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Orange County Republican official defends his QAnon posts

Orange County’s Republican Party is under fire again for social media posts from one of its officials.

This time, it is Republican Executive Committee Vice Chair Lou Marin, who responded Friday morning that the posts were intended to stimulate discussion, not to promote any particular view.

The Orlando Sentinel reported late Thursday that Marin has been sharing posts on Facebook from the controversial ultra-right group QAnon reporting some of the conspiracies that group has promoted, such as that the Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School may have been fake news.

Marin, in a message to Florida Politics Friday morning, defended the posts as “designed to stimulate discussion and debate on a private Facebook Page … at no time did any of these shared posts generate any vibrant conversation because most of our followers are intellectual adults.”

The new controversy follows a similar one involving Orange County State Committeewoman Kathy Gibson. She withstood criticism two weeks ago involving Facebook posts she shared, including one that critics said was a racist shot at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, falsely charging that he would make Florida pay for its history as a slave state.

In a subsequent Facebook post, Gibson insisted her account had been hacked and the post was not hers.

Marin not only is defending his posts as efforts to stir debate, but is going on the offensive, accusing the Sentinel of not making sufficient efforts to seek his reply, and publishing the item in its Political Pulse blog only to “generate salacious news” and “distort his character.”

He called Political Pulse “a liberal propaganda blog.”

It’s been a tough summer for the Orange County Republican Executive Committee. Earlier, Orange County State Committeeman Paul Paulson resigned because of a scandal involving a charity he ran making false claims about serving veterans.

Paulson was replaced by former committeeman and former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty.

Giffords group endorses Stephanie Murphy, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Giffords, the national gun safety organization co-founded by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, announced its endorsement Thursday of the re-election bids of Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Stephanie Murphy, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The group also endorsed Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, though Demings was re-elected in 2018, defeating her only opponent in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

The organization, founded by the former Arizona congresswoman shot in 2011 during an assassination-turned-mass-shooting, and her husband, retired NASA astronaut and retired Navy Captain Mark Kelly, was created to support candidates who support gun law reforms.

“America experienced three of the deadliest mass shootings in modern history in just the past year. Over 38,000 people in our country were killed by a gun. Florida has not been immune to this deadly crisis: somebody is killed by a gun in Florida every three hours,” Giffords stated in a news release issued by her organization. “Despite this devastating reality, the gun lobby has used its cash and influence to stifle any attempts to pass laws on Capitol Hill to make our schools, streets, and communities safer.

“The members of Congress we are endorsing today acknowledge the devastating toll of our nation’s gun violence crisis, and they are working to combat it. Their leadership will be critical for our next victories in Congress to save lives and prevent future tragedies,” she added.

The endorsement announcement noted that Demings and Murphy both have strong ties to the Orange County community response to the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando; and Deutch and Wasserman Schultz with the Broward County community response to the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In the Nov. 6 election, Murphy faces Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, representing much of central Orange County and all of Seminole County

Deutch faces Republican Nicolas Kimaz in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District in northern Broward County.

Wasserman Schultz faces Republican Joe Kaufman and a couple of independent candidates, including Tim Canova, her Democratic primary nemesis in 2016, in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District in central Broward County.

Pam Dirschka calls out Rene Plasencia over skipping HD 50 forum

Democrat Pam Dirschka is calling out her opponent, Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia, for not committing to a candidates’ forum Monday and charging that he’s been avoiding face-to-face encounters with her.

Plasencia insisted he’s ready, but appropriate forums haven’t happened yet.

“He’s a no-show,” Dirschka said Thursday.

“I want a forum that is inside our district, where people who actually have an opportunity to vote for us can attend,” Plasencia responded.

The Monday forum was set for Cocoa, outside of House District 50. Plasencia said he told organizers he would be willing to participate if the forum were moved to a location inside HD 50.

Hosting the forum is the League of Women Voters, Florida Today, and Eastern Florida State College. It is set for 7 p.m. at Eastern Flordia State College’s Simpkins Center in Cocoa.

HD 50 covers eastern Orange County and northwest Brevard County, including Titusville. Cocoa is about six or seven miles outside the district boundaries, and up to 25 miles away from the farthest corners of HD 50.

Dirschka said Plasencia has been absent from other forums, and she cited two events that took place before the Aug. 28 primary, in which Plasencia was battling with a Republican challenger.

“The [League of Women Voters] debate was originally scheduled for September 12, but incumbent Republican State Representative Rene Plasencia declined to participate, as he has for all three scheduled forums,” her campaign charged in a news release issued Thursday. “Dirschka thinks the public deserves the opportunity to understand candidates’ positions on issues.”

However, Plasencia said he is aware of only one other event to which both candidates had been invited, at a mall in Titusville, and he said that he attended that one.

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano will speak in Melbourne

Fox News legal analyst and former Judge Andrew Napolitano is set to deliver a speech later this month at a Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) event in Melbourne.

The RLCCEF will be hosting its annual Constitution Day Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 23. Napolitano will serve as the event’s keynote speaker.

“Our purpose in putting on this dinner every year is to honor the Constitution, our Founders, the men and women of our armed forces and our first responders,” said Bob White, Chairman of the RLCCEF and the RLC Florida.

“We’re very proud of the speakers we’ve brought to Brevard County in years past but this year we’ve really outdone ourselves. Judge Napolitano is known as one of the foremost authorities on the Constitution. His name comes up often in conversations about potential appointments to the Supreme Court.

“We’re delighted to be able to bring him to Melbourne so that the people of Brevard County and central Florida will have this opportunity to meet him and hear from him in person.”

This is the 10th year the group has put on a Constitution Day Dinner. This year’s event will be held at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto Place hotel. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for a champagne reception, followed by the dinner at 7 p.m.

Founded in 1991, the RLC describes itself as “a 527 voluntary grassroots membership organization dedicated to working within the Republican Party to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets.”

Anna Eskamani campaign video pays tribute to her inspiration, her mother

Democratic Florida House candidate Anna Eskamani is launching a social-media campaign video telling the story of her mother, an Iranian immigrant who pursued the American dream and laid the foundation for her daughter’s values, before dying young.

The two-minute, 11-second video, “My Mother’s Name Is Nasrin” is produced to be both inspiring and heartbreaking, while telling the story of Eskamani’s parents coming to America, meeting, working hard, and raising a family in Orlando, and how her memory drives her daughter.

The video opens with Eskamani folding clothes. And then there are clips of old family movies and pictures, and a few contemporary shots, as she tells her parents’ story, of how they each immigrated from Iran, met while working in an Orlando doughnut shop, married, had three children, and then, right after they moved into a new home, her mother died.

“I was only 13, but that night, I found my purpose,” Eskamani recalls in the video.

Eskamani faces Republican Stockton Reeves in the Nov. 6 election for House District 47, covering north and central Orange County. They seek to replace Republican state Rep. Mike Miller who is running for Congress, rather than for re-election.

The video is being debuted Wednesday initially only through an organic online push, through multiple platforms, but her campaign plans also to purchase digital promotions.

After Eskamani announces she found her purpose, the video changes to mostly contemporary footage of Eskamani, driving, making speeches, meeting with people, and contemplating her mother, and also of a wide variety of ordinary HD 47 residents in settings ranging from workplaces to a Pulse memorial.

The video’s message transforms into a campaign theme about what Eskamani says her purpose is:

“To carry her passion and resolve and stand up for working families like mine. She is the reason I fight for good jobs, fair wages, and world-class health care, for safe streets, and great schools, to end harassment and assault and assure full access to reproductive care,” Eskamani says. “My mom’s energy and resilience still live in my determination to empower others.”

And then the video goes back to the folding of clothes. The symbolism there again is a tribute to her mother, as Eskamani had explained earlier: when her mother worked at a Kmart store, part of her job was folding and stocking clothing, and her two daughters and son sometimes would come and help. That action now seems to depict her memory emerging with every folded garment.

“Her story, her pursuit of the American dream also continues,” Eskamani says, as video shows her retrieving a picture of her mother from a wallet, “in everyone who sees Central Florida as a place of hope and opportunity, everyone who works hard to give their family the best possible future, and everyone who believes change can happen if you simply refuse to give up.

“The story of Nasrin Vishkaee Eskamani hasn’t ended. But it’s up to us to write the next chapter,” she concludes.

Dennis Baxley touts NRA A+ rating for re-election bid

Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley has received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, his re-election campaign announced Tuesday.

The rating formally comes from the NRA Political Victory Fund and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, signaling Baxley’s long history as a champion of Second Amendment rights. It also reflects his unwavering commitment even in the face of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in February that changed much of the gun debate in Florida and led the Legislature to approve some gun reform laws in the spring, which he opposed.

“We sincerely appreciate Dennis Baxley’s strong and unyielding support of Second Amendment issues as a member of the Florida Legislature.“ Marion Hammer, past president of the National Rifle Association and executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida, stated in a release issued by Baxley’s campaign. “No other candidate in this race has the background of active, dedicated legislative service that Senator Baxley has demonstrated to advancing the cause of freedom, Second Amendment rights, and protection of Constitutional rights.

“His support of Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues and his pro-sportsmen, pro-freedom record has earned our endorsement and our appreciation.”

Baxley, of Ocala, is seeking re-election in Senate District 12 against Democrat Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora. The district covers Sumter County, south Marion County, and north Lake County.

Baxley is a past recipient of the NRA Defender of Freedom Award and a “Strong Pro-Gun” rating from Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“I am proud of my long-standing support of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, and of their support for me,” Baxley said in the release. “Few things in life are more important than protecting the right of individuals to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their property from those who would do them harm.

“I look forward to continuing to fight against the erosion of our Second Amendment rights.”

Sept. 11 also brings thoughts of hurricanes past, future, and climate change

Now that Sept. 11 has, on some level, a double function as an anniversary and memorial, Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres led a moment of remembrance in Orlando for the 2011 terrorist attacks — then for hurricanes of the past, present and future, raising concerns of the long-term threat to Florida and the islands posed by climate change.

Torres, a former New York City police officer with bonds to many of those lost in the 9/11 attacks, paid respects at Orlando’s Lake Eola Park and then turned to the more immediate threats, that of Hurricane Irma which hit Florida with its full force one year ago, Hurricane Florence, set to strike North Carolina Thursday, and hurricanes of the future.

Torres, who represents south Orange County and Osceola County, and Rollins College environmental studies Assistant Professor Leslie Poole pushed alarm Tuesday that Florence, Irma, and Hurricanes Maria and Harvey last year may become the norm as climate change warms the oceans, leading to bigger, stronger, slower-moving, more rain-producing, and more dangerous storms.

“One year ago Hurricane Irma revealed what the future has in store for Floridians, as warmer waters brought by climate change produced stronger, more dangerous hurricanes, wider than the state of Florida and roughly the size of Texas,” Torres said. “Irma threatened every community in our state.”

The issue that brought Torres, Poole and a small handful of activists, led by For Our Future Florida, together Tuesday had to do with the prospect that Irma, Florence, Maria and Harvey may be precursors of a future. Poole, who described herself as an environmental historian, discussed the science trends, declaring, “climate change is real, and trying to ignore it is only going to lead to bigger problems for Florida.”

Torres pursued political trends, essentially accusing Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans running for elections this fall of denying climate change and thereby denying pursuit of strategies to address it.

He also praised Scott’s opponent, Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum for their positions on climate change, saying Florida cannot afford to not change leadership.

“More than anything Irma highlighted how unprepared our leaders have left us in the face of stronger hurricanes,” Torres said. “That shouldn’t come as a surprise from a governor who banned employees from even discussing climate change,” he said.

“We live in a state uniquely at risk from climate change. Even now there are three hurricanes threatening the United States,” Torres continued, noting the tracks of Florence, Isaac and Helene. “The time to kick the can down the road to the next generation ends now.”

Poole said there may yet be time to address climate change so that enormous hurricanes don’t become a permanent norm for Florida, other coastal states, and the Caribbean. But she insisted there is no mistaking that the recent enormous hurricanes were not previously the norm.

“Storms are getting bigger, and more violent, and moving slower, and dumping more water,” she said.

Top House Republicans holding fundraiser for Central Florida incumbents

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and the two Republican lawmakers set to succeed him in that post will be in Orlando next week for a fundraiser benefitting the re-election campaigns of their Central Florida colleagues.

Oliva, Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner will headline the Sept. 12 fundraising reception at The Groove, 6000 Universal Blvd. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will benefit 10 incumbent Republicans representing Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties in the state House: Mike La Rosa, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Bobby Olszewski, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan and Josie Tomkow.

Also on the invitation is Stockton Reeves, the Republican nominee in House District 47, which is open this year due to current Republican Rep. Mike Miller opting to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix by 10 points in the Republican primary for the seat last week. He now moves on to a general election showdown against well-funded Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Most of the incumbents on the invite are running for re-election in safely Republican districts.

Cortes, who represents HD 30, and Olszewski, who holds HD 44, are both running for re-election in seats carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, however, they both went uncontested in August and have substantial fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Rick Porter via 407-849-1112 or Ivey Rooney via Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

The invitation is below.

House Republican Majority Fundraiser 9.12.2018

Mike Miller says yes to three congressional debates, awaits Stephanie Murphy

The congressional campaign for Republican state Rep. Mike Miller announced Monday it has signed off on three debates being proposed in Central Florida and said it is awaiting word from Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy on which, if any, work for her.

Miller’s campaign on Monday said it was accepting invitations from two Orlando television stations, WFTV Channel 9 and WESH Channel 2, plus from the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. The WFTV debate has a proposed date, Oct. 9, while the other two await word from Murphy’s campaign on which dates, if any, might be acceptable, Miller’s campaign spokewwoman said.

“Our community and the voters in Central Florida deserve to hear from the candidates seeking to represent them in Congress, and that’s why I’m pleased to accept recent invitations from WFTV, WESH and the Tiger Bay Club to debate Rep. Stephanie Murphy,” Miller stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I’m willing to debate my opponent as many times as we are invited, so I am hopeful that other highly respected media outlets like WKMG, Univision, WOFL, Spectrum13 and the Orlando Sentinel will sponsor or co-sponsor debates.”

Murphy of course has the position of incumbent in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and as the apparent front-runner, leaving Miller hoping for as many public face-offs as possible. The district covers Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

On Monday Murphy’s campaign sounded less than pleased that Miller’s campaign accepted first and made it public, implying that his campaign was not negotiating debate options in good faith.

“We are eager to highlight the differences between our campaigns, which is why we made an initial outreach to the Miller campaign to begin debate negotiations. These debates should occur across a variety of mediums, including broadcast, print and radio, which is why we proposed a schedule with an unprecedented number of general election debates. Proposing an initial framework for debates is not the same thing as limiting debates and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise,” Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson said in a wrtten response Monday.

“It’s disappointing that Mike Miller is more focused on scoring political points than negotiating in good faith. We need less of that in Congress, not more,” Stephenson added.

Miller’s campaign spokeswoman Dana Loncar said both campaigns had signaled acceptance of the Oct. 9 debate at WFTV. Loncar said the issue then became whether to accept a second televised debate.

“The Mike Miller campaign is not going to turn down WESH and in fact would encourage the hard-working professionals in our local media to ask questions, schedule debates and forums so that the people of Central Florida can listen to and evaluate the candidates for Congress,” Loncar stated in the news release.

Communications workers’ union backs Anna Eskamani

The Communications Workers of America Local 3108 is endorsing Democrat Anna Eskamani in the Florida House District 47 race, her campaign announced Monday.

The labor union represents telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, news media, broadcast and cable television, education, health care and public service, law enforcement, manufacturing, and other fields.

“The hard-working men and women of the Communications Workers of America, Local 3108, have wholeheartedly thrown their support to the candidacy of Anna Eskamani for Florida House District 47,” Steve Wisniewski, president of CWA Local 3108, stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign.

“Anna has been a longtime friend of the CWA and has demonstrated that she shares our concerns, and our hopes, for a better future. She has the tenacity and determination to fight for the rights of working-class Floridians and to push forward in the struggle to provide better jobs, better schools, safer communities, and economic and social justice for the good people of Central Florida. Get out and vote, and encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same, for Anna Eskamani for Florida House District 47,” he continued.

Eskamani faces Republican Stockton Reeves in the HD 47 race to represent north-central Orange County. Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller is not seeking re-election.

“Our government from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee has become an embarrassment because too many politicians care more about special interests than our working families. It doesn’t have to be this way,” Eskamani stated in the release. “I am honored to have the support of Communications Workers of America, Local 3108, and cannot wait to be a voice in the Florida House that protects our unions, and balances the needs of our workers, business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs.”

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