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DeSantis team defends judge … on Twitter

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office pushed back Wednesday against a news website that questioned the residency of a recently appointed judicial circuit judge.

The Florida Daily reported Tuesday the Seminole County Property Appraiser’s website lists Michael Kraynick as holding a homestead in Seminole County, “about two miles over the border from Orange County since 2016.”

The website also noted that Kraynick, in his application to the Judicial Nominating Commission, listed the Seminole County address for his home and voter registration.

The state Constitution requires justices and judges to live and be registered to vote within their court’s jurisdiction.

DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre tweeted Wednesday the residency issue was corrected before Kraynick took the oath of office.

In June, DeSantis appointed Kraynick and Diego Madrigal III as judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Orange and Osceola counties.

In the release from the governor’s office, Kraynick is listed as a resident of Winter Park, which is an Orange County suburb.

— By Jim Turner.

Dispatch from Dept. of We Used To Serve Together, starring Patronis and Kriseman

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis engaged in a tweetstorm earlier this week with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman over a lawsuit involving a city firefighter diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Patronis, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, took shots at Kriseman after hearing a report that the city had denied benefits for Lt. Jason Francis, who began his cancer treatments two months before a new state law that expanded cancer benefits for firefighters went into effect.

Patronis, who has more than 15,000 Twitter followers, accused the city of “splitting hairs with a first responder’s life,” adding in the tweet, “We must not allow these heroes to slip into a bureaucratic hole.”

Kriseman, a Democrat who has roughly 2,000 more Twitter followers than Patronis, replied: “Jimmy, happy to provide you with facts. Let me know.”

That prompted Patronis, a Republican, to up the ante by noting that he and Kriseman served in the state House together.

“I know your heart. You can change any policy you wish with a simple majority of your @StPeteFL Council. It’s time to step up to provide the necessary changes for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, with the addition of “#Dotherightthing.”

Kriseman shot back: “Not council purview. We’re doing the right thing. My comms director tweeted our statement and facts to you. Thanks.”

The new law, pushed by Patronis, provides benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer. It also helps firefighters pay their bills while undergoing cancer treatment by providing lump-sum payments of $25,000 upon diagnosis. The Florida League of Cities opposed the measure, raising questions about how local governments would pay for the expansion of benefits.

Francis’ problem, from the city of St. Petersburg’s view, is that it’s uncertain whether the law, which went into effect after the firefighter was diagnosed, is retroactive.

But that wasn’t good enough for Patronis.

“Mayor @Kriseman, sometimes the legislature has to pass policy that can’t seem to get resolved at the local government level. Legislative intent was to cover Firefighters with cancer, there is nothing prohibiting you create a local solution for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, drawing another volley from the obviously irked mayor.

“Classic Trump playbook from my GOP friends: tweet first, facts never. Like Lt. Francis & his legal team, we are seeking clarity on the statute either from the court or Tallahassee. Hoping the Legislature offers clarity so cities like mine can provide firefighters their due,” Kriseman snapped.

But it didn’t end there.

Patronis, in a post that included the hashtag “#leadership failure,” retorted that the city should just act.

That led Kriseman to post a release from the city, which said Francis has received more than 100 hours of donated annual leave from colleagues and city officials, and that the “city, as well as Lt. Francis’s own lawsuit, seek clarity from a court or from the Florida Legislature to clarify this benefit.”

— By Jim Turner.

National Dems get into Good-Buchanan grudge match

bullseyeNational Democrats have put a target on Congressman Vern Buchanan, adding the Southwest Florida district to its roster of “offensive battlefield” seats.

The latest move makes a total of three Florida seats currently held by Republicans the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes to flip next year.

But battle for CD 16 has an interesting twist: State Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, defeated Buchanan’s son James last year in a high-profile race for the open House seat.

So the battle between Good, a Sarasota lawyer who drew national attention for flipping a seat that had been held by Republicans, and Buchanan, who’s served in Congress for more than a decade, could shape up to be a super Sunshine State grudge match.

Here’s Good’s reaction from a press release issued after the DCCC announced it was adding CD 16 to its targeted congressional seats:

“This campaign is about the people in this district—about healthcare, water quality, and good-paying jobs. We want a representative that listens to and works hard for her constituents. That’s the kind of representative I am and this campaign reflects that work ethic. I welcome everyone and anyone who wants to work for the best interest of the people of our community to join us.” — State Rep. Margaret Good.

And here’s what DCCC Political Director Kory Kozloski said in a memo about the race for CD 16, which includes parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties, and other battleground battles:

  • In 2018, the Democratic House candidate earned 45.4% of the vote, the strongest performance for a Democrat since Florida’s redistricting in 2012, and a 5.2-point improvement on 2016.
  • The district is 32% college educated — outpacing the statewide numbers by 11% — and is almost 90% suburban, a major factor as Republicans struggle to manage a nationwide exodus of suburban voters from the Republican party.

Buchanan now has the dubious distinction of joining Republican U.S. Reps. Ross Spano and Brian Mast on the national Dems’ hit list, a position the congressmen are likely to use to drum up support in GOP circles.

 

Will Corcoran give LeMieux an Amazon book bump?

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Shakespeare, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, and Roald Dahl are among the heavyweights who made the grade on state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s back-to-school reading list.

But the former Florida House speaker — the father of six children — strayed outside the norm with at least one of his picks.

Joining the literary lions on Corcoran’s selections is George LeMieux, who briefly served as Florida’s U.S. senator and whose resume includes stints as deputy attorney general and chief of staff for former Gov. Charlie Crist, who once fondly dubbed LeMieux “the maestro.”

Florida Made: The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped the State,” penned by LeMieux and Laura Mize, is on Corcoran’s list of 30 reads for high schoolers, along with “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and a host of other classics.

The 25 Florida figures chosen by LeMieux, an attorney who is a shareholder at Gunster who is chairman of the law firm’s board of directors, include some Sunshine State giants, such as Henry Flagler, Walt Disney, John Gorrie, Barron Collier, LeRoy Collins and Fidel Castro.

But LeMieux also tapped a handful of Floridians — Hamilton Disston, Ted Arison and Pédro Menendez de Avilés — that might spur some Google sleuthing.

LeMieux’s book, published last year, received some rave reviews on Amazon, where it ranked 50,189 in the U.S. State & Local History category Thursday.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Florida is in many ways both the oldest and newest of the megastates. Once an insect-ridden swampland, it is now a top destination for tourism, business, agriculture and innovation. The ideas and actions of a colorful cast of characters–from beloved cultural icons to political heroes and even a socialist dictator–transformed the peninsula.

LeMieux’s book isn’t the only Florida-centric tome on the former Florida House speaker’s list. Patrick Smith’s “A Land Remembered,” published in 1984, also made the cut.

Corcoran, who’s the father of six children, also tucked in a few other modern-day missives on his must-read list for seniors, such as “Finding Manaña: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus,” by Mirta Ojito, and “Woodlawn: One Hope. One Dream. One Way,” by Todd Gerelds.

 

Gwen Graham tweet storm credits DeSantis ‘puppeteers’ for post-election ‘bait and switch’

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham who last year sought the Democratic nomination for governor, went on a Twitter rant Monday morning against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his “puppeteers.”

Graham lost a heated primary bid for the Democratic nomination to former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who was defeated by DeSantis in November.

In her first tweet storm, Graham called the legislative session that ended in May “the worst ever, if you care about the future of Florida,” hitting on voting rights, education, LGBTQ rights, guns and other issues.

Here’s the rest of Graham’s Twitter posts:

“If DeSantis actually cared about increasing the opportunities for Floridians to vote, he would have vetoed that bill. If he actually cared about our environment, he would have vetoed the toll road to nowhere. (The plastic straw veto was the “bait” on that one.)

“If DeSantis actually cared about a quality education for all students, he would have shunned the advances of @JebBush/@richardcorcoran and the for profit education industry in Florida. I was sick when I heard about Corcoran becoming Commissioner. The man hates public education.

“If DeSantis actually cared about the LGBTQ community, he would have expanded anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A “bait” trip to the Pulse nightclub without action is just what it is – a photo op and nothing more.

“If DeSantis was concerned about gun violence and mass shootings, he would have vetoed the @NRA bill that arms our teachers. More guns =‘s more deaths. Hard stop. But, with an NRA endorsed, A rated Gov, Marion Hammer got what she wanted. Even @SenRickScott stood up to her on that.

“If DeSantis wanted to prove that he wasn’t a Lil’ Trump, he would not have supported the unnecessary bill banning sanctuary cities. In a state as diverse as Florida, the Gov sent the message that he is okay with stoking fear, hatred and divisiveness. Just like @realDonaldTrump.

“So, to those who say, “He isn’t as bad as I thought he would be.” I say, “Congrats to the DeSantis’ puppeteers.” And, to anyone who cares about Florida and her future, stop taking their bait. What the Governor has done is far worse than bad. Tragically a lot of time to go.”

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

 

Hammer gets an ‘F’ from NRA mutineer

We-the-People-Header-1Marion Hammer’s report cards can make Republicans tremble and Democrats cheer.

But now the onetime president of the national gun-rights group, who also serves on its board of directors, is the one who doesn’t make the mark, according to an NRA donor staging a leadership coup.

David Dell’Aquila filed a federal lawsuit against the NRA earlier this month, alleging that the gun-rights group misled contributors, as reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month:

A donor to the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit against the gun-rights group, seeking class-action status, and claiming the group’s funding solicitations were “intentionally and materially false” because the NRA spent donated funds on executive perks, large legal fees, and other expenses unrelated to the group’s core mission.

Dell’Aquila’s mutiny isn’t isolated to federal court. He’s also drumming up support to rid the NRA of its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, amid reports of lavish spending that included $275,000 on spendy suits and a $39,000 single-day spree at a tony Beverly Hills boutique.

Dell’Aquila’s launched a website — “Help Save the NRA” — to recruit other gun-rights advocates to join the demand that LaPierre and the board of directors get the boot.

“We are a well-organized team that has substantial money, resources and support. Although a few high-dollar donors desire to be anonymous, they and our rank-and-file NRA members are the life sustaining blood of the NRA and demand new leadership, accountability and transparency,” Dell’Aquila wrote in a letter to the board, posted on the website.

Dell’Aquila — who’s donated at least $100,000 to the group and had pledged millions more, according to the WSJ — crafted a report card scoring members who serve on the board of the NRA, notorious for the “grades” the group hands out to state and federal legislators.

He gave “A” grades to members who “advocated the replacement of Mr.LaPierre, and/or publicized one’s removal from committee(s) due to questioning leadership, spending, policies, etc,” Dell’Aquila wrote.

And he bestowed “F” grades to members who support “LaPierre and his leadership team with insufficient oversight.”

Hammer was among more than two dozen members who received a failing grade.

The rationale Dell’Aquila gave for Hammer’s “F?”  She “wrote letter in support of WLP.”

Last month, Hammer penned a missive following a contentious NRA meeting. In the July 14 email, the NRA past president advised members of the group that “we must now move on.”

Hammer not only took the failing grade in stride, she flipped it into a compliment.

“When it comes to grading NRA Board members, it is my view that “F” stands for Freedom Fighter because  every NRA Board Member that Mr. Dell’Aquila graded with an “F” has been fighting to protect his Second Amendment rights and his Freedom for many years.  The fact that he is unappreciative, or perhaps ignorant of the continued personal sacrifices of those he arbitrarily and cavalierly maligns, speaks volumes,” she wrote in an email to The News Service of Florida, when asked about the report card.

Among the demands of Dell’Aquila and his junta: the removal of all past NRA president from the board of directors. That would include Hammer, of course.

Dell’Aquila is also demanding that the board cancel its upcoming “cruise/fishing adventure” in Alaska, questioning the $100,000 price tag for the Alaska board meeting.

“If you can justify such an expense given the current financial crisis of the NRA, you have the ears of over a 100 million voters who want to understand your rationale for this, and literally a dozen other financial irregularities,” Dell’Aquila wrote.

And, because Florida, the leader of the mutiny has someone in mind to take LaPierre’s place: political firebrand Allen West, a former Sunshine State congressman who serves on the NRA board of directors.

“There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. My duty and responsibility is to the Members of the National Rifle Association, and my oath, since July 31, 1982, has been to the Constitution of the United States, not to any political party, person, or cabal,” West wrote in a statement posted on his website in May.

 

Book pushes for state probe of Epstein work-release deal

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is trying to rally support behind her call for Gov. Ron DeSantis order a state investigation into how the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office handled sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while he was in its custody more than a decade ago.

Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who says she’s gotten calls to “back off” her investigation request, wants people to “stand” with her in demanding an “independent investigation.”

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Book’s making the ask through the website of Lauren’s Kids, the non-profit organization she founded aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

Book is using social media to drum up support for her effort.

DeSantis said last week he was considering whether state law-enforcement officials had an oversight role.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has started an internal affairs and criminal investigations into the Epstein matter.

Epstein is facing sex-trafficking charges involving minors in Florida and New York. A federal judge in New York has denied a request for bail.

Epstein previously served 13 months of an 18-month sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges in Florida, including procuring a minor for sex.

The plea required him to register as a sex offender. While in custody, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, according to the Miami Herald, which has done extensive reporting on Epstein.

After more than three months in custody, Epstein was provided work release for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, the Herald reported.

“I know they are investigating it down in Palm Beach, but clearly when you look at how that happened, even if, like, 10 percent of the things about him are true, then that whole (plea) agreement was suspect and woefully below what he should have faced,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I’ll look at it and see, can the state can exercise some good oversight there.”

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.