April 14, 2017

Conservative groups pushes Ron DeSantis to run for governor



A conservative political action committee is trying to rally national support around U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in hopes he will run for governor of Florida in 2018.

The Madison Project, which backed DeSantis's brief 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, put out a statement on a popular conservative website telling readers that DeSantis should run.

"He's not just a regional candidate - Ron is a Congressman who has worked hard to represent the entire state of Florida," the statement attributed to Madison Project president Jim Ryun says. "Running for governor is a no brainer for him."

The statement was on The Resurgent, a popular blog site created by Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host and political commentator. The same site also ran results from a poll from WPA Intelligence claiming DeSantis matches up well with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican expected to run for governor next year. WPA Intelligence was a pollster for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in his campaign for the White House.

According to The Resurgent, which says it had "exclusive access" to the poll of more than 2,000 Republican Primary voters, Putnam is the choice of 17 percent, while DeSantis is next at 9 percent. The poll showed Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and State Sen. Jack Latvala at 3 percent each, according to The Resurgent report.

"While DeSantis may trail Putnam at this early date, with 52% of voters undecided and 51% not knowing who he is, this race is wide open," The Resurgent story declares.

The Times/Herald has not been able to verify the poll results.

DeSantis, 38, is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and has represented parts of northeast Florida in Congress since 2012. When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio first announced he was going to run for President, DeSantis was quick to file to run for the U.S. Senate to replace him. When Rubio re-entered the race, DeSantis dropped out of the contest and instead won re-election to the U.S. House. During that short-lived campaign for Senate, the Madison Project and Ryun also endorsed DeSantis over a field of Republican candidates.

DeSantis is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

April 13, 2017

Adam Putnam hosts BBQ for supporters in May



Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican most expected to run for governor in 2018, is inviting his supporters to a BBQ in his hometown, just five days after the Legislature is expected to wrap up its annual spring session.

"We are having our Florida Grown Hometown BBQ on Wednesday, May 10th, and I wanted to make sure you got an invitation," Putnam said in a email blast sent to supporters.

Florida Grown is the name of a political committee Putnam opened in 2015 that has raised more than $10 million as of March 31, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

The event is in Bartow in Polk County at Old Polk County Courthouse.

April 12, 2017

Democrats file complaint against Putnam, alleging campaign finance violations

Adam Putnam APAgriculture Commission Adam Putnam’s decision not to disclose in detail how he uses the funds received by his political committee has drawn a complaint before the Florida Elections Commission.

The Democratic Governors Association, the partisan political organization determined to defeat Putnam when he announces a campaign for governor later this year, filed the complaint Wednesday accusing him of violating state law.

Citing a March 24 story in the Miami Herald, the complaint alleges that Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, gave $1.3 million in lump sum payments to the consulting firm run by his top political consultant, Justin Hollis, without detailing where the money goes in an alleged violation of a law that requires disclosure of individual expenditures when 80 percent of the costs are paid by the political committee.

“By only reporting the purpose of these expenditures as ‘consulting’ or ‘political consulting,’ Florida Grown PC is withholding relevant information that the Florida Election Code intends for political committees to disclose under Section 106.07(4)(a)(13),” wrote Elisabeth Pearson, executive director of Washington-based DGA.  Download FL Complaint_4.11 DGA Letterhead

“We request this commission immediately launch an investigation into these claims and take appropriate remedial action against Florida Grown PC,” she concluded in the three-page complaint. Story here. 


Curbelo says he raised $610K in first quarter



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has yet to draw a single opponent ahead of his 2018 reelection. And he's stepped up his fundraising to try to keep it that way -- or at least to make potential contenders think twice about taking him on.

The congressman's team told the Miami Herald that Curbelo collected more than $610,000 in the first quarter of 2017, bringing his cash on hand to more than $600,000 to kick off his second term in office.

That's not much less than the $645,000 Currbelo raised the first quarter of 2015, after he had just been elected to Congress for the first time. He knew then he'd almost certainly face a difficult reelection campaign in 2016, given that Democrats do better in presidential years.

"This is a strong start for the campaign and shows that again Carlos will have the resources to share his record of putting South Florida and the country above the petty partisanship that is regrettably so prevalent in Congress," said Chris Miles, Curbelo's 2016 campaign manager.

Democrats consider the 26th district a top target, given that Hillary Clinton won there by 16 percentage points. But in the same election, Curbelo comfortably held on to his seat with a 12-point margin over challenger Joe Garcia.

Last cycle, Curbelo amassed $3.8 million, compared to Garcia's $1.4 million. In 2014, when Garcia was the incumbent and Curbelo the challenger, Curbelo raked in $2.4 million, compared to Garcia's $3.8 million.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

April 11, 2017

Democrats buy ads against Scott on Obamacare replacement

via @learyreports

A fresh sign of the creeping showdown between Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson: a Democratic group is paying for Google search ads attacking the governor's support for the “toxic GOP health care plan.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the ads will show up when anyone in Florida searches for Scott’s position on the issue. A link directs viewers to a page attacking Scott and the failed Obamacare replacement.

The ad is somewhat misleading, implying it was Scott's plan.

Still, Scott talked up that he was helping craft the proposal, which he then waved on before calling it "way better" than the status quo.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Poll: Scott is America's 34th most-popular governor -- but he should still worry Nelson

via @adamsmithtimes

Morning Consult is out today with its latest 50-state survey on the approval ratings of every senator and governor. The January to March survey of 8,793 Florida voters offers good news and bad for Sen. Bill Nelson as Florida's top Democrat heads toward an expected challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson's good news: 53 percent of FL voters approve of Nelson's performance and 26 percent disapprove, giving him a higher net favorability (net +27) than either Scott (+21) or Sen. Marco Rubio (+14).

The bad news: More than one in five voters don't know enough about their three-term senator to have an opinion on Nelson. It's safe to assume that Scott will have considerably more money to spend defining Nelson than the incumbent's last two challengers, Connie Mack IV and Katherine Harris.

"Both Senator Nelson and Governor Scott have relatively strong approval ratings," said Morning Consult’s Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "However, if Scott enters the race he will immediately have a valuable leg-up in terms of name ID. More than a fifth (21%) of Florida voters aren't familiar with Nelson, compared to just 7% for Scott."

More bad news for Nelson: Scott's popularity is growing. Morning Consult's last survey in September found 49 percent approving of Florida's governor and 41 percent disapproving. 

That doesn't exactly make him a national star, however. He had the 34th-best net favorability rating in the country. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, came in on top with +58 net approval and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also Republican, was dead last with a -46 net approval.

Among the U.S. senators, the independent gentleman representing the People's Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, came out on top, with net approvals of +54, while Kentucky's Mitch McConnell was at the bottom with a -3 net approval.

From Morning Consult:

Politician            Approve         Disapprove          DK/NO                Net

Marco Rubio          52                     38                  10              +14

Bill Nelson              53                     26                  21              +27

Rick Scott               57                     36                  7               +21

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

April 10, 2017

Advocacy groups renews questions about Constitution Revision process and rules

CRC Miami listeningA group of voter advocacy and left-leaning activists groups have renewed calls to the chair of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to conduct a transparent rules process and address concerns about favorable treatment some speakers at public hearings appear to be getting. 

In a letter to CRC Chair Carlos Beruff on Monday, the groups said their top concern is "that the Commission is operating without rules and has not provided the public with any information about how it intends to go about adopting rules." It noted that the commission has failed to post on its website a March 24 letter to commissioner in which Beruff laid out what his spokesperson calls an "informal" process for establishing a rules committee to present proposed rules.

The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, AFSCME Florida, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Education Association, Common Cause Florida, Florida Policy Institute, Florida Strong, For Our Future, League of Women Voters Florida and Progress Florida.

In a separate letter, League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman also wrote to express concerns about a lack of transparency in the process as the CRC has conducted three "listening tours" around the state. The 37-member commission has held public hearings in Orlando, Miami and Boca Raton and it meets again on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

"Our primary concerns relate to a lack of transparency, potential roadblocks to meaningful public engagement, potential for leverage and influence over commission members, and a less than robust respect for the Sunshine Rules,'' Goodman wrote. 

She raised a series of questions the LWV hopes will be addressed by the commission, including an exception to the proposed rules for campaign contributions which she said will allow legislators and other elected officials to "be tempted to vote on issues based on whether their votes will yield campaign contributions."  Download April 10 LWV letter to Beruff

The advocacy group also asked Beruff why some speakers were allowed to leapfrog before others at the hearings, particularly in Boca Raton. 

"Although you have announced that speakers will be called in the order they sign in, it is obvious to those of us who were present and those watching the live stream that sign in time was not always determinative of speaker order,'' they wrote. "The earlier arriving speakers who tried to call this inequity to your attention were rudely rebuffed."  Download Advocates LTR to Beruff 4-10-17

In response to the letters, CRC spokesperson Meredith Beatrice, who previously worked as PIO for Gov. Rick Scott's Department of State, did not address the questions. She said in an email only: "This is an open and transparent process. Over 900 Floridians have attended public hearings and nearly 300 individual Floridians have spoken before the CRC. Speakers have been heard on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we will continue to do so. All Floridians wishing to speak before the CRC have been given an opportunity to be heard."

The CRC met for an organizational session on March 20 and then indefinitely postponed the adoption of draft rules after several member privately complained. 

The advocacy groups also want Beruff to answer the following:

 • Has the Rules Committee been formed?

• Who are the members?

• Have any meetings been held or scheduled?

• Why has this letter and the process it sets out not been announced to the public?

• If meetings have been scheduled, when and where will they be held?

• What is the schedule for adopting the rules? 

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission met in Miami for a public hearing April 6. By PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com

Chris King takes early campaign for Florida governor on the road

via @stevebousquet

Nobody paid much attention to the young man sitting at a corner table at a Tallahassee Starbucks on Friday. But he has a very audacious goal: to be the next governor of Florida.

Democrat Chris King, 38, an affordable housing executive and father of three from Winter Park, was on the trail just days after he launched his campaign with a hometown kickoff. He joins a diverse and wide-open field that includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

King is eager to tell his story. "I believe in the progressive values of equality and justice and fairness, and caring for the neediest among us," King said. "That's how I've run my business."

He said Florida Democrats keep losing races for governor because they don't articulate a vision and a message to voters, especially on economic issues. But the last two races were close -- about 1 percentage point both times -- so that while the losses pile up, his party is keeping within striking distance.

"The last time we won, I was a freshman in high school," said King, referring to Lawton Chiles' narrow re-election victory over Jeb Bush in 1994.

King supports raising the minimum wage and restoring the voting rights of non-violent felons. He opposes the death penalty in most cases, saying it conflicts with his religious views, but that he would enforce the law as governor. "We need to limit its use," King said. "I believe it's a penalty in decline."

He said Gov. Rick Scott committed a "terrible overreach" by taking 22 cases away from Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, who opposes capital punishment, but he said she "made a misstep" and should have been more direct with voters last year in explaining her position on the death penalty.

The problem with Tallahassee, King said, is that "one party controls everything, and they're about to control the courts as well ... There's been no competition of ideas. There's been no incentive to think big. We have small-ball issue after small-ball issue," using the proposed changes to the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law as an example.

But he said he agreed with House Speaker Richard Corcoran's call for stronger ethics laws, such as a six-year "revolving door" ban on legislators becoming lobbyists.

A first-time candidate for public office, King is on a huge learning curve, and he faces the daunting task of introducing himself to more than 4 million Democrats across the state who have never heard of him. But he has one thing going for him -- time. King is a full year ahead of where "Rick who?" was when he emerged from obscurity to run for governor in 2010.

King is not a self-funding candidate, but he has put up $1 million of his own money to get started.

Senior adviser Omar Khan, who ran Charlie Crist's 2014 campaign for governor, sat nearby as King fielded questions for more than a half hour, and three other staffers sat at a table nearby. From Tallahassee, King was headed to Tampa Bay for a series of meetings and an appearance at the spring gathering of Florida College Democrats at USF on Saturday.

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Tampa Bay Times

April 07, 2017

Curbelo may be the most endangered Republican in Congress, report suggests

IMG_Economic_Impact_of_I_2_1_8BAO5GJG_L296697696 (4)

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo better get used to that political target on his back.

The sophomore congressman might be the single most vulnerable Republican in the country going into the 2018 election, according to a new analysis of partisanship in congressional districts.

The Cook Political Report, which has been publishing its Partisan Voting Index since 1997, found that Curbelo represents the most Democratic of districts held by Republican members of Congress.

Florida’s 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, Cook Report editor David Wasserman found in his report, released Friday.

“In the modern era, it takes considerable personal appeal to win a House election in a district that fundamentally favors the opposite party,” Wasserman wrote. “There are several members on both sides who have successfully run ‘against the grain.’ However, these members are also likeliest to be among the top targets for the opposite party in 2018 and beyond.”

No. 3 on the list of the 10 Republicans in the most Democratic districts is Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose 27th district — a stretch of coastal southeastern Miami-Dade County — performed on average 5 points more Democratic at the presidential level than the rest of the country.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Miamians flocks to Constitution Commission to complain about testing, abortion, voting rights and fracking

CRC in MiamiBy Doug Hanks

Abortion foes urged a rewrite of the privacy clause. Civil-liberty advocates argued for deleting the restriction on felons voting after they’ve served their sentences. And a retired teacher from Fort Pierce gave a stirring pep talk on changing Florida’s Constitution to bar students from taking the FCAT.

“We won World War II without standardized testing,” George MacArthur told members of the Constitution Revision Commission during its meeting at Florida International University’s western campus Thursday night. “We’re the greatest country in the history of the world. We do not need standardized testing.” Story here. 

Photo: Members of the Constitutional Revision Commission listened to Florida resident Cynthia Wheeler as she speaks during a town hall meeting at Florida International University in Miami on Thursday, April 6, 2017. by PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com