Florida Senate

Tear down that monument! (Part II)

6264593750_0e2623f32d_oWe’re not suggesting it’s even a possibility.

But Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is calling on Florida state lawmakers hold a special session to finalize plans to rid the state of its connection with a Civil War general who holds a place of honor at the National Statuary Hall in the nation’s capital.

The Legislature voted in 2016 to replace Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, a figure who critics say has a tenuous connection to the state, during a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols in the wake of the 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

But state legislators have since failed to agree on a replacement for Smith, leaving the general — and his successor — in limbo.

Following this weekend’s deadly clash in Charlottesville, sparked by the removal of a Confederate monument, Wasserman Schultz asked Florida lawmakers to hold a special session to address the issue.

“It’s time to stop playing games. No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression. Governor Scott and the Florida legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Mary McLeod Bethune or George Washington Jenkins. These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state. The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority,” Wasserman Schultz, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, said in a press release issued Tuesday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King wants all confederate monuments in the Sunshine State removed. More about that here.


Another Fla Dems-backed TV ad starring Trump

Florida Dems are unleashing a TV ad using the man who is sure to become Democrats’ most popular whipping boy — President Donald Trump — in the battle for an open Miami-Dade County state Senate seat.

Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican Jose Felix Diaz are duking it out over SD 40 after emerging as the winners in last month’s special election primaries. The redrawn Senate seat became available when former state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, was forced to step down after a profanity-laced and racially charged outburst at a private club midway through this year’s legislative session.

The ad, released in English and Spanish in the district where 75 percent of the population is Hispanic, links Diaz — a supporter of the president who once appeared on his TV show, “The Apprentice” — opens with Taddeo watching the now-infamous clip of Trump slamming a bad guy in a WWF stunt.

“Families are too busy to worry about this drama,” Taddeo says, after turning off the TV.

She later alleges that “Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump’s every move,” highlighting services for seniors and coverage of pre-existing medical conditions that would be lost if Trump gets his way and kills the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”

The Florida Democratic Party announced the launch of the ad not long after national Dems said they intend to fork over $150,000 in the SD 40 race.

Yesterday, state Democrats released an ad tying former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker to Trump. Baker is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Rick Kriseman.

National Dems one-up GOP in SD 40 race

taddeoThe Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is putting up $150,000 to support Annette Taddeo in the Miami Democrat’s general election match-up against former state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz.

The national Democratic committee highlighted the SD 40 special election as a “Spotlight Race,” and made the pledge after Taddeo handily defeated Ana Rivas Logan in a primary late last month.

“With Annette in the Florida Senate, Democrats will be one step closer to taking back the chamber in 2018,” DLCC Executive Director Jessica Post in Thursday’s announcement. “The Spotlight Races platform will highlight Annette to the national progressive community and help future supporters get to know her and her campaign. We will employ DLCC programs and lessons learned from our previous wins this year to ensure Annette’s campaign has a winning strategy in place, access to the best data, and an expansive field plan. DLCC is proud to stand with this community leader as she fights to protect Democratic values at the state level.”

The big bucks from the DLCC overshadow the $100,000 the organization’s Republican equivalent — the Republican State Leadership Committee — announced it has earmarked  to get Diaz elected.

SD 40 is one of a handful of true swing seats. Democrats have a slight edge in voter registration, but the district is almost evenly split between Republicans, Dems and voters with no party affiliation.


Putnam draws fire for ‘pandering’ to the right over guns & ‘fake news’

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continued a pivot to the right over the weekend, channeling what appeared to be the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s inner Trump even as Putnam drew fire from fellow Republicans for what one called “pandering to the NRA.”

Putnam tweeted a link Saturday to an online petition, launched by his campaign, condemning CNN for “fake news.”

“Aren’t you tired of the liberals taking fake news to new extremes? I am. Sign the petition to stop CNN,” Putnam tweeted on Saturday.

There’s no evidence that the news network has aired anything specifically about Putnam or the Florida Republican governor’s primary that could have raised Putnam’s ire.

Instead, the slam on CNN appears to be an attempt by Putnam to endear himself with Republican base voters and supporters of President Donald Trump, who collectively have been harsh and frequent critics of the news network.

It’s also a sign that Putnam, who has the highest name recognition in the gubernatorial field and has some $11 million in unspent campaign cash, is attempting to boost his conservative creds in anticipation of potential attacks next year from other GOP candidates who are almost certain to question Putnam’s record in Congress and as a two-term Cabinet member.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, two prominent conservative Republicans, are raising money and have expressed an interest in joining the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott, who is leaving office because of term limits.

Moderate Republicans — including Sen. Jack Latvala, who’s mulling a run for governor — piled onto Putnam over the weekend.

The criticism came in reaction to a tweet from Putnam last week, who was responding to a column by Daniel Ruth of The Tampa Bay Times.

“The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!” —Putnam (@adamputnam), tweeted.

Latvala, the powerful Senate budget chief who’s expected to make an announcement on Aug. 16 regarding a bid for governor, on Sunday took a Twitter shot at Putnam.

“I will never sell out to anyone, anytime,” Latvala tweeted, who posted a link to a Pensacola News Journal editorial critical of Putnam.

“This may be perfectly predictable behavior from a Republican vying to become Florida’s next governor. But it’s hardly a declaration of leadership or individualism,” the editorial stated.

Former Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican, joined in the Twitter chorus Monday morning.

“@adamputnam can’t tell you how shocked and disappointed I am in your pandering to the NRA and I am a lifetime member,” Pilon (@PilonForFlorida) tweeted.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger and Jim Turner.

Is Albritton breathing a sigh of relief?

jdAfter toying with the possibility earlier this year, former state Sen. JD Alexander has nixed a return to the upper chamber, according to a report yesterday in The Ledger.

Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican who served as the powerful budget chief before leaving office in 2012 due to term limits, had considered challenging Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, for an open Senate seat being vacated by Sebring Republican Denise Grimsley, who is running for state agriculture commissioner.

Alexander said he ruled out a bid to return to the Senate after considering the impact on his business activities, including running Atlantic Property Co., a real estate investment firm.

“The financial costs of changing focus were too much,” he said. “We have projects right now that are doing well but are works in progress.”

Alexander floated the notion of a Senate re-run after lawmakers contemplated a funding cut to his local state college.

While he’s not a threat to Albritton, Alexander didn’t exactly give the Senate hopeful a glowing endorsement.

“Ben’s not a bad guy,” he told The Ledger. “I just hope he’ll try harder.”

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger.


National Republicans dump $100k into SD 40 race

15027495_10154291214996888_8486441146648769022_nFresh off last night’s special primary election victory, former state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz got a six-figure boost from the national Republican State Leadership Committee.

Diaz trounced Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former Senate majority leader who spent 16 years in the Legislature, in yesterday’s special election for Senate District 40, garnering nearly 58 percent of the votes cast in the GOP primary. Diaz de la Portilla captured about 27 percent of the vote, and Miami lawyer Lorenzo Palomares finished a distant third, with less than 17 percent.

On Wednesday, the RSLC announced it is steering $100,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to help Diaz in his Sept. 26 special election face-off against Democrat Annette Taddeo, who handily defeated opponent Ana Rivas Logan in yesterday’s primary.

“Diaz has been a tireless advocate for Floridians during his tenure in the state House and will continue this work when he joins the state Senate in September. The citizens of the 40th Senate District know Diaz will fight for lower taxes, smaller government and more economic freedom when they send him to Tallahassee in the fall. We are looking forward to helping him keep his district under Republican leadership and are ready to assist him with whatever resources he needs during his general election,”  RSLC President Matt Walter said in a press release.

Diaz has served on the board of the RSLC’s “Future Majority Project,” according to the release.

The special election for the Southwest Miami-Dade County seat comes after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was forced to resign in April following a racially charged and expletive-laced tirade at a private club near the Capitol.

The Senate district is one of a handful of true swing seats in the Senate. Although Democrats hold a slight edge in voter registration, the Southwest Miami-Dade County district is almost evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and voters with no party affiliation.

Dems are hoping to recapture the seat, previously held by former state Sen. Dwight Bullard. Artiles ousted Bullard in November, after the district’s boundaries were redrawn.

JJR asks Bondi to investigate opioid manufacturers

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who’s running to replace veteran Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is asking Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to launch an investigation into pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids to determine whether their drugs have played a role in what some describe as an opioid epidemic.


Officials in several other states — including Ohio, Illinois, New York, West Virginia, California and Mississippi — have filed lawsuits against the drug manufacturers, including one based in Florida.

More than 25,000 people in the U.S. died after overdosing on opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read Rodriguez’s letter here.