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Personnel note: Danielle Babilino joins Hard Rock in Florida

Danielle Babilino will become senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Seminole Tribe-controlled Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, the company announced Thursday.

Babilino was most recently executive vice president of sales and marketing for Alon Las Vegas, the proposed luxury hotel and casino on the Strip.


She now will have “overall responsibility for the Hard Rock Hotel sales division, as it supports the expanding global portfolio of Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos,” according to a release, and will work out of Hard Rock International corporate offices in Hollywood.

From the release: “From 2008 through 2015, Babilino was senior vice president of sales for Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, the casino, resort, entertainment and retail complexes developed by gaming magnate Steve Wynn.

“Babilino was also vice president of sales and marketing at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and its sister development in Las Vegas.”

The Seminole Tribe of Florida in late 2016 consolidated its control over the Hard Rock brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Since then, Hard Rock announced a fourth location in Florida with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach. Hard Rock-themed properties are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

The company bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and has a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada. The company also wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey, just outside New York City.

Bill Nelson slams Rick Scott for skipping town hall

Gov. Rick Scott’s absence from the CNN town hall on gun reform and his potential refusal to propose an assault weapons ban will not be forgotten by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — especially as the two likely will face each other for Nelson’s seat in the upcoming midterm elections.

On Thursday, Nelson spoke to reporters and criticized Scott for his association with the NRA and for not attending Wednesday night’s town hall. Nelson said he was at the state Capitol “articulating his position” to legislators on what should be done in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

When asked if he’d lent advice to Scott, who plans to release a legislative proposal on Friday that is widely expected to include mental health and school safety measures, Nelson said, “I was hoping Gov. Scott was going to be at the town hall meeting like Sen. [Marco] Rubio, so that we could start having a discussion.”

Scott’s official response for skipping the CNN town hall was that he’d “be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.”

Nelson questioned Scott’s response, noting that the Governor attended a funeral in Broward County earlier on Wednesday.

“That doesn’t wash,” Nelson said.

Late in the evening on Wednesday, Scott met with several groups of Stoneman Douglas students in Tallahassee.

Nelson said Scott’s affiliation with the NRA and his related accolades are the reason why he predicts much of the legislative initiatives proposed on Friday will not include gun restrictions.

“The governor has an A-plus [NRA] rating,” Nelson said. “He’s a darling of the NRA, which means the gun manufacturers.”

Nelson preemptively attacked the concept of arming teachers with guns, a proposed policy solution that’s being floated at the state and national level.

He called it “a terrible idea” and questioned whether armed teachers would be able to halt a shooter equipped with an assault rifle.

Nelson lauded efforts to increase mental health and to provide more security for schools, but said they stop short of what he believes is necessary to prevent future mass shootings.

Nelson said the “root problems” can be fixed by ensuring criminal background checks take place every time a gun changes ownership and by banning assault weapons.

“I mean if you’re going to do something about school shootings — and just think about it, America is the only country on the face of the earth that there are constantly school massacres — if we’re going to do something about this we’ve got to get at the root problem and that is to take the assault rifles off the street,” Nelson said.

Scott’s record on guns is the target of a recent ad airing in four markets across the state. Given Nelson’s comments on Thursday, these attacks on pro-gun stances will persist should Scott opt to run against him.

Chris King: Legislature ‘cowardly’ for running from assault rifle ban

On the debate over assault rifle bans, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King believes the Florida Legislature is a bunch of cowards.

With the eyes of the nation on them, the GOP-led state House blocked a move by Democrats Tuesday to debate a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Republicans explained it would have been unprecedented to take a bill stuck in a subcommittee and move it to the chamber floor for debate.

The optics have been terrible though, with national media organizations focusing on showing Parkland students who were in the gallery that afternoon crying after the vote.

Headlines from outlets like The Washington Post screamed, “Florida House refuses to debate guns, declares porn dangerous,” referring to a resolution by Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano that declares pornography a health risk that states a need for education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography.

King said it was downright “cowardly” for the House to not even engage in a debate on the issue.

“That’s a terrible explanation,” he said about the reasoning that such bills aren’t heard out of committee while appearing on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday.

“There are good people that can talk about these issues, recognize that they’re complicated, and that we need to have a debate and we need to discuss it and talk about the substance of these ideas,” he said, adding that he supported the same proposal by Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HB 219) that was similarly never brought up for debate last year after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

“I think it’s a real absence of leadership and it’s cowardly to not even talk about solutions, to not even be willing to stand out there and say, ‘I oppose,’ as the Republicans would likely do, ‘I oppose an assault weapons ban, and here’s why.’ They don’t want to make that argument. They don’t want to stand up to folks like those students from Parkland who can’t understand why they wouldn’t do that,” King said.

On Wednesday night, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch appeared before a live town-hall audience broadcast nationally by CNN in Sunrise. Missing in action was Gov. Rick Scott, an absence that King calls “tragic.”

“We need a governor to not only sooth the wounds but propose big ideas that we can get behind,” King said. “I believe that’s a big problem. We haven’t had leadership from this governor for a long time.”

A Gravis Marketing poll released earlier this week shows King with only two percent support in his contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, but the Winter Park businessman says he remains unconcerned with more than six months to go before the August primary.

“My opportunity over the next seven months is as people are messaged and as people understand where we are on these issues, they’ll be making choices,” King said, adding that the poll showed that more than two-thirds of Democratic voters haven’t decided on a candidate yet.

Noting that while his better-known opponents, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still relatively unknown by Democratic voters at large, King’s job is to “catch fire” and speak to voter concerns.

Hookers and the House? Woman tells lawmakers their colleagues are ‘johns’

A House panel faced a shocking revelation Wednesday — that lawmakers may be soliciting prostitutes in the capital city.

Melissa Villar, who did not indicate she represented an organization, dropped a bomb on lawmakers when she said she is familiar with someone living in Tallahassee who operates a “trafficking ring” or “prostitution ring.”

That unnamed operator told Villar state representatives are frequent customers.

“She divulged to me that the majority of her clientele are members of the Florida House,” Villar told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Casting doubt on the claim, Villar said that the unidentified sex trafficker doesn’t know the difference between “Session and interim” and possibly mistook lobbyists for lawmakers.

But, pointing to electronic payment systems, Villar said it is likely that this operator knows the names of her clients.

“She was taking the credit card payment,” Villar noted. “So she knows who the people are.”

Villar then told lawmakers she forwarded what she knew to the “ethics commission.” A representative from the Florida Commission on Ethics said to Florida Politics there are currently no closed complaints filed by Villar, but a claim could be pending, making it exempt from public disclosure. The commission added that it did not have any documented correspondence with Villar.

The Florida House Ethics committee also said there were no public complaints from Villar.

Villar also explained to lawmakers that she reported the incident to law enforcement. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement told Florida Politics it had not received a related complaint.

A Facebook profile associated with Villar shows that she is the executive director of NORML Tallahassee.

According to its website, NORML seeks to “move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.” Her Facebook profile also shows that she used to be employed at the Florida House of Representatives.

One online news article shows Villar was quoted supporting a bill in the 2017 Session that sought to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. During her testimony on Wednesday, Villar sported a brooch that resembles a pot leaf.

Villar could not be immediately reached to provide more context to her testimony.

Her comments came as the committee considered a bill (HB 167) filed by Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano to allow human trafficking victims to sue hotel owners and staff who are complicit in human trafficking operations.

Following her testimony, members did not address or publicly question Villar’s assertions. The committee ultimately forwarded the bill.

The jarring statements made by Villar coincide with a new era of awareness to the sexual extracurricular activities of the Legislature. A number of scandals involving lawmakers have come to light in the past year, leading some to resign.

In the case of former Sen. Jack Latvala, authorities have launched a criminal investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.

It was unearthed late last year that someone had planted a camera on the sixth floor of the Tennyson condo, where legislators frequently stay during their annual stints in the capital city, presumably to monitor lawmakers’ late night endeavors.

The Miami Herald reported that in the 1960s and ’70s, lawmakers would be seen in mobile home parks on the outskirts of Tallahassee “where they enjoyed thick steaks, red wine and, legend has it, the company of women, courtesy of a trade group.”

CNN Parkland town hall crowd expresses powerful gun-control message

If the crowd at Wednesday night’s gun discussion at the BB&T Center in Sunrise was indicative of more than just a normally Democratic community now suffering from one of the most horrific school massacres in history, then Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and staunch 2nd Amendment advocates can find little place there.

In the CNN post-Parkland massacre town hall meeting show “Stand Up,” televised live Wednesday night, students’, teachers’, family members’ and others’  anger and conviction over the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was clearly focused on gun control, on banning assault weapons, universal background checks and other gun laws.

That left Rubio, who joined Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, often in the spotlight of anger and pleading survivors, family and friends, as he defended 2nd Amendment positions opposing many of the gun restrictions the crowd was professing.

The trio of federal lawmakers found their roles well defined from the start, and found that the questioners, including teenagers, harbored no fear or intimidation whatsoever in pressing powerful members of Congress.

Deutch, the hometown congressman who has been a strong, longtime advocate of gun control, gave fiery calls for banning what he called “weapons of war,” and denouncing opposition to gun reforms. And for those he drew standing ovations.

Nelson, who’s been through all of this before, from previous horrible tragedies, sought to balm and inspire the crowd, declaring, “Your hope gives me hope. You’r determination gives me more determination…. You have been so strong. Keep it up.”

And on the other side was Rubio, who drew flat-out confrontations, and stood up to them with compassion and respect, and expressing sincere empathy and understanding, yet with convictions to positions the questioners and the crowd did not like. He took it.

“I want to like you. Here’s the problem: Your comments this week, and those of our president have been pathetically weak,” Rubio was told by Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg was killed last week.

“Tell me guns weren’t a factor in the hunting of our kids,” Guttenberg demanded.

At another point, student Michelle Lapidot asked, rhetorically, because she said she wanted to ask someone from the National Rifle Association, but there wasn’t anyone there yet, “Was the blood of my classmates and teachers worth your blood money?”

Rubio made some news pledging some concessions on gun control stands He renewed and strengthened vows to support a ban on bump stocks, an increase the minimum age for the purchase of a rifle to 21, an expansion background checks on gun purchases. Finally, he promised a new breakthrough, to consider restrictions on ammunition magazine sizes, an issue that had been front and center in the gun debate 20 months ago, in the weeks after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, and which Rubio had then strongly opposed.

The last concession was one he said has come to him from what he had learned from law enforcement briefings about what happened inside the high school last week. He said it was evidence in politics that people can change their minds.

“I traditionally have not supported looking at magazine clip size. … I’m reconsidering, and I’ll tell you why,” Rubio said. “While it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack. I believe there will be evidence that in a key moment in the incident, three or four people, three or four people, might be alive today because of something this deranged killer had to do.”

But Rubio’s other arguments, seeking to explain, for example, how complicated it could be to ban the kinds of guns that killed in Stoneman Douglas High School and in Pulse, fell flat, sounding as if he was nickel-and-diming the issues on technicalities. And he was doing so in front of young people who had stared down a blazing AR-15 just days ago, and in front of grieving parents and siblings.

At one point he asked Deutch if he would be so bold as to support a ban on all assault rifles, as if such was an absurdly-broad ban.

Deutch said yes. The crowed thundered.

Rubio looked surprised. He said, “Fair enough, fair enough.”

Still, Rubio fared better than Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump. CNN invited both, and they both declined. And they both suffered  numerous unanswered hits during the town hall, for not participating.

Nelson, who likely will be facing Scott later this year in the U.S. Senate race, took several opportunities to criticize the pro-2nd Amendment governor.

“My colleague and I, Marco Rubio, have a good relationship. I told him before I came out tonight he had guts coming here, when in fact there is no representative of the state of Florida here. Our governor did not come here, Gov. Scott, but Marco did,” Nelson offered.

Rubio’s empathy and connection with the crowd was not shared by his successor on the 2nd Amendment side of the issue.

In the second half of the show, CNN brought out Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and NRA national spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

Loesch started out condescending and lecturing, trying to draw distinctions between selling weapons to people she called “nuts,” and to anyone else. Almost continuously, Loesch tried to blame the school massacre, and redirect questions and arguments, to being being about the madness of charged shooter Nikolas Cruz, and how the justice system, the schools, and society had missed all warning signs that should have signaled the blood to come, and led someone to intervene.

But the students and others, and the crowd reactions sounded as if they heard her argument as offensively irrelevant, as completely tone deaf to what they wanted to discuss: the role of the guns in Cruz’s hands. She was accused of avoiding questions, and Loesch occasionally retreated into the position of the cornered righteous.

That didn’t get by Israel, who told her she had not earned the right to tell the audience, as she had, that she fought for them. He declared there was no reason for the NRA’s opposition to universal background checks and assault weapon restrictions, declaring, “We’re calling BS on that!”

Rick Scott, Parkland students talk policy behind closed doors

Facing the state’s head honcho, kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas shared their policy suggestions in the wake of the massacre at their school, and Gov. Rick Scott seemed to have listened, according to one student.

“It went better than I expected it was going to go,” Sofie Whitney, an 18-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, told reporters after meeting with Scott. “[Scott] definitely surprised us.”

The Governor set aside a two-hour period to speak with groups of students from Stoneman Douglas and Plantation Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book late Wednesday. The meetings were planned so that Scott heard different perspectives before finalizing a legislative proposal aimed at preventing another Parkland-like tragedy in the state.

Each meeting was carefully shielded from public view, forcing media to rely on students to relay what transpired during their intimate discussions with Scott.

Whitney said that her group initiated most of the policy conversations and that Scott would share his thoughts, which led to talks of compromise.

“Scott definitely responded with his ideas as well and we were trying to find a common ground,” Whitney said.

When asked to sum up the meeting, Whitney said it centered on discussions of keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. Ideas, like providing for more thorough background checks and requiring the passage of a mental health exam prior to a gun purchase, were floated to Scott, Whitney said. She said the students in her group also discussed implementing longer waiting periods for gun purchases and limiting assault weapons sales to customers ages 21 plus — though it was hard to discern Scott’s response to the idea for an age restriction.

When asked if her group brought up banning assault weapon sales, Whitney said such discussion was omitted because there likely wasn’t “hope” for a ban given the House’s refusal to take up a similar measure on Tuesday.

“We had a feeling that [discussing a ban] wouldn’t be very effective,” Whitney said. 

Whitney indicated that she and her peers are eager to see Scott’s legislative proposal and whether it will reflect what was discussed in secrecy during the meetings.

“Scott was really receptive,” Whitney said. “But we won’t be sure of any of his actions until he releases his proposal on Friday.”

Whitney will head back to Broward County with her classmates Wednesday night. When the governor does release his proposal, there will be 400 miles of separation between the students and Scott, and only two weeks left in the Legislative Session. 

Parkland students to Legislature: We’ve had enough of your ‘thoughts and prayers’

Those who’ve survived the tragic shooting in Parkland don’t want to be consoled by lawmakers — they want action.

A number of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spoke between the state House and Senate chambers on Wednesday, aggressively addressing state legislators in front of dozens of media outlets. The conference was concurrent with a rally that drew thousands of protesters at the Old Historic Capitol.

The students, corralled and organized by state Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, spoke of what they witnessed and experienced last Wednesday when Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 students and faculty at the high school.

Each speaker grieved and recounted the horrific aspects of that fateful day at Stoneman Douglas. Almost all expressed anger towards those in power and the need to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. The speakers floated potential fixes, including changing background check processes, restricting certain age groups from purchasing assault weapons and other gun control measures.

While young and new to political advocacy, the students seemed to be aware that many of their ideas do not stand a chance passing a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Jose Oliva told POLITICO earlier today that students who want gun control measures passed, such as a ban on assault weapons, likely will leave Tallahassee “disappointed,” because the Legislature will not pass such laws.

Delaney Tarr, a 17-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, spoke of her and her classmates’ mission and how frustrating their experience in Tallahassee has been.

“Coming here today as a teenager full of passion — a bit too much passion — was very disappointing,” Tarr said. “We’ve been to many rooms, we’ve spoken to only a few legislators and, try as they might, the most we’ve gotten out of them is ‘we’ll keep you in our thoughts, you are so strong and you are so powerful.'”

For Tarr and her peers, that message isn’t enough.

“We aren’t here to be patted on the back,” Tarr continued. She said they are here to encourage action on behalf of gun control measures, not to be comforted and “pushed into another room as [lawmakers] dance around our questions.”

“We want gun reform,” Tarr said. “We want common sense gun laws.”

She cited the House’s refusal to take up an assault weapons ban on the floor Tuesday, calling it “disappointing.”

Emphasizing the need for action, Tarr said, “We’ve had enough of ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We’ve had enough of ‘we’re in your consideration, we’re going to think about it, we’re going to tell you how we feel because we support you so much’ — because we know that’s not true.

“If you supported us you would’ve made a change long ago and you would be making change now.”

Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior, also acknowledged that the advocacy trip to Tallahassee and the planned march in Washington, D.C., might not be enough

“What we need is action,” Calderon said. “And we need it now more than ever.”

Calderon also said he is prepared to drop out of school and dedicate his entire time to advocating to end gun violence. He told Florida Politics that the move is being considered by other students as well.

Gubernatorial candidate Randy Wiseman says his Parkland ‘crisis actor’ posts were in error

A Libertarian candidate for Governor briefly took an unusual and assuredly controversial position regarding the mass murder in Parkland last week.

Then he retracted the position. First by deleting the posts alleging that one survivor was a “crisis actor.” Then by giving us, hours after we asked for comment, a four word statement.

“I was an error [SIC].”

Randy Wiseman, the sole Libertarian candidate running for the state’s top job.

On Tuesday, as folks on the far right were doing, Wiseman unwisely shared a series of conspiracy theory posts on Facebook casting aspersions on David Hogg, one of the many survivors of the murders at a Parkland high school last week.

“This kid … turns out to be the son of an FBI agent who spends his spare time as a progressive activist and a #NeverTrumper,” reads the shared post from Ron Dwyer.

Dwyer’s original post adds that “The real truth about this so-called High School gun control activist David Hogg. *UPDATE* we now have David Hogg and CNN video showing them working to conspire fake news to the American public.”

A second shared post goes farther, trafficking in the same kind of conspiracy theory last seen in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings.

The text: “So Called “Student”, But actually a CRISIS ACTOR , David Hogg, was on camera months ago, pretending to be a high school student in California. Now, suddenly, he is a high school student in Florida???”

Libertarians, of course, have attracted the lunatic fringe in recent years.

Augustus Invictus, a Senate candidate from 2016, was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a goat-slaughtering, warmongering, repeat Senate candidate from Florida [who] is trying to reinvent himself as a leading voice in the alt-right.”

Invictus did not get the party’s nomination.

However, with no challenge awaiting Wiseman, Florida voters may see him on the general election ballot in 2018.

Wiseman had mused on the atrocity previously: “The one thing I would say about the shooting in South Florida is … if those three adults who use their bodies to protect the children had concealed guns they could’ve used the guns to protect those children.”

We reached out to Wiseman and will update when we hear back.

Matt Caldwell: Gun-free zones led to Parkland shooting

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Matt Caldwell on Wednesday said he believes making schools gun-free zones is the main reason on why tragedies like last week’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school happen.

“I believe that these … shootings happen because (schools) are soft targets—they happen because we designate them gun-free zones,” said Caldwell, a Republican House member from North Fort Myers, on CNN Wednesday morning.

CNN anchor John Berman immediately pushed back on the Florida lawmaker, saying it’s not known whether the shooter picked his target because he knew no one on campus would be armed.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is being held on premeditated murder charges.

“It appears that it was targeted because” Cruz had attended the high school, Berman told Caldwell.

Caldwell’s sentiment that gun-free zones are the main reason for such mass shootings is shared by other Florida Senate Republicans, including Sarasota’s Greg Steube and Ocala’s Dennis Baxley.

The two legislators proposed a bill (SB 1236) that would allow school principals or superintendents to designate individuals who could carry guns during school hours. Those receiving the designation would have to meet training and background requirements.

The bill had been scheduled to be debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but was withdrawn over the weekend.

Caldwell’s six-and-half-minute interview began with Berman challenging him over House Republicans’ rejection of a bill (HB 219) which would criminalize the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, mentioning the AR-15 model reportedly used by Cruz.

The bill has been stuck in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

Like other House Republicans who opposed the bill, Caldwell explained to Berman that the push to bring the bill up for a vote was highly unusual, saying “we don’t pull bills out of committee.”

Caldwell, first elected to the House in 2010, also claimed that the bill went beyond banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying, “that wasn’t just a ban on high capacity magazines, that was a ban on all guns.”

The bill, however, refers to “any assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine.”

Alluding to the fact that the FBI and Department of Children and Families were aware of Cruz’s troubled history leading up to last week’s shooting, Caldwell said that is something that legislators need to focus on, and not gun-control measures.

“Taking away people’s Second Amendment rights (isn’t) going to do that,” he said.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is expected to introduce a legislative package Thursday to include new age restrictions for gun purchases, a ban on bump stocks and gun-violence restraining orders.

Ryan Torrens says he’ll allow local gun control laws

If elected, Democratic Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens says he would not enforce Florida law that prohibits cities and counties from enacting their own gun-control ordinances.

Local officials who do enforce them can face a $5,000 fine.

“It is blatantly clear that Gov. (Rick) Scott and our state Legislature are not willing to lift a finger to set in place any common-sense gun reforms,” Torrens said. “So, if the leaders of Broward County are ready to take action to protect (their) children and families, then I am going to support those efforts.”

The original law banning local gun policies was passed in 1987. The 2011 update exposed local officials to penalties for enforcing prompted ordinances.

Mayors from some of Florida’s biggest cities have complained about the legislation for years, most prominently being Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat and gun owner himself, who decried how the law prevented him from banning guns in downtown Tampa during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

If elected as the state’s chief legal officer, Torrens promises not to pursue local officials for putting in place what he calls reasonable ordinances to keep their communities safe.

“This law is an illegal encroachment on the authority of localities to achieve the very compelling interest of protecting their children and families, especially when we have a state legislature that always puts the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their own reelection before the safety of our children,” Torrens said.

On Tuesday, every Republican member of the House present on the floor voted against a proposal to bring a stalled assault rifle ban, pushed by Orlando Democrat Carlos G. Smith, out of committee and up for a vote.

“We know special interest money has corrupted our politics. Now, it is abundantly clear that the influence of special interest groups like the NRA is not just corrupting, but deadly,” Torrens said. “The Florida GOP should immediately return all contributions from the NRA and stand up for what is right – protecting our children, families, and first responders.”

His stance is by far the most progressive of anyone entering the race.

The 32-year-old Hillsborough County attorney was the first Democrat to enter the contest in 2018. Current Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term-limited this year.

He’s since been joined by Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw, a Democrat who has kept a relatively low profile on the campaign front since declaring his candidacy last month.

The four Republicans in the race—state Reps. Frank White, Ross Spano and Jay Fant, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody—have previously spoken enthusiastically about gun rights.

In fact, Fant has claimed that Moody has been insufficiently pro-Second Amendment in her record as a judge.

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