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April 20, 2016

Ted Cruz wants to debate Donald Trump again


Ted Cruz challenged rival Donald Trump to another televised debate on Wednesday, preferably ahead of next Tuesday's primaries in a handful of northeastern states.

"It's been 41 days since we've had a Republican debate," Cruz told reporters at the Diplomat Resort & Spa, where the Republican National Committee was starting its three-day spring meeting. "Because Donald Trump is unwilling to stand on stage and debate, because he cannot defend his positions or his policies."

The Texas senator blamed the news media for not pressing for more debates, even though debates have been a ratings boon for television.

"I don't recall seeing on FOX News a debate countdown: 41 days and counting," he said. "What does it say for Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of imperial Washington arrogance, is more willing to submit to the voters and agree to debate than Donald Trump?"

Trump said after winning the Florida primary March 15 that he was done with debates. And the third remaining GOP contender, John Kasich, told reporters in Hollywood later Wednesday that he prefers one-on-one interviews where audience members ask questions, town-hall style.

"Town halls are the most important thing," he said. "Debates are all about sound bites."

Contested convention brings Ted Cruz, John Kasich to GOP meeting in Florida

For rnc advance


For three days, the center of the Republican political universe will be in Hollywood, Florida, where the national GOP began a three-day meeting Wednesday ahead of the July’s presidential nominating convention.

To voters, it might have looked like the campaign was elsewhere. Donald Trump held a big rally in Indiana, celebrating his rout in Tuesday’s New York primary. Ted Cruz took a sweet trip to a chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But the behind-the-scenes action took place inside Hollywood’s beachside Diplomat Resort & Spa, where longtime activists who form the Republican National Committee kicked off their spring meeting.

Usually, the meeting attracts the attention only of political junkies interested in the inner workings of the party. But this is no usual year.

And so the RNC gathering drew not only party stalwarts but also two presidential candidates — John Kasich and Cruz, who flew down from Pennsylvania — and Trump’s campaign brass. Cruz and Kasich met privately with party members Wednesday afternoon; Trump’s team, including former opponent Ben Carson, is scheduled to sit down with members Thursday.

Though Trump further cemented his front-runner status with Tuesday’s New York win, the celebrity businessman has yet to amass a majority of convention delegates to seal the nomination. Cruz and Kasich each tried to make the case that they’d be a better choice.

More here.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Marco Rubio renews commitment to backing Donald Trump if he's GOP nominee


Marco Rubio sounded sure Wednesday that he could support Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.

In an interview with South Florida radio station WIOD-AM (610), Rubio said he'd back whomever GOP delegates choose at their July convention.

"I've always said I'm going to support the Republican nominee," Rubio told host Jimmy Cefalo. "And that's especially true now that it's apparent that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate."

Last time Rubio was asked the question, though, three days before he dropped his own presidential bid, the Florida senator wavered on whether he could stand behind Trump.


"I don't know," he said the Saturday before Florida's March 15 primary, his voice breaking. "Getting harder every day."

Amid deadlock, insurance chief Kevin McCarty delays departure

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty told his bosses Wednesday that he will delay his departure until 45 days after his successor is appointed. McCarty hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and to all three Cabinet members expressing his willingness "to honor my commitment to facilitate a smooth transition as the 2016 hurricane season approaches."

Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater are deadlocked over a choice for McCarty's successor, and no official has proposed an alternative candidate for the critically important post of regulating the insurance industry.

McCarty's letter surfaced within hours of statements by Atwater that he would be "uncomfortable" if the search for McCarty's successor leaves the Office of Insurance Regulation without strong leadership during a hurricane season.

Read McCarty's letter here.

Bernie Sanders wrong to say that Hillary Clinton only had "one line" about Palistinians in AIPAC speech


On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Bernie Sanders about his remark during the New York Democratic debate that the United States should play "an evenhanded role" with regard to Israel and its neighbors.

Sanders told Stephanopoulos that he thinks President Barack Obama has "done much better than his predecessors" in taking the kind of approach he prefers, but added that "I think we still have a way to go. And I was not criticizing President Obama. I was criticizing (former Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton. She gave a speech to AIPAC" -- referring to the most prominent pro-Israel group in the United States. "It's a long speech. It was one sentence, I believe, that even mentioned the Palestinians."

While Sanders went on to say that "it goes without saying" that "we have to protect 100 percent Israel's right to exist, its right to live in peace, its right to live in security," he added that "you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people."

When Stephanopoulos asked whether he thought Clinton has ignored the suffering of the Palestinian people, Sanders reiterated that her AIPAC speech had "one line on the Palestinian people."

We wondered whether Sanders’ was right that Clinton "had one line on the Palestinian people" in her AIPAC speech. So we looked closely at her address.

The most obvious way to look at this is to count the number of references to the Palestinians in Clinton’s speech and see if they amount to more than one line. Sanders is wrong by that simple metric, as we’ll show.

But to broaden our look somewhat, we also analyzed more generally how much of Clinton’s speech addressed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as opposed to how much it addressed Israel’s security needs.

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found.

Court rules that Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet erred when they sided with FPL on power lines in 2014

via @JenStaletovich

A Florida appeals court on Wednesday found Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet erred in approving two massive Florida Power & Light transmission lines cutting through some of Miami-Dade County’s most affluent cities and fragile wetlands.

In its ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal found Scott and the Cabinet — acting as the state siting board, which oversees power plants — failed to consider the city of Miami’s development rules when it signed off on allowing the utility to string 88 miles of line atop towers standing 80 to 150 feet high. Scott and his cabinet also failed to take into account the damage done to wildlife and Everglades marshes by buildings roads and concrete pads.

The board also erred, judges said, when it concluded it did not have the authority to order FPL to pay to bury the lines.

The siting board signed off on the two controversial lines in May 2014 as part of an approval for two proposed new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, immediately drawing challenges from the county and cities of Miami, South Miami and Pinecrest saying the board trampled failed local rules in its approval. Story here.

Corrine Brown announces she'll seek election to district she thinks violates Voting Rights Act

Corrine BrownSaying she is "very disappointed" in the federal court ruling that rejected her attempt to invalidate a new Congressional District 5 which stretches across North Florida, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, announced Wednesday that she will seek re-election to the district anyway. 

“Although I still maintain that the new congressional districts will be severely disadvantageous to minorities throughout the state of Florida, I intend to declare my candidacy for the newly drawn Congressional District Five of Florida,'' Brown said in a statement.

On Tuesday, a three judge federal court panel of the Northern District of Florida upheld the Congressional District 5, which had been ordered reconfigured to run from east to west by the Florida Supreme Court last year. In a landmark case, a majority of justices ruled that Brown's Jacksonville-to-Orlando district was in violation of the "Fair Districts" amendments to the state constitution because it was drawn to carve out Democratic-leaning African-American voters from districts in Northeast and Central Florida to benefit Brown and to make the surrounding districts more hospitable for Republican candidates.

Brown sued, arguing that the newly-configured district violates the federal Voting Rights Act by making it less likely that the district would elect a candidate preferred by black voters, and the federal court rejected her claims.

"Although the victory percentages may drop slightly from those in the north-south configuration, the evidence demonstrates that black-preferred candidates should generally continue to win east-west District 5 with about 60 percent of the vote," wrote judges Robin Rosenbaum, Robert Hinkle and Mark Walker in the opinion. "And a win is a win, regardless of the margin of victory.”

Brown, who has served in Congress since 1992 in a district that sliced through the central part of Florida, is likely to face unfamiliar competition for the new North Florida district. Although much of the population of the district is still concentrated near Brown's hometown of Jacksonville, she must now appeal to voters that she has never served before as far west as Gadsden County.

Former state Sen. Al Lawson, a long-serving Democratic legislator from Quincy, has announced his decision to run in the district regardless of Brown's decision. Others had said they are considering jumping into the race as well. 

Brown said she is "still mulling my options" about whether or not to appeal the court's decision saying she is "reviewing the ruling with Rep. John Conyers (the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee), as well as with Attorney William Sheppard and his legal team in Jacksonville."

"I have a lot of unfinished business to address in Washington, and I look forward to providing a strong voice in Congress for the citizens in the new 5th Congressional District,'' Brown said.

"As I always have, I will fight to bring the federal dollars that the citizens of the 5th District send to Washington back to Florida,'' she said. "As a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I will continue to fight to enhance transportation and infrastructure funding and development; and as a staunch advocate of health care, work to expand health care opportunities through the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare), as well as expand Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security dollars."


Doctor appointed to run health program under fire for removing sick kids


The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday announced the new senior official over a health coverage program for the state's sickest kids.

Dr. John Curran, a regional medical director for the Children's Medical Services program and associate vice president of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, will take over the job as deputy secretary for CMS.

Previously, the job was held by Dr. Celeste Philip, who was named interim surgeon general after the Senate refused to confirm Dr. John Armstrong's appointment this spring. He was later appointed deputy secretary for administration, though he is taking medical leave to be treated for colon cancer.

Concerns about CMS were among those that led the Senate to oust Armstrong, once the health department's top official and one of the longest-serving appointees of Gov. Rick Scott. The program has been under fire for removing 9,000 sick children from coverage, as well as eliminating quality standards for pediatric heart surgery.

Given that Philip's last job was overseeing CMS and the scrutiny Armstrong faced for changes to the program, Curran's appointment will likely be closely watched.

Curran, a 26-year veteran of the Air Force, has been involved with CMS since 1974, according to a DOH statement and has for 16 years been an administrator at USF, where Armstrong once worked.

"Dr. Curran is an accomplished pediatrician and has long served the children of our CMS program as a consultant and regional medical director," Philip said in a statement. "We are confident his knowledge of pediatric medicine and his extensive leadership experience will guide him as he shepherds CMS into its next chapter."

Donald Trump's manager Corey Lewandowski botches claim on Florida delegates


Donald Trump’s campaign has been crying foul over the delegate selection in Florida, accusing Republican party insiders of stacking the deck against Trump.

In Miami-Dade County, home of former presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, few of the 15 delegates chosen April 16 appeared to be overt Trump fans.

The next day, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski accused Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, of bias against Trump.

"The chairman of the party of Florida, who is an avid and outward supporter of Marco Rubio, gets to appoint 30 of those delegates," Lewandowski said April 17. "Now, I understand those are the rules, but Donald Trump won. And now, you’ve got a person who is supporting Marco Rubio who gets to appoint 30 of the 99 delegates. That’s not what the rules should be."

We will explain how Lewandowski got his facts wrong about the delegate selection and Ingoglia. We did not get a response from the Trump campaign for this fact-check.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

A GOP battle royale in South Dade: Lynda Bell vs. David Rivera


Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat -- against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women's Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission

"I'm not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer," said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. "I've accomplished very, very much."

Bell doesn't live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she'd move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 -- also not her home district -- but said she didn't want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called "a really great guy."

Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell's long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won't be easy.

More here.