Since losing control of the Florida Congressional Delegation over a quarter-century ago, the Democrats have their best opportunity to regain control in 2018.
All the signs on both the national and state level favoring the Democrats.
After his first year, Donald Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history. The generic vote favors Democrats and they have clobbered Republicans in special elections. The most stunning was the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore. If Republicans cannot win in ultra-red Alabama, can they win anywhere?
In Florida, Republicans have all but abandoned the race to retain the seat held by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for a quarter century. Why waste money in a seat that is heavily Democrat and that Hillary Clinton won by 20 percent.
Neighboring District 26, held by Republican Carlos Curbelo, will also be hard to retain. District 26 is the most Democratic district in the nation held by a Republican. Curbelo has raised over $2 million, so this is not a sure pickup for the Democrats.
Republican Brian Mast, in District 18, has also raised over $2 million, but pundits have moved the seat from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.” Mast, a double amputee from the Afghan conflict, has just announced his opposition to the sale of assault weapons. Will this help or hurt his campaign?
Republican Ron DeSantis is abandoning a safe seat in District 6 to run for governor. Will Republicans be able to retain this seat against a strong challenge from Nancy Soderberg, former national security adviser for President Bill Clinton?
Republican Gus Bilirakis in District 12 has won most of his races by 20 points or more, but he faces a tough challenge from former FBI agent and federal prosecutor Chris Hunter, who has skills in attracting media attention.
Finally, Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 faces his most difficult campaign since defeating Keith Fitzgerald by 7 percent in 2012. Shapiro is an attorney with broad name recognition and the ability to raise sufficient resources. The defeat of Buchanan’s son James in a special election for a Florida House seat has heightened concerns for Buchanan’s supporters.
Republicans still have the advantage, but Democrats need only to flip three seats to take control of the delegation.
The opportunity is there. Will the Democrats be able to take advantage of the situation?
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised another $431,000 last month for his political committee, Florida Grown, according to records on the committee’s website.
The new numbers show Florida Grown at nearly $20 million in total fundraising since it was formed in early 2015.
Putnam is running for the GOP nomination for Governor. He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to enter the race after the 2018 Legislative Session.
Florida Grownhad about $14 million on hand at the end of January. The new haul was balanced out by about $124,000 in spending. The committee had about $14.3 million in the bank at the end of February.
The largest contribution last month was a $97,000 check from beer distributor August A. Busch, followed by $75,000 from a political committee affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida.
Putnam’s committee also brought in a half-dozen checks for $25,000. Contributors at that level included Wallace Burt, Barbara Carlton, Mel Sembler, Two Rivers Ranch, Phillips and Jordan Inc., and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Expenditures last month included $24,748 to Silloh Consulting, $20,800 to Forward Strategies, and $11,166 to Dogwood Communications.
Official campaign finance reports for candidates and committees are due to the Florida Division of Elections by March 12.
At the end of January, Putnam’s campaign account had total fundraising of $4.1 million with nearly $2.8 million on hand.
With competitive Democratic primaries, the tail end of the Legislative Session, and local City Hall intrigue, there is a lot to unpack.
However, we have not arrived at the point in the narrative with a great deal of resolution.
At least not yet.
In a literary sense, this is known as foreshadowing.
Money has not been raised or even reported. Endorsements have not been rolled out.
It is sort of like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Power lines fill with feathered animals … a classic trope to build tension for actions ahead.
And what is to come could make some political careers … and break others.
Brown fundraises off Martin
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democratic primary candidate in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, used the anniversary of Trayvon Martin‘s murder six years ago as part of a fundraising pitch Thursday.
In public remarks as Jacksonville Mayor, Brown did not mention Martin, who was gunned down in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Central Florida.
However, Brown’s fundraising in 2018 is a different matter.
“It is hard to believe, six years ago this week Trayvon was fatally shot for what can only be described as ‘looking suspicious.’ We must always take a moment to reflect and remember the loss of lives like Trayvon,” Brown asserted.
“As we have conversations and push for gun reform, it is important to remember the Trayvons. His death and all those highlighted in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and those before them must serve a reminder that reform is needed. No one should be killed or discriminated against because of the color of their skin,” Brown added.
Brown’s mentioning of #BlackLivesMatter was also interesting, given that in two years in which his tenure as Mayor overlapped with the movement, he didn’t mention it explicitly either.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford thinks that stopping school shootings is “about how much we want to pay,” he told WJXT late last month.
“I think more is going to take place at the state level. And I also think you’re going to see some change at the national level. But … You know, security for schools is really a district driven issue.
“You know, we had discussed last week about dropping (filing) the bill ‘Stop Violence in Schools Act of 2018,’ which focuses on hardening the target of the schools.
“Teaching individuals what are the warning signs to look for in these individuals would later become mass killers. And then also setting up an anonymous tip line for folks to be able to call in … and to report those signs that they see.
“So the question becomes: How many, how much do you want to spend to make sure that this does not happen again?
“And then you hear people say, ‘Well, let’s not do police. Let’s do school resource officers who actually work for the school board.
“They may not be as well trained as the police … but they carry guns, and they’re qualified and all that.’
“And then they say, ‘That’s too expensive. So, let’s, you know, if we just put guns in the hands of a few teachers that could be trained, you know, let’s do that. That’s not as expensive.’
“So that’s why I say: How much do you want to pay for what kind of security?”
Rutherford draws Democratic challenger
Ges Selmont, a lawyer making his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, rolled out his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District last weekend via news release.
Selmont will be the second Democrat vying for the nomination in a district that elected Rutherford in 2016 by over 40 points; author Monica DePaul is already in the race, though evidence of a formal campaign structure or fundraising is elusive thus far for her, and her most high-profile interview (a half-hour on WJCT) saw her struggle with even friendly questions.
“People from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and LA have expressed support. This race will be on the national radar,” Selmont said. “We will have to run a new, fresh, energetic and innovative campaign.”
Time will tell if that will unseat the former Jacksonville Sheriff.
Soderberg snags EMILY’s List endorsement
In another sign that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has all but locked the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, EMILY’s List endorsed her Wednesday.
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, released the following statement:
“A former deputy national security adviser to President [Bill] Clinton and ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg knows what it means to take on tough jobs. She has used her positions to advocate change, move our country forward, and defend the rights of our citizens.”
“In her current role as a professor at the University of North Florida and a small-business owner, she is deeply invested in her community and will do what it takes to ensure that the working families of the 6th District have a voice in Washington.”
“Nancy will fight for access to quality health care, affordable higher education, and common-sense policies that will protect our environment,” Schriock asserted.
“It’s time for a representative who will actually fight for working families, which is why EMILY’s List is strongly supporting Nancy Soderberg for Congress,” Schriock added.
Fant blasts Broward Sheriff for Parkland stand down
Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican candidate for State Attorney, renewed his calls for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to step down in the wake of reportage that deputies stood down, as did the school resource officer, in a mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland earlier this month.
Fant, a signatory to a letter from House Speaker Richard Corcoran on this matter, made his case on CNN Monday morning.
“We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel,” Fant said, noting that Israel said he demonstrated “amazing leadership” but has not demonstrated accountability in the wake of the stand down of one to four officers.
Gov. Rick Scott has avoided calls to remove Israel, instead tasking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.
Fant did not pan this move.
“The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward, that’s why he launched the FDLE investigation, but it’s not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it’s going to get worse,” Fant said, referring to expected damning findings from the Coral Springs Police Department’s investigation of the incident.
Fant wants an independent prosecutor to look into what happened, he said.
In the wake of the Parkland homicides, Fant has been on national television with some frequency. He had a segment on “Meet the Press Daily” on MSNBC last week.
Former Daniels aide to primary Davis
The intrigue continues in Jacksonville area Democratic primaries, with yet another incumbent facing a primary challenge on the 2018 ballot.
The latest competitive race is in House District 13, where incumbent Rep. Tracie Davis will face a challenge from Rep. Kim Daniels‘ former district secretary, Roshanda Jackson.
Jackson said that she is not “running against” Davis, whom she doesn’t know. And she says that “no elected official has encouraged [her] to run.” And she takes pains to note that she doesn’t want her bid for office to be conflated with that of Rep. Daniels.
“I hope the race is peaceful,” Jackson said.
Davis, when asked about the primary challenge, noted that she is focused on the Legislative Session, with gun safety and school hardening bills among her priorities, and will turn her election to the campaign after Session.
This filing comes just weeks after Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown launched his primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson.
A persistent narrative has surfaced that Brown was put up to running by Mayor Lenny Curry, which both Brown and Curry deny.
Democratic Party insiders don’t discount that narrative, but also note that another source of these primary challenges may be the post-Corrine Brown struggle for primacy in the Jacksonville Democratic machine.
‘Coward’ attacks female Fischer aide
One legislative staffer, Sadie Haire, district aide for Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, a supporter of the Second Amendment, got more than words from a gun control proponent.
“On Wednesday, a man — a coward really — forced himself into my district office in Jacksonville demanding that the Legislature ban ‘assault weapons’ and other firearms,” Fischer asserted on Facebook. “He then attacked my district aide and said he was trying to prove a point about ‘gun control.’”
Fischer related that the man came in upset about the failed attempt to get a ban on assault weapons considered in the House. He said the man demonstrated his outrage by “slamming [Haire] into the door violently.”
“This coward was inspired to violence by the political stunt that one of my colleagues pulled on Tuesday,” Fischer said. “There is no justification, political or otherwise, for violently attacking an innocent person.”
Fischer’s office did not have the best security. There was no camera system so that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could be given a picture, Fischer said.
Fischer added he is closing the office while figuring out what can be done.
Meet El Presidente
Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman has the ten pledges needed to secure the Council presidency starting in July.
In addition to himself, the former Mayport base commander has Scott Wilson, Sam Newby, and Reggie Gaffney committed last week. Jim Love committed Tuesday.
Before that, Bowman secured the commitments of former Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with Doyle Carter, Matt Schellenberg, and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.
The coalition of support Bowman has amassed is worth noting, specifically regarding the two most recent past presidents.
Boyer and Anderson worked well with Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Anna Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.
By late last week, Brosche was among a cadre of Council members roiled by recent revelations that Curry’s team had been exploring valuations on privatizing assets, including but not limited to JEA.
Bowman, who plays a prominent role in recruiting businesses to come to Jacksonville via the JAXUSA arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, takes a different view of the administration’s moves.
Though many seem to think the concept of asset privatization is something Curry just discovered, in reality, it is something that was in the works for a while longer.
Since Curry’s election, to be exact, when the mayor-elect’s transition committees explored the concept.
Once in office, Curry’s team began to work with former NYC deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith, a privatization guru.
By December 2015, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed, via “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required, and a comparison to the private sector providing some services.
Now, in 2018, privatization is earnestly discussed — of JEA.
Read here why this might be a boon for Jacksonville’s bottom line.
The fix is in
Per the Florida Times-Union, JEA is about to commit capital to some fixes for problems exposed in back-to-back hurricane years.
The big spends: $45 million for 251,000 “smart meters” that will allow outages to be pinpointed house by house, potentially removing the dubious outage reporting that vexed customers during Irma.
The money is there, but it will take time to go house to house and install these meters. How much time is as yet unknown.
And $100 million over five years for water-sewer system hardening, which will include more backup power generators to lower the risk of sewage spills at lift stations during power outages.
The upshot: “JEA expects to have backup power at 47 percent of stations this year, and it will be at 71 percent by 2022.”
Is slow septic phaseout killing NW Jax biz dev?
Budget hearings in August saw multiple members, including Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, lament the slow pace of septic phaseout. $6 million a year is being allocated, split between JEA and the city, for a project that could cost anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion.
With JEA privatization or sale now a hot topic, Council members Brown and Brown, along with Sam Newby, Garrett Dennis and Gaffney, want to codify commitment to the project, via a bill (2018-76) that would obligate JEA to run sewer and water lines throughout the city.
That bill, which would secure in principle a long-awaited retrofitting of these areas, is due to be heard in committees next week.
Reggie Brown noted that businesses are avoiding the Northwest Quadrant in part because of the incomplete septic phaseout, and businesses that are in the area are getting letters from the State Attorney threatening them with shutdown if issues aren’t rectified.
He noted the paradox: the Health Department and State Attorney enforcing standards that wouldn’t be an issue if the city had fulfilled its infrastructural obligations.
Some good news for Jacksonville came Monday via another bond upgrade.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced an uptick in the special revenue bond rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-.’
“This latest upgrade further demonstrates our continued and strong focus on fiscal responsibility is making a difference for our citizens,” Curry said. “We continue to work hard to enhance the City’s standing with investors by doing all we can to ensure the City’s financial stability for years to come. Improved credit ratings can save our city millions of dollars on future debt issues by lowering borrowing costs, which is good for taxpayers.”
Per the media release: “Citing a change to their ratings methodology, S&P said they now consider both non-ad valorem and general fund pledges as equal since both are dependent on the successful operation of the City. The City of Jacksonville’s special revenue pledge is a non-ad valorem pledge, and backs $1.027 billion of the City’s debt outstanding as of Sept. 30, 2017.”
Legendary local essayist Marvin Edwards died last month, after an epic career that included everything from WW2 spy work to more contemporaneous exposes of Jacksonville City Hall shenanigans.
The Jacksonville Daily Record ran a piece of Edwards’ from 1941, in which he took a look at a “boomtown” that exists still, but not in the same way.
“Saturday nights, the downtown area reminds one very much of Times Square. All the theaters are jammed, and it’s almost impossible to find a place to park.”
Edwards was taking a hard look at what happened to Jacksonville: the military-industrial complex.
From shipbuilding downtown to Camp Blanding to the south, the city and surrounding areas were growing because of that buildup.
Banking was big, as well.
The build-out, of course, has been suburban and exurban in recent years. But for those who live in the city’s urban core, hope remains that downtown, somehow, can regain its bygone luster.
Szymanski ‘thrilled’ to become UNF president
In an interview with the University of Florida’s Colin McCann, newly named University President David Szymanski talks about his plans, goals and his “strongest assets” – creating personal relationships and teamwork.
“He mentioned his experience playing basketball,” McCann writes, “saying, ‘One of the things that basketball does for you is thinking of that notion of team. It’s everybody together, and it’s people helping each other out and working collaboratively.’”
Szymanski believes his biggest challenge will be overcoming the time constraints while bringing together people from all parts of the campus and the UNF community. “He wants to look into additional learning opportunities for students, like applied research and internships, building on top of opportunities that are already in place at UNF.”
“My job is to do things well and create opportunities for other people,” Szymanski said. “And I think it’s an exciting time to be a student and an exciting time to be at UNF … I’m just thrilled and honored and humbled to be the next president of the University of North Florida.”
Teen employees get ‘hands-on experience’ at Jacksonville Zoo
Fourteen local teens serve as employees of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, part of a city-sponsored Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development (WILD) program. Since 2016, the teen employment program has incorporated leadership development, public-speaking instruction and lessons in zoology and horticulture.
While animal-related interests are not required, some of the youths in the program see working with animals as a long-term career path.
According to the Florida Times-Union, WILD is for culturally-diverse teens aged 14 to 18 who live or attend school or church in 10 Jacksonville ZIP codes targeted by the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, primarily from the Northside and Northwest areas of the city. Applicants go through a rigorous application process and work Saturdays during the school year, and full time in the summer months.
First-year students in the program are called stewards. In the second year, they graduate to become ambassadors and take more leadership responsibility. In the final year of the program, they help develop educational outreach programs in their communities, including bringing small animals on tour. The zoo outreaches are free and go to the organization or facility that has shown an influence in the teens’ lives.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Marquese Fluellen, 18, who is in his second year of the program and attends Wolfson High School. “I always wanted a career in animal handling but didn’t know where to start.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the national League of Conservation Voters, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.
The scorecard found widespread support for the league’s positions among Democrats, and widespread opposition among Republicans. Nationally, Democrats averaged a score of 94, and Republicans, 5.
In Central Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando got a score of 97; and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, 91; while Republican U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Lake County and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both received a score of 3; and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, 0.
Elsewhere in Florida, the next highest-scoring Democrats were U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings, who both got 94; and the lowest-scoring Democrat was U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who got 69. The highest-scoring Republicans were U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who all got 23. Several other Republicans got zero.
On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a 95 and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a 0.
Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee Riverand the Everglades. His and the other members scores, however, also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA to global warming, and from California water resource management to pesticides.
“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV Scorecard,” Soto stated in a news release issued by his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”
The league has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, and states that the selected issues, positions, and scores represent a consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations. The issues include energy, climate change, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Thursday denounced Florida Legislature efforts to tighten gun restrictions and said the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Parkland high school should be seen as “a catastrophic failure” by the Broward County sheriff and the FBI.
DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, has made similar comments in television appearances on Fox News in the past two weeks, but otherwise has been largely silent within Florida about his response to the massacre, drawing heatfrom other gubernatorial candidates, particularly Democrats. On Thursday he broke that, taking a hard line against any gun measures, and condemning those being considered now in the Florida Legislature.
He also called for the resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for not having responded to numerous reports, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, that suggested Nikolas Cruz was dangerous; and for the firing of anyone in the FBI who might have failed to pick up in advance on the shooter’s intentions.
And while DeSantis called on the Florida Legislature to back off proposed gun restrictions, presumably such as one to raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, he was not specific in his statement.
DeSantis said he supported much in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed school safety package to “harden schools” and also supports one idea Scott rejected: arming teachers. He also said the state should enlist the help of veterans and law enforcement officers to help protect schools.
DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow in the contest for the Aug. 28 Florida primary nomination to run for Governor. The leading Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, DeSantis contended, was the result of law enforcement failures and mental illness, and should be addressed as such.
“Given that the issues of bureaucratic incompetence, school safety and mental health demand immediate attention, I’m disappointed that the Florida Legislature is rushing to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis said in his statement.
“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective. The goal should be to keep our students safe, bring accountability to the officials and institutions that failed, and protect the rights of Floridians,” DeSantis continued.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King has released a new online campaign video declaring that the massacres in Pulse and Parkland demand a transformation of Florida politics, stressing his commitments to banning assault weapons, pushing for universal background checks, and expanding Medicaid.
The 90-second video “This is the Year”includes footage of vigils held for the mass shootings and King giving a speech in which he talks about attending the vigils, and believes that the last two weeks must spark a transformation. The ad is being targeted to Democratic voters on Facebook across the state.
“The next Governor of the State of Florida in my view has to be committed to transformation when it comes to gun safety,” King says. “So let me make it very clear to you what this governor would do: I would not take money from the NRA. I would work hard to pass an assault weapons ban, as I said for my very first speech as (a candidate for) governor. I would stand up for universal background checks. I would work to pass Medicaid expansion because there is no bigger idea for caring for the needs of the mentally ill in this state.”
King is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
With fresh media reports that Russians hacked into and potentially compromised election systems in Florida and six other states in 2016, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham called Wednesday for Gov. Rick Scott to take immediate action to protect Florida’s election infrastructure.
“Dangerous Russian interference in the 2016 election is not only confirmed, but it happened right here in Florida. President [Donald] Trump has deliberately and outrageously refused to address these cyber threats and protect our American democracy, so our state must act — Governor Scott must act,” Graham said in a news release from her campaign.
“This is not a partisan issue. Faith in our government depends on confidence that our elections are not influenced by any foreign power.”
The Florida Department of State said late Wednesday it was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Florida was unsuccessfully targeted by hackers last year. This attempt was not in any way successful and Florida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure, the department noted.
Graham contended it must be addressed.
“Governor Rick Scott cannot sit idly by and continue passing the buck to Trump. We can not rely on this president to protect America and our next election from foreign interference,” Graham said. “Scott must immediately direct the Florida Department of State to protect our vote in 2018 to prevent the Russians from tampering with our state elections.”
Scott’s office and the Florida Department of State responded late Wednesday saying they already were addressing the concerns, dating from an earlier report from September about possible Russian interference.
Additionally, Scott’s recomended 2018-2019 budget includes nearly $2.5 million and five positions to enhance cyber security at the Department of State’s Division of Elections, the governor’s office noted.
Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Governor. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham sent out an email Tuesday attacking Republican foeRon DeSantis for his silence in the post-Parkland policy debate.
While DeSantis was the target, Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is also running as a GOP candidate for governor, weren’t spared in the “Sound of Silence Alert.”
“Governor Rick Scott has proposed the very least our state can do to curb gun violence by raising the age and increasing the waiting period for assault weapon purchases — but it appears these minimal reforms are too much for Congressman Ron DeSantis to support. Even NRA sellout Adam Putnam has come out in support of these reforms, but DeSantis is silent,” Graham said.
“Ron DeSantis is the only candidate running to lead our state who refuses to support any sort of gun safety. If the Congressman can’t endorse his own Republican governor’s proposals after Parkland, he will never support common sense gun safety laws in our state — no matter how many children are killed.”
Scott’s $500 million plan includes raising the minimum age for buying any gun to 21, increasing funding for school security and mental health programs, and the “Violent Threat Restraining Order,” which would allow courts to prohibit an individual from purchasing or possessing a firearm if presented with evidence of violence or mental illness.
The age restriction in particular is a break from the NRA.
The back half Graham’s email repeated her calls for Putnam to return $10,000 of campaign contributions he’s received from the NRA and for Scott “to keep the legislature in session until they pass real reforms, including an assault weapons ban.”
“Governor Rick Scott must make it clear to the legislature that no issue is more important in these last two weeks of session than passing common sense gun safety,” she said. “All of Florida is calling on Tallahassee to act. Rick Scott and the Legislature must stand up to the NRA and get this done.”
In his bid for Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis can always count on at least one unwavering cheerleader — his dad, Ron Daniel DeSantis of Dunedin.
According to a post on the Facebook group page “Ron DeSantis for Governor Pinellas County,” the elder DeSantis “talked to many people who want to support my son for Governor” but could not vote in the primary, simply because they are not registered Republican.
Papa DeSantis then suggests those interested parties (both Democrats and independents) should switch parties (after which they “can always change back later”). Next, he goes on a lengthy explanation how to change party affiliation in time for the Aug. 28 primaries.
Of course, it’s awfully cute that DeSantis’ dad is in his corner — what good father wouldn’t be?
But are there really a significant number of voters — particularly Democrats — who are clamoring to jump ship for the DeSantis campaign?
Doubtful, at best.
For example, as the Tampa Bay Times noted: “Democrats generally see [DeSantis] as the weakest Republican nominee of the bunch, an unbending government shutdown guy too far out of the mainstream for a purple state like Florida.”
DeSantis — whose only statewide campaign was a short-lived bid for the U.S. Senate — was also named one of the top 25 conservatives in the nation (by radio host and far-right firebrand Mark Levin) and took perfect scores from both Americans for Prosperity and the American Conservative Union — all of which are anything but a Democrat magnet.
Then, there is the full-throated Twitter endorsement from President DonaldTrump, which said DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida.”
Deep down, the one sure thing DeSantis for Governor has going for it is Trump’s tweet.
Indeed, the President’s comment was the main impetus for DeSantis’ newfound support from conservative billionaires who rarely get involved on the state level, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, investment tycoon Foster Friess, and Breitbart co-owner Rebekah Mercer.
And as for his known policy positions, DeSantis offers little for the average Democrat to embrace.
He is a small-government conservative and a vocal supporter of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. DeSantis is also critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
Few of those things are endearing to the typical Democrat.
In addition, DeSantis has the backing of David Bossie from Citizens United.
For those who don’t remember (or choose to forget), Citizens United is the infamous anti-Hillary Clinton organization which led to the much-reviled 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into political campaigns.
Want to instantly enrage Democrats and progressives? Simply say two words: “Citizens United.”
So, imagine it was “Citizens United supports Ron DeSantis.”
Taking all this into account, it is highly unlikely Florida Democrats will switch parties willingly (even temporarily) to throw their weight behind DeSantis.
A day after Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature unveiled their plans to back unprecedented new restrictions on guns in the state, the Florida Democratic Party started taking note of the Republican gubernatorial candidates who have stayed silent on the issue.
Citing their “significant backing from the gun lobby,” the state party is pointing its finger at two candidates: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has dubbed himself an “NRA sellout,” and Congressman Ron DeSantis.
Over the span of their political careers, both have received more than $10,000 in NRA donations, according to a POLITICO report. And before the deadliest school shooting in the state took place last week, they touted that backing.
“The Tampa Bay Times recently called me a sellout to the NRA,” Putnam once said. “As someone who believed the Second Amendment is an inalienable right, I’ll wear that comment like a badge of honor. I’m a proud NRA Sellout.”
Now, facing massive protests, the candidates are keeping quiet on whether they support the plan rolled out by Gov. Scott and the Florida House and Senate, which includes raising the age limit to buy guns to 21 and banning bump stocks. Their proposals also include millions of dollars in funding to harden schools and mental health services.
“The two gov candidates’ silence seems to reflect a larger failure by the GOP to answer the demands of the #NeverAgain movement,” FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe said in an email.
Donohoe then linked to a screenshot of an email sent by Florida GOP leadership telling members to not answer comments on the proposals.
“We understand the media is reaching out for comments on the plan; however, we ask you do not answer any questions because the RPOF does not take positions on legislation until all three branches of government agree,” Chairman Blaise Ingoglia wrote to members.