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Donald Trump returns to Arizona – and a chaotic political landscape

Donald Trump was just a few weeks into his candidacy in 2015 when he came to Phoenix for a speech that ended up being a bigger moment in his campaign than most people realized at the time.

Trump savaged his critics and the media, vowed to fine Mexico $100,000 for each immigrant entering the country illegally, talked tough on trade, promised to return America to its winning ways and borrowed a line from Richard Nixon in declaring, “The silent majority is back.”

The packed crowd ate it up — the raucous enthusiasm an early sign of the overwhelming support among Trump’s base that would help carry him to the presidency.

As Trump returns to Arizona Tuesday in need of another big moment, he will find a place where his agenda and unconventional leadership style have consumed the political landscape and elevated the state’s status in the national fight for control of power in Washington in 2018.

It was Arizona senator John McCain who cast the vote that derailed Trump’s effort to repeal the health care law. The other Arizona senator, Jeff Flake, has become the poster child for Republicans who buck the president’s agenda and feel his wrath on Twitter. The president is almost certain to back a GOP challenger to Flake in 2018, complicating Republican efforts to maintain control of the Senate.

Trump has also revived the immigration debate and infuriated Latinos here with his talk of pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his recent conviction for breaking the law with his signature immigration patrols. The controversy over Civil War monuments has even spilled into Arizona, where the governor has faced repeated calls to take down a handful of Confederate memorials in the state.

And an overlooked item in Trump’s agenda, school choice, has made education a hot campaign issue in Arizona. With the strong support of Education Secretary Besty DeVos, Arizona passed the nation’s most ambitious expansion of vouchers this year, and public-school advocates recently submitted more than 100,000 signatures in a petition drive to get the law wiped out on the 2018 ballot.

If that isn’t enough fuel for a political bonfire, Trump’s visit to Arizona will be his first political event since the race-driven violence in Virginia and his divisive comments in the aftermath of the protests. That created a dilemma for Republicans like Gov. Doug Ducey on whether to take the stage at the Trump rally while running for re-election. Doing so would subject him to attacks from moderates and the left by appearing with the president so soon after Charlottesville and possibly at the same time as the president pardons Arpaio and throws his endorsement behind Flake’s challenger. But avoiding the stage could hurt him with the base.

Ducey’s plan is to greet the president on the airport tarmac and skip the rally, saying he wants to oversee the law enforcement response to protests. The governor supported Trump and appeared on stage at one of his rallies last year in Arizona.

Trump would be hard-pressed to find a state where his Republican base is as faithful and vocal as in Arizona, which is a big reason why he came to the state seven times during his campaign and refers to the “special place” it holds for him. The fierce, non-conformist political spirit evident at Trump rallies here traces its roots to the frontier days and allows hard-fisted politicians like him and Arpaio to thrive.

“The Republican primary base in Arizona is highly partisan, semi-libertarian in the sense that it’s against the swamp,” said longtime Republican political strategist Chuck Coughlin. “We’re the 48th state to join. We’re still acting like a juvenile. We still act like we’re the last one invited to the party which is sort of what Donald Trump is.”

The biggest consequence of Trump’s unorthodox governing style may be seen in Flake’s re-election effort. Flake has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump, taking him to task in pointed jabs in a recent book.

Trump has been sending out Tweets signaling his support for far-right former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is running against Flake in the primary. Other Republicans with less baggage than Ward could also enter the race and complicate things further, making it harder for Republicans to keep the seat in the general election. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is considered the top threat on the Democratic side.

“If the president himself is supporting a challenger to Jeff, it’s a serious problem,” said Coughlin, who has been polling voters about the intraparty turmoil that has unsettled the race.

Voters like Julie Brown are indicative of the GOP struggle in the Trump administration between the base and establishment. She attended a Trump rally last year and remains steadfast in her support of the president, even after Charlottesville.

“He’s not totally polished and everyone tears apart his words, but you’ll never have to guess what he’s thinking and I like that much better than a politician who just gets up there and buoyantly lies and is bought by lobbyists,” Brown said. “He’s just straightforward, and like I said, it rocks the boat but we need it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum criticizes Adam Putnam’s ignorance of Old Capitol monument

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum showed up on the Sunday edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy to give his two cents on comments GOP rival Adam Putnam made on the Confederate monument in front of the Old State Capitol in Tallahassee.

“What a luxurious place to be, the fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbols of division and derision greet people as they enter the Old Florida Capitol,” Gillum said of Putnam.

Gillum’s quote pokes at the Agriculture Commissioner’s admission that he was not aware of the monument in front of the old Capitol building, which now serves as the Florida Historic Capitol Museum.

The monument, which has been in place since 1882, is dedicated “to rescue from oblivion and perpetuate in the memory of succeeding generations the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War of 1861 – 1865.”

Putnam told about 160 Leon County Republicans at the county GOP’s barbecue dinner last week that he condemned white supremacists and the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., and added that the country should not be fighting over the Civil War and erasing the nation’s history, a prime motive for many who oppose the removal of such monuments from public property.

“What’s going on in Charlottesville is just awful and it’s hate and it’s violent and it’s dark and it’s got no place in our society,” he said to the crowd. “And we ought to be focused more on eradicating hate today than eradicating yesteryear’s history.”

When asked about the monument at the old Capitol, he said “as much as I love history, I’ve never noticed it. Where is it? What is it?”

For his part, Gillum said he was not for the destruction of the monuments, or making them unavailable for public view. Instead he is advocating that they be placed in museums.

Putnam wasn’t his only target.

In Gillum’s two-minute MSNBC clip, he criticized President Donald Trump’s remarks on how the removal of  Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue from Charlottesville could eventually lead to the removal of statues of America’s founding fathers, such as Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were slave owners.

Gillum said Washington and Lee “don’t deserve to be in the same sentence.” He said “one is a founder of this great country” while “the other sought to destroy, to tear apart, the United States of America.”

View the full clip below:

 

Vern Buchanan’s hearing aids bill signed into law

President Donald Trump has signed legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan that will make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.

“This bill could help improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans who struggle to hear everyday conversations,” Buchanan said Monday. “Many people who need hearing aids cannot afford the high price tag of $4,000 or more.”

The “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act” was folded into a broader bill to fund the Food and Drug Administration that Trump signed on Friday. The bill could bring the cost of a pair of hearing aids down from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars when it takes effect.

The bill will also reduce costs by simplifying the hearing aid purchasing process. Currently, a formal medical evaluation is required before seniors can purchase hearing aids. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists — professionals trained in treating hearing problems — or licensed hearing aid sellers after the evaluation. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would remove these requirements so the hearing aids could be purchased in a simple, over-the-counter fashion.

Mild to moderate hearing loss becomes nearly ubiquitous at older ages, affecting more than 60 percent of those in their 70s and nearly 80 percent of those over age 80. Yet only one older person in five currently wears hearing aids, according to the NY Times.

The bill had bipartisan support, with Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley among the sponsors in the Senate version.

Buchanan represents the fourth-highest number of seniors 65 and older of any district in the country. He noted that more than 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision trouble.

Suspect in killings of 2 Fla. officers arrested at bar

A police officer in Florida died from his injuries Saturday, a day after his colleague was killed when a suspect fired at them during a scuffle while they were on patrol. The suspect was later arrested at a bar.

Sgt. Sam Howard died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando.

Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night, a short time after authorities say he was shot by 45-year-old Everett Miller.

Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Baxter. Authorities hadn’t yet said what charges he could face for Howard’s death.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said.

They found a handgun and revolver on him.

“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.

The police chief said Miller was taken to jail wearing Baxter’s handcuffs.

Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation shows that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child, O’Dell said.

“They are two wonderful men, family men,” O’Dell said. “They are two committed to doing it the right way.”

Separately, two other officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where the mother of the man’s child, their 19-month-old toddler, the woman’s mother and a family friend were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday that officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell are in stable condition following Friday night’s confrontation with an armed Derrick Brabham, who was killed by the officers.

In Pennsylvania, two state troopers were shot and a suspect killed outside a small-town store south of Pittsburgh on Friday night.

President Trump tweeted early Saturday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Kissimmee Police Department. “We are with you!” he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted he was “heartbroken” by the attacks on the officers.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program

In a break with tradition, President Donald Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events for this year’s Kennedy Center Honors arts awards so honorees can celebrate “without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.

The Kennedy Center said it respected Trump’s decision and the show will go on.

Past presidents and first ladies traditionally host a White House reception in the hours before the Kennedy Center gala, which they would then watch from seats high above the stage. This year’s honors are to be awarded Dec. 3.

The Trumps reached their decision Friday, said a White House official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

It was made the same day that the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned to protest Trump’s comments about last weekend’s demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president has blamed “many sides” for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.

Trump has had a long and contentious relationship with the arts world and some Kennedy Center honorees, who are being recognized for lifetime achievement in their fields, already had said they would not attend the White House reception.

One honoree, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had also questioned whether Trump would want to attend the gala, “given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities.”

Trump has recommended defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dancer Carmen de Lavallade said on her website this week she was honored to be recognized, but would not go to Trump’s White House.

“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” she said.

Singer Gloria Estefan earlier had said that she would set her personal politics aside to accept the honor, now in its 40th year. She said the image of a Cuban immigrant, like herself, being honored is important when Latino immigrants in particular have “taken a beating in the recent past.”

Estefan once hosted a Democratic fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama. She said she and her husband, Emilio, are not affiliated with a political party.

The other honorees are hip-hop artist LL Cool J, who had yet to say whether he would attend the White House reception, and singer Lionel Richie, who described himself as a maybe. Representatives for both celebrities did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter said they respect Trump’s decision.

“In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees. We are grateful for this gesture” they said in a joint statement.

The honorees, announced earlier this month, will be celebrated at a Kennedy Center gala in December, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers that will be nationally televised. A traditional State Department reception and awards dinner Dec. 2 will be held as planned.

Rubenstein and Rutter said all five honorees were expected at both events.

The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Starbucks chairman questions country’s ‘moral fiber’

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz says the events surrounding a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend have put the “moral fiber” of the country in question.

Schultz said at an employee forum in Seattle on Tuesday that he has “profound concern about the lack of character, morality, humanity,” displayed at the rally, according to a recap of the meeting posted on Starbucks’ website.

“The moral fiber, the values, and what we as a country have stood for is literally hanging in the abyss,” Schultz told employees. “We are at a critical juncture in American history. That is not an exaggeration. We are at and facing a crucible in which our daily life is being challenged and being questioned about what is right and what is wrong.”

A throng of hundreds, mostly white men and many carrying guns, converged on the college town Saturday yelling anti-Semitic and racist slurs and carrying Confederate flags and neo-Nazi and KKK signs. A street fight broke out between them and counter-protesters, and a woman was killed and others injured when a man drove a car into people marching against the rally.

After the violence, President Donald Trump was blasted for putting the blame on both sides and saying both sides included “very fine people.” Schultz was not a member of either of Trump’s two panels of business leaders that dissolved Wednesday after several CEOs stepped down in protest of Trump’s comments. And he told his employees Tuesday he’d let the actions and words of the president speak for themselves.

“What we witnessed this past weekend … is against every sense of what is right,” he said. “My fear is not only that this behavior is being given permission and license, but its conduct is being normalized to the point where people are no longer hiding their face.”

Telling employees he was speaking to them “as an American, as a Jew, as a parent, as a grandparent,” Schultz said it’s hard to remain optimistic about the country’s future “in the midst of such a storm,” but he still is.

Starbucks and Schultz have been outspoken on social issues.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida mayors join compact to ‘fight hate, extremism’ in wake of Charlottesville

A group Florida mayors are joining the national effort between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Anti-Defamation League in response to President Donald Trump‘s statements on the violence in Charlottesville.

On Friday, fourteen more Florida mayors added their names to the “Mayor’s Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry,” making 35 mayors in total throughout the state.

Signatories include Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Philip Levine from Miami Beach, and Bob Buckhorn from Tampa.

“It’s cities and mayors who are on the front lines if and when some of our national leaders refuse to stand up in the face of hate, America’s Mayors will, “said Buckhorn. “That’s why I joined mayors from across the country to stand unified against bigotry, hate and racism. We cannot allow this divisive rhetoric to continue, not in our city and certainly not from the highest and most powerful office in the world.”

In all, more than 240 mayors have signed to the compact in just the last 48 hours, representing  Democratic and Republican leaders from cities including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

The 10 components of the compact include calls to reject extremism, white supremacy, and all forms of bigotry, and to ensure public safety while protecting free speech and other basic constitutional rights. Signatories also pledge to strengthen civil rights protections and promote law enforcement training to respond and report hate incidents, crimes, and domestic terrorism.

“Mayors and their cities must continue to be a beacon for inclusion, tolerance, and respect for all,” the compact reads. “We will continue to create stronger cultures of kindness and compassion in our communities, and expect our federal and state partners to join us in this endeavor.”

Here is the list of Florida mayors joining the compact:

Joe Kilsheimer, Apopka, Florida
Enid Weisman, Aventura, Florida
Gabriel Groisman, Bal Harbour Village, Florida
Susan Haynie, Boca Raton, Florida
Marni L. Sawicki, Cape Coral, Florida
Judith ‘Judy’ Paul, Davie, Florida
Derrick L. Henry, Daytona Beach, Florida
Juan Carlos Bermudez, Doral, Florida
Julie Ward Bujalski, Dunedin, Florida
Randall P. Henderson Jr., Fort Myers, Florida
Joy Cooper, Hallandale Beach, Florida
Josh Levy, Hollywood, Florida
Hazelle Rogers, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
Richard J. Kaplan, Lauderhill, Florida
Philip Levine, Miami Beach, Florida
Oliver G. Gilbert III, Miami Gardens, Florida
Wayne M. Messam, Miramar, Florida
Bill Barnett, Naples, Florida
John Adornato III, Oakland Park, Florida
Buddy Dyer, Orlando, Florida
William Capote, Palm Bay, Florida
Milissa Holland, Palm Coast, Florida
Christine Hunschofsky, Parkland, Florida
Frank C. Ortis, Pembroke Pines, Florida
Ashton J. Hayward, Pensacola, Florida
Joseph M Corradino, Pinecrest, Florida
Donald O. Burnette, Port Orange, Florida
Gregory J. Oravec, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg, Florida
Michael J. Ryan, Sunrise, Florida
Andrew D. Gillum, Tallahassee, Florida
Harry Dressler, Tamarac, Florida
Bob Buckhorn, Tampa, Florida
Geraldine ‘Jeri’ Muoio Ph.D., West Palm Beach, Florida
Daniel J. Stermer, Weston, Florida

Steve Bannon leaving White House

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving his White House post.

That’s according to two people familiar with the decision who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Bannon was a key adviser to President Donald Trump’s general election campaign and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House.

The former leader of conservative Breitbart News pushed Trump to follow through with his campaign promises. But he’s also sparred with some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“Bannon had one hell of a run,” Matt Drudge tweeted in response.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s die-hard supporters show no signs of straying

They wash their hands of neo-Nazis and wag their fingers at leftists. They denounce a press corps they see as biased and controversies they view as manufactured. But in the frenzied blame game over the deadly violence at a rally of white supremacists, Donald Trump‘s loyal base is happy to absolve the president himself.

Even as Trump’s zig-zag response to the weekend bloodshed in Charlottesville, Virginia, has brought criticism from some Republican lawmakers, many men and women who helped put him in office remain unmoved by the latest uproar.

“He has done nothing to turn me away from him,” said Patricia Aleeyah Robinson, of Toledo, Ohio.

Robinson is black and her support of Trump has put her at odds with many in her life, costing her friendships and straining family relationships.

But the 63-year-old retired truck driver sees the controversy over Trump’s response to Charlottesville as being driven by those seeking to disrupt his agenda and push backers like her away. She said she knows he pays no deference to racists and feels he is the only president who has ever spoken directly to blacks. She admires his refusal to sugarcoat his beliefs.

Three hundred miles south in a Charleston, West Virginia, shopping mall, Joyce Ash took a moment to ponder Trump after buying a dress Wednesday to wear to the funeral for her husband of 33 years, who died of pancreatic cancer.

The 71-year-old woman summoned nothing but support for the political novice who led her to ditch her lifelong support of Democrats. She recalled sitting up all Election Night to watch Trump clinch the win, and said nothing since made her reconsider her vote.

“Let the president do his job instead of trying to take him out every time you turn around,” Ash implored. She didn’t follow the back-and-forth over Trump’s statements on Charlottesville but saw no reason to question him: “I believe in Donald Trump, I really do. I believe that if they would just give this man a chance, the economy, everything will start going better.”

Though images of Nazi flags and men in white hoods sickened many Americans, the president’s most ardent champions saw no reason any of that should change their feelings for Trump.

“You know why it doesn’t bother me? Because he is everybody’s president whether you like him or don’t like him. Everything he does, he’s doing it for our country,” said Patsy Jarman, a 70-year-old retired factory worker in New Bern, North Carolina. “And if you don’t like being here, you need to leave.”

Such enthusiasm may be unsurprising in some ways. Trump himself boasted last year he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Polls showed his approval ratings dipping even before this flare-up, and now some commentators are proclaiming a historic low point and late-night comedians have turned serious. But many Trump voters interviewed Wednesday showed no sign of moving away from him.

In Florida, 50-year-old Steven Damron of Spring Hill said the president handled the Charlottesville situation well, and he agreed with Trump that “both sides” were to blame.

In Iowa, Branden Nong, 35, of Waukee said that while he wished the president was more careful with his tweets or in his criticism of fellow Republicans, his vote was driven by economic issues, and he has been happy with Trump’s performance.

And in Pennsylvania, 46-year-old substitute teacher Julie Horrell of Mohrsville said: “I am sticking by the president. It’s early in his term yet. He needs to get the time to dig in his feet.”

Julie Brown, a 42-year-old real estate agent in Gilbert, Arizona, accused the media of twisting Trump’s statements on Charlottesville and said local officials did a bad job preparing for the protests. But she remains fully behind a president she sees as exactly the unpolished, authentic leader that the U.S. needs right now, and thinks of how her 4-year-old son will someday learn of this time.

“He’s going to be reading in a textbook one day about the good and the bad that this president is going to do,” she said, “but I hope and I believe it’s going to be more good.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Hillsborough Confederate monument to move after donations reach threshold in 24 hours

Led by two huge contributions, the private sector has raised well in excess of the $140,000 required by the Hillsborough County Commission to move a controversial Confederate monument in Tampa.

Bob Gries, the founder and managing partner of Gries Investment Funds in Tampa was watching CNN Wednesday night when he learned the Board of County Commissioners had reversed their position yet again on their decision regarding moving the monument.

The report said that unless the private sector came up with half the estimated $280,000 needed to move the statue, it would remain in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex on Pierce St. in downtown Tampa.

“I was just really concerned, and I was embarrassed that Tampa Bay would be cast in a negative spotlight, and I just really thought what could I do to help change this and do the right thing,” said Gries at a press conference held at Tampa’s City Hall Thursday afternoon.

So Gries called up Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn first thing Thursday, saying he would kick in $50,000 that would not only hugely boost the effort to raise $140,000, but inspire others in the community to chip in as well.

On Thursday, the community did that big time, raising more than $40,000 in the 24 hours after the commissioners’ vote. Included in that effort was $5,000 from former Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach (now NBC football analyst) Tony Dungy and $1,000 contributions from Buckhorn and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce chipped in the other huge check of $70,000.

Though some will consider this a shining moment for the Tampa Bay area rising to the occasion to come together on what is an incredibly emotional and divisive issue, Buckhorn is having none of that.

“It was unprecedented, it was disheartening, it was not who we are and what this community believes in and what we stand for,” the mayor said of the board’s vote to outsource the decision to the community.

The decision to delay the vote had put an additional burden on the business community, Buckhorn added, and it was a “blatant attempt not to do the right thing,” which was to move the statue.

Wednesday was the third time the board had weighed in what to do with the 106-year-old monument, called “Memoria in Aeterna.”

In late June, the Commission stunningly voted 4-3 to keep the memorial in place, unlike other southern communities that have decided that such monuments were a relic of the Jim Crow past, and are no longer appropriate in 2017.

After the vote received local and national outrage, the board came back in late July, voting 4-2 to move the monument with Commissioner Sandy Murman changing her vote, but only if the money to move the statue was raised privately.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said that such an effort could not be guaranteed, and stated that the county would be responsible for raising the balance of the needed funds if the private sector could not come up with more than $200,000 required to move it.

Private fundraising had gone slow, with the man leading that campaign, attorney Tom Scarritt, saying he only had 60 days to raise the money or the issue would return to the board.

Commissioner Victor Crist brought the issue up again Wednesday, leading the move for the board to vote 4-3 for a 30-day timeline on Scarritt to raise $140,000.

If he could not, the statue would remain in place.

Buckhorn said he was disgusted by the board’s flip-flops.

“I’m not happy that they choose to throw roadblocks in the way of our progress,” he told reporters. “This was a decision that had been made, the outcome was secure, and at the last minute they changed the rules of the game, and that’s what I find unfortunate because some of them didn’t have the political courage to do what is morally the right thing to do.”

The monument will be moved to the Brandon Family Cemetery, a blow to Confederate advocates who have been determined to stop the county from moving the memorial.

“Isn’t it so sad that people are willing to pay money to disrespect American Veterans and destroy history,” said David McCallister with Save Southern Heritage Florida. “Too bad leaders of this movement aren’t putting this energy into making sure children go to safe schools, are taught to respect each other, or fixing stormwater runoff in our community.”

“If Tony Dungy and the Chamber used this effort to address real problems, imagine how great our community would be!” he added.

Later on Thursday, Save Southern Heritage Florida said they would go to court on Friday to attempt to block the removal of the monument.

Preliminary work on preparing for the statue to move has already been underway for a few weeks, with the county already expending $20,000 on the effort. That work was stopped Wednesday, and there is no word yet on when it will resume (County Administrator Mike Merrill was not immediately available for comment).

Earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the moving of such monuments, denouncing their removal as “sad” and “so foolish,” just days after white supremacists and neo-Nazis took to Charlottesville, Virginia, to violently protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

Buckhorn wasn’t impressed.

“We have a president who today doubled down on his remarks of two days ago,” Buckhorn said. “He chose a side. That side was not the better angels of America. That side was the hate groups and the Klan and neo-Nazi’s and the bigots in bed sheets that ran through this country in the South in the 40’s and 50’s. That was the side that he chose, and those code words and those dog whistles that he used in these comments send a signal to those who would engage in these kinds of behaviors that it’s OK. It’s not OK. Hate has no place in America, and it damn sure has no place in Tampa, Florida.”

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