Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 7 of 38 - Florida Politics

In response to new district map, Ron DeSantis moves to Flagler County

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports Rep. Ron DeSantis has moved to Flagler County, thus blunting criticism from primary opponents that he did not live in the recently reconfigured Congressional District 6.

DeSantis, who had previously lived in Ponte Vedra in northeastern St. Johns County, saw the parameters of his district change this year, cutting out the northern part of St. Johns County in favor of expanding toward southern Volusia and Lake County.

“He has spent the past four years representing these communities in Flagler and Volusia counties. He think it’s important he move into the district he represents,” campaign manager Brad Herold told the News-Journal.

This move theoretically will blunt some of the more pointed rhetoric used by State Rep. Fred Costello, a former Ormond Beach mayor who has noted he has lived in the district for 39 years, describing the incumbent as “a candidate who is not a part of our community and has already demonstrated he is more interested in raising his national profile as a career politician in preparation for higher office than serving his constituents as their congressman.”

DeSantis’ wife, Casey Black DeSantis, has been an anchor and host on Jacksonville television for some time, meanwhile, and one expects that this move will impact her professional trajectory.

Ron DeSantis scores NRA endorsement in re-election bid

On Friday, Rep. Ron DeSantis announced he had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his re-election bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“I’m proud to be recognized as a strong defender of the rights of law-abiding citizens and appreciate the support of the NRA for my campaign,” said DeSantis. “I will continue to stand with Florida’s gun owners and sportsmen and to defend our constitutional rights.”

DeSantis was given an A rating by the NRA, which means the congressman is “a candidate who has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues.”

However, DeSantis is not the only Republican in the race to score an A; State Rep. Fred Costello got the same rating.

G.G. Galloway got no rating from the gun group.

Straight, white, male dynasties falling in Central Florida congressional districts

This year, Central Florida voters have an unprecedented diversity of candidates to pick from for the region’s five congressional districts, and at least one, probably two, and possibly more heterosexual-white-male dynasties will fall.

Straight, white, male members of Congress have always held the congressional seats in Florida’s 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Congressional Districts. But that racial-ethnic-gender-sexual-orientation dynasty is certain to change in at least one of those districts, highly likely to change in at least one other, and at least remotely possible to change in any of the five.

In those congressional races that include parts of the Orlando market, white, heterosexual men are a distinct minority of the 23 Republican or Democratic candidates who qualified last month for the Aug. 30 primary. Black, Latino, Asian or women candidates have qualified to run in all five districts.

Ten candidates are women. Three are African-Americans. Two are Vietnamese Americans. Two are Puerto Ricans. One is Brazilian-American. Two are openly gay, which in itself breaks new ground, twice over, for Central Florida.

“Some of that is because of the changes in the district, because of the Fair Districts Amendment. This is creating a number of new opportunities where incumbents are not necessarily as entrenched as they normally would be,’ said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “Also, you have seen, particularly in 9 and 10, the creation of Democratic districts, where gay candidates, or people of color, or women, particularly progressive women, are expected to do better. If they can win the primary, they have a good chance of winning the election.”

It’s not as if Central Florida voters have not had female or minority representation. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has represented Florida’s 5th Congressional district for the 22 years it stretched from Jacksonville’s black neighborhoods to Orlando’s. But redistricting has pushed that area out of the Orlando market, and brought CD 6 back into the Central Florida market. Also, Florida’s 24th Congressional District once stuck a leg into Central Florida, and Republican U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams and then-Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, both women, were elected to one term each from the Orlando area. But it’s long gone.

— CD 10, redrawn for this year to replace CD 5 as the likely minority-representation district for Central Florida, is guaranteed not to have a straight, white man in Congress next year, since none is running.

The district, which covers west Orange County and west and central Orlando, now has a majority of voters who are black or Latino, and Orlando’s largest LGBT communities. It’s also heavily Democratic now, so four Democrats are fighting for it.

Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who has the money, endorsements, campaign structure, resume, and personality to be the front-runner; and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who has the proven record of winning elections and a strong record for voters there, both are black women. Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe is a white man, but he could be the first openly gay congressman from Florida if elected, and he has more campaign money than Demings and at least as many political connections. Lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy is a Brazilian-American woman.

The Republican nominee, Thuy Lowe, is a Vietnamese-American woman.

— In CD 9, covering south-central Orange County, Osceola County and eastern Polk County, only Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky is a straight, white man. His Republican rival, Kissimmee Vice Mayor Wanda Rentas, is a Puerto Rican woman in a district that has a large Puerto Rican population.

But CD 9 also has a heavy Democratic lean, so, as in CD 10, the winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored to win in November.

The Democrats fighting for the nomination include state Sen. Darren Soto, who [along with Rentas] wants to be the first Puerto Rican congressman from Florida, and three white women, Susannah Randolph, Valleri Crabtree, and Dena Grayson. Crabtree, like Poe, could become Florida’s first openly gay member of Congress.

— In CD 8, straight, white, male incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey may have little to worry about seeking re-election in a district that is solidly Republican, covering east Orange County and all of Brevard and Indian River counties. Democrat Corry Westbrook, a white woman, may be his toughest opponent yet.

— The same may be true in CD 7, which covers north-central Orange and Seminole County. Straight, white, male U.S. Rep. John Mica may be heavily favored, first against his primary opponent, straight, white, male Mark Busch, and then in the general election. But national Democrats are investing heavily in Democratic nominee Stephanie Murphy, a Vietnamese-American woman, in a district they see trending their way.

— The majority of the ten straight, white, male congressional candidates running in Central Florida this year — six of them — are found in CD 6.

That district traditionally had been a Jacksonville-oriented, First Coast district, but was redrawn for this year to stretch through Volusia County into Lake County, giving it more voters in Central Florida than on the First Coast.

Even there, with incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and five other straight, white males running, Democrat Dwayne Taylor, a former Daytona Beach vice mayor who is African-American, may offer a serious challenge.

The other Republican candidates are state Rep. Fred Costello and businessman G.G. Galloway, who both are convinced the redrawn, Volusia County-centric district will eliminate much of DeSantis’s advantages of incumbency, money, and endorsements. The other Democrats are Bill McCullough, Jay McGovern, and George Pappas.

In Jacksonville, Marco Rubio reiterates support for Donald Trump

Saturday afternoon saw Sen. Marco Rubio hosting a town hall on Jacksonville’s Southbank as part of a two-day swing through the city that included a fundraising event.

The turnout? Maybe 150 people. But for Rubio, this tour of the last week was a re-introduction to the grassroots as a U.S. Senate incumbent, rather than a presidential candidate, and a relaxed Rubio took the stage after an introduction from Duval GOP Chair Cindy Graves and a prayer from Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby.

As one might expect, he also was asked to — and did  — vow to support GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Despite not agreeing with Trump on everything, Rubio said he disagrees with Hillary Clinton on everything, and beyond that, there are only two viable candidates on the ballot.

As part of making that case, he talked foreign policy and other issues, while reminding the grassroots he was one of them.


Rubio said he was at peace with how the presidential primary election went, before serving up a variety of mainstream conservative policy positions familiar to those who have followed him in national office and in the presidential race.

“That was not what the voters chose. That was not God’s plan for our lives.,” he said.

Then, Rubio had a chance to “reconsider why he got into public service to begin with,” and realized that his commitment to party allowed him to make a difference.

If the GOP loses the Senate?

Chuck Schumer becames majority leader of the Senate.”

This would reap a harvest on the Supreme Court, Rubio said, with a Democratic president nominating “someone who believes it is their job to rewrite the Constitution.”

Rubio believes the next president could appoint up to three Supreme Court justices, which could erode “the rights we hold dear.”

“Ten years from now, 20 years from now,” Rubio said, “there are only two possible outcomes.”

One? “To leave our kids better off than ourselves.”

The other? “History will say we are the first Americans in history to leave our children worse off than ourselves.”

Rubio delivered a traditional small-government, localist Republican message, including “we don’t even need a federal Department of Education,” and qualms about an overly expansive federal government “doing more harm than good.”

Still, there are things the government could do more of, such as military spending for better, newer equipment, a new F-35 program, and “an aircraft carrier stationed here at Mayport.”

The “peace through strength” message Ronald Reagan delivered in the 1980s was on full display.

As well, Rubio noted he had just had an “honest conversation with law enforcement about what’s happening,” saying “nothing justifies the irresponsible rhetoric in the public domain on this issue.”

Rubio, who famously bought a gun last Christmas Eve, restated his dedication to the Second Amendment, and “not just for hunting,” but for self-defense and “sport shooting.”

“You do have a right to protect yourself and your family,” Rubio said.

“These are the challenges we face, and this is why I decided to run for re-election,” Rubio said.


 Then the questions.

One: thoughts on the Thursday night speech of Donald Trump, with a grade requested from A to F.

“I don’t know if I want to grade the speech,” Rubio said. “I don’t agree with Donald on everything. I disagree with Hillary on everything.”

Rubio then pivoted back to the speech, addressing concerns that “no one is fighting for them.”

“It also spoke to the insecurity in this country,” Rubio said, including economic and national security insecurity.

“And we have national leaders saying to us that we’ve never been safer? We’ve never been better? There are people in this country … who have been running on a treadmill for 10 years,” Rubio said.

Rubio then went on to balance conservative ideals with “realistic expectations of what can get done,” given the “system that deliberately made it hard for the federal government to pass laws quickly because they wanted the power in the states.”

A pressure the founders never anticipated? The “bureaucracy” and “bringing the bureaucratic state under control.”

Rubio was asked to stand by Trump then, and he did, saying there are “only two people on the ballot with a chance to win.”

To that, he got applause.


Rubio reiterated policy staples, including his hard line on Cuba normalization policy, saying that immigrants exploit “wet-foot, dry-foot” by injuring themselves, getting picked up by the Coast Guard, and dropped off at hospitals, where they can stay.

The president gave away the store, Rubio said, and “this deal is a one-sided deal that all it’s done is empower them.”

Since the opening with Cuba, Rubio said, “human rights in Cuba have gotten worse, not better.”

This is part of an “abysmal” record of foreign policy, Rubio added, including the “reset with Russia” and “the deal with Iran.”

“For four years of that,” Rubio added, “Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.”


Rubio also discussed Turkey and his “concerns” with Erdogan and the more Islamicist direction he’s taken, “which has had an impact on a lot of things, including our relationship with Israel.”

The coup? “An opportunity to grab more power for himself,” another authoritarian play that “jihadists will takes advantage of” by appealing to disenfranchised “disaffected young people.”

“I worry about that happening in Turkey,” Rubio said, while adding our military dependence on our NATO partner is an issue to consider “for the next president.”

“I am very concerned that if Erdogan uses this attempted coup as an opportunity to become more authoritarian … that Turkey will become a prime space for terrorist recruitment.”


The last question came back to mass shootings: specifically, Orlando Pulse.

The questioner wanted “common-sense gun reform that addresses the mentally ill.”

Rubio noted the “stigma” related to mental illness, to be remedied with “more treatment options” and “options for that information to be fed into the existing system.”

“This individual … was also a subscriber to radical Islam … this was a terrorist attack,” Rubio said.

“Let me tell you something about the Muslim community. There were two FBI investigations into this guy,” and one of them was initiated by the Muslim community.

“This guy was born and raised in this country … raised in Florida … benefited from all this greatness in this country … and decided to kill 49 people.”


Rubio took press questions after the event, and there were no message inconsistencies in those answers.

Asked again about Trump’s convention speech, Rubio noted that was the “message he won the primary on,” and the convention itself has “got to be better than the Democrats’,” given the DNC “under Debbie Wasserman Schultz … actually questioning Bernie Sanders’ faith” during the campaign.

Given the amount of delegates on hand in support of Sanders, Rubio anticipated an interesting time next week in Philadelphia.

Rubio faced a question about Ted Cruz also, who pointedly deferred endorsement of Trump Wednesday evening.

“Everyone makes their own decision,” Rubio said, but it’s “time to come together as a party.”

Meanwhile, regarding Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, Rubio was complimentary.

“I’ve worked with Tim a lot. I like him. He’s a friend. And I look forward to working with him in the Senate, because Hillary Clinton is going to lose,” Rubio said.

From there, questions went to more local matters, including the primary challenge Rubio faces from Carlos Beruff.

Would there be any debates?

“I just got into the race four weeks ago,” Rubio said, and “I’m not sure any are scheduled.”

The final question worth noting: would Rubio endorse in the 4th Congressional District race?

Short answer: no.

“I usually don’t get involved in primaries. I’ve worked with John Rutherford; I admire him,” Rubio said, noting he also knows Hans Tanzler, who is emerging as the alternative to Rutherford in that race.

However, Rubio added, he is going to endorse Ron DeSantis in Congressional District 6.


The crowd was a fraction of the large draws Rubio had in this region ahead of the March presidential preference primary, but those in attendance left happy with what they heard. With operatives from most other Senate campaigns either working for Rubio directly or supporting him tacitly, it’s clear the party will unify behind him in short order, with the pre-March rhetoric an increasingly distant memory.

Endorsement watch: NRA, Fraternal Order of Police, Eagle Forum PAC and others issue endorsements

There are just a few weeks until the election, and organizations across the state are rolling out endorsements for state and federal candidates.

Several organizations — including the National Rifle Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and the Eagle Forum PAC — issued endorsements.

The American Conservative Union (ACU) has thrown its support behind Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The conservative organization announced this week it was endorsing DeSantis in his re-election bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis has quickly shown great leadership in advancing conservative principles,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “DeSantis’ ACU rating of 100 percent for his three years in Congress reflects a remarkably consistent commitment to conservative principles on a wide range issues, whether economic, cultural, or issues of national security.”

DeSantis faces Fred Costello and G.G. Galloway in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Family Research Council has thrown its support behind Dan Bongino.

The organization announced this week it was endorsing Bongino in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The organization cited his Secret Service background, and said it was impressed with the campaign’s decision to stress “the need for passionate and direct action” to threats on to America’s liberty and freedom.

“The Family Research Council is an iconic conservative organization that traces its history directly to President Reagan,” said Bongino. “I am glad they are in this fight with me to ensure a strong, anti-establishment Republican wins the GOP primary.”

Bongino faces Chauncey Goss and Francis Rooney in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

That National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and Unified Sportsman of Florida has thrown its support behind Lizbeth Benacquisto.

The organizations announced this week they were endorsing Benacquisto in her Senate District 27 race.

“We sincerely appreciate your support of Second Amendment issues as a member of the Florida Senate,” said Marion Hammer, executive director of Unified Sportsman of Florida and past president of the National Rifle Association. “Your support of Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues and your pro-sportsman, pro-Second Amendment, pro-freedom record have earned you our endorsement and our appreciation.”

Benacquisto faces Republican Jason Maughan in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Eagle Forum PAC has thrown its support behind Matt Hudson.

The organization announced this week it was endorsing Hudson in his Senate District 28 bid.

“We are proud to lend our support to Rep. Matt Hudson as he seeks to represent the people of Southwest Florida in the Florida Senate,” said Phyllis Schlafly, chairman of the Eagle Forum PAC. “As a pro-life, conservative leader, Matt has showed us that he is dedicated to ensuring Florida’s traditional values remain intact in our state government, in our local communities and amongst Florida families, and we know that he will continue to represent these conservative principles in the Senate.”

Hudson said he was honored to receive the organization’s endorsement.

“As a father and grandfather, I understand the importance of teaching and preserving pro-life, conservative values, and believe that we should uphold them within our state government,” said Hudson in a statement. “I’ve done this since Day 1 while in the Florida House and I promise to do the same if chosen to serve our Southwest Florida community in the Senate.”

Hudson faces Kathleen Passidomo in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Fraternal Order of Police has thrown its support behind Ken Keechl.

The organization announced this week it was endorsing Keechl in his House District 93 bid.

“We are proud to endorse a candidate who will work with our members to ensure public safety is a top priority in Tallahassee,” said George W. Woolley, the director of the Fraternal Order of Police District 5. “Together, I am confident that we can better the working conditions of our law enforcement professionals and make sure they have the resources they need to continue to protect and serve our residents.”

Keechl said he was grateful to receive the endorsement and looks forward to working with the organization.

“I feel very fortunate to work closely with their trusted organization to build stronger relationships between our officers and residents and leaders in our local communities, and to provide much-needed resources to those that put their lives on the line to protect us every day,” he said.

Keechl faces Doug Oberman in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Endorsement watch: National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida, National Federation of Independent Business and others issue endorsements

There are just a few weeks until the election, and organizations across the state are rolling out endorsements for state and federal candidates.

Several organizations — including the National Women’s Political Caucus, Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Federation of Independent Business — issued endorsements.

The National Federation of Independent Business has thrown its support behind Marco Rubio.

The national organization announced it had endorsed Rubio in his re-election bid. In a statement, Bill Herrle, the executive director of NFIB/Florida, said Rubio has “proven that he understands what it takes to defend free enterprise and allow small business owners to thrive.”

“Small business owners are glad to see Senator Rubio running for re-election,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “In the Senate, he has worked to reduce crushing taxes and protect small business from red tape and regulations. We need him back in the Senate next year continuing to promote pro-growth economic policies.”

Rubio faces Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The National Federation of Independent Business announced it was backing Rep. Ron DeSantis in his re-election bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“Congressman DeSantis has been a strong voice for small business and deserves to be re-elected,” said NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin. “He stood with small business owners on every critical vote the NFIB has scored in this Congress. We need him back in the U.S. House next year continuing to promote legislation that reduces the tax and regulatory burdens on small businesses in Florida.”

Sen. Tom Cotton has thrown his support behind Francis Rooney.

The Arkansas Republican announced he was backing Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

“I know firsthand the importance of having strong leadership in Washington to protect America from threats against our freedom. Francis Rooney will never relent in protecting our great nation, and he has the same commitment I do to destroying our greatest national security threat — ISIS,” said Cotton. “I’ve never endorsed a candidate in a primary campaign before, but our world is changing, and we need leadership in Congress that is committed to defeating radical Islamic terrorism.”

The endorsement comes one week after Ambassador John Bolton threw his support behind Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See.

“Francis shares my view that the world is safer when America takes a firm stand on the international stage,” said Bolton in a statement. “I know he will work to ensure our enemies fear us and our allies know they can trust us, which is why I endorse his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Rooney faces Chauncey Goss and Dan Bongino in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Fraternal Order of Police District 5 has thrown its support behind Kathleen Passidomo.

The group announced it endorsed Passidomo in Senate District 28. The district is made up of FOP lodges in Broward, Collier and Hendry counties. The Fraternal Order of Police represents more than 20,000 active and retired law enforcement officers across Florida.

Passidomo faces Matt Hudson in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Dade County Police Benevolent Association has thrown its support behind Frank Artiles.

The organization announced it was endorsing Artiles in his bid for Senate District 40.

“The Dade County Police Benevolent Association is proud to inform you of its endorsement of your candidacy,” said John Rivera, president of Dade County PBA, in their endorsement. “We feel that you will be one of the very best, and we wish you a successful campaign.”

Artiles said he appreciated the support of the organization.

“Our police officers are the first line of defense in our communities, and I am proud to announce that Dade County PBA has endorsed my candidacy for state Senate,” he said. “Many of my fellow Marines currently serve as first responders, and I will always support my brothers and sisters in blue.”

Artiles will face the winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary in November.

Rep. Ted Yoho has thrown his support behind Chuck Clemons.

First elected to Florida’s 3rd Congressional District in 2012, Yoho announced he was backing Clemons in House District 21.

“There is no question that Chuck Clemons will be an outstanding conservative in the Florida House,” said Yoho. “He’s got deep roots in our community and a long record of public service that have prepared him to effectively represent us in Tallahassee. I plan to vote for him, and I look forward to having such a strong leader for our area in Tallahassee.”

House District 21 includes Alachua, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, which are part of Yoho’s district. Clemons said he was honored to have Yoho’s support.

“I share his commitment to the principles of liberty and limited government, and I look forward to working with him as we both serve the residents of North Central Florida,” said Clemons.

Clemons faces Republicans Wenda Lewis and Tim Rogers in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida is throwing support behind Ken Keechl.

The organization announced it was recommending Keechl in his House District 93 bid.

“We are very pleased to offer Ken Keechl our highest recommendation of his race for state representative,” said Christina Disbrow, chairwoman of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida. We are proud to see a male candidate so supportive toward increasing the participation of women in the political field. We look forward to working with him toward victory.”

Keechl said he appreciates the organization’s support.

“It is crucial that we fight for equal opportunities for all women,” he said. “As a legislator, my priorities will be to achieve equal pay for equal work, greater access to affordable reproductive health care, and paid family leave. I’m excited to stand with the women’s political caucus in this battle to flip State House District 93.”

Keechl faces Doug Oberman in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

National Federation of Independent Business backs Ron DeSantis for re-election

Florida’s 6th Congressional District Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis got another key endorsement for re-election Monday, as the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) fell in behind the incumbent, citing his “strong record of supporting legislation that would help small businesses.”

“Congressman DeSantis has been a strong voice for small business and deserves to be re-elected,” said NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin. “He stood with small business owners on every critical vote the NFIB has scored in this Congress. We need him back in the U.S. House next year continuing to promote legislation that reduces the tax and regulatory burdens on small businesses in Florida.”

“At a time in which millions of Americans have dropped out of the workforce, debt is mounting, and the economy is sluggish, policies aiming to facilitate economic growth are as essential as they are overdue,” said Congressman DeSantis. “Small business growth and vitality are essential to strengthening the economy. We need to liberate small businesses from an expanding bureaucracy, excessive red tape, and a complex tax code that all make it more difficult to succeed. That’s why I’m proud to have the support of NFIB, America’s leading small business association.”

DeSantis has been a fundraising juggernaut, bringing in almost half a million dollars during the second quarter of 2016, with momentum not even slowing down as he’s moved from a run for Senate to a run for re-election.

Ron DeSantis takes in $493K in latest filing period for re-election bid

Rep. Ron DeSantis was the fundraising king of the Senate race before he stepped aside for Marco Rubio, and the 6th Congressional District Republican showed another robust period of campaign finance in Q2 of 2016.

$486,096 of new money didn’t quite keep up with $558,873 of expenses, but at the end of the period, the incumbent DeSantis still has $3,147,670 cash on hand.

DeSantis, who has quickly garnered a national profile for his positions on national security issues, is well ahead of his competition for the NE Florida seat that extends from southern St. Johns County to the Daytona Beach area.

G.G. Galloway ended the filing period with $56,938 on hand.

Fred Costello, as of Saturday morning, did not post current numbers. At the end of March, he had $86,153 on hand, a number inflated by a $100,000 personal loan.

John Mica congressional hearing on Orlando’s lost federal anti-terrorism money aims some blame at Congress

Whose fault was it that Orlando did not qualify for federal funding to shore up anti-terrorism efforts the past few years? U.S. Rep. John Mica called a congressional hearing Friday to see, and several officials concluded it was at least partly because of Congress.

Mica was not entirely convinced and countered with several reasons why he is convinced the federal Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program under the Department of Homeland Security should have done more to provide funding to Orlando for law enforcement training and tactical equipment before the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub.

Mica, a Winter Park Republican, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, co-chaired the joint hearing of their two subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Friday.

The hearing included testimony from Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who both said they needed — but were denied — more federal money in the past several years for anti-terrorism training and equipment.

The Orlando area received $44.5 million of such funding through the Urban Area Security Initiative between 2002 and 2012. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security had ranked the City Beautiful’s needs for the money too low, and other cities got antiterrorism grants while Orlando did not. Mica, DeSantis, Demings, Mina and others have been adamant that Orlando’s risks as a terrorist threat — made real by the June 12 murder of 49 people and wounding of 53 others at the popular gay nightclub Pulse — were underrated by the department, costing it crucial training and equipment it could have used that day.

After all, Orange County is home not just to 1.3 million residents, but to 66.1 million tourists a year, daily doubling the county’s population and creating so-called “soft targets” all over the metropolitan area, Demings pointed out.

But Brian Kamioe, assistant administrator of grant programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which scores the rankings of top potential terrorism targets, testified legislation Congress passed for 2013 tied Homeland Security’s hands. Language put in the funding bill that year, and in most years since, explicitly limited the grants to only certain numbers of highest-ranking cities, and expressly forbade the department from making exceptions in cases, such as Orlando, that might have had other factors.

When asked what could be done about it, Kamioe responded that Congress could give the department more discretion on how to award the grants, mainly to allow the Homeland Security secretary to be able to override the numerical scores FEMA and intelligence agencies work up for the cities.

Demings and the fourth witness, Walter Purdy, president of the Terrorism Research Center, a Washington nonprofit, independent think tank, agreed with that, and Mina did not disagree.

“Some discretion should be given to the secretary to determine where that line is drawn,” Demings said.

“Maybe if the secretary of Homeland Security had more discretion, maybe some of those funds would be able to be allocated to maybe those tier-two cities and regions that need some of these things,” Purdy said.

Mica conceded “perhaps more could be done” to provide discretion, but he countered with his convictions that FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security were using faulty ranking formulas that needed to be updated.

Kamioe insisted the formulas accounted for Orlando’s tourists. But Mica said the weighting must somehow be flawed, declaring that clearly, the process failed. He also expressed outrage that as much as $1 billion in grants given some cities dating back as far as 2011 still hadn’t been spent yet. He added that if a city can’t spend its federal grant promptly, the money should be recirculated to other cities needing grants.

There also was a widespread concern from Mica, DeSantis, Mina, Demings and Purdy, that the nature of terrorism in the United States has changed to soft targets such as nightclubs, and that the Department of Homeland Security’s assessments must change as well.

“Somewhere … we are missing the mark,” Mica said. “We missed the mark dramatically in Orlando. Again, Mr. Purdy pointed out we’ve had San Bernardino, Boston, my community; they’re hitting soft targets.

“Somehow the threat assessment isn’t dealing with the reality of what they are doing to us. They’re coming at us in soft targets. We said we are a soft target. Look at the death toll list from Orlando. These people came from all over,” Mica continued.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.14.16 — Patrick Murphy on defense, again

Political maxim No. 459: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

Let’s go to Patrick Murphy and his campaign for Senate, shall we?

The Murphy camp is furiously shooting down a report by Alex Leary in the Tampa Bay Times published last night that said his congressional office sought to delay news about relief for businesses affected by the toxic algae crisis so he could announce it at a news conference today.

Leary reported that an exchange of emails between Murphy’s office and the Small Business Administration “gives the impression Murphy wanted to take credit for the relief.”

Murphy’s office is denying the report, with a spokesman saying, “Of course our office did not request for this program to be delayed. Anyone who reads the original email can see that we did not. The official emails that Republicans are distributing to press intentionally leave out the Small Business Administration’s email to our office on Monday morning, which suggests no impending announcement.”

Murphy’s Senate opponents pounced on the Leary report anyway, as you might imagine.

“Putting his own political fortunes in front of the needs of legitimate small business owners is stunningly shameless,” said Alan Grayson Senate campaign spokesman Michael Ceraso. “It’s also an abuse of his official power that needs to be immediately investigated.”

“Patrick Murphy should take full responsibility for this attempt to delay funds, resign his office immediately, and be fully investigated by the U.S. House Committee on Ethics for any other abuses of power,” said GOP Senate candidate Carlos Beruff. “These are the kind of Washington games that Floridians are sick of, and why the voters will clean house in Washington.”

This is another bad story in a series of bad weeks for Murphy and his chances of capturing the U.S. Senate this year.

Although his campaign team has forcefully refuted the allegations made by CBS 4 Miami reporter Jim DeFede that he exaggerated his resume and business experience in a two-part series last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running ads every day on cable news in Florida repeating those allegations, using material directly out of those reports.

And then there’s Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican’s decision to come back and run for re-election is proving to be a nightmare for the entire Democratic Party, as hopes of taking the seat away from the Republicans seem to be slipping away every day. A new Quinnipiac Poll released this morning shows Rubio leading both Murphy and Grayson by double digits.

Can the Jupiter representative right his ship? It ain’t looking great at this point.

In other news..

Charlie Crist got an earful from some of his potential constituents, but he wanted in on Wednesday, asking 20 local small business men and women to tell their issues and complaints he says he hopes to address if elected to Congress this fall.

Polk County Republican Congressman Dennis Ross is calling for AG Loretta Lynch’s head, saying she needs to go, after watching her decline to explain the DOJ’s legal basis for not indicting Hillary Clinton for her email mess at the State Department

Darryl Rouson and Ed Narain had the most concrete plans in Tuesday night’s NAACP-sponsored Senate District 19 debate.

John Bolton’s super PAC (and his mustache) is contributing funds to Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis‘ re-election campaigns.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons