August 08, 2018

State Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings endorse Ron DeSantis for governor

Sen. Rob Bradley

On the day of the final Republican debate, Congressman Ron DeSantis snagged endorsements from two Republican state lawmakers.

State Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings, both from Orange Park, sent out their endorsement statements Monday. Orange Park is just outside of Jacksonville, which is near DeSantis's coastal Congressional district south of the city.

"I'm proud to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida," Bradley said in the statement. "He's an Iraq veteran with a solid conservative record and the support of our President. He's demonstrated a fierce commitment to principle in Congress and he will bring the same values to Tallahassee."

Asked if he would speak at DeSantis rallies or help fundraise, Bradley responded that he is "on board to provide whatever help is needed."

Cummings echoed similar sentiments, also noting that DeSantis has the "backing of the President" and "will be a real leader for our state who will be a champion for conservative causes that will help Florida thrive."

Bradley is the current budget chair for the state Senate, a powerful position because of its influence over the state's purse strings. And Cummings is also in the running to be the House's budget chair for the upcoming session.

The pair joins incoming state House Speaker Jose Oliva in their support for DeSantis. Oliva surprised many Tallahassee politicos when he broke ranks to endorse DeSantis in late June.

The majority of the state's elected officials support DeSantis's opponent, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who was first elected to the statehouse when he was 22 and has spent years developing relationships with local and state officials.

August 07, 2018

Republican candidates for governor get in dust-up over Clearwater 'stand your ground' shooting

DeSantis, left and Putnam, right. [Times]

One day before the second (and final) debate between the two Republican candidates for Florida governor, they are pitted against each other over their positions on the recent killing of Markeis McGlockton — Florida's latest 'stand your ground' shooting.

Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam tweeted a statement defending Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri over his handling of the July 19 shooting, saying "the state attorney and Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri have far more information on what took place in Clearwater."

"No wonder (zero) Florida sheriffs have endorsed him," he added in the body of the tweet, referring to his opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis. Putnam has been endorsed by close to 50 sheriffs.

Then Putnam added an image to the tweet thread, portraying DeSantis on the same "side" as all five Democratic candidates for governor, as well as the national civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton came to Clearwater on Sunday to speak at St. John Primitive Baptist Church, where he accused Gualtieri and the state attorney of mishandling the case because of racial bias.

McGlockton, 28, was black and his shooter, 47-year-old Michael Drejka is white.

That's because DeSantis weighed in on the shooting on Monday in a statement that expressed his support for Florida's controversial law, which grants immunity to people who use force in self-defense if they fear for their lives. DeSantis, a military lawyer, also said Gualtieri had not "analyzed the law properly," and that the "stand your ground" law does not apply in this case.

Read more: Ron DeSantis adds to criticism of Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri over ‘stand your ground’

It was widely thought by Republican insiders that this primary would get ugly. Tuesday was an example of that bitterness that is likely to persist until the primary on Aug. 28.

The July shooting happened during a heated dispute over a handicap-reserved parking space at a convenience store in Clearwater. Surveillance footage shows McGlockton shoving Drejka, who had been berating McGlockton's girlfriend over her use of the parking space. While on the ground, Drejka pulls out a gun and shoots McGlockton, who died shortly thereafter.

Gualtieri has been widely criticized for his decision not to arrest Drejka, citing the "stand your ground" law. Gualtieri's office has forwarded the case to the state attorney for review and it is still pending.

But DeSantis's position is shared by the National Rifle Association and some other Republicans. It's true that both McGlockton's family and Democrats have also criticized the handling of the case, but those candidates have also called for repealing the self-defense law altogether — which DeSantis opposes.

David Vasquez, spokesman for DeSantis's campaign, released a caustic statement on Putnam's tweet.

"Facing the end of his political career, Adam Putnam is no longer supporting the principles or the party that have done so much for him," Vasquez said. "He's committed to throwing away the last of his integrity on desperate, baseless lies that Floridians will remember him for."

Even conservative Parkland student Kyle Kashuv weighed in on Twitter, calling Putnam a "hack politician" who is "lying for a desperate, last second, attempt at not being embarrased in the polls."

As federal government eyes shutdown fight, Ron DeSantis backs Trump's threats

Desantis herald
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during an afternoon campaign stop at The Compass Rose in Valparaiso, Fla., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Michael Snyder Northwest Florida Daily News via AP

Another fight over spending and immigration could be looming in Congress, and a big question is whether it will happen before or after the midterm elections.

Many Congressional Republicans want to delay this fight to eliminate the possibility of a highly unpopular government shutdown weeks before the November elections (the deadline is Sept. 30).

But President Trump may not share that sentiment. He posted a series of tweets in the final days of July threatening to shutdown the federal government if the spending bills passed by Congress do not adequately fund his border wall, adding that he doesn't care "what the political ramifications are."


Some have dismissed the tweets as bluster, but after a campaign stop in Miami on Monday, DeSantis backed the president, saying it was a tactic to get Congress to cooperate.

"In the Congress we should be funding this wall. Part of it is about illegal immigration but honestly for me a big part of it is the drugs coming in," he said in a gaggle with reporters. "You have fentanyl and all this stuff coming in. This is very deadly stuff."

"What he (Trump) should do ... I urged him to veto the omnibus last time," DeSantis added. "Congress keeps doing the same stuff over and over again and I think if he says, 'I’m willing to veto something,' that actually would light a fire under someone’s rear end."

DeSantis has recently become the front-runner in the Republican race for Florida governor, recently overtaking Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam shortly after DeSantis was formally endorsed by Trump.

DeSantis's voting record in Congress shows a history of voting against omnibus spending packages. This often meant voting for a government shutdown rather than cede ground on his hard-line ideology.

Read more: Defending Trump, threatening shutdowns: What 5 years in Congress tell us about Ron DeSantis.

It's a trademark policy position of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus in the House, of which DeSantis is a member. Some national media outlets have reported that the Freedom Caucus could also be angling to bring the fight over spending before the election, seeing a battle over immigration as an opportunity to re-energize the base.

DeSantis did, however, vote for one major spending deal in February, after he had announced his run for governor. The bill raised spending caps but also contained major funding for Florida's citrus industry to aid in hurricane recovery post-Irma.

Read more: Budget deal forces Ron DeSantis into a box

Government shutdowns are very unpopular with the American public, regardless of party.

Last time it happened — in January after a Senate standoff over "dreamers," or undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children — 84 percent of voters said the shutdown was "mainly unnecessary," according to a Quinnipiac University National poll of 1,245 people via phone.

In past federal government shut downs, national parks in Florida had to cutoff services, members of the National Guard were furloughed, disabled veterans had trouble filing claims and federal shipments to food banks to feed nearly a million residents in South Florida were interrupted.

The House is in recess until early September. Congress could end up passing short-term funding bills for some federal agencies, called "continuing resolutions," and save the battle over immigration policy for post-elections. However, Trump can veto those if he chooses.

Both parties have been making unusual progress lately in crafting bills to fund each government agency. However, the House and Senate rejected bills earlier this year that included the types of immigration policies and border wall funding that the White House has sought.

Miami Herald reporter David Smiley contributed to this report.

Everglades Trust endorses Graham and DeSantis in governor's race


The nonprofit Everglades Trust is endorsing Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis in the governor's race, giving the two front-runners an additional boost as toxic algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee threaten Florida's beaches.

Graham got the nod despite Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell's criticism of the American Dream mega-mall project near the Everglades that Graham's family company is involved in.

Mitchell did not mention the project in a press release. She cited Graham's actions in Congress and the work of her father, former Florida governor and Senator Bob Graham, whom Mitchell called "one of our state’s greatest environmentalists."

"Throughout her life, Gwen Graham has fought to protect Florida’s natural treasures: as a young law student, she volunteered pro-bono for the Sierra Club; in Congress, she co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to stop oil drilling off our coasts and was a powerful voice for Everglades restoration,” Mitchell said.

DeSantis likely had the endorsement from the get-go, since his opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has taken $804,000 from the Big Sugar groups that are being blamed for creating toxic algae blooms plaguing Lake Okeechobee.

"Pay-to-Play Putnam," as Mitchell has called him, has also received $7.6 million from five political action committees that receive a significant portion of their contributions from the sugar industry.

“Ron was born and raised in Florida," Mitchell said. "He understands that water is our state’s most precious resource and he stands with the boaters, anglers, the outdoor recreation industry and the people of our state who want to put an end to toxic algae. He’s not afraid to stand up to special interests who have stood in the way of sending water south for decades.”

In Congress, DeSantis "supported eliminating corporate welfare for the sugar industry and has supported Everglades restoration at every turn. Most recently, he was instrumental in getting the Trump administration to approve the Everglades reservoir in record time."

The green algae blooms have become a top issue this campaign season, with Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson blaming each other for not doing enough to prevent the slime.

August 06, 2018

Ron DeSantis adds to criticism of Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri over 'stand your ground'

Desantis herald2
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on June 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong Getty Images

After a long silence, Congressman Ron DeSantis offered his take Monday on last month's shooting of Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater.

"Democrats like Andrew Gillum and Jeff Greene would impose a duty to retreat upon law-abiding Floridians, which would tip the scales in favor of criminals," read a statement sent by his campaign spokesman, David Vasquez, on behalf of DeSantis.

"I support the right of Floridians to defend themselves by standing their ground against aggressors. That said, it doesn't seem to me that the law is even applicable in the case of Markeis McGlockton, and I don't think the Pinellas County sheriff analyzed the law properly."

DeSantis's position was first reported by Politico.

His campaign originally did not respond to a request for comment following the July 19 shooting, while most of the Democrats running for governor called for revisions or a repeal of Florida's "stand your ground" law.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has cited that state self-defense law as the reason why he cannot arrest McGlockton's shooter, Michael Drejka. Surveillance footage captured the moment Drejka shot McGlockton during a heated dispute over a handicap-reserved parking space. McGlockton died shortly thereafter.

The law gives immunity to those in fear of their lives who use force to defend themselves. Gualtieri has forwarded the case to the State Attorney's office to make a final decision, which is still pending.

Because McGlockton, 28, was black and Drejka, 47, is white, the case has also brought racial injustice — in addition to gun laws — to the fore of the Florida governor's race.

Some other Republicans and the National Rifle Association have also criticized Gualtieri's decision not to make an arrest, saying he misinterpreted the law.

New Matt Haggman poll shows Donna Shalala losing ground



Donna Shalala could have a serious fight on her hands.

New polling from Matt Haggman's campaign shows that Shalala's lead in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is shrinking with three weeks until the Aug. 28 election. 

The poll, conducted from Aug. 2 to 5 by RABA Research on behalf of the Haggman campaign, shows Shalala with a 10 percentage point lead over Haggman among likely primary voters and state Rep. David Richardson virtually tied with Haggman. A fourth candidate, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, also captures double digit support in Haggman's poll while 27 percent of voters are not sure who they will vote for. 

The 10 percentage point lead for Shalala over Haggman is less than half of a 27 percentage point lead Shalala had when her campaign conducted a poll in June. 

The RABA poll, conducted in English and Spanish via automated and live phone surveys, gives Shalala 26 percent support while Haggman has 16, Richardson 15 and Rosen Gonzalez 11. Michael Hepburn received four percent. The poll's margin of error is 4.7 percent. 

"To see where we’re at with just over three weeks left until the primary compared to where we were a few months ago, this is a testament to the strong campaign that has been built," Haggman campaign manager Michael Edwards said in a statement. "As a first time candidate, Matt did not come in with the name recognition Donna Shalala did. When you look at the poll, 59% of likely voters could change their mind and over a quarter of the electorate is still undecided. We will continue to knock on every door and meet voters across the district, drive Matt’s progressive message forward, and take this race all the way to victory in November." 

Haggman and Richardson are trying to present themselves as liberal alternatives to Shalala, the former president of the University of Miami and the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton. Haggman, the former director of the Knight Foundation, and Richardson both support a "Medicare for all" healthcare system and want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two positions that Shalala does not support. Haggman was one of the first candidates running for congress nationwide to call for abolishing ICE and released television ads on the issue. 

Richardson and Haggman also have enough financial muscle to continue television advertisements through the primary, though Shalala has shown she can out raise the field and would have the resources to mount a substantial attack against either if she chooses to do so. 

Though Haggman's polling shows a tightening race, Shalala remains the favorite to win the nomination for a seat that Democrats expect to flip in November, as Ros-Lehtinen's Miami-based seat had the largest margin of victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump among all congressional districts held by Republicans in 2016. 

"The question is, where's Donna?" Richardson consultant Eric Johnson said.  


New DeSantis TV ad uses footage from Trump Tampa rally

Desantis rally ad
A screen grab from the ad on Youtube

From tweets to a new TV ad, the DeSantis campaign is squeezing every last political drop from President Trump's visit to Tampa last week.

The new TV ad features video from the rally, including Trump's calling DeSantis a "tough, brilliant cookie."

It also features clips from DeSantis's speech, during which he repeated his campaign's major talking points: "getting the Constitution back in our classrooms," "fight illegal immigration" and "enact e-verify and stop sanctuary cities." Trump can be seen standing next to him on stage.

It's worth noting that the Florida Legislature has already passed a law that requires civics education for Florida middle schoolers. Last year, the state also required students attending state colleges or universities to pass a civics test or class which includes "an understanding of the U.S. Constitution."

Civics education in public schools could also become added to the state's constitution this year, as it is one part of a three-pronged education amendment that is currently slated to be on the November ballot.

The ad will be aired statewide beginning Tuesday, the latest of several back-to-back expensive, statewide ad buys from both DeSantis and his Republican opponent, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

Two Parkland families are backing Philip Levine on TV



Fred Guttenberg and Manuel and Patricia Oliver, the parents of two children killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, are behind Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine's gubernatorial bid. 

Guttenberg and the Olivers, who have traveled around the country promoting increased gun control measures since the Valentine's Day shooting, both cut TV commercials for Levine's campaign that will go on the air tomorrow in the Miami-Dade and West Palm media markets as part of a six-figure ad buy according to Levine's campaign. 

"I am proud to announce my support of Philip Levine for Governor of Florida," Guttenberg tweeted. "I believe firmly that he will strongly support and reinforce the legislation passed after Parkland. ." 

Levine is trying to emerge victorious in a five-way primary later this month that includes former Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, real estate developer Jeff Greene and businessman Chris King.

"I really believe that Philip is a doer, he can show it, he's part of that team that we're looking for," Manuel said in the ad where he appears beside his wife Patricia. 

Guttenberg in particular gained a national profile after he confronted Sen. Marco Rubio at a televised town hall two weeks after the shooting. He's since appeared at events and protests around the country, arguing that Republicans in Congress aren't doing enough to prevent future mass shootings. 

"Levine's a doer, not a talker," Guttenberg said in his ad.

Watch both ads below: 


August 01, 2018

Proponents appeal judge's ruling, leaving greyhound ban on November ballot in limbo

GreyhoundsA proposed constitutional amendment intended to end dog racing in Florida was thrown off the November ballot by a Tallahassee judge Wednesday, and by Thursday Attorney General Pam Bondi had appealed the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

Proposed Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, "is clearly and conclusively defective" because it misleads voters, concluded Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers.

The appeal puts a stay on Gievers' ruling until the court can review it. The deadline for finalizing the state ballot is Sept. 9, with overseas ballots distributed on Sept. 22. 

Gievers called it a "material omission" that the summary and title of the amendment omits that fact that the amendment will decouple dog racing from slot machines and fails to explain that by adopting the amendment voters are embracing "a new 'fundamental value' of humane treatment of animals" in the Florida Constitution.

The proposal "is misleading and inaccurate and incomplete, while adding up to a 'hide the ball,' fly a false flag' and outright 'trickeration,' she wrote.

The amendment was challenged by the Florida Greyhound Association, the owners, breeders, and trainers whose livelihood could be jeopardized if the proposal were to be approved by voters.

Gievers agreed with the association that the amendment fails the constitutional test of clearly providing voters accurate and complete information about the impact of the amendment. 

"Contrary to the words presented for consideration by the voters, the amendment would not end dog racing, nor would it eliminate wagering on dog racing,'' Gievers wrote.

Lawyers for the Greyhound Association argued that because tracks would still be allowed to conduct betting on dog races that are broadcast from outside the state, it would not put an end to all greyhound racing.

Greyhound racing has been dying in popularity for the past two decades but has been sustained in Florida because legislators required that in order to obtain a slot machine or card room permit, the operators had to perform a fixed number of live races a year.

Under the proposal, Florida would ban commercial dog racing after Dec. 31, 2020, shutting down the industry's largest U.S. venue. 

Major Harding, the former Florida Supreme Court justice who represented the greyhound owners in court, argued that the amendment was flawed because failed to tell if voters that, if approved, it would allow dog tracks to become stand-alone casinos without any racing.

The amendment was backed by animal rights groups and had the support of the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar. The supporter's political arm, the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, said it expects to prevail on appeal.

"This is the first step on a long road, and we are confident that the Florida Supreme Court will uphold the amendment,'' the group said in a statement.

"This lawsuit is a desperate attempt to prevent voters from having a voice on whether greyhound confinement and deaths should continue."

The group, which has the support of animal welfare organizations, greyhound adoption groups and many civic organizations, argues that greyhound deaths are a constant at a Florida racetracks.

"Greyhounds also endure lives of confinement, kept in warehouse-style kennels in rows of stacked metal cages for 20 to 23 hours per day,'' the statement said. "Amendment 13 will phase out this cruelty, and help thousands of dogs."

The ruling could be a warning to the CRC, which faces legal challenges on two other amendments in which opponents claim they are misleading.

Proposed Amendment 10 is being challenged by Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties because it fails to explain that it would strip voters in those counties of their constitutional right to govern themselves by overriding their home rule charters. The amendment rolls together several ideas, the most controversial of which would require Broward to elect a tax collector, Miami-Dade to elect a sheriff to replace its appointed chief law enforcement officer, and force Volusia County to reverse a decision voters made in 1970 to appoint its county officers. 

A hearing in that case is set for Friday in Leon County Circuit Court. 



Bernie Sanders endorses Andrew Gillum for governor


via @kirbywtweets

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who's come to personify the left flank of mainstream American politics, has endorsed Andrew Gillum for governor.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Sanders said he is backing Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, because of Gillum's stances on health care, the minimum wage, immigration and the environment.

"Andrew has never backed down from a fight, including beating the NRA and standing up against xenophobic politicians," Sanders said in the statement. "Andrew Gillum will set a new course for Florida — a governor who represents all the people and not just powerful special interests."

Gillum already had the endorsement of Our Revolution, the group that spun off of Sanders' unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, so it's not too surprising that Sanders would also throw his support behind Gillum. It's also unclear just how much Sanders' support will mean in Florida, where Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton by more than 30 points. (Gillum endorsed Clinton relatively early on in 2016.)

But Sanders remains a major figure in progressive politics. His support could make the difference in the wide open Democratic gubernatorial primary, which pits Gillum against Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene and Chris King.

"It's an honor to have Senator Bernie Sanders' endorsement in this campaign," Gillum said in a statement Wednesday. "He has been an unapologetic fighter for everyday working people standing up to the special interests. From Medicare-for-All, to a $15 minimum wage, his ideas and platform have become the Democratic Party's north star on economic justice for those who need it most."