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Donald Trump supporters in Sarasota speak out

It would be more than two-and-a-half hours before Donald Trump would appear, yet there were already hundreds of people standing in the pit area in front of the stage at the Robarts Arena in Sarasota, making sure they had a good spot last Saturday morning to see the man who has dominated American politics in 2015.

Among those excited to be up front that early was James Bankes, a 51-year-old St. Petersburg resident. A political independent who leans to the right, Bankes says he didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election, and didn’t support Rick Scott for governor last year. He’s all in for Trump in 2016, however.

“He’s the face of change, ’cause he’s not so partisan. He’s not a politician,” he says. “And while he hasn’t outlined all of his plans, he plans to manage. A lot of people think you have to have some type of resume to run the country. Well, no president has ever had a resume to run the country, but he has a resume to think logically, to think intelligently, and listen to what people feel, and say that’s how we need to move. So, often politicians just go in their own direction, no matter how they were voted in. That’s what people are fed up with.”

The message about the 2015-2016 campaign has been characterized on the GOP side as one about the voters rejecting politics as usual and celebrating outsiders. That certainly explains a lot of Trump’s appeal. That and the fact that he’s unencumbered when it comes to worrying about offending anybody, which the crowd in Sarasota celebrated.

Bradenton resident Rich Gross had been carrying a sign criticizing Hillary Clinton before another member of the crowd took it away from him. He said he loves the way Trump “tells it like it is” and isn’t a career politician.

Gross said that he’s totally disaffected by politics. When asked why, he blamed the current occupant of the White House.

Actually, he can’t even bring himself to say Barack Obama‘s name, instead referring to him as, “That guy.”

You mean Barack Obama?

“You can call him whatever you want,” says Gross. “I call him other things. He (Trump) talks like the common man, speaks about what we want to hear.”

Gross says he thinks a Clinton vs. Trump election won’t even be close at the end, with the real estate magnate becoming commander in chief. “I don’t think America is that stupid,” he says of any other result. “Unless all the people with the handouts vote for her.”

The question about government handouts has always been a persistent issue with conservatives, and feels amped up larger than ever in the Age of Obama. When I ask Gross if he thinks that’s out of hand now, he responds, “How do you think Obama got elected for eight years?”

Nicole Affatao from Lakewood Ranch says she’s also tired of “everybody coming here for a free ride,” more of a reference to the undocumented immigrants who Trump claims he’ll be able to deport en masse. But she does believe in a social safety net. “People who need it, so be it. They need it. But that’s not a way of life. That’s not a lifestyle.”

Tampa resident Shelby McIntyre says he thinks Trump’s tough talk on immigration will fold into a more pragmatic approach if he ends up getting the Republican nomination. “I think we’ll hear in the near future, as we get closer. It’s going to be one of those, ‘you know, I thought about that, this is how we’re going to handle it.”

McIntyre, a Democrat who says as of now he intends to support Trump next year, believes that the New York City businessman is tapping into the hard-core conservative voter by making his claims about deportees. “People say he’s going to divide people. Listen, this is politics. It’s a show. He is being hard-core right now. I think he’s going to dial it back, I think he knows he can’t deport that many people, I think they’ll be some self-deportation.”

None of the people interviewed expressed much interest in the other Republican candidates, except for Affatao, who expressed her ardor for Ted Cruz.

“He’s a brilliant man,” she said of the Texas senator. She said she’d love to see a Trump-Cruz ticket. “We need a businessman and we need somebody who knows politics. The combination. Oh My God, yeah!”

“I thought that Jeb was a respectable governor for the state,” said Tampa resident Jim Lucier. “I think Mr. Trump’s right — Jeb’s low energy. He certainly hasn’t distinguished himself in the debates, I just don’t think he’s bringing his message very well.”

Regarding Marco Rubio, Lucier calls him a good man and good public servant, but said he certainly fits that career politician resume that he’s not in the mood for. “I’m interested in an outsider candidate,” Lucier says. “But one that I thought that has the intellect, the charisma, the ideas and the strength to lead the country.”

Most of those interviewed by Florida Politics seemed to have no issue at all with the many controversial comments that the Republican presidential front-runner has said since entering the race earlier this year. But James Bankes says that Trump’s most recent comments regarding New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski went too far.

“This latest one, where he flailed like he was disabled, was a little outrageous,” Bankes said about Trump’s mocking of the disabled reporter. “But in the end if you think about it, so many politicians say lies and ridiculous things with a straight face. Maybe they don’t have dramatics with it, and maybe they don’t have antics with it, and maybe they don’t say it as if they’re a regular lay person. They say it in an articulated, pre-canned fashion speed, when really all they’re doing is the same thing. And it’s called they’re mocking us. They mock us regular people for like we don’t know any better, and I’m in power, so deal with it!”

“Nobody ever heard of the guy,” Trump said of Kovaleski on Saturday. “He’s using what he’s got to such a horrible degree. I think it’s disgraceful. And I think The New York Times should give me an apology.”

Of course, bashing the media is a tried and true practice in Republican politics, but Trump’s harangue regarding the Times was particularly vitriolic, and extensive.

Ernie Votaw, 64, said that Trump’s popularity is because of the “way he just tells it like it is. And people really like it,” he adds. “They don’t want stuff clouded with politically correct stuff.”

Vote said he thought Trump could beat Hillary Clinton next year, and says it will be “entertaining.”

“He’s a deal maker and we need a deal maker on a lot of these treaties and future treaties,” he said. “And he has a knack of picking the best people. I have faith in him.”

Lisa Montelione feels confident in HD 63 Democratic primary versus Mike Reedy

Lisa Montelione said it was “excruciatingly hard” to decide to give up her Tampa City Council seat next year, but that’s what will happen now that she’s decided to run for the Florida Legislature in 2016. She’ll take on fellow Democrat Mike Reedy in the House District 63 primary next August, with the winner to face GOP incumbent Shawn Harrison in November.

Regarding that primary race against Reedy, Montelione said simply, “I will win.”

The Hillsborough County-based seat is one of those handful of state House districts that favor the Democrats in presidential election years, and Republicans in off-year elections. Harrison defeated Democrat Mark Danish in a rematch of their 2012 contest, in which Danish won out.

Montelione said she considered whether to jettison her Council seat for months, but it took watching a “TED Talk” by philosopher Ruth Chang that finally persuaded her.

“It doesn’t come down to a plus or minus column, it comes down to where you feel your heart is, and having the courage to maybe not do the practical thing that everybody expects, but to do the hard thing that means it might cost you a lot but in the end it’s the right the thing to do,” Montelione said of deciding to leave her seat and run for the Legislature.

Reedy, a Tampa native and full-time organizer for the LGBT activist group Equality Florida, said he was surprised when he learned of Montelione entering the Democratic primary.

“I don’t know what her thinking is, quite frankly, as someone who was just elected for City Council in March,” he said. Montelione was re-elected to a second four-year term this year. Both Democrats said that they’re aware the seat has flipped back and forth in recent years, but both said that should they win, they’ll keep it blue for years to come.

Noting how much of her current council seat mirrors the geography of HD 63 and how people in unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County have grown to know her because of her work on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Hillsborough River Board, Montelione said it’s a seat “I know that in ’16 I will win, and I know in ’18 I’ll hold onto it, because I have crossed the aisles in popularity, people from both sides of the aisle support me.”

Reedy said he considers himself in the first year of a “10-year campaign.”

He means he’ll be active with the community from the beginning of his first term in office. “There is someone who is always going to be running the two years that you’re trying to make it, so as soon as we win in November, we’re going to continue that outreach to the community, and I think that’s something that this community has definitely said what they want to know more of,” adding that “there is a lack of knowing who their elected officials are, and what they are doing and how they are voting not only in the city but also in Tallahassee.”

The race will divide Democrats to an extent.

Among those who attended an earlier fundraiser for Reedy included Pat Frank, Mike Suarez, Mary Mulhern, Patrick Manteiga, Guido Maniscalco, and Mark Danish.

Reedy said that among the issues he’s concerned about being debated in Tallahassee is the guns on campus bill and the problems with the Department of Children and Families.

“We have a lot of tenured professors and students who live in the district, and they’re voicing their concerns about what in a situation which someone with a hoodie with a gun, and then there’s another person with a hoodie and a gun that fits the only description, how is the cop going to know who’s the good guy and the bad guy?

“That’s a real concern for students … and statistically, our schools are safer than our communities, and our communities have been safer now than they have been in the last 30 years so that’s a big concern to me and people in this district.

“I think also we’ve seen a lot in terms of DCF … and what’s happening with some children who are falling through the cracks, if you want to say something that is happening that’s not getting enough coverage, it is that and we have to find a way … that connects not only our social services with our medical community but with law enforcement, there cannot be this disconnect, because there is too many children who are falling through the cracks.”

Montelione has nearly a year to go on City Council, and said there’s plenty of work to still do. She was on the losing side of a recent vote that would have committed taxpayers to spending over $250 million for much needed improvements to the city’s aging stormwater system. She said it wasn’t just herself, Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen who were on the losing side of that council vote, but the residents of Tampa and unincorporated Hillsborough County as well.

After the council’s initial vote rejecting the proposal by the Bob Buckhorn administration, Montelione offered a motion to bring the issue back in January, but that died without getting a second vote.

“I hope that it’s coming back, but the members of council who voted against it are the only ones who can bring it back,” she said. “The only other alternative is for the (Buckhorn) administration to come up with a plan that is marginally different from the one proposed so they can bring it back and hope for a different impact.”

David Jolly boasts about his proposal on maintaining GITMO as U.S. military base signed by President Obama in NDAA

President Obama hinted last week that he still may try to close the Guantánamo Bay prison through executive action when he signed an updated national defense authorization bill last week, he had no issue with a provision that maintains that the naval station at GITMO will not be closed or abandoned.

The Obama administration has emphasized from the beginning of this year that it wouldn’t transfer the base back to Cuba, but the language in the NDAA came from a measure introduced earlier this year by Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly. Jolly introduced the Naval Station Guantánamo Bay Protection Act (H.R. 654) in February, just days after Cuban President Raul Castro said normalized relations would not be possible without transferring the base to the Cuban government. 

“Gitmo is a critical asset to our country’s national security, providing a persistent U.S. presence and immediate access to the region, as well as supporting a layered defense to secure the air and maritime approaches to the United States,” Jolly said in a statement released on Monday.

However it should be noted that the Obama administration also ruled out handing over the naval base at GITMO in February as well.

“The issue of Guantánamo is not on the table in these conversations,” State Department official Roberta Jacobson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Cuba had raised the issue, she told lawmakers, but “we are not interested in discussing that.”

Cuban President Raul Castro had included the return of the naval base at Guantánamo Bay as one of their long-term objectives for the rapprochement with the U.S. that was announced by President Obama last December. In addition, Castro also called for the lifting of the economic embargo and compensating his country for damages.

The U.S. established the naval base in 1903. Cuba’s communist government has sought its return since coming to power in 1959.

“This section of the NDAA is wholly separate from the debate concerning the detention facility at the Naval Station and the status of detainees,” Jolly said in his news release. “Preservation of our assets in Cuba is just common sense. Again, there is no reason to relinquish a Department of Defense asset critical to our national security.”

When signing the NDAA last week, Obama said that he was “deeply disappointed that the Congress has again failed to take productive action toward closing the detention facility at Guantánamo.”

Jolly is a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Florida in 2016.

Marco Rubio super PAC releases first TV ad

Conservative Solutions PAC, the pro-Marco Rubio super PAC which has not previously aired any television ads to date, is releasing its first television ad of the campaign in the early voting states beginning Monday. The ad is called, “Marco.”

“He took on the Republican establishment, and won,” a narrator says as images of the U.S. senator from Florida dominate. “The insiders were shocked, but not the people, because they heard his clear conservative message: less government, more freedom, a foreign policy based on strength.”

Conservative Solutions PAC is linked with a pro-Rubio super PAC with a similar name, Conservatives Solutions Project, that has aired ads in Iowa and New Hampshire featuring Rubio criticizing the Iran nuclear deal. However, Conservative Solutions Project is officially not a super PAC, but a tax-exempt social welfare group. However, two organizations, Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 have asked the U.S. Department of Justice  to launch an investigation, claiming that the group is supporting Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Conservative Solutions PAC aired its last ad Nov. 22, and has no plans to air more ads this year.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.30.15 – Accuracy on the campaign trail

Welcome back to the working world, folks. I hope you all had a glorious Thanksgiving weekend holiday. I enjoyed the time off by seeing some really good films (“Brooklyn” and a very surprisingly good Creed), some good football (highlighted by Stanford’s last second victory over Notre Dame, although it’s always nice to see Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers teams go down), and a little politics thrown in there as well, in Sarasota.

Now let’s talk about the truth, and whether voters care about it.

Democrats have become resigned to their presumptive front-runner and probable nominee for president next year, Hillary Clinton, consistently receiving low marks about her trustworthiness. A Quinnipiac poll from the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio taken last month showed that by a 59 percent to 35 percent margin, voters said she’s not honest or trustworthy. Nevertheless, she has a very solid shot at winning the presidency next November.

Now let’s go over to the Republican Party, and their current standard-bearer in the polls, Donald Trump. Trump continues to insist that he saw “thousands” of Muslims celebrate the downing of the World Trade Center on television after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks  espite evidence indicating that never happened.

He also now insists that he was not physically mocking disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski, despite video evidence from a speech he gave Tuesday night that clearly showed that was exactly what he was doing.

“So all of a sudden I hear that because I expressed myself very strongly, all of a sudden I was mocking somebody,” Trump said in his speech in Sarasota on Saturday, adding. “I would never mock a person that has difficulties.’

On Sunday, “Meet The Press’ ” Chuck Todd challenged Trump on his statements. Check out the transcript:

DONALD TRUMP: When the Trade Center came down, it was done all around the world. And you know that because that has been reported very strongly. Why wouldn’t it have taken place? I’ve had hundreds of people call in and tweet in on Twitter, saying that they saw it and I was 100 percent right.

Now, The Washington Post also wrote about tailgate parties. We’re looking for other articles. And we’re looking for other clips. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we found them, Chuck. But for some reason, they’re not that easy to come by. I saw it. So many people saw it, Chuck. And, so, why would I take it back? I’m not going to take it back.

CHUCK TODD: Well just because somebody repeats something doesn’t make it true. And I guess that’s actually —

DONALD TRUMP: Chuck, I’ve had hundreds. I don’t mean I had two calls, Chuck. Even yesterday, I was in Sarasota, Florida. And people were saying they lived in Jersey, they —

CHUCK TODD: People weren’t saying. If I said people —

DONALD TRUMP: – moved down to Florida because taxes are a lot lower in Florida. They told me there that they saw it.

CHUCK TODD: Mr. Trump. If I said, “Well, people have said Mr. Trump’s net worth is $10 billion,” you would say that was crazy. You wouldn’t make a business deal —

DONALD TRUMP: But that’s a very different. It’s much different.

Is it really?

At Saturday’s rally (you can read my story here), Trump spent a full 15 minutes (out of an hour-long speech) to assail [Serge] Kovaleski and The New York Times, ranting negatively about the institution that is the Times and how great they used to be. I’d say it was bizarre, but in Trumpworld, it was just part of the show.

Trump’s popularity transcends a lot of usual metrics of traditional candidates, so it’d be foolhardy to surmise that his doubling or tripling down on his previous statements means anything negative to his campaign.

Meanwhile, will Chris Christie get anything out of his endorsement by the New Hampshire Union-Leader? The fact is, only two of the last seven times the paper has endorsed a GOP candidate has that candidate won the Granite State primary.

In endorsing Chris Christie, NH paper slams Marco Rubio

Chris Christie has received of the biggest boosts to his struggling presidential aspirations this weekend, capturing the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the state’s biggest newspaper and an important voice in the state’s first in the nation primary.

“Chris Christie is a solid, anti-abortion conservative who has managed to govern in liberal New Jersey, face down the big public unions, and win a second term,” wrote Joseph McQuaid, the newspaper’s publisher, in today’s edition of the paper. “Gov. Christie can work across the aisle, but he won’t get rolled by the bureaucrats.”

The New Jersey Governor has banking his whole campaign strategy by winning New Hampshire, but according to a Real Clear Politics summary of polls conducted there, he’s still mired in 7th place in the Granite State, with just 5.3 percent support.

That’s better than he’s been performing nationally, though. A Quinnipiac national survey conducted earlier this month had Christie with only 3 percent support.

The editorial written by McQuaid also took shots at Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio.

Of Trump and Carson, the GOP front-runners in the early states whose popularity has been said to be in part because they’re not career politicians, McQuaid wrote, “We don’t need as President some well-meaning person from the private sector who has no public experience.”

The editorial also goes on to say that, “We don’t need another fast-talking, well-meaning freshman U.S. senator trying to run the government. We are still seeing the disastrous effects of the last such choice.”

Not only is that a shot at Rubio, but presumably Ted Cruz as well. Both men are serving in their first-terms in the Senate, but it’s Rubio who has been derided by no less than Jeb Bush‘s super PAC Right to Rise as following in the steps of Barack Obama in being a little-known freshman senator who went on to capture his party’s nomination. Such words are considered disparaging in Republican circles.

‘Gov. Christie is right for these dangerous times,” McQuaid writes. “He has prosecuted terrorists and dealt admirably with major disasters. But the one reason he may be best-suited to lead during these times is because he tells it like it is and isn’t shy about it.”

Of course, Christie’s “tell it like it is ethos” has been eclipsed by front-runner Donald Trump, who has made a number of increasingly provocative statements, yet continues to dominate the GOP presidential race.

An important fact to note: The Union-Leader has backed just two winners in the past seven contested N.H. primaries.

In Sarasota, Donald Trump blasts Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and especially the NY Times

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump helicoptered into Sarasota on Saturday afternoon for his first campaign appearance since Thanksgiving, and protesters were ready for him. Two times within the first 15 minutes of his speech to an overflow crowd at Robarts arena, protesters were led out by security, causing a delay as Trump waited for the demonstrators to leave the arena.

However, unlike the report that surfaced last week that a Black Lives Matter protester was assaulted by members of the crowd as he was led out of a Trump rally, the Donald did all he could do from the podium to ensure that wouldn’t happen again.

“Be nice. Don’t hurt the person,” he said after the first protester was taken away. “Don’t be rude. Don’t hurt them.”

Although Trump continues to amaze the political world with his front-running status in the Republican race for president, there was a poll released on Friday that shows that some of his recent comments may (finally) hurting his candidacy. The Reuters/Ipso survey showed Trump had lost 12 percentage points within the last week.

The latest controversy that he’s attempted to tamp down regard allegations that surfaced right before the holiday break that he had physically mocked a New York Times reporter named Serge Kovaleski this past week. Kovaleski is disabled.

“Now I took a lot of heat from a newspaper, that’s a failed newspaper,” the New York City real estate magnate began in what would ultimately be a 15-minute extended monologue where he excoriated the Gray Lady.” So all of a sudden I hear that because I expressed myself very strongly, all of a sudden I was mocking somebody,” he said, adding “I would never mock a person that has difficulties.’

To back up his previous controversial claim of seeing “thousands” of spectators celebrate 9/11 in New Jersey, Trump cited a 2001 Washington Post story written by Kovaleski about authorities detaining people who had celebrated the attack on rooftops with views of the site. Kovaleski has said recently that he does not remember “thousands or even hundreds” of people were celebrating, but doesn’t deny celebrations in some capacity didn’t take place.

Trump’s defense of his remarks and his subsequent takedown of the paper (including a critique of what he said was their poor financial management) dominated the middle portion of his hourlong addressed before a crowd estimated to be around 5,000 people. It ended with Trump saying that he hoped to get an apology from the Times “before they go out of business.”

Trump arrived and departed in style, flying in on his own helicopter. He gave a short, eight-minute speech to a crowd of at least 500 people who couldn’t get into the arena when he touched down at around 12:20 p.m., though the first three minutes of that speech was solely about finding small kids who would want to go up in a short ride on the helicopter.

In his speech to the audience inside the arena, Trump laid close to a variation on what has become his basic stump speech (other than the assault on the Times).

He was particularly exercised by a recent report in the L.A. Times about super PACS. The story reported that a super PAC created to bring down the Affordable Care Act in 2014 used Ben Carson as a selling point, and ultimately raised over $6 million in 2014, but just 2 percent of that went to GOP candidates or committees. Trump is one of the few presidential candidates who doesn’t have one and has pretty much self-funded his campaign, though he says that he has received more than 80,000 “small” contributions from donors that he has kept. But he calls the super PACS “a big scandal.”

“They’re totally controlling candidates,” he charged. “They’re like puppets. They’re totally controlling the candidates, whether it’s Bush or this totally phony Kasich.”

Speaking of Bush, both he and Marco Rubio received plenty of attention from the GOP front-runner in their home state.

“I disagree with Bush, he’s a nice person, he’s trying to be tough right now, but you can’t act, you have to be tough,” Trump opined. “You know, he wants to get tough. And Rubio wants to get tough.”

Trump then mentioned how Rubio skipped a hearing on homeland security right after the Paris attacks to attend a fundraiser (Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant later said that Rubio was missing the briefings after attending a classified Intelligence Committee session on the attacks).””I don’t care. I don’t dislike him,” Trump said of Rubio. “I’m just saying it’s not right, OK? Especially somebody young, who hasn’t been there before. I mean … the seat isn’t even warm and he’s running for another office, and he ‘s not going to win.”

Of Bush, Trump said that he rarely mentions him anymore on the stump, as the former Florida governor continues to stand way behind Trump and Ben Carson in the polls. “By the way, he’s a low-energy person, right?” he said, one of his original criticisms of Bush that seems to have stuck in the imagination of the GOP voting public.

Lately, Trump has been blasting Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton with a variation on that theme, saying she doesn’t have the “strength of the stamina to be beat me,” adding, “We need somebody with endurance, with unbelievable strength.”

Clinton was only referenced one other time, when the former Apprentice host said flatly, “She should be in jail for what she did!” receiving one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

Before the speech, several people in the audience remarked on how much they loved Trump’s lack of political correctness.

He basically says it like it is,” said Nicole Affatao from Lakewood Ranch. “He says what everybody is thinking. We have to cut the ‘you know what’ out, and just say it like it is. We’re in bad shape. I don’t want the future of this country to be bad for my kids.”

Bradenton resident Arnie Vatow, 64 said he had no issues with any of Trump’s recent controversial comments, and certainly not regarding Muslims.

“I think it will be entertaining,” he said of a possible Trump presidency. “He’s a deal maker and we need a deal maker on a lot of these treaties and future treaties, and Iran. And he has a knack of picking the best people. I have faith in him.”

“He talks like the common man, speaks about what we want to hear,” said Brandon resident Rich Gross. When asked if hearing Trump say he’ll “bomb the sh*t our of ISIS,” is too simplistic an answer to the problem of how to deal with the latest edition of Middle East terrorism, Gross disagreed.

Yes, go for it. End it. quickly and out of the way. Get it done with. It’s not working the way were doing it right now? We gotta do something different.”

A crowd of about 50 protesters greeted patrons as they entered the Robarts Arena, blasting Trump for his stances in particular on immigration.

Patrick Murphy’s defense of Syrian refugee vote pummeled on Facebook

Last week, Jupiter U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy joined 46 other House Democrats in voting for the SAFE Act, which requires new screening requirements for refugees from Syria and Iraq before they can enter the United States. That vote came despite a vow by President Barack Obama to veto the legislation should it ultimately arrive at his desk.

Not surprisingly, Murphy’s vote was immediately denounced by Alan Grayson, his chief opponent in the Democratic Senate primary, who said Murphy was “cowering in fear of widows and orphans.”

Tuesday night, Murphy posted an explanation for his vote on his Facebook page and disavowed claims his vote would “close our doors to refugees.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill I voted for did only two things,” he wrote.

“Audit our refugee vetting procedures and require regular reports on our refugee program to Congress, including to the Intelligence Committee, of which I am a member. 2. Strengthen the already-strong vetting of refugees by requiring the heads of the overseeing agencies to certify that refugees are not a threat to our security before granting them refugee status.”

Murphy’s comment had received over 500 “likes” on his Facebook page as of 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, but there were many critical remarks as well from Florida Democrats and others who claimed to be constituents.

“This was a bad vote and after the fact rationalizing doesn’t change that,” wrote Nadine Smith, head of Equality Florida.

“At least Sarah Palin agrees with you,” wrote former St. Lucie County Commissioner Doug Coward.

“Yet, you voted with the far right,” wrote Kelly Fitzgerald. “You have lost my vote and my support. This was a terrible move on your part.”

“I was sorely disappointed and the contributions no matter how small are DONE,” wrote Peter Rasmussen.

“Your vote was a betrayal of the President, your party, and your constituents,” Tom Rominger said. “Unless you know something you’re not at liberty to discuss. You’ve lost my vote.”

“You let us down and in all good conscience I an unable to support you in your bid to become a senator,” Jim Wilder posted. “I am ashamed of you and the fact that you are my congressional representative.”

“Being a registered Democrat and voting like a Republican, regardless of how much you say Donald Trump disgusts you is a big problem,” wrote David Compito. “One can only hope it will cost you votes.”

Not every comment was critical.

“I truly believe you are one of the few who actually think hard about the job you are doing in Washington, and how your presence will benefit your constituents and the country,” wrote Lela Rolfe. “Thank you for your hard work and conscientious voting.”

“Thank you for for the explanation,” Diana Hanford Demarest wrote. “I will share this with friends and ask them to do the same. You still have my vote and always will. I am very lucky to have you as my congressman after all the boneheads I had to endure in years past.”

Here is Murphy’s entire statement:

Many of you have expressed your concern and disappointment over my vote last week to tighten security for Syrian refugees. I hear you clearly, and it’s important to me to make sure you know I am listening. I strongly support the President’s efforts to accept Syrians fleeing oppression and massacre in Syria. Accepting refugees is a sacred American value, and I vehemently oppose those on the far right who would have us block refugees from our country. I am disgusted by suggestions from Donald Trump that we register people whose religious beliefs are different than his.

I’ve heard from many people who unfortunately believe my vote would close our doors to refugees. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill I voted for did only two things:

1. Audit our refugee vetting procedures and require regular reports on our refugee program to Congress, including to the Intelligence Committee, of which I am a member.

2. Strengthen the already-strong vetting of refugees by requiring the heads of the overseeing agencies to certify that refugees are not a threat to our security before granting them refugee status.

I believe these two commonsense steps will ensure the safety of Americans and refugees, who do not want the terrorists they are fleeing slipping through our borders with them.

I have heard personally from many who are worried this will slow down the process. I believe any slowdown would be minimal, and you have my promise I will work to ensure that it is just that. You can count on me to always be listening to you, and I believe you will be proud of the work we will do together to ensure that refugees find a safe haven here in America.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.25.15 — Florida now one of 2 states withholding vote from ex-felons

Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday immediately restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 ex-felons convicted of nonviolent offenses.

“This disenfranchisement makes no sense,” Beshear, a Democrat, said in his announcement. “It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged, powerful few. It makes no sense because it defeats a primary goal of our corrections system, which is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.”

His decision leaves only two states that doesn’t return voting rights to ex-felons after they complete their sentences: Iowa and Florida.

It’s an old story in the Sunshine State. More than 1.6 million Floridians cannot vote, hold office or serve on a jury, The Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group, reports.

Democrats in the Florida Legislature have railed for years against what they call an injustice, but have nothing to show for it. Things did change in 2007, when the clemency board under then Gov. Charlie Crist began to automatically restore the rights of nonviolent offenders who served their time, and 155,315 got them back during his four-year term. However, Rick Scott reversed that policy when he was elected governor in 2011.

The effort to put the issue on the ballot in Florida as a constitutional amendement next year is struggling.

The Legislature could change it next year, but has shown no interest in doing so.

Florida ranks at the bottom of a lot of different lists in the country, which might inspire state leaders to change some things. Obviously, though, restoring voting rights to those who’ve paid their debt to society isn’t one they’re interested in.

In other news …

For years, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has been under fire for a variety of perceived or real transgressions. The agency is under fire again, and again there will be attempts in the Legislature to eliminate it. Read how executive director Kyle Cockream is contending with it all.

• • •

There’s going to be a special election for a Tampa City Council seat in less than a year, now that Lisa Montelione has opted to run for a state House seat. Several candidates have been bandied about, but Gene Siudut is more enthusiastic than any candidate right now that he wants the gig.

• • •

Days before he returns for a campaign appearance in Sarasota, Donald Trump said he’s hired four staff members for his Florida campaign operation.

• • •

Former Secret Service agent and Maryland Republican political candidate Dan Bongino says he’s seriously considering entering the Republican race for U.S. Senate in Florida.

• • •

And Ben Carson is fading and Ted Cruz is surging in Iowa, the home of the first caucus in the country next year.

Marco Rubio new TV ad focuses on his father and the American dream

Marco Rubio‘s basic stump speech always features him speaking movingly about his father working hard as a bartender when he first moved to America to provide for his children, in an ode to the American dream.

The Rubio campaign is now releasing a television ad featuring Rubio speaking about his father, called, “Bartender.” It’s scheduled to begin airing in Iowa on Thanksgiving and in New Hampshire starting next week.

“I remember the sounds of his keys jingling at the front door of our home, well past midnight as he returned from another long day at work,” Rubio says, in a speech taken from his announcement that he was running for president in Miami’s Freedom Towers last April.

“When I was younger, I didn’t fully appreciate all he did for us. But now, I more fully understand. You see, my father was grateful for the work he had, but that was not the life he wanted for his children. He wanted all the dreams he once had for himself to come true for us. He wanted all the doors that closed for him to open for me. So my father stood behind a small portable bar in the back of a room for all those years, so that I could stand behind this podium in front of this room and this nation. That journey from behind that bar to behind this podium, that’s the essence of the American dream.”

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