Donald Trump Archives - Florida Politics

New Philip Levine ad is about disabilities, ‘heart’

With one television commercial, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is managing to highlight his own efforts to help people with disabilities, bash President Donald Trump for mocking them, and accuse Gov. Rick Scott of being heartless.

The new 30-second TV commercial “Sabrina” that launched Tuesday, also offers a counter to Democratic rival Gwen Graham’s announcement that she has been endorsed by the Democratic Party’s Disabilities Caucus.

The ad focuses on a woman named Sabrina Cohen, a Miami-area advocate for people with disabilities and founder of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation. She explains a car accident took away her ability to walk when she was 14, and she praises Levine for his efforts when he was Miami Beach Mayor and calls him someone with “heart.”

Along the way, the commercial shows a beach identified as “the nation’s first adaptive beach,” and video of Trump mocking New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a joint condition that affects his movement. It also declares Florida has “a Governor with no heart.”

“During his tenure as Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine worked with a local community advocate, Sabrina Cohen, to pass the nation’s first adaptive beach, granting access to the beach for the first time for people with disabilities,” Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert stated in a news release issued by the Levine campaign. “As Florida Democrats come together to put up their best against Donald Trump’s chosen candidate, Philip Levine offers a stark contrast to their divisive and cruel brand of politics. One thing that has been sorely lacking from Tallahassee and Washington these days is compassionate leadership — as Florida’s next Governor, Philip is ready to stand up, do what’s right, and lead our state with heart.”

First Levine needs to get past Graham, businessman Jeff Greene, businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, while the man Ulvert obviously was referring to as “Trump’s chosen candidate,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary.

In the ad, Cohen and Levine praise each other and then go after the Republicans.

“Together, we created the first adaptive beach in the nation, that will serve veterans, moms, and children,” Cohen says.

“All despite a President who ridicules people and a Governor with no heart,” Levine adds.

“With Philip, it’s all about heart and getting things done. And we haven’t had that for a very long time,” Cohen concludes.

Greg Steube hits Julio Gonzalez for touting non-existent Rick Scott endorsement

Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez has been pushing an online ad backing up his campaign for Florida’s 17th Congressional District that features Gov. Rick Scott praising the Republican lawmaker and insinuating Gonzalez is his pick in the primary race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

According to an article by Brenden Farrington the Associated Press, the 30-second spot features the term-limited Governor making some effusive remarks about Gonzalez, and ends with an announcer saying Scott “stands with” Gonzalez, and asks voters to “Join Governor Scott in support of pro-Trump, tax-cutting conservative Dr. Julio Gonzalez.”

Short of a nod from President Donald Trump, the official backing of Scott would be the biggest coup a Republican congressional candidate could hope for. The problem: It’s not true.

Those clips were from a fundraiser benefitting Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, and while Scott is likely appreciative of Gonzalez’ support in his quest to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, he hasn’t weighed in on the Republican primary for CD 17.

If it weren’t clear enough by the lack of endorsement-style language, the bottom of that AP article puts to rest any lingering doubts: “Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schultz, said Scott hasn’t endorsed in the race.”

Gonzalez’ chief rival in the Republican primary for CD 17, Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube, seized on the misrepresentation in a Tuesday campaign email hammering Gonzalez

“Julio Gonzalez, candidate for Congress, has been falsely touting the support of Governor Rick Scott in an effort to boost his failing campaign,” the email read, citing the AP report.

“Last week, Gonzalez sent an email to supporters calling on them to ‘Join Governor Rick Scott in supporting Dr. Julio Gonzalez.’ His campaign then released a short video with footage from a recent rally for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. As of August 13, the video is being promoted online by the Gonzalez campaign.”

Similar to the recent drama in the race for House District 62, Gonzalez may be violating state elections laws depending on the language and images he used. In the HD 62 case, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chastised School Board member Susan Valdes for using her picture in a campaign mailer that insinuated the congresswoman had endorsed Valdes, and went even further by alleging the act was a violation of Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

Team Steube is doing the same in regards to Gonzalez’ ad.

The statute reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

“This is the latest attempt to mislead the voters from a campaign that is desperately trying to revive itself,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “First, they tried to dismiss Gonzalez’s Never Trump past, and now they are trying to mislead voters about Governor Scott’s support. I think the voters will see past the deceit and will support Greg Steube’s positive, pro-Trump, conservative vision for Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins. The winner of the GOP nomination will go up against the Democratic nominee — either April Freeman or Bill Pollard — in the Nov. 6 general election, though the Republican candidate will be the odds on favorite come Election Day.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger with 62 percent of the vote and Trump earned the same share of the vote at the top of the ticket.

As campaign gets ugly, Philip Levine makes early vote push

Jacksonville was the fourth and final stop on Philip Levine‘s barnstorming tour of early voting locations Monday.

The tour happened as tensions have boiled over between Levine and another contender, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

Earlier on Monday, Levine’s campaign made cease and desist demands of television stations playing “false attacks” in a Greene ad charging the former Miami Beach Mayor with polluting Biscayne Bay.

Before that ad dropped, Levine and Greene had each charged the other one with being too close to President Donald Trump, never a good look in a Democratic primary.

As the two work to drive up each other’s negatives, polls show that U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham holds the advantage.

An internal poll released last week by Levine has him behind by 4 points. A Graham poll shows her up on Levine by 16 points. Greene was behind the top two in both cases.

Levine, greeted by a dozen supporters as storm clouds hovered over the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office, was not especially dismayed by the turn the campaign has taken.

“The bottom line is this,” Levine said. “I think the people deserve to know what someone’s track record is” in regards to Trump.

Levine estimated having been “on television … a hundred, two hundred times … during the 2016 election, warning America that this guy would be a terrible president.”

“I think that when someone pretends [he’s] fighting them while being at his country club by the ocean — we call it Kremlin-by-the-Sea — and passing the Grey Poupon across the table and thinks that’s fighting Donald Trump, the people have a right to know,” Levine added.

“You don’t want Donald Trump’s friend — you want who Donald Trump fears,” Levine said. “The people of Florida should understand who is who, and that’s why we’re doing it.”

We noted that the back and forth between Greene and Levine seemed to be driving up each candidate’s negatives while leaving Graham largely untouched; Levine disputed this interpretation.

“I’m not so sure she’s escaping the fire,” Levine said, noting that Greene has been messaging heavily against Graham on television in recent weeks. “He’s been going after her nonstop … completely.”

Marco Rubio looks for his place in Trump’s Republican Party

After flaming out in the GOP presidential primary — and enduring rival Donald Trump’s taunts along the way — Sen. Marco Rubio is entering his next act in politics.

The once-rising star used to be criticized for being in too much of a hurry, but now he’s hunkered down in the Senate with nothing, it seems, but time.

Rubio passes his days buried in the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is a leading advocate of bolstering election security and slapping sanctions on Russians if they interfere again in 2018. In the hallways of the Capitol, he brushes past reporters looking for reaction to the news of the day, focusing instead on legislative proposals or policy speeches on the Senate floor. And back in Florida, he’s involved in long-running disputes over the Everglades and toxic algae blooms.

But one thing Rubio isn’t doing, he says, is gearing up for a White House run in 2020.

“I’m not primarying the president, and no one else should either unless we want to lose the White House,” Rubio told The Associated Press. “I’m kind of approaching every day as if the U.S. Senate is the last place I’ll ever serve in public office and trying to make that meaningful.”

Like the other Capitol Hill also-rans against Trump — Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — Rubio is finding his way in the Trump-era Republican Party, testing whether there is room for his own brand of conservatism.

He says he keeps in contact with Trump, talking to him on the phone two to three times a month, including last week. But he is continuing to reshape his own political identity, separate from the president, and isn’t ruling out another White House run somewhere down the line.

“I still peek around the corner every now and then, but by and large I try to be more and more focused on what’s in front of us,” Rubio said.

He added that he remains “impatient,” but “like anyone who is alive, and is watching, listening and trying to learn, time teaches you things.”

After he ended his 2016 presidential campaign, Rubio appeared to be on his way out of Washington. He had pledged not to run for re-election, but colleagues pressed him to reconsider.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told the AP he was among the first Republicans to nudge Rubio to seek re-election to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his own pitch as Republicans fought to keep the Senate majority. Eventually Rubio agreed.

Since then, people who have observed Rubio during his career see a more mindful, even liberated, politician who no longer carries the weight of being “The Republican Savior,” as Time magazine once called the charismatic young son of immigrants. Instead, the 47-year-old is keeping his head down and doing the grunt work of governing, answering head-on the criticism that he was more flash than substance as a candidate.

“He seems to have found his place,” said longtime ally Nick Iarossi, a Florida-based GOP lobbyist and fundraiser.

On several fronts this year, Rubio has started taking his shots to “modernize” the GOP agenda for the 21st century, as he puts it, with an emphasis on countering China abroad and helping working families at home.

In the spring, Rubio helped lead an effort to rein in the Chinese telecom giant ZTE for violating U.S. trade rules over selling goods to Iran and North Korea. He sought to impose stiffer penalties than the Trump administration wanted. The Senate approved the bipartisan effort, but Rubio ultimately lost that battle with the White House, as the legislative provision was abandoned.

Earlier this month, Rubio unveiled a family leave plan, after having successfully worked with Ivanka Trump to expand child tax credits in the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. The paid leave plan would allow young parents to take their Social Security funds early, to help pay for time off with children, rather than in retirement. Both ideas had been part of his presidential bid.

“His distance from the middle of the political firestorm,” said Rubio’s former campaign manager and top adviser Terry Sullivan, “has allowed him the space to practice his style of politics.”

But mention of Rubio still draws a collective eye roll from some critics who see just another survival strategy after the brutal presidential campaign. He’s doing what Rubio often does, they say, which is trying to chart a middle ground that often pleases no one.

Jesse Ferguson, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, said the idea that Rubio is emerging as some independent Republican voice “is indicative of the way Trump has turned Congress into a bunch of yes-men.”

“In the GOP today, showing independence from Trump is like being awarded valedictorian at summer school,” he said. “The bar is so low that any Republican that doesn’t salute, praise or genuflect any time he walks in the room is suddenly seen as a thoughtful, independent-minded leader.”

It’s also not clear that there’s space for Rubio’s brand of conservatism in the GOP’s Trump tent.

Despite his roots as a tea-party-backed candidate in 2010, Rubio always played better to suburban voters — the Starbucks moms and dads whose households look a lot like his, with kids, mortgages and college costs in the distance. It’s those same voters who are at risk of fleeing the GOP in the Trump era.

Jenny Beth Martin, of the Tea Party Patriots, surveyed several hundred members at the start of this year and found a mixed response to Rubio.

“It really went the whole spectrum from excellent to ho-hum to disappointing,” she said. “They just cannot figure out exactly what issues are driving him the most and how they align with the tea party values or President Trump’s agenda.”

Rubio, for his part, tweets Bible verses many mornings, which some see as an antidote to Twitter’s usual rants, and he is perhaps the only rank-and-file lawmaker to be guarded by a security detail after it was reported there was a possible threat on his life.

He expects the nation’s political pendulum to swing back his way eventually. Americans will one day grow exhausted of the current “outrage cycle and the constant fighting,” he says.

Or so he hopes.

“Because if it doesn’t, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

Material republished with permission from The Associated Press.

Ron DeSantis adds another $1M as Adam Putnam’s money machine slows to a crawl

Congressman Ron DeSantis has held an edge in the polls for weeks, but now he’s started eating into Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s fundraising lead, too.

DeSantis, whose chances surged after an endorsement from President Donald Trump, brought in more than $1 million between July 28 and Aug. 3. Putnam, meanwhile, brought in $191,901.

DeSantis’ cash mostly came in through his committee account this time around, with his campaign receiving $399,031 and Friends of Ron DeSantis adding $635,100.

By far the largest check he cashed was a $300,000 payment from Conservative Principles for Florida, the main fundraising vehicle for incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Showing up with $50,000 checks were Save Our Everglades PC, a newish committee chaired by Mary Barley of The Everglades Trust, and Miami-based Duty Free Group.

Included further down was a $20,000 check from The Presidential Coalition, an affiliate of Citizens United that says its mission includes “seizing upon the momentum of President Trump’s historic victory to build a ‘farm team’ of up and coming candidates who share our vision for America as a ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

On the campaign side, DeSantis received $183,005 in state matching funds alongside more than 40 checks for the maximum campaign donation of $3,000.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

Also on the report were hundreds of small-dollar donations. Of the 1,357 campaign contributions he received, more than 1,200 were for $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds check, DeSantis’ average campaign donor chipped in $159.19.

Spending for the week was a few bucks shy of $3 million, with $2.93 million paying for media buys and the remainder paying for a list of expenses including credit card processing fees, printing, catering, direct mail and fundraising consulting from Picotte & Porter, the Jacksonville-based shop run by Gretchen Picotte and Rick Porter.

In all, DeSantis has raised $16 million for his gubernatorial bid and had $2.24 million in the bank on Aug. 3.

Putnam’s comparatively anemic campaign haul included an $81,170 matching funds disbursement, nine max checks and just over 300 contributions overall. His political committee, Florida Grown PC, added another $54,520, with a $15,000 check from The Florida Justice Reform Committee leading the way. Also on the report were $10,000 checks from Winter Park land development company Keewin, Vestcor Companies Chairman and former Ambassador John Rood as well as Heartland Dental Care founder Richard E. Workman.

Both the campaign and committee reports are tiny compared to the numbers Putnam has pulled down throughout most of his campaign. The last time Florida Grown raised less than $54,250 was the week before Election Day 2016, when Putnam was not on the ballot. The last time Putnam’s campaign account reeled in less than $56,212 — it’s total excluding the matching funds — is never.

Despite the meager week, spending totaled $2.67 million and included $2.13 million in ad buys and another $518,000 in direct mail campaigns.

As of Aug. 3, the second-term Agriculture Commissioner had raised $37 million between the two accounts and had $4.8 million in the bank.

DeSantis and Putnam are a little over two weeks away from the Aug. 28 primary election, when Republicans will decide which man will represent the party on the November ballot.

Gwen Graham adds $1.5M as Philip Levine, Jeff Greene pour more cash into Gov. campaigns

Gwen Graham’s campaign for Governor added nearly $1.5 million to its coffers last week as Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine continued juicing their campaign accounts with seven-figure checks from their own fortunes.

Though the haul is Graham’s largest yet, it mainly came in through a pair of state matching funds checks — one check for $991,598 on July 28, and another for $103,970 on Aug. 3, the final day of the reporting period.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

The campaign tacked on another $167,500 or so from donors. While seven max checks — $3,000 for statewide races — topped the list of individual supporters, her campaign added hundreds more contributions.

Overall, Graham received a whopping 1,900 contributions from individuals and a well over 1,700 of them measured in at $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds, the average campaign contribution for the week was about $88.

The campaign haul was accompanied by another $218,150 raised for her affiliated political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida. Graham’s cousin, Stephen Graham of New York City, topped the committee report with a $50,000 check alongside Anne Pajcic of the prominent family of Duval Democratic boosters that includes former Rep. Steve Pacjic.

Checking in at the $25,000 level were Pompano Beach retiree Michael Cohen and Hugh Culverhouse Jr., the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse Sr., who died in 1994.

The Democratic Services Network, the Florida Institute for Politics and NARAL Pro-Choice America also cut five-figure checks, with most of the rest of the committee haul coming in from individuals who have already maxed out on the campaign side.

In all, Graham’s two accounts shelled out $1.57 million for the week, with $1.41 million of that heading to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media for an ad buy, and another $141,501 paying for media production services from Washington-based Dixon/Davis Media Group and Virginia-based Deliver Strategies.

With the books closed at midnight on Aug. 3, Graham’s overall fundraising had had passed the $12 million mark and she had about $1.35 million banked between her two accounts.

Graham’s on hand total tops the primary field, as does her fundraising total if loans are excluded. Including them, however, puts her in third behind Levine and Greene.

Greene anted up another $4.35 million for the week, and spent another $4.6 million, and in keeping with the strategy he’s employed thus far, the campaign account served merely as a pass through for checks to media buying agencies.

Between July 28 and Aug. 3, California-based Fortune Media picked up $3.2 million in checks from Team Greene, while Washington’s The Incite Agency received $526,668 and Coral Gables-based Adkins & Associates received $78,925.

In addition to media buys, the campaign spent more than $550,000 on “communications services” — $319,000 for Washington’s Winning Connections, $227,446 for Nashville’s Counterpoint Messaging and $10,000 for Gainesville’s Everblue Communications.

Various consulting contracts and travel expenses ate away the rest of the funds.

Greene has now pumped $22.45 million into his campaign account and has brought in just $2,315 from donors. He finished the reporting period with just shy of $20,000 in his campaign account.

Levine, meanwhile, bolstered his $72,843 in outside fundraising with a $1.37 million loan, for an overall haul of $1.45 million for the week. Like his opponents, his nearly $1.5 million spending during this leg of the sprint outweighed his income and mainly went toward media buys.

The $10,343 in outside cash raised by the campaign came in from about 150 or so small-dollar donors who gave an average of $67.12 apiece. The bulk of the committee’s 62,500.00 haul came in through a $50,000 check from Cuban-born Miami businessman Paul Cejas, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton Administration.

Levine’s TV spending rang up at $1.37 million for the week, while another $38,000 in advertising dollars were directed to various online publications $4,215 was spent boosting Levine’s tweets. The rest of the outflow mainly went toward bills to keep the lights on and the doors open at the campaign’s many field office throughout the state.

Overall, Levine has raised $25.19 million between his campaign and All About Florida political committee, including about $16.4 million in candidate loans and candidate contributions. He had about $400,000 in the bank between his two accounts on Aug. 3.

Graham, Greene and Levine are the top three Democratic candidates in most polls of the race, though recent measures have shown Graham rocketing into first place as Greene and Levine have tussled over past comments on President Donald Trump — both of them were more gracious in than glowing when they made their comments, which simply wished the president luck and success for the good of the country.

Greene has additionally come out hard against both his top-tier rivals by releasing attack ads bashing their environmental records. The Levine attack says human waste was dumped into Biscayne Bay; the Graham attack says American Dream Miami megamall being developed on land partly owned by the Graham Companies will damage the Everglades.

Coming in fourth in most polls of the five-way race is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who raised $409,419 between his campaign and Forward Florida political committee last week.

Three-quarters of that cash came in from a pair of checks from some nationally familiar names. NextGen Climate America, the advocacy group headed up by billionaire Tom Steyer, chipped in $250,000, while Jonathan Soros, the son of business magnate George Soros, gave $50,000.

Gillum’s campaign account brought in another $100,900 from 1,370 donors who gave an average of $74.42 apiece. Spending for the week nearly hit $1 million, including $888,000 in advertising spending and along with a host of charges for campaign travel.

Since entering the race early last year, Gillum has raised $5.2 million with $817,515 on hand on Aug. 3.

Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King rounded out the pack with a report that shows signs of a slowing campaign. The week brought him just over $10,000 in new money while $109,238 went out the door. The measly numbers come after he pumped another $2 million into his campaign during the first half of July.

including $4 million in candidate loans, King has now raised $8 million between his campaign and committee, Rise and Lead, Florida. He had $779,865 at the ready on Aug. 3.

The five Democratic hopefuls are only about two weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary election, when four of their campaigns will end and the winner among them will head on to face either U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on the November ballot.

Jeff Greene, Philip Levine spar over who is too cuddly with Donald Trump

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jeff Greene and Philip Levine exchanged blows over the airwaves with attacks challenging, among other things, friendly remarks both men have made about President Donald Trump.

Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, pushed back on accusations by Levine that he’s too comfy with Trump. Instead he released a new ad suggesting the Miami Beach mayor was the one kissing up to the unpopular president.

Greene’s campaign on Saturday started playing statewide the included video of the remarks that repeatedly used a clip of Levine from a Fox News Radio interview in mid-2017, six months into the Trump administration. “So far the President has done a very good job,” Levine is seen saying again and again, as a narrator notes unpopular moments of Trump’s presidency.

For the record, Levine’s camp says that isolated quote is taken out of context, and that Levine only said the president had done well during a particular trip to Warsaw.

The Greene attack came the same day a new statewide television ad from the Greene campaign attacked Levine for “turning Biscayne Bay into a cesspool” with the city sewer system.

But folks in Levine camp were quick to note some of the footage used in the ad actually showed sewage systems in other countries, not Biscayne Bay.

Levine fired back pinging Greene for a tightness to Trump and for profiting off the housing bust, and responding to the new ads with footage of the one-time Mar-A-Lago member praising Trump the day after the election. “I know Donald Trump. He’s a great guy,” Greene said in an interview on Fox Business.

Greene previously said his comments on Fox Business were in the same spirit as calls for unity after the election made by former President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Levine in an ad pushing back on Greene today defended his environmental record as mayor of Miami Beach. “We took on sea level rise like no other city in the world,” Levine says in the ad, “and we’ve been honored like no other city in the world.”

Incidentally, the back-and-forth between Levine and Green comes as the men seemingly fight for second place in the Democratic primary for governor.

Even an internal poll released this week by the Levine campaign shows him trailing former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham by four points. But the day that poll came out, Graham released a poll showing her beating Levine by 16 points. Greene came in third place in a five-man field in both instances.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Charter chalks a win

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Charter chalks a win

The Leon County School District suffered a bruising defeat this week when an appeal panel unanimously recommended the state overturn the county’s decision to block a new charter school from setting up shop in the county.

The Charter School Appeal Commission, composed evenly of traditional public and charter school representatives, recommended the State Board of Education reject the county board’s previous denial of Tallahassee Classical School. The proposed charter now has the green light to operate.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna faced a ‘bruising defeat’ over a new charter school. (Image via Tallahassee Democrat)

The School Board blocked the proposed charter earlier this year, fearing the school would further exacerbate the issue of segregated student populations in the county.

But the appellate panel found that the district did not provide enough substantial evidence to turn down Tallahassee Classical.

The county initially argued the proposed charter’s plans for student recruitment — particularly for enrolling students with disabilities and getting a student body representative of the district’s demographics — along with its tentative transportation plan were not suitable.

But the panel unanimously agreed that each concern raised by the county was not well-founded, essentially determining the school board’s concerns were baseless. Tallahassee Classical has contended that the board blocked the school for political reasons.

In a brief interview after the hearing, Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna told Florida Politics the district’s initial rejection of Tallahassee Classical likely raised awareness of the issue of segregation, if nothing else.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t fighting for traditional public schools, and I always will,” Hanna said. Adding that if — or when — the school begins operating in the county, he said the district will “welcome (it) into our community.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

State seeks to substantiate ‘hacking’ claim — After Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters this week that Russian operatives have “penetrated” election systems in Florida, Secretary of State Ken Detzner penned a letter to Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, requesting knowledge of the alleged hackings. Nelson, when speaking with a Tampa Bay Times reporter, said his knowledge of the hacks stemmed from the committee. In the letter, Detzner wrote that the state has no current information supporting Nelson’s claim. Counties this week finalized submissions requesting federal election security grants to beef up election systems. The awards were approved by the state Joint Legislative Budget Commission and Gov. Rick Scott in July.

Judge strikes parts of pot law — A Tallahassee judge ruled this week that major provisions in a 2017 law implementing medical marijuana are unconstitutional. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson struck the law’s following requirements: Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers grow, process and sell own marijuana; limits on the number of marijuana providers that can be licensed by the state; and special categories of licenses. The challenge, raised by Florigrown, a company that was denied the chance to become a treatment center, sought a request for a temporary injunction, although that was denied. “The denial of the request for a temporary injunction will allow the department to continue to work to implement the law so Floridians can have safe access to this medicine,” said Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton. State Sen. Rob Bradley, the budget chief and chief architect of the law, said, “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

Supreme Court to weigh dog racing ban — The Supreme Court unanimously agreed to consider whether a proposed amendment to end greyhound racing can appear on the ballot in November. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys opposing the ban, argues the proposal, known as Amendment 13, should be kept off the ballot because it would be misleading to voters. In July, a Tallahassee judge sided with the attorneys. The state appealed the lower court ruling last week, and both parties requested an appellate court allow the case to ‘pass through’ to Supreme Court consideration, noting that time was of the essence: Mail-in ballots must, by law, be sent to voters by Sept. 22. An appellate court agreed this week to allow the Supreme Court to take up the case, and the high court accepted it a day later. Justices have scheduled arguments for Aug. 29.

Early voting ballots mount — Just more than half a million Floridians already have voted ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election, and Republicans appear to be leading the pack. Of the 510,155 ballots returned by Friday morning, 238,051 came from registered Republicans, with Democrats returning 198,631, according to data published by the state Division of Elections. Independent voters returned 71,507 as of the same date and voters belonging to other parties sent back 1,966 ballots. In total, 925,192 have been mailed out to Democrats, 836,223 to Republicans, 446,124 to independents and 9,965 to third-party voters.

‘Stand Your Ground’ session fails — A Democratic push to reconvene the Legislature to workshop Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law fell short this week after not gaining enough support between members of the state House and Senate. The call for a special session was sparked by the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a Clearwater convenience store. Pinellas County law enforcement did not pursue charges against the shooter, saying he acted within the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Democratic members called for lawmakers to be polled on whether they should return to Tallahassee to revisit the controversial law. Although lawmakers had until noon Friday to vote on the special session, it became clear that the three-fifths support threshold could not be met Thursday. Republicans overwhelmingly opted not to return to the capital city. Between the state House and Senate, 77 members voted against the idea, with 48 voting in support. Thirty-one members did not respond to the poll, nor confirm receipt, according to data recorded by the Florida Department of State.

Scott tours algae-plagued area; offers more aid

Gov. Scott toured the St. Lucie River Friday, following-up immediately afterward by announcing an additional $700,000 is coming to help Martin County handle an ongoing toxic algae outbreak.

According to the Governor’s office, that money is coming from a $3 million grant approved after he declared a state emergency over the algae crisis in July.

On the water: Senate President Joe Negron (at left) joined Gov. Rick Scott on the St. Lucie River to see the algae outbreak caused by Lake Okeechobee water releases by the feds.

Scott was joined on his tour by retiring state Senate President Joe Negron, of Stuart. Last month, the Governor toured the algae-affected Caloosahatchee River on the west coast of the state.

Earlier this week, Scott announced an additional $400,000 would be heading to Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide, for $1.1 million in grant funding.

“I am using my executive authority to provide additional funding to allow communities in Lee County to better clean our waterways,” Scott said in announcing the money for Lee. “We will continue to implement real solutions to help our local communities deal with both the algal issues caused by federal water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and this year’s red tide bloom. I encourage more local governments to apply for this important funding.”

New state land honors veterans

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expressing the state’s gratitude toward wounded vets with a large chunk of state land that will bear the name “Purple Heart Tract.”

Putnam made the announcement Tuesday, which was National Purple Heart Day. The tract is a 4,500-acre portion of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.

“As Americans, the brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces have secured our freedom and liberty,” Putnam said.

The Florida chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) hosted its 3rd Annual Purple Heart Day Banquet this week in the historic Fort Harrison.

“More than 1.9 million service members have been wounded or died defending our country, and this Purple Heart Tract is one way we can appreciate our nation’s heroes and honor them in perpetuity.”

The tract is designated as part of the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s trail program. Established in 1992, the program seeks to honor award recipients with transportation routes and monuments.

The news accompanied Putnam’s hosting of the second-annual Operation Outdoor Freedom Purple Heart Day event at Camp Prairie. The camp provides “guided hunts, fishing trips, canoe tours and other outdoor recreational activities free of charge.”

Scam targets Florida Blue customers

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is warning Floridians of a current telemarketing scam that appears to be disproportionately targeting seniors covered under Florida Blue.

According to a news release, Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers nationally have filed several complaints about scammers peddling “experimental pain relief cream” instead of pain medication.

The callers are allegedly prompting consumers to hand over information about their identity. In some cases, the scammers also are attempting to fraudulently charge Blue Cross and Blue Shield for their “bogus” creams, according to Patronis’ office.

“Florida residents are most likely to report being the target of fraud and identity theft,” Patronis said in a statement. “Anyone that provides prescription medication to you without a medical doctor directly involved in your personal care is committing fraud.

“Preying on seniors and some of our most vulnerable population is shameful, and we must do everything possible to warn Floridians about this scam.”

Instagram of the Week

FAU students who lost the opportunity to walk on stage and collect a diploma when a “credible threat” caused Tuesday’s ceremony to be canceled took part in special commencement ceremony at FAU’s Kenneth R. Williams Administration Building Thursday afternoon, August 9, 2018. They included: 1) 81-year-old Nicoletta Sorice, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Linguistics. “Nicoletta has inspired her fellow Owls with her passion for learning and her enthusiasm for life,” FAU President John Kelly said. 2) Natasha Taimkij, 26, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. “You can tell they really care about their students,” she said of FAU officials. 3) Ripu Kunwar, who is seen posing for a photo making the “owl eyes” sign with FAU President John Kelly. Kunwar earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geosciences. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post) #bocaraton #palmbeachcounty #fau #graduation #graduate #diploma

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Amendment 8 heading to court

The state Constitution Revision Commission this spring decided to put a proposal on the November ballot that would impose eight-year term limits on school-board members and would require the Legislature to take steps to better promote civic literacy in schools.

Sounds simple enough.

But next week, Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper will hear arguments about whether he should block the proposal, known as Amendment 8, from going on the ballot because of a dispute about another part of the measure.

The League of Women Voters of Florida filed a lawsuit seeking to block Amendment 8. The group contends ballot language doesn’t adequately inform voters that one part of the proposed constitutional amendment is designed to open the door to more charter schools in the state.

Erika Donalds is defending Amendment 8, which is headed to Circuit Court.

The growth of charter schools, which are public schools typically operated by private groups or companies, has spawned numerous political and legal battles in recent years.

But Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds, a Collier County school board member, defended the proposal during a debate in April. She said the revision would allow the Legislature to offer more educational choices, such as charter schools, to students and their families.

“The Legislature should not be encumbered by unfair and antiquated constitutional language that has been used to block parental choice and protect the education monopoly,” she said.

Cooper is scheduled to hear arguments on Friday.

School lunch guidelines announced

Income eligibility standards for free and discounted school lunches for the upcoming school year have been released.

Announced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this week, the federal income guidelines apply to the entire country and are valid until June 30, 2019.

The matrix is ordered by income and household size. For example, to be eligible for reduced-price school meals, a household of four could not have a yearly income of more than $46,435. For free meals, the same size household’s income cannot exceed $32,630.

According to FDACS, each school should have a copy available to go over with interested parties. The guidelines also can be found here.

State encourages Floridians to review coverage — before it’s too late

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and CFO Patronis are reminding citizens to double-check their insurance policies as the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season approaches.

Jimmy Patronis wants your family to be secure; check your hurricane insurance policy, now.

“We are almost 30 days from the one-year mark since Irma, and this should serve as a reminder that flood policies typically take 30 days to take effect,” Patronis said. “Now is the time to review your current insurance policy and get flood insurance if you don’t have it.

“Remember, flooding isn’t just a coastal concern but a statewide issue.”

Patronis has been working with OIR to expand private flood insurance. Between June 2017 and March, eligible private flood insurance providers in Florida increased from 20 to 26, a 30 percent jump from the previous reporting period, according to OIR.

Saying “complacency is not an option,” Altmaier advised: “Floridians must review their insurance policies, understand their coverages, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they are adequately covered.”

State recognizes Main Street Bartow

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced this week that Main Street Bartow in Polk County is the August 2018 Florida Main Street Community of the Month.

The Florida Main Street Program, administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, encourages economic development via historic preservation initiatives that facilitate the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns.

Communities that participate in the program are eligible to receive the designation, which recognizes development achievements.

“Main Street Bartow is an exemplary program,” said Secretary Detzner. “With one of the longest standing Main Street programs in Florida, downtown Bartow continues to thrive with constant growth, investment and additional businesses moving to the area.”

“There is a lot happening in our downtown,” said Bartow Main Street Executive Director Linda Holcomb. “More new businesses have moved in recently, and several are in the process. We have also seen an increase in attendance at our downtown events.”

Old Polk County Courthouse, Bartow. (Photo via the Florida Department of State.

Teacher rally set for next Sunday

As K-12 educators across the state gear up for incoming students, two South Florida lawmakers will host them and interested parties at the Red for Education Teacher Rally Aug. 19, the Sunday before the first day of the 2018-2019 school year in Miami-Dade County.

Announced in June by Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, and Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran, the rally is set to take place at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center in Miami Gardens.

Guest speaker: Broward County Public School Superintendent Robert Runcie.

A number of politicians are expected to attend, including all five Democratic candidates for governor: Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Andrew Gillum, Chris King and Philip Levine.

In announcing the event in June, Rep. Duran said: “In our fight to improve Florida’s education system, it is essential that we provide a venue where teachers, students, parents, and the rest of the community can gather together to request better efforts to ensure our public schools are equipped with the adequate resources to provide high-quality education for all our children.” \

“Our schools are being starved out by these poorly thought out mandates and dangerous funding levels,” said Rep. Jones. “We will not continue to tolerate this blatant disregard for the growing needs of Florida’s schools.”

Howard to lead FMA

The Florida Medical Association has installed Dr. Corey L. Howard as its 142nd president.

Howard, the founder of Howard Health & Wellness in Naples, has been active in leadership at FMA since 2007. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

New FMA President Dr. Corey Howard.

“We congratulate Dr. Howard as he takes the helm as President of the Florida Medical Association,” said FMA CEO Timothy J. Stapleton. “His strong leadership and demonstrated advocacy for our physicians, patients and issues will further strengthen the FMA as Florida’s premier voice of medicine.”

FMA, which acts as the advocacy arm for physicians and medical professionals in the Sunshine State, boasts “more than 22,000 members on issues of legislation and regulatory affairs, medical economics and education, public health, and ethical and legal issues,” according to its website.

Howard officially assumed the presidential post last week during FMA’s annual meeting at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Dr. Ronald F. Giffler is president-elect and will assume Howard’s position next year.

Reminder: Crab trap closures underway

The first of two scheduled 10-day blue crab trap closures in August began Friday.

That means recreational and commercial blue crab traps should be removed from specified state waters along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, those waters include “Brevard through Palm Beach counties from Aug. 10-19, and from all state waters from the Georgia-Florida line through Volusia County Aug. 20-29.”

Closed: The first 10-day Florida crab trap closure begins this week.

The St. Johns River system waters are excluded in both of these closures.

FWC conducts these closures to “identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water,” according to the agency. Closure lengths are subject to change.

Lost or abandoned crab traps are dangerous to underwater ecosystems because they can continue to trap — and kill — fish and crabs when gone unchecked. They can also damage habitats and interfere with boating traffic. While the closures are ongoing, fisherman can still collect crabs “with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps,” according to FWC.

FSU Student Bar wins top award

For the seventh time since 2008 and the second consecutive year, the Florida State University College of Law Student Bar Association (SBA) received the National Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Law Student Division.

The award, honoring the best SBA in the nation, is also known as the SBA of the Year Award and was presented at the ABA annual meeting in Chicago.

From left: incoming SBA President Cecilia Orozco, 3L Representative Brandon Sapala, Vice President Hillary Thornton.

“It recognizes the efforts of an SBA organization to create a better environment for law students and a more positive image of the legal profession,” a news release said. “Top law schools from around the nation competed for the award.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, SBA’s programming included a Mental Health Week, a Diversity Week and a panel discussion on alcohol awareness to provide information on resources available to law students and lawyers.

Students were also able to network with attorneys and judges and to give back to the community through SBA events, such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, raising more than $1,600 to benefit the American Cancer Society.

“We are thrilled that the work of our Student Bar Association has again been recognized at the national level,” said Dean Erin O’Connor.

Social media campaign honors lineworkers

To celebrate Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day (Aug. 26), the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) and Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) will recognize lineworkers from around the state this month in a new social media campaign called “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes.”

Photos and biographical information about lineworkers from Florida’s 34 public power communities will be featured on both organizations’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day goes social.

Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the campaign by sharing the “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes” graphics, creating their own social media posts about their experiences with lineworkers and using the hashtags #ThankALineman, #LineLife and #LineworkerAppreciationDay.

“Lineworkers are the front lines of reliability,” said Jacob Williams, FMPA General Manager and CEO. “The work they do requires incredible skill, focus and commitment to safety. We created this campaign to show how much we appreciate the work they do.”

Public power lineworkers not only serve their own communities but have volunteered to serve others across the state and country.

“Hurricane Maria was incredibly destructive, leaving Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands almost completely without power for months,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director.

“Our lineworkers immediately answered the call for help, traveling to the Caribbean to assist, many of whom stayed for months at a time and were away from their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s this kind of selflessness and sense of duty that our lineworkers exhibit every day on the job.”

Call before you dig

Happy National 811 Day! On Aug. 11, regulators at the Florida Public Service Commission are reminding everyone to call 8-1-1 before digging any holes in the ground, to avoid damaging buried power or gas lines.

Remember, call before you dig!

More than 20 million miles of utility lines are buried underground nationally, and digs can cause damage practically everywhere, ranging from backyards to major construction sites, PSC Chairman Art Graham warned.

In fact, it happens every six minutes.

“Calling 811 has the potential to reduce frustrating service outages while saving time, money, and, most importantly, lives,” Graham said. “No matter how large or small the project, we urge you to call 8-1-1 first.”

Solar company wins PSC’s OK

A second solar energy company has won Public Service Commission approval to offer equipment leases to customers in Florida.

The commission concluded that Vivint Solar Developer LLC’s 20-year, fixed-payment, residential solar equipment lease does not constitute not a retail sale of electricity.

In other words, the company doesn’t qualify as a public utility, subject to PSC oversight.

Vivint Solar Developer is the second solar energy company to get approval from the PSC.

“As solar becomes more affordable and therefore more attractive to residential customers, the PSC supports ways to continue to ‘prime the pump’ for renewable energy adoption,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “This (decision) helps provide more residential solar options for Florida’s ratepayers.”

Sunrun Inc. secured a similar PSC clearance in April.

Some content this week provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

Capitol Directions

 

Jeff Greene launches new ads on wages, seniors

Seniors and the push for higher-wage jobs are the subjects of a pair of new ads from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene.

The first 30-second spot, “Fighting for Seniors,” highlights the Palm Beach billionaire’s commitment to protecting seniors from Republican efforts — specifically President Donald Trump — to privatize Social Security and Medicare, prevent insurers from providing care for those with pre-existing conditions, and to thwart Medicaid expansion.

In “Wages,” Greene pledges to transform the “low-wage, low-skill economy” created by current Gov. Rick Scott, into “higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs.” He also touts creating “thousands of jobs” through his real estate business and educating future works at this need-blind private school he founded in West Palm Beach.

Both ads come less than a day after all five major candidates in the Democratic field — Greene, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King — participated in a forum of one-on-one interviews in Jacksonville with News4Jax reporter Kent Justice, sponsored by WJXT and Jacksonville University.

Most recent polling is putting Green in third place, behind Graham and Levine. As reported earlier by Florida Politics, a survey commissioned by Levine’s campaign from Public Policy Polling puts Graham at 26 percent and Levine at 22 percent; Greene sits at 16 percent. The poll also gives Gillum 13 percent and King 4 percent, with only 19 percent of likely Democratic primary voters remaining undecided.

Greene is also facing heat after a five-year-old police report surfaced describing Greene smacking a waitress working at his Omphoy Beach Resort in West Palm Beach on the arm to get her attention. The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women is calling on him to “immediately drop out of the race.”

Jacksonville Bold for 8.10.18 — Contenders, pretenders

We’ve hit the stretch of the primary season; where the money is being spent, not raised.

Where ads are cut, and voters engaged.

And where candidates know if they are still in the game.

No one comes out and says “well, it looks over.”

But losing candidates seem different.

We saw it with Adam Putnam, who won a Potemkin straw poll Monday in Jacksonville, but clearly seemed to be losing the war, even ahead of Wednesday’s debate.

Adam Putnam wins a Jacksonville-area straw poll, but is it enough?

We see it with Alvin Brown, whose campaign — and political career — seem to have gone up in smoke.

The Democratic candidates for Governor — well, four of them will lose, despite all maintaining a brave face in Thursday’s forum.

Optimism of months ago? Gone.

Soon enough, the cycle begins anew, with the necessary polarities of the general election.

But for now, we see the endgame of what has become a very long primary season.

Nelson, DeSantis win St. Johns straw polls

More than 550 votes were cast in straw polls from the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections office during the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s “Politics in St. Johns” series of events.

Candidate meet-and-greet style events were in Ponte Vedra on July 16 and St. Augustine on August 1.

While the polls were informal, there was at least one interesting result: Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson took a 19-vote victory over Gov. Rick Scott for the U.S. Senate contest.

Ron DeSantis takes the lead in a St. Johns Chamber straw poll.

In the race for Governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis enjoys a 6-point lead, according to the straw poll, with 26 percent of the total vote. This result over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam more closely reflects the nine-point lead DeSantis enjoys in a statewide done held by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

The leading Democratic vote-getter — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — took 19 percent of the total vote, leading the next closest Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, who earned 13 percent.

Republican Congressman John Rutherford also led his Democratic rival, George “Ges” Selmont, by 40 votes. In Florida’s 6th Congressional District, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg took a significant lead over the field, besting the next highest vote-getter, Republican Michael Waltz, by nearly 40 votes (96-47).

The Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Renner in House District 24 race, Adam Morley, also scored a 10-vote victory.

Combined, the Chamber estimates nearly 1,000 people attended Politics in St. Johns events in 2018, the largest attendance since the Chamber launched the series in 2012.

“I am very pleased to see how this series has grown over the years; it means that people are becoming more engaged. We are proud to be able to provide a platform that will help St. Johns County residents make an informed voting decision,” Chamber President Isabelle Renault said.

Dullsville

Just hours after U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Brown threw elbows in a meeting with the Florida Times-Union editorial board, the two Democrats made their respective cases at a Jacksonville AME political forum.

Alvin Brown and Al Lawson seemed subdued Monday night.

The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on Stand Your Ground and ICE, and Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as Mayor.

After the two sat patiently through almost two hours of forums for school board and tax collector candidates, they finally got mic time (along with Republican Virginia Fuller, who is the party’s nominee by default) as the 9 p.m. hour approached.

Judging from the mailed-in performances, it may have been past all of their bedtimes. There was no new ground in answers. No new attacks. Just sedentary pantomimes of the kind of fiery oratory seen more often in these candidates’ news releases than their live deliveries.

Neither Brown nor Lawson was on his game. Brown had the gaffe of the night, however, saying he backed a “living wage — 15 cents an hour.”

He corrected himself.

“Fifteen DOLLARS an hour,” he amended.

Supplementary reading: Is Alvin Brown a hypocrite on charter schools?

CBC backs Lawson

On Tuesday, the majority of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Lawson ahead of the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against Brown.

Is Al Lawson in position to run out the clock? (Image via Roll Call)

“I am honored to have the endorsement of so many of my colleagues in the CBC,” Lawson said. “They understand, as I do, the importance of fighting against some of the unfair policies of this current administration, protecting affordable health care for all Americans, protecting voting rights, ensuring access to quality public education, and strengthening marginalized communities all across the nation.”

Alvin Brown, according to sources who saw him in D.C. last year, was making the rounds of CBC members with former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to solicit D.C. support. The en masse endorsement of Lawson suggests that strategy failed. Brown got one CBC endorsement, from Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.

Brown has pilloried Lawson as “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” painting him as out of step with the Democratic Party on some issues. The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on “Stand Your Ground and ICE, to Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as Mayor.

Lawson’s endorsements include prominent names, some with connections to Brown’s political past. One such: CBC chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond, is especially notable support given that Richmond campaigned for Alvin Brown in Jacksonville in 2015 when he lost his re-election bid for Mayor.

Still another endorsement for Lawson that must feel like a cruel cut: the backing of Brown’s former political mentor, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who Brown also namechecked during the Monday evening forum.

Bradley, Cummings back DeSantis

In a sign of the changing times in the Republican gubernatorial race, state Sen. Rob Bradley and state Rep. Travis Cummings endorsed U.S. Rep. DeSantis for Governor on Wednesday.

These endorsements, rolled out hours before DeSantis debated Putnam in Jacksonville, show the influential Clay County Republicans breaking with many Jacksonville elected officials and Republican activists, who fell in line behind Putnam when he seemed certain months back.

Count Rob Bradley on #TeamDeSantis.

“I’m proud to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida.” Sen. Bradley said in a statement. “Our state needs strong, dependable leadership and Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative who will make a great Governor. He’s an Iraq veteran with a solid conservative record and the support of our President.”

“He’s demonstrated a fierce commitment to principle in Congress, and he will bring the same values to Tallahassee. I look forward to working with him to strengthen our economy, improve our education system and bring accountability to our government,” Bradley, who serves as the Senate Appropriations chair, said Wednesday.

“Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative leader with a strong record of service to our country both in Congress and in the military.” asserted Cummings, who chairs Health and Human Services in the House.

The open question: Will other Jacksonville-area endorsements fall into line for DeSantis?

While many Jacksonville pols, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, and Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Aaron Bowman, have backed Putnam, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has — at least up until now — reserved an endorsement.

Bradley defends MMJ law

Despite a Tallahassee judge declaring significant parts of the state’s medical marijuana law unconstitutional, the law’s chief architect on Tuesday said he was confident the law would be affirmed.

No smoke, no problem, says Rob Bradley, who stands behind medical cannabis law on books.

“The trial court ruling injected unnecessary uncertainty into the emerging medical marijuana marketplace,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican. “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

In 2017, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure (SB 8-A) into law to implement the state’s medicinal cannabis constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters the year before. Bradley was the primary sponsor.

In recent months, however, judges have been chipping away at the law, beginning with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own marijuana.

In another case, Gievers struck down the law’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, saying that conflicts with the amendment. The state is appealing both of those rulings.

Bradley disagreed: “Medical marijuana is being grown, processed and sold in a safe, orderly fashion today in Florida,” he told Florida Politics.

“As more companies come online, and the Department (of Health) fully implements an integrated seed-to-sale system and a delay-free ID card system, the system will develop into a model for other states,” he added.

The department regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“Floridians rightfully expect to have access to safe, quality medical marijuana, and also expect that the product be regulated properly like any other medicine,” Bradley said. “SB 8-A accomplishes both goals.”

Senators’ green to keep Tallahassee red

Two influential Northeast Florida Senators, Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Regulated Industries Chair Travis Hutson, spent big in late July as part of an effort to maintain the Republican majority in the chamber.

Rob Bradley and Travis Hutson share hugs … and an interest in a GOP Senate majority.

On July 25, Bradley’s “Working for Florida’s Families” committee moved $150,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the vast majority of the committee’s spend in the week between July 21 and 27.

Defraying much of that spend was $70,000 worth of contributions from six groups, including the Florida Medical Association PAC and Florida Power & Light.

Bradley’s committee has nearly $800,000 on hand, suggesting flexibility for further support to the FRSCC or other friendly interests down the stretch.

Hutson’s First Coast Business Foundation committee also ponied up $50,000 on July 27.

Hutson’s two committees, FCBF and Sunshine State Conservatives, have between them $371,761. Hutson also has another $67,000 in his 2020 campaign account.

‘SYG’ Special Session?

Senate Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, submitted her petition to call the Legislature into special session to address problems with the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Audrey Gibson’s “SYG” gambit won’t fly in a GOP state capital.

“Today I signed a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner to poll members of the Legislature for a special session to amend or repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ provisions in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes,” Gibson asserted.

“I signed the letter because a little boy watched his father be shot, and then die, after defending his mother from an irate man. The current statute has enabled murderous behavior, subjective interpretation, and questionable application by a sheriff, allowing an individual to potentially exact another murder in the same fashion as he roams free,” Gibson added.

“This presents a public safety hazard and is counter to the protections that should be afforded to all Floridians. While the Governor has the power to act through a Declaration of a State of Emergency in matters of public safety, his silence on Markeis McGlockton’s murder is clear indication that he is ignoring public safety and will do nothing.”

Michael Drejka killed McGlockton July 19 after a dispute over a parking space at a convenience store in Pinellas County got physical.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Drejka’s response to the altercation conforms with his read of the “Stand Your Ground” statute: “I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t make the law. I enforce the law. Others can have the debate if it is right or not.”

Worst Democrat in Florida?

One of the smartest electoral analysts in the state, Democratic analyst Matthew Isbell, isn’t stoked about Rep. Kim Daniels winning her open Democratic primary this month against Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.

Matt Isbell may complain, but Kim Daniels looks well-positioned.

“On Aug. 28, voters will go to the polls in Florida to cast votes in the primary election. The gubernatorial primary and a slew of congressional primaries are dominating the news. In an era where a politician can lose a primary for either being ‘not conservative enough’ or ‘not liberal enough’ — despite no other scandals — it is a shame to see one Florida politician appearing to escape serious threat: Kim Daniels,” Isbell notes.

“The frustrating thing for folks like myself is that Kim Daniels appears set to win reelection despite years of controversy and unacceptable views. Daniels only got an opponent at the last minute, and the primary wasn’t closed, ensuring Republicans could play spoiler in a race between two Democrats,” Isbell adds.

“Meanwhile, as conservatives flood in to aid Daniels, liberal aid has been more modest. The race just does not appear to be on the radar of Florida’s left-wing interests. State Democrats do not like Daniels at all, yet little effort is being made behind the scenes to aid Wright. Wright is fighting an underfunded and uphill battle against an incumbent mired in scandal and controversy. Daniels may well win on Aug. 28, despite being the least deserving of reelection of any Democrat in the state,” Isbell notes.

Daniels has a fundraising edge and has been hard to beat in Northwest Jacksonville. In this case, she is positioned to end Paula Wright’s political career.

Freeman Friday

Jacksonville’s motion to intervene in a legal challenge filed last month to a City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott will be heard in a Duval County hearing room at 2 p.m. Friday.

Terrence Freeman is settling in, but the legal challenge continues.

Judge Waddell Wallace, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, will decide whether the city has legal standing regarding the case of Terrance Freeman, whose residency in District 10 is under challenge after the announcement of his appointment in July.

Filing the challenge is Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown,

Priestly-Jackson says Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The city contends it has leeway to determine residency and that the suit names Freeman as a defendant in his official capacity.

“However, the city contends the controlling law clearly establishes that City Councilmembers’ terms in office do not commence until they have sworn the required oath, among other things. As such, application of city laws, policies and procedures will be a critical component of this litigation,” the filing contends.

“While Plaintiff purports to bring her allegations against Councilmember Freeman in his individual capacity, by alleging that he assumed his mantle as an active member of the City Council immediately upon appointment, Plaintiff has actually sued Councilmember Freeman as an active, sitting member of the City Council in his official capacity,” the filing adds.

Wallace to JAXBIZ

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace is on the move: he will be president of the JAXUSA Partnership starting in October.

Aundra Wallace. (Image via Folio Weekly)

He will replace outgoing Jerry Mallot.

Wallace, observed Daily Record commentator David Cawton, has been involved in much of the downtown development action the last five years — a time that included a drastic change in the Mayor’s Office.

However, Wallace was impervious, working well with the Curry administration on priority projects — most recently, the District development, which donor Peter Rummell will have city incentives to help him get going on the Southbank.

Man in the mirror

In 1984, there was no more prominent pop icon in the world than Michael Jackson. With the songs from 1982’s Thriller still resonating on the charts, he and his brothers thought the time was right for a family Victory tour.

Michael Jackson’s philanthropy will finally be put to use in Jacksonville.

The tour came to Jacksonville: a three-night Gator Bowl stint in a metropolitan area much less populous than it is today, with $30 tickets a measure of what a hot gig it was.

The concert was out of Jacksonville’s league, but proving that some things never change, the city spent $275,000 to make the gig happen.

That era is long gone now. The King of Pop has passed on. In a strange twist of fate, a small piece of his legacy will remain, to impact Jacksonville youth with musical aptitude.

Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa says Jackson “gifted the city $100,000 for music scholarships to deserving Duval County students seriously interested in and actively pursuing the study of music. The funds were placed in a City of Jacksonville Trust Fund; however, only the interest earnings therefrom may be spent on scholarships.”

“To the best of my knowledge and research,” Mousa asserted in an email last week, “no scholarships have been provided from the trust fund.”

The fund has earned $73,600 in interest, Mousa said. And while the $173,600 must remain in the fund, the city can use an anticipated $5,500 of projected interest this next fiscal year for scholarships, administered via the Kids Hope Alliance, Mayor Lenny Curry‘s reformed structure for children’s programs that budget at $41 million this year.

Airbnb follies

Unlike the majority of Florida counties, the city of Jacksonville can’t figure out what to do about Airbnb taxes. A recent audit suggests missed opportunities, with Duval County losing out on $366,000 in taxes due to an inability to match municipal code with reality.

The losses, a recent audit showed, are substantial: “$366,000 in Tourist Development and Convention Development Taxes just from Airbnb in the calendar year 2017 alone.”

Additionally, there are other companies like Airbnb so that collections could be more.

The problem: Single-family homes, per the city’s zoning code, do not permit what one city councilor called “transient” housing.

However, finding a solution won’t be so easy, Mousa said, noting that the arrangement is fundamentally illegal in Jacksonville.

Mousa is “reluctant to chase tourist development taxes” of “rentals in violation of ordinance code.”

To “chase the tax,” Mousa noted, is to “validate their existence … like going to the corner to the guy selling marijuana and asking where’s my sales tax.”

Mousa did not elaborate on where such corners may be.

However, other counties have figured it out. A misconception expressed in Council committees was that Airbnb would be averse to audits and the collection of back taxes. However, other counties have negotiated such deals, and it’s a mystery why Jacksonville can’t figure it out.

Expect movement on this issue in the coming months from Council President Aaron Bowman. For now, however, the city is left out of revenue collection, much as is the case with vehicles for hire — another gap in the code that has been unaddressed for years.

Too late

A state appeals court has blocked a Clay County judicial candidate from appearing on the ballot because she filed her paperwork too late.

“We recognize that the public policy of Florida generally favors letting the people decide the ultimate qualifications of candidates,” the 1st District Court of Appeal concluded Wednesday, in an opinion by Judge Kent Wetherell II. Judges Ross Bilberry and Kimberly Thomas concurred.

“However, absent special circumstances, public policy considerations cannot override the clear and unambiguous statutory requirement that all of the candidate’s qualifying paperwork must be received by the filing officer by the end of the qualifying period.”

The court upheld a ruling by a trial judge from the 7th Judicial Circuit, who heard the case because it originated in a motion filed by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley.

According to the court record, Lucy Ann Hoover arrived at the county supervisor of elections office at 11:55 a.m. on May 4, just shy of the noon deadline. She filed her qualifying check at 11:57, but her candidate oath at 12:01 and her financial disclosure form at 12:12. The office accepted the late documents, and certified Hoover as a candidate, under a policy of requiring only that prospective candidates be physically present and filling out their paperwork before the deadline falls.

Mobley is a Rick Scott appointee. Joe Mobley, her husband, is a member of the Fiorentino Group.

Downtown Jax plans $63M ‘innovation corridor’

Plans are emerging for a multimillion-dollar high-tech corridor to run through downtown via Bay Street, connecting Jacksonville’s budding transportation center to TIAA Bank Field. The Jacksonville Business Journal reported that a bid for federal grant funding by city agencies include a $62.9 million plan for an “innovation corridor” — with 15 autonomous shuttles deployed between the Skyway infrastructure to surface streets, as well as an array of sensors that could detect gunshots, flooding and more. The corridor would also provide an incubator for emerging technologies.

A $63 million ‘innovation corridor’ could be down Bay Street. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

The joint proposal — from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, JEA, the City of Jacksonville and Jax Chamber — is seeking $25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation in a competitive grant program.

The innovation corridor is meant to be a proof of concept for two current initiatives: JTA’s Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) — the evolution of the Jacksonville Skyway system — and the TPO’s Integrated Data Exchange. A fleet of autonomous vehicles would descend from Skyway’s 2.5-mile elevated infrastructure via offramps onto surface streets throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, transforming the people-mover system into a 10-mile network.

JIA speeding security with bomb-sniffing dogs

Beginning this week, bomb-sniffing dogs are being employed to help speed up security checks at Jacksonville International Airport.

Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Sari Koshetz told Jenna Bourne of Action News Jax, that the dogs are helping travelers get through security lines faster. Passengers standing in line who are cleared by the dogs could move into an expedited security lane, eliminating the need to take off shoes, belt or jackets and leaving laptops in bags.

(Image via Action News Jax)

Dogs will also sniff passengers and airport employees at the gate.

TSA K-9 handler Donald “Bubba” Deason told WJAX that travelers should not be frightened by his K-9, Boomer.

“Some people have a fear of dogs. And they look at the dog and then they get, ‘I don’t want to go near the dog. I don’t want to go past the dog,’” Deason said. “And basically, we tell them the dog’s not going to hurt you. It doesn’t attack. All it wants to do is sniff.”

JIA to welcome new VIP lounge

A new VIP lounge is coming to Jacksonville International Airport, Jacksonville Aviation Authority unanimously approved this week.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the Authority agreed to enter a contract to develop a premium lounge, which will be available to customers from multiple airlines and customers who are willing to pay for a day of access.

A new premier lounge is heading to JIA.

“I think we’d be the smallest airport in the country with two VIP lounges,” said JAA CEO Steve Grossman.

Club JAX will open February 2019. It will be a 2,726-square-foot facility featuring a buffet with menus from local chefs, restrooms with showers and a children’s play area.

Texas-based ALD Development Corp. will spend at least $1 million to develop, manage and operate the 49-guest lounge,” Robinson noted. ALD is the nation’s largest developer of independent shared-use lounges, with 18 airport lounges in 13 airports internationally.

First-class passengers can use the lounge as part of an airline or card member rewards programs. Day passes will also be available.

“We are very confident this will be a busy lounge even without Frontier, JetBlue or Allegiant,” Graham Richards, ALD director of strategic network development, told the Business Journal. This includes airlines that don’t yet have lounge reward programs.

JAA will receive part of the lounge revenue, or $80,000 for the first contract year, whichever is higher. The initial agreement will be for seven years, with options to renew every year.

T-U praises JAA for inclusion

A Florida Times-Union mini-editorial is praising the Jacksonville Aviation Authority for winning a “nice award” from a leading airline industry trade group.

The JAA received an Inclusion Championship Award from the Airports Council International-North America for its promotion of local small businesses and workforce diversity.

“The JAA has held workshops, forums and other events to make business opportunities available for small businesses — and particularly for minority entrepreneurs.”

The Authority also won the inclusion award for embracing diversity within its organization.

Flagler Hospital employing AI for better patient care

Saint Augustine’s Flagler Hospital is turning to artificial intelligence to reduce costs and provide better care for patients.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Flagler is licensing software from California-based Ayasdi, an AI and data science company, for a Clinical Variation Management (CVM) application.

St. Augustine’s Flagler Hospital.

CVM will help standardize frequent care conclusions — pairing antibiotics with certain infections, length of stay decisions and defining appropriate testing, among others.

Clinical variations make up as much as 30 percent of typical health care costs, according to the Institute for Medicine. AI examines big data, taken from electronic medical records, billing and more, to help lower costs.

“We are delighted to engage with Ayasdi on this mission-critical task of creating clinical pathways for our patient population,” said Flagler chief medical informatics officer Dr. Michael C. Sanders. “Our ability to rapidly construct clinical pathways based on our own data and measure adherence by our staff to those standards provides us with the opportunity to deliver better care at a lower cost to our patients.”

New way to watch Jags games this year

Per WJCT, for the first time this year, Jaguars fans can watch preseason games on their smartphones, simply by visiting Jaguars.com/live.

The technology was rolled out Thursday for the game against the Saints, and will be used for the rest of the preseason — a useful and long-awaited add for those who might not have access to television or radio.

Almost as good as being there? Smartphone streaming available for preseason games.

“This season, the NFL has allowed us to expand access to our preseason game broadcasts via a digital stream, affording the Jaguars the opportunity to connect with more fans on multiple platforms and in more than one language,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping in an email to WJCT News.

The Jaguars have been playing one home game in London since 2012. “The demand for NFL football continues to grow internationally, and the Jaguars have benefited from our aggressive support of the league’s global movement,” said Lamping.

Coaches get a good look at many players in preseason opener

The first preseason game brought excitement to fans, coaches and players for different reasons. Jaguars fans are looking to see those players who took them within an eyelash of last year’s Super Bowl.

Most of those in attendance knew that guys like quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were likely to play only the first quarter. Those watching on television knew the same thing leading some to go on to do or watch something else.

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have looked good, but looks aren’t everything. (Image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Doug Marrone and his coaching staff already knew what those three and other starters could do. They were anxious for the second and third strings to show why they should be on the team or on the starting unit.

Obviously, those players wanted to show the coaches what they could do.

Going into Thursday’s game against the Saints, one of the questions was who would be Fournette’s backup on opening day? Would it be T.J. Yeldon or fourth-year back Corey Grant?

Would backup quarterback Cody Kessler look like he could fill in if Bortles missed any time during the season? How about impressive rookie wide receiver D. J. Chark, who has looked great in training camp?

Bortles looked terrific in his brief appearance, leading his team on a 79-yard touchdown drive to start the game. For those who stuck around, Kessler was poised during his two-plus quarters of play.

Yeldon maintained his hold on the backup running back position, while Grant was only able to gain 6 yards on 8 carries. Third-string receiver Shane Wynn showed a lot of speed, meriting a closer look.

The Saints won the game, 24-20, but Marrone will consider the night successful, if for no other reason than avoiding major injuries. Next Saturday, the Jaguars travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

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