Hillary Clinton – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Philip Levine: Check to Marco Rubio ‘tiny’ compared with long, deep Democratic support

There’s that Sept. 30, 2009, check to the U.S. Senate campaign of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio:

It’s the $2,400 contribution to a Republican who then was seen as the darling of Florida’s Tea Party movement, an upstart whose explosive popularity on the right chased Charlie Crist from the Grand Old Party and made Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek a third-place finisher in 2010.

It’s the bank draft from Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who then was the future mayor of that city and who now is one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor in the 2018 election.

Privately, some Democrats have been whispering wonder about whether Levine’s erstwhile support of Rubio in 2009 reflected at all on his commitment to the Florida Democratic Party.

“Nope. Not at all. Zero,” Levine insisted in Orlando Tuesday when asked about whether that contribution meant he harbored an interest in Rubio or for what he stands.

“I have written millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, and that was just one small, tiny donation,” Levine said. “Friends of mine called me up and asked me for it, and I said ‘yes.’

“But he’s been a disappointment, and I’m not a supporter or a believer in any way, shape or imagination,” Levine continued. “Thank God my Democratic donations outnumber it about 5,000 to one.”

Levine is in a crowded race seeking the Florida Democratic primary nomination to run for governor, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; and terms such as “real Democrat,” “true Democrat,” and “lifelong Democrat” already have been tossed about in that contest, as if someone in the race is not. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

“Mayor Levine has raised millions of dollars for fellow Democrats, up and down the ballot,” spokesman Christian Ulvert stated. “Most importantly, his record of getting progressive policies done is crystal clear — and it’s exactly the leadership he will take to the Governor’s mansion.”

Levine tells his story often about how he left college to work as a Royal Caribbean cruise ship deckhand, later following his instinct to become an entrepreneur serving cruise ships, to starting up and then selling companies, to becoming very rich.

By the late-1990s he became an active political campaign contributor, and by early this century he was a prominent one, making him an extraordinarily unusual candidate for governor. Other wealthy candidates have run statewide in Florida before, notably Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Jeff Greene of West Palm Beach, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010; yet neither previously had been as financially generous to others’ political causes as Levine had.

Though they do not quite show the multiple millions he asserted, U.S. Federal Election Commission and the Florida Division of Elections records do show that Philip Levine — from addresses in Miami, Miami Beach and Tallahassee — has contributed more than $1 million to others over the past couple of decades. He also has donated nearly $3 million to his own campaign’s funds in the past year.

Levine donated at least $189,900 to various state campaigns and political committees in Florida, and another $893,385 to various federal campaigns and political committees in Florida and across the country.

Campaign finance activity reviewed by Florida Politics does not include any political contributions Levine may have made in local elections in Florida [he was a two-term mayor of Miami Beach,] nor any he may have made in local or state elections in other states. Those would have been recorded outside the FEC and the Florida Division of Elections.

Levine, in fact, has a clear record of donating to Democrats for many years. His donations for Democrats compared with those for Republicans do not entirely create a 5,000-1 ratio, but it is higher than a 200-1 ratio, at least in dollars.

Since 2000, he has donated $161,800 to the Florida Democratic Party [including $61,800 in 2016] and at least another $12,500 to specific Democratic candidates and committees. Another $16,600 of his state political contributions went to committees that at least on paper may be considered nonpartisan. No state-level Levine money went to Republicans, the Republican Party of Florida, or Republican committees.

On the federal side, since 1999, Levine made at least 270 donations totaling $876,791 to Democrats, Democratic parties, and committees associated with Democrats. He has made six contributions totaling about $12,000 to committees that have some claim to being nonpartisan, or have unclear partisan standing.

He’s made just four donations, adding up to $4,650, to Republicans, including the Rubio check.

Levine was a big backer of Hillary Clinton, donating $300,000 to her Hillary Victory Fund committee in 2016. He also was a significant backer of Barack Obama, donating $30,000 to his Obama Victory Fund committee in 2008.

In contrast with the $2,400 he gave to U.S. Senate Republican candidate Rubio, over the past two decades Levine contributed $31,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $25,000 to the Florida Senate Victory 2004 committee, and $15,000 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaigns.

Levine also has made direct donations to campaigns of Florida Democrats Dan Gelber, Bill McBride, Janet Reno, Alex Sink, Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Crist [when he ran for Congress as a Democrat,] Peter Deutsch, Betty Castor, Alex Penelas, Andrew Korge, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Elaine Bloom, Ken Gottlieb, David Richardson, Richard Steinberg, and Wilbert Holloway.

Besides Rubio, other non-Democrats who received support from Levine include Miami Republican Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who got $250 for his 1998 Congressional re-election campaign; Montana Republican Conrad Burns, who got $1,000 for his 1998 U.S. Senate re-election campaign; and New Jersey Republican Dick Zimmer, who got $1,000 for his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign. Levine also donated to the nonpartisan campaigns of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit judges Maxine Cohen Lando and Milton Hirsch.

Ron DeSantis calls Donald Trump Russia dossier ‘BS … fake news’

On Fox and Friends Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis again cast doubt on an oppo-dossier against President Donald Trump, calling it “BS” and  “fake news.”

DeSantis was asked to respond to a report in the Washington Times, which asserted that the FBI cannot verify the dossier’s claims.

“Think about where this dossier came from. It was not something that was generated by an intelligence agency. It was funded by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton through the Perkins Cole law firm to Fusion GPS,” DeSantis asserted.

DeSantis also blasted the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, as lacking relevant contacts, tenuously based on his being a spy in Russia a quarter century ago.

“[He] didn’t really have any sources,” DeSantis said. “They put a lot of BS in this thing. Fake news, and then they tried to dress it up as an intelligence product.”

The illegitimacy of the product and the process, DeSantis said, raises troubling questions.

“I think it would undermine the legitimacy of the genesis of the investigation and all the way to the present … The Russia collusion was always more of a narrative than anything based on any type of factual basis. But if this was the basis to get surveillance on an American citizen, remember, if you are doing a FISA surveillance on an American citizen, it’s not just that they may have foreign contacts. You have to actually say there is a basis they committed a criminal offense.”

“If the dossier, an opposition research political hit piece, is what you’re using, it calls into question how they’ve conducted themselves in this investigation. There’s no doubt about it,” DeSantis said.

“We’ve tried to get simple answers about the genesis of the dossier, whether the government paid for the dossier … it’s always ‘no, we can’t give this to you’,” DeSantis added, expressing frustration over stonewalling of Congressional committees on this long-simmering controversy.

“Unless the answers are bad,” DeSantis said, “wouldn’t you want to answer the questions and move on?”

Many Florida politicians have attempted to yoke themselves to President Trump, either rhetorically or symbolically.

However, DeSantis stands alone in his ability to convincingly argue the pro-Trump case, and to undermine the critiques of the President’s political opponents.

Perhaps that symbiosis — in pugnacity and worldview — is why Trump endorsed DeSantis for Governor, even before the Northeast Florida Congressman declared his candidacy.

Gwen Graham mocks Matt Gaetz’ FBI probe, taunts Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress herself, on Friday attacked U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for his campaign to get the FBI investigated and to halt the bureau’s investigation of President Donald Trump, then challenged her Republican rivals to state their positions.

Graham, of Tallahassee, took to Twitter first, calling out, “Matt Gaetz, what are you so afraid of?”

Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been one of the leaders in a Republican congressional effort to both get an investigation of how the FBI looked into Hillary Clinton allegations of misconduct last year, and to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired for what Gaetz and the other Republicans in the effort contend has been a partisan, biased “witch hunt” investigation of alleged connections between Trump, his election campaign team, his White House staff, and Russia.

“Calls to fire him undermine the fundamental rule of law,” Graham tweeted. “The special counsel and DOJ must be allowed to investigate – even the president – without partisan interference.”

Gaetz office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Graham’s tweets.

She then went after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The former is the leading Republican candidate in the governor’s race, the latter a likely major candidate. That included a mash-up picture of Corcoran and Putnam standing with Gaetz, who stands behind a podium with a Trump campaign sign.

“Congressman @MattGaetz asked Republicans to join his attacks against Robert Mueller. Do @AdamPutnam and @RichardCorcoran stand with Gaetz or do they stand with the rule of law? Floridians deserve to know,” Graham tweeted.

In a press release her campaign then put out, Graham also went after another potential major Republican gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach. Both Gaetz and DeSantis flew with Trump to Pensacola last week and joined him at a campaign rally there which, in part, was aimed at supporting Roy Moore in the neighboring Alabama U.S. Senate race.

“Today Congressman Matt Gaetz called on his Republican colleagues to join him in a partisan campaign to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Floridians deserve to know, do their leaders stand with Gaetz or with the rule of law?” Graham stated in the news release. “Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran won’t be able to hide from the president and his connections to Russia forever — they must answer whether or not they stand with Matt Gaetz against Robert Mueller.”

Darryl Paulson: Al Franken is a big, fat sexual predator

In 1996, Al Franken wrote a book called “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”

I understand Limbaugh is working on his book about Franken, which he will call “Al Franken is a Big Fat Sexual Predator.”

What comes around, goes around.

After 20 years as a writer and cast member for Saturday Night Live, Franken concluded that he had much to offer to the political realm. He wrote a series of books critical of conservative politics. In addition to his Limbaugh book, Franken wrote: “Why Not Me” (1999), “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” (2003), “The Truth” (2005), and “Giant of the Senate” (2017).

Franken also decided to sign with Air America Radio and go head-to-head with Limbaugh on the radio. Franken got crushed, and Air America folded after a few years.

The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in an October 2002 plane crash would create a new political opportunity for Franken. Minnesota Democrats selected former senator and Vice President Walter Mondale to replace Wellstone and take on Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.

Coleman pulled off a surprising upset of Mondale, defeating him 50 to 47 percent.

Six years later, Franken moved back to his native Minnesota and was positioned to take on Coleman. Franken led the field of Democratic challengers until a Playboy article that he wrote in 2000 surfaced. The article was about a virtual reality sex institute where men were free to do whatever they wanted with women. Feminists were outraged, and Franken apologized and was able to secure the nomination.

On election night, both Coleman and Franken received 42 percent of the vote, with Franken leading by 206 votes. A recount increased Franken’s led to 312 votes and July 7, 2009, eight months after the election, Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior senator. As the 60th Democrat in the Senate, Franken was critical in securing passage of Obamacare.

After defeating Coleman, Franken worked hard to suppress any comedic impulse flowing through his veins. Franken wanted to be considered as a serious politician, not a funny politician. He impressed senators across the aisles, who praised Franken for his hard work and serious demeanor.

In 2014, Franken easily won re-election, defeating his Republican opponent Mike McFadden by a 53-43 percent margin.

After Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016, speculation immediately arose about Franken running for president in 2020. Progressives created a “Why Not Al” movement along with a “Draft Al Franken” website. Few doubted that Franken would be a serious candidate.

Franken’s announced resignation from the Senate not only ends his Senate career but also any talk of a presidential campaign.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will now appoint a replacement for Franken until a 2018 special election. Speculation is that Dayton will appoint Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor.

Smith is the likely replacement for Franken for three reasons. First, Dayton picked her as his Lieutenant Governor, so he is a close personal and political friend. Second, a female replacement seems appropriate since seven women have come forth and alleged they were assaulted by Franken.

Finally, Smith has indicated that she will be a caretaker replacement and is not interested in running in the 2018 special election.

Possible Democratic candidates in the 2018 special election include Betty McCollum who represents Congressional District 4, Keith Ellison from District 5 and Rick Nolan in District 8. Another possibility is Ileana Omar, a state representative, who would become the first Somalia-American in the Senate.

Republican candidates include members of Congress Tim Walz of District 1, Erik Paulsen of District 3 and Tim Emmer of District 6. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is another possibility, along with former Sen. Norm Coleman. A final candidate might be Stuart Mills, heir to the Fleet Farm fortune, who narrowly lost a campaign against incumbent Democrat Richard Nolan for the Congressional District 8 seat.

Whoever the nominee, the open seat race will force the nominees to raise $20 million if they want to seriously contend.

Although Minnesota has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1976, longer than any other state, the Republicans hold the state Senate by one seat, the state House by 20 seats and Clinton carried the state by just 1.5 percent, her smallest margin of victory of any state other than New Hampshire.

Minnesota is turning redder than most observers note, and this will create a very interesting 2018 special election.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

David Straz makes first public appearance as potential Tampa mayoral candidate

Philanthropist and former banker David Straz Jr. had a coming-out party (of sorts) Sunday, hosting a spaghetti lunch for more than 250 people in West Tampa.

It was his first public appearance since forming an exploratory committee two months ago for a potential run for Tampa mayor in 2019.

The 74-year-old Wisconsin native already had enjoyed a long and distinguished career before becoming a much better-known quantity in the Tampa Bay-area in November 2009. That’s when he made a substantial financial contribution (rumored to be as high as $25 million) to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center which resulted in the facility changing its name to the Straz Center.

He’s also been involved for over a decade with individuals like Al Fox to advocate for closer relations between Tampa and Cuba.

A political independent, Straz was an ally of former mayor Dick Greco, supporting him when he ran for yet another reign as Tampa mayor in 2011. After Greco lost to Bob Buckhorn in the primary, Straz backed Buckhorn and then became in charge of his transition team.

Since announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee in late September, Straz has refused interviews with inquiring reporters about his possible candidacy. When confronted by this reporter shortly after the doors opened at the Sons of Italy hall on Sunday, he initially said it was “not a media event” before succumbing to answer a couple of questions.

“What I’m doing right now is getting around to various constituencies around the community,” he said. “I’m listening to what they have to say and what their priorities are.”

On Friday, Straz met with members of the black community. Councilman Frank Reddick is onboard with a Straz candidacy and said the meeting went well.

“In order to get my support, you’ve gotta put a plan together that the people can benefit from,” the District 5 representative said, adding that there’s been too much emphasis on downtown in the Buckhorn years.

Reddick wants the next mayor to engage more in developing both east and west Tampa.

“We need someone who understands the lack of resources and economic development in that area,” Reddick said. “David Straz will look into that and see what he can do to improve those areas.”

Straz is a political independent who has given substantial campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats over the years.

“Honestly, I thought he was a registered Democrat,” joked Travis Horn, a member of the Hillsborough Republican Party. “I’m involved in Ybor City and as a businessman. I don’t go around asking people for their party ID.

“Money is green, and we want to see the city succeed.”

The most problematic event for Straz since forming his exploratory committee was the revelation last year that he supported Donald Trump for president. That led to some comments on social media that he already disqualified himself in such a Democratic-leaning city, but prominent Hillsborough County Democrat Patrick Manteiga defends Straz over his support for the president.

“I think he would not vote for him again, he’s already told me that, and mistakes happen,” said Manteiga, who is editor/publisher of La Gaceta. Last year, a lot of Manteiga’s friends surprised him by opposing Hillary Clinton and choosing Trump.

Manteiga pushes back on the theory that Straz is an unknown political quantity.

“We do know where he is on a lot of things,” he said. “The guy gave a lot of money to the performing arts and a lot of money to education, so you’re talking about somebody who’s obviously has made a decision before he was running that this was a city that he wanted to invest in, this was a city that he wanted to put his name on.”

What excites Mario Nunez about a potential Straz candidacy is his alliance with Fox in promoting the liberalization of Cuban relations.

“I’m going all in on the Cuba conversation,” Nunez said. “That’s where my heart is.”

Where Straz’s heart is at when it comes to putting together a campaign to lead the city in 2019 is still being determined.

Before announcing last month that he would not pursue the Democratic nomination for governor, Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan told a Tiger Bay Club audience in St. Petersburg he wanted to see how much interest the public had in him before decided to upend his life to pursue a run for elected office.

Reddick said Straz is also currently assessing if there is sufficient support in Tampa for him to go all out in a run for the mayor’s office in 16 months.

“He wants to see what type of support base he’s going to get, that’s what he’s looking at now,” the councilman said. “And if the community really wants a visionary, David’s that person and I’m just hoping that people reach out to him, and say ‘do this.'”

Andrew Gillum picks ‘unapologetic progressive’ as new campaign manager

Andrew Gillum named as his new campaign manager on Tuesday an “unapologetic progressive” whose political work has included Pennsylvania-based campaigns for Hillary Clinton and John Fetterman, a mayor who is now running to be that state’s lieutenant governor.

As the Democratic Primary recently expanded to four candidates, Brendan McPhillips is swooping in to fill the seat left vacant by Phillip Thompson in July to help the Tallahassee Mayor reach the governor’s mansion.

The new hire comes a couple months after Gillum brought on Akilah Ensley as his new finance director in an effort to breathe some life into his fundraising, which is currently in a months-long drought and has been since the dual specters of an email scandal and an FBI investigation arrived in the early days of his campaign.

“The Mayor has an unmatched progressive record, from beating the gun lobby in court to standing up against oil pipelines, and I know that in 2018 we are finally going to take back the Governor’s Mansion,” McPhillips said in a statement.

A self-proclaimed beer enthusiast on Twitter, McPhillips said Gillum will not get across the finish line by running “Republican Lite—we have to be bold to convince this state that it is out time to put a Democrat in charge again.”

 

The hire was announced by campaign communications director Geoff Burgan, who said McPhillips “will bring new ideas to this race, and help us ensure true Democratic values are a part of every conversation between now and Election Day.”

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the primary race, and trails all three when it comes to fundraising.

Levine, the latest to enter the race, had a million-dollar month in October and has $5.4 million in the bank. He leads the Democratic field, followed by Graham with $2.66 million on hand and King with about $1.7 million on hand. Gillum had $557,571 on hand at the end of October.

Raquel Regalado exits crowded race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

One of the top Republican candidates running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District withdrew from the race earlier this week, leaving two GOP candidates and a slew of Democrats in the mix for 2018.

Raquel Regalado’s exit from the race was first reported by the Miami Herald, which received a letter from the candidate Wednesday explaining her decision to bow out of the race.

“I was a nonpartisan School Board member for more than six years. Some of my former constituents were shocked to learn my party affiliation given my ardent defense of public education, pro-labor platform, and commitment to social services,” she wrote. “In the months that followed, I repeatedly explained that I am and have always been a fiscal conservative and a moderate. And while well received by most, it was somewhat concerning to see how some reacted to the terms moderate, progressive or socially responsible Republican.”

Regalado went on to express her disenchantment with the political climate in 2018, saying she was “saddened that the first words that come to mind when we think of our national government is ineffective and circuslike.”

“As the granddaughter of political prisoner who spent two decades in prison and the daughter of a Peter Pan who was sent to this country as a child seeking freedom and who dedicated more than two decades to public service, the current political climate and the level of disrespect and disregard for the values that our nation is founded on is disheartening — on both sides of the aisle,” she wrote.

Regalado’s exit from the race leaves two Republicans in the race: County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera.

Barreiro is far ahead of his primary opponent in fundraising with $218,000 raised and $187,050 on hand as of the end of the third quarter. Rodriguez-Aguilera had reported just under $5,000 raised and $4,681 on hand through the same date.

More than a half-dozen Democrats are also running for the seat, which Hillary Clinton carried by 20 points despite sending Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, back to congress for another term.

Among them are state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Mary Barzee Flores and Matthew Hagman, each of whom have campaign accounts with well more than a couple hundred thousand dollars on hand.

EMILY’s List backs Mary Barzee Flores in CD 27 scrum

EMILY’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice female Democrat candidates, is endorsing former judge Mary Barzee Flores for Congress in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

CD 27 is the Miami-Dade County seat which will open next year for the first time in three decades when Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen steps down.

“Mary Barzee Flores has built a reputation as a dogged public defender and empathetic judge in the same community she was born and where she and her husband are raising their family. Now EMILY’s List is proud to endorse her as she seeks to bring her incredible work ethic and passion for her hometown to the halls of Congress,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

The seat at once became a top target for Democrats nationally after Ros-Lehtinen suddenly announced in the spring that she will retire from the seat she has held since 1988. Her decision prompted election handicappers like Sabato’s Crystal Ball to change the CD 27 rating from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat.”

In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by more than 20 points.

“This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington,” Schriock adds. “Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women’s health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way.”

Although Ros-Lehtinen said that her decision to retire had nothing to do with some of her differences with President Donald Trump, she is one of a growing list of House Republicans (now at 12) who won’t run for re-election in 2018 in what could be a tough year for Republicans.

Barzee Flores is one of nine Democrats running in the contest, along with state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Miami City Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Ken Russell, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Mark Anthony Person and Marvin Dunn.

Six Republicans are in the race: Miami City Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, Gabe Ferrer, Maria Pedro, Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and Gina Sosa-Suarez.

Mary Barzee Flores impeachment talk hits the mark; will Democrats listen?

There are three critical “T’s” of political campaigns: timing, temperature and tone.

Mary Barzee Flores hit all three when she called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.

The former circuit judge and current candidate in Miami’s “clown car” Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th Congressional District also urged fellow Democrats to run on the issue in 2018.

Let’s put aside (for a moment) the substance of Flores’ impeachment talk. Personally, I believe it’s premature.

Premature as the policy itself may be, we’re talking about politics and campaigns right now. From that perspective, the timing of Flores’ announcement could not have been better, appearing in the print edition of the Miami Herald (still read by the older, more educated voters who tend to come out in August primaries) the day after Tuesday’s Democratic mini-wave in the mid-midterms.

You can parse Tuesday’s results however you’d like, but it was the most precise indicator yet of the electorate’s growing anger with the president, as well as the Democratic excitement at the prospect of taking him head-on.

If there was a day for a congressional candidate to stake out space among the base, in a crowded, 7-candidate primary, Wednesday was it.

And impeachment is the issue.

Flores clearly has her finger on the temperature of the Democratic electorate right now. Anyone who’s watching and doesn’t think that temperature is rising, and rising quickly, isn’t really paying attention.

I’m looking at you, Nancy Pelosi.

While Pelosi pooh-pooh’s the effort, billionaire liberal mega-donor, Tom Steyer announced his new campaign, “Need to Impeach,” will double its spending (to $20 million) and has garnered nearly 2 million signatures for its online petition calling for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.

Steyer also released the results of a 1,200-sample poll conducted for Need to Impeach by the veteran (and respected in Florida) pollster, John Anzalone.

Nearly 80 percent of likely 2020 presidential primary voters — both Democratic and independents — currently support the “impeachment and removal from office” of President Trump; 62 percent do so strongly, suggesting a high level of intensity among the base.

And finally — even for someone like me, who is not yet on board with the impeachment train — Flores gets the tone of her statement just right.

While simply calling for the president’s impeachment is bold in itself, she nevertheless manages to make a deliberate, professorial case for impeachment, which can quickly get your head nodding as she lays the argument out.

Flores, a well-respected lawyer for nearly three decades, spent eight years as a circuit judge, receiving the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association when President Barack Obama nominated her to the federal bench.

She is not the candidate you would expect to be the first in Florida to come out strongly for impeachment — but she makes a strong argument, one that’s befitting of her profile and experience.

At this point, the CD 27 primary remains “anything can happen, anyone could win.”

But if Flores ultimately wins and becomes the nominee (and, as a Democrat, will be the prohibitive favorite in a district that went +20 for Hillary Clinton), I would bet that her being the first one to publicly call for impeachment will have played a big part in getting there.

Mary Barzee Flores: ‘Impeach Trump’ must be Democratic candidates’ rallying cry

President Donald J. Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

As a former judge, I don’t make that statement lightly, but I have come to believe such steps, sadly, are necessary to restore trust, respect, and dignity to the American presidency.

That said, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and those of the U.S. House and Senate — must continue unimpeded, particularly in light of the indictments unsealed last week against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.

We deserve a complete accounting of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and answers to whether the president obstructed justice in the course of that investigation. Any who violated our laws deserve swift and sure punishment.

I spent nearly a decade as a judge and over a decade prior as a federal public defender. I have a deep and abiding respect for the notion that no man or woman — even the president of the United States — is above the law. But prosecuting a sitting president is not as simple as empaneling a grand jury and filing an indictment in federal court. Nor should it be.

This is why the U.S. Constitution lays out the standards and procedure of impeachment. Unlike the justice system, a “crime” need not be committed to impeach a public official, nor does committing a crime necessarily warrant impeachment. Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution grant the legislative branch broad responsibility to determine which acts rise to a level requiring the exercise of this authority.

But even in the unlikely event that Mueller’s investigation does not find that Trump himself committed criminal trespasses, it doesn’t require a team of prosecutors to make the case that this president has — in ways large and small — violated the sanctity of the public’s trust to an extent great enough to merit removal from office.

We needn’t await Mueller’s report to know that, in less than a year in office, Trump has:

– Fired an FBI director investigating his administration for failing to demonstrate sufficient loyalty.

– Hired a national security adviser who the nation’s highest intelligence officials warned was compromised by Russia.

– Pardoned a political supporter in such a way as to disrespect and weaken the judiciary’s inherent authority.

– Betrayed the trust of one of our closest allies, Israel, by passing classified intelligence to Russia, risking human lives and compromising national security.

– Appointed family members, sycophants and business partners to high-ranking government positions.

– Profited personally in office, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

For all these reasons, and many more, this president should be impeached and removed from office.

While the White House veers dangerously off course, only the U.S. House of Representatives has the constitutionally endowed power to get our country moving back in the right direction by initiating articles of impeachment.

Unfortunately, under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan, this House has only acted to empower and enable Trump. This House’s own “investigation” into the president is so compromised as to be laughable. This House is still launching investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Ryan’s House will never impeach Trump — and if we don’t elect a Democratic majority next year, the Trump administration might even survive to see a second term in power.

I call on all my fellow Democrats running in 2018 to make the case against this president, to be willing to hold him to full account, and to use impeachment as a central rationale in our argument to Americans.

This needs to be a rallying cry for Democrats.

Donald Trump isn’t on the 2018 ballot — but his presidency must be. We must be willing to tell voters, “Yes, I will vote to impeach Donald Trump and restore honor, respect and decency to the presidency.”

___

Mary Barzee Flores, a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, is a former circuit court judge and federal public defender. President Barack Obama nominated her the federal bench.

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