June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban


Attempting symbolic similarity to Martin Luther and his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson on Tuesday urged the Republican-led Florida Legislature to adopt stricter gun control measures in the aftermath of last week's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub near his district.

The Orlando congressman affixed to the doors of the Florida House and Senate chambers in Tallahassee a summary of the bill analysis for the law Connecticut passed a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in that state four years ago. Assault weapons were used in both the Orlando and Newtown tragedies.

"It's much too easy in America today to kill so many people so quickly," Grayson told reporters who captured his photo op in the Florida Capitol. "This bill ended that for people in Connecticut."

He said seven states have adopted either bans or heavy restrictions on assault weapons, and "I think that this state needs to do that."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't acknowledge Grayson's request when asked for comment by the Herald/Times, but he did slam Grayson for using the Orlando shooting for political gain.

"Last week, our first-responders bravely and selflessly ran into the Pulse nightclub to end the horrible terror attack in Orlando," Crisafulli said in a statement. "That is quite a contrast to Congressman Alan Grayson who is using the same tragedy to run in front of television cameras to gain attention for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign."

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Alan Grayson files to qualify for U.S. Senate race

0621 Grayson files


Seeking to become the fourth Democrat to qualify for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, Orlando U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson submitted his candidate paperwork this afternoon at the state Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Shortly after noon, Grayson dropped off his $10,440 check to get on the ballot, along with his candidate oath.

Three other Democrats officially qualified on Monday, the first of the five-day window for candidates to qualify for this year's primary and general elections. They were: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, a former presidential hopeful who moved to Orlando in March. (Murphy pre-filed by submitting his paperwork two weeks ago.)

Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith -- who, along with Murphy and Grayson, has been actively campaigning for months -- has yet to submit her paperwork. She has until noon Friday to do so.

Before the deadline, there may be other candidates who jump in the race, as well. De La Fuente and Luster only started campaigning for the seat this month, and De La Fuente -- who spent $6 million of his own money on an unsuccessful presidential bid -- could potentially be a wild card in the Senate contest.

On the Republican side, still only Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox had qualified by 2:45 p.m. Tuesday -- as the political world still waits for incumbent Republican Marco Rubio to make a decision on seeking re-election.

Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, submits his paperwork to qualify for Florida's U.S. Senate race on June 21, 2016 at the Florida Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

June 20, 2016

Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy criticize Marco Rubio's gun votes

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio's potential Democratic rivals sharply criticized his votes on gun measures today.

"Marco Rubio may find personal, political opportunities in this horrible tragedy, but his disturbing Senate votes today show that this gruesome act of violence did not give him the courage to take on the gun lobby," said Rep. Alan Grayson.

"After the devastating attack in Orlando, Floridians are crying out for commonsense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists," said Rep. Patrick Murphy. "Tonight, Marco Rubio put his political ambition ahead of keeping Floridians safe."

The rapid response is a sign of how Democrats will seek to use the issue in the general election.

New U.S. Senate candidate didn't register as Democrat in Florida until this afternoon


Rocky Image 2Former presidential hopeful and newly qualified Democratic U.S. Senate candidate "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente was not a registered Democrat in Florida until this afternoon after the Herald/Times inquired about the status of his voter registration.

Records show De La Fuente registered as a "no party affiliation" voter on March 28, after he moved to Orlando from his hometown of San Diego, Calif. That was his current status as of 2:57 p.m. today, according to an email from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office.

As the Herald/Times then made inquiries to De La Fuente's campaign and the San Diego County (Calif.) Registrar of Voters, De La Fuente went to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office and changed his affiliation to the Florida Democratic Party.

His amended voter application is time-stamped as received by the office at 3:43 p.m.

But De La Fuente told the Herald/Times in an interview shortly after that that he had corrected his voter registration this morning.

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Republican, Democratic fields take shape for Florida U.S. Senate race


@ByKristenMClark & @MichaelAuslen

Three main contenders for Florida's U.S. Senate seat have officially secured their positions on the party ballots, and a couple newcomers also staked a claim in the race as the qualifying period for Florida's August primary elections began today.

Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox all pre-filed their paperwork -- along with a $10,440 check -- earlier this month to qualify for the ballot.

Several other candidates actively campaigning have yet to file -- including several Republicans, and Democrats Alan Grayson and Pam Keith. They have until noon Friday to do so.

The Republican field remains largely in limbo, as uncertainty swirls about whether Sen. Marco Rubio will seek re-election despite promising during his presidential campaign that he would leave the Senate if he lost the March presidential primary.

Rubio has signaled for several weeks a growing change of heart and said last week, in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, that he was re-considering his pledge to become a private citizen again in 2017. He had said he would take this past weekend to consider his options.

Until he announces his plans, other Republican candidates appear to be biding their time. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, had not filed to qualify, as of this afternoon.

Lopez-Cantera, a close friend of Rubio, said he will step aside if the senator runs again. DeSantis has hinted that he also may leave the race if Rubio runs. U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, announced Friday that he will seek re-election to his congressional seat, rather than continuing his Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democratic field grew more crowded with two previously unknown contenders qualifying: Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, who still has an active presidential campaign based in San Diego.

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President Obama helps Patrick Murphy in new radio ad


Signaling a new stage in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy unveiled a new radio ad on Monday that features a heavyweight narrator: President Barack Obama.

"In Congress, I could always count on Patrick to have my back. He’s been there for me when I needed him," Obama says, asking listeners to support Murphy in the Aug. 30 primary.

In the ad -- titled "For What's Right -- Obama also hails Murphy as a "strong progressive," while praising several of his policy positions, such as on Social Security and Medicare, health care and criminal justice reform.

The 60-second spot is paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which endorsed Murphy more than a year ago and is prepared to spend millions on his behalf in the campaign ahead. Florida's seat, currently held by Republican Marco Rubio, could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March. They've also already joined the Jupiter congressman on the campaign trail three times this spring -- Obama and Biden with separate trips to Miami and Biden once by himself in Orlando.

Murphy is competing against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith in the U.S. Senate primary.

Listen to the radio ad here:

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In response to Orlando Senate votes on gun bills today

The U.S. Senate, divided and bewildered over how to respond to America’s latest mass shooting, will vote Monday on four measures touted as keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists.

All of them have failed in political show votes after previous massacres. All need 60 votes to pass, an enormous hurdle – especially in an overheated election season on a topic on which compromise is hard to find.

What exactly are the proposals up for a vote? And is there any chance that this time around might be different? Here’s a summary.

1) Democrats are lining up behind a measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that would give the government broad authority to block gun sales to people who’ve been subject of a terrorism investigation in the past five years.

Such people would be flagged during the gun background check. The government could then veto the sale if the Justice Department decides there is a “reasonable suspicion” the buyer has become involved in terrorism or is preparing to do so. Anyone who gets denied could appeal.

Such a law might have prevented Orlando shooter Omar Mateen from buying the two weapons he used in the attack. Mateen was investigated in 2013 and 2014 for possible terrorism links, but had been cleared by the FBI and was not on any lists when he purchased a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic assault rifle and a Glock handgun.

Feinstein’s proposal was soundly defeated in December following the terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif. It only received 45 of the needed 60 votes, with just a single Republican, Mark Kirk of Illinois, crossing over to vote in support. The White House is now on board but Republican minds aren’t changing.

Keep reading from Sean Cockerham and David Lightman of McClatchy.

June 18, 2016

Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says it's "appalling" that Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could be using the Orlando shooting massacre to re-consider his decision to seek re-election this year, especially when Rubio is "the most homophobic senator" in the country, Murphy said.

Although he'd publicly said for months he wouldn't seek re-election, Rubio said on Monday -- the day after the shooting -- that he was "deeply impacted" by the tragedy and that it "gives me pause" to re-evaluate his political future. Then on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera -- a current Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Rubio's friend -- told Politico that he'd urged Rubio to run for re-election while the two were sitting in Rubio's pick-up truck on Sunday evening, hours after the shooting.

Rubio has said he would take this weekend to think about his options.

Murphy initially avoided a firm answer when asked Saturday whether Rubio was using the terrorist attack as an excuse to run for re-election but Murphy then grew more direct in his answer.

"That's up to the voters ... but I cannot tell you how many phone calls I've received just in the last 48 hours about how appalled people are, especially, especially my friends -- our friends -- in the LGBT community," Murphy said.

"Many of which are actually Republican, right now calling me and saying, 'this is atrocious, this is despicable' that a senator who is one of the most homophobic senators in this country, someone who voted to keep this terrorist gun loophole open, who has a 100 percent voting record with the NRA, I think -- and now all of a sudden is going to use this horrific mass shooting, this act of terrorism, this hate crime to decide to run for the U.S. Senate? "

When pressed for his personal opinion, Murphy said he "certainly" agreed with those callers' assessment that Rubio is the most homophobic senator.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says" »

Patrick Murphy presents criminal justice reform plan



Surrounded by two nationally known lawmakers, a couple Florida legislators and almost a dozen community leaders, Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy released on Saturday his policy proposal for criminal justice reform.

Murphy called for laws to "ban the box" on job applications and restore voting rights for ex-felons, improved funding for law enforcement agencies to buy body cameras and other reforms aimed at reducing incarceration rates and helping those who've done time to become productive members of society, instead of returning to crime.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate because I know we can make a difference on these issues," Murphy said. "We must reduce recidivism by creating a better pathway back into society for formerly incarcerated individuals."

Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey joined Murphy to announce his proposal during a press conference Saturday afternoon at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gathering at The Diplomat hotel in Hollywood.

Booker -- who is rumored to be among Hillary Clinton's possible choices for a vice presidential candidate -- is the keynote speaker at the Democrats' fundraising gala Saturday evening. Booker endorsed Murphy more than a year ago.

Also there to support Murphy were Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Chris Smith and West Park state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy presents his criminal justice reform plan during a press conference June 18, 2016 at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gala in Hollywood, FL. He was joined by more than a dozen Democratic supporters, including South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn (left) and (from right) New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Florida state Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

June 17, 2016

Marco Rubio would crush GOP opponents, poll says

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would crush the rest of the Republican candidates if he decides to run for reelection, according to a new poll.

The Saint Leo University poll shows that 52 percent of likely GOP voters would chose Rubio leaving the rest of the field in single digits and 27 percent in the don't know/unsure category.

The poll was done between June 10-16 -- so that doesn't fully capture what happened when Rubio told Hugh Hewitt on July 13th that the Orlando shooting had given him "pause" to think about his future. The online poll included 500 Floridians and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent but a margin of 7 percent among likely voters of either party due to the smaller sample size.

As Rubio plans to mull his decision about whether to run over the weekend, one candidate already exited the race: U.S. Rep. David Jolly will run for reelection. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has said he won't run if his friend Rubio runs.

Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox have vowed to remain in the race. U.S. Rep. Ron Desantis doesn't appear to be interested in running against Rubio.

On the Democratic side, the poll showed that don't know/unsure category represents 61.1 percent of the likely Democratic voters. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy at 15.7 percent slightly ahead of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson at 13.5 percent.

The primary is Aug. 30th but some voters start casting absentee ballots in July.