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Adam Putnam warns against ‘the left taking over our state’

Adam Putnam returned to his “Florida First” agenda at the Republicans’ Sunshine Summit Friday pressing for a state that “innovates things, grows things, manufactures things” and vocational education to support it.

The day after the Sunshine Summit hosted the FOX News Florida Republican gubernatorial debate that almost entirely focused on national issues, Putnam almost never mentioned the debate or his opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, at least not by name. However, he did find the need to re-state what had become the dominant message of Thursday night’s debate: full support for President Donald Trump.

Yet instead of contrasting with DeSantis, Putnam instead went after Democrats, as if looking beyond the August 28 Republican gubernatorial primary.

“The left is dedicated to taking over our state,” Putnam warned.

“It is for one reason and one reason only: they are focused solely on defeating our president when he runs for re-election in 2020 and we can’t let that happen,” Putnam continued. “Don’t give them back the mansion. Don’t give them the Legislature. Let us keep the cabinet and let us keep the good times rolling for the state of Florida.”

In his speech Friday at the Republican Party of Florida’s summit at the Gaylord Palms Hotel, Putnam briefly made an exception, going after DeSantis, not by name, but by reputation, as someone who doesn’t spend much time in Florida and doesn’t know Florida issues.

“We need a governor who knows our state; knows every corner of our state from Perdido Key to the Dry Tortugas;who doesn’t need a map or GPS to get around; who knows our schools, the difference between a school district like Hamilton County, which has only two schools in the whole county, and some of the biggest districts in the country,” Putnam said.

Putnam pushed his plan to reintroduce vocational education into middle schools and high school to prepare skilled graduates, who can get higher-paying jobs.

He credited Florida’s low crime rate, at a 37-year low he said, to minimum sentencing, protection of Second Amendment rights, and “plenty of room in the prison system to keep evil people behind bars.”

Beyond that, Putnam made it clear the big challenge was staving off Democrats’ most extreme ideas, such as making Florida a sanctuary state, raising taxes.

“That is not a direction Florida wants to go. But folks, complacency is not an option,” he said.

And he warned against the potential for Democrats with California billionaire Tom Steyer’s announcement that he would donate $1 million to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s Democratic gubernatorial effort, joining  the $500,000 provided by New York billionaire George Soros.

“That’s what’s at stake,” Putnam said.

Adam Putnam doubled Ron DeSantis in June fundraising

Through the first three weeks of June, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised nearly double the money of gubernatorial primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

From June 1 through June 22, Putnam raked in almost $2.1 million — $1.8 million through his political committee, Florida Grown, and another $283,000 through his official campaign account.

DeSantis’ total came in at $1.12 million, including $821,000 in contributions to Friends of Ron DeSantis and another $298,000 in campaign dollars.

The new reports add to Putnam’s immense lead in the money race as the two Republicans barrel toward the Aug. 28 Republican primary that will decide which of them will be on the November ballot.

To date, Putnam has raised $32.7 million for his gubernatorial bid compared to about $12 million for DeSantis, whose total was buoyed last month by a $1.1 million transfer from his now-defunct congressional re-election fund.

The new campaign finance reports are the first since the qualifying period for state races ended. From now through Nov. 6, candidates are required to file a report every week.

The two Republicans squared off Thursday night in their first debate, which focused more on national issues than those affecting Florida.

Still, both candidates were able to tout their support among different factions of the Republican party. DeSantis has locked up the support of President Donald Trump, while Putnam met criticisms that he was “weak” on border and immigration issues by reminding his opponent of his substantial support among county sheriffs and police.

The race isn’t the only facet of the contest where Putnam has doubled DeSantis. Most recent polls show the second-term Agriculture Commissioner with two-to-one lead among Republican primary voters.

The winner of the GOP nom will go on to face one of the five Democratic candidates looking to take back the Governor’s Mansion after 20 years of Republican rule.

Christian Cámara: Complete exoneration is why Russia probe must proceed

President Donald Trump was right when he called the Russia investigation a “cloud” over his administration. It has shadowed his every action since soon after the Inauguration.

The question is how to safely dispel it.

Here’s what we now know: Fighting back only adds energy to the storm. Firing James Comey led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Removing Mueller, or sacking his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, would produce both a political and constitutional crisis.

To what end? The Federal Bureau of Investigation would keep investigating. It’s what they do. If that institution were diverted, the New York Attorney General’s office, out of Trump’s reach, would double down on its many ongoing probes. Moreover, the fallout from such a firing could lead both houses of Congress to turn blue. That would mean at least two years of incessant new congressional investigations, hearings and subpoenas — and a complete halt to any progress on issues that actually affect Americans.

It’s the myth of the Hydra. For every head that rolls at the Justice Department, two more inquiries will spring up.

Fortunately, there is a sensible alternative: Allow the judicial process to unfold without interference. All indications are that Trump will be fully and publicly cleared by the special counsel, if he is given time to conclude his work. This is the best possible outcome — for everyone.

For the president, complete exoneration by the Mueller investigation will be well-deserved vindication, which will enable him to determine his own place in history through his own accomplishments with no asterisk of illegitimacy next to his name. Republicans will be rewarded for their patience with their best shot at widespread victory this year and in 2020. Most importantly, the country will gain stability, with our precious rule of law intact.

Perhaps the only people who will not benefit from the Mueller investigation are those who screamed loudest for it, and of course, those actually guilty of potential wrongdoing such as former top FBI official Peter Strzok whose own personal bias against the president indicated “a willingness to take official action to impact [Donald Trump’s] electoral prospects,” per a recent bombshell inspector general report. Attempting a coup — even in such a bloodless way as this to undermine a valid election — is a dangerous gambit.

Failure rarely turns out well for the conspirators, but let them reap their just deserts.

We can trust the constitutional system that has protected our freedoms for over 200 years, or we can wander off into uncharted territory of limitless executive power. We conservatives have always put our faith in time-tested institutions and the rule of law.

We’d do well to maintain that.

___

Christian Cámara (@ChristianCamara) is a conservative activist and self-described “Reaganista.”

Republican panel defends Puerto Rico response as ‘best ever’

Allowing that the massive damage of Hurricane Maria was overwhelming and logistics of aid to an island complicated everything, a panel of Puerto Rican and Florida leaders told the Republican Sunshine Summit Friday that the federal response was in many ways the best the island has ever seen.

The panel of three Puerto Rican officials and Florida state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs defended both the responses from President Donald Trump’s and Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s administrations against attacks that they were slow and inadequate, leaving Puerto Ricans suffering for the better part of a year, and leaving tens of thousands still living as refugees in Florida.

“This is the first time ever Puerto Rico got all federal agencies on site, before, during and after both hurricanes, said Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon.

“The largest disaster air mission in the history of the United States,” former Puerto Rico Attorney General Jose Fuentes declared.

Their comments came while a group of Puerto Rico hurricane refugees sat in a tent city, protesting the lack of housing and responses, a few hundred yards away from the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, which hosted the Republican Party of Florida’s 2nd Sunshine Summit. There was no mention of them, nor of the pending housing crisis that many of the thousands of migrants will face when federal housing vouchers expire this weekend.

Instead, they argued that the 180-day relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria amounted to $10 billion, compared with the $5 billion that went to Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and the $2.5 billion that went to Florida after Hurricane Irma.

That included 75 million liters of water and 64 million meals, they said. And they said the responses not only were the best the island has ever experienced from the federal government, but in some ways the largest such effort the United States has ever undertaken.

They also hailed Florida efforts led by Scott.

Cortes summarized many of the efforts Scott pursued, many of which Cortes suggested, including opening Florida schools to automatic student transfers from Puerto Rico, making the state a staging center for relief aid, opening welcome centers at the Miami and Orlando airports, “and welcoming people with open arms.”

Cortes said that led to close partnerships between Scott’s administration and Puerto Rico officials.

As a result, the two governments, he said, have “formed a bond that is inseparable. We work together for the good of both Puerto Rico and Florida.”

Fuentes, Gonzalez-Colon and Puerto Rico Speaker of the House Johnny Mendez acknowledged that some responses may have appeared slow and that some people still are suffering, but said the Trump administration was not to be blamed. The Trump administration, they insisted, provided more and more comprehensive relief than the island has ever before seen.

Fuentes blamed the damage and logistics, with ports and airports all closed and much of the island difficult to access.

“So yes, do we all wish that it would have been quicker? Yes. But the reality is that the logistics hampered the effort. So we have to learn from the experience and make sure the next time they have the resources there on the island so that they can help out,” Fuentes said.

“The response, given the circumstances, was very good,” he added. “But you know, Democrats like to talk, talk, talk, talk, and hate facts.”

Jacksonville Crowley Maritime employee extols tax cuts at White House ceremony

President Donald Trump held a celebration ceremony at the White House Friday for the six-month anniversary of tax reform.

Among the honored guests: longtime Crowley Maritime Customer Care Director LaSonya Hill.

Hill, a Crowley employee for more than 24 years, extolled real-world benefits of the tax cuts, including helping her pay for her sons’ college expenses.

Crowley Maritime “used its benefit from tax reform to pay employees bonuses,” Hill said.

“Crowley Maritime is a fantastic company,” she added. “I’ve been there 24 years. I’m very honored to work for such a great company and for the company to benefit from such a great tax opportunity, which they were able to give back to the employees.”

Hill clearly wowed Trump.

“You’re like a professional speaker? Have you done this before,” Trump asked, lauding Hill’s potential.

The White House event is the second time there has been a Jacksonville connection to celebrate the tax reform package.

Sen. Marco Rubio held an event in April at a Southside business, touting how the tax cuts allowed the company to expand operations.

Big get: Andrew Gillum endorsed by Tom Steyer’s NextGen America

Today is one of the most important days yet for Andrew Gillum‘s campaign to be the next governor of Florida.

That’s because the Tallahassee Mayor has just been formally endorsed by NextGen America, the civic action group founded by billionaire Tom Steyer whose focus includes impeaching President Donald Trump.

“As we battle for the heart and soul of this nation, Andrew Gillum is the kind of leader we need on the front lines,” said Steyer. “He’s someone we can trust to do the right thing, to put the people before the powerful, and who is unafraid to stand up for justice, now when we need it most. Those who are willing to act courageously and stand up for what is right, are those who will shape the political landscape of the country, and that’s why we’re taking this unprecedented step to make sure Andrew is representing the Democratic Party in November.”

While organizations like NextGen are prohibited from directly working with a campaign, a news release from the organization states it has over $1 million planned for investment on behalf of Gillum and 50 organizers ready on the ground in Florida.

“NextGen America will run a robust field, digital and mail campaign to push Gillum over the finish line to secure the nomination on August 28th,” reads a news release from the group.

Absent from that plan: television spending for Gillum, who hasn’t financed a TV ad yet. The $1 million figure stems from a $500,000 grant from Steyer to Gillum-affiliated PAC Forward Florida along with additional funding, according to NextGen.

While significant, that’s a far cry compared to the $20 million Steyer’s NextGenClimate spent hammering Gov. Rick Scott as a climate change denier during his 2014 re-election bid. It wasn’t enough, obviously, as the Republican incumbent narrowly defeated Charlie Crist, and is now a serious threat to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall.

News of NextGen’s expected backing of Gillum was outlined in an internal email sent to field organizers working in the Sunshine State. It was obtained by Florida Politics Thursday night.

“NextGen America is planning on endorsing Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor of Florida,” read the memo, which instructs staffers not to share any information about the endorsement without explicit written permission. “There will be lots of information coming out in the next couple days, but we wanted to send a note to you first to explain what this means, and answer a few questions you might have.”

Continues the memo: “We will be rolling this out over the next day or two, and we want to make sure that we do it in a coordinated fashion.”

NextGen has held a keen interest in the Sunshine State in recent months. Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, NextGen alongside two other anti-gun violence activist groups announced they’d spend $1 million to register eligible high schoolers to vote. Then in March, Steyer’s group said they planned to dump $3.5 million to mobilize young voters in Florida by hiring at least 100 college campus representatives across 40 campuses. 

A year ago, NextGen held rallies on the campuses of the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and the University of North Florida to take the temperature of the state’s college aged electorate as part of its mission to register and motivate a half-million young voters to turn up at the voting booth for the midterm election.

Negative ads targeting others in the Democratic contest, which includes Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Jeff Greene, are unlikely. NextGen in the memo made a point of instructing its field workers to not bash other candidates — despite feeling that Gillum most aligns most with their progressive agenda.

“We hope to make it clear to voters the several reasons why we as an organization support him,” reads a portion of the memo. “But we know that even if Andrew doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, there will be a Democratic nominee that we will be proud to support.”

Florida Democrats: Republican debate a ‘right-wing circus’

Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis squared off in their first debate Thursday night and within minutes of the 6:30 p.m. start time, Florida Democrats had a lot to say.

That has a lot to do with the first question of a debate dominated by national issues rather than Florida-centric ones addressing the wedge issue to end all wedge issues: Abortion.

Now that President Donald Trump is slated to get a second Supreme Court appointment, Democrats fear — and many Republicans hope — that the issue can be relitigated in the nation’s high court.

The Florida Democratic Party spelled out those fears 10 minutes into the Republican debate with an email saying that if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, “Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis would lead Florida’s war on women.”

“Both candidates have spent their careers attacking women’s health and aligning themselves with some of the most anti-choice organizations in the country. And as governor, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, either candidate would likely sign legislation that would attack women’s health — and outlaw abortion in Florida,” FDP said, backing up their statement a truckload of links to articles detailing the two Republicans’ anti-choice records, including that both Putnam and DeSantis receiving 100 percent ratings from National Right to Life.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Governor, echoed FDP in a series of tweets shortly after the debate started.

Her campaign used those quotes in a post-debate news release touted her as the “only candidate in the seven-way race for governor with a legislative record of defending a woman’s right to choose,” as well as her 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and endorsements from EMILY’s List and Ruth’s List.

Also on blast were the Republican candidate’s stances on guns, which have dominated much of the rhetoric in the Democratic race ever since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, not to mention the mass shooting in Annapolis, MD, just hours before the debate.

Both candidates cast the blame for MSD on everything but the tool that carried it out, but Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who often touts his successful court battle with the National Rifle Association on the campaign trail, didn’t need to wait to reheat Putnam’s most famous statement of the campaign season to date — that he’s a “proud NRA sellout.”

Orlando-area businessman Chris King also seized on his Republican rivals’ comments on guns, blasting Putnam specifically for his comments on the shooting du jour.

The Guv hopeful followed up after the debate wrapped with a statement lamenting the debate’s focus on the president, whose name popped up in many questions and nearly every response of the evening.

“Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis just spent 60 minutes one-upping each other on who’s the bigger Trump sycophant. From their NRA loyalty oaths to their fantasyland ideas to ban so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ in Florida (of which there are none), the first Republican debate wasn’t a race to the right — it was a race to the bottom,” he said.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who sits atop most polls in the five-way Democratic primary, hit his GOP opponents for their focus on blaming Barack Obama for everything from health care to, as Putnam asserted, the degradation of political discourse.

Most Democrats admonished Putnam and DeSantis for going “Full Trump” at the debate, and FDP chair Terrie Rizzo was among them. Her post-debate statement wasn’t one of frustration, however, but one of confidence and anticipation of Election Day.

“After tonight’s debate, I’ve never been more confident that Democrats will retake the Governor’s Mansion in November. This debate was a right-wing circus brought to you by Fox News and inspired by Donald Trump. Before a nationwide audience, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis made clear that they only have one message: Trump, Trump, Trump,” she said.

“Both DeSantis and Putnam failed to substantively discuss issues they will have to address as Governor of Florida — like public education — and instead focused on divisive and demagogic rhetoric. In stark contrast to the Republican gubernatorial campaigns, Florida Democrats are standing up for public education, affordable health care and an economy that works for every one of us — and that’s why we are confident of victory in November.”

Ad calls on Bill Nelson to confirm Donald Trump SCOTUS pick

President Donald Trump hasn’t put forward a nominee in the 24 hours since Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, but conservative group One Nation is already out with an ad urging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to vote for the president’s pick.

The ad, titled “SCOTUS,” paints the Democratic Senator as “caving” when he cast a no-vote for Trump’s first SCOTUS pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and urges voters to tell him not to do the same thing this time around.

“A new vacancy on the Supreme Court and our freedom hangs in the balance, but the far left will stop at nothing to block President Trump’s choice. Senator Bill Nelson voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch the last time. Will he cave to the extreme left again? Tell Senator Bill Nelson: ‘Say no to the left and help put another great justice on the Supreme Court,’” the ad narrator says as the video displays a phone number for Nelson’s Washington office.

One Nation’s digital ad campaign is targeting 10 incumbent Democratic Senators up for re-election this year, and they say there’s more to follow.

“This is the merely first step in our full-fledged advocacy campaign for the nomination and confirmation of a constitutional conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said One Nation President and CEO Steven Law.

In the wake of Kennedy’s announcement, many Democratic leaders have called on any new Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed after the 2018 midterm elections. The Republican Party employed a similar strategy when it delayed the vote to replace Justice Antonin Scalia for a year.

Though that strategy panned out for Republicans, imitating it puts Democratic Senators in a precarious position. Of the 33 Senators up for re-election in 2018, 10 are Democrats representing states that Trump won two years ago, Nelson is one of them.

The ad is below.

Adam Putnam: ‘Grassroots passion’ to prevail over Trump-backed Ron DeSantis

Appearing on Fox News Thursday afternoon ahead of his debate with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam projected confidence that his grassroots appeal would help to sway undecided voters his way, despite the President’s endorsement of his opponent.

In the most recent Fox News poll of the Putnam/DeSantis heat, Putnam was up 32 to 17 percent, with just over half of voters undecided.

Putnam asserted: “The lead in the polls is a reflection of the grassroots passion and energy that we have.”

“I’ve been in every town in Florida practically … the same grassroots energy and passion that propelled our president into the White House is going to make me the next governor,” Putnam said.

“Tonight’s debate will give us the opportunity to speak to those undecided voters about my Florida First agenda, about putting Florida’s safety first and the sheriffs’ endorsements,” Putnam said. “About putting Florida’s families first and about putting jobs first.”

Despite Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis, Putnam lauded the president throughout the interview, even during a question about Florida’s three migrant child detention centers.

“President Trump has put out his pillars plan. Secure our borders. End the visa lottery system. Reform chain migration. Bring a permanent solution to DACA,” Putnam said. “A nation without borders is not a nation.”

Putnam added that immigration policy must be conducted in a “humane way” and “the president has been very clear about that in keeping families together.”

“But we have to have secure borders,” he said. “We have to make sure those immigration laws are followed.”

Florida Democrats call on Rick Scott to stand up to Donald Trump

Gov. Rick Scott is in Washington raising money for his U.S. Senate campaign, and the Florida Democratic Party says now is as good a time as any to confront Donald Trump for his attacks on health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“According to recent estimates, 7,810,300 Floridians have pre-existing conditions. Those are 7,810,300 of your constituents that could lose their health care if Donald Trump (and your own Attorney General, Pam Bondi) have their way. Yet, despite the potential grave consequences of Trump and Bondi’s lawsuit, you haven’t uttered a word explicitly condemning their actions,” the letter says regarding a multistate lawsuit aimed at removing Affordable Care Act rules guaranteeing health care access for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Trump Administration said earlier this month it will not defend the lawsuit in court.

Scott, in a statement from his Senate campaign last week, said that while “Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much,” he supports the requirement that health insurers not discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

He’s yet to back up those words with any action, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Florida Democratic Party.

In an email announcing the letter, the FDP said Scott’s behavior was to be expected, considering he “bragged about crafting the GOP’s recent health care bill that would slash coverage for people with pre-existing conditions (while giving himself a tax break).”

The letter continues:

“Simply put, although we Floridians are tired of your empty rhetoric, we’re also used to it. We know that you have a tendency to say and do anything to get elected. However, in a matter as serious as health care, we hope that you can put aside politics and understand that for many, having access to affordable and quality health care is the difference between life and death.

“On Thursday, while you spend the day hobnobbing with donors in Washington, D.C., we request that you stop by to see your ‘close friend’ Donald Trump and tell him to stop his attacks on health care protections for pre-existing conditions. Or better yet, tell him that Florida is withdrawing as a party to the lawsuit that would make protections for pre-existing conditions unconstitutional.”

The letter is FDP’s latest attempt to turn Trump into an anchor around Scott’s neck. The second-term Republican Governor is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall.

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