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‘You might be a racist if your name is Ron DeSantis,’ asserts American Bridge

Liberal activist group American Bridge slammed Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis Thursday with a provocative new video.

The title: “You might be a racist … if your name is Ron DeSantis.”

DeSantis, whose campaign began with a warning that electing Democrat Andrew Gillum would “monkey this up,” has struggled to deflect Democratic criticism on the grounds of racial insensitivity.

The American Bridge video opens with that quote, calling it an example of using “racial bullhorns” (a quote from Gillum as the controversy broke).

From there, the group reminds voters of DeSantis being an administrator of a “racist Facebook page,” then splices in reportage of DeSantis speaking at four different conferences organized by conservative provocateur David Horowitz.

Horowitz has been defined in this campaign by a 1999 quote that “African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s ‘only serious race war’ is against whites.”

“DeSantis spoke at event hosted by race war theorist,” read one headline excerpted in the spot, juxtaposed over DeSantis saying it was an “honor” to speak at Horowitz’s conclaves during one of his speeches.

“David’s done such great work and I’ve been an admirer of an organization that shoots straight and tells people the truth,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has addressed these controversies in recent weeks, though clearly not in a way that has blunted criticism.

He dismissed the “monkey this up” controversy as a “nothingburger” on Fox News.

Regarding the racist Facebook page, a DeSantis spox told the Tampa Bay Times that DeSantis was “was completely unaware that he was part of the Facebook group, which he was added to without his knowledge or consent. As soon as he found out about it, he immediately deleted it.”

Regarding the Horowitz conferences, DeSantis addressed that controversy most directly with POLITICO Florida.

“So, look, at the end of the day, the way the Washington Post characterized that was a smear. It was totally unacceptable. Now, granted, when I go to a conference … I’m not at everything. I wasn’t at [sic] many of these people. This Milo [Yiannopolis] guy? Not my cup of tea,” DeSantis said.

The candidate added that “what the Washington Post is trying to do — they don’t have the goods on me. So they’re trying to do some type of smear by association. And that is just unacceptable.”

“If they want to see what I’ve been up to, it’s all out there. Take a look. Judge me on my merits. But I am not going to sit here and let them [say] ‘this guy tweeted something two years later, therefore …’ No. No. No. No. That was a bad piece of journalism,” DeSantis said.

These reports have not abated during the first two weeks of the general election campaign, and at least one survey — from the GOP-friendly Florida Chamber  — suggests that the oppo is leaving a mark.

Gillum is up 47 to 43, with leads in every major media market but Jacksonville.

The Democrat’s fundraising is also surging, though one suspects the GOP cavalry will come to the rescue soon enough.

Adam Putnam to ‘work hard’ until the end

After losing the Aug. 28 Republican gubernatorial primary to Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continues saying his focus is the remaining four months in the Cabinet post.

Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained Tuesday that his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.”

“I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s lot to be done.”

Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being commissioner of agriculture”

Putnam, who is from Bartow, was first elected to the state House in 1996. He moved to Congress four years later, where he served five terms before being elected to his statewide office in 2010.

Andrew Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is out with his first TV ad of the general election titled, “My Grandmother’s Voice.”

Gillum begins the minute-long ad recounting advice given to him by his grandmother. Gillum then explains how those messages motivate his run to be the state’s next Governor.

“I can still hear my grandmother’s voice,” Gillum begins.

“She’d say, ‘Go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lesson. And one day, bring that education home. Bring it home for your little brother and your little sister who don’t know what an education is yet.

“ ’Bring it home for that little boy down the street that you play with. God knows where he’s going to end up. Bring it home for your mother and your father who get up every day to go out there and work on somebody else’s job.’

“It was a reminder that if we were going to get anywhere in life, we would get there together. This could be our story, Florida, written by and for anyone who has ever been told that they don’t belong, been counted out, or been told that they can’t make a difference.

“Together we can bring home affordable health care. We can bring it home for better jobs and better wages. We can bring it home for education that our children deserve. My name is Andrew Gillum. Let’s bring it home, Florida.”

The Gillum campaign says the spot is set to begin running Friday, Sept. 14 and is part of a seven-figure ad buy. The video will also be circulated digitally.

“We are giving voters a reason to vote for something, not just against — a stark contrast from our opponent,” said Geoff Burgan, communications director for the Gillum campaign.

“This ad highlights why Mayor Gillum believes we all do better when we all do better.”

Gillum is attempting to become the state’s first Democratic Governor since Lawton Chiles (or Buddy MacKay, to be a stickler about it).

Former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee.

Donald Trump: Puerto Rican deaths fake news; Darren Soto: Trump dancing on graves

President Donald Trump has responded Thursday morning to mounting reports of high death tolls in Puerto Rico in the wake of last year’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria, contending in tweets that 3,000 did not die as a result, and such reports are the result of Democrats trying to make him look bad.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

Democrats and Puerto Rican activists are expressing stunned disbelief of Trump’s tweets. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Celebration whose district includes Florida’s largest concentration of Puerto Ricans and who is of Puerto Rican descent himself, accused Trump of “dancing on their graves to disguise your tragic incompetence.”

Republicans scrambled to accept the 3,000 figure as a believable estimate without sounding overtly critical of the president’s tweets.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum tweeted, “No death is partisan and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserve better from @realDonaldTrump before, during and after the hurricane.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom Scott is challenging, called Trump’s tweets “shameful.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando called the tweets “awful” and declare that Trump “has once again made it all about him.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park found Trump’s comments “very distrurbing,” according to her chief of staff.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, running for the U.S. Senate this year, said he disagreed with Trump and declared “the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor and a staunch Trump supporter, “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” and is “committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community,” according to his campaign.

And Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio essentially defended the 3,000 estimate, and cautioned everyone to stop playing politics over it.

Said state Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat who also is of Puerto Rican descent, called Trump delusional. “This president cannot admit that he did not do all that he should have done to help those in the dire situation on the island. It’s a wonder he can still pound his chest and say he was outstanding in what he did, and not realize he failed, he failed the Puerto Ricans miserably.”

The 3,000 figure, actually 2,975, came from his own government’s estimates of people who died from lack of water, electricity, medicine, and health care on the island in the aftermath of Maria, which left most of the island without power for months, and much of the island without potable water.

A separate study by Harvard University researchers, predicted the government estimate. Released in May, the Harvard study analyzed the probabilities of Puerto Rico deaths with and without the storms concluded the range of difference would be anywhere 793 to 8,498 additional deaths, and set its estimate on 4,645, as the statistically most-probable point. That study was conducted by a collaboration of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweets come as the Carolinas prepare for the next monster hurricane, Hurricane Florence, bearing down for a strike tonight or tomorrow.

Soto’s full tweet, “Mr. President: we had nearly 3000 Americans die in Puerto Rico due to your slow, failed response to Hurricane Maria. And now you dance on their graves to disguise your tragic incompetence.”

Demings tweeted: It’s times like these when we need the President to lead. But once again he has made it all about him. The death count from #Maria is real. Thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico died as a direct result of the storm. When America faces a tragedy, we HAVE to come together.

Murphy put out a statement that read, “No objective observer believes the federal government’s preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria was adequate, given that nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico died. However, this is a symptom of a much deeper problem. For too long, under both Republicans and Democrats, the federal government has treated Puerto Rico in an unequal and sometimes indifferent way. American citizens in Puerto Rico should have the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens in Florida or any state. Ensuring genuine equality for Puerto Rico is one of the best ways to avoid a repeat of what we saw with the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria.”

Scott’s full tweet: I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and [Puerto Rico] Gov. [Ricardo] Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

“These days even tragedy becomes political. 3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes,” Rubio tweeted.

Nelson’s full tweet: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

The full statement from DeSantis’s Campaign Communications Director Stephen Lawson is:

“Ron DeSantis has always worked to help the Puerto Rican community, both on the Island and here in Florida. As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, he conducted an oversight hearing earlier this year to identify deficiencies in the federal response to Hurricane Maria. He has worked alongside Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon to secure support for rebuilding efforts. In August, he visited the island to meet with elected leaders and get the latest briefing from FEMA regarding recovery efforts. Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated. Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”

Democrats slam Ron DeSantis for opposition to Violence Against Women Act

A group of prominent Florida Democratic politicians, including one Congresswoman, one State Senator, and the former United Nations Ambassador running for DeSantis’ former seat in Congress, excoriated Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis Thursday for his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, State Senator Annette Taddeo, and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg discussed DeSantis’ “unconscionable vote.”

The bill was first signed into law in 1994, and has required reauthorization since; it is due next to lapse at the end of the month. In a measure of the continued bipartisan support for the law, 46 House Republicans wrote a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan urging a timely reauthorization of the legislation.

However, DeSantis — who resigned from Congress this week — is not one of them. And for Democrats eager to paint DeSantis as a right-wing ideologue, the 24 year anniversary of the legislation offers an opportunity to remind voters of the stakes of the November election.

U.S. Rep. Frankel described DeSantis as “one of the most anti-woman and extreme members of the Congress” who “even went against members of his own party” in opposing the “bedrock of the federal government’s response” to domestic and sexual violence women face.

“One in four women in this country will be subject to domestic violence at some point in their lives,” Frankel noted, with 100,000 reported instances of domestic violence in Florida in 2016 — a “fraction” of how many incidents there actually are.

DeSantis’ opposition to this act is “deeply disturbing,” said Frankel.

State Sen. Taddeo noted that DeSantis’ vote against the bill was “radical and extreme,” even in a year where those terms are thrown around.

“Regardless of party, we’ve been able to say that victims need care and law enforcement needs tools,” Taddeo said, to fight this scourge.

“DeSantis’ 2013 vote against the act,” said Taddeo, “sends a message to women who have been abused: ‘I don’t stand with you’.”

Immigrant women and farm worker women, Taddeo said, are particularly affected.

“DeSantis’ no vote was an attack on women … but especially on immigrant women,” Taddeo said.

Soderberg was in the White House when the bill became law, and described DeSantis’ vote as “unconscionable,” yet of a piece with other votes against bills that would help women and victims of sexual assault.

Soderberg noted that DeSantis has an anemic 37 percent favorable rating in his former district (per a poll her campaign conducted), and that her opponent, Mike Waltz, is a “carbon copy” of DeSantis.

“As the country moves forward, candidates like DeSantis and Waltz are stuck in the past,” Soderberg said.

We reached out to the DeSantis campaign ahead of the call for comment, but response was not offered to the Democrats’ claims regarding his 2013 vote.

Latest poll: Ashley Moody leads Sean Shaw 46-44 for Attorney General

Republican candidate Ashley Moody is leading her Democratic counterpart Sean Shaw in the 2018 race for Attorney General, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. 

When asked, “If the election for Attorney General were held today, who would you vote for: Republican Ashley Moody or Democrat Sean Shaw,” 46 percent said Moody and 44 percent said Shaw, with roughly nine percent undecided.

The poll was commissioned as part of “Wellness Week,” a collaboration between Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness.

The takeaway: Moody seems to be the one Republican leading in these polls; all of the others had Democrats ahead.

In other questions, 71 percent said they “support the Florida law that allows the use of medical marijuana if approved by a doctor,” with nearly 22 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided. That tracks with the passage rate of the 2016 constitutional amendment authorizing medicinal cannabis.

Asked whether they “approve or disapprove of the way current Attorney General Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana,” 23 percent approved, 42 percent disapproved and 34 percent were unsure.

“In the race for Attorney General would you rather support a candidate who would continue Bondi’s policies on medical marijuana or one would you prefer a candidate who supported medical marijuana?” For the current policy were 26 percent, with 58 percent leaning toward a changed policy. Another 15 percent said they were “unsure.”

Respondents also were asked: “Sean Shaw is a strong supporter of medical marijuana and, if elected, would end the state’s opposition to patients’ ability to smoke medical marijuana. Knowing this, are you more or less likely to support Shaw?” A little more than 46 percent said they’d be more likely, 32 percent were less likely, and 21 percent said it would make no difference.

The poll was conducted through an automated phone call polling system. The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were political party, race, age, gender and media market.

The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida. Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results below. The scientific results shown for the questions below have a sample size of 1,657 and a 2.4 percent margin of error. The confidence level is 95 percent.

Florida agencies, utilities poised to provide Hurricane Florence aid

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that Florida state agencies and electric utilities are taking steps to provide help after Hurricane Florence hits land later this week.

Scott’s office said Florida has sent two urban search-and-rescue teams to North Carolina and South Carolina; a nursing team of 29 people to North Carolina to help with special-needs shelters; and five ambulance teams to North Carolina to help with medical evacuations.

The assistance also includes Florida utilities sending crews to help restore power after the hurricane and the state suspending requirements for transportation of animals to help in the movement of livestock from areas affected by the hurricane. Florence is expected to approach the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina late Thursday and Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“We will continue to do all we can to support our neighbors in the Southeast as we prepare for Hurricane Florence,” Scott said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “In Florida, we are fortunate to have the best emergency management professionals in the world to respond to disasters in our state and to help other states during times of emergency.”

Two Democratic groups launch new anti-Rick Scott digital ads

Two Democratic political action committees, the Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA, are teaming for a new digital ad blitz against Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate bid, part of a $21 million national internet advertising campaign targeting Republican U.S. Senate candidates in nine states.

One new 15-second spot set to run in Florida, “Richer” charges that, as Governor, Scott turned down funding for health care and cut funding for public education while supporting tax cuts for the rich, and got richer himself along the way.

“Scott got richer, and even bought himself a new private jet, while our families got hurt,” the narrator says, as pictures of Scott, a private jet, and a sad mother and daughter move across the screen. “Scott’s never been on our side. He never will be.”

Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA said in a news release they’re spending $18 million combined on this ad and other attack ads being launched in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Senate Majority PAC also announced it is spending an additional $3 million on its own for new ads in Montana, Nevada, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The release did not break down how much of the $18 million is being spent on Florida, but the Sunshine State has more residents than the other four states combined. The ads will run on Facebook and video and audio streaming platforms such as YouTube, Hulu and Spotify, among other platforms, the release stated.

Last month, the same two groups spent $1.1 million on internet ads attacking Scott on health care issues. Earlier this year, Senate Majority PAC put $2.2 million behind television commercials backing Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s being challenged by Scott in the Nov. 6 election. And in May, the two groups teamed up for $600,000 in digital ads supporting Nelson.

“Across the Senate map, Republican candidates are on the wrong side of the issues most important to voters, and we are using every tool we have to hammer that point home,” J.B. Poersch, president of SMP, stated in the release. “With Priorities’ help, we are amassing a robust and efficient digital program to communicate to voters that Democrats are the ones fighting for the middle class, while Republicans continue to look out for the wealthy and the special interests.”

Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are desperate to hold on to power so they can stack the courts, weaken Medicare, and pass even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations at our expense,” Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA Action stated in the release. “Priorities USA Action is committed to closing the digital spending gap in critical races and is thrilled to work closely with SMP to talk to voters about the issues that matter most.”

For Rick Scott, 2018 is a referendum on ‘socialism’

Democratic voters chose a gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Gillum, who presented the most progressive vision of any option put forth by the Florida party.

For current Governor Rick Scott, that tack to the left has proven to be endless fodder for him in his challenge to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a centrist of the old style.

On Wednesday, Scott’s press shop pushed an increasingly familiar narrative: that the Nelson/Gillum “ticket” is too radical, too socialist for Florida.

“Three weeks ago, Florida Democrats nominated the most liberal gubernatorial candidate in the history of the state. The Gillum-Nelson-Socialism ticket has already stated that they will undo the pro-growth, pro-family, low-tax record of the last 8 years,” Scott’s campaign asserted.

Nelson established distance from Gillum in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, and Scott’s campaign noticed, spotlighting assertions like “I don’t want to abolish ICE. I want to abolish Trump” and “I’ve got enough trouble just trying to save Obamacare.”

“It’s no surprise that a confused, career Washington politician will say one thing one week and another thing the next,” Scott asserted.

“Last week Senator Nelson said Gillum’s positions are mainstream. This week he’s disavowing them. It’s clear Bill Nelson will say anything (and in this case everything) to try to desperately hold on to political office. But at the end of the day, the voters of Florida know the damage that the Gillum-Nelson-Socialism ticket will have on them and their families,” Scott asserted.

Scott has messaged heavily around the theme that the 2018 race pits Republicans against socialists, including during a Jacksonville stop this week.

“The Democrats are talking about big government socialism, [saying] ‘oh, it’s fair,’” Scott said. “Yeah, it’s fair — we all do bad. We all do poorly under socialism.”

These are themes that Scott and the Republican who would replace him, former Congressman Ron DeSantis, have hammered home. As have other Republican groups.

“Nelson’s desperate backtracking from his support of socialist Andrew Gillum isn’t fooling anyone,” said Camille Gallo, National Republican Senatorial Committee Spokesperson. “Floridians know that Bill Nelson will work with Andrew Gillum to take Florida in a dangerous direction and stand ready to reject their radical agenda and elect Rick Scott in November.”

National profile: Might Chris King’s Christian background emerge in campaign?

Only a few times during his unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial run did Chris King discuss his evangelical Christian faith, and almost no one paid any attention.

Now a new national profile of King appearing in New Republic magazine is exploring whether Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum might turn his running mate loose preaching Gospel from the political left.

The article “Chris King is wealthy, white, and an evangelical Christian. But will that help Gillum win the governorship?” by Orlando-based freelance writers Mark I. Pinsky and Loraine O’Connell, published Tuesday by New Republic, speculates that King’s evangelical Christian faith might be used as a campaign asset this fall if the Democrats seek to win over those Christian voters who might have more liberal political views but instinctively fear Democrats as hostile to their faith.

“Evangelicalism might have held King back in the Democratic primary, but in a statewide general election, his ties to the Christian community could be an asset, and Gillum’s decisions of late suggest he understands that,” Pinsky and O’Connell write.

King’s evangelical credentials run deep. Among other things, the article notes his membership in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Winter Park High School; with Campus Crusade for Christ at Harvard University; and in adulthood, including today, as an elder at the nondenominational, evangelical church where his family worships in Orlando.

Pinsky, who also recently published a New Republic article that all but predicted former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s spectacular fall from grace in the Democratic Party, has profiled King in the past, in a book exploring evangelical Christians in Central Florida. Pinsky followed King’s career since his religion became a controversial issue at Harvard in the late 1990s.

The New Republic explores the political alliances and voting blocks the Democrats and Republicans can expect to build as Gillum and King face U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and his running mate, state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez. The evangelical Christian block has been so Republican for so long that Pinsky and O’Connell don’t begin to suggest that Gillum and King could win it.

But the authors note that at times when Democrats (including Barack Obama) have seemingly picked up a few points from evangelicals, flipping a few moderate Christian voters might become a key part of the Democrats’ strategy, especially in an election that is already appearing to be a rock-hard 48-48 split of the Florida electorate.

“Gillum himself is Baptist, and in August he spoke to supporters outside the Bethel Church in Richmond Heights, the South Dade neighborhood where he grew up. Apart from his numerous visits to African-American churches and appearances with black preachers, Gillum did not explicitly raise religion, nor, for the most part, did his opponents or interviewers,” Pinsky and O’Connell write.

“Still, his choice for lieutenant governor suggests that he will lean into it in his quest to win the governorship.”

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