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Viviana Janer, Nancy Rosado, Zoé Colón urge Puerto Rican women to vote ‘for our future’

Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer and two activist Puerto Rican women from Central Florida announced an effort Tuesday to convince the region’s Puerto Rican women to come out to vote against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday.

At a press conference in Kissimmee, Chairwoman Janer, Somos Orlando [We Are Orlando] co-founder Nancy Rosado, and Que Vote Me Gente [My People Will Vote] campaign activist Zoé Colón decried what they called the “bigoted and divisive campaign” of Trump and, by extension, Rubio, and said they believe the Puerto Rican community will have the power to impact the election.

They said they will encourage the area’s Puerto Rican community to vote for Democrats Hillary Clinton and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“Puerto Ricans helped formed the fabric of this nation, whether fighting on the battlefield for our freedoms or standing up here at home for our civil rights. This election we will honor the sacrifices and battles of our community by uniting at the ballot box against hate, xenophobia, and fear,” Janer said.

Rosado took Rubio to task for announcing in June that the June 12 massacre at the popular Orlando gay nightclub Pulse, on Latino Night, led him to seek re-election.

“Donald Trump and Marco Rubio think that saying they ‘love Hispanics’ or having a Latino last name is enough to get our votes, even as they actively fight against us,” Rosado said. “The Puerto Rican and LGBTQ community in Orlando refuses to stand by any candidate who would use the deaths of our brothers and sisters for their own political gain the way Marco did when he announced his re-election campaign.”

Colón noted there are an estimated 400,000 Puerto Ricans living in Osceola and Orange Counties.

“Our vote will deliver more economic opportunities here in Central Florida for a fast growing diaspora and relief for our families and loved ones back in Puerto Rico. We are a million strong in Florida and we will not give up our power this election — we will vote for our future,” she said.



Democrats take slight lead in vote-by-mail ballots

It’s a small lead — 27 ballots — but Democrats are now in front in the number of returned vote-by-mail ballots.

With more than a half-million ballots turned in, the Division of Elections website Monday showed registered Democrats had submitted 210,734 ballots to Republicans’ 210,707.

Other party and no-party voters have returned another 91,648 ballots to their local supervisors of elections.

Monday’s update drew cheers from the Democratic faithful, including Tallahassee PR man Kevin Cate.

“Here’s your enthusiasm gap,” he tweeted, referring to the new numbers.

“Wow,” added former campaign consultant Geoff Puryear. “To anyone who has done field in Florida, this is a huge development.”

Lawmakers recently changed the name of such ballots to “vote-by-mail” ballots from the traditional “absentee” ballots.

In a related development, a federal judge late Sunday ordered the state of Florida to give thousands of voters a chance to make sure their vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled county election offices should notify voters if their signature on a vote-by-mail ballot and their voter registration forms don’t match. Voters would then be given a chance to fix the problem by 5 p.m. the day before the election.

Walker also had extended the state’s voter registration deadline one week to 5 p.m. Tuesday, saying Floridians needed extra time in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which especially disrupted the state’s Atlantic coast communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission

Val Demings furious about being featured in John Mica mailer

Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate Val Demings said Wednesday she was shocked and disappointed to find Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica had used her picture and a quote in a campaign mailer and said she in no way endorses him.

Democrat “Stephanie Murphy is the right choice for the people of District 7. She will be a fresh, strong voice for Central Florida in Washington,” Demings said in a release issued by her campaign Wednesday.

Demings is running in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Mica and Murphy are running next door in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Yet Demings had something nice to say about Mica in June, and that led to a starring role in Mica’s mailer, which went out in CD 7, covering north central and northeast Orange County and Seminole County.

Demings is a former Orlando police chief and in June, at a congressional debate sponsored by Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, she commended her husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, current Orlando “Police Chief John Mina and Congressman John Mica for really pushing” to get Orlando back onto the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of top-priority cities for anti-terrorism funding for law enforcement agencies.

So there she is: in a pink mailer sent out by Mica’s campaign, Demings is featured with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and former Orlando Sentinel managing editor and former editorial page editor Jane Healy saying nice things about Mica. The front of the mailer has pictures of the trio with the headline: “JOHN MICA Earns Respect of Leading Women We Respect In Both Parties!”

The rear of the mailer has the pictures again, with quotes from them saying nice things about Mica.

Jacobs is a Republican and Healy and Demings are Democrats.

“I’m shocked and disappointed by this mailer. It is no secret public safety has been my top priority for decades,” Demings stated in her news release. “While I applaud the efforts to return funds to fight terrorism in Orange County, in no way do I endorse his campaign for Congress. For Congressman Mica to take my statement on public safety, and use it for political gain is wildly misleading and a disservice to voters.”

There was no immediate response from Mica’s campaign about Demings’ objection.

67% of Floridians support moving to open primaries

A majority of Floridians would support a shift to an open primary system.

About two-thirds (67 percent) of self-identified registered voters believe Florida should move to an open primary system, according to a new USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. The survey found 30 percent of respondents think the state should keep the current system.

Florida has a closed primary system, which means only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in their party’s primary.

The closed primary system is often felt the hardest in legislative races, where write-in candidates are drafted in the final days of qualifying to close a primary. Write-in candidates closed more than a dozen state House and Senate races in the 2016 primary.

More than 3.2 million Floridians were registered with a minor party or no party affiliation as of Aug. 1. There are more than 4 million registered Republicans and nearly 4.7 million registered Democrats.

The Sunshine State Survey found broad support for a switch to an open primary system across most demographics. The survey found 70 percent of women, 80 percent of millennials and 62 percent of college graduates supported moving to an open primary system.

About 93 percent of respondents said they were registered to vote. According to the survey’s analysis, that number likely over-represents registered voters in the Sunshine State. The survey’s authors noted that, based on U.S. Census Bureau and Division of Elections data, an estimated 80 percent of Florida’s voting-age population is registered to vote.

The survey found the most common reason among those not registered to vote was the person wasn’t eligible. About 23 percent of respondents cited that as a reason.

The survey found 17 percent said they were not interested in politics and voting, while 16 percent of respondents said they weren’t registered because their vote doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference. That’s up significantly from previous years, and the survey notes it could reflect “public exhaustion and disinterest in a particularly acrimonious presidential race.”

The Sunshine State Survey was conducted by The Nielsen Company from Sept. 1-19. The company surveyed 1,248 Floridians, and the survey has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

Bill Clinton set to attend voter registration events in Florida on Tuesday

The Big Dog is making a big push to register Floridians to vote.

Former President Bill Clinton will make three stops in the Sunshine State Tuesday to encourage Floridians to register to vote ahead of the voter registration deadline. The former president is scheduled to attend public voter registration events in Palm Beach, Lee, and Pinellas counties.

No other information about President Clinton’s events were immediately available.

Tuesday is the final day to register to vote, change party affiliation, or update voter registration information in time for the Nov. 8 election. The Hillary Clinton campaign had asked for an extension because of Hurricane Matthew, but Gov. Rick Scott said last week he wouldn’t extend the deadline.

The Florida Democratic Party on Sunday sued Scott and his top elections’ chief in federal court, asking for a one-week extension.

The former president won’t have the state to himself on Tuesday. Al Gore, who served as President Clinton’s vice president, is scheduled to campaign with Hillary Clinton in Miami on Tuesday afternoon. Gore is expected to discuss climate change.

Donald Trump is also campaigning in Florida. The Republican nominee is scheduled to hold a rally at Aaron Bessant Park in Panama City Beach on Tuesday evening.


New Stephanie Murphy TV ad says John Mica shares Donald Trump’s ‘harmful policies’

Democratic congressional candidate Stephanie Murphy has called on her Republican opponent U.S. Rep. John Mica to denounce Donald Trump for newly disclosed statements about women and she released a new TV commercial saying Mica shares’ Trump’s ‘harmful policies.’

The TV commercial, “It’s Time To Change Washington,” charges that Mica and Trump share policies opposing a woman’s right to chose and opposing gun law reforms. The commercial is paid for by both Murphy’s official campaign to win in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

CD 7 covers north-central and northeast Orange County and Seminole County.

“Stop the attacks on women’s health,” Murphy states in the commercial.

But it’s aimed at much more than that. It aims at tying the 12-term Republican congressman from Winter Park with the newcomer Republican presidential nominee who is charting new territory outside traditional GOP rhetoric and policy on an almost daily basis.

The latest from Trump, the reports on and release of a 2005 audio tape in which Trump brags vulgarly about abusing women, has brought a new round of Republicans. Murphy called for Mica to denounce it.

Mica was unavailable Saturday to respond; a staff member said he was busy working with Hurricane Matthew relief authorities.

“I call on Congressman Mica to do the right thing and denounce and disavow Donald Trump once and for all,” Murphy stated in a news release announcing the new TV commercial. “It’s time for strong moral leadership in Congress that treats everyone equally and with dignity – and with a new approach that puts the security and prosperity of Floridians over partisan politics.”

Analysis shows Democrats are catching up in vote-by-mail requests — but will they vote?

A detailed analysis of requests for mail-in ballots in Florida for the Nov. 8 general election shows Democrats are getting more proficient at getting their voters to request such ballots but still trail Republicans, especially among “super voters.”

The analysis, done by Associated Industries of Florida, finds that so far this election, 2.66 million mail ballots [formerly known as absentee ballots] have been requested, with 1.12 million requested by registered Republicans, 1.02 million requested by registered Democrats, and the rest by independent or third-party voters.

Wednesday is the day at least 40 counties across the state kick off their general election by dropping mail ballots. More mail-in ballots will yet be requested, so the numbers will change.

The Republican advantage in mail-in ballots has shrunk compared to previous elections. Now Republicans are requesting about 42.3 percent of the mail ballots and Democrats about 38.4 percent. But those Democrats this year include much larger numbers of voters who have never, rarely, or only occasionally voted, while those Republicans include much larger numbers of people who usually or always vote. So, it remains unclear how many of the Democrats’ mail-in votes will actually be cast, while Republicans should feel more confident, the AIF analysis shows.

The AIF also suggests both parties are essentially cannibalizing early and Election Day voter totals by getting those people to vote by mail this time. According to the analysis, 29 percent of those Republicans who sought mail ballots this year either voted early or on Election Day in the 2012 presidential election. For the Democrats, the switch was 31 percent.

In the past four elections, Republicans have dominated mail-in voting, while in three of those Democrats have dominated early voting. As for Election Day voting, Democrats were more common at polling places in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and Republicans in the 2010 and 2014 off-year elections.

“Are the Democrats doing a much better job in getting their voters to request absentees? Yes. But whether they truly are remaking the electorate will be evidenced in whether or not they get their lower propensity voters to return [ballots] at a pace ahead of the Republicans,” the AIF analysis concludes. “Do we expect the Democrats to have a lead in the Early Period? Yes, as they always have. We also suspect they will come close to tying the Republicans in VBM [vote-by-mail] returns and then overtake them during the early vote period. But at least as of today, we would expect Republicans will have more of their likely voters left heading into Election Day and thus close the gap they will face from the early period.”

AutoNation chair Mike Jackson lashes out against anti-immigration, anti-trade positions

The chairman and president of the nation’s largest car dealer company, Mike Jackson of AutoNation, blasted Donald Trump and others who rail against immigrants and international trade deals, during a keynote address to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

In his speech Thursday night to the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum Leadership Dinner in Orlando, Jackson outlined four things he called the four flat tires in the American economy. And besides over-regulation and complex, too-high taxes, he said the nation’s refusal to pursue deals to open international trade, and its anti-immigration fervor are having profound effects slowing the economy.

Jackson, whose Fort Lauderdale company is the nation’s largest automotive retailer with dealerships in 15 states, said he is so upset that the anti-immigration and anti-trade deal positions have taken favor in the Republican Party that he recently quit the party to become an independent, and said he cannot support Trump.

“The Republican Party at the moment is unrecognizable from anything I’ve ever known,” Jackson said.

He was equally critical of Democrats, saying they are moving toward European-style socialism “at breakneck speed.” But said he would be supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton because he’s convinced she has less potential to do major damage.

He brought the house down by declaring, and illustrating with a cartoon, that Trump, in his view, is the “billionaire Archie Bunker” from the TV show “All In The Family,” while Clinton is the diabolically “cunning Claire Underwood” from “House Of Cards.”

But Jackson’s speech focused most passionately on the two issues he said are being misunderstood, the nation’s need to embrace immigrants, even those who came in illegally; and the nation’s need to greatly expand its trade deals worldwide.

Immigrants, he said, risk all to come to America and bring daring entrepreneurial spirits, as evidenced by a fact he cited — 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants.

Yet America has had net-outward immigration since President Barack Obama took office, and that is leading to shortages of labor, especially among people who really want to work hard and bring risk-taking entrepreneurial attitudes, he said.

“What made America great? Immigration,” Jackson said. “Yeah, things got a little out of control there for 15 years, before Barack Obama; we ended up with these 12 million undocumented people in the United States. But for the last eight years it’s actually been going the other way, more migration from the United States to Mexico than from Mexico to the United States.

“So if you build this wall, you’re trapping people in the United States,” he said, to howls of laughter.

Trade deals, he said, open the world. The reason so many companies have opened factories in Mexico, he argued, is not because NAFTA is unfair to the United States, but because Mexico, unlike the United States, followed up on NAFTA by signing additional trade deals with scores of other countries. Consequently, products made in Mexico can be shipped almost anywhere duty-free, while products made in the United States face stiff tariffs worldwide. The same is true of bringing in materials from other countries, he said.

“So eventually, car manufacturers said, ‘You know what? We’re going to Mexico.’ Everybody thinks its the cost of labor. That’s not it,” Jackson said. “It’s not because we have too many trade agreements. It’s because we don’t have enough trade agreements.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate are saying no to new trade deals. It’s unbelievable,” he said.


Florida vote-by-mail hits record 2.5M requests, Republicans in lead

More people are seeking or casting early ballots in the critical states of Florida and North Carolina than at this point in 2012, as early voting shows signs of surging nationwide.

Florida doesn’t start absentee balloting until Tuesday, but already a record 2.5 million voters have requested ballots. Republicans are ahead in ballot requests, 43 percent to 38 percent.

That’s a much narrower gap than in 2008, the most recent in which comparable data was available. At that time, the Republicans held a solid lead in requests, 51 percent to 32 percent, according to data analyzed for the AP by Catalist, a Democratic firm that helped run data operations for Barack Obama‘s 2008 race. Obama won the state by 2.8 percentage points.

The 2016 improvement can’t be wholly attributed to fresh Democratic enthusiasm. A change in Florida’s laws meant that voters in 2014 who requested absentee ballots could automatically receive them this year. Still, Democrats welcomed early gains, saying it will free them to target more undecided voters.

Hillary Clinton may also benefit from an increase in ballot requests in Georgia, a traditionally Republican state where Democrats have made inroads. But Donald Trump is showing signs of strength in Iowa and parts of Maine, states won by Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections.

The latest snapshot of ballot data offers a glimpse into a key question: How much of a vote advantage can Clinton run up before Nov. 8, when more Republicans tend to vote? Traditionally Republicans have done better initially with early mail-in ballots, before Democrats surpass them once in-person early voting begins. While the ballot sample to date remains small, Clinton so far is hitting guideposts in several battleground states compared to 2008 and 2012.

Though preliminary, data compiled by The Associated Press suggest that advance voting could reach 40 percent of all votes cast nationally — up from 35 percent in 2012. It may also indicate a higher overall turnout in an election that has generated enormous public interest despite — or because of — the unpopularity of both major party candidates.

In Ohio, nearly 806,000 voters had submitted absentee ballot applications. That’s up from nearly 723,000 during a similar period in 2012, when a record 1.87 million early ballots ultimately were cast by mail and in person.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, Brandon Starkes, 28, cited the state’s unsuccessful bid to impose a voter ID law in his decision to vote early. The law was struck down as racially discriminatory.

“I want to make sure I don’t have to deal with issues at the polls on Election Day,” he said. Starkes plans to vote for Clinton.

Voting ahead of Election Day has been a growing phenomenon in the United States, designed to make it easier for people to participate in the democratic process. Absentee voting long has been a fixture in U.S. elections, and the trend toward greater early-voting has picked up steam, as increasing numbers of states have approved changes in election laws to permit it. This electoral culture change reflects not only interests in voter participation but also the changing, more mobile lifestyle of Americans.

In-person early voting begins Thursday in Iowa, while Florida, Arizona and New Hampshire mail out ballots beginning early next month.

In North Carolina, a must-win state for Trump, more than 69,150 ballots have been requested and 8,541 have been returned, according to AP data. That’s up from 8,326 ballots returned during a similar period in 2012.

By party, Democrats made up 40 percent of the ballots returned compared to 35 percent for Republicans. At this point in 2012, Republicans had opened a wide lead over Democrats in returned ballots, 49 percent to 32 percent, leading to Mitt Romney‘s narrow win that state. While Romney was boosted by older whites who voted early by mail, white voters so far have been down this year, to 82 percent from 86 percent of submitted ballots. Black voters, more likely to cast ballots in person, were higher at 12 percent.

“Voters appear to be listening and changing behavior in reaction to changes in laws,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who runs the U.S. Election Project.

Elsewhere, Republicans showed promise.

In Iowa, Democratic requests for ballots continued to outpace Republicans, 63,880 to 24,700. Despite the 3 to 1 advantage, that’s a drop from 2012, when Democrats at this point led 119,318 to 24,909. Clinton plans to visit the state Thursday, the first day of Iowa’s early voting.

“Democrats need to run up the score in Iowa, and so far they are not,” said Lindsay Walters, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

In Maine’s rural 2nd Congressional District, requests for ballots are down 18 percent, mostly among Democrats. Trump is counting on that district’s one electoral vote as part of his narrow path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. If he succeeds, he would be the first Republican since 1992 to win the district in the mostly Democratic state. Maine and Nebraska are the only states that allocate electoral votes by congressional district.

In Georgia, the state does not provide breakdowns of ballots by party, but overall ballot requests are up 5 percent to 82,504.

By race, requests for ballots by whites rose to 62,732 while those from blacks were down slightly to 16,937, according to Catalist’s analysis for the AP. However, Asian-Americans, who in recent elections have leaned Democratic, nearly doubled to 1,588. Hispanics were lower at 761.

Voter modeling by Catalist found that ballots broken down by party were at similar levels to 2012. Obama lost Georgia that year by roughly 8 percentage points. That means to win the state Clinton will have to make up more ground among African-Americans and Hispanics when in-person early voting begins Oct. 17.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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.


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