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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Winner and loser of the week in Florida politica

Winner of the week

Tom ScarrittThe Tampa lawyer University of the South grad thought his community would step up to pay to move a divisive monumental 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.
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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 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. …

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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. …

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President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

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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. …

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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. …

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Bill Nelson celebrates Steve Bannon's departure

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

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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. …

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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?"

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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. …

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Two Democrats appear to lead challenge of Dennis Ross


[ALEX LEARY | Tampa Bay Times]


Half a dozen Democrats have filed for the primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, but so far, only two have mounted substantial financial campaigns — Andrew Learned of Bloomingdale and James Gregory "Greg" Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates in Polk County.

Both are first-time candidates while Ross is a former state House member in his fourth term as congressman from the GOP-leaning 15th District in northwestern Polk and eastern Hillsborough counties.

Learned and Pilkington both say they're running in part because of Ross's support for GOP attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Learned, 30 and single, is University of Tampa graduate recently returned from overseas Navy deployments. He grew up in Valrico and runs a tutoring franchise there, Grade Power Learning.

Learned had raised $22,289 through June, including $2,000 from himself. He's hired the Pinellas County-based Blue Ticket political consulting firm plus a campaign manager, and has made digital ads he plans to distribute through social media, including on his Facebook page.

Pilkington, 54, is a business consultant, married with three grown children and a master's degree from the University of South Carolina. …

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Joe Henderson: Let Richard Corcoran sweat it out in a classroom


[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]


The latest from Joe Henderson:

You've seen and heard the stories about how air-conditioning breakdowns created sweltering conditions in many Hillsborough County public schools. It is a sweaty, stinking, ongoing mess, and there is no quick fix.

I listened as Superintendent Jeff Eakins explained all that at a news briefing on Wednesday. If it sounds like we've heard all this before, well, we have — much of it, anyway. Schools had the same issue last year. This just in: It gets hot in Florida every August.

The nutshell version is that the bulk of Hillsborough's more than 230 public schools are older buildings with cooling units that have reached the end of their usefulness. Your Florida Legislature keeps funneling public school dollars into private charter schools, so money to fix or replace failing systems is disappearing.

Fun fact: Hillsborough schools receive $145 million less from the state funds for routine maintenance than seven years ago. Thank your Legislature for that. …

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Gov. Scott says decisions on Confederate monuments should be left to the democratic 'process'

Workers place boards around a Confederate monument on Hillsborough County property in Tampa on Thursday, August 17, 2017. It took 24 hours to raise private funds in order to move the statue from its current location.


Workers place boards around a Confederate monument on Hillsborough County property in Tampa on Thursday, August 17, 2017. It took 24 hours to raise private funds in order to move the statue from its current location.

Gov. Rick Scott this morning avoided directly answering whether Confederate monuments should be taken down, saying the decision should be part of a democratic "process."

"Let everybody's views be heard. We are all part of representitive government, you have the opportunity as a citizen to go let your representative know what you believe," Scott told the Tampa Bay Times after an event in Tampa.

"We have a democracy," Scott said. "We have the ability to have conversations about things, whether it's policy or things like monuments, and that's what's going on around our country right now. Some of these decisions will need to be made locally, some will be decided at the state level, some will be decided at the federal level, but what everybody needs to do is go through the process that's set up to make policy changes and make changes if they do with regards to a monument."

Across the country this week, the debate has stirred passions on both sides. Scott had lunch with President Donald Trump on Thursday but Scott's office says the issue, or the violence in Charlottesville, never came up.

But Trump has made his views clear. …

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Trump bashing aside, Democrats struggle for united message

Chuck Schumer and the Democrats' 'Better Deal'

The Associated Press

Chuck Schumer and the Democrats' 'Better Deal'

It should be a golden opportunity for Democrats: The nonstop controversy surrounding President Donald Trump and the failure of Republicans on Capitol Hill to get much done.

But swelling energy on the streets masks deep problems confronting Democrats, who stumbled out of the 2016 election with a muddled message and crushed spirits. The party lacks a clear leader and is engaged in internal fighting reminiscent of the tea party takeover of the GOP.

"Voters have no clue what we stand for because we try to take every position under the sun," said Susan Smith, a progressive activist in Tampa Bay.

Hillary Clinton demonstrated that Democrats won't win just by demonizing Trump, but the party is struggling to find a common and compelling direction forward.

"Everybody wants to fight Trump, but Trump's not going to win us elections as much as crafting a bigger narrative," said Luis Miranda, former communications director for the Democratic National Committee. "It's a huge danger."

Clinton followed the Democratic playbook of tailoring her proposals for different groups: blacks, Hispanics, gays, young people, old people, the working class. It denied her a simple, unifying focus. …

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Andrew Gillum saw the sights in NYC with suspected undercover FBI

WCTV reports:

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is speaking out after a new photo has surfaced showing him in New York City with an alleged FBI agent.

“It looks like people hanging out. I really am deeply offended by folks ascribing other meaning to it,” said Gillum.

The photo shows a man known as “Mike Miller”- whom sources have said was an undercover FBI agent- developer Adam Corey, and Gillum. Corey was named in two Grand Jury subpoenas issued in June which requested communication between a list of local movers and shakers and the City of Tallahassee and the Community Redevelopment Agency....

More here

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