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Endorsements: Randolph Bracy for Andrew Gillum, Clovis Watson for Gwen Graham

Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor’s race.

Bracy’s Oakland-based district covers much of west Orange County.

“Orlando and Central Floridians can trust that Mayor Gillum will fight fiercely for the issues that matter most to us, from rebuilding our economy, fighting for healthcare as a right, standing up for public school students and teachers, and confronting our climate change crisis,” Bracy stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign.

“He’s a true champion for all of us, and I’m excited to campaign with him this fall all the way through next year!”

“I am honored to have Sen. Randolph Bracy’s endorsement in our campaign for Governor,” Gillum replied in the press release. “As a dedicated public servant and Chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee he has been a tireless leader in the fight to protect our working-class families and Florida’s most vulnerable. I am excited to get out on the trail with him in Orlando!”

In other endorsements, state Rep. Clovis Watson Jr. threw his support behind Democrat Gwen Graham for governor.

The Alachua County Democratic House member also was the city of Alachua’s city manager and deputy chief of police.

“Gwen Graham knows what’s at stake in this election,” he said. “I’m inspired by her heart, passion, and dedication to defending our shared principles. Gwen is working to build a Florida that educates the young, cares for the sick, and embraces the persecuted.”

So far, Gillum and Graham are competing against affordable housing developer Chris King of Winter Park for the Democratic nomination.

Jeremy Ring joins Dems’ calls that Rick Scott not release voter rolls to Donald Trump

Democratic state financial officer candidate Jeremy Ring has joined the call from most other Florida Democrats in urging the administration of Gov. Rick Scott to refuse the request from the administration of President Donald Trump to release state voter rolls to a federal commission.

Ring contended that the governor’s “number one job is to protect Floridians” and that the privacy of millions of Floridians is at risk.

“As a candidate for chief financial officer, as a Floridian, and — above all — as an American, I am strongly opposed to the Administration’s request, and frankly downright offended at Gov. Scott’s refusal to immediately reject and condemn it,” Ring stated in a news release.

In the week since the Trump administration made its request for detailed information on all voters from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be shared with his Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, the backlash has come from Republicans and Democrats alike nationwide. In Florida, however, the objections have come chiefly from Democrats, including all three gubernatorial candidates, the Florida Democratic Party, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and top Democrats in the Florida Legislature urging Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to reject the request. Scott and Detzner have yet to respond.

Ring is a former state senator from Broward County. As such, he helped establish the Florida Agency for State Technology, which handles sensitive data on Florida residents.

“The governor’s number one job is to protect Floridians and yet he sits idly by while the Trump Administration seeks to breach the privacy of millions of Floridians and potentially shatter one of the foundations of our democracy — the privacy of the vote,” Ring stated. “Where is Rick Scott to protect Floridians? Instead of leading, Gov. Scott has sat back while 41 other states — led by both Republicans and Democrats — have outright rejected the Administration’s request. I join these states in their opposition to the Administration’s request.”

Andrew Gillum doubles down on opposition to voter rolls request, files records request with state

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is keeping the heat on Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to not cooperate with the federal request for voter rolls, filing a records request Wednesday for any evidence of the voter fraud President Donald Trump has alleged.

Last week Detzner and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Chris King of Orlando and Gwen Graham of Tallahassee all urged Detzner, Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials to not comply with the request from the president’s voter fraud commission, but have not received any response.

“Florida has still not responded to this invasive demand,” Gillum stated in an announcement released by his campaign. “That’s why I sent a Freedom of Information Act request demanding that the Florida Secretary of State turn over any evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election.”

Last week Gillum charged that the federal request violated the privacy and security of Floridians, and that it was founded on baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. He repeated that charge Wednesday, and sought to put the onus on Detzner.

“If he fails to produce any evidence – which I suspect he will – then he should break his public silence and formally deny the Trump Commission’s request for Floridians’ personal data.

“I’ve also asked for any communications his office has had with the commission, since the secretary’s office has refused to publicly respond to their demand. We should call the commission what it is: a sham based on unsubstantiated claims that our elections are rife with widespread voter fraud. There is simply no evidence to support these claims, and we must put this insidious and false rumor to rest once and for all,” Gillum stated.

He concluded by calling the claim of widespread voter fraud a “dangerous and unfounded lie,” saying, “Floridians deserve truth and confidence in the electoral process, so my demand is simple – if there’s widespread voter fraud, then prove it by releasing evidence of it.”

Anna Eskamani hits trail with quick start in HD 47 race

Democrat Anna Eskamani kicked off her 2018 campaign for House District 47 with a Wednesday rally at Orlando City Hall, several major endorsements, thousands of social media hits and $6,000 in donations, all gathered, she said, in the less than two days since she filed to run on Monday.

Eskamani, the first in from any party since Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller announced last week he is running for Congress instead of re-election in 2018, brings with her a Central Florida grassroots network she helped build and run the past several years as a community organizer and progressive activist and Planned Parenthood lobbyist. She also brought with her former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, a Republican; state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith; and several other early endorsements.

“I stand here today as an Orlando native and as a daughter of immigrants,” she said. “Someone who has worked relentlessly throughout her life to protect all Floridians through effective advocacy, bold leadership and and strategic management. I understand our region’s growth, changes, challenges, and potentials.”

Since late Monday afternoon, she said, her campaign has drawn 1,500 “likes” since its Facebook page debuted, and the Facebook Live video she posted drew 20,000 views. She said the campaign also raised $6,000 in small donations before it even solicited any, adding, “And you know I’ll be asking, real soon.”

The campaign also announced the endorsements of Haynie and Smith, who spoke on her behalf Wednesday, as well as Democratic state Senator Victor Torres of Orlando, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando, and Henry Lim, an Orlando immigration attorney who ran for the same seat last year, losing in the Democratic primary.

Smith suggested Eskamani’s immediate entry could mirror what he did, getting into his House District 49 race in late 2015 as soon as that incumbent Republican, state Rep. Rene Plasencia, announced he would switch to House District 50. Smith raised plenty of money early and never faced a serious challenger.

However, there are serious potential contenders looking closely at the HD 47 race, which is a district far more politically diverse than HD 49. It includes upper-income, predominantly Republican communities in Winter Park, Baldwin Park, and Belle Isle; lower-income, predominantly African-American communities such as Holden Heights and Fairview Shores; large Hispanic communities in the Conway; and the highly-diverse east-side of central Orlando.

In her kickoff speech, Eskamani pledged to work with that diversity, saying, “This is what Orlando looks like,” and then added she would be standing up especially “for our women and girls…. Peace and justice: that is our battle cry.”

 

Chris King picks up Nick Duran’s endorsement in Democrats’ governor race

Chris King’s performance in the Democratic candidates’ gubernatorial forum earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale apparently won him the backing of at least one South Florida lawmaker, state Rep. Nicholas Duran of Miami.

Duran, a freshman who emerged in this year’s Legislative Session as a leading voice for the Democrats on health care policy and anti-addition policy, announced his endorsement of King Wednesday morning, through King’s campaign.

“Chris’s performance during the Gubernatorial Forum last week confirmed what I’ve known for months now: that he can go toe-to-toe with the eventual Republican nominee and win the economic debate,” Duran stated in a news release issued by King’s campaign.

Before anyone can face the eventual Republican nominee, King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. The trio shared a stage at the Democrats’ Leadership Blue Gala in Fort Lauderdale. Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam is the only major Republican in the race.

“Chris King is the candidate for governor who can bring a truly fresh approach to politics,” Duran continued. “His values and record as a progressive entrepreneur will energize Florida’s economy and create new opportunity for small businesses and workers across the state. I’m proud to announce my endorsement of Chris King for governor. I look forward to working with him and his team in the coming months to move our party and state forward.”

Duran was the lead sponsor of House Bill 557 – The Controlled Substance Prescribing Act. Working with Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens, Duran passed the bill with overwhelming support from both chambers to help combat Florida’s opioid epidemic by modernizing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

“I’m thrilled to have the support of such an energetic and solutions-oriented leader here in Miami,” King stated in the release. “Rep. Duran has been a strong advocate for some of the most pressing issues facing the community, including health care and prescription drug abuse prevention. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on these issues and others here in Miami and across the state so we can work together to lift up Florida’s hardworking families.”

New poll finds same-sex marriage support in every generation except elders

The generational divide on gay marriage just crossed another threshold as a new poll finds that majorities of Americans in every age bracket now support same-sex marriage except for the oldest, those in the Silent Generation.

The latest biennial survey by the Pew Research Center finds for the first time that a majority of those polled in the Baby Boomer Generation now support same-sex marriage.

That extends support into older brackets into what always has shown a clear generational gap in all of Pew’s polls on same-sex marriage. For many years the surveys have shown that the younger the voters the more likely they are to support gay marriage. But the support has been growing across the board, and now that support has crept into the over-50 crowd.

Overall, the survey found 62 percent of American adults support gay marriage, and 32 percent oppose.

“Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue,” Pew declared in a write-up on the survey, conducted June 8-18, among a national sample of 2,504 adults, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Just six years ago, in 2010, those supporting gay marriage exceeded those opposing it for the first time. The gap has widened ever since.

And it has most widened among generational lines. In the latest survey, 74 percent of  people in the Millennial Generation, born after 1980, supported gay marriage; 65 percent in Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; 56 percent in the Baby Boomer Generation, born from 1946 to 1964; and 41 percent in the Silent Generation, who were born prior to 1946.

Support grew for all four generations, and most for baby boomers, who increased their support from 45 percent in the last Pew survey taken in the spring of 2015.

There remain strong splits on the topic between political parties, and between people of various religious faiths. Splits occurred but were less pronounced among racial and ethnic boundaries, and among education levels, with all racial, ethnic, and education level groups now showing majorities supporting gay marriage.

Republicans are almost split on the issue now, with 48 percent saying they oppose same-sex marriage, while 47 percent say they support. That one-point gap has fallen from 32 points five years ago. Democrats have supported same-sex marriage since at least 2007, and now the support is overwhelming, with 76 percent saying yes, and 19 percent saying no.

Among religious faiths, majorities of white evangelical Christians and black Protestant Christians still oppose same-sex marriage. But support in both groups is growing. White evangelical support has risen from 14 percent in the 2007 Pew survey, to 35 percent this month. Black Protestant Christians support has increased from 24 percent in 2007 to 44 percent now.

There also is a clear generational difference that shows up when Pew split out Republicans and white evangelical Christians by age; each younger generation shows more support than its elders.

Stephanie Murphy seeks to rework ESOL funding to account for Puerto Ricans in Florida

Democratic U.S. Sen. Stephanie Murphy said Monday she intends to introduce legislation that would rework how the federal government provides funding for English as a second language programs, in order to account for incoming Spanish-speaking students from Puerto Rico.

Appearing at a Puerto Rico forum in Orlando Monday morning, Murphy, of Winter Park, said the current federal formulas weigh students moving in from foreign countries who do not speak English, but do not account adequately for Spanish-speaking students who move from Puerto Rico.

Last year more than 1,200 new Puerto Rico students enrolled in English as a second language programs in Orange County alone.

“Puerto Rico, of course, is not a foreign country. So students who move from the island to Florida are not sufficiently counted in that formula,” Murphy told the gathering. “And therefore Florida and Central Florida specifically does not receive the amount of funding it should. In the coming days I will file a bill in Congress to fix this formula. Our children deserve a first-class education, and I hope this bill, if enacted into law, will help.”

The panel discussion, which included Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando, Orange County School Board Member Joie Cadle and Republican Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Central Florida, provided a broad chat on issues ranging from statehood, to equality in federal funding, to migration to Florida, but not much depth.

Murphy reiterated her position of supporting statehood as “the next logical step for Puerto Rico,’ cautioning, however, “you’ll never hear me criticize those who support independence.”

Torres raised questions he said Puerto Ricans are asking about the potential of statehood – notably, will it help or hurt islanders?

Citing curiosity from his uncle recently visiting from Ponce, Torres offered, “What we need to know in Puerto Rico is, what is statehood gonna do to us? What is the benefit of statehood? Is this deficit going to be addressed? The Medicaid problem? The other issues we face here?”

Observer Peter Vivaldi, a Republican who ran against Torres last year, expressed disappointment afterwards that Murphy continues to express support for statehood but said she offers no action on the issue.

Prior to the panel discussion, when a reporter asked what Congress might do about potential statehood,  or what she might do to promote it, Murphy did not answer specifically. When another reporter asked about a Republican-dominated Congress showing no interest in Puerto Rico becoming a 51st state, she replied, “I believe that now that they [Puerto Rico voters] have overwhelmingly voted for statehood, it’s not a question of whether Puerto Rico becomes a state, but when. I look forward to supporting the government of Puerto Rico as well as their delegate in Congress as they try to seek to advance that.”

Vivaldi said he thought there would be more discussion about statehood, but much of the panel discussion covered other Puerto Rico topics.

“I heard the congresswoman’s statement, where she stands. I understand she is for the people of Puerto Rico…. She understands the issue going on, but I also would like to hear more of the fight in her,” Vivaldi said. “Just coming out and doing a press conference, or doing statements is not enough. We want to see the vote. We want to see Congress in action.”

That also underscored an exchange earlier between Torres and Suarez, with Torres blaming Republicans for holding up any Puerto Rico action in Congress, and Suarez reminding him that the Republican platform actually calls for statehood for Puerto Rico.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” Suarez said.

Victor Torres jumps on Gwen Graham bandwagon

Orlando’s Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres has thrown his support behind former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham for governor.

Torres is a first-term senator who spent two terms in the Florida House of Representatives.

“As someone who has lived a full life full of hard work, I can tell you nothing provides more insight into what Floridians need than real life experiences. Raising three children, volunteering in the PTA and working for her local school district, Gwen Graham has the knowledge and common sense solutions to renew Florida’s public schools,” Torres stated in a news release.

Torres’s daughter, state Rep. Amy Mercado, who succeeded him in his house seat, already has endorsed Graham.

“She’s fighting to make sure our children and grandchildren have more opportunities to succeed and that when they graduate — whether it’s from high school or college — they have good paying jobs available right here in Florida. Gwen understands how important education is to our community and to all Floridians,” Torres continued. “This is why I’m proud to enthusiastically endorse Gwen Graham for Florida’s next governor.”

Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2018 race.

“For too long Tallahassee politicians have had the wrong priorities for the wrong people. Too many Floridians in our growing state have been ignored. We must put an end to businesses as usual and extinguish the status quo,” Graham stated in the release. “When I’m elected governor, our state will support every community as we renew our promise to public education, expand health care and create good-paying jobs, right here in Florida.”

According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida’s Hispanic population is growing fastest in Central Florida and the suburbs of Tampa.

“The I-4 Hispanic community is the fastest-growing population in the state. We’re making our voices heard — and Gwen is taking the time to listen,” Torres said. “She’s working on the issues we care about, from protecting public education to building an economy that works for all Floridians. As governor, she will work to raise the minimum wage and institute paid sick leave, invest in technical training and infrastructure, and diversify our economy.”

Another state lawmaker, Patrick Henry, backs Andrew Gillum

Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry of Daytona Beach has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor’s race.

Henry is a first-term representative.

“Mayor Gillum will bring bold and needed leadership to our state’s most pressing issues including a stagnant economy that produces too many low-wage jobs, a health care system that leaves too many behind and a chronically underfunded education system,” Henry stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign.

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

“Representative Henry’s support means the world to me,” Gillum stated in the release. “He has quickly made a name for himself in the legislature by serving the people of Volusia County with integrity and passion, and I’m proud to have his endorsement. Floridians are facing many imposing challenges, but with the help of leaders like Representative Henry, we can have the courage to finally lean in and address them.”

Four Republicans, one Democrat qualify to run in HD 44 special election

With the noon closing bell on ballot qualifying, House District 44 is left with four Republicans and one Democrat qualifying for a special election that could determine far more than who represents western Orange County in the Florida Legislature.

The Republican primary election will be Aug. 15. The general election will be Oct. 10.

This is an election Republicans want to win because the seat is an ideal launching pad for a bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives in the middle of the next decade.

And it’s an election Democrats want to win because they view the peculiarities of a special election as an opportunity for an upset, to grab a long-held Republican seat by turning out voters in what will otherwise likely be a sparse voter turnout.

“The thing is with a low turnout it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to move the needle,” said Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge.

That would be an upset, given the Republicans’ 5 percent advantage in voter registration for the district, and Republicans higher reliability for voting in any election, particularly for special elections.

“It’s pretty red, especially for special elections. It’s a really safe district; we don’t anticipate any difficulties with it, honestly,” said Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver.

The Republicans who qualified are former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, who ran in a similar region last year in an unsuccessful, but close, bid for Orange County commissioner; John Newstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce; businessman Bruno Portigliatti, and urgent care physician Dr. Usha Jain.

Businessman Paul Chandler is the Democrats’ candidate.

Republicans may be looking ahead from this election. If a Republican wins, it’ll give that person a year’s head-start on campaigning, fundraising, and collecting IOUs for the prospect of becoming speaker of the house for the freshmen class of representatives who’ll new voted into office in 2018. None of the candidates likes to talk about that prospect now, but Oliver said the seat is ripe for it.

“Plus, if they are successful in this election, they probably won’t have to watch their back, because it’s a really safe seat, and that’s the formula. It helps especially if you’re coming from a safe seat. You have the luxury of being able to travel around the state to help out others,” Oliver said.

This seat is open because Republican former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle resigned to accept a gubernatorial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Name recognition may be a stronger advantage than usual for the GOP primary because there are just eight weeks for the Republicans to introduce themselves and their messages to voters. For that Olszewski stands with the advantage, having run twice for Winter Garden commission, and last year for Orange County commission, for which he survived a four-person runoff, and then lost the general election, drawing 46 percent of the vote.

His challengers sound unconcerned about that. Newstreet raised $30,000 in in 11 days after announcing his candidacy in late May. It is unclear what other candidates have raised, because the first filing deadline for the race is not until next month. Newstreet volunteered his number. Olszewski had raised about $20,000 prior to May.

Newstreet believes he can convince voters that his background with the chamber gives him economic chops, his background with the U.S. Coast Guard gives him military service, and his background leading the American Legion in Florida adds to that. “We’re going to hit every eligible voter that has a history of voting. That’s a huge universe in a small timeframe,” he said.

Portigliatti intends to offer his successful business executive experience with several companies in Central Florida including Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and Florida Christian University. What sets me apart the most is my real world business world experience… I’m not your typical politician. I’m not the status quote. I’m not a political insider.”

Democrats intend to rally behind Chandler, seeking an opportunity to sneak him in, in a district that has large Republican, Democratic and independent voters.

“The nice thing for us is it’s the only thing going on in Orange County. There are a lot of people willing to get involved to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, and who are interested to be a part of it,” Hodge said.

The Democrats also might make Eisnaugle a campaign issue. Democrats charged cronyism when Gov. Rick Scott selected him, over several sitting judges, for the opening on the Appeals Court, when Eisnaugle had very little courtroom or appellate law experience compared with other candidates.

“It’s sending a message. We can ask our voters: why are we even having this special election? Do we want to continue to send representatives up that participate in this or send a message that we don’t tolerate that here,” Hodge said.

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