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June 13, 2016

AFSCME endorses Jason Pizzo in Miami senate race

AFSCME union has endorsed lawyer Jason Pizzo in the District 38 state Senate race.

Initially, the union endorsed Sen. Gwen Margolis but AFSCME considered yanking the endorsement after Margolis dismissed some of her Democratic rivals as "Haitians." But Margolis dropped out last week before the union had to officially decide about whether to withdraw the endorsement. 

Today AFSCME announced that it has endorsed Pizzo, a former prosecutor.

"Although he has never run for office before, he had a solid grasp of the issues and presented himself in a way that impressed our members," said Andy Madtes, union executive director.

Miami-Dade mayor condemns "reprehensible" email from challenger with post-Orlando critique


Raquel Regalado criticized Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's police budget in a campaign email sent out Monday discussing the terrorism attack in Orlando. 

"As Our Population Has Grown, Our Police Force Has Not Kept Up," read the headline from the two-term school board member's campaign message as she tries to unseat Gimenez in the 2016 mayoral race. "It is with a sad heart that I recognize that what happened in Orlando this weekend is becoming more common...When I am mayor of Miami-Dade County, I promise to make public safety a priority. Because we can do better."

Regalado orlando

Later in the day, the Gimenez campaign sent out a statement from the mayor condemning Regalado's message. "There is a time to politic and there is a time to lead," Gimenez said. "This is why I find so reprehensible the political message sent by our opponent via e-mail using the Orlando massacre as an opportunity to raise money for her campaign and a pretext to attack me." 

Gimenez message orlando

Does Orlando open door for Marco Rubio to run for re-election in Senate?

The deadliest mass shooting in America targeting his home state in an age of terror may be the trigger that provokes Marco Rubio to try to stay in the U.S. Senate, friends and supporters of the Miami Republican said Monday.

Rubio, who for months had said he will not seek reelection to the Senate for the term that expires in January, told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Monday that he had “been deeply impacted by” the Orlando shooting and was reconsidering the leadership role he could have to target terror.

“I think when it visits your home state, when it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country,” Rubio said after the shooting left 49 dead and dozens injured.

Rubio denied that he was reconsidering his future explicitly from “a political perspective,” but said “it most certainly has impacted my thinking in general, at least, about a lot of things.”

“My family and I will be praying about all of this,” he added. “And we’ll see what I need to do next with my life with regard to how I can best serve.”

Friends and supporters of Rubio said he views the opportunity for leadership in the wake of the tragedy a pivotal reason to reconsider his decision.

“I don’t think he takes for granted the role a U.S. Senate candidate can make on a community on the issues,” said Miami Dade County Commissioner Steve Bovo, Rubio’s long-time friend. “There is such an outcry of people that want him to return, and then you see what’s happening in Orlando, I’m sure the tug on him is overwhelming.”

Keep reading here.

PolitiFact Florida: Donald Trump's claim about number of migrants from Middle East

In a statement after an attack on an LGBT nightclub in Orlando that killed at least 50 people, Donald Trump warned that such attacks would continue as long as the United States opens its doors to Muslim immigrants.

"We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year," Trump said in the June 12, 2016, statement. "Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States. Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing."

In this fact-check, we’ll look at Trump’s assertion that "we admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year." (We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether that’s too many, too little, or just right.)

Keep reading Louis Jacobson's fact-check from PolitiFact. And some context about the shooter from the Miami Herald: Omar Mateen was born in New York to parents were from Afghanistan and he had lived in Florida for many years. 

Gov. Rick Scott activates Florida Disaster Fund to help victims, families of Orlando shooting


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has activated the Florida Disaster Fund to provide financial support to organizations that will help victims of Sunday's shooting massacre and their families.

"We are committed to ensuring that every resource is available to help those in need following yesterday’s horrific terror attack in Orlando," Scott said in a statement. "Since the attack, we have seen Floridians unite together and our state has received an incredible outpouring of prayers and support. Activating the Florida Disaster Fund will give individuals across the country the opportunity to assist survivors and the loved ones of the victims. We will continue to work together in the coming days to do all we can to help this community heal."

The fund is the state's official private fund to help communities respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters. Scott's office said 100 percent of funds raised will go toward those in need. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and are tax deductible.

Contributions can be made by credit card online at or by check to: Volunteer Florida Foundation, Attention: Florida Disaster Fund, 3800 Esplanade Way Suite 180, Tallahassee, FL  32311.

Checks should be made payable to the "Volunteer Florida Foundation" and should include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line.

For more information, email or call (850) 414-7400.

Adam Putnam on why Orlando shooter had security guard, gun licenses

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Monday that Omar Mateen, the gunman in the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, successfully received two security guard licenses from his agency and renewals because he passed every check under Florida law.  

"All of the normal safeguards, all of the normal checks, were completed, and there was no disqualifying offense to prevent the individual from obtaining his license," Putnam said.

"He was fingerprinted, he successfully completed the application, had a criminal background check -- there is nothing in that record that would have disqualified this individual, who was a U.S. citizen, who had a clean criminal record, who underwent a background check and mental health screening, from receiving those licenses."

Putnam's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates security guards. Mateen held "D" and "G" licenses with the state, meaning he was a licensed security guard and licensed to carry a firearm. The licenses were valid through 2017.

Putnam's agency has not yet responded to public records request from numerous news outlets, including the Herald/Times, for Mateen's file. He said the file "is fairly rich with data that is pertinent to the investigation" and that his agency is working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to decide "the appropriate timing" of their release.

Putnam declined to say whether the FBI had contacted his agency about Mateen. The FBI has confirmed it questioned Mateen on three separate occasions.

The Florida Cabinet member and likely candidate for governor met reporters to the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, activated Sunday by Gov. Rick Scott.

Putnam has been a strong supporter of gun rights and he was repeatedly asked if the Orlando massacre has prompted him to rethink his views on the subject, but he did not directly address the question.

"This tragedy is a painful reminder of how U.S.-born individuals, neighbors, classmates, co-workers can harbor an ideology so dark that they are capable of using the freedoms and the liberties that this country awards all of our citizens for the darkest possible motives," he said.

Putnam also cautioned Floridians to be careful about requests to donate to charities on behalf of the victims and their families. He said it's "fairly common" for people to rip off innocent people at a time of grief by seeking donations to phony charities.

Putnam, a Republican, is in his second and final term as the elected agriculture commissioner, and he's widely regarded as a leading candidate for governor in 2018.

Some facts about AR-15s, the weapon used by Omar Mateen in Orlando

The AR-15 gun, the main weapon used by Omar Mateen in the shooting rampage in Orlando, has been used in a few recent high-profile mass shootings.

Mateen used the AR-15 and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun when he open fired in the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning where he shot about 100 people and killed 49. Mateen, a licensed Florida security guard, held a state firearms license and was killed by law enforcement.

Mateen legally purchased both weapons days before the shooting, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“He is not a prohibited person, so he can legally walk into a gun dealership and acquire and purchase firearms. He did so. And he did so within the last week or so,” ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Trevor Velinor said Sunday in Orlando.

Some details about the guns have not been released by law enforcement so far including how many times he reloaded or how many rounds the magazines for his AR-15 held. But here is what is known about the weapons Mateen used.

Keep reading here.

Voters in one county could have say on tougher dog track regulations


A non-profit group dedicated to ending dog racing has cleared a key hurdle to require more public disclosure of dog racing injuries at a key central Florida race track and open that facility up to more inspections from regulators.

GREY2K USA is one of the groups behind the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, which announced it had collected more than 18,000 signatures to force the Seminole County Commission to vote on tougher dog track regulations or put the issue to a county wide vote in the fall. The referendum is directed only at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, which Committee to Protect Greyhounds said has had 27 greyhounds die at the facility since 2013.

“Our humane proposal will ensure that greyhound injuries at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club are disclosed to the public, require trainers to report on the fate of dogs that leave the track, and eliminate a special interest loophole that exempts racing greyhounds from animal licensing and inspection laws,” the Committee to Protect Greyhounds said in a statement.

Florida is one of five states that still have active dog racing tracks. There are 12 active dog racing tracks in Florida.

Besides GREY2K USA, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA and Greyhound Adoptions of Florida have also endorsed the potential ballot initiative.

After Orlando shooting, Sen. Bill Nelson pushes bill to prevent terror suspects from buying guns

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday joined fellow Democrats in pushing for a bill that would prevent terror suspects from obtaining guns and explosives.

The FBI, Nelson said, was "handicapped" in dealing with the Orlando shooter, who had been investigated before but the cases had closed. The "Denying Firearms And Explosives To Dangerous Terrorists Act" would ban people on a terrorist watch list from getting weapons.

Said Nelson: "If the FBI did not have to close those cases, could make a notation, then when that fellow went in last week to purchase an AR-15 and an automatic handgun, he would have come up on their radar."

<<< Politifact: "Terrorist watch list no obstacle to buying guns, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says" >>>

The legislation, which Democrats noted began under President George W. Bush, came up last year and was defeated on a party-line vote. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the sponsor, said she hoped Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would support the legislation.

Nelson also said he was "disgusted" by some of the politics surrounding the shooting. "What we've got to do is come together as a country," he said. "That's the American spirit."

Democrats said it would be the first in a series of gun regulations they would push in light of Orlando.

In 'clerical error,' a dead man donated to Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign


MurphyEighteen months after he died, a southern California businessman was reported to have cut two $2,700 checks to Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida.

The max donation to Murphy's campaign that was attributed to the late Vincent Gorguze was revealed by The San Diego Union-Tribune in a story late last week.

The U.S. Senate campaign for Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, told the Herald/Times on Monday it was a "clerical error" that caused the donation to be incorrectly tied to Gorguze, when it should have been listed under his widow's name.

The Union-Tribune reported that Gorguze -- father-in-law to California Democratic U.S. Rep. Scott Peters -- was listed as a campaign contributor for $8,000 in donations since his death in October 2013.

Most of it went to Murphy's campaign in two donations totaling $5,400 on April 14, 2015. The remaining $2,600 went to the re-election campaign of another California member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the newspaper reported.

Like Murphy's campaign explained, Peters' campaign told the Union-Tribune that the contributions to Murphy were mistakenly made under Gorguze's name instead of his widow, Gloria Gorguze.

But the Peters campaign also appeared to lay blame on Murphy's campaign for not verifying the source of the donation.

"Donors can’t control how a campaign receiving a contribution reports that contribution," Peters spokeswoman MaryAnne Pintar told the Union-Tribune. "It is incumbent upon that receiving campaign to report contributions correctly. These errors were not on the part of the Peters family."

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said in an email to the Herald/Times that Murphy's "campaign has a process for ensuring the correct attribution of donations."

"Our campaign received a check from a joint checking account and a signature that was difficult to read," Karp said. "In a clerical error, the check was misattributed to Mrs. Gorguze's late husband. As soon as we found out about this error, we filed a correction."

Karp said that correction was filed Friday -- which was the same day the Union-Tribune story was published online.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald