May 21, 2018

Bill Nelson gets $2.2 million in TV help from Washington

Bill Nelson


Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign isn't up on TV yet while Republican Gov. Rick Scott has spent the past month on air, but a Washington-based group that aims to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate is coming to Nelson's aid. 

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is spending $2.2 million on a statewide ad buy with an ad titled "Served" that highlight's Nelson's biography and Senate record. 

"Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service everyday as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” said Chris Hayden, spokesperson for SMP. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight. Bill Nelson delivers for Florida and there is no question he is the only candidate in this race that puts Florida first.”

The contest between Nelson and Scott could be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. The Senate Majority PAC is not allowed to coordinate with Nelson's campaign, and PAC's generally receive more expensive advertising rates than candidates do, but super PACs are able to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors while the candidates are bound by contribution limits. The Senate Majority PAC has raised $52.7 million so far this cycle, and the group recently received a $2 million donation from Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. 

Watch the ad below: 



May 16, 2018

It's another seven-figure week on television for Rick Scott

Scott and nelson


Florida's U.S. Senate race is coming to the airwaves in Miami. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his television advertising blitz by releasing a Spanish language ad in the South Florida market, part of a $3.2 million television ad buy spread between three ads across the state just this week. 

The Spanish language ad, titled "Cambiar" (change) focuses on Scott's effort to create jobs, and is the latest iteration in a television campaign that has cost over $8 million with Election Day about six months away. Scott's likely opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has not spent money on television advertising yet. 

The ad targeting South Florida voters comes two days after the Scott campaign released a television ad targeting Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida, a group of voters seen as crucial for both parties in what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history. Scott has released six television and digital advertisements since he officially announced his candidacy last month.

Scott was in Israel earlier this week with a host of U.S. Senators as the Trump administration opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and he may have free reign of the state throughout the month of August if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cancels a scheduled break and forces Nelson and other Democrats up for reelection to stay in Washington for votes. 

Watch the new ad below: 



May 14, 2018

Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis attend U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem

Gov Rick Scott


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is in Israel today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis will also be on hand as members of the Trump administration tout the president's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy was praised by Scott last year and he is also meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a schedule released by Scott's office. The decision to move the embassy has been praised by many Florida Republicans while South Florida Democrats in districts with large Jewish populations also supported the move.

Some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger. Demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border on Monday killed 41 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence with 1,600 wounded, according to the Washington Post. The protests mark the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. 

Scott is traveling to Israel in his official capacity as governor and not through his Senate campaign. He is scheduled to return to Florida on Tuesday. 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also attended the embassy opening with a host of Republicans in Congress. 


May 10, 2018

CFO Patronis refused to meet with banking regulator, despite concerns about his "leadership"

Cabinet Meeting(3)
Jimmy Patronis, left, then a Republican state representative from Panama City, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City in 2011. Robert Cooper AP file

Just hours after criticizing the state's banking regulator for his "lack of cooperation, responsiveness and communication," Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis refused to meet with him, citing concerns about violating the state's sunshine law.

Last week, Patronis sent a surprise email to Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear, telling him he no longer had confidence in Breakspear's leadership and that he planned to bring it up at next week's Cabinet meeting.

His email was then sent out to the press.

A few minutes after that, Breakspear emailed Patronis: "Do you have time to meet today or tomorrow as I would like to have the opportunity to discuss this with you?"

No, Patronis awkwardly replied nearly four hours later, according to the email exchange:

"Thank you for your reply," Patronis wrote. "I do not want you to serve, deliberately or inadvertently, as a conduit with another member of the commission prior to the Cabinet meeting. In order to ensure a transparent process conducted in the sunshine, I will discuss my concerns during your assessment review."

Patronis spokesman Jon Moore said Wednesday that the CFO "has developed growing concerns regarding the Commissioner’s ability to serve Floridians," and that he wanted to address them in public only.

Simply speaking with Breakspear would not violate the state's sunshine law, according to Barbara Peterson, president of the First Amendment Foundation. 

She said it sounded as if Patronis was concerned about Breakspear sharing details of their conversation with other Cabinet members. That could be a violation of the law, but Peterson said there is "always the potential for sunshine violations whenever he talks to anybody" about Cabinet business.

"I don’t see a particular threat here. But we always applaud government officials for being careful," Peterson said. "I’m just not sure this is out of an abundance of caution or because he doesn’t want to talk to the guy."

She said Patronis has "a good reputation on open-government issues" and is highly knowledgable about the state's sunshine law from his time as a representative in the state Legislature.

Breakspear's assessment review was scheduled for next week's Cabinet meeting, but the meeting was rescheduled for next month. Breakspear works for the four-member Cabinet, made up of Patronis, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

His review gives no hints as to why Breakspear was underperforming. According to performance metrics, Breakspear scored 3.35 out of 5 - a rating that "meets expectations."

In his self-evaluation, Breakspear noted that he reduced employee turnover in the last year from 17 percent to 12 percent, and he touted a new check-cashing database created to detect fraud. The database is scheduled to be completed this year.

But Breakspear has long been a target of Gov. Rick Scott. He was in the hot seat in 2015, when Scott told the Cabinet that he wanted to fire him for reasons the governor never disclosed. Apparently without enough votes on the Cabinet to oust him, Breakspear stayed in the job and the controversy subsided.

Still, Patronis' email blasting Breakspear came out of nowhere, surprising and confusing members in the financial sector. (Breakspear has been in charge of licensing and regulating banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan companies since 2012.)

Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, only has a few months left in his term, and some observers assumed that such Cabinet appointees would be re-evaluated after this year's election, when at least two members of the Cabinet will be replaced.

Patronis, appointed by Scott last year, is running for election this year.

May 08, 2018

New poll shows Scott and Nelson virtually tied, governor's race a wash



A new poll from Florida Atlantic University shows that Gov. Rick Scott's television advertising blitz could be paying early dividends. The outgoing Republican governor challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November has a four 44 to 40 percent lead with 16 percent of voters undecided, a six-point swing from a FAU poll taken in late February which showed Nelson leading 40 percent to 38 percent.

But the race remains tied at 45 percent among poll respondents who said they're likely to vote in November.

“The Senate race in Florida continues to be very close and is going to be one of the most expensive and competitive contests in the nation,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., professor of political science at FAU. “President Trump’s approval ratings in Florida are edging up, and if that continues, it could help Rick Scott and other Republicans on the midterm ballot.”

Nelson and Scott's U.S. Senate race is expected to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history.

In the governor's race, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis (16 percent) and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam (15 percent) are effectively tied with each other, and no other Republican reached double-digit support. On the Democratic side, former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine (16 percent) and former Rep. Gwen Graham (15 percent) are running in a dead heat with businessman Chris King (10 percent) in third. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (6 percent) rounds out the field. The majority of voters from both parties are unsure of how they will vote in the August primary election. 

The poll also shows that President Donald Trump's approval rating in Florida is 43 percent with a 45 percent disapproval rating, Trump's highest approval rating in Florida since taking office. A majority of voters, 52 percent, said Trump's tax plan has made no difference to them financially and voters would prefer to have Barack Obama back in the White House instead of Trump by a 49-43 margin. 

The survey, which polled 1,000 Florida registered voters May 4-7, was conducted using an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International using online questionnaires and via an automated telephone platform (IVR) using registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Responses for the entire sample were weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the Florida population. The polling results and full cross-tabulations are available at

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)

Rick Scott was a featured speaker at the 2017 NRA leadership forum. This year, he’s not going.


via @kirbywtweets

What a difference a year makes.

In 2017, Rick Scott gave a fiery speech at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum in which he appeared to lay the foundation for a 2018 U.S. Senate run.

"We need a larger majority in the U.S. Senate. We need a majority that has the intellectual capacity to comprehend these three words in the Constitution: 'shall not infringe,'" Scott said then, emphasizing each word of that last phrase.

A year later, Scott's Senate campaign is in full swing. And it's time for the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings in Dallas.

The Florida governor won't be there, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone told the Times. She didn't elaborate.

It's no secret that Scott and the NRA have grown more distant since that 2017 speech. The NRA appeared to remove Scott's picture from its website the same day the governor unveiled a post-Parkland legislative package that included modest gun restrictions.

The gun group is currently suing Scott's administration over the post-Parkland gun bill the governor signed into law in March.

Read more: Here's what's in Scott's gun bill.

And Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer wrote a scathing op-ed in April directed at lawmakers who supported that bill.

The event Scott's missing will feature an array of national conservatives, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas and NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch. The Trump-supporting social media personalities Diamond & Silk will even address the crowd.

Watch Scott's entire 2017 speech here. And dare to dream of a simpler time.


May 01, 2018

Rick Scott announces second seven-figure ad buy



Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing to spend millions on television ads in his quest to defeat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and Election Day is still over five months away. 

The Scott campaign announced Tuesday that it's putting $2 million into a new ad called "Results." The ad, which will run around the state in English, is the second major ad buy since Scott officially announced his Senate campaign on April 9.

The 30-second spot hits on Scott's continued push for term limits (a policy promoted by President Donald Trump on Monday) and hints at the national deficit, which stands to grow under the GOP tax bill passed last year.

"If Washington was a business it would be going bankrupt, it would be bankrupt by now," Scott says in the ad. "I believe in term limits, I think the only people who don't believe in term limits are the career politicians. In my opinion, you ought to send businesspeople up there to solve problems." 

Scott has pulled in $3.2 million in the three weeks since making his bid official, and the race between the 65-year-old governor and the 75-year-old senator could become the most expensive U.S. Senate race ever. 

Watch the ad below: 

April 17, 2018

Scott wants to end career politicians. So why are they fundraising for him? He won’t say

Scott and nelson

via @scontorno

Gov. Rick Scott told a room of local businessmen and women Tuesday that he wants to put an end to career politicians, a frequent mantra of his nascent Senate campaign.

Yet in the 48 hours after his Tampa appearance, the Republican's campaign will hold fundraisers with some of the most seasoned creatures on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the early front runner to be the next Speaker of the House — is scheduled to appear at a Wednesday night D.C. fundraiser for Scott. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining another fundraiser, this one with a suggested contribution of $5,000, that features a half dozen other Senators and former elected officials.

McConnell was sworn into the Senate in 1985 — a career that easily surpasses Scott's proposal to cap a Senator's tenure at 12 years. McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006 after a long career in California politics, so this would be his last term in office if Scott's idea was in affect.

Term limits are so central to Scott's early campaign, they were the subject of his first campaign ad. He plans to spend $2 million getting that message to voters across Florida.

So how does Scott reconcile these two realities? Asked about it after his Tampa event, he didn't really say.

"I think this concept of career politicians is why we don't get change in Washington," Scott said. "I really do believe we've got to bring in new ideas, fresh ideas, people that are up there saying I've got limited time, I want to get something done."

But why would you take money raised by career politicians if you want to get rid of them?

"My focus is, I have been very clear, I don't like the concept of career politicians," he said, "and I believe we ought to have term limits."

April 09, 2018

Gov. Scott announces Senate run, says 'this concept of career politicians has got to stop'


Rick Scott and Anne Scott. [AP]

Gov. Rick Scott announced his long-expected run for the U.S. Senate today in an Orlando rally, setting the stage for a contentious and expensive battle against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"Today, with my wife by my side, I’m announcing I’m running for U.S. Senate for the great state of Florida," Scott said in a sweaty construction company warehouse in Orlando, surrounded by wooden pallets and supporters fanning themselves with his campaign signs.

He kicked off his campaign by taking direct aim at Nelson, who was first elected to Senate in 2001, by calling for term limits for members of Congress.

"We shouldn’t be sending the same type of people to Washington," he said. "This concept of career politicians has got to stop."

Nelson, in response, sought to project confidence Monday.

"I've always run every race like there's no tomorrow – regardless of my opponent," Nelson said in a statement. "While it's clear that Rick Scott will say or do anything to get elected, I've always believed that if you just do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself."

The race between the two-term governor and three-term senator promises to be a test of the popularity of President Donald Trump. Scott was an early and consistent supporter of the president, which Nelson is expected to exploit.

Scott did not mention Trump, but he picked up Trump's message, promising to "fix" Washington and denouncing the "tired old thinking" in the nation's capital.

"We gotta stop sending talkers to Washington. Let's send some doers to Washington," he said.

"Drain the swamp!" someone in the audience yelled.

The race between Scott and Nelson is one of the most expensive and closely watched in the nation, and it's likely to be close.

Scott, a 65-year-old disgraced former health care executive, used his millions to eke out narrow wins in both races for governor in 2010 and 2014. He frequently generated controversy during his governorship, and he's never been considered an especially beloved or charismatic figure on the campaign trail.

But his opponent, whom Floridians have been voting for since the 1970s, is a moderate Democrat with few distinctions during his 17 years in the Senate. The 75-year-old is Florida's only Democrat currently elected to statewide office.

Scott on Monday made a clear play for a constituency he thinks can help him win: Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. He was introduced at the rally by the territory's lieutenant governor, Luis G. Rivera-Marin, and Scott closed his speech in Spanish.

Scott came out of nowhere in 2010 to win his first elected office. He was known primarily as the health care executive who oversaw massive health care fraud. His company, Columbia/HCA, paid a record $1.7 billion in fines and pleaded guilty to 14 felonies.

But he found success running on an obsessive jobs platform at the height of the Great Recession. That message was apparently so successful that Scott repeated it verbatim Monday, in both slogan - "Let's get to work" - and style - U.S. Navy baseball hat and blue dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves.

Scott tried to cast himself as an outsider who reformed Tallahassee politics.

"I didn’t fit into Tallahassee because I didn’t play the insider games," he said. "And guess what? I’m not going to fit into Washington, either."

Scott will be in Fort Myers at Sun Harvest Citrus for a second rally at 2:30 p.m. today, and he's expected to be in Hialeah for another rally Tuesday afternoon.