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September 22, 2016

In op-ed, Gov. Scott blasts federal government over Zika

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott uses a USA Today op/ed Thursday to lash out at the "incompetence" of the federal government to address Zika. He goes after Congress and the president, accusing Barack Obama of failing to show leadership. "It would be nice if he stopped taking vacations and focused all his energy on this," Scott says.

At the same time, Scott came home empty handed from a lobbying mission to Capitol Hill last week. He also took a partisan shot at Sen. Bill Nelson that drew rebukes from fellow Republicans.

"In all my meetings with both Republicans and Democrats, I couldn’t find anyone who opposes the federal government spending money to eradicate Zika," Scott writes. "But, what has happened? Nothing. It’s a perfect example of the complete dysfunction in Washington. Everyone is for funding to get rid of Zika — so of course nothing happens.

"This explains the problem with our entire federal government — incompetence.

"When you travel around and talk to voters all across the country today, they will tell you that Washington is broken. That’s not really true, it is much worse than broken. To call our federal government broken is far too complimentary. No, the truth is that Washington is completely incompetent. ...

"Meanwhile, the taxpayers of Florida have now spent over $26 million fighting Zika, and I just allocated another $10 million to ensure our counties and local mosquito boards continue to have all of the resources they need to combat Zika. We are doing our part in Florida, but we need the federal government to be a good partner, which includes both Congress and President Obama. Obama has not provided the leadership that is needed to get this done, and it would be nice if he stopped taking vacations and focused all his energy on this.

"Our broken federal government would never survive in the business world. If they were a company, they would fail. They would go under. They would be fired. Yet, members of Congress scratch their heads and wonder why the public is fed up with Washington."

Full piece here.

FAU online/robopoll: Clinton's lead among Hispanics smaller in Florida than in other battlegrounds


Hillary Clinton maintains a big advantage over Donald Trump among Florida Hispanics, according to a new poll.

Florida Atlantic University found Clinton ahead of Trump by 53-34 percent. That's a robust, 19-point margin that's nevertheless smaller than the once Clinton holds over Trump among Latinos in Colorado (51 points), Nevada (29 points), North Carolina (38 points) and Ohio (22 points). Florida Hispanics tend to lean less Democratic because older Cuban Americans are heavily Republican.

"Hispanics are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. Republicans cannot continue to underperform with them and maintain a realistic ability to win some of these battleground states," Kevin Wagner, an FAU associate professor of political science, said in a statement. "The electoral map becomes increasingly difficult for Republicans if they cannot narrow these large margins."

FAU polled using a mix of online surveys and robocalls -- a methodology considered less reliable than live calls to voters on cellphones and land lines. The university's Business and Economics Polling Initiative polled 400 registered Hispanic voters from Sept. 15-19, and the poll has an error margin of 4.9 percentage points.

Americans for Prosperity doubles down on Patrick Murphy attack with new mailer



Through a new mail-piece arriving in Floridian voters' mailboxes this week, Americans for Prosperity continues its criticism of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and his "questionable ties" to special interests.

AFP hones in on Murphy's congressional support for the EB-5 visa program -- which has been used, in some cases, to help finance high-profile South Florida projects that have involved Murphy's family construction company and other Murphy campaign donors. (More here.)

The direct-mail campaign echoes a recent TV ad AFP aired on the same topic. The mailer -- which is viewable here -- should reach more than 900,000 Florida households, according to AFP, a national conservative advocacy group, funded by the Koch Brothers.

"The only ‘record’ Murphy has to show for his time in Congress is one of repeatedly using his position for self-gain," AFP-Florida state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Floridians deserve a senator who will fight for them, not one who simply views the office as another line on his bloated resume. Americans for Prosperity-Florida is working around the clock to make sure this message is heard loud and clear."

AFP -- and other elements of the Koch brothers' network -- support Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

When AFP began this line of attack against Murphy earlier this month, the congressman's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen responded by calling the criticism "ironic" because she said Rubio "votes with (the Koch brothers') priorities 98 percent of the time in the U.S. Senate."

Image credit: AFP-FL

Boca Rep. Ted Deutch: spelling master, vegan

via @learyreports

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch can spell well, just not "jambalaya."

The Florida Democrat was the top ranking lawmaker in the Politicians v. Press Spelling Bee yesterday at the National Press Club. Deutch made it to the 12th round before the slip-up, starting the word with a "g."

The winner was Art Swift of Gallup won for the journalists by correctly spelling “apothecary."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Naked Donald Trump statute is MIA in Miami

Naked trumpMH

A naked Donald Trump statue displayed in Wynwood has been stolen, according to reports.

The statue was originally perched on a billboard before being moved to a gallery at Northwest 23rd Street and Second Avenue. Miami Herald news partner CBS4 reported that a witnesses said three men climbed to the gallery roof, grabbed the statue and tossed it into a truck. Naked Trump statues also have made appearances in New York, Los Angleles and Seattle.

The statue was brought to Miami by Mana Wynwood. The call came in about the theft after 3 a.m. Thursday. A statue in New Jersey atop a warehouse also was stolen.

- Miami Herald


Rubio accepts more U.S. Senate debate invitations, as Murphy quietly declines some

Rubio murphy

With Democrat Patrick Murphy quietly declining debates proposed by two of Florida’s largest newspapers and Republican incumbent Marco Rubio adding two other debates to his list of acceptable possibilities, Florida’s top U.S. Senate candidates are no closer to mutually agreeing to more debates before Election Day.

Murphy and Rubio have so far committed to only two events together: a debate on Oct. 17 in Orlando and another in Davie on Oct. 26.

Both campaigns say publicly that they’re open to potential compromise, but the odds of that being anything more than political posturing are slim. Neither Rubio nor Murphy is giving an inch, but each continues to accuse the other of ducking ample chances to debate.

Rubio has accepted at least eight invitations to debate Murphy. He added two this week: one from Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace and another from the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute and WJXT Channel 4.

Neither of those events have confirmed dates — a detail that would require negotiations with Murphy’s campaign, which hasn’t come to the table. It’s unlikely Murphy would accept the Fox News debate, though, because the cable news channel caters to a conservative audience.

Meanwhile, Murphy is holding steadfast to his commitment of three debates and one candidate forum, which he announced last week. Rubio seems equally unwilling to hash out details over one of those debates and the forum, citing concerns of bias in Murphy’s favor.

“[Rubio’s] ask for six debates was clearly disingenuous since he is now afraid to even do four,” Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said. “Marco Rubio is only out for himself, using a political strategy to serve his campaign instead of the voters.”

Yet Murphy is employing campaign strategy over debates, too.

Karp said early Tuesday that Murphy hasn’t “made any other announcements or decisions regarding debates,” but the Jupiter congressman’s campaign quietly has.

Read more here.

Photo credit: AP / The Palm Beach Post

For a lucky few, right to vote is restored just in time

It took Gilberto Hernandez three decades to regain the right to vote. But he did it.

The 64-year-old Miami man was one of the lucky ones Wednesday as Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members, meeting as the Board of Clemency, considered requests from four dozen people to restore their civil rights, just a few weeks before one of the most important elections of their lives.

Hernandez, walking with a cane and joined by his wife Mercedes, pleaded for the right to be a full-fledged American citizen again while he still has the chance.

"For 33 years, I've been waiting for this day, to try to bring back my civil rights," Hernandez told the four state officials. "I felt that I was less than an American because my rights were all taken away. And I felt very bad."

Hernandez was found guilty of dealing in stolen merchandise involving an office supply business he ran in the 1980s. He served less than two years in prison. After his release, he got a master's degree in political science at FIU. An investigation by the Florida Commission on Offender Review recommended that his rights be restored.

Florida is one of three states that permanently strips convicted felons of their civil rights, including the right to vote, following a felony conviction. They must then formally petition the state for restoration of those rights, a process that typically takes years and sometimes decades.

IMG_6298Hernandez expressed regret, and he apologized. But before the vote, there was one last-minute glitch. Scott wanted to know if Hernandez made full restitution. Hernandez insisted he did with a series of money orders, but the record was unclear. "This case is over 30 years old," a staff member told the governor, noting that Hernandez successfully completed probation and that the victim in the case is long dead.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Cuba, Hernandez said his next priority is to register at the Miami-Dade elections office so he can cast his vote in November. He can't do that until the state Commission on Offender Review provides him with a document proving that his civil rights have been restored, and he has until Oct. 11 to register.

"I'm going to run to register to vote," he said.

His 65th birthday is election day, Nov. 8.

Right before the vote there was yet another glitch, as records showed Hernandez continued to vote after his conviction that stripped him of the voting rights. He didn't deny it, saying he was never told that his rights had been revoked.

"For Gilbert, voting is like eating," his wife testified. "He loves being part of the American system."

For the rest of the civil rights petitioners, it was a mixed bag. Some regained their rights and some didn't. Scott took a number of other cases under advisement, putting them in legal limbo, and still others were postponed to a meeting in December, too late for them to vote in 2016.

"I think people should vote. The way things are right now, you should vote," Hernandez said afterward as he and his wife headed to the Tallahassee airport to fly back to Miami.

Asked how he'll vote, Hernandez laughed for the first time all day. The answer: Donald Trump. "Aha," Hernandez said. "I don't like him. But I have to vote for him because the other side is worse."

Michelle Obama makes pitch for Clinton in Florida radio ad


First Lady Michelle Obama will make her first appearance for Hillary Clinton's campaign in Florida -- not in person, but on the radio airwaves.

In a new ad that debuted Thursday, Obama urges listeners to back Clinton like they did President Barack Obama. It's the same message the Clinton camp has been sending to African Americans in swing states for several weeks; like those ads, the Michelle Obama spot will air in stations popular with black voters in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"When you stood with Barack on Election Day in 2008 and 2012, you showed what it means to be stronger together," the first lady says in the ad. "And the stakes are just as high in this election."

After giving one of the best-received speeches in July's Democratic National Convention, the first lady is starting to hit the campaign trail for Clinton. So is her husband. Clinton needs African American voters to turn out in strong numbers to replicate President Obama's winning electoral coalition.

Florida remains neck-and-neck between Clinton and Donald Trump.

September 21, 2016

Miami-Dade, Miami Beach mayors to meet with White House on Zika


In addition to meeting with members of Congress to ask for Zika money, the mayors of Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach will visit the White House on Thursday to discuss fighting the mosquito-borne virus. 

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are scheduled to meet with the White House intergovernmental affairs office, according to Gimenez's office. Gimenez is a Republican and Levine is a Democrat, though both serve in nonpartisan posts. 

Deal aims to protect Air Force Base in Tampa, but does it go far enough?

The state will spend $1.3 million to protect MacDill Air Force Base from residential growth encroaching on it, but the land acquisition is leaving state officials frustrated that they couldn't do more to block plans for a potential hotel that could threaten the base's future.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed to the land purchase Tuesday because it would bar residential development over 25.2 acres owned by Florida Rock & Tank Lines next to MacDill. 

But enthusiasm over that deal soured when state officials learned from MacDill officials that Florida Rock will continue to have the right to build a hotel or motel on nearly 15 acres on the property's north end, a proximity they deem too close to airfields.

That hotel or motel would be in "accident potential zone" and would be "incompatible" with the base's needs, Col. Pat Miller of the 6th Mission Support Group at MacDill told Scott and the Cabinet before the Tuesday vote.

Cabinet members expressed alarm over the state's inability to prevent a motel that could hinder base operations in the future.

"I have reticence that we were unable to negotiate away a future hotel at the end of a runway," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said. "I'm not sure why it's such a hot idea anyway."

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he worried that the Air Force's needs were being "run over" in the process.

Full Story Here