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Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube earns endorsement, ‘A+’ from NRA

Three Republicans are running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but only one of them is a straight shooter according to the National Rifle Association.

The group sent a letter to state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota this week telling him he’d earned their support in the race for the expansive and solidly Republican district.

“On behalf of our six million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse your candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in the August 28, 2018, Republican primary for the 17th Congressional District of Florida,” said NRA spokesperson Chris Cox.

The letter continued, “Thank you for standing strong for freedom and defending NRA members and law-abiding gun owners in Florida. Based on your leadership on Second Amendment issues in the Florida Legislature, you have earned the highest attainable rating, an “A+”, from NRA-PVF.

“An ‘A+’ is reserved for a legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.”

The endorsement should be no surprise for Steube, who earned the NRA’s support over four other Republicans in his 2016 Senate bid and has been a stalwart advocate for NRA-backed policies during his time in the state Legislature.

“This endorsement unequivocally shows that gun-rights advocates want someone who doesn’t just talk about supporting the 2nd Amendment, but someone who has an actual record of defending our rights when they had the chance to. I will stand with President [Donald] Trump in supporting the gun rights of law abiding citizens in this country,” Steube said.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of our country’s largest citizen-led group. Conservatives know they have someone they can trust when it comes to defending their Constitutional rights.”

The NRA nod adds to a long list of supporters for Steube, 30 of whom announced their support the same day he announced his bid for Congress in late February.

That announcement came less than a week after Rooney announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez joined him in the primary shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, making for two sitting state lawmakers in the race. Little-known Republican Greg Akins is also competing for the Republican nomination.

Gonzalez held a large fundraising lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in part to $150,000 in candidate loans, though his $84,000 in outside fundraising still bested Steube’s $63,550 Q1 haul. Earlier this week, Gonzalez said he’d reeled in another $225,000 in Q2, while Steube has yet to announce his tally.

Steube did, however, hit Gonzalez with a ton of bricks this week by publicizing some anti-Trump tweets he made prior to the president locking up the Republican nomination. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Gonzalez supported in the 2016 presidential primary, was still in the race when Gonzalez made those statements.

CD 17 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 62-34 percent while Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.13.18 — Media mutters

Next week, the new Jacksonville City Council year begins, and we will (likely) see two new additions.

The names of Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman were leaked Monday to the Jacksonville Daily Record, many hours ahead of the Governor’s official announcement.

Jacksonville’s newest City Council members, Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman.

Someone, for some reason, made the decision to advance the message. Historically the Governor’s Office is pretty leakproof.

Yet it came from somewhere.

Meanwhile, another big story came this week from a different place: Foreign operators fleeced Mayor Lenny Curry’s PAC.

The Florida Times-Union wrote up the story, one that percolated for some weeks in gossip circles. And they got mileage out of it, via publisher GateHouse’s reach and retweets from many key state reporters.

While the story as written was “just the facts,” there was no reason to spice it up; the damning details alone (see below) were enough.

It’s hard, however, to see this story outside of the context of the frayed relationship between the mayor and the news side of the local paper, a war that has run hot and cold for years now.

Curry right now faces no serious competition for re-election, and he has the money to buy ads and steer the 2019 elections, including down-ballot, his way.

But second terms are always interesting in Dirty Duval. The Mayor will want to rebuild relationships with the T-U (and others in the local media, specifically television, who felt bamboozled during the JEA Sale debate).

Will he do so? Probably not. Curry and his inner circle embrace intransigence as a bargaining position, and three years in, they are dug in for trench warfare, with no diplomats in sight.

Pelosi in for Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, facing a competitive Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, is bringing in some star power in support Friday.

If the Blue Wave hits, Nancy Pelosi could be Speaker. Al Lawson would vote for her.

That player: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who despite being embattled with prospective leadership challenges from younger members of the Democratic caucus, nonetheless serves a key purpose as a powerful backer of Lawson’s re-election campaign.

Lawson and Pelosi plan a Friday evening press availability at Lawson’s campaign headquarters (1680 Dunn Avenue, Suite 38), along with a meet and greet that kicks off at 5 p.m.

Since Jacksonville Republicans such as Shad Khan have endorsed Brown, Lawson has messaged around the theme of Republicans trying to buy the seat.

With Pelosi at his side, expect Lawson to make similar claims Friday evening.

While we wait on Q2 finance data for Brown and Lawson, Q1 showed parity in cash on hand. Lawson had, at the end of March, $159,000 on hand; Brown, $127,000.

Meanwhile, Brown wants debates with Lawson in each county in the sprawling east-west district.

Godbold backs Brown

On Thursday, former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold endorsed another former Mayor Brown, for Congress.

Brown, mounting a challenge to Lawson, sees this as a key endorsement.

In a short video, Godbold said he’ll be a “big guy in Congress, and we need somebody from North Florida, somebody from Jacksonville, so we can call him and get in touch with him.”

To watch the video, click the image below:

“Alvin’s a good man,” Godbold added.

Godbold was mayor from 1979 to 1987. Brown, from 2011 to 2015.

Will this make a dent in a news cycle? With Lawson bringing Pelosi to town Friday, and with Brown not exactly publicizing the media event, it could be argued Brown did not maximize the value of this endorsement.

Doctor’s orders

State Sen. Aaron Bean faces both a primary challenge and, if he wins, a general election battle in Senate District 4. However, the Fernandina Beach Republican has advantages his challengers don’t, such as key endorsements.

Expect more endorsements for Aaron Bean ahead of the August primary.

The latest, via the Florida Medical Association PAC, was rolled out Tuesday morning.

Per media release from the Bean Team, FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete asserted: “Bean has worked tirelessly for the constituents of his district on many important issues including health care. Serving on various health care committees during his time in the Senate and House, the FMA has worked closely with Senator Bean and we look forward to continuing our work to help make Florida the best state to practice medicine.”

Among Bean’s priorities: telemedicine legislation. His bill passed the Senate without a “no” vote in 2018 but died without hearing in the House.

Bean is “honored to receive the endorsement from such a premier professional organization for physician leadership, patient care and education in Florida.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with the FMA members and leadership, to continue to serve my community and constituents, and know together we can play a vital role in shaping effective and innovative health policy in Florida,” Bean added.

The FMA imprimatur will boost Bean, an established incumbent, against a field full of less established challengers.

Scam something that lasts

Some bad news for Curry, via the Florida Times-Union, which reported that Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee was $120,000 poorer after its treasurer, Eric Robinson wired the money to four different addresses across the country at the behest of a political consultant, Kevin Hofmann.

Eric Robinson (Image via Sarasota Magazine/Salvatore Brancifort)

As it turned out, a “phone scammer duped Robinson,” who didn’t figure out the hustle until Hofmann called Robinson while Robinson was on the phone with a scammer.

Robinson, a Sarasota school board member who handles accounting for dozens of GOP candidates, apparently doesn’t have Caller ID.

Hofmann’s computer was hacked out of Nigeria and the phone hoaxer was in Luxembourg, adding to the mystery.

Robinson, the master of pass-through political committees, donated to another political committee (“Making a Better Tomorrow”), which then gave the money back to Curry’s committee, per the T-U report, making it whole.

Will donors care? Probably not. Curry brought in $244,000 in June, with four opponents raising just over $1,500 against him … combined.

Duly selected leaders

Gov. Rick Scott chose a Republican and a Democrat to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members Katrina and Reggie Brown.

Lenny Curry gets two easy votes for the next year.

The news was first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record,

The Republican: Terrance Freeman. He is connected, has deep Chamber ties and equally deep political ambition, reportedly replacing Reggie Brown in District 10.

One potential problem: he lived outside the district until this week, which could set the appointment up for a legal challenge. However, city officials are confident that he meets requirements.

The Democrat: Ju’Coby Pittman. Liked on both sides of the aisle, the Democrat will take over District 8.

What’s interesting: Scott’s office would not confirm the picks when we asked. Monday night saw the Governor’s office assert that they have “not made any announcements regarding these appointments.”

It is still a mystery where the story came from, if not the from the Scott administration. Also mysterious is the precise amount of collaboration between the Curry and Scott teams on the selections.

Curry told Florida Politics in June that, if needed, his team would provide “advice” on the picks. Asked weeks later, Scott said that while he didn’t talk to Curry’s team, someone in his office might have.

It’s hard to imagine picks more agreeable to the mayor’s office.

Freeman is a very careful politician, mindful of the need to preserve relationships with the donor class. Pittman, meanwhile, is not going to be inclined to rock the boat rhetorically. The periodic tempests caused by the Browns, in other words, will calm down just in time for election year.

Read more of our take here.

Monumental decision, redux

In the wake of violence in Charlottesville last year, former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche compelled the city’s parks and recreation department to “inventory” Confederate monuments and markers on city property.

This monument has stood since 1898. Has its time passed?

The goal: “propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.”

That legislation never materialized in the 2017-18 Council term, and Brosche told us Monday that she wasn’t planning to file any.

However, 14 members of the Task Force on Civil Rights History Brosche convened during her presidency asserted last week in a memo that the process of discussion (one that smoldered in public comment despite a lack of legislation) should be resumed.

The Confederate monument discussion was not part of the task force charge; however, it was an issue that members such as Hope McMath, Rodney Hurst, and Richard Danforth believe merits discussion.

The memo notes that since 1898, Hemming Park has been home to a 62-foot monument to Confederate soldiers. The monument loomed over the carnage of the 1960s “Axe Handle Saturday,” where marauding whites assaulted African-American shop patrons.

“Many Jacksonville residents believe that the reason for the Confederate monument’s placement was to serve as a reminder to former slaves and descendants of their ‘place in society’,” the memo asserts.

Holland pads war chest

June extended a familiar narrative in Duval County property appraiser Jerry Holland‘s re-election bid, as the Republican incumbent again raised a five-figure sum against an undercapitalized Democratic challenger.

Jerry Holland is on track for re-election next year.

Holland raised $12,750 off 26 contributions, many of which are from politically connected Jacksonville residents with an interest in maintaining continuity in office.

Real estate investors and developers, including the Vestcor Company, ponied up, comprising half the contributor list. So too did Gate Petroleum, the family business of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.

Politicians also cut checks, including Jacksonville City Councilman-elect Randy White and state House candidate Wyman Duggan, a lobbyist by trade.

Holland has what appears to be an insurmountable cash advantage. In three months as an active candidate, he has raised over $123,000, and retains all of it on hand.

Holland’s Democratic opponent, Kurt Kraft, has yet to report June numbers. However, he finished May with under $300 on hand, with the bulk of that money self-financed.

Cameras on pause

Jacksonville’s body camera program, launched in the pilot phase, is now on pause.

The current issue: procurement.

The open question: how long the process takes.

An end … or a new beginning? JSO says the program is on track.

The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that 200 officers will get cameras in 2019.

“Once the procurement process is complete, JSO will use the awarded funds to acquire and deploy the devices in a phased approach,” JSO told the FTU.

Sheriff Mike Williams confirmed Thursday to Florida Politics that the department is “still working through” procurement, and “we believe we have” a vendor selected.

“We’re still working in the contract pieces and all that to make sure we get procurement done the right way. The city’s working the procurement side for us,” Williams said.

Williams said that these cameras could be rolled out by the fall, “earlier than anticipated because we thought we would have to wait until the 18/19 budget to start that process, but with the [Department of Justice] grant … we’ll actually be online sooner than anticipated.”

“We received the grant July 1,” Williams added, “so it’s ready to spend, so we can start the procurement process. We were having to hold off until October before that.”

Money go round

News and notes from Jacksonville City Council races, with June fundraising in.

In Jacksonville City Council District 6, Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans competing to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

Rose Conry continues to stave off Michael Boylan in the CD 6 cash dash.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry has raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan has raised $61,150 and has just over $42,000. Boylan did raise more in June than Conry, however …

In District 14, Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.

Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand ….

Incumbents Tommy Hazouri and Danny Becton got the party started, right and quickly. Each running unopposed, each brought in strong hauls. Hazouri: north of $55,000; Becton, upward of $62,000.

It’s easier here.

Also see: Is Shad Khan picking winners in Council races?

Harassment claim in Clay schools

Folio Weekly reported this week that “Three women have alleged that Michael Kerekes, coordinator of community and strategic partnerships at the Clay County School District, has ‘intimidated … cornered … harassed’ and ‘bullied’ them, also saying they feel the sheriff’s office under former Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler has covered it up.”

School’s out … but the drama continues in Clay.

The most lurid of the claims via one complainant: “She reportedly told police that Michael Kerekes confronted her late one night in 2014 when she was walking to her car after a school board meeting. She alleged Kerekes called her ‘one evil f***ing bitch’ because she was friends with Charlie Van Zant.”

Van Zant was a former candidate for superintendent.

Kerekes, who worked on the campaign of Superintendent Addison Davis, is now on leave.

JAA wins inclusion award

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is being honored with the 2018 Inclusion Champion Award presented by Airports Council International-North America. JAA is recognized as the 2018 Medium Hub Inclusion Champion for encouraging greater working relationships with disadvantaged businesses in the community while promoting workforce diversity, outreach and advocacy.

Zoo celebrates Friday 13th with ‘zooperstition’

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating Friday the 13th with “Night at the Zoo: Zooperstition,” a family-friendly event beginning 6:30 p.m. through 10 p.m.

Animals will be on exhibit until 8:30 p.m., as part of the event.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to celebrate Friday the 13th with nighttime ‘Zooperstition.’ (Image via News4Jax)

There will be live music, animal encounters and a chance for visitors to see the “Dinosauria” exhibit after dark.

For adults, cash bars will be available with beer and wine. Several food trucks will be on hand, such as Sonny’s BBQ, Pie Daddy and Mr. Potato Spread.

“Night at the Zoo” event tickets are limited and only available online at the zoo’s website. An adult ticket for $7 for members; $5 for children.

Standard zoo admission is $14 for adults, $12 for children. Children under age two are free and do not need a ticket.

Jags open 8 preseason practices to the public

NFL training camps are about to open. Some camps open as early as next week (Cleveland), but the Jaguars all report on July 25.

Fans wishing to sit in the heat, the Jaguars are allowing fans to watch practices on 8 occasions. The first comes on the second day of camp beginning at 10:30 a.m. while the July 27 practice will also be open to fans.

Are you ready for some football?

The first practice in full pads comes on July 28 at 6:30 p.m. This session will be open only to Jags365 season ticket members.

“We always appreciate the incredible support of our passionate fan base,” said Jags coach Doug Marrone. “We look forward to once again hosting fans at training camp, as they consistently add energy and competitiveness to our practices. We’re excited about the hard work that lies ahead in 2018, beginning in a few weeks with training camp, and are grateful for the fans that will be with us every step of the way.”

Practices on Monday, July 30, through Thursday, Aug. 2 all begin at 10:30 a.m. and are open to the public. The final open practice will be Friday, Aug. 3 beginning at 6 p.m.

The practices take place at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex on the grounds of TIAA Bank Field. The Aug. 3 practice is Florida Blue Family Night and will take place at TIAA Bank Field.

Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and obtained in advance. Those wishing to attend any of the open practices must register online at jaguars.com/trainingcamp.

The first preseason game is Thursday, Aug. 9 against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.

Police union endorses Jeff Mann for HD 56

Bartow Republican Jeff Mann has been endorsed by The Florida Police Benevolent Association in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Ben Albritton in House District 56.

“It is a true honor to be endorsed by the PBA” Mann said. “The PBA is responsible for protecting us and it is an honor to know they trust me to protect them.”

The Florida PBA, founded 1972, is a labor union that bills itself as “The Voice of Florida’s Law Enforcement.” Their endorsement comes a couple weeks after Mann got the nod from the National Rifle Association.

Mann is competing against Melony Bell for the Republican nomination in HD 56, which covers DeSoto and Hardee counties as well as part of Polk County.

HD 56 is one of five contests, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate, meaning only Republican voters will be able to participate in the primary race despite no other party affiliated candidate making the ballot.

Bell currently leads the money race with more than $165,000 raised and more than $105,000 banked as of June 22. Mann has raised $51,615 and has $39,075 on hand in his campaign account.

HD 56 is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-26 for President Donald Trump two years ago. It has been held by Albritton since it was redrawn in 2012.

Bill Nelson loses voice when asked about Brett Kavanaugh; Republicans send care packages

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson appears to be shying away from public questions regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based news outlet, reported earlier this week that Nelson, after being asked about his upcoming vote on Kavanaugh, “pleaded that he was losing his voice and urged one reporter for The New York Times to ‘look at my statement.’”

Nelson, who faces a tough re-election against Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott, is expected to vote against Kavanaugh during the judge’s Senate confirmation hearing. But unlike other Democrats, Nelson can’t afford to come out swinging against the nominee in the interim if he plans to in November appeal to an electorate that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. So far he has withheld criticism of Kavanaugh in his present state as a nominee.

“I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh to discuss his views on several issues such as protecting women’s rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions & protecting the right to vote, just to name a few,” Nelson tweeted after Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick Monday night. “I’ll make my decision after that.”

Scott, ahead of Trump’s announcement, released a television ad attacking Nelson for “toeing the party line” on judicial confirmations. The ad was timely and set up a negative backdrop for which Nelson’s upcoming actions can be compared against.

Now Republicans are having a field day attacking the sitting Senator.

Both the Republican Party of Florida and the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week delivered care packages, complete with throat lozenges and honey, in an effort to mock Nelson’s reported claim that he was losing his voice.

The NRSC delivered the package to Nelson’s office in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important that Bill Nelson finds his voice so he no longer has to dodge reporters’ questions about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and the NRSC is here to help,” said Camille Gallo, NRSC spokesperson. “We hope these remedies will work and look forward to learning if Bill Nelson plans to obstruct a qualified nominee again or support a fully functioning Supreme Court.”

Taryn Fenske, Republican National Committee spokesperson, said the items will be delivered to each of Nelson’s regional locations on behalf of RPOF. 

In a statement, she highlighted Nelson’s recent flip on a judicial nomination and said Nelson has never opposed a Democratic President’s pick for a judge.  

“We hope this care package will work because Floridians deserve a decisive leader not one that cowers to party-line politics,” added Fenske.

Trade war could take bloom off rosy economic outlook, economists say

America’s economy is humming along, and it should stay that way for a while.

Nevertheless, depending on how the trade war between the United States and other countries works out, consumers could find themselves strapped for cash this time next year.

That was one take from a Thursday meeting of the Economic Estimating Conference, in which economists rattled off a lot of good news about the national economy.

While unemployment ticked up from a low of 3.8 percent to 4 percent in June, it’s expected to be back down to 3.8 percent by the end of the year and down to 3.4 percent sometime next year. Consumer spending is also up, as is the value of the dollar. Even vehicle sales hit the high watermark set in March, putting the American consumers on pace to buy 17.4 million autos in 2018.

About the only cause for worry is housing. Currently, there’s only about four months of home inventory — far under the ideal of six months — which has caused an increase in prices. And though new home construction is up, almost all of those gains are due to rebuilding in California, Florida and Texas.

But there’s a chance that things could turn south over the next couple years.

The conference said there was a 20 percent probability that the nation could enter a recession at the end of the third quarter of next year. In that scenario, GDP could see a 0.1 percent retraction and unemployment climbs to 5.1 percent by the start of 2020 before coming back down to 4.8 percent.

The basis of that pessimistic outlook is based on a slump driven by the housing market.

Amy Baker of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said both the positive and negative outlooks could be off depending on how the trade war between the U.S. and China works out. The conference’s current data accounts for tariffs on about $35 billion in consumer goods, but that number has exploded to $200 billion just this week.

It’ll take a bit for the tariffs to feed through and start affecting the economy, Baker said, but if they keep ratcheting up the potential impact will grow as well.

“When you get up over $250 billion, you will see an impact,” she said, later adding that “based on what we know today, [the estimate] is probably overly optimistic.”

The conference grappled with how to account for the trade war in the economic estimates and how much they should weight the negatives brought about by the tariffs in their current model.

There’s also uncertainty about other markets — President Donald Trump has toyed with imposing a 25 percent tariff on cars, which would certainly bring down auto sales figures from their current high.

Gloves off: Greg Steube slams Julio Gonzalez as ‘Never Trump’ Republican

Sen. Greg Steube lambasted Rep. Julio Gonzalez Wednesday over tweets he made in 2016 disparaging then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Gonzalez and Steube are the two leading Republicans in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, which is open in 2018 due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Steube’s attack included screenshots of five tweets, all from March 2016, where Gonzalez states his opposition to the eventual president using the “#NeverTrump” hashtag.

In three of the tweets, the Venice Republican – who has since festooned his twitter bio with the “#MAGA” hashtag – expresses his support for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was still competing for the GOP nomination at the time. Rubio has endorsed Gonzalez in the CD 17 race.

In one tweet, Gonzalez says “Trump is no conservative.” In another, he says “the fact that Trump is still in the race is deplorable.” All five tweets were still live as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Steube campaign seized on those tweets to paint comments Gonzalez made during a meeting with the Lee County Executive Committee last month as inconsistent in his views.

“The interesting thing about me as a candidate is that my views on these issues are all there for you to see and hear. If I say something inconsistent with where I have stood, you will find out about it. And a lot of those things were there before I ever decided I was going to run for Congress, so, the views are consistent,” Gonzalez is quoted as saying.

The Steube campaign said the tweets poke holes in Gonzalez’ claims of consistency and pointed to the recent primary defeat of longtime U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina as the consequence of being a “Never Trump” Republican in the current political climate.

When it comes to CD 17, that argument isn’t unsupported. The expansive and safely Republican district voted plus-27 for Trump two years ago.

“We need to send a conservative we can trust to Congress,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “It’s clear that conservative is Greg Steube. He has always supported President Trump and will continue to do so in Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins.

Steube filed for CD 17 shortly after Rooney announced in late February that he would not seek re-election. Gonzalez followed shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped.

Gonzalez held a large fundraising lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in part to $150,000 in candidate loans, though his $84,000 in outside fundraising still bested Steube’s $63,550 Q1 haul. Earlier this week, Gonzalez said he’d reeled in another $225,000 in Q2, while Steube has yet to announce his tally.

CD 17 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.

Matt Gaetz, Blaise Ingoglia urge SCOTUS confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

On Wednesday morning, two leading Florida Republicans urged the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court, before the midterm elections.

Predictably, Republicans are urging a quick confirmation; Democrats are pushing for everything from a prolonged consideration of the nominee to somehow stopping the nomination altogether.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally on the House Judiciary Committee, and Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia forcefully made the case to move quickly on a media call.

Gaetz noted “a lot of excitement at the White House over the pick …. excitement permeating onto Capitol Hill.”

Gaetz lauded Kavanaugh’s willingness to curb the regulatory state, and restraint from the kind of “sweeping rhetoric” used by Justice Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas.

Gaetz expects the nominee to “defend unborn life,” with opposition to “abortion on demand,” but to generally demonstrate a Rehnquistian approach to rulings and opinions. Gaetz noted that state legislative actions on abortion “could receive more favorable treatment” on the court with Kavanaugh included.

“In his prior decisions, issues like parental consent are important,” Gaetz clarified.

On cannabis, Gaetz expects the nominee to be “very deferential” to state legislatures, which is fine with him, as — despite being a cannabis reformer in Congress — he believes that legislatures should make the law.

Ingoglia addressed the “political ramifications” of the nominee, noting that the President fulfilled a promise to deliver appropriately conservative judges.

“The base is extremely excited about this opportunity,” Ingoglia said, noting that at least one poll supports a “quick confirmation” of Kavanaugh.

Ingoglia also offered unsolicited advice for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the context of that poll: To get on board quickly, so that the base doesn’t get “motivated … to remove obstructionist Democrats.”

When asked if abortion should be banned in Florida, Ingoglia noted that “the majority of the base thinks abortion is a big issue … believes that they are pro-life,” though “there are plenty of pro-choice Republicans.”

Louisa McQueeney: We have to protect ACA, pre-existing condition fix

The Trump administration’s refusal to defend the pre-existing condition exclusion and the ACA provision that insurance companies cannot charge more based on a person’s health status, makes you realize once what is at stake.

In February, 20 state attorneys general, including Florida, filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Northern Texas, claiming that when President Trump signed the “Tax Cuts and Job Act” into law, the individual mandate was repealed, making the entire ACA invalid.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions states that with the repeal of the penalty, the protections of guaranteed issue (pre-existing condition exclusion) and community rating (the sicker you are the more you have to pay) are no longer valid either and the justice department will not defend these important ACA protections in the lawsuit.

GOP efforts to repeal the ACA have failed for a good reason since the public understands the protections the law provides and doesn’t want to go back to a system where an insurance company can deny coverage based on age, health status or put limits on the amount they have to pay out, leaving you to pay the rest.

While both sides of the aisle are talking about various forms of repeal with their own versions of replacement, no Floridian, of any political affiliation, should support the outright repeal of the ACA. It’s just too important to too many people. Instead, we should be using the protections afforded under the ACA as a building block to increase access and coverage for Floridians.

Protections like free annual well-care visits, including screenings like mammograms or flu shots, the ability to keep your child on until the age of 26, tax credits if you make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, no annual or lifetime limits, and the closing of the doughnut hole for Americans on Medicare.

The piecemeal repeal of the ACA by the Trump administration, and other attempts to repeal the ACA, continue to undermine the protections of the health law and increase the cost of health insurance. This effort will push older, middle-class Floridians, who do not qualify for tax credits under the law, into a more precarious, expensive health care system, where medical bankruptcy is rearing its ugly head again.

Rather than destabilizing the health insurance markets, we should all work together to strengthen and maintain consumer protections and reduce the cost of health care to Floridians.

___

Louisa McQueeney is program director for Florida Voices for Health.

SCOTUS pick should worry everyone, progressive group says

With the tapping of Judge Brett Kavanaughthe President is priming the high court to walk back values that transcend party lines, according to one progressive-minded organization in Florida.

“President [Donald] Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court should concern every Floridian,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo on behalf of the Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition. Progress Florida describes itself as an advocate “for progressive, pro-middle class policies and holds our elected officials accountable by empowering citizens in their communities,” according to its website.

“We’re fighting for social justice, economic fairness, strengthening public education, health care reform, environmental protection, and much more.” 

But the group views Kavanaugh as an affront to Americans who don’t consider their views progressive. It fears that Kavanaugh could reverse the status quo on a wide range of judicial interpretations on policies — health care, consumer protections, voting rights, environmental protections, LGBT equality, and criminal justice reform — that are held near and dear to Americans on both sides of the political spectrum.

Prior to Trump announcing the nominee Monday night, it was widely reported that Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman were among Kavanaugh as possible picks. In an interview with Florida Politics, Progress Florida Communications Director Damien Filer said Kavanaugh is a nominee who is expected to go against the grain of “mainstream America.”

Instead of replacing retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy with another “swing vote,” Trump selected a much more conservative justice who will act as a “rubber stamp” for polarizing policies, Filer said.

“We have fundamentally shifted the balance of the court,” explained Filer.

“He’s staunchly opposed to the [Affordable Care Act],” Filer said. “The ACA is something that not just progressives depend upon for health insurance.” 

Filer interpreted the Monday night prime-time announcement as a method of softening the blow. He said that Trump and Kavanaugh were “trying to paint a picture of someone who will be palatable to mainstream America despite his record.” In his speech, Kavanaugh gestured to his wife and two daughters and pointed to his selection of mostly-female judicial clerks as evidence he was in tune with women’s concerns and issues. His “remarks were fittingly political,” Filer said. 

Filer guessed the American electorate would prefer another pick like former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

“I think we’re in a very different place than we were when Neil Gorsuch was nominated,” added Filer. 

Kavanaugh’s appointment is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Florida politicians react to Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

President Donald Trump is nominating influential conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as he seeks to shift the nation’s highest court further to the right.

Trump chose the 53-year-old federal appellate judge for the seat opened up by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh would be less receptive to abortion and gay rights than Kennedy was.

Kavanaugh is Trump’s second high court pick after Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch served as law clerks to Kennedy at the same time early in their legal careers.

Kavanaugh is a longtime fixture of the Republican legal establishment. He has been a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington since 2006. He also was a key aide to Kenneth Starr during his investigation of President Bill Clinton and worked in the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Here is a running compilation of reactions from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“Brett Kavanaugh is a qualified, mainstream jurist who possesses the right temperament and experience for the position, and I’m pleased to see his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My decision on whether to ultimately support Kavanaugh’s nomination will be based on his commitment to original intent, judicial restraint, and the understanding that the Supreme Court is a ‘trier of law’ appellate court and not a ‘trier of fact’ trial court.

“This is critically important because too many in the federal judicial system today believe it is appropriate for judges to craft new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as written.

“Regrettably, Senate Democrats made up their minds to oppose this nomination long before tonight’s announcement. I would remind them that just over a year-and-a-half ago the American people elected the president and a Republican-controlled Senate.

“Nevertheless, I am hopeful for a fair and thorough confirmation process as the Senate carefully examines and deliberates Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”

Gov. Rick Scott:

Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis:

Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam:

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Donald Trump has nominated another Supreme Court justice who does not believe women have the right to make our own health care decisions. If Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the court, Roe v. Wade is gravely at risk of being overturned.

“Florida: this is not a drill. If Roe v. Wade is overturned and Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis are elected governor, women will lose our rights to make our own health care decisions.

‘They would outlaw abortion within a year and appoint judges who will decimate Florida’s constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy.

“As governor, I will veto any legislation that limits a woman’s right to choose and I will appoint state Supreme Court Justices who will uphold our right to make our own health care decisions.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“In Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has picked a nominee who threatens to roll back the clock on America — and with few allies in Washington, this fight now falls to the states.

“We’ve got to elect bold, progressive leaders who will stand up to the political establishment and fight for civil rights, workers’ rights and women’s health care — no matter what Donald Trump and his nominee have to say about it.”

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“It’s more imperative than ever that reasonable Republicans join Democrats to complete a thorough vetting. Too much legal precedent is at stake — from preserving Roe V Wade to LGBT protections — we refuse to turn the clock back on the protections enshrined by a balanced court!”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“With his pick of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has done everything in his power to push the Supreme Court into the world of ultra-conservatism.

“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is at risk. Voting rights are at risk. Collective bargaining is at risk.

‘Here in Florida, Rick Scott will try to stack our Supreme Court in his final hours in office. We must hold the line on the three impending Florida Supreme Court vacancies, and when I am Governor-Elect, my Administration will use every tool available to ensure Floridians have their voices heard in their justice system.”

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw:

Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody:

Attorney General candidate Frank White:

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz:

“I commend President Trump for his selection of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“He is an excellent jurist, with a deep and abiding reverence for the Constitution. I have no doubt that, when confirmed, Justice Kavanaugh will serve America’s highest court with honor and integrity.

“I also commend President Trump for maintaining the same transparent selection process that he used when he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Like Justice Gorsuch, Judge Kavanaugh was on President Trump’s list of potential candidates. Making this list available offered the American public great transparency, and an opportunity to learn about each potential candidate.

“With this nomination, President Trump has helped shape the future of jurisprudence in America for generations to come, by ensuring that the Supreme Court will faithfully uphold the Constitution as written. This is a good day for Judge Kavanaugh, for the rule of law, and for the United States of America.”

Republican Congressman Neal Dunn:

“In announcing Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, President Trump has taken another tangible step to secure the Constitution and ensure that the people of the United States remain pre-eminent, not the government. This is a victory for everyone who cherishes our nation’s conservative values. I urge the Senate to act quickly and confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Republican Congressman Daniel Webster:

“On the campaign, President Trump promised his Supreme Court pick nominee would be a jurist who is dedicated to freedom, the rule of law, and to preserving our liberties as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. He also promised a transparent selection process.

“With the nomination of Justice [NeilGorsuch and now Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump has kept his promises.”

Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch:

“With his nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump is attempting to advance a radical ideological shift of the Supreme Court that will threaten settled fundamental rights and challenge the right of every American to access affordable, high-quality health care. We know that the president has targeted the Affordable Care Act.

“He ordered his Justice Department to stop defending the Affordable Care Act. He ordered Republicans in Congress to do everything they could to weaken the law and drive up prices. And now he wants to use the third branch of government to finish the job.

“We know Judge Kavanaugh’s record. If you have a pre-existing condition and benefit from those protections, your coverage is now at risk. Americans with disabilities, nursing mothers, and others who are covered by the ACA’s basic protections are now at a greater risk of discrimination, skyrocketing costs, and loss of coverage. There is no longer a theoretical threat to Roe v. Wade.

“With this nominee, President Trump fulfilled his campaign promise of nominating justices who are hostile to women’s reproductive rights.

“If confirmed, the conservative wing of the court — composed of five men — will be poised to strip women of the freedom to make their own health choices and control their own futures. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Supreme Court could so severely weaken women’s right to privacy that even access to basic contraception would be at stake.

“President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court means that important precedents that have moved America forward toward a more equal and just society could be shredded. The Senate now has the responsibility to protect Americans from an ideologically-driven nominee whose confirmation would create a Supreme Court bent on setting America decades back in time.”

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist:

“A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land is an awesome responsibility. Justices must be committed to upholding our Constitution, upholding the rights provided by it to ALL Americans, and upholding an independent judiciary where no one is above the law.

“I have serious concerns with Judge Kavanaugh’s views on presidential authority, whether the executive is accountable under the law, and the threat his record may pose to civil rights and the right to choose.

“The Senate must carefully, thoroughly, and methodically vet Judge Kavanaugh before his nomination is brought to a vote.”

Congressional candidate David Richardson:

Congressional candidate Alvin Brown:

“Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh will be a rubber-stamp for this Administration’s extreme, right-wing agenda.

“With Kavanaugh on the bench, our values and the fundamental rights of generations to come are on the line. From access to affordable health care and reproductive health, to labor unions, gun safety and civil rights, Brett Kavanaugh cannot be trusted.”

“He has a long, troubling record on issues that impact everyday Americans’ lives, and the Senate must reject Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has no business anywhere near the highest court in the land.”

Americans for Prosperity — Florida:

“We commend President Trump for nominating Judge Kavanaugh and keeping his promise to select a jurist with a sterling record of judicial restraint and a commitment to the Constitution, both of which are vital to serving on the highest court.

“Sen. Nelson put politics above country when he stated before a nominee was even announced that he was likely to oppose the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. But Judge Kavanaugh’s record deserves his consideration and support.

“Floridians deserve Senators with objectivity during this process — Senators who will assess the nominee based on his interpretation of the Constitution, instead of coming to a pre-determined conclusion based on D.C. politics. We urge Sen. Nelson to support Judge Kavanaugh and put Floridians over politics.”

Progress Florida:

“Whether you care about access to health care, reproductive rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, LGBT equality, or criminal justice reform, the fate of them all hang in the balance. Kavanaugh tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

“He believes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional and time and time again he has sided with large companies over the interests of consumers. And Kavanaugh’s writings clearly demonstrate that he would allow Donald Trump’s abuses of power to go unchecked.

“Recent Supreme Court decisions are a stark reminder of the damage already wrought by one Trump appointment to the high court. Worker’s rights, women’s access to health care and voting rights have all been diminished during the just-concluded Supreme Court term.

“We cannot let President Trump take over the court for the next 40 years with justices like Brett Kavanaugh, who would rewrite the Constitution and roll back a century of progress on civil and human rights.”

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia:

“It is a historic occurrence for a President to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. And now, President Trump gets a second opportunity to deliver for this nation’s highest court in less than two years.

“Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is an immensely qualified candidate with a record of adhering to the rule of law and the original text of our finest document, the Constitution.

“A champion of our nation’s legal heritage, Kavanaugh will serve the court honorably while protecting individual liberty. We urge the swift confirmation of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. This ‘Coach K’ is another winner.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

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