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February 19, 2015

In SC, Rubio sells books -- and talks about competition from the state’s Lindsey Graham


Three down, one to go.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican and potential presidential candidate, hit the third of four stops in his book tour, with one more scheduled next week.

In Greenville, South Carolina, Thursday, Rubio touted “American Dreams,” his book on how to restore “economic opportunity for everyone.”

In a 10-day span (from last Friday until next week), he’ll have made book stops in West Des Moines, Iowa; Las Vegas, Nevada; Greenville; and Manchester, New Hampshire.

Coincidentally, the early GOP nominating calendar for 2016 includes runs through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Officially, Rubio is only thinking about running, although he’s thinking about it pretty seriously. As for when the thinking might come to an end, Rubio had said he would decide on a race “soon.”

The event in South Carolina brought a question about a potential competitor for Rubio in what is an already-crowded field of potential competitors. South Carolina’s own U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is thinking about joining as well, and Rubio said he’d offer some stiff competition – both in the state and nationally.

Said Rubio, according to The Greenville News: "He's also very knowledgeable on national security issues, one of the preeminent spokespersons for a strong national defense. So if he runs for president, I think he's going to be a very strong candidate, particularly on national security, and will be a real challenge to his opponents, not just in South Carolina, but in other parts of the country."

Man who ran for Miami mayor in 2013 pleads guilty to campaign violations, gets one year probation


In 2013, prosecutors say Miami mayoral candidate Jeffrey Benjamin stiffed vendors, fabricated a campaign bank account, and was under investigation before election day.

Still, he won 2,500 votes, came in second place to Tomás Regalado -- and earned one year of probation and 50 hours of community service.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust announced Benjamin's sentence Thursday, explaining that the penalties were the result of a one-year investigation in conjunction with public corruption investigators. Benjamin, according to a press release, was foiled after someone noticed his Bank of America campaign account was a fake (Benjamin ran his campaign through PayPal).

Benjamin stiffed a palm card vendor and billboard company, and according to the ethics commission acknowledged that he never read explanations on how to run a campaign because it was "a pain in the butt."

Benjamin agreed to pay the ethics commission and Miami-Dade state attorney's office $1,000 each, and to pay restitution to the vendors. Adjudication of three first degree misdemeanor charges will be withheld if Benjamin complies with the terms of a plea agreement with state prosecutors.


Scott drops appeal of court ban on voter purge effort

Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that his administration won't appeal a federal court ruling that the state illegally tried to purge the voter rolls of suspected noncitizens too close to the 2012 presidential election.
Scott's decision is a major victory for the League of Women Voters and other voter advocacy groups that accused him of seeking to disenfranchise minority voters who were inclined to support President Barack Obama
"Our goal continues to be 100 percent participation by eligible voters and zero percent fraud," Scott's office said in a news release. "Florida voters deserve an election system they can be proud of."
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled last April that the Scott-controlled elections apparatus in the Department of State sought to identify and remove noncitizens from the voter rolls in advance of the 2012 election. Federal law bars states from "systematic" removals of voters less than 90 days before a federal primary or general election.
Scott's statement said his administration has "worked closely with Florida's 67 independent supervisors of election from every county to provide consulation and trainbing focused on ensuring the integrity of Florida's voter rolls.
What Scott's office didn't say was that the attempted purge severely strained relations between his administration and the supervisors, many of whom said the data compiled by the state was unreliable. Scott's Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, suspended a second purge effort in March of last year amid an outcry from supervisors.
The case was Arcia vs. Detzner. The Times/Herald reported last year that the two plaintiffs in the case are both from Miami-Dade. Both women were shocked to discover their names on a purge list when they were both naturalized U.S. citizens. They are Karla Vanessa Arcia from Nicaragua and Melande Antoine of Haiti. The judges ruled that both women had legal standing because "they were wrongly identified as noncitizens."

Pa. paper pokes fun at Gov. Scott's job poaching trip

Gov. Rick Scott's upcoming job-poaching trip to frigid Philadelphia is attracting attention up there, but perhaps not the kind Scott and his messengers would like. The state capital paper in Harrisburg, The Patriot-News, has good-naturedly declared "war" on Scott, calling him Florida's "carpetbagger-in-chief" in an editorial that urges readers to write angry letters to him.

"Tell him that for every Pennsylvania job he poaches, we're taking at least one Disney character back to Pennsylvania," the Patriot-News warns. (Can you picture Goofy in Scranton?)

You can read the piece here.

Crisafulli's water bill passes Appropriations, next stop: Floor vote

It’s a complicated bill that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says will modernize Florida’s water policy.

So far, at least, the nearly 100-page HB 7003 is finding little opposition in the House, easily passing the Appropriations Committee on Thursday with bipartisan support.

“I don’t see this as a perfect bill,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. “I don’t think we go far enough to deal with the complexities of Lake Okeechobee. But my concerns with the septic systems are being addressed, so because of that, I will vote the bill up and hope that it gets better as we go along.”

Even though session hasn’t started, there’s not much more to go. Next stop is the floor of the Florida House. That makes the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and is one of Crisafulli’s top priorities, to be a leading candidate for first bill passed by the House when legislative session begins March 3.

Still, there’s quite a bit of difference between the House bill and the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.

“My hope is that we will work well with our Senate colleagues, collaboratively, and develop a good comprehensive policy,” Caldwell said after Thursday’s meeting.

Broward Democrats' keynote speaker is James Clyburn

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, will be in the keynote speaker for the Broward Democrats’ annual Unity Dinner March 21.

The event held at the Marriott in Coral Springs is the main annual fundraiser for the Broward Democratic Executive Committee. Last year, the group raised about $84,000 that month during a statewide campaign year -- it raised about $43,000 around the time of the dinner in 2013.

Clyburn’s activism started at age 12 when he was elected as chair of his NAACP youth chapter and he later organized sit-ins and marches. Clyburn, first elected in 1993, is a former chair of the Congressional black caucus. (See his Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.)

Broward Democrats are coming off a Republican-sweep year when they saw Democrat Charlie Crist lose to Gov. Rick Scott. But Democratic turnout is higher in presidential years and Broward, with one of the largest contingents of Democratic voters in the state along with Miami-Dade, hopes to play a key role in the presidential and Senate contests next year.

Local and countywide Democratic candidates can also benefit in a presidential year from the larger turnout. Broward will have at least two open countywide seats since both Property Appraiser Lori Parrish and Clerk of Courts Howard Forman are retiring -- Sheriff Scott Israel is running for re-election while Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes hasn’t decided if she will seek re-election.

Fact-checking Marco Rubio's claim about ISIS in Benghazi

Sen. Marco Rubio hasn’t declared himself a presidential candidate yet, but that didn’t stop him from visiting Iowa a little early.

Rubio, R-Fla., fashioned himself as a foreign policy wonk during a Feb. 13, 2015, radio appearance, discussing at length the extremist group Islamic State’s goals and strength across Africa and Asia. He then invoked the name of a city many Americans likely would remember.

"ISIS has now set up a very significant hub in Libya," Rubio said. "They are now the predominant Islamist group in Benghazi."

Two days after Rubio’s remarks, ISIS released a video showing black-clad extremists beheading 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt on a Libyan beach. Egypt responded to the executions by bombing the coastal city of Derna, considered an ISIS stronghold.

Rubio’s comments highlighted the state of disarray in Libya, but we wondered if he was right in saying Islamic State militants were the major force in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. First, we need a brief lesson in recent history. See Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and see our full Truth-O-Meter file for Rubio.

New poll: Americans support higher minimum wage


A majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage, according to a new poll released Thursday by the Associated Press and GfK.

The poll found that 60 percent of respondents favor raising the federal minimum wage, while 19 percent oppose it. That’s up from 55 percent in favor a year before.

The data isn’t broken down by state, so it’s impossible to know where Floridians stand on the issue from looking at these numbers. But Florida’s minimum wage, at $8.05, is higher than the federally mandated $7.25 per hour.

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Conservative group hits Jeb Bush for lauding Hillary Clinton

From Miami Herald Washington Bureau's Lesley Clark:

The conservative group, ForAmerica, is launching a video today that declares former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “unelectable” -- thanks to his participation at a 2013 ceremony honoring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The minute-long video -- released a day after Bush’s foreign policy speech included a subtle dig at Clinton -- is being distributed to nearly 8 million ForAmerica supporters through the organization’s digital and social media network, it said.

It depicts Bush at the 2013 Liberty Medal Ceremony at which he took the stage to honor Clinton as she was given the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal on Sept. 10, 2013.



GOP ready to set March 15 as Florida's presidential primary

Florida Republicans are ready to ditch the first-up status in the 2016 presidential preference primary and are drafting legislation to move the date back to the third Tuesday in March.

The bill, to be offered by Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is expected to set March 15, 2016, as the new primary date, moving it into compliance with Democrat and Republican party rules and guaranteeing that Florida has a full complement of delegates for its native sons former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, should one emerge from the GOP contest, Richter told the Herald/Times.

“We want Florida to be meaningful and relevant in the presidiential elections,’’ Richter said. “We don’t want to come under any penalties and we want to have the candidates come to Florida and actively campaign.”

The switch would strongly favor Bush or Rubio over candidates from other states, and potentially allow the state GOP to award delegates winner-take-all. The Republican National Committee rules prevents a candidate from receiving winter-take-all delegates until after March 15, 2016 and any earlier than the 15th it must be proportional or state gets penalized. The Republican Party of Florida will make the decision when they set their delegate allocation procedures by Oct 1, 2015. .

The new date would reset the calendar back to where it had been before Rubio, the former state House speaker, and his colleagues upset their national party’s primary schedule by setting Florida’s contest earlier than allowed in 2008.

The state retained the early status in 2012 and both years were punished by party leaders who stripped them of half their delegates and Democrats banned candidates from campaigning in the Sunshine State in 2008.

Richter said the Florida primary will follow the traditional early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada but would eschew the effort by other Southern states to create a regional Super Tuesday on March 1.

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