June 08, 2018

In Fox News appearance, Putnam praises Trump and touts immigration policy, prompting DeSantis comeback

A screengrab from Adam Putnam's appearance on Fox News | YouTube

In a rare Fox News appearance for Adam Putnam Thursday night, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture took on one of the issues his opponents like hitting him for the most: immigration.

"President Trump has led the way with his Pillars Plan," Putnam said almost immediately during his four-minute TV spot. "Secure our borders, reform chain migration — particularly on extended families — end the visa lottery program and bring a permanent solution to DACA."

Earlier in the race to earn the Republican nomination for governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran — who has since said he will not run and endorsed Putnam —  made immigration his centerpiece issue and even criticized Putnam for supporting "amnesty." On Fox, Putnam seemed to adopt some of Corcoran's rhetoric regarding the cost to taxpayers of "criminal illegal aliens" in Florida's prison system and said as governor, he would ensure that Florida does not become a "sanctuary state" like California.

Putnam also discussed the necessity of the guest worker program for Florida's tourism, agricultural and construction industries. That program allows people from other countries to legally work in the U.S. temporarily.

READ MORE: How Adam Putnam's votes in Congress might haunt his bid for governor

But Ron DeSantis's campaign wasn't having it. A regular on Fox News and one of Trump's "warriors," he sent out a press release Friday morning calling his opponent "Amnesty Adam."

"Amnesty Adam can’t fix his terrible record on amnesty, so his special interest funders have told him to try to fool Florida conservatives. No one is buying it," wrote DeSantis's spokesperson, David Vasquez.

Who's right?

READ MORE: Politifact: Was Adam Putnam, candidate for Florida governor, for amnesty on immigration?

While serving in Congress, Putnam did support legislation that would have expanded work visa categories for undocumented immigrants and put them on a path to permanent status. After leaving Congress, he also supported the 2013 immigration bill which included a path to legal status.

But he also voted to tighten border security and opposed the Dream Act. Politifact rated the statement that Putnam was "for amnesty" half-true last year.

Rick Scott appears to support Curbelo's immigration plan, but how would he vote?

Gov Rick Scott


Gov. Rick Scott appears to be on board with Rep. Carlos Curbelo's plan to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan to force a slew of immigration votes, putting the Republican running for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat in line with Democrats and a small group of moderate Republicans.

But while Scott offered support for Curbelo's idea to force action, it isn't clear what types of immigration policies he would champion in the U.S. Senate if elected.

"We need to secure our borders and help these kids. Congress needs to get DACA legislation done. Thanks Congressman Curbelo for fighting for this," Scott tweeted on Thursday night.

Scott's campaign confirmed that he supports the Miami Republican's effort to force votes in Congress but did not offer an endorsement for specific immigration-related bills.

Scott has said in the past that he doesn't support deporting 1.8 million immigrants who came to the United States illegally as young children, a position that most Republicans and President Donald Trump share.

Scott has also demanded that Congress pass legislation that protects the young immigrants from deportation while securing the border, a wide-ranging policy position that could include a bill promoted by Donald Trump that failed to garner 40 votes in the U.S. Senate earlier this year and a bipartisan proposal called the USA Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for the young immigrants while also providing funding for a "smart wall" at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It's not clear where Scott stands on four immigration-related bills that failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. Two bipartisan compromises received a simple majority but failed to clear the required 60-vote hurdle after a majority of Republicans voted against them, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The bill promoted by the White House, which provided a path to citizenship in exchange for border security funding and cuts to legal immigration, received 39 votes in the Senate.

Nelson voted in favor of the two bipartisan compromise bills and voted against the Trump-sponsored bill.

Read more here.

Gwen Graham called 'dream candidate' in teachers union endorsement


The state's teachers union threw its support behind Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary for governor last night, calling her "the public education dream candidate."

"She was an easy choice for anyone concerned about Florida’s schools," the Florida Education Association posted on Facebook last night.

Education has been one of Graham's top policy positions, advocating against charter schools and for teacher raises.

The former congresswoman is a former PTA president and former administrator for the Leon County School District. She was the district's director of employee relations from 2007 to 2010, when she moved up to became its chief of labor and employee relations.

Graham, the daughter of former governor and senator Bob Graham, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, serving a two-year term before her North Florida district was remapped to be far more conservative.

The union endorsement was the second boost for her campaign yesterday, when former congressional colleague Patrick Murphy decided he wouldn't run for governor and would throw his support behind her.

Sean Shaw receives teachers union endorsement in AG’s race

State Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa

The Florida Education Association is endorsing state Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, in the Democratic primary for Attorney General.

The state's teachers union gave Shaw an A+ on its legislative report card, having "proven himself a friend of public education," the union stated.

“We look forward to lending our support to an individual who believes in public education and will use the office of attorney general to support strong public schools,” FEA President Joanne McCall said.

Shaw, an attorney and former state insurance consumer advocate whose father was former Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, is the obvious front-runner in the primary.

He's been heavily out-raising his opponent, Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens, and has racked up a slew of endorsements

Both Shaw and Torrens have vowed to be activist attorneys general, criticizing outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi for not being aggressive enough against corporations.

June 07, 2018

Diaz-Balart votes against amendment that would ban federal funds for oil drilling exploration


Mario Diaz-Balart


Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart voted against an amendment that would ban federal funds for oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf before 2022, the only member from Florida in the House Appropriations Committee to do so. 

But Diaz-Balart said that his vote against Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree's amendment was not a signal that he favors offshore oil drilling in Florida. 

"Current law states that any offshore drilling or leasing activity is banned in Florida," Diaz-Balart spokesperson Katrina Bishop said. "Congressman Diaz-Balart worked with his colleagues to ensure this bill passed and was signed into law in 2006. In addition, Interior Secretary (Ryan) Zinke has stated on multiple occasions that Florida will be exempt from any future offshore drilling. Any assertion that Diaz-Balart’s vote today would result in offshore drilling off Florida’s shores is incorrect." 

The amendment was part of an hours-long debate on various additions to the 2019 Interior and Environment funding bill, a $35.25 billion package. The amendment failed 20-26, on a mostly party-line vote, though Florida Republican Rep. John Rutherford voted in favor of the amendment along with Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The fourth member of the Appropriations Committee from Florida, Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, did not vote.

Pingree's amendment stated that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to prepare a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would schedule any Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale before 2022."

Florida currently has a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022. Sen. Bill Nelson has filed legislation to make the moratorium a permanent ban, and Zinke's announcement set off charges from the Florida Democrat that the Trump administration exempted Florida from a plan to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling to benefit Gov. Rick Scott politically as he campaigns for Nelson's Senate seat. 

"It’s outrageous that ANY member of Congress from Florida would EVER vote to allow offshore drilling," tweeted Mary Barzee Flores, a Democrat who will run against Diaz-Balart in November. 

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy to endorse Gwen Graham for governor

Former Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy's flirtation with a run for governor is ending, with the Democrat expected to endorse his former Washington colleague, Gwen Graham, today.

The announcement is expected at a 2 p.m. press conference today in Pembroke Pines. The endorsement was first reported by Politico.

For the last few months, Murphy has been toying with the idea of running for governor with Republican Congressman David Jolly, with the two even making campaign appearances on national television together.

The Murphy campaign reportedly made the decision Wednesday, based at least in part on the lack of fundraising clout Murphy and Jolly had this late in the game. Many of the major donors have already "committed" to other candidates. The two campaigns then spoke about it either last night or this morning.

Graham and Murphy served in Congress together, where they were both centrist Democrats. Murphy was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016, losing to Republican Marco Rubio.

With Murphy's endorsement, the Democratic field for governor appears set. Graham is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Orlando entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Gillum's campaign used the endorsement to take a swipe at Graham, referencing her mention last month that she would consider Jolly, a staunchly anti-Trump Republican, as her running mate. Graham later said she would only choose a Democrat as her running mate.

"Does it come with David Jolly's endorsement too?" Gillum's communications manager, Geoff Burgan, wrote in a statement to the news media.

Herald/Times staff writer Emily Mahoney contributed to this report.

June 06, 2018

More than $1 million in DeSantis's May fundraising came from old donations to his federal PAC

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It's technically true that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and his political committee collected $3 million in May, as his campaign touted Monday.

But it's also not wholly a reflection of his campaign's fundraising momentum. Campaign finance records posted by DeSantis's committee show $1.1 million was funneled from from his own federal PAC, Ron DeSantis for Florida, to his state committee on May 31.

DeSantis's federal PAC hasn't received a contribution since February, according to the Federal Election Commission's online database.

The detail was first spotted by Florida Politics in the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee forms, which were just recently been updated to include the transfer.

Gwen Graham launches first TV ad of her campaign for governor


Gwen Graham is launching the first TV ad of her campaign for governor today, a $1.1 million ad buy in the Orlando and Tampa markets.

And in it, the former congresswoman makes her introduction to voters: Mom. PTA president. Democrat. Daughter of former governor and senator Bob Graham

And her father makes an appearance. Doubtless, she's hoping the elder Graham is still a familiar face in a state where he was revered when he was in office. He hasn't been on the ballot since 1998.

The ad is airing on broadcast and cable over the next two weeks.

Here's the transcript:

Announcer: Whether raising three kids or in Gwen Graham’s service as a PTA president…
Graham: Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom
Announcer: Democrat Gwen Graham. In Congress, Gwen applied lessons from her father, Bob Graham. Now, Gwen is running for governor. 
Graham: Twenty years with one party running everything with all the wrong priorities. The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion. They have hurt education. They have used the lottery to reduce funding. But we’re gonna take it back. 
Announcer: For Governor — Democrat Gwen Graham

Graham is facing off against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Orlando entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the August primary.

June 05, 2018

Nelson blasts decision to cancel August Senate recess as 'raw politics'


Scott and nelson


With Gov. Rick Scott touring the state in his official and campaign capacities at all times, Sen. Bill Nelson needs every minute he can get in Florida between now and Election Day. 

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is determined not to let that happen. 

The Republican leader, who controls the schedule in the U.S. Senate, announced Tuesday that Congress' upper chamber will be in session for most of August, when senators typically travel home to campaign for reelection and raise funds. 

"Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled," McConnell said in a statement.

Nelson, one of 10 Democrats seeking reelection in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, said McConnell's rationale is laughable. 

"Mitch is using any excuse he can in order to hold those of us who want to be home campaigning, hold us here in Washington because we have to vote. That's what he's doing," Nelson said. "This is nothing but raw politics. He can do all of that stuff and of course I'll be here voting, which is why the people sent me here, but at the end of the day that's not going to do him any good." 

Nelson added that there's lots of important legislation that the Senate should consider during the month of August, but McConnell's decision isn't about getting more bills passed or nominees confirmed. 

Scott has spent millions on television ads while Nelson has decided not to spend money so far. Outside groups from both sides have started to spend on television and digital advertising ahead of what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate campaign in history.

Update: Scott expressed support for McConnell's decision on Twitter. The Florida legislature wrapped up its regular session in March and is not expected to meet in 2018 unless a special session is called by Scott or the legislature. 


David Richardson campaign workers form a union

IMG_Richardson_and_K9_2_1_IP7B73TI_L199924698 (5) (1) (1)


Political campaigns are typically high-stress work environments. Staffers often work long hours with little pay for months, and there's always a chance that the boss won't win on Election Day. 

Workers for state Rep. David Richardson's congressional campaign are the latest to form a union through the Campaign Workers guild, a new movement for Democratic campaign workers, where employees negotiate contracts that include mandated time off, healthcare, housing, and just cause for firings. 

Richardson's is the first Florida campaign to unionize, other Democratic congressional and gubernatorial campaigns have unionized around the country in recent months. 

“Through a tough contract fight, workers for David Richardson stood together and fought hard to win a fair contract,” said Laura Reimers, President of the Campaign Workers Guild. “I am tremendously proud to have all of these workers in our fight. Their example will pave the way for campaign workers across the country who are finally getting to experience what it feels like to bargain collectively, stand together, and improve their working conditions.”

While most Democrats running for office support organized labor, this election cycle is the first where the campaigns themselves have organized. Opponents of the unionization effort argue that campaign work is meant to be temporary, and hamstringing a campaign worker's hours on the job makes it harder to use resources efficiently and gives an advantage to Republicans who are running campaigns without unionized workers. 

"Political campaigns are short-term gigs. They're not long-term operations, so this idea of unionization for an eight-month job, it just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Steve Hildebrand, a former deputy national campaign manager for Barack Obama to NPR. "Going into the general election if you have a campaign team that is not putting in 80 hours a week on the Democratic side, you're probably going to lose."

But a Richardson staffer argued that the unionization effort extends the rights their campaign is fighting for to the people getting paid to fight it.

“We fought tooth and nail for this contract, and we couldn’t be prouder.” said Melissa Mihm, field organizer for David Richardson for Congress. “As the first campaign to unionize in Florida, I can’t say this enough: Don’t give up. Campaign workers deserve the same rights as all workers, and it’s our turn to make history.”

Richardson is running in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn are also running for a seat that Democrats are expecting to flip in 2018.