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June 27, 2016

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.

Broward Democratic Chair Mitch Ceasar won't run again


Flashback to 1996 in Florida politics: The Republicans gained control of their second chamber in the Legislature, the Broward Democratic Party chairman had gone to jail, and Democrats in the left-leaning county lamented that one of their most frequent get-togethers was at funerals.

The new county party chair, Mitch Ceasar, took charge of the group of activists that December and asked for what appeared to be impossible: silence.

“Quiet! Quiet!” Ceasar said, holding a microphone in one hand and a bagel in the other. “We're on a roll here — or a bagel.”

The Mitch Ceasar era in Broward County Democratic politics is nearing an end, now that he announced that he will not seek re-election to a position he had won five times. Ceasar said that it was time to pass the baton on to new leaders.

“I felt 20 years was a great opportunity, a great experience,” Ceasar said Friday. “Often frustrating but still something I loved to do.”

His decision wasn’t a surprise because Ceasar had temporarily stepped aside from his party leadership role last year to run for Broward clerk of csourts. Friday was the last day to qualify to run as a precinct committeeman, something Ceasar would have had to do to run for chair.

After the Aug. 30th clerk of courts primary, whether he wins or loses, Ceasar said he will return as chair of the Broward Democrats until his term expires in December.

Keep reading here.

Census shows Miami-Ft. Lauderdale media market now majority Hispanic, thanks to Broward County


The expensive Miami-Fort Lauderdale media market is now made up of more Hispanics than any other demographic, according to an analysis of new U.S. Census numbers by Tallahassee Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

Schale dove into the figures, which show that Hispanic growth in Broward County has fueled the shift in the media market. Miami-Dade County has already majority Hispanic and became even more so, he found. The bi-county area tipped from 48.1 percent to 50.3 percent Hispanic in the 2015 Census numbers, he said.

Dade went from 65 percent to 66.7 percent Hispanic. Broward went from 25 percent to 28 percent. 

Political operatives care deeply about media markets -- known as "Designated Market Areas," or DMAs -- because that's how they divide their buys for TV advertising, usually the most expensive part of election campaigns.

Other interesting tidbits from Schale:

The latest Census estimates show Miami-Ft. Lauderdale has retaken the lead as the biggest DMA in Florida. Earlier estimates, from 2010, had Tampa leading the Florida list. The difference is small, though -- less than 5,000 people.

Miami-Dade remains the most diverse county in the state, Schale found. "Only 14.4 percent of Dade County residents are non-Hispanic white now," he wrote in an email to the MIami Herald.

His full blog post on the Census numbers is worth a read.

Miami-Dade Democrats boast of challenging every Republican on the ballot, again


For the second consecutive election, Miami-Dade County Democrats have decided to challenge every single Republican on the congressional or state legislative ballot.

Juan Cuba, the local party's executive director, noted in a statement Friday after the candidate qualifying deadline elapsed that Democrats are running in all districts held by Republicans: three in Congress, four in the Florida Senate and nine in the Florida House.

"The party of Trump will not get a free pass this year," Cuba said. "We welcome these brave Democrats for stepping up and giving voters a choice between progress and hate."

The party employed a similar strategy in 2014, when then-Chairwoman Annette Taddeo recruited candidates for every local seat. (Its current chairman is state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay, who is facing a contested re-election.) Taddeo, now a congressional candidate herself, drew critics who argued putting so many Democrats on the ballot gave an incentive to Republicans who otherwise wouldn't have campaigned to bring out conservative voters. The effect, they said, was to hurt the handful of Democrats who had a real shot in truly competitive seats.

"Not only did it not work out all that well for them last time -- it produced the most votes for [Republican Gov.] Rick Scott than any other county in the state of Florida," Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz said. "None of candidates had any money or any sort of campaign, and our candidates ran serious, hard campaigns that generated actual votes."

But Cuba countered then and now that flooding Miami-Dade with Democrats boosted Charlie Crist's numbers by a small margin when he ran against Scott in 2014. That gap can only improve in a presidential-election year when more Democrats are expected at the polls, according to Cuba.

Column: The overhyping of underwhelming Patrick Murphy


From Tampa Bay Times political editor @adamsmithtimes:

For at least a year, the conventional wisdom has echoed from Democrats and Republican alike in Washington, Tallahassee, and across Florida: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is the future of the Democratic Party, a powerhouse statewide candidate and most likely Florida's next U.S. Senator.

Today, two months before Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's preferred candidate faces Alan Grayson in a primary and four and half before the general election, we're struggling to think of when Florida last saw a candidate who proved as overrated and over-hyped as Murphy.

The Times/Herald and others in recent weeks have shown the pattern with the 33-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County: He appeared to be a serial exaggerator of his accomplishments, from inflating the scope of his work on Gulf clean-up after the BP oil spill, to falsely claiming to have earned dual college degrees, to overstating his work as a CPA. This week a Miami TV station aired a two-part investigative series that portrayed Murphy as an unaccomplished, chronic embellisher.

"Murphy’s rise is extraordinary because of how little he seems to have accomplished to get here," concluded CBS4 News. "...Murphy has in some cases exaggerated his experience and in other instances made claims that were misleading or outright false. For instance, he has never worked a day in his life as a Certified Public Accountant. And he was never a small business owner."

Murphy's campaign has attacked the report as unfair and inaccurate. He was a CPA, even if he was never licensed by Florida or worked as long as he seemed to imply. And he did have a small business, even if his wealthy father may have bought it for him and it didn't actually do much cleanup work.

But what's already certain is that the Democratic Party establishment prematurely planned a coronation for a candidate about to be mauled and carved up by Republicans. "Patrick Murphy - a career built on lies," is how the National Republican Senatorial Committee has started describing him.

Murphy is telegenic, moderate, and as a congressman largely uncontroversial. Mainly, though, what has set him apart and drew the enthusiasm of the likes of Harry Reid is money. Murphy’s father in the construction business has been willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get him elected, so the party establishment saw little reason to dig below the surface of Murphy’s image.

Political analysts have consistently deemed Florida's U.S. Senate race as one of a handful of toss-up contests across the country. After Rubio announced his reelection campaign last week, that rating will likely shift to GOP-leaning. 

Given the way Murphy has withered under scrutiny in recent weeks, we're wondering if most of the drama will be in the primary and not the general. Rubio may face more difficulty winning the nomination against businessman Carlos Beruff than beating either Grayson, notoriously obnoxious and mired in pending ethics probes - or Murphy, who increasingly looks like an emperor with no clothes.