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Linda Sanchez and Darren Soto to caravana Kissimmee in CD 9

California Democratic U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez will be campaigning with state Rep. Darren Soto in a caravana event in Kissimmee Sunday for his bid to win Tuesday’s primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Sanchez, who represents part of Los Angeles, currently serves as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is running for vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

She will be with Soto as they parade throughout the Buena Ventura Lakes region, the heart of Kissimmee’s Puerto Rican community. The caravana, a popular political event in Puerto Rico, will focus on get-out-the-vote efforts.

Soto’s in a tough battle for the Democratic nomination with Dena Grayson, Susannah Randolph and Valleri Crabtree. The winner would face the Republican primary winner, either Wayne Liebnitzky or Wanda Rentas.

“It is time for a Hispanic member of Congress from Central Florida. Minority voters need to make their voices heard this August by electing Darren Soto for Congress,” Sanchez stated in a news release issued by Soto’s campaign. “Once elected, Soto will be the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida. That’s historic!”

The caravana will begin at the Lugo Ranch at 3 p.m., and end around 5 p.m. at the Robert Guevara Community Center.

Ricardo Rangel gets HD 43 backing of Brandon Arrington

Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington has thrown his endorsement to former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in his effort to win back his seat in Kissimmee-based House District 43.

Arrington’s district covers much of HD 43, including Poinciana.

“Ricardo Rangel, a U.S. Army veteran, is the best choice for the Florida House of Representatives, District 43,” Arrington stated in a news release issued by Rangel’s campaign. “Floridians need a leader in Tallahassee that will work for our communities’ healthcare, our children’s education, and stand up for working families. I look forward to working with Ricardo Rangel to continue to improve the quality of life for all the residents of Osceola County.”

In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Rangel faces state Rep. John Cortes, who beat Rangel in the 2014 Democratic primary. Also in the race is Sara Shaw. There is a write-in candidate, so the primary will be open only to Democratic voters, and the winner will be all-but-assured of election in November.

Rangel also has won the endorsement of Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer.

“I am honored to have Commissioner Arrington’s endorsement,” Rangel stated in the release. “I look forward to working with him and Commissioner Janer to help our community in Osceola County.”

Central Florida hoteliers back Ricardo Rangel in HD 43

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association has endorsed former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in his quest to return to his seat in the Kissimmee-based House District 43.

Rangel, a Kissimmee Democrat, is challenging current incumbent state Rep. John Cortes in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Cortes beat Rangel in a primary two years ago. Democrat Sara Shaw also is in the race.

“The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association is looking forward to having the leadership of Ricardo Rangel back in Tallahassee. His continued partnership with Central Florida’s hospitality industry will be a great benefit to our community,” Kevin Craig, public policy director for CFHLA, stated in a news release issued by Rangel’s campaign.

The hotel association represents one of Central Florida’s biggest employers, with tens of thousands of workers, many of them living in HD 43.

The winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary is assured election in November. There is a write-in candidate who will be on the November ballot. That makes the primary open only to Democratic voters.

“I am honored to have CFHLA’s endorsement. With tourism being Osceola County’s No. 1 industry, I look forward to working with them to ensure hospitality, tourism and the jobs it creates continues to thrive.” Rangel stated.

SD 11 Democratic candidate Gary Siplin says tax liens are contested, not a concern

Democrat Gary Siplin, a former state senator seeking another shot at the Florida Senate in the Orlando-based District 11, dismissed more than $243,000 of federal tax liens as contested taxes he expects will go away through federal appeals processes.

“All I know is, according to my accountant, everything is fine,” Siplin said about the liens, on file with the Orange County Comptroller. “Whatever taxes that we owe — we don’t believe we owe. We’re appealing them.”

Siplin said he does not know what the tax liens are for. There are nine tax liens, brought by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for various debts the IRS claims are from years spanning 2003 to 2013.

Siplin is in a hotly contested, four-way Aug. 30 Democratic primary race with state Rep. Randolph Bracy, activist Chuck O’Neal and former state Rep. Bob Sindler, also a former Orange County commissioner.

The seat, being vacated by state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who is running for Congress, has no Republican candidates, though there are two write-in candidates. So the Aug. 30 election will be for Democratic voters only, and the winner will be formally elected in November.

The fire-bombing of Susannah Randolph

Democrat Susannah Randolph’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is spending much of its last week before the primary putting out fires from a political equivalent of a Molotov cocktail thrown her way — by a political operative going public with a troubling story involving Randolph.

Starting two weeks ago, Randolph, running as the true-blue progressive candidate with the lifelong reputation as a staunch feminist, has been the target in Facebook and blog posts authored by Holly Fussell, alleging that Randolph ignored complaints about sexual harassment of Fussell by a man on staff. And that man allegedly eventually raped Fussell, though Fussell wrote that Randolph bears no blame for that. Until now Fussell was offering slim detail.

On Wednesday Fussell, now 23 and living in Silver Spring, Maryland, responded to FloridaPolitics.com by answering a list of written questions. She still is not naming the alleged rapist, saying she’s declining to do so on the advice of her attorney. However she said she’s intending to file criminal charges or a civil lawsuit — or both — against the man, and he will be named then.

Until now, no one has looked into Fussell’s story, though it is echoing around the internet through other bloggers and social media, which are adding nothing new except judgments against Randolph.

The vague allegations left Randolph and her staff little to respond to, except to deny that anything like that ever happened.

After hearing the latest details offered by Fussell, they still are maintaining that nothing like that ever happened.

“Susannah is saddened to hear of Ms. Fussell’s story, which she learned about this past week. Sexual assault and harassment are very serious matters and Susannah believes they have no place in any workplace or environment,” said Lauren Doney, Randolph’s campaign manager. “Unfortunately, too many Floridians are victims of sexual assault and harassment, which is why Susannah has always been committed to being the strongest possible advocate for all who face assault and harassment not only at a policy level, but also in practice as a leader if elected.”

Randolph is not being accused of any crimes, nor even any clear dereliction of duty. It’s not even clear if she ever had any supervisory authority over Fussell or the man during the the alleged sexual harassment incidents.

At the story’s most innocent interpretation, Randolph is being accused of misinterpreting a young woman’s complaints, and not responding as the woman had hoped. Yet at its most serious interpretation, Randolph is being accused of being an enabler of a sexual offender who eventually raped, and a hypocrite of her professed feminist values, high sins in a Democratic primary.

The timing of the story’s emergence, a couple weeks before the election, could not be more impactful.

On Tuesday Randolph’s election fate will be determined, in her Democratic primary battle with Dr. Dena Grayson, state Sen. Darren Soto, and Valleri Crabtree. The race is tight. A new St. Pete Polls survey released Wednesday shows Grayson with a slight lead over Randolph, and Soto running third. The winner would be a strong favorite to win election in November.

Florida’s progressive Democrat community is fracturing over Fussell’s allegations, taking sides.

Grayson would be the most likely to benefit from any Randolph wound, because both are campaigning for the progressive wing vote.

Dena Grayson is married to the incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who is the former employer of Fussell, the alleged rapist, and Randolph.

Fussell’s relationship with the Graysons is long and strong and she has worked for Alan Grayson recently — there is dispute over how recently. However, she insisted she never consulted them about the incidents and decided entirely on her own to go public.

Dena Grayson’s campaign responded to an inquiry from FloridaPolitics.com with clear venom toward Randolph, and without a word about the rapist’s blame.

“Dr. Grayson was horrified when she recently learned that Ms. Fussell was repeatedly sexually harassed and then raped. She applauds Ms. Fussell’s courageous decision to step forward and speak the truth about her terrible treatment by Susannah Randolph and others,” said a statement from her spokesman Shawn Shahzad.

And Alan Grayson, now running for the U.S. Senate, might not be completely outside the shadow. Numerous former Grayson employees said Grayson always handled personnel matters himself.

Alan Grayson told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday night that he was never made aware of Fussell’s sexual harassment complaints, and expressed confidence the incidents must have occurred outside his staff. That theory makes murkier an already unclear line of what might have happened when and where.

Fussell said she came forward this month because she was finally “emotionally ready to talk about it,” after receiving help from RAINN, the national Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

“I also knew I needed to come forward when I saw that my rapist’s name was on Susannah’s campaign finance report,” she said. “Like I said before, I do not want this to happen to another girl. I wasn’t warned. I want other girls to be warned.

“I talked to my therapist about going public, but nobody else,” she added. “I didn’t even tell my friends before I posted it.”

In her written responses to FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday, Fussell alleged she was sexually harassed repeatedly by the man while the two were working together on campaigns in Orlando, starting in the spring of 2014. She said Randolph personally witnessed the man sexually harass her in the Hammered Lamb and The Abbey, two favorite haunts of Orlando Democrats, including an incident on election night, Nov. 4, 2014, yet did nothing about. Randolph, she stated, then hired the man onto Alan Grayson’s congressional staff in Orlando.

In the spring of 2015 the man raped her, she alleged.

Fussell stated she has nothing in writing to back up her story, though she said there were other witnesses to the bar incidents, and she talked to close friends about the alleged rape after it happened.

At least in 2014, Fussell and the man worked together on Alan Grayson’s re-election campaign and did consulting work on the Orange County Charter Amendment C campaign, she explained.

It was unclear what, if any, supervisory authority Randolph might have held over Fussell or the man at the time of the incidents. In 2014 Randolph was Grayson’s congressional district director in Orlando. She did not work on Grayson’s campaign when Fussell and the man were there. She did not work for the consulting company that employed Fussell.

“I worked with Susannah Randolph on the Amendment C campaign,” Fussell wrote, “and did other work for her as well as a ‘tracker’ in my free time.”

Many people who know them both told FloridaPoltics.com they do not want to believe Fussell would make up such a story, but also believe Randolph to be incapable of looking the other way if a young woman alleged sexual harassment by a coworker. Randolph’s feminist values have always been at the core of who she is, they said, and she would surely have responded.

But, Fussell wrote of the Hammered Lamb and The Abbey incidents, “She told me repeatedly that it wasn’t a big deal, and said that he was drunk.”

Today Fussell works for the Revolution Messaging campaign consulting firm in Washington. That firm has worked on Alan Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign this year, but not for any Central Florida campaigns, she said.

Marco Rubio on Donald Trump: First a con man, now better than Hillary Clinton

A dangerous, erratic, con man with the worst spray tan ever. That’s how Sen. Marco Rubio described Donald Trump when they were both seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

Now that Trump is the nominee and Rubio is running for re-election, his tone is different. He’s no longer criticizing Trump, but he isn’t exactly gushing praise. Democrats are trying to make him look like a hypocrite for backing the man he previously said shouldn’t have access to nuclear weapon codes, and for jumping back into the Senate race after he said he wouldn’t.

“Sen. Rubio is actually the real con man here,” said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the Democratic nomination. “He said something to the effect of, ‘Ten thousand times, I’m telling you I’m not going to run for the Senate again.’ Well guess what? He’s running for the Senate again.”

But don’t ask Rubio to reconcile supporting Trump with his past criticism.

“We’ve gone through that a million times,” Rubio said at a campaign stop at a Tallahassee restaurant. “At this point we’re just going to continue to focus on my race and leave the past in the past.”

Last month in Panama City, Rubio said he is supporting Trump because he pledged early in the campaign to support the Republican nominee.

“There are only two people in the world that are going to be president of the United States in 2017,” Rubio said. “It will either be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. And It can’t be Hillary Clinton.”

Leaving his remarks in the past isn’t something his opponents are willing to do. Republican developer Carlos Beruff often criticizes Rubio for not enthusiastically supporting Trump, and Murphy and Grayson are calling him out for his hypocrisy.

Grayson described the relationship between Trump and Rubio by quoting late New York Yankees manager Billy Martin, who once said of late team owner George Steinbrenner and star outfielder Reggie Jackson: “The two of them deserve each other. One’s a born liar and the other’s convicted.” (Steinbrenner had pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon‘s campaign.)

“That’s sort of how I feel about watching the love/hate fest between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump,” Grayson said.

Beruff, who has spent $8 million of his own money in the Republican primary, has repeatedly criticized Rubio for not doing more to support Trump.

“There are some people who don’t like the tepid response that Rubio has shown to Trump,” Beruff said. “There’s a loyalty there.”

Beruff’s effort doesn’t appear to be working: He’s far behind Rubio in the polls just a week away from the Aug. 30 primary.

Republicans say it’s a matter of forgiving and forgetting, despite Rubio making fun of Trump’s small hands, suggesting the billionaire wet his pants during a debate and mocking his Twitter misspellings at a campaign rally.

Wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap to show support for Trump, Republican Bob Bezick, 64, of Madison said after attending Rubio’s Tallahassee event that he didn’t appreciate the back and forth between Rubio and Trump. But it won’t stop him from backing Rubio.

“It’s policies more than any of the chatter. All that stuff is just noise,” Bezick said.

And despite the not-so-cozy relationship between Rubio and Trump, Republicans say they won’t vote for Murphy or Grayson.

“That would be an extreme example of cutting off your nose to spite your face,” said Orange County Republican Party Chairman Lew Oliver.

If anything, Oliver said, keeping his distance from Trump could help Rubio with independent voters or Democrats dissatisfied with their party’s nominee.

“Tactically, that’s not a bad maneuver from his perspective because he’s probably going to get the Republican votes regardless,” Oliver said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Democrats take advantage of CD 10 reshaping

A former police chief, the former state Democratic Party chairman, an incumbent state senator and a political newcomer are vying to represent an Orlando-area congressional district reshaped so drastically the Republican incumbent decided to run in a new, neighboring district.

Florida’s 10th Congressional District now favors Democrats after redistricting. So Republican Rep. Daniel Webster, a Christian conservative, chose to run for an open seat in the neighboring 11th District, a more conservative, rural area west of Orlando and north of Tampa.

The newly-drawn 10th District covers western parts of the Orlando metro area. Less than half the district’s registered voters are Democratic, more than a quarter are Republican and more than a quarter have no party affiliation.

For the most part, the Democratic candidates have very few ideological differences. But the Democratic field is among the most diverse in recent memory, including two African-American women, a gay man and a woman whose family emigrated from Brazil. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will face Republican Thuy Lowe, a Vietnamese-American who is running unopposed in the primary.

Val Demings, Orlando’s first woman police chief, is the favorite of Washington Democratic power brokers. Demings narrowly lost to Webster in 2012 when the district leaned Republican.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has held fundraisers for Demings, and Demings shared a stage with Pelosi and female lawmakers as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month. She referred to the Pulse nightclub massacre in her speech. She talked about “the tragedy that gun violence inflicts on America” and lamented Congress’ failure to take action after the fatal shooting of 49 patrons at the club.

Some of Demings’ Democratic opponents resent the help she’s getting from national party officials.

The national party “has already decided to put their thumb on the scale for their favorite candidate,” Fatima Rita Fahmy said at a recent candidates’ forum. Fahmy is an attorney and first-time political candidate.

As the former chairman of the state Democratic Party, Bob Poe has deep party ties in Florida and has the most money of all the candidates in the crowded field. If elected, he would be the first openly HIV-positive member of Congress. As of the end of June, Poe had raised just under $2 million, mostly from loans he made to his campaign. By comparison, Deming had raised nearly $1 million, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson had raised nearly $200,000 and attorney Fatima Rita Fahmy had raised nearly $20,000.

“I don’t go to Washington in debt to any special interest,” Poe said at a recent candidates’ forum. “The voters of District 10 are going to be my special interest.”

Thompson has a decade-long record as a respected state lawmaker. “I’m a workhorse, not a showhorse,” she said at the candidates’ forum.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Direct mail round-up: New Irv Slosberg mailer takes a swipe at Jeff Clemens campaign

A new mailer is hitting mailboxes this week, accusing Jeff Clemens of trying to hide his “dangerously conservative record” from voters.

The mailer, paid for and approved by Irv Slosberg, called Clemens a liar, saying he’s making things up “in order to confuse voters.”

“Clemens is even making up dates of quotes and implying quotes made about another campaign were on behalf of his campaign,” reads the mailer. “When will Clemens stop lying?”

At issue are advertisements supporting Clemens that use quotes from former Rep. Robert Wexler. Some of the ads featuring Wexler’s comments contained the wrong date.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Wexler in 2006 called Slosberg an “agent of the Republican Party.” The comments were made in the middle of a heated state Senate primary between Slosberg and Ted Deutsch.

The decade old quote has been used in television ads and mailers. While the TV ad had the right date, the Palm Beach Posted reported that a mailer from “Each Vote Counts,” a pro-Clemens committee, lists the wrong date.

The new mailer takes a swipe at Clemens while trying to highlight Slosberg’s record. The mailer says Slosberg received an “F” from the NRA, repeatedly voted against school vouchers, and voted against the redistricting plan. The mailer also notes Wexler has complimented Wexler “for being a loyal Democrat.”

The race between Slosberg is one of the most heated races this primary cycle. Slosberg jumped into the Senate District 31 race just hours before the end of qualifying, challenging Clemens who has represented the area for years.

According to an Associated Industries of Florida tracking poll released last week, the Lake Worth Democrat leads Slosberg leads the field with 33 percent support. Slosberg is in second with 29 percent, followed by Emmanuel Morel with 4 percent. The survey found 34 percent of voters were still undecided.

A similar survey back in July found Slosberg ahead of Clemens, 44 to 13 percent.

The primary is Aug. 30.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle backs Darren Soto in CD 9 race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania has endorsed state Sen. Darren Soto of Orlando in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Soto’s campaign announced.

Boyle is one of the leading Democratic voices in Congress on trade, advocating for trade policy that protects American workers and promotes American industry. He has voted against legislation that promotes companies shipping jobs overseas.

“Darren Soto is exactly the kind of progressive fighter we need in Congress. He has led on jobs and labor issues in the Florida Legislature, bringing high-paying jobs to Central Florida while making sure workers are treated with the dignity they deserve,” Boyle stated in a news release issued by the Soto campaign. “I’m proud to endorse him because I know he’ll stand with me and the American people against bad trade deals.”

Soto faces Valleri Crabtree, Dena Grayson, and Susannah Randolph in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary for CD 9. The winner would face the Republican winner, either Wanda Rentas or Wayne Liebnitzky.

“The hardworking families of our district deserve a Congress that fights for high-paying jobs and an economy that works for all of us. I’m proud to earn Congressman Boyle’s endorsement,” Soto stated in the release. “I look forward to working with him to protect workers’ rights and fight for trade policies that strengthen the middle class.”

Poll: Gary Farmer leading in SD 34 Democratic primary

Consumer advocate lawyer Gary Farmer has established a seven-point lead over state Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed and former state Rep. Jim Waldman in the Democratic primary contest for Florida’s Senate District 34, a newly released poll shows.

The poll finds Farmer with 28 percent support, Clarke-Reed with 21 percent and Waldman with 13 percent. Significantly, 39 percent of those polled were still undecided in the district, which follows the Atlantic Coast from Fort Lauderdale through Boynton Beach.

The tracking poll, done for Associated Industries of Florida, reached 300 likely Democratic voters by cell phone, and has a six percent margin of error.

The winner of the Democratic primary would face Antoanet Iotova in the strongly Democrat-leaning district.

The poll also found Clarke-Reed enjoys the best favorable-unfavorable assessment by voters, with a net rating of 28 percent favorable, while Farmer’s was 16, and Waldman’s 9. Yet voters appear to know Farmer best, as he had far fewer undecided responses in that category.

Farmer’s ballot position is predominantly coming from his lead among older white voters and his surprisingly high share of the African-American electorate, AIF noted. Farmer shows leads among every key demographic including females, males, voters over 65, voters who have voted in only one of the last two primaries, and the more likely voters who have voted in both of the last two primaries, but especially among white voters. Clarke-Reed leads Farmer by 16 percent among African-Americans, who will comprise close to 20 percent of the electorate.

 

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