If selected, both men would serve third terms; each was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.
The Public Service Commission Nominating Council also decided on six people to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer. Patronis’ term is up at the end of 2018. Those candidates are:
— BillConrad, former mayor of Newberry in Alachua County.
— Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler. The Office of Public Counsel represents the interests of ratepayers before the commission.
— Ted Schrader, a former Pasco County commissioner and Tampa Bay Water board member.
— Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who served in the House 2004-2012.
— Gary Clark, the Department of Environmental Protection’s deputy secretary for land and recreation.
— Ritch Workman, a former state representative. The Melbourne Republican lost a bruising primary battle last year to fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.
The council also recommended another four for Graham’s and Brisé’s seats; their terms are up at year’s end. Those candidates include Conrad and:
— Former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Littlefield is a former PSC member himself, having been put on the commission by former Gov. JebBush in 2006. Then-Gov. CharlieCrist replaced him the following year.
— Anibal Taboas, an Illinois-based consultant and former U.S. Department of Energy official.
Taboas and Newman won their nominations in a runoff vote, after initially not capturing the required seven votes.
Losing candidates include Greg Evers, a Baker Republican who left the Senate to run last year for northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, losing to Matt Gaetz; and current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican who chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights subcommittee and is term-limited next year.
Another noteworthy applicant, former state Comptroller and retired Marine general Bob Milligan, was shut out early in the process, receiving no votes to move forward when the council met in Tampa last week.
The council will forward its recommendations to Gov. RickScott, who will decide on the appointments, subject to final approval by the Florida Senate.
A top Uber executive in Florida has been named to the Board of Governors of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC).
Cesar Fernandez, the ride-booking company’s Miami-based Senior Public Policy Associate, is joining the board, said Julio Fuentes, the chamber’s president and CEO, in a statement.
“Cesar’s breadth of experience in political and government affairs coupled with his innate leadership qualities, makes him a powerful addition to our board,” Fuentessaid. Fernandez was a member of the 2015 class of Florida Politics’ “30 Under 30” Rising Stars of state politics.
“He knows first-hand the business community’s critical role in and impact on our state. Uber is an innovative company that will help bolster employment and economic opportunities for our state. We welcome Cesar’s leadership and support of our mission to educate our statewide members on free market principles and economic growth.”
Fernandez added: “Cultivating entrepreneurs is critical to the success of Florida’s economy. I’m honored to be part of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Governors, which represents the interests of more than 600,000 Hispanic-owned businesses across the state, and look forward to serving with these distinguished leaders.”
Fernandez joined the Uber Public Affairs Team in Florida in January 2015. He has worked at the city, county and state levels to secure regulatory frameworks for transportation network companies (TNCs), a press release said.
Before working for Uber, he was political director on Gov. Charlie Crist‘s 2014 gubernatorial campaign and successfully managed the political campaigns of incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
In 2011-12, he was a legislative aide in the Florida Senate. Fernandez was born and raised in Miami and is a graduate of the University of Florida.
While the U.S. Senate is officially in recess, Bill Nelson brought a bit of Washington D.C. to St. Petersburg.
On the USFSP campus Thursday, the Florida Democrat hosted a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which focused on the threats to the state’s tourism-driven economy.
Last year, Florida attracted 112 million visitors, generating $108 billion for the state’s economy and supporting 1.4 million jobs. But that dependence on the tourism industry means any problems (man-made or through nature) could impact that cash cow for the state’s future economy.
Nelson was joined by local Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, who also shared the dais with Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long.
Nelson boasted about sponsoring the 2006 bill with then-GOP Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, calling for an oil drilling ban off much of the state’s Gulf Coast through most of 2022. That translates into a no-drilling zone through June 30, 2022, extending 125 miles off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, reaching as far as 235 miles at some points in the eastern Gulf.
Nelson wants that ban to continue until 2027, but says it’s “vigorously opposed by the oil industry.”
Castor took Nelson’s idea further, saying her Florida Coastal Protection Act would prohibit oil drilling, leasing, preleasing and any related activities off the Gulf Coast and the Straits of Florida permanently. However, she had been reintroducing that bill in Congress for the past eight years.
Castor notes that a huge challenge to the tourism industry, as well as the future of everyday Floridians, is the changing environment — higher air-conditioning bills, more beach renourishment, and rising flood and property insurance rates.
“If we do not act now to get ahead of this, we’re going to be facing a very difficult future,” she said.
Another concern for Florida is that President Donald Trump has slated to completely cut funding for Brand USA, a federally funded organization to promote America overseas as a tourist destination.
“I think it’s the classic definition of a penny wise and a pound-foolish,” Nelson said, adding that Castor and Crist would fight to maintain that funding in the budget.
Also testifying were many local experts.
Mise en Place co-owner Maryann Ferenc, a member of the Brand USA board of directors, told committee members the organization generated nearly $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and supports 50,900 incremental jobs annually.
Robin Sollie, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, indirectly referenced the attempted budget cuts to VISIT Florida in the Legislature this year when she spoke about Brand USA, particularly in “emerging markets like Dubai and Cuba.”
University of Florida Associate Dean of Research Sherry Larking said Florida’s tourist economy is based on natural resources. Preserving those resources was crucial for Florida’s economic interests, she said.
Mitchell Roffer, president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecast Service, said threats to Florida’s economy come from both inside and outside the state. He singled out water quality, habitat degradation, and climate change.
With diplomacy a seemingly lost cause for addressing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Charlie Crist says it’s time to put our trust in the military to protect the country from a possible attack from Kim Jong Un‘s regime.
“The time for talk is over,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Sunday in dismissing a question about whether America should go back to the United Nations and ramp up sanctions on the North Korean government after they tested a long-range missile last week that could potentially hit American cities beyond the West Coast.
The test has been called more advanced than the intercontinental ballistic missile launched July 4 and marks a significant step forward from a country once thought incapable of putting forward a serious ICBM program.
With China not wanting to use its influence to control the North Korean government, U.S. options seem limited. But Crist says he’d been reading a lot about the U.S. missile defense systems and thinks it may need to come down to that.
“Because of technology, we’ve become much better at being able to take care of missiles like that, if need be in the air before they get to the ground,” Crist said Monday.
Ronald Reagan called for the development of a missile-defense system in a 1983 speech when he discussed what was known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), but was mocked as a “Star Wars ” defense in the media. Reagan’s speech laid out a vision for long-term investment in technological development, possibly involving everything from satellites to lasers.
SDI ultimately morphed into what is now known as the Missile Defense Agency, which asked for proposals last month to build a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upward.
The U.S. military announced over the weekend that it had tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska by launching a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean.
“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow the Missile Defense Agency to enhance the THAAD weapon system,” U.S. Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves toldCNN. Military officials told CNN this was the 15th such test for the THAAD weapon system.
“They called it ‘Star Wars,'” Crist said of the missile defense developed in the 1980s. “Thank God they developed that thing, because if we have a rogue nation like North Korea get more serious about this, God forbid, it’s good to have a good defense system in place so that we can protect our people.”
The MDA has said that they hope to have their technology ready by 2023.
Crist leaves Tuesday for an eight-day trip congressional visit to Israel, where he last visited as Florida’s governor in 2007.
“Things change, as we all know, and I’m sure that things have changed significantly, so I’m anxious to see it up close and get educated again by people in the government in Israel,” Crist said.
Crist is part of a congressional delegation traveling to Israel from Aug. 1 through Aug. 9, his office said Friday. Crist and other members of the House are expected to get a firsthand look at the regional challenges and learn more about the nation’s strategic relationship with Israel during the trip.
The weeklong trip is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC. The foundation, according to Crist’s office, works to inform the public about Israel, the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and other issues impacting the Middle East.
Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, and other House members are expected to have a schedule filled with meetings with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including government officials, Knesset members, military leaders, defense experts, journalists and entrepreneurs.
The delegation is also expected to visit several key strategic sites, including defense and technology projects; the Gaza, Syrian, and Lebanon borders; the Golan Heights; Jewish, Christian and Islamic Holy sites; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
Consumer protection attorney Ryan Torrens is quite aware that he’s not an established political presence, but he says that should be an argument for his fledgling candidacy to become Florida’s next Attorney General.
“Look, I get it,” the 32-year-old told an audience who gathered Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange to hear the Hillsborough County resident speak as part of the Cafe Con Tampa lecture series.
“I’m young. First-time candidate. A lot of people look at me and think, ‘Can he really win this thing? He’s never run for office before. He’s been practicing for five years? Come on.””
The answers are hard to dispute.
“In the Democratic Party in Florida, what we’ve been doing the last 20 years isn’t working.”
Torrens says he’s offering something different. Energy, passion, new ideas and the fact that he is decidedly not a politician, which he has surmised during his brief time as a statewide candidate is something that voters are hungry for.
A fifth generation Tampa native with Cuban roots, Torrens became the first (and still only) Democrat to file for Attorney General two months ago. Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the GOP primary.
Under previous AG’s like Charlie Crist and Bob Butterworth, the position as Florida’s top cop was about being a consumer advocate for the people, something that Torrens says has been missing under Pam Bondi’s direction.
“A lot of people think it’s like the state attorney prosecuting murders and things like that,” he says of the AG’s job description.”That’s really not what the Attorney General does. If I’m Attorney General, I’m supposed to fight for all the people of Florida, and not simply take big contribution checks from companies and give them a pass.”
Working on the opioid epidemic he says will be a top priority in his administration, and if elected, he says he’ll sue the pharmaceutical companies for their role in perpetuating the crisis.
“They need to be held liable,” he says, “and we could use those proceeds from a settlement or a verdict to help get treatment from those who are currently suffering.”
That’s not such a radical idea, as attorneys general in Ohio andMississippihave already done so.
Torrens recently outed himself as being a recovering alcoholic, and said that experience allows him to identify with Floridians working through their own addictions.
Referring to the controversy over the recent “school of hope” education bill, he talked about the state constitution, which says that the state must adequately fund public schools.
“I would like to see if the AG could possibly file a lawsuit against the Legislature, for not adequately funding the public schools, and fulfilling its constitutional obligation,” he said.
Torrens also says he’ll go after predatory student lenders and abusive debt collectors. But he insists that he’s not some “left-wing radical” who wants to pick on Wall Street.
“When I talk all over the state with Democrats and Republicans they want the same thing, which is, they need to follow the same rules.”
A political science major at the University of Tampa, Torrens sounds like an analyst when he told the crowd he understands that it’s been the Democratic party’s arrogance that led to the election of Donald Trump last November.
“They feel that the Democrats are not speaking to them. That we make promises that we’re going to fight for working class people, but we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we get into office and we don’t really fight for them,” he said, adding that “we have a tendency sometimes to talk down to working class people and they feel like we’re trying to dictate to them how they need to live their lives.”
Torrens will certainly be an underdog to the Republican nominee if makes it that far next year when it comes to fundraising. He announced that he had raised a little more than $22,000 after two months on the campaign trail recently.
Fant raised over $79,000, and Moody more than $600,000between her own campaign and her political committee.
Members of Florida’s congressional delegation vulnerable because of their balanced districts each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the second quarter of 2017, new reports show.
The latest campaign finance reports posted this week, covering money raised and spent in April, May and June, shows that Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast of Palm City and Carlos Curbelo of Miami had the biggest hauls in the second quarter, while Democrats Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park were not far behind.
The reports also show the heat already rising in Florida’s 27th Congressional District based in Miami, where longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement and numerous Democrats and Republicans are scrambling for her seat.
Two of them, Democrat Kristen Rosen Gonzalez Miami Beach, and Republican Bruno Barreiro, raised at least $175,000 each last quarter, more than most Florida incumbent members of Congress managed.
Regardless of what they did in the second quarto of 2017, the candidates with biggest war chests all were Republican incumbents who hold fairly safe seats, U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Ron DeSantis each sit on more than $1.5 million in cash more than 15 months before the 2018 general election.
Among challengers, only Louis Sola raised at least $50,000 during the quarter, and that’s because he fueled his campaign to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson in Florida’s 24th Congressional District with a $99,000 personal loan. That’s all he reported.
Among Florida’s incumbent members of Congress:
Mast, in the 18th District, raised $733,964 in the quarter, spent $303,010, and finished the quarter with $797,222 in the bank.
Curbelo, in the 26th District, raised $705,026, spent $231,831, and finished with $1,078,588.
Crist, of the 13th, raised $551,811, spent $102,558, and finished with $1,121,494.
Murphy, of the 7th, raised $412,924, spent $150,642, and finished with $518,970.
Republican Neal Dunn of Panama City, in the 2nd, raised $337,793, spent $134,271, and finished with $270,857.
Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, in the 25th, raised $296,319, spent $81,541, and finished with $748,837
Republican Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, in the 12th, raised $264,221, spent $122,127, and finished with $302,261.
Republican Dennis Ross of Lakeland, in the 15th, raised $256,313, spent $149,872, and finished with $932,904.
Buchanan, in the 16th, raised $241,662, spent $66,606, and finished with $1,982,876.
Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, in the 23rd, raised $216,626, spent $238,332, and finished with $215,220.
Democrat Darren Soto of Orlando, in the 9th, raised $157,596, spent $37,417, and finished with $171,175.
Democrat Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, in the 21st, raised $149,962, spent $132,693, and finished with $943,810.
Democrat Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, in the 22nd, raised $142,658, spent $125,991, and finished with $277,383.
Democrat Alcee Hastings of Miramar, in the 20th, raised $121,314, spent $112,396, and finished with $92,074.
Republican John Rutherford of Jacksonville, in the 4th, raised $116,784, spent $16,287, and finished with $132,332.
Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa, in the 14th, raised $102,675, spent $64,744, and finished with $629,803.
Republican Ted Yoho of Gainesville, in the 3rd, raised $96,327, spent $42,183, and finished with $157,680.
Republican Bill Posey of Merritt Island, in the 8th, raised $93,627, spent $47,364, and finished with $506,876.
Republican Francis Rooney of Naples, in the 19th, raised $89,981, spent $57,435, and finished with $305,685.
Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee, in the 5th, raised $86,468, spent $38,501, and finished with $147,206.
Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, in the 1st, raised $80,901, spent $40,417, and finished with $170,046.
Republican Tom Rooney of Okeechobee, in the 17th, raised $70,097, spent $49,182, and finished with $114,763.
Republican Dan Webster of Webster, in the 11th, raised $66,655, spent $59,304, and finished with $83,295.
Wilson of Miami Gardens, in the 24th, raised $63,709, spent $21,873, and finished with $401,544.
DeSantis, in the 6th, only raised $52,379, while spending $51,153, yet he was sitting well going in, and finished with $1,674,185 in the bank.
The Federal Election Commission did not post second-quarter reports for Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, in the 10th District. Her first quarter report showed she finished March with $189,021 in the bank.
Among other challengers, Tim Canova of Hollywood, seeking a Democratic primary rematch with Wasserman Schultz in the 23rd, reported raising $49,117 in the second quarter, spending $32,819, and finishing with $19,641.
Two Democrats in the 15th, James Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates and Andrew Learned of Valrico, put up somewhat respectable fundraising numbers seeking a challenge with Ross. Pilkington raised $26,338, spent $6,699, and finished with $19,739. Learned raised $22,289, spent $6,162, and finished with $16,127.
Robert Tager of Clearwater, seeking to take on Bilirakis in the 12th, reported raising $12,404, spending $3,320, and finishing with $11,823.
No one else raised $10,000 in the quarter.
However, several former members of Congress and former candidates kept their FEC paperwork updated.
Republican former U.S. Rep. Cliff Sterns reported raising $51,704, nearly all on interest, and spending $6,618, nearly all on account management, and finished with $1,579,227 in the bank in the 3rd.
Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who served in the 9th and moved his paperwork to the 11th; and his wife, Democrat Dena Grayson, who ran in the 9th and moved her paperwork to the 8th, both reported activity too. Alan Grayson raised $68,532 in the quarter, spent $50,340, and finished with $455,584. Dena Grayson reported raising $9,821, spending $10,117, and finishing with $729.
Russia issue not yet hurting GOP fundraising or giving Dems advantage
The saga regarding Donald Trump – Senior and Junior – and Russia continues with no end in sight. It began in January and now, following the latest “bombshell,” the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice-president, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, is throwing out the word “treason.”
To their credit, the Florida delegation is showing greater restraint. Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz did call Donald, Jr. “a liar” and that his actions represent “the definition of collusion,” but the t-word remained in the holster.
Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch took the opportunity of the latest revelations to urge the House to vote on a sanctions bill against Russia already passed by the Senate 98-2. Deutch said in a release that “failure to act on this sanctions bill makes the Speaker complicit in the White House’s apparent efforts to repay Russia’s political favors.”
All of this this has got to be killing GOP fundraising, right? Or, at the very least, Trump must be providing sufficient fodder for Democrats to raise a ton of campaign cash to bludgeon Republicans with rhetorical vodka bottles.
Second quarter fundraising reports are due later this week, but the first two months show Trump is actually helping Republicans raise money. While the Russia story percolated, the Republican National Committee set a record in the first quarter.
The RNC raised more than $20 million in May and June, more than twice the amount of the Democratic National Committee. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Senatorial Committee also set first quarter records.
To be fair, the new administration at the DNC is not yet up to speed, but the message is clear that the Russia issue is not hurting the Republicans on the money end.
Russia will also have little effect on federal races in Florida. In addition to Bill Nelson’s re-election race, a few competitive districts will focus – and raise money – on the usual kitchen table issues.
Nelson is expected to report another strong quarter. Late Wednesday evening, the Orlando Democrat’s campaign announced he will report raising more than $2.1 million between April 1 and June 30. The $2.13 million haul, according to the campaign, comes on top of raising nearly $2.1 million during the first three months of the year. Nelson, according to his campaign, now has more than $5.1 million in the bank.
Candidates in swing districts have either released or leaked their second quarter numbers. Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a target of national Republicans, raised $410,000 between April 1 and June 30, according to her campaign.
Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, targeted by national Democrats, had a big haul with $705,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with $1.1 million cash on hand, according to the Miami Herald. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, also a target of national Republicans, hauled in $550,000, according to Florida Politics.
The Herald also reported Bruno Barreiro, one of those seeking the seating of the retiring Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, raised $176,000since his entry into the race in May. Numbers for Barreiro’s opponents were not available.
The old saying, “all politics is local” is likely to be true in all areas of the country, but especially in Florida.
Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.
VP: Touched NASA equipment because “Rubio dared me”
Pence tweeted out from his official Twitter account on Friday that while he and Rubio were touring NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, the Florida senator had dared him to touch the surface of “critical space flight hardware” that had a sign saying “DO NOT TOUCH” taped to it.
Rubio responded jokingly that he had warned Pence that if he broke it, he owned it. NASA’s social media account tweeted back at Pence, telling him that touching it wasn’t a big deal, as they were going to clean it later anyway.
The vice president wasn’t done with the jokes, however.
“Okay…so this isn’t exactly the first time this has happened,” Pence tweeted, posting a photoshopped picture of himself touching a porcupine.
— Tweet, tweet:
Air Force backs moratorium on drilling in the Gulf
The U.S. Air Force supports extending a moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent letter from David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, to Sen. Bill Nelson.
In theJune 27 letter to Nelson, Goldfein said he was writing in “whole-hearted support of a proposal seeking to extend the moratorium on leasing, preleasing or any other related activity in the area east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico.” Goldfein said the Air Force fully supports the development of domestic energy resources, so long as it is compatible with the military testing, training and operations.
“The moratorium on oil and gas leasing, pre-leasing, and other related activities ensures that these vital military readiness activities may be conducted without interference and is critical to their continuation,” he wrote.
“The moratorium is essential for developing and sustain the Air Force’s future combat capabilities,” he continued. “Although the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act’s moratorium does not expire until 2022, the Air Force needs certainty of the proposed extension to guarantee long-term capabilities for future tests. Emerging technologies such as hypersonics, 5th generation fighters, and advanced sub-surface systems will require enlarged testing and training footprints, and increased Air Force reliance on the moratorium far beyond 2022.”
Nelson, a long-time opponent of drilling near the coast, filed legislation earlier this year to extend the moratorium until 2027.
Rubio joins Coons in highlighting need for pediatric medical research
A briefing featuring experts from Nemours Children’s Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia aimed to highlight the urgent need to include children in cancer research and precision medicine initiatives.
Sen. Rubio and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, co-hosted and spoke at a policy briefing this week to highlight the need for pediatric medical research. The policy briefing came as the House was poised to take up a package in the coming days that could close a research loophole.
“Even though our technical capabilities have caught up to enable researchers to pinpoint similarities in adult and childhood cancer genomes, the law that prompts companies to examine the drug’s safety in children has not been updated,” said Rubio. “The pace of innovation is moving much faster than the ability of a republic to keep pace with.”
Rubio said the House could take up a package that included legislation — the RACE for Children ACT — to close what he called an “unintended loophole” this week.
Rubio — along with Republican Cory Gardner, and Democrats Michael Bennet and Chris Van Hollen — reintroduced the RACE for Children, or Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act, in February. According to Rubio’s office, the bill would update the Pediatric Research Equity Act to reflect the latest advances in drugs, and has the backing of Nemours Children’s Health System, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Institute, and more than 100 pediatric cancer advocacy programs.
“Now what this is, this is the result of a lot of hard work from a number of stakeholders, including our hosts here today. So this is an exciting step forward, but it is only one piece of the puzzle,” Rubio said this week. “With the launch of the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot and the All of Us Precision Medicine initiatives, we have a real opportunity to close the gaps between public policy and research with today’s technology. And we must all work together to ensure that as we close that gap, pediatric medicine in general and pediatric oncology in particular are not left out.”
Kate’s Law draws some bipartisan support within delegation
Just before the House and Senate went on their July 4 recess, two contentious bills came up for final votes in the House. One isKate’s Law, named after the murdered San Franciscan Kate Steinle, which calls for strict penalties for criminal aliens who return to the U.S. after being deported.
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlette was the bill’s sponsor with Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan among 17 co-sponsors. The bill passed 257-167 with 24 Democrats joining all but one Republican (Justin Amash of Michigan) voting in favor.
Among the 24 Democrats voting aye was Val Demings of Orlando, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.
That same day, the House also passed theNo Sanctuary for Criminals Act which, among other things, would withhold federal grant money for “sanctuary cities.” Goodlette was also the sponsor of that bill, while Gaetz and Buchanan were also co-sponsors.
It passed on a more partisan vote, 228-195. All Florida Republicans voted for it and all Democrats voted against it.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be going to jurisdictions that provide safe harbor to dangerous criminals,” Buchanan said while noting Steinle’s alleged killer was on the street because of sanctuary policies. “These two bills ensure we prioritize public safety.”
Also adding voice to his yes vote on both bills was Naples Republican Francis Rooney.
“It’s tragically too late to save the life of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a 5-time deported criminal illegal alien with 7 prior felony convictions,” Rooney said in a statement. “We must deter illegal immigrants who have been convicted and deported, from re-entering our country.”
Single-payer health care becoming more popular with delegation Democrats
While Republicans try to unite on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are not solidly behind a plan themselves. One idea floated in 2010, but gaining some traction recently, is the idea of single-payer health care.
Those signing on are Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Darren Soto of Orlando, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Kathy Castor of Tampa.
While such legislation has almost zero chance of passing a Republican Congress, Castor told Florida Politics that now is the time to look for alternatives to bring down escalating costs of health care in America. The idea is polling better than in the past.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in June found 53 percent, the highest ever, support single payer. The number of Democrats supporting it represents 52 percent of the Democratic caucus, but that is watered down by zero support from Republicans.
Gaetz’s beach ownership bill heads to House floor
Legislation overturning decades of federal government restrictions in the Florida Panhandle is headed to the House floor, after the House Committee on Natural Resources recently OK’d it.
Sponsored by Rep. Gaetz, the bill gives leaseholders in Santa Rosa Island the option to acquire fee simple title to their land. Melissa Nelson Gabriel with the Pensacola News Journal reports the bill would overturn restrictions put in place by the federal government when it deeded a portion of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County after World War II.
The federal government transferred land that was part of the Santa Rosa Island National Monument to Escambia County in 1947. Since then, according to Gaetz’ office, Santa Rosa Island resident have been ineligible to own their land, only lease it. While businesses and residents of Santa Rosa Island initially only paid lease fees, Gaetz’s office said the rules have changed and residents are now required to pay both lease fees and property taxes.
“Residents of Santa Rosa Island have suffered under double taxation for years,” said Gaetz in astatement. “My bill will help lift this unfair tax burden, and will finally give Santa Rosa Island residents the ability to obtain titles to their property. As a Republican, I believe land ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream — and now, for Santa Rosa Island residents, it’s finally within reach.”
The bill would require Escambia County to turn over to Santa Rosa County the land it owns there within two years, thus eliminating confusion around county land ownership, said Gaetz’s office. It also calls on Escambia to preserve the areas of the conveyed monument land that are dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking.
Sen. Rubio has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
“This is a team effort on the part of federal, state, and local governments,” said Gaetz. “This is how legislation is supposed to work. I am happy to hear that the bill will come to a vote soon, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to make this long-anticipated goal a reality at last.”
Yoho defends Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting
Rep. Ted Yoho came to Donald Trump Jr.’s defense this week, saying a meeting with someone who might have information helpful to a campaign isn’t out of the ordinary.
“Keep in mind, she wasn’t an official for the Russian government, the way I understand it. She’s a lawyer — a Russian lawyer — and if somebody comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got information on an opponent,’ yeah, I think that’s an appropriate thing to do,” the Yoho Republican toldCNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room this week. “I don’t think it was inappropriate for what he did. If you’ve got information about an opponent running against you, wouldn’t you want that information to vet it, to see if it’s real information, and to use it accordingly? And you can’t do that if you don’t have the initial meeting.”
Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged this week that he met with a Russian lawyer, who he had been told might have information helpful to his father’s presidential campaign. The statement was issued in response toNew York Times reporting that Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya.
CNN reported that Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer who represents Russians who want to see an end of U.S. sanctions.
Yoho told CNN that he also would have probably taken the meeting.
“Do I think it’s appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing,” he said. “I mean, it’s opposition research and, you know, anybody that’s been in an election — you’re always looking to get the upper hand.”
— Tweet, tweet:
— DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter responds: “Congressman Yoho’s admission that he would have taken opposition research from Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin is outrageous. Sadly, Yoho is taking his cues from fellow Florida Republican, Congressman Brian Mast, who called Russian hacked material ‘open source,’ and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which actually used material hacked by Russians in their 2016 attack ads. Voters are looking for leaders, not opportunists who are willing to sell out the sanctity of our Democracy for cheap political points.”
Murphy, T. Rooney join West Point oversight board
Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Tom Rooney have joined the board overseeing the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, reportsScott Powers with Orlando Rising.
The two members — Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, and Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican — were appointed in May to congressional seats on the academy’s Board of Visitors, which in many ways is the equivalent of a Florida university’s board of trustees.
TheU.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors keeps an eye on and considers the morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the academy.
Both were appointed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and have indefinite terms. They join the board’s chair, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, and six presidential appointees.
Crist named co-chair of economic task force
The St. Petersburg Democrat has been named a co-chair for the Blue Dog Coalition Task Force on Economic Growth for the 115th Congress. He is joined by Lou Correa of California.
The mission of the task force is to advocate policies that focus on creating a positive economic climate geared toward boosting economic growth and creating jobs. Among the goals are advancing policies that accelerate the economic recovery, create good job opportunities for middle class Americans and assisting small business owners as they work to grow their companies.
“While our economy continues to recover from the great recession, too many hardworking Americans still struggle to find good-paying jobs and entrepreneurs still face difficulties to secure loans needed to start or expand their own businesses,” said Crist in a statement. “It’s our job in Congress to work together to address these challenges, creating an environment that fosters economic growth.”
Blue Dog Democrats, who advocate some fiscally conservative policies, have not held much influence in recent years following the defeat of several prominent members, including north Florida’s Allen Boyd. By re-filling the pool with new members such as Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, coalitions with moderate Republicans may be possible – if leadership permits.
“The Blue Dogs are continuing their tradition of strong leadership on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, government reform and accountability, and national defense,” said Daniel Lipinski, the group’s co-chair for policy of Illinois.
Diaz-Balart tours Herbert Hoover Dike
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart toured the Herbert Hoover Dike with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and Hendry County officials to get an update on rehabilitation efforts.
“The rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike is a key step towards restoring the Everglades,” said the Miami Republican, who is the founder and co-chairman of the Everglades Caucus “In Congress, I will continue to work with our federal and local partners to ensure that critical rehabilitation projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike remain a priority and are adequately funded.”
Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, was able to secure nearly $50 million for repairs this year. Diaz-Balart was able to include $82 million for the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project and $76.5 million for Everglades restoration in the energy and water bill for fiscal 2018.
“Florida is fortunate to have so many diverse natural treasures that have significant impacts on our local community” he said in a statement this week. “These funds will go towards the ongoing Everglades restoration work that is vital to the ecosystem’s preservation. Continued funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike is critical to the timely rehabilitation of the waterway.”
Diaz-Balart was joined by Col. Jason Kirk, the commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District; Clewiston Mayor Mali Gardner, LaBelle Mayor David Lyons, and Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner.
“I’m glad that Mayors Gardner and Lyons and Commissioner Turner were able to join me on this tour to get a first-hand look at the progress being made,” said Diaz-Balart. “I particularly want to thank Colonel Kirk for his unwavering and steadfast leadership.”
Lake O Rural Health Network gets federal rural health grant
Rep. Diaz-Balart recently announced the health network received a $297,408 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. TheRural Health Network Development Program grant can be used to “provide support for networks of rural providers to integrate administration, clinical, technological and financial functions to improve health care delivery.”
“This grant will allow LORHN and local medical professionals to deliver a higher quality of care to its patients in Florida’s rural communities,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement. “I look forward to continue working with LORHN as they serve Southwest Florida.”
LORHN serves rural parts of Southwest Florida, including LaBelle, Clewiston and other areas of Hendry County.
Ros-Lehtinen calls on Germany to do more for Holocaust survivors
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wants German officials to do more for Holocaust survivors, calling on officials to “comprehensively address the medical, mental health and long-term needs of survivors.”
Last year, Ros-Lehtinen and other members of the Florida delegation called on Germany to provide more financial assistance to Holocaust survivors.Kevin Derby with Sunshine State News reported the group cheered with the country announced it would lift caps on assistance to survivors for home care.
Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement that last year both the House and Senate “unanimously agreed that Germany must do more to ensure that all Holocaust survivors can live their remaining years in the comfort and dignity that they deserve.”
“We urged our partners, Germany, to reaffirm its commitment to comprehensively address the medical, mental health, and long-term care needs of survivors by guaranteeing full funding to meet those needs. Now Germany has an opportunity to step up when it concludes its upcoming negotiations with the Claims Conference, and the Claims Conference leaders must recognize that Germany can do more for survivors,” she said in a statement ahead of annual negotiations between the government and the Claims Conference.
“Those leaders at the Claims Conference must not accept anything less than a comprehensive, permanent, and accountable commitment to fully fund survivors’ medically prescribed needs,” she continued. “Allowing once again for a modest increase when so much more is needed is not consistent with Germany’s past statements of responsibility, would defeat the purpose of the Claims Conference, and would tragically force tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors to continue to suffer when we all know the resources exist to provide the care and dignity that survivors worldwide deserve.”
Ros-Lehtinen urged the two sides to “do the right thing and not settle for anything less than what is really and truly needed.”
The good news for Republicans in the 2018 Florida Congressional elections is that Republicans have dominated not only the congressional elections, but also most elections statewide. The Republicans currently hold a 16 to 11 advantage in congressional seats.
The bad news for Republicans is virtually everything else. Most of the important election factors favor the Democrats.
Money has always been the lifeblood of politics, and Republicans have dominated partisan fundraising for over two decades. This is why the recent fundraising report is bad news for the Republicans. The Democrats raised $1.3 million more than the Republicans in the second quarter ($1.67 million for the Democrats and $338,00 for the Republicans). The total raised for the first six months of 2017 find the Democrats leading Republicans $3.5 million to $2.4 million for the Republicans. This is almost an apocalyptic sign.
The president’s approval rating is directly related to election success. President Trump started with the lowest approval ratings in modern history, and the only direction his ratings have gone is down. Trump’s approval is now in the mid-30’s, which will drag down many Republicans.
Trump’s poor ratings are tied to three primary events. His firing of FBI Director James Comey, his alleged ties of Trump and Administration officials to the Russian government in trying to impact the 2016 election results, and the strongly negative reaction by the public to the Republican effort to, “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Combine this with the failure of the Trump Administration to pass a single major piece of legislation, it is easy to see the dilemma facing Republicans in congress.
Another obstacle confronting Republicans is the impact of midterm elections. Since 1952, the president’s party has won majorities in only four of 16 midterm elections. Each of those four elections where the president’s party won contained unique circumstances that do not now exist.
In 1964 and 1976, Democrats won enormous majorities in the House that almost guaranteed losses in the next midterm election. LBJ racked up a large House majority as a reaction to the extreme positions of Goldwater and, in 1976, Democrats won a huge majority due to the reaction against Nixon and Watergate.
In 1962 and 2002, the majority party maintained control due to the popularity of their president. In 1962, President Kennedy’s popularity hovered around the 70% range due to the Berlin and Cuban missile crises. In 2002, President George W. Bush’s popularity rose to 60% due to 911 and the Afghanistan invasion. Presidential popularity almost always increases when there is an international crisis.
Since the Republican Party does not have a 2 to 1 majority like the Democrats had in 1964 and 1976 and, since the Republicans do not have a president with high approval rates such as occurred in 1962 and 2002, the conditions are good for a Democratic victory.
Finally, the generic ballot finds Democrats with a 7-point advantage, 44 to 37%. If the Democrats can maintain at least a five-point lead in the generic ballot, they should be able to flip the 24 seats needed to regain a house majority.
The opportunity is there for the Democrats. It was also there for them in the 2016 election, and look what happened. Opportunity does not guarantee success.
While the 58-year-old Naples Democrat has the backing of local Democrats and activists, he will face an uphill battle in the Southwest Florida congressional district. Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See, handily won his election in 2016, and the district — which covers part of Collier and most of Lee County — is a Republican stronghold.
Still, Holden isn’t letting that stop him. Hetold the Naples Daily News he plans to attack Rooney on health care and the environment.
The Naples Daily News reported Holden’s political activism stretches back to his parents, who were civil rights activists and were against the Vietnam War. He helped flip a City Council in White Plains, New York, through a series of campaigns and as the local Democratic party chairman during the late 1980s and ‘90s.
Holden moved to Naples two years ago.
Gov. candidate Chris King weighs in on “Trumpcare”
We know how the delegation Democrats feel about theGOP health care bill. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, both candidates for governor, make no bones about their distaste for the effort to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
This week the other Democratic candidate, Winter Park Businessman Chris King, went on the record with a detailed critique of the legislation that is dividing Republicans. While the message is similar to what is heard in Washington, King presents his case in simple terms.
“First, it’s not a health care bill. It’s a massive tax cut bill paid for with huge cuts to health care,” he said in a release issued by his campaign. “Trumpcare is an attack on older Americans. Anyone over 50 will feel the draconian cuts most acutely.”
King makes the case the bill will allow “insurance companies to charge older Americans 5 times the amount they charge everyone else.” The Affordable Care Act allowed those companies to charge older Americans 3 times the amount.
“As governor, I will do everything I can to protect affordable, quality health care coverage for all Floridians,” he said.
Save the date
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president, will attend a fundraising reception for his re-election campaign at The Francis in Sarasota on July 23.
The event is being billed as a chance to meet Kaine and hear about strategies to “combat the policies coming out of the Trump administration.”
Watchdog looks into rapid rise by Ballard Partners DC operation
TheCenter for Public Integrity recently profiled the continuing rise ofBallard Partners’ Washington, DC office, as well as founder and President Brian Ballard. Stories featuring Ballard’s ties to President Trump are not new, but this one comes from an organization dedicating to “revealing abuses of power; corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions using the tools of investigative journalism.”
Ballard “must ply his trade in the nation’s capital without looking as if he’s selling access to a president who has promised to stand up to special interests – a tricky course to navigate that has quickly tripped up other Trump alumni such as former campaign manager-turned-lobbyist Corey Lewandowski,”the story reads.
“There’s a lot of blurred lines, you know,” Ballard said. “It’s easy to say ‘oh, you’re a Trump person, you get this and that,’ but I don’t think it works out that way.”
Among the many interesting revelations from the article involves Ballard client Univision. Following the hostile relationship between the network and Trump (hethrew out correspondent Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference), Univision has retained Ballard to “help mend the rocky relationship between Trump and the network.”
The Center for Public Integrity is led by Chief Executive Officer John Dunbar, the former chief investigative reporter for the Florida Times-Union and a graduate of the University of South Florida.
Murphy to lead Future Forum Foundation
Former Rep. Patrick Murphy has been tapped to serve as the chairman of a new political non-profit organization, which aims to identify solutions to the challenges facing millennials.
Dubbed the Future Forum Foundation, the group will raise and deploy resources to provide advocacy organizations, elected leaders and other forward-thinking individuals a platform to explore the changing dynamics facing young Americans. The group is expected to conduct research, hold events, and create partnerships with the private sector, young professionals and students.
“Now is the time for the next generation of leadership to step up and take the lead. I’ve seen first-hand the disconnect between the leaders who serve us and our changing young workforce. Millennials are at the heart of every critical issue facing our nation,” said Murphy, a Palm Beach County Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.
“They are defining the future of work. By gaining a better understanding of the economic uncertainty and the disruption caused by technology and automation, we can empower a new generation of leaders to find solutions.”
Trump nominates #FloridaMan as ambassador to Italy
President Donald Trump will nominate Vero Beach resident Lewis Eisenberg as the ambassador to Italy, reports Kristina Webb with the Palm Beach Post. Eisenberg will also serve concurrently and without additional compensation as the ambassador to the Republic of San Marino.
Eisenberg is the co-founder and managing partner of Ironhill Investments in New York, and is the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Eisenberg also served on Trump’s inaugural committee and donated more than $35,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign.
He now faces Senate confirmation.
Backlash against bourbon?
The nation’s bourbon industry could take a hit if the European Union acts on a threat to respond to a blanket steel tariff being mulled by the Trump administration.
Amanda Holpuch with The Guardian reported recently that EU officials confirmed one of the targeted products could be bourbon, 95 percent of which comes from Kentucky. According to The Guardian, U.S. spirit exports to the EU were valued at $654 million in 2016, 20 percent of which was from bourbon.
First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist raised more than $550,000 between April 1 and June 30, according to a campaign source familiar with the congressman’s fundraising efforts.
Crist has more than $1.1 million cash-on-hand for his re-election bid.
Crist, who represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District, led the Florida congressional delegation in fundraising and was one of the top Democratic fundraisers overall during the first quarter of 2017, outperforming incumbents from both parties.
Although throughout his career, Crist has always been a prodigious fundraiser — most notably as Florida Governor and candidate for U.S. Senate — one reason for this most recent fundraising success could be traced to an overwhelmingly positive message, particularly in the push for more civil discourse in politics.
“As public officials, I believe we have a responsibility to try to lead by example,” Crist said recently.
Last month, St. Petersburg Democrat co-sponsored a measure to designate July 12 — in a nod to the Bible — as a National Day of Civility.
According to Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. … shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
This theme of the “Golden Rule” — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — is a common thread through much of Crist’s careerand first year in Congress.
“It is obvious that we need to be kinder, we need to be nicer. We need to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself,” said Crist at a news conference announcing the measure. “We all learned that … as little kids growing up and yet somewhere along the way it seems to have been forgotten.”
“I think it’s important to have these reminders …,’’ he added. “We need to do it every day, all 365 days.”
Crist also plans to supply fellow lawmakers with yellow wristbands saying: “Practice the GOLDEN RULE every day.”
Florida Senate District 40 candidate Annette Taddeo is touting a new poll giving her a 17-point lead over Democratic primary opponent Ana Rivas Logan.
The survey, conducted by SEA Polling, shows Taddeo leading Rivas Logan, 40 to 23 percent, with more than a third of those polled (37 percent) undecided. However, neither candidate is that well known. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they didn’t know who Taddeo is, while 54 percent say they aren’t familiar with Rivas Logan.
However, neither candidate is that well-known; 42 percent of respondents didn’t know who Taddeo is. Similarly, 54 percent say they aren’t familiar with Rivas Logan.
The gap between the two Democrats widens to 29 points after voters were presented with biographical information, the survey reports. It did not list what additional info was inserted to questions.
A Miami-based businesswoman, Taddeo has found herself on the losing side of a number of recent elections. She is perhaps best known as Charlie Crist‘s running mate in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
A former Republican, Rivas Logan switched to the Democratic Party in 2014 after a single term in the Florida Legislature. She also served on the Miami-Dade County School Board.
SD 40 encompasses Southwest Miami-Dade and was represented by Hialeah Republican Frank Artiles until April, when he resigned just days after reports emerged that he had made racist and sexist comments to two black Democratic lawmakers.
On the GOP side, the race is between state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares.
The primary election is July 25; the special general election is September 26.
The poll contacted 350 registered and likely Democratic primary voters June 26-28 and was conducted in both English and Spanish. It has an error sample of 4.29 percent.