Marco Rubio Archives - Florida Politics

Marco Rubio: Bredesen tries to ‘pull a fast one’ in Dem Senate bid

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that Democratic former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is “trying to pull a fast one” on voters by promising to be moderate if he’s elected to the Senate in a critical race.

The Florida senator made the comments to reporters Friday after attending a Tennessee campaign roundtable with Hispanic community members for Bredesen’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Rubio praised the congresswoman as having the right background to contribute to what Republicans are doing in the Senate.

Bredesen and Blackburn are locked in a tight contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Democrats’ hopes to overturn a 51-49 GOP Senate majority could hinge on the outcome in Tennessee, a red state where Bredesen is hoping to draw some support from moderate Republicans, and Blackburn is trying to curb his crossover appeal.

Rubio said Democrats like Bredesen promise that they’re middle of the road, but when they get to Washington, they vote 99.9 percent of the time with lawmakers whom Tennesseans would never vote for themselves. Rubio also touted the recent economic growth, tax cuts, GOP judicial appointments and other occurrences while Republicans have been in control.

“So you have a great candidate,” Rubio told reporters. “You have someone on the other side who’s trying to pull a fast one on you. And you have real progress in this country, despite all the rhetoric and the noise, that would all stop if too many of the wrong people get there, like the individual running as a Democrat here in this state.”

Bredesen campaign spokeswoman Alyssa Hansen responded Friday that, like Bredesen, Tennesseans are independent thinkers and don’t need out-of-state politicians telling them what to do.

“Congresswoman Blackburn should keep this in mind the next time she wants to bring one of her D.C. friends to town,” Hansen said in a statement.

The roundtable event delved into a discussion on immigration, a system that Rubio said needs to be modernized away from being “almost entirely built on, ‘How many relatives do you have living here now?’”

“Now, if you can dunk a basketball or throw 98 mile-an-hour fastballs, you’ll have no problem getting into the U.S.,” Rubio said. “But if you’re going to be a Ph.D. that’s going to cure cancer, you may or may not get to come depending on when you apply and how lucky you are. That’s got to be fixed.”

Blackburn has been a strong advocate of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown plans, including his proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

She also has opposed a President Barack Obama-era program that shields from deportation young immigrants brought or kept here illegally as children. Blackburn said in September 2017 that the program offers “the false hope of amnesty that led to a surge of illegal immigration and stole jobs from American citizens by giving illegal aliens work permits,” while also calling for a larger fix to the immigration system.

Hansen, the Bredesen campaign spokeswoman, said Blackburn’s roundtable displayed “jaw-dropping hypocrisy” on immigration.

When a reporter asked Blackburn why Friday’s discussion didn’t touch on Trump’s wall, she refocused the conversation on support for economic growth, entrepreneurial activity and emphasis on “religious liberty” to help charities under Trump.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott need a real statewide debate. Leadership Florida forum fits perfectly.

In the tight race for U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — for the sake of millions of Floridians — need to take part in a statewide, televised face-to-face debate.

Few can disagree that debates can be critical; they not only give candidates the best shot at making their respective cases, but voters also get an unfiltered opportunity to compare and contrast the two before heading to the polls.

And one forum that fits the profile perfectly (and is already planned) is “Decision 2018: Before You Vote,” the latest variant of the successful series from the nonpartisan nonprofit Leadership Florida, partnering with the Florida Press Association.

“Before You Vote” is currently set for about a month from now, Oct. 23 at Broward College, beginning 7 p.m.

Both Nelson and Scott need to commit to this debate — prearranged since March — as the best and only statewide televised forum in a crucial race that has attracted national attention.

Here’s why: A statewide consortium of 10 major network affiliates is dedicated to picking up the event, blanketing every Florida market. It is the same partnership that produced the highly acclaimed 2016 U.S. Senate debate (held at the same venue) pitting incumbent Marco Rubio against challenger Patrick Murphy.

Observers praised that forum as a serious, substantive and modern model for such events — which is precisely why Nelson and Scott need to take part.

Right now, the only so-called “debate” currently under consideration is from Telemundo, with coverage in select markets limited to Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, West Palm and Orlando. It will not be a statewide consortium.

Another event, this one from CNN, is being referred to as a “debate” by the Scott campaign, but Nelson’s campaign acknowledged it will review other possibilities, including the one to be hosted by CNN.

However, CNN.com has no mention of any Florida debate or forum. Also, while CNN has a national reach, it is only available for those with paid cable. People watching via antenna will not see it.

On its website, News4Jax does refer to the CNN event as a “debate,” offering tweets from both campaigns admitting such. They say Scott agreed to the forum — going as far as calling it a “debate” on Twitter — but no mention of it from Nelson.

Again, the News4Jax event (even if it does happen) will offer limited TV reach.

Leadership Florida, their partners FPA/WPBF and Broward College, bring both a history and a stellar reputation for producing professional and highly regarded debates.

Moderators and panelists for the LF debates are all Florida-based journalists, who offered the most in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of the race and critical issues. As for timing, the LF/FPA debates are strategically scheduled to serve as the last word before Election Day.

Also, both Florida-based and national journalists have sought credentials for the Oct. 23 event and C-SPAN, as in the past, has expressed keen interest in carrying the debate.

Along with an extensive reach and prestige, the event will also have high-quality talent behind the camera.

Executive Producer Phil Alongi, a 25-year veteran of the NBC network, is producing this show — as he did the Rubio/Murphy debate in 2016. Alongi is also a technical producer for the Republican National Convention, as well as coordinating all media covering it.

The bottom line — and it cannot be stressed enough — is that Scott and Nelson need to DO THIS DEBATE.

Simply stated, it’s a solution where both campaigns (and voters) will benefit.

greg steube

Greg Steube reloading campaign funds with Oct. 2 fundraiser in Sarasota

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube cruised through the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but now it’s time to refill his war chest for the upcoming general election showdown with Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman.

To that end, Alan Jay Wildstein and Ashley Pierce are hosting a fundraising reception for the 40-year-old Republican’s congressional campaign in Sarasota next month.

The Oct. 2 reception will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., but it’ll take an RSVP to Kelly Dowd via Kelly@ElectGregSteube.com to get an address for the event. The invitation lists a suggested contribution of $1,000 to get in the door.

In the Aug. 28 primary election, Steube garnered more than 60 percent of the vote while Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez was the pick for 18 percent of Republican voters, putting him in third place behind lesser-known candidate Bill Akins, who received 19 percent of the vote.

Gonzalez blamed his resounding defeat on several oppo dumps by the Steube campaign, including unearthing some “Never Trump” comments made by Gonzalez during U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016.

“My character was assassinated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really sad that tonight deceit and lies prevailed in the political discourse.”

On the Democratic side, Freeman scored a 77-23 victory over Bill Pollard though she faces much steeper odds in the general election for CD 17, an expansive and solidly Republican seat where President Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 62-35 two years ago.

When it comes to fundraising, Steube had raised more than $525,000 for his campaign account and had about $132,000 banked as of Aug. 8. Steube has also been the beneficiary of a load of spending by outside groups. In July, Club for Growth Action and Liberty and Leadership Fund said they had $627,000 banked to boost Steube’s congressional bid and that they had already put $400,000 of that cash behind broadcast and cable ads.

Freeman, meanwhile, had raised just $28,265 and had $4,283 left to spend through the same date.

CD 17 is open this year thanks to current GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s decision to not seek re-election this year. The district sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. Freeman was also the Democratic nominee two years ago when Rooney won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

Jeanette Nuñez’s anti-Trump comments are ‘non-issue,’ Ron DeSantis says

A running mate whose anti-Donald Trump comments surfaced after she was chosen by President Trump’s strong choice for Governor of Florida?

“That’s a non-issue,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said of state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez Thursday.

DeSantis, who rode Trump’s endorsement from 10 points down in most polls to an easy Republican gubernatorial primary victory over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, introduced Nuñez of Miami to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket. And then he dismissed any notion that she at least once was a fervent member of the #NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party.

In at least one 2016 tweet, Nuñez called Trump a con man and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

Water over the bridge of past elections, and that’s what you say in primaries when you like the other guy, Nuñez and DeSantis said on Thursday.

“We’re talking about moving Florida forward. Elections are elections. It is what it is. It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done and I’m looking forward to this election,” she said, referring to Florida’s junior U.S. Senator.

“To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son, a Cuban-American, a historic run, to me, if I was in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well. So that’s a non-issue,” DeSantis said.

Of course, DeSantis had cut no slack for Putnam after he also had said negative things about Trump during the 2016 election cycle. Putnam also supported a favorite-son candidate from Florida in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, former Gov. Jeb Bush. Putnam tried hard to walk it back during the primary campaign, while DeSantis ripped him repeatedly for his anti-Trump remarks in 2016.

That’s different, DeSantis insisted Thursday.

“He was running saying, like, he was basically Trump’s guy. And I just thought it was more insincere,” he said. “Jeanette is standing by what she said. She’s just saying it’s a different contest.”

Ron DeSantis picks Jeanette Nuñez as running mate

After much speculation, Ron DeSantis made it official Thursday: Rep. Jeanette Nuñez is his pick for Lieutenant Governor.

“Jeanette Nuñez is a strong, principled leader who will be an outstanding Lieutenant Governor for the people of Florida,” DeSantis said Thursday morning. “She has a proven record of leadership and legislative accomplishments, delivering for both her constituents in Miami-Dade and the state of Florida as a whole.

“Jeanette will help us build on our economic success, protect our environment and empower parents to make the best educational decisions for their children. I look forward to campaigning with her across our great state to secure Florida’s future,” he concluded.

The campaign announcement said Nuñez will join DeSantis for campaign stops in Orlando and Miami today.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Florida with Congressman DeSantis,” Nuñez said. “In South Florida, we know that by empowering the free market — not big government — we succeed as a state. Together, I know we can build an economy that works for all Floridians, protect our natural resources and provide every child a great education. I’m excited about sharing our message across the Sunshine State and bringing home a big win in November.”

Nuñez is the first female Cuban American to be named as a Lieutenant Governor nominee in Florida.

Nuñez initially shied away from running a statewide campaign but was urged to accept the role by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. She currently represents House District 119 in Miami-Dade County and most recently served as Speaker Pro Tempore in the Florida House.

Nuñez began her political career working for former state Rep. Alex Diaz de la Portilla before moving on to work in government affairs at Jackson Health System.

She returned to politics with a run for Florida House in 2010, which she won. Nuñez has been re-elected three times since, and had she not accepted DeSantis’ overture, she would have left public office on Election Day because of term limits, however, she is currently a candidate for Senate District 39 in the 2020 cycle.

Nuñez has shown her conservative bona fides, earning a 96 percent rating for the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a 93 percent rating from the National Rifle Association according to Vote Smart, which tracks candidates votes and positions.

But Nuñez also played a more moderate role at times, pushing for passage of a bill which would allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates at Florida public schools.

And in contrast to DeSantis, who has heavily embraced President Donald Trump, Nuñez was a bit more lukewarm on Trump when he was a candidate in 2016.

Nuñez served as one of 99 delegates from the state of Florida to participate in the GOP nominating convention. In an interview with Jim DeFede on CBS Miami’s Facing South Florida, Nuñez talked about her role as a delegate ahead of that convention.

“I was not an early Donald Trump supporter,” said Nuñez, who originally supported Rubio for the nomination. “In all honesty, he wasn’t my pick. He wasn’t, probably, my second or third choice.”

Still, she said her duties as a delegate bound her to vote for Trump, as discussions of a possible “Dump Trump” rebellion were had ahead of the convention in Cleveland.

“He won our state resoundingly and I think that we have an obligation to respect the will of the voters even if we don’t necessarily like it or agree with it,” said Nuñez at the time. “I have a job as a delegate that I need to sort of separate from, perhaps, my personal views.”

And Nuñez did make clear she supported the party coming together in support of Trump’s general election campaign.

“I think ultimately, [the convention will] be just a really great opportunity for the party to get behind the nominee and move forward.”

“She’s someone I’ve been a big fan of for a long time,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost by 20 points to DeSantis. He said he hasn’t given much thought to what he’ll do when his term as agriculture commissioner expires in January.

Shortly after the Nuñez pick became official, the Florida Democratic Party noted that she “hit the panic button” and deleted a 2016 “NeverTrump” tweet.

Nuñez Tweet

“In the Republican gubernatorial primary, DeSantis repeatedly attacked Adam Putnam for making very similar anti-Trump comments during the 2016 election,” FDP said in an email asserting DeSantis “botched” his LG announcement. “The fact that the tweet wasn’t deleted before Nuñez’s rollout raises questions about why the DeSantis team didn’t properly vet their running mate — and is just the latest setback for a campaign that has been struggling with poor fundraising numbers and a candidate who hasn’t held a campaign event in days.”

Some material from the News Service of Florida is used in this article, with permission.

‘Don’t touch me’: Alex Jones provokes Marco Rubio in Senate intel press gaggle

Infowars provocateur Alex Jones irritated Sen. Marco Rubio Wednesday, causing the Senator to tell Jones that he would “take care” of him if need be.

Rubio was in a media gaggle Wednesday (during a recess in a Senate intelligence hearing regarding Twitter and Facebook) when Jones patted him on the shoulder, causing the Senator to grimace in disgust.

“Don’t touch me. I’m asking you not to touch me,” Rubio said to Jones. “I don’t want to be touched. I don’t know who you are.”

Jones protested.

Rubio emphasized that he was serious.

“You’re not going to get arrested,” Rubio told Jones. “I’ll take care of [it] myself.”

Jones, clearly relishing the successful provocation, said: “He’ll beat me up!”

Rubio grimaced again.

“I didn’t say that,” said the Senator.

Rubio, per The Hill, marveled at Jones, “a heckler in a press gaggle.”

Jones seemed to be attempting to call Rubio’s attention to so-called “shadowbanning of conservatives,” while Rubio reiterated his concern about foreign interference in elections via social platforms, until the gaggle was derailed.

Poll: Rick Scott, Bill Nelson tied in U.S. Senate race

It’s been close all along, but now Florida’s U.S. Senate race is officially a dead heat.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott are tied, according to the newest Quinnipiac University poll.

Released Wednesday, the survey gives each 49 percent, with an astonishingly low two percent of voters surveyed telling pollsters they don’t know (or don’t want to say) whom they’re voting for in the Nov. 6 election.

“The campaign is a prototype of our nation’s political environment: Democrat Nelson carries women and black voters, while Republican Scott wins among men and white voters. The key in close elections like this one often lies with independent voters. So far, Sen. Nelson has the edge with this swing group. The candidate who holds those voters in November is likely to win,” says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a news release.

Indeed, 56 percent of independent voters told Quinnipiac pollsters they prefer Nelson, and 43 percent said they prefer Scott. Otherwise, Nelson took 89 percent of the Democratic support, and Scott, 92 percent of the Republican support in the survey.

And the poll suggests, there is precious little margin for change: 92 percent of the voters say their minds are made up. That was true regardless of their current choice.

The poll was conducted from last Thursday through Monday, with live telephone surveys of 785 likely Florida voters, using both landline and cellphones. Quinnipiac puts the margin of error at 4.3 percent.

Just as Quinnipiac reported Tuesday with its poll of the Florida Governor’s race, President Donald Trump is not a significant factor in the race for U.S. Senator in Florida, at least with 46 percent of those polled. Another 26 percent say their Senate vote is mainly to support the President, while 25 percent say their vote is mainly in opposition to Trump.

Nelson received a “favorable” rating from 48 percent of those surveyed, and an “unfavorable” rating from 42 percent. Scott’s was favorable with 49 percent; with 47 percent unfavorable.

While not on the ballot in 2018, 44 percent of Florida likely voters approve of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio; 47 percent disapprove.

Jimmy Patronis gets Marco Rubio’s endorsement for CFO

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has now added his support to another statewide race, announcing he’s backing Jimmy Patronis for re-election as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

Rubio previously stepped into the race for Agriculture Commissioner as well, backing Matt Caldwell in the primary, even hitting the campaign trail on his behalf.

Caldwell went on to win the Republican nomination. Now, Rubio hopes he can do the same for Patronis in November’s general election.

“Today, I am pleased to announce my support and strong endorsement for Jimmy Patronis to remain Florida’s Chief Financial Officer,” Rubio said in a statement released Tuesday.

“Jimmy Patronis is someone voters can trust to effectively manage our state’s finances. Through his unwavering dedication to protecting Florida consumers and instrumental advocacy on behalf of our first responders, he has earned our vote this November.”

Patronis is taking on Democratic nominee Jeremy Ring for the job. Patronis, a longtime Rick Scott supporter, was appointed to the position last year after former CFO Jeff Atwater resigned.

“It is an absolute honor to receive the backing of Senator Marco Rubio in my bid to continue serving as the CFO of Florida,” Patronis said of the endorsement.

“His leadership as both Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and now in the U.S. Senate has been invaluable to our state.”

The battle between Patronis and Ring has already gotten heated. Patronis’ campaign released a report last week from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showing a Democratic researcher attempted to pose as Patronis to access his personal information.

Ring responded with an ad calling Patronis the state’s “Chief Fraud Officer,” about a previous incident where Patronis crashed a state vehicle en route to his political consultant. Patronis reportedly only reimbursed the state after his agency faced questioning from POLITICO.

Nonetheless, Patronis feels confident of his chances on Nov. 6. He’s already gathered a substantial lead over Ring in the fundraising race, and says Rubio’s endorsement will only help his chances of earning a full term in the CFO spot.

“Because of the hard work of Florida’s conservative leaders, we have an economy that is prospering. Together, Senator Rubio and I will continue this momentum.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson raise concerns about Mexico trade deal

While President Donald Trump on Monday hailed a tentative trade deal with Mexico, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson raised concerns about whether the deal would adequately protect Florida farmers.

Rubio and Nelson sent a joint letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer requesting that he work “diligently to ensure Florida’s agriculture community is fairly represented in the forthcoming trade deal” and pointing to past issues that have hurt the state’s farmers.

“Mexican growers have used every trick in the book to get around U.S. trade rules, much at the expense of Florida growers, who are uniquely impacted by such behavior,” the letter said. “As we have previously written, Florida is one of the few places in the U.S. that can produce warm-weather fruits and vegetables in the winter, forcing our growers to bear the brunt of Mexican trade abuses. Without just relief, Mexican producers will continue to drive our growers out of business and eventually take full control of the U.S. market during the winter. We must ensure that such an outcome does not occur.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump harshly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. The tentative deal announced Monday with Mexico would revamp it.

“Once again, President Trump is delivering on this fundamental promise with a new trade deal with Mexico that replaces a prior failed deal forged by establishment Washington,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a prepared statement. “American workers can rejoice as even more new jobs and economic benefits will surely follow this deal and build on the momentum of this historic Trump economic boom.”

But Rubio and Nelson suggested that the deal could face opposition in Congress if concerns about issues such as Florida farmers are not addressed.

The 25 moments that defined the 2018 primary for Florida Governor

Marco Rubio brought us to this.

The long slog to Tuesday’s primary election for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates was the usual series of false starts, histrionics, re-inventions, pandering to bases, and — new this time — dealing with the shadow of Donald J. Trump.

But if one could pick a starting point for the trail that led us here, it would have to be the Republican Rubio’s June 2016 decision to end his quest for the presidency, and re-enter the U.S. Senate race.

That was the political big bang that set into motion the forces and decisions — starting with Ron DeSantis’ exit from that same Senate race — shaping Election 2018 for the person to succeed the two-term Rick Scott, 45th governor of the Sunshine State.

Before the big show starts tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time, let’s revisit the key moments that went from a small singularity to the current universe we call “Florida politics”:

June 13, 2016: Rubio decides to re-enter U.S. Senate race

After a bruising fight for the GOP nomination for president, Rubio said he wouldn’t go back to trying to get reelected to his Senate seat. But of course, his senses kicked in, and he did, announcing that decision on June 22. That essentially squeezed out DeSantis, the congressman who very well could win the GOP gubernatorial contest. Rubio went on to crush Scott ally Carlos Beruff in the GOP primary and edge out Democrat Patrick Murphy in the general election. “Gee,” we know some of you thought at the time. “Wonder what DeSantis’ political future holds now?”

Dec. 22, 2016: Will Weatherford decides not to run

In late 2014, as both men were leaving their leadership roles, Senate President Don Gaetz told the Tampa Tribune that then-House Speaker Weatherford “is the future of Florida.” He said he expected “to host a fundraiser for Will Weatherford for Governor or U.S. Senator sometime in the next five years. He will be, if he wants to be, very significant on the Florida political landscape for the next 30 years.” “If he wants to be” turned out to be prescient. Weatherford, citing his family and Weatherford Partners, the venture capital group he created with his brothers, declines to run for Governor in 2018.

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is inaugurated

The president goes on to become the biggest force in this state’s GOP primary, bar none. His kingmaking ability, which had faltered in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, works in shovelsful here, as we’ll see. 

April 13, 2017: Gwen Graham’s husband’s cancer goes into remission

Had Steve Hurm’s cancer not gone into remission, we would not now be talking about former Congresswoman Graham’s campaign for Governor. Indeed, Hurm’s fight against prostate cancer “was a factor in her decision on whether to run for governor,” WCTV later reported. “Graham … said her husband is one of her biggest supporters and did not want her to make the decision based on him.” But she did, and here we are. She entered the race May 2, becoming the first major-party woman candidate.

May 7, 2017: George Soros gets behind Andrew Gillum

Readers of conservative journal Human Events once voted billionaire financier Soros “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.” Soros, who fled Nazi Germanyoccupied Hungary as a youth, also has been described by the Tampa Bay Times as a “liberal mega-donor and bogeyman to conservatives.” He gave $250,000 to Forward Florida, the Gillum-associated political committee, in April. He later went on to pump hundreds of thousands more to Gillum’s electoral benefit.

June 22, 2017: The FBI’s subpoena in a Tallahassee corruption investigation drops

Gillum, the city’s Mayor, never really recovers. “Federal authorities have demanded the city of Tallahassee produce volumes of records related to top local developers behind some of the biggest projects subsidized by the Community Redevelopment Agency,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports at the time. “Among those named in the subpoenas are Adam Corey, developer of the city-backed Edison restaurant in Cascades Park and a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.” It’s bad … but Gillum later says the FBI told him he’s not a target. Still, the association with Corey lingers, and other revelations continue, including a Costa Rica trip.

July 25, 2017: Adam Putnam’s “NRA sellout” tweet

Putnam went all-in for gun rights, saying guns should be allowed on college campuses and hinting it was time to look at once again allowing open carry in the state. After a Times columnist panned the speech with the headline, “Adam Putnam sells out to the NRA,” Putnam tweeted, “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!” As Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, he oversees concealed carry licensing. (That comes up later in the story.)

Oct. 10, 2017: Philip Levine sets up shop

The Miami Beach Mayor “hired a veteran fundraiser for his political committee, which he already stuffed with nearly $5 million since establishing it six months ago,” POLITICO reported. We learn that “veteran Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney” has joined his All About Florida political committee. Levine says he “intends to make an official decision on whether to join the crowded Democratic primary for Governor in 2018.” He, of course, gets in. 

Nov. 3, 2017: POLITICO Florida reports on Jack Latvala sexual misconduct allegations

This story was the beginning of the end for the Clearwater Republican, who had risen to Appropriations chairman after an unsuccessful run at the state Senate presidency. He later declared he would run for Governor. Then the website drops the bomb that “six women who work in Florida’s Capitol say … Latvala has inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” It was “so disgusting, and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one woman said. Latvala eventually resigned, suspended his campaign and escaped prosecution after Tallahassee’s top prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue him criminally

Nov. 24, 2017: Orlando businessman & lawyer John Morgan takes himself out of contention

Everyone had feared the native Kentuckian’s charisma, down-home appeal, and — perhaps most of all — his ability to self-fund. Then he tweeted, “While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination.” Good thing, too, for the other Democrats: “His name recognition alone, built through years of TV ads throughout Florida, would have cost every other candidate tens of millions of dollars to achieve,” the Times explained. (And they’re right.)

Dec. 22, 2017: The first Trump tweet for DeSantis

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” … Not quite a full endorsement, but that was simply yet to come.

Jan. 30, 2018: The 50th Graham workday, a hallmark of her campaign

Graham posts on Twitter: “On my 50th Graham Workday, I spoke with Dad (former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) about the meaning of our family tradition and what he learned working 408 different jobs with Floridians across the state.” Graham herself spent that day “learning the ins and outs of a Florida microbrewery (at) the M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral.” This only helped burnish the Graham brand. 

Feb. 14, 2018: The Parkland shooting

A teenaged former student gunned down 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County. The politics of gun control spiked yet again as a “student-led campaign organizes two mass walkouts from schools and country-wide demonstrations, (while) Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president, appear at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas,” The Economist later reports. A “Rally to Tally” later sees nearly two dozen buses bringing parents, teachers, and students to the Capitol to demand action from lawmakers on the day a gun bill would be heard.

Feb. 14, 2018: Richard Corcoran, Gillum debate on immigration

The House Speaker, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Gillum squared off over the “tired, (the) poor, (the) huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” The debate “was sparked by Corcoran’s anti-sanctuary cities ad and House Bill 9, which is legislation Corcoran is pushing to eliminate sanctuary cities in Florida,” WTXL explained. The event was moderated by Troy Kinsey of BayNews 9 and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press.

April 18, 2018: The first Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ debate

It was a lackluster performance all around, with some on the stage “stumbling on basic questions regarding some aspects of state government,” the USA Today Network-Florida reported. Graham scored with her “Gwen and the men” line, but she and the others flunked when asked about their morning reading habits. Not one mentioned SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source. The GOP soon smelled blood.

May 9, 2018: Corcoran drops out, endorses Putnam

Corcoran, who had been expected to enter the Governor’s race, instead got behind Putnam. Term-limited in the House, he framed his decision to stay off the ballot as sticking to his word. He told news media repeatedly that he would run for Governor or otherwise “go home.” “I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home,” Corcoran said, before getting in a dig at DeSantis: “He’s got a bulldog mouth, a chihuahua a —, and he doesn’t even know what the heck is going on in this state. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, that’s the only thing he can say. At some point, you’ve got to come out and give people a Florida vision.”

June 4, 2018: Billionaire Jeff Greene enters race

The über-rich Palm Beach real estate investor, who had previously told the Post he was “underwhelmed by the Democratic field,” files to enter the race as a “D” himself. That’s after “Greene spent about $24 million of his own money on a losing 2010 U.S. Senate bid, getting 31 percent in a Democratic primary against former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.” The idea, insiders say, is that he won’t throw good money after bad: He’s in it to win it. 

June 7, 2018: Patrick Murphy decides against running

Murphy gets behind Graham, “ending speculation he’d run on a bipartisan ticket with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly,” according to TCPalm. Murphy says “he hasn’t decided whether he’d accept a position as Graham’s running mate, if she offered him a shot at Lieutenant Governor. (He) said he (was) worried over mounting such a late campaign in an already crowded primary. ‘I was always, I guess, on hesitant footing to do this, and it was always going to take quite a bit to get me over that hump to do it.’ ” Nice timing: The next day, the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, endorses Graham.

June 8, 2018: The concealed weapons permitting scandal breaks

The Times’ Steve Contorno reports that “for more than a year, (Putnam’s gun-licensing division) failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits … The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned.” Putnam later said applications were still run through two other databases: “When we became aware of the problem, we undertook the process of reviewing 365 names … and ultimately revoking 291 licenses.” Other stories continued to dribble out about problems at his Licensing Division over the summer, causing headaches for Putnam and staff.

June 22, 2018: Trump’s full-throated endorsement of DeSantis.

Tweet: “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes — Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” … Whoomp, there it is.

June 28, 2018: The Fox News debate

As the network described it, Putnam and DeSantis “sparred … over their support for President Trump … DeSantis championed his relationship with the president, and Putnam argued he’s more focused on local issues than his opponent … Putnam said in his opening remarks, ‘It’s different than a Washington, D.C., studio. Welcome to Florida, congressman.’ DeSantis played up Trump’s endorsement … ‘I am proud to have the endorsement of President Trump in this race.’ ”

June 29, 2018: Gillum gets ‘Next Gen’ support

Gillum gets to boast of the support of a second billionaire after Soros with Tom Steyer‘s NextGen America announcing its “investment” of $1 million into his bid for governor. Mo’ money, indeed. 

July 19, 2018: Tampa Bay-area “Stand Your Ground” case becomes an issue

The shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, by Michael Drejka, 47, happens in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater after the two men get in a confrontation over McGlockton’s girlfriend parking in a handicapped spot. The county sheriff initially declines to file charges, saying Drejka is protected by the state’s “Stand Your Ground” provision of self-defense law. Democrats seize on the shooting to say the state law “incentivizes” violence. Republicans back the law and use the incident to show how 2nd Amendment rights could be threatened.

July 31, 2018: Trump campaigns for DeSantis

The Times tops itself with this lede: “Declaring himself the most popular Republican in the history of America, President Donald Trump revved up thousands of fans Tuesday night at a rowdy Tampa Bay campaign rally to help gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and, above all, celebrate Donald Trump … ‘(W)e need to elect Ron DeSantis … He’s going to be an incredible governor. I have no doubt, no doubt. I don’t do these endorsements easily.’ ”

Aug. 2, 2018: The final Democratic debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate left disappointed. On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise. The five contenders pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress. The political class hit their collective snooze button.

Aug. 23, 2018: Jeff Greene “goes dark”

Greene, after barreling into the race in early June and becoming omnipresent on TV through much of the summer, stepped out of the spotlight for the final push. The campaign essentially went dark publicly, with six days before the end of primary voting. He decides to focus on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

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