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No one is safe
There will be no shortage of campaign consulting work in Florida this year.
With candidate qualification closed at noon, every congressional district in Florida will see a Primary or General election matchup. In most districts, elections will be in August and November. That means every House incumbent running in Florida will face a challenge, however minor.
On top of that, Florida will also host a top-tier Senate race.
Here are some highlights of the electoral landscape in Florida.
Top of the ballot: GOP Sen. Marco Rubio will most likely face Rep. Val Demings as his Democratic challenger. Most of the serious potential Primary challengers either bailed for other races (see below) or failed to qualify, though Demings must first face lawyer William Sanchez in a Democratic Primary.
Civil War: With a new congressional map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (and designed by his staff), Rep. Al Lawson has chosen to file in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. That’s where the Tallahassee Democrat lives, but it means he will face Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican and regional ally. And he will do it in a district that went for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election by 11 percentage points.
On defense? Every Democratic incumbent representing a tough district, sans Lawson, ended up not running. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, qualified for Governor. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, decided to spend time with family. Meanwhile, Reps. Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, both Miami Republicans, will face opponents of varying stature. Four challengers qualified against Salazar, the most serious being Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo. Giménez will likely face Democrat Robert Ascensio, a former state lawmaker who jumped into the contest immediately before the qualification deadline.
Open seats: The delegation undoubtedly will see many new faces next year, with six open seats this year. Two were created by incumbents seeking other offices, with Demings challenging Rubio and Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, running against DeSantis. Retirements clear two more: Murphy and Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, choosing to bounce. For those keeping score, all four members bowing out of the delegation are Democrats.
Additionally, Lawson’s shift leaves open Florida’s 4th Congressional District, now a Republican-leaning seat in the Jacksonville area where three Republicans and two Democrats have qualified. The Census also awarded Florida a new House seat, which will be represented by one of nine candidates — six GOP, three Dem — to qualify in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
Primaries galore: But many incumbents, even outside battlegrounds, will stay busy through August. Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, John Rutherford, Salazar, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster and Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Frederica Wilson all face challenges within their own Party.
Are tech companies intentionally throwing campaign emails into the spam folder? As political consultants grow increasingly frustrated, Sens. Rubio and Rick Scott said email clients need to stop sorting political messages out as junk. Both signed on as a co-sponsor for legislation, the Political Bias in Algorithm Sorting (BIAS) Emails Act, introduced by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune.
If the bill becomes law, it will ban major email platforms like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail from filtering emails from political campaigns unless users specifically ask to sort those out. Supporters suggest GOP emails have been targeted with particular vigor by sorting code.
“It’s time to hold Big Tech accountable for its shameless partisan censorship,” Rubio said, suggesting software may apply preferences for some messaging over others. “This bill would empower users to have more control over their email inbox preferences and expose the filtering practices of these large platforms.”
The language also calls for transparency in algorithms to show how some emails get identified as junk while others don’t get denoted as problematic.
“Any suppression of conservative candidates is unacceptable,” Scott said. “The Political BIAS Emails Act is an important step forward to hold Big Tech accountable for its attempts to silence conservative voices and increase transparency between large email platforms and political campaigns.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also supported the bill. To date, all co-sponsors in the Senate have been Republicans.
Florida continues to lead the nation in HIV infection rates, with 39.1 infections per 100,000 people, and Scott would like to see greater flexibility for clinics to provide prevention medication. He filed the Ryan White PrEP Availability Act with Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat, to allow Ryan White HIV/AIDS programs to cover expenses for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which greatly reduced the risk of transmitting the virus.
“Since the creation of the Ryan White program more than three decades ago, America has made incredible medical advancements including the development of highly effective PrEP treatments to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS — a task once thought impossible,” Scott said. “While we are moving in the right direction, there are still more than 40,000 Americans infected with HIV every year, and we clearly have more work to do. I’m proud to introduce this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to improve access to resources and prevention treatments available at Ryan White HIV/AIDS clinics in Florida and throughout the United States.”
The clinic program and legislation are named for AIDS activist Ryan White, who was diagnosed with AIDS after a blood transfusion in 1984 at age 13. He died in 1990, but only after spending years as a poster child for HIV awareness and education.
Luján said PrEP offers the greatest weapon ever in ending the spread of HIV. “Thanks to the hard work and commitment of medical professionals and researchers, we are able to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in its tracks with medications like PrEP,” he said. “Though it will take time and further dedication to ensure that no American has to suffer from HIV/AIDS, the Ryan White Program offers lifesaving care and treatment to folks in New Mexico and around the country.”
Go with the flow
Scott and Rubio together introduced legislation to prohibit the sale of U.S. oil to China.
“While gas prices soar across the country, the (Joe) Biden administration is allowing half a million barrels of American oil to go to China every day,” Rubio said. “This is unacceptable. We need to increase American oil production and give priority to domestic consumers, not send oil to a genocidal regime half a world away.”
The China Oil Export Prohibition Act would limit any petroleum products exported from the United States to the People’s Republic of China.
“It’s absurd that we continue to export oil to Communist China while Americans pay more than $5 per gallon of gas here at home,” Scott said. “In the first three months of 2022 alone, the U.S. sent nearly 52 million barrels of oil and petroleum to Communist China. Meanwhile, families here dealing with skyrocketing prices are forced to choose between putting gas in their cars and food on the table for their kids. Americans must come before sales to Communist China. I urge my colleagues to support this good bill.”
Lawson introduced legislation this week that would allow consumers greater ability to correct errors in their credit reports.
“Citizens deserve the chance to rectify any inaccurate information found on their credit reports,” Lawson said. “Wrong information on someone’s credit report can be damaging to a person’s future financial endeavors. My goal with this piece of legislation is to remove the obstacles credit repair organizations are experiencing to help their clients financially succeed.”
The bill would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow credit repair organizations to work directly with creditors to amend reports.
Lawson’s office cited a Federal Trade Commission study that found that one in five Americans has at least one error in their credit reports, impacting their credit scores. Meanwhile, half of those who tried to fix such errors never achieved a remedy before abandoning the burdensome process.
The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, African American Empowerment Coalition, National Diversity Coalition and the National Asian American Coalition immediately announced support for Lawson’s legislation.
Gainesville Republican Cammack and Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto led a letter from Florida’s House delegation members seeking relief for specialty farmers with federal crop insurance.
“With rising inflation, supply chain issues, and now the adverse effects of federal budget cuts, specialty crop farmers from Florida and around the country are suffering from the consequences of bad policy,” Cammack said. “If the appropriations committee does not address this unsustainable situation by restoring funding to the A&O in the FY2023 agriculture appropriations bill, serious damage will be done to the risk management infrastructure for specialty crops, and producers around the country will suffer.”
The letter, sent to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Agriculture, bears the signatures of Florida Democrats Lawson and Wilson and Republicans Donalds, Dunn, Franklin, Giménez, Bill Posey, Salazar and Greg Steube.
The document notes that the 2011 administrative change capping reimbursements on major crops like corn, wheat and cotton has also impacted specialty crops that don’t have the same demand and haven’t seen the same increases in price. That has meant steep decreases in funding for crop insurance for those crops. Florida feels a particular brunt one this — one of the five hardest-hit states in the union — thanks to the production of an abundance of specialty crops, including strawberries.
“We have an opportunity to mitigate this inequity for specialty crops risk management without amending the Federal Crop Insurance Act or reopening the contract between FCIC (Federal Crop Insurance Corporation) and the companies,” the letter states. “We respectfully urge you to provide relief for delivery of specialty crop insurance policies and the producers they support by including a provision to restore specialty crop A&O to the level that preceded the run-up in row crop prices in this year’s agricultural appropriations bill.”
No product in the produce aisle screens Florida like oranges. Now, Clermont Republican Webster has led most of the delegation in demanding the industry get a break.
He filed the Defending Domestic Orange Juice Production Act. If passed, it would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adjust pasteurization regulations and allow not-from-concentrate orange juice to lower the required soluble solids to 10% instead of 10.5%. That could mean a little more sugar in the juice jar but ease the stress on farmers facing lower yields.
“Florida’s citrus industry is a critical component of our agricultural economy, and the Sunshine State is the largest producer of orange juice in the nation,“ said Webster, whose district counts the agriculture-observing Citrus Tower as its most prominent landmark. “Our citrus farmers, their employees, and the Americans who enjoy Florida orange juice shouldn’t be denied this staple drink because of some arbitrary FDA standard. This legislation is a commonsense solution for our citrus growers to continue to provide the best oranges and orange juice in the world.”
Co-sponsors include 15 House colleagues from both sides of the aisle, including Republicans Díaz-Balart, Buchanan, Cammack, Franklin, Giménez, Posey, Rutherford, Salazar and Steube, and Democrats Crist, Lawson, Murphy, Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“Every effort needs to be made to ensure that Florida citrus growers continue to have access to the markets, the opportunity to compete, and the ability to sell their world-class oranges,” Posey said.
Meanwhile, Scott and Rubio will champion the change in the Senate.
“Forcing the orange juice industry to import and mix juice from foreign oranges to meet an arbitrary FDA standard would mean the end of Florida orange juice,” Rubio said. “This commonsense bill will provide relief to Florida citrus growers and processors who have faced challenges in recent years due to diseases and hurricanes and allow them to continue marketing Florida orange juice.”
Mast, a Stuart Republican, lost his legs while handling an explosive in Afghanistan. Now he wants to make sure other soldiers wounded in the line of duty face as few bureaucratic hurdles as possible as they start the road to recovery.
The Congressman introduced the bipartisan Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights, which aims to allow veterans to effectively appeal decisions made regarding their medical separation from service and entitlement to disability benefits.
“After I was blown up, my recovery was all-consuming — regaining the strength to get out of bed, learning to walk again and adjusting to life on two prosthetics,” Mast said. “Unfortunately, bureaucrats at the Department of Defense, who have never had any of these experiences before, are currently making this process even harder by pointing fingers at each other instead of doing what’s in the best interest of these wounded warriors. This bill of rights will protect wounded service members, ensuring they aren’t screwed over by these nameless, faceless bureaucrats.”
The Defense Health Agency now determines the fitness of wounded military members to continue service and what benefits they will receive. That’s a civilian-run agency, but Mast wants military commanders to have the final say on those decisions.
He introduced the bill with Washington Democrat Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Fellow delegation members Franklin and Waltz, both Republicans and veterans, signed on as introducing co-sponsors.
“My hope is this legislation will restore accountability and implement the safeguards needed to prevent any future mistreatment during this process,” Rodgers said. “I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Mast.”
Donalds, Soto and Waltz worked together with California Democrat Eric Swalwell on improving blockchain technology. The bipartisan group introduced the National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act of 2022 in the House. The legislation would require the federal government to coordinate research and development efforts on distributed ledger technologies.
That’s the foundational technology allowing management of cryptocurrency and other digital assets such as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
“It is essential that the United States continues to be a global leader in these emerging technologies to ensure our democratic values remain at the forefront of this technological development,” Soto said. “By developing a proper strategy and supporting research, we are incentivizing innovation and improving access.”
Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, characterized the issue as one of national security.
“Other nations, including our adversaries, have recognized just how critical investing in the development of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) is for the future,” he said. “In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has built the Blockchain Service Network as part of its ambition to establish a ‘digital silk road.’ The United States, on the other hand, is falling behind. To maintain our leadership and competitiveness on the world stage, we must invest in the research and development of DLT here at home. This bicameral, bipartisan legislation will help fill the gap in current federal science policy, invest in our future, and promote responsible innovation across the country.”
Donalds, a Naples Republican and longtime financial adviser, said the federal government must embrace the emerging technology.
“Washington bureaucrats have intentionally halted ingenuity for decades — now is the time to promote policies that advance American technology,” he said. “Through an increase of research into blockchain technology across a wide spectrum of applications, we can increase efficiency, streamline development, and cut into burdensome regulatory waste. This legislation empowers and emboldens leading innovators to develop and cultivate revolutionary technology here in the United States.”
Miramar Democrat Cherfilus-McCormick is Florida’s newest Representative in Congress, and it looks like she’s staking out a place decidedly left of center. She is one of eight co-sponsors of Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee’s legislation (HR 7955) introduced earlier this month that seeks to prevent and prosecute White supremacy-inspired hate crimes and conspiring to commit such crimes.
Jackson Lee is also known as a leading voice for reparations and in 2021 introduced legislation (HR 40) for a commission to consider reparations proposals for Black Americans.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in White supremacy across the nation,” she said. “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2021, 53 hate groups were tracked in Florida alone. A recent study shows Florida has the second-highest number of known hate groups in the country. These types of groups threaten and undermine our safety and democracy. This legislation will ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) fully investigates and prosecutes perpetrators of hate crimes. DOJ will also be required to provide an annual report to Congress. This commonsense legislation will prevent another insurrectionist attack in our nation’s capital.”
This latest legislation aims at using social media to publish material advancing White supremacy and White supremacist ideology.
Soto and Wasserman Schultz say it’s time to give permanent protection to Venezuelans relocated into the United States. The Democrats, from Kissimmee and Weston, respectively, filed the Venezuelan Adjustment Act (HR 7854). The measure would allow a change in legal status for many Venezuelan nationals to become admitted permanent residents.
The legislation applies only to those who entered the country before the end of 2021. It would be a significant shift from temporary protected status grants by the Trump administration and extended under Biden.
“The Venezuelan Adjustment Act will give security and peace of mind to tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled a murderous, totalitarian regime,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This legislation would open the door for those who qualify to become permanent legal residents. That would allow them to be even more productive and secure members of our community while lifting the cloud of fear of returning to a dictatorial regime still bent on oppression and stifling freedoms and democracy.”
Florida notably serves as home to the most Venezuelan nationals of any state in the union.
“We have already delivered Temporary Protected Status to help hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees in Florida and throughout the nation,” Soto said. “Permanent legal status is the logical next step for the Venezuelan community here to have greater stability and pursue the American dream.”
On this day
June 17, 1932 — “U.S. Capitol besieged” via the Library of Congress — Soldiers came to pressure Congress to award them a bonus promised in legislation eight years earlier for their service in World War I. Under the 1924 law, however, the bonus was not to be paid until 1945. Adjusted to the military record of individual veterans, the award was expected to average $1,000. Desperate and penniless in the depths of the Great Depression, this self-styled Bonus Expeditionary Force of 25,000 veterans came to the nation’s capital to lobby for immediate payment. As the Senate prepared to vote, thousands of veterans rallied outside its Chamber on the east front plaza.
June 17, 1885 — “Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor” via History.com — The dismantled statue, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrived after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases. The copper and iron statue, which was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland, became known worldwide as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy. Intended to commemorate the American Revolution and a century of friendship between the U.S. and France, the statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who modeled it after his own mother.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Anne Geggis.