Danny McAuliffe, Author at Florida Politics

Danny McAuliffe

Rick Scott’s coordination with justice nominating panel unconstitutional, groups argue

Gov. Rick Scott may have acted beyond his constitutional authority last week when he jump-started the Judicial Nominating Commission’s process of vetting potential justices to fill three soon-to-be vacancies on the state Supreme Court, new legal action contends. 

In a writ of quo warranto filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida challenge Scott’s power to coordinate with the JNC and to require the nine-member panel submit three to six candidates for the high court by Nov. 10.

The Supreme Court later on Thursday asked Scott to respond to the petition no later than Sept. 26.

The groups had earlier challenged Scott’s authority to nominate three new justices before his term ends in January. At stake in the new year is the potential to swing the court’s political leanings. The three justices with expiring terms are Fred LewisPeggy Quince and Barbara Pariente — considered the liberal wing of the high court.

The Nov. 10 deadline, the petition argues, is outside of a constitutional provision that “nominations shall be made within thirty days from the occurrence of a vacancy unless the period is extended by the governor for a time not to exceed thirty days.”

The lawyers representing Common Cause and the League interpret the 30-day clause as meaning no potential replacements can be considered before a vacancy on the bench occurs.

The petition later reads, “Governor Scott’s attempt to require the [JNC]  to convene and, more importantly, to set a deadline for nominations is unquestionably beyond his authority.” 

The legal action comes after the Supreme Court in a 6-1 decision refused to rule on a lawsuit requesting the court block Scott from appointing three new justices on the day his term ends, Jan. 7. Then, the court agreed that Scott hadn’t made an official move regarding the nomination of new justices outside of comments to the press, and therefore it couldn’t weigh in.

When Scott corralled the JNC last week, the petition claims, he took “official action.”

But John Tupps, Scott’s communications director, pointed to precedent as justification for beginning the nomination process.

“The Governor is following precedent set by Governor [Lawton Chiles] and has said in good faith that his expectation is that he and the governor-elect will agree on the selection of three new justices,” Tupps said in a prepared statement. Chiles reached an agreement on a new high court pick with then-Gov.-elect Jeb Bush in 1998.

“It’s disappointing that these partisan groups filed a politically-motivated lawsuit that would create three prolonged vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, contrary to all historical practice,” added Tupps.

Regardless of history, a lawyer handling the litigation told Florida Politics, Scott is still acting outside of his delegated powers.

“What politicians do in the past cannot possibly change the meaning of the Constitution,” Tallahassee-based attorney John Mills, who’s handling the litigation, said. “This is not an olive branch it’s a power grab.”

The petition requests the court consider the matter promptly, as the nomination process launched by Scott already is underway.

Andrew Gillum among list of candidates backed by Brady Campaign

Only a few Florida names were included in the latest endorsement rollout from the longstanding, national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and his running mate Chris King, however, made the cut. So did Congressional District 27 hopeful Donna Shalala, who’s engaged in a hard-fought battle to turn the South Florida district blue.

The choice between Gillum and Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, the executive committee of the Florida chapters of the Brady Campaign claim, “couldn’t be any clearer.”

“One candidate for governor said he was ‘disappointed’ in efforts to stop mass shootings after the Parkland massacre,” the members noted, referring to DeSantis’ take on the state Legislature’s gun-control actions after 17 were killed at the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. “The other has stood arm-in-arm with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the fight for change.” 

The organization lauded Gillum and King for pledging to increase gun control. Gillum’s anti-gun violence platform includes bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — positions supported by the Brady Campaign.

Brady noted Shalala’s ties to President Bill Clinton, who passed a federal assault weapons ban in 1994. Then the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, “Shalala was part of the team that passed the 1994 assault weapons ban, and she is committed to doing so again,” the organization claims.

With vocal support could come monetary aid, according to the campaign. The group is thoroughly vetting candidates on gun issues and claims it will support friends and target enemies of the organization’s mission via its Brady PAC.

“These are all fantastic candidates who join an already impressive group of diverse gun safety champions,” said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign. “We look forward to supporting them to victory in November.”

Andrew Gillum continues filling out campaign staff

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, announced on Wednesday a second series of hires for his general election campaign.

Eleven more Gillum staffers and consultants are officially on board, the campaign announced Wednesday. The campaign earlier this week unveiled a 19-person leadership team.

Familiar names — like staffers from unsuccessful primary campaigns and from other Democratic politicians and groups — fill out the squad. There are also carryovers from Gillum’s primary team.

At the helm of operations is Brandon Davis, the newly named campaign manager. Davis fills the vacancy created by the firing of Brendan McPhillips, who was let go shortly after Gillum’s upset primary victory. Davis is a decorated Democratic strategist. He served nearly a decade in leadership positions at Service Employees International Union and in 2016 was the chief of staff at the Democratic National Committee.

“The enthusiasm and activism of so many Floridians over the last two weeks has been inspiring, and this campaign isn’t letting up for a moment — we are going to take our message to every corner of the state,” Davis said in announcing the slate of new hires.

Among the updated list of outside consultants to the campaign is Millie Raphael, who will advise on statewide Hispanic outreach. Hava Holzhauer will focus on Jewish outreach.

Taking over political operations for Gillum is Roosevelt Holmes, who worked for President Barack Obama‘s election campaign in 2008. Holmes also successfully helped Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings ascend to the county’s mayoral post in August. Holmes will now oversee Deputy Political Director Philip Jerez, who ran the political shop for Gillum during the primary.

From the now-shuttered Philip Levine campaign comes Courtney Whitney, a Democratic fundraiser, and Christian Ulvert. Ulvert, who was a senior adviser to Levine, will handle Spanish-language media for Gillum. Manny OrozcoBallestas, also a Levine alum, will handle youth outreach for Gillum. 

Pollster John Anzalone, who formerly worked with Gwen Graham, will handle surveying for the Gillum camp.

Zach Learner is the deputy manager for the campaign and comes over from Chris King‘s team. King is on the ticket as a Lieutenant Governor hopeful.

Carlie Waibel, who had earlier this year worked for Sen. Bill Nelson‘s re-election campaign, now is the deputy communications director for Gillum. On Wednesday, the campaign also announced Johanna Cervone and Kirsten Allen as new comms hires. Joshua Karp, who handled comms for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s failed U.S. Senate bid in 2016, and Doug Thornell, of SKDKnickerbocker, round out the comms staff.

Former communications director Geoff Burgan is now working with CATECOMM, the communications and consulting firm that’s long been favored by Gillum. Kevin Cate, owner of CATECOMM, will handle paid media for Gillum.

A complete list of team Gillum is below.

Senior strategic advisers: Scott Arceneaux, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Omar Khan and Sean Pittman.

Senior Staff: Cesar Fernandez, Deputy Campaign Manager for Political; Joshua Karp, Deputy Campaign Manager for Communications; Zach Learner, Deputy Campaign Manager for Operations; Roxey Nelson, Deputy Campaign Manager for Organizing; Courtney Whitney, Deputy Campaign Manager for Finance; and Carlie Waibel, Deputy Communications Director.

Staff: Roosevelt Holmes, Political Director; Johanna Cervone, Communications Director; Kirsten Allen, Deputy Communications Director; Philip Jerez, Statewide Deputy Political Director; Susannah Randolph, Statewide Constituency Outreach Director; Juan Cuba, Hispanic Outreach Director; Alicia Stallworth, African American & Caribbean Outreach Director; Manny OrozcoBallestas, Youth Outreach Director. 

Consulting team: Jon Adrabi, Senior Advisor; Karen Andre, Senior Advisor; John Anzalone, Polling; Kevin Cate, Paid Media; Mattis Goldman, Paid Media; Jim Kottmeyer, Digital; Doug Thornell, Communications; Ed Peavy, Direct Mail; Christian Ulvert, Spanish-Language Media; Millie Raphael, Statewide Hispanic Outreach Consultant; Hava Holzhauer, Statewide Jewish Outreach Consultant; Omar Khan, Senior Advisor.

Rick Scott to attend one-year Hurricane Maria tribute in Puerto Rico

Gov. Rick Scott will travel to Puerto Rico on Thursday, the anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s 2017 island landfall.

Scott will join Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló along with other senior island officials to pay tribute to the lives lost and devastation left behind.

This is Scott’s eighth trip to the island in a year. And comes as the term-limited Governor hopes to ascend to the U.S. Senate after the upcoming election. A Republican, Scott is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for the seat.

While the trip was noticed by Scott’s government office and staff, rather than his campaign, both candidates are transparently attempting to capture support from displaced Puerto Ricans, as well as from other Hispanic voters.

For Scott, it’s clear that strategy is working.

A poll earlier this summer showed Scott as more favorable among Latino voters than Nelson. Shortly after Scott entered the race in April, he began airing television ads in both English and Spanish. Last week, Scott’s Senate campaign launched a Spanish-language TV spot distancing the Governor from President Donald Trump, who wouldn’t enjoy nearly as much support among Hispanic voters in Florida.

“When I don’t agree with what President Trump does or says, I’ve said it,” Scott says in the ad, in Spanish.

Scott’s trip to the island comes shortly after he vocally spoke out against Trump last week. The death toll from Hurricane Maria, Trump had claimed, was inflated by Democrats.

Not so, said Scott.

It’s unclear if appearances alongside Rosselló will manifest into anything substantial for Scott’s bid.

He’s garnered support from several other leaders on the island, including from Jenniffer GonzálezColón, who represents Puerto Rico in Congress. But Rosselló has consistently supported Florida Democrats this cycle. Among them: Congressman Darren Soto and then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

Rosselló hasn’t endorsed Nelson, but his father — a former Boricua Governor — backed the incumbent in June.

Two debates planned between Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum

The gubernatorial nominees have agreed to two debates ahead of Election Day.

Republican nominee Ron DeSantis accepted a Leadership Florida debate and CNN town hall on Monday, a few days after Democrat Andrew Gillum said he also would attend the forums. 

The Leadership Florida debate, according to the Gillum campaign, will take place Oct. 24 at Broward College. The CNN debate will be in Tampa, but the date is not yet set. 

DeSantis, in accepting debate invitations, opened the door for three more: Fox News, CBS Miami with Jim DeFede and Telemundo in Orlando.

“I’ll debate [Andrew Gillum] whenever possible—because his high-tax, far-left policies would be a disaster for Florida,” DeSantis tweeted.

But DeSantis left unanswered a third forum Gillum accepted: Univision 23 in Miami.

That sort of silence has proved to be fodder for both parties in multiple races.

The Gillum campaign and the Florida Democratic Party spent the weekend hammering DeSantis for not having immediately accepted the same debates that Gillum accepted on Saturday. 

When the Gillum campaign announced on Sunday that the Tallahassee mayor also would attend a CNN town hall, campaign adviser Scott Arceneaux said: “DeSantis is refusing to accept any debates because he has no real plans for moving Florida forward.”

A spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party in a statement earlier on Monday said: “In a major break with tradition, Ron DeSantis is refusing to debate Andrew Gillum.”

But now, there are three pending forums the Gillum campaign must answer to. As of publishing, Gillum’s team has yet to indicate whether it will attend the additional debates DeSantis announced earlier on Monday.

“Florida voters deserve to hear from both Mayor Gillum and Congressman DeSantis about their plans for the Sunshine State, and we’re proud to move forward accordingly,” said Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communications director.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race the Republican candidate has made a campaign issue of incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson’s delay of response to live forums.

Per Republican challenger Rick Scott’s count, he’s accepted four debates ahead of Nov. 6.

Nelson’s RSVP’d to just one.

In a dig at the sitting senator, Scott suggested on Twitter earlier on Monday that Nelson accept more debates.

Republican ‘Victory Dinner’ to take place in Orlando

The semi-annual largest fundraising event for Florida Republicans will happen in Orlando this year.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, Republicans from across the state will come together at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the 2018 Victory Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida announced Monday.

“Donors and influential grassroots operatives” are expected to attend, according to the party.

It’s considered the Florida GOP’s largest fundraising event. In 2016, during the last Victory Dinner, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the audience. Then a candidate, Pence likely had sought to rally donors in the swing state. That event was held in Tampa.

RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement he is excited and ready to ride a “red wave” to victory.

“We look forward to our stellar candidates and their vision for a more prosperous Sunshine State rallying the heart and soul of our party,” Ingoglia said. “And we look forward to energizing our grassroots for the final stretch before heading to the polls to retain the Governor’s Mansion and add a seat in the U.S. Senate.”

In another memo released Monday, the party claims to have raised $7,671,060 since the Aug. 28 primary.

Florida school superintendents: School security transfer a must

Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the intention of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The group is wholly supportive of eventually transferring unused school security funding. 

School superintendents backing the transfer of unused security money concurred with legislative leaders this week that numbers should be finalized before the Legislature amends any funding set aside for school security.

But, ultimately, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents is supportive of a transfer of the approximately $58 million in leftover funding set aside for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty.

That transfer had been spearheaded by Gov. Rick Scott, but ultimately failed to make the Joint Legislative Budget Commission’s agenda. The budget-revising panel met earlier on Friday.

According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriation has been used by schools. Scott wanted lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. He has suggested some of the funding could be used to help offset school districts who are staffing police officers and security specialists at every school. Superintendents and school districts agree.

However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request. In a letter last week, Galvano told Scott he would reject his offer to give the Guardian Program more implementation time.

To that end, the association representing school district leaders also agreed.

“As stated in President-Elect Galvano’s letter, a proposed amendment to transfer funds to be considered by the Legislative Budget Commission is not yet ripe,” writes FADSS President Richard Shirley, who also serves as Superintendent of Sumter County Schools.

Shirley suggests that the funds not be revisited until the Department of Education reviews the Guardian Program budgets for the current year. He also hints that lawmakers should refrain from touching the leftover money until the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission wraps its work. The fact-finding panel was spawned in the same bill providing for the Guardian Program.

Once those calculations are considered, Shirley writes, then lawmakers should use the money to offset the hiring of safe-school and law enforcement officers at schools. The Legislature in the wake of the Parkland massacre that left 17 dead passed a mandate that an armed person be present at every campus.

Shirley proposes the money could also be used to meet new ‘school hardening’ requirements.

In February, the same group had staunchly opposed the arming of any faculty.

In new ad, Bill Nelson depicts Rick Scott as Donald Trump’s ‘amigo’

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s reelection campaign released two television ads Wednesday evening.

One, titled “Amigo,” is a Spanish-language spot that claims President Donald Trump and Nelson’s Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, are just that: amigos.

Translated from Spanish, the opening lines of the 30-second ad: “Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are. Rick Scott and Donald Trump are great/close friends/pals.”

The ad debuts as some speculate Scott is attempting to distance himself from Trump. A POLITICO story on Monday noted the term-limited Governor is campaigning alongside old-school Republicans like former President George W. Bush.

Accompanying “Amigo” is another 30-second television spot titled “Know.” The ad attempts to call Scott’s environmental record into question. It also highlights Scott’s association with a company fined for Medicaid fraud.

Both ads make the claim that “you just can’t trust” Scott.

News of these ads followed two national groups on Wednesday putting an untold sum behind negative digital ads targeting Scott.

Latest polling of the high profile race suggests the two candidates are neck and neck. A Wednesday forecast from elections analysis group FiveThirtyEight put the race as a tossup.

Watch the two ads below:

Mike Hill

Republican Liberty chapter requests Florida GOP denounce Mike Hill’s campaign tactics

The Panhandle Republican Liberty Caucus is requesting the Florida GOP publicly denounce the actions of state House District 1 Republican nominee Mike Hill.

The news follows a weekend report from Florida Politics of the racially charged, sexist and deceitful campaign waged by Hill in the Republican primary for the seat, which saw Hill prevail over GOP challenger Rebekah Bydlak.

“There have been some nasty negative campaigns this year,” Caucus Chairman Christopher JGravois wrote Monday. The race between Bydlak and Hill being “among the worst of them.”

Gravois said the Caucus does not intend to aid Hill in his general campaign and is unlikely to help him in the future. It also requests Hill make a public apology for the “horrendous personal attacks” against both Bydlak and Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash, of Palestinian heritage.

In a mailer, Hill likened Bydlak — who carried an endorsement from the National Rifle Association and term-limited HD 1 Republican Rep. Clay Ingram — to “liberal” Amash.

Calling Amash a “liberal” is a “blatant lie” and “a bigoted swipe at the Congressman’s ethnicity,” Gravois wrote. 

Involving Amash in the campaign for the deep-red district could be seen as a continuation of Hill’s expressed Islamophobic beliefs. He tweeted in August, “The sooner you expel the demonic Muslim horde, the better.”

He also retweeted a statement that “Islam is a cancer.”

Hill also has highlighted Amash’s Palestinian heritage in now-deleted social media posts. Amash also has publicly requested national and state Republican leaders denounce his tactics.

On Hill’s official campaign Facebook page, supporters have repeated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis’ possibly misinterpreted “monkey” comment.

Another supporter responded to a Facebook post Hill made criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum by saying the Tallahassee Mayor should be “picking cotton.”

A group supporting Hill fabricated a picture of the candidate next to President Donald Trump in a mailer. Hill also falsely claimed to be in possession of Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

Background provided by Gainesville correspondent Drew Wilson.

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott agree to first debate

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott have agreed to face each other in an Oct. 2 debate, Nelson’s campaign announced Monday evening.

Hosted by Telemundo 51 in Miami, the debate will be broadcasted in network stations in Miami, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm and Orlando, according to Nelson’s campaign. A set time for the forum was not announced. It will be moderated by Telemundo 51’s senior political reporter Marilys Llanos and WTVJ NBC6’s senior news anchor Jackie Nespral.

It will be a first-time square off between Scott, a Republican, and Nelson, the Democratic incumbent. Scott, who entered the Senate race in April, posts a formidable challenge to Nelson. It’s is a virtual tie so far, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

The planned debate is one of three Scott accepted in June. The other hosts: CNN and Jacksonville’s WJXT.

Early in August, Scott attacked Nelson with a digital ad accusing the sitting senator of debate dodging.

Nelson, however, framed his acceptance of the debate as Scott “finally” agreeing to take the stage alongside him.

Scott responded to Nelson, pressuring him to accept the other two debates.

Nelson’s campaign claims it is “reviewing other forums,” including the CNN debate, which would take place in mid-October.

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