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November 14, 2016

Judicial Nominating Commission to interview all applicants for Florida Supreme Court vacancy



In a conference-call meeting that took less than 4 minutes, the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission voted unanimously Monday morning to interview all 11 applicants for the upcoming vacancy on the state's top bench.

Thirty-minute interviews for each applicant are planned for Nov. 28.

The nominating commission has until Dec. 13 to present a short list of no more than six candidates to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who will ultimately appoint the replacement for retiring Justice James E.C. Perry. Perry's term ends Jan. 3; he is retiring as required by law because he turned 70 years old.

MORE: Who applied for the vacancy

Nominating commission chairman Jason Unger, an attorney and managing shareholder with GrayRobinson in Tallahassee, said the 11 candidates who applied for Perry's vacancy are an increase from the previous vacancy. The last vacancy had eight applicants, he said.

Perry's retirement is the first opportunity Scott has had to name a new justice.

November 11, 2016

11 apply for Florida Supreme Court vacancy



Eleven people applied for an upcoming vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court by today's 5 p.m. deadline.

Those who applied are seeking to fill the seat of Justice James E.C. Perry -- who is retiring at the end of this year, as required by law.

The list of jurist hopefuls includes a range of legal professionals -- including an assistant U.S. attorney and several judges -- as well as one newly reelected lawmaker, state Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha.

According to Jason Unger, chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, the list of applicants is:

-- Wendy W. Berger

-- Alice L. Blackwell

-- Roberta J. Bodnar

-- Daniel J. Gerber

-- Bradley E. King

-- C. Alan Lawson

-- Michelle T. Morley

-- Patricia L. Strowbridge

-- Larry E. Metz

-- Sylvia A. Grunor

-- Michael Rudasill

The nominating cmmission will meet by conference call Monday morning to select which applicants they want to interview. The commission will ultimately recommend a list of three to six names to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who will appoint the new justice.

Perry's retirement is the first opportunity Scott has had to name a new justice. Perry was appointed to the state's top bench in March 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

State law requires justices to retire on their 70th birthday or the end of their six-year term if they are half-way through the term. Perry turned 70 in January 2015; his term ends Jan. 3.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Originally posted: 12:15 p.m. Updated: 5:35 p.m.

Bondi gets top Trump transition job

via @learyreports

Attorney General Pam Bondi was named today as a member of Donald Trump's top transition team, joining a group of political insiders and newcomers, including members of Trump's family.

Bondi was with Trump for most of the campaign, save for a couple months when she stayed off the trail amid questions of a political donation Trump gave her in 2013 around the same time Trump University was being investigated. Bondi served as a prominent female voice for Trump as he reeled from the release of a video in which he made sexually aggressive comments toward women and suggested he attempted an adulturous affair. Bondi said his comments were "disgusting" but "I believe in forgiveness."

It had already been speculated that Bondi would play some role in his administration. Today she was named to the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee, which includes several lawmakers, Trump's children, Jared Kushner, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Breitbart News' Steve Bannon.

The overall effort will be led by Mike Pence, who takes over the top job from Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor will serve as a vice chairman.

"Together this outstanding group of advisors, led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, will build on the initial work done under the leadership of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one,” the president elect said. “The mission of our team will be clear: put together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington. Together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding this nation - specifically jobs, security and opportunity. This team is going to get to work immediately to Make America Great Again.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Chris Urso, Tampa Bay Times

With state order, machine recount for Asencio-Rivera House race set for Monday


As expected, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has ordered a machine recount in a tight race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera for Miami-Dade County's House District 118 seat.

In unofficial results, Asencio edged Rivera by just 68 votes -- a tenth of a percentage point. State law requires automatic recounts when results are within a half of a percentage point.

More here.


Florida Democratic Party chief won't seek reelection


Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, told party leaders in an email Friday she won't seek reelection when her term as state chief expires in January.

"I will use the remainder of my term to ensure that the next chair is able to hit the ground running on day one with as smooth of a transition as possible," she wrote the state's Democratic Executive Committee leadership. "Let’s keep up the fight and do all we can to move the state and country we love forward together."

A party spokesman said Tant was unavailable for interviews. Hillary Clinton lost in Florida, as did U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy. Democrats picked up a single congressional seat.

Tant won the post in January 2013, defeating activist Alan Clendenin, who could seek the post again despite losing a Hillsborough County School Board race Tuesday. He's currently the party's first vice-chairman.

"Let's learn from this experience, and create a plan for a new beginning," Clendenin wrote supporters in a Thursday email in which he made no mention of the party leadership position.

Here's Tant's email in full:

Continue reading "Florida Democratic Party chief won't seek reelection" »

Marco Rubio did significantly better than Trump in 7 of Florida's 8 largest counties


Pedro Portal/Miami Herald


Though they tried, Democrats never could pin Donald Trump onto U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, election results show.

During the campaign, Democrats tried every chance they got to align Rubio with Trump on key issues hoping it would damage him, particularly with women and minority groups.

It didn’t work.

Election results show Rubio picked up more than 700,000 votes more than Trump across the state. In Jacksonville and Orlando, Rubio ran 7 and 8 percentage points ahead of Trump. And in Miami-Dade, Rubio was more than 9 percentage points better than Trump, according to unofficial results.

Rubio lost seven of the eight largest counties in Florida, but in all of those he performed vastly better than Trump. The only big county Rubio did worse than Trump was Pinellas County. Overall Rubio had higher percentage of the vote in 23 counties.

“What Marco Rubio did was build a coalition of Trump supporters and young and Hispanic voters,” said Alex Conant, an advisor to Rubio’s campaign.

Rubio famously battled Trump bitterly in the Republican Presidential Primary. Trump won the primary in Florida, carrying all but one of Florida’s 67 counties.

But after Trump won the nomination, Rubio said he would vote for Trump and Trump in turn told his supporters he backed Rubio’s re-election..

"By the way, I endorsed Marco Rubio, he endorsed me. He's doing well. Vote for Marco," Trump told 8,000 people at a rally in Daytona Beach in early August.

While Rubio was able to pull in Trump supporters to his campaign, it didn’t hurt him with woman and Latino voters despite what Democrat Patrick Murphy and Democrats tried to do on the campaign trail, exit polling shows. While just 46 percent of women backed Trump, 50 percent supported Rubio. And while Trump won just 35 percent of Latino voters, 48 percent backed Rubio.

Conant said for a Democrat to win Florida statewide, they have to drive up big margins of victory in Miami-Dade and with Hispanic voters in general. Exit polling and the results show Murphy failed on both counts.

Independents also broke for Rubio. The Miami Republican won 52 percent of independent voters, Trump won 47 percent.

During the campaign Murphy aggressively tried to make a vote for Rubio sound the same as voting for Trump. Over two debates, Murphy brought up Trump’s name dozens of times prompting Rubio to snap back.

“A noun a verb and Donald Trump, that is his answer to everything,” Rubio said during one exchange with Murphy.

November 10, 2016

Donald Trump's potential Secretary of Agriculture wants trade with Cuba

Sid Miller 1


Sid Miller may not be known in national political circles, but he could be nominated as Donald Trump's Secretary of Agriculture.

The sitting Texas Agriculture Commissioner, eighth generation farmer and fervent Trump supporter has an unconventional background. 

Miller counts National Rife Association board member and rocker Ted Nugent as his campaign treasurer and his Twitter account used a derogatory term for female genitalia to describe Hillary Clinton last week. 

When asked what he would like to see changed if appointed to Trump's administration, Miller pointed to reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement and opening trade with Cuba, a significant policy break from his potential boss. 

"We need to open up to Cuba," Miller said in an interview. "It's 90 miles off our coast and they're buying up all their commodities from Europe. I have been very aggressive on trade and he's [Trump] known for making great deals." 

Early in the presidential campaign, Trump supported improved relations with Cuba but said he would have fought for "a better deal" with Havana. Just a week before the election, he appeared to change course

"We will cancel Obama’s one-sided Cuban deal, made by executive order, if we do not get the deal that we want and the deal that people living in Cuba and here deserve, including protecting religious and political freedom,” Trump said in Miami

Read more here.

Will Miami International Airport's director head to Washington to work for President Trump?


Most wags didn't expect Donald Trump to win Tuesday, so there's catch-up game underway speculating about who in Miami might join his administration.

With Trump preparing to take over the executive branch on Jan. 20, buzz is growing around Miami International Airport director Emilio González getting tapped for a senior federal post, either at the Cabinet level or a layer below. Since González has already been part of a Republican administration, his possible move to Washington has been such an open topic of speculation that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez joked after a press conference Wednesday that maybe González would be "secretary of something" under Trump. 

Between 2005 and 2008, González served as  director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President George W. Bush, an under-secretary position within the Homeland Security department that required Senate confirmation. Before that, the retired U.S. Army colonel served as director of Western Hemisphere affairs on the National Security Council under Bush. 

In his role as MIA director, González is often there to greet visiting dignitaries on the tarmac. On Nov. 2,  González tweeted a photo of him talking to Trump, with the future president-elect's hand on the director's shoulder as he talked into his ear. 

Gonzalez, who has presided over MIA at a time of record traffic and revenue levels, declined to be interviewed for this blog post on Thursday. Of all of Gimenez's department heads, Gonzalez's future is probably the mot discussed. Gimenez appointed him MIA director in 2013, and his name has been floated a possible candidate for Miami mayor once the seat opens up in 2017. González has said he has no interest in running for office. 


Dreamers in Florida brace for Trump's immigration actions


Few states in the nation stand to be more affected by Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s executive order related to immigration than Florida.

Trump has pledged to repeal an executive order that grants temporary protection from deportation for Dreamers, people brought to the United States at a young age by undocumented parents but who have lived in the U.S. since 2012.

The latest federal statistics show that of the 1.3 million applications approved or renewed, more than half came from the combination of California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida. According to the data by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, just over 50,000 applications or renewals have been approved for Dreamers in Florida.

California leads the way with about 367,000 applications and renewals approved. Texas is second with almost 204,000. Next are Illinois and New York with almost 70,000 and 63,000 each.

Advocacy groups like United We Dream are vowing to protect Dreamers from deportation proceedings, but how exactly is still unclear.

"The fear and the anxiety and the concern in our community is real," said Cristina Jiminez co-founder and Managing Director of the United We Dream Network.

The vast majority of the applications and renewals approved since 2012 have come from people originally from Mexico. Federal records show 988,000 come from Mexico. The next closest country of origin is El Salvador with at least 46,000. Those countries are follow by Guatemala (31,000), Honduras (30,000) and South Korea (16,000).

Anitere Flores named to Florida Senate leadership post


Newly re-elected Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores has been named the Florida Senate's President Pro Tempore for the 2017 session.

Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced Flores' appointment as his No. 2 on Thursday, heralding Flores as a "loyal friend and trusted ally."

"The role of Senate President Pro Tempore is a significant position of trust and authority," Negron said in a statement, adding that Flores has "longstanding relationships with many new and returning senators. She has a proven ability to work in a bipartisan manner without compromising her own unwavering principles. I have complete confidence in her ability to represent the Senate in this important leadership position."

Flores was re-elected to the Senate on Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote after a competitive battle with Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for the newly redrawn District 39. The district includes portions of Miami-Dade County and all of Monroe County. Flores has been in the Florida Senate since 2010.

Flores' appointment will become effective Nov. 22, when the Senate convenes in Organization Session. The President Pro Tempore is formally nominated and elected by the full Senate during the Organization Session.

Flores joins a growing list of Miami lawmakers who will hold influential positions in Tallahassee next session. On Wednesday, several Miami-Dade County representatives were also named to the leadership team in the Florida House under incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.

Photo credit: AP