Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

November 13, 2015

Sunshine Summit: Mike Huckabee

ORLANDO -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee reminisced about how he took on the Clinton machine in Arkansas and talked about the economy and immigration during the Republican Party of Florida Sunshine Summit in Orlando Friday. Here are some excerpts:

HILLARY CLINTON: “I don’t know of anybody that is better prepared to take on battle with Hillary than me because no one ever faced the Clinton machine like I did because every election I was ever involved in was against the Bill and Hillary Clinton apparatus.”

ECONOMY: “Yes we have to fix our economy. I’m the one candidate who believes tinkering with the current tax code is an inaccurate approach. ... The bottom 90% of American workers their wages have been stagnant for the last 40 years.”

IMMIGRATION: “Every Republican says we will secure the border. But we always say that and never seem to do it. .... As president I will put the Director of Homeland Security and his family in Laredo, Texas and say you are not leaving until you secure the border.”

LAUGH LINE: “I know when I die and go to heaven I’m going to stop in Atlanta on the way.” (The line was part of his anecdote about getting stuck in an airport.)

Sunshine Summit: Lindsey Graham

via @adamsmithtimes

ORLANDO -- Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke very sloooowly and somberly to a mostly empty ballroom, warning that the safety of America is at stake in this presidential election.

"I've never been more worried about another 9/11 than I am right now," the South Carolina senator said. "If we don't change our foreign policy -- soon --- we're going to pay a heavy price."

Graham, 60, was especially critical of the Iran deal and of Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attacks: "Before the attack, she let people down. During the attack she was AWOL. And after the attack she lied."

As he excoriated President Barack Obama's foreign policy, a woman in the audience shouted, "He's a traitor!"

"No ma'am," Graham responded. "He's not a traitor. He just doesn't know what he's doing."

Graham is a foreign policy hawk who antagonizes some conservatives for his support for immigration reform, but he did not shy away from the issue Friday. No way can America round up and deport 11 million people living in America, he said.

"I am worried about .. losing the Hispanic vote for a generation," he said.

The senator also gave a nod to the main Florida candidates in the race.

"You have two wonderful candidates from Florida running," said Graham, presumably unaware that Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson also call Florida home. "You should be very proud."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Sunshine Summit: Ted Cruz


ORLANDO -- It made for interesting politics, to watch Ted Cruz addressing the Republican Party of Florida's Sunshine Summit while rival Marco Rubio spoke to reporters across the hall. The two senators have been locking horns over the past two days over immigration.

A smaller crowd awaited Cruz than Rubio, but some of the people in the audience were true believers. They hollered during Cruz's speech ("We love you!" a woman yelled. "We the people love you!" a man added) and chanted his name once he was done. When Cruz saw the TelePrompTer, he grabbed it and joked: "Is Obama coming?"

A few memorable moments:

HE'S MAKING A LIST: Cruz rattled off all the policy items he would tackle as president, starting with undoing President Obama's executive actions to investigating Planned Parenthood to getting Congress to repeal "every word of Obamacare," to abolishing the U.S. Department of Education and doing away with the Internal Revenue Service. 

"In the days that follow we will finally, finally, finally secure the borders and end sanctuary cities. We will stop releasing criminal illegal aliens, and we will pass Kate's Law."

TED VS. THE WORLD: The "single biggest difference" between himself and his rivals: "When I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do exactly what I say I'm going to do."

MEDIA LOVE: By the end of his two terms in the White House, Cruz pledged, "a whole lot of reporters...will have checked themselves into therapy."

TAKE THAT, FLORIDA CANDIDATES: "Do you know which campaign has the most cash on hand the most money in the bank?" Cruz asked, spreading his arms wide for effect. "We do!"

MY DAD'S CUBAN, TOO: "My whole life, my dad has been my hero," Cruz said of his Cuban-born father, Rafael. "Every one of us here, we have a story just like that in our backgrounds. Some of us, it's us. Others, it's our parents. Others, it's our great-great-great grandparents. But what ties Americans together is everyone of us is the children of those who risked everything for us."

TEXAS HEARTS FLORIDA: "Florida and Texas share a lot in common," Cruz said. "We're immigrant states." And southern states that like sunshine, he added. "Florida's primary is a critical time, and Florida can play the decisive role in ensuring that the next Republican nominee for president is a strong conservative."

Sunshine Summit: Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

ORLANDO -- Marco Rubio was the first presidential candidate to address the Sunshine Summit in Orlando and may have suffered from a crowd not yet warmed up, or one familiar with his stump speech. The reaction was warm but not overwhelming.

Still, Rubio delivered pleasing lines about national security, throwing out the Iran nuclear deal, repealing Obamacare and opposing Common Core. He did not address immigration but that was a dominant topic during a news conference that followed.

Speech highlights:

Joker: "I’m not sure who brought Barack Obama’s TelePrompTer. But I wish I could move it so I could see you. … We don't have any socialists running and none of our candidates is under investigation by the FBI.”

Bush bashing. He didn’t say Bush’s name but Bush was clearly a focus when Rubio said governors don’t create jobs, the private sector does. Rubio also said federal government should not be involved in K-12 education. That’s why we don’t need Common Core,” he said to applause. Then: "I feel called to this. I don't come from wealthy and politically connected parents."

Family Values: “There is no replacement for the family. It is the original government. It is the most important school you will ever attend.” This is a newer line in Rubio's standard speech.

Turn the page: Rubio laced his address with his generational, turn-the-page argument. “We are running out of time,” to fix the problems facing the country.  

Strong America: “In the face of all these threats, we are gutting our military capability, and that is why one the first things this party must be about is we must be the party of a strong national defense.” (Big applause.)

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Steve Andrews tangles again with Rick Scott administration, this time over internet searches

Jeffery Beasley

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is tangled again in another public records issue with the Tallahassee attorney that won the $700,000 judgment against him for failing to turnover private emails.

Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews has asked the Department of Corrections to turn over seven months of search engine data of its chief inspector general as part of the legal fight several current and former employees have with the agency.

After waiting for more than three months, Andrews is now asking a court to intervene.

 “People search for a lot of things on the internet and we think there is going to be a lot of things that are highly relative and valuable to our clients,’’ said Ryan Andrews, Steven Andrews’ son and a lawyer in the firm.

The employees have alleged that the agency’s chief inspector general, Jeff Beasley, has routinely covered up suspicious inmate deaths, inappropriate use of force and other questionable activities within the state’s prison agency.

Photo: Jeff Beasley

Continue reading "Steve Andrews tangles again with Rick Scott administration, this time over internet searches" »

Ahead of first Florida event, Ted Cruz names state team

via @adamsmithtimes

The Ted Cruz presidential campaign today rolls out its "Florida Leadership Team:

"Our campaign is building a grassroots army across the critical state of Florida,” said Cruz. “I’m encouraged by the strong support our campaign is seeing from leaders who are ready to stand up for conservative principles and turn our country around.”

Here's the Cruz Florida team:

Continue reading "Ahead of first Florida event, Ted Cruz names state team" »

Miami wins fight over attorneys fees in homeless Pottinger settlement


The city of Miami does not owe close to $500,000 to a half-dozen attorneys who defended a class-action settlement protecting the rights of the homeless, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit.

The attorneys say they spent nearly 900 combined hours fending off substantial changes to Miami's landmark Pottinger settlement in 2013 and 2014. The settlement, first created in 1998 after Miami was found by a judge to have systematically pushed the destitute out of downtown, gave the homeless special privileges for "life-sustaining" behavior, such as urinating on the street or bathing in public.

When the city moved to weaken the agreement, the American Civil Liberties Union and a team of attorneys fought back on behalf of the homeless. They ultimately agreed to some notable changes. But they couldn't agree on whether the city should pay a $476,000 bill for the work of six attorneys.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the city did not owe attorneys fees due to unaltered stipulations in the Pottinger settlement that limited the city's liability for future attorney's fees. An 11th circuit judicial panel agreed Tuesday.

"We recognize that, at some level, this result may not “feel” right," the panel's opinion stated. "Although it is important to compensate attorneys who help their clients prevail (or, as is the case here, keep their hard-won gains) in civil rights cases, it is just as important to hold parties to the terms of the bargains they strike..."

Lack of time, money slows Florida's open primary ballot initiative

Supporters of a game-changing statewide ballot initiative to allow all voters to vote in primaries have shelved plans to get on the 2016 ballot, but say they will redouble their efforts to put the question before voters in 2018.

The proposal, called All Voters Vote, is being spearheaded by, among others, Gene Stearns, a Miami lawyer who was chief of staff to Richard Pettigrew, a Democratic speaker of the Florida House from Miami in the early 1970s. Their goal: end Florida's "closed primary" system in which only Republicans and Democrats can participate in party primaries, and replace it with a system in which everyone could vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to the general election in November. 

The proposal is a direct result of the explosion in Florida of voters who have no party affiliation. NPA voters and minor-party voters now comprise 27 percent of the electorate, and they will approach parity with the two major parties within a decade. Both parties strongly oppose an open primary system, and bills filed last session to create open primaries went nowhere in the Legislature.

The chairman of All Voters Vote, Tallahassee lawyer Glenn Burhans Jr., said there simply isn't enough time to raise the money needed to get sufficient signatures from voters to put the question on the ballot. A ballot initiative requires more than 683,000 valid signatures that must be validated by county election supervisors by next Feb. 1. Signatures must be submitted in early January, and groups must pay 10 cents for every signature submitted.

"The money is a big deal," Burhans said. "It takes a lot of effort and resources to get there, and there are a lot of competing interests in the current election cycle that make it difficult and challenging to raise money. But this issue and our perceived solution are not going away. We're going to continue to build up our network ... We just didn't have the runway length we needed."

PAC says Ted Cruz stopped Marco Rubio's push for 'amnesty'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s leadership role on a 2013 bill to change immigration laws continues to draw fire for him in the GOP presidential primary.

The Courageous Conservatives PAC, which supports U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has attacked Rubio’s position in a radio ad in Iowa:

"We all loved how Marco Rubio took apart Jeb Bush in the debate. Wasn’t it great? But what’s Rubio ever done? Anything? Other than his Gang of Eight Amnesty bill, can anyone think of anything Marco Rubio’s ever done? Anything at all besides amnesty?" says the narrator who then switches to praise Cruz. "When Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio tried to push amnesty, it was Ted Cruz who stopped them."

We decided to research Cruz’s role in the death of Rubio’s bill, and we’ll explain the problems with labeling it as "amnesty."

See how PolitiFact Florida rated this claim.

Fact-checking Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and rest of GOP presidential field before the Sunshine Summit

GOP presidential candidates including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush speak at the Republican Party of Florida Sunshine Summit in Orlando today.

Here is a link to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter records of all the 2016 candidates including Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Let’s take a look at a recent fact-check for some of the candidates:

Bush: "My plan actually gives the middle class the greatest break: $2,000 per family." Middle-class families could potentially realize a higher percentage tax break, based on Bush’s plan. But that’s only counting those who would file their tax returns using the standard deduction, something the wealthy aren’t likely to do. Even with caps on itemized deductions, a range of experts said the wealthiest Americans stand to benefit more than the middle class, thanks to Bush’s proposed changes in corporate, estate and other taxes. We rated this statement Mostly False.

Rubio: "Welders make more money than philosophers." It made for a great soundbite, but neither salary nor labor statistics back up Rubio’s claim. Statistically, philosophy majors make more money than welders -- with much more room to significantly increase pay throughout their careers. We rated this statement False.

Carson: Says Hillary Clinton told her daughter and a government official that Benghazi "was a terrorist attack, and then tells everybody else that it was a video."  Carson is oversimplifying and distorting Clinton’s comments to portray a complex situation in the worst possible light. He has a point that Clinton told her daughter that terrorists attacked in Benghazi, and she told the Libyan president that a terrorist group had taken responsibility. But those were private comments made hours after the attack.  Carson misleads when he said that she told everybody else that it was a video. We rated this statement Mostly False.

Trump: Says President Dwight Eisenhower "moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country." Trump is referring to a 1954 campaign known as "Operation Wetback." While the idea that the operation resulted in more than 1 million deportations is not pulled out of thin air, historians widely cite that number as far too high for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants would have had to self-deport. We rated this statement Half True