Orlando – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Bells toll in Orlando

Grieving anew as a community in the wake of another horrific gun tragedy, Orlandoans bowed their heads Tuesday afternoon as bells tolled and names were called in remembrance of the 49 people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years earlier.

Others, including survivors and families of victims of the Pulse massacre, joined a solemn crowd from the Orlando community at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando for a 10-minute ceremony in which family members and Robin Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation read the names of those killed, and the church bell tolled their loss.

Also on everyone’s mind was the horrific event a few miles to the south, where, on Monday night a deranged man with a history of domestic violence apparently shot and killed his two children and his girlfriend’s two children during a hostage siege. The scene began with Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr., 35, also shooting and critically wounding an Orlando police officer, and ended with him killing himself, according to Orlando police.

The Pulse service already had enough tragedy to handle.

“It’s such a beautiful thing to know that your loved ones will never be forgotten, not here in Orlando, not in Florida, not in the United States, not just in Puerto Rico, everywhere, all over the world,” said Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation.

Among those attending were U.S. Rep. Val Demings and her husband Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who is also running for Orange County mayor; Rob Panepinto, who is running against Jerry Demings; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto; and state Reps. Mike Miller and Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Earlier a private, 10 a.m., remembrance ceremony was held in at the Pulse interim memorial, reserved just for survivors and families, plus appearances by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

And at 7:30 a.m. Gov. Rick Scott made an unannounced visit to the Pulse interim memorial, according to his calendar.

Mike Miller attending Miami fundraiser instead of Pulse ceremony in his district

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park will not be attending the big Pulse remembrance ceremony in his Orlando district Tuesday night and instead will be holding a campaign fundraiser in Miami.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge called Miller’s move “reprehensible” Tuesday morning.

The fundraiser is for Miller’s campaign to be elected to Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which, like Miller’s current Florida House District 47, includes the site of the Pulse nightclub and the horrific mass shooting two years ago Tuesday, which left 49 dead, 53 wounded and the whole Orlando community heart-broken.

Miller’s campaign said he would be attending another memorial event, the Ringing of the Bells ceremony scheduled for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, at noon in downtown Orlando. A campaign spokeswoman said he was not invited to participate in an official capacity in Tuesday evening’s remembrance ceremony, so his schedule permitted him to leave town for the Miami fundraiser.

Miller’s legislative office is about four blocks down the street from Pulse.

Miller’s fundraiser is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Veza Sur Brewing Co., of Miami, according to a notice on his campaign’s Facebook page.

The big Pulse remembrance ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pulse. The event was organized by the onePulse Foundation, and not all politicians were invited.

Miller hopes to be able to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy this fall. He does have a tough Republican primary first, with Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois.

Murphy will be attending the memorial service, invited as the member of Congress representing the district.

Miller also has a fundraiser set for Wednesday night in Lake Mary.

Miller had been on the ground, consoling and offering assistance, and mourning himself, on the morning of the Pulse massacre. And he co-sponsored a resolution, with Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, declaring Tuesday to be Pulse Memorial Day. He also co-sponsored, with Smith, a bill to provide assistance to Pulse first responders.

Tuesday, Hodge discredited Miller’s co-sponsorship of the Pulse Memorial Day resolution as “grandstanding.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that Representative Miller has decided to leave his district to grab cash instead of mourning with his constituents tells us all we need to know about his priorities,” Hodge said in a statement released by the Orange County Democratic Party. “Orlando United is more than just a hashtag or slogan, it resulted from the display of unity with which our community responded when it was confronted by hate. The fact that Representative Miller is putting his own aspirations ahead of those of a grieving community is troubling for us all.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson introduce Pulse remembrance resolution in U.S. Senate

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined forces to introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate noting the survivors and commemorating the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting that took place two years ago Tuesday.

The resolution refers to the massacre both as a terrorist attack and a hate crime – a distinction that has has created a bit of a partisan divide on which to emphasize – and calls for remembrance of the victims, honoring and supporting the survivors, applauding the dedication and bravery of the responders, Americans standing together against both hate and terrorism, and recognizing, “the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community.”

Here is the full text:

Whereas, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old man from Ft. Pierce, Florida, killed 49 and wounded 53 innocent people in a horrific terrorist attack on Pulse Orlando, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender nightclub, during Latin night;

Whereas the gunman, who was investigated in 2013–2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this preamble referred to as the “FBI”) for possible connections to terrorism, pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (in this preamble referred to as “ISIL”);

Whereas then-President [Barack] Obama called the attack an act of both terror and hate as well as an attack on all of the people of the United States and the fundamental values of equality and dignity;

Whereas the attack was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States and is the worst terrorist attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001;

Whereas the law enforcement professionals of the city of Orlando and Orange County, Florida, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other emergency and health care professionals responded to the attack bravely and admirably and in a coordinated manner, saving many lives;

Whereas following the attack, hundreds of people stood in long lines to donate blood for those injured in the attack, and the people of Orlando, the State of Florida, and the United States expressed overwhelming support for the victims, their families, and their loved ones regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation;

Whereas local organizations and caregivers came together with the Federal, State, and local government to support the victims and help the community heal;

Whereas the community of Orlando and communities across the State of Florida and the United States, in the spirit of unity and respect, continue to support the victims, their families, their loved ones, and all those affected by the attack, as well as the brave men and women of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and other emergency and health care professionals for their dedicated service to their communities;

Whereas Tuesday, June 12, 2018, marks 2 years since the attack; and

Whereas the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies persists, including the threat posed by homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) commemorates the victims killed in the horrific terrorist attack on the Pulse Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, and offers heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for their families, loved ones, and friends;

(2) honors the survivors of the attack and pledges continued support for their recovery;

(3) recognizes the unity, compassion, and resilience of the Orlando community after the attack;

(4) applauds the dedication and bravery of Federal, State, and local law enforcement and counterterrorism officials for their efforts to respond to the attack, prevent future attacks, and secure communities;

(5) stands together with all people of the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, in the face of terror and hate; and

(6) reaffirms the commitment of the United States and its allies to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups at home and abroad and to address the threat posed by homegrown terrorism.

Lori Harris withdraws from Orange County Commission race

Two months after making one of the biggest political debuts in recent Central Florida history, Lori Harris has withdrawn from the race for the Orange County Commission District 4 seat.

Harris is pulling out to care for a family member who developed a serious health issue, a situation that emerged after Harris first entered the race on April 11, her campaign said late Monday afternoon.

Harris submitted withdrawal papers Monday to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Harris had entered the contest with much fanfare: standing beside her former boss, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, as well as Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, at a well-attended downtown news conference. She had received Dyer’s backing after she served for more than three years as point-person on his staff for homelessness and other human services issues.

And she had come to the campaign with a dramatic personal story, a once homeless teen mother who pulled herself out of poverty, found her own housing, worked her way through college, and eventually achieved a high-profile career.

Yet she had entered a race that already had a fierce competition underway without her, between five candidates, Susan Makowski, Nicolette Springer, Maribel Cordero, Lance Ballinger, and Gina Perez-Calhoun. That resulted in plenty of grumbling in District 4 circles, charging that Dyer was trying to stack the Orange County Commission with his own people. Dyer and Harris denied that. But even assuming that normally there is no love lost between candidates, Harris found herself particularly disdained by some of the others.

The campaign finance leaders in that race, Makowski and Springer, have raised about $98,000 and $72,000 respectively. Harris had a strong first month in April, raising $14,000 in the 19 days after she filed. But she managed only another $1,375 in May.

Harris intends to “focus her efforts and time and energy on” her ill family member, said Tasi Hogan, a spokeswoman for her campaign. “I know it was a really hard decision for her.”

Anna Eskamani

Anna Eskamani has more than $200K banked for HD 47 bid

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani now has more than $200,000 at the ready for her campaign to flip House District 47 blue.

Eskamani raised $21,850 for her campaign account last month and added another $500 through her political committee, People Power for Florida. Those totals bring her overall fundraising to more than $272,000 with $203,645 of that sum on hand.

The campaign funds came in across more than 300 contributions. More than 250 of those contributions were from small-dollar donors who pitched in $50 or less. However, Eskamani also pulled in 11 checks for $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative candidates.

Those donors included CED Companies head Alan Ginsburg, attorney Michael Maher, OCI Consulting Engineers CEO Amir Kazeminia, art dealer Dennis DeVona, and political committees tied to the Florida Justice Association and Planned Parenthood. Eskamani is an executive with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

People Power for Florida’s lone contribution came in from Brian Henties, the director of corporate sponsorships at Valencia College.

May spending totaled $5,650, half of which paid for campaign staff. The report also showed a $1,000 printing job with Orlando-based Print Meisters, $415 to Credo Conduit for rent, $320 to Democratic voter data group NGP VAN and $250 to campaign support platform You Should Run.

In all, Eskamani has raised $244,322 for her campaign account and had $178,493 in the bank heading into June, while the committee has raised $28,251 to date and has $25,151 on hand.

Also running for the north-central Orange County district is a pair of Republicans — Orlando attorney Mikaela Nix and Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves, though neither had filed their May campaign finance reports as of Monday morning.

As of April 30, Reeves had raised $25,770 and kicked in another $94,700 in candidate loans. He has $105,584 on hand. Through the same date, Nix had raised $39,974 and loaned her campaign $2,600. She has $38,083.

HD 47 is currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who is running in a three-way Republican primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The seat has a slim Democratic advantage in voter registrations and it was held by current Democratic Sen. Linda Stuart before Miller edged her out by four points in the 2014 cycle. He followed that up with a 6-point win over Democrat Beth Tuura in 2016, when the seat voted plus-11 for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Alan Grayson launches new TV ad in CD 9 race

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has launched a second television commercial in his battle for the Democratic primary nomination to return to Congress again in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The new 30-second spot starts with a quick visit to Grayson’s roots, as he talks about “growing up in the tenements in the Bronx, surrounded by people who are different from me, and each other.”

“I’m proud to be one of the leading champions for equality of all kinds: social, political, economic and personal. This ad explains why,” Grayson said in a statement released by his campaign.

As images flow past of Bronx tenements, multiracial children playing, and then Grayson as an adult, he says that upbringing helped establish his appreciation of diversity and his beliefs in equality, respect and justice.

Grayson is trying to win back his old seat representing CD 9 and faces his successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in November.

“People of different races, different languages, different religions, and I learned from that, that our differences are not something to overcome, but something to cherish,” Grayson says in the commercial. “And with so much in common as human beings, we all deserve equality, dignity and respect.” He concludes the commercial by declaring it to be a message of “justice, equality and peace.”

The ad is Grayson’s second TV commercial, following Progressive Warrior,” which kicked off his campaign last month, showing national progressive leaders extolling his first three terms in Congress, from 2009-’10 representing Florida’s 8th Congressional District, and from 2013-’16 representing CD 9.

Soto’s campaign has not yet launched any television advertising.

Florida Hispanic chamber endorses Rob Panepinto for Orange County mayor

Citing his plans to help businesses and families, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Rob Panepinto for Orange County mayor.

The chamber released the endorsement in video form, as FSHCoC Founder and President Julio Fuentes extolled the Winter Park entrepreneur and former president of the Orlando chamber of commerce as someone who “understands what it takes to build a business and create jobs.”

Panepinto faces Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, and three other candidates in the August 28, non-partisan contest for Orange County mayor. If no gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two go on to a runoff in November.

“He has a plan in addressing the major issues facing businesses and families,” Fuentes says of Panepinto in the video. “And he will work to make Orange County even better.”

Jason Brodeur endorses David Smith as HD 28 successor

Term-limited state Rep. Jason Brodeur has endorsed fellow Republican David Smith to succeed him in Seminole County based House District 28.

“I’m proud to endorse David Smith in his campaign to serve the community I’ve been blessed to represent for the past 8 years,” Brodeur said in a press release. “David is a natural born leader and a true patriot who I know will be a great Representative for our community.”

Brodeur joins a long list of Republican pols backing Smith’s campaign, including Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon who also represent parts of Seminole County in the House.

 “I’m honored to have the support of Representative Brodeur,” Smith said. “His hard work and commitment to our community has left it a better place for many families and businesses. I look forward to advancing the service and leadership he has provided our community.”

Smith, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, is currently the only Republican running in the GOP-leaning district. Assuming no other candidates file before the end of the qualifying period on June 22, the Nov. 6 general election see Smith face off against Democrat Lee Mangold.

Smith holds a massive lead in the money race. He started May with about $146,000 banked compared to $14,417 on hand for Mangold.

HD 28 covers part of northeastern Seminole County, including Sanford, Winter Springs, Casselberry and Oviedo. Republican voters make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate in the Central Florida district, compared to a 33 percent share for Democrats.

Brodeur was elected to the old HD 33 in 2010. He has only faced third-party candidates in his three re-election campaigns since redistricting placed him in HD 28, winning each with around two-thirds of the vote. The seat voted plus-4 for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

North Brevard Republicans favor Rene Plasencia in HD 50

Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia has had an achilles heal of support in the Brevard County portion of his district – but that appears to be changing.

Plasencia, who lost Brevard County to challenger George Collins in the 2016 Republican primary yet won overall in Florida’s House District 50, came out on top in a straw poll this weekend over Collins, held by the North Brevard Republican Club.

Plasencia drew 66 votes to Collins 57, with Democratic candidate Pam Dirschka grabbing three of the Republican votes, in a straw poll overseen by the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Plasencia is a former high school teacher from Orlando seeking his third term in the house, though only his second term representing the district that covers east Orange County and north Brevard County. Collins, also of Orange County, just entered the 2018 contest to challenge Plasencia a week ago.

Last year Collins’ demonstrated his strength in the Brevard portion of the district – which has more Republican voters than the Orange side – when he won a Brevard County Republican Executive Committee straw poll convincingly over Plasencia a few weeks before the primary.

Among other decisions, the North Brevard Republicans favored Denise Grimsley decisively in the contest for Florida agriculture commissioner. She drew 63 votes to Baxter Troutman‘s 27, Matt Caldwell‘s 26, and Mike McCalister‘s 12.

Carlos Guillermo Smith

Carlos Guillermo Smith draws challenger in HD 49

Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is no longer unopposed in his House District 49 re-election bid.

Ben Griffin, a Republican who works as a learning assistant at Valencia College, opened a campaign account Thursday to challenge the freshman lawmaker in the Orange County based seat according to Florida Division of Elections records.

In a Friday press release Griffin outlined his campaign platform, which includes “limited government, stronger education, and Christian values.”

“Our area needs a strong and steady leader that reflects our values in Tallahassee,” Griffin said. “As a lifelong resident of this district, I’m very familiar with both our challenges and our opportunities, and I will work hard every day to represent the best interests of the hardworking taxpayers who call District 49 home.”

“I strongly believe that government that grows too large becomes a threat to our freedom. I will work diligently to make sure our focus remains on the Constitution and the principles of low taxes and limited regulation that keep our economy strong and growing. It’s also imperative that every Florida student has the opportunity to get the very best education possible.”

He has two weeks to make the ballot, either by collecting 1,065 petition signatures or, more likely, paying the $1,782 qualifying fee.

Smith has raised nearly $58,000 for his re-election effort and had more than $37,000 banked. That total includes $10,525 raised by the Progressive Legislative Caucus chair last month, including seven $1,000 checks and a slew of small-dollar donations.

HD 49 covers part of northern Orange County including the main campus of the University of Central Florida — the alma mater of both Smith and Griffin — as well as the communities of Union Park and Rio Pinar.

On paper, the seat is a Democratic stronghold. As of the last book closing report, Democrats made up 41 percent of the electorate compared to a 26 percent share for Republicans.

It voted along those lines in 2016, when Smith was elected in a 70-30 landslide over unaffiliated opponent Shea Silverman. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also carried the seat with 60 percent of the vote.

The 2014 cycle, however, saw Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia knock out former Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders in a low turnout cycle that went down as a Republican wave. Plasencia has since shifted over to House District 50.

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