April 17, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson poised for battle with Gov. Rick Scott


via @stevebousquet

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has been on the political stage longer than anyone in Florida, since 1972 — the year of Watergate and President Richard Nixon's re-election.

That's staying power. It's no wonder that at 74, he's not ready to retire.

Nelson, the only Democrat holding statewide office, has led a charmed political life, winning three Senate races against weak Republicans.

But that may be coming to an end. He wants a fourth term, and his likely opponent is Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"The way I approach an election, I assume nothing," Nelson says. "I run scared as a jackrabbit."

He should.

Scott, who has won two close races for governor, looks more battle-tested than Nelson, has more money in the bank and is a perpetual campaigner.

On the road constantly, the governor held several roundtables in recent weeks and urged local leaders to save Enterprise Florida from that "job-killing" House speaker, Richard Corcoran.

So it surely was coincidental that, with no notice, Corcoran invited Nelson to address the House last Thursday while the senator was in Tallahassee.

Keep reading here.

April 11, 2017

Nelson asks United Airlines CEO for explanation after passenger's forcible removal



U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other lawmakers sent a letter Tuesday to United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Muñoz asking him to explain to the Senate what happened Tuesday when a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago.

Video from the incident went viral. It took Muñoz several attempts to apologize for what happened. 

"The images and emerging account of this incident are very disturbing," the letter begins.

Nelson and three other senators -- Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington -- asked Muñoz a series of questions, including why the airline didn't figure out earlier that it needed to seat its four employees on the flight. Thune chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Nelson is the ranking member.

"It's unconscionable that United Airlines chose this alternative to drag a passenger off the airplane," Nelson said in a separate statement. "Why in the world did they not just raise the amount of money offered to get passengers to give up a seat?"

The senators have requested answers by April 20.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

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

Nelson calls for end on attacks to climate science

North miami sea rise
via @jenstaletovich

Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science.

Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics.

“There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner.

Southeast Florida is often considered a model for planning for climate change as it grapples with sea rise that has increased five to eight inches over the last 40 years. Four counties, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach, formed a compact eight years ago, vowing to work together to make the region more resilient for what could be a nearly three-foot rise by 2060.

But progress has been slow, in part because South Florida has often been at odds with a Republican-led state and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who reportedly banned the term climate change.

Now comes the Trump administration. In recent weeks, Nelson said he has met with supervisors in federal agencies who say the administration has issued the same ban. Worse, he said, the administration has proposed scaling back agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, that provide critical research and enforce regulations that deal with climate-related problems.

More here.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

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 06, 2017

Nelson says he's raised more than $2M for reelection this quarter

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson raised more than $2 million in the first quarter, his campaign said, and enters the 2018 re-election effort with $3.6 million in the bank.

A news release noted polling showing Democrat Nelson winning a hypothetical 2018 matchup with Gov. Rick Scott.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

Senate uses 'nuclear' option as Bill Nelson joins filibuster


via @learyreports

The United States Senate just went nuclear.

With Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this morning joining a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Republlicans just approved a rule change to allow confirmation with a simple majority.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined the GOP to invoke the "nuclear option."

"The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times in February, adding that it was a “mistake” for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

Democrats will point to the GOP's refusal to take up Merrick Garland, President Obama's choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. And Republicans will blame Democrats for changing rules that have been considered sacrosanct.

Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed Friday.

March 30, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson to hold first major Miami fundraiser



U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is expected to face a major reelection battle in 2018, will hold his first major Miami fundraiser Friday.

Ira and Cynthia Leesfield, major donors to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, are hosting the event at their Miami home Friday evening. About 100 people are expected to attend the fundraiser where the minimum donation is $1,000.

"There were some reservations that it would be hard to raise money after the presidential election but the fact of the matter is that's not so," Ira Leesfield said. "People are very motivated out of fear or whatever you name it."

Nelson will attend a smaller fundraiser later in the evening at the home of Roger Thomson and Jim Tyrell in Miami Beach. That fundraiser is expected to draw members of the LGBT community and beach residents.

Nelson is likely to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott who is considering a bid. Nationally, Republicans are targeting Nelson as a Democrat in a swing state where President Donald Trump won. Nelson is Florida's only Democratic statewide office holder.

Nelson has easily won elections multiple times, but the millionaire Scott would be a far more formidable opponent. In 2012, Nelson was reelected to his third term when he beat Connie Mack IV, a Fort Myers Congressman.

Early polls have shown Nelson leading Scott.


March 29, 2017

Nelson defends backing Gorsuch filibuster

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson defended his decision to join a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch despite opposing one a decade ago for Samuel Alito.

“Each nominee is different, and how Sen. Nelson votes for one nominee has no bearing on how he’ll vote for another,” spokesman Ryan Brown said in response to a Tampa Bay Times question.

“Plus, the motion to invoke cloture on Alito’s nomination wasn’t as controversial as the upcoming cloture vote on Gorsuch. Nearly three-quarters of the Senate – including nearly half of the Democratic caucus – voted for cloture on Alito in 2006. Trying to compare the two would be like trying to compare apples and oranges.”

Does he regret at all supporting Gorsuch in the past?

“The Senate confirmed Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in 2006 by unanimous consent,” Brown said. “Under Senate rules, a request for unanimous consent is approved unless one senator objects. Nelson did not object to Gorsuch being an appeals court judge, which is significantly different than supporting his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

March 27, 2017

Nelson makes up his mind: He'll vote 'no' on Gorsuch

Senate Supreme Court

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday that he will vote against Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. 

"Deciding whether to confirm a president's nominee for the highest court in the land is a responsibility I take very seriously," Nelson said in a statement. "Over the past few weeks, I have met with Judge Gorsuch, listened to the Judiciary Committee's hearings and reviewed his record with an open mind. I have real concerns with his thinking on protecting the right to vote and allowing unlimited money in political campaigns. In addition, the judge has consistently sided with corporations over employees, as in the case of a freezing truck driver who, contrary to common sense, Judge Gorsuch would have allowed to be fired for abandoning his disabled rig during extreme weather conditions.

Nelson also made clear he would join Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who last week urged his colleagues to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.

"I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation," Nelson said.

Nelson faces reelection in 2018 and is a top target of national Republicans, who have been pressuring him to back Gorsuch. In 2006, they noted, Nelson voted against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito but did not join the filibuster against him.

"In the past, Nelson thought nominees deserved an up or down vote," the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a statement. "Remember, in 2006, Nelson voted for cloture to end the filibuster on Judge Alito’s nomination. The same year, Nelson joined his Senate colleagues to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in a unanimous vote. Clearly Nelson has been in Washington way too long and is forgetting he represents Florida, not Washington liberals."

Object preview

Shortly after revealing his decision, Nelson emailed supporters asking them to pitch into his campaign.


Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press