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Last Call for 8.13.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The Florida Elections Commission will consider a “recommended final order” that Brian Pitts’ Justice-2-Jesus organization be stripped of its political committee status.

The matter is on the agenda for the panel’s Tuesday meeting in Tallahassee. Pitts is a longtime legislative critic, well known in The Process for his appearances at committee meetings over the years.

Records show Pitts asked for a hearing after the Division of Elections’ decision “to cancel Justice-2-Jesus’s registration as a political committee for failing to pay a civil penalty.” That was for not filing campaign finance reports.

An administrative law judge in January 2016 found “willful violations of the Florida Election Code,” imposing a $7,000 fine that still has not been paid.  

Because of that, “the Commission concludes that the Division may proceed with final cancellation … of Justice-2-Jesus,” a draft order reads.

Meantime, Pitts recently returned to Twitter after a seven-month hiatus. He told Florida Politics back in March that multiple cases of legislative misconduct had taken a toll on him, and “it was time for a sabbatical.”

Pitts, who chairs the St. Petersburg-based committee, has told commissioners in a filing he can’t pay the penalty and disagreed with the commission’s recommendation in his usual all-caps style.


The committee hasn’t raised a cent since 2008, when it took in $1,150. That money is the group’s only funds, which it’s still sitting on. It reported no other contributions since 2007, and no expenditures.

Evening Reads

1. “Rick Scott issues emergency order on Red Tide algae bloom” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

2. “Report of election site hacking rankle Florida officials” via the Associated Press

3. “An 11-year-old changed election results on a replica Florida state website in under 10 minutes” via Michael Regan of PBS

4. “‘Where’s the blue wave?’ Voter data show Florida Democrats aren’t surging” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

5. “Democrats make big gains in Seminole, Osceola and Orange; Republicans flip Volusia and Polk” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

6. “Ron DeSantis: I’ll kick Adam Putnam’s keister in South Florida” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

7. “Adam Putnam’s cash dries up as gubernatorial star fades” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

8. “Bob Buckhorn or Shevrin Jones for Gwen Graham’s Lieutenant Governor” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

9. “Matt Caldwell’s gun rights ad draws NRA rebuke” via Dara Kam and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

10. “‘Dammit Dana’: Janet Cruz slams Dana Young over lead in schools” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

11. “House candidate Terry Power lives in $500K home but applied for food stamps” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

12. “Melissa Howard apologizes for lying about degree, will stay in race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

13. “Toyota dealership inspired by #MeToo likely discriminated against men, state says” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“Like her dad, Gwen will put the interests of everyday Floridians first. She has a heart for people and a passion for the Sunshine State.” —Jimmy Buffett, in a Monday endorsement of Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will take up a series of issues at a regular meeting. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol.

The Florida Elections Commission will take up numerous issues, including a proposed legislative budget request and a legislative recommendation. That’s at 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Enterprise Florida will hold one in a series of trade seminars. That’s at 9 a.m. Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, 50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will visit the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, attend a district office opening in Coral Springs and take part in a Moms Demand Action town hall on gun violence. That’s at 10 a.m., Pride Center at Equality Park, 2040 North Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors. Also, office opening at 4 p.m., Coral Springs City Hall, 9500 West Sample Road, Coral Springs. Also, town hall at 6:30 p.m., Marriott-Heron Bay, 11775 Heron Bay Blvd., Coral Springs.

The Florida Development Finance Corp. Board of Directors is slated to meet and receive presentations from Classical Preparatory Charter School, Inc. and Waste Pro USA, Inc. That’s at 2 p.m., 156 Tuskawilla Road-Suite 2340, Winter Springs. Call-in number: 1-646-741-5292. Code: 1114882779.

Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine will be visiting political “hob nobs.” A Tampa event is 4:30 p.m., Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St. A Lakeland event is 6:30 p.m., Rocking H Ranch, 2200 Ewell Road.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Congressional District 27 candidate Bruno Barreiro are slated to speak during a meeting of the Miami Young Republicans. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Cubaocho Museum, 1465 S.W. Eighth St., Miami.

By the numbers: Voter registration tops 13 million

Some will vote by mail. Some will vote early. Some will go old-school and vote on the actual election day. Some won’t vote at all.

But slightly more than 13 million Floridians are registered to vote in advance of the Aug. 28 primary elections, according to new figures posted online by the state Division of Elections. Democrats outnumber Republicans, but just barely, as both parties gear up for a fierce battle in November for a U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s office.

Here are five takeaways from the new voter-registration numbers, which reflect the primary-election “book closing” on July 30:

The big picture

As Florida’s population has continued to grow, so has the number of voters, with 13,013,657 registered to cast ballots in the primaries. By comparison, 12.37 million were registered to vote in the 2016 primaries, and 11.8 million were registered to vote in the 2014 primaries.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, but not by a lot — 4,839,434 to 4,594,133. While both parties have seen registration increases since the 2016 primaries, the Democratic margin is about the same as it was two years ago.

No labels, please

Voters who aren’t registered with the Democratic or Republican parties won’t be able to cast ballots in many primary races, including the marquee race for governor. But that hasn’t stopped the trend of Floridians ditching the donkeys and the elephants and registering “no party affiliation.”

The total of so-called NPA voters has climbed to 3,493,494 — or about 27 percent of the electorate. That is up from slightly more than 2.91 million voters, or about 23.6 percent, during the 2016 primaries.

Democratic dominance

Conventional wisdom has long held that Democrats look to South Florida when they need votes. And there’s good reason for that: Miami-Dade County has 586,648 registered Democrats, Broward County has 577,248, and Palm Beach County has 387,445 — nearly a third of all of the registered Democrats in the state.

It’s also no wonder that Democrats focus on the Orlando area. In Orange and Osceola counties, registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans by 161,000 voters. With both parties focusing heavily this year on attracting Hispanic voters, Democrats also hold about a 100,000-voter edge in Orange and Osceola among Latinos.

GOP heaven

Registered Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats in each of the seven most-populated counties — Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas (though the GOP trails by fewer than, 1,000 voters in Pinellas.) But the GOP has been successful for the past two decades, at least in part, because it has dominated regions such as North Florida, Southwest Florida and many suburban areas.

The new numbers bear that out. For example, in Northwest Florida, registered Republicans make up more than half of the voters in Bay, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Washington counties. The same holds true in Northeast Florida in Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties. It also goes for Sumter County, which is home to much of the massive Villages retirement community, and Collier County in Southwest Florida.

Don’t forget the little guys

Much of the attention during this year’s campaign focuses on candidates going to large media markets and party strongholds as they try to amass votes. But the new registration numbers also give a glimpse of smaller, rural counties that can get lost in the debate.

Nine counties — Calhoun, Dixie, Franklin, Glades, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Liberty and Union counties — each have fewer than 10,000 registered voters. The smallest are Lafayette, with 4,312 voters, and Liberty, with 4,365, followed by Glades, with 6,751. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in each of the nine counties, though GOP President Donald Trump carried all of the counties in 2016.

Democratic candidates push for expanded health care coverage

Reflecting the same fault lines that have emerged nationally, Florida’s Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are deeply split over whether the state should take a more direct role in providing health care.

And that split is resonating in a campaign where health care has become one of the touchstone issues for the five Democrats running in the Aug. 28 primary.

Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine are united in their support for expanding Medicaid to the 700,000 Floridians who would qualify for the program if Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature had agreed to expand coverage to uninsured working adults.

But the five Democrats have not taken identical stances on health-care issues, including whether the state should allow the recreational use of marijuana instead of just limiting it to patients with chronic medical conditions.

And none of the Democratic candidates appears to have cornered support from Florida’s vast health-care industry. An analysis of contribution data to campaigns and political committees shows Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor, has collected more than $210,444 from the industry, while King, a Winter Park businessman, has gotten nearly $181,000. Graham a former congresswoman, has received nearly $171,000, and Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, reported taking in contributions of nearly $160,000. Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, has virtually self-funded his campaign.

Democrats are making sure voters are aware of health-care issues during the campaign. Florida’s uninsured rate in 2013, the year before federal Affordable Care Act plans became available, was 20 percent and one of the highest in the nation. In 2016, the rate was 12.5 percent.

The Florida Democratic Party has pointed to polls, such as one done this year by AARP and Politico, that showed health care is a top issue among voters 50 and older.

But Kevin McCarty, the state’s former long-time insurance commissioner, said he doesn’t think it will be a marquee issue this election.

A Republican, McCarty said that as Floridians prepare to go to the polls in coming weeks a mandate that insurance companies sell policies to people regardless of pre-existing conditions remains in effect. Also remaining in effect are subsidies that flow to people who are purchasing policies on the federal health-care exchange. The subsidies, McCarty said, keep people protected from having to pay the full costs of the policies.

“I don’t think it’s front and center of the mind,” McCarty said.

“But I don’t think there’s any question those issues will be front and center of the political arena for the next four years,” McCarty said, referring to, among other things, a multi-state legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act filed in federal court in Texas.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he won’t defend the law against the challenge, which Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined. The challenge could ensure that the pre-existing condition protections will be eliminated. Seventeen other states have intervened to defend the Affordable Care Act.

More than 1.7 million Florida residents enrolled in the federal exchange to buy health policies this year. Ninety percent of them are receiving some sort of discounts to help offset the costs of the coverage, according to federal data.

King and Graham said they aren’t afraid to use the power of the governor’s office to bolster the insurance exchange.

Both candidates’ platforms would require managed-care plans participating in Medicaid to offer health plans on the federal exchange. King said he also would use incentives — carrots and sticks — to require Medicare health plans to participate in the marketplace. He called the policy “universal participation.”

Gillum supports the Affordable Care Act and has said that he would change Florida’s insurance laws to make sure they have the same pre-existing condition protections that are in the federal law.

But Gillum also said he also supports U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan. Sanders, a Vermont independent who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has endorsed Gillum’s campaign.

While McCarty maintains that health care isn’t foremost on people’s minds this year, residents have enough concerns to keep the advocacy group Florida Voices for Health busy, said Louisa McQueeney, the group’s communications director.

She said the organization has been hosting town-hall meetings and talking with people who could be impacted if protections in the federal law are eliminated.

People who come to Florida Voices for Health for assistance, though, generally aren’t pressing for information about the gubernatorial candidates and the candidates’ health-care and insurance agendas.

“They want information on health care,” she said. “What we’re being asked for is to help us to understand the potential changes to the Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid expansion and now, the short-term plans.”

The Democratic candidates part ways when it comes to other health-care issues that may resonate with voters, including their positions on whether to expand marijuana legalization in Florida beyond current medical-only uses.

Gillum was the first to support allowing recreational use of the drug. King and Levine also support it.

Graham and Greene support legal marijuana only for medical uses. Graham said, though, that she would decriminalize the use of marijuana, a step short of full legalization.

Delegation for 8.10.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Primary races picking up steam

Primary elections are less than three weeks away. Most have little drama, but some, especially on the Democratic side, will be fun to watch. Republicans have far fewer tight races.

President Donald Trump has weighed in on a few races, most notably his full-throated endorsement of Rep. Ron DeSantis for governor. He has also made a couple of safe choices for House seats.

He backed Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach in his three-way primary in Florida’s 1st Congressional District. On Thursday, he came out in support of Rep. Ted Yoho of Gainesville in CD 3.

Full-throated: Donald Trump is all-in for Ron DeSantis.

Neither Gaetz nor Yoho expect to face significant difficulty in their re-election races.

Pundits will be watching Districts 6, 7, 15 and 17.

Democrats have some great primaries. The race in District 5 between former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee seems to make news every day. The state’s Stand Your Ground Law (see below) is the latest high-profile issue in the campaign.

In CD 6, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg is up with her first ad of the campaign. Titled “Hurdles,” it is an introductory piece taking voters through her life as a diabetic who was refused health insurance, and a lengthy diplomatic career one “who helped bring Northern Ireland’s opposing sides together,” and among the first to say “let’s get (Osama) bin Laden.”

Soderberg, who is running against John Upchurch and Steve Sevigny, has nearly $400,000 more cash on hand than any of her opponents from either party in this GOP-leaning district currently held by DeSantis. The winner among three closely matched candidates running on the Republican side will be slightly favored in the fall.

The matchup between Rep. Darren Soto and former Rep. Alan Grayson is heating up. Soto is leading by 7 points in a recent poll.

The most competitive, and most costly, primary race is the free-for-all for the CD 27 seat held by the retiring Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Democrats are favored to flip the seat into their column and the top three candidates have each raised $1 million.

One of those candidates is bucking the national Democrats who have told their members to stop talking about impeachment of Trump. National Democrats have tried to quash talk of such action, but state Rep. David Richardson is out with a new ad that uses humor to get his message across.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, Richardson utters the impeachment word three times, only to have it bleeped out each time. Richardson appears to be calling out front-runner Donna Shalala for not taking a stand.

Shalala is touting two new ads. One talks about health care, an issue where she has come under attack for not supporting universal health care as well as her investment in a for-profit health insurer.

Another is in Spanish and serves as an introduction to Hispanic voters. Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli is the narrator.

Fellow Democrat Matt Haggman earlier put out a 15-second video that said he would work to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. He also took a poke at Shalala saying “She’s had her chance. It’s time for a new day.”

On August 28, all of the winners can celebrate. Some represent a district that virtually assures their win in November.

For others, it’s back to raising money and appealing to independents for the following two months.

Nelson, Scott in rare agreement

The race between Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson seemingly grows more bitter each day. Scott ads criticize Nelson for “cutting Medicare” by way of his support for the Affordable Care Act; a supporting group now says Nelson “is too old” for the rigors of being a Senator.

Republicans are asking if Bill Nelson is getting ‘too old for this s**t.’

Nelson is focusing on his stands relating to current issues like gun control and the environment. He went after Scott’s environmental record recently by blaming the governor for asking EPA to delay implementation of stricter water quality standards, which have a role in the recent algal bloom outbreak in South Florida.

The Tampa Bay Times may have taken away that advantage for the three-term Senator. The newspaper revealed that Nelson wrote a similar letter to the EPA before Scott weighed in asking them to finalize the water quality standards “in a deliberative manner.”

Nelson said he did not recall the letter but freely admitted that he wanted Floridians to have time to comment on the standards. He supported their implementation.

Rubio slammed for endorsement

Rubio recently endorsed a Republican South Florida blogger who is one of three Republicans challenging Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch for his District 22 seat. Deutch claimed he was not upset that Rubio endorsed one of his opponents, but he was upset that it was Javier Manjarres, who Deutch claimed insulted the father of a Marjory Douglas High school shooting victim.

“If Rubio wants to endorse in this race because it’s important to him, it’s his prerogative, but for him to choose to endorse someone who has cruelly attacked a grieving father and regularly mocks student survivors, I think that just surprised a lot of people,” Deutch said.

Marco Rubio is taking heat for supporting a shady South Florida congressional candidate. (Image via Getty)

Deutch has also said that he was surprised to see Rubio “wade into” the primary to endorse a candidate. He has suggested that the endorsement could mean that Rubio agrees with the comments Manjarres made about the victims of the shooting.

Deutch pointed to comments Manjarres made on Twitter during exchanges last month with Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg was one of 17 people killed during the massacre.

“C’mon Fred. I can’t only imagine the pain you are feeling over the loss of your daughter, but stop exploiting her death in the name of some political agenda. Your daughter was shot by some lunatic who had an AR-15, not by the gun itself. #Fixit #VoteJavi,” Manjarres wrote.

Deutch claimed that since Rubio endorsed Manjarres, publisher of the conservative Shark Tank blog, he must share the views of the candidate.

“I don’t know why (he endorsed),” Deutch said. “If this is some signal about the beliefs that Senator Rubio has, I think he ought to be more upfront about them because it’s certainly not the image that he puts forth. I was very surprised about that.”

Rubio’s office is declining comment.

Nelson’s phenomenal elections claim

Trump finally conceded the Russians tried to influence the 2016 elections directly. Now two Congressional committees have concluded they are working at it again.

Nelson claims they already have.

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free reign to move about,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times. It marked the second time this week he made such a claim.

Bill Nelson makes a wild (and as yet unsubstantiated) claim about Russian meddling in Florida.

Nelson’s claim takes previous warnings to the next level. Last month he joined with Rubio to warn the state and the 67 elections supervisors in a letter urging them to be wary of hacking activities.

Nelson would not elaborate saying the information was “classified.” State elections officials are puzzled.

“The Florida Department of State has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims,” agency spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a statement. “If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida.”

Rubio, a member of the Intelligence Committee, has raised alarms himself. He also continues to express concern, though not as overtly.

VA clinic renaming draws big guns

Congress routinely names government buildings, post offices and Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities after local politicians or other individuals. On Tuesday, the Tallahassee VA clinic was renamed for a Monticello World War II soldier, but it was far from routine.

The recently confirmed VA Secretary, Robert Wilkie, flew to Tallahassee for the ceremony to rename the facility the Sergeant Ernest I. “Boots” Thomas VA Clinic. Joining Wilkie was Nelson and the two delegation members who represent the area in Congress; Lawson and Republican Rep. Neal Dunn.

The Tallahassee VA facility, newly renamed for Sergeant Ernest I. “Boots” Thomas.

Sgt. Thomas was part of the famous group, who raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. While four of his group raised the flag, Thomas and a handful of others served as protectors. Thomas was killed the next week, just 7 days before his 21st birthday.

“Thank you for rededicating this wonderful facility in the name of a man from a generation that continues to inspire,” Wilkie said.

Nelson and Lawson were credited with responding to requests from Jefferson County residents to honor Thomas and carrying the bills through Congress. Opening originally in 2016, the clinic serves more than 16,000 veterans in North Florida and South Georgia.

Everglades Foundation asks McConnell for reservoir vote

With the algae outbreak in South Florida continuing to infect local waterways, residents and advocates believe the need for the proposed Everglades Reservoir is greater than ever. The Everglades Foundation is going directly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to speed things up.

In a letter to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg urged McConnell to schedule a vote on a bill that would authorize a vote on the reservoir when the Senate returns to Washington next week.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. (Image via Ricardo Rolon/news-press.com)

“There is no other way to say this,” Eikenberg wrote. “Florida is being ravaged by a perennial algae crisis that is destroying our beaches, fisheries, tourism and real estate industries, and we are desperate.”

The area is prone to algal blooms each time highly polluted water is released from Lake Okeechobee. A proposed reservoir south of the lake that would create nearly a quarter-million acres of dynamic water storage gained the approval of the White House last month.

“On behalf of Florida’s 20 million citizens and the countless millions of other Americans — many of them from Kentucky — who visit or call our state a second home, I implore you to save Florida from its perennial algae crises,” Eikenberg added. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Yoho honors Korean War vets

When the remains of Korean War soldiers returned to the United States two weeks ago, Vice-President Mike Pence spoke of these veterans as “forgotten no more.”

This week, Yoho joined the effort to remember Americans who served, including those who never made it home, at a ceremony that included a high-level representative of the South Korean government.

Ted Yoho honors Korean War soldiers whose remains returned to the U.S.

Korean War veterans were honored at Camp Blanding in North Florida at the ceremony, which included South Korea’s Ambassador to the U.S., Cho Yoon-Je. Cho presented the Ambassador for Peace medal to each veteran attending the ceremony.

“There is simply not enough we can do for our veterans and today is no exception,” Yoho said during his remarks. “While today we are exceptionally hopeful for reunification of the Korean Peninsula, we are ever mindful of the service of those who fought during the Korean War. Thank you for your service.”

Camp Blanding leadership helped to arrange transportation for the veterans seeking to attend the ceremony. In addition to the media from South Korea, Yoho also presented them with a Congressional challenge coin.

Black caucus endorses Lawson, who changes on SYG

Lawson got a big boost this week from some of his colleagues in Congress. On Tuesday, 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus jointly announced their endorsement of his bid for re-election.

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

Al Lawson gets backing from most of the CBC. (Image via Roll Call)

Lawson is one of 49 members of the caucus, which makes almost one-fourth of the House Democratic Caucus.

For his part, Brown has hammered Lawson for his support of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, while Brown favored repeal. Lawson pointed out the legislation passed unanimously in the Florida Senate and would only go as far as saying the Legislature needs to “look at it.”

On Wednesday, at a rally in Tallahassee advocating the law’s repeal, Lawson officially changed his position and now seeks to repeal. Joining him was Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a candidate for governor committed to the law’s repeal.

“It’s been used to let people get away with murder,” he said. “We’re not going to let that happen in the state of Florida.”

Crist bill to legalize medical pot for vets working for feds

Medical marijuana is gradually becoming more mainstream in some states. Florida placed its use into the state Constitution in 2016.

It is technically not legal on the federal level, but Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg wants to take the step of making it available to veterans serving as government employees. As part of a roundtable featuring veterans and cannabis industry representatives, Crist announced he had filed the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act.

The act would apply to states like Florida that have legalized medical marijuana.

Georgia Republican Drew Ferguson. (Image via Time magazine)

“Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD,” Crist said. “At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” Crist said.

Georgia Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson joined Crist in filing the bill. He said “no one should face unemployment for choosing to pursue private legal medical treatment,” including the veterans who make up one-third of the federal workforce.

“Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws, because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities,” Crist continued.

Realtors endorse Steube

In the battle to win the CD 17 seat currently held by the retiring Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, two Republicans are running in a highly competitive primary. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez and state Sen. Greg Steube have raised similar amounts of money and each claiming endorsements worth noting.

This week, Steube gained the backing of the American Realtors organization. The National Realtors PAC announced they were supporting Steube for his service as first a member of the House and now the Senate.

National Realtors give the nod to Greg Steube for Congress. (Image via Phil Sears)

“Greg Steube has a varied background of public service and experience, which will help make him a strong leader and a voice for Realtors and property owners,” said Ann DeFries, chair of Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. “His desire to serve, to listen and to work hard makes him the Realtors’ choice.”

The group cited Steube for his stances on behalf of property rights and low taxes.

“I have been a champion of private property rights, low taxes, and low regulation during my time in office,” said Steube. “I am proud to receive this endorsement.”

White House Hispanic comms chief moves on

Helen Aguirre Ferré of Miami, the White House head of communications for Hispanic media, has quietly left her position, according to Univision. She has not spoken publicly about her departure.

“We greatly appreciate Helen’s work, service and dedication during her time in the White House,” Mercedes Schlapp, White House Director of Strategic Communications, said in an email to Univision. “She will continue to work for the Administration in a different capacity.”

A quiet exit: Helen Aguirre Ferre, director of media affairs, departs the White House.

Schlapp, also a native of Miami, would not divulge what future role Aguirre Ferré would play. Rumors are she may head to the National Endowment for the Arts,

Her exit from the White House comes at a tumultuous time when the administration was dealing with the aftermath of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, but Aguirre Ferré has not commented publicly on the controversy.

In June, she said: “I support the President’s efforts in securing the border, and I support the President’s efforts in ensuring that the laws are enacted properly.”

At one time, both Schlapp and Aguirre Ferré were Trump critics, especially over some of his statements toward women. But they later came around after Trump won the Republican Party’s presidential nomination; he was preferable to Hillary Clinton, they concluded.

On this day in the headlines

August 9, 1974 — Facing certain impeachment from the House of Representatives, President Richard Nixon became the first chief executive to resign from office. Vice-President Gerald Ford was sworn in and told the American people “our long national nightmare is over.”

“To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American,” Nixon said in his farewell remarks. “In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: may God’s grace be with you in all the days ahead.”

August 9, 1998 — Democrats worry that independent counsel Kenneth Starr will drop an “October surprise” just before this year’s midterm elections. Starr is said to be wrapping up his Whitewater investigation that morphed to include the Monica Lewinsky scandal that involves President Bill Clinton.

Normally, midterm elections are years of losing House seats for the party in power, but Republicans say the report should be released when it is finished and not wait. Ohio Rep. John Boehner, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, said the report should be made public regardless of its proximity to the election.

(NOTE: Democrats defied history by gaining five seats in the fall elections.)

Trump backer/Never Trumper trade jabs

Tallahassee-based Republican consultant Rick Wilson and Republican Rep. Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach have a couple of things in common. In addition to being Republicans, both have a sense of humor that can add a humorous touch to any story.

Wilson is among the country’s most vocal “Never Trumpers.” He has written a book called “Everything Trump Touches, Dies …” In it, he mentions Gaetz, one of Trump’s biggest supporters.

Renowned ‘Never Trumper’ Rick Wilson mixes it up with Matt Gaetz.

“You’ve seen Matt on a hundred cable news shows,” Wilson wrote. “Young, dark-haired, and slowly going to seed, he looks like a frat boy wearing his father’s suit.”

Gaetz had a measured response.

“Three things happen to #NeverTrump Republicans — they lose, disappear from relevance, or get a job at MSNBC/CNN,” Gaetz said. “I’m glad Rick got the best of these options. I’ve always liked him.”

Wilson is a frequent CNN commentator.

New special master named in ‘water war’

The U.S. Supreme Court has appointed a new special master to handle the long-running legal battle between Florida and Georgia over water in the Apalachicola River system.

The court on Thursday named Paul J. Kelly Jr., a federal appellate judge from Santa Fe, N.M., to replace Maine lawyer Ralph Lancaster as special master.

A one-paragraph order from the court did not explain the reasons for the move.

The Supreme Court in June overturned a 2017 recommendation by Lancaster that found Florida had not proven its case “by clear and convincing evidence” that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use would benefit Florida water systems, including oyster-rich Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County.

The 5-4 decision found that Lancaster had “applied too strict a standard” in rejecting Florida’s claim that overconsumption of water in Georgia is damaging the Apalachicola River system. The ruling sent the case back to the special master, though it did not mean that the Supreme Court was siding with Florida on the underlying issues in the case.

Florida filed the lawsuit in 2013, although the case is only the latest chapter of a decades-old battle about the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in Georgia and flows south to Florida.

The order about Kelly’s appointment gave him authority to “fix the time and conditions for the filing of additional pleadings, to direct subsequent proceedings, to summon witnesses, to issue subpoenas, and to take such evidence as may be introduced and such as he may deem it necessary to call for.”

Last Call for 8.9.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign announced endorsements Thursday from 25 Florida veterinarians and five Florida veterinary clinics.

“Common injuries for greyhounds to experience while racing includes spinal, neck and limb fractures,” said Dr. Sy Woon of Royal Palm Beach. “Further, state records show that a gentle greyhound dies every three days at a Florida racetrack.

“To end this unnecessary suffering, I am asking my friends, family and my clients to vote ‘yes’ on 13.”

Joining them were nine musicians, artists and authors, including singer-songwriter Henry Gross, the campaign said.

According to his bio, Gross is a “founding member of the doo-wop revival group Sha Na Na who left to go solo, releasing what became his solid gold single “Shannon” in 1976.

The campaign is promoting passage of Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission.

The measure would outlaw wagering on live dog racing in Florida. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

A Tallahassee judge ordered the measure struck from the November ballot after a legal challenge from greyhound owners and breeders, but that ruling is on a fast-track appeal at the state Supreme Court.

Evening Reads

Nothing bodes well’: Lackluster election results spark debate over Donald Trump’s midterm role” via Bob Costa and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post

Blue wave? As Florida primary ballots are mailed in, Republicans more engaged via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Facing Bill Nelson’s warning, Homeland Security says it hasn’t seen ‘any new compromises’ by Russians” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene says he sold his oil, energy investments as feud with Gwen Graham escalates” via David Smiley and Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

Sean Shaw promises task force on gun violence ‘on day one’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

For Nikki Fried, cannabis a key to the AG race — and public policy” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Donald Trump endorses Ted Yoho ahead of Florida primaries” via Max Greenwood of The Hill

Three candidates pursue Republican dream of ousting Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Congress” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

‘They should be fired:’ Parkland parents call for gutting Broward school board” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald

Florida county tries unconventional approach to deal with massive teacher shortage” via CBS News

Quote of the Day

“There is no accountability. There’s no leadership. We don’t want this to happen to other schools. We don’t want this to happen to any other children.” — Parkland parent Max Schachter, whose son Alex was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, calling for the entire Broward County School Board to be replaced in this year’s election.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which is helping spearhead a proposed constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights, will start a two-day conference. The proposed amendment, which will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 4, would automatically restore the rights of most felons after they have served their sentences. That’s at 9 a.m., Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Dr., Orlando.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will help host a meeting that is part of an effort to better coordinate behavioral-health services. The meeting is an outgrowth of an executive order signed by Gov. Rick Scott that called for better collaboration with law-enforcement agencies. That’s at 10 a.m., Redlands Christian Migration Association Building, 551 West Cowboy Way, LaBelle.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Florida Realtors convention. That’s at 12:30 p.m., Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. will join Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine in a Central Florida canvass. That starts at 2 p.m., 646 West Colonial Dr., Orlando.

State candidates and political committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Aug. 3.

Looking Ahead

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which is helping spearhead a proposed constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights, will continue a two-day conference. The proposed amendment, which will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 4, would automatically restore the rights of most felons after they have served their sentences. That’s Saturday, 9 a.m., Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Dr., Orlando.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is expected to raise money during an event at a private residence in Leon County. That’s Saturday, 2 p.m., 1333 Peacefield Place, Tallahassee.

Florida Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia is expected to be among the speakers during the Lake County Republican Party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner. That’s Saturday, 6 p.m., Lake Receptions, 4425 North Highway 19-A, Mount Dora.

Last Call for 8.8.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

An administrative law judge recommended Wednesday that a Miami-Dade school bus driver be reinstated and get back pay after his unpaid suspension for restraining “a violent student.”

Judge Robert L. Kilbride ruled that driver Livingston Wint, a 15-year employee with no prior disciplinary record, “had to reasonably control and restrain a very unruly and disruptive (middle school) student.”

That student had caused “an emergency situation (by) triggering the exit window alarm” while the bus was moving. The incident happened in October 2017.

As captured on cellphone video taken by other students, Wint went back to close the window when “the male student (first) rose up slightly … and punched Wint in the stomach several times.”

In laying hands on the student to defend himself, the school board had argued Wint violated school board policies and standards of ethical conduct.

But Kilbride said Wint didn’t break any state laws. And where the school board’s rules may contradict the law, “they are invalid and not controlling.”

The “physical action (Wint) took to protect himself and the other students from a violent and unruly student was not only authorized but required by the statutes under the circumstances,” Kilbride wrote.

In fact, “had (Wint) done nothing and allowed the situation to escalate, he would have been accused of ignoring his obligations under” law, the judge said.

“There is not just cause to terminate (his) employment. To do so would be contrary to the law.”

Evening Reads

The shadow rulers of the VA” via Isaac Arnsdorf of ProPublica

Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter election systems” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson, Rick Scott spar over Ann Scott’s loan to blind trust accountant” via Mat Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Scott staffer takes impromptu meeting with Andrew Gillum, clergymen on ‘Stand Your Ground’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis poll shows him leading Adam Putnam by 20” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene pumps another $4.5 million into gubernatorial campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Gwen Graham sees film biz woes as symptoms of ideology malaise” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Denise Grimsley details policy proposals in new e-book” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Ted Deutch slams Marco Rubio for endorsing candidate he says ‘cruelly attacked’ grieving Parkland dad” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Internal poll shows Jason Pizzo up on Daphne Campbell” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Florida locals taxing themselves to cover shortfalls from state cuts in education and transpiration funding” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Quote of the Day

“The lobbyists and politicians who oppose Amendment 3 have fought us at every turn, because they don’t want voters to have a voice.” — Voters in Charge chair John Sowinski, on the proposed constitutional amendment requiring “voter control” of future gambling expansions. He’s planning a $30 million media buy to promote its passage.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will continue a two-day meeting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss “fiscally constrained” counties at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees will meet after holding committee meetings. Committees start at 8:30 a.m., with full board at 11 a.m., FAMU College of Law, 201 Beggs Ave., Orlando.

The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will meet at 9 a.m., district headquarters, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will consider what are known as “outlooks” for certain trust funds. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

The Republican Party of Palm Beach County will hold its annual “Lobster Fest,” with speakers expected to include Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s at 6:30 p.m., The Polo Club of Boca Raton, 5400 Champions Blvd., Boca Raton.

The five Democrats running for Florida Governor are expected to take part in a town-hall forum in Jacksonville. That’s at 8 p.m., Jacksonville University, Terry Concert Hall, 2800 University Blvd. North, Jacksonville.

Last Call for 8.7.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente wants to be a U.S. Senator so badly, he’s running in several states, including Florida. For instance, he’s running in Washington state, which has a primary election today.

Remember: Washington state is entirely vote-by-mail; no precincts are even open on Election Day. Washington is also a ‘Top Two’ primary state, where all candidates run in the August primary, and the Top Two advance to November, regardless of party affiliation.

Ballots are only required to be postmarked today, not received. Counting ballots can go on for two weeks, and often does in close races.

There are no third parties on the November ballot, forcing a choice between the two remaining candidates.

And there are — egads — 29 candidates vying for the Top Two slots in today’s Washington primary, including incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell, elected with Florida’s Bill Nelson in the Class of 2000.

But there’s another Florida connection here, as always, as Rocky is the lone GOP challenger to Gov. Rick Scott for the Senate nomination.

Will he step down from Florida if he wins in Washington? If he stays and wins the Aug. 28 Florida primary, what will he do?

A request for comment with the De La Fuente campaign is pending.

Evening Reads

43% of Republicans want to give Donald Trump the power to shut down media” via Sam Stein of The Daily Beast

Why the Ohio special election won’t tell us much about November” via Charlie Cook of the National Journal

Closed primary shuts out 3.5 million Florida voters” via Glenna Milberg of ClickOrlando.com

As federal government eyes shutdown fight, Ron DeSantis backs Donald Trump’s threads” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Republican candidates for governor get in dust-up over Clearwater ‘Stand Your Ground’ shooting” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gwen Graham separates from the pack according to new Associated Industries of Florida poll” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Sheriffs slam Frank White in new Ashley Moody ad” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

As bouts with killer algae rose, Florida gutted its water quality monitoring network” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald

Former Wrigley Co. CEO helps Surterra land $65M for expansion efforts” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Hurricane Irma’s cost goes river-deep for JaxPort” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union

Rising water temperatures have sharks moving north away from Florida” via Joyeeta Biswas of WPLG

Quote of the Day

“Any time he wants to have a contest about pushups or pullups, we’ll see who’s not up to it.” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, responding to a question on whether the Rick Scott campaign’s comments about his being ‘out of touch’ and ‘confused’ were its way to telegraph he’s become too old for the job.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created by the Legislature after the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people in Broward County, will start a two-day meeting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees will hold a retreat that will include discussion of an assessment of President Larry Robinson and discussion about “key issues facing the university.” That’s at 8:30 a.m., FAMU College of Law, 201 Beggs Ave., Orlando.

Aides to Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will meet to discuss issues in advance of an Aug. 14 Cabinet meeting. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will hold a roundtable discussion with veterans and representatives of the cannabis industry to talk about medical-marijuana issues. That’s at 11 a.m., Surterra Wellness Center, 10761 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum joins attorney Benjamin Crump and the family of Markeis McGlockton for a rally against Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law. That’s at 11 a.m., Bethel Baptist Church, 224 N Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Tallahassee.

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Democrat running for state chief financial officer, is slated to speak to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., City Fish Market, 7940 Glades Road, Boca Raton.

U.S. Sen. Nelson and Congresswoman Kathy Castor, both Democrats, will join the Florida Education Association and American Federation of Teachers for a major campaign announcement. That’s at noon, Hillsborough Teachers Union Hall, 3102 N. Habana Ave., Tampa.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Putnam and Ron DeSantis will hold a final televised debate before the Aug. 28 primary. That’s at 8 p.m., Jacksonville University, Terry Concert Hall, 2800 University Blvd. North, Jacksonville.

Delegation for 8.7.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Will Ohio special election leave any takeaways for Florida?

On Tuesday, the last special election before the November election, was playing out in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. The final results can provide some useful information on whether the “blue wave” is alive and well and if Florida Republicans in competitive races should be concerned.

This contest between Ohio Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson and Franklin County (Columbus) Recorder Danny O’Connor to fill the unexpired term of retiring GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, has the attention of the political nation. With good reason because even before the votes were counted, some interesting forces favoring both sides were in play.

Will the race to replace Ohio’s Pat Tiberi be a bellwether for Florida?

The latest poll showed Balderson with a statistically-insignificant one-point lead.

District 12 is comprised of parts of Columbus and surrounding areas. It is 87 percent white and the median income is over $60,000.

President Donald Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016. While redistricting has altered it to some extent, District 12 has been represented by a Republican for most of the last century, including several terms by Gov. John Kasich.

Fundraising is close with O’Connor raising $1.5 million and Balderson with $1.26 million. Democrats have reason to be excited by the fact that a staggering 53 percent of O’Connor’s donors are small donors of less than $200, while only 5 percent of Balderson’s contributions fit that description.

That could translate into enthusiastic voters and worthy of attention in Florida. The most recent fundraising reports from Florida’s competitive House races reveal that very few reach even the 20 percent mark in small donors.

Among Republicans in competitive races who have raised at least $1 million, only Brian Mast in District 18 tops the 20 percent mark in small donors. His $4 million total includes 31 percent from small donors.

Among Democrats, state Rep. David Richardson reported 37 percent of his $1.8 million raised came from donations under $200. Richardson, like his District 27 opponent Donna Shalala, has also self-funded at least 25 percent of their campaigns.

Among Sen. Bill Nelson’s $17.9 million haul, 20 percent came from small donors.

If there is a bright spot for Republicans in Ohio, it is the possibility of a strong voter turnout. In the primary, O’Connor earned the votes of 40 percent of the 43,910 percent of Democratic voters.

Balderson barely edged Melanie Leneghan by less than 1,000 votes but 67,120 Republicans showed up to vote, or 65 percent more than Democrats. Perhaps Democratic enthusiasm has increased since the primary, but Balderson has a larger pool of available voters.

Trump visited the district Saturday and Republicans are hoping he can inspire the base to embrace Balderson as Florida primary voters seem to be doing for Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary for governor. The president’s endorsement of DeSantis has turned the race around.

In the end, whether it be in Ohio or Florida, independents and swing voters will make a choice as to whether they like a candidate. For his part, O’Connor says he will not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker, which is becoming more appealing even to a growing number of Democrats.

If O’Connor wins despite the inherent disadvantages, Florida Republicans will know District 27 will not be the only one in true danger of flipping. Even if Balderson squeaks by, the two will likely square off again in November.

Nelson preparing to hit the airwaves in a big way

Gov. Rick Scott has dominated the airwaves since announcing he would challenge Nelson for the incumbent’s Senate seat. The two-term governor has raised $22 million since announcing his run in the spring and spent $18 million, most of that on television ads attacking Nelson.

Nelson has been able to return a few punches and put out a positive ad through the help of the Senate Majority PAC (SMP), who paid for the recent ad hitting Scott on health care. Nelson supporters may have reason to believe the cavalry is on the way.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


The Nelson campaign has confirmed a Politico report that they have reserved $18 million in television airtime to begin the day after the Aug. 28 primary. The amount is likely to keep Nelson on the air for the remainder of the campaign.

He will need to keep a strong fundraising effort to fund the ads and the rest of his campaign operations. He had $13.7 million on hand through June 30.

Nelson will get even further help from SMP, who has already committed $23 million more on pro-Nelson/anti-Scott ads. Those will begin October 2.

Rubio takes up cause of paid family leave

Last year, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio championed an issue normally associated with Democrats poll better than Republicans and he is doing it again this summer. Last week he unveiled the Economic Security for New Parents Act, which would give new parents the option of using some of their Social Security benefits to take at least two months of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

In late 2017, Rubio and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee took the lead on expanding the Child Tax Credit as part of the GOP tax cut bill under consideration. In the end, Rubio voted for the bill, but earlier threatened to vote “no” unless the Child Tax Credit was increased.

Marco Rubio and Mike Lee take a stand on paid leave for new parents.

Rubio has joined with Missouri Republican Rep. Ann Wagner in the effort to help low-income families earn paid family leave, which they describe as the “social insecurity of our time.” Wagner introduced the House companion bill.

“Far too many new parents take on new debt or fall onto welfare programs just to pay for their basic living costs after having a child,” Rubio and Wagner wrote in a recent op-ed for USA Today.

“Stories abound of mothers returning to work just days after giving birth. This sad reality threatens our nation’s ability to provide for safe and healthy moms and kids during one of the most important periods of their lives,” they added.

Trump, Jr. visits Panhandle for Gaetz, DeSantis

Last Monday, Trump was in Tampa whipping up the crowd for Republicans in general, DeSantis’ bid for governor in particular. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach was also in attendance.

Three days later, Donald Trump, Jr. was in Niceville campaigning for Gaetz, while DeSantis joined in. About 1,000 people gathered at Northwest Florida State College’s Raider Arena.

Trump Jr. touted his father’s successes and promoted a staunchly conservative agenda, coming out strong in support of DeSantis, Gaetz and other Republican candidates who he said would support and bolster his father’s policies. Like his father, he blasted Democrats and the media.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a Niceville rally for Matt Gaetz. (Image via Jim Little/PNJ.com)

“If Donald Trump came out in favor of oxygen, the other side would be against it,” he said to raucous applause. “They’re overplaying their hand. Real Americans, hardworking Americans like yourselves … they see what’s going on and they’re going to come to our side.”

Once he reached the podium, Gaetz took verbal shots at his primary opponent, Cris Dosev, but then got to the red meat that the president is known to deliver. After touting his help in securing $70 million in funding for local military operations, Gaetz said it was time to “drain the swamp.”

“Special interests still have too much control in Washington, D.C., and there are really only two types of people in Washington: those who believe there’s a swamp that needs to be drained, and those who think it’s a mud bath to be enjoyed,” he said. “People like me and Ron DeSantis, we are going to drain that swamp.”

The crowd responded accordingly.

Gaetz is expected to have little difficulty in winning a second term. As of June 30, he had $455,000 cash on hand while his two Republican and two Democratic opponents had less than $35,000 combined.

Lawson, Brown go at it in CD 2 joint interview

Sitting side-by-side, Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee and his Congressional District 2 challenger Alvin Brown went at it late last week. The venue was not a formal debate, but a joint interview with the editorial board of the Tallahassee Democrat.

The two argued on several issues, including Lawson’s past support for the Stand Your Ground law. Brown, the former Mayor of Jacksonville wants the law repealed while Lawson stood by his support, but said it could be tweaked and the controversy surrounding a killing in St. Petersburg is about the law being interpreted incorrectly.

Al Lawson and Alvin Brown throw down.

Brown criticized Lawson’s vote that went against those Democrats calling for the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). Lawson pointed out that ICE does more than merely arrest illegal immigrants.

Lawson described Brown’s record as mayor as “a disaster” and offered a retort to Brown’s description of his accomplishments during his term. “If you did all those things, then the people would have probably sent you back as mayor, Alvin.”

Brown came back by calling Lawson “a conservative,” and “Donald Trump’s favorite Democrat.”

“His voting record (in the Florida Legislature) before he went to Congress was always a conservative,” Brown charged.

In response Lawson said he was a moderate, “and there’s nothing wrong with being a moderate.”

The exchange was for informational purposes only. The newspaper does not make candidate endorsements.

Sturgill brings abortion into CD 7 race with new attack ad on Miller

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for U.S. Supreme Court justice, the issue of Roe v. Wade, and abortion in general, has taken center stage. It is also trickling into primary and general election campaigns for Congress.

In District 7, Republican Scott Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, launched a new ad against his primary foe, state Rep. Mike Miller in which Sturgill seeks to reaffirm his pro-life bona fides. The ad’s title, Thank You Liberal Mike Miller, sets the tone.

To see the ad, click on the image below:


The ad features a young woman praising Miller’s support for women’s abortion rights, then takes a further step attempting to peel Republican support from Miller. It thanks Miller for “resisting President Trump’s ‘assault on Roe v. Wade.’”

About halfway through, the video screeches to a halt with Sturgill appearing on the screen saying “I’m the only candidate that is 100 percent pro-life, and endorsed by Florida Right to Life.”

Sturgill’s campaign said the ad is based on Miller’s vote on House Bill 41, which involved a vote on funding for Planned Parenthood. The campaign said Miller was one of only three Republicans to vote for it.

The Miller campaign blasted Sturgill, citing Miller’s record on pro-life issues.

“It looks like Planned Parenthood has either teamed up with Scott Sturgill or this ad is a complete fabrication, which presents even larger problems for our opponent’s campaign,” Miller campaign spokeswoman Dana Loncar said in a written response. “It is appalling that Sturgill would stoop to such desperate levels to mislead voters when Mike is an “F” ranked legislator by them, because of his pro-life stance.”

Both Miller and Sturgill reported under $400,000 cash on hand as of June 30. The winner will most likely take on Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy, who has $1.6 million left to spend.

Soto blasts deportation of veteran’s spouse

A controversial deportation of the wife of an Iraq veteran has some in the Orlando area upset with the procedures for selecting who among undocumented immigrants are targeted for removal. Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando is outraged it came to this.

On Friday, Alejandra Juarez boarded a plane for Mexico after attempts by Soto and others to prevent her deportation failed. Soto proposed legislation called the Protect Patriot Spouses Act and publicized his constituent’s plight, but to no avail.

Alejandra Juarez says goodbye to daughters Pamela, 16, and Estella, 8, as U.S. Rep. Darren Soto looks on.

“We are utterly disappointed in the decision by ICE to deny Alejandra’s stay of removal. Alejandra deserves to stay in the country she has called home for over 20 years,” Soto said in a news release. “The country her husband patriotically served as a Marine and Florida National Guardsman. The only country her two American-born daughters have known. The Juarez family deserves to stay together in the United States.”

Juarez has no criminal record, but was subject to deportation following her illegal entry into the U.S. in 1998, according to ICE. Spokesman Bryan Cox said Juarez was apprehended after initially trying to enter the U.S. illegally in 1998, but illegally re-entered, which is a felony.

Soto also sought a stay of removal under the parole in place program. Her youngest daughter accompanied her to Mexico, while her 16-year-old is remaining in Central Florida with her father.

“It is a sad day for our entire community as we will all be affected by this insensitive deportation order,” Soto said.

U.S. Chamber backs Gonzalez in tight CD 17 primary

The contest to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Tom Rooney has been a tight race since the veteran from Okeechobee announced his intention to leave Washington. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez and state Sen. Greg Steube have been evenly matched, but one has just recently received a big boost.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced late last week that it was endorsing Gonzalez. He has been a reliable vote for the Chamber’s priorities while in the House, earning an A rating, while Steube was given a C.

Julio Gonzalez gets thumbs up from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“As a state representative, Dr. Gonzalez has been a strong ally for job creators and consistently voted to reform regulations and cut taxes to help small businesses grow,” said Rob Engstrom, national political director for the Chamber.

“As a doctor and surgeon, he has been an advocate for real health care reform that focuses on the patient, not the government, as well as the impact health care costs have on small business. We need experienced leaders like Julio in Congress.”

Both candidates have been engaged in strong fundraising efforts since joining the race. As of June 30, Gonzalez had raised $467,000 and had $349,000 remaining, while Steube raised $400,000 and had $313,000 remaining for the last four weeks of the campaign.

“As a small-business owner, and health care professional, I deal with the challenges of government regulation on a daily basis,” said Gonzalez.

“I’ve worked to cut taxes and regulations so that small businesses can focus on growing and creating more jobs, not more paperwork. That is the focus I will bring in Congress.”

Veteran and conservative activist Bill Akins is also running in the GOP primary, but has raised only $26,000. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates District 17 as “Safe Republican.”

Deutch, Wasserman Schultz file legislation blocking 3D guns

The controversy surrounding the Trump administration’s decision to settle a case allowing plans for making 3D guns to be published online is not going away any time soon. A federal judge in Seattle blocked the move before it was scheduled to be published Aug. 1.

A hearing is set for Friday.

Two South Florida Democrats joined with two of their colleagues to file legislation that would make it a crime to publish online plans for making guns. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston claim there is no reason to make it easy to create untraceable firearms.

Ted Deutch argues there is no reason to make it easy to create untraceable firearms.

“At a time when Congress hasn’t done anything tangible to prevent gun violence, the widespread availability of untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed guns would further threaten our ability to keep our children and our communities safe,” Wasserman Schultz said in a joint release. “This vital legislation is urgently needed to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Cox pointed to the fact that the 3D guns are already illegal, making any ban on their publication moot.

“Many anti-gun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms,” he said.

Deutch called that line of reasoning “unacceptable,” and blasted the Trump administration’s legal strategy.

“President Trump should never have allowed this settlement to happen, and now, Congress needs to step in to ensure that internet access does not equal gun access.”

The effort by Wasserman Schultz and Deutch put the delegation in a leadership position on the issue. The House bill is a companion to legislation already filed in the Senate sponsored by Nelson.

Curbelo climate change bill attacked in new ad buy

Anyone running in a swing district understands the term “walking a fine line” between moderation and partisanship. Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo understands that more than most.

While he is a Republican running in a district won big by Hillary Clinton in 2016, he also strongly supported the GOP tax cut passed in December and also favored the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Curbelo also supports finding a solution for DREAMers (which many in his party call “amnesty”) and is the co-founder and co-chairman of the House Climate Change Caucus.

Carlos Curbelo is coming under fire for a proposed national carbon tax.

It is in the latter role where he is coming under fire from conservatives. After Curbelo became the first Republican in a decade to introduce a national carbon tax to help combat climate change, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) launched a $75,000 digital ad campaign in Curbelo’s district.

“This new and innovative solution invests in American infrastructure, accelerates the transition to clean energy, repeals discriminatory taxes, and provides regulatory relief and stability that shows protecting our environment and strengthening the economy are not mutually exclusive,” Curbelo said upon launching the bill. “I look forward to the continued discussion around this proposal and thank all those offering support and adding to the constructive dialogue this bill has begun.”

The AEA claims the bill would lead to “inescapable economic harm.” In a release announcing the ad buy, they said: “Virtually no significant sector of our economy would go unscathed since this tax would impact the electricity and transportation sectors that are so central to commerce.”

The Curbelo bill, dubbed the Market Choice Act, is co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Naples.

On this day in the headlines

Aug. 7, 1945 — The most terrifying engine of destruction ever devised by man — an atomic bomb-carrying the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT — was turned loose against Japan Sunday as American airmen opened a “surrender or else” assault against the enemy homeland. President Harry S. Truman delivered the ultimatum.

“If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth,” he said. “Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already aware.”

Aug. 7, 2015 — For the first time, Americans were able to see billionaire businessman and reality television star Donald Trump in a debate format as 10 candidates took the stage in the first Republican presidential debate. Trump immediately made news by not pledging to support the GOP nominee if it is not him.

A total of 17 candidates are seeking the nomination to succeed outgoing President Barack Obama, but only 10 were invited to the event staged in Cleveland, site of next year’s Republican National Convention. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, were part of the debate, but Trump was the center of attention.

House candidates play possum

Campaigns often entail rough-and-tumble politics, while some might fit the old stereotypes of kissing babies as well as taking selfies with voters. Few, if any, have a tradition quite like the one held Saturday in the Panhandle.

An event known as the “Possum Festival” takes place in the town of Wausau during the summer months attracting local candidates as well as those running for statewide office. Often, more people come from out of town to attend the festival as there are residents of Wausau.

Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City was there for the 49th annual festival Saturday, as was Democratic challenger Bob Rackleff of Tallahassee, who threw in money toward a charitable cause to shake one of the critters by the tail. Dunn paid $950 through an auction to claim one of the possums.

It is far more than just participating. It is all about being seen participating.

Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam appeals to voters at the 49th Annual Wausau Possum Festival and Parade.

“This is the single most high-profile and fun political event in the state and it supports the local volunteer firefighters,” Dunn said. “If you’re not here at the possum festival, you’re toast.”

Rackleff does not agree with Dunn’s politics but agrees with the need to hang around possums and District 2 voters on a blistering August afternoon.

“This is the place to be, and you can’t campaign in Northwest Florida without being,” Rackleff said. “I wouldn’t risk missing it — meeting the good people of Washington County and the surrounding area. It’s great to meet all the people.”

The two North Floridians were joined by other candidates like Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is seeking to succeed Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture.

“This is where you meet old Florida,” Grimsley said. “There is more to the state than coasts.”

Last Call for 8.6.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Opponents of a dog-racing ban in Florida are trying to get every bit of mileage out of a judge’s ruling against the measure that said it was “outright trickeration.”

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had said Amendment 13’s ballot title and summary would mislead voters. The state is appealing her decision to strike it from this fall’s ballot.

Meantime, the Committee to Support Greyhounds said in a Monday news release that “a group of racing greyhound owners, kennel operators, greyhound breeders, adopters and adoption providers got together, pooled their money, and donated it toward a full sponsorship of a service greyhound, who will be trained to assist and comfort an Armed Forces Veteran.

Barbara Masi, who operates Hounds and Heroes, the service dog arm of Awesome Greyhound Adoptions, was contacted. It didn’t take Barbara long to locate a new service dog prospect.

“He is to be renamed ‘Trickeration’ — Tricky, for short — in honor of Gievers … Trickeration will soon begin his service dog training in earnest … We all wish Trickeration well in his newfound career, and fervently hope that he will serve one of our veterans as well as they have served us.”

Evening Reads

More than 250,000 Florida voters have already cast ballots for Aug. 28 primary” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Meet Bill Nelson, the under-the-radar Senate candidate in Florida. He’s the incumbent.” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

Ron DeSantis gets boost from public matching money” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Adam Putnam doesn’t need to drop out, but he should pull his negative ads” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Carlos Lopez-Cantera endorses Putnam” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Jack Latvala continues to help fund political allies” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Pam Bondi files 57-page brief supporting ban on smokable med pot” via the Tampa Bay Times

Judge declares parts of medical marijuana law unconstitutional” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Pinellas Co. sheriff on Al Sharpton rally: ‘Go back to New York, mind your own business’” via WTSP 10 News

Red tide makes its way to Anna Maria Island” via Chris Anderson of the Bradenton Herald

Quote of the Day

“This court understands the importance of both the Legislature and the Department (of Health) in developing a thorough, effective, and efficient framework within which to regulate medical marijuana, as directed by the amendment (allowing medical marijuana) … The Legislature and the department have such a framework … They have simply chosen to restrict access in a manner that violates the amendment.” — Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, ruling several parts of the state’s medical marijuana law unconstitutional.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Purple Heart recipients and their family members can participate in an Operation Outdoor Freedom event at Camp Prairie in Polk County. Operation Outdoor Freedom, which has been sponsored by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, provides wounded veterans with such things as guided hunts, fishing trips and canoe tours. That’s at 8 a.m., Camp Prairie, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, 21279 Kissimmee Shores Rd., Lake Wales.

Republican Tommy Gregory, who is running for an open seat in House District 73, will hold a “coffee with the candidate” event. The seat, which includes parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties, became open when GOP Rep. Joe Gruters decided to run for the Senate. That’s at 8 a.m., IHOP, 6320 East State Road 64, Bradenton.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold a regular meeting before beginning a hearing on nuclear-project costs. The regular meeting starts at 9:30 a.m., with the nuclear hearing at 1:30 p.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will take part in a rally that will focus on health care issues, including protecting the Affordable Care Act. That’s at noon, Williams Park, 350 Second Ave. North, St. Petersburg.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will speak at an annual FoundCare, Inc. back-to-school community health fair. That’s at 1 p.m., FoundCare, Inc. West Palm Beach Health Center, 2330 South Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss tobacco taxes and money from a settlement with the tobacco industry. That’s at 2 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie will be in the capital to participate in a ceremony to officially rename the Veterans Affairs Health Care Center in honor of Marine Corps Sgt. Ernest “Boots” Thomas. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 2181 Orange Ave., Tallahassee.

Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat running for re-election in Palm Beach County’s District 30, will hold a campaign event. That’s at 5:30 p.m., E.R. Bradley’s Saloon, 104 North Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is expected to be among the speakers during a “Trump Team 2020 Florida” meeting. That’s at 6 p.m., Abacoa Golf Club, 105 Barbados Dr., Jupiter.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold one in a series of meetings to gather input on shore-based shark fishing. That’s at 6 p.m., Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Resource Center, 913 South I St., Pensacola.

Republican Jason Miller, hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Margaret Good in Sarasota County’s House District 72, will hold a fundraising event. That’s at 6 p.m., Wine Cellar at Michael’s on East, 1283 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody and state Rep. Frank White, both running in the Aug. 28 Republican primary for attorney general, are slated to appear at an Americans for Trump Broward Chapter forum. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Galuppi’s Restaurant, 1103 North Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.

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