Jeb Bush – Florida Politics

Personnel note: Ashley Ross joins Ron DeSantis campaign

Ashley Ross is leaving the Senate President’s Office to become “senior finance consultant” for Republican Congressman Ron DeSantiscampaign for governor.

Ross has been Deputy Chief of Staff for Stuart Republican Joe Negron, advising him on commerce, tourism and veterans’ affairs, among other issues.

Before that, however, she had been a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida, joining the organization in 2009 to work primarily on Senate campaigns.

Negron soon brought Ross on to work with his political committee as he was sewing up support for his Senate presidency bid, which he clinched in late 2015. She then joined his leadership team in the Capitol.

As we predicted in last fall’s edition of INFLUENCE magazine, “it’s unlikely the move to policy will be a permanent one for Ross, (who) said she fully intends to get back into fundraising once her time with Negron comes to an end in 2018.”

“I’m honored to be chosen by Congressman DeSantis to lead his finance team of seasoned fundraising professionals,” she said. “Ron DeSantis is one of the top conservative leaders in the country and will make an outstanding Governor of Florida. I look forward to building on the strong foundation the finance team has already put in place to ensure we have the necessary resources to win in November.”

“Ashley Ross is one of the top political fundraisers in Florida,” added Brad Herold, campaign manager for DeSantis and a former executive director of the state GOP.

“In every position she’s held she’s broken fundraising records and helped political candidates and organizations have the resources necessary to win races,” he said. “We’re excited to have her on the team as we continue our strong momentum and spread Ron’s conservative message to the entire state.”

Ross, a member of the SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” Class of 2013, began her career in Gov. Jeb Bush‘s Legislative Affairs office.

“It’s important not to try and reinvent the wheel,” she told us in 2013. “I am a big believer in listening first, analyzing, and not approaching anything without a plan mapped out.

“It’s also important to maintain relationships and not burn bridges,” she added. “The person who has you upset today is tomorrow’s ally.”

She later served in several legislative affairs roles in the private sector, including with The PGA of America.

Ross, married to Capital City Consulting lobbyist Scott Ross, got her undergraduate degree in marketing and an MBA from Florida State University.

They will continue to live in Tallahassee with their two children.

#TheDaySunburnWentDark

If you were expecting to read SUNBURN as you usually do on a weekday morning, this isn’t it.

Nor will Takeaways from Tallahassee, our weekend newsletter, appear in your inbox Saturday.

Both of those products are “going dark,” as they say, today and tomorrow as a message to the four leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor, after their debate this week.

Here’s why: It’s one thing to not know that Janet Cruz is the outgoing House Democratic Leader, or what the precise amount of education spending is in the state budget.

It’s another to admit that, either as novice or career politicians, your “morning reads” don’t include SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.

As I wrote earlier this week, “ … not one of the four candidates, when asked what was the first thing they read in the morning, mentioned the state’s largest newspaper. Can you imagine Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, or Charlie Crist not mentioning the Times?”

And The Times needs all the eyeballs it can get. This same week, we learned the paper plans to lay off around 50 people “after new tariffs sent the price of newsprint skyrocketing,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. (I’m still miffed The Times didn’t break its own layoffs story, instead of merely announcing two promotions that same day, but that’s for another rant.)

Here’s how The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam put it in the lede of her debate story:

“Three of the four Democrats vying to replace Rick Scott as governor of the third-largest state in the nation get their news first from The New York Times, and only one, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, relies on his hometown paper [the Tallahassee Democrat] to find out what’s going on in the world.”

Moreover, Orlando businessman Chris King said his first morning read is The Sayfie Review, which typically isn’t updated until 6 a.m. or later.

So I asked myself, “why do we bother?”

Why do me and my staff, POLITICO Florida aces Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, and all the other scribes who labor to put out morning newsletters summing the political and other news of the day — often with exclusives — do it?

After all, three of the four top Democratic contenders to become the state’s next chief executive admit their go-to in the AM is a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.

Even the Democrat, lucky to have the talent of longtime newsmen Jeff Schweers and Jeff Burlew, too often relies on News Service wire copy for politics and government news in its own front yard. (Disclosure: Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff; we’re a subscriber.)

But staff reporters — like our Scott Powers in Orlando, A.G. Gancarski in Jacksonville, and Jim Rosica in Tallahassee — also beat their brains to get news of local and statewide import and scoops on the competition.

I guess I just answered my own question.  

We all do it to inform and enlighten this state’s elected officials, their staff, candidates, campaign professionals, lobbyists, nonprofit groups and anyone else, anywhere, willing to give us their email address or visit, in our case, Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Let’s not forget the Orlando Sentinel (looking at you, Mr. King), the Miami Herald (ahem, Mr. Levine) or a host of other local news sources that produce frequently-updated websites, blogs, newsletters, podcasts and other vehicles to get pertinent news to those who want to consume it.

How about crediting the hard work of veteran John Kennedy? He rose like a phoenix from his ignominious layoff at The Palm Beach Post to report for The Florida Channel and now as Tallahassee correspondent for GateHouse Media’s Florida newspapers, soon to include — oh, the irony — The Palm Beach Post.

No, that work doesn’t seem to break into the Democrats’ headspace. I won’t get into the staff members of those very candidates who pester and plead with us to get their news releases and campaign updates into SUNBURN and/or on our sites.

In fact, we were deluged with emails of post-debate spin trumpeting “bold proposals” and “debate victory,” while blasting opponents’ “poor record” and “misleading statements.” Even as I type, those campaigns are sending advisories about upcoming appearances of their candidates.

C’mon folks.

So that’s why SUNBURN, save for this editorial, and Takeaways from Tallahassee are going dark today and tomorrow.

Yes, we’re as guilty as anybody else for sometimes shedding more heat than light, to mangle T.H. White.

But all of us working in Florida’s news business collectively aspire, in our “newsman’s cart,” to “hurry from hamlet to hamlet … undertaking to purvey all that the human mind need know or the human soul craves, to that day’s date,” as Frederic Jesup Stimson said.

If only the Democratic candidates gave a damn about our wares.

Allen Winsor, Wendy Berger picked to serve as federal judges

President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped two Florida appellate judges with ties to Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Gov. Jeb Bush to serve as federal district judges.

Trump said he will nominate Allen Winsor, a judge on the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal, to serve as a judge in the federal Northern District of Florida. Also, he chose Wendy Berger, a judge on the state’s 5th District Court of Appeal, to serve as a judge in the federal Middle District of Florida. The nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Winsor was appointed in February 2016 by Gov. Rick Scott to the 1st District Court of Appeal after a nearly three-year stint as state solicitor general in Bondi’s office. The Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal hears cases from throughout North Florida, ranging from Jacksonville to Pensacola.

Berger was appointed by Scott in 2012 to a seat on the 5th District Court of Appeal, which is based in Daytona Beach and hears cases from a huge swath of Central Florida, stretching from Brevard County to Hernando County. Berger worked from 2001 to 2005 as an assistant general counsel for Bush, who then appointed her as a circuit judge in Northeast Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit.

Berger also was one of three finalists in 2016 for a seat on the Florida Supreme Court, though Scott appointed Alan Lawson, who at the time was one of Berger’s colleagues on the 5th District Court of Appeal.

The choices of Winsor and Berger for the federal judgeships appear to align with a broader effort by Trump to make the federal judiciary more conservative.

Berger, who was a prosecutor in St. Johns County for almost eight years before working for Bush, pointed in her Florida Supreme Court application to adherence to “judicial restraint” — a common theme in conservative legal circles.

“I respect the legislative process and am committed to the principles of judicial restraint,” she wrote at the time. “I will bring to the bench self-control, integrity, respect, wisdom, good judgment, efficiency and common sense. I can be trusted to follow the law and make just and timely rulings.”

Berger and Winsor also have moderated panel discussions in recent years at Florida meetings of The Federalist Society, an influential legal group among conservatives. Winsor last year moderated a discussion titled “Combating Federal Overreach,” according to video posted on The Federalist Society website.

Judges in the federal Northern District of Florida hear cases from a region that includes Gainesville, Tallahassee, Panama City and Pensacola. The Middle District, meanwhile, covers a massive area, stretching from Fort Myers to Jacksonville and including Orlando and Tampa.

Along with saying he will nominate Berger and Winsor for the district judgeships, Trump on Tuesday also announced selecting Britt C. Grant to serve on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Florida. Grant is a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics — Part 1

Once the hanky dropped on the 2013 Legislative Session, my family headed to St. Augustine Beach to recuperate from the 60 days of working in that pressure cooker.

Michelle and I had been married for just over a year and our daughter, Ella Joyce, was only months old. Our business was just starting to take off. It was an exciting time.

For whatever reason, we thought it would be interesting to complicate our lives by Michelle running for a state House seat.

The Republican Party of Florida was looking for a candidate to challenge Dwight Dudley, a one-term incumbent who was not particularly well-liked in Tallahassee and was considered vulnerable in a non-presidential election cycle.

Michelle would have been the perfect challenger to Dudley. She’s a moderate Republican woman with strong connections to the Tampa Bay area and a reputation for loyalty and deeply-held convictions. That she had worked as a special adviser to then-Gov. Charlie Crist (and was based out of the USF St. Pete campus) only made her more attractive as a potential candidate.

For a moment, Michelle was excited by the idea, so we took the temperature of some of our friends in the political process. All of them thought Michelle would be a strong candidate. However, one friend informed us that incoming leadership of the House was recruiting another potential candidate they thought could win in a walk.

We spoke with then Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli and, indeed, the GOP was hoping that Bill Young Jr., son of the local legend C.W. “Bill” Young, would enter the race. It’s probably best if Michelle stands down, Crisafulli told us.

Fortunately for our family, that’s exactly what Michelle did, although she said then that it was a mistake to think Young would beat Dudley.

She was right, of course, about that: Billy Young turned out to be a very bad candidate. In fact, he’s one of the very few candidates for office I’ve ever met who gained weight, rather than lost it, on the campaign trail (an indication he was not opening enough time walking door-to-door.)

Michelle and I talked a lot about our future that week in St. Augustine. A point I made then to her was that as busy as the 2014 and 2016 election cycles would be for us (and, Jesus, had they been busier than we could have ever imagined), the 2018 election cycle would actually be even more chaotic.

What I predicted then is only more accurate today. It is already shaping up to be the busiest election cycle in Florida’s modern history. Busier even than 1994, when Jeb Bush emerged from a brutal gubernatorial primary to eventually lose to Lawton Chiles.

As it stands now, here’s the rundown:

— A competitive race for the U.S.  Senate likely pitting Democrat Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott.

— A wide-open race for the Governor’s Mansion, with competitive primaries on both sides of the ballot.

— Three competitive statewide races for spots on Florida’s Cabinet: Agriculture Commissioner, CFO and Attorney General.

— Four statewide voter initiatives.

— As many as a dozen constitutional questions put on the ballot by the once-every-twenty-years Constitutional Revision Commission.

— More competitive congressional and state legislative races than at any point since Republicans took over the state in the mid-1990s.

The ballot this November will take the average Floridian twenty to thirty minutes to read and complete.

And that’s what we know about today.

As has been said many times, Florida is the Chinatown of politics. Forget about trying to understand it.

But if you run a political website titled “Florida Politics,” this is a wonderful time to be alive.

Our site’s traffic was busier last week than all but one other week in our history. Last month was busier than any other month in our history. This month looks like it will be busier than last month. And there’s no reason to think next month won’t be busier than this month.

And yet … what happens in December 2018? The campaigns will be over. The 2019 Legislative Session will be months away. The presidential campaign, while talked about daily, won’t be for real for almost another year.

Won’t feast turn to famine?

No.

And not just because the average bear is more interested in politics than in half-a-century.

This is the first part of the Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics.

It all starts to go back to normal today.

Gov. Scott signed the $88 billion fiscal plan sent to him Wednesday. He is now officially a lame duck.

Don’t get me wrong, Scott still has enormous power. And it’s not out of the range of possibilities that the Legislature will be called into Special Session for some sort of crisis.

But, for the most part, the sun has begun to set on Rick Scott’s time in Tallahassee. And with that, everything will start to change.

Because none of the seven candidates expected to run for Florida governor can write a $72 million check to buy the Governor’s Mansion, as Scott did in 2010, the four pillars of political life in Florida will now begin rebuilding their stature in the state.

The lobby corps, the news media (as enervated as it is), the fundraising community, and the political parties should see their influence return in the coming months and next four years.

Lobbyists have been of little use to Scott because they were against him in 2010 and he’s never really forgotten that. Only a handful of big-name lobbyists have had access to Scott himself: Brian Ballard, Nick Iarossi, Fred Karlinsky, Bill Rubin, among a few others.

Most governmental affairs firms have relied on a strategy of focusing on the Legislature while staying under the radar during the gubernatorial veto period. Some firms — Southern Strategy Group, GrayRobinson — have succeeded in their efforts to lobby the executive branch, but, for the most part, this is an administration that has been indifferent to Adams Street.

Before today, the lobby corps would have been unwilling to choose sides in the upcoming gubernatorial race, especially with Richard Corcoran looming as a possible candidate. But the smart firms will start making more significant investments in the candidates so that they are in on the ground floor with who they think will win.

Some firms will win, some will lose, but at least the game is being played again. Scott didn’t even roll out the ball.

The media has been kept at arm’s length by Scott ever since his early communications director, Brian Burgess, positioned velvet ropes between the Governor and the Capitol Press Corps. If Scott didn’t need the lobby corps, he needed the press corps even less.

The math was simple: He could write a check larger than the amount of earned media written against him. Also, the Governor’s Office made two smart decisions. One, it prioritized interactions with TV reporters, preferably those who were not plugged in enough to ask difficult questions, and two, it created a reverb chamber with the wire services.

By this I mean, most major announcements by the Scott administration were funneled to the Associated Press (which can’t editorialize the way Florida Politics, POLITICO, or the Times/Herald can and do). It is, in turn, relied on by many TV stations for their state government content. Once a TV station aired the AP version, the Governor’s Office would push out an ICYMI press release touting the story.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t believe me. Consider this: Point to the one process story written about the Scott administration that details how the Governor makes a decision. You probably can’t. Because this is one of the most leak-proof administrations ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. Donald Trump would give away Ivanka if he could have a White House that operates in the quiet way Scott’s office has.

More double-negative evidence: Point to the feature about anyone in Scott’s administration that includes an on-the-record response from the person profiled. Floridians knew/know virtually nothing about the chiefs of staff, key advisers, etc. who are in Scott’s orbit.

Because none of the seven gubernatorial candidates can’t rely just on paid media to get their message out, they have to create earned media. This instantly makes the press, specifically the Capitol Press Corps and other political journalists, relevant again.

Instead of being kept in the dark, as most journalists have been during the last seven years, now outreach to most favored reporters and bloggers is again part of the communications strategy. What Marc Caputo, Matt Dixon, David Smiley, myself, and others say about the gubernatorial and other races is more important than it was under Scott. A takedown in the press becomes fodder for fundraising emails and digital videos.

Speaking of fundraising emails, get ready to be inundated with them.

Not that you weren’t already, but none of the candidates running for Governor can self-finance in a way that allows them to bypass the need for small donors.

Under Scott, a meeting with him cost an interest group at least $50,000. Only a handful of Floridians or companies can afford that. But Putnam, Gillum, Graham, Levine, etc. are already touting the support they are receiving from donors who can only afford to write checks for $25 or $50.

Whereas Scott was only interested in receiving a $500,000 check from a utility company, almost all of the candidates running in 2018, whether it be for governor or state House, would be happy to receive a check for $500 or $1,000. This returns power to the fundraisers who specialized in bundling, say, 30 checks from a group of local professionals. The entire campaign finance system reverts to pre-2010 levels without Scott and his checkbook.

This brings me to my final point: Look for the return of the political parties.

No, they’ll never be as powerful as they were 20 years ago, but they certainly won’t do any worse than they have the last eight years. Especially the Republican Party of Florida, which has been so neglected by Scott that there are constant rumors that the party can barely make payroll.

Whoever wins their party’s nomination this fall will need the parties if they want to win the general. They will need the activists. They will need the party’s imprimatur. That shifts power back to the Republicans’ Blaise Ingoglia, the Democrats’ Terrie Rizzo, and the party chairs who will follow them.

I wanted to roll out this theory on the Ides of March because Scott’s tenure reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.”

Scott, armed with his checkbook, has bestridden Tallahassee like Colossus, while we petty men and women have walked under his indifferent legs and peeped about.

With Scott’s exit, it’s time again for all of those in The Process to, as Cassius told Brutus, be masters of our own fates.

Jeb Bush: Marco Rubio needs to lead on immigration

The perception that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were close was shattered during the 2015-16 race for President.

The two Miami-area GOP heavyweights clashed in debates and on the campaign trail as they vastly underperformed to expectations in losing the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.

The former Florida Governor took a verbal shot at the U.S. Senator on Friday, when he accused Rubio of abdicating a leadership role in the current debate on immigration.

“God forbid you actually took on something that was controversial and paid a political price,” Bush told USA Today. “That’s the attitude in D.C. right now. Certainly Sen. Rubio is no different in that regard.

“Marco is a talented guy and he understands this issue really well, and maybe behind the scenes he’s working hard. But at some point, his leadership would be really helpful.”

Rubio has said he believes an agreement in Congress to protect the approximately 780,000 undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can and should happen.

However, skepticism is high after President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were unable to come to an agreement on DACA last weekend, forcing the government to shut down for a couple of days last week. That occurred despite the intervention of centrist senators from both parties to attempt to resolve the problem.

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson was part of that group, but Rubio was not. He said earlier this week that any such a deal on immigration shouldn’t be the product of a “gang” of senators as it was with the group he was a part of for comprehensive immigration reform the Senate passed in 2013.

The junior Florida Senator said if Democrats want to talk about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, then a debate about chain migration has to be on the table. But he said that Democrats have to understand that such a deal won’t happen until they agree to authorize funding to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

He added that that progress can happen quickly on the issue, “but it cannot be a product of a gang of four or five people meeting somewhere, putting a bill on the floor, and saying ‘take it or leave it.’ ”

“I was part of an effort like that in 2013, I see others are trying to do it now. It won’t work. This issue is too critical to too many people to be a product of a small group and a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition.”

In his interview with USA Today, Bush blamed both political parties when sizing up the ongoing battle over immigration. The White House on Thursday released a plan that provides a path to U.S. citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented DREAMers in exchange for $25 billion to help build a border wall and a nearly 25% reduction in legal immigration.

Members of both parties panned the deal for different reasons. With the clock ticking down to Feb. 8 for another deal to keep the government functioning, Bush said the immigration issue can’t continue to be punted by lawmakers who were sent to Washington to find solutions.

“The left and the right have figured out that this is a great political wedge issue,” Bush said. “It’s not a moral issue or an economic issue. It’s purely an issue of, ‘How do we poll this to make sure our team, our tribe, does better?’ “

The paper describes the former Florida Governor as having “railed” against President Trump’s alleged comments describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole” countries.  And he bemoaned Trump’s behavior in office and says it could be his downfall.

“The character of the guy and the (turnover) and fighting, and just the constant chaos around his presidency that is self-inflicted has made it hard for him,” Bush said. “I want the president to succeed. I don’t think he will succeed if he continues on this path.”

Jeb Bush endorses CFO Jimmy Patronis for another term

Calling his qualities “all too rare in politics,” former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Thursday endorsed Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for a second term.

The former Republican House member has now picked up the endorsements of two Florida governors: Bush and Gov. Rick Scott, a longtime ally of Patronis who appointed him to be in charge of the state’s checkbooks and a nearly $300 million budget.

“As a small businessman, Jimmy understand how to keep our state growing by securing high credit ratings, and through his role as State Fire Marshal Jimmy is protecting those who protect us by fighting to improve mental health and cancer benefits for Florida firefighters,” Bush said.

Patronis, a Panama City restaurant owner,  said he was “humbled” to have Bush support his campaign.

“The mark he forever left on Florida as a successful two-term governor has been a tremendous influence on me and he will continue to be someone who’s counsel I am honored to have,” Patronis said.

As CFO, Patronis is one of three elected Cabinet members who work with Scott to set state policy. He works with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Scott appointed him to the position after Jeff Atwater resigned to work at Florida Atlantic University.

As he campaigns for another term as CFO, he is likely to face Republican Sen. Tom Lee in the primary. Lee has said he will run, but has not yet filed the official paperwork.

In 2006, when Bush was governor, he endorsed Lee in his failed effort to become CFO.

“He gives it to you straight,” Bush said, “with the character and experience to back it up.

“Our state needs Tom Lee.”

Rick Scott to help fundraise for Tennessee gubernatorial candidate

Gov. Rick Scott is taking a trip to Tennessee next month, but unlike most of his out-of-state jaunts he’s not looking to lure any jobs away from the Volunteer State.

An invitation to a fundraiser benefitting Diane Black, a Republican running for Tennessee governor, lists Scott as the event’s headliner.

Attendees will need to fork over $1,000 to Black’s campaign to get in the door. The event is set for Jan. 11, just two days after Florida lawmakers are set to convene in Tallahassee for the start of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Scott isn’t the only Florida governor playing a role in the Tennessee race, either.

Back in October, former Gov. Jeb Bush was the guest of honor at a Nashville fundraiser for businessman Randy Boyd, the other major Republican running to replace exiting Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Bush’s appearance led the Black campaign to label Boyd as a “moderate Republican” and sling a few arrows at the pair over Bush’s stances during his 2016 presidential campaign, namely Bush’s assertion that immigrants come to the U.S. out of “an act of love.”

Black has also seized on Bush’s and Boyd’s shared dislike of President Donald Trump, whom Bush has called the “Chaos President.” Scott, conversely, has a fairly amiable relationship with Trump and was briefly considered as a potential running mate.

“Jeb Bush and Randy Boyd are a match made in establishment heaven. Their pro-illegal immigration, pro-big government, anti-Trump positions are more suited to the Democratic primary than the Republican primary,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Black’s campaign.

Tim Canova wants a state and federal investigation into why Broward County SOE destroyed ballots in 2016 race

South Florida law professor and 2016 Democratic congressional candidate Tim Canova is calling for a congressional investigation into why Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes destroyed all of the ballots in his 2016 primary race against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

Canova lost to Wasserman Schultz by 13 points in their bitter Democratic primary in the CD-23 race in the summer of 2016.

The revelation that Snipes’ office had destroyed all of the ballots came about only after both Canova and independent reporter Lulu Friesdat made several different public records requests over the past year for access to the paper ballots used in the August 2016 primary. Canova, a law professor at Florida International University, then iled a lawsuit against the Broward County elections head under Florida’s public records law this June after he grew weary of waiting for her to respond to his request to inspect the ballots in his August 2016 primary. The lawsuit revealed that Snipes ordered the destruction of all the ballots in October, several months after he made his initial request. According to election law, Snipes was required under federal law to maintain the ballots for 22 months, and voting experts quoted in a POLITICO Florida published on Friday maintain that there’s no question that Snipes’ office has broken the law.

“The ballot destruction raises serious questions: Why engage in this blatant lawbreaking? To cover up something worse? What has the Supervisor of Elections been hiding?” Canova asked in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “We demand state and federal investigations into the ballot destruction and prosecution of illegal wrongdoing.”

Canova also is calling for Gov. Rick Scott to replace Snipes and her directors and top staff, noting that there is precedence to do so in that same office.  In 2003, then Gov. Jeb Bush replaced Miriam Oliphant, who had been accused of mishandling the 2002 gubernatorial primary, with Snipes.

Florida Politics contacted Snipes’ office on Friday afternoon for comment.  An official took down a reporter’s contact information,  but never replied back.

An attorney for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections’ office told POLITICO that they did not break the law because they made electronic copies of the ballots. Canova disagrees.

“Destruction of ballots prevents any reliable audit of the election results. We are left dependent on scanned ballot images created and sorted by scanning software that requires inspection by software experts,” the progressive Democrat says, adding that scanning software is considered proprietary software, owned and and controlled by the private vendors, and often protected from independent inspection and analysis.

After he lost his congressional challenge to Wasserman Schultz last summer, Canova chose not to contest the results. But Friesdat, the independent journalist, was curious about the contest and made two public-records requests in November of 2016, and then submitted a third request this past March. Canova joined the requests and filed his lawsuit in June.

Snipes’s order to destroy the requested documents was dated Sept. 1, 2017. It authorized the destruction of 106 boxes containing vote-by-mail certificates and 505 boxes of in-person cast ballots and 40 boxes of early-voting ballots, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Canova says the only way to deal with the issue now is for Congress to investigate and hold public hearings on what happened during the primary election. And he thinks the Congress should investigate therelationships between the vendors that control the electronic voting machines and software, their officers and directors, the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Democratic party officials,
and candidates for public office.

Late Friday afternoon, Canova sent out a fundraising email to supporters, requesting funding that could help in a lawsuit against Snipes’ office.

Joe Negron named ‘Champion of the Everglades’

Environmental group Audubon Florida presented Senate President Joe Negron with an award Tuesday recognizing his “steadfast leadership” in Everglades restoration.

Negron earned the “Champion of the Everglades” award for a bill he ushered through the legislature earlier this past session that mandated the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and prevent a repeat of the historic and harmful algal blooms that wreaked havoc on Florida waters in 2016.

Audubon Florida’s deputy director, Julie Hill-Gabriel, described the legislation as “an incredible victory” for the Everglades.

“President Negron helped secure a much-needed restoration project for America’s Everglades. His tireless efforts responded to an ecological crisis by garnering support for one of the most important wins for Florida’s environment in a decade,” she said. “We applaud President Negron for his commitment to protecting Florida’s environment for generations to come. It is with great excitement we name President Negron as a Champion of the Everglades.”

Audubon Florida said the award is reserved for “individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to protect Florida’s water and wildlife in the River of Grass.” Past winners of the award include Nathaniel Reed and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Audubon Florida has been a strong partner in the ongoing effort to reduce and one day eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy,” Negron said. “I am honored to receive this award and look forward to working with Audubon in the future as we continue to closely monitor the implementation of Senate Bill 10 and other legislative efforts to restore and protect Florida’s environment and natural resources.”

Gwen Graham goes nuclear over recovery fees, fracking fees

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham wants to put a stop to Florida utility ratepayers paying for nuclear power  plants that were never built or which never worked, or for paying for fracking exploration in Florida.

The former congresswoman from Tallahassee went nuclear Tuesday denouncing the 2006 law that allowed Florida investor-owned utility companies to charge advance fees for nuclear power plants that were never built, something that the Florida Public Service Commission has allowed, to the tune of more than $3 million in fees, she said. She charged that the commission is out of control.

Her statement Tuesday in some ways echoes that made last month by her rival for the Democratic primary nomination, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who welcomed her on board the position Tuesday, yet also said “it feels like an election year conversion” for Graham.

Graham faces Democrats Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the 2018 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

On Oct. 17, Gillum declared in a statement, “Instead of forcing everyday Floridians to continue ponying up money for Florida Power & Light, the PSC should instead force FPL to pay for their Turkey Point nuclear energy license. Working people in this state face enough financial hardships as it is — they should not have to fork over more money to an enormous corporation who controls most of the state’s major energy decisions. Corporations have run roughshod over this state for too long, and when I’m Governor it will finally end.”

On Tuesday, Graham also called for an end.

“Floridians should not be forced to pay for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” Graham stated in a news release. “For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to the Public Service Commission and utility companies as they’ve taxed seniors, small business owners and families. That ends when I’m elected governor.”

She also criticized both Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Rick Scott for what she said was stacking the commission with what she called “unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners.” She then went after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, for having voted for an unbuilt nuclear power plant while he was in Congress, and then go after likely Republican gubernatorial candidate House Speaker Richard Corcoran for appointing to the PSC nominating commission.

In 2015, the commission accepted a utilities’ request to allow the charges to Floridians as much as $500 million a year for natural gas fracking projects. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the commission exceeded its authority by approving it.

Now proposed legislation that would grant the commission new authority to charge what Graham called “the fracking tax.”

She pledged that as governor she would fight that and push for a statutory ban on any fracking tax.

“Rick Scott has appointed unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners. Adam Putnam voted to approve the construction of a $24-billion nuclear expansion that is unlikely to ever be built. As Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran makes half of the appointments to the PSC Nominating Council — which has refused to consider consumer advocates for the PSC,” Graham said. “Their records make it clear that Corcoran and Putnam would continue to allow the Public Service Commission and utilities to charge Floridians with outrageous and unfair taxes.”

Corcoran’s office responded by saying he has six appointments to that commission, and they included Democratic House Leader Janet Cruz and consumer Ann Marie Ryan.

The watchdog group Integrity Florida recently labeled the PSC a “Captured Regulatory Agency,” asserting it has been captured under the influence of the very utilities it is responsible for regulating.

“The Public Service Commission is out of control. As governor, I will appoint consumer advocates who will vote in Floridians best interests — not the special interests,” Graham said. “I will fight to repeal the advanced nuclear recovery taxes and to ban utilities from ever charging customers a speculative fracking tax.”

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