Orlando Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Biden plans trio of Florida rallies next week

Former Vice President Joe Biden will make three stops in the Sunshine State early next week to rally for Democrats up and down the ballot.

At noon Monday, the Delaware Democrat will be in Tampa holding a get-out-the-vote rally alongside U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Attorney General hopeful Sean Shaw and nearby Congressman Charlie Crist. That’s at the University of South Florida’s East Gym, 12301 USF Maple Drive, Tampa. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

At 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Biden, Gillum and Nelson will headline a similar rally in Jacksonville, this time joined by local congressional candidate Nancy Soderberg. That’s at the University of North Florida Field House, 11852 University of North Florida Drive, Jacksonville. Doors open at 3:45 p.m.

Capping off the two-day circuit is a 3:45 p.m. rally on Tuesday in Orlando. Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, will not be present, although Biden will be joined by Nelson and Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. That’s at the Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W Church St, Orlando.

A news release announcing the appearances notes that Biden will make stops at college campuses “to encourage young people to vote early, and promote Democrats up-and-down the ballot.” It also highlights that early voting begins in Hillsborough, Duval and Pinellas counties on Monday.

“This election is a battle for the soul of America, and Florida has the chance to decide the future of this country. I am honored to stand with Senator Bill Nelson and Mayor Andrew Gillum as they work to restore our nation’s democracy,” said Vice President Biden. “The stakes couldn’t be higher in 2018. We need Floridian’s voices to be heard at the polls this fall, and that starts with early voting.”

Biden earlier this week endorsed Shaw, the Democratic Attorney General candidate. He has also offered support for candidates running in special elections during the past two years, even going as far as recording robocalls to go out ahead of February’s House District 72 race, which saw Democrat Margaret Good secure an upset victory.

It’s no secret that Biden, who served two terms under former President Barack Obama, is mulling his own presidential bid in 2020. And there’s an emerging trend of other presidential potentials making headlines in Florida this cycle. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his rounds through South Florida earlier this month. Another national Democratic figure, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, endorsed Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried earlier this week.

Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida backs Joe Lopez for Orange sheriff

The Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida has endorsed retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez for Orange County Sheriff, his campaign announced.

The endorsement was offered Lopez for his support of the Hispanic community, his campaign stated in a news release.

Although Lopez is registered as a Democrat, he is running as an independent and is not the Democrat on the Nov. 6 ballot for sheriff. That would be businessman Darryl Sheppard. They also face Orlando Police Chief John Mina, the front-runner, who also is a registered Democrat running as an independent candidate. Both Lopez and Mina changed their party status in late 2017, too late to qualify for the 2018 election as Democrats.

“Throughout the campaign, what I’m hearing is the voters want change,” Lopez stated in the release. “They want a sheriff who will build bridges and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community. To the voters of Orange County – I hear you loud and clear.”

This is the second recent endorsement Lopez has announced from a Hispanic group, following the Hispanic Civil Alliance of Central Florida, which announced its support last week.

Ron DeSantis finance ‘All-Stars’ to converge in Orlando

Ron DeSantis‘ campaign has the weekend planned out for financial supporters of the former congressman’s bid for the Governor’s Mansion.

Before the who’s who of the Republican Party of Florida meet in Orlando for a hype dinner on Saturday night, the Republican nominee’s finance team will be welcoming guests this afternoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the “7th Inning Stretch” All-Stars Finance Retreat this weekend.

From 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, the financiers will enjoy cocktails at the resort’s Napa Room. Afterward, during dinner at the California Grill, they’ll hear about DeSantis’ campaign strategies, including polling and messaging.

Tee times begin at 6:54 a.m. on Saturday. DeSantis backers can put their golf skills to the test at Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, which has hosted the PGA Tour. All golfers will have the opportunity to play against DeSantis.

Alternatively, All-Stars can attend Disney World with a VIP pass, allowing them to skip lines.

The crescendo of the weekend: The Republican Victory Dinner at the Grand Floridian Resort, when VIPs can grab a photo with DeSantis before wining and dining into the home stretch of the election. The evening reception is considered the largest fundraising event for the party.

Earlier this month, RPOF claimed to have raised more than $7.5 million since the Aug. 28 primary.

DeSantis has raised through his campaign account more than $1 million since the primary, leaving him with nearly $2.4 million on hand, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Friends of Ron DeSantis, the nominee’s PAC, has raised almost $3.9 million since the same date.

On the right track? Brightline could create Tampa/Orlando super region

Commuter passes will be available for high-speed rail travel between Tampa and Orlando if the route comes to fruition.

Brightline Vice President of Government Affairs Bob O’Malley said the private company would consider monthly packages similar to what it offers in South Florida, which cost $300 a month for unlimited rides.

Such a transit amenity could create a super-region by allowing businesses to easily connect between two cities once seen as inconvenient to access. Driving takes from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on traffic. A Brightline ride would take one hour, guaranteed, he said.

O’Malley, however, said the price for Orlando to Tampa passes hasn’t yet been determined.

“It sounds expensive,” O’Malley said during a presentation at Café Con Tampa Friday. “Unless you’re from the Northeast. Then it sounds cheap.”

Commuter passes are often a value for people who regularly commute between cities in which it’s too far to drive, but too close to fly. They can save on parking, gas, and wear and tear on their vehicles, and avoid the hassle of traffic and free up time to get work done or to relax.

Brightline is in a bidding process with the Florida Department of Transportation to lease the publicly owned right-of-way in the Interstate 4 corridor. The space in the median had been designated for public high-speed rail, but Gov. Rick Scott canceled that project in 2010, saying it would require too great a public subsidy.

Now Brightline is taking the financial risk. The company sold $600 million in private bonds, not backed by any government entity, in order to build its Miami to West Palm Beach route.

Brightline plans to sell another $1.75 billion in private bonds to fund the connection from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

The connection to Tampa is not set in stone, though O’Malley said the company was committed to making it happen. The project is contingent on striking a lease deal with the state. Political will, or rather the lack thereof, also could get in the way.

“We build roads without even thinking about it. But if it’s rail, it’s like a lightning rod for controversy,” O’Malley said.

The company hopes a change of leadership in Tallahassee won’t create any additional barriers, but he acknowledged it is a possibility. He said executives with Brightline have spoken with both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, and they’re “fairly confident” both will support the Tampa to Orlando project.

Orlando’s connection with West Palm Beach already is secured.

The company identified five possible sites for a station in Tampa. All are either in downtown, Ybor City or in between.

One of the possibilities is Ybor City’s historic Union Station. O’Malley said that site would require some additions and retrofits to meet the company’s needs, but would maintain the building’s historical significance.

“When we choose our site in the Tampa area it’s going to be very important to us to be sensitive to the surrounding communities,” O’Malley said. “You have to make sure [the station] fits well or the community is not going to be supportive of it.”

The company doesn’t have any plans to offer a direct connection to South Florida without going first through Orlando. Under the company’s current plan, the Brightline Orlando station would be at Orlando International Airport. The company is already renting space there.

O’Malley said the company is considering another stop somewhere in the Orlando area, but he wouldn’t say where.

If the Tampa connection becomes a reality, O’Malley said the company may someday add a stop in Lakeland, but it would likely be a secondary stop that didn’t have the same level of frequency as Tampa and Orlando. Trains would run 16 times a day between the two main stations.

The company recently announced plans to install a route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. O’Malley said other connections are being considered between Atlanta and Charlotte and some routes into Washington, D.C.

Rick Scott takes Puerto Rico praise, defends red tide efforts

If Puerto Rico didn’t get what it neaded after Hurricane Maria, that’s a learning experience for everyone and doesn’t reflect on all that Florida Gov. Rick Scott did, and if Florida is experiencing its worst red tides in decades, that doesn’t reflect all that Scott did either.

At a U.S. Senate campaign rally in the Puerto Rico sector of Orlando Tuesday, Scott defended his administration’s record for addressing the water management issues that lead to the Lake Okeechobee discharges, and his administration’s increased investments in efforts to study address  the  algae blooms. But he also  blamed nature for the red tides and said for now only easterly winds could fix them.

Scott also took praise for his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico from the commonwealth’s Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín  and other supportive Puerto Ricans in Orlando, who said he helped make life easer for Puerto Ricans on the island and for those who evacuated to Florida.

“It was thanks to the leadership of Rick Scott, a friend, a friend of Puerto Rico,” Rivera Marín said.

And during a brief press availability Scott highlighted Florida’s efforts to help its neighbor, and allowed that if the hurricane response was not all it could be, it was a learning experience.  He declined to say much more in response to a question about the federal response to Puerto Rico’s difficult recovery. He also did not elaborate on the statements he made last week disagreeing with President Donald Trump. who had suggested all went well, and that death counts were exaggerated by his political opponents.

“What you do is you learn,” Scott said of the response to Hurricane Maria, which hit a year ago Thursday.

“I think all of us can do a better job of, one, getting services faster to Puerto Rico. We know it’s more difficult because it’s an island. We could pre-position things better,” Scott said. “Clearly the island has been struggling with a utility system that was already struggling…. But we have got to get services there faster. Hopefully, everybody has learned how to do that.

“As a U.S. Senator, I’ll do everything I can to help build their economy,” Scott added.

There was no mention during the brief rally of the red tides that plague Florida and led to Scott facing large protests in his home terrotory of southwest Florida earlier, except from a media question. And on that, too, Scott suggested his administration was doing all that could be expected and more, touting increases over time in environmental spending. He also took shots at his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom he said was doing nothing in Washington.

But ultimately Scott blamed nature, and said that the only thing that could help now is easterly winds.

“It’s horrible. The red tide is horrible,” Scott said. “I think all of us hope the red tide would be gone. It’s naturally occuring. It’s part of the gulf. It’s been around. We’ve had records of it since the 1840s. We’ve done a lot. But it’s not gone, right?

“We need really good easterly winds right now,” he added.

As for the protesters who reportedly all but overwhelmed his stops in southwest Florida, Scott offered that they were exercizing their rights.

After the rally, at the Rigo Tile Gallery Orlando, there were just a dozen or so protesters of the state’s response to the red tides and algae blooms. The protesters actually may have caused less of a scene than a few heated exchanges that took place prior to the rally in the overwhelmed parking lot, as the campaign’s advance people tried to control the flow, with traffic gridlocking in the lot and backing up onto the busy Goldenrod Road.

Republican ‘Victory Dinner’ to take place in Orlando

The semi-annual largest fundraising event for Florida Republicans will happen in Orlando this year.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, Republicans from across the state will come together at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the 2018 Victory Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida announced Monday.

“Donors and influential grassroots operatives” are expected to attend, according to the party.

It’s considered the Florida GOP’s largest fundraising event. In 2016, during the last Victory Dinner, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the audience. Then a candidate, Pence likely had sought to rally donors in the swing state. That event was held in Tampa.

RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement he is excited and ready to ride a “red wave” to victory.

“We look forward to our stellar candidates and their vision for a more prosperous Sunshine State rallying the heart and soul of our party,” Ingoglia said. “And we look forward to energizing our grassroots for the final stretch before heading to the polls to retain the Governor’s Mansion and add a seat in the U.S. Senate.”

In another memo released Monday, the party claims to have raised $7,671,060 since the Aug. 28 primary.

Central Florida house district election debates: four on, three off

Updated with news of a House District 50 debate.

A Central Florida organization teaming with WFTV Channel 9 to produce elections debates for Orlando-area Florida House districts has firmed up four and has three others falling through because of lack of commitments from Republican candidates, an organizer said Friday.

Gregory Eisenberg, chief executive officer of The Commission on Local Debates, said Friday his group and Channel 9 had secured commitments allowing them to produce debates for House District 30, between Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes and his Democratic challenger Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil; for House District 44 between Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski and his Democratic challenger former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson; for House District 48 between Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado and her Republican challenger George Chandler. and for House District 50 between Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia and his Democratic challenger Pam Dirschka.

The debates will be filmed in the TV station’s studios and made available to other media. Dates and times are yet to be announced.

Efforts to organize debates for three other races, in House Districts 31, 47, and 49, have fallen through, Eisenberg said.

In HD 31, the Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan said yes, while Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan said no, he said.

In HD 47, Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani said yes, while Republican nominee Stockton Reeves did not respond to requests, he said.

In HD 49, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said yes, while Republican challenger Ben Griffin said no, he said.

“It is very disappointing for me personally as a former candidate,” said Eisenberg, who ran unsuccessfully for the Orange County Commission in 2016. “I’m of the opinion that if you are going to run for office, you should be willing to air your viewpoints.”

Andrew Gillum at Orlando rally: Cowardly Donald Trump ‘won’t @ me, y’all’; RNC responds

Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for governor, told an Orlando crowd Saturday that President Donald Trump fearfully avoids him on social media.

“The president is real savvy on his Twitter feed. He tends to talk about me in Montana and other places,” Gillum said. “But he’s unfortunately a little cowardly. He won’t @ me, y’all.”

Indeed, the only time Trump has mentioned Gillum via Twitter came when he congratulated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis for winning Florida’s GOP primary. Then, Trump called Gillum a “Socialist Mayor” who let crime flourish in Tallahassee. But he failed to use Gillum’s Twitter handle, @AndrewGillum, which would have sent a notification to the Democratic candidate.

Regardless, Gillum did see the tweet, and he (or campaign team members managing his Twitter account) offered a response 13 minutes after Trump’s original post that did employ the president’s favored handle.

Republican National Committee officials, for their part, say Trump had Gillum pegged, and said an FBI investigation of the Tallahassee mayor would bear that out.

“President Trump was correct when he called Gillum a ‘failed socialist mayor,’” said Taryn Fenske, RNC spokesperson.

Fenske alleged the FBI investigation would determine Gillum used his office for personal gain in accepting gifts from undercover agents and awarding lucrative contracts to his campaign treasurer. The Gillum campaign maintains the candidate is not the subject of the investigation but his critics have hammered him on an incomplete release of receipts.

“Gilllum has no idea how to run the city of Tallahassee, let alone the entire state of Florida,” Fenske said.

Trump came up Saturday at a Gillum’s official campaign kickoff, which drew about 1,200 people the Orlando Downtown Recreation Center to hear he and running mate Chris King, as well as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, rally supporters around the Democratic ticket’s message of restoring dignity to Florida’s working class.

In Gillum’s speech, he spoke more often about Trump and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, than he did of DeSantis.

But he did mention his Republic opponent in an effort to tie him more directly to the president.

“Ron DeSantis wants to call names. He wants to divide,” Gillum said. “He wants to return to the politics of Donald Trump. But on Nov. 6, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, they have another thing coming.”

While Gillum won the nomination largely through winning strong Florida’s major cities, he told supporters in Orlando he planned to campaign everywhere in the state leading up to the general election.

He referenced a primary visit to The Villages, a Republican bastion, where he said around 500 people showed up. “Almost none of them with a face that looked like mine, but that’s okay,” said Gillum, the first black Democratic nominee for governor.

The event, he said, turned into a small-donation fundraiser and his campaign pulled in about $6,000.

In terms of succeeding Scott in the governor’s mansion, DeSantis said he would accept money to expand Medicaid and any federal grants for high-speed rail, money he said Florida turned down because of a dislike of ObamaCare and the Obama stimulus.

He also promised to trust scientists on climate change and global warming.

But in an apparent pushback on that ‘socialist’ label from Trump and others, he also stressed the importance of business owners getting access to capital and promised to make Florida a leader in innovation in the nation.

See Gillum’s full speech here:

Republicans: This election is stark choice of capitalism versus radicalism

Led by blistering attacks from Gov. Rick Scott, Republican candidates kicked off their unity rally in Orlando Thursday morning declaring that this year’s election offers stark choices that boil down to capitalism versus socialism.

Scott, the nominee for U.S. Senate; gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis; the rest of Florida’s cabinet; and the rest of the Republican Party’s nominees for the cabinet took turns Friday attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and other Democrats as radical, bent on destroying Florida’s economy and the state.

“When I was in the private sector I recalled many times that it seemed like the two political parties didn’t have very different choices. That’s not the case here in Florida today,” Scott said. “This election offers voters the starkest choice possible for the direction and the future of our state and the country. The Democratic ticket of Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum offering a very clear, a very liberal, a very radical and a very risky direction.”

“I am the capitalist candidate for Governor for the state of Florida,” DeSantis later declared.

The event oozed unity after primary battles that left some Republicans broken and broken-hearted. On Thursday, Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Pam Bondi all called for Republican voters to support GOP candidates.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and DeSantis shared a warm handshake and a call to “rally behind our values as Republicans.”

There were, however, a couple of key Republican leaders conspicuous by their absences. The first was Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who continued his refusal to share a dais with Scott.

The other was President Donald Trump, who, in an hour of speeches, was mentioned only once, only in passing, and not by DeSantis, his pick in Florida, nor by Scott, who seeks to join him in Washington and had previously boasted of having a close relationship with him.

Scott and others planned to join Vice President Mike Pence at private events later on Thursday, but Pence was not scheduled to join the Florida Republican unity rally.

The theme was to build on the records of Scott, Bondi, Putnam, and Caldwell, pushing for lower taxes, deregulation, and tougher law enforcement, which was largely defined as enforcement of immigration laws. Much was made of Florida’s economy, job growth, lower taxes, and lower unemployment. Scott also defended his records on education and the environment, which have been sharply targeted by Democrats.

“I think the appropriate course of action is to see what has worked here, build off of that, and enjoy even more success,” DeSantis said. “My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.

“If you want to bring more investment to Florida, you probably don’t want to campaign on the biggest tax increase in Florida’s history,” DeSantis said.

From there, DeSantis and Scott charged Gillum with socialist ideas, particularly involving health care, and warnings that would strip private health care plans away from Floridians, bankrupt the state, and send Florida tax money to states like California and New York.

DeSantis also accused Gillum of “radicalism” in calling for the abolishment and replacement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and in his statements regarding Israel. DeSantis called him anti-Israel for opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something DeSantis helped champion in Congress.

“I think he believes Jerusalem should be divided,” DeSantis charged. “He criticizes Israel, he said they were committing murder when they were defending themselves against Hamas terrorists who were overrunning the border on the Gaza Strip. That is not representative of Florida values. I’ve always stood by Israel. I will be the most pro-Israel governor in the country.”

Scott, too, attacked Gillum and explicitly charged him with preaching socialism. His attacks on his own opponent, Nelson, was more often by association with Gillum and the Democrats, though he did take a very personal shot at the incumbent U.S. Senator.

“If you grew up wealthy like Bill Nelson, it’s all theory, it’s just about numbers,” Scott said of people struggling to make ends meet. “I grew up poor.”

Jeanette Nuñez’s anti-Trump comments are ‘non-issue,’ Ron DeSantis says

A running mate whose anti-Donald Trump comments surfaced after she was chosen by President Trump’s strong choice for Governor of Florida?

“That’s a non-issue,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said of state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez Thursday.

DeSantis, who rode Trump’s endorsement from 10 points down in most polls to an easy Republican gubernatorial primary victory over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, introduced Nuñez of Miami to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket. And then he dismissed any notion that she at least once was a fervent member of the #NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party.

In at least one 2016 tweet, Nuñez called Trump a con man and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

Water over the bridge of past elections, and that’s what you say in primaries when you like the other guy, Nuñez and DeSantis said on Thursday.

“We’re talking about moving Florida forward. Elections are elections. It is what it is. It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done and I’m looking forward to this election,” she said, referring to Florida’s junior U.S. Senator.

“To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son, a Cuban-American, a historic run, to me, if I was in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well. So that’s a non-issue,” DeSantis said.

Of course, DeSantis had cut no slack for Putnam after he also had said negative things about Trump during the 2016 election cycle. Putnam also supported a favorite-son candidate from Florida in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, former Gov. Jeb Bush. Putnam tried hard to walk it back during the primary campaign, while DeSantis ripped him repeatedly for his anti-Trump remarks in 2016.

That’s different, DeSantis insisted Thursday.

“He was running saying, like, he was basically Trump’s guy. And I just thought it was more insincere,” he said. “Jeanette is standing by what she said. She’s just saying it’s a different contest.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons