulting and $12,000 for campaign management. While Killebrew was heavy on campaign mailers, Doyel was more focused on campaign signs, according to their expenditure sheets.


Mike Clelland endorses Linda Stewart in SD 13 race

Former state Rep. Mike Clelland, who lost the Democratic primary for Florida Senate District 13 to former state Rep. Linda Stewart, endorsed her Monday for the general election.

The two had been colleagues from Central Florida in the Florida House for two years before both were swept out of office in the 2014 elections. This summer they ran sometimes heated primary campaigns against one another.

Stewart now faces Republican nominee Dean Asher in the Nov. 8 general election.

“Working with her in the Legislature, I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand the type of progressive fighter that Linda Stewart is as a public servant,” Clelland stated in a news release from Stewart’s campaign. “Linda has dedicated her career to standing up for responsible environmental protections, improving access to healthcare and passing commonsense gun safety reforms that keep us safe.

Stewart praised Clelland’s background as a firefighter and lawmaker.

“Mike has always put the people he has pledged to serve first,” she stated in the news release. “It is an honor to receive his endorsement and I look forward to working together with Mike to ensure the people of Orange county have a senator looking out for their interests first in Tallahassee.”

Tim Kaine to watch debate in Orlando, attend Orlando faith leaders meeting, Lakeland rally

Democratic vice presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine is going to watch the presidential debate at a watch party in downtown Orlando Monday night.

Kaine also will be meeting earlier with Orlando-area Hispanic faith leaders in a round table discussion.

The debate watch party will be held at Orlando’s Church Street Station. It will be open to the public, though RSVPs are required through the Hillary For America website. He’ll be using that site to watch the debate between his running mate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Doors open at 6 p.m.

The faith roundtable discussion will take place at 4 p.m. at Iglesia El Calvario, 2500 West Oak Ridge Rd. It will be his third Florida appearance in 24 hours, after speeches in Miami Sunday evening and Lakeland Monday morning. In Lakeland he’ll be appearing at The Lakeland Center at 12:15 p.m., with doors opening to the public at 10:30. Reservations also are required for that event and can be obtained at the Hillary For America website.

This will be Kaine’s second visit to the Central Florida area. He gave a speech in Daytona Beach in early August.

Pride Fund endorses Linda Stewart, Beth Tuura and Carlos Guillermo Smith in state races

A fairly new organization combining gay rights and gun law concerns that was inspired into existence by the June 12 Pulse massacre in Orlando, the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence PAC, has endorsed Linda Stewart, Beth Tuura and Carlos Guillermo Smith in state races.

All the endorsements have gone to Democrats.

Stewart is running for Florida Senate District 13 against Republican nominee Dean Asher. Tuura is running for Florida House District 47 against incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller. Guillermo Smith is running in Florida House District 49 against independent candidate Shea Silverman.

“We support these exceptional candidates because each of them has demonstrated steadfast commitment to equality for all citizens, and a work ethic that values the voices of constituents over the distortion of reality by the gun lobby,” Jason Lindsay, founder and Executive Director of Pride Fund, stated in a news release. “Floridians support common sense gun reforms, especially since the horror in Orlando, and they deserve representation in Tallahassee who will fight for the values and safety of American families over those of corporate gun manufacturers.”

The trio declared such in the Pride Fund’s release.

Tuura and Smith both are openly gay. Stewart long has been recognized by Orlando’s and Florida’s LGBT community as an ally.

“The hatred, bigotry, and homophobia that still exists in Florida has turned deadly thanks to easy civilian access to military-style assault weapons. I will not rest until we enact common-sense gun safety measures to protect our communities from gun violence and keep our neighborhoods safe” Smith stated.

“Our legislators are elected to represent the will of the people, but once in office, they bend to the will of the NRA leadership. There is overwhelming support for sensible gun safety laws nationwide. It is time we act. I support passing common-sense gun reform. We need to implement universal background checks, restrict access to high-capacity weapons and magazines, and make sure hate-filled people with a history of violence can’t obtain a gun” Tuura stated.

“I will do everything I can to fight for the safety and dignity of this community. I will sponsor a bill to restrict assault-style weapons, and I will push for harsher penalties for hate crimes. After a decade of service, you should know I will stand up and will never be silent; I am with you and you are my family.” Stewart stated.

Bill Rufty: A political rarity in HD 41 – Republican, Democrat agree

RuftyRepublicans and Democrats agreeing on a major issue – It seldom (if ever) happens lately in national politics.

But on a state level, Republican Sam Killebrew and Democrat Bob Doyel, competing for Florida House District 41, agreed on the critical issue of education in the state of Florida.

There are too many tests and perhaps not geared to finding children’s progress so much as to grade teachers or schools, they said in front of a Polk County Tiger Bay luncheon in Bartow Wednesday.

Both men, of course, support the state giving the vacant agriculture office building, Nora Mayo Hall, located in the district, to the city of Winter Haven.

District 41 covers the eastern portion of Polk County. It is currently held by Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, who will have reached his eight-year term limit on Election Day.

Killebrew and Doyel each won their respective party’s primary, Aug. 30. No Democrat has won the seat since 1998 or any other legislative seat in the county for that matter.

The Democratic Party, not known for vigorous active campaigning for its candidates, is “pulling out the stops” for Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, because of the changing face of the district. More people who work in Osceola or Orange counties are among those moving into the northeast portion of the county.

But Killebrew is well-known for his contributions to the Republican Party both financial and through his candidate recruiting. A retired contractor, he completed several projects in the district.

They (state education officials) have tied teachers hands by all of this excessive testing, said Killebrew, whose wife teaches in the Polk County school system. His wife has helped him understand what changes are needed in Florida, he said.

“She says we need to get the federal government out and have mostly the state involved,” he said. “But we need to do testing by counties not one state standard test because there are differences,” he said.

Doyel gave a similar opinion on education and testing.

“We need to take a close look at testing. If that is what we call an education standard then we are in real trouble,” Doyel said

“The tests don’t take into account if the child is hungry or couldn’t sleep the night before because of poverty…or homelessness,” he said.

There were plenty of differences between the two men on other issues.

Unlike many Tiger Bay Clubs where members rise from the audience, sometimes in a confrontational manner that wastes time, Polk club members submit their questions in writing.

Asked for their opinion on legislation likely to come before the Legislation in 2017 that would allow people to openly carry a gun, Doyel said he is “adamantly opposed.”

Killebrew said 45 states allow open carry permits. Open carry permits are stricter and require stiffer checks he said.

Both men strongly disagree on a proposed medical marijuana amendment proposed for the state constitution.

“It should not be in the state constitution. This one is bad but not as bad as the one two years ago (which was defeated),” Killebrew said.

‘’It still is not handed out by pharmacies, but private shops and a caregiver can buy for up to five people,” he said.

Doyel said he, too, was opposed to the issue being a constitutional amendment such as the one outlawing the penning of pregnant pigs which was passed some years ago.

“I support it, but not just on medical marijuana,” Doyel said. “As former law professor, I am concerned about teenagers who get caught with a very small amount of marijuana and have their futures destroyed with prosecution.

“I think for those small cases there should be a citation,” he said.

On expansion of Medicaid coverage Killebrew is opposed and Doyel supports it.

With a question asking each candidate’s position on abortion, Killebrew said: “I am pro-life.”

Doyel said, “I wish it were that simple, but that runs counter to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”

From a political junkie’s viewpoint, both candidates were almost too nice to one another.

Both wisely called for additional funding for citrus greening. Polk County dropped from first in production of citrus in the state to third and the main agriculture research center is located in District 41.

Florida Dems’ claim big voter registration drive advantage; yet racial splits widening

The Florida Democratic Party is reporting more than 221,000 new Democratic voters have been added to the state’s voter rolls during the first eight months of this year — 20 percent more than the number of new Republicans.

The gap is far wider among new voters who are black, Hispanic, or reporting “other” races on their voter registrations, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the FDP.

On the other hand, almost twice as many white people registered as Republicans than as Democrats between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1, according to numbers released by the Democrats.

Florida’s racial splits by party are widening.

Independent voters have both parties beat among new voters this year, however. The new numbers reported by the Florida Democratic Party show 244,000 new voters registered with no party affiliation or registered with minor parties, including a slightly larger number of Hispanic voters than Democrats attracted, a much larger number of “other” race voters, and a total of white voters that is close to, but still below, the number of new voters who registered as Republicans.

But the bottom line for Democrats is a widening overall advantage over Republicans in Florida.

With the latest counts there now are 5.21 million registered Democrats and 4.79 million Republicans in Florida, according to the FDP. Independent or minor party voters are creeping up on both parties’ totals, and they combine to add up to 3.69 million.

The latest voter registration efforts also accentuated the sheer dominance Democrats have over Republicans among black voters, and the increasing advantages with Hispanic and “other” race voters.

“As we head into the final months of the presidential campaign, Florida Democrats have managed to once again register tens of thousands more voters than Republicans,” FDP Executive Director Scott Arceneaux stated in the news release. “Democrats have out-registered Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin with Hispanic voters, a 20-to-1 margin with African-American voters, and a 2-to-1 margin among all other minority communities in Florida. Our field team has opened 57 offices throughout the state and has talked to hundreds of thousands of Floridians.”

So as of Sept. 1, 80 percent of the state’s 1.9 million black voters are Democrats, 16 percent are independents, and 4 percent are Republicans.

Among Florida’s 2.1 million Hispanic voters, 39 percent are Democrats, 35 percent are independents, and 25 percent are Republicans.

Among the 876,000 voters who identified other races, 44 percent are independents, 35 percent are Democrats, and 21 percent are Republicans.

But among the state’s 8.8 million white voters, 45 percent are Republicans, 29 percent are Democrats, and 27 percent are independents or pledged to minor parties.

Put another way: 64 percent of Florida’s registered voters are white; while 50 percent of registered Democrats are white; 61 percent of independent or third-party voters are white; and 83 percent of Republicans are white.

Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel call for investigations into Donald Trump-Pam Bondi matter

Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel called Tuesday for someone to investigate the Donald TrumpPam Bondi matter that Deutch said “looked like a bribe.”

In a telephone press conference with Florida media organized by the Democratic National Committee, Deutch and Frankel insisted more needs to be revealed about the $25,000 donation Trump’s Trump Foundation made to Bondi’s 2014 attorney general re-election campaign just as her office was looking into alleged fraud complaints about his Trump University.

Trump has insisted there was no quid-pro-quo. And Bondi insisted her office’s decision to not investigate the complaints did not reach her desk, and had nothing to do with Trump’s donation — a contribution later determined by the Internal Revenue Service to be improperly made.

In a development unrelated to the Deutch-Frankel press conference, the matter now has been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced Tuesday it has filed a complaint against Bondi, Trump and the Trump Foundation, and called for an investigation into whether the Trump Foundation broke federal criminal law by making false reports to the IRS.

In the complaint, CREW asked Raymond Hulser, chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section to investigate whether Bondi solicited a bribe and whether Trump paid one.

It’s a matter that Deutch and Frankel echoed later Tuesday.

“The appearance of this is very clearly a pay-for-play,” Deutch said. “It looks like there was a bribe made to get the attorney general to drop the case.”

“Donald Trump has bragged that he can buy politicians …. He calls it a broken system. Honest people would call the transaction between Pam Bondi and Donald Trump corruption,” Frankel said.

Deutch referred to reporting by Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell in which Bondi acknowledged in 2013 that the office was reviewing complaints from people who thought they were defrauded by Trump University. Then, four days later, the Trump Foundation donation arrived for Bondi’s campaign. He also noted that Maxwell also reported the AG’s office responded to an open-records request with email showing the agency advised people who thought they were scammed to go on the internet and look for lawsuits to join.

Deutch said he did not want to call for a specific investigation by a specific agency because he did not want to limit the scope. He said if there is a potential violation of law, then the U.S. Department of Justice ought to look into it. If there is a potential violation of ethics, then The Florida Bar ought to look into it.

[Afterward, The Florida Bar advised it has no jurisdiction over the state attorney general.]

Neither he nor Frankel seemed to think Bondi should be a priority in any investigation. Both hammered Trump. Both argued that similar events occurred in Texas and Florida, suggesting Trump has a pattern of trying to dissuade attorney general investigations into his businesses by using campaign contributions to reward or punish attorneys general.

When asked if there was anything in Bondi’s past record to suggest she would have launched a formal investigation into Trump University based on the complaints, Frankel responded, “The point of this conversation is not necessarily whether or not Pam Bondi has a history of being derelict in her duties. I want to bring you back to Donald Trump, who is running for president of the United States of America. In his business, he paid people, he paid politicians, to get what he wanted. We believe that is what happened here.”

College students avoid voting booths like the library on a Saturday night

College students demonstrated it again in last week’s primary election: they don’t vote, at least not in primary elections.

As first reported by Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab over the weekend, University of Central Florida’s on-campus students gave a dismal turnout, 4.3 percent, the worst in Orange County.

Kassab noted even worse turnouts were seen among students at the University of Florida and Florida State University. Her conclusion was clear: it’s a statewide phenomenon.

It’s not just that the UCF on-campus Precinct 538 was the worst in Orange County. Nearby precincts 506, 537, and 435 also were among the worst, salted among a few other low-turnout areas scattered around Orange County including the Deseret Ranches area in far southeast Orange, pockets in Orlando’s west side, and the tourist areas of Lake Bryan and Millenia, each with fewer than 10 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

By contrast, the precincts in and around Winter Park and Maitland, as well as the area of south Downtown Orlando, College Park, and the city of Belle Isles, all saw voter turnouts in excess of 30 percent. All of those areas are predominantly high-income, professional, and white.

In Orlando, the UCF area factors big into the plans for Democrats set in tight races and hoping to flip seats now held by Republicans. Those Democrats are counting on appealing to the young voters there, who offer a large number of the registered Democrats in their districts.

Democrat Stephanie Murphy needs a big push there if she is to seriously challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Former state Rep. Linda Stewart needs the Democratic-rich student votes in her bid to win Florida Senate District 13, now held by Republicans, by defeating Dean Asher. Carlos Guillermo Smith needs less of a turnout, since he has no Republican opponent in House District 49. He does face independent candidate Shea Silverman, a UCF data systems engineer.

Wendy Davis and Stephanie Murphy: women’s issues call for woman leadership

Texas Democratic icon Wendy Davis and Florida congressional candidate Stephanie Murphy argued Friday that the November election offers picks between women who understand issues such as child care, women’s choice, and equal pay — and men who do not.

Davis, the former Texas state senator who made national headlines by filibustering an anti-abortion bill there and then ran a failed bid for the state’s governorship, spoke before a gathering of 60 or 70 University of Central Florida students and others while campaigning in Orlando for Hillary Clinton.

She was joined by Murphy, who’s running against Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which covers Seminole and northern Orange counties, and includes UCF.

The pair spoke on numerous issues, but always with the same theme: that Clinton and Murphy offer more personal, more compassionate perspectives that would naturally forward interests for women and families, while Donald Trump and Mica could not.

“This election is going to define our identity, literally our very identity as a country,” Davis declared. “Whether we are a country that is inclusive, that dares to stand for the idea that we need to love one another, and that should be extended through the policies and programs that our government supports, or whether we are a country of intolerance and bigotry and walls. What we say to ourselves in this election, with that choice, is going to dictate how our youngest grow up feeling about who they are.”

In brief, introductory remarks and then in a question-and-answer session with the mostly young, mostly female gathering at UCF, Davis and Murphy recited a litany of issues such as affordable child care, equal pay for women, family leave, abortion rights, birth control, violence against women, discrimination against women, and wage increases. Each time, their message was that Clinton and Murphy took such issues personally and intend to make them top domestic priorities, while Trump and occasionally Mica were either uninterested or overtly opposed.

But it was an unexpected issue that perhaps drew the most personal and passionate of their responses.

In one of the few questions that had any kind of challenge to their Democratic positions, a young woman asked them about Syrian refugees. The young woman pointed out that, as Republicans, particularly Trump, have argued, she’s worried about whether they could be properly vetted before being admitted to America. She added that was a particular concern in Orlando, which suffered a terrorist attack by an ISIS sympathizer, at the Pulse nightclub on June 12.

Davis and Murphy argued for compassion.

Murphy pointed out that her family were refugees, having fled communist Vietnam in the late 1970s on a boat when she was an infant, seeking an uncertain future with no family, no social support systems, and in someplace unknown, where likely no one spoke their language.

“I will assure [you] that nobody is a refugee by choice,” Murphy said. “To get on a boat with a six-month-old and an eight-year-old and not know what lies ahead for you, in the South China Sea, is a risk that you take and a sacrifice you make because you seek a better life for your children.

“And having worked in national security, I will tell you there is no way to lock down our borders and make us safer,” she added, referring to her former career as a U.S. Defense Department analyst. “That is not why we are strong and smart when it comes to national security. Those are ideas thrown out there irresponsibly. And all they do is stoke division within our society and derision from overseas.”

Davis recalled seeing a recent picture of a young girl in Aleppo, the epicenter of the refugee crisis in Syria.

“It was absolutely compelling,” Davis said. “She was bleeding. She had a look of shock in her face. And I couldn’t help but think about Anne Frank …. I remember as a young person, reading that story and thinking to myself: ‘We can never do that again.’ For a long time we as a country turned a blind eye to what was happening during that regime. We cannot afford to turn that blind eye. We are human beings.”

DCCC, House Majority PAC make massive TV buys in Stephanie Murphy-John Mica contest

Central Floridians will soon be getting to know Stephanie Murphy and presumably John Mica very, very well — at least from the perspective of Democrats who are pushing her in the now intensely competitive contest for Florida’s Congressional District 7.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helped find and promote Murphy to run against Mica this year, is planning a $3 million onslaught of television commercials in the Orlando market during the last five weeks of the campaign season.

In addition, the House Majority PAC, another committee seeking to elect Democratic members of the House of Representatives, has its own push in the works. No full numbers are available for what that committee is planning, but a review of records shows the PAC has already purchased nearly $400,000 worth of TV commercials to run in late September.

The outside buys are unprecedented for a congressional campaign in Central Florida. They signal that the Democrats are putting their money behind what they’ve been saying since last year’s congressional redistricting in Florida. And that is that Democrats believe Mica, a 12-term congressman who hasn’t had a serious Democratic challenger in over a decade, may be vulnerable this year.

None of the contracts specify that commercials are for Murphy or against Mica. But there are six congressional races in the Orlando TV market; and the CD 7 race is the only one likely to be close. It’s also the one the DCCC already has made a big deal about trying to win. In the others, incumbent Republican U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey, and Dan Webster are heavily favored in Districts 6, 8 and 11 respectively; while newly minted Democratic nominees Darren Soto and Val Demings will be strong favorites in Districts 9 and 10.

So just about everyone figures these ads all will be about praising Murphy and attacking Mica.

“The DCCC is trying to buy this election to make Nancy Pelosi speaker once again and that will be rejected by the voters of Central Florida,” said Mica’s campaign spokesman Alan Byrd. “In addition to the Washington money, anyone can look at the opposition’s financial report and see that 90 percent of those funds to take this seat are coming from outside the district. In contrast, Congressman Mica has thousands of local contributors and — because of his strong record of accomplishments in our community — has significant support throughout Central Florida.”

Murphy’s campaign declined to comment, referring inquiries to the DCCC. That committee also declined to comment. The House Majority PAC did not respond to an inquiry.

The newly drawn CD 7  area loses heavily Republican regions in southwest Volusia County and picks up more-Democratic areas in Sanford and north-central Orange County. That makes the voter base almost even between Republicans and Democrats. The DCCC also is counting on Murphy’s youth to push for a younger generation in the relatively young district. She’s 37. He’s 73, and has been in Congress since 1992.

Neither Mica nor Murphy have, at this stage, anywhere close to the kind of campaign money needed to match what the DCCC is doing. Mica has spent as much as $2.4 million on a re-election campaign, but that was in 2012 when the previous redistricting forced him to run in a primary against another incumbent Republican, U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams. This year, on Aug. 10 his campaign had $788,000 on hand. Murphy’s campaign had $154,000. And as Byrd said, much of her early money came from a national fundraising drive organized by the Democrats.

A review of Orlando TV stations’ public files found that the DCCC already has reserved more than $1.2 million in TV time, for hundreds of ad spots starting Oct. 4, on four broadcast stations, WFTV-9, WESH-2, WKCF-CW 18, and Me TV. Orlando’s CBS station, WKMG-6, and Fox station, WOFL-35, have not yet posted any contracts from DCCC. And the review does not include commercials the committee has placed on cable networks in Orlando.

The review found $384,000 worth of TV ads already reserved by the House Majority Political Action Committee. They start airing Sept. 20.

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