September 19, 2018

Parkland dad rips Gillum for taking support from Broward sheriff Israel


Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Meadow Pollack, is ripping gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum for accepting financial support from Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.

Following a Sun-Sentinel report that Israel is among a group of Broward politicians fundraising for the Democratic nominee Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Pollack on Wednesday issued a statement through the Republican Party of Florida in which he partially blamed Israel's "leadership" for his daughter's death. Israel has been the subject of public and political scorn amid scrutiny of the law enforcement response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland high school, during which communications broke down and a BSO deputy waited outside the building where the attack occurred instead of entering and trying to stop the shooter.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that Andrew Gillum would campaign with Sheriff Israel," Pollack said in a statement. "Gillum is siding with Sheriff Israel above the interests of our students and citizens, making our schools and communities less safe. We need to elect [Republican nominee] Ron DeSantis so people like Sheriff Israel can be held accountable and removed from office.”

Pollack, a Republican who supports DeSantis and the U.S. Senate bid of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, has been among the more outspoken Parkland parents on the right. We've reached out to the Gillum campaign, and will update this blog if they respond.

Florida Senate candidate touts honors from Trayvon Martin Foundation -- but misspells name



Mariana "Marili" Cancio has long been a supporter of local anti-violence groups, financially funding hotel rooms and T-shirts while successfully advocating for a witness protection law last year.

The Republican candidate for the Florida Senate District 40 race touted that work on a recent mailer. On one side, she posed with Tangela Sears, the founder of Miami Dade Parents of Murdered Kids, a support group Sears began after her own son was killed in 2015.

On the other side, the mailer said Cancio's efforts were recognized by Sears' organization and the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

But the foundation's namesake, who was from Miami and became the face of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when his murder was publicized in 2012, was misspelled on the mailer. Trayvon was spelled with an "e."

"That's definitely not the spelling," said Kat Tynes, spokeswoman for the Trayvon Martin Foundation based out of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. "it just takes a few seconds to do some research just to make sure the research is accurate."

When first asked about the typo by the Miami Herald, Cancio said, "There's been a lot of mailers."

Cancio sent the Miami Herald a photo of a plaque from the Miami Dade Parents of Murdered Kids and the Trayvon Martin Foundation, dated May 2016, recognizing Cancio for her "support, commitment and dedication on our journey to justice."

"I'm proud of the work I've done for this community." she said.

Tynes said Cancio was recognized at a joint event hosted by Sears and her organization, but that the Trayvon Martin Foundation has not "directly" honored Cancio.

But Sears says Cancio should not use her organization or the Trayvon Martin Foundation on the campaign trail and has asked Cancio's campaign to cease mentioning those groups.

"It's misspelled and it shouldn't have been there," Sears said, adding, "I don't mix our dead kids work up with politics. I support her and I'm willing to advise her without parading groups of dead kids."

Cancio gave no further comment.

Cancio is running against Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo, who won the Southwest Miami-Dade seat in the 2017 special election.

Curbelo campaign says Mucarsel-Powell should return Hispanic Caucus money



Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's congressional campaign is calling on Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to return a $5,000 contribution from a political action committee headed by a lawmaker who is accused of molesting a teenager a decade ago. 

Curbelo's campaign said Mucarsel-Powell should return the contribution from BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm, because the PAC is led by California Rep. Tony Cardenas. Cardenas is being sued in California for allegedly drugging and fondling a teenage girl in 2007. He denies the charges and has set up a legal defense fund. The all-Democratic Hispanic Caucus is supporting him and allowing him to continue running the PAC, though House minority leader Nancy Pelosi did order the House Ethics Commission to investigate. 

"Mucarsel-Powell tries to claim she stands with victims of sexual violence, but when Pelosi and the Democratic establishment told her to ignore serious allegations of sexual assault and take Tony Cardenas’s money anyway, that’s exactly what she did. Her continued silence is an insult to all who have been victims of sexual assault," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "Debbie Mucarsel-Powell owes it to victims to return the donation and be transparent about her continuous embrace of political support from Cardenas’ PAC." 

The demand to return money comes months after Curbelo donated contributions from disgraced former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Pat Meehan. Meehan used taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case and referred to the an aide who accused him of harassment as his "soul mate." Curbelo criticized Mucarsel-Powell for taking the PAC money in an interview with Politico Florida on Tuesday. 

Curbelo tried to join the Hispanic Caucus last year but was rebuffed from the group that is currently made up of all Democrats. 

Mucarsel-Powell's campaign referred to an earlier statement when asked about the demand to return the money.

"As a woman and a mother raising her two daughters these accusations are obviously concerning for Debbie and she’s waiting to learn more of the facts as the case develops," Mucarsel-Powell spokesperson Mike Hernandez said in a statement. "Frankly, it’s pathetic that Congressman Curbelo would use this as a political issue as he continues to welcome President Trump, who openly bragged about forcefully groping women and has been accused of sexual assault by no less than 11 women, to campaign with him."

Poll: Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis, Scott and Nelson neck-and-neck


A new poll released Wednesday shows Andrew Gillum ahead of Ron DeSantis by seven percentage points in the race for governor, while the U.S. Senate race is still in a dead heat.

The poll was conducted by Thompson Reuters, Ipsos and the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and it surveyed 2,000 adult Floridians online, with a 2.5 percent "credibility interval."

According to the poll, 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Gillum, the Democratic nominee, while 35 percent chose DeSantis, the Republican.

Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson received 38 and 36 percent, respectively, showing a possible edge for Scott but still a very tight race.

Notably, respondents also tended to disapprove more often than approve of the job by President Trump, with 42 percent saying they either "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of his performance, while 48 percent said they either "strongly disapprove" or "somewhat disapprove."

The top issues on respondents' minds when it came to their votes were, in order: immigration, the economy, healthcare and Social Security.

Miami’s pro-Trump ‘master of selfies’ could upend a competitive congressional race

Image1 (1)


At a recent Ron DeSantis campaign event at Miami’s Versailles restaurant, a congressional candidate was on hand waving a “Make America Great Again” hat, shouting at conservative Republicans who had come to get a glimpse of the GOP gubernatorial nominee to vote for her.

But the MAGA-clad candidate for congressional District 27 wasn’t the Republican nominee, Maria Elvira Salazar. It was no-party candidate Mayra Joli.

Joli, Miami’s self-described master of selfies, has been campaigning for nearly a year for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat. She bypassed the GOP primary for a shot in the general election against Salazar and Democrat Donna Shalala, and doesn’t have much money in her campaign account. Independent campaigns for congressional seats are usually long-shot propositions.

But Joli’s outspoken pro-Trump message on Spanish-language radio and at other candidates’ campaign events could undercut the effort by Republicans to keep Ros-Lehtinen’s seat. The race is already a difficult one for the GOP — Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the district by more than 19 percentage points in 2016. Republicans are relying on a coalition of conservatives and moderate voters who supported Ros-Lehtinen to stay in their camp come November, and they’re hopeful that Salazar is the right candidate to make the race competitive.

“Basically, the Republicans, the Diaz-Balarts and the Ros-Lehtinens, they are more anti-Trump than even some Democrats and many in the Cuban-American community think they have sold their souls to Washington,” Joli said. “I’m running as an NPA [No Party Affliation] because I understand the only way to help the president is to be with him for America First.”

Nelson Diaz, the head of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, blasted Joli’s candidacy as disingenuous, noting that she donated $500 to Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid and that Republicans who vote for her are essentially giving their vote to Shalala.

“If somebody was looking to derail the GOP nominee in this election you would do exactly what she’s doing; Say you’re a Trump supporter, wiggle your away to the front of the room,” Diaz said. “If she cares so much about this president, why would she do something that’s going to damage or hurt the president?”

Diaz said he thinks Joli’s campaign is a “scam,” though he acknowledged he has no evidence that she’s in the race as a ringer candidate to deliberately sabotage the chances of the GOP nominee.

“I think Maria Elvira will win by a good margin because the Dems have nominated someone who is such a bad candidate for this seat, but she [Joli] could make a difference,” Diaz said. “Of course, we are going to combat it. I’ve been on the radio this week telling people that this woman’s a fraud.”

Read more here.

September 18, 2018

New York Times "live poll" shows Mucarsel-Powell closing in on Curbelo

IMG_debbie_murcarsel-pow_4_1_3M9KMIAC_L265070303 (2)


A new poll suggests Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has a race on his hands. 

The New York Times conducted a "live poll" in Curbelo's district, where readers could see in real-time how many calls were being made and where voters were responding to the poll within the district. After four days of thousands of calls, Curbelo emerged with a three percentage point lead over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a result that is within the poll's five-point margin of error. 

The poll, conducted via phone from September 13 to 17, called 509 voters in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district which he has represented since 2015. Curbelo finished with 47 percent support and Mucarsel-Powell picked up 44 percent of support with nine percent of voters being undecided. 

The poll comes a month after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released polling that showed Mucarsel-Powell trailing Curbelo by a larger margin than a poll conducted months earlier, suggesting that the Democrat who ran for state Senate had work to do to make the race more competitive. 

"This race has tightened considerably. The more voters get to know Debbie, the more the wind is at her back," said Melvin Felix, a spokesperson for the Mucarsel-Powell campaign. “Curbelo voted with his party in Congress to take healthcare away from more than 100,000 people in this district. The more that voters get to know Debbie, the stronger she’ll be in November.”

Curbelo maintains a fundraising advantage over Mucarsel-Powell and outside groups are expected to invest heavily in the race. Most of the election prognosticators rate the race as a toss up or slightly in favor of Curbelo after Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 14 percentage points in the district. 

Rubio says Kavanaugh accuser should be heard, respected

Marco Rubio


If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turn out to be true, Marco Rubio says it would disqualify President Donald Trump's pick for the lifetime seat. 

But Rubio also wants to hear what Ford and Kavanaugh have to say in an official hearing, which could happen on Monday, before determining what should happen next. 

"The secondary matter is he’s categorically, strongly denied it," Rubio said of Kavanaugh. "So at this point if in fact any of it is proven true he’s also lying to the committee about it. But he has strongly denied and he has a right and should be given the opportunity to be heard." 

Rubio said the allegations are "very serious" and need to be "fully listened to." The Florida Republican is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee so he is not directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. If the nomination passes the committee chamber the full Senate can vote on it. 

"The allegations are very serious and substantial and need to be fully listened to as well and hopefully that will happen on Monday," Rubio said. "My only wish is that this information had been available earlier, which I believe it could have been, in a setting that would not have violated the confidentially that the accuser has asked for. But hopefully Monday, there will be sufficient information to begin judgment on the matter." 

Rubio's comments come after Sen. Bill Nelson, who also is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, said "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting Kavanaugh in person. Nelson's opponent Rick Scott said there should be a "fair hearing" on the allegations. 

Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry's recent dealings with Iran

Marco Rubio 3


Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for the Justice Department to investigate former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with high-level Iranian officials after leaving his position when President Donald Trump took office. 

Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama's top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. 

In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate" and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. 

"John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump tweeted. "He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!" 

Rubio's letter, which was first reported by Fox News, asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate whether Kerry violated the Logan Act, a law that prohibits unauthorized individuals from negotiating with foreign governments. 

"Last week former Secretary Kerry publicly admitted that he has met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif 'probably three or four times' including in the United States, since leaving office," Rubio's letter said. "The Department of Justice should therefore make a determination on whether or not former Secretary of State John F. Kerry's recent actions related to the [Iran Deal] potentially violate the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act." 

Kerry, a former U.S. Senator, unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004 before serving as secretary of state.

Marco Rubio says he was ‘pissed’ when he saw #Saltbae filleting steak for Maduro

Colombia rubio(2) (1)


Marco Rubio was not happy while scrolling through Twitter on Monday night.

The Florida Republican came across video of celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, gyrating his hips while serving expensive steak to a cigar-wielding Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant in Turkey. Rubio initially tweeted his displeasure, referring to Maduro as “an overweight dictator” and Gökçe as a “weirdo.”

Then Rubio found out that Gökçe, who achieved viral fame for his intricate salting of meat, owns a restaurant in Miami. He tweeted out the address and phone number of Brickell’s Nusr-Et steakhouse, a move that drew some criticism online.

Gökçe “is not a guy who I disagree with on some domestic political issue,” Rubio told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “This is someone who is celebrating a criminal. Nicolás Maduro is systematically starving the people of Venezuela. This guy’s here celebrating him as some sort of hero. I don’t know. I got pissed. Is that a good answer?”

Rubio said he made the decision to post the publicly available information because Gökçe has a massive following on social media, with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and 15 million on Instagram, and voicing his displeasure draws more awareness to the ongoing situation in Venezuela, where a recent poll found that 30 percent of the country eats only one meal a day.

First he praised Castro. Now ‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with steak dinner

“All I gave is the phone number,” Rubio said. “They should call the restaurant and complain about what the owner of the restaurant did. This is an expensive restaurant, probably overpriced according to some of the reviews that I read, but I don’t care what people’s politics are domestically. I’ve never gone after anybody in business because they have a view of politics different than mine on a domestic matter. This is not a domestic political disagreement.”

A host of other Miami politicians also criticized Gökçe, with Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo calling the video “repulsive,” Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala saying “the dictator will give himself this kind of feast without any shame” while his people starve, and Miami mayor Francis Suarez calling it “disgusting.” A protest outside Salt Bae’s Brickell restaurant is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Read more here.

Café con politics podcast: DeSantis does Miami



On the latest episode of Café con Politics podcast, we go over GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis’ recent visits to South Florida, where he talked about his push to indict Raul Castro in the 1996 shoot-down of Brothers to the Rescue pilots and about his environmental platform.

Reporter Martin Vassolo covered both appearances, and joins us to talk about Desantis visit to the Everglades and his claim that his opponent, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, is a socialist.

Listen below:  

Rick Scott accused of flouting Florida's public records law

TALLAHASSEE — A state judge is being asked to levy fines of $1,000 a day on Gov. Rick Scott for not complying with a court order to turn over copies of his calendar and future travel plans.

The law office of Steven Andrews filed an emergency motion for contempt and sanctions Tuesday in circuit court in Tallahassee, after expiration of a 10-day period in which Scott was ordered by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to provide the records, including for Scott's U.S. Senate campaign, for a three-month period ending Oct. 31.

"Every public official must comply with Florida's public records laws or lawful and valid court orders — even Gov. Rick Scott," Andrews' firm argues. "Holding (the governor's office) in civil contempt provides the necessary and appropriate relief for (its) contemptuous conduct, which is contrary to the mandate and purpose of the Florida Constitution."

Scott has filed a notice of appeal with the First District Court of Appeal, and on Tuesday the court granted it, which has the effect of freezing the action in a lower court.

Andrews' firm represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a South Florida non-profit that had a contract to treat HIV/AIDS patients.

In a statement Tuesday, Scott's office accused the vendor of retaliating as a result of being denied a state contract after a competitive bid process.

"We will continue to fight to protect Florida taxpayers from these dirty tactics," Scott's office said, and claimed that the vendor offered to drop two public records lawsuits if it got a contract extension.

Attorney Ryan Andrews called the "dirty tactics" charge "unfortunate," and said: "(Scott's office) willfully chose to ignore a court order and now it must answer for that decision."


Scott's attorney, Barry Richard of Greenberg Traurig, argued in circuit court that the requested information is confidential, pursuant to an exemption in Florida's public records law for information that would reveal "surveillance techniques, procedures or personnel."

Judge Dodson rejected that argument, despite the sworn declaration from FDLE Assistant Special Agent in Charge Darrick Waller, who told the court: "Premature disclosure of prospective information regarding the governor's detailed schedule, including drive times, and the time and location of the governor's arrival and departure, would reveal FDLE's surveillance techniques, procedures and personnel and would compromise the safety and security of the governor."

Scott has exercised more secrecy over travel and appointments than other governors, including a standard practice of retroactively blacking out travel details.

READ MORE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott cloaks travel details, citing security 


Rick Scott says Kavanaugh accuser should testify before U.S. Senate

Scott and nelson


Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the Senate Judiciary Committee should allow the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago to testify, potentially lengthening or derailing the confirmation process for Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them. Kavanaugh denies the allegation and both Kavanaugh and Ford have said they will testify under oath if necessary. 

Scott accused Feinstein of sitting on the allegations to further delay the confirmation process. Feinstein says she didn't disclose the letter because Ford wanted to remain anonymous and Ford came forward only after multiple news outlets reported on the letter's existence.

"The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here," Scott said in a statement. "Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name." 

Scott is running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said in a statement yesterday that "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting with him. Scott also criticized Nelson for not meeting with Kavanaugh, though scheduling conflicts for both are the reason a meeting hasn't happened yet. 

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio are not members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so they have not been directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. 

First he praised Castro. Now ‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with steak dinner, Rubio disapproves

Marco Rubio 3

via @carlosfrias

First the chef known as Salt Bae riled Cuban Americans by dressing up in honor of the late dictator Fidel Castro.

Now Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, the man who became a meme by sprinkling salt over manhandled meat, has incensed the internet again, this time by hosting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as that country grapples with widespread food scarcity.

In three since-deleted Instagram video posts to his 15.7 million followers, Gökçe, who has a restaurant in Miami, performs his usual routine at his Nusr-Et restaurant in Istanbul. He slaps and flips sides of cooked meat for the visiting Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores — sprinkling it with the flourish that earned him tacit internet fame. The Miami Herald downloaded the video before it was deleted.

In it, Maduro smiles and laughs while smoking a cigar as Gökçe finishes the meat— “Look how he salts it!” someone says off camera. Gökçe later presents Maduro with a T-shirt of himself sprinkling salt, draping it over the leader like a bib.

As Maduro feasted, his country starves, according to several recent reports. Nearly a third of Venezuelans say they regularly eat only once a day and nearly 30 percent say they ate “nothing or close to nothing” at least one day a week, according to a poll by Meganalisis. The country also faces a mass exodus, as an estimated 2.3 million have fled to live abroad because of the current government instability, according to the United Nations.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban-American descent, tweeted the video with the telephone number to Gökçe’s Miami restaurant.

There was no such scarcity of food in Gökçe’s video Monday.

Gökçe slices blushing medium-rare lamb chops for Maduro with a flick of his knife. At his Miami restaurant by the same name, the signature Tomahawk steak — the item that will coax Gökçe over to finish tableside — costs $275. Both restaurants are part of Gökçe’s reported $1.5 billion restaurant empire that spans several continents.

“Nusr-Et is just another steakhouse (and a very expensive Instagram photo),” Miami Herald restaurant reviewer Jodi Mailander Farrell wrote in March. “It will take more than a viral flick of the wrist for it to survive in this town.”

In Istanbul, Maduro ended his meal with a hearty embrace of Gökçe.

Read more here

September 17, 2018

One debate set between Gillum and DeSantis in race for governor

The 2018 Florida governor's race is set. Two outsiders bucked their respective political establishments and will now face each over in November: Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) will face Republican Ron DeSantis (right). [COLIN HACKLEY / TAILYR IRVINE | Times]

The general election race is in full swing and there is finally one debate set between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, with likely more to come.

The two men have both accepted lists of debates across the state, but so far the only one that that overlaps is one in Davie hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

The Davie debate will take place on October 24, and will be will be broadcast live statewide according to Leadership Florida's website.

DeSantis announced his debate choices Monday in a tweet.

The other debates he's accepted, with CBS in Miami, Telemundo in Orlando and Fox News, have not yet been agreed to by Gillum, who accepted a different station's invitation in Miami (Univision 23). 

According to the DeSantis campaign, the CNN invitation DeSantis accepted is for a debate, which is different from the CNN "Town Hall" event in Tampa that Gillum has said he will do.

The debates between the two candidates promise to be electric, as the two have vastly differing ideologies and both displayed strong debate performances during the primary.

Florida took away his right to vote. But it took 30 years to find him.

Clifton Sanders Jr. was really looking forward to having his say in the 2018 election.

That is, until the state of Florida caught up with him and took away his right to vote,  nearly 30 years later.

Sanders, 69, is a retired minister living with a wife and young daughter in Orange Park, south of Jacksonville. He's a former pastor at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville.

IMG_1657 (1)
He received a letter in the mail in early May from the local elections office that would change his life. It said in part:


In Florida, convicted felons are permanently disenfranchised and can never vote again unless their civil rights are reinstated by the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of the governor and three elected Cabinet members.

Before those civil rights are revoked, state law requires that the felon be notified in writing and given an opportunity for a public hearing.

Sanders was indeed guilty of a felony, nearly 30 years ago.

He said he was working as a day laborer in Jacksonville and didn't know that a check he took as payment for labor was worthless. By his account, when he cashed that check he was charged with forgery -- a felony.

Duval County court records show that State Attorney Ed Austin charged Sanders with forgery on Oct. 17, 1989, for cashing the check.

The amount: $283.15.

Records show Sanders pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to one year of probation. Nearly a year later, he was charged with violating probation, according to court records.

The years rolled by. Sanders, a registered Democrat, became an ordained minister, got a pastorship, and became eligible for Medicare and Social Security. He got married and he and his wife Carisa had a daughter.

"Nobody appears to know why it happened, which is ridiculous. It doesn't make any sense," Sanders said. "It took them 30 years to get somebody who's black to not vote. Why did it take them so long?"

After being told he couldn't vote, Sanders asked for a hearing, which was held in August. Clay County said it had no choice but to take away his right to vote, which it did on August 15, nearly 30 years after the fact.

The letter states: "The determination has been made to remove your name from the Florida voter registration rolls because the documentation you provided did not disprove your felon status."

The letter Clifton Sanders Jr. received in August that took away his right to vote nearly 30 years later.
The letter Clifton Sanders Jr. received in August that took away his right to vote nearly 30 years later.

Since 2006, the primary responsibility for identifying potentially ineligible felons on the voter rolls has been the state's responsibility. But only a local supervisor of elections can remove a felon from the list of active voters, based on documentation only the state provides.

The state elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, said it has been aware of the Sanders case since 2010, but that Detzner's office could not positively identify Sanders as the same person who was guilty of forgery in 1989.

"The Department started reworking the potential felony match in August 2017 as part of an established practice to periodically review old potential matches that we were not previously able to validate due to insufficient documentation," said Detzner's spokeswoman, Sarah Revell. "Once we obtained the required documentation we were able to send a valid case to the supervisor of elections."

The facts of Sanders' forgery case are easily found on the Duval clerk of courts web site. There appears to be only one Clifton Sanders Jr. who was registered to vote in Florida who was born on Oct. 16, 1948.

Revell said a "valid case file" was sent to the Clay County elections office in May and Sanders was removed in August.

Because of Sanders' age, and that Florida has a mandatory five-year waiting period to apply for clemency and a backlog of more than 10,000 cases, it's not likely that Sanders will be able to vote again -- unless voters approve Amendment 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

READ MORE: A summer of building support for giving felons right to vote

Passage of the amendment would restore the right to vote to about 1.4 million felons, not including those convicted of murder or sex offenses, without formal hearings.

Florida's system of restoring voting rights to felons was struck down as unconstitutional this year by a federal judge, but the system remains in effect while the state appeals Judge Mark Walker's decision.

READ MORE: Judge strikes down Florida's system of restoring felons' rights

Sanders' wife Carisa, who contacted the Times/Herald about the case, is furious at the turn of events. She said so in an email to the elections office.

"You are nothing but committing election fraud," Mrs. Sanders wrote Aug. 3, "trying to take people's voter registration away to keep people from voting for who they want so that you can keep Donald Trump in office and the Republicans in control."

But the decades of delays also raised questions with the county elections officer.

"I wondered the same thing -- why this took so long to trickle through the process," said Chris Chambless, Clay County's supervisor of elections. "The county should be able to act immediately, and we go through many layers of review to make sure it's accurate."

"I freely admitted to Mr. Sanders that I empathized with him," Chambless told the Times/Herald. "It was a long period of time. But the statute doesn't provide me with any jurisprudence with a file once I receive it."

DeSantis says he won't accept sugar money. He was endorsed by a group fueled by it.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis arrives to speak to supporters on Monday (8/27/18) at Tiffany’s family restaurant in Palm Harbor, the day before the primary election.

Normally it would hardly be noteworthy that the Associated Industries of Florida endorsed the Republican candidate for governor. The powerful business group endorsed all the Republicans running for statewide cabinet positions last week.

But campaign finance reports show the group's political committees are funded in large part by Florida's sugar industry — which Ron DeSantis has chastised repeatedly for contributing to Florida's toxic green algae woes.

In one of DeSantis' most memorable moments during the Republican primary, DeSantis called his rival, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, an "errand boy for U.S. Sugar" for his acceptance of millions in sugar contributions.

In a statement sent to the Times/Herald on Friday, his campaign further doubled down on their promise not to accept "Big Sugar" money.

"We are happy to have AIF's endorsement because they know Ron DeSantis is the only person in this race who will create jobs, cut taxes and boost our economy," spokesman Stephen Lawson wrote in the statement. "Ron has made it very clear that he will not be taking money, directly or indirectly, from Sugar."

According to public campaign finance reports, Florida Crystals Corporation and United States Sugar Corporation have given more than $7.3 million to five AIF-controlled political committees since they were formed in late 2013. The only corporation to give more is Florida Power & Light, the utility company.

The PACs are called Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee, Florida Prosperity Fund, Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, Floridian's (sic) United for Our Children's Future and Voice of Florida Business Political Action Committee.

All in all, the committees' contributions are made up of more than 27 percent sugar money. And since DeSantis announced his candidacy on January 5, the pot has been even sweeter. Over the past nine months, United States Sugar and Florida Crystals Corporation have given $2.7 million — more than 43 percent of the PACs' fundraising in that time.

In response to a follow-up question about whether financial support from AIF would constitute as "indirect" sugar contributions, Lawson responded that the campaign has instructed the group not to give them any money that came from sugar.

But Democrats were unconvinced.

"Former Congressman DeSantis has made it clear time and time again that, No. 1:  he is not ready for prime time and he doesn't know the rules of the game," said state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park, an early supporter and surrogate of Andrew Gillum's. "This also goes to show that the former congressman is not true to his word."

AIF has not donated to DeSantis' campaign since the endorsement, according to his political committee's online contribution list. But the campaign indicated that was likely to happen in the future.

DeSantis' Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has also pledged not to take any sugar contributions on his campaign website.

September 15, 2018

Trump again harps on Hurricane Maria death toll as Florence kills in the Carolinas


With the deadly remnants of Hurricane Florence still pounding the Carolinas, President Donald Trump took to Twitter again late Friday night to question the number of deaths in Puerto Rico attributed to last year’s Hurricane Maria.

Having already drawn widespread criticism from members of his own party earlier this week for a claim made without evidence that the death toll was ginned up by Democrats in order to slime him, Trump once again tried to cast doubt on the estimated 2,975 killed by Hurricane Maria in the U.S. territory. He suggested speciously that George Washington University — whose researchers analyzed mortality data in Puerto Rico in order to determine how many people died during the hurricane and its aftermath — created the numbers “like magic” through an unprecedented and unproven method.

“When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria,” Trump tweeted, appearing to attribute the quote to the Washington Post. “This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, “3000 PEOPLE KILLED.”

He went on (read the rest here).

September 14, 2018

Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg endorses Bill Nelson in Congressional race

IMG_Senate_Supreme_Court_5_1_L1ECQ56D_L415941895 (1)


Seven months since a gunman killed 17 students and faculty at a Parkland high school, the loved ones of the victims have worked tirelessly to keep the issue of gun violence at the forefront of the political battleground, as Democrats pushing for more restrictive gun laws hope to gain majorities in the Florida Legislature and in Congress

After seeing their gubernatorial pick Philip Levine lose out to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary, Parkland parents Fred Guttenberg and Manuel and Patricia Oliver announced their support on Friday for incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in the race against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson appeared with Guttenberg, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and a host of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at a press conference Friday afternoon just a short drive from the Broward County high school where a former student killed scores of people with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The Olivers did not attend, but told Guttenberg to announce their support for Nelson.

"It's seven months since the community experienced the most horrific event we can imagine, and seven months later, people in this room and studs and families throughout this comm have taken this horrific tragedy and have done all that they can to throw themselves into the battle to ensure that what happen at Stoneman Douglas doesn't happen at any other school in our country," said Deutch, a Broward County congressman, told a crowd of students, some of whom were members of the March for Our Lives movement, and activists with Moms Demand Action. "I'm just honored to be a part of this battle with all of you."

Nelson, who supports universal background checks and the banning of assault-style rifles and high-capacity weapons magazines, became emotional when addressing the crowd.

“This is an endorsement I wish I never had to have because this endorsement is borne out of tragedy,” a somber Nelson said inside a Marriott hotel conference room as students in attendance lowered their heads. "If you want to change things, you have to get the votes."

Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaimie died in the Parkland shooting, has modified the Democratic push to flip political seats from red to blue, referring instead to an "orange wave" in honor of the official color of gun safety.

He said Gov. Scott's A+ grade from the National Rifle Association made Guttenberg's decision on an endorsement very easy.

"For me, the single biggest voting issue against a political candidate in this election is their relationship with the NRA," Guttenberg said. "Simply put, the NRA is not working on your public safety. They are working on increasing gun sales and nothing else."

In March, Scott signed off on a bill that raised the age limit to purchase a long gun to 21, introduced Risk Protection Orders and implemented a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases.

While Guttenberg did say he appreciated Scott's quick action following the February shooting, he said Scott's relationship with the NRA made him "unfit" to serve in office.

This candidate was campaigning door-to-door. Then the police helicopter came.


Wearing a campaign T-shirt bearing his own name, Roosevelt McClary was walking down Northwest 46th Avenue in Lauderdale Lakes, knocking on doors and handing out campaign literature when Broward Sheriff’s deputies driving unmarked cars paid him an unexpected visit.

The Lauderdale Lakes City Commission candidate was told to sit down and show his identification.

And then the police helicopter came.

The 10-minute encounter — sparked Wednesday when McClary set off an alarm at a house where no one was home — was streamed live by the 30-year-old candidate, who says he turned on his smart phone camera when he began to feel threatened. Police and the homeowner say the entire situation appears to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding. But at a time when literally thousands of candidates and volunteers are door-knocking around the country, McClary feels like he was racially profiled.

“I don’t see why there’s a whole bunch of detectives and police cars out there, helicopters,” McClary said in an interview. “They had dogs out there!”

The ordeal began around 12:15, after McClary, a full-time member of the Broward Teacher’s Union executive board, says he decided to spend his lunch break on the campaign trail. He’s running for Seat 1 in Lauderdale Lakes, a majority-black city of roughly 40,000 in central Broward County.

Click here to read the rest.

DeSantis camp: ex-lawmaker who used racial slur is not co-chairing Miami fundraiser


Representatives of Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis say a former Hialeah lawmaker who resigned 12 years ago after using racial slurs during a drunk and threatening tirade with a colleague is not co-chairing a Coral Gables fundraiser next week, despite what’s stated on materials produced by the campaign.

The Miami Herald on Thursday obtained an invitation for a $10,000-a-head fundraiser for DeSantis at the Biltmore Hotel, scheduled for the evening of Sept. 20. Luminaries like former Gov. Jeb Bush were named as chairs of the event, but a co-chair list included a more infamous name: Ralph Arza.

Arza resigned as a state representative in 2006 after he and a cousin left threatening messages on the voice mail of a fellow lawmaker who had filed an ethics complaint alleging that Arza used racial slurs when discussing Miami-Dade’s black schools chief. Arza had previously denied calling Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew a “n—-er,” but admitted that he used the word in recorded voice messages left for state Rep. Gus Barreiro.

Arza blamed the incident with Barreiro on alcohol and denied that he was a racist, but pleaded guilty in 2007 to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with a witness and received 18 months probation. He is now a lobbyist.

Click here to read the rest.