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AAA: Thanksgiving week traffic to hit post-Great Recession high

Make room on those highways. There will be 48.7 million of you traveling 50 miles or more to go home for Thanksgiving this week, an increase of 1 million travelers compared to last year.

That’s according to the latest projections from AAA as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend approaches. This year will see the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007, pre-Great Recession. More employment, rising wages and increased consumer spending and confidence are leading the parade, the Auto Club said in a report.

So are drops in gas prices, which have fallen to an average price of $2.50 per gallon and look like they’ll fall some more. That’s still a higher price than drivers paid last year or the year before or the year before that, but the downward trend has relieved drivers’ anxieties, AAA said.

“If you are one of the 43.5 million people on the road, we urge you to be patient in traffic and limit distractions while behind the wheel,” AAA President Joseph Richardson Jr., stated in a news release.

The vast majority of Americans traveling for Thanksgiving, and the vast majority of Floridians doing so, are doing so by car. Of the 48.7 million Americans traveling, 43.5 million will do so by road. Of the 2.5 million Floridians traveling for Thanksgiving, 2.3 million will be in cars, the agency is reporting.

“Americans can be thankful for strong oil production and supplies, which have set the table for some of the lowest gas prices of the year,” Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA — The Auto Club Group, stated in a news release from the agency. “The state average should carve off another five cents before Thanksgiving. Florida’s average price should eventually reach $2.35 before fully adjusting to recent oil and wholesale gas price declines. However, there is potential for oil prices to rise in December, depending on how markets respond to possible OPEC oil production cuts and sanctions against Iranian oil exports.”

Delegation for 11.16.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

U.S. Senate race to Tribbles, Hail Marys

The machine recount totals are in, for the most part, and there are no surprises. Gov. Rick Scott still leads Sen. Bill Nelson, by roughly the same margin as when the recount began.

All counties, with the exception of Palm Beach, completed recounts for the Senate race by the 3 p.m. deadline. Hillsborough County finished counting, but a small glitch delayed their submission beyond the deadline.

In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, the lawsuits grew like Tribbles.

The timely reporting came when U.S. District Judge Mark Walker refused to extend the deadline as Nelson’s team desired. Secretary of State Ken Detzner orders a recount of overvotes and undervotes for the Senate race and Commissioner of Agriculture race.

Palm Beach still has the races for Governor and Commissioner of Agriculture yet to complete and previously received a five-day extension. Broward County proudly proclaimed that they had completed their task by Thursday morning, but had some difficulty loading the information into the state system and ultimately missed the deadline by two minutes.

While this should be a sign the election is finally nearing an end, we know that it is not. Multiple lawsuits and appeals are keeping Walker, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, busy enough to use a Star Trek analogy to lament “I feel a little like Captain Kirk in the episode where the Tribbles started multiplying,”

On Thursday morning, Walker got rid of one of the Tribbles/cases by ruling voters have until Saturday to clear up problems with mail and provisional ballots, while describing Florida as “the laughingstock of the world.” Republicans and Scott immediately appealed.

Shortly before the deadline, Walker ruled against Nelson’s plea to extend it.

Meanwhile, Scott and Nelson were both in Washington while the lawyers were back in Florida doing what election lawyers do. As Scott was meeting some of his would-be new colleagues, Nelson was holding what POLITICO described as an “unusual” news conference with newly re-elected Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Despite the deficit facing Nelson, both Senators blasted Scott for his claims of voter fraud and said Nelson would ultimately prevail if the recount is conducted “fairly and thoroughly.” Nelson is filing the lawsuits to ensure those goals are accomplished.

On Wednesday, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who was front and center of the 2000 recounts, urged Nelson to stop the lawsuits. While not seeking to stop the recounts, Bush played on Nelson’s pride with his appeal on Twitter.

“Senator NELSON, please stop the lawsuits, let the votes be accounted according to Florida law and accept the results,” Bush tweeted. “Don’t tarnish your years of service to Florida.”

To the contrary, Nelson sued in state court to force a hand recount of all votes in Palm Beach County, not just overvotes and undervotes.

While the recounts were proceeding, Sen. Marco Rubio, who was putting out a tweetstorm immediately after Election Day, was more subdued of late. Some of the agitated version reappeared with a tweet using a football analogy to describe stealing an election.

Rubio was onto something. Elections in Florida are more about winning and losing as well as the tactics it takes to achieve victory similar to a football game.

During the final two minutes of a football game, timeouts, stepping out of bounds, and challenges to referees’ calls can turn those two minutes into a half-hour. Florida reached the two-minute warning when the polls closed 11 days ago, but the game or games, were just beginning.

Some describe Nelson’s strategy as a “Hail Mary,” another football term describing a last-second desperation heave into the end zone. The odds are long that Nelson will win in the end, but everyone is about to find out.

Rubio warns of China, Venezuela

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio has weighed in on numerous issues around the world, but two of his primary targets have been China and Venezuela. Now those two countries are involved in the same issue, prompting a stern warning from Florida’s junior Senator.

Marco Rubio takes a hard-line on two of his top issues — China and Venezuela.

A report from Reuters told the story of Venezuela obtaining the know-how from China on developing an identification card that can help the government monitor activities of citizens. Also, the technology to achieve this monitoring comes from another source of Rubio’s ire: Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

“This should alarm every #democracy in the Western Hemisphere: In addition to financially propping up the Maduro dictatorship,” Rubio tweeted, “authoritarian China is exporting ZTE technology that Maduro uses to blackmail his starving and sick citizens. RETWEET”

Rubio has been an opponent of ZTE doing business in the U.S., joining a bipartisan bill designed to reserve the Trump administration’s decision to allow them to re-establish in this country.

Gaetz, Democrat team up on veterans’ medical pot 

Medical marijuana, a signature issue of Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, is the foundation for legislation designed to help veterans in need. Teaming with Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, the lawmakers introduced legislation designed to change the Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical marijuana practices in an attempt to make cannabis a more viable treatment option for veterans.

Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton is teaming up with Matt Gaetz to back a veterans’medical cannabis bill.

The pair introduced three bills with three separate, but related objectives. The bills seek to learn more about how veterans use cannabis, to prepare better medical-marijuana education for providers and to protect the benefits of veterans who use marijuana.

“Medical cannabis has tremendous potential for veterans. It can reduce chronic pain, without the harmful side effects of opioids, and some early reports indicate that it may even have potential as a treatment for PTSD,” Gaetz said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many veterans fear discussing medical cannabis with their doctors, for fear that their benefits will be jeopardized.”

Gaetz has publicly voiced his support for medical marijuana on several different occasions. He sponsored the Medical Cannabis Research Act in September, which was reported favorably by the House Judiciary Committee on which he sits.

The bill has 44 co-sponsors, including delegation Democrats Soto, Charlie Crist and Alcee Hastings, plus Republicans Carlos Curbelo, John Rutherford, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Yoho.

The American Legion reported last year that 22 percent of veterans are using marijuana to treat a medical condition, and 83 percent of veteran households surveyed indicated that they think the federal government should legalize medical cannabis and 82 percent said they want to have medical cannabis as a federally-legal treatment option.

Brown’s appeal pushed back

As Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee returned to Washington this week to finish out his first term, the 12-term veteran lawmaker he unseated in 2016 was briefly back in the news. Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, who was convicted last year in federal court on 18 felony counts involving a charity scam, will have to wait a while longer before the court hears her appeal.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta pushed back the hearing on Brown’s appeal on 18 counts of fraud until sometime in 2019. It had been scheduled for Dec. 10.

Corrine Brown’s appeal gets pushed back until sometime next year. (Image via WESH-TV)

Brown previously appealed her conviction to the 11th Circuit, stating a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. That juror made statements that the Holy Ghost told him Brown was innocent.

In the meantime, Brown will remain in a low-security federal prison in Sumterville, Lawson defeated Brown in the 2016 Democratic primary for District 5 for 9 percentage points and easily won re-election last week in the Democratic-dominated district.

Demings wants emergency hearing on Sessions

With last week’s sacking of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Trump, some Democrats came to the defense of the former Republican Senator from Alabama. More said they opposed the move out of fear the President may be looking for a way to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Among those upset by the move was Orlando Democratic Rep. Val Demings. She joined with Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee to write letters both to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and committee chairman Bob Goodlatte criticizing the “forced firing” of Sessions and their concerns over the potential impact it might have on the Mueller investigation.

Back in Washington, Val Demings is pushing for an emergency hearing on Jeff Sessions’ firing.

“It is our strongly considered judgment that the Justice Department should allow Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to continue to supervise this matter,” they wrote. Trump indicated Mueller would report to Whitaker.

In the letter to Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, the members said “We should hold emergency hearings concerning the circumstances regarding the firing of the Attorney General. At a minimum, Acting Attorney General Whitaker and former Attorney General Sessions need to be called to testify on this matter.”

Also signing the letter Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Florida’s other Democratic member of the committee.

Most Democrats challenged the constitutionality of Whitaker’s appointment. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel opined that Trump was not bound to appoint Rosenstein and Whitaker’s appointment was “consistent with the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution …”

The DOJ memo was presented to White House Counsel Emmet Flood.

Webster touts cash to veterans

Veterans are high on the list of members of Congress, and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont is no exception. Last week, Webster, announced that more than $4.5 million had been returned to veterans in his district in retroactive, compensation, or pension payments since January 2017.

“Serving veterans is one of my top priorities,” said Webster. “We owe them a debt we can never repay. Yet, too often, our veterans’ attempts to receive the benefits or compensation they have earned are met with delays.”

Daniel Webster is stressing the importance of $4.5 million returned to veterans in his district.

When the bipartisan VA spending bill was first sent to President Trump in September, Webster touted its many benefits. Among those were funding for critical Veterans Affairs reforms, components of the VA Mission Act and claims processing for nearly one-half million veterans.

Webster also heralded funding to modernize the VA’s electronic health record system to provide seamless care as veterans transition to civilian life. Also, he mentioned Congress providing funding for mental health services.

Florida newbies part of swamp?

The rage among candidates running for federal office is to describe themselves as “outsiders” running against “insiders.” This usually refers to incumbents who are tied to “special interests,” otherwise known as lobbyists, former lobbyists or have spent years in government.

LegiStorm, a Capitol Hill watchdog, traced the results from Tuesday, which has produced a freshman class of 93 new members, with a handful of races still to be decided. Of those 93, four are former lobbyists in one way or another, with two of those four coming from Florida.

Just by winning her district, has Donna Shalala now become a swamp creature? (Image via AP)

Among those mentioned is Democratic Representative-elect Donna Shalala, who won the District 27 seat on election night. Shalala was counted as a former influencer because she lobbied on behalf of the University of Miami during her tenure as president of the university.

Another was Republican Representative-elect Greg Steube. LegiStorm included the new congressman representing District 17 by describing him as someone “who last year lobbied mainly on tax issues through his own one-man shop.”

Steube, a state Senator, was accused of “impropriety” by his primary opponent, GOP state Rep. Julio Gonzalez for lobbying the federal government on behalf of three clients.

While Shalala and Steube officially qualified as lobbyists at certain points in their careers, they can certainly make a valid claim not to be part of the “swamp.”

Lame duck gives Dems leverage

The U.S. House of Representatives is about to get interesting. Congress members are convening for the lame duck session in what will be the final two months of a Republican majority before Democrats take control of the House in January.

That means Republicans are likely to be aggressively tackling their priorities in during the coming weeks.

Democrats like Kathy Castor may have the upper hand during the lame duck Session of Congress.

“There are some outstanding appropriations matters that have to be finalized. The President was insisting on huge sums of money to build a border wall, and Democrats want to have a different tact on border security that involves better technology and border enforcement and that addresses the Dreamers,” said Congresswoman Kathy Castor, a Democrat. “I think that’s going to be very contentious.”

But the lame duck session means Democrats might have better leverage.

“The President will be forced to negotiate,” Castor said. “Now’s the time to get it done if he wants to get it done.”

So far Republicans have insisted on the border wall and tough border enforcement, but have refused to give up any ground on making sure Dreamers, kids and young adults who were brought to the country illegally as young children, can maintain legal status as they pursue educations in the country. Democrats also want a pathway to citizenship for those individuals.

Castor said there’s also a lot to look forward to after January when a new class of Congress members is sworn into office.

With a regained majority, she said to expect Democrats to push for preserving health care for people with pre-existing conditions

“They all said they want to protect pre-existing conditions, so we’re going to give them a chance to do that,” Castor said.

If they don’t, she said those new lawmakers would be held accountable.

Democrats also intend to push forward with issues about climate change, campaign finance and corruption reform and infrastructure funding.

Pelosi (sort of) responds to Problem Solvers

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has responded to a letter from U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Darren Soto of Kissimmee and seven other Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus who demand she commits to rules reforms to allow for more power for rank-and-file members of both parties if she wants their votes for House Speaker.

After meeting with the insurgent Democrats who wrote the letter, Pelosi’s response Wednesday made assurances but no such commitments.

Nancy Pelosi meets with Democratic critics, making no commitments.

“Democrats will restore transparency to the House so that the American People can weigh in on the legislation before us. We will respect the verdict of the election with representative ratios of Democrats and Republicans throughout our legislative committees. We will empower the committees by strengthening the path from markup to the floor, modernize the discharge petition process, and make it easier for bipartisan amendments and ideas to get a fair vote,” Pelosi wrote in a statement released by her office, regarding the Problem Solvers’ meeting and demands.

“The Democratic Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus have come forward with valuable solutions to restore the House of Representatives as the great marketplace of ideas our Founders intended.

“We had a positive and constructive meeting, and will continue to work together to develop changes to the rules that will break the gridlock in Washington and deliver results for hardworking Americans,” Pelosi concluded.

The Problem Solvers had demanded she make explicit, written promises to support their five goals and 12 specific proposals or they would not support her bid to return to the House Speaker’s job in the 116th Congress in January.

Pelosi’s response is not that.

“The meeting we had today with Leader Pelosi was productive, and the negotiations are ongoing. We are still waiting for a written commitment from her,” said Murphy’s Chief of Staff, Brad Howard.

Delegation weighs in on Israel

Recent attacks against Israel by Hamas again raised the specter of a war between the sworn enemies. By late Tuesday a cease-fire was in place, but key delegation members singled out the terror group for blame.

“I support Israel’s right to defend herself from attacks by Hamas and other Gaza terrorist groups,” said Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami. “These rockets are falling on innocent Israeli communities, and I urge responsible nations to condemn these terrorists and help put a stop to their bloodshed.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is taking a strong stand on recent attacks against Israel by “Hamas and other Gaza terrorist groups.”

Ros-Lehtinen, the outgoing chair of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee was joined by the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Deutch.

“Hamas responds to targeted Israeli anti-terror operation by indiscriminately firing 300 rockets at Israeli towns and cities,” said Deutch. “Hamas is a terrorist organization that once again shows utter disregard for the lives of innocent Israelis — and Palestinians.”

Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also came down on the side of Israel.

“I strongly support Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to defend itself against Hamas and other terrorist groups that attack innocent civilians,” Rubio posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

He was joined by another South Florida Democrat, Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, in condemning the Hamas attack.

“I stand with the people of Israel and condemn Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas,” said Frankel, who also sits on the same subcommittee with Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch. “Israeli families should not have to seek shelter as sirens sound and rockets target their homes, killing and injuring innocent people.”

Restoring Trust for 2018?

It’s been more than a month since the expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Trust, but Florida Congressional Delegation chairman Vern Buchanan doesn’t want a lame duck session in Washington to end before funding for the nation’s National Parks can be restored. Buchanan has worked through the year to get permanent funding for this Trust, and one of his close allies in the fight, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, will soon leave Congress. Buchanan listed reauthorization as his top legislative goal before the close of 2018.

The clock is ticking on renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Trust. Can Vern Buchanan save funding during the lame-duck Session?

Since the expiration of federal funding, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition estimates national parks have lost out on more than $113 million. Started during the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, the fund managed to stay alive for 53 straight years.

Over that time, more than $1 billion got directed to Florida’s ecotourism assets from Everglades National Park (a key part of Curbelo’s district) to Caspersen Beach in Sarasota (located in Buchanan’s backyard). But Buchanan said the Trust will be a “critical tool for funding conservation efforts throughout the United States.”

On this day in the headlines

Nov. 15, 2000 — After a week of recounts, lawsuits and political tension, Texas Gov. George Bush’s small Election Day lead over Vice-President Al Gore dwindled to an infinitesimal 300-vote margin Tuesday after Florida’s 67 counties reported their totals. Gore and other Democrats are confronting a 2 p.m. deadline today to justify to Secretary of State Katherine Harris why any other votes in Democrat-rich South Florida should be recounted.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled earlier Tuesday that Harris could compel counties to submit their votes to her office by 5 p.m. Tuesday. But in an apparent defeat for Republicans, Lewis said Harris could not “determine ahead of time” that amended returns would be automatically rejected after the deadline.

Nov. 15, 2011 — With growing signs Hispanic voters are turned off to GOP positions on immigration, Sen. Rubio is trying to use his national profile to deliver a message to his party: Tone it down. Rubio said Republicans should not be identified as “the anti-illegal immigrant party,” but should instead be known as “the pro-legal immigration party.”

“You’re talking about somebody’s mothers and grandmothers and brothers and sisters,” he said during an appearance on Fox News. A recent Suffolk University poll showed that if Rubio was on the ballot, the Republican presidential nominee would win Florida but is still little known to Hispanics outside the state.

After winning Governor’s race, Ron DeSantis seeks summit with Andrew Gillum

Republican Ron DeSantis, the 40-year-old former three-term Congressman, has defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become the next Governor of Florida after a mandated machine recount.

The win was just 0.4 percent, a spread of 33,652 votes.

The gubernatorial race, like the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner contests, had margins under the 0.50 percent threshold that triggers a recount. With the margin more than 0.25 percent, DeSantis is Governor-elect, after one of the most spirited campaigns in Florida in decades.

Now, the path forward.

DeSantis described the results as “clear and unambiguous” in a statement before discussing the contest of ideas that characterized the campaign and inviting Gillum to share ideas.

“Campaigns are meant to be vigorously debated contests of ideas and competing visions for the future. The campaign for Governor achieved this objective as evidenced by historic voter turnout from people of all parties across our state,” DeSantis said.

“But campaigns of ideas must give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be,” DeSantis added.

“And, to this end, I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state. We have both traveled the state and met Floridians from all walks of life. Sharing these experiences will, I believe, help us unite our state and build toward unity on behalf of the people of Florida,” DeSantis said.

However, even before the state released its results, Gillum said the count wasn’t done.

“A vote denied is justice denied — the State of Florida must count every legally cast vote. As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process. Voters need to know that their decision to participate in this election, and every election, matters. It is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”

Vote counting isn’t fully over, but there is little chance of the Governor race going into a second overtime.

County elections officials are scheduled to file their official returns to the state by noon on Sunday, with the state Elections Canvassing Commission meeting Tuesday to certify the results.

A ruling Thursday by a federal judge leaves open the possibility of more votes in the race. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued an order giving potentially thousands of Florida voters a chance to fix their ballots by this weekend if they were rejected because of mismatched signatures.

But Walker rejected a request from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is trailing Gov. Rick Scott by about 12,600 votes in their Senate race, to extend the recount deadlines. Several counties reported they were unable to complete the machine recounts by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline, including Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Gillum would need to cut the gap between him and DeSantis by more than 13,000 votes to get within the 0.25 percent threshold.

Gillum would also have up to 10 days after the certification of the election outcome on Tuesday to file a lawsuit contesting the results, according to state law. He had not done so as of Thursday afternoon.

However, his attorney Barry Richard told MSNBC earlier in the week that Gillum was “reviewing his options” on a lawsuit, expressing concern that the election showed that Florida’s laws are impacting “the fundamental right to vote.”

“He feels an obligation to ensure that votes are counted and not to sit back when we’re beginning to learn that they are not being counted for a number of reasons,” Richard told MSNBC.

DeSantis has been in Tallahassee frequently since Election Night, and he is already rounding out his transition and embryonic administration.

At least four people are in the running to become Ron DeSantischief of staffKathy MearsScott RossScott Parkinson, and Shane Strum, according to sources familiar with the interview process.

Campaign manager Susie Wiles, who guided the campaign down the stretch, is not in that mix; she will be returning to the private sector after helming the transition process.

Wiles and Parkinson are leading the transition process, with assistance from four heavy hitters: U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, and former state House Speaker Richard Corcoran,

While DeSantis has promised continuity with the Rick Scott era, those who have covered state government throughout Scott’s eight years know that some of the harshest battles were between the populist right in the state House and the more pragmatic Senate.

On the campaign trail and in outreach, DeSantis contrasted himself with Gillum, suggesting the Tallahassee Mayor’s policies are too far left for Florida.

The Ponte Vedra Republican pledged to veto any and all tax increases for the next four years, contending that a state’s low-tax environment is its greatest asset for expanding the economy. In contrast, Gillum in part ran on a corporate tax rate hike.

DeSantis, who has described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt-Republican,” is outspoken on environmental concerns.

He railed against his primary opponent Adam Putnam for not faulting the state’s massive sugar industry for the proliferation of toxic algae blooms plaguing the Treasure Coast. He has promised to expedite the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, expected to help ease the amount of toxic overflow into nearby estuaries.

Adding weight to his environmental policy platform was support from The Everglades Trust.

While the rough outline of a DeSantis administration continues to emerge, less certain is the immediate future of Democrat Gillum.

__

Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Last Call for 11.15.18 — 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

ICYMI — Ron DeSantis has lined up some solid candidates, including familiar names from the Capitol, to be his chief of staff. Click here to find out who’s in the running so far.

A federal judge today rejected U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s request to extend the 3 p.m. recount deadline. So, it’s looking like counties that failed to meet the deadline will have to report their pre-recount numbers as their election results.

The end is in sight. And we think it’s fitting to take a step for a minute. Instead of talking about the recount itself, let’s talk about what it actually means for Florida.

The two apparent takeaways: The Sunshine State electorate is divided and its election laws need a realignment.

Don’t take our word for it, that’s the consensus from David Johnson, Kevin Cate and Steve Schale — three top strategists from both sides of the aisle who were more than intimately involved in this year’s election.

“Right now we’re finding out that we can wrestle with laws that we have,” Johnson, a Republican political consultant, told a Tallahassee Tiger Bay audience Thursday. “The good news is [the election] will end, the bad news is we’re going to have to redo some things.”

His legislative forecast: “I think we’ll have a great opportunity in this Session to address some of those failings.”

Kevin Cate, a Democratic media consultant hired by Andrew Gillum’s campaign for Governor, spoke to the likely losing margin of the race — less than a half-percent, or in his words: zero percent when you round.

On the back end, Cate suggested, both sides likely won’t be able to point out the causal winning or losing factor.

“I think it would be disingenuous for anyone to point to any particular moment,” Cate said.

In the words of Schale, a Democratic strategist known notably for his work on President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns: “We are a deeply divided country, and we live in a state where people come from all over the country, so we’re a deeply divided state.”

So, expect some changes to related statutes. But bet big on more recount-triggering margins in the future.

Evening Reads

Federal judge rejects Bill Nelson’s request to give counties more time to finish recounts” via Steve Bousquet and Elizabeth Koh of the Times/Herald

Judge allows late voter fixes for bad signature ballots” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

How about now? Winning first recount, Rick Scott asks again for Bill Nelson to concede” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Bill Nelson campaign wants state to turn over names on rejected ballots” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

More ‘vitriol’ now than in 2000 recount: Andrew Gillum’s lawyer” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Janet Cruz-Dana Young race heads to manual recount in Hillsborough” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Dems planned to use altered forms to fix mail ballots across state after deadline” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News

Florida students overseas skeptical their votes will count” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times

Broward County finishes its recount of top Florida races minutes before state deadline” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News

‘We broke down:’ Why Palm Beach County won’t meet recount deadline” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Sloppy signatures, late ballots highlight perils of voting by mail” via Anthony Man and Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

Special session unlikely for Ag. Commissioner concealed-weapons purview” via the News Service of Florida

Supreme Court greenlights judge-lawyer Facebook friendships” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

New push for offshore drilling as Florida awaits recount results” via Florida Politics

Chasing the Saudi government’s connection to a Sarasota gated community and the 9/11 attacks: Bob Graham doggedly chases the truth” via Lucy Morgan for the Florida Phoenix

Quote of the Day

Bill Nelson has “to decide if he wants to preserve his legacy and go out with dignity or if he wants to forever be remembered as the guy that liberal interest groups used in an effort to win the presidential election two years early.” — Chris Hartline, spokesman for Scott for Florida.

Bill Day’s Latest

 

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida State University Board of Trustees will meet after holding committee meetings Thursday. That’s at 8:15 a.m., Florida State University, Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.           

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will continue a four-day meeting in Broward County. Among the topics Friday will be a review of recommendations and findings for a January report. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss interest rates used for appropriations, including bond rates in the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, program. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Economic Estimating Conference will analyze issues related to the Florida economy. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release the October unemployment figures at 10 a.m.

Looking Ahead

The 2018 annual ‘Feeding Tampa Bay’ food giveaway, sponsored by state Rep. Danny Burgess, will be held this weekend and needs volunteers. Email robin.ringeisen@myfloridahouse.gov or jonathan.till@myfloridahouse.gov if interested. It starts Saturday at 9 a.m., Dade City Business Center (front parking lot), 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Dade City.

Rick Scott schedules execution in 1992 murder

After the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday scheduled a Dec. 13 execution for a Death Row inmate convicted in the 1992 murder of a Miami-Dade County woman.

Scott signed a death warrant in July and initially scheduled the execution of Jose Antonio Jimenez in August.

But the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution so it could look further at issues in the case.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 4 lifted the stay, allowing Scott to reschedule the execution. Jimenez, now 55, was convicted in the killing of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas during a burglary, according to court documents.

Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to documents.

Last Call for 11.14.18 — 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

As of Last Call’s deadline, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker was still questioning attorneys in Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s lawsuit on ballots with mismatched signatures.

Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee Of Florida want the deadline extended so voters have more time to fix invalidated provisional and mail-in ballots by proving they voted.

The Democrats’ attorneys are seeking a court order from Walker, telling the state to then accept those late ballots that are “cured.”

A Wednesday hearing expected to last two hours was at four hours and counting by late afternoon, with an increasingly cantankerous Walker throwing off a series of bon mots.

He first corrected his earlier comparison to election-related lawsuits increasing like Tribbles, a reference to an episode of the original “Star Trek” in which small alien creatures reproduce like rabbits.

“I should have said the lawyers are multiplying like Tribbles,” he said.

Later, he got testy when one lawyer tried to make a point that fatigue in election officials results in errors being made: “I can assure you the most tired person in the room is me, let’s move on.”

He referred to parts of Florida election law reminding him of his grandfather’s expression, “like hunting squirrels with a bazooka.”

And after a suggestion that signatures made electronically are the same as those made with pen on paper, he threw up his hands: “I feel like my head’s being shoved into a cow patty.”

Evening Reads

‘Stop lying’ about Florida recounts, Democrats warn Donald Trump” via David Smith of The Guardian

Federal prosecutors reviewing altered election documents tied to Florida Democrats” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Bill Nelson needs ‘royal flush’ in court cases, but will likely come up short” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Rick Scott to recuse himself from certifying results” via Gray Rohrer and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Nelson sues over Florida hurricane victims fax, email voting” via Samantha Gross of the Times/Herald

Marco Rubio dials down tone in official comment on Florida recount” via Florida Politics

Third-party gubernatorial candidate rejects ‘spoiler’ argument” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Judge Mark Walker is at the center of Florida recount legal fight” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald

Brenda Snipes says invalid ballots ‘were never counted,’ contradicting her attorney” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald

Palm Beach County ‘in prayer mode’ to finish Senate recount by state deadline” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

What happens if elections chiefs can’t make recount deadline? State says keep counting.” via Jenny Staletovich of the Tampa Bay Times

How the Collective PAC almost brought it home for Andrew Gillum” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

David Simmons selected Senate President Pro Tempore” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Chris Hudson moves up to AFP national post” via Florida Politics

More than 30 people didn’t report disturbing behavior by Nikolas Cruz before Parkland massacre” via David Fleshler and Brittany Wallman of the Sun-Sentinel

Quote of the Day

Andrew Gillum got more votes than any other Democrat in statewide history … Presidential-level support. The Democrats did all we think they could’ve done.” — Quentin James, founder of Collective PAC, dedicated to getting African-Americans elected.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Florida Internet & Television (FiTV) will hold its second annual 2018 Florida Internet & Television Conference, known as “FITConFL.” That’s at 8 a.m., Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando.

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

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on issues related to military bases in the state, will meet in Brevard County. That’s at 9 a.m., Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach, 3435 North Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach.

The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Retirement Plan Committee will hold a conference call at 10 a.m. Call-in number: 1-866-574-0995. Code: 833028115.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its regular weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will take part in an event in which the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation will dedicate 53 automated external defibrillators to local police departments. That’s at 11 a.m., Fraternal Order of Police lodge, 5530 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville.

Capital Tiger Bay Club will host a discussion about the 2018 elections, with panelists expected to include Republican strategist David Johnson, Democratic strategist Steve Schale and Brian Burgess, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Capitolist. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

County elections officials face a 3 p.m. deadline to submit results of machine recounts from the Nov. 6 general election. Those recounts would be required in races where candidates were separated by 0.5 percent or less in preliminary returns.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be on Capitol Hill to testify about his concerns over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s potential negative economic impact on Florida’s produce industry. That’s at the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, D.C.

Last Call for 11.13.18 — 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

Yet another federal lawsuit has been filed the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election in Florida.

Miami attorney Benedict P. Kuehne, on behalf of eight registered voters in Florida, filed suit late Tuesday afternoon against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer; Division of Elections director Maria Matthews; and supervisors of elections in 15 counties.

The complaint? He wants the court to “compel Florida elections officials to comply with their required duties to preserve election ballot materials for a period of twenty-two (22) months following every federal election.”

“Florida elections officials are not preserving digital electronic ballot images for the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, which includes a federal election for U.S. Senate and U.S. congressional elections,” he wrote.

“Because of the scheduled statewide recounts commencing as soon as Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, the unpreserved digital ballot images are in danger of being obliterated and overwritten by the tabulation of recounted ballots.”

More to the point, some counties are saving the digital images, he says, but others aren’t and “such disparate treatment violates voters’ right to equal protection” under the U.S. Constitution.

The case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

The Daily Business Review reported last week that Kuehne “was “monitoring (election) litigation for Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.”

Kuehne’s an old pro at election-related litigation. He “represented Vice President Al Gore and the Gore/Lieberman Recount Committee as trial co-counsel in the 2000 election recount trial and appeals” to the Florida Supreme Court, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court, his bio says.

The filing is here.

Evening Reads

Judge orders recount extended for Palm Beach County to Nov. 20” via Alexandra Seltzer of the Palm Beach Post

FL election is on a fast and furious train of lawsuits and stakes are high. When will it end? At the U.S. Supreme Court?” via Diane Rado, CD Davidson-Hiers and Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

What’s happening in Florida is a nightmare. 2020 could be so much worse.” via Richard Hasen of Slate

‘Magic words,’ consistency rule targeted in Bill Nelson’s recount lawsuit” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Rick Scott goes Trump as Ron DeSantis goes ‘statesman’ in Florida recount” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Inside the Republican strategy to discredit the Florida recount” via Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times

FDLE commissioner to Pam Bondi: I’m ‘deeply troubled’ you think I wouldn’t investigate voter fraud” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

As recount politics heat up, two Florida election officials are the targets of online harassment” via Craig Timberg and Reth Reinhard of The Washington Post

Must-see video: Broward County elections officials block view as ballots are bundled and bagged in Davie voting center” via Jim Hoft of TheGatewayPundit.com

Pop quiz: How to tell if a Florida vote should count” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida recount: What’s true and what’s false” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” — President Donald Trump, tweeting Tuesday.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

State lobbyists face a Wednesday deadline for filing reports showing their compensation from July 1 through Sept. 30.

Former Congressmen David Jolly and Patrick Murphy will speak at a Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce breakfast event about “Why Gridlock Rules Washington and How We Can Solve the Crisis.” That’s at 7:15 a.m., Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 RCA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens.

Former Florida CFO Alex Sink will be keynote speaker at the Excellence In Industry Awards, presented by The Naples Chamber, recognizing Collier County businesses and individuals that “exemplify innovation, economic diversification and community enhancement.” That’s at 8 a.m., Silverspot Cinema — Naples, 9118 Strada Place-#8205, Naples.

The Florida Priorities Summit will include a series of panel discussions about solving policy issues facing the state, with Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican who will take part in a discussion about environmental issues, and state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, among others. That’s at 8 a.m., University of Miami, Donna E. Shalala Student Center, 1330 Miller Dr., Coral Gables.

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

The Florida Elections Commission will start a two-day meeting that will include interviewing candidates to become the commission’s executive director. That’s at 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Retail Federation will hold a media conference call to release a holiday shopping forecast. That’s at 11 a.m. Call-in number: 1-877-868-6863. Code: 841132.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will hold a hearing in a lawsuit challenging a Florida law that requires elections supervisors to toss out provisional and mail-in ballots if voters’ signatures don’t match the ones on file. That’s at 1 p.m., United States Courthouse, 111 North Adams St., Tallahassee.

The Florida League of Mayors will host a community service project, the kickoff event for League President Matthew Surrency’s “Mayors Serve Local” initiative. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Osceola Council on Aging, 700 Generation Point, Kissimmee.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze “Article V” revenues, which are used to help fund the court system. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Venture Forum, in partnership with Space Florida, will hold a Florida Aerospace Capital Forum, to “broaden the spectrum of early-stage Florida-based aerospace companies and entrepreneurs.” That’s at 1:30 p.m. Guidewell Innovation Center, 6555 Sanger Road, Orlando.

Professor Emeritus of Political Science Bryon Shafer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will present “Interpreting an Era of Partisan Volatility: The 2018 Elections in Context” as part of the Florida State University College of Social Sciences and Public Policy’s Anderson-Ashby Lectureship on Public Policy Journalism. That’s at 5 p.m., FSU Claude Pepper Center Broad Auditorium, 636 W. Call St., Tallahassee.

The Broward County legislative delegation will hold an organizational meeting as it begins to prepare for the 2019 session. That’s at 6 p.m., Broward College, Bailey Hall, 3501 S.W. Davie Road, Davie.

USF joins national coalition to boost student graduation

The University of South Florida is joining a national effort to increase college access and boodt by hundreds of thousands the numbers of degrees awarded by the year 2025.

USF will be part of a group of 130 public universities working together to close the achievement gap between minority, low-income students and their non-minority peers.

Participating institutions will work in clusters of up to 12 institutions to implement innovative and effective practices to advance student success on college campuses. Collectively, the institutions enroll three million students, including one million students who receive Pell Grants, tuition assistance for low-income students.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is organizing the collaborative effort called Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success.  

It’s the largest ever collaborative effort addressing college access, equity and educational attainment, according to APLU.

As part of the partnership, universities will share data highlighting progress so non-participating schools can reap the benefits of their work.

“At USF, we are driven by our desire to make a difference in the lives of our students, our communities and society at large,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft.

“Our institutional focus on student success has been central to these efforts, and we’re proud to be at forefront of developing positive changes on a national level. I’m confident this new APLU collaboration will help us make an even bigger impact, as well as build important new connections with our peers around the country.”

USF has emerged as a national leader in student success, particularly by reducing the achievement gap. The school eradicated its achievement gap among both low-income and minority students and increased its overall six-year graduation rate from 51 percent to 71 percent.

Its efforts earned the school the Foundation for Student Success’ honor of serving as a mentor to three other universities to help others reduce achievement gaps and increase graduation rates.

USF will join the coalition’s eastern cluster including Stony Brook University, Temple University, University at Buffalo, University of Connecticut, University of Delaware, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Vermont.

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally,” said APLU President Peter McPherson.

“We have to seize the moment and mobilize institutions to improve not just college access, but also equity in student outcomes and the number of students who earn degrees. That’s what Powered by Publics is all about and why we’re thrilled to work with our member institutions toward such an important national goal.”

Participating schools were chosen to create a diversity of enrollment, student demographics, regional workforce needs and selectivity so results could cater to needs of all types of schools.

In addition to its success with student achievement and graduation rates, USF also earned preeminent status this year – a statewide classification based on 12 high-performing benchmarks. Only the University of Florida and Florida State University share that title.

Delegation for 11.13.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Florida’s latest recount drama: new players, issues

It has been 18 years since the state of Florida got rid of punch cards and ultimately replaced them with scanners or similar equipment. With no more hanging chads, what could go wrong?

Most of the country has moved on from the 2018 elections, but in Florida, we are in familiar territory. One week after the election, Florida is still counting votes.

Old territory, new faces. (Image via Getty)

By now, Brenda Snipes, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, is a household name. The problems coming from Snipes’ office has been well documented, including a finding by a judge the office violated public records laws.

In Palm Beach County, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said it would be “impossible” to meet a Thursday deadline to complete the recounts for Governor, U.S. Senator and Agriculture Commissioner. Without an extension, which the Secretary of State’s office says it is not empowered to give, she will have to certify the preliminary results posted Saturday.

This year finds an ugly atmosphere, especially in the Senate race. There was no statewide televised debate between Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson, so they are making up for it during the recount period.

Scott is calling Nelson a “sore loser” who is “clearly trying to commit fraud to win this election.” Nelson demanded Scott recuse himself from any recount role saying Scott had “thrown around words like ‘voter fraud’ without any proof” and adding “the reason he’s doing these things is obvious: he’s worried that when all the votes are counted, he’ll lose the election.”

“Count all the votes” is the message coming from Democrats. This was fortified in an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel titled Every Vote Should Count by Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton.

Republicans are also on message by saying “every legal vote should count.” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio began tweeting up a storm, complaining about Broward and Palm Beach County, but added: “Every vote legally cast & received within the time frame required by law should be counted.”

Never one to be outdone, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz mixed it up with snarky retorts to former Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham and former GOP Rep. David Jolly on Twitter. He recorded the point where he was removed from an area near Snipes’ office.

In the end, it is possible Scott will benefit from the work of graphic design as much as George W. Bush did in 2000. Some are blaming a design flaw in certain Broward ballots that may have led to a large undervote for the Senate race.

If that turns out to be the case, Democrats will turn on Snipes just as they did in 2004 when Palm Beach County voted out Theresa Lepore, who was responsible for the infamous “butterfly ballot” that many locals said cost Al Gore the 2000 election.

On Monday, Bush called for Snipes’ removal from office following the recounts. Bush appointed Snipes in 2003, and was subsequently re-elected, following Bush’s removal of Snipes’ predecessor Miriam Oliphant.

Republicans have an issue of their own with which to deal. Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen confirmed to Florida Politics that he accepted more than 140 ballots either from email or by fax. The state expressly prohibits such practices as acceptable methods of voting, despite the impact of Hurricane Michael.

Andersen said he had a protocol in place for the verification of military and overseas ballots, and felt that would be an appropriate procedure to use with voters displaced by the storm. He let Detzner’s office know his intentions and did not wait for a reply.

There are still a few more days before something new crops up.

Trump’s strange week

With an iPhone and a Twitter account, things are never quiet when it comes to President Donald Trump. While the national media often waits breathlessly to report on his latest tweets, the president made news in different ways over the past few days.

After the press briefing room blowup with CNN’s Jim Acosta, the president criticized April Ryan, a frequent Trump critic, calling her a “loser.” During a gaggle before leaving for Paris Friday, CNN’s Abby Phillip questioned if he wants interim Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to “rein in Mueller,” a question Trump referred as “stupid.”

They say there are no ‘stupid questions.’ Not with Donald Trump.

In Paris, the first scheduled event was a visit with allied leaders to the Alsne-Marne World War I cemetery, but Trump did not attend “due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather.” He was roundly criticized for his absence including a harsh admonition from Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, who described the president as “that pathetic, inadequate Donald Trump.”

With the deadly wildfires raging, Trump tweeted about the lack of forest management in California, concluding with a threat of “no more Fed payments!” Among others, the heads of two firefighters unions responded with heavy criticism of the remarks.

Perhaps the president heard because he sent another tweet Saturday praising recuse efforts and those affected. “God bless them all,” he said.

It was a strange week, even by Trump standards.

Two Floridians on Trump’s AG list

To the surprise of no one, Trump asked for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the morning after Election Day. The president appointed Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, as the interim Attorney General, which brought controversies of its own.

The fear of impeding the election meddling investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is at the top of the list.

All agree that Whitaker’s role will be temporary with the only question being “how long?” Several candidates are being mentioned for the permanent job with two having Florida roots.

There’s talk (again) about Pam Bondi is taking a job in the White House.

Among those most prominently mentioned is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. She and Trump share a close personal relationship, but the specter of again raising the donation to Bondi’s campaign while the controversy of her office’s investigation into Trump University was ongoing would be a feature of any confirmation hearing.

Also under consideration is Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta. The native of Miami is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and was Dean of the Florida International University College of Law when appointed to his current opposition.

Other names mentioned include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, retiring Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and a small number of sitting or former judges.

Trump considers replacing Ross

As Bondi and Acosta are under consideration for joining the Trump cabinet, another may be on his way back home. According to media reports, Trump is considering replacing current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross by the end of the year.

Two names apparently top the list of replacements. Linda McMahon, who currently serves as the Small Business Administration chief, or Ray Washburn, who is currently the president of Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) are said to be in the mix. Ross has resided in Palm Beach not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion.

Florida resident Wilbur Ross’ days may be numbered in the Trump administration.

Politico reported Senate Democrats are looking into meetings Ross held with major companies in which he holds financial interests. Soon, reports began to emerge that Trump could replace him with McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Washburne, whose name surfaced quickly after the mention of McMahon, is a prominent investor from Dallas and a leading Republican Party fundraiser. The company for which he serves as President, (OPIC), helps U.S. firms invest in overseas projects mean to reinforce U.S. economic and national security.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there were “No personnel announcements at this time.”

Pelosi seeks diversity, faces challenge

Several Democratic House candidates said that if elected, they would not vote to elevate current Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to Speaker. They were joined by a small minority of incumbents making the same pledge.

If those who committed followed through with their promise, Pelosi would not have the votes. But late last week, the veteran representative from San Francisco said she is “100 percent confident” she will be the next speaker.

Nancy Pelosi wants diversity, but she has to get the Speaker’s gavel first.

Other House races are yet to be called, which could give Pelosi serious problems. The Democratic rebels believe they will pick up more than one dozen defectors, which would be enough to vote in someone else if they can decide on a single candidate.

So far, none of those publicly committing against Pelosi comes from the delegation.

In addition to trying to reclaim her former position, Pelosi is encouraging members and committees to hire diverse staffs.

“House Democrats take great pride in the fact that our Caucus is more than 60 percent women, people of color and LGBTQ,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues. “We know that the diversity in our ranks is a strength and a reflection of the American people that it is our great honor to serve.”

Soto, Murphy named to Fried transition

Shortly after the election, tentative Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis appointed Republican Rep. Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach to his transition team. Now, another newly-re-elected congressman, as well as a former member of the delegation were tapped for the transition team of Democrat Nikki Fried should the ongoing recount confirm her election as Agriculture Commissioner.

As a recount begins, Nikki Fried names her transition team for Agriculture Commissioner.

While declaring victory, Fried named Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando as a co-chair of the transition team and former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy was named chairman. Murphy represented Florida’s 18th Congressional District for two terms before unsuccessfully challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016.

“I’m looking forward to working with her and Commissioner [Adam] Putnam on a seamless transition and helping her put together an office which will accomplish her priorities of protecting our waterways, being a fighter for farmers in Tallahassee and Washington, ensuring complete background checks, and expanding access to medical marijuana,” Murphy said.

Soto brings a public commitment to gun control to the Fried team, along with his other co-chair, Fred Guttenberg, a parent of one of the Parkland shooting victims and outspoken advocate for gun control. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates concealed weapons permits.

Mast, DeSantis fight Lake O delays

During the campaign, both U.S. Senators and members of the delegation from South Florida highlighted the authorization of a storage reservoir that would ultimately curtail the release of algae-infested water from Lake Okeechobee into local rivers and streams. Palm City Republican Brian Mast, joined by both Florida Senators, were among the loudest celebrants of the authorizations.

That ambitious schedule for the reservoir could now be in jeopardy. It was set to be constructed on land owned by the state and leased to New Hope Sugar Co.

Brian Mast is making headway in the fight to prevent delays in a Lake O water reservoir.

The New Hope lease, which was set to expire, was an agenda item at last week’s meeting of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Mast appeared before the board urging a delay on behalf of his constituents and Governor-elect DeSantis before voting on a lease extension.

“Given that the current lease does not expire until March and because we did not receive enough advance notice on this proposed vote to ensure that this extension would not delay construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir, we urge the South Florida Water Management District to delay their planned vote tomorrow,” said Mast and DeSantis in a joint statement.

Despite the plea, SFWMD went ahead with a vote and granted a new lease to New Hope until 2027. This raised the ire of the Everglades Foundation, who blasted the board of the SFWMD and Scott, who appointed them.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation wrote to Scott “to strongly protest the illegal, shameful and undemocratic action this morning by your appointees at the South Florida Water Management District …”

“Your appointees ignored the urgent request of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Mast to delay any action until the Governor-elect could be briefed on the matter. Your office was aware of our concerns about this matter but did nothing to intervene,” wrote Eikenberg, a former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Mast has made the water discharges a signature issue. Last year he introduced the Everglades FIRST (Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment) Act designed to address water storage issues and prevent the toxic discharges.

“We cannot afford to wait another eight to 10 years to begin construction on a southern reservoir,” he said in a statement. “Every summer with toxic algal blooms means more businesses are forced to close, more people lose their jobs and more children get sick,”

It may take a while longer.

Rooney praises Trump for asylum reforms

Rep. Francis Rooney applauded a new executive order from President Trump that requires asylum-seekers to process their claims at ports of entry to the U.S. This is a much-needed action after a decade of abuse by people trying to exploit the system that was meant to protect people with legitimate cases,” Rooney said Friday on social media.

Francis Rooney is applauding Donald Trump’s work to eliminate ‘massive fraud’ in the process of seeking asylum.

But the issue is particularly important to the Naples Republican because he introduced a similar bill in Congress in January of this year, the Asylum Protection Act of 2018. When Rooney first filed legislation, which would reduce the application deadline for seeking asylum to 30 days, he stressed the bill did not seek to stop asylum-seekers but plug a hole in the system.

“The United States asylum application process is being abused by illegal immigrants and the people suffering most from this abuse are those who most need asylum due to legitimate fear of persecution in their home countries,” Rooney said in January. “On the other hand, baseless asylum claims have created a huge backlog at the immigration courts and, as a result, allow illegal immigrants to stay in this country for years pending adjudication. Congress needs to end this abuse now and protect those legitimately in need.”

Steyer, NextGen America host post-election debrief

On Wednesday, Tom Steyer and his NextGen America will host a post-election debrief panel in Washington D.C. to discuss the results of the 2018 midterms and what those results mean for the future of American politics. The panel will cover the role of young voters in the election.

Tom Steyer is holding a post-election debrief in Washington.

Steyer, a businessperson and philanthropist, originally founded NextGen American as NextGen climate in 2013. The focus has expanded from climate change to promoting progressive stands on several issues.

He is personally active in funding Democratic campaigns, which included pumping millions into the effort of Andrew Gillum for Governor.

Steyer will likely tout the significant increase the young voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, which was roughly 31%, the highest in the last 25 years. In unusually close governor races like Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin, youth turnout was higher still, averaging 35 percent.

On this day in the headlines

November 13, 2000 — The state board responsible for certifying Florida’s disputed presidential election is poised to enforce Tuesday’s deadline for counties to submit their final vote counts, meaning nearly 2 million votes in five heavily Democratic counties could be discarded. Democrats will meet with Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris today to seek an extension.

“We will certify all in-state votes Tuesday,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, a Democrat and member of the three-member Elections Canvassing Commission. “Any county that doesn’t have their results in by 5 p.m. Tuesday won’t be counted.”

During the campaign, Crawford publicly supported Gov. George W. Bush.

November 13, 2012 — FBI Director Robert Mueller’s top aide was told former CIA chief David Petraeus was having an extramarital affair that might have compromised national security a week before the Nov. 6 election, a congressional official said Monday.

The disclosure raises fresh questions why the FBI leadership withheld the information from the nation’s top intelligence official and the congressional committees that oversee the U.S. intelligence community until after President Barack Obama won re-election. Political outcry already had flared over the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, two CIA contractors, and a State Department staffer in a September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Veterans: Where Nelson, Scott agree

Sunday was Veterans Day with celebrations and parades across the state and the country. Florida is divided more than it has been in recent memory and three statewide still-to-be-decided election races offer ample proof.

At least there is one area where Rick Scott and Bill Nelson can agree.

Despite their deep divisions and growing personal animosity, Nelson and Scott can agree that veterans deserve the gratitude for what they have given to the country.

Sen. Bill Nelson

“Today — Veteran’s Day — we are reminded that we are forever indebted to those who served our country in uniform to keep us safe and our nation free.”

Gov. Rick Scott

“On Veterans Day, our nation comes together to honor those who bravely served our country. Today, take a moment to remember their service and thank an American hero for their sacrifice for FL families. We can never say enough about how grateful we are for our military & veterans.”

David, Murphy relaunch D.C. gridlock series

Former Congressmen and once U.S. Senate rivals David Jolly and Patrick Murphy are reinvigorating their “Why Gridlock Rules Washington” town hall series in Palm Beach Gardens.

The two are speaking at the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce Business Before Hours Breakfast series Wednesday.

Patrick Murphy and David Jolly are taking their show back on the road.

The two are meeting with groups around the country to spread awareness about dysfunction in Congress along with their bipartisan views on why it happens.

“Despite this hyperpartisan and divisive election season, this town hall will be a good chance for us to talk about how democrats and republicans can actually work together to solve issues. How we can work together to bridge our differences and how we can actually solve the gridlock that rules Washington,” Murphy said.

The two have already toured several college campuses including Berkeley, Brigham Young University, Pepperdine, Stanford, University of California Las Angeles, University of Southern California and Politicon.

Murphy is a Democrat and Jolly is a former Republican who recently shed his party affiliation and became an independent. The two have conducted more than 30 town halls nationwide including at the University of Florida, Florida International University, the University of Miami, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and University of South Florida.

The two former federal lawmakers launched their tour in 2017 to shine a light on what they see as broken components in Washington politics.

The town hall will be moderated by West Palm Beach WPBF 25 News television anchor Todd McDermott.

The two worked together in Congress despite partisanship haunting the halls of the Capitol on issues ranging from debt reduction and campaign finance reform to environmental issues and federal firearm policies.

 

Last Call for 11.12.18 — 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

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson isn’t “follow(ing) the basic rules of the road” — the legal road, that is.

That’s what attorneys for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) told a federal judge Monday, objecting to Nelson’s request for a court order.

As counties re-tally the votes in the race between him and GOP Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson’s pending lawsuit seeks to get Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to order ballots with mismatched signatures counted toward the total.

Rejecting ballots because of signatures is unconstitutional because it uses a “demonstrably standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable signature matching process,” Nelson’s complaint says.

It results in “the disproportionate rejection of (vote-by-mail) and provisional ballots cast by ethnic and racial minorities, as well as young, first-time voters,” it adds.

GrayRobinson attorneys Andy Bardos and George Levesque, representing the NRSC, counter that Democrats complained two years ago about mismatched signatures and got a fix — a 2016 court order by Walker, and a 2017 state law that requires voters to be told of a problem with their mail-in ballots and be given a chance to fix it; that is, to come in and prove they are who they say they are.

The “issue could easily have been raised in the prior suit — or at any point over the past two-plus years. But it was not,” Bardos told the court.

Nelson “waited until three days after the election to do so on an ‘emergency’ basis in a transparent effort to upset the outcome of the race for the United States Senate and other offices … These tactics are impermissible,” he said.

Bardos added that Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, the other plaintiff, “seek to force all 67 Florida counties to immediately halt or change the machine recounts … and to require them to consider ballots that were excluded based on a signature mismatch after an opportunity to cure.

“Yet they cannot demonstrate irreparable harm since they cannot identify a single voter who was unable to utilize the ability to cure.

“Moreover, they ignore the strong public interests counseling against an injunction, including the undeniable fact that an injunction at this point in time would throw the canvassing process into chaos by changing the rules long after Election Day.”

A hearing in the case is set before Walker at 1 p.m. Wednesday — the day before machine recount results are due to be reported to the state.

Second shot

Breaking news this evening — Governor-elect Ron DeSantis announced “key staff recruited to lead his transition operations.”

James Blair, Director of Policy: “The longtime adviser to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Enterprise Florida board member will serve as Director of Policy for the transition efforts.”

Chris Clark, Director of Recruiting: “The longtime adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush and former Chief of Staff to Senate President Don Gaetz will serve as Director of Recruiting for the transition.”

Drew Meiner, Director of Operations: “The former Deputy Campaign Manager for Operations of the DeSantis campaign and recent Deputy District Director for DeSantis’ Congressional office will serve as Director of Operations for the transition.”

Amanda Emmons, Director of Scheduling: “The former staff assistant for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and DeSantis campaign aide will serve as Director of Scheduling for the transition team.”

Ben Gibson, General Counsel: “Former Deputy General Counsel to Gov. Rick Scott and current Partner at Shutts & Bowen will serve as General Counsel to the DeSantis transition.”

Dave Vasquez, Press Secretary: “The former campaign manager to Rep. Bob Cortes and longtime DeSantis communications aide will serve as Press Secretary for the transition team.”

Claire Whitehead, Assistant to Incoming First Lady: “The former appointments analyst and Regional Representative for Gov. Scott will serve as assistant to Incoming First Lady Casey DeSantis.”

Evening Reads

Political, legal fights overtake vote counting process” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Rick Scott’s glaring conflict of interest” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Judge rejects Scott’s bid to impound voting machines. Instead, he offers a compromise” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald

About 150 hurricane victims were allowed to vote by email. That’s against Florida law.” via Elizabeth Koh and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald

Brian Mast defends Scott, rips Bay County Supervisor of Elections” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Don’t forget: Three legislative races are cliffhangers and are undergoing recounts” via CD Davidson-Hiers of Florida Phoenix

Amid Florida recounts, frustration grows for those whose votes didn’t count” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times

Linda Stewart: Calm down and let the elections officers do their work” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

Lawyers agree to more deputies at recount site” via The Associated Press

Alachua County finishes machine recount” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun

Searching for any silver linings for Florida Democrats” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Florida voters are saying yes when school districts ask for more money. Is that a good thing?” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush reacting to young socialists is absolutely priceless” via Nahima Bonfiglio of The Daily Dot

Quote of the Day

“The real story should be that little Bay County was able to get a greater voter turnout than in the last gubernatorial race, even given the fact we had a Category 4-plus hurricane hit.” — Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen, after admitting accepting vote-by-mail ballots by fax machine and email, despite an executive order explicitly prohibiting the practice.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will start a four-day meeting in Broward County. Among the topics will be a presentation about 911 calls on the day of the shooting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is scheduled to speak to third-grade students from Fernandina Beach Christian Academy during a field trip. Later, he will speak during a Leadership Nassau Youth Government Day. That’s at 9:50 a.m., Nassau County Commission chamber, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee; and 11 a.m., Hilliard Town Hall, 15861 County Road 108, Hilliard.

The Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida will host a discussion about the 2018 elections, with speakers expected to include Susan MacManus, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of South Florida, and Dan Smith, a professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. That’s at 6 p.m., University of Florida, Pugh Hall Ocora, Gainesville.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a hearing in Miami-Dade County on a five-year transportation plan. That’s at 6 p.m. Hilton Garden Inn, 1695 N.W. 111th Ave., Sweetwater.

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