Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 5 of 42 - Florida Politics

For Florida Delegation, Irma aid trumps partisan politics

Wednesday saw House Speaker Paul Ryan stop briefly in Jacksonville, as part of a three-stop tour of Irma damage in Florida.

A corollary, equally important story: the Florida Delegation setting aside partisan concerns to meet the post-storm needs of the Sunshine State, while discussing the way forward.

In Jacksonville, Ryan saw the Duval Emergency Operations Center, then followed that up with a visit to Riverside’s Memorial Park — which suffered epic storm surge flooding during Irma.

Many members of the Florida Delegation were by Ryan’s side, as the Speaker’s trip was intended to underscore the case for federal resources.

And though the Speaker bypassed the waiting press on his way to a bigger market (Miami), Delegation members spoke at length about what the trip means — both in terms of a “bipartisan” commitment for action on this front, as well as resources to ameliorate current suffering and, perhaps, mitigate against some of the major crisis points that popped up during Irma.

Rep. John Rutherford, a first-term Jacksonville Republican, noted that local Councilwoman Lori Boyer — the most recent past Council President — educated the Delegation on the havoc Irma wrought in Jacksonville.

Rep. Al Lawson, a first-term Democrat whose district runs west from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, noted that he’d “been on the ground since last week” and had seen much of the damage and suffering that accompanied it.

“Rutherford and I are in constant communication,” Lawson said, noting that other delegation members on hand — Reps. Darren SotoTed YohoVal DemingsRon DeSantis, and Neal Dunn — shared concerns.

“How can we get more resources down here as quickly as we can to make sure we can get people’s lives back in order,” Lawson said. “We had a lot of devastation here.”

“Our job and that of our colleagues is to make sure we take care of the people,” Lawson said.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer noted that Jacksonville had yet to get its roughly $27M in reimbursements from Hurricane Matthew yet … and she made that case to the delegation, Speaker Ryan, and House Appropriations Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen, saying that Jacksonville hadn’t “fully recovered or received resources” from that 2016 storm yet.

Boyer was confident her message got through, with the Delegation “working together … as a team, both from a regulatory standpoint and a resource standpoint going forward.”

Indeed, Rutherford said the money was “in process.”

“That money is already in process for Matthew,” Rutherford said. “In two or three weeks, they’ll have that money for Matthew.”

Rutherford also noted that Congress had passed a $15.25B Hurricane Harvey relief bill, in addition to a continuing resolution to help fund FEMA and disaster relief.

“Those funds are there, now. Available,” Rutherford said.

Rep. Yoho noted that it was “great to see the Speaker here, bringing the chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Yoho added that Floridians needed to see that “the funding was there, to bring Floridians back to a normal way of life.”

“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue,” Yoho said. “This is the spirit of America.”

Rep. DeSantis, a Republican who represents St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia Counties, likewise spoke to the fuel for that return to normalcy: federal dollars, including backlogged reimbursements.

“One of the things we’ve been impressing on the federal government is these communities are having to spend a lot of resources on things like debris removal. They need to have that money reimbursed in a timely fashion,” DeSantis said.

“You still have a lot of localities that are waiting to be reimbursed for Matthew,” DeSantis added. “That’s a bureaucratic process that’s got to be improved. We’ve been talking to and engaging FEMA about that.”

DeSantis lauded President Donald Trump for making it “very easy” for the federal government to meet post-storm needs for Florida.

“He’s basically said ‘whatever you need, we’ll give it to you’,” DeSantis asserted.

Looking to the future, Rep. Soto noted that underground power lines are among the fixes that could help avert power outages going forward.

“We have to start looking at prevention and intervention,” Rutherford said, noting that electric companies “hardening the targets” is already in process.

Rutherford also believes that hurricane prep “is a national security issue.”

“Florida responds very well,” Rutherford said, “but I think we can do better.”

And it seems like the Florida Delegation, uniting in response to a common crisis, may find a way forward, leveraging a bipartisan approach and a relationship with the White House that may not have been in place with the previous President.

“We have a responsibility to all the people in the state,” Rep. Lawson said, noting that “this is one of those issues where everybody is coming together.”

“Politics will come in ’18,” Lawson added.

At least in this moment, politics — among the Florida Delegation — are held in abeyance to real human needs.

Jack Latvala adds $273K in committee cash

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Jack Latvala raised $273,000 last month for his political committee, according to updated reports on the committee website.

The top contributor to “Florida Leadership Committee” last month was investor and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II, who cut a $50,000 check to Latvala.

The committee also took in $25,000 from veterinarian Richard D. Wilkes and Titan Healthcare Services.

The committee also spent about $100,000 last month, including a $20,000 payment to Tel Opinion Research, several small consulting contracts and a handful of donations to county level Republican parties.

The August haul leaves the committee with about $4 million in the bank heading into September.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee, entered the race for governor in mid-August, and as of Sept. 7 had not turned in his first campaign finance report. Candidates and committees face a Monday deadline to file updated reports.

Latvala was the second major Republican candidate to enter the race after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Putnam had about $10.8 million on hand in his political committee, “Florida Grown,” at the end of July. He also had a little over $1.5 million on hand in his campaign account through the same date.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also considering entering the primary race. Corcoran had about $2.8 million in his “Watchdog PAC” committee at the end of July.

Jacksonville Bold for 9.1.17 — The struggle is real

This last week in Northeast Florida was somewhat quiet for politics.

Federal and state Representatives and Senators are on break. Jacksonville City Council is on its fifth week of a budget negotiation, with a plan all but ready for Council’s vote in September.

A year ago, the political scene was pell-mell: Primaries up and down the ballot were resolved Aug. 30, as was the pension tax referendum.

This year, a quieter August — but not necessarily a quiet September, as this edition of Bold will show.

Among the stories: a look at Jacksonville’s entrant into the Attorney General’s race; items about the city’s budget process; and the return of a bill the mayor’s office didn’t like when it first surfaced months ago.

We also have news on a politician who owes money for crimes committed. And even something about a mosquito control board. And so much more besides.

A quick note: Jacksonville Bold would like to wish you and yours a happy Labor Day weekend. Get some rest and get ready. The fall — and pretty much every other non-holiday week through November 2018 — is going to be wall-to-wall action.

Ron DeSantis wants an end to Robert Mueller investigation

Rep. Ron DeSantis, ahead of what many are expecting to be an entry into the 2018 Florida Governor’s race, is looking to help out President Donald Trump — by putting a time limit onto Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign.

Ron DeSantis is carrying the president’s water. Will Donald Trump remember in 2018?

The DeSantis amendment: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to fund activities pursuant to Department of Justice order 3915-2017, dated May 17, 2017 and relating to the appointment of a special counsel, later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, or for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015.”

POLITICO notes this is one of hundreds of amendments to an omnibus spending bill to be taken up after recess, and there is no guarantee this makes it through committees into the bill at large.

As well, there is no guarantee that such a measure survives the Senate.

DeSantis, a Republican in his second term whose district runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has yet to file for re-election. He is expected to run for Governor.

John Rutherford disses president’s tweet game

Rep. John Rutherford did a sit-down interview with the St. Augustine Record. He’s mostly on the Trump train — but there are things the president could improve. Such as the way he expresses himself on Twitter.

Even reliable GOP allies wish Donald Trump would get his Twitter game right.

“Sometimes I think in that short burst of words, I don’t think he covers well enough what he intends,” he said. “I think he knows what he means, but he doesn’t always express what he means.”

This is especially true with Trump’s ham-handed handling of the violence in Charlottesville — where, in a change of pace, Trump botched the response in a live mike rather than a live tweet.

“For example, I don’t for one minute think that when the president said there are ‘fine people’ on both sides of this issue, I don’t think he was talking about neo-Nazis … or Antifa, or Black Lives Matter,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about.”

Tia Mitchell profiles Jay Fant

Fant finally got a recent profile piece in the Florida Times-Union/St. Augustine Record, although it read like Mitchell’s heart wasn’t in it.

Mitchell interviewed Fant, but only had two usable, original quotes. One addressed his fundraising deficit against Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody, in which Fant likened himself to President Donald Trump, taking on the “establishment.”

Scott Walker would be president if early fundraising mattered or, frankly, Jeb Bush,” Fant said.

Jay Fant: the Donald Trump of Avondale?

Fant, who never served in the military, took to Twitter to defend Trump’s transgender troop ban — and he doubled down on that one with Mitchell.

“I campaigned for Trump,” he said in an interview. “I certainly have a Judeo-Christian world view that the (critics) don’t like. And I vote my conscience and not how I’m told to vote.”

While all of that sounds fine in a vacuum, Fant’s credibility problems in this campaign aren’t because he’s not “Trumpy” enough. Rather, as A.G. Gancarski writes, Fant can’t win because of an “undistinguished record, a lack of buy-in from the donor class, and the blundering sabotage of at least one key relationship” in Jacksonville.

Guess which relationship?

Gancarski notes that his column has gotten praise from the pillars of the donor class that are sitting out the Fant campaign thus far.

Fant serves up red meat re: Aramis Ayala

The most skeptical people about Fant’s bid for Attorney General are many of those reading this space. But for a statewide audience, Fant has room to define himself — and he’s doing so by attempting to get as far right as possible.

Fant’s most recent example: An op-ed on The Capitolist website, in which he backed up Gov. Rick Scott for removing State Attorney Ayala from a cop-killer case.

Jay Fant has never actually practiced law, but he does have a lot of good advice about it.

Those looking for case law and precedent from the AG hopeful weren’t to find it in this piece, which veered toward observations like “an enemy of law enforcement has an enemy in me,” and “drug and gang violence is spiking and the mainstream media aren’t helping things by demonizing law enforcement when they should be elevating it.”

Fant, rebuffed by Pam Bondi in the endorsement sweepstakes weeks back, is now turning his attention to Gov. Scott, who said nice things about Fant backing Enterprise Florida recently. Can Fant parlay that into an endorsement before the race for AG gets more crowded?

Election Commission to Reggie Fullwood: Pay up!

When last we left former state Rep. Fullwood, the charismatic Jacksonville Democrat had pleaded down a mess of campaign finance fraud counts into time served, house arrest, and restitution.

Reggie Fullwood beat a prison rap, but he’s still paying for his missteps. But not fast enough for FEC.

While Fullwood beat the prison rap, the Florida Elections Commission is a different matter. WJXT/News Service of Florida reports that the FEC is suing Fullwood for $17,000. That’s $1,000 for each of 17 violations related to false reporting and failure to report contributions.

The petition was filed Friday in Leon County Court.

Fullwood currently writes a column for the Jacksonville Free Press, in which capacity he has mused about not caring whether or not O.J. Simpson is freed and that the NFL is “openly discriminating” against Colin Kaepernick.

Lenny Curry’s 0-for-Tuesday

Tuesday wasn’t the best day for Jacksonville Mayor Curry’s political operation.

Candidates the mayor backed (Rick Baker in the St. Petersburg mayoral race and Mitch Reeves in the Atlantic Beach mayoral race) did not prevail.

Last week of August: The end of summer, or the twilight of Mitch Reeves’ political career?

Baker is in a runoff against an incumbent left-for-dead weeks prior; Reeves, meanwhile, will have more time for his family and private sector pursuits.

Worth watching for locals: the HD 15 race, where Team Curry backs Wyman Duggan, employing a strategy of pocketing endorsements and momentum a year ahead of the primary.

There is some thought that Bert Ralston, who ran Reeves’ campaign, may be working for an opponent of Duggan’s down the road. If that’s the case, we may be in for an interesting and expensive pre-primary bloodletting on the GOP side.

T-U reviews Jax budget bonanza

While Florida Politics certainly covered Jacksonville’s budget process start to finish, other outlets — notably the Florida Times-Union — were also in the mix.

The T-U piece took a big-picture view of the process, summing up the fulmination of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee feeling “targeted” by a poll backing 100 new cops as “some frustration” among the panel.

Sam Mousa’s bright smile was not a fixture in contentious city budget hearings this year.

Not eliciting frustration: the city’s $131 million capital improvement budget, described more than once by the T-U as part of a “stimulus-style” budget; the T-U write-up observes the panel “eagerly” signed off on it.

The more interesting stories regarding this budget process, of course, won’t be told on record.

There are those who say Finance Chair Garrett Dennis overplayed his hand throughout the process, which included the most powerful people in the city sitting around Council Chambers all day waiting, as Council asked ancillary questions to the budget itself.

And there are those who say that Curry’s chief lieutenant, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, was overexposed in the process and disrespected by committee members.

Council is on its “fifth week” break this week, and it will be worth watching to see if the post-budget autumn is less fractious than this summer, characterized from start to finish by internecine warfare in the building.

Danny Becton resumes pension savings push

The bill is back — with public notice meetings this week presaging a more emphatic push for Councilman Becton’s bill (2017-348), which the mayor’s office opposed.

That bill would require that 15 percent of all general fund money beyond the baseline budget go toward defraying the city’s $3.2B unfunded actuarial liability on pension.

Can Danny Becton score a win on Lenny Curry this time around?

In June, even as Becton held a public notice meeting with Council colleagues to push the bill, the Southside Republican was already crossways with the mayor’s office on this measure — though he seemed to be the last to know.

Becton said the mayor’s office had a “very favorable” read on the bill; Curry diverged.

“I don’t know where he got that from,” the mayor said.

The bill did not clear Council — rather, it was pulled back by Becton, who reserved the right to bring the bill back at the right moment.

The time apparently is now: public notice meetings this week seem to be laying the groundwork for another push from Becton, a maverick Republican who doesn’t seem too worried about what his mayor thinks about his proposals.

Duval Schools to sue state over ‘Schools of Hope’

A rainy Monday morning saw the often fractious Duval County School Board move forward in a lawsuit against the state of Florida.

Duval Schools’ decision to sue may lead to unforeseen consequences in Tallahassee.

At issue: HB 7069, the “Schools of Hope” bill, which would divert capital dollars to charter schools from local schools.

Multiple urban districts — Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach — are already in the mix on a joint lawsuit encompassing nine counties and counting.

The Duval County School Board moved toward initiating litigation, with a primary allocation of $25,000 toward the $400,000 estimated costs of the action.

The motion passed 4-2, with board members Scott Shine and Ashley Smith-Juarez in opposition, and 7th board member Cheryl Grymes absent.

Jax Bar Association ‘rethinking everything’

Seismic change awaits the Jacksonville Bar Association, and bringing it will be Board President Tad Delegal and Jim Bailey, the former Jax Daily Record publisher who will be leading the movement for change.

JBA will be “rethinking everything,” Delegal said.

Big changes await the Jacksonville Bar.

The revamp includes attention to the following: “making more benefits and services available to the more than 2,000 association members; expanding avenues of communication, including redesigning the website,, and social media; and improving the organization’s engagement with the legal community.”

Four named to Clay County Development Authority

Gov. Scott added four new people to the Clay County Development Authority this week.

The first: Keith R. Ward, who runs an Orange Park construction company. He will serve until 2021. Likewise on board until 2021: a federal law enforcement officer from Green Cove Springs named Bruce Butler. And Middleburg’s Tom Morris, the executive director of Clay County Utility Authority.

Filling a vacant seat: Amy Wells, a staffing company owner in Green Cove. She will serve until July 1, 2019.

Renner, Hutson seek JLAC mosquito control district audit

Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Paul Renner teamed up last week, requesting a Joint Legislative Auditing Committee audit of the Flagler County Mosquito Control District.

Running a $1.1M deficit, perhaps the helipad wasn’t the right move for Flagler.

“Flagler County’s Mosquito Control District recently reported a budget deficit of $1,100,000.00. The district’s total budget is $1,800,000.00, making this deficit very substantial and the subject of significant concern to county taxpayers.  The district incurred this deficit while spending $2,100,000.00 to construct a new facility for its fourteen employees, a facility that includes an adjacent helipad,” legislators write.

Apparently, there is a trend of excess spending on these facilities — just last year, St. Johns County had its own version of this situation.

Jacksonville Housing Authority Entrepreneur Fair

Startup entrepreneurs received free advice and guidance this week during an event hosted by the Jacksonville Housing Authority, the Small Business Development Center and the University of North Florida.

A free entrepreneurship and employment fair was available for residents of the Jacksonville’s family self-sufficiency program; it was held Tuesday at the Brentwood Community Center.

Advice was available from experienced entrepreneurs to residents of the Jacksonville family self-sufficiency program looking to start their own businesses.

Event organizer Alyce Bacon, an administrative assistant for JHA, told the Florida Times-Union that there were plenty of jobs experts on hand, as well as entrepreneurs who have been successful in starting their own businesses; they were all there to help underprivileged people without access to either the information or money to start their own small company.

“We’re bringing in entrepreneurs to help them become entrepreneurs,” Bacon said. “We’re doing it with the employment fair because not everyone wants to work for somebody.”

UNF Nursing awarded White Coat Ceremony funds

University of North Florida’s School of Nursing is one of 50 schools nationwide selected by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to receive funding to host White Coat Ceremonies, which emphasizes the importance of humanistic patient care.

UNF is one of two universities in Florida to receive a $1,000 grant for White Coat Ceremonies this year. Launched in 2013 as a collaboration between APGF and AACN, the award has enabled 260 nursing schools in 48 states to offer ceremonies designed to instill a commitment to providing compassionate care in the next generation of registered nurses.

The White Coat Ceremony helps instill a sense of compassionate care in the next generation of nurses.

“We’re honored that the School of Nursing was selected to receive funding to support the White Coat Ceremony, which symbolizes the commitment to providing compassionate care to the patients which we serve,” said Dr. Li Loriz, director of UNF’s School of Nursing. “We’re excited to have the students cite the oath to prepare competent, caring professionals.”

In nursing, a White Coat Ceremony typically consists of the recitation of an oath, an address by an eminent role model, and a reception for students and invited guests. Students also are given a specially designed pin that serves as a visual reminder of their oath and commitment to providing high-quality care.

Jacksonville Zoo rehabilitates manatees at nation’s newest Critical Care Center

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, home to America’s newest Manatee Critical Care Center, received two young sea cows from SeaWorld Orlando. Both manatees need a little more human care before Florida Fish & Wildlife considers them ready for release later this year.

Cassie and Buckeye, orphaned in August and September 2015 respectively, are the Zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center’s inaugural manatees Female Cassie and male Buckeye were both rescued by members of FWC and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Marine Mammal Response Team. Both were transported to SeaWorld Orlando where they received careful care and bottle feeding. At the time of rescue, Cassie weighed only 66 pounds. She is now thriving at 775 pounds. Buckeye was 63 pounds when rescued, he now weighs 625 pounds. Fully grown, manatees can reach nearly a ton.

Photo credit: Bob Self, The Florida Times-Union

Both manatees will remain at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Manatee Critical Care Center, under the watch of the Zoo’s Animal Health specialists, for critical weight gain and continued monitoring until they are determined to be ready to be released.

The Manatee Critical Care Center was completed earlier this year. The center features two large tanks, one outfitted with a lift-floor for safer, more effective medical treatment, and the other has a window for guest viewing.

Armada owner: Watch soccer, help hurricane victims

Jacksonville Armada fans have a unique opportunity to enjoy soccer and help out those Texans facing unimaginable struggles from Hurricane Harvey, reports First Coast News.

Jacksonville Armada owner Robert Palmer is donating all ticket proceeds to the relief effort — and he challenges others in the business community to do likewise.

“I challenge other business owners to take similar action to support Texas,” Palmer wrote. “As Floridians, we know too well, the devastation a hurricane (and flooding) of this magnitude can cause.”

Harvey’s unprecedented flooding, most of it after the storm was no longer a hurricane, is a stark reminder — as if we needed one — of the havoc tropical weather wreaks.

Blake hat-trick earns Armada first victory of the fall

The Jacksonville Armada FC gained a vital three points in Indianapolis Saturday night defeating Indy Eleven 3-2. Jack Blake earned the first hat-trick in history for the club and the first win of the Robert Palmer era. Palmer assumed control of the club last month buying the Armada FC from NASL.  For his efforts, Blake was named NASL Player of the Week.

“Tonight’s win means three important points. Against a very good team at a traditionally, very hard place to play,” said Armada head coach Mark Lowry.

Both teams pressured each other hard right out of the gate. Indy Eleven had the first opportunity of the match nine minutes in by Ben Speas, but Armada Goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell was there with the save.

Indy’s Éamon Zayed then fired multiple shots toward the net, but each went over or was deflected by Patterson-Sewell.

The Armada broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. Bryam Rebellón sent a nice cross over to Jack Blake in front of the box who fired a shot past two Indy defenders and goalkeeper Jon Busch.

David Goldsmith tried to equalize the match with a shot in the 31st minute. After receiving the ball from Ben Speas, he fired it right into the hands of Patterson-Sewell. Blake stepped up for a free kick in the 40th minute and his shot went into the upper corner of the net to double the lead for the Armada FC.

The halftime whistle blew with Jacksonville in the lead.

Armada FC is in high spirits after an Indianapolis victory, training again before another road trip to New York.

Momentum was definitely on the Armada’s side going into the second half. Several close chances were taken, but it was not until the 62nd minute when Blake found the back of the net again. He capitalized on another free kick to bring the score to 3-0.

The goal marked the first hat-trick for both Blake and the Armada.

“Jack deserves a lot of praise,” said Lowry. “Three goals is always an accomplishment. He needs to continue to develop and learn and I am sure there will be many more moments like this for him.”

Indy was quick with an answer. Justin Braun found Speas, who fired a shot into the net to put the Eleven on the board.

Braun went down due to an injury on the field, causing a delay in the match around the 69th minute. He left the field, leaving Indy Eleven with only 10 men after using all three substitutions earlier in the game.

Eight minutes of stoppage time were added to the clock and tired legs were pushed harder. Despite being down a man, Indy Eleven did not go down without a fight.

Two minutes of stoppage time in, Goldsmith found the end of a cross by Speas and headed it into the net. Indy added another goal to the board, but the final whistle blew with the Armada ahead by one.

“The guys deserve to enjoy this,” said Lowry. “This is a month of very hard work. A month of bad luck and bad bounces. Now we need to kick on and progress because there are a lot of games left and points to be won.”

Jacksonville will next travel to New York to take on defending NASL Champions, the Cosmos, on Sunday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m.


Democrats hit Congressional Republicans on health care on Facebook

Washington Democrats have begun an early attack on Republican members of Congress who voted for the American Health Care Act, with a Facebook ad campaigning targeting a those in a handful in relatively competitive districts, including five in Florida.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week is launching Facebook ads against U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, Brian Mast of Palm City, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.

As promised by Democrats during this year’s health care fights, the ads go after Republicans on their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Facebook ads are targeting older adults with comments about the so-called “age tax” written into the House Republican’s health care bill, which would have allowed insurance agencies to charge higher premiums to older adults. The House passed House Resolution 1628 by a 217-213 vote, but the Senate killed it.

The campaign marks a continuation of the “early start” the DCCC had pledged in this election cycle, seeking to soften up potentially vulnerable Republicans more than a year before the 2018 election. DCCC has drawn up a list of 80 Republican members of Congress nationally for the early campaign, including six in Florida, though one of them, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, has decided to retire. [And she voted against HR 1628.]

The ad, citing the DCCC as the sponsor, declares in Facebook post text, “The Republicans’ health care bill would add an age tax to older Americans, allowing them to be charged five times more than younger people. And [name of the targeted Republican] supported it.” The ad includes a picture of an older woman in a hospital bed, being comforted by her husband, with meme text declaring “[name of targeted Republican] & Speaker Ryan: Hands off our health care.”

“With Republicans in control of Congress, our healthcare is constantly at risk,” DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a written statement. “From voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times, to their heartless repeal bill, it’s clear that kicking millions of Americans off their health insurance, increasing costs, slapping an age tax on older Americans and destroying protections for those with pre-existing conditions is the House Republican game plan. This digital ad campaign will educate voters in our battlefield about the morally bankrupt age tax and remind people what is at stake in the midterms.”


Nancy Soderberg pans Ron DeSantis’ attempt to kill investigation of Pres. Trump

While much of the smart money asserts that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis won’t run for re-election in North Florida’s 6th Congressional District, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg is running regardless — and Tuesday saw her issue a strong statement regarding the incumbent’s attempt to kill Robert Mueller‘s investigation of President Donald Trump.

“In an outrageous move,” Soderberg asserts, “Congressman DeSantis has filed a motion to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.”

“While DeSantis’ willingness to play politics with the integrity of our elections is nothing new, this move could set a dangerous partisan precedent and seriously undermine the future credibility of American elections,” Soderberg adds.

The “decision to inject partisanship into this investigation hurts [DeSantis’] credibility and does a disservice to our community and the American people. We have a right to know the facts,” Soderberg adds.

“As a former Deputy National Security Advisor, I know firsthand how dangerous DeSantis’ attempt to shut down this investigation is. If there was collusion between Russia and anyone in our government, it must be brought into the light,” Soderberg concludes.

Soderberg’s statement follows after DeSantis filed an amendment to a spending bill that would cut off funds for the Mueller investigation 180 days after the bill became law.

While it is by no means certain that the amendment will clear the bill in its final, bicameral form, DeSantis’ amendment is widely seen as an attempt to curry favor with President Trump, whose backing will be key in any statewide primary.

Bill Nelson and Rick Scott virtually tied, new poll shows

A new poll of the likely 2018 U.S. Senate race finds Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and likely challenger Gov. Rick Scott virtually tied.

The Florida Atlantic University poll, scheduled for release Tuesday, shows Nelson with 42 percent support compared to 40 percent for Scott.

“It is very early with many undecided voters,” wrote FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner.

The poll also took stock of the race to replace Scott as governor and found nearly half the voters for both parties – 47 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans – had not yet decided who they would support during primary season.

Republicans picked Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with 27 percent support, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 10 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 percent and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala at 2 percent.

Only Putnam and Latvala have launched campaigns.

Democrats’ top pick is John Morgan, who picked up 19 percent support despite not being in the race, followed by former Congresswoman Gwen Graham at 14 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9 percent, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 8 percent and Orlando Businessman Chris King at 4 percent.

Levine, like Morgan, has hinted at a run, but has not yet entered the race. He has also played around with the idea of running as an independent in 2018.

The biggest dividing line between voters is how the Sunshine State should handle guns.

Over half of Democrats, 54 percent, said the state should outlaw guns in public places, while 55 percent of Republicans hold the opposite view.

About a fifth of Republicans are in favor of “open carry” gun laws, so long as a person is licensed, while only 16 percent of independent voters and 9 percent of Democrats felt the same way.

Just 8 percent of respondents said residents should be able to openly carry firearms without a license.

The survey was conducted by the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative and took in 800 responses from registered voters through the internet and robocalls. It has a margin of error of 4 percent, while the polling questions on the Democratic and Republican primaries have a margin of error of 7 percent, due to smaller sample sizes.

Ron DeSantis seeks to ice Robert Mueller investigation of President Trump

Rep. Ron DeSantis, ahead of what many are expecting to be entry into the 2018 Florida Governor’s race, is looking to help out President Donald Trump — by putting a time limit onto Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller‘s investigation into the Trump campaign.

The DeSantis amendment: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to fund activities pursuant to Department of Justice order 3915-2017, dated May 17, 2017 and relating to the appointment of a special counsel, later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, or for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015.”

POLITICO notes this is one of hundreds of amendments to an omnibus spending bill to be taken up after recess, and there is no guarantee this makes it through committees into the bill at large.

As well, there is no guarantee that such a measure survives the Senate, where relationships have been frayed between President Trump and Republicans of various ideological stripes.

DeSantis, a Republican in his second term whose district runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has yet to file for re-election.

Paulson’s principles: Money, money, money!

It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.

This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.

Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.

Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.

Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).

Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.

Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.

Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.

Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.

Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.

It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.

There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I

Adam Putnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit.

The Florida agriculture commissioner and former state lawmaker and former U.S. Congressman running for governor spun his theme of Florida being the greatest state, where everyone wants to visit or live, while pressing conservatism, urging that Florida must be “the launching pad of the American dream,” and warning of liberal uprisings, with “The left is coming for us!”

And, most of all, the candidate turned on his folksy side, reminded everyone he’s a fifth-generation Floridian with a ranch outside of Bartow, and strove to connect with Republicans in too-often-ignored rural areas and small towns from the Keys to the western panhandle.

Putnam, alone in the Republican race for governor until Friday, now has serious competition for the Republican primary nomination. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater filed to run Friday and addressed the Republican convention Friday night. Potential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach was to address the crowd Saturday afternoon. House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes also is a real prospect.

On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate.

He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business.

“I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”

From there, he appeared to respond to Latvala’s comments Friday night, when the House Appropriations Committee chairman lashed out at other candidates, whom he didn’t name, whom he accused of forgetting the needs of the Republican Party of Florida while they pursued their own careers, and of raising money for their own causes, without contributing to the party.

“We’re going to bring this state together. And this party is a part of that. It’s an integral part of that,” Putnam said to the party loyalists at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. “It’s not us against them. It’s not Bradford versus Highlands. It’s not the party versus the electeds. You have seen me at your meetings and in your Lincoln Days…. I can’t succeed as a governor if we don’t succeed as a party.”


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