Larry Griffin - SaintPetersBlog

Larry Griffin

At annual meeting, Republicans contemplate their place at the top after election wins

With big wins in the November elections and now about to control the House, Senate and the presidency, the Republican Party of Florida didn’t feel the need to shake up party leadership much — re-electing Blaise Ingoglia by a sizable margin at the 2017 annual leadership conference Saturday morning.

The RPOF spent much of the rest of the morning at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando on top of the world and in good spirits. But they also focused on the future and action, now that they have so much power in government.

Sen. Marco Rubio spoke about the need to not waste the chance to take action.

“We’ll veto a lot of the regulations put in place,” he said. “The Senate has moved to start repealing Obamacare. Donald Trump will be presenting his plan for a replacement within the next few weeks.”

Rubio said in the first half of this year, he anticipated Obamacare to be repealed and replaced.

He also said Republicans could look forward to a new Supreme Court justice replacing the late Antonin Scalia, who would hopefully serve for 20 to 25 years, and tax reform and fiscal plans in line with what they said would help fix the economy.

“We can provide an opportunity for the American dream,” he said. “The party will be organized around limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense. If we don’t do our jobs, there are no excuses. We control the House, the Senate and the White House. We can set the country on the right course.”

Palm Beach County official Michael Barnett won the Vice Chair seat, and he and others spoke of moving forward and expanding the party to include everyone.

Barnett, who previously served as the party’s Chairman of their Minority Engagement Committee, said it was important to show various minority communities that the Republican Party could serve their interests.

“We’ve made a good start with this election,” he said. “Eight percent of the black vote went to Donald Trump — double what Mitt Romney was able to get.

“We need to keep reaching out to the Haitian, Caribbean and other communities, and become a part of their community. We don’t all come from the same background, but we can share the same values.”

Though Ingogilia’s win was easy enough, not everyone was happy. Challenger Christian Ziegler was touted as the candidate who could devote full attention to RPOF chair, rather than wear more than one hat as Ingoglia does as a member of the Legislature. Ingoglia currently represents the Florida House in District 35.

Ziegler said he could act like a “CEO of a business” for the party, and always be available to people, no matter what.

Orange County Republican chair Lew Oliver voiced some displeasure with this to FloridaPolitics.com. Oliver thought the chair should be someone with no other interests or positions in politics.

“In politics, there are a lot of battles already,” Oliver said. “Members of Legislature are involved in a lot of struggles, factions and groups. You don’t want someone who may be motivated to have another set of battles.”

Ingoglia’s acceptance speech focused on the ability of the RPOF to create “a dynasty” that could keep the state in Republican control for the foreseeable future.

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera noted it might be unwise for Republicans to get too complacent in their place at the top — the 2018 election cycle could be even more difficult.

“The Democrats suffered losses in this election,” he said. “They’re doing pretty bad. As low and as bad as they are, they may only have one place to go, though — unless we keep our place and not take this for granted. Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

“Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

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Blaise Ingoglia wins re-election as chair of Florida GOP

Incumbent Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia swept to victory Saturday morning at the annual elections with a 152 to 76 vote over challenger Christian Ziegler.

Ingoglia, in a speech touting his virtues, called attention to his own free-market and grassroots leanings, saying there was really only one way to win — through having feet on the ground and getting out and doing the work.

“It’s sitting at home and saying goodbye to your wife and your children, driving to the panhandle and speaking at a dinner, then driving to Jacksonville and speaking at another dinner, and then driving all the way home,” he said, “only to have a chairman call you at 3 a.m. to see if you’re still awake.”

Ingoglia called attention to the victory of President-elect Donald Trump and sweeping victories for the party in Florida as examples of why the Republicans were strong right now.

Now, he said, the challenge will be keeping that position on top and staying there, to create a “dynasty” for the party.

“Staying in power is the hard part,” he said. “We can build a dynasty that lasts for generations. If we work together, nothing will stop us from building a Republican Party of Florida dynasty and winning elections.”

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Marco Rubio votes to repeal Affordable Care Act

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has cast his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Early Thursday morning, the Senate GOP took a first step towards a repeal of the law – which they’ve long said was a goal of theirs and which President-elect Donald Trump made a campaign promise to do. In a marathon voting session, they approved a budget resolution that would speed through the repeal of the law.

Rubio was right on board with that.

“ObamaCare has led to rising premiums, a collapse of the individual insurance market and fewer choices for patients,” Rubio said. “The law is an absolute failure, and its proponents insist it must be salvaged with a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies. We’ve now taken an important first step to repeal this law and replace ‎it with a patient-centered approach that expands access to providers and lowers costs of care.

“It is my hope and expectation that the transition to a replacement program can be done relatively seamlessly and minimize disruptions to patients.”

Opponents of the measure say a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be disastrous and leave many people without health care, as well as leaving people with pre-existing conditions unable to find coverage.

The GOP and Trump say they’ll work towards implementing a replacement for the law that will be better, though no details on what that plan will be have surfaced.

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Orlando City Soccer stadium unveils 49 rainbow-colored seats as tribute to Pulse victims

The soon-to-open Orlando City Soccer stadium will have a section of seats painted in bright, proud rainbow colors to celebrate and memorialize the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

There will be 49 seats painted that way in total – one for each person lost in the shooting. They’ll all be emblazoned with the hashtag “Orlando United, ” and they’re placed in section 12, as the shooting happened on June 12 last year.

The rest of the seats are purple and white.

The club chose to do this to celebrate further and acknowledge Orlando’s status as an “inclusive, diverse and welcoming community.”

“We are here to commemorate and unveil the 49 rainbow-colored seats that will sit permanently in section 12 of our stadium as a constant reminder of the senseless acts of June 12,” said club founder Phil Rawlins. “These are regular season-ticket holder seats. We put them in section 12 because, obviously, we felt that was pertinent. It was June 12th last year when the tragedy happened. They are right down by the benches and will certainly be seen by everyone in the stadium.”

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Rick Scott wants 5% raise for state law-enforcement

Governor Rick Scott announced Thursday that he intended to propose a 5 percent pay raise for all state law enforcement, which would then be voted on early next year by legislature.

Standing with a host of local and state law enforcement officials outside the Florida Highway Patrol office in Orlando, Scott praised law enforcement for their work during an especially trying time – citing that 32 law enforcement officers had been killed so far this year.

He would know, he said, because he had been to all of their funerals.

The pay raise would be a ‘thank you’ to law enforcement for all they do – especially in Florida, what with responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting, Hurricane Matthew and more. There had also been a 45 percent reduction in crime this year as compared to previous years, Scott said.

“Being in law enforcement is only becoming harder,” Scott said. “They face danger each and every day. They are targeted sometimes just for the uniform they wear. I’m proposing a 5 percent pay raise for all state law enforcement officers. They need to be rewarded for their life-saving work. We need to show we appreciate their commitment to us.”

He told the story of Lt. Channing Taylor, who was shot while performing a routine traffic stop, praising Taylor and also awarding him the Governor’s Medal of Honor.

Taylor was honored by the award and excited for the raise.

“It was unexpected,” he told FloridaPolitics.com. “[Scott] really goes above and beyond. He’s a wonderful man.”

Scott will include the $11.7 million request in budget recommendations he’ll give state legislators early next year. The Florida Legislature will consider the pay raise during the regular session that starts in March.

Scott hasn’t made a final decision on whether to recommend pay raises for other state workers, according to The Associated Press.

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Amendment 2 for medical marijuana sweeps the polls with a huge win

Florida’s Amendment 2, relating to the availability of medical marijuana to patients who need it, swept the polls with a 70 to 30 split on Tuesday night’s election.

The amendment proposes to make medical marijuana legal for doctors to give out prescriptions to patients who need it.

Last time out, it got 58 percent of the vote, but because it required a “super majority” of 60 percent, it didn’t pass.

Supporters of the amendment say it’s a sensible alternative medicine and can greatly help patients in need, offering a natural alternative to drugs that may have harmful side effects, and alleviate pain for cancer patients and others suffering debilitating conditions.

Ben Pollera, campaign manager for Amendment 2, said the idea of the amendment wasn’t only about medical marijuana – it’s also about respecting the doctor-patient relationship.

“This is about taking politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship,” he said. “We’ve had a long statewide conversation about this. I believe the people of Florida are compassionate, and that they believe a decision should be made by a doctor and patient together, even if that decision includes marijuana. People trust their doctors to have the treatment that’s right for them, whether that’s dieting and exercise, narcotics and opiates or even marijuana. That decision should be made in the context of the doctor-patient relationship, not by Tallahassee politicians.”

Opponents said the amendment is a “scam” intended to legalize marijuana under the guise of doing it for medical reasons.

Tom Angell, chairman with Marijuana Majority, applauded the amendment’s passing.

“This is a major tipping point: With Florida’s decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast.

“It looks like medical cannabis will get more votes tonight than whoever ends up winning the presidential and U.S. Senate races, and that shows just how mainstream this issue has become. The next president and the new Congress need to get to work right away in 2017 on modernizing federal law so medical cannabis patients and the businesses that serve them in a growing number of states don’t have to worry that the DEA could knock down their doors at any minute.”

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Marco Rubio appears in Lake Mary to get out the vote and opine on Patrick Murphy scandal

A group of Republican lawmakers appeared in Lake Mary Thursday afternoon to sing each others’ praises and hopefully motivate anyone who hasn’t voted to go out and do so – preferably to re-elect Marco RubioJohn MicaBob Cortes and other Republicans.

Rubio, Mica and Cortes painted the race as a particularly dire one, for if they lost, they imparted the vision of what would happen as one none of their supporters would want – one where Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer took places in the head of the House and Senate if Democrats win the majority in both.

Rubio himself spoke out against his opponent Patrick Murphy, criticizing him again for allegedly lying about his record in Congress and embellishing his business record.

“When he’s not lying, he’s liberal,” Rubio said of Murphy. “He supports the Iran deal. Even after we negotiated with them for hostages, he supports it. He wants to close Guantanamo Bay and bring terrorists to the United States, even when it’s proven that a third of them or more return to terror. He is one of the last people to support Hillary Clinton 100 percent, even after the revelations of last Friday.”

The revelations Rubio mentioned were that of the FBI’s looking into more of Clinton’s emails. As of Thursday, the FBI had not released conclusive evidence that anything in the emails they’re looking at have anything to do with Clinton, instead having to do with a separate case involving Anthony Weiner.

Rubio spoke to the press after on a recent donor scheme involving Murphy, in which a friend of his, Ibrahim Al-Rashid, started a straw donor scheme, which “occurs when a wealthy donor skirts legal limits on political donations by funneling money into campaigns using other people’s names,” according to The Hill.

Rubio said it, just like Clinton’s emails, proves that the current crop of Democratic candidates isn’t fit for office.

“This was clearly someone [Murphy] is close to,” Rubio said of Al-Rashid. “We can’t afford to have leaders with clouds like this over their heads.”

According to The Hill, they had found no evidence Murphy knew about the scheme or was connected to it himself as of their article on Wednesday.

On Donald Trump, Rubio said he still supported him, and under no circumstances could he ever allow Clinton to take the presidency.

“This wasn’t my first choice,” Rubio said on supporting Trump. “I wanted to be president. I wanted to be the nominee. But we need someone to stand up to the next president, and I’m the only one who can do that.”

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In Maitland, Mike Pence talks up Donald Trump as a defender of traditional American values

Indiana governor and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared at the Maitland Civic Center in Seminole County Monday afternoon, where he spoke to a galvanized audience of fans on the faults of Hillary Clinton and the virtues of Donald Trump eight days before the presidential election comes to a close.

Trump was the only candidate who, Pence said, can return America to a standard it has lost after eight years of Barack Obama‘s policies.

Pence extolled Trump’s virtues as classically American — “strong, freedom loving and willing to fight hard every day for what he believes in,” Pence said, to a chorus of cheers.

Clinton, by contrast, was characterized as dishonest and corrupt, with Pence hammering her throughout the speech on the many controversies that have dogged her all campaign long — among them her use of a private email server as secretary of state and her inaction during the Benghazi attack in 2012 when Pence and others claim she could’ve prevented it.

Pence’s speech was clean and organized, drawing constant comparisons between his running mate and Clinton, with the common refrain being that Clinton was a weak, ineffective and corrupt leader and Trump was a true leader who would cut through the dishonesty and gridlock in Washington.

“The American people are sick of ‘pay to play’ politics,” he said. “That will come to a crashing halt the day Donald Trump becomes president. He’s got a plan, in the first 100 days, to work with newly re-elected majorities in House and Senate, to pass ethics reform. We will have a government as good as our people, and we’ll drain the swamp.”

On Clinton, Pence didn’t mince words. He accused her of accepting money from foreign governments and large corporate donors, characterizing her as the embodiment of the decades-long Washington D.C. style of “self-dealing, conflicts of interest, pay-to-play, politics of personal enrichment.”

He also attacked Obama’s leadership in the Middle East, saying pulling out of troops from Iraq had created a vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow in their absence, and that negotiating with Iran for the release of American prisoners was a poor move.

Under Trump, Pence said nothing like that would happen again.

Pence encouraged the audience to vote, and said the choice for those who want someone to uphold the American values of “limited government, the sanctity of life, the Second Amendment and all the God-given liberties” they enjoyed, the choice was clearly Trump.

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New Senate Leadership Fund ad blasts Patrick Murphy for lying about, well, everything

A new ad from the Senate Leadership Fund blasts U.S. Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy with a litany of what they say are his sins – lying, embellishing and not doing much in Congress.

The criticisms have been leveled before by Murphy’s detractors and his opponent Marco Rubio – the ad says Murphy lied about everything from his business record to his education.

“He lied about his education,” the ad states. “Murphy’s claims of business experience, outright false. Why did he pad his resume? He doesn’t have a record. He was ranked one of America’s least effective congressmen. In a do nothing congress, Murphy’s at the bottom of the barrel.”

The ad says it’s “no wonder” Murphy “misleads, exaggerates and outright lies” about all of those things.

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Andy Gardiner, business leaders launch Florida Unique Abilities program to help disabled find work

Senate President Andy Gardiner appeared in downtown Orlando Wednesday to promote the launch of the new Florida Unique Abilities partnership, an initiative that businesses can join to support hiring those with disabilities.

Gardiner and business leaders representing AT&T, Walgreens, and SeaWorld, appeared at the Canvs building on Garland Avenue to talk up the program, saying it would behoove businesses all over the state and country to start hiring more people with disabilities. The Florida Unique Abilities partnership, they said, would offer a concrete way for businesses to show support and get the word out.

“Businesses can lead by example,” he said. “Every agency that wants to will have to send a report on what they intend to do to hire those with disabilities. That gives us the ability to promote Florida as the best place to live, work and play.”

To qualify as a partner with the program, businesses must meet one of three criteria:

— Employ at least one Florida resident with a disability for nine months prior to applying.

— Provide a financial or in-kind contribution to programs that serve the disabled.

— Or contribute to the establishment of a program that helps those with disabilities achieve independence.

Gardiner said the initiative was an important first step.

“It’s a good start,” he told FloridaPolitics.com. “It’s about recognition and hopefully recruiting more business partners to help this population of need and get a dialogue started.”

Others, like Steve Pemberton, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens, and Troy McNichols, Director of External and Legislative Affairs with AT&T Florida, spoke of the bonuses of hiring those with disabilities.

They all said it was important to be inclusive and nondiscriminatory in hiring, as those with disabilities, like anyone else, can bring strong new ideas and better quality to the workplace.

The final speaker at the ceremony was Whitney Harris, the Special Projects Coordinator with the Florida Chamber Foundation. Harris, who is disabled herself, quickly shut down any audience misconceptions that she was there to be an “inspirational” figure — rather, she was just like anyone else.

“I’m an eighth generation Floridian and a first-generation person with disabilities,” she said. “I’m not here to tell you an inspiring story or talk about how I can overcome my disability and be like everyone else. There’s nothing to overcome. I’m just a different flavor of normal. There are 1.13 million disabled people in Florida, and I’m just one of them.”

She stressed the importance again of businesses hiring those with disabilities — they, just like everyone else, need to support their families and themselves.

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