Patrick Murphy Archives - Florida Politics

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

Charlie Crist, Brian Mast among The Hill’s ’10 freshman to watch’ in Congress

Three Florida freshman are among the “freshmen to watch” in the 115th Congress.

On Monday, The Hill unveiled its list of “10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress.” According to The Hill, seven new senators and 55 new House members — including 10 from Florida — will take the oath of office on Jan. 3.

Newly elected Reps. Charlie Crist, Brian Mast and Stephanie Murphy were among the new members The Hill singled out.

Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, unseated Republican Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. According to The Hill, the former Republican governor “is making a political comeback.”

Mast filled the state’ vacated by former Rep. Patrick Murphy, defeating Democrat Randy Perkins in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The former combat veteran will be “one of the youngest members of Congress when he takes the oath of office in January,” according to the website.

Mast, according to The Hill, is one of three Republican “pickups in a year where they were playing defense.”

Murphy toppled Republican Rep. John Mica, the chairman of the transportation committee and a 24-year veteran member of Congress. Her win, according to The Hill, offered the Democratic Party “one of its few bright spots.” Her victory makes her the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in Congress.

With its Lego project, the Tampa Bay Times crushes my hopes and dreams

Last week, the digital geniuses at the Tampa Bay Times debuted a multimedia presentation that used animated Lego figures and constructions to tell a complicated story about a planned toll road on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

“How the plan to fix Tampa Bay’s most important bridge fell apart, told in Legos” from Eli Zhang, Caitlin Johnston, Anthony Cormier, and Martin Frobisher is an absolute must-click for its combination of shoe-leather reporting and “Everything Is Awesome” visualization.

It’s a great read.

It’s visually stunning.

It’s also — to me and only me — heartbreaking.

Please allow me to explain, without taking anything away from the great work of the Times reporters, while also knowing that many in the Times newsroom will take some pleasure in my agony.

Back in May, I wrote in a Facebook post: “it hit me what my next project will be. The next enterprise of Extensive Enterprises, so to speak. People won’t get it at first. They’ll think it’s silly. Then it will get the right people’s attention. And then everyone will say, ‘How much does it cost to do that for us?'”

My excitement originated from a video from Bloomberg: “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Legos.

The introduction was — “Curious how the White House Correspondents’ Dinner works? We explain … with Legos.”

It’s that simple.

As soon as I finished, I had a Eureka moment. Why not bring the Lego video concept to Florida politics? Isn’t that what I’ve done before — take a national idea and make it Sunshine State-sized?

My plan was straightforward. I would first produce a video about some storyline involving Florida politics. From there, I would partner with public relations firms who needed a new way to tell their side of a food fight happening in the Florida Legislature.

“Marion Hammer wants 18 year-olds to bring guns to college campuses … told in Legos.”

“The Workers Comp food fight … told in Legos.”

“Why you can’t get Uber in Miami … told in Legos.”

Whatever. You get the point.

A team of folks (much funnier than I) would help write the scripts. I’d build the Lego sets. Kevin Cate would shoot the videos.

It’s ratings gold, Jerry.

Except for one thing — Lego sets are not very easy to build. At least not the interesting ones.

And, like the Times, finding the right Lego Minifigures is next to impossible.

Kristen Hare of The Poynter Institute details the roadblock the Times team faced.

“We’ve found many Lego-people-packs online,” said (Adam) Playford, director of data and digital enterprise at the Times. “But they all have too many weirdos, like Lego Bananaman and Lego Grim Reaper. Regular Lego people are apparently no longer in vogue.”

Playford and Co. solved their Lego-people-problem by putting out an all-hands-on-deck request to the staff at the Times. I, of course, do not have that luxury.

So … and here’s where some of the agony begins to set in … I worked with a firm in London to create custom Lego Minifigures.

For the script of the first video, I would tell the story of Marco Rubio and the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

I ordered Minifigures resembling Rubio, Donald Trump, Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson, Carlos Beruff (in a trademark black shirt), Ron DeSantis (pictured here in a Navy outfit, of course), and David Jolly.

As for the sets; well, let’s just say what the Times built for its very nice story about a bridge is, um, child’s play.

I started by building the small city building sets:

Soon, I became more ambitious, building bigger sets:

I assembled cars, planes, and trucks (including a replica of one the U.S. Senator drives) so we could shoot the pivotal scene from outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera tells Rubio he should re-enter the race.

I even built The White House (which was very difficult because it’s from the “Architect” class of Lego sets, which is basically Lego’s way of saying “A lot of f*cking pieces are in this box.”

I’ve been building and collecting Lego sets for nearly seven months, thinking the entire time that no one else would bring an idea I first saw on Bloomberg to Florida politics.

And then my bitter rival, the Tampa Bay Times, unveils its pretty little story about a bridge.

When I read the first tweet about the story, I knew what it was about without clicking on the link. My heart sank to a depth deeper than those caissons that hold up the Howard Frankland.

Sure, as my wife and other friends have said, I could continue my Lego project — and I still might.

But that’s like making “Deep Impact” after you learn that “Armageddon” is in production.

“Deep Impact” is probably the better film, but everyone remembers “Armageddon.”

If I do a ” … as told by Legos” video now, critics will say, “but didn’t the Times do that first?”

And screaming “but Bloomberg did it before either of us” does nothing to solve the problem.

Now I am stuck with a whole lot of Legos — which is OK, since my daughter, Ella Joyce, loves building with them.

In fact, Legos are one of the things we’ve been able to do together.

Just yesterday, Ella became sick on our way to a Christmas event replicating a train ride to the North Pole (it’s awesome, and I recommend it to every parent.) We were forced to turn around, missing one of our favorite holiday traditions.

To make up for it, I finished building this — bringing the North Pole to Ella:

If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that, as an entrepreneur, when a light bulb goes off, move quickly. That’s what worked for Sunburn, Florida Politics, INFLUENCE Magazine and everything else I’ve done.

I moved too slowly on this project and, subsequently, I lost out.

That won’t happen again.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a …

 

Alan Grayson files bill to force Donald Trump to pick up the tab for security costs at his properties

Although Alan Grayson will no longer be a sitting member of Congress in a few weeks, he’s given his congressional colleagues a road map to try to keep Donald Trump accountable with the filing of two new bills.

The Orlando firebrand announced Friday that he had filed legislation that would require the IRS to release Trump’s presidential tax returns, and ensure that taxpayers will not have to pay for added security costs to protect the President’s business properties.

During the recently concluded campaign, Trump became the first presidential candidate from a major party since 1976 not to have released his tax returns. When asked why not, he claimed to be under an IRS audit that precluded a release.

The IRS countered that individual could share their tax information at any time, even under an audit. Political pundits predicted that Trump would ultimately have to succumb to the political pressure to release his returns, but he never did, and didn’t appear to be harmed by not doing so.

That includes surviving a New York Times report that suggested that he might not have paid any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, after declaring a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns.

Grayson’s second Trump accountability bill, H.R. 6506, mandates that the “President shall be financially responsible for any additional security measures imposed on property in which the President holds an ownership interest, and for other purposes.”

Grayson says that bill would be the first legislation of its kind to require a sitting president to reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of the security detail for his business property and investments.

“It’s bad enough that Donald Trump refuses to honor a long Presidential tradition of transparency by keeping his tax returns secret.  But it’s even more grotesque that, as my friend Congressman (Jose) Serrano has pointed out, New York City taxpayers already are paying $500,000 a day in security costs for Trump properties there alone,” Grayson said in a statement.

“It’s just a matter of time before President-elect Trump forces the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the added security costs at his personal and business properties around the world. That’s an insult, coming from a businessman who brags that he’s ‘smart’ not to pay taxes,” Grayson said. “My bills would solve both these problems.”

The President-elect currently owns over 30 properties in the U.S., and Grayson cites Forbes magazine with listing more than two dozen other projects under development. Grayson says that with so many personal and business properties around the world, the presidential security detail could be a costly measure.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of paying the security costs of profitable Presidential investments, especially when that President is someone who allegedly owns billion dollars in property and private investments around the world and refuses to tell us if he even pays any taxes on them,” says Grayson. “Trump is poised to cut taxes on billionaires and multinational corporations and cut middle-class earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while claiming that his own tax rates are ‘none of your business.’ Well, it’s my business to make sure Trump isn’t using the highest office in the United States to fund his own personal get-rich-quick scheme.”

“Trump is poised to cut taxes on billionaires and multinational corporations and cut middle-class earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while claiming that his own tax rates are ‘none of your business.’ Well, it’s my business to make sure Trump isn’t using the highest office in the United States to fund his own personal get-rich-quick scheme.”

Whether any lawmaker will pick up Grayson’s bill is uncertain, as he won’t be there to advance it. Grayson stepped down from his seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District last year to run for the U.S. Senate. He lost in the Democratic Senate primary in August to Representative Patrick Murphy.

Earlier this week, Grayson filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County, in 2018, but told FloridaPolitics.com reporter Scott Powers that he’s not certain yet if he will actually pursue another run at this time.

Alan Grayson files bill named after Tampa youth to promote civil rights compliance

In perhaps his last act as a member of Congress, Orlando-area Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson announced on Friday that he was filing the “Andrew Joseph III Act,” a bill which requires any jurisdiction seeking a specific federal grant to have an independent civilian review board in place.

In February of 2014, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies ejected 99 students from the Florida State Fair, including Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old African American, for rowdy behavior during the annual Student Day – a day off from Hillsborough County Schools with free admission to the fair. After interrogating him, stripping him to the waist and arresting him without notifying his parents, deputies dropped Andrew two miles from the fair. He was killed trying to cross I-4 to return to the fairgrounds.

In February, the family of Joseph filed a lawsuit naming Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and several deputies, the Florida State Fair Authority, the Hillsborough County School Board and the school district. The suit alleged the “unjustified arrest and detention of a nonviolent and non-resistant juvenile.”

In 2015, Student Day’s rules were changed. Deputies would have to contact the parents or guardians of any juveniles who were ejected. Students must also be with an adult after 6 p.m.

“This is not just one person’s tragedy. It is not just the tragedy of these parents standing at his grave site. It is the tragedy of America,” Grayson said from the House Floor earlier this year. “We persist in being a country of sometimes casual racism, racism that sometimes goes unnoticed.”

Grayson first took interest in the case publicly in the fall of 2015, where he held a press conference with the parents of Andrew Joseph in Tampa. Two months later, he sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling on her to have the FBI investigate the case.

“Andrew was forced to take off some his clothes, for the stated purpose of allowing the police to check for gang-related tattoos,” Grayson wrote. “He was photographed, and information about him was entered into a database. With no evidence of wrongdoing, or even suspicion of wrongdoing, the police nevertheless removed Andrew (a 14-year-old without adult supervision) from the Fair, by patrol car. The police released Andrew well away from the Fair, by patrol car. The police released Andrew well away from the Fair, near four busy thoroughfares, two of them Interstate highways. At no time did the Sheriff’s Office attempt to contact Andrew’s parents, or direct him to do so.”

In March of 2016, Grayson returned to Tampa near the scene of Andrew Joseph III’s death to announce that the Justice Department would not be investigating the case. In a letter to Grayson that he made public that day, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik wrote that “accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgement are not sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.”

“It’s been two years!  And I don’t have a police report. Not one sentence,”  Joseph’s father, Andrew Joseph Jr. said at that news conference (The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says that the Florida Highway Patrol did write up a report).

“I absolutely do not know how I can ever show my appreciation and gratitude to Congressman Grayson,” said Deanna Joseph, Andrew’s mother, in a statement on Friday. “This has given us hope that the world will never allow another tragic death of a child in the manner in which Andrew Joseph III’s life ended.”

The Andrew Joseph III Act, H.R. 6505, calls for building a stronger system of law enforcement accountability, and instill a greater confidence in community policing.

Grayson will be leaving Washington when the new Congress is sworn in next month. He gave up his congressional seat earlier this year to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, where he fell a distant second to Jupiter Representative Patrick Murphy.

Florida’s congressional delegation scores big WIIN, funding Everglades, water projects

Florida’s Congressional delegation scored a win this week with the passage of a bill that will fund major water projects in Florida, including the Central Everglades Planning Project.

Four Florida congressmen put out press releases Thursday touting their votes for The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, which passed the House with a 360-61 vote.

WIIN would provide more than $1.5 billion in funding for Florida projects, including $976 million for Central Everglades Planning Project, $308 million for the Picayune Strand restoration project and $220 million for Port Everglades Dredging.

Republican Rep. Thomas Rooney put out a press release touting the bill’s CEPP provisions, which will significantly improve the water flows through the northern estuaries, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

“With Congressman Tom Rooney’s continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe in the press release. “Approval of the federal water bill by the full Congress, followed by appropriating funding, is vital to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also joined in with a press release on WIIN, congratulating Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair and Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster for the bill’s passage.

“By investing in our nation’s ports, dams and drinking water services, we are not only helping the local economy, but also the families across the country that rely on having easy access to safe drinking water,” Diaz-Balart said. “The legislation also focuses on reducing the backlog of projects the Army Corps of Engineers have, saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the most important and necessary projects to be prioritized.”

Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Patrick Murphy also joined in with statements on the bill, though their feelings on the bill were somewhat mixed despite praise for provisions which will bring more business and jobs to South Florida.

“This bill is not perfect, and I’m disappointed that the Republican leadership included offensive provisions at the last minute putting water resources at risk in drought-afflicted California,” Deutch said. “As we begin the 115th Congress in January, I will continue to work tirelessly in Washington to fight for the interests of South Florida.”

Murphy added that while he was “disappointed to see partisan riders included in the WIIN Act instead of a bipartisan WRDA conference bill, Floridians should not have to wait another year for this project to be authorized.”

Patrick Murphy’s farewell speech focuses on bipartisan unity

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy called on Congress to pursue bipartisan unity and eschew any “hateful and divisive” rhetoric as he gave a farewell speech to the House of Representatives Tuesday night.

Murphy, the Democrats’ failed candidate for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat in the Nov. 8 election, conceded “the outcome of this election was not what I hoped for our state and our nation” but used most of his seven-minute address to suggest he’s always sought bipartisan cooperation and to urge for more.

The Palm Beach Gardens congressman whose four-year tenure ends Jan. 3 decried money in politics, corporate influences and gerrymandering and said: “much of the system is broken.” But he also called for a focus on a set of issues that included priorities for both the Democratic and Republican parties.

“The outcome of this election was not a mandate for many of the policies being discussed right now. Instead, we saw a still-divided nation making it more important than ever that we have solutions that work for all Americans, not just some Americans,” Murphy said in a speech Tuesday evening on the House floor.

“That is why I hope to see a new focus on tackling climate change, tax reform, investing in our infrastructure, rebuilding the middle class, improving educational opportunities, and protecting our country from the threats of cyber attacks and terrorism, all things I championed during my time in this chamber,” he continued. “Above all, I hope we do not move our country backwards. That requires leaders who do not use fear and lies to further divide this country.”

Murphy’s primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and general election campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who won, were sometimes heated and hostile, particularly when he sought to link Rubio through association with some of the more fiery and divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump. On Tuesday, he called for healing, but not forgetting.

“We cannot simply gloss hateful and divisive rhetoric that plagued our country this past year,” Murphy said. “The United States is better than that, and the world is watching. I’m an eternal optimist. I’m hopeful our leaders will work together to begin to heal these winds and move our country forward together, to show we are stronger than those who wish to divide us.”

He ended by vowing, “My commitment to our community, to the great state of Florida, and to our nation will always continue.”

Pam Keith to lead Florida group of Democrats to campaign for Louisiana Senate hopeful

Since Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump three weeks ago, many Democrats have been disconsolate, still stunned to deal with the reality of a Trump presidency.

Pam Keith says she understands the sentiment, but says it’s time for Democrats to get active and start fighting back. The way she’s doing that is to travel late next week to help out the U.S. Senate candidacy of Foster Campbell in Louisiana. And she’s calling other Florida Democrats to join her.

“I think a lot of us Dems are heartsick and trying to channel all of that emotion into something constructive,” Keith said in an email to FloridaPolitics. “For the time being, there really isn’t anything we can do about Trump, other than gnash our teeth and pray that the Electoral college sees the light.  But with respect to the Senate, there is something we can do.  The runoff in Louisiana would’t be a run-off unless it was close, so adding whatever we can to the mix might actually get something positive done.”

With no senate candidate getting fifty percent of the vote in Louisiana on Nov. 8, Campbell made the runoff against Republican John N. Kennedy, the state treasurer. Campbell is a 69-year-old cattle farmer and public service commissioner. A survey taken last week by a GOP polling firm shows Campbell trailing Kennedy by double-digits.

When Keith announced on her Facebook page that she was intending to spend two days in Louisiana campaigning for Campbell, she asked if other Democrats would be willing to join her.

“We have gotten LOTS of positive feedback for folks who want to help, many of whom can’t travel but are eager to do phone banking. I think we will reach our 20 people goal based on what I’m seeing so far,” Keith says.

Keith is a former Naval Officer JAG and attorney who finished third in the Democratic race for U.S. Senator this summer. Though she didn’t come to defeating winner Patrick Murphy, but came close to knocking off congressman Alan Grayson for second place.

Keith says that she thought such a GOTV effort would be promoted by the Democratic National Committee or the various state parties. But that didn’t happen.

“Seeing no action on the part of either group, I just decided to see what I could do on my own. Bret Berlin has been immensely helpful and is now working with me to get this done. The Campbell team in Louisiana is very positive about getting our help.”

Democrats nationwide are looking at the race, with the Campbell campaign taking in more than  $2.5 million in contributions in the weeks surrounding the Nov. 8 election, according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Between Oct. 20 and Nov. 20, he raised $2,490,939 from individuals and another $29,600 from political action committees, according to the report his campaign released on Tuesday.

Keith and her friends will be in Louisiana on December 9 and 10. The election takes place on December 10.

 

Marco Rubio, Donald Trump find common ground on Cuba

Sen. Marco Rubio has spent the last six years maligning Cuba policy from the Barack Obama White House.

He’s not expecting to have to do the same regarding Donald Trump, however.

After a meeting with Cuban dissident Guillermo “Coco” Farinas Tuesday, Rubio issued a statement, noting that “rolling back President Obama’s one-sided concessions to the Castro regime, a key campaign promise shared with President-elect Trump, will be a top priority for me next year.”

“By any objective measure, President Obama’s unilateral policy changes have failed, and they are not in the best interest of the American people or the people of Cuba,” Rubio observed, adding that he intends to fight for support for “civil society and dissidents from Cuba and other countries.”

Much of the campaign of Rubio’s general election challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy, was designed to draw comparisons between Rubio and Trump. And for his part, Rubio went out of his way to draw differences between himself and the GOP nominee, vowing to act as a “check” on a Trump White House.

With the general election out of the way, however, Rubio is finding that on one of his biggest policy priorities, it’s useful to have an ally in the White House.

Barack Obama goes below .500 in his picks for Florida House and Senate seats

With his legacy on the line, Barack Obama went all out during this just-concluded election season to not only get Hillary Clinton elected, but also more than 150 down ballot races for state Senate and House in states across the country, including 13 Democrats on the ballot in Florida.

With one House race so close there is a recount going on, the president’s record on those picks in Florida stands at 5-7.

Though a former state senator himself in Illinois, Obama had never previously endorsed in state Legislature races as president before this year. His first batch of any state legislative endorsements came in Florida on Oct. 21, and he actually cut an ad for state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who ultimately ended up defeating GOP incumbent Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in Senate District 37.

Another Obama pick, former state representative Linda Stewart, defeated Republican Dean Ascher in the newly created Senate District 13 seat.

However, Obama’s other three Senate picks went down to defeat: Rod Smith to Keith Perry in the newly drawn SD 8 district; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to GOP incumbent Anitere Flores in HD 39; and Bob Buesing, who lost by seven percentage points to House District 60 Rep. Dana Young in the newly created SD 18 seat in Hillsborough County.

In the House, Obama has a chance of going .500 in his eight picks, if Democrat Robert Asencio can continue to hold onto his narrow lead over Republican David Rivera in the House District 118 recount going on this week inside the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections office.

Other Democrats backed  by Obama who won last week were Ben Diamond in Pinellas County’s House District 68; Nick Duran in HD 112; and U.S. Army veteran Daisy Baez over Republican John Courier in a close matchup in the HD 114, 51 percent to 49 percent.

The four Democrats who lost were Beth Tuura in House District 47, who lost out to GOP incumbent Mike Miller. Tampa attorney Rena Frazier lost by nine points to GOP incumbent Ross Spano in HD 59; Lisa Montelione lost to GOP incumbent Shawn Harrison in HD 63, 51 percent to 49 percent ; and attorney Ivette Gonzalez Petrovich lost out GOP incumbent Manny Diaz in the House District 103 race.

Obama also backed Patrick Murphy for Senate and Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings in congressional races, cutting TV ads for Crist and Patrick Murphy.

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