Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Bill Nelson ready to campaign on GOP failure to fix Obamacare

For years, Sen. Bill Nelson has faced a steady barrage of partisan attacks over the Affordable Care Act, but as he begins the 2018 re-election campaign, the Democrat stands to benefit from a flipped script:

Republicans, who have a complete lock on Congress, failed to get rid of the law and are now on the defensive while support for Obamacare grows.

"They tried. They couldn't replace it. Then they tried, and they couldn't repeal it," Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times.

"I don't think their position is going to be very ascendant in next year's election. Exactly the opposite," he said. "I think those of us who stood up for it, and hopefully now can economically strengthen it so that it does work like it was intended. I think that is going to be the preferred position going into the election."

That posture defangs a central message of Republicans, who spent millions on anti-Obamacare ads in Nelson's 2012 election, and of Nelson's possible opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, who made several visits to Washington and said he was helping craft legislation to replace the law. …

Full Story

Republicans back Rick Scott's removal of Aramis Ayala in Kissimmee police shooting case


[Special to the Times]


The Kissimmee police shooting over the weekend also sparked the latest round between Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans and Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Ayala declared earlier this year that she objected to the death penalty for a number of reasons, including that African-Americans were grossly overrepresented on death row (which PolitiFact rated Mostly True). 

Republicans objected and the dispute is now in the hands of the courts

Scott already reassigned 27 felony cases, over the objections of Ayala, on Saturday when he issued an executive order announcing that he was reassigning the case involving the Kissimmee shooting to State Attorney Brad King in Hernando. 

“Last night’s violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible and has no place in our state. In Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi agreed.



So did Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.



Full Story

Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera won't run for Congress

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Miami Herald

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020.

“We have decided that being a candidate in 2018 is not what’s best for our family,” Lopez-Cantera, who is married and has two young daughters, said in a statement.

He pledged to remain involved in politics and suggested he could launch a future candidacy for an unnamed position. He’s considered a possible contender to become Miami-Dade County’s next mayor.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to look for ways to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I may run for public office again, but not in 2018.”

Instead of jumping into the race for Florida’s 27th congressional district, Lopez-Cantera said he will complete his term as lieutenant governor, which ends next year. He’s No. 2 to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“I will also be supporting candidates and causes that lower the cost of government on our citizens, such as the upcoming constitutional amendment for an additional homestead exemption,” said Lopez-Cantera, the former Miami-Dade property appraiser.

More here.

Full Story

100 days of Adam Putnam's campaign, by the numbers

The Adam Putnam campaign released a by-the-numbers snapshot of the 100 days since he formally kicked off his campaign for governor in Bartow.

“Hard-working folks ... have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida,” said Putnam. “I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens. It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American Dream. And it’s why I am running for Governor of the great state of Florida.”

In 100 days, per the campaign:

2,063 supporters came out to support Adam on May 10

12 “Up & Adam” Breakfasts

11 County Republican functions

2 Shotgun Shootouts

A flatbed full of stickers seen on bumpers on every highway and county road

8 stops to the Busy Bee, where I-10 meets I-75

12 cortaditos downed by Adam in Miami

1 oil change for Adam’s white pickup truck

1 A/C repair visit to the Bartow headquarters

100 glasses of Florida orange juice consumed by Adam

343 cans of Coke Zero consumed by staff at Bartow headquarters

3,044 popsicles distributed to young Floridians at parades …

Full Story

Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman

Carlos G. Smith

Adam Smith

Carlos G. Smith

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home rule, heathcare. Here are a few nuggets

Republican legislators don't like talking about the Pulse massacre:

"In the Florida legislature I have talked about the tragedy at Pulse night club at length - much to the chagrin of my Republican colleagues. They do not want to talk about Pulse. Why? It makes them feel uncomfortable. It makes them feel uncomfortable because when you invoke the tragedy of Pulse the Republican-controlled Florida legislature they have gun safety, they have to talk about LGBTQ issues, they have to talk about mental health and how Florida's 50th in the nation in funding for mental health, they have to talk about uninsured Latinos - that one in four Latinos living in the state of Florida is uninsured."

"Richard Corcoran needs to be educated" …

Full Story

Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Tom Scarritt. The Tampa lawyer University of the South grad thought his community would step up to pay to move a divisive monument from the shadow of the courthouse, and he was was right.

Loser of the week

State Sen. George Gainer. Filing a bill to ensure drivers are immune to civil liability if they unintentionally kill or maim a protester blocking a public road seemed like an excellent idea to the Panama City Republican and Transportation Committee chairman this year. But after a protester was run over and killed in Virginia -- and Gainer took a thrashing on social media -- his interest in re-filing the bill has subsided.

Full Story

Candidates for governor get emotional talking about their gay siblings

Chris King talking to reporters in Tallahassee

Adam Smith

Chris King talking to reporters in Tallahassee

Occasionally in today's hyper-rehearsed and contrived world of political campaigns one witnesses moments that are so honest and real, we can't help but understand we're not just listening to another politician give his or her stump speech; We're listening to a human being who understands personal pain at least as well as we do.

Two such choke-up moments occurred Saturday when a few dozen members of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus heard from a couple of underdog candidates for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Turns out that both Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King have gay older brothers who had difficult years growing up in Florida. …

Full Story

Should Capitol's Confederate monument be removed? Scott won't say.

Gov. Rick Scott won't offer an opinion on whether a Confederate monument should be moved from the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee.

Kristen M. Clark / Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

Gov. Rick Scott won't offer an opinion on whether a Confederate monument should be moved from the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee.

Florida’s Republican governor won’t take a position on what should be done with a monument that honors slain Confederate soldiers on the state Capitol grounds, even as a growing number of elected leaders around the country take steps to remove such monuments after last weekend’s violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va.

Rather than lead on the issue, Rick Scott is deferring to state lawmakers and has remained silent on whether such monuments in Florida — and particularly the one at the Capitol — should be taken down.

After Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, on Wednesday called on Scott to remove the Capitol monument, Scott’s office would only acknowledge they had “received” that request.

His office on Thursday pointed to general remarks Scott had made two days earlier about how federal, state and local officials ought to “review” what should be done with Confederate monuments. “We need to go through a process where everyone comes together and has a legitimate conversation, then we go forward,” Scott had said. …

Full Story

President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

Full Story

What is going on with Tom Lee and the CFO race?

Sen. Tom Lee has much to ponder

[Tampa Bay Times]

Sen. Tom Lee has much to ponder

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, appears to have stirred a hornet’s nest by announcing publicly that he intends to run for state chief financial officer in 2018.

It’s long been known that Lee wanted to run for the office -- he ran in 2006 -- and he’s made it no secret that he was considering it.

Still, many political insiders expected Lee would eventually decide to run for re-election to his state Senate seat instead of starting a primary fight with the current CFO, Republican Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Patronis to the vacant post in June and solidly backs Patronis to run to hold it in 2018.

But without filing officially, Lee told a local reporter this week he intends to run – and did so on the day before attending a high-profile public event with Scott and Patronis in Brandon.


On Friday, Lee stood with Patronis, Scott and other Republican luminaries at Brandon Honda, while Scott and Patronis touted Scott’s election-year proposal to make it harder for the Legislature to impose tax or fee increases.

Then a reporter asked Scott about the CFO race and about Lee’s announcement, and Scott made it clear where his loyalties are. …

Full Story

The guy who killed slavery monument scheduled to speak on importance of Confederate monuments

Sen. Dennis Baxley

[Tampa Bay Times]

Sen. Dennis Baxley

It's no secret that Sen. Dennis Baxley loves the losing side in the U.S. Civil War.

The descendant of a Confederate soldier, Baxley, R-Ocala, has never hesitated to promote his heritage. In 2007, he objected when lawmakers discussed changing the state song, including the removal of "darkeys" from the chorus. 

So it should be no surprise that, amid the national debate about what to do with Confederate monuments, Baxley, who helped write the state's "stand your ground" law, will be a featured speaker at a southern heritage event on Sept. 2 titled "the War on the South."

The event is the annual banquet for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Judah P. Benjamin Camp. To be held in Temple Terrace, it's already sparked protests

But while the group asserts that the removal of Confederate monuments is an affront to history, they have chosen a speaker in Baxley who has actively blocked other historical monuments. …

Full Story

Bill Nelson celebrates Steve Bannon's departure

Bill Nelson likes what he sees Steve Bannon getting the boot:

Full Story

Long before Trump hired (and fired) him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida

Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.


Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.

With Steve Bannon leaving the White House soon, we're re-posting this Leary-Smith look at Bannon's significant, if mysterious, Florida ties.

SARASOTA — Steady weekend visits to the "Winter White House" in Palm Beach have solidified President Donald Trump's status as a Floridian.

But it's not just Trump who is adding a new dimension to the state's storied political history.Chief adviser Steve Bannon — the rumpled former executive of Breitbart News, revered as a brilliant strategist and reviled as a xenophobic champion of the extreme right — was shopping for a home in Sarasota last year before Trump enlisted him to fix the campaign.

Bannon, 63, surfaced in Sarasota more than a decade earlier for the most unlikeliest of reasons: nasal spray. …

Full Story

Pediatricians say Florida hurt sick kids to help big GOP donors

CNN, following up on Miami Herald reporting,  is shining a spotlght on Florida's decision to shift thousands of seriously ill Florida children from one well-regarded Medicaid program to others that don't specialize in very sick kids. "This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it's the children who suffered," said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here's the CNN report.

From the Florida Democratic Party: "Nearly two years since Rick Scott unlawfully purged thousands of children from a highly respected state Medicaid program, private insurance companies that donated millions to Governor Scott have continued to profit, but families are still reeling from the impacts of this callous policy change. Floridians want answers from Rick Scott and his self-serving administration: why did it take nearly two years to notify parents whose children were unfairly kicked off their healthcare that they could re-enroll with their former plan?"

Full Story

Former Wasserman Schultz staffer indicted on bank fraud charges

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, photographed in her Sunrise office.

Mike Stocker/Sun-Sentinel/TNS

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, photographed in her Sunrise office.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s former information technology aide and his wife have been indicted on bank fraud charges.

A grand jury late Thursday returned an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Imran Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, of Lorton, Va., on four counts: conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on a loan or credit application and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Awan, 37, previously had been charged in a criminal complaint with one count of bank fraud. The indictment expanded on the charges and also added Alvi, 33, as a defendant.

The indictment states that Awan and Alvi conspired to obtain home equity lines of credit for $165,000 and $120,000 from a credit union on two properties. They provided false information that the properties were Alvi’s principal residence and second home when they actually rented out the homes. Then, they transferred the proceeds to Pakistan. …

Full Story