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August 12, 2016

Could latest surge in Florida voter registrations boost Trump?


Florida has never had more registered voters going into an election season than it does now, thanks to a surge of 377,000 voters that have been added to the roles just since January.

And that gives Donald Trump reason to be hopeful.

New state voter registration data shows 59 percent of the increase has been within GOP ranks. Republican voters grew by more than 222,000 while Democrats were up by almost 156,000, data released on Friday by the Florida Division of Elections showed. The number of voters who signed up with no political party grew by almost 8,000, but those picking one of Florida's minor parties actually decreased by 8,500 since January.

Democrats still have a majority of voters in Florida, but that margin continues to shrink. In January, Florida had about 326,000 more Democrats than Republicans. That is now down to 259,000.

That reduced margin of 67,000 may seem small at first glance, but it has the potential to be significant. In 2012, President Barack Obama carried Florida by less than 75,000 votes.

Overall Florida had 12.4 million voters as of Aug. 1, the deadline to be eligible to vote for the Aug. 30 primary election. The deadline to register to vote in time for the general election in November is on Oct. 11.

In Tampa Bay, Republicans have similarly increased their voter registration since January more than Democrats. In Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas combined, Republicans increased their numbers by 23,000 voters. Democrats increased their total by just under 20,000. Combined those four counties have 665,000 Republicans compared to 693,000 Democrats. The Democrats margin over Republicans shrank by more than 6,600 since January, the new numbers show.

Combined, those four counties have 1.9 million voters.

In South Florida, the voter registration trend is very different. In both Miami-Dade and Broward, Democrats grew their voter registration advantage over Republicans since January. In Miami-Dade, the Democrats advantage went from 170,000 over Republicans to 187,000. In Broward, the advantage went from 312,000 to 322,000.

Overall, Miami-Dade, now has 1.3 million voters. Broward has 1.1 million.

The perks of incumbency: Miami lawmaker's office sends 10 page Zika mailer weeks before election


U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, wants her constituents to know that she's done everything in her power to pass a Zika funding bill. 

On Aug. 4, Ros-Lehtinen sent a 10-page letter on congressional letterhead to constituents highlighting votes on four Zika funding bills and 12 congressional actions regarding Zika. 

"With the virus at our doorstep, it is now well past time for the Administration and Congress to put aside partisan fights and pass a full fundraising bill dedicated to eradicating the Zika threat," the mailer says.


Members of Congress may send free mail to constituents through a process called franking. It's intended to be an informational tool -- and members that are running for reelection cannot send mass mailers of 500 pieces or more within 90 days of Election Day.

Ros-Lehtinen has two primary challengers on the Aug. 30 ballot, so she was barred from sending mass mailers beginning on June 1

But members of Congress can send mailers that fall below the 500-piece threshold. 

"It's one of those 499 mailers," Ros-Lehtinen communications director Keith Fernandez said, referring to a mailer that falls just under the legal limit before an election. "I don't know who the mailer was intended to target, but some people called our office for information and some stuff was sent out." 

Mailers that fall under the 500-piece limit are not subject to congressional advisory opinions -- or to disclosure that they are funded with taxpayer dollars.

Ros-Lehtinen faces a primary challenge from two political novices, but potential general- election foe Scott Fuhrman, a Democrat, has been vocal on the Republican veteran's stance on Zika funding.

"Regardless of whether or not Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was following the letter of the law -- which is far from clear at this point -- she violated its spirit," Fuhrman said in a statement. "Someone who has spent three decades in public office should know better than to use taxpayer dollars to send campaign communications to voters less than 30 days before her name appears on the ballot." 

Fuhrman said he plans to file an ethics complaint with the House of Representatives over the letter.

LGBTQ activist wants Rubio to apologize for quoting her at Orlando event


An LGBT activist is demanding Sen. Marco Rubio apologize for quoting her in a speech to religious leaders in Orlando on Friday.

Rubio quoted Victoria Kirby York, a lesbian woman who said at a prayer vigil following the shooting at Pulse nightclub that, “For our community, far too many have never seen a sight like this. Finding a place where they can be prayed over for who they are, that place for many just exists in their dreams.”

But Kirby York, who is originally from Brandon, told the Times/Herald that she's "appalled" Rubio used her words in a speech where he also expressed support for what he called "traditional marriage" between a man and a woman.

"I would rather the Senator really listen to what I said as a Christian than use my words to justify sharing a stage with some of the most virulently anti-LGBTQ voices in our country," she said. "I invite Senator Rubio to a real conversation that may help him​ turn the words he used into action that honors the memory of the victims of Orlando. If he is not willing to do that, I would like his apology for using my words.”

But, she said, she's hopeful that Rubio's use of her words could represent a "change of heart."

"I hope it will be translated into action​ and I wholeheartedly welcome it and the actions that must therefore follow," she said. "However, Senator Rubio's record shows a politician who opposes marriage equality for my wife​ and me, rejects meaningful​ legislation to help create a nation free from gun violence, and opposes ​protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people."

Many groups in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community spoke out against Rubio's speech to the “Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project” conference in Orlando.

In the speech, he urged conservatives to listen to thte struggles the LGBTQ community has faced and said it's important to love all people.

"To love our neighbors, we must abandon a spirit of judgment," he said, according to a transcript obtained by the Times/Herald. "Do not judge or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged. And with a measure you use it will be used to measure you. And we should remember not to ignore the plank in our own eye."

Rubio is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. In the Aug. 30 primary, he faces Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff.

State, feds have spent $26.3M fighting Zika, Miami-Dade wants more support


Florida health officials have divvied up $26.3 million of emergency money set aside by the state and federal governments to combat the Zika virus.

Of that money, $19 million is expected to be used for mosquito control, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

DOH plans to spend $5 million to test pregnant women for the virus, which is linked to birth defects, and another $4.1 million for lab infrastructure. The state has used $569,640 for Zika kits that include bug spray, condoms and information about the virus.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Rick Scott announced $26.2 million emergency spending on the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has committed more than $9 million, as well. That’s in addition to mosquito control budgets by the state and local mosquito districts.

Still, some local governments are starting to demand additional state support.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote a letter this week asking Scott to immediately reimburse the county for the money it’s already spent on mosquito spraying and community outreach.

“These efforts are ongoing and will likely fluctuate due to changes in demand and market costs. We are engaging community participation to help deliver services,” he wrote. “I also urge you to consider an economic recovery package for our businesses in the Wynwood community that have been impacted.”

Miami-Dade County has received $316,800 to date, more than any other county but no more than they had received last week.

“When the first case of travel-related Zika was identified in our state in February, Governor Scott declared a public health emergency to ensure all counties – including Miami -Dade – had every tool they needed to fight Zika,” Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in a statement. “Gov. Scott has also stayed in constant communication with Mayor Gimenez to ensure Miami-Dade County has all of the resources they need.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity has been in contact with local governments, Schenone said.

A further $9.4 million has not yet been allocated to counties. Scott promised additional funding if it’s needed.

Last week, the Times/Herald reported that $1.9 million had been spent by the state.

On Friday, the state confirmed three new Zika infections contracted after people were bitten by mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County.

To date, 23 people have contracted Zika after being bitten by mosquitoes in Miami’s Wynwood district. Another five were bitten by mosquitoes in other parts of South Florida where state officials say the virus is not spreading.

Here’s what local counties have received from the state for Zika prevention to date. Additional programs — such as Zika testing, Zika kits and lab services — are being run by the state government and counties do not receive money for them.

Miami-Dade: $316,800
Broward: $221,635
Palm Beach: $175,211
Hillsborough: $155,962
Pinellas: $106,036
Monroe: $26,581
Pasco: $26,581
Hernando: $5,000

Dana Young drops ad touting 'Good Samaritan' law (w/ puppies)


Remember last year when Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, pushed a bill to let people break into hot cars and rescue children, seniors or pets?

She sure wants you to.

Young, the majority leader of the Florida House on Friday released a new ad featuring the legislation. And a lot of puppies.

Young is fighting for what may be the most uncertain state Senate district in Florida this November against Democrat lawyer Bob Buesing and Joe Redner, who is not affiliated with a political party.

The seat includes much of western Hillsborough County and in 2012 voted for President Barack Obama with 50.6 percent of the vote.

“In Florida, it used to be that if a child, a senior or one of our four-legged friends was trapped in a hot car, you and I weren’t allowed to save them, unless we were willing to be sued,” Young said in the TV spot. “Has government lost its mind?"

The ad was funded by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and also name-drops Sens. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

As of Friday, Young had reported $602,867 in campaign contributions. Buesing has raised $179,143 and loaned himself $93,863.

Here's Young's ad:

PolitiFact Florida: Carlos Beruff's claim about vetting refugees


Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff wants voters to know that he plans to be tough on national security and immigration, because right now the FBI has no way to guarantee America’s safety as refugees flood the United States.

"Thousands of Syrian refugees are pouring into our country, thanks to President Obama," Beruff said in an Aug. 8 Facebook post. "This is an open invitation to acts of terror. Even the director of the FBI said that we cannot properly vet people coming from the Middle East."

Immigration has been a major focus of this election cycle, with Republicans routinely calling for more restrictions to ensure security in the United States. But did James Comey actually say the FBI "cannot properly vet" people coming from the Middle East?

No, he didn’t. Beruff is distorting a point Comey was making about a flaw in the vetting process, but he was reiterating the system in place was actually much better than it had been in years past.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check here from PolitiFact Florida.

Marco Rubio to evangelicals in Orlando: don't judge LGBT community


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio encouraged same-sex-marriage opponents to acknowledge the fears and pain of the LGBT community during a speech to evangelicals in Orlando on Friday.

Rubio had been criticized by gay-rights activists for his plan to speak to religious conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage in Orlando, the city where a gunman killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in June.

Rubio spoke at the “Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project” conference meeting where religious conservatives gathered.

In his speech, Rubio reiterated his own support for “traditional marriage,” but also asked the audience to listen to the feelings of the LGBT community and not judge them.

Keep reading here.

Photo by the Associated Press

Debbie Wasserman Schultz refers to attacks against her as "garbage" in latest TV ad



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston has a formidable campaign warchest to fight off a primary challenge from Hollywood law professor Tim Canova, but her latest TV ad alludes to Canova's recent fundraising blitz.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is sending out fundraising emails to supporters urging them to donate to Canova after Wasserman Schultz quit her post as chair of the Democratic Committee.

"People who don't live in Florida, including Republicans, are spending outrageous amounts of money on personal attacks directed at me," the ad says. "And the attacks are just garbage, especially when you and I are focused on stopping Donald Trump's offensive and dangerous campaign." 

Canova and Wasserman Schultz have agreed to debate each other on CBS 4's "Facing South Florida" on Sunday morning at 8am. Canova originally turned down the invitation because he felt the debate was too short before changing course after CBS announced the show would be extended for half an hour.

The ad is running on broadcast and cable stations and the ad can be viewed on YouTube. View it here.


Marco Rubio's speech on LGBT community in Orlando

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continued his defense of "traditional marriage" while also encouraging religious conservatives to listen to the LGBT community in a speech Friday.

Rubio was speaking to the American Renewal Project, a group of evangelicals in Orlando. The owner of the gay night club in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people joined gay rights advocates in denouncing Rubio for speaking with the group.

Here is a video of his speech and here is an excerpt:

"In order to love people you have to listen to them. You have to understand their perspective, their hope and their dreams and their fears and their pain. When it comes to our brothers and our sisters, our fellow Americans, our neighbors in the LGBT community, we should recognize that our nation, while the greatest nation in the history of mankind, is one whose history has been marred by discrimination against and the rejection of gays and lesbians. For example not long ago the federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required private contractors to identify them and fire them. We had laws that prohibited gays and lesbians from being served in bars and restaurants, and many of our cities carried out law enforcement efforts targeting the community. There was a time not long ago where it was still acceptable and common in the broader society to use slurs. To love our neighbors in the LGBT community we should recognize that even as we stand firm in the belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, there are those in that community in same-sex relationships whose love for one another is real, and who feel angry and humiliated that the law did not recognize their relationship as a marriage."

American Bridge, Progress Florida launch 'Donald Trump screwed me' website


American Bridge and Progress Florida, two liberal groups, have launched a "Donald Trump screwed me" website and digital ad inviting the public to dish about how they feel they were screwed by the businessman.

"If you have been personally screwed by Donald Trump, or have a friend or relative who has been taken advantage of by Trump, we want to hear from you! Telling your story will help make sure that others like you are not abused by Trump," states the website. "Together, we can put an end to Donald Trump’s aggressive business tactics that hurt hard-working Americans while he’s padding his pockets with your blood, sweat, and money."

Trump has had multiple bankruptcies and investors sued after failed condo projects in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.