Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and even during his primary campaign, a new class of political consultants, experts and media whizzes have come out of the woodwork to claim their share of the victory.
The 2016 campaign was different, to be sure. Trump dispatched 16 other Republicans, including two of Florida’s favorite sons, to win his party’s nomination. And he did so without much of a budget and with only a few paid staffers until the general election was in sight.
In the nearly two years since Election Day 2016, Karen Giorno has pitched herself as instrumental to Trump’s electoral success as well as wins by other Republican presidents. Her affiliation with the Trump campaign has been used to give street cred to state-level candidates in Florida who lack traction with Trump’s voters.
The most recent to earn the honor are Toby Overdorf, who faces Sasha Dadan in the Republican primary for House District 83, and Belinda Keiser, who faces state Rep. Gayle Harrell in the Republican primary for Senate District 25.
In both endorsements, her bio sketch follows a similar track. The one appended to Overdorf’s endorsement, which bore the headline “Trump campaign leader Karen Giorno endorses Overdorf,” is as follows:
“Giorno has spent three decades as a political consultant and operative working with presidential candidates and campaigns, four American presidents, and the governor of Florida. She was the first female state director for the Trump Campaign. Following her leadership in President Trump’s historic Florida Primary win, she worked to secure delegates in eleven southern states for Delegate Operations and joined the National Team at Trump Tower, where she was in charge of National Voter and Women’s Engagement during the general election.”
It’s a good elevator speech-version of her background story, and according to many key members of Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign, that’s exactly what it is.
After Giorno endorsed Overdorf and Keiser, Annie Marie Delgado had had enough.
The former Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman has known Trump personally for years and was behind his bid for the presidency on day one. In fact, she takes a bit of pride in being the only person who was with Trump’s Florida operation throughout the primary, general election and into his nascent 2020 re-election bid — she currently heads up Trump Team 2020 Florida, an official chartered organization of the Republican Party of Florida in Palm Beach County.
It was one thing when Giorno claimed to be a “campaign leader” during her failed run for national committeewoman, during which she claimed to have endorsements from Trump and Gov. Rick Scott but never produced them. Now that she’s expanded into offering endorsements in Republican primaries, Delgado said she and others are ready to speak out.
Delgado said she believed Giorno was a “pathological liar” that was “divisive and derisive” during her brief tenure on the frontlines of Trump’s Florida campaign, a job thatshe was removed from — “fired,” in Delgado’s words — in favor of veteran campaign operative Susie Wiles.
“I’m shocked, quite frankly, that this woman continues to portray herself as part of the Trump campaign, or as connected to Trump in any way whatsoever,” Delgado said.
Giorno was hired by Trump out of New Jersey in late October 2015 and subsequently sent down to Florida after a stern warning from then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who reportedly told Trump at the time, “If I were you, I would run as fast as you can away from that person.”
Regarding her three decades in political work, Delgado took a more diplomatic approach. “ drew out… many people who were never involved in politics,” she said.
Still, Giorno landed in the Sunshine State ready to go to work for Trump.
She had worked in Florida before — she had a position in the early days of the Scott Administration, but after an episode at a Disney GOP fundraiser where she yelled at Republican Party of Florida staffers and donors before being told “to leave the room and not come back” put an end to that. The acrimonious split went down as a resignation.
Five years later, there was no evidence of an attitude adjustment, according to Anthony Stephens, a Leon County volunteer on the Trump 2016 campaign.
Stephens started putting in hours early on in the campaign, and says he never once saw Giorno in the capital, greater Big Bend or Panhandle areas, yet she aimed to micromanage operations from a distance by way of regular conference calls from New York.
When Hurricane Hermine tore through north Florida in September 2016, Stephens and other volunteers thought it would be a prime opportunity to reach out to voters by having Trump campaign RVs drive in and deliver relief supplies.
Several paid staffers hired by Giorno stuck around after she was ousted from the Florida job, Stephens said, but they just as often came off as saboteurs as they did actual Trump supporters — those staffers would often hoard promotional campaign materials despite numerous supporters looking for some yard flair or a T-shirt to wear at the height of the campaign season.
Reports of that kind of behavior were corroborated by more than a few people involved with the campaign in other regions of the state, with some going so far as to say they believed Giorno and an associate were selling campaign signs, shirts and hats on eBay and pocketing the proceeds.
Many staffers and volunteers were at least willing to corroborate that there was a warehouse in Volusia County stocked full of yard signs and other campaign merch that wasn’t being distributed unless people showed up and took it, most of the time over the flaccid protestations of Tony Ledbetter, chair of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee.
All the way across the state in Sarasota, Kevin Sifferman also volunteered early and often for the Trump campaign due to his enthusiasm and support for the eventual president.
At one point there were talks of him being moved up to a paid position on the campaign, which would have been a boon, since he had recently been laid off from his gig at Concerned Veterans for America.
Despite there being an office with Giorno’s name on the door at the Sarasota campaign HQ, Sifferman said he never saw her use it, or even enter the building. In fact, the only time he can remember seeing Giorno in the Sarasota area was for a campaign rally.
While attending that rally, Giorno struck up a conversation with a high school student and within days the young woman — who had no campaign experience but was reportedly proficient in ballet — was in charge of the Sarasota office. The paid position never came for Sifferman.
“She makes a lot of promises, but I don’t think she’s for Trump. I don’t think she’s for Florida. She’s only in it for herself,” he said.
Anecdotal reports of her behavior during the 2016 campaign are odd to say the least, but just as dubious are her claims of working for past presidential campaigns and four past presidents.
Longtime Republican operative Derek Hankerson says her narrative is baloney.
In addition to his extensive work for gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, Hankerson has worked on the campaign of every Republican presidential ticket since 1984, and his campaign bona fides led to him landing positions in the White House during the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.
During 2016, Hankerson served as the Trump campaign’s Northeast Florida regional director, and after the campaign’s victory, he was given a position on Trump’s transition team and was asked to volunteer at the inauguration — when Trump was sworn in, he was just 50 feet away.
Asked whether he’s ever seen Giorno in the trenches of a campaign, whether in 2016 or at some other point in his long political career, his response was clear.
“This person has stated that they worked for this campaign. I never saw them,” he said. “34 years — from Reagan ’84 to now — I never saw her. I’d never heard of this person until Trump decided to run, and she tried to run her Florida job out of New York.”
Hankerson, at times painfully, stuck to his personal code of “being a positive person.”
That was tested when he recalled a request that he made to Giorno. Upon Trump’s victory, he asked her — she was in New York at the time — to arrange for a thank you note to be sent to his mother.
“Every president and vice president since Reagan sent my mother a handwritten letter,” he said, adding that Giorno could have signed it herself and it would have been just as good.
But the request went unheeded, and Hankerson’s mother died shortly after.
When it comes to Giorno’s endorsements of Keiser and Overdorf, Delgado said they have about as much substance as Giorno’s resume.
“Toby’s a good guy,” Delgado said, glancing at a recent text he sent her. “I just can’t believe he got sucked up with that woman.”
Editor’s note: FP reached out to Giorno, but was unable to lock down a response from her.
A new statewide ad from Republic gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says voters shouldn’t pick a leader the way a certain reality show chooses its winner.
“Florida’s not picking an apprentice. We’re electing a Governor,” Putnam says in the ad, which started airing today.
It’s an obvious ping against Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, who soared into the lead in the Republican primary after nabbing the formal endorsement of President Donald Trump.
Of course, Trump’s greatest burst into the cultural zeitgeist before his successful 2016 presidential campaign came on The Apprentice, an NBC reality show in which the real estate developer would choose a new company executive based on their performance in weekly tasks and on his own personal whims.
But Putnam works hard in the ad not to criticize the president, who enjoys high popularity among Republican voters right now. A Florida Atlantic University poll in July found that while Trump had just a 41-percent approval rating among all Floridians, he holds an 80-percent approval rating among Republicans.
“I support President Trump’s agenda,” Putnam says. “Tax cuts to create jobs and cracking down on illegal immigration.”
That said, backhanded swipe at DeSantis closely mirrors a more frontal assault by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King, that DeSantis is “fighting to be Donald Trump’s next apprentice.”
This is an embarrassment. Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis aren't fighting for Florida –– they're fighting to be Donald Trump's next apprentice.
Putnam, once the front-runner in the gubernatorial race, has worked over the last month to refocus the contest on Florida issues and not the president’s endorsement.
“I’ve dedicated my life to making our state a better place,” says Putnam, now Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner.
“As your Governor, we’ll make Florida the launchpad for the American Dream. Creating new opportunities for the next generation, keeping our promises to veterans, and protecting all the things that make Florida, Florida.”
Days after a Fox News debate and the presidential endorsement, DeSantis surged ahead in polls. The Real Clear Politics polling composite now has the Ponte Vedre congressman up an average 11 percent over Putnam.
RickWilson, the Tallahassee-based Republican operative whose moonshot to the spotlight accompanied his unwithering criticism of President DonaldTrump, came home this week.
His landing spot: The capital city’s Midtown Reader bookstore, to read from and discuss his new best-selling book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”
“This process started a little bit as catharsis,” Wilson told the large crowd. “I started out writing this book in a moment when I was frustrated with my own party for letting this creature take office and with the failures of leadership.”
Initially, Wilson planned to take a “fairly academic” approach to write the book, but decided he’d rather “have some fun with it.” While there’s plenty of “Wilson-style humor,” his new work is balanced by “serious thought about the future of the country and the party,” he said.
He read a bit of prose aloud to the audience from a chapter that took umbrage with Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” In the segment, Wilson points to a turnover problem and early failures of the administration exacerbated by what he views as the President’s inability to make employment decisions independent from his connections to the private sector.
“Trump’s administration provides all the things you expect: Banality, incompetence, a stunning lack of policy knowledge and a slurry of people dragged from Trump’s business world who couldn’t manage a Waffle House,” Wilson read.
Afterward, he fielded questions – both from Republicans and Democrats – and covered a wide-ranging list of concerns from the audience, giving humorous replies almost always, although they were rooted in truths about the state of American politics.
Prefacing his discussion was news from the previous night that the book would top The New York Times best-sellers list for Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction.
While “blown away” by the reception, Wilson showed a sense of self-awareness of his media niche. A longtime GOP ad man and strategist, he’s staked claim to a unique pedestal from which to criticize a Republican President.
He’s captured an online following that on Twitter is edging toward the 400,000 mark, and noted the book’s success came without a network like “Fox News” promoting it day and night.
“If nothing else, I got hustle,” he confessed.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State presses Bill Nelson to back hacking claim – Secretary of State KenDetzner penned a letter this week to Sen. Nelson asking the longtime Florida lawmaker to substantiate his public comments that Russians had “penetrated” some Florida voting systems ahead of the 2018 midterm election. Nelson told a Tampa Bay Times reporter two weeks ago, “The Russians are in Florida’s election records” but did not provide any more details. Since then, both Gov. RickScott and Detzner have publicly sought more information on the alleged hackings. Detzner wrote to U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr asking for additional information before writing personally to Nelson. Scott, who’s attempting to unseat Nelson this fall, said Friday in St. Augustine that Nelson “needs to come clean.” He added, “Did they release classified information? And how did he have access to it? He doesn’t have the right to it; he’s not on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or did he just completely make it up?”
Former justice challenges six amendments – Six of the eight constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission were challenged this week by retired state Supreme Court Justice HarryLeeAnstead. Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court 1994-2009, believes the contested amendments violate voters’ First Amendment rights since each one “bundles independent and unrelated proposals in a single ballot question.” The petition argues that the bundling “requires a voter to vote ‘yes’ for a proposal that the voter opposes in order to vote ‘yes’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter supports, and to vote ‘no’ for a proposal the voter supports in order to vote ‘no’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter opposes.” Amendments 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 are named in the petition. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Detzner as a defendant.
Unemployment lowest since 2007 – At a St. Augustine appearance on Friday, Gov. Scott said the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7 percent, the lowest recorded since April 2007. In a news release announcing the healthy economic indicator, Scott linked the employment level to the number of jobs — 1,595,000 — created since December 2010, one month before he took office. “Our soaring economy has allowed us to make investments in areas that matter to families, like education, transportation and protecting our environment,” Scott said. “That’s why Florida continues to outpace the nation in job growth and is the best state to find a job and raise a family.” According to state records, Florida created over 211,400 new private-sector jobs over the past year. The Sunshine State’s job growth rate has outpaced the nation’s for 75 of the last 76 months, with the outlier coinciding with Hurricane Irma.
State highlights debt reduction – Florida has eliminated more than $7 billion worth of debt, according to the state Division of Bond Finance. The decline, called a “sea change,” was spotlighted during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet this week in Tallahassee. Division of Bond Finance Director BenWatkins credited Gov. Scott with pursuing an “unprecedented” policy of limited state borrowing, reports LloydDunkelberger for the News Service of Florida. Watkins also highlighted how three major credit ratings groups had doled Florida a ‘triple-A’ rating. “The good news is it recognizes the strength of the state, the management of the state, the financial position and policies of the state, which translates into lower borrowing costs for the state,” Watkins told Scott. “It is, in effect, a validation from the rating agencies that we are doing the right thing.”
Revenue forecast remains steady – State lawmakers can expect to have a little more than $32 billion when they return to Tallahassee to craft the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, according to economists with the Revenue Estimating Conference. The panel met this week and reviewed details of revenue collected from state sales, documentary stamp, beverage, pari-mutuel, insurance premium, severance and corporate income taxes, along with other contributors to the General Revenue Fund. “It’s going to be a very stable picture for the Legislature, with no big changes,” said AmyBaker, coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research and the Legislature’s chief economist.
Scott recognizes entrepreneurs
During one of his last remaining Cabinet meetings, Gov. Scott took the time to acknowledge two promising small business ventures going on in the state.
JasonKelloway, owner of Social Grounds Coffee Company in Jacksonville, received the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. A formerly homeless veteran, Kelloway launched the business with the goal of helping veterans get back on their feet. Each purchase goes to helping employ and empower vets.
“Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida,” Scott said. In July, he poured coffee from the Jacksonville shop for troops in Kuwait.
MadisonSetliff, a 23-year-old Tallahassee businesswoman, received the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award for her midtown clothing boutique, Sparkle by Madison.
“I am so honored to receive the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award,” Setliff said. “It’s wonderful to be able to not only own my business but also to be able to share my passion for fashion and style with young women in Tallahassee.”
Unclaimed treasure hunt
Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis is marking the start of the school year by reminding Floridians that the state might be holding unclaimed property that they’re entitled to recover.
The state devotes any proceeds from abandoned bank accounts, jewelry, coins, or other valuables to public schools.
However, there’s no time limit for claiming such property — the state is obliged to pay legitimate claims.
Patronis said the “Back to School” unclaimed property initiative includes more than 4,600 accounts — including one worth more than $135,000.
Patronis has returned $361 million in unclaimed property since taking office last year.
Patronis issued a consumer alert against scam artists trying to take advantage of Facebook’s new financial services offerings.
The platform is allowing financial services companies to use its Messenger app to handle credit card transactions, checking accounts and more. Criminals are cloning Facebook accounts for people’s friends and family to steal this sort of personal information.
Here’s Patronis’ advice:
— Watch out for subtle anomalies in the names of people who try to contact you. A random space or capitalization might be a tipoff.
— If an account looks fake, don’t accept the message.
— Report and block fake accounts right away.
— Keep up with Facebook’s updates on its efforts to detect senders’ locations and identify fake accounts.
— Notify your financial institution if your account is compromised or you think it’s been.
“There are as many as 13 million active Facebook users in Florida, and anyone can fall victim to this latest scam,” Patronis said. “These are not your friends; they are criminals actively looking to steal your personal information and your identity.”
James R. Baxley, a Lake County Judge, fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Mark A. Nacke. A two-time graduate of the University of Florida, Baxley, 49, previously was a partner at Hatfield and Baxley P.A.
17th Circuit Court
Nickolas Hunter Davis, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, is an Assistant Statewide Prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from The University of South Carolina and his law degree from Washington and Lee University. Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge MerrileeEhrlich.
Peter Holden, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, has served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit since 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree from Nichols College and his law degree from Nova Law School. Holden fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Lisa M. Porter.
Polk County Court
HopePattey, 47, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit and fills the vacancy created by the promotion of Judge Gerald P. Hill II. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Pattey went on to receive her law degree from Florida State University College of Law. She is 47 years old.
Sarasota County Court
Scott appointed Dana Moss, 47, of Lakewood Ranch. She is a felony division chief for the 12th Circuit Public Defender’s Office. Moss previously served as a police officer. She received her bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and her law degree from Florida Coastal Law School. Moss fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge JudyGoldman.
Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees
Gov. RickScott reappointed Eugene Lamb, Jr. The 71-year-old, of Midway, is retired from working in the Tallahassee area as a teacher for 30 years and also served on the Gadsden County Commission for eight years. Lamb’s new term ends May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Early Learning Coalition of Orange County
Scott appointed Linda Shaughnessy, 60, of Orlando, an accountant at St. James Cathedral School. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Loyola University. Shaughnessy succeeds LindaGonzalez for a term ending April 30, 2021.
Honoring a ‘Champion of Service’
SamRogers, a Tallahassee-based, longtime community volunteer, was presented this week with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during a Florida Cabinet meeting.
Bestowing Rogers with the honor were Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO David Mica, Jr. Volunteer Florida is the state’s service agency.
Rogers has mentored two first-grade students every year for almost two decades, helping them hone their reading skills and introducing them to art and culture. He is credited with being instrumental in partnering Kate Sullivan Elementary School with Trinity Methodist Church.
“Sam is extremely deserving of the Champion of Service Award,” Mica said. “As a direct result of his mentorship, local students are succeeding in school, developing valuable life skills and becoming well-rounded individuals – ensuring a bright future for both Tallahassee and the State of Florida.”
Added Scott: “Sam’s longstanding commitment to his community inspires those around him and helps make our state the best place to live in the country.
Gator gigging time
Alligator hunting season is here again, through Nov. 1.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued more than 7,500 permits, including an additional 1,313 countywide permits, this year.
The hunt is part of the commission’s program to control the population Florida’s official state reptile, now estimated at 1.3 million. The alligator was among the species on the endangered list when first issued in 1967. Its numbers had recovered to the point that Florida removed it from the list in 1987.
Last year’s hunt produced 6,261 carcasses averaging 8 feet, 3 inches in length.
The commission also operates a nuisance alligator program — you can call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) to contact a state-sanctioned trapper to capture gators that pose risks to people or pets.
Good news for Doctors Lake
Sen. RobBradley and Rep. TravisCummings, both of northeast Florida, this week announced money is ready to back essential water projects in Clay County.
On Wednesday, the two Republican lawmakers told residents that funding is on the way for a series of projects targeting water quality in Doctors Lake, a tributary of the nearby St. Johns River.
The money will be used to transition lakeside homeowners from septic to sewer systems, replace old septic tanks, and begin the Doctors Lake Enhanced Effluent Treatment Project, expected to eventually treat a minimum of 2 million gallons of water per day.
“We can work together to improve Doctors Lake, so Clay County residents may enjoy our precious natural resources for generations to come,” Cummings said.
Dr. AnnShortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, added: “These proposed projects focus efforts on Doctors Lake, which has experienced water quality concerns for decades … As always, we look to the science to guide us in making sound decisions about project opportunities.”
Greenberg Traurig’s ‘Best Lawyers’
The 2019 edition of “Best Lawyers in America” is out, and Greenberg Traurig has a lot to celebrate.
The firm had 133 of its attorneys make the cut and was named the top firm in four Sunshine State markets: Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tallahassee.
In addition to a “Best Lawyers” top pick for those seeking counsel in the capital, Greenberg Traurig was honored as a “Top Listed” firm in seven practice areas, including Government Relations — not only does the international firm routinely make the top-5 in Florida lobbying pay, but it’s among the top-quality outlets, too.
The good news didn’t stop there. Among the 133 Greenberg Traurig lawyers singled out by the publication for their quality work were a dozen who earned the top-flight “attorney of the year” distinction in their practice areas.
The honor roll: Cesar Alvarez, International Trade and Finance Law; Hilarie Bass, Litigation-Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy); Bridget Berry, Employment Law-Management; Mark Bideau, Litigation – Securities Litigation-Labor & Employment; MarkBloom, Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Michael Cherniga, Health Care Law; Lucia Dougherty, Administrative/Regulatory Law; Glenn Goldstein, Litigation-Banking and Finance; Barbara Hall, Government Relations Practice; Gregory Herbert, Litigation-Intellectual Property; Richard McCrea Jr., Litigation-Labor and Employment; and David Peck, Health Care Law.
AOB abuse alert
A business coalition is continuing its public relations offensive against assignment-of-benefits abuse by launching an interactive guide warning consumers of these contracts’ pitfalls.
The Consumer Protection Coalition’s Tips to Avoid Contractor Fraud & Abuse website warns against “deceptive” tactics including high-pressure sales, contracts with blank spaces, and offers to rebate the deductible so the repairs are free.
Also, there are links detailing how to verify property damage and check contractor references and get a written contract, and warning against paying up front.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce helped to organize the coalition.
“Peak hurricane season is here – the time when most major storms hit and the threat of AOB abuse increases,” said coalition member LoganMcFaddin, regional manager for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America. “To prevent this type of abuse from happening now and in the future, consumer awareness is critical.
LeadingAge Florida recognized
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) recognized LeadingAge Florida members for “heroic efforts to care for Florida seniors in the days following Hurricane Irma.”
LeadingAge received a Silver Power Award for “Project Lifeline: Caring for Seniors in the Aftermath of Irma.” The project chronicles nine LeadingAge Florida members that delivered food, water and other supplies to communities of seniors impacted by the hurricane.
“Many times, during the past year, I have been asked how our members dealt with Hurricane Irma and its aftermath,” said SteveBahmer, LeadingAge Florida president and CEO. “There are a number of ways to answer that question, but the word that always jumps to the front of my mind is ‘character.’”
“This award isn’t ours. It’s our members,” he added. “It’s a national testimonial to the values of our Association, and to the power and depth of our members’ mission to care for older adults.”
From providing food, water and ice, in some cases diverting their own resources to help others, to filling vans and buses with various supplies and delivering them to troubled communities, LeadingAge Florida members quickly helped in whatever way they could, regardless of the provider community in need or its location.
The Able Trust backs training
Easterseals Florida, which provides services for children and adults with disabilities and their families, received a $60,000 grant this week from The Able Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Floridians with disabilities find employment.
The money will be used to support Easterseals’ STRIVE program, short for Skills Training Results in Vocational Employment.
At the Igoe-Amar Center in West Palm Beach, STRIVE participants will receive curriculum over the course of 12 weeks, consisting of 30 hours split between the classroom and an on-site “hotel simulation room.”
“Supporting the Easterseals Florida and programs like the STRIVE in Hospitality Program are vital to helping people with disabilities find successful employment,” said Dr. SusanneHomant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “They not only help those who use the program, but also the surrounding communities by providing area businesses with quality employees.”
“As Easterseals approaches 100 years of changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities, we look to the future and how we can continue to grow services for the community,” added SueVentura, president and CEO of Easterseals Florida.
FSU launches student resilience tool
In an effort to help students adjust to the university, improve mental health and lower stress, Florida State University will launch the Student Resilience Project.
“Florida State University recognizes that some incoming students have experienced significant family or community stress,” said KarenOehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies. “Unmanaged stress responses can interfere with student success in college and cause long-term negative consequences.”
The soft launch for the online trauma resilience tool was Aug. 1, but by this fall, the Institute for Family Violence Studies at the FSU College of Social Work expects to fully launch the training.
The training uses animated instructions and videos reminiscent of TED Talks, according to the university. Each module teaches resilience and coping skills students may need for there time away from home. The university will welcome some 6,000 freshmen this fall.
“FSU recognizes the need to provide more tools to respond to the increasing mental health needs of our students,” said SallyMcRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “The project is open and frank about mental health topics our students may face and is intended to destigmatize and encourage seeking help.”
Seminole Sensation Week is back
An annual tradition tailored to promote student involvement at Florida State University begins this Wednesday, as the institution welcomes students back to campus for fall semester.
Known as Seminole Sensation Week, the university will host a weeklong series of events that help introduce students to an array of organizations and opportunities available outside of the classroom.
“Seminole Sensation Week is a campus tradition that creates moments for students to make connections and get involved at FSU,” said LoriVaughn, interim director for Student Activities. “Becoming part of our campus community helps students succeed in their classes and beyond.”
New Student Convocation, the marquee event, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. There, widely respected nuclear physicist and FSU faculty member MarkRiley will deliver the convocation address.
As is tradition, the President’s Welcome, hosted each year by FSU President JohnThrasher, will take place after the convocation. The seven-day schedule of events can be found here.
Island View Park completed
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Franklin County, and The Trust for Public Land this week announced the completion of Island View Park, providing “improved public access to the beautiful coastal resources of this region.”
Island View Park is a 7-acre tract in Franklin County, about 1 mile east of the city of Carrabelle, with almost 900 feet fronting St. George Sound. The park includes a boardwalk with viewing areas, extensive landscaping with native trees and plants, two long fishing piers, shoreline access for paddle craft, and a central plaza with an information kiosk.
Funding for park amenities, along with 10 years of operation and maintenance funds for the county ($2.6 million), came from an agreement with British Petroleum to conduct restoration projects to address injuries resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to enhance the public’s access to surrounding natural resources and increase recreational opportunities.
Additional funding for the Park was also provided by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This project will enhance and increase the public’s use and enjoyment of the natural resources that were severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred April 20, 2010.
Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, bouyed to the top of the Democratic heap in the latest poll, is launching a new TV commercial that appears aimed at showdowns with Republicans and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, rather than his Aug. 28 primary opponents.
The new 30-second spot “The Challenge,” launched Friday, appears more focused on Aug. 29 and beyond, pairing DeSantis and President Donald Trump as status quo for problems ranging from the environmental threats of offshore drilling to the rise of hate groups.
“If Trump and DeSantis win, nothing will change,” Levine says in the ad. “If we do, we take back our state.”
Nonetheless, Levine’s Campaign Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert characterized the commercial as a primary election appeal to Democratic voters. The latest poll put Levine up slightly on former U.S Rep. Gwen Graham, and up considerably on the others, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum running third, businessman Jeff Greene fourth, and businessman Chris King fifth.
“2018 is a fight for the future of our state and as Florida Democrats come together to rise to the challenge, we need a candidate who has what it takes to win when so much is on the line,” Ulvert stated in a news release.
DeSantis is paired with Trump even though he, too, must win a primary, against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, long the Republican frontrunner until Trump endorsed DeSantis. DeSantis has been leading almost all recent polls.
The ad does go through the roll of many of the basic Democratic issues in this primary season: “We cannot have drilling,” Levine insists. “Our schools need help. And so do our teachers,” he follows up. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, women and children will suffer,” he continues. “Florida needs stronger gun laws, and we have to stop the hatred that’s tearing us apart.
Then the montage of frightening images of such things as oil spills and hate groups gives way to video of DeSantis and Trump.
House District 89 candidate Matt Spritz is facing questions from his fellow Republicans after a previous quote surfaced in which Spritz essentially declared himself a “Never Trumper.”
The since-deleted Facebook comment from Spritz read, “Never said I was for [Donald] Trump. I’m not. Nor will I defend him.”
The comment has Spritz facing questions as the HD 89 Republican primary inches toward a close. Election Day for the primary will be held on Aug. 28.
Accountant Mike Caruso, who’s facing off against Spritz for the GOP nomination, released a statement on Facebook hammering Spritz for his comments. Caruso declared he “has been behind President Donald Trump since the beginning. No questions asked.”
But it’s not just his primary opponent criticizing Spritz on the Trump issue. Sue Snowden, who served as chair of the Trump campaign in Palm Beach County, said Spritz was a non-figure when it came to the 2016 campaign.
“I never saw or heard of Matt Spritz during the entire 15 months of my being the chair,” Snowden said.
Snowden now serves as Treasurer of the Palm Beach County Trump Club. Her husband Larry is the group’s vice president.
Joe Budd, a founder of Trump Club 45 PBC, also had had harsh words for Spritz, calling a mailer from his campaign “so utterly false I’m not going to let it stand.”
Budd, who also was co-vice chair of the Palm Beach County Trump campaign, said Caruso “is a YUGE Trump supporter and has attended every one of our Palm Beach County events. I don’t recall seeing Matt Spritz during the Trump campaign or at our events. Very fake news!”
The issue could haunt Spritz when it comes to the primary.
Should Spritz go on to win the nomination, his general election prospects could take a hit as well.
Republicans have only a slight plurality in voter registration in HD 89, according to the latest numbersreleased by the Florida Division of Elections. GOP voters edge out Democrats just 35.6 percent to 33.4 percent in the district. That means if a sizable share of Trump supporters decide to stay home, it could be a boon for the Democratic candidate.
In comments to Florida Politics, Spritz said this of Caruso’s criticism: “My opponent is taking a Facebook comment from three years ago completely out of context and trying to use it against our campaign because he’s losing and desperate.”
Spritz then pointed to his current support of Trump. His campaign’s Facebook page is full of messages framing him as the most pro-Trump candidate in the race.
“I’m ready to support President Trump’s agenda in the Florida House, but I need your help,” reads one post.
“We need more leaders in Tallahassee who will support our President,” says another, in which Spritz touts an endorsement from Joe Gruters, former co-chair of the Trump campaign.
Wishful thinking predicates much of election season. Aspirational ads for Democrats; appeals targeting nonexistent issues (hello, “sanctuary cities”) for Republicans.
Ultimately, these moves — whether pulled by a winning or losing campaign — are strategic. How a Republican is to eliminate sanctuary cities or how a Democrat is by force of will to create Medicare for All or legalize cannabis is left to the voters’ imaginations.
From the embryonic, conceptual phases of campaigns, where voters can convince themselves that radical shifts can happen, thinking evolves eventually. Pretenders fall off. People start thinking strategically about their vote. And, in the cases of early front-runners, we often see how shallow that support is once the game changes.
As you will see below, there’s not a lot of drama in certain races. We have a good sense of who will win area Congressional primaries. Less of a good sense as to who will win a couple of state House races.
As is the case every year, none of this is too surprising. Polls are transparent. Campaign finance is easy enough to figure out. And most reading this can read candidates and their chances pretty well also.
Levine in Jax
Jacksonville was the fourth and final stop on Philip Levine‘s barnstorming tour of local early voting locations Monday.
This tour happens as tensions have boiled over between Levine and another Democratic contender, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.
As the two work to drive up each other’s negatives, polls show that U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham holds an advantage.
An internal poll released last week by Levine has him behind by four points. A Graham poll shows her up on Levine by 16 points. Greene was behind the top two in both cases.
Levine was not especially dismayed by the turn the campaign has taken.
“The bottom line is this,” Levine said. “I think the people deserve to know what someone’s track record is” vis a vis Trump.
Levine estimated having been “on television … a hundred, two hundred times … during the 2016 election, warning America that this guy would be a terrible president.”
“I think that when someone pretends [he’s] fighting them while being at his country club by the ocean — we call it Kremlin-by-the-Sea — and passing the Grey Poupon across the table and thinks that’s fighting Donald Trump,” Levine added, “the people have a right to know.”
“You don’t want Donald Trump’s friend — you want who Donald Trump fears,” Levine said. “The people of Florida should understand who is who, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Curry endorses DeSantis
According to WJCT, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis align on prominent issues — being tough on crime and investing in youth — and they both come from similar working-class backgrounds and want others to have the same opportunities.
“Ron’s a good conservative,” Curry told reporters. “I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally, and I think that that’s what’s got to happen everywhere, and Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo as the governor of the state of Florida and I’m supporting him, voting for him and encouraging folks to get out and vote in the primary.”
DeSantis called Curry “innovative.”
“What he’s done here is showing that you got to be bold, you just got to keep pushing,” he said. “And that’s obviously what I would want to do as governor.”
Tale of two districts
For nearly three decades, two congressional districts split the city of Jacksonville.
One of them, what is now Florida’s 4th Congressional District, was represented for years by reliable — and by today’s standard, moderate — Republicans Tillie Fowler and Ander Crenshaw.
The other district, currently the 5th Congressional District, was Democrat Corrine Brown‘s sinecure. The maps on that district changed periodically, seemingly always under legal challenge, a process that ended in 2016 with Brown’s district being moved from its south/southwest jog toward the Orlando area to a straight east-west configuration.
Jacksonville, as of yet, doesn’t have the population to house two districts within Duval County — and given the cartographical challenges of minority access districts, that may not be the case after the next apportionment either.
However, a look at book closing data for CD 4 and CD 5 reveals two districts that ultimately will be decided in primary elections, proving that some things really don’t change in the 904.
If the election in Florida’s 5th Congressional District were today, U.S. Rep. Al Lawsonwould cruise to victory, according to a St. Pete Polls survey of the race released Monday.
A survey of 445 likely Democratic primary voters shows Lawson with 50 percent of the vote, with opponent Alvin Brown at 28 percent. The balance of voters are undecided. The margin of error is 4.6 percent.
Lawson has strong leads of 15 percent and up among all surveyed demographics with appreciable data: whites and blacks, men and women, and every age cohort.
Among those who already voted, Lawson is up 52-42; among those yet to vote, Lawson’s lead balloons to 49-26.
Despite the negative messaging in this race in recent weeks against Lawson, the incumbent has not seen his favorable ratings damaged. Fifty-four percent of Democrats in the district regard him favorably, giving him a +36 rating (Brown, with 36 percent of Democrats regarding him favorably, is at +16).
The winner of this race will face Republican Virginia Fuller, a first-time candidate without an appreciable campaign infrastructure.
A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls shows Republican Michael Waltz pulling ahead of primary opponents John Ward and Fred Costello in the race to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
The new poll commissioned for Florida Politics asked likely primary voters who they would support if the election were today. Waltz, a St. Augustine Army veteran, would take 40 percent of the vote, results show. Ward, a Palm Coast Navy veteran, would win 21 percent, while former Ormond Beach state Rep. Costello would get 16 percent. Another 23 percent of those polled remain undecided.
The poll, taken Aug. 10, shows an even more pronounced lead for Waltz among voters who already cast their ballot in the race. Waltz won support from 41 percent of those polled. Interestingly, Costello outperformed Ward among those eager voters, winning 22 percent to Ward’s 21 percent.
More than 23 percent of those surveyed already voted in the Republican primary.
The poll shows significant movement from a survey by St. Pete Polls conducted July 18. Then, the three Republicans appeared to be in a dead heat, with Costello just over 21 percent, Ward just under 21 percent and Waltz at 20.
HD 14, 15 still in doubt
Both the Democratic primary in House District 14 and the Republican race in HD 15 offer a soupçon of drama as early voting continues.
In HD 14’s Democratic two-way, challenger Paula Wright finally has cash on hand lead over incumbent Kim Daniels.
Wright has continued to raise money. Between July 28 and Aug. 3, the last dates for which campaign finance numbers are available, Wright raised $7,675, with cash from Realtors, AFSCME, and a sheet metal local union contributing.
Wright has just over $14,000 on hand (more than Daniels), and according to her campaign finance report, will spend a lot of that money on canvassers (the majority of the nearly $2,800 spent between July 27 and Aug. 3 went for such purposes).
Wright has some advantages. A current chair of the Duval County School Board, she is no political neophyte. And she’s backed by Democratic elected officials, including Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Daniels, who has had her share of scandals and apostasies from Democratic orthodoxy, is seen as beatable by those close to Wright.
In HD 15, meanwhile, the Republican side of the ledger is where the action is, with lobbyist WymanDuggan trying to close the deal against primary opponents Joseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.
Duggan has spent more than $85,000 on television in July. He continues to raise money ($10,000 between July 27 and Aug. 3, including donations from pharmaceutical and Realtor trade group political committees) and has roughly $75,000 between hard money and committee money as he heads into the stretch run.
It gives him more cash on hand than Zeigler (~$28K) and Hogan(~$28K) combined.
Public polling of this race has yet to surface. However, a recent mailer from Duggan’s political committee slammed Hogan for his support for former Jacksonville Mayor Brown in the 2015 race against current Republican incumbent Curry.
Hogan “stands with anti-Trump progressives,” the mailer charges, as Hogan said Jacksonville was “better off” with Brown.
The Duggan bet seems to be that district voters need reminding of that particular deviation from doctrine.
The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a dispute about whether Gov. RickScott has the authority to appoint a Northeast Florida circuit judge.
Justices issued an order Thursday accepting the case and scheduled arguments Oct. 2. But the order showed a divided court, with Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga backing the decision to take up the case and Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices RickyPolston and AlanLawson opposed.
The case stems from the upcoming retirement of Judge RobertFoster in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of mandatory retirement age.
But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.
The Scott administration argues — and the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed — that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that should be filled by appointment, rather than election.
If Foster retired Jan. 7, the post would be filled by election. Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti filed the legal challenge arguing that the opening should be filled in this year’s elections. Trotti tried this spring to qualify to run for the judicial spot but was denied. The Supreme Court arguments will come about a month before the Nov. 6 general election but after ballots are printed.
Hogan on blast
Early voting is allowed on college campuses — but Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan isn’t having it at the University of North Florida.
Via Folio Weekly, Megan Newsome — a UNF student who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit intended to secure that access for college students — is not happy.
“Students have been fighting for this change for years, and now that the option is finally on the table, officials in Alachua and Hillsborough counties have already taken steps to make early voting on UF and USF campuses a reality. Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections has remained open to the possibility, too. But Hogan will not even “entertain the option” because it would be “just too darn difficult,” Newsome writes.
“The closest early voting location to UNF’s campus is over 3 miles away,” Newsome notes.
No, thank you
DeSantis may want Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams to be his Lieutenant Governor.
But it’s not happening, Williams told WJXT this week.
Williams will not accept the offer, “slamming the door” on the bid.
“As long as the people of Jacksonville want me to serve them, I will honor that trust,” Williams said.
Williams, a candidate for re-election in 2019, faces nominal competition.
Between his campaign and committee accounts, Williams raised just $1,450 in July. He is left with roughly $440,000 on hand.
Williams is not in any appreciable danger at the ballot box. His sole opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, has $700 on hand.
Mayfield seeks audit of JEA nuclear costs
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield is calling the Florida Legislature’s auditing and accountability office to look into JEA involvement an expensive nuclear power project — blasting it as an “alarming example” of “potential mismanagement” at the city-owned utility.
Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union reports that JEA’s involvement in the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project served as a backdrop for a contentious debate at City Hall over the privatization of JEA.
JEA’s share of Vogtle — as much as $4 billion over 20 years — is raising alarm bells with both city officials and credit-rating analysts.
While JEA is telling Plant Vogtle co-owners to cancel the project, Monroe noted that utility officials are “actively searching for ways to get out of the contract it has with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, one of the co-owners.”
Mayfield represents Senate District 17, which covers Brevard and Indian River counties — about 150 miles south of Jacksonville. The Mayfield Republican is requesting the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability Office to complete a full examination of JEA’s contract with MEAG. She also wants a report submitted to the House and Senate leadership by Feb. 1.
“Citizens from the community have expressed concern over recent events and published reports that suggest serious issues surrounding the spending and operation decisions of the JEA,” Mayfield wrote to auditors this week.
JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn told reporters he welcomed the review but disagreed that the decision to invest in Vogtle was evidence of mismanagement.
The paper writes: “The plan is to commence construction on a parking structure, entertainment complex, hotel, office tower and residential building at the same time so that most of the construction occurs during the NFL offseason.”
“Based on what we talked about today, I’d say any deal would need to be in place by the end of the year to hit that mark,” said Jags President Mark Lamping.
“Shad is anxious to get moving on these projects because he’s a big believer in momentum,” Lamping said. “It’s one of the hardest things to get, it’s one of the easiest things to lose.”
Lamping added that movement on development at the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park wouldn’t happen until the Hart Bridge offramps go down.
Should any city incentives be required, Khan is well-positioned as both Curry’s most prominent supporter and a donor in most Council races already.
Social Grounds gets props
At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Gov. Rick Scott recognized Jacksonville’s veteran-owned Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.
Scott said, “I’m proud to recognize Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Business Ambassador Award today. Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida.”
Social Grounds Owner and Marine Corps veteran Jason Kelloway said, “I am truly honored to receive the Business Ambassador Award from Governor Scott on behalf of the entire team at Social Grounds. We love our city and will continue to use our coffee to help change lives and make a difference in our community.”
In July, the release from Scott’s office notes, the Governor visited Kuwait and took coffee from Social Grounds to serve to the troops.
Ramsey, Fowler stay home as Jags visit Minnesota
The Jaguars are in Minnesota practicing with the Vikings before getting together in the second preseason game on Saturday. They are there minus two players.
Both cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. are back in Jacksonville serving a one-week suspension. Fowler’s banishment came after two altercations with teammates, the most heated between the former Florida Gator and fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ramsey, the All-Pro from Florida State, stuck up for his one-time rival by going after a reporter who was recording Fowler’s altercation with Ngakoue. After Philip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union reported on the incident, Ramsey tweeted, among other things “if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all.”
With team management, let alone the media relations department, working to generate positive coverage of a young, up-and-coming team, good relations with the local media is a priority. Ramsey’s actions, as well as Fowler’s, were determined to be “a violation of team rules,” prompting the suspensions.
Ramsey said his coaches had urged him to speak his mind. He recalled a recent meeting where coaches said “Yo, Jalen, we need you to say this,” and “come Thursday, we need you to say this on the media.”
This is probably true, but it is also likely the coaches never urged him to attack the media on Twitter. On the other hand, coaches can smile broadly when Ramsey’s incessant trash talking on the field leads opponents to take silly penalties.
The altercation last year with Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, which led to Green body slamming Ramsey on the field, is a prime example.
When Ramsey and Fowler return to practice Monday, hopefully, the messages will have been delivered.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene said Thursday that his Jewish identity triggers revulsion for the levels of tolerance President Donald Trump exhibited toward rising hate groups, and he vowed not to tolerate any bigotry, racism, or hatred in Florida if elected governor.
Greene was speaking Thursday morning before a gathering at the Roth Jewish Family Center in Maitland, in an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. He sharply criticized the President’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists last year and since as affronts to all and something he felt personally.
“With the president saying, ‘There’s good people on both sides,’ it made me sick to my stomach,” Greene said. “I have a very, very deep and strong Jewish identity, and I can tell you if I’m governor of Florida I would never tolerate any kind of bigotry, racism or hatred in this state.”
The declaration came up almost as an aside as Greene was offering his thoughts on Israel. That discussion led him to offer some faint praise toward Trump for supporting that country but also some light criticism of the hard-line approach toward security shared by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Trump.
Greene faces Democrat Philip Levine, who’s also Jewish, plus Gwen Graham, Chris King, and Andrew Gillum in the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
“Obviously, we’re all happy when Donald Trump is getting along with Bibi, which is better than the alternative,” Greene said when asked about Israel.
Greene noted that he has been to Israel many times, including as a student studying there for six months and more recently. He has met with both Netanyahu and the late former Israel President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
“I think moving the capital to Jerusalem sounds great, but we’ll see. Hopefully, it doesn’t backfire and we have more problems,” Greene said.
He cautioned that the plight of Palestinians must be considered, saying, “we can’t just ignore what’s there.”
“I’m glad that the President says, ‘I’m standing with Israel.’ But … we still have to have solutions. And that’s the problem. The way to solve the problem is to give them hope,” Greene said.
“You know, you go to the West Bank and visit businesses there who are doing well: They’re not interested in blowing anything up. They want their kids to have educations and iPhones and become pediatricians,” Greene said. “In Gaza, it’s pretty hopeless. And we have to figure out a way … of getting the whole Middle East behind making Gaza successful economically, so that people aren’t as interested in throwing bombs.”
Then he added, “But as long as they have textbooks that talk about taking Israel off the map, we have a problem, as long as they have streets named after bombers.”
With rival Philip Levine still trying to hang President Donald Trump around his neck, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene lashed back again Thursday morning, insisting that he detests his Palm Beach neighbor, and vice versa.
“Donald Trump can’t stand me,” Greene said. “I know him. I don’t have much of a relationship with him. I haven’t had lunch or dinner with him. But I’ve met him many, many times. He knows if I’m Governor of Florida I’m not going to be his friend.”
The issue of Greene’s attitude toward Trump has been a major undercurrent in Greene’s campaign since even before he entered the race in mid-June, with him frequently having to defend his statement on FOX Business News, shortly after the 2016 election, calling Trump “a great guy” and offering support.
Some of the other Democrats running, Chris King, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum, also have at least raised eyebrows about the comment in debates and campaign statements.
Greene’s former support of the President continues to haunt, coming up as a hot topic from a professed undecided voter who challenged Greene over it Thursday during a stop in Central Florida.
Trump’s power in the primary has been well documented as his endorsement of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis helped rocket him toward the top heading into the Aug. 28 primaries, and Democrats are battling over the negative power Trump has with Democrats.
Greene has launched multiple TV ads, mailers and public statements trying to counterthat with his declarations that as Governor he would be Trump’s worst nightmare; then to counter Levine’s TV ads reminding every one of Greene’s statements; then to punch back, charging that Levine, too, had made at least conciliatory if not praising comments about Trump, even though Levine was a front-line campaign surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton in that race.
“Obviously, if you Google you’ll see all the [anti-Trump] stuff I did during the  campaign,” Greene insisted.
Yet the issue still is resonating with Democratic voters, to the point that it might take a hostile Trump tweet to remove it from Greene.
It came up Thursday when Greene was speaking to a gathering at the Roth Jewish Family Center in Maitland, in an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, from an audience member who’d seen Levine’s ad, and was concerned.
Greene brushed off the initial comment, again, as something respectful that someone should say whenever a new president takes office.
“Unfortunately that quote is being thrown all over the place,” Greene said. “It’s par for the course.”
In the GOP campaign for Governor, it wasn’t too long ago that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was left for dead.
Putnam suffered what appeared to be a mortal wound when President Donald Trump came to Florida for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. And then there were polls showing DeSantis up by 20 points.
Some discussed the idea of Putnam getting out of the race. Previous Putnam donors moved over to DeSantis.
However, he doubled down, with a bravura performance in a Jacksonville debate and some new polling showing that the race could be in dead heat.
In a primary season full of ironies, perhaps the greatest would be if Putnam could overcome Trump endorsing his opponent — after a campaign season where the leading question was about how Trump would, in the words of Putnam, put his “thumb on the scale” in the campaign.
We caught Putnam’s speech off the beaten path: on the outskirts of Lake City, at a breakfast buffet with a raft of domestic pickups in the parking lot.
This is Putnam’s element: what once was “real” Florida, which is becoming demographically obscured by blotched suburban and exurban sprawl and homes for transplants from other places, who brought their values with them.
A lost cause? Perhaps. But you wouldn’t know that from Putnam’s speech or from the reception in Lake City, a place where Donald Trump Jr. isn’t likely to make a campaign stop with a candidate.
Putnam’s remarks were full of markers of cultural authenticity, of being a “real Floridian” (unlike his primary opponent). Many of these were familiar.
From trumpeting endorsements from nearly 50 sheriffs and Attorney General Pam Bondi to noting the next Governor needs to know where Union and Bradford Counties are “without a GPS,” — and most tellingly — lifting a famous line from Democrat (and fellow Polk County native) Lawton Chiles‘ 1994 defeat of Jeb Bush.
“The old he-coon walks just before the light of day,” Putnam said, before describing himself as a “fifth-generation Florida Cracker.”
Putnam noted the importance of “running up the numbers out here,” as spots on two-lane roads are not DeSantis Country, because the Ponte Vedra Congressman doesn’t make the appeal.
“They don’t bother to drive up your road and visit you at your business,” Putnam said.
Putnam also razzed DeSantis’ dependence on Trump, at one point lampooning him calling the White House and asking, “What are we going to do today, boss?”
After the remarks, we caught up with the candidate, who was laconic in his answers.
Asked about the improved poll numbers, Putnam described it as a “good way to start a Monday,” but the “only poll that matters” is, of course, Election Day.
“I like the feel on the ground, I love the sense that I’m getting from the crowds, the energy, the doorknocking. This is where I believe a year and a half’s work pays off of actually being in people’s communities, listening to them, hearing their concerns and sharing my vision for Florida … running on more than just an endorsement,” Putnam said.
Worth noting: his team has knocked on 300,000 doors, a stark contrast to what seems to be a phantom field operation on DeSantis’ side, an appeal to what the candidate calls “Trump/Putnam voters,” who support the President, but who also expect a “real plan for Florida” from the next Governor, rather than just being “totally dependent on the President’s coattails.”
Putnam’s appeal, he says, is targeted to “small towns and big cities alike,” citing workforce development as something that matters statewide.
“This is not a message that is narrow in scope,” Putnam said.
DeSantis has already leaked potential Lieutenant Governor picks. When asked about that, Putnam said, “he can run his campaign the way he wants to and I’ll run mine the way I want to.”
In a real sense, with candidates that fundamentally deviate little from the Florida Republican status quo, the difference in presentation, style and temperament will be dispositive in the end.
The NFL preseason has started, but along with the first taste of football in months came renewed calls for a boycott of the pro league over some player’s decision to kneel during the national anthem.
The issue is a divisive one. The players who kneel see their actions as a way to silently protest police brutality. To some, kneeling is seen as disrespectful to military veteran, the flag or the country. To other fans, it’s seen as a fair-game expression of free speech. And another subset questions why the anthem is played at all — NFL players being on the field for the anthem has only been standard practice since 2009.
Those fans who hate the protest had their outrage stoked by President Donald Trump, who has called for a boycott of the NFL if they don’t “fire or suspend” players who kneel. According to a new study from SportsBetting.ag, the offseason has done little to placate the most vocal among that crowd, many of whom live in the Sunshine State.
The online sports betting outfit found more than 75,000 geotagged tweets calling for a boycott — they sussed them out through the presence of hashtags such as #BoycottNFL, #BoycottTheNFL, and #BoycottNFLsponsors — and plotted them on a map of the United States.
The final results showed Florida had the highest volume of boycott-related tweets, with Maine, Mississippi, Arizona, Nevada rounding out the top-5.
The volume may be attributable to Florida being the third-most populous state or that it serves as home to three NFL franchises, however, the rest of the list insinuates having a team nearby has a negative correlation with boycott tweets.
Arizona, home to the Cardinals, was the only other high-tweet-volume state with an NFL franchise. Maine and Mississippi have no professional team in any of the four major sports and Nevada doesn’t have an NFL franchise either, though its set to be the new home of the Oakland Raiders in the next couple years.
California, home to four franchises, and New York, home to three (yes, two play in New Jersey), had a very low volume; Texas, home to two franchises, was barely lukewarm on the heatmap. Tennessee, home to the Titans, had a medium-high volume of tweets, though franchise-less states Alaska, Montana, Kentucky, New Mexico, South Carolina, Wyoming and West Virginia were the source of the same amount of Twitter outrage.
Time will tell whether the pre-season protesters follow through on a boycott with significant backing this season or if they cave and go back to spending their Sundays in front of the tube.