Orlando – Florida Politics

Gwen Graham’s new TV spot focuses on Medicaid expansion

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is launching her second television commercial today — once again only in Tampa Bay and Orlando — and pushing hard for Medicaid expansion in Florida.

Her latest 30-second spot, “Absolute,” begins like a dramatic movie trailer with pounding music and flashing images of Tallahassee and someone being rushed on a hospital gurney, as Graham begins, “It’s disgusting what’s going on in Tallahassee. It didn’t used to be this way.”

That cuts to the obligatory reference and images of Graham’s father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen Bob Graham, as a narrator reminds viewers that he expanded health care and then noting that it’s now up to his daughter.

Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, then declares, “It is an absolute failure of the Republican Legislature that we haven’t taken Medicaid expansion. We will take Medicaid expansion.”

She also states another wish, a little vaguer and somewhat less of a pledge: “And every Floridian should be able to buy into the same type of insurance that Tallahassee politicians get.”

Graham has pledged to work with the Legislature to expand health care, and she has said she would take it directly to the voters with a state constitutional amendment if the Legislature refuses to act.

“Medicaid expansion is critical to our state. As governor, I will work with the Legislature to expand health care — and if they won’t, I will veto their priorities until they are willing to listen to the priorities of everyday Floridians,” Graham stated in a news release about her new TV commercial. “And if the Legislature refuses to act, I believe the people of Florida will do their job for them.”

Graham faces Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King in the August 28 Democratic primary. Greene, Levine, and King have been running statewide television commercials, while, so far, Graham has appeared content to concentrate on capturing the I-4 corridor, from where much of the Democratic vote came in the 2014 and 2016 primaries.

Gillum’s campaign has not yet gone up on television, although a national political committee supporting him ran statewide ads for him earlier this spring.

The winner gets to take on the Republican nominee, either Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Darren Soto picks up Human Rights Campaign endorsement in CD 9 race

The national Human Rights Campaign, the nations’ largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, has endorsed the re-election bid of Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The endorsement is part of Soto’s efforts to shore up the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as he prepares for the August 28 Democratic primary showdown with his predecessor in the CD 9 seat, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The winner faces Saint Cloud Republican Wayne Liebnitzky. CD 9 covers southern Orange, Osceola and eastern Polk counties.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement:

“HRC is proud to endorse Darren Soto for re-election to Congress. Darren has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ community throughout his career, including standing up to the Trump administration’s hateful anti-LGBTQ policies and pushing for progress to expand civil rights and protections under law.

“In Central Florida, he brought community leaders together when the Trump administration rescinded protections from transgender students. He has fought for workforce and housing protections, and he supports legislation to make sure our elders get the care and services they need.

“We need Darren Soto in Washington, and we encourage Central Floridians who support LGBTQ rights to support him.”

Pam Bondi endorses Mike Miller in CD 7 heading toward Republican primary

State Rep. Mike Miller has received the endorsement of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in his campaign for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congerssional District, providing a potentially potent voice to the district’s upcoming Republican primary.

“I am endorsing Mike Miller because I have served with him and know he will be an effective leader in Washington who will uphold the rule of law and keep fighting the battle against opioids,” Bondi stated in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign. “I am confident in Mike and know he will help President [Donald] Trump strengthen our borders, protect the tax cuts and fully eliminate Obamacare.”

Miller, of Winter Park, is battling with Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois for the August 28 Republican primary nomination. They all want a shot at Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“I’ve worked with General Bondi for several years, particularly in trying to end the scourge of the opioid epidemic. General Bondi is a strong conservative that Floridians have come to respect and admire,” Miller stated in the release. “Knowing she recognizes our shared conservative principles and has confidence I will support the President’s agenda means a lot to me.”

CD 7 covers all of Seminole County and much of north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando.

Philip Levine launches Spanish ad on schools in Orlando, Miami

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is launching a new Spanish-language television commercial Friday in Orlando and Miami highlighting his commitments to public education in Florida.

The 30-second spot, “Escuela,” [“School,”] shows shots in a classroom and Levine visiting with students as a narrator talks about Florida public schools being underfunded and teachers underpaid, and about Levine’s pledge to raise teachers’ salaries by $10,000.

Levine concludes the ad by promising, in Spanish, that he will “put our children first.”

Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, is in an August 28 battle for the Democratic nomination with businessmen Chris King and Jeff Greene, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. The leading Republicans are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

His campaign said the Miami and Orlando commercials are being backed b a five-figure ad buy.

“Funding public education is the greatest investment we can make in our future, and as Governor, I will reverse the trend of underfunding our schools and leaving our teachers underpaid and under-appreciated,” Levine stated in a news release. “If we want to build a competitive 21st-century economy that attracts the best and brightest, it starts with giving every child a chance to succeed, no matter their background or where they come from.”

Roger Stone gets behind Scott Sturgill in CD 7 race

Conservative politics iconoclast Roger Stone is endorsing Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill in the election contest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Sturgill’s campaign announced.

Stone, who has had long career as a controversial warrior of politics, dating to Richard Nixon and who was a close advisor of President Donald Trump, made his endorsement announcement at a surprise appearance at a Sturgill event in Winter Springs Wednesday night.

Sturgill faces state Rep. Mike Miller and Vennia Francois in the August 28 Republican primary. They all seek to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, whom Sturgill has dubbed “Steakhouse Stephanie” after criticizing her for holding a fundraiser at a Washington D.C. steakhouse a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017.

Stone picked up on that theme in his comments, and also picked up on the Sturgill campaign’s disproven contention that the fundraiser was after the hurricane instead of before.

“The arrogance of Steakhouse Stephanie gorging herself on lobster tails and filet mignon while her constituents were sweltering without electricity and water speaks volumes about her attitude regarding the people of this district,” Stone stated in a news release issued by Sturgill’s campaign.

“Everyone talks about the blue wave coming in November,” he added. “But that wave will be met with a big red wall right here in Central Florida and in Congressional District 7.”

Mike Miller attending Miami fundraiser instead of Pulse ceremony in his district

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park will not be attending the big Pulse remembrance ceremony in his Orlando district Tuesday night and instead will be holding a campaign fundraiser in Miami.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge called Miller’s move “reprehensible” Tuesday morning.

The fundraiser is for Miller’s campaign to be elected to Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which, like Miller’s current Florida House District 47, includes the site of the Pulse nightclub and the horrific mass shooting two years ago Tuesday, which left 49 dead, 53 wounded and the whole Orlando community heart-broken.

Miller’s campaign said he would be attending another memorial event, the Ringing of the Bells ceremony scheduled for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, at noon in downtown Orlando. A campaign spokeswoman said he was not invited to participate in an official capacity in Tuesday evening’s remembrance ceremony, so his schedule permitted him to leave town for the Miami fundraiser.

Miller’s legislative office is about four blocks down the street from Pulse.

Miller’s fundraiser is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Veza Sur Brewing Co., of Miami, according to a notice on his campaign’s Facebook page.

The big Pulse remembrance ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pulse. The event was organized by the onePulse Foundation, and not all politicians were invited.

Miller hopes to be able to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy this fall. He does have a tough Republican primary first, with Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois.

Murphy will be attending the memorial service, invited as the member of Congress representing the district.

Miller also has a fundraiser set for Wednesday night in Lake Mary.

Miller had been on the ground, consoling and offering assistance, and mourning himself, on the morning of the Pulse massacre. And he co-sponsored a resolution, with Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, declaring Tuesday to be Pulse Memorial Day. He also co-sponsored, with Smith, a bill to provide assistance to Pulse first responders.

Tuesday, Hodge discredited Miller’s co-sponsorship of the Pulse Memorial Day resolution as “grandstanding.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that Representative Miller has decided to leave his district to grab cash instead of mourning with his constituents tells us all we need to know about his priorities,” Hodge said in a statement released by the Orange County Democratic Party. “Orlando United is more than just a hashtag or slogan, it resulted from the display of unity with which our community responded when it was confronted by hate. The fact that Representative Miller is putting his own aspirations ahead of those of a grieving community is troubling for us all.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson introduce Pulse remembrance resolution in U.S. Senate

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined forces to introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate noting the survivors and commemorating the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting that took place two years ago Tuesday.

The resolution refers to the massacre both as a terrorist attack and a hate crime – a distinction that has has created a bit of a partisan divide on which to emphasize – and calls for remembrance of the victims, honoring and supporting the survivors, applauding the dedication and bravery of the responders, Americans standing together against both hate and terrorism, and recognizing, “the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community.”

Here is the full text:

Whereas, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old man from Ft. Pierce, Florida, killed 49 and wounded 53 innocent people in a horrific terrorist attack on Pulse Orlando, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender nightclub, during Latin night;

Whereas the gunman, who was investigated in 2013–2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this preamble referred to as the “FBI”) for possible connections to terrorism, pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (in this preamble referred to as “ISIL”);

Whereas then-President [Barack] Obama called the attack an act of both terror and hate as well as an attack on all of the people of the United States and the fundamental values of equality and dignity;

Whereas the attack was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States and is the worst terrorist attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001;

Whereas the law enforcement professionals of the city of Orlando and Orange County, Florida, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other emergency and health care professionals responded to the attack bravely and admirably and in a coordinated manner, saving many lives;

Whereas following the attack, hundreds of people stood in long lines to donate blood for those injured in the attack, and the people of Orlando, the State of Florida, and the United States expressed overwhelming support for the victims, their families, and their loved ones regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation;

Whereas local organizations and caregivers came together with the Federal, State, and local government to support the victims and help the community heal;

Whereas the community of Orlando and communities across the State of Florida and the United States, in the spirit of unity and respect, continue to support the victims, their families, their loved ones, and all those affected by the attack, as well as the brave men and women of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and other emergency and health care professionals for their dedicated service to their communities;

Whereas Tuesday, June 12, 2018, marks 2 years since the attack; and

Whereas the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies persists, including the threat posed by homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) commemorates the victims killed in the horrific terrorist attack on the Pulse Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, and offers heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for their families, loved ones, and friends;

(2) honors the survivors of the attack and pledges continued support for their recovery;

(3) recognizes the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community after the attack;

(4) applauds the dedication and bravery of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and counterterrorism officials for their efforts to respond to the attack, prevent future attacks, and secure communities;

(5) stands together with all people of the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, in the face of terror and hate; and

(6) reaffirms the commitment of the United States and its allies to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups at home and abroad and to address the threat posed by homegrown terrorism.

Class action rejected in red-light camera case

A state appeals court Friday upheld the rejection of a proposed class-action lawsuit about an Orlando red-light camera program that was determined to be invalid.

The 5th District Court of Appeal said a circuit judge properly declined to “certify” a class in a lawsuit filed by Richard Easter against the city of Orlando. Easter received a notice in April 2010 of a red-light camera infraction, according to the appeals-court ruling. Easter argued the city’s red-light camera ordinance was illegal but paid the fine and filed the lawsuit against the city.

A 2014 Florida Supreme Court ruling effectively struck down the Orlando ordinance in a case that focused on red-light camera programs that cities began using before approval of a 2010 statewide law that authorized the traffic devices and set requirements. The Supreme Court said the cities did not comply with the state’s traffic laws at the time because of the way they enforced red-light camera violations.

After that ruling, Easter sought to certify a class-action lawsuit to seek refunds from Orlando, the appeals court said. But a circuit judge rejected the class certification based on what is known as the “voluntary payment defense.”

The appeals court ruling said the defense is a longstanding legal concept that involves preventing people from recovering money that they had voluntarily paid.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court Friday backed the circuit judge’s consideration of the voluntary payment defense in the Easter case. The appeals court also looked at factors such as whether all the potential claims in a class-action lawsuit would be similar.

”In considering the application of the voluntary payment defense, Easter’s course of conduct was significantly different than that of virtually all other members of the proposed class,” said the 13-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Kerry Evander and joined by judges Wendy Berger and James Edwards. “Specifically, Easter paid his fine under protest after raising a legal challenge to the validity of the Ordinance. As a result, the trial court could properly conclude that the questions of law or fact that would need to be addressed on Easter’s claim are not common to the questions of law or fact that would need to be addressed on the claims of other proposed class members.”

With environment, as with most things, it’s all about building in resilience, Philip Levine says

The key to dealing with rising sea levels in Miami Beach and climate change effects across Florida is boiling down to being able to refocus efforts to making the state more resilient, and the same principal applies to other statewide issues, Democratic Philip Levine said Wednesday.

Meeting with a handful of environmental activists in Orlando, Levine touted resilience as his strategy when he was mayor of Miami Beach, pushing through initiatives to raise roads and seawalls, build in new pumps and storm water control systems, and open the city to easier solar energy and renewable resources.

It’s a strategy Levine said Florida must adopt to deal with most of its environmental concerns, and other matters.

He also renewed his pledge to lead Florida to voluntarily adhere to the Paris climate change accords, which drew applause.

Levine pledged to create a statewide office of resiliency and to appoint regional resilience officers to develop and institute programs for the specific challenges of the local regions.

“We need to be a leader. We need to step up our game going forward. When we talk about resiliency I think we bring so many things into resiliency: how are we are going to deal with mental health issues, how are we going to deal with veterans, how are we going to make sure we make our schools safe. It’s all about resiliency. Everything comes together,” Levine said.

Levine faces Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene in the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor. All of them have pledged to address climate change and committed to the Paris accords, except Greene, who only entered the race last Friday and is still in his campaign’s silence phase.

With the environment, the stakes are far higher, and the urgency far more immediate than many people might expect, Levine suggested.

“If we don’t come up with a plan to invest, I can tell you the insurance companies will stop insuring. The finance companies will stop financing. And we will go into a downward spiral,” Levine said. “If that happens, being able to reclaim confidence is very difficult.”

He said when residents of Miami Beach, including his mother, complained about the inconveniences of all the construction going on in his resiliency program there, he told them, “Here’s the choice: do you want Miami Beach to be Atlantis? Or do you want to live in Miami Beach?”

They didn’t need to be reminded that in recent years Miami Beach has been prone to “king tide” flooding of streets on sunny days.

“The people of Miami Beach said, ‘We agree. Let’s do it.’ And there was pain, but we got gain. And with the state of Florida, it’s the same tipping point right now,” he concluded.

Chris King tempers expectations on his big gun agenda

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King told a room full of gun-control activists Wednesday that he’s carrying a big agenda for them if he’s elected governor but that he’s got some doubts about how much of it could be enacted, short of a Constitutional Amendment.

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, has embraced the full Democratic platform led by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and tightening background checks, and has added a few items of his own, such as a bullet tax to help pay for gun-violence prevention programs.

In downtown Orlando Wednesday, a gathering of about 30 activists, which included members of Moms Demand Action, March For Our Lives, the Youth Coalition to End Gun Violence, and some unaffiliated individuals, welcomed much of King’s agenda, and cheered and applauded him more than once, allowing him to declare them and himself to be “soul mates.”

But in anticipation of working with a Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, King also tapped the brakes.

“All of those things that you’ve talked about are going to be, if I win and I have two houses against me, are going to be very hard to pass,” King said.

“We’ve been to Tallahassee. We know all about that,” agreed one of the members of Moms Demand Action, a group that emerged from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct.

“I want to be very honest about that. I’m even feeling there is a flexing of muscle by the NRA. They feel they’ve survived the first blitz,” King picked up. “They’re courage is coming back. You see it in Republican nominees. They’re feeling like the students will dissipate. … And so the way this works in my view is we have to keep the heat on.

“But likely the way it would work is some combination of things would be on the ballot, led by citizens, championed by a Democratic governor, in 2020, a presidential year. I think that’s when could make the strike. That’s how it would happen,” King added. “It certainly would be nice to see it earlier, but that’s probably how it’s going to happen.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene for the August 28 Democratic primary. All of them except Greene, who still is in the dead-silence phase of his campaign since filing last Friday, has made gun control big parts of their campaigns, especially since the Feb. 14 massacre of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King has stepped up the agenda with his proposal last week to use sales taxes from guns and bullets, plus an additional “safety fee” tax on bullets, and a couple other sources, to finance statewide gun violence prevention and study programs.

Wednesday’s roundtable discussion also veered often into other areas such as criminal justice reform, mental health funding, and education, allowing King to tout his proposals in those areas, especially his criminal justice reform platform reducing the housing of nonviolent offenders in prisons.

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