March 22, 2016

Former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia announces bid for Gwen Graham's seat in Congress

From the News Service of Florida:

Former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia formally announced Tuesday that he will run for a newly redrawn U.S. House seat held by Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham.

Speaking at a park in Tallahassee across the street from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Sukhia told a few dozen supporters that he would fight for conservative values if elected.

"I stand here this afternoon because I love our country, and I want to save our core principles," said Sukhia, a Republican. "I want to be used in the battle and to know that when the foundations were being attacked, I did my part to defend them. I believe I am proven and prepared for this fight."

Sukhia has long been involved in Republican legal circles, serving as U.S. attorney for North Florida under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, and working as a private attorney on recount litigation for George W. Bush in 2000.

Sukhia enters a GOP primary race that already includes Neal Dunn, a surgeon who has raised more than $700,000 when his own money is included, and Mary Thomas, a lawyer at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs who has raised almost $300,000 counting what she has chipped into her campaign.

While Graham ousted Republican incumbent Steve Southerland in 2014 despite a GOP wave across the country, a new redistricting plan makes the 2nd Congressional District heavily tilted against Democrats. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the redrawn district by almost 31 points in 2012.

March 21, 2016

Matt Gaetz launches bid for Congress, handing father's state Senate seat to George Gainer



State Rep. Matt Gaetz is forgoing his bid to replace his father in the Florida Senate and is, instead, now running for U.S. Congress.

Gaetz announced his congressional campaign this morning with a 30-second Facebook video and a rebranded, with the slogan: "Fight Washington, Restore America."

"It isn’t too late for America to get back on track," Gaetz says on his website. "We’ve taken some hits with Obamacare, the Iran deal, and illegal executive actions, but I know we can reverse those decisions and get real solutions. I will work hard to bring back the conservative principles this country was founded on, and I won’t stop working until it happens."

The Fort Walton Beach Republican is seeking Jeff Miller's seat to represent Florida's 1st Congressional District, which includes the western Panhandle. Miller isn't seeking re-election.

Gaetz registered his campaign with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday, so he can begin fundraising immediately.

I'm running...

#FightWashington #RestoreAmerica

Posted by Representative Matt Gaetz on Monday, March 21, 2016


Gaetz, a commercial litigator, has been a staunch conservative in the state House in the past six years. During the 2016 session, he was involved in some of the most contentious and high-profile issues the Legislature discussed, such as medical marijuana, tax cuts, fantasy sports, Uber regulations, and advocating for the open-carrying of handguns in Florida.

Gaetz had been in a hotly contested primary race against Bay County Commissioner George Broward Gainer to fill Don Gaetz's seat in the state Senate next year. Matt Gaetz and Gainer combined had raised over $1.6 million in that race. (Don Gaetz is term-limited.)

Matt Gaetz's departure from the Senate contest all-but hands the Republican-heavy seat to Gainer. In the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney took the district with 74 percent of the vote.

The congressional contest should be an easier battle for Gaetz, but he still might face stiff competition. As of Friday, current state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, had also been weighing a run for Miller's seat.

"While I planned to continue serving in the Florida Legislature, the fights we must win to save this country are in Washington," Gaetz said in a statement announcing his campaign. "When Donald Trump is president, Northwest Florida’s voice in Congress must ring loud and clear for bold, conservative reform. Mine will."

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

March 18, 2016

South Florida Republicans break with GOP in deportation vote


Only five Republican lawmakers stood up to their party leader in voting against allowing House Speaker Paul Ryan to file an amicus brief opposing President Barack Obama's decision to withhold deportation for more than 5 million undocumented immigrants.

All three Cuban-American representatives from South Florida -- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo -- were among the five Republicans who voted against a resolution that the House passed Thursday almost entirely along party lines.

The Supreme Court next month will hear a case brought by Texas, joined by Florida and 24 other states, arguing that Obama's bid to shield about 5.2 million illegal aliens from deportation imposes unaffordable health-care, education, law-enforcement and other costs on them.

Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who replaced Ohioan John Boehner as speaker in October, acknowledged that House intervention in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court was unprecedented, but he insisted it was necessary to prevent executive overreach by Obama.

With no Democrats voting for the bill, Ryan and other Republicans said Obama's executive orders dating to 2012 amount to the president legislating immigration reform without going through Congress.

"I recognize that this is a very extraordinary step," Ryan said on the House floor. "I feel it is very necessary, though. In fact, I believe this is vital."

In a joint statement Friday, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart said that although individual members of Congress have the right to file briefs supporting court cases, the House as a whole should not do so.

"All amicus briefs should carry the same weight, and beginning this pattern may signal to the Supreme Court that Congress is prioritizing certain cases over others," the two Miami Republicans said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a first-term Republican from Kendall, went further. He accused Republicans of playing politics with the important issue of immigration.

"For two long, both parties have preferred to score petty political points using the immigration issue rather than passing meaningful reform to secure the border, reform our visa system and find a fair solution for the undocumented," Curbelo said.

"The surest and most constitutionally solvent way to end the president's executive overreach is to pass meaningful immigration reform, not by employing empty tactics that ignore the root cause of the problem," he said.

The two other Republicans who voted against the House resolution were Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Robert Dold of Illinois. Rep. Alex Mooney, a West Virginia Republican and one of five other Cuban-Americans in Congress, voted for the measure, which passed by a 234-186 margin.

Among Florida's 24 other U.S. House members, 22 voted along party lines, with Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan failing to vote.

Nine other Florida Democrats voted against the measure, among them Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Two lower courts have ruled in favor of the states, most recently the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.

With only eight justices on the Supreme Court since Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month, a 4-4 decision after the scheduled April 18 arguments would uphold the lower courts' rulings and overturn Obama's executive orders protecting millions of undocumented parents and their children from deportation.

Obama on Wednesday chose Merrick Garland, a former federal prosecutor and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace Scalia on the high court, but Senate Republican leaders are refusing to take a vote or even hold hearings on the nomination, saying Obama has only 10 months left in office.

Immigration has become perhaps the most divisive issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump vowing to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, ridiculed Republican lawmakers, many of whom he said have disingenuously tried to distance themselves from Trump's hardline stance on immigration.

"They keep saying, 'Well, Trump doesn't represent us, he doesn't (represent) our views, he doesn't represent our values,' and now they want to know where Trump gets all of his anti-immigrant, xenophobic views from," Gutierrez told reporters. "Try the House of Republicans."

In a speech Friday on the House floor, Gutierrez accused his Republican colleagues of "stoking anti-immigrant fears and mass-deportation fantasies."

"The vote is a political stunt disguised as a legal brief because the Republican majority sees a crass political opportunity to stand with the anti-immigration wing of their party," he said.  

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 60 individual business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, filed an amicus brief supporting Obama last week.

Before the vote Thursday, Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said "the Latino community is being used for political purposes."

Sanchez added: "We are being demonized, we are being marginalized, and we see a frightening level of hateful rhetoric and vile hate speech aimed at our community, and nobody is standing up within the Republican Party to say that this is unacceptable."

America's Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, said the vote Thursday was the eighth "anti-immigration" vote taken by Republicans in the current session of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 223 other Democrats filed an amicus brief backing Obama earlier this month, but there was no vote on the brief and it represents them as individuals.

In still another amicus brief, almost 120 cities and counties across the United States on March 8 expressed support for Obama, among them Pembroke Pines, Tampa and Sunrise.


March 16, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott has Miami Hurricanes victorious, FGCU going far in March Madness bracket



In his official prediction for this year's NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott is favoring his home-state teams.

He picked the University of Miami Hurricanes to go all the way and claim the National Championship over the Michigan State Spartans.

He's also predicting Florida Gulf Coast University will make it to the Elite Eight. He has the Eagles besting No. 1-seeded North Carolina, USC and Kentucky before losing to West Virginia in the East regional finals.

Scott posted a signed copy of his selections on Twitter this afternoon, including a photo of himself filling out the bracket:

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott has Miami Hurricanes victorious, FGCU going far in March Madness bracket" »

March 15, 2016

Secretary of State Ken Detzner issues statement about Palm Beach County voting


Apparently, some voters in Palm Beach County are confused about how a closed party primary works.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner released a statement this afternoon "on voting in Palm Beach County" today.

He noted his office "has spoken with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office and all eligible voters are able to vote."

"Anyone who is registered as No Party Affiliation (NPA) is not able to vote for a Republican or Democratic nominee in the Presidential Preference Primary," Detzner said. "No Party Affiliation voters who showed up at the polls were provided with ballots for local municipal races. Pursuant to Florida law, only voters registered for one of Florida’s major political parties by the bookclosing deadline (February 16) are eligible to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary."

It's unclear what exactly prompted the statement.

Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County's supervisor of elections, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Like parts of Miami-Dade and Broward, several Palm Beach County municipalities have local elections today in addition to the presidential primary.

The Palm Beach Post reported earlier today that Sean Hannity said on his national radio show that Donald Trump supporters seeking to vote for him in Jupiter weren't able to do so.

The newspaper quoted Bucher as saying dozens of people were "really mad" because they couldn't vote in the presidential primary because they failed to change or register their party affiliation.

March 03, 2016

Obama-Biden endorsement in U.S. Senate race fractures Florida Democrats


A division of the Florida Democratic Party is upset that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have chimed in on the contentious party primary in the state's U.S. Senate race.

Obama and Biden on Wednesday endorsed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, over fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, further fortifying Murphy's status as the establishment pick.

But progressive Democrats have passionately backed Grayson and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida -- an official subsection of the state party -- doesn't think it's appropriate for the national party's figureheads to take sides.

"As someone who worked hard to help President Obama win Florida in 2008 and 2012, I am profoundly saddened and disappointed by his apparent lack of trust in Florida Democrats to choose our own U.S. Senate nominee," caucus president Susan Smith said in a statement this morning.

Smith pointed to Grayson's favorable polling. She also criticized Murphy's congressional record and the fact that he was previously a Republican before running for office.

"As much as it breaks my heart to see President Obama attempt to put his thumb on the scale for Patrick Murphy, it's even more worrisome that the president seems to have done so with bad information," Smith said. "I hope the President will read up on Murphy's real record and reconsider his decision to throw the weight of the White House behind someone who will do Wall Street's bidding."

The Florida Democratic Party doesn't endorse in primaries before the qualifying deadline and has no plans to endorse a candidate. 

Executive director Scott Arceneaux told the Herald/Times that the state party is "deeply disappointed in the Progressive Caucus’ statement."

"To use this statement to imply the President and Vice President of the United States are misinformed or unable to thoughtfully arrive at conclusions that differ from the Progressive Caucus’ view is as disturbing as their decision to attack a Democratic member of Florida’s congressional delegation," Arceneaux said in a statement.

He added, “We are a big tent party with diverse views and should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. The Florida Democratic Party welcomes the input of President Obama and Vice President Biden in our races.”

Also Wednesday, Obama and Biden endorsed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in that state's party primary for the U.S. Senate. Murphy and Strickland were the first Senate candidates Obama and Biden have endorsed this cycle.

March 02, 2016

Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack



Adding to his lengthy -- and growing -- list of establishment endorsements, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy just landed the two biggest names possible for a Democrat: Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The president and vice president of the United States are backing Murphy in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, Murphy's campaign announced this morning.

And Biden will campaign with Murphy on March 28, the campaign said. Specific details haven't been released yet.

In statements provided by the campaign, both Obama and Biden heaped praise on Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, for his work supporting the middle-class and a host of other issues.

"Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made," Obama said in the statement. "In Congress, he's fought to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, reform our criminal justice system, and protect a woman's right to choose. Floridians can count on Patrick Murphy to stand up for them every day as their next Senator."

Biden added, "Patrick Murphy has the progressive values, the work ethic and the youthful energy the U.S. Senate needs. He'll work tirelessly to bring people together to make a difference for Florida's middle class."

The endorsements -- including that compliment -- weren't well-received by Murphy's primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. The Orlando congressman is a proud and passionate progressive, who's banking on progressives' support to beat Murphy in Florida's Democratic primary in August.

Grayson's campaign said in a statement that Obama's and Biden's endorsements smack of "a last-ditch effort by the D.C. Establishment to try to blunt our large and growing command of the race."

Continue reading "Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack" »

March 01, 2016

Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited


Self-declaring as the "clear front-runners" in Florida's contentious U.S. Senate race, Democrat Alan Grayson and Republican David Jolly say they have agreed to a series of head-to-head debates between this month and the November election.

The congressmen's joint announcement capitalizes on the latest Public Policy Polling poll, released earlier today, which found Jolly and Grayson each with more than 25 percent of likely voters' support and with double-digit leads in their respective party primaries.

Grayson told the Herald/Times that none of the other contenders -- Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox -- was invited because, he said, "nobody else is really in contention."

"We're both polling with double-digit leads and that's been consistent," Grayson said.

However, the PPP poll was far from a decisive declaration of the race. In both the Republican and Democratic contests, almost half of voters polled remain "undecided" -- a consistent theme in other polls on the race for Marco Rubio's open U.S. Senate seat.

The crowded field has meant all of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, have struggled to stand out.

Grayson said he invited Jolly to do the debates; he said the congressman from Indian Shores "well and ably represents the Republican point of view."

They want the match-ups to be "genuine debates on the major issues of the day" akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Grayson said.

Jolly said the debates will provide the opportunity "to contrast our differing views for the future of Florida and the country."

Continue reading "Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited" »

Rick Scott isn't picking a side in Florida U.S. Senate race that includes his No. 2

via @TMarreroTimes

Gov. Rick Scott is keeping the door shut on an endorsement of his lieutenant governor, who is running in a crowded U.S. Senate race that got a little more crowded this week with the addition of another key ally of the governor’s. 

Carlos Beruff, a wealthy Manatee County developer with Miami roots who served on Scott’s transition team and chaired his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, officially announced his candidacy Monday. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been in the race since July. 

Tuesday, Scott said he has no plans to make an endorsement in a contest that also includes U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis

“I am not endorsing in the Senate race,” Scott told reporters after a reporter asked if he would consider endorsing Beruff. “There’s a lot of good candidates running. My lieutenant governor’s in that race. Carlos Beruff, I think, entered just in the last couple of days. He was the chairman of my hospital and health care commission and did a good job. My lieutenant governor’s done a great job.”

Scott made the comments after a medal ceremony for veterans in Pinellas Park.

Public Policy Polling’s latest survey found that Lopez-Cantera is trailing both Jolly and DeSantis.

Scott says he hasn't made decision on presidential endorsement and isn't sure he will

via @TMarreroTimes:

As a presidential race of epic proportions continued to rage and voters in 13 states went to the polls for Super Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott seems content to sit on the sidelines, at least for now.

Exactly two weeks before Florida’s March 15 primary, Scott has yet to endorse a candidate in the Republican race. On Tuesday, Scott said he hasn't made a decision and is not sure if he will.

Here are portions of an exchange with reporters after Scott awarded the Governor’s Service Medal to several dozen veterans during a ceremony at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park.

Reporter: You’ve been rumored to be a possible nominee to run with (frontrunner Donald) Trump. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Scott: I’ve got three years left on this job. By the way, this is a great job. I’ve worked hard to make sure everybody can get a job in our state. We’ve added a million jobs. I’ve got three years left. My goal at the end of this time as governor is people are going to say, "I have to live in Florida because I can get a job, I have to live in Florida because my kids can get a great education and I have to live in Florida because I know I can be safe.”

Reporter: Would you consider endorsing Trump for president?

Scott: I haven’t endorsed anyone in the presidential race to date. I’m not sure if I will. My focus, as you know, is on jobs. We’ve added a million jobs. I’m looking for the best jobs plan. Somebody that’s going to cut our federal debt. Somebody that’s going to cut taxes. Somebody’s that’s going to reduce federal regulation. Somebody that’s going to figure out how to destroy Isis.

Reporter: Have you made a decision that you will endorse, or are you still on the fence about whether you will? If you do, do you have a time frame on when you would?

Scott: I haven’t made a decision on it.

Scott has made known his admiration for Trump, however. In early January, penned a glowing op/ed for USA Today that seemed to all but endorse Trump.

As for Scott getting picked as Trump’s running mate, check out what Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith had to say on that.