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July 15, 2015

Carlos Lopez-Cantera: 'I'm running for the U.S. Senate'


Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state lawmaker who rose from relative obscurity as Miami-Dade County property appraiser to become next-in-line to the Florida governor, will pursue the U.S. Senate seat now filled by one of his close friends, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

“I’m running so that they can live in the kind of country that gave my Cuban family the blessings of liberty and freedom that only the United States of America offers,” Lopez-Cantera said of his two daughters at his campaign kickoff Wednesday. “I’m running so that your children can have the same opportunities.”

Casting himself as an outsider, he offered a platform familiar to voters who paid attention to last year’s gubernatorial campaign. Lopez-Cantera hit the same points as when he ran with Gov. Rick Scott — job creation and tax reduction — though he also touched on foreign-policy issues crucial to South Florida voters: defending democracy in Cuba and Venezuela and improving relations with Israel.

“CLC!” chanted the largely Cuban-American crowd, using Lopez-Cantera’s initials and legislative nickname.

More here



This post has been updated.

July 14, 2015

Miami state Senate candidate wants Florida to do away with Confederate holidays in law


Andrew Korge, the son of Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge and a candidate in 2020 for the Florida Senate, said Tuesday he has asked Republican leaders to do away with three "Confederate holidays."

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Korge cited that South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from its state grounds last week, following the deadly shooting of nine people in a historic black church in Charleston.

Florida law "designates the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Memorial Day, as official state holidays," Korge wrote. "The Confederacy and its leaders, who fought to guarantee the right to enslave human beings, are not worthy of such a celebration."

While called "legal holidays," the three dates are not observed as paid holidays for state workers, so they're not on par with, say, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday or Veterans' Day.

In a campaign statement, Korge said wiping those commemorative dates from state statutes would be a "small step" for Florida to take. "We must move on from racial divisions of the past so we can focus on building a 21st century Florida that we will be proud to leave to our children," he said.

Korge is in the unusual position of campaigning five years in advance of an election just in case state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat, decides not to run again in 2016.

Suffolk poll: Donald Trump leads GOP presidential field, ahead of Jeb Bush


Donald Trump is ahead in the 2016 Republican presidential race, according to a new national poll.

The survey by Suffolk University and USA Today found Trump drawing 17 percent of GOP support, followed by Jeb Bush with 14 percent support. They were the only two Republicans with double-digit backing. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fourth place with 5 percent.

A full 30 percent of the Republican electorate remains undecided, however. It's very early for polls -- especially national ones, as opposed to ones for early primary states -- to predict much. They reveal a snapshot in time given the still-small number of voters paying attention to the race.

In a hypothetical match-up against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump is upside down 51-34 percent. Bush fared best against the former Secretary of State, 46-42 percent. The poll's error margin is 3 percentage points.

"Trump is making daily headlines in advance of the primary season," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University political Research Center. "This has vaulted him to the top of the pack on the backs of conservative voters. But when you expand the electoral pool to include Democrats and independents that potency dissipates."

Jeb Bush takes on Donald Trump's 'vitriol'


Jeb Bush, a promoter of immigration reform whose wife was born in Mexico, took some political heat for not immediately denouncing Donald Trump's characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals.

But Bush has warmed up to criticizing Trump now.

At an Iowa campaign event Tuesday, Bush decried "people that prey on people's fears and their angst as well."

"We need to focus on the things that tie us together," he said. "And whether it's Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong. A Republican will never win by striking fear in people's hearts."


Asked later by a reporter why, of all his GOP presidential rivals, Bush decided to go after Trump, the former Florida governor noted voters haven't brought up the real-estate mogul. But Bush answered anyway.

"I don't want to be associated with the kind of vitriol he's spewing out these days," he said of Trump.

At a campaign rally in Arizona over the weekend, Trump mentioned that he's leading some national 2016 polls -- along with Bush.

"How can I be tied with Jeb Bush?" Trump said. "He's terrible."

Marco Rubio allies air 2nd TV ad against Iran deal


Conservative Solutions Project, a political non-profit run by supporters of Marco Rubio, said Tuesday it is launching its second TV spot opposing a nuclear agreement with Iran. The ad is set to air on national cable stations, according to the group. Its first ad, criticizing the deal while it was still in the works, began airing last month.

The group said last week it has raised $15.8 million since last year. As a tax-exempt non-profit, it can keep its political donors secret, unlike candidates and political action committees.


Ron DeSantis reports first Florida Senate fundraising numbers


U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Ponte Vedra Beach Republican running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday he collected $1 million in the fundraising quarter that ended June 30.

He reported the total the day before fellow Republican Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the state's lieutenant governor, plans to jump in the primary race. DeSantis' statement made sure to list several new donors to his campaign who live in South Florida, Lopez-Cantera's stronghold. Among the donors was longtime Miami-Dade GOP contributor Stanley Tate.

"I'm confident that we will have the resources we need to draw a clear contrast between my vision of limited government, economic prosperity and a strong defense with whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee and as the defender of continuing failed big government policies," DeSantis said in a statement.

His campaign said the candidate has more than $2 million in the bank, having started the quarter as a congressional candidate with $1.1 million cash on hand. Those funds transferred to the Senate account.

Did Alan Grayson pass the most bills and amendments?

Though U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is perhaps most famous for his colorful language about Republicans, in his campaign for U.S. Senate he wants to portray himself as a politician who gets things done -- even when Republicans are in charge of Congress.

On July 9, Grayson announced that he will take on fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Grayson repeatedly made claims that he is No. 1 in terms of legislation passed:

"In the past two years in Congress, I’ve written more bills, passed more amendments on the floor of the House and enacted more of my bills into law than any other member of the House -- No. 1 out of 435 of us," Grayson said in an announcement video on

Is Grayson No. 1 in introducing bills as well as passing bills and amendments?

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer and see Grayson's full Truth-O-Meter record.

Court annuls Alan Grayson's marriage


An Orlando judge has granted U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson the annulment that he sought to his marriage, according to a court order provided by a Grayson aide.

The messy separation from his wife, Lolita Grayson, had been headline fodder in the weeks leading up to Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign launch last week. And we've likely not seen the end of it: There's plenty of campaign ads to come.

--with Amy Sherman

A window into how the debate over property taxes is dividing Republicans

CLEARWATER _David McKalip arrived at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee meeting Monday night with ammunition. 

The St. Petersburg neurosurgeon and outspoken conservative firebrand came armed with an amendment to a simple, boilerplate tax resolution that asserted the Pinellas Republicans were opposed any increase in millage rates for the 24 cities and 54 taxing districts in the county.

As REC chairman Nick DiCeglie read the resolution, McKalip stood in opposition. He wanted to make one change: to have the REC oppose any millage rate that did not rollback taxes to this year’s levels.

Property values are projected to rise 4.5 percent in the county this year, he argued, and “the amount of money you write in a check to the government goes up. That’s a tax increase.”

McKalip’s amendment would instruct cities and taxing districts to essentially reject the added revenues from the recovering property market and lower millage rates accordingly.

But the issue hit a nerve in the purple county, where Democrats outnumber Republicans – about 3,400 registered voters by DiCeglie’s count. A similar issue faced Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislators as they advanced a state budget that allows for the school districts to claim the increased revenues from rising property tax values rather than order a rollback in school millage rates.

The Pinellas REC leaders were not willing to let McKalip pressure Republican elected officials to make that choice.

Continue reading "A window into how the debate over property taxes is dividing Republicans" »