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Sanctuary cities become latest flashpoint in heated HD 72 special election

Sanctuary cities have become another flashpoint in the heated political battle otherwise known as the House District 72 special election.

In this latest salvo, Republican James Buchanan says Democrat Margaret Good has been less than straightforward in her opinion about the issue.

Pressed on where she stood on the issue during a candidates forum Monday night in Siesta Key, Good said she opposed legislation that has already been passed in the Florida House that would penalize cities and counties if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Good also noted mailers sent against her on the issue played on “fear.”

That answer didn’t satisfy Buchanan, who is fighting to win the northern Sarasota County seat. In a statement Tuesday, the Sarasota Republican said he enjoyed participating in the forum but “once again, my opponent has refused to answer … whether or not she supports banning sanctuary cities here in Florida.”

“As a public servant, we must be accountable and honest to those we represent,” Buchanan charged. “Unfortunately, my opponent has been deceitful in her response to the voters of Sarasota.”

Buchanan campaign manager Nick Catroppo went further to criticize Good, a 41-year-old Siesta Key attorney who has out-fundraised Buchanann.

“As a community, we deserve better than a politician that lies,” Catroppo said Tuesday. “For Good to play politics with the safety and security of our community, she should be disqualified from representing us in Tallahassee. It’s very simple; do you or don’t you support Sanctuary Cities?”

Good responded by insisting that she’s been clear on the issue of sanctuary city since day one.

“(I)f you commit a crime in Florida you will be punished — whether you are here legally or illegally. We must uphold the law and I support local and federal law enforcement who do just that,” Good said.

“James Buchanan continues to attack me on Sanctuary Cities as a scare tactic to garner votes. He does not want to talk about the issues that matter most to Sarasota families because he knows that he would not work for us, the voters of Sarasota,” she continued. “He would for the corporate special interests, polluters like Big Sugar, and the insiders who are funding his campaign.

“James’ priorities are clear: he’ll side with Donald Trump‘s agenda instead of working for us. He will make health care more expensive for working families, turn our public schools over to for-profit corporations, and increase our dependence on fossil fuels like oil and coal.”

Good concluded: “I know the importance of affordable, high-quality health care, the need to invest in our public schools, and how vital protecting our environment is to our economy and future generations. It’s time for James to put down Donald Trump’s campaign playbook of fear and division and start listening to the people of Sarasota.”

During the first week of the Legislative Session last month, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill aimed at sanctuary cities — for the third consecutive year. Two times previously, the bill died in the Senate, and a companion bill (SB 308) wasn’t filed until last week by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean.

The Judiciary Committee tabled Bean’s bill.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is strongly pushing the bill, as his political action committee aired a controversial television ad that echoed the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco in 2015. The gunman was an undocumented immigrant who had been deported several times before returning to the U.S. He was acquitted on charges related to the shooting last fall, but was later sentenced to time served on gun-related charges.

Corcoran recently sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security investigate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for their city’s sanctuary-city policies.

Gillum and Corcoran have agreed to debate the issue next week.

Critics contend there are no such sanctuary cities (or counties) in Florida, saying conservative lawmakers are politically exploiting the issue.

Buchanan, Good and Libertarian Alison Foxall are on the ballot, where early voting began last weekend. Election Day is Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Bill removing Confederate holidays advances despite being called ‘cultural genocide’

Legislation that would eliminate state holidays honoring Confederate figures advanced in the Senate Tuesday despite pushback from numerous speakers who said the proposal would be “cultural genocide” and an “insult” to their ancestors.

“This is cultural genocide,” a man from Jacksonville said. “Southern white people are in the minority. You can’t take away our culture and our heroes.”

The proposal was quickly politicized and those opposing the bill asked lawmakers to be like President Donald Trump who defends “our national anthem and beautiful statues.” One Republican speaker who opposed the bill said it was an “insult” to his ancestors and that he might sit out the next election if his representatives voted in support of the proposal.

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is sponsoring the bill, which she acknowledged in committee to be a “sensitive issue” to tackle in the Florida Legislature. Her measure cleared the Senate Community Affairs Committee, with Republican Sens. Tom Lee and Aaron Bean against it.

The companion bill in the House has yet to be heard in committee, making the proposal’s chances of passing the Legislature this session slim.

If the proposal were to pass, it would eliminate the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Memorial Day from the state’s list of legal holidays. A legal holiday does not necessarily make that day a paid holidays for public employee, and these three are not.

Scott McCoy with the Southern Poverty Law Center said it is time Florida puts an end to “its celebration of treasonous government and two of its leaders who fought to enslave and oppress and entire group of people based on the color of their skin.”

“When our government recognizes and celebrates the Confederacy and its white supremacist beliefs – whether through holidays, public monuments or naming of institutions – it undermines confidence in our government’s ability to serve all of its citizens,” McCoy said.

CD 12 Democratic hopeful Chris Hunter wants to restore ‘principled leadership’ to D.C.

A member of the Bilirakis family has represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District since 1982, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is not targeting it as a seat that could flip this fall.

But that isn’t deterring former federal prosecutor and FBI agent Chris Hunter. 

“I think people in the 12th district are looking for a restoration of principled leadership at all levels. That’s not partisan, that’s just what all of us should expect out of those who offer to serve,” says the Trinity-based Democrat who filed to run for Congress last month.

“People respect the fact that I’ve served our community. I’ve served our country, and I offer an approach to principled leadership that is appealing to people no matter where they’re coming from politically.”

A Hershey, Pennsylvania native who moved to Florida a decade ago, Hunter resigned from his position as a senior prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice in December to pursue a run for political office. He says he “loved every single thing” about his work with the DOJ and before that with the FBI.

But he’s a lifelong believer in American service that can be performed in a variety of ways.

“I could continue to do the public service job I already had, which I loved, or I could resign and offer to serve in a way that responds to what the country needs right now. It’s as simple as that.”

Talking about public service, Hunter gets animated.

“I’d like to think there’s a way to overcome the challenges we face in our society by lifting our heads up, getting out of our computers and looking out across our communities and thinking about which each of us can do to make a positive difference. I think we need to re-engage in person, and when we do what we find is we have a lot in common,” he says. “That’s a worthwhile experience to try to have, and that’s not something that can be had effectively unless people actually engage with one another.”

While some congressional Democratic aspirants (particularly in South Florida) are running on a platform that if elected they would support impeaching President Donald Trump, Hunter has no interest in the subject, quickly pivoting to his mantra regarding a “renewal of an American service ethic.”

If Hunter survives a contested Democratic primary, he’ll be facing in Gus Bilirakis a GOP legislator who has served in politics/public service for two decades, beginning as a state Representative in 1998 before succeeding his father, Michael, in representing the Pasco/Pinellas county seat in 2006.

Hunter labels Bilirakis as an entrenched career lawmaker who has lost his perspective in representing his constituents, specifically referring to his co-sponsorship of a controversial bill pushed by the drug industry in 2016 that weakened federal regulations just as the opioid crisis was reaching its peak.

That bill’s lead sponsor in the House, Pennsylvania Republican, Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration as Trump’s drug czar last October following a report by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post.

“The incumbent here was one of a cabal of legislators who did the bidding of the drug lobby, handcuffed the DEA and exacerbated the opioid crisis,” Hunter says. “All the way while sticking drug industry lobbyist money into their bank accounts.”

Hunter says that vote illustrates how “some career politicians get entrenched, get comfortable and think that nobody in their home district cares or is paying close attention.”

A former FBI agent, Hunter says he has plenty to say about highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. The fight over the memo has put Trump at odds with his top law enforcement officials, who have urged the White House to reconsider releasing the document.

Hunter penned an op-ed on the issue which ran Tuesday in the Tampa Bay Times.

“The recent conduct by certain members of the House Intelligence community and others reveals an alarming absence of maturity, seriousness of purpose and probity,” Hunter writes. “Scurrilous attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI create public safety and national security risk.

“Intentionally shattering trust in the men and women who work hard every day to keep us safe will impact federal criminal jury trials and will threaten access to critical counterintelligence sources of information.”

Stephen Perenich, Robert Tager, Mathew Thomas and Kimberly H. Walker are other Democrats running in CD 12.

Mary Barzee Flores says Donna Shalala isn’t right for CD 27

Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala is reportedly mulling a run for Florida’s 27th Congressional District and that doesn’t sit well with Mary Barzee Flores, one of the many Democrats vying to flip the seat currently held by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“While I have a tremendous amount of respect for Donna Shalala, I am convinced that she has vastly different values than what the people of District 27 want in their member of Congress, especially in this moment,” Barzee Flores said in a blog post on Medium.

Barzee Flores said there’s a “strong cohort of Democrats already running,” and that Shalala would not only be a break from what CD 27’s looking for, but that she’s “compromised” when it comes to major issues facing the district’s voters.

“Donna Shalala was on the payroll of one of the biggest insurers in the country, UnitedHealthcare for over a decade — She sat on their board, and was compensated almost $700,000 while premiums for the rest of us went higher and higher,” Barzee Flores wrote.

“This is one of the most pressing issues affecting tens of thousands of Miami’s families — and it’s one where Shalala is compromised. And it’s far from the only issue where her credibility is questionable.

Barzee Flores said Shalala was also the wrong pick for those who remember the housing crisis due to her work with homebuilders; the wrong choice for hourly workers due to her treatment of UM janitorial staff; and the wrong choice for those looking for stalwart opposition to the environmental policies of President Donald Trump.

“Donna Shalala took one of Miami’s last wildlife corridors that gave habitat to native species as urban and suburban areas have expanded, and sold it to build a Walmart — A Walmart! — and a large parking lot, over the objections of the community and environmental experts.

“I’m not going to let someone who has used their positions of power and influence to enrich themselves, while fighting against affordable healthcare, against our lowest wage workers, and against environmental experts in favor of Walmart developers, to just come in and take this seat,” she wrote.

The former federal judge is running against Matt Haggman, state Rep. David Richardson, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Miami Beach City Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Ken Russell in the CD 27 Democratic Primary.

Steve Schale: Thoughts on the Sarasota special election

In eight days, there will be a special election in Sarasota. It is a race that probably shouldn’t look interesting, but alas, it is turning into one heck of a fight.

For those of you not from Florida, the corners of this state take on the characteristics of the part of the country where people migrate from.

Sarasota, like much of Florida from Tampa south to Naples, has a Midwestern feel, a result of migration that came down from the parts of America accessed from I-75.

So, the voters here, in large part, have more in common with voters from the northern suburbs of Chicago (the district used to be spring training home to the real Chicago baseball team, the White Sox) than they do with voters who live just 20 miles to the east, in the more rural parts of Sarasota County.

The seat became open when the incumbent, Republican Alex Miller, resigned due to a change in her business. The Republicans have nominated James Buchanan, the son of the area’s incumbent Congressman, Vern Buchanan. The Democratic candidate is Margaret Good, a local attorney.

House District 72 is a lean-Republican district. Mitt Romney won it by 4, and Donald Trump won it by 5. Overall, Republicans have a ten-point advantage in voter registration.

However, despite these numbers, this is a place where Democrats have won:  from 2006-2010, this seat was held by a Democrat, Keith Fitzgerald. In 2014, Charlie Crist beat Rick Scott by about 1.5 percent, and in 2008, Barack Obama and John McCain played to a draw.

Nonetheless, conventional wisdom would say this seat should be a little more Republican in a special election, due to their super voter turnout advantage, but alas, this isn’t a conventional wisdom year.

With a week to go before the Election, Democrats are turning out their voters at a higher rate than Republicans, and the race appears to be headed to a very tight finish.

Just how close?

Well as of this morning, some 20,621 voters have cast a ballot either by returning an absentee ballot or by voting in person at an early voting site, with Republicans holding a 199-ballot advantage.

So far, just under 17 percent of District 72 voters have voted. Democratic voter turnout is at 22.5 percent, while 17.5 percent of the district’s GOP voters have cast a ballot.

So how does this district typically perform?

In the last three top of the ticket races:  the 2012 presidential, the 2014 governor’s race, and the 2016 presidentials, there is a distinct pattern: Democrats have won the votes cast before Election Day, and Republicans have won Election Day.

In 2012 and 2016, Obama and Hillary Clinton went into Election Day with a 3.5 and 5-point lead respectively. In 2012, Romney won Election Day by 15 percent, and in 2016, Trump won by 26 percent.

But 2014 looked a bit different, and in it, the path for how Democrats win here:  Crist went into Election Day with a 7-point lead, but this time, Republicans only won Election Day by 6, leading to the Crist win in the district.

But since 2016 was more recent, let’s take a closer look at that race.

Overall, Republicans had about an 11.5 percent advantage in the share of the electorate. The way this broke down:  Republicans held a 5.5 percent advantage in the share of voters who voted before Election Day, and about a 23 percent advantage on Election Day. Just as in this race, Democrats had a higher turnout rate before Election Day than Republicans, but on Election Day, Democratic turnout cratered and GOP turnout spiked.

This translated to Clinton 5-point advantage among the 68 percent of the HD 72 voters who voted before Election Day, and Trump winning the remaining voters on Election Day by 26, for an overall Trump 5 percent win.

If you compare where Good is today compared to Clinton, in terms of turnout, the district is definitely more Democratic than it was going into Election Day in 2016.

By any fair assumption, given the district’s current turnout, and historical performance, she should be ahead by at least as much as Clinton was going into Election Day.

The unknown question, can she hold on — and just how much of a lead does she need to pull off the upset?

Eight days out, there are two big questions.

Republicans have more outstanding vote-by-mail ballots, so they see their numbers improve — though, over the last week, the delta between the two parties hasn’t changed much (remember Democrats in 2016 statewide left a lot more ballots on kitchen tables than did Republicans).

Right now, Democrats have returned 68 percent of their ballots, and Republicans have returned 65 percent, so I will be curious over the next week if the GOP can close that gap. What the final margin going into Election Day looks like will say a lot about the next point.

How much can Good lose Election Day by and still win?

If Election Day looks like Crist ‘14, she wins. If it looks like Trump ‘16, she loses.

Almost surely, it will land somewhere between the two.

Turnout can be hard to predict in these races. With more than a week to go, the turnout rate is already higher than the entire state Senate special election in Miami last fall.

In the recent St. Petersburg mayor’s race, 37 percent of the total vote came on Election Day. In the Miami State Senate race, it was around 27 percent. By the end of the week, this picture will be much more clear.

But one thing is for certain, this race is headed to the wire. Again, in a conventional special election, in a conventional year, this is a race we would not be talking about. But it isn’t, thus we are.

And at this point, a Democratic win here is far from improbable.

Joe Biden’s latest foray into Florida politics finds him backing Margaret Good in HD 72 special election

Vice President Joe Biden is endorsing Democrat Margaret Good in the special election for Florida House District 72.

“I’m proud to endorse Margaret Good, who gives us a real opportunity to elect a strong Democrat to a critical seat in the Florida House,” Biden said. “Margaret will be a champion in Tallahassee in the fight for affordable health care, public education for all our kids, and protecting Florida’s vital coastline.”

Biden’s endorsement has become one of the Florida Democratic Party’s encore moves since the former vice president left office. He also endorsed state Senate candidate Annette Taddeo and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in their successful off-year elections.

Good is engaged in an intense battle for the south Sarasota County seat against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall. The special election, set for Feb. 13, was made necessary after Republican Alex Miller vacated the seat last September.

“It is a true honor to have the endorsement of Vice President Joe Biden,” said Good. “It is a testament to the power of the grassroots campaign we have built together to bring much-needed change to Tallahassee. The time is now to end one-party rule in our state government and Republican attacks on our public schools, home rule, and environmental protections.”

A survey conducted two weeks ago by St. Pete Polls shows the race to be close, with Buchanan hanging on to a three-point lead, 49-46 percent, with Foxall at 3 percent.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley comes to Sarasota this week to stump for Good, while former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will appear at a get-out-the-vote event next weekend.

Donald Trump headlining Mar-a-Lago fundraiser in March

President Donald Trump will swing by through Palm Beach March 3 for a fundraiser benefiting his 2020 re-election campaign, according to an invitation first obtained by Florida Politics.

The fundraiser is set to be held at Mar-a-Lago, a resort owned by Trump that has become known as his “winter White House.” Attending alongside the president are Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and RNC finance chair Todd Ricketts, who last week succeeded disgraced former finance chair Steve Wynn.

The event is set for the “evening,” though prospective attendees will need to send in an RSVP to get the start time and other details.

According to the invite, it’ll take a $2,700 to get in the door for the reception, and those looking for seats at the dinner with President Trump will need to wrangle together $25,000.

Bundlers who can gather up $50,000 in contributions will get a photo op with Trump.

The invite also says the contributions will be split among the Trump campaigns primary and general accounts, with the RNC’s operating, headquarters, legal proceedings and convention accounts also taking a significant share of the proceeds.

The invite is below.

Trump Fundraiser March 3

Florida members of Congress: sharp, partisan outrage over content, release of ‘Nunes memo’

The release Friday afternoon of the controversial House Intelligence Committee Republicans’ memo has Florida’s congressional delegation predictably abuzz, with hardline supporters of President Donald Trump such as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz finding plenty of justification, and staunch opponents of Trump such as Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings finding potential damage to the country.

Others in Florida politics, too, are weighing in, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who decried the memo’s impact on the FBI, and then used it to go after U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who is carrying Trump’s endorsement.

Among the immediate responses to the memo’s release:

Gaetz. of Fort Walton Beach:

“The recently-released “FISA memo” from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence should cause all American citizens to be outraged, regardless of political affiliation. Truth, justice, and transparency are not partisan concepts — they are pillars of the American government.

“For FISA surveillance to be used for partisan political gamesmanship is nothing less than an assault on democracy itself. The DOJ and FBI spied on American citizens associated with the Trump campaign based on the unverified claims made in a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. This is repugnant on every possible level. The other abuses detailed in the memo are equally horrifying. FBI agents leaked information to the media, then used the ensuing news stories as a justification for renewed FISA surveillance. This is a wanton miscarriage of justice, and the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships and banana republics — not the United States of America.

“I read the memo as soon as it was released to Members of Congress, and my heart sank. Not only did it lay bare a systemic pattern of abuse within the FBI and the DOJ, it confirmed my worst fear: America’s free and fair elections were being threatened from within. Our own Justice Department worked to tip the scales of justice, exploiting the tools of the intelligence community in order to benefit one political candidate. This is an American nightmare.

“I immediately sent a letter to Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, asking for the memo to be released to the public. I believe that the American people deserved to see it. I believe the American people deserve a transparent, fair government. I believe that all Americans deserve to know that their vote, and their voice, matters. I believe in elections by the American people — WE THE PEOPLE — and free from corruption.

“Sixty-four other Congressmen joined my letter, and my fight to release the memo. Our calls for transparency were met with opposition from Democrats, from the Justice Department, and from FBI leadership. Today, with the release of the memo, our hard work came to fruition.

“I call on every American citizen to read this memo, not with preconceived partisan rancor, but with clear eyes and open minds. We must work together to ensure these atrocities never happen again.”

 Hastings, of Miramar:

“As the Former Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I am outraged that Republicans wrote a classified memo and then voted to make it public in order to undermine the Mueller investigation. The partisan memo is rife with misrepresentations and inaccuracies, and it was released for purely political reasons against the advice of the FBI and the Justice Department.

“Even more shocking is the fact that House Republicans on the Committee blocked a counter-memo on the same subject from being released, preventing any refutation of their partisan smear-campaign. Their decision to politicize the intelligence and selectively release information to drive a political narrative is extraordinarily reckless, and does a grave disservice to the brave men and women in our Intelligence Community. For weeks, social media accounts linked to Russian networks have saturated the airwaves calling for a release of the memo. I am stunned that Republicans actually fell for it.”

U.S. Rep. Thomas Rooney of Okeechobee:

“As part of this committee’s responsibility to conduct oversight over the U.S. Intelligence Community, we must ensure that individuals in the IC are not using political work product as a means to obtain warrants to conduct surveillance on American citizens.

“We feel that the so-called dossier was just that – a political document – and the American people need to know that. The intent of this memo is to shed light on past abuses in order to effectively prevent future abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and similar laws governing the activities of the IC. It is not, in any way, intended to influence or undermine FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa:

“Trump and Republicans in Congress are undermining American law enforcement, the Department of Justice and intelligence professionals in an attempt to discredit the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into Russian interference with our election, financial payoffs and obstruction of justice. The refusal to allow the release of a corresponding comprehensive response memo by Intelligence Committee Democrats is an intentional attempt to suppress the full truth. I doubt the American people will be fooled by these deceptions.

“So far, Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been charged and pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort has been charged with a host of conspiracy charges related to his foreign lobbying. Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI. Trump campaign aide Richard Gates was indicted in October in connection with foreign lobbying work and pleaded not guilty. His charges are the same as Manafort’s, ranging from conspiracy against the U.S. to conspiracy to launder money.

“The DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes (who was supposedly recused from the investigation) that the decision to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised, those sources will simply dry up at great cost to our individual safety and national security. The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Prosecutor has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to confuse the American people and undermine confidence in the Special Prosecutor’s investigation. This is one of the more shameful episodes in the history of the U.S. Presidency and some in Congress who are trying to protect their personal interest at the expense of the national interest.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“By releasing this memo, the president of the United States is undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and many other intelligence services.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City:

“President Trump made the right decision to allow for the release of the memo to the American people.

“The memo demonstrates how politicized federal law enforcement had become during the Obama administration. The police power of the state must be blind to politics. There cannot be two standards of justice, one for Republicans and another for Democrats. We must return to a Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Department of Justice that we can trust. The American people deserve transparency and releasing this memo is a step in the right direction in restoring faith in our justice system.

“I urge Attorney General Sessions to continue doing all he can to ensure each and every American receives equal justice under the law.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach:

“This is a deliberate and desperate effort by Donald Trump and the Republicans to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference with our election and possible obstruction of justice by White House officials. Not only has the FBI expressed grave concerns about the memo’s accuracy, but Justice Department officials believe its release endangers our national security. Republican efforts hands yet another win to Vladimir Putin. The Democrat’s memo must be released so that the public can get to the truth.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, of Naples:

“I am a strong believer in open and transparent governance. Making this memo public is the right thing to do and those that seek the truth should welcome the opportunity to expose any flaws in the process used by their government to gather information. No information vital to national security has been released and the leadership at the FBI should welcome this factual information, not seek to discredit it. When presented with the facts, the American people tend to get it right. In December I called for a purge, not of anti-Trump employees, as some have critics have claimed, but of the bad actors within the FBI and DOJ. The overwhelming majority of those employed by these agencies do an outstanding job every day, and we must make certain that the few who choose to politicize intelligence gathering and law enforcement are removed.”

DeSantis, from Ponte Vedra Beach, got a quick gig on Fox News to talk about the memo, and then he added this on Twitter:

“It answers the question about did the @FBI used this Democrat Party-funded dossier to obtain surveillance – and the answer to that question is yes.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach:

“The interesting thing about this memo was that a lot of journalists in Washington were against releasing this.

“This is a deliberate and desperate effort by Donald Trump and the Republicans to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference with our election and possible obstruction of justice by White House officials. Not only has the FBI expressed grave concerns about the memo’s accuracy, but Justice Department officials believe its release endangers our national security. Republican efforts hands yet another win to Vladimir Putin. The Democrat’s memo must be released so that the public can get to the truth.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami:

“The release of the HPSCI memo today was important for greater transparency and oversight, serving the public interest. FISA collections are part of a uniquely critical program that supports global US national security. The recently passed and signed FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act will help provide some additional important oversight of this program, to prevent abuse and violation of American citizens’ civil liberties. There are thousands of courageous and dedicated men and women who serve the FBI, DoJ, and other federal intelligence agencies, and it is disappointing that the missteps of several high-ranking officials are tarnishing their work.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, on Facebook:

In order for Americans to have trust in our democracy, Republicans must put partisanship aside and abandon efforts to shield the President from a legitimate investigation. It’s on all of us to prove that justice is worth defending.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, on Twitter:

“The DOJ called this ‘extraordinary reckless.’ The FBI expressed ‘grave concern.’ The memo-istas speak of a coup d’etat by the deep state.

“I’m on the side of the men and women who are working tirelessly to defend our country.”

Outside of Congress, the comments included this from Levine, on Twitter:

He also tweeted, “It is a sad day when Washington politicians choose to attack the agencies that keep us safe, rather than work together on the problems that affect our families.”

Former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly of St. Petersburg, who now is a strong #NeverTrump critic of the administration and its supporters in the party:

Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Caroline Rowland:

“Florida Republicans are helping to sabotage the Federal Bureau of Investigation, risk our country’s security, and defy the requests of the leaders of our intelligence agencies, including the Trump Justice Department. Florida Republican Congressional members failed to protect Americans, that includes Rep. Tom Rooney, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtihen, who sit on the House Intelligence Committee and could have prevented this memo from being released.

“Gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Ron DeSantis has also been one of the most vocal supporters of releasing the memo. Over the past week, DeSantis proudly undermined American law enforcement in a blatantly partisan effort to help Donald Trump. In the process, he has proved that he cares more about defending Donald Trump than standing with the law enforcement officers who protect this country everyday. Floridians deserve a governor who will proudly support law enforcement, whether it’s the FBI or our local police officer, not a politician who will happily kowtow to the president.”

Donald Trump names Joe Gruters to Amtrak board

Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters landed an appointment from the Trump Administration Thursday to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors through October 2022.

The Sarasota accountant served as co-chair of President Donald Trump’s campaign in Florida, and the move appears to have paid dividends.

Gruters took to Twitter shortly after the announcement, saying he was “incredibly grateful” for the opportunity.

The official announcement from the White House touts the Republican politician’s appointment by Gov. Rick Scott the Florida State University Board of Trustees, and his past role as campaign manager to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Left off the brag board are Gruters’ seven-year stretch chairing the Republican Party of Sarasota County, and his time as vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Gruters succeeded now-Sen. Greg Steube in 2016 for the HD 73 seat, which consists of inland portions Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Jacksonville Bold for 2.2.18 — Hot like fire

2018 is lit — as you will see.

We take a look at Jacksonville native Ron DeSantis’ curious launch of his gubernatorial campaign.

And we look at the five-alarm drama between U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

As well, there’s room for the pending Senate race between Democratic Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson and Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

These are all hot storylines. But there’s more inside.

We also take a look at the Legislative Session in Tallahassee, including the latest bizarre Kim Daniels proposal.

There’s so much more, and no need to drag out the intro.

You have enough to read as it is.

Retirement match

The long-rumored clash between former Jacksonville Mayor Brown and Congressman Lawson started this week, with Brown announcing his campaign to primary the Tallahassee Democrat.

Brown served up a written statement in which he described himself as a “visionary leader.”

The primary battle of the year in North Florida is on.

Lawson? He drew a more interesting narrative in an exclusive no-holds-barred conversation with Florida Politics.

“He’s been telling people for months he is going to run,” Lawson said. “We welcome the challenge.”

“Alvin failed as mayor,” Lawson said bluntly, “and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job. If he’s looking for a job, this is the wrong place to look.”

When asked if the Congressional Black Caucus would back Brown, Lawson was blunt.

“That won’t happen,” Lawson said. “The leadership in the CBC is all behind me. I meet with them every week.”

(A day later, a former CBC Chair endorsed Brown, poking a hole in that assertion.)

“People I speak to weren’t thrilled with [Brown] as Mayor,” Lawson said, adding that he believes Brown is running because “he needs a job.”

“He was trying to be Edward Waters College President,” Lawson said, “but he didn’t make the shortlist.” [Note: EWC President Nat Glover denies the claim].

Lawson saw it as ironic that Brown was running against him, given that at multiple points in the past, “he wanted me to help him raise money.”

Now he’s going to help Brown with something else.

“We’re going to retire him,” Lawson said.

Lawson will need to step up his fundraising; he ended 2017 with only $100,000 cash on hand, after a quarter where he burned almost the entire $44,000 he raised on consulting services.

Meanwhile, Brown’s campaign offered counternarrative.

“After Mayor Brown heard from voters in CD-5, there is a clear sense that Lawson generally seems uninterested in serving the district and has gone Washington. At a time when civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights are under attack, Lawson seems content to live the life of a privileged Congressman who refuses to fight for the people of his district,” the campaign said via written statement.

Rutherford talks train crash

Tragedy struck in Virginia Wednesday when a chartered Amtrak train that was taking Republican lawmakers to a retreat in West Virginia crashed into a trash truck en route.

A somber retreat awaited Republican lawmakers after a Virginia train crash.

The accident happened west of Charlottesville; as of this writing [Wednesday afternoon], the train is moving back to Charlottesville, where lawmakers will be put on a bus to proceed to the retreat — where concerns will be different from they were before the accident happened.

Not every Northeast Florida Republican lawmaker was aboard; DeSantis was not.

However, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a first-term Republican congressman and former Jacksonville Sheriff, was on the train.

Rutherford was not physically harmed, he said; though he had just been handed a cup of hot coffee at impact and was doused, he was able to stay on his feet.

However, there were injuries and fatalities, he said.

“Three workers on the truck. One was Signal 7 (killed), one with life-threatening injuries, and the driver is walking,” Rutherford said.

Capitol Police, reported Fox News, was supposed to be keeping the track clear, going ahead of the train with helicopters. Apparently, they failed in the case of the garbage truck, and we asked Rutherford — who spent a lifetime in public safety — what happened there.

“Looks like the truck went around the arms,” Rutherford said. “I didn’t see the impact, but the arms were down when I got off the train to assist the injured.”

Rutherford noted that Congress members on the train were praying for the injured, and that there would be a “somber” tone over the retreat.

Yoho draws primary challenge

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho epitomizes the post-Tea Party rock-ribbed Republican type … yet he won’t stay in Congress forever.

Yoho, elected in 2012, pledged in that campaign to only serve eight years in Congress.

Is Ted Yoho a no-no? Judson Sapp says it’s time for the incumbent to go-go.

If that pledge holds true, Yoho’s last campaign will be this year’s.

One opponent can’t wait.

Self-styled “new Republican” Judson Sapp is launching his campaign to unseat Yoho currently.

“I am more convinced than ever that the beginning of 2018 places us at a crossroads as a nation. Our Congress has not been delivering its promises,” Sapp asserted in his announcement.

Sapp bemoans the “current state of the U.S. Congress, where a culture of egotism, backstabbing and unbridled ambition for power reigns. It is no wonder we live in a culture of fear, hatred and revenge. Our politicians stoke these elements because it is easier to fundraise, get media attention and be re-elected by appealing to the darkest nature of our culture.”

No word in the announcement whether that describes the incumbent.

Sapp has a huge hill to climb. As of the end of September (the latest filing available on the Federal Election Commission website), Yoho had $315,000+ cash on hand, and an open line to Fox News to discuss priorities.

Yoho also stumped for Donald Trump, and  — should this race somehow be close — he would be able to draw on that network of support.

4 Republicans vie to face Soderberg in race to replace DeSantis

The Republican race to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District added another serious contender this week.

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns became the fifth candidate in the field.

Jimmy Johns joins an increasingly crowded GOP field in CD 6.

Johns, an engineering consultant by trade, holds dual degrees in Applied Physics from Jacksonville University and Civil Engineering from the University of Florida.

Johns won election to the county commission in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote against another Republican, a year after being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the term of current State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

This will mark the second straight year that a St. Johns County Commissioner attempted to parlay that position into a Congressional run.

As the sole officeholder from St. Johns County in the race, Johns may be well-positioned to consolidate support among power brokers in the county, offsetting advantages enjoyed by the other candidate with legislative experience in the race, former Ormond Beach Mayor and State Rep. Fred Costello.

The two have competition in the race: businessman John Ward and Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret and adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, who is often seen on Fox News.

The eventual winner of this dogfight of a primary will move on to face presumptive Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg.

Soderberg, a former U.N. Ambassador during the Bill Clinton Administration, is currently a professor at the University of North Florida.

To date, she has raised over half a million dollars.

DeSantis launches in South Florida

If DeSantis campaign launch were a song, it might be called “Livin’ La Vida Boca.”

Ron DeSantis’ launch was heavy on Fox News red meat. Will GOP primary voters bite?

The Jacksonville native and Congressman representing St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties chose Boca Raton to launch his campaign — hopefully, there was at least a fundraising payoff for that geographic anomaly.

The launch speech was heavy on biography, with references to DeSantis’ rise from humble beginnings to Yale, then Harvard Law School. It had a lot of defenses of and apologias for Trump. And when it came down to policy, a lot of laudatory comments for Gov. Scott.

He credited Scott with “exemplary leadership” during hurricanes, and creating “1.4 million jobs.”

“We can’t have the insiders pick the candidate in 2018. We need someone who is going to follow Rick Scott’s legacy and shake things up,” DeSantis said.

“Florida cannot afford to adopt policies that make it hard to create jobs,” DeSantis said, setting up a straw man contrast between Florida and Connecticut.

DeSantis also wants to “improve education in the state of Florida,” though — taking a line from Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham both — “this doesn’t mean that every student needs to go to a four-year school,” citing “vocational training” as a focus.

As well, DeSantis wants to improve citizenship education — which may or may not help with STEM skills, but was a strong applause line.

Additionally, DeSantis addressed “the drug epidemic,” vowing “tough enforcement for the lowlife trash who peddle these pills.”

Is DeSantis as clued into Tallahassee issues and realities as his opponents? And does that matter?

His 2018 campaign will answer those questions.

Democrats are taking him seriously already; within hours after he entered the race, the liberal activist group American Bridge pilloried the candidate for voting to deny SNAP benefits to anyone who quit their job, even if they walked due to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Indeed, DeSantis voted in favor of a failed amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 that would have stripped SNAP eligibility for two months from any “able-bodied individual” who quit their job “voluntarily.”

Fant presses Senate on sanctuary issue

On Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee was the first Senate panel to mull the sanctuary cities ban bill (HB 9) that passed the House already.

And one of the House co-sponsors of that measure — Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General — sent an email to supporters last night, urging them to press committee members on the matter.

“Sanctuary cities are home to illegal immigrants and are extremely dangerous. We need all the supporters we can get to sign our petition and keep our state, and our country, safe,” Fant writes in the email.

Will the sanctuary cities ban be a winner for AG hopeful Jay Fant?

Fant also offers a 30-second video in the email, a video from his AG campaign.

“The difference between immigration and illegal immigration is that illegal immigration is illegal,” Fant asserts. “Elected officials who prop up this paradigm of illegal immigration need to be prosecuted. They’re breaking the law.”

Fant is the second statewide politician to release a video this week inveighing against sanctuary jurisdictions.

The political committee of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a man widely expected to run for Governor once the Legislative Session wraps, spent $100,000 on a Fox News ad buy warning against the dangers of sanctuary cities.

Some might say these are quixotic positions, as there are no sanctuary jurisdictions in Florida.

However, certain Democratic Mayors, such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum, have indicated conceptual support for the sanctuary concept.

For Republican politicians attempting to build name identification with the kinds of super-voters who turn out for and decide GOP primaries, taking a strong stance on the sanctuary jurisdiction issue is essential, as Corcoran and Fant clearly believe.

However, with the sanctuary cities bill languishing in the Senate, this may all be theater.

Brown still wants to challenge Gibson

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown is even closer to challenging Senate Democratic Leader-designate Audrey Gibson in a Democratic Primary this year.

The word on the street has been that Brown was being put up to it by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, as payback for Gibson opposing Jacksonville’s 2016 pension reform referendum.

That word includes allegations of potential quid pro quo, such as a job with the Curry Administration, or a paying gig with the new Kids Hope Alliance.

Lenny Curry did not put Reggie Brown up to running against Gibson, Brown says.

Brown says that’s hogwash.

“I’ve never had that discussion with the Mayor’s team or the Mayor. This is a tactic used to distract our community,” Brown said, adding that “politicians on every level of government never agree on every issue; hence, to conclude that Mayor Curry is retaliating is an interesting position.”

“They are trying to discredit me in the community by saying I’m being pushed by the Mayor’s team … the people know differently and no one is buying the foolishness,” Brown said.

“I’ve served Jacksonville well and have used a balanced approach with local government to get things accomplished. If anyone has made a decision to support Reggie Brown,” the Councilman said, it’s because “I have a proven track record of moving both legislations and appropriations.”

Brown has been exploring a potential run for State Senate since late last year, which he previously discussed in detail with this outlet.

Worth noting: state powerbrokers are taking an interest in this nascent race already. The Fraternal Order of Police released an endorsement of Gibson, which was tweeted out this week by local FOP head Steve Zona.

The news release asserted that she “continues to be the best choice” in SD 6, a “true Champion for Public Safety,” a “voice of reason” in the legislature.

Brown noted that he didn’t get an opportunity to make his case to the police union — but that he had beaten those odds before, in his 2008 run for City Council.

NPA challenge for Daniels

State Rep. Kim Daniels is going to face an electoral challenge this year after all — and it will come from an unexpected NPA candidate, Darcy Richardson.

Darcy Richardson will start the race — and finish it — as an underdog against Kim Daniels.

“I’m running to win,” Richardson says, spitting in the face of the long, if not prohibitive, odds faced by almost every independent candidates.

Richardson, an author of multiple books on populist politicians and movements and a man who has run for office off and on for decades, sets up an interesting contrast to Daniels, a preacher by trade whose nickname is the “demon-buster.”

Richardson made it clear that he is running solely because he sees Daniels as singularly unacceptable.

“Like many others, I was hoping that a credible Democratic candidate — possibly somebody like Leslie Jean-Bart, who waged a solid campaign in the crowded Democratic primary two years ago — would challenge Daniels in this year’s Democratic primary, but that possibility is beginning to look increasingly unlikely,” Richardson said.

“I’m not even sure at this point that the GOP — a party fully capable of putting up a candidate even worse than the deeply-flawed and controversial Democratic incumbent — will even bother to field a candidate against her in November,” Richardson added, calling Daniels a “national embarrassment.”

Speaking of embarrassments, Daniels drew heat in Tallahassee this week with a curious amendment to a bill banning child marriage.

The amendment, as reported by Florida Politics’ Ana Ceballos, changes the lewd and lascivious criminal statute to include a break for an 18- or 19-year-old first-time offender who has sex with a child as young as 14, but not older than 16.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican who championed the bill that strictly bans all child marriages under the age of 18, said she finds Daniels’ proposal “appalling.”

Daniels withdrew the amendment before the week ended.

Bean ‘sanctuary cities’ bill stalls in Senate panel

Bad news for those who hoped Aaron Bean’s sanctuary cities bill would clear the Senate. It may not get out of its first committee.

Bean requested his bill be temporarily postponed as it did not “yet meet the concerns” of the 10-member Senate Judiciary Committee — a sign that the measure did not have enough votes.

Bad news for the Aaron Bean team, as sanctuary cities ban gets TP’d.

In order to pass its first of three committee assignments, the bill needs at least six votes from the panel, which has four Democrats and two Miami Republicans who have a track record of blocking hardline immigration proposals.

The Fernandina Beach Republican said some senators had issues with the severity of penalties for governments that declare themselves sanctuaries from immigration enforcement, according to a News Service of Florida report.

“I’m still negotiating to see what we can do. … The makeup of that committee is a tough committee to get through sometimes,” he said.

The House version passed with ease; the Senate rejected it last year, and doesn’t seem ready for it this year either.

Yarborough ‘Healthy Marriage’ bill gets Dem pushback

Legislation aimed at reducing the divorce rate by having couples read a marriage guide before their nuptials is making its way through the Legislature — though at least one Democrat has raised concerns about conservative ideology tainting the document.

Is Clay Yarborough’s ‘Healthy Marriage’ guide a right-wing front? A Dem says yes.

The “Healthy Marriage Guide” (HB 1323) is sponsored in the House by Republicans Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville and Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills. It would contain resources addressing “conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities and management, domestic violence resources and parenting responsibilities.”

Like so many other bills, it’s not an original idea, as six other states have similar guides, Yarborough told the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.

Cutler Bay Democrat Kionne McGhee said he had serious concerns about the potential for a conservative slant in the guide.

“This is an attempt to use an ideology to overpower people’s ideas and thoughts,” McGhee said, adding that “I actually honestly believe that it’s being used — and we’re going to use our government agencies like clerk of court to carry out right-wing ideology to destroy the sanctity of marriage and parenting, and I think that is a very, very dangerous thing that we have to guard against.”

Downtown discussion between Curry and Scott

Gov. Scott met with Curry Wednesday in Tallahassee.

Lenny Curry and Rick Scott go way back, as shown in this picture taken when Curry was RPOF chair.

Scott and Curry align politically, and as the only Republican Mayor of a major city in Florida, Curry’s visits to Tallahassee are always worth noting.

Conversation with the Governor Wednesday, Curry said, was about jobs, economic development, investment in downtown — and removing regulatory hurdles.

Curry described his administration as “aggressively” wanting to make more progress on downtown development, but there is “regulatory stuff to work through.”

Gov. Scott, Curry said, has been “helpful” on issues — and Curry expects that to continue.

Further detail wasn’t forthcoming from Gov. Scott’s office.

“Governor Scott routinely meets with mayors from around the state. The Governor and Mayor Curry met to discuss issues important to Jacksonville,” asserted spokesperson Lauren Schenone.

Curry met with legislators from the region and beyond this week in Tallahassee also.

From the Senate, he met with Sen. Bean, Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, Travis Hutson and Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, along with Wilton Simpson.

Curry also met with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, in addition to meeting with regional representatives Travis Cummings, Jason Fischer, Yarborough and Tracie Davis.

Jacksonville has a number of asks — among them, an appropriation for $15 million for septic tank phaseout that is being carried by Davis in the House and Gibson in the Senate — and as has been typical throughout his term, the city’s mayor is making his case in person to powerbrokers.

Jacksonville Civic Council revives downtown task force

Per the Jax Daily Record, the Jacksonville Civic Council will be more aggressive in attempting to put its stamp on downtown planning.

“We’ve had plenty of master plans, but we turn over city leadership, arguably, every year. We have a new City Council president every year. We have a new Finance (Committee) chairman every year. Those are powerful people in the implementation of a master plan in a city of our size,” immediate past chair Ed Burr said.

Ed Burr wants the Civic Council to weigh in on downtown.

“We have mayors every four or eight years. And it’s not the lack of planning. It’s the lack of consistent implementation because you can’t tell anybody today that this master plan is going to be the same thing that’s going to be here 10 years from now,” he said.

Burr also seemed to hint at repurposing jail property downtown, calling the current setup obsolete.

“What’s going to happen to the jail? The jail’s obsolete. The sheriff told me that they can’t even find replacement parts for the lighting mechanisms anymore. They have to be custom-made every time they have a problem,” Burr said.

Cynics will say that it may be cheaper just to replace the lighting mechanisms.

Jacksonville Chamber Chair John Peyton, a former Mayor, likewise is bullish on downtown development, he told the Jax Daily Record.

Klan poison

The city of Jacksonville took well over a week to respond to multiple complaints about Ku Klux Klan flyers.

Another batch of Klan flyers dropped in Duval, and City Hall can’t fight them.

“I am visiting Jacksonville and was disturbed to see these flyers (such as those pictured) rolled up and strewed along Riverside Avenue in Five Points in short intervals. They are everywhere in the area between the Publix and Bell Riverside Apartments, and beyond. Regardless of the content of the messages, it is illegal to litter City rights of way and private property like this, per the Florida Litter Law, Section 403.413(4)(a) and (c), Florida Statutes,” one complainant wrote.

The cover described the “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” as “fighting for the white race.” The interior text referred to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a “communist alcoholic pervert.”

After well over a week had passed in the cases of both complaints, Neighborhoods head Stephanie Burch wrote back to let them know that there was little that City Hall could or would do about Klan flyers.

“Unfortunately, the City’s litter law can only be enforced by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and an officer must witness a person littering. In this case, I am not aware that any citations were able to be issued for the litter,” wrote Burch.

“However, I have asked Dan Durbec, our Environmental Programs Coordinator and Adopt A Road representative to reach out to the neighboring businesses to encourage them to assist in clean-up efforts on their properties and potentially setting up an Adopt A Road program for the area, if one currently doesn’t exist. Thank you for contacting the City, we appreciate your feedback,” Burch added.

Will Riverside residents and businesses be reassured by an official response that, in the face of leaflets from a domestic terrorist organization, they should set up an Adopt A Road program?

Nelson continues reform path

Via the Florida Times-Union, more evidence of the reform path on which 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson has the office.

Melissa Nelson continues her crusade toward meaningful restorative justice work.

Nelson hired someone to exonerate inmates who may have been wrongfully convicted: the fledgling beginnings of a conviction integrity review unit.

“This CIR will be a first for Florida,” Nelson said Jan. 5, “and will be an invaluable tool for us both internally and externally. The work of the CIR will lead to learning opportunities and improved processes in the review and prosecution of cases, and — just as important — it shows the people of the Fourth Circuit of our commitment to accountability and transparency in the work we do every day.”

State Senators from the 4th Circuit laud the move.

Sen. Bradley, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said that whether “it is something that expands to other areas of the state is going to be largely dependent on the model that is being built right now by Ms. Nelson.”

Sen. Bean, who secured the appropriation, added that “there’s nothing [sadder] than discovering we’ve convicted an innocent person. Hopefully, this is going to bring trust and faith in the judicial system.”

Nassau County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will be the keynote speaker at the Nassau County Republican Executive Committee’s Lincoln Day Dinner in April.

The Lincoln Day dinner is an annual celebration and fundraising event featuring Nassau County’s political and community leaders, who gather to celebrate the Republican accomplishments of the year.

For 2018, the party will be Friday, April 6, at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy. in Fernandina Beach. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction; dinner starts at 7 p.m.

Also scheduled to appear are Justin Taylor, vice chair of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners and the West Nassau High School AFJROTC Color Guard.

Attending the black-tie-optional event is $125 for general admission, $225 for admission and an invite to the private reception. For more information and tickets, visit For table sponsorship information, contact Lincoln Day Chair William Lusk at (727) 215-8929.

UF Health physician first to implant ‘bio envelop’ to protect defibrillators

University of Florida College of Medicine — Jacksonville physician performed the world’s first successful implant of a device under the skin to protect cardiac defibrillators.

Called “regenerative bio envelope,” the procedure could help improve patient recovery from implant surgery.

John Catanzaro, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist and assistant professor of medicine in the UF cardiology division, implanted the envelope and defibrillator early last month in a 39-year old patient suffering from a genetic condition that could cause the heart to stop suddenly.

Dr. John Catanzaro performed the world’s first implant of a regenerative bio envelope.

The device, known as a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator, is placed under the skin close to the heart using the novel bio envelope, which Catanzaro helped develop. Defibrillators can instantly treat life-threatening arrhythmia by defibrillation, which resets the heart back to its normal rhythm, thereby saving a patient’s life.

“This is truly a breakthrough because this bio envelope not only physically protects the defibrillator, it also facilitates protection of the patient,” Catanzaro said in a statement. “A healthy environment is created within the implant site of the SICD, stabilizing it in a comfortable, natural fashion.”

Jacksonville Zoo links conservation efforts to new baby tigers

The Jacksonville Business Journal got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Jacksonville Zoo’s newest babies — two Sumatran tiger cubs, Jaggar and Rocky — born November 20.

Senior mammal specialist Tirzah Nichols conducted the tour as the tigers’ mother, Dorcas, sat just outside the cubs’ enclosure.

Jacksonville Zoo’s newest babies. Photo courtesy Jacksonville Business Journal.

“We had to build up to this point where she’s comfortable with us hanging out with them,” Nichols said. “Even though they were born in captivity and see us every day, they’re not domesticated. They don’t act like domesticated kittens. They definitely know that they are what they are and we are what we are.”

Already having very different personalities, the pair just learned to “chuff,” the friendly greeting sound similar to a purr.

“They just discovered pine cones for the first time. They love to wrestle with them and chew on them,” Nichols told the Journal. She placed cones in front of the babies. “Look, it’s a brand-new pine cone! Oh, come and get it!”

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