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June 27, 2016

State senate candidate files for office -- in 2022


State Sen. John Legg is getting a serious jump on his would-be opponents, filing to run for office again in 2022.

The Pasco County Republican’s career in the Legislature appeared to be at an end earlier this year after redistricting put his home in the same district as Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Rather than challenge Simpson for the newly drawn Senate District 10, Legg announced he would not seek re-election in 2016.
But now, Legg is asking the Florida Division of Elections to move his campaign for the state Senate to the year 2022, in what would be the final year of Simpson’s eight years in office. That would allow him to move more than $170,000 in his 2016 campaign account to the race in 2022.

“I would like to redesignate both the year and district for which I am a candidate to Senate District 10 for the 2022 election,” Legg wrote in a letter to the Florida Division of Elections.

Legg could not be reached for comment.

The Florida Division of Elections does not have a section on its website to list candidates for office that far in advance. Instead, the Division of Elections has listed Legg as a candidate for District 10 in 2018, when Simpson would face what could be his final re-election campaign.

Legg has refused to take on Simpson, who is in line to become the Senate president in 2021 if Republicans retain the majority and Simpson when his re-election battles. Already he is assured of retaining Senate District 10 for the next two years as no challenger filed to challenge him for re-election at Friday’s filing deadline.

Legg, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, was elected to the House in 2004 and the Senate in 2012.

Beruff wants Rubio's spot at Republican National Convention


If U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio doesn't want to speak at the Republican National Convention next month, Carlos Beruff is more than ready to take his slot.

Other U.S. Senate candidates and prominent Republicans have announced they are not going to attend the convention next month in Ohio. And Rubio has suggested he too may not attend so he can campaign for re-election.

But Beruff said on Monday in a statement he's more than ready to speak out for Donald Trump at the convention if Rubio will not.

"I’m happy to take Marco Rubio’s slot at the Republican National Convention because I’m not ashamed of Donald Trump as our nominee," Beruff said. "Trump is motiving voters across Florida and the country who have felt ignored by the Republican and Democratic establishment alike. He’s looking to shake up Washington and I’m behind him 100 percent."

It's just the latest attempt by Beruff to align himself with Trump. Beruff, a businessman who is mostly self-funding his campaign, has spent much of his campaign trying to present himself as an anti-establishment candidate.

"The career politicians in Washington are always afraid to lose power and candidates like Trump and myself challenge their authority," Beruff said.

Curbelo leadership PAC donates to opponents of immigration reform


Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock says immigrants should be tracked like Fed-Ex packages. California Rep. Duncan Hunter was one of the first politicians to endorse Donald Trump. North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker proposes using fighter jets to stop illegal immigration.

All three have received money from Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s political action committee — which was established to support Republicans who favor immigration reform.

The PAC, named What a Country (WACPAC), has given money to at least 47 House Republicans since the start of 2015, Federal Election Commission records show. Over half of them voted against continuing to fund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that gives certain undocumented immigrants temporary work permits and an exemption from deportation. Curbelo said in 2015 that support for DACA, which most Republicans oppose, would be a litmus test for potential WACPAC beneficiaries.

Curbelo, a moderate Republican running for re-election in Florida’s 26th District, supports immigration reform that includes a path to amnesty for undocumented immigrants. He said the 47 Republicans who received money from WACPAC indicated to him in off-the-record conversations that they are committed to immigration reform.

What some of them say on the record is a different story.

Read more here: Curbelo leadership PAC donates to opponents of immigration reform


Senate candidate Beruff postpones filing of financial disclosures again


How wealthy Republican U.S. candidate Carlos Beruff really is will remain largely a mystery to voters until August.

That is because Beruff, the self-funding Republican from Manatee County trying to unseat Marco Rubio, has filed for - and was granted - a second extension with the United State Senate to delay reporting his income, financial assets and other holdings.

Candidates for the U.S. Senate were required to file financial disclosures on May 16. But Beruff initially asked for an extension until June 23. But Beruff, who entered the race for the U.S. Senate late on Feb. 29, filed for another 38-day extension earlier this month that now allows him until July 31 to report his wealth.

The first ballots in the GOP Senate primary will be sent to military and overseas civilians on July 16.

Beruff, a 58-year-old homebuilder, has told reporters his businesses are worth between $150 million and $200 million. The Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations lists more than 60 business entities that Beruff has been associated with over the last 20 years.

Beruff has already spent about $5 million of his own money on television ads for his campaign and told his campaign staff last week he’s willing to spent another $10 million to $15 million to defeat Rubio in the primary.

Rubio filed his disclosure on time in May, reporting that in addition to his $174,000 Senate salary in 2015, he received $102,500 in royalties from Penguin Random House and $9,016 from Florida International University.

U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy filed his financial disclosure in May, while Rep. Alan Grayson requested extensions and will not have to file his financial disclosure reports until August. Murphy and Grayson are the leading candidates in the Democratic primary on Aug. 30.

PolitiFact: Rick Scott often fails with FEMA requests


In what has become a familiar political two-step, Gov. Rick Scott bashed Washington after he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help but didn’t get it.

Scott specifically blamed President Barack Obama following FEMA’s refusal to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Scott had asked for $5 million to deal with emergency response efforts, medical care and counseling.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration," Scott said in a June 20 press release. "Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency."

He included a list of situations that FEMA has declared a state of emergency, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Flint water crisis and a 2009 order for Obama’s inauguration.

In typical rejection verbiage, FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote in a letterthat Scott’s request "did not demonstrate how the emergency response associated with this situation is beyond the capability of the state and affected local government or identify any direct federal assistance needed to save lives or protect property."

Fugate for years was director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush, including during seven hurricanes over 2004-05.

Scott’s office told us Scott plans to appeal the denial.

His disappointment in FEMA’s rejection isn’t really a fact we can check, but it does highlight Scott’s record of not getting what he wants from the agency.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

Supreme Court throws out Texas abortion law, could impact Florida restrictions


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled a controversial Texas abortion law unconstitutional in a case that could impact Florida.

In a 5-3 vote, the court threw out a requirement that abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

This year, the Florida Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that in part has a similar provision. It goes into effect Friday.

It's not yet clear what impact the opinion will have on Florida.

"We are reviewing the ruling," Scott spokewsoman Jackie Schutz said.

The court also found another provision of the Texas law, which required abortion clinics to be licensed similarly to surgical centers, as unconstitutional. Florida does not have a similar provision, but the Legislature has considered similar rules.

In the court's opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that "neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access."

This post will be updated.

Beruff casts Rubio's responses on re-election flip-flop as robotic


When he announced last week that he would seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio refused to commit to serving a full, six-year term -- and not run for president in 2020.

He gave the same answer in several interviews, that he's done making "unequivocal" statements about his political future.

The responses were grist for the campaign of Rubio's Republican challenger, Carlos Beruff, who mashed them together in a new web video that hits Rubio twice: over flip-flopping on his promise to leave the Senate, and over sounding "robotic," as he did during a presidential debate that in retrospect might have killed his White House candidacy.

"The voters of Florida deserve a Senator who is committed to doing the job he's been hired to do, but that's not what they'll get with Marco Rubio, who won't even commit to serving a full six-year term or deny he won't use the seat to run for president again," Beruff spokesman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "Floridians are tired of Marco's robotic responses and Washington-approved talking points. It’s time for a change. We can't afford six (or less) more years of the same old Marco."

Rubio made the TV rounds over the weekend, appearing not only on CBS News' Face the Nation but also on the Sunday morning shows of local affiliates for CBS, ABC and Univision.


June 26, 2016

New Hillary Clinton ad in Florida touts children's health insurance


Hillary Clinton's campaign began airing a new TV ad in Florida and seven other states Saturday touting her work to provide health insurance for children.

The ad features the mother Kayla, who was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses by age 9.

"When Hillary Clinton was First Lady she was instrumental in passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and because she did, Kayla and millions of other kids have coverage," Kayla's mother, Amanda Strine, says in the ad. "That's what Hillary Clinton did, and that tells you a lot about the kind of president she'll be."

The ad is part of a six-week, eight-figure campaign featuring several other spots. It will also run in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.


June 25, 2016

No contest: One-fourth of Legislature wins unopposed

More candidates are running for the Florida Legislature than in past cycles, but one of every four seats was decided with no opposition. The lucky lawmakers are 12 senators (eight Republicans and four Democrats) and 30 state representatives (16Rs and 14Ds).

Their campaigns are over and they must stop fund-raising, but they can and will help other candidates while deciding what to do with their leftover campaign money.

Five legislators running for the first time in open seats won without opposition -- a rare feat. Technically senators-elect until they are sworn in in November, they are George Gainer, R-Panama City; Lauren Book, D-Plantation; and Perry Thurston, D-Lauderhill. Other senators elected unopposed are Republicans Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Tom Lee, Bill Galvano and Denise Grimsley and Democrats Audrey Gibson and Oscar Braynon.

Three House freshmen, all Republicans, got free rides. They are Reps.-elect Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages; Ralph Massullo Jr., R-Lecanto; and Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte. (Thurston and Grant are former House members).

The other House members elected unopposed are Republicans Halsey Beshears, Cyndi Stevenson, Larry Metz, Richard Corcoran, Danny Burgess, Eric Eisnaugle, Cary Pigman, Jake Raburn, James Grant, Jim Boyd, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen and Bill Hager, along with Democrats Clovis Watson Jr., Janet Cruz, Joe Abruzzo, Larry Lee, Bobby DuBose, Kristin Jacobs, Jared Moskowitz, Katie Edwards, Evan Jenne, Joe Geller, Shevrin Jones, Sharon Pritchett, Cynthia Stafford and Kionne McGhee.

If you think this is a bad trend, consider this: Two years ago, 38 House members were elected unopposed.

Here's a noteworthy bit of trivia: Sen. Simpson, R-Trilby, has stood for office in 2012, 2014 and 2016 because of redistricting, but has yet to face opposition. The Pasco County farmer, a prospective Senate president in the 2020-2022 cycle, has never been on the ballot.

June 24, 2016

Lopez-Cantera bids Senate campaign farewell with call to supporters


Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said good-bye to his U.S. Senate campaign Friday with a call to supporters in which he thanked them and promised to be "fully behind" Marco Rubio's re-election bid.

"I'm going to do what I can to help Marco," Lopez-Cantera told the Miami Herald after the call.

That's in contrast to Gov. Rick Scott, who is sitting out the Republican primary between Rubio and Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff.

Lopez-Cantera, who stepped aside after urging Rubio to run, got in a jab at Beruff, noting he didn't show up to the last grassroots event Lopez-Cantera attended recently in Venice, near Sarasota.

This will be the first election since 2006 in which Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative and Miami-Dade County property appraiser, isn't on a ballot.

He said he might attend Rubio's first fundraiser, Sunday in Miami.