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July 20, 2016

Rick Scott's misleading claim about the economy at Republican convention

Republican Gov. Rick Scott likes to be known as the "jobs governor" in Florida.

Opening the third night of the Republican National Convention, Scott said the United States is struggling on the economic front, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump knows how to make it strong again.

"Let me tell you why this is the time for Donald to be president," Scott said. "A lot of politicians like to give speeches where they say ‘We are at a crossroads.’ That’s not really where we are today. Today America is in a terrible world, record-high debt. Our economy is not growing. Our jobs are going overseas. We’ve allowed our military to decay and we project weakness on the international stage."

Trump made a similar statement about the economy at a Miami debate in March. Trump said, "GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters," which rated False.

Our fact-check will focus on Scott’s statement that the economy is "not growing." Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Bondi's 'lock her up' talk gives critics new ammunition

Attorney General Pam Bondi followed Gov. Rick Scott to the national stage Wednesday to give Florida an unusual 1-2 punch at the Republican National Convention. She said Trump will secure America's borders, roll back President Barack Obama's executive orders, and appoint conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Winning this election means reclaiming something to which I’ve dedicated my entire career: the rule of law," said Bondi, a former Hillsborough assistant state attorney and Florida's first two-term attorney general since Democrat Bob Butterworth left office in 2002.

Bondi, the state's chief legal officer, said of Hillary Clinton: "'Lock her up.' I love that. Stay with me."

The crowd loved that chunk of red meat, but she also sought to temper Trump's talk of building a wall and mass deportations of immigrants that has alienated Hispanic voters. As she told the Cleveland crowd: "He will enforce immigration laws to keep us safe, while allowing legal immigrants to bless this nation with their talents and their dreams ... Donald Trump will take control of our borders because we must stop the influx of cocaine and heroin coming into our country and my state, killing our kids."

Bondi has official and personal Twitter accounts, and her fiery rhetoric sent her critics racing to social media to rehash a number of her own controversies, from a $25,000 Trump University campaign donation to her testy exchange with CNN's Anderson Cooper over her past opposition to same sex marriage. Twitter critics called Bondi "corrupt," a "dumpster human," and worse.

The liberal group Progress Florida electronically sent a petition it said was signed by more than 6,000 Floridians, asking U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Bondi's acceptance of a $25,000 check from a Trump foundation in 2013 at a time when her office was reviewing a citizen's complaint about Trump University's practices. The group's Mark Ferrulo said Bondi has shown "a disturbing pattern" of siding with lobbyists and donors over Florida citizens.

A leading LGBT group in South Florida, SAVE, is using the convention appearances of Bondi, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as fodder to raise money for its Team Equality 2016 Victory Fund.

"Is it a surprise that any of these career politicians would cozy up to an angry homophobe, woman-hater, and racist like Donald Trump?" SAVE said in an email blast, citing Bondi's "crusade against marriage equality in 2014."

Bondi and Scott were among the night's first speakers. Bondi is the only woman who holds statewide office in Florida and is expected to play a high profile role in Trump's Florida campaign.

"I know Donald. And I’m proud to know Donald," Bondi said. "He will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution."

In a Fox News appearance on Tuesday, Sean Hannity asked Bondi if she would work in a Trump administration, and she replied that she would do anything to help Trump. Bondi's term expires in 2018 and she can't run again because of term limits.

Scott starts Day 3 with focus on terror: 'How many more Orlandos?'

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the third night of the Republican National Convention Wednesday by calling on Americans to elect Donald Trump president because he's the only candidate who can defeat terrorism.

He began on a personal note, by thanking Americans everywhere for their sympathy and support for the families of the victims at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were killed on June 12.

"How many more Orlandos, San Bernardinos or Fort Hoods will happen until President Obama decides to be honest?" Scott asked. "I cried with the grieving moms and dads and brothers and sisters of the 49 people slaughtered by the ISIS-inspired terrorist. This war is real. It is here in America, and the next president must destroy this evil. Donald Trump is the man for that job."

Scott said he has known Trump for about 20 years, dating to a time when Trump was building luxury hotels and casinos and Scott was building Columbia/HCA into the country's largest for-profit hospital system. 

"This election is about the very survival of the American dream," Scott said. "Vote for Donald Trump."

In hewing closely to Trump's campaign script, however, Scott must have had to swallow hard, because he uttered a line that has contradicted nearly every one of his own pronouncements since he took office in January 2011: "Our economy is not growing," Scott said. "Our jobs are going overseas." Hardly a day has gone by that Scott hasn't touted the growth and new jobs in Florida, the nation's third largest state.

Near the end of his speech, Scott bashed Democrat Hillary Clinton: "She fails, she fails, she fails," which brought chants of "Lock her up! Lock her up!" from the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Unlike most convention speakers, Scott introduced himself ("My name is Rick Scott") as he began his six-minute speech, which was carried live on CNN and MSNBC but not on the Fox News Channel. It was a brief but coveted turn on the national stage for a leader widely viewed as a likely candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida in 2018.

President Obama speaks to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Zika


The White House said Wednesday President Barack Obama had spoken by phone to Florida Gov. Rick Scott about a suspected case of locally transmitted Zika virus in Miami-Dade County.

Scott has criticized the Obama administration over its Zika response.

Here's what the White House said about the call:

The President spoke by phone today with Governor Rick Scott of Florida regarding the suspected case of mosquito transmission of Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health. This case would be the first documented Zika infection caused by a mosquito in the Continental United States.  The President recognized Florida's strong record of responding aggressively to local outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, and offered Federal support and technical assistance for Florida's ongoing case investigation and mosquito control efforts. He acknowledged Florida's close coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC for Zika preparedness. The President also noted during the call that in addition to the $2 million that CDC has provided to Florida for Zika preparedness, CDC is anticipating it will award Florida $5.6 million in Zika funding through a CDC grant to be awarded this week.

Take a peek at what Rick Scott and Pam Bondi plan to say at GOP convention


CLEVELAND -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott gets first billing Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, followed a bit later in the night -- when likely more viewers will be watching -- by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Here are excerpts of what they plan to say, provided by convention organizers:

Scott will speak about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando "and the growing worldwide threat of Islamic extremism":

“I cried with the grieving moms and dads and brothers and sisters of the 49 people slaughtered by an ISIS-inspired terrorist. This war is real. It is here in America. And the next president must destroy this evil. Donald Trump is the man for that job.”

“Today, America is in terrible, world-record-high debt. Our economy is not growing. Our jobs are going overseas. We have allowed our military to decay, and we project weakness on the international stage. Washington grows while the rest of America struggles. The Democrats have not led us to a crossroads, they have led us to a cliff.”

Bondi will focus on "restoring the rule of law":

“Hillary will stack the Supreme Court with liberal justices who will allow government to continue its rampage against our individual rights with utter contempt for our Second Amendment.

“I know Donald, and he will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution. Are you ready to send ISIS a message that we’re really coming after them? When Donald Trump is president, he will.”

South Florida congressional hopefuls spar over Big Sugar donations, agree on Cuba


Taddeo GarciaAnnette Taddeo is now going after former rep. Joe Garcia's campaign donors, alleging that he received "maxed-out" contributions from Big Sugar in yesterday's Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations forum.

The Democrats will face off in the Aug. 30 primary in a district that stretches from Westchester to Key West.

“Both my opponents have taken money from the sugar industry,” Taddeo said, in reference to Garcia and incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Garcia’s campaign responded to Taddeo’s claim.

“Joe has never been beholden to special interests and has a long Democratic record of standing up to polluters and protecting South Florida's environment,” Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement. “"This is just another made-up conspiracy theory that Republicans are famous for.”

On the issue of Cuba, Taddeo said she and Charlie Crist — who ran for governor in 2014 with Taddeo as running mate — were ahead of the curve when it came to loosening sanctions against the island.

“When I ran with Charlie we were the first ones in Florida to say ‘You know what? It’s time to change things,’” she said. “Barely a few weeks after the election, the president announced his new changes, to which I approve.”

Garcia acknowledged that his attitudes toward Cuba have changed over the years.

“I thought a hard policy in Cuba made a difference. It didn’t,” Garcia said. “The president didn’t get there by himself, he got there because people like myself were pushing that policy.”

The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will take on Curbelo in the general election.

Read more here: South Florida congressional hopeful spar over Obamacare, Big Sugar

Democrats' would-be challenger to Miami-Dade mayor just endorsed him


Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Jean Monestime has endorsed Mayor Carlos Gimenez's reelection bid, six months after extensive talks with Florida Democrats about challenging the Republican incumbent. 

Gimenez's campaign announced the endorsement on its Twitter account Wednesday afternoon. Monestime did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The endorsement marks a significant cross-over for Gimenez. Though county offices are officially non-partisan, Gimenez was a prime target for Florida Democrats in 2016 as they sought a local Democrat to challenge him and try to take advantage of presidential turn-out to oust Miami-Dade's senior local Republican. 

Monestime's discussion with Democrats sparked intense push back by local Democrats, including lobbyists, close to Gimenez when the news first in late December. State party officials were so confident of Monestime's intention to challenge Gimenez that they privately told reporters to be ready for an announcement event. But eight days later, Monestime announced he had considered a mayoral run but decided against it. 

The first Haitian-American elected commission chairman, Monestime could bring Gimenez help in winning support from that constituency in the Aug. 30 mayoral primary that may decide the race. The mayor is facing a challenge from school-board member Raquel Regalado and five other candidates with little name recognition. If nobody wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers face a November run-off on Election Day. 

As chairman, Monestime has sometimes been seen as an antagonist of Gimenez's. Shortly after his fellow commissioners elected him to the chairman's post in late 2014, Monestime picked a top Gimenez critic, Terry Murphy, as a senior aide. When Gimenez was championing a legalization plan for Uber and Lyft, Monestime briefly tried to block the legislation with an alternative bill opposed by the ride-hailing industry.  



Crist disavows rumors that he's on VP short list: 'that's news to me'

Charlie_crist-729215via @mikevansickler

Like most political observers, former Florida governor Charlie Crist thought he had a good handle on who Hillary Clinton was considering for her VP, which she's expected to announce this week, likely during her visit to Florida this weekend. 

But then his phone started ringing from reporters about a tweet from CBC News Alerts claiming that he, Charlie Crist, candidate for U.S. Congress, was in fact on Clinton's short list.

And then, helpfully:

Could it be true?

"That's news to me," Crist told the Herald Times. "I will be at the rally with her in Tampa." 

Continue reading "Crist disavows rumors that he's on VP short list: 'that's news to me'" »

Traffic and rail promises form dividing line in Miami-Dade mayoral race


Traffic certainly qualifies as a top gripe in Miami-Dade County, so it's no surprise to see it emerge as a top campaign issue in the mayoral campaign, too. 

Mayor Carlos Gimenez's first official television ad centers around his recent reset of the county's long-suffering rail ambitions. Known as the "SMART" plan, it calls for spending $31 million for new studies of major transit corridors across the county -- to determine whether they're suited for rail or less-expensive bus options. 

"My vision for the future of transit is the SMART Plan," Gimenez says in the ad, filmed in a county Metrorail car. "Six new transit corridors all throughout Miami-Dade."


The idea behind the SMART plan is to jump-start a rail plan county leaders promised voters in 2002  in exchange for a half-percent sales tax dedicated to transit. That was almost a decade before Gimenez took office in 2011.

The tax funds fell well short of ambitions, and almost none of the promised rail came to be. Five of Gimenez's six potential rail routes in the SMART plan overlap with the ones promised in 2002: an east-west line; the so-called Baylink route to South Beach; rail for Kendall; and lines going north and south. A sixth, a "Coastal Link" using existing cargo tracks that parallel the Miami waterfront, is also under consideration. 

Once the studies are completed, elected officials will have new ridership and cost projections to begin the hard work of deciding which routes might justify costly light-rail and which might be better off with something cheaper, such as high-tech buses running in dedicated lanes

At a candidate's forum on Tuesday night, Gimenez challenger Raquel Regalado ridiculed Gimenez's SMART plan as cover for his administration not delivering a major rail expansion beyond a two-mile extension to Miami International Airport. 

"It's more of the same," said Regalado, a two-term school board member. "If Carlos Gimenez didn't do it in five years, why would another four years make a difference?