Richard Corcoran Archives - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala says he sides with Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players

After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election, Pinellas state Senator Jack Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team.

He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The protests were in response to Trump’s comments made Friday night that NFL owners who have players “disrespecting the flag” should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on Facebook page Sunday night. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

Two NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans – chose to protest by not even leaving their locker rooms while the national anthem was played in Nashville. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing before their game in Chicago, with the exception of one player, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Latvala says he’s a fan of Villanueva.

“Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala wrote.

The Clearwater Republican announced his candidacy for Florida governor last month, joining Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race.

Putnam tweeted Sunday that he also agreed with the president comments about NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is strongly considering running for governor, tweeted a photo of Villanueva showing his support for standing for the anthem. “This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote.f
After Latvala criticized Evans last year, the receiver backed down, saying that he would no longer sit during the anthem. Evans was criticized by fans not only for refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Trump’s election, but for also admitting that he didn’t actually vote in the presidential contest.
However, this time, the Bucs receiver sounds like he won’t back down.
“When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him,” Evans told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. “It was very childish on his part. It seems like he’s trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.”

“People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is,” Evans continued. “I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it’s nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it’s unpatriotic. But it’s unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights.”

As was the case last year, Latvala is attracting plenty of comments on his Facebook page for his stance on the issue – pro and con.

“I don’t appreciate or support the Bucs’ stance on this issue,” wrote Cherie Anne Gaynor. “I’m finished with them and probably all NFL teams and will try not to buy any of their sponsors’ products.”

I appreciate people who stand by their beliefs,” wrote Adam Miguel Harvey. “Your not getting my vote but thank you for it being vocal about the argument.”

“Completely disagree Jack as many veterans do,” wrote Danielle Brewer. “Thus has nothing to do with the flag but injustice. ok to light torches & shout raciest white supremest chants but not humbly protest racism in this country! You wont get my support!”

This was an issue in which you could have remained silent,” wrote Branden Lane. “Instead, you’ve made my selection for governor a little easier. No Latvala.”

Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran tour storm-ravaged St. Johns County

Team of rivals?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott toured storm damage, including wrecked houses and eroded beaches, along the St. Johns County coastline Thursday, and with him were two likely candidates to replace him as the 2018 GOP nominee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam were both along for the ride.

As three of the most powerful Republicans in the state, they presented a united front in letting St. Johns County know that the state recognized that the county needed help to rebuild after its second devastating storm in less than a year.

“We are all going to work together,” Scott said, “to bring our beaches back.”

Corcoran likewise spoke the language of unity: “Our message to the First Coast is we’re going to go around, see what needs to be done in the state, and we’re with you. We’re going to recover and rebuild, and we’ll be better off and safer the next time.”

Putnam, likewise, asserted that “events like this often bring out the best in Floridians … Florida’s strong, Florida’s resilient … the First Coast has been here for 500 years; it will be here for 500 more.”

However, with Corcoran and Putnam both vying to replace Scott in Tallahassee, it was perhaps inevitable that questions about 2018 — both the Legislative Session and the campaign — would be asked.

One such question went to Scott and Putnam both, about Speaker Corcoran’s assertion that over $600M in local “pork” projects should be reduced in favor of staunching the state’s hurricane readiness.

Scott said that he thinks it’s “very important” to make sure that taxpayer money is “spent the most important way.”

“I always welcome a review afterward,” Scott said. “I welcome what the Speaker is proposing and what the Legislature will be doing.”

Putnam likewise offered what could be framed as conceptual support.

“This storm resets the state’s priorities,” Putnam said. “From local government to state government and throughout, there’s no question that everybody is reorienting themselves in the aftermath of this storm.”

We then asked the two gubernatorial candidates if hurricanes would be a talking point in what will certainly be an expensive, heavily messaged campaign.

“I think what we’re doing today,” Corcoran said, “is beginning that process of what can we do to make our state safer … that’s the focus; all that other stuff will take care of itself.”

Corcoran added that every county in the state was impacted, and that “hurricane preparedness” will be “first and foremost” in the next Legislative Session, the “driving force over the next four months.”

Putnam noted that “the people who lost their roof, the people who are cleaning up this mess — they aren’t focused on 2018, they’re focused on today. And we are too.”

We gave the Governor an opportunity to endorse Putnam or Corcoran in front of both men and TV cameras from the Jacksonville market.

He chuckled, then pivoted to message about Florida being a tourism state.

Clearly, storm recovery will happen — it always does. But what was clear: both Putnam and Corcoran are keenly aware that the policy discussions of 2017 will have a great bearing on the politics that will follow next year.

Joe Henderson: Bad timing for USF money request

The medical school and heart institute being built by the University of South Florida in downtown Tampa is ambitious and more than a little bold. It can be major step in the ongoing re-invention of the city’s urban core.

Speaking of bold, though, that’s the word that came to mind after reading the News Service of Florida story about how USF plans to ask state lawmakers for an additional $21 million next year to complete the project. That’s on top of the $91 million it already has received.

Construction has begun on the sprawling complex, which will cover 50 acres of prime real estate as part of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s $3 billion Water Street Tampa project. Local businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani also has contributed $18 million, and in return gets his name on the college of medicine.

Noble aim.

Bad timing.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced a couple of days ago that instead of requests for local projects, lawmakers should concentrate on ways to provide hurricane relief and planning in the next Legislative Session.

He pointedly noted, “…I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business-as-usual of pork projects and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.”

I can almost hear USF President Judy Genshaft arguing that a project like this is hardly pork or business as usual. She would be correct.

The medical school proposal is a game-changer for Tampa in many ways. It would attract the kind of young, upwardly mobile and skilled professionals that all cities value so highly.

At a news conference Wednesday to update the project, Genshaft noted that USF received more than 6,000 applications this year to fill 170 spots.

Corcoran, however, warned that money is going to be tight next year even before the billions in damage from Hurricane Irma.

The worthiness of the medical school should not be questioned, but put it this way: There are a lot of worthy projects in the state, and they will all be competing with Florida’s urgent need to repair from Irma and prepare for the next monster hurricane.

Good luck.

Get that SunPass ready – tolls are coming back

Toll collections will resume at 12:01 a.m. Thursday on most state toll roads after being lifted Sept. 5 in advance of Hurricane Irma’s trek across Florida.

Tolls will remain suspended on the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike south of State Road 874 in southern Miami-Dade County, as Monroe County recovery efforts continue.

State officials did not provide an estimate Tuesday of how much the suspension of tolls has cost the state. Irma made landfall Sept. 10 in Monroe and Collier counties and then traveled up the peninsula.

An estimated 6.3 million people in Florida were directed through mandatory or voluntary evacuations to find shelter inland or further away as Irma approached. Tolls were lifted to try to help keep traffic flowing.

Among other post-Irma developments Tuesday:

– About 175,000 homes and businesses remained without power, less than 2 percent of utility customers in the state. At its peak, the storm disconnected 6.7 million homes and businesses.

Counties with the highest percentages of power outages remained Highlands, 29 percent; Monroe, 24 percent; and Collier, 20 percent. Hendry was at 19 percent, and no other counties were in double digits.

– The number of storm-related insurance claims went from 335,000 on Monday to 372,281 on Tuesday, with the estimated insured losses now at $2.17 billion, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation.

By comparison, Hurricane Matthew, which skirted the state’s East Coast last year, resulted in 119,000 claims and $1.2 billion in losses.

– The Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Highway Patrol were again watching river levels in Northeast Florida, where the St. Johns River flooded areas shortly after the storm swept through the state.

– There were still 2,800 people in 37 shelters in the state.

– Generator power was still being used in 82 assisted living facilities and 17 nursing homes, while 127 assisted-living facilities and seven nursing homes had been closed, and 186 assisted-living facilities and 38 nursing homes had reported post-storm evacuations.

– The Department of Health brought in additional resources to Everglades City in Collier County, including 1,000 mud boots and portable showers.

– 101 state parks had reopened for day-use only. Another 66 parks were still closed.

– House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the Republican from Land O’Lakes, announced creation of a 21-member House select committee to look at better ways of preparing Florida for storms like Irma. The committee, chaired by Miami Republican Jeanette Nunez, is scheduled to hold its first meeting Oct. 12.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rick Scott non-committal on Florida House hurricane committee

On Tuesday, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced a “Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness” to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations” regarding how the state can deal with storms going forward.

In Orange Park Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott discussed the committee, yet didn’t seem sold on it beyond just one of many sources for ideas.

“Here’s what my experience in business has been — you want nothing bad to happen ever,” Scott noted.

“Unfortunately,” Scott added, “we’re going to have hurricanes. And what you want to do, every time we want to learn.”

“So, I welcome everybody in the state to step back and say ‘OK, what did we do well? What can we do better?'”

“If people have ideas,” Scott continued, “whether it comes through the Speaker’s office or the CFO’s office or comes through a citizen saying ‘here’s an idea,’ I want all those ideas so we can get better.”

Corcoran asserted that the state spends $630 million on “pork projects,” and that money would be better used toward “hurricane hardening.”

Scott, when asked, did not address the claim that money spent on “pork projects” should be reallocated to hurricane preparation spending.

Corcoran’s committee has membership from throughout the state, though it’s uncertain how many of them have experience before their Legislative stints that would prepare them to evaluate long-term solutions with finite resources.

Meanwhile, an old source of tension between the House Speaker and the Governor resurfaced Tuesday, with Scott reaffirming his commitment to Visit Florida — with special attention toward promoting tourism in hard-hit areas.

 “As communities around Florida continue to recover from Hurricane Irma, we are doing everything possible to help families and businesses get back on their feet and get people back to work. While our top focus remains on the recovery of Florida families, especially those in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida, we cannot forget about the many communities which rely on Florida’s incredible tourism industry and millions of visitors. With more than 1.4 million Floridians working in the tourism industry, we must aggressively fight to bring visitors back to our communities,” Scott said.

The campaigns will include a mix of old and new media, with specific targeting to be announced in the near future to drive tourist traffic to communities that were most severely impacted by the storm.

Calls for blue-ribbon hurricane panels abound in Capitol

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, and with Hurricane Maria now churning the Atlantic, Florida lawmakers are forming or calling for blue-ribbon panels to improve the state’s readiness to deal with monster storms.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Tuesday announced the creation of a “Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness” to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations.”

Separately, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, asked Gov. Rick Scott “to form a commission to review the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery of state and local entities involved in Hurricane Irma efforts, as well as critical infrastructure institutions such as public utilities and medical facilities.”

The calls come after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state last week, causing at least $2 billion in damage tallied so far. Evacuees were hampered by gasoline shortages, and eight South Florida nursing home residents died after their air conditioning went out.

Money will be tight this year as the Legislature’s chief economist already warned legislators that next year’s relatively tiny state budget surplus will be erased because of costs from Irma.

Corcoran

In the House, Corcoran wants members to set aside “business as usual,” suggesting that filing local spending projects will be frowned upon, at least officially, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“We spend a significant portion of money”—more than $630 million this year—”on what are considered ‘pork’ projects,” he said at a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol. “If we took just some of those funds … you’re going to see us make tremendous (progress) toward hurricane hardening throughout our state.

“There is not one single (pork) project … that is worth the health and safety of Floridians,” he added.

But Senate President Joe Negron quickly shot down any self-imposed ban on hometown spending. He told the Tampa Bay Times that senators are “in the best position to know what projects are most important.”

“Let’s keep our constitutional roles straight,” he added. “The Legislature is the appropriating body. The Legislature should always have the prerogative and flexibility to write the budget.”

Among some of the ideas floated by Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican and possible 2018 candidate for governor: Creating a state gasoline reserve, looking at tree management policies, and better coordinating the flow of highway traffic before and after a storm. They would go into a “5- or 10-year plan.”

But when asked whether the panel would look hard at the possibility of human-caused climate change affecting hurricane severity or frequency, Corcoran punted.

“I think that what we should be doing is asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the people of this state in the best way possible?’ ” he said, referring to conflicting government studies on global warming. “… The No. 1 function of government is to protect its citizens.”

Colin Hackley: TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 5/8/17-Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, responds to questions from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida executives during what is expected to be the final day of the extended 2017 legislative session Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee.<br />
Brandes

Brandes, in a press release, thanked Gov. Scott, “emergency management officials, and our first responders,” but said “it is important that we have the appropriate oversight in place to stretch every relief dollar to the maximum benefit of Floridians.”

The commission he suggests would “review after-action reports created by state and local emergency operations centers, utilities, state agencies, medical facilities, and other critical service providers in order to evaluate and oversee recovery projects.

“The commission would ensure that state and county needs are met in a manner that best leverages disaster relief dollars. Additionally, it would make certain that the assessments of the recovery actions taken by both public and private entities become best practices to prepare for future events,” referring to similar oversight commissions for 2010’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

Later Tuesday, the House released the membership list for the special panel, which will be chaired by Miami-Dade’s Jeanette Nuñez, the House’s Speaker pro tempore. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero will be vice chair.

In alphabetical order: Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican; Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat; Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican; Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican; Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican; Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat; Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican; Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican; Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat; Larry Lee Jr., a Port St. Lucie Democrat; Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Elizabeth Porter, a Lake City Republican; Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican; Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican; Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat; Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat; Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican; and Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

Evacuation Route Sign, photo: AAA

Joe Henderson: Corcoran’s big move for hurricane readiness

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has taken the first step to improve Florida’s hurricane readiness, and it sounds like a good one.

He is convening the bipartisan Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to study what steps the state should take to prepare in the future for mega-storms like Hurricane Irma.

Excellent idea.

We’re all going to play close attention to the group’s findings.

Yes, there is more than a little bit of political grandstanding involved, but it is really good grandstanding.

In a memo to House members, Corcoran said, “…I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business-as-usual of pork projects and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.”

We’ll see how that goes, since the 2018 elections would usually signal a year-long pork buffet in Tallahassee. My guess is, not well.

And we have to mention that since the Speaker hasn’t ruled out running for governor while all this is going on, he’ll have critics willing to label this a political stunt designed to improve his standing with voters.

Well, guess what?

While every bit of that may true, it also is a fact that these storms have shown they will devastate large portions of this state we all love and call home.

That’s exactly why we need a group willing to study the issue in detail and issue a report that, frankly, may be hard for a lot of folks to swallow. If it happens to play well with voters, shouldn’t that tell everyone something?

Or course, anyone can make recommendations and some of what needs to be done probably is obvious – just as it has been for decades.

Developers seem intent on filling every inch of coastline with resorts and condo cities, which leaves residents especially vulnerable in a hurricane. Their attitude seems to be that it’s easier to clean up the mess and rebuild than to worry about things like 12-foot storm surges.

So, it will be Corcoran’s task to make the group’s recommendations into laws, not suggestions. There is a lot at stake here and none of it will be easy or unanimously accepted.

Leadership is about doing the right thing, though. After what Florida has just been through with Irma and likely will endure again with future storms, there is no other choice.

Gwen Graham: Hurricane Irma showed Florida isn’t as prepared as it should be

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham believes Florida should have been better prepared to handle the impact of Hurricane Irma.

“The state of Florida was not ready for this storm,” Graham declared Saturday night. The 54-year-old attorney and former Tallahassee-area congresswoman made the comments while delivering the keynote address before a record crowd at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s annual Kennedy-King Dinner in downtown Tampa.

Graham said the destructive storm – which hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane last Sunday morning before moving its way through the state, proves that state lawmakers need to address climate change and comprehensive hurricane preparedness.

Considered the establishment favorite, Graham began her 19-minute speech by talking about the selfless acts performed by Floridians throughout the state during what was an excruciatingly stressful time.

Graham’s Hurricane Irma experience involved setting up and supervising a shelter at Richards High School in Tallahassee. She said that all the preparations had been done correctly at that shelter, “but when the power went out across the state of Florida, it became clear that we were not as ready as we needed to be.”

Governor Rick Scott has received mostly laudatory reviews, even from Democrats, for his handling of the storm. But Graham didn’t go there. She insisted that her criticisms weren’t political , but practical, saying that the state has to be better prepared for when the next major hurricane comes Florida’s way.

“They have been decades in the making,” she said about the lack of proper preparation. “Hurricanes have grown stronger, but the state has not done nearly enough to prepare us for the changes we’re witnessing.”

Graham blasted Scott for prohibiting state agencies for even using the words “climate change,” and said she would act in a completely different and proactive way in trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Florida. Those measures would include joining states like California and New York in what is being called the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change. She also said she would ban oil drilling off Florida beaches and ban fracking throughout the state.

Referring to how the roads running to North Florida were clogged for days as people evacuated before Irma’s arrival, Graham criticized Scott for not reversing southbound traffic on the major interstates and state roads. But she said the state wasn’t prepared to do that because that would have cut off gas and emergency crews from reaching South Florida.

“Supplying every community is vital, which is why the state must develop a plan before the storm, capable of reversing highway lanes and also allowing for providing crucial needs for those south,” she said. “The day will come when we must reverse traffic to once again evacuate major cities, and the state must have a plan and a willingness to do that.”

Graham then spoke about the biggest tragedy connected to the storm – the news that eight elderly patients died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after the nursing home lost power. Democrats have seized on the incident, with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson calling it “an emerging scandal of gargantuan proportions.” Graham has called for an investigation and made a public information request for Scott’s cellphone records shortly after a CBS affiliate in Miami reported Friday that the executives at that nursing home called Scott’s cell phone asking for help getting their power back on.

Graham cited legislation proposed in 2004 that would have considered safety measures to protect seniors in nursing homes — legislation that she said was stopped by industry lobbyists who said it was “too expensive.”

“Eight Florida seniors died because our system failed them,” she said. “They died, in part, because elected leaders failed to see the real cost, the human cost.”

Graham then threw a jab at House Speaker Richard Corcoran, saying that an hour after the media first broke the news about the deaths in Hollywood, Corcoran was tweeting about tax rates. “It’s a sickening example of how the politicians in Tallahassee have the wrong priorities for the wrong people,” she said.

Corcoran is contemplating a run governor; Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala are the only two major Republicans to have entered the race to date.

The other two Democrats in the race are Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who showed up to the VIP party before the dinner began and earlier spoke to more than 100 people at a Tampa craft brewing pub.

Still lurking in the shadows are two Democrats who bring tremendous financial resources to the race if they opt to enter it – Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan.

DEC officials said 450 tickets were sold to the event, the most in the history of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party.

Local Democrats Karen Clay, Betty Castor and Tom Scarritt were all given awards earlier in the evening.

Personnel note: Richard Corcoran committee hires Taylor Budowich

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee has hired Taylor Budowich, privately described as a “first rate organizer” who has “contacts throughout the conservative movement.”

Budowich joins Watchdog PAC from Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, where he served as the organization’s executive director and national spokesperson.

“Taylor’s proven record of identifying and electing strong conservative fighters will be a great asset to Watchdog PAC’s mission of supporting limited government, pro-growth ideas and candidates throughout the state of Florida,” the group said.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has said he will decide after the 2018 Legislative Session whether to jump into the race for governor.

Nationally, Budowich organized hundreds of political rallies in support of conservatives like U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with congressmen from across the nation including Florida’s Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis.

The organization’s national bus tours, which he oversaw, have made stops in over 40 states across the country, including over a dozen events throughout Florida.

Budowich was responsible for the media planning and operations for the Tea Party’s response to the State of the Union from 2012-16, delivered by conservative thought leaders like U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and former Florida Congressman Curt Clawson.

He has been published in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and The Dallas Morning News.

Billionaire blasts Donald Trump ‘dreamer’ decision

A prominent Republican fund-raiser turned critic of President Donald Trump said Thursday it would be a huge economic mistake not to let young undocumented immigrants, called “Dreamers,” remain in the United States.

“There is something wrong in separating families,” Miguel “Mike” Fernandez said, after delivering a speech to students and faculty at Florida A&M University. “That is a universal wrong. We are doing that in DACA.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children brought to the country by their undocumented-immigrant parents to remain in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama put the program in place by executive order.

But the Trump administration this week rescinded the order, with an effective date of six months, giving Congress time to enact its own version of a DACA plan.

The Cuban-born Fernandez, who is a billionaire Miami businessman, supported Jeb Bush in last year’s presidential primary, but broke with his party over Trump’s anti-immigration stances and spent some $3 million in a campaign against Trump.

“If the president talks about Mexicans, murderers, criminals, rapists and so on, these (the Dreamers) are the very best. These are the opposite,” Fernandez said. “These are the students who are working hard. They are going to be tomorrow’s taxpayers.”

Fernandez, 65, who has created a number of health-care companies and later sold them, said Florida has more than 32,000 immigrants protected under DACA, and he estimates they will pay $6.7 billion in taxes over their lifetimes.

“It’s an economic issue,” he said. “Throw them out?”

Fernandez’s own story as a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old with his family was the focus of his speech to the FAMU students. Despite his enormous economic success, Fernandez repeatedly emphasized that he did not believe he had any great talents.

“I’m as average as they come,” he said.

He also talked about the many setbacks in his life, including business failures, three failed marriages, two heart attacks and cancer.

“You have to adjust,” Fernandez said. “There is not a linear path to success. Actually, I guarantee you that failure is a necessary step towards your success. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.”

Fernandez distributed 700 copies of his autobiography, “Humbled by the Journey,” and took time after the speech to sign dozens of copies and talk to individual students.

Fernandez’s candor was also on display. Earlier in the day, he sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times calling state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, who supports the elimination of DACA, a “bully” and an “intellectual midget.”

“They are just facts,” Fernandez said when asked about the comments. “That’s my opinion of the guy.”

Fernandez, who said he has given about $30 million to Republican causes over the last 15 years, also expressed “disappointment” in Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, although he had given $100,000 to help Putnam’s Republican gubernatorial campaign.

“I think that we lack in this country people who speak and stand on their backbone,” Fernandez said.

“He’s a guy who was fairly normal in his position until he is faced with an opponent who is more to the right. He feels he has to move to the right,” Fernandez said. “I move to where I am, and that’s who I respect.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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