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Chris Anderson withdraws from HD 28 race

Republican Christopher Anderson has withdrawn his candidacy for Florida House District 28.

Anderson’s withdrawal, recorded Wednesday by the Florida Secretary of State, clears the Republican field for front-runner David Smith of Winter Springs for a showdown with Democrat Lee Mangold for a seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

The district covers northeast Seminole County.

Anderson, a Seminole County deputy sheriff, entered the race in June and came in with almost $10,000 raised that first month, but has raised no money since then.

Smith, a business consultant, by contrast, has raised more than $130,000, including $70,000 he donated to his own campaign.

Clark Anderson following his mother’s footsteps, seeking HD 30 seat

Political involvement is in D. Clark Anderson‘s blood.

The 64-year-old Democrat from Winter Park hadn’t acted on it in a big way — until now, filing this week to run for the Florida House of Representatives District 30 seat.

Anderson has spent much of his life and career in computers, specifically in cyber security for government contractors that have, among other things, sent him to Afghanistan for two years during the 2010 U.S. military surge there.

But there’s that blood.

His mother, the late Joan G. Anderson, was a fixture for decades in Illinois politics, holding various offices in and around Chicago and the capital Springfield. She once helped rewrite the state’s constitution as a delegate to the state’s constitution convention, writing and advocating numerous environmental regulations, and once even running [unsuccessfully] for Illinois lieutenant governor.

“I grew up with a political family, with a very political background,” Clark Anderson recalled.

“I have reached a point in my career where I have the time and the resources to devote to something like this. You know, my whole life has been spent building my career,” he continued. “Looking at the current political climate, I feel I have a lot to offer.”

Anderson, who recently moved from Tampa and also has lived in West Palm Beach since coming to Florida in the early 1990s, filed Monday to take on Republican two-term incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes in a district that covers much of southwestern Seminole County and a small part of north-central Orange County.

What he learned about politics from his mother includes the notion that one person can make a difference, and changes can have major impacts on people’s lives, he said.

“With my mother’s background as an environmental advocate, I’ve seen major changes the government can bring. She worked at cleaning up our environment,” Anderson said. “Florida itself, with climate change probably is the most sensitive state in the nation right now. We’re seeing effects all the time. I think that smart people in science, engineering, and industry can come together and come up with practical solutions, as opposed to ignoring the issues.”

He also said that as Florida is approaching full employment, the state now needs to direct its attention and energy to those being left behind. In South Florida he worked with drug courts and rehabilitation programs, and the same kind of cooperative government-industry partnerships he envisioned to take on climate change could address issues such as drug abuse and employment.

“You can’t say just government will solve it; you can’t say industry. It’s got to be a partnership,” Anderson said.

Anderson has not yet approached any campaign consultants. He said he is being counseled by the Seminole County Democratic Executive Committee and intends to reach out next to the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee. He said he’s been active in numerous campaigns, but that was decades ago in Illinois.

He offered no criticisms of Cortes, but said he believes its time for a more progressive direction for the state.

“What I bring, and the background I’ve got, is going to help drive Florida forward,” he said. “I grew up seeing how real forward progress can be made with government and programs, and not just trying to preserve a past. I’ve seen it in action. I saw my mother do it.”

Lee Mangold picks up John Cortes’s endorsement in HD 28

Democratic House of Representatives candidate Lee Mangold has picked up the endorsement of a sitting House member in his 2018 quest for House District 28.

Mangold, who owns a cyber security business, was endorsed Monday by state Rep. John Cortes, a Democrat from Kissimmee, Mangold’s campaign announced.

“I am proud to endorse Lee for State Representative, District 28,” Cortes said in a news release issued by Mangold’s campaign. “He is a proven leader who will always put his district first while serving in Tallahassee.”

Mangold, 35, of Casselberry, is aiming to fill a seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford. Republicans in the field include former U.S. Marines Col. David Smith, a Winter Springs business consultant and Osceola County Deputy Sheriff Chris Anderson of Lake Mary.

“Representative Cortes was one of the first people I reached out to when deciding to run for office,” Mangold said in the release. “His motivation and support is a large part of why I’m here today. I’m honored to have earned his endorsement, and I look forward to working with him in the Florida House.”

Anna Eskamani announces finance team

Democratic House candidate Anna Eskamani on Monday announced a volunteer campaign finance committee that includes three former state reps and other prominent Central Florida Democrats.

Eskamani, of Orlando, is running for the District 47 seat, occupied by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress. She faces Republican candidate Stockton Reeves of Winter Park.

The team she announced Monday includes former state Representatives Karen Castor Dentel, Mark Pafford and Joe Saunders, Democratic campaign financier Bob Poe, Democratic operative Steve Schale, and OnePulse Foundation Board Chairman Earl Crittenden.

Others include Jennifer Anderson of Winter Park, Brian Anderson of Orlando, Sarah Elbadri of Orlando, Danny Humphress of Winter Park, Nancy Jacobson of Orlando, Patricia Jotkoff of Melbourne, Jonathan Kellam of Washington, D.C., Boyd Lindsley of Oviedo, Maria Margenot of Orlando, Lindsay Oyewale of Sanford, James Paul Chan of Tampa, and Jenna Tosh of Santa Barbara, Ca.

Since entering the race in June and through the end of October, Eskamani’s campaign raised more than $126,000, not including $8,000 in in-kind contributions. Her campaign reported Monday her contributions total has topped $140,000 from more than 1,100 individual donors.

Orlando contemplating immigrant ‘trust’ resolution

The city of Orlando is considering a resolution that would have the City Council and Mayor Buddy Dyer formally declare their policy that police and other city officials not get involved in immigration matters, including a policy against questioning people whether their status is legal or not.

The resolution would state what already is the city’s policy. Under Dyer and Police Chief John Mina, police and other officials are not supposed to inquire about whether a traffic stop driver, a suspect, a victim, a witness, or anyone else interacting with city officials is a citizen or properly documented immigrant.

But that’s not on enforceable paper.

And while a resolution would put it on paper, it wouldn’t make it law.

The resolution proposal, pushed by Dyer and others in recent weeks, is a compromise offer between the city’s informal policies that essentially make it unofficially a safe city for undocumented residents, and immigration activists that have been pushing last summer for an ordinance that would make it law.

The debate in Orlando, at least in all public ways, is not about whether the city should be assisting federal authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants. It’s about how far the city wants to go in rejecting that approach.

A coalition of activists that includes 35 social justice, labor, and progressive groups and is part of a national movement, has been pushing for an ordinance since last summer, with rallies on the City Hall steps, art protests, and meetings and negotiations with city officials.

“We’ve looked for middle ground, a resolution, which is passed in a similar manner as an ordinance, to supplement the policy,” said Deputy City Attorney Jody Litchford.

“But frankly, unfortunately, we are not in agreement,” she added.

Litchford and others, including Dyer’s Senior Advisor Lori Pampilo Harris, argue that Orlando already is doing everything in practice that the advocates want. The city neither questions people about their status, nor detains them — even at requests from the U.S. Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But too many of the undocumented immigrants living in Orlando still remain fearful of coming out of the shadows, even as a witness to crime, the activists argue.

If Orlando wants to make undocumented residents comfortable enough to work with city officials, to not fear encounters, it needs something more than a policy. It needs a law, argued Curtis Hierro, organizing director of the Central Florida AFL-CIO and one of the leaders of the Trust Ordinance Coalition that has been pushing Orlando for an ordinance.

Hierro insisted they coalition is far from done with its effort.

“The reason we’re pushing for an ordinance is it is the strongest act a city can take to codify policy, something with real teeth,” Hierro said.

Without it, Hierro said, there have been at least isolated incidents of police officers or others asking people about immigration status, Hierro said. Word spreads. Trust erodes. People stay in the shadows. That’s why the ordinance they have drafted and offered the city that’s called the “Trust Ordinance.”

But an ordinance, besides being an inappropriate way to deal with city policies, Litchford said, also opens up liability issues for the city. That may start with threats from President Donald Trump‘s administration that it intends to reduce federal grants to cities that are formally sanctuary cities.

The city is offering not just the resolution, but a communication effort, an outreach program that would explicitly try to spread the word that city police and other officials would not do anything to “out” people who came here without visas, or overstayed their visas.

judges court gavel

More judges needed in Orlando and Tampa, Florida Supreme Court says

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday said four additional judges are needed in the Orlando area and Hillsborough County.

It added, however, that judgeships in some counties could be eliminated.

The Supreme Court is required each year to “certify” to the Legislature its analysis of the need for judges, though lawmakers often have not followed the court’s recommendations.

In Wednesday’s opinion, the Supreme Court certified a need for two additional circuit judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, made up of Orange and Osceola counties, and a need for two more Hillsborough County judges.

But it “decertified” the need for 13 county judges across the state.

That included three county judges in Brevard County, two in Pasco County and one each in Escambia, Leon, Putnam, Alachua, Polk, Monroe, Charlotte and Collier counties.

The Supreme Court’s analysis takes into account factors such as trends in the types of cases filed and judicial workloads.

For example, the analysis found increases in civil filings in circuit and county courts but decreases in traffic-related filings.

Rick Scott, Aramis Ayala battle over missed deadlines in death penalty cases

New twists in the battle between Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott after she agreed to prosecute death penalty cases; Scott is accusing her of missing a filing deadline, and Ayala responding Monday that Scott missed the case, and it will still be filed for capital punishment.

“It is absolutely outrageous that Aramis Ayala failed to seek justice in the case against Emerita Mapp who is accused of attacking multiple people and killing Zackery Ganoe,” Scott declared Friday, contending that she missed an Oct. 7 deadline to file death penalty provisions against Mapp.

The governor has made misleading and inaccurate statements,” Ayala responded Monday.

“It is clear, the governor failed in his review and missed this case,” Ayala responded in a statement Monday afternoon, charging that Scott would have only himself to blame had the case missed the deadline, since he had been monitoring her caseload and was grabbing away all the death penalty cases and re-assigning them to another state attorney well into August, but overlooked this one.

Not so fast, Scott’s office replied to Ayala’s statement.

“It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her failure. Let’s be clear — State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline, and she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in this case,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy director of communications declared.

But the deadline did not pass, Ayala insisted Monday, and she declared she still intends to pursue the death penalty against Mapp.

“The state’s ability to seek the death penalty has not been compromised, and with the filing of the Notice of Intent to Seek Death, we have preserved the issue and remedied the governor’s failure,” she said.

A newly-sworn-in 9th Judicial State attorney, Ayala had denounced Florida’s death penalty on March 16 as unjust for anyone, due to its lengthy delays, high costs, and tendency to be ruled unconstitutional. Scott vehemently disagreed, and the two spent the next five months battling in court over who could do what, while he stripped death penalty cases from her jurisdiction and reassigned them to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

In August, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott, and Ayala announced a new policy in which she would have a panel within her office, which did not include her, review all murder cases and make determinations on whether her office would pursue the death penalty.

Ayala is chief prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties.

On Aug. 31, she announced the Mapp case would be the first death penalty pursued under her new policy. The case involves an April 11 murder in an Osceola County hotel.

But on Friday Scott announced that Ayala had missed the legally-required 45-day deadline to file the death penalty case against Mapp.

“I have been clear that I stand with the victims of crime and their families and they deserve answers from the State Attorney’s Office on how this critical deadline was not met. I’ll continue to review reassigning cases from her office since she is failing to fight for victims and their families,” he insisted.

Her response came late Monday:

“Once the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling regarding a Prosecutor’s discretion to seek the death penalty, I created a Death Penalty Review Panel to review every first-degree murder case. At my direction, once they convened they reviewed every first-degree murder case since the start of my administration Jan. 3. I requested the panel go back to the beginning of my administration to ensure Gov. Scott did not make a mistake and miss cases, which he clearly did,” she wrote.

“Of course, I knew the potential of some of those cases passing the 45-days. This is something the Review Panel discussed prior to reviewing cases. The issue was well researched, so again this was an anticipated hurdle. But it was the right thing to do and consistent with the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling,” she continued

“The state’s ability to seek the death penalty has not been compromised, and with the filing of the Notice of Intent to Seek Death, we have preserved the issue and remedied the governor’s failure,” she concluded.


Philip Levine launches Puerto Rico help ad, speaking English and Spanish

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has launched a new, bilingual television commercial highlighting his relief efforts for Puerto Rico and declaring he will never turn his back on Puerto Rico.

The 30-second spot “Siempre” [“Always”] includes narration in Spanish and Levine orating in both English and Spanish, while images of the island’s devastation from Hurricane Maria, and of a relief plane, and of Levine being welcomed by a joyous San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, appear.

The ad, payed for by his All About Florida independent political committee, will run for five weeks in select markets, including “heavy rotation” in Orlando.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the 2018 primary nomination to run for governor.

The commercial begins with the narrator saying, in Spanish, “The people for Puerto Rico needed help, and Philip Levine took action.”

Levine then declares, in English, “Washington politicians pointed fingers at each other; I pointed a cargo plane filled with life-saving supplies to San Juan. I said we will never turn our back on the people of Puerto Rico––I meant it and I always will.”

He then switches to Spanish, declaring, “We will always be with Puerto Rico.”

The narrator concludes, in Spanish, “Philip Levine, our leader.”

Puerto Rican coalition calls for full recovery funding and debt relief

A national coalition of Puerto Rican groups with heavy representation in Central Florida urged in Orlando Monday for Congress to offer full relief funding for the hurricane-ravaged island and for Florida and federal relief for evacuee housing in the Sunshine State.

Joined at Acacia’s El Centro Borinqueño by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, and Orlando Democrat, and state Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat, Power4PuertoRico criticized federal relief efforts as inadequate and worse, given that still more than half the island is without electricity, water remains a critical shortage, many hospitals are operating on generators, and schools remain closed.

The group also turned its attention to the needs of Puerto Rican evacuees in Florida and elsewhere stateside, particularly making an urgent call for housing assistance, especially in the Central Florida area.

For the group, whose members include Orlando-based Hispanic Federation, Chicago-based Puerto Rican Cultural Center and various non-profit and labor groups, the coalition also called for major federal relief efforts that go beyond addressing Hurricane Maria’s landfall two months ago, on Sept. 20. Saying that broader economic reforms are necessary for Puerto Rico to fully recover, the group called for debt relief for the island’s government, something that is tied up in bankruptcy proceedings under the Promesa Act approved in 2016, and for repeal of the Jones Act, which restricts maritime commerce in and out of the island.

“We have come together to focus on economic recovery through significant investments in infrastructure, workforce development, and health care,” said Zoe Colon, a local organizer of Power4PuertoRico. “We are asking for longterm solutions to the crisis in Puerto Rico.”

Colon and others in the coalition’s press conference decried that two full months after the hurricane, “more than half of the island is still without power, disease is spreading, and people don’t have the resources they ned to build their homes.”

Soto said he supports reform of the Jones Act but not full repeal, and supports Congressional actions that could address the island government’s debts beyond what is the domain of the bankruptcy proceedings. “We’ve had assurances that every debt that can be challenged, will be challenged … and that Congress needs to do everything we can so that Puerto Rico isn’t drowned in a sea of debt during this crisis.

He said the $4.9 million loan, an initial federal Hurricane Maria relief package, “must be forgiven” and that any future FEMA funds must be exempt from creditors. “This is essential for the recovery. It would a twisted, cruel fate to have this money go down and only be taken by opportunistic creditors.”

Soto also said the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, on which he sits, will push for the island’s power generation and distribution grid to not just be restored, but replaced with 21st century, renewable technologies.

He turned attention toward Thanksgiving, saying, “Here in Florida we have much to be thankful for, but we have much to do,” he said. “Puerto Rico, in short, is still in crisis.”

Cortes offered praise for efforts of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, for offering Florida help on the island, and for doing much to welcome Puerto Ricans coming to Florida, saying efforts must be bipartisan.

He said the next step must be to get state money to address the housing shortages, particularly in Central Florida where most of the 160,000 evacuees appear to be settling. He decried Scott’s budget proposal for taking $132 million from the Sadowski Fund for affordable housing, and redirecting it to other spending. That has to be stopped, and the money has to be used to develop more affordable housing, Cortes said.

“In my area in Osceola County, forget about getting an apartment, because either they’re too much, or FEMA doesn’t give you enough voucher for them. And your voucher is going to end, and after that you’re going to be homeless.”


Ruth’s List Florida backs Anna Eskamani in HD 47 contest

Florida House District 47 Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani has received the endorsement of Ruth’s List Florida, a backing that usually comes with fundraising assistance.

“Anna is a lifelong advocate for reproductive health and women’s rights. She is a dynamic leader who has already proven herself to be a passionate and effective advocate,” Ruth’s List Florida Executive Director Marley Wilkes stated in a press release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “The Ruth’s List community – now tens of thousands members strong – is excited to support her candidacy.”

The endorsement is a natural fit. Ruth’s List promotes Democratic women for office. Eskamani, of Orlando, faces Republican Stockton Reeves in a quest to replace Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress rather than re-election.

“I am grateful to the grassroots aid Ruth’s List Florida provides Democratic women in Florida,” Eskamani stated in the release. “My commitment to women and families is unmatched and driven by my own personal story as an Orlando native and daughter of immigrants who lost her mom to cancer at age thirteen. Women face deep disparities compared to our male counterparts, and as more allegations of sexual harassment and assault are made across the country and right here in Florida, the need for more women’s voices in Tallahassee has become even more apparent and important.”

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