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152 posts from October 2017

October 26, 2017

Mason-Dixon poll: Scott moves up, ties Nelson at 44%

Scott and nelson

Yet another Florida poll shows a tied 2018 U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott has not announced his candidacy. But pollsters are treating him as the de facto GOP nominee — and he’s tied with Nelson at 44 percent, according to a survey released Thursday by the Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy. Twelve percent of respondents were undecided.

The results represent a post-Hurricane Irma bump for Scott, who in February trailed Nelson by 45-41 percent. A Wednesday poll by Mason-Dixon found a majority of Floridians thought Scott handled Irma well.

“The swing has come primarily among unaffiliated voters, with Scott taking a 44-40 percent lead,” pollster Brad Coker wrote in a memo summarizing the results. “In February, nelson was ahead of Scott 46-37 percent among these Independents.”

More here.

October 25, 2017

Threats are preventing Frederica Wilson from voting in Washington

Frederica Wilson 2


Congressional Democrats celebrated Rep. Frederica Wilson on Wednesday by wearing stickers adorned with a red cowboy hat and posing for a group picture on the steps of the Capitol.

But one notable person was missing: Wilson herself.

A source close to Wilson confirmed that the Miami Democrat was not in Washington this week due to ongoing threats against her after she criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of a conversation with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed during an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.

Congressional vote tallies show that Wilson last voted on Oct. 12, before the House adjourned for a week-long break. She’s missed 19 votes between Monday, Oct. 23 and Wednesday, Oct. 25.

“Nothing else would keep her from voting,” the source said.

Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.

“She’s home,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat. “I have not spoken with her about it, but I’ve heard that she’s received substantial death threats and I think she is doing everything she can to ratchet down and let some of us, including me, take over.”

Hastings said she expects Wilson to return next week.

One racist threat against Wilson that surfaced on Facebook by a Chicago area man is being investigated by police.

“Need ten good men to help carry out a lynching,” the post read. “Must have own horse and saddle. Rope will be provided. This congresswomen [sic] is a disgusting pig. Someone should take their boot to her face.”

The source close to Wilson said that there are “some” ongoing investigations into threats on the congresswoman.

Wilson was in the national spotlight for days last week after she said Trump was disrespectful to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, by saying her husband had known what he was getting into by joining the Army, and by calling him “your guy” instead of using his name.

Trump then unloaded on Wilson on Twitter.

“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” Trump tweeted.

Read more here.

Rubio will vote against GOP tax plan if child tax credit isn’t expanded

Marco Rubio 3


Republicans in Congress are poised to release legislation soon that would revamp the nation’s tax code for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

But Sen. Marco Rubio is insisting that a child tax credit he’s championed for years must be part of the package, or else he’ll vote against the plan. Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, are proposing an increase in the nation’s child tax credit to at least $2,000 per child, up from the current limit of $1,000 per child.

“I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class,” Rubio said. “But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here.”

Rubio has been working with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka for months on the plan, and she was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for to pitch the plan with a group of Republicans including Rubio.

“It is a priority of this administration and it is a legislative priority to ensure that American families can thrive and that we deliver real and meaningful tax relief to middle-income Americans,” Ivanka Trump said Wednesday.

The relationship between Ivanka Trump and Rubio on taxes began in an unlikely place: the Republican primary debates, where Rubio insinuated that Donald Trump wasn’t well-endowed and Trump repeatedly used the phrase “Little Marco” to mock the Florida senator.

Rubio said Thursday that an important bond was formed between the Rubio and Trump families during those debates. Ivanka Trump frequently sat near the Rubio family while Rubio pitched the child tax credit increase during the debates, and she was impressed with his message.

“If you watched the debates you think the only thing that happened is the two hours on stage but... the Trump family and ours always sat the same place,” Rubio said. “And so over time we just kind of developed a rapport with them.”

Shortly after Trump won the White House, Ivanka Trump reached out to ask Rubio how the Senate could help working families in a tax overhaul plan.

“The one we can get... is expansion of the child tax credit,” Rubio said.

Read more here.

GEO Group held annual conference at Trump National Doral

From the Washington Post:

In recent years, the private prison company GEO Group has held its annual leadership conference at venues near its Boca Raton headquarters. But this year, the company moved its gathering to a Miami-area golf resort owned by President Trump.

The event last week, during which executives and wardens gathered for four days of meetings, dinner receptions and golf outings at the luxurious 800-acre Trump National Doral, followed an intense effort by GEO Group to align itself with the president and his administration.

During last year’s election, a company subsidiary gave $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC. GEO gave an additional $250,000 to the president’s inaugural committee. It also hired as outside lobbyists a major Trump fundraiser and two former aides to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of the president’s most prominent campaign backers.

GEO Group, meanwhile, has had newfound success in Trump’s Washington.

More here.

Rubio distances himself from Trump, but he isn't following Jeff Flake's path

Marco Rubio



Marco Rubio isn't going anywhere. 

The Florida Republican was in Arizona two weeks ago campaigning on behalf of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative who faced a daunting primary challenge in 2018 after he refused to endorse Donald Trump during the 2016 election. 

But Flake isn't sticking around.

On Tuesday, Flake became the second Senate Republican to announce that he won't week reelection in a matter of weeks following Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker. But Rubio said Wednesday that he has no plans of backing away from the Senate after deciding to run for reelection in 2016 a few months after losing to Trump in the GOP presidential primary. 

"Jeff is a friend of mine," Rubio said. "We disagree on one fundamental issue, on Cuba, but have been able to do so very respectfully and one of the reasons why is because he's a respectful guy and because he's a quality person." 

Rubio then went into a long comparison between the Roman Empire and America, arguing that the empire failed in part due to a Senate "that refused to address the issues of the day." 
"A lot of bad things got ahead of them and they never fixed them," Rubio said. 
He also blamed "the breakdown of societal norms and behaviors," while insisting that Trump is not solely responsible for the current political climate in America. 
"Without signaling out an individual, I don't behave like the president, we're different people," Rubio said. "The president has a way of expressing himself and it appeals to a lot of very frustrated people. There's a populist backlash that's not only economic but cultural. I think the overreach of political correctness went way too far." 
During his minutes-long comparison of Rome and America, Rubio stressed that Rome was successful because it was able to include many different groups of people in its empire, a shot at certain Republicans who want to drastically reduce legal immigration. 
"If the ethnic Italians said, 'No, Rome is only for ethnic Italians' the empire would have never held on,'" Rubio said. 
Rubio argued that his willingness to work with Trump on issues like Venezuela and Cuba gives him ability to positively influence policy changes, and that simply criticizing the president isn't a productive way to govern. 
"I have disagreements with the White House and I have been able to address some of them privately and a couple of them more publicly, whether it was the initial response in Puerto Rico or some of the foreign policy issues in different parts of the world," Rubio said. "But my view is this: 95 percent of what is going to happen to me today, I cannot control. What I can control is how I react to what happens. And what I’ve chosen to do more than ever is focus like a laser on the things that I can control and get done." 
Rubio also made a comment on Twitter, the President's chosen medium of communication. 
"Twitter is a vehicle for people to put online what they used to put in the bathroom stall," Rubio said. 

George P. Bush to fundraise in Coral Gables


Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of Jeb, will attend a fundraiser for his reelection campaign Wednesday in Coral Gables.

The reception will be hosted at the MesaMar seafood restaurant by a gaggle of locals that includes Gables Commissioner Vince Lago, former Florida GOP chief Al Cardenas, lobbyists Ron Book and Luis Andre Gazitua, and the candidate's brother, Jeb Bush Jr.

Also involved are friends of Bush the elder, such as Edward Easton, Ronnie Krongold, Raquel Rodriguez, Jose Mallea and Justin Sayfie, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The committee further includes Slater Bayliss, Nicole Valls, Joe Caruncho, Andres Asion, Manny Kadre, Harout Samra, Matt Sarelson, and Maggie and Fernando Zulueta. The suggested campaign contribution is $500 per person.

George P. Bush's name has been bandied about political circles in recent years as a potential future candidate for Texas governor, following in the footsteps of his father and his uncle, former President George W. Bush.

Miami Beach commissioner pleads to criminal charge. But he swears he didn’t do it.

Michael2 grieco lnew cmg

@joeflech and @NickNehamas

Michael Grieco ended his tumultuous term as a Miami Beach commissioner Tuesday, submitting his resignation by email shortly before pleading no contest to a criminal violation of Florida’s campaign-finance laws.

But Grieco, a popular commissioner who ran a competitive campaign for mayor before coming under state investigation, is still refusing to take responsibility for the scandal that ended his political career — and hinted he might eventually seek a return to public office.

Read more.

Trump wants release of JFK docs that could say plenty about Miami

via @glenngarvin

If the federal government makes good on a 25-year-old pledge Thursday and releases 30,000 secret documents about the Kennedy assassination, the results might look a little bit like a 1963 Miami phone book.

The trove of files, mostly from the CIA and FBI, contains thousands of documents on South Florida people and organizations involved in efforts to topple Fidel Castro’s communist Cuban government in the early 1960s, when that was practically Miami’s leading industry.

Under a law enacted in 1992, the documents — supposedly the last batch of classified government files on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy — must be opened to the public no later than Thursday unless President Donald Trump intervenes to block the process.

Trump tweeted last weekend that he would go through with the declassification. But he left himself a bit of wiggle room by adding that his promise was “subject to the receipt of further information.”

That was a reference to fierce lobbying by the CIA and FBI to keep at least some of the documents secret — an effort that is still going on. “[CIA chief] Mike Pompeo is definitely fighting hard to hold them back,” said Roger Stone, a longtime on-and-off Trump political associate.

Stone is also a Kennedy assassination researcher — his 2013 book “The Man Who Killed Kennedy” argued that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was behind the killing — and he said he spoke to the president a week ago, urging that the release take place.

Stone is convinced that it will. But he noted that the last batch of assassination documents to be released was so heavily censored (“redacted,” in CIA-speak) that much of it was useless. “I’m not confident we won’t have that again, that there won’t be a back-door bureaucratic effort to nullify the president’s decision,” he said.

More here.

Photo credit: Center of Latin American Politics

Poll: Floridians might not heed future hurricane evacuation orders

068 Hurricane Irma Gov Scott 091117

Gov. Rick Scott did well handling Hurricane Irma, according to a new statewide poll, but Floridians are not necessarily more likely to heed evacuation orders in future storms.

In the survey, conducted by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, 35 percent gave Scott a rating of “excellent” rating, 31 percent “good,” 25 percent “fair,” and 4 percent “poor.” Five percent weren’t sure.

Republicans thought most highly of Scott’s hurricane job performance: 89 percent of Republicans rated it “excellent” or “good,” compared to 62 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats.

Irma, a massive Category 4 storm when it made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, threatened to roll up the spine of the state, forcing widespread local evacuation orders. Nearly 32 percent of Floridians left their homes, Mason-Dixon found, but 43 percent of people under evacuation orders stayed put. Thirteen percent of people evacuated without having to do so.

“Next time round could be a different story, as many Floridians indicate that they will rethink their actions,” the polling firm wrote in a memo summarizing the poll results.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Scott disaster chief sees 'room for improvement' in storm payouts

Gov. Rick Scott’s interim disaster chief told lawmakers Wednesday he sees “significant room for improvement” in how long it takes to repay cities and counties for recovery costs for past hurricanes.

As Scott visited Chicago on his latest job-poaching mission, his administration’s handling of the post-Irma recovery came under scrutiny in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Wes Maul, 29, took over the Division of Emergency Management on Oct. 1, three weeks after Hurricane Irma made its first of two Category 4 landfalls.

Maul was prepared and escaped unscathed. His debut in the Senate was an exercise in damage control, as senators have fielded many complaints from local officials about the extraordinarily long delays in reimbursement.

“We are updating what I believe to be an inadequate system,” Maul told senators.

For example, Putnam County is waiting for the state to repay it for Hurricane Matthew more than a year ago. County Commission Chairman Larry Harvey said Putnam got its first repayment check Oct. 11, and the county has received a total of $11,000.

Also briefly on the hot seat was Scott transportation chief Mike Dew, who was grilled on DOT’s no-bid emergency contract for debris removal in the Florida Keys that has drawn critical attention.

DOT limited bid proposals to six firms already under contract. Senators glossed lightly over the report by CBS4 in Miami that DOT’s action dramatically raised debris removal costs in Monroe County.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who represents 11 North Florida counties, asked Maul why a spreadsheet showing the status of hundreds of payment requests lists many as “unrequested,” a year later.

Maul said that means the state has not yet received invoices and receipts for actual work completed. He said “discrepancies in supporting documents” is one reason why payment delays occur.

State officials estimate the current recovery costs from Irma at about $650 million, and that all but about $50 million will be reimbursed by the federal government.

Scott’s budget director, Cynthia Kelly, said the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on a higher-than-usual federal reimbursement rate that she said will reduce the impact on the state budget over a period of years.

Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, urged senators to increase state aid to county school districts, hospitals and clinics to absorb the influx of Puerto Rican evacuees from Hurricane Maria. Bursting into tears, Torres urged the state to act with urgency “as if it was your family members who were suffering.”