Delegation for 10.19.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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Third quarter fundraising reports show big Democratic numbers 

The 2018 election cycle, like others before it is about money. This time, it is Republicans are facing a dynamic of being dramatically outspent by Democrats who have raised more than $1 billion this cycle.

A prime example was the incomprehensible $38 million raised in the third quarter by Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas in his challenge to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has indicated he will not share the wealth with others.

Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke brings incomprehensible fundraising to the U.S. Senate race.

Just during the last quarter, 60 Democratic House candidates raised more than $1 million. Two of those are from Florida.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo for the District 26 seat, hauled in $1.4 million between July 1 and September 30, nearly doubling the amount raised by Curbelo. He still held a two-to-one cash on hand advantage heading into the campaign’s final five weeks.

In District 18, Lauren Baer raked in $1.43 million during the quarter, also doubling the amount raised by incumbent Republican Brian Mast. Like Curbelo, Mast also has a two-to-one cash on hand advantage.

Other competitive Florida races also show Democrats winning the fundraising battle in the third quarter. This includes open seats and challenges to incumbents.

Nancy Soderberg’s $796,000 topped Michael Waltz’s $600,000 (which included a candidate loan of $155,000) in the District 6 open seat. Kristen Carlson took in $600,000 to Ross Spano’s $219,000 and had a three-to-one cash on hand lead entering October in the race for the open seat in District 15.

In District 25, Mary Barzee Flores raised 547,000 compared to incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s $286,000, although the incumbent has a three-to-one cash on hand advantage. Donna Shalala raised $866,000 in the District 27 race for an open seat, while Maria Elvira Salazar reported raising $521,000 in the quarter. Shalala entered the final stretch with a $57,000 cash on hand advantage.

Democrats have benefitted from a motivated base of voters who have also opened their wallets. A fundraising entity known as ActBlue has also helped generate funds from around the country into targeted races while organ.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson reported raising $5.29 million, bringing his total to $25.2 million and $8.6 million cash on hand. Gov. Rick Scott also had a $5 million quarter but supplemented that with $18 million of his own money. For the year, Scott reported $54.7 million raised with $38 million coming from personal loans. He had $2 million left on October 1.

Despite the disadvantage, Nelson has been on the air for weeks through ads financed by his campaign as well as outside groups such as Majority Forward and a recent $4 million attack ad on Scott by Vote Vets (see below), a progressive veterans advocacy group.

Republicans will still be funded by contributions and outside groups down the stretch but will need to rely on a strong get-out-the-vote effort. There is hope on that end.

During the 2016 cycle, the Republican National Committee (RNC) invested in a state-of-the-art data and voter turnout program. It was credited with playing a major role in helping President Donald Trump win the state (and other close states) by a little over one percent.

That program is still in place and the RNC is one Republican operation that is significantly outraising its Democratic counterpart. Republicans can only hope to find that real voters will overcome an avalanche of money.

Hurricane politics roiling Senate race

As the U.S. Senate race between Nelson and Scott is now in the final three weeks, when, if ever, will Scott return to the campaign trail? The Nelson campaign believes it should be immediately.

The campaign grew more bitter this week when Scott announced he was ceasing to campaign and would instead focus on hurricane relief for the Panhandle. First Lady Ann Scott and surrogates are filling in on campaign events.

Donald Trump joins Rick Scott in surveying damage from Hurricane Michael. (Image via Twitter)

Nelson’s campaign clearly understood the political advantages Scott would enjoy, but in a risky move, a campaign adviser characterized Scott’s decision as “a cynical attempt to avoid facing voters.” “We’re not going to let Rick Scott hide from voters in the last three weeks of a major election — especially while he’s significantly increasing his negative TV attack ads,” vowed Dan McLaughlin, who is also a former Nelson spokesman.

In his own words and tweets, Nelson criticized Scott for new ads highlighting his hurricane efforts, calling them “a new low.”

Scott did earn the praise of another Democrat for his efforts. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee saluted the Governor for his efforts following Hurricane Michael and other disasters.

“We will never know how many lives that he’s been responsible for saving,” Lawson said. “The first thing you hear about is somebody dying in a hurricane. But just think: if it hadn’t been for his leadership, how many other people would be in the same situation?”

A survey by St. Pete Polls gives Scott a 61 percent approval rating for his handling of the disaster with 21 percent disapproving. The poll also shows Scott regaining the lead in the race 49-47 percent, which is inside the margin of error.

‘Swiftboating’ Scott?

One of the lasting memories of the 2004 presidential election campaign between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry was a series of television ads by a group of veterans. The group, Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, ravaged Kerry, a Navy veteran who served on a swiftboat, for his service and his anti-war activities after his tour ended.

The episode created a campaign verb known as “swiftboating.” This time, a Republican is an apparent victim of the practice of veterans attacking veterans.

A progressive group known as VoteVets is blasting Scott in an ad pointing to his role in the Columbia/HCA fraud case that led to Scott’s resignation as CEO more than 20 years ago. The ad features Navy veteran Alan Madison, also wearing a Navy cap, who questions Scott’s honor for his role in what the ad claims was defrauding veterans.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

“Governor, this hat represents what the Navy stands for: Honor, integrity,” Madison says to the camera. “My question for you, sir? Where’s yours?”

The group has committed $4 million to the ad buy, which is running for 10 days in all media markets.

The ad’s potential effect is questioned by some pundits who note the issue has been part of Scott’s previous two winning statewide campaigns.

Rubio blasts Saudi royal family over Khashoggi

Before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to get some answers into the likely murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, opinions were beginning to form. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has “got to go,” while Sen. Marco Rubio was a bit more measured, but suspicious.

He said the situation highlights a “fear we’ve had for a long time” that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is “a young and aggressive guy.” Rubio called the situation “catastrophic” and bigger than arms deals such as those touted by Trump leading up to Pompeo’s visit.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Saudi Arabia to talk about the Jamal Khashoggi disappearance.

“I don’t care how much money it is,” he said, “There isn’t enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations should conduct themselves.”

Rubio also called out the Saudi Arabian royal family’s dubious statements of denial.

“Where’s the body? Why wasn’t the family notified?” he said during an interview on CNN. “Why have (the royal family) spent the better part of eight or nine days saying they didn’t know anything about it?”

Upon his return, Pompeo met with Trump and announced the U.S. would give the Saudis “a few more days,” to complete an investigation before deciding on a response.

Gaetz suspicious of caravan funding

growing caravan of migrants from Honduras heading for the U.S. border may arrive around Election Day unless Mexico intervenes. The Mexican government dispatched 500 federal police to its border with Guatemala on Wednesday.

The timing has many in the U.S., especially Republicans, suspicious. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is among them.

On Wednesday, he took time out from hurricane recovery to post a video on Twitter of assembled potential migrants receiving cash as they are about to begin their journey. Those passing out the money indicated women would receive their funds first.

“BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time,” Gaetz tweeted. “(George) Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!”

Murphy, Miller debate issues

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park took the stage to debate her Republican opponent, state Rep. Mike Miller. They debated the 2017 GOP tax cuts, health care, economic growth and impeaching Trump.

Miller said the tax cuts helped spur the current surge in economic growth while Murphy countered that it “disproportionately benefitted the wealthiest among us.” Miller described Murphy’s effort to withhold Congressional pay if spending bills are not passed on time as “a gimmick.”

Mike Miller, Stephanie Murphy spar at Tiger Bay Central Florida.

Murphy argued that health care is “a fundamental right,” while Miller called it “a moral imperative,” but government cannot be charged with running the system. Neither argued over the existence of climate change, but Miller challenged the role of humans in creating it.

A point of agreement came on whether Trump deserves to be impeached. Both took the position they would vote to impeach the chief executive only if it was proved he had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as stated in the Constitution.

For those looking for who landed the best blows, that distinction would go to the incumbent. Murphy intimated she would not support Nancy Pelosi as speaker, while Miller said he would get behind Andrew McCarthy. Murphy corrected him by pointing out the current Majority Leader’s first name is Kevin.

During a discussion higher education, Miller often mentioned his alma mater, the University of Florida for reaching the top 10 for public universities. Murphy called him out for not mentioning the University of Central Florida or other colleges within Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Murphy is favored to win re-election.

Webster touts pre-existing condition bill

As Republican candidates make their cases for re-election, they point to achieving tax cuts, benefits for veterans, a water infrastructure bill and other issues. A vulnerability is health care, an issue that Democrats are using in the fall campaigns.

Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont is one of those lamenting the fact the Affordable Care Act was not repealed and replaced by GOP-sponsored legislation. Webster and his Republican colleague David Schweikert of Arizona recently introduced legislation that would provide an affordable solution to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Arizona Republican David Schweikert joins Daniel Webster in pushing a reasonable alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

“The result is that every patient has access to affordable health insurance coverage at the lowest possible rates as if they were perfectly healthy,” Webster wrote in a recent op-ed.

Under the Webster-Schweikert plan, states would eventually assume responsibility. He pointed to a similar program in Maine which “rescued itself from its health insurance market’s death spiral.

Crist bill tackles flood insurance

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist introduced a new bill aimed at reducing flood insurance premiums in Florida by creating low-interest loans to help property owners better protect their homes. The State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act (H.R. 7073) assumes that property-owner driven mitigation would ultimately reduce post-disaster claims.

“Bringing down flood insurance premiums while helping folks better protect their homes from storm damage is a win-win for Pinellas families and businesses,” Crist said. “Mitigation is key to reducing post-disaster relief costs, saving taxpayer dollars, and building more resilient communities in the face of more extreme weather and rising sea levels. The devastating storms we’ve seen within the last year speak to the urgent need for federal action on flood mitigation programs, protecting public safety and our economy.”

Charlie Crist is working to help lower flood insurance premiums.

Crist is a member of the House Financial Services Committee that oversees the National Flood Insurance Program.

Congressman Roger Williams, a Texas Republican, co-sponsored the bipartisan bill. Pew Charitable Trusts, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, Association of State Wetland Managers, Enterprise Community Partners, the Consumer Mortgage Coalition, and Union of Concerned Scientists all support the bill.

The bill is modeled after the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds. The program would offer low-interest loans to National Flood Insurance Program participants to better secure their homes, businesses and nonprofits from the effects of flood damage.

FEMA would offer flood insurance premium discounts commensurate with the mitigation efforts taken on participating property owners.

Buchanan cited by Florida Farm Bureau 

The Florida Farm Bureau recently gave awards to those committed to helping the agriculture industry. Several members of the delegation were honored, including Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, who earned a perfect score for his efforts.

Buchanan and seven colleagues were presented with the “Friend of Farm Bureau Award” last week. They were cited for their service on behalf of the agriculture community in the 115th Congress.

The Florida Farm Bureau recognizes Vern Buchanan as one of its ‘friends.’ (Image via Bradenton Herald)

“Rep. Buchanan was the only member of the Florida delegation to vote 100% with Florida producers in the 115th Congress,” stated John Walt Boatright, the Farm Bureau’s National Affairs Coordinator. “His flawless voting record, coupled with his relentless efforts to reform NAFTA for our specialty crop growers, sets him apart as a great friend of farmers and ranchers in the Sunshine State.”

Buchanan joined with 14 delegation members to urge protection for Florida growers from unfair practices in the renegotiated NAFTA.

“I am honored to receive this award,” said Buchanan. “Agriculture is vital to Florida’s economy and for a safe and affordable food supply. It is imperative that Congress continues to work hard on their behalf.

Also cited were fellow Republicans Neal Dunn of Panama City, Ted Yoho of Gainesville, John Rutherford of Jacksonville, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Dennis Ross of Lakeland, and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami.

“While we are blessed with many outstanding advocates in our Florida delegation, these members rose to nearly every challenge in the 115th Congress,” stated Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick. “We applaud their leadership and acknowledge their good work on behalf of Florida’s farmers and ranchers.”

Pelosi joins Deutch for gun control roundtable

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a South Florida swing on Wednesday helping Democrats focus on issues important to voters. She visited Coral Springs with Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch to hold a forum on gun control.

Deutch moderated a roundtable of Parkland students and parents. The event was described as “part venting and strategizing.”

Nancy Pelosi greets Parkland father Fred Guttenberg at a gun control roundtable in Coral Springs City Hall. (Image via WLRN)

She promised that if Democrats win control of the House, gun control would top the agenda. Pelosi praised the students and activists who attended.

“I admire you so much,” Pelosi said. “You have the purpose, the generosity of spirit. You have the marchers — you have people who will go out there to make a difference — and you just have a relentless, persistent, dissatisfied approach.”

Among the parents of slain Douglas High School students attending was Fred Guttenberg and Manuel Oliver. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jamie, and Oliver’s son, Joaquin, told Pelosi of the need to arouse voters and take action.

Guttenberg started a foundation called Orange Ribbons for Jaime just seven days after the shootings. Orange is the color of gun safety and was Jaime’s favorite.

Oliver dyed his hair orange before the event and joined Guttenberg in a prediction of an “orange wave” in November.

Pelosi, Shalala get rude welcome

Following the supportive event with Deutch, Pelosi then went on Miami for what was supposed to be a campaign rally for Shalala. The mood was far different when they walked into an anti-Fidel Castro buzz saw.

Pelosi and Shalala were to be joined by California Rep. Barbara Lee, who was not a good choice for a rally in Miami. Castro-hating Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan exiles were outraged that the woman who said in 2016 that Castro’s death should be mourned would be coming to their community to campaign.

Protesters outside of a Nancy Pelosi, Donna Shalala rally in South Florida this week. (Image via Miami Herald)

Republican hecklers used the words “commie,” “witches,” and “go back to Cuba” to taunt them. Lee’s portion was eventually canceled.

About 57 percent of District 27 is comprised of Hispanics and Venezuelan exiles who were victimized by Castro cronies Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Maduro. There is also a growing presence of those who left Nicaragua under the socialist regime of Daniel Ortega.

Nelson Diaz, Chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party made it clear he was not personally calling Shalala those names, but said the campaign gaffe reveals something else.

Inviting Lee “reinforces our narrative that Donna isn’t from here,” Diaz said. “She doesn’t understand the community. She has no real roots. The Democrats were so clueless that they didn’t shut this down instantly. It’s crazy.”

Shalala is facing stiff competition from Republican journalist Maria Elvira Salazar in the race to succeed the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The most recent polling shows Salazar with a two-point lead in the Democratic-leaning district.

On this day in the headlines

October 19, 2011 — The Senate voted to effectively block the Justice Department from undertaking gun-smuggling investigations like the flawed “Fast and Furious” that was aimed at breaking up networks running guns to Mexican cartels. The operation lost track of hundreds of weapons, some of which were used to commit crimes in Mexico and the United States.

The 99-0 vote would block the government from transferring guns to drug cartels unless federal agents “continuously monitor or control” the weapons. The amendment’s sponsor, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, called the vote “just the first step toward ensuring that such a foolish operation can never be repeated by our own law enforcement.”

October 19, 2017 — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing some barbed questions from former Senate colleagues, once again denied any improper dealings with Russian officials while working with the Trump campaign. He also continued to defend the firing by Trump of former FBI Director James Comey.

Sessions stood firm in his refusal to reveal anything Trump told him about his reasons for the firing. The hearing served as a reminder of how questions about Russia continue to cloud the Trump administration and the Justice Department.

Staff Reports



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