democrats – Florida Politics

Alan Grayson: Things like SunRail money aren’t being brought home anymore

With SunRail holding an open house for its soon-to-open Poinciana commuter rail station, former U.S. Rep. and current congressional candidate Alan Grayson is declaring it an example of things Central Florida was able to get while he was in Congress and isn’t getting anymore.

Grayson is challenging his successor U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in the August 28 Democratic primary this year seeking to return to Congress, where he sat from 2009-’10 and again from 2013-’16. The winner will face Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the November election.

The SunRail stations opening this summer in Meadow Woods, at Tupperware, in downtown Kissimmee and in Poinciana wouldn’t be there were it not for his efforts to get the money out of the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2013, Grayson said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.

That kind of federal money has stopped coming home to Central Florida, he added, indirectly criticizing Soto, but not naming him.

“Right now nobody is actively working to solve these problems. Most you hear is they are either ignored or they are whining without any constructive action to solve them,” Grayson charged.

Soto’s campaign spokesperson Harry Kruglik disputed Grayson’s comments, insisting that Grayson did not have the impact he claims on the original funding, that Soto was instrumental in getting state funding for that section of SunRail, and that Soto has is now working on getting funding for the next phase of SunRail.

Saturday’s SunRail open house at the Poinciana SunRail station is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is the first of four open houses the commuter rail agency has scheduled in coming weeks. The actual train is set to begin rolling down those tracks, connecting those stations to the line now running from Sand Lake Road to DeBary, in “mid-2018.”

Grayson said he, with assistance from Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, secured the $80 million that the federal government gave SunRail for the rail leg connecting Sand Lake through to Poinciana.

Grayson said he met with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in 2013 and explained that the first, north, leg of SunRail principally serves primarily middle-class, affluent and largely white areas of Central Florida, while the proposed south leg would begin to bring in lower-income and minority riders, principally Hispanic. Grayson said he also pointed out that the north leg essentially paralleled a major transportation artery, I-4, while the southern leg veered into areas that do not have any good north-south highways, Kissimmee and Poinciana.

Grayson said Foxx bought in on the plan based on those arguments, and the money appeared in President Barack Obama’s next budget.

“Everyone knows Former Reps John Mica and Corrine Brown as chair and ranking member on Transportation Committee did most of the work to bring back the SunRail funding,” Kruglik argued. “In contrast, Congressman Soto was recognized by the Orlando Sentinel and other news outlets for his work in the Florida House bringing Republicans and Democrats together for key policy and funding matters on the state level to make Sunrail happen.

Grayson charged that he’s not seeing that kind of activity by the congressional delegation since he and Mica (they were bipartisan rivals who worked together) left office. Grayson ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and lost in the primary. Mica lost his seat to Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

And charged that the region’s transportation network is lagging now as a result, with no major new projects emerging with funding, other than the toll roads.

“As far as I know, nobody is making the effort to bring in that kind of money,” Grayson said. “The way that you do that is engage, the way I did, sit down with the secretary face-to-face. I did that over and over again.

Geraldine Thompson rolling out bipartisan backing in HD 44 race

Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson is planning to roll out a bipartisan base of supporters next week following endorsements of her House District 44 campaign by fellow Democrats state Sen. Randolph Bracy and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Republican former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd.

Thompson’s campaign announced those and other endorsements Friday morning while announcing a campaign kickoff for next Thursday in Oakland.

Thompson, of Orlando, who served six years previously in the Florida House of Representatives representing another district, and four years in the Florida Senate, is one of several Democrats setting their sights on  the HD 44 seat covering southwest Orange County. The area has long been represented by Republicans and HD 44 is now represented by Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, who is seeking re-election.

She left the Florida Senate in 2016 when she ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Bracy, of Oakland, succeeded her in the senate district that covers HD 44. Bracy’s mother, longtime Central Florida civil rights leader LaVon Bracy, is Thompson’s campaign manager. Smith is of Orlando.

Boyd’s endorsement represents bipartisan backing for Thompson, though Boyd also is known for his strong rivalry with Olszewski in internal Republican politics in west Orange County.

Also expected to join Thompson at next week’s campaign kickoff event are Oakland Mayor Kathy Stark, Oakland Commissioners Joseph McMullen and Rick Polland,  Winter Garden Theatre co-founder Becky Roper, and Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell, Thompson’s campaign announced Friday.

Thompson first must get through a Democratic primary on August 28, which also includes longtime progressive activist Margaret Melanie Gold, businessman Eddy Dominguez, and real estate agent Matt Matin.

Andrew Gillum releases poll showing him picking up ‘informed Democrats” votes

The campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is releasing results of an internal poll Wednesday that shows him tied with Gwen Graham and within striking distance of frontrunner Philip Levine – and leading among Democrats after the pollsters provided pitches for each candidate and asked again.

The poll finds what all others have been saying to date, that a majority of Democrats still don’t know the candidates, most haven’t made up their minds, and more than a few who have decided are waffling on their choices. Yet the campaign for the Tallahassee Mayor Gillum maintains that it also shows that people are beginning to make up their minds, and that he’s well positioned once voters are informed.

“This latest poll shows that with a little more than 100 days until primary day, Mayor Gillum is prepared to jump into the lead,” Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s campaign communications contended in a news release.

“As we continue educating voters about his background as the son of a bus driver and construction worker, and his bold, progressive agenda to invest more than $1 billion in our public schools and students, give teachers and support staff the raise they deserve, and make quality health care a constitutional right for all Floridians, Mayor Gillum is poised to win this wide-open primary,” Burgan added.

The on-line poll was conducted by Change Research of 1,107 likely Democratic primary voters in Florida between May 8-11 last week. Change Research applied its proprietary “Bias Correct” method to yelled a representative sample, according to the Gillum campaign.

The findings of all voters asked whom they would vote for gave Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, 20 percent; Gillum and Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, 13 percent each; and Chris King, the Winter Park entrepreneur 3 percent. Fifty-two percent of the likely Democratic voters surveyed said they were undecided.

After receiving brief pitches and photographs of each candidate, provided by the pollsters, a second question on whom the respondents would vote for gave Gillum 35 percent, Graham 23 percent, Levine 20 percent, and King 10 percent, with 13 percent remaining unsure, the Gillum campaign reported.

Favorability ratings questions found that Levine, who’s been airing statewide television commercials since January, is the only candidate of whom a majority of Democratic voters have heard. Levine’s favorable ratings totaled 44 percent, including 16 percent finding him very favorable; while a total of 15 percent of those surveyed gave him unfavorable ratings, including 5 percent who found him very unfavorable. Another 41 percent don’t know him.

Gillum, whose been running digital ads on the internet, had total favorable ratings of 32 percent (with 14 percent very favorable) and total unfavorable ratings of 13 percent (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Yet 55 percent said they had “never heard of him.”

Graham, who’s also been relying on internet advertising to date, had the the best favorable/unfavorable ratio, with 36 percent saying they hold favorable opinions (14 percent saying very favorable) of her, and only 11 percent having unfavorable (including 3 percent very unfavorable) opinions of her. Fifty-three percent said they never heard of her.

King, who is beginning statewide television commercials this week, came in with 21 percent favorable ratings (including 5 percent very favorable) and 14 percent unfavorable (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Sixty-five percent of those polled said they never heard of him.

Sixty-two percent of the Democrats surveyed said the state was on the wrong track, with 13 percent saying it was on the right track.

When asked to rate President Donald Trump on a scale of 1-10, 84 percent of the Democratic voters surveyed gave him a “1.” Four percent gave him a “10.”

New Andrew Gillum ad pushes ‘bold progressive platform’ from son of a construction worker

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s new digital ad lays out the six key planks in what he calls a ‘bold, progressive platform,’ delivered from the son of a construction worker and a school bus driver.

With shots of him in front of school buses, with his family, as mayor of Tallahassee, and in various campaign moments, the one-minute ad “Our Moment & Path to Victory” is the third digital ad his campaign has released recently under a six-figure advertising buy.

“I’m running for governor for anyone who has been told that they don’t belong, for anyone who has ever been told that they don’t deserve a chance, because Power cedes nothing without a demand,” the Tallahassee mayor states in the ad. “It’s our moment, it’s our time to demand.”

And then he lays out the planks: affordable healthcare and Medicare for all; an assault weapons ban; a $15 minimum wage; a $50,000 starting salary for teachers; equal pay for equal work; and for Florida’s largest corporations to pay more taxes, what he calls a “fair share.”

“I believe this bold, progressive platform is our only path to victory,” he declares.

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

Chris King pumps up campaign fund with $405,000

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King provided another $405,000 of his own money to his campaign in April, pushing his drive’s take to  $514,623 for the month, his campaign announced Tuesday.

The April haul, which included $109,623 from individual donors, was split between King’s official campaign account, which took in a total of $416,773 in April, and his political committee, Rise and Lead, which brought in $97,850.

King’s total raised to date is $4,626,237, and he ended April with $2,476,895 cash in hand, his campaign reported Tuesday. The Florida Division of Elections has not yet posted the April reports.

King, a Winter Park entrepreneur, had previously contributed more than $1.76 million to his campaign.

“As voters begin to tune into the governor’s race, our campaign is continuing to build support across Florida for Chris’s new leadership and fresh ideas,” Chris King for Florida senior adviser Omar Khan stated in a news release. “This race is wide open and we will have the necessary resources to share Chris’s bold, progressive message with voters who are hungry for change.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the August 28 Democratic primary.

Democrats say Medicaid cut information wrong

Incoming Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson sent a letter Monday to the federal government accusing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration of falsifying the record to show support for a $98 million Medicaid reduction and asked for a “thorough review” of the proposed cut, which would impact an estimated 39,000 people.

“I felt compelled to ensure (the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has no misunderstanding as to opposition on this ill-advised move targeting seniors and families facing catastrophic health care emergencies,” Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat , wrote to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Florida is asking the federal government to approve limiting the length of time people have to qualify for the Medicaid program. The issue is known as Medicaid retroactive eligibility. Federal law has long required states to give people 90 days to apply for the program following a health issue.

At the behest of the Scott administration, the Legislature during the 2018 Session approved requiring adults who aren’t pregnant to apply for the Medicaid program the month they required the health services. Florida submitted the request to the federal government last month.

State Medicaid Director Beth Kidder sent a letter to CMS Project Officer Vanessa Khoo last month accompanying the request, saying she was not “not aware of any concern or opposition raised by any member of either party regarding this provision during extensive budget debate.”

Kidder also went on to say that the $98 million reduction “cannot accurately be described as a cut.”

In her letter Monday to Veema, though, Gibson noted that several Democrats flagged the $98 million cut while raising questions on the Senate floor about who would be impacted and what would happen to them.

“AHCA’s proposal to cut off an entire population of powerless citizens and their families in the midst of a catastrophic medical emergency lacks innovation for improving outcomes and ultimately may push more costs to largely safety net hospitals who already bear a tremendous cost burden, particularly in light of rejection of Medicaid expansion in Florida,” Gibson wrote in her letter.

This is not the first time the agency’s correspondence regarding the change has come under fire.

In a March 2017 letter to the federal government, state Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior said reducing Medicaid retroactive eligibility could save as much as $500 million annually. But that figure was reduced to $98 million months later.

AHCA said the $500 million estimate included health care costs for pregnant women and children and that the $98 million figure was only for non-pregnant adults.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families who has extensively studied Florida’s Medicaid program said the explanation can’t be right. That’s because children account for only 20 percent of total spending in the program.

Anna Eskamani grabs Jerry Demings’ endorsement

Democratic Florida House District 47 candidate Anna Eskamani has received the endorsement of Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, her campaign announced Monday morning.

Demings also is a Democrat, and Eskamani faces two Republicans in her quest to win HD 47, which is being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress

Demings is running for Orange County mayor against two Republican candidates, though that office officially is nonpartisan.

“I have known Anna since her days as an officer of the College Democrats at UCF. That was nearly ten years ago, and it has been incredible to watch her grow into the community leader she is today,” Demings stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “Anna is someone who gets it — she works hard, takes time to understand the issues, and is always looking for common ground. She cares deeply about public safety and our first responders too. We will be in good hands with Anna as our next State House representative.”

Eskamani faces Orlando lawyer Mikaela Nix and Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI, who will face off in the August 28 Republican primary for HD 47. The district covers north and central Orange County.

“I am honored to have the support of Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Jerry is one of the most well-respected leaders in our community and his trust in me speaks volumes to my ability to serve the great people of House District 47,” Eskamani stated in the news release. “The health, safety, and security of Florida families will always be my biggest priority, and together with partners like Jerry, we will work hard to ensure that every person in this state can live life to its fullest potential.”

Darren Soto versus Alan Grayson showdown set

The Democratic primary showdown between U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and his predecessor Alan Grayson officially became a two-man battle Friday afternoon as ballot qualifying closed for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The winner will be met by Republican candidate Wayne Liebnitzky, who drew no Republican primary challengers between him and the November general election.

Soto, completing his first term representing CD 9, covering Osceola County, south Orange County, and eastern Polk County, is an Orlando lawyer and former Florida state representative and state senator.

Grayson, who served CD 9 for two terms and CD 10 for one term, is an Orlando lawyer who took the past couple years off from politics after losing the Democratic primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate race in 2016.

Their battle for the August 28 Democratic primary is expected to be a bruising, marquee contest.

Liebnitzky, a St. Cloud businessman, lost the 2016 general election to Soto.

He is the only candidate of the three who qualified for the ballot this time by petition, turning in more than 5,000 certified signatures. Soto and Grayson sent in $10,440 checks.

Another Republican had filed, but Sean Buchan stepped out of the race months ago without formally withdrawing and did not qualify for the ballot.

Linda Stewart endorses Gwen Graham in governor’s race

Orlando Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is throwing her support behind Gwen Graham in Florida’s Governor’s race.

“I’ve seen the damage that 20 years of one-party Republican rule in Tallahassee has caused. They’ve neglected our environment, they defunded our public schools, and they gutted our gun laws. We need strong leadership, focused on the needs of Floridians, and that’s why I’m proud to support Gwen Graham for governor,” Stewart stated in a news release issued Friday by Graham’s campaign.

Stewart, also a former Orange County Commissioner and state representative, has led the fight for an assault weapons ban in the state Senate. She’s also working to secure funding for a Pulse Memorial in Orlando. And In addition to her leadership on gun safety, Stewart has been an advocate for the environment and higher education.

Graham faces Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary fight to run for governor.

“After Pulse, Rick Scott and the Republicans in the Legislature offered their thoughts and prayers — and then failed to act. They turned their heads and did nothing to prevent another mass shooting or to stop the daily violence that plagues communities across Florida,” Graham stated in the release. “Despite opposition, Senator Linda Stewart has fought for bold proposals to stop gun violence. She has stood strong for the environment and education, and I admire her leadership under pressure. As governor, I will work with her to pass universal background checks, ban military-style assault weapons, and secure funding for a Pulse Memorial.”

Poll: A Patrick Murphy-David Jolly ticket reflects Democrats’ desire for the middle

A newly commissioned poll suggests that Democratic voters are seriously interested in a “unity” ticket that would be led by former U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, and David Jolly, a Republican, in Florida’s gubernatorial race.

The poll’s more significant ramification, however, may be that Florida’s Democrats may prefer a compromising moderate Democrat to a staunch progressive idealist.

The poll by Frederick Polls, an outfit that Politico points out was Murphy’s pollster, puts a Murphy-Jolly ticket atop the Democratic field, taking 21 percent, compared with 17 percent for Philip Levine and 12 percent for Gwen Graham, with Andrew Gillum and Chris King showing in for support.

Yet the result might be more about Florida Democrats desire to see unity in the spirit of “getting things done” than any explicit support for Murphy and Jolly, who’ve been dropping hints about a unity ticket after spending much of the past year touring together on a bipartisan two-man show against hyperpartisan politics.

The question as Frederick Polls, of Arlington, Va., posed it was:

“Some people are urging Patrick Murphy to run for Governor and pick David Jolly, a moderate and independent former Republican Congressman, as his Lt. Governor running mate. They say it would be a clear sign Murphy would be a different kind of Governor who would work together with reasonable Republicans in Tallahassee to set aside Florida’s old, partisan politics and get things done for Florida. In this case, who would you vote for in the Democratic Primary for Governor?”

The survey was of 750 likely Democratic primary voters, taken April 23-28 through a mixture of landline and cellphones.

Murphy and Jolly both ran for the U.S. Senate two years ago. Jolly, who was then a Republican Congressman from Clearwater, pulled out when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election after all, while Murphy, then a Democratic congressman from Palm Beach Gardens, lost to Rubio in the general. Since then, the two have united in their message that partisan politics have ruined Congress, touring college campuses and other venues in Florida and nationally.

The central question that put a Murphy-Jolly ticket atop the Democratic field was not the only one suggesting that Florida’s Democratic voters want someone seeking the middle.

Voters picked, 70-22, “a moderate Democrat who is willing to work together with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” over “a who is committed to fighting for true progressive policies without compromise.”

Before they were asked about the unity ticket the voters were asked just about the four announced candidates, plus Murphy, and Murphy finished tied with Graham for second, with 14 percent, while Levine grabbed 20 percent.

Even with that, and with Gillum and King, 44 percent of voters still declared they are undecided.

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