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June 17, 2016

David Jolly poised to drop out of U.S. Senate race today


After weeks for speculation, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is poised to announce today that he will run for re-election instead of remaining in the race for the U.S. Senate.

Jolly, a Republican from Indian Shores, is scheduled to meet with the media at noon at Clearwater Aviation to talk about his political future.

In July 2015, Jolly jumped into the U.S. Senate race after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced he would not seek re-election and instead run for president. Four other Republicans are also running in the race to replace Rubio, but none have surged to the forefront causing national Republicans to become increasingly worried that none can win in November. That has had Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others publicly calling on Rubio to run again for the Senate, even though he has repeatedly shot down rumors he would do so.

But this week, Rubio told reporters he is considering it after telling a national radio talk show host that the tragedy in Orlando had given him pause to think about how he could serve the nation. Rubio has to decide by June 24, the deadline to enter the race, the deadline to qualify to get on the ballot.

Jolly has said for two weeks he expects Rubio to run for re-election now, and he has no interest in running against him.

“I think all signs are pointing to him running,” Jolly said in an interview with the Times/Herald two weeks ago.

Jolly has said Rubio would be the best candidate for Republicans to retain the seat in November against either U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy or Alan Grayson - the two Democrats seeking the post.

Pinellas County Republicans have been pushing Jolly for months to run for re-election to the 13th Congressional District, which former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, is running to represent.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis have both said they do not intend to run against Rubio if he gets back into the Senate race. But real estate developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox have both already filed papers to run and have said they are prepared to take on Rubio.

U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff draws criticism for earlier Cuba trip


TALLAHASSEE — Just where does U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff stand on relations with Cuba? It's complicated.

Since Beruff, a Republican from Manatee County, announced his campaign in February, he has consistently said he would oppose ending the embargo with Cuba without major democratic reforms. That helps align him with hard-line embargo supporters such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who could face Beruff in the primary if he runs for re-election.

But Beruff's campaign position doesn't jibe with his actions less than five years ago, when he boarded a plane in Tampa for the first commercial flight from Tampa Bay to Cuba in nearly 50 years.

Back then, Beruff was one of a select few businessmen invited to go on the historic trip sponsored by the antiembargo advocacy group, the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. The flight, which cost more than $450 for Beruff, included Ybor City-raised Albert A. Fox Jr., one of the most well-known advocates of re-establishing trade with Cuba. For four days in September 2011, the group met with Cuban business leaders and government officials.

But Beruff, born in Miami to Cuban refugees, says now that when he agreed to go on the trip, he had no idea it was about advocating for ending the embargo. During a campaign stop in Jacksonville last week, Beruff said he was simply "along for the ride" and had no idea who Fox was or why the other people on the flight were going to Cuba.

"It wasn't anything to do with politics," Beruff said about his reasons. "I was just a tourist."

But those on the trip say the mission was about ending the 1962-imposed embargo.

"It was crystal clear why all of us were there," said Victor DiMaio, who was working with the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation to arrange the trip.

Full Story Here

PolitiFact looks at the Anderson Cooper-Pam Bondi faceoff


An interview in Orlando between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on June 14 has gone viral, due to Cooper’s aggressive questioning about her record on gay and lesbian issues.

Many social media users who shared the clip of the interview thought Bondi seemed defensive under Cooper’s pointed questioning. Cooper asked her about her opposition to same-sex marriage and what that meant to the loved ones of the 49 dead after the attack on a gay nightclub.

After the interview went viral, matters between Bondi and Cooper got testy, as both accused each other of mistaken facts and lack of context.

Ultimately, though, it appears that Cooper and Bondi have been talking past each other. We didn’t find any obvious inaccuracies about what either side was saying.

Here’s a recap from PolitiFact Florida.

June 16, 2016

Annette Taddeo files to run for Congress in Miami

Annette Taddeo filed the paperwork today to qualify for Congressional District 26 in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties her campaign announced today.

Taddeo will face former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia who lost reelection to Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, in 2014. It's possible that Curbelo will face a primary challenger too.

Taddeo paid the $10,440 fee to qualify.

In May, internal polls on the Democratic side showed Garcia in the lead but a sizable chunk of the voters were undecided in the swing district. Taddeo overhauled her campaign staff last month -- her new spokesman Omer Farooque started today. Taddeo has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily's List.

The five-day qualifying period starts Monday. The primary is Aug. 30th but voters will start casting ballots by absentee in July.

This post has been updated to reflect that Taddeo qualified by paying the fee.


National Republican leader praises Carlos Lopez-Cantera for encouraging Marco Rubio to run


We caught up today with Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who hailed Florida's Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera as "a patriot, and an unselfish one at that" for encouraging Marco Rubio to run for a second term.

"It's a profoundly pivotal moment in the political history of Florida," Wicker said of Lopez-Cantera urging his longtime friend to run for the seat Lopez-Cantera has been pursuing for nearly a year. "I think he's showing great character, and it's the sort of character that Floridians can be proud of in their lieutenant governor, because he's put his heart and soul in this race for a year."

Lopez-Cantera remains a Senate candidate until Rubio announces a reelection campaign. Wicker said Rubio hasn't confirmed to him he will run again, but that Rubio's friends in Florida believe he will and "indications seem to be that he is headed in that direction."

Lopez-Cantera and David Jolly have said they would drop out of the race if Rubio runs (Jolly is expected to announce his own reelection campaign for the U.S. House on Friday), and Ron DeSantis implied the same today. That leaves self-funders Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox, who have said they won't drop out but would be under intense pressure to do so.

"If they ask me for my advice I would tell them Marco Rubio puts this (Senate seat) in the lean Republican column, and that is very important," the NRSC Chairman said by phone. "Who is majority leader of the senate is very important to our country over the next two years. Who sets the agenda is very important."

The NRSC has remained steadfastly neutral in the senate primary to date, he noted, but "It's clearly our policy at the NRSC to support incumbents when they're running for reelection."

- Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi on Fox News: Anderson Cooper 'basically mocked me'



The feud between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and CNN host Anderson Cooper continues to escalate, with Bondi taking advantage of favorable media to criticize Cooper for his scrutinizing interview of her two days ago.

Bondi appeared Thursday morning on the Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" morning show to repeat her claims that Cooper interviewed her under false pretenses -- accusations that Cooper said Wednesday night weren't true.

"Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy remarked that Bondi was "clearly blindsided" by Cooper's "political attack," and the network referred to it as both an "interview ambush" and a "bait and switch."

"He just flipped on me," Bondi said on "Fox & Friends" — again accusing Cooper of inciting "anger and hatred," although she also called him a "champion of the LGBT community."

Bondi’s office on Thursday did not respond to a request from the Herald/Times for comment about Cooper’s response to her claims, but she told Fox News: "The interview is what it is."

She added that she felt Cooper "cut me off" and "basically mocked me" for saying repeatedly that she wanted to "focus on unity and love" after the Orlando shooting.

Full details here on their back and forth over the past two days.

Miami-Dade mayor lands contract deal with top labor foe


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez looks ready to put one of the most nettlesome labor disputes behind him as the police union agrees to the terms for a new contract.

The local Police Benevolent Association represents two of the five bargaining units that balked at new three-year contracts in 2014, leaving about half of the county's 25,000 unionized employees without deals.

Not only does the PBA represent the largest chunk of the hold-outs -- with about 5,000 members -- but its leader, John Rivera, is a top Gimenez foe and an ally of the mayor's primary challenger in 2016, school board member Raquel Regalado.

The deal announced this week restores the pay and benefit concessions the PBA gave up in 2011 during Gimenez's first labor negotiations as mayor. The union also gets the same 4 percent cost-of-living raise that the five unions with contracts are receiving based on a formula tied to rising property values. The PBA also agreed to join the county's new health insurance plan, which the union had resisted.
"His insurance was important to him," Rivera said Thursday, "and the four percent was important to us."

In a statement, Gimenez noted the deal still needs ratification from PBA members and county commissioners but called it "a positive development for Miami-Dade County."

The PBA deal comes amid word that the administration is close to announcing a contract deal with the Fire union. That would leave the county's Transit and Water and Sewer unions without contracts.

Tim Canova raises $2 million in race against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Broward Congressional race

Tim Canova has raised more than $2 million in his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

He has raised $2,054,332.57 since he launched his campaign in January. Canova's campaign said that he raised money from 58,421 individual donors and the average contribution was $17.16.

His campaign did not release information on what percentage of those donations have come from outside of Florida. An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics of his donations above $200 through March found that the majority were from out of state, however that provides an incomplete picture because most of his donations are below that threshold and therefore the campaign doesn't have to report where the donors live.

Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March and hasn't announced an update on her fundraising. She has been endorsed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was going to host a fundraiser for her last weekend but it was cancelled due to the Orlando shooting massacre.

Canova and Wasserman Schultz are competing in the left-leaning District 23 which mostly lies in Broward County and includes part of northern Miami-Dade. The primary is Aug. 30.

Canova, a Hollywood resident, said in a press release: “People all over Florida and all over our district are supporting our campaign for change. They have had enough of a political system that is awash in corporate money and corporate influence. We all have an interest in a decent jobs market, affordable prescription drug prices and health care, educational opportunities, and safe and healthy communities.  Wasserman Schultz’s corporate donors are often standing in the way of progress for all.” 

Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor, got a big boost to his fundraising when Bernie Sanders announced in May that he is supporting Canova. Sanders named Canova to a committee about financial reform in 2011. Sanders has been critical of Wasserman Schultz's leadership of the Democratic National Committee where he says she has favored Hillary Clinton, a charge she has denied. Sanders wants Wasserman Schultz ousted from the DNC. 

The Clinton campaign installed a general election chief of staff of the DNC Thursday: Brandon Davis, who was formerly the political director of the Service Employees International Union. It's common practice for the presumptive party nominee to take the reins at the DNC. Wasserman Schultz welcomed Davis at party headquarters Thursday morning, CNN reported.

This post has been updated to correct the title of Davis.


Plaintiff in Florida gay marriage case 'dismayed' by Pam Bondi's comments on CNN


One of the plaintiffs in Florida’s previous same-sex marriage fight is calling out Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi for her answers to CNN's Anderson Cooper in a now-viral interview that aired live Tuesday.

Christian Ulvert wrote in a letter to Bondi that he was "dismayed by the response you offered to Mr. Cooper regarding your efforts in your relentless fight against the LGBT community."

Bondi had told Cooper she was doing what her job required her to do: "Uphold the Constitution of the state of Florida," she said.

"Instead of following the lead of other attorneys general, you decided to fight the case," wrote Ulvert, who is also a Democratic political consultant in South Florida. "You had the opportunity, as Governor Lawton Chiles once did, in saying the state is on the wrong side of history and unable to defend the discriminatory measure in our constitution. Worse, as the Attorney General of Florida, you declared that gay Floridians like my husband and me posed great harm. Those aren’t my words, those are yours because it was done under your control and supervision. You cannot deflect responsibility to one of your lawyers as you said in the interview."

"I can only believe that your heart is guided by love, but your acts and words show a different voice," Ulvert added, calling on Bondi to now use her position to fight against discrimination of LGBT people going forward.

Bondi said in a statement to the Herald/Times Thursday afternoon: “I know Christian, and I am happy to sit down with him and my legislative team prior to the start of the 2017 legislative session.”

In the wake of Tuesday's interview, a rift between Bondi and Cooper grew Wednesday as the two exchanged responses over the true purpose of the CNN interview.

Read the latest on that here.

Bondi claimed she was supposed to talk about the potential for donation scams after the Orlando shooting, and she said afterward that Cooper "completely flipped" by bringing up her record on LGBT issues. Cooper countered that Bondi was "either mistaken or she’s not telling the truth" about why she was booked for the live interview.

Bondi's office has not responded to a request for comment about Cooper's response to her claims.

Florida House leader Corcoran urges support for vigil after 'unfortunate' pro-gun mailer

via @stevebousquet

CorcoranflyerScan_2016-6-14_0002_8colState Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, the House speaker-designate, is urging his constituents to attend a vigil Thursday in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre. Sponsored by the city of New Port Richey, the event will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sims Park. Participants are urged to bring a single flower to place in a wreath.

"We will be standing together as one to show that we will not be defeated but instead grow stronger," Corcoran said in announcing the event.

In the past few days, some of Corcoran's constituents received a different message from him: a re-election campaign mailer that shows pictures of bullets as well as two photos of guns, including one in which Corcoran is holding a firearm.

Corcoran acknowledged the terrible timing of the mailing and said it was sent last Wednesday, June 8, four days before the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The piece, sent to about 3,200 voters identified as past supporters of the Second Amendment, reflects the majority party's opposition to gun restrictions.

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Corcoran said: "The information sent in the mail was created and sent prior to the tragic events in Orlando. The unfortunate timing of a piece of mail, however, should not shift attention from the tragic and heinous attack by a radical Islamic terrorist. No matter how much some want to use this event to divide us, I remain steadfast in my belief that law abiding Americans must have a Second Amendment right to defend themselves and that we must not give in to the politically correct voices of division."