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July 26, 2016

'A mistake' not to feature more DNC speakers from Florida, Bill Nelson says

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via @learyreports

PHILADELPHIA -- Sen. Bill Nelson said it was a "mistake" for Democratic convention organizers not to feature more Floridians.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks Wednesday and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, will speak Tuesday. But that's it, a thin showing from the biggest swing state in the country.

"They should have had maybe a mayor in South Florida. But you can't be perfect in everything," Nelson said at the Florida delegation breakfast.

Nelson also defended Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "Debbie's my friend and she has worked so hard to have this a successful convention and it is going to be."

UPDATE: We hear Nelson may regret the mistake comment as he's learned of more Florida participation. Rep. Lois Frankel and Val Demings will join Nancy Pelosi for a Democratic women address. And more Florida names will be released soon.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Patrick Murphy delivers toxic algae to Gov. Rick Scott's office

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@ByKristenMClark

Upset that Republican Gov. Rick Scott hasn't personally come to the Treasure Coast to view algae blooms that are plaguing area waterways, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy hand-delivered several bottles full of the toxic green water to Scott's Tallahassee office on Tuesday morning.

Scott himself wasn't there, as he was attending a jobs event in Orange County. His spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said "it's disappointing that (Murphy) has spent more time on a stunt than a solution."

Murphy is a congressman from Jupiter, who represents the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County -- areas affected by the algae blooms. He said he doesn't want to "vilify" anyone or lay blame for the algae crisis, but he criticized the governor at length for not doing more.

0726 murphy algae2"We have repeatedly called on the governor to come down and visit our district to see this first hand, and the governor has refused to see it," Murphy said, while standing in the Florida Capitol rotunda following his 30-second visit to the governor's office. "So, I decided that I wanted to come to Tallahassee and deliver this bottle of toxic algae to the governor to make sure he sees exactly what we're dealing with on a day-to-day basis."

Murphy wants Scott to use Amendment 1 environmental funds "to acquire more land for conservation, for preservation, to do more to send this water south."

"There's so much that needs to be done," Murphy said. "And instead of declaring a state of emergency to actually try to solve a problem, the governor tried to point a finger at the federal government and blame other people."

He continued: "This isn't a problem where you should be pointing fingers and blaming folks. ... The local government, the state government, the federal government all have to come together to solve this problem -- not see how you can score some cheap political points."

Murphy was himself criticized earlier this month over the algae crisis. His congressional office attempted to delay the announcement of aid for small businesses so that Murphy could announce it at a press event he'd planned.

"We wish Congressman Murphy would spend more time in Washington getting Congress and the president to approve funding to repair the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike, which has caused the algae problem in the Treasure Coast," said Schutz, the governor's spokeswoman. "Time and time again, the state continues to show up and put up funding to help with the water quality in this area and we wish Congress and the president would do the same."

Schutz added: "While Governor Scott has dedicated full resources to address this problem and recommended funding in next year’s budget, the federal government has failed to fund over $800 million in Everglades restoration which they are responsible for."

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

Primary ballots in mailboxes as requests reach 2.2 million

Five weeks before Florida's statewide primary election, nearly 2.2 million voters have requested ballots.

As of Tuesday morning, requests totaled 2,185,397. Nearly half of the requests (about 978,000) were from Republicans, and 819,000 were from Democrats, with most of the rest from voters with no party affiliation.

HillsMailBallotsElection supervisors took to social media to show huge stacks of ballots headed to mailboxes. Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer posted a photo on Twitter of one of eight pallets (left) and said all voters will get "I Voted!" stickers with their ballots. An 18-wheeler parked outside Broward Supervisor Brenda Snipes' voting equipment center in Lauderhill was ready to truck nearly 144,000 ballots to a post office in Opa-locka, and Snipes posted a video of ballots on the move.

The big pre-primary push is nothing compared to what will happen in advance of the November general election, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley predicted on Twitter: "I anticipate a huge spike in new requests (after) the 8/30 primary whern focus switches to the general!"

Floridians will nominate candidates for U.S. Senate in three parties (Republican, Democrat and Libertarian) and for Congress in 17 of the state's 27 districts. Republican and Democratic voters also will nominate candidates for state Senate in 15 districts and for the state House in 51 districts.

The 2016 primary ballot will be unusually long for a primary in some areas because of the multitude of contested races and grass-roots elections for state committee members of the two major parties.

All voters, regardless of party, can cast ballots in nonpartisan races such as for school board and judgeships. They also can vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt renewable energy devices on commercial property from property taxes for 20 years. That exemption already exists for residential property.

Voter turnnouts in past statewide primaries have hovered at or slightly above the 20 percent mark. But across the state, elections officials have intensified their outreach efforts to encourage more people to vote by mail. Voters can request a mail ballot until Aug. 24, and the last day to register to vote to be able to cast a primary ballot is next Monday, Aug. 1.

Bernie Sanders crashes Florida delegation breakfast in Philadelphia

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via @learyreports

PHILADELPHIA -- Bernie Sanders made an unannounced visit to the Florida delegation breakfast, imploring Democrats to come together to defeat Donald Trump.

"Thank you very much for allowing me to barge in," he said, taking the microphone from Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa.

"We did not do particularly well in Florida, but I want to thank all of you who were there with us. Now, whether you supported me or you supported Secretary Clinton, we all know what our task is and that is to make sure Donald Trump is not elected president."

"... This man has a unique feature that not all Republicans share by any means: He is a demagogue, a bully and somebody that does not believe in the Constitution," Sanders said, looking at revved up as he was last night.

Stunned Democrats pressed the stage at the downtown Marriott, some with tears in their eyes. "The political revolution has begun and it will continue," Sanders said before being hustled away.

"Wasn't that awesome?" Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant exclaimed.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Trump on U.S. without his SCOTUS picks: 'This is Venezuela'

@PatriciaMazzei

Some Venezuelans say Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reminds them of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Trump, however, makes the opposite argument: without him, a future U.S. Supreme Court would turn the country into Venezuela.

Speaking Monday in Roanoke, Virginia, Trump made a seemingly offhand reference to Venezuela's lack of independent public institutions.

"It's so important that on Nov. 8, you have to get out and vote. If for no other reason, remember this, remember this, strong defense, strong borders, but remember, Supreme Court Justices," he said. "We are going to be appointing anywhere from two to five, it could even be. And if you put the wrong people on, you're back to Venezuela. This is Venezuela."

'The choice is not even close,' Sanders says of Clinton

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@PatriciaMazzei

PHILADELPHIA -- In a rousing speech Monday night, Democratic presidential runner-up Bernie Sanders tried to rally his political party to the progressive agenda that endeared him to millions of primary voters — while also urging the party to unite behind the woman he lost to, Hillary Clinton.

“This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency,” he said. “This election is about — and must be about — the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.”

Sanders was the most anticipated speaker of the first night of the Democratic National Convention — not only because he took the microphone last, but because it came at the end of a day full of discord stirred by some of his supporters, who are still reluctant to accept Clinton’s coming nomination.

“We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger — not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans and veterans — and divides us up,” Sanders said. “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.”

Unlike his remarks to supporters earlier in the day — also attempting to smooth hard feelings — this time, on the floor of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena, Sanders didn’t get booed. He did get interrupted, with chants of “We want Bernie!”

“He’s with her!” Clinton fans counter-chanted after Sanders’ speech.

More here.

Fact-checking the first night of Democratic convention

LoveTrumpsHateDNCnightoneAP

The Democratic National Convention kicked off Monday in Philadelphia, Pa., with boos and shouts from Bernie Sanders supporters disappointed in Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominee.

Saying "no one else is more disappointed than myself" in his second-place finish, Sanders used his primetime DNC address to emphasize unity behind the Democratic ticket and Clinton.

"By these measures, any objective observer will conclude – that based on her ideas and her leadership – Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States," Sanders said.

The convention opened after a contentious weekend following the release of nearly 20,000 emails showing party officials appearing to favor Clinton over Sanders, leading chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to announce she would resign after the convention.

Republican nominee Donald Trump got into the action from afar, tweeting that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for superdelegates (a False claim).

The night also heard speeches from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and First Lady Michelle Obama.

We took a look at what was said, and how it fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

Photo by the AP

July 25, 2016

Strife threatens to derail first night of Democratic convention

2016 DNC(2)

@PatriciaMazzei

PHILADELPHIA -- Political strife threatened to turn the inaugural night of the Democratic National Convention into an uncontrollable wreck Monday, as fervent Bernie Sanders loyalists repeatedly — and loudly — resisted the impending presidential nomination of Hillary Clinton.

Masses of Sanders delegates booed every time a speaker dared mention Clinton — even during the invocation prayer — and continued after convention chairwoman Marcia Fudge, an Ohio congresswoman, used her opening remarks to beg for civility.

“I’m going to be respectful of you, and I want you to be respectful of me,” she said sternly. “We’re all Democrats, and we need to act like it.”

Sanders supporters proceeded to heckle U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland as he spoke about his father, a poor sharecropper. “Stop TPP!” they yelled, referring to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

To make peace with Sanders’ delegates, convention organizers scheduled speeches from several Sanders backers now campaigning for Clinton. But some of the pro-Sanders delegates didn’t seem to hear the pro-Clinton message.

“This is what democracy looks like!” they chanted. Outside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, they protested.

This was after Sanders himself, one of Monday night’s keynote speakers, had urged his followers earlier in the day to unite behind Clinton.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine,” he said.

They booed Sanders, too. Neither his speech, nor his text message to supporters, nor his former spokeswoman’s tweeting “NO ONE STOLE THIS ELECTION!” seemed to quell the unrest.

More here.

Photo credit: John Taggart/Bloomberg

Debbie Wasserman Schultz now faces battle for her South Florida seat

After quitting her national Democratic Party leadership role amid furor over thousands of leaked emails, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now faces the political battle of her lifetime back home in South Florida.

Wasserman Schultz resigned as Democratic National Committee chairwoman Sunday, strengthening the hand of her primary opponent, Tim Canova — who saw a huge fundraising boost and national media attention following her decision.

While the Weston congresswoman spent Monday morning getting heckled by protesters in Philadelphia at her first public appearance since her resignation, Canova was in the district giving interviews to local TV stations, Univision and The Daily Beast — and meeting with constituents.

“I have not left the district in eight months,” Canova told the Miami Herald on Sunday. “That’s not going to change between now and Aug. 30. I don’t think there’s going to be a great need for me to go up to Philly and chase the spotlight. We’re making friends on the ground every day.”

Read more here from Amy Sherman and Patricia Mazzei.

DEP responds, says federal government has 'confirmed' rules to increase toxins in water

On the eve of a decision by the Environmental Regulation Commission to increase the allowable level of many toxins in Florida's drinking water, Florida's environmental secretary said that the federal government has "confirmed every change is in line with its own recommendations."

“Our number one priority is to continuously protect and preserve the health of Florida’s families, visitors and incredible natural resources,'' wrote Department of Environmental Regulation Secretary Jon Steverson in a statement released late Monday.

"It is with this mission in mind, that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, alongside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are strengthening Florida's water-quality standards. Moving forward with the proposed criteria will nearly double the number of chemicals that the department will be able to regulate using stringent and protective criteria so we can continue to provide better public health protection for our state."

Meanwhile, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an environmental group, sent a letter urging the panel to reject the new rules. 

"When it comes to the release of dangerous pollutants into our water supply It is important that we proceed with the utmost caution,'' wrote Laura Reynolds, an energy and water speciialist with the group. "Many of these chemicals are highly carcinogenic, and may result in the development of cancer clusters (geographic areas in which a greater-than-expected number of people develop malignant cancers) in some communities."

Here's more of the DEP statement and the Q and A that followed: 

Continue reading "DEP responds, says federal government has 'confirmed' rules to increase toxins in water" »