Delegation for 4.20.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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Energetic Democratic voters joined by energetic donors

For months, talks of a Democratic blue wave in November continue to persist. While Election Day is still more than six months away, Democrats have reason to be optimistic, but Republicans have some reason to believe they can prevent a wipeout.

Generic ballot polls continue to show Democrats ahead, but not by margins they were enjoying a few months ago. The most recent Real Clear Politics average show them with a 5.5 percent advantage, down from double-digit leads a few months ago.

Pollsters continue to capture high levels of energy among Democrats, a dynamic enjoyed by Republicans in recent years. Equally important is the enthusiasm among Democratic donors.

Alan Grayson is a vivid example of heightened energy among Democrats.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Republican Governors Association (RGA) is doing quite well (see below), but backers of Democratic candidates are opening their wallets seeking to defeat enough Republicans to regain control of either the House, or Senate, or both.

POLITICO surveyed the most recent campaign finance reports and found Democratic challengers outraised 43 House GOP incumbents in the most recent quarter. Taking that a step further, 16 of those House incumbents have less cash on hand than their challengers.

There is no more vivid example than Florida’s 11th District, where Republican Daniel Webster has the least amount of cash on hand than any of those 16. Webster has $64,000 compared to Alan Grayson, who has $694,000. Grayson is raising money, but has not officially announced a challenge to Webster.

That doesn’t mean Webster, or any of the 16, are necessarily headed for defeat. President Donald Trump earned 65 percent of the 2016 vote in district 11, while the second “poorest” incumbent, Iowa’s Steve King, represents an area Trump carried with 60 percent.

North Carolina’s Robert Pittinger is $1 million behind his challenger, but aside from these three, the remainders are close regarding war chests. At the same time, those trailing in money representing districts won by Hillary Clinton have cause for concern.

“It’s inexcusable for an incumbent to be outraised,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the Political Action Committee aligned with retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan. “We’re not investing in any more Rick Saccones,” the Pennsylvania Republican who lost a special election to Conor Lamb last month.

The CLF is spreading $38 million worth of television ads in 20 districts this fall.

There are some bright spots for endangered Republicans. Among those is Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is in a district in which Clinton won big, but is trying to fend off a strong challenge from Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Curbelo has more than $2 million cash on hand, more than three times as much as his challenger.

A well-funded RNC is another tool in the effort to stave off a midterm disaster. Their get-out-the-vote mechanism is a proven advantage for Republicans. For example, Trump would not have won Florida and the presidency without the RNC effective data-driven voter program.

Democrats are almost sure to make gains within the Florida delegation and around the country. The size of those gains will depend on money and intensity, mixed with factors unknown at this time.

A selfie with Trump and Kim Jong-Un probably wouldn’t hurt the GOP cause.

 Nelson, Rubio and House colleagues urge FEMA to keep temporary housing

According to Florida’s Senators, hundreds of displaced Puerto Rican families who have been living in Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island could soon find themselves homeless with nowhere to go, if FEMA follows through with plans to stop providing them the temporary housing assistance they have come to rely on in the wake of the storm.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are warning FEMA that displaced Puerto Ricans in Florida could soon become homeless.

FEMA officials told federal lawmakers this week that they plan to stop providing Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 displaced families across the country — including 600 in Florida — as early as Friday. The move would likely cause hundreds of displaced families to be suddenly evicted from their hotel rooms and leave them scrambling to find a new, affordable place to live.

To help those still relying on the FEMA program and prevent them from being suddenly evicted, a group of mostly Florida lawmakers — led by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — called on FEMA to reconsider its decision to end the program for these families abruptly. Instead, they say FEMA should work with the governor of Puerto Rico to extend the program through, at least, the remainder of the current school year.

“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter this week to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, “After Hurricane Maria devastated the island, more than 10,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Florida schools. These children have already had their lives, and educational experiences disrupted by a devastating storm and deserve the opportunity to complete their school year.”

Joining the Senators in signing the letter were Democrats Kathy CastorStephanie Murphy and Darren Soto, along with Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon of Puerto Rico.

Rubio breaks with Nelson, switches vote to confirm NASA nominee 

For months, Florida’s Senators have worked together on numerous issues such as Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the opioid crisis and others. Opposing the nomination of Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine to head NASA was another, but not anymore.

On Wednesday, Rubio parted ways with Nelson and other Democrats by agreeing to support Bridenstine, thereby assuring his confirmation.

Newly confirmed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“While I wish the president would have nominated a space professional to run NASA, the unexpected April 30 retirement of the Acting Administrator (Robert Lightfoot) would leave NASA, an agency whose mission is vital to Florida, with a gaping leadership void unless we confirm a new administrator,” Rubio said in a statement following the vote. “Because of this, I decided to support the nomination of Rep. Bridenstine. I expect him to lead NASA in a non-political way and to treat Florida fairly.”

Nelson, who has led the charge against Bridenstine, was disappointed by the turn of events.

“The NASA Administrator should be a consummate space professional — not a politician,” Nelson said. “He or she must also be a leader who has the ability to bring us together on a shared vision for future space exploration.”

Bridenstine’s nomination advanced by a final vote count of 50-48.

Rubio hires new chief of staff

The two-term Senator announced this week he has a new chief of staff. Three months after parting ways with Clint Reed for what was described as violating policies “regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates,” Rubio announced the hiring of Michael Needham.

Needham will leave his post as CEO of Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a renowned conservative policy group. In the meantime, Deputy Chief of Staff Jessica Fernandez has served as acting chief in the interim period.

Michael Needham, formerly of Heritage Action for America, is Marco Rubio’s new chief of staff. (Photo by Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

“Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century,” Rubio stated in a news release. “Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions.”

Rubio was looking for someone that could help him reshape a GOP message of just low taxes and high growth. Needham regularly battles the Republican establishment, something that Rubio might be interested in doing if he decides to make another run at the White House in the future.

Both men revealed their views and strategies in a New York Times interview for a story titled Marco Rubio, darling of GOP establishment, hires a thorn in its side.

Senate committee opioid bill adds Rubio, Nelson provisions

The opioid crisis is showing no signs of improving, leading the U.S. Senate to craft what could be described as a smorgasbord bill encompassing numerous ideas for addressing the issue. The Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) this week released a bipartisan comprehensive bill, the Opioid Crisis Response Act, designed to take a broad approach to the problem.

bill recently introduced by Nelson and Rubio was included in the mix. That proposed legislation calls for improving the care for babies born with an addiction and suffering from withdrawal.

Both Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson praised Lamar Alexander for his work on the opioid crisis. 

Nelson and Rubio wrote to HELP Committee Chairman, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Ranking Member Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, praising the committee’s work. They also lobbied to have their issue remain in whatever legislation emerges from the committee.

“As the Committee considers this important legislation, we strongly encourage you to keep these provisions as part of the final bill to help families and states respond to the opioid crisis,” they wrote. “We must do all we can to take care of the most innocent victims of our nation’s opioid epidemic, our babies.”

DeSantis, Gaetz and Yoho want investigation into FBI, Obama officials

Plenty of time, attention and money has gone toward the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling and possible Trump collusion. A trio of Florida Republicans is asking for a look into former Obama administration officials for possible wrongdoing.

Ron DeSantis of Marineland, along with Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Ted Yoho of Gainesville, are asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and U.S. Attorney John Huber to explore whether Hillary Clinton and others have something to hide.

Florida Republicans turn up the heat on the FBI, calling for an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

The lawmakers seek an investigation in the roles played by Clinton, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former FBI Director James Comey, former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page.  They accuse them of violating the law on a host of matters ranging from the Steele dossier to Comey’s handling of an investigation of Clinton using a private server for her email.

In a letter known as a “referral,” the lawmakers lay out their reasons each of the individuals mentioned should be investigated for possible violations of the law.

“The political elite are not immune from the rule of law, and those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as any other American,” said DeSantis, who is leaving Congress to run for governor. “If former officials, including Hillary Clinton and James Comey, broke the law then they need to be held accountable. We ask that the Department of Justice move swiftly to ensure that violations of federal statutes by high officials are identified and prosecuted.”

In addition to the three Floridians, eight other members signed on to the referral.

Bilirakis announces funding for veterans nursing home

Over the last three years, veterans’ issues have frequently been the topic of controversy and concern. This week, Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis announced some good news for a facility in his district.

On Wednesday, Bilirakis, the vice-chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, revealed he had helped secure $2.7 million for the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes. The funds will be used to renovate the facility’s nursing units, restrooms, dining area and day rooms.

Gus Bilirakis helped secure $2.7 million for the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes.

“I’ve visited this facility many times over the years and have seen firsthand how desperately these upgrades are needed,” said Bilirakis in a news release. “Our Veterans must be treated with dignity at all times. They deserve the very best facilities in which to receive the highest possible care.”

The allocation is part of $685 million in funding provided in the recently-passed budget bill for the VA State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program. Bilirakis said a large backlog of needed projects will dramatically decrease as a result of the funding.

Castor salutes local student award winners

This week, Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor had the opportunity to laud the accomplishments of two students in her district. Both received national recognition.

Eve Glenn, a senior at Tampa Robinson High School, was one of only seven teens from across the nation to receive the prestigious Operation Homefront 2018 Military Child of the Year Award, the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of our military children. In addition to her excellence as a student (Eve was the 2018 Traditional Valedictorian), she has logged thousands of volunteer hours throughout her high school years, helping military-related organizations and numerous other community organizations.

Operation Homefront’s annual awards recognize six outstanding young people ages 13 to 18 for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership and extracurricular involvement. Eve Glenn is the young lady in the yellow dress, second from the right. 

Karena Nguyen, a graduate student in integrative biology at the University of South Florida, is the recipient of the Emerging Public Policy Leader Award selected by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Castor met with her and other students from the American Institute of Biological Sciences to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences through the National Science Foundation, for example. These investments boost our neighbors, and they fuel economic engines in communities like Tampa.

“Tampa is home to outstanding and bright student leaders who are making a historic mark in our community and indeed nationwide, Castor said in a news release. “They are accomplished and dedicated to serving the community and America. Our leaders of tomorrow are showing overwhelming interest and engagement. They have inspired me to be a better representative for them in the U.S. Congress, and I am so proud to serve my hometown.”

Crist seeks to expedite beach restoration projects

With Florida’s beaches a key driver of the state economy, restoring erosion is important to maintain that component. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist is leading an effort to bring some of the beaches in his district back to where they were just a few years ago

Crist is asking the Army Corps of Engineers to provide necessary funding that would expedite restoration of St. Pete Beach’s Upham Beach segment to coincide with the start of the Pinellas County Shore Protection Project set to begin later in April. In conjunction with Nelson and Bilirakis, Crist requested in a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James.

Charlie Crist is pushing more money for Pinellas County beach restoration projects.

“If the Upham Beach contract option is awarded, Pinellas has its required nonfederal match in hand, as well as state grant funding to cover the nonfederal match,” they wrote. “Including Upham Beach in this current project will save several hundred thousand dollars in mobilization costs when compared to the prospect of having to nourish it later under a separate contract. It will also produce a complete project just in time for the bulk of the 2018 storm season to provide the greatest possible protection to our residents and infrastructure.”

Last year, Crist helped secure funding for the original project. More than $28 million was allocated for Pinellas beach restoration projects.

Crist, Curbelo push bill to regulate social media ads

With revelations Russian operatives tried to meddle in U.S. elections through nontraditional advertising, Democrat Crist and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo have joined 16 other members of Congress to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would look to stymie foreign political online advertising like that alleged in the 2016 campaign by Russia.

The bill, House Resolution 4077, colloquially referred to as the “Honest Ads Act,” looks to improve disclosure requirements for digital political advertising. This is designed to prevent foreign entities from influencing American elections by purchasing advertising on social media or elsewhere.

Facebook says it supports the Honest Ads Act, which is co-sponsored by Charlie Crist and Carlos Curbelo.

“Radio, TV, and print political advertisements are required to be transparent — social media should not be exempt,” Crist stated. “Disclosure helps protect the integrity of our elections from foreign interference. This is a smart and much-needed bipartisan election reform.”

This action is a response to increased revelations that foreign agents, particularly from Russia, attempted to overwhelm Facebook and other social media with unidentified political advertisements.

The bill is being pushed by Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government reform group, which has just published a white paper which found that 14 percent — a total of $1.4 billion — of the money spent on political advertising in 2016 went toward online political ads, but “because of legal loopholes and the nature of digital advertising, who paid for these ads designed to influence the election has been a secret.”

Deutch joins Nelson, Rubio for school safety forum

Nelson and Rubio joined to host a school safety forum on Capitol Hill this week. Joining the Senators was Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and family members of two students murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

The Senators used the event here on Wednesday to tout their support for having the federal government offer states incentives to adopt “red flag” laws that prevent those who represent a threat to themselves or others from accessing or purchasing firearms, while preserving legal protections for those individuals.

Ted Deutch joins Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson for a forum on school safety.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered at Stoneman Douglas, spoke about the “contagion” effect that can lead one school shooting to lead to further violent incidents. “I think we can put an antibiotic together” to help stop this, said Petty. He added that helping students contemplating suicide would be especially useful in keeping children and their school peers safe.

“Today’s forum was an important opportunity that brought people together — including experts and families of victims of gun violence — to discuss best practices for keeping our schools safe from gun violence,” said Deutch. “Two months after the tragedy of Stoneman Douglas, Congress must follow these conversations with action by supporting policies and programs that protect our children.”


At a Donna Shalala fundraiser Tuesday night at Heather and Jim Johnson‘s Georgetown condominium: Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, former North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, Mack McLarty, John Podesta, Alice Rivlin and former Rep. Henry Waxman. The former Clinton aide, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, raised over $100,000.

Donna Shalala rakes in $100K with a high-profile Georgetown fundraiser. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Co-hosts were Buffy Cafritz, Linda and Tom Daschle, Ann and Vernon Jordan, Liz and George Stevens, Linda and Rich Tarplin and Carol and Tom Wheeler.

Delegation’s Cuban-Americans unimpressed with Castro successor

Cuban-Americans fleeing the regime of Fidel Castro longed for the day the Communist dictator, or any subsequent ruling member of his family, would no longer be in power. After nearly 60 years, that day has come, but there is no celebration.

Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez is now in charge after being hand-picked by the retiring Raul Castro. There were elections held, but the outcome was already known.

“The sham ‘elections’ in Cuba were nothing more than a predetermined charade by the Castro regime,” said Rubio. “Cuba will continue to be an island imprisoned under the rule of an oppressive single-party political system. The Cuban dictatorship portrays this election as a step toward change, yet we all know that Díaz-Canel and the regime will remain an enemy of democracy, human rights and the impartial rule of law.”

Florida’s Cuban-American delegation is not impressed with Cuba’s new President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez.

Delegation Republicans representing vast numbers of Cuban-Americans in the Miami area, were equally unimpressed with the new leader.

“Today, the Cuban regime has named a new puppet,” said Mario Diaz-Balart. “Raul Castro remains head of the sole ‘legal’ party and the armed forces, his son-in-law remains head of the economy, and his son remains a top official in the feared Ministry of the Interior. Today’s designation of a new Dorticós is a nothing burger.

Ros-Lehtinen called the change of command nothing more than “smoke and mirrors” and called on Trump to denounce the move. Curbelo said in an interview with Miami’s NBC 6 that the “goal of the new regime is the same as what has been the Castro’s goal for about sixty years now, which is to oppress the Cuban people and to do everything they can to maintain power.”

RGA breaks fundraising records

The Republican Governors Association announced this week they have raised $23.6 in the first quarter of 2018, setting a new first quarter record in a midterm year. Also announced was $87 million raised thus far in the 2018 cycle to date, which also set a new record that surpassed the 2014 cycle.

“The RGA’s record fundraising is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our Republican governors,” said RGA Chairman Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee. “Republican governors are America’s doers — they are expanding opportunity, growing jobs, and making government more efficient and accountable. With this fundraising success, the RGA is in a strong position to re-elect our incumbents and elect a new class of Republican governors this November.”

RGA is breaking fundraising records under Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee.

The $87 million fundraising number is 61 percent greater than the Democratic Governors Association’s 2018 cycle fundraising number and represents a 14 percent increase over the RGA’s fundraising totals at this point in the last midterm cycle in 2014.

“The RGA’s investment in close races has led to numerous victories and, with these significant resources, the RGA is poised to make a major impact in governors’ races once again,” said RGA Executive Director Paul Bennecke.” These strong financial figures ensure Republicans will be able to stand up to Tom Steyer, George Soros, labor unions, and other liberal outside groups determined to push a far-left, extreme agenda in the states.”

Republicans currently hold a historic high of 33 governorships, while Democrats hold 16. In November, 36 states will be electing governors.

On this day in the headlines

April 20, 1999 — Two teenagers wearing black trench coats roamed through the halls of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. On a murderous rampage, leaving as many as 25 dead in their wake. The shooters were identified as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

A debate on gun control is expected following the tragedy. President Bill Clinton said: “Perhaps now America will wake up to the dimensions of this challenge.”

April 20, 2010 — A huge blast at an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has left 11 people missing and feared dead. The blast at the Deepwater Horizon rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast could prove to be one of the nation’s deadliest drilling accidents in the past half-century.

Company officials and responders were hoping the missing had managed to get into one of the rig’s covered lifeboats. A total of 126 people were aboard the rig when it exploded. With concern for the missing, there were no early reports of environmental threats.

Farewell to Barbara Bush

As the nation and the world say goodbye to Barbara Bush on Saturday, she leaves behind plenty of goodwill and good thoughts and a remedy for a deeply divided country. Her celebrated speech to the 1990 graduating class at Wellesley College left a timeless message heard by the students, faculty, families, and even the then-first lady of the Soviet Union, Raisa Gorbachev.

The nation says goodbye to Barbara Bush.

“And early on I made another choice, which I hope you’ll make as well. Whether you are talking about education, career, or service, you’re talking about life — and life really must have joy. It’s supposed to be fun.

One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is because he made me laugh. It’s true, sometimes we’ve laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds. Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off: “Life moves pretty fast; and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’re going to miss it.”


Staff Reports


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