Marco Rubio Archives - Page 3 of 226 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio maybe gets the message

Gwen Graham’s attempt to make Marco Rubio look bad may have fallen flat, but it does raise a couple of interesting points.

First, Democrats obviously still plan to make an issue of Rubio’s image as a detached and disinterested U.S. senator. You may recall that was a major point of contention last year when Rubio successfully ran for re-election.

But second, is Rubio doing enough in the early stages of his second term to put that question to rest?

Maybe. His performance – and especially that of his staff – during the recent hurricanes suggests he has gotten the message that being a senator requires than showing up at election time and asking for votes.

Graham, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, released a video last Friday that hit directly at Rubio’s detached image. With a camera rolling, Graham called Rubio’s office to urge him to vote against the pending health care bill in the senate.

The call went to voice mail. She left a message.

She called his offices around Florida. More voice mail. More messages. Apparently, she never reached a live human, and she punctuated that with a tweet that read: Senator @MarcoRubio, answer your phone.

Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio’s communications director, responded with a zinger that said the reason no one answered is because staffers were busy helping “over 10,000 people apply for FEMA assistance, not sitting behind desk waiting for a political stunt.”

She released pictures to back up her claim.

Boom!

Rubio also just returned from a trip to Puerto Rico to survey and report on damage, again with photos. And this was after he was highly visible, along with Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, going around Florida before Hurricane Irma struck. After the Keys were dealt a severe blow by Irma, Rubio was on the scene with Tim Tebow (!) to pass out ice to people in need.

Genius.

Rubio’s staff gets an A-plus during this time. And someone seems to have gotten through to Rubio that being a senator, especially in a crisis, requires visibility and action. We need to see these people. We need to hear from them.

The late former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons was renowned throughout Tampa for his rapid response to constituent needs. Nelson routinely returns to Florida to see what’s going on, and not just for fund-raisers.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa also spends a lot of time back home, listening to concerns from the people who elected her.

Throughout his first term, Rubio basically blew off the job he was sent to Washington to do, concentrating instead on an ill-fated run for president. He moped that he didn’t like being a senator and even said he wouldn’t run for re-election before changing his mind.

He won a second term, but after six years his brand was that of an absentee representative. As Graham’s gambit showed, that can be a tough image to change.

Give Rubio credit for this much, though – at least he seems to be trying.

Marco Rubio, Mel Martinez, Connie Mack III headline Mike Miller fundraiser

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Connie Mack III, and former Lt Gov. Toni Jennings headline a long host list for a congressional campaign fundraiser for state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park this week.

The Thursday evening, $500 per person fundraiser at the Country Club of Orlando aims to boost Miller’s campaign to first defeat fellow Republican candidate Scott Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, and then to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the 2018 election.

The list of dozens of hosts, featuring Jennings and Martinez, two popular and once-powerful figures in Central Florida politics, also includes numerous current and former local Republican power brokers such as timeshare magnate David Siegel, airports board chairman Frank Kruppenbacher, attorney Marcos Marchena, financier Phil Handy, and former Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis.

Former U.S. Reps. Ric Keller and Connie Mack IV, and former Florida House Speakers Dean Cannon and Steve Crisafulli. also are among the listed hosts.

Miller, of Winter Park, hopes to re-flip Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat that Murphy won from Republican former U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park, who had served the district for 24 years before Murphy came along. The district covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

SD 40 race could be Donald Trump test for Democrats

Florida Democrats are facing a test to see whether anti-President Donald Trump politics will give them a boost ahead of a critical election year and perhaps signal a turnaround after two decades of Republican dominance in the Legislature.

They’ve made Trump a focal point in a special election set for Tuesday to replace a Miami-area Republican state senator who resigned after using racial slurs in front of black colleagues. The Republican in the race, state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, was a contestant on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” helping to make that connection easier.

“Trump’s apprentice just got the GOP nomination,” said a Democratic fundraising email when Diaz won the primary in July. “Contribute now to fire Trump’s apprentice.”

If Democrat Annette Taddeo wins with less money against the stronger organization of the Republican Party, it could be a sign of better times for Democrats. It would also test an anti-Trump strategy ahead of a 2018 election when the governor’s seat and all three Cabinet positions are open and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is up for re-election.

“It’s an interesting test. Does the Trump thing translate down the ballot in a nontypical election?” said Democratic political strategist Steve Schale. “If Democrats talk about getting back to a majority, you have to win races like this at some point.”

On paper, the district southwest of Miami leans Democratic. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump last year, but Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also carried the district.

“I’m sure the Democrats are going to try to make it a referendum on Trump, but they’re going to have to spend a lot of money to do it,” said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant. “If Pepi wins, it will be credited largely to superior resources and organization.”

Taddeo, 50, has a television ad that begins with her clicking off a television showing a clip of Trump “attacking” professional wrestling icon Vince McMahon. And in a speech to supporters two months ago, she said, “We have a president that we need to stand up [to] and not stand on the sidelines. We need to fight him every step of the way.”

She has run for Congress twice, losing both times. She was also Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist‘s running mate in 2014 in a race barely lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

She said Diaz, 37, wasn’t shy about using his ties to Trump during the primary.

“When the president was insulting to Hispanics, instead of coming out and defending us, Representative Diaz actually joined his national Hispanic advisory council,” she said.

Diaz dismissed the attacks from Taddeo and Democrats over Trump and said that being on “The Apprentice” in 2006 was a life-changing experience — even if he was one of the first contestants to get fired.

“Having a camera on 24 hours a day changed me. It made me really think about just how important it is to make the right the decision at all times,” he said.

And while he said the race isn’t about Trump, some voters still see it that way.

“I support Diaz because I support President Trump,” said Republican Raul Musibay, 75.

Abel Lopez, a 65-year-old Democrat, agreed that the Trump factor was key.

“Anything I can do to help those against Trump,” Lopez said, “I will do it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Florida Sugarcane Farmers ready to ‘grow again’ post-Irma

Florida farmers may have just experienced the biggest crop loss event in state history, but Florida Sugar Farmers is determined to bounce back.

Our rural farming communities will recover, replant and we will grow again after #HurricaneIrma,” the group said on Facebook Thursday.

Florida Sugar Farmers included a video with the post that intercut descriptions clips of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and other public officials describing the record damage Irma brought to Florida’s agriculture industry.

“The devastation of this storm was probably greater and more catastrophic across this state than anything we’ve ever seen, and that’s what we want to come here to rectify,” Purdue said in the video. “We’ve flown over from Orlando down to see all the groves and the vegetables and the shade houses destroyed and roofs off dairy barns and things like that.”

Putnam, who is running for Florida governor, said the storm was a “widespread disaster that’s more than just what you’ll feel at the produce section of your grocery store.

Flanked by Putnam and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the video also included a clip of Perdue saying his department will “expedite as much as possible” whatever help they can pull together while appealing to Congress for more Irma relief.

“These people are used to getting up after they’ve been knocked down,” Perdue said. “They’ll do it again, but we need to help ‘em and that’s what USDA is going to do.”

In the same post as the video, Florida Sugar Farmers praised Perdue, Putnam and Rubio, as well as U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Tom Rooney, state Sen. Denise Grimsley for being elected leaders who support Florida farmers.

Watch the video on Florida Sugar Farmers Facebook page.

Bill Nelson relates his and Marco Rubio’s Irma trek, cites climate change

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson outlined to the U.S. Senate Monday his and U.S. Marco Rubio‘s post-Hurricane Irma tours of Florida describing destruction, tragedy and challenges from the Keys to Jacksonville, and called attention to climate change as a factor.

Nelson, a Democrat, on Monday also sent letters to the chief executives of 10 major U.S.-based airlines urging them to cap their airfares for people fleeing the path of Hurricane Maria, which is bearing down on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, among other Caribbean islands.

Nelson’s speech on Hurricane Irma, given from the well of the U.S. Senate, was full of praise for federal agencies  such as FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the military for responding quickly and strongly, as “Floridians helping Floridians. Americans helping Americans.”

And Nelson also used the speech to push for the value of those agencies, and for legislation and language in legislation he intends to push, some of it jointly with Rubio.

At least for Nelson, that includes his push for language in a bill the Senate actually was taking up during his speech, climate-change readiness for the military, included in the Defense Programs Authorization bill (House Resolution 2810.)

Nelson cited the hurricanes, including Hurricane Harvey that struck Texas, hailstorms in Texas damaging military aircraft, coastal erosion in Florida and Alaska, threatening early-warning radar in Alaska, wildfires in the west, flooding of a logistics rail in Louisiana, and military warehouses in Virginia.

“And so, as we turn to this defense bill, this is an issue for national security. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said, and I quote, “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Nelson said.

“And so that’s why in this version of the defense bill that we will pass today, there’s a provision in there that this senator had something to do with which calls for the defense department to conduct a comprehensive assessment of threats to the training and readiness of our armed forces and the military infrastructure caused by climate-related events.”

Nelson wrote that provision.

 

Florida Keys still closed; ‘different kind of lifestyle for a while’

The lower Florida Keys were hammered in special ways by Hurricane Irma and remain closed to residents, visitors and even more volunteer cleanup workers as authorities try to get them livable, officials said Friday.

An estimated 65 percent of the housing was damaged to the point of being uninhabitable, according to authorities, but residents will not be allowed to cross the bridges to get back in to find out for themselves for the time being.

Water, sewer, electricity and housing stock are in short supply throughout the Keys, particularly in the lower Keys, official said during a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other local, state and federal disaster response authorities in Marathon. The main port is closed, and numerous boats and other vessels are adrift, clogging channels.

The Florida Department of Transportation has finished its inspections of all 26 bridges leading into the Keys and found them sound and safe. But that’s no longer the overriding issue.

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, various other state and federal agencies, even the U.S. Navy, are on the scene. And they’ve pretty much filled every available hotel and motel room, said Martin Senterfitt, Monroe County’s director of emergency management.

That means authorities even are turning away some volunteer relief workers, because there’s no place to put them.

“As much as we want help, as much as we need help, we have to  moderate that,” Senterfitt said.

And, he added, the Keys will remain closed until there is confidence residents and others will not come in to find no where to stay, nothing to drink, and no other services.

“Do they have the ability to boil water? Do they have the ability to flush a toilet? It’s that basic,” he said.

Many of the damaged homes appear to have only roof damage, but enough to keep them from being occupied. Yet FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management have challenges in setting up temporary housing, because there is so limited available open land.

The main waterline survived, but most of the feeder lines into the islands were damaged, and they’re being inspected and repaired, but the process is time consuming, officials said.

The sewer lines appear to be fine, but most operate with pumps and lift stations, and with no electricity, most are not operating.

“The biggest need after we get water, power and fuel back, for the Keys, is housing,” Scott said.

Once the gates are opened and everyone is allowed back, a second wave of crisis is expected as each resident and business owner discovers his or her challenges, Senterfitt said

“It’s going to be a little bit different lifestyle for a long time,” he said.

Scott and other state and federal officials assured all attention possible is being focused on recovery in the Keys, which the governor said presents unique challenges.

“I think everybody’s goal is to get everybody back in the Keys the first day we can,” Scott said. “The day everybody can come back and enjoy the Keys again will be a good day for the state.

“The people evacuated out of the Keys, they want to get back.  But the most important thing is to keep everybody safe,” Scott said.

 

After Irma, state politicians descend on Jacksonville

Hurricane Irma’s impact stopped being felt in Jacksonville Monday afternoon, and it was soon thereafter that Gov. Rick Scott was in town.

Scott, who added Duval County to his ask for a major disaster declaration post-Irma on Monday evening, visited a local hurricane shelter with New York Mets’ minor league prospect Tim Tebow, a legend in these parts for his tenure as Florida Gators’ quarterback a decade ago.

Duval will join St. Johns, Flagler, Clay, and Putnam as Counties benefiting from federal help, which includes reimbursement for debris removal and individual assistance for those whose properties were impacted by the storm.

Tuesday saw Scott surveying damage from the sky, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. The two reprised a role last seen in the wake of Hurricane Matthew 11 months prior, with Scott coming to town to assess damage after that storm.

After Gov. Scott’s visit, Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio made trips to the Duval Emergency Operations Center early in the afternoon.

Each arrived separately, and each had their own takes on the storm and the path forward afterward.

Nelson noted that, in addition to the 365 water rescues that were made in Duval County when the storm surge came in, there were 120 rescues in Clay and St. Johns.

Nelson described the hurricane as a “very unusual one, that covered the entire state,” one with “real surprises” for everyone.

Water was the big surprise for Jacksonville, of course, as the storm surge flooded the city for hours on end Monday.

“Water … surprised places like North Florida,” Nelson said.

The storm drew strength from turbocharged waters on each side of the peninsula, of course. Nelson noted that “measurements show that sea level has risen eight inches over the last40 years” off the Miami Beach coast, a rise that was accompanied by the heating of the ocean itself.

“That is expected to increase,” Nelson said.

Miami Beach, said Nelson. has had to spend “tens of millions of dollars on expensive pumps” to deal with a mean high tide — and floods are still part of life down there.

“If that’s happening when there’s not a storm, what happens when there is a storm? We’d better get ready for it, because it’s happening before our very eyes.”

Nelson also addressed post-Andrew building codes, noting that the Florida Legislature passed a law to relax those codes.

He’s not a fan of that move.

“Let’s keep these strong building codes,” Nelson said, noting that there was a vast difference in how new construction and older buildings fared during Irma on Florida’s Southwest coast when he toured it earlier this week.

___

Rubio actually agreed with Nelson regarding the building codes.

“People may not like it, but you know when you’re in a house rated post-Andrew, you have a lot more security about what that means for you and your family, and I hope we don’t walk away from that,” Rubio said.

And he had a lot more to say besides.

Regarding the individual assistance authorized by President Donald Trump for individuals impacted by the storm, Rubio noted that time was of the essence regarding disbursement.

“How many people will not be able to go home for a long time … if you lost your home, you can’t go home tonight, we’ve got to get you that money quickly,” Rubio said, noting that local governments — such as Jacksonville, still owed $26M from the federal government for the last storm — are not able to shoulder that burden.

“There are communities waiting three or four years,” Rubio said in reference to Jacksonville’s cash crunch, citing a “backlog” that needs improvement.

“Small businesses” likewise need SBA help.

A “week or two without revenue,” Rubio said, may be the end for them.

Rubio also addressed Nelson’s contention that sea level rise contributed to this storm.

“Irrespective of the broader debate about its causes, you can measure sea level. And when you start to see flooding at high tide at many communities across Florida, when you start to see military installations critical to our economy and our state threatened by it, there are some things you need to do, and some things you can do.”

“There are some things you can do to mitigate,” Rubio said, though he called it a “whole other debate” when this reporter suggested that strategies are elusive to cool the water down that energizes these storms in the first place.

Flooding at high tide, Rubio said, is an “accelerating process.”

We asked Rubio if the Trump Administration was particularly equipped to handle the challenges created by what some call global warming.

“Again, we’re talking about mitigation. And when it comes to mitigation, it’s an infrastructure need,” Rubio said, a “critical” one.

National Republicans hire new Florida state director

Ahead of the 2018 midterms, the Republican National Committee has brought on a new political director for Florida.

Andrew Brey, who previously served on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s presidential campaign, has been in the post since July. Brey has also worked for the Republican Party of Florida as field director in support of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s campaign and was part of Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election team.

After Rubio ended his presidential bid, Brey became political director for Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who defeated Democrat Russ Feingold despite his substantial lead in polling.

According to POLITICO, Brey’s appointment was formally announced in an RNC press release, along with the hire of state directors in 17 states across the country for the 2018 cycle.

Bill Nelson in Tampa: ‘This potentially could be the big one’

Earlier this summer, The Washington Post reported that the Tampa Bay area was due for a major hurricane and  that if a big one occured, “the damage would likely surpass Katrina.”

“This potentially could be the big one,” U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agreed when asked about his concerns about Hurricane Irma while visiting with reporters inside the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning.

The Democrat said that the storm should lessen in its intensity as it moves north because the east side of it would be over land which doesn’t have water for its fuel – but he said, that all depends on the eye of the storm.

“It’s the eastern wall of the eye that has the strongest winds, if that is going right up the west side of the peninsula of Florida, that means those winds are going north and northwest and that will drive the water into the bays and the big one, as indicated by that article, is exactly that scenario driving that water up into Tampa Bay,” he said.

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a $15.25 billion disaster relief bill that also includes a three-month extension of both federal government funding and borrowing authority, a move that ends the threat of a partial government shutdown at the end of the month. Nelson and Marco Rubio were able to  get some of that funding available to handle what is expected to a major cleanup in Florida after Irma hits.

“We got the flexable language so that they can use some of those resources,” Nelson said. “But this is only going to last a few weeks. We’re going to have do an additional emergency appropriation, probably in the middle of October.”

Nelson also expressed concerns about how stretched the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is after dealing with Hurricane Harvey over the past few weeks.  “They’ve had to actually pull people from Texas here into Florida because of what’s about to happen here.”

Marco Rubio maligns ‘politically cynical’ disaster relief bill

The GOP controlled United States Senate passed a $15.25 relief bill for Hurricane Harvey relief on Thursday, lifting the debt ceiling in the process.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who missed the vote as he is preparing for Hurricane Irma, takes issue with the “politically cynical” package, essentially the product of a deal between President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats.

“I consider the manner in which this measure was structured, linking emergency disaster relief for victims in need of immediate assistance with other controversial measures we still have time to debate through regular order, to be among the most politically cynical efforts I have ever witnessed,” Rubio said Thursday, adding that he would have voted for the bill “despite significant reservations” about certain elements.

Rubio’s qualms are myriad, and he lays them at the feet of President Trump.

“I strongly disagree with the decision made by the administration to agree to pair funding for FEMA and emergency disaster relief to short-term extensions to the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling and the National Flood Insurance Program unaccompanied by significant reforms,” Rubio asserted.

Short-term continuing resolutions, Rubio said, are “an incredibly inefficient way of spending taxpayer dollars and fails to provide the certainty required for effective planning.”

“Additionally, I am frustrated Congress has once again temporarily reauthorized the outdated National Flood Insurance Program without enacting a long-term solution that provides much-needed improvements for the people of Florida and places this vital program on a sustainable path for the future,” Rubio added. 

“It is shameful these necessary and important measures are not being considered separately. Linking them to funds needed to assist our fellow Americans recovering from a devastating natural disaster is an unfortunate effort to avoid subjecting these measures to the scrutiny and debate they merit,” Rubio continued.

Despite these philosophical qualms, Rubio would have voted for the bill.

“Today, I was informed by Administrator Long that FEMA has less than two days of emergency funds remaining. Given that Texas continues to recover from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey and that the state of Florida is facing the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded, I have no choice but to support this measure.”

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