Scott Powers - 3/29 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Chris King lone gubernatorial candidate to show at Florida Legislative Black Caucus symposium

Word has it that others were invited but only one candidate or potential candidate, Democrat Chris King, showed up at the Florida Legislative Black Caucus’s symposium Thursday to talk about the 2018 gubernatorial race.

King tweeted such Thursday, “Honored to talk w/the great leaders at the @FLBlackCaucus Gubernatorial Symposium about how to make our future better than our past.”

He is the Winter Park businessman who filed in late February but didn’t formally kick off his campaign until Tuesday night.

The other announced Democrat so far is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, while Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and attorney John Morgan of Orlando are all openly contemplating runs, and even doing some pre-campaigning. For the Republicans, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is unannounced but raising big money for a run.

“He’s here. Showing up is half the battle,” caucus chair state Sen. Perry Thurston. “I want to thank him for showing up, thank him for being here.”

Self-described political junkie Ella Coffee attended, and tweeted out a few details of King’s comments:


“We have to stop raiding our affordable home fund in the state.”

“When a person hasn’t had their rights restored, it’s not just about that, it’s about being able to support their family.”

Andrew Gillum raises $765K in first report for governor’s race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is breaking from the gate with $765,000 raised for his Democratic gubernatorial campaign in the first few weeks.

Gillum’s campaign is reporting Wednesday morning that he has raised that much and has $635,000 on hand at the time of his first-quarter 2017 campaign finance report, through the end of March.

Gillum is claiming grassroots support, contending that the donations include 3,500 on-line contributions and have come from 56 of Florida’s 67 counties.

It puts him in contention with but behind the leading Republican candidate, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is reporting that his campaign raised $872,000 in March and is likely to be reporting a total in the range of $1.1 million when the campaign finance reports are fully released in a couple of weeks.

There is no word yet from candidates and potential candidates. The only other major announced candidate is Orlando businessman Chris King, a Democrat, though Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and former state Rep. Gwen Graham are on the Democrats’ campaign trail.

Full details are not yet available on Gillum’s report.

“This resounding statement of early support proves that Andrew Gillum has the momentum to become the next Governor of Florida,” Gillum’s senior campaign advisor Sharon Lettman-Hicks declared in a press release. “Our campaign will continue to work to earn every vote in all corners of the state and invest in building the infrastructure needed to retake the governor’s mansion. After nearly 20 years of failed leadership in Florida, Andrew Gillum will be a Governor the Sunshine State can be proud of again.”

Chris King vows to bring ‘progressive entrepreneur’ spirit to Governor’s office

Orlando Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King introduced himself to Florida Tuesday evening as the “progressive entrepreneur” promising to bring bring a head for hard work, return on investment and financial stewardship but also a heart to Tallahassee.

King, a 38-year-old Winter Park businessman with no experience in politics, kicked off his campaign for the state’s highest office at an Orlando rally with 400 to 500 people, a musical warmup, several advance speakers and an ice cream truck, in the parking lot of the 11-story Hillcrest Hampton House, an affordable-housing senior tower his Elevation Global Initiative company developed.

“Whether you are an old friend or a new friend, we come together tonight at a momentous time in my life, and in the life of this state,” King said standing beneath the “In front of the family that loved me, the community that raised me, and the senior tower that gave me my mission, I announce my candidacy for governor of Florida.”

King’s 27-minute speech placed him squarely in the center of most Democratic issues and values, from environmental protection [“I would put scientists back in charge of environmental agencies;”] to affordable housing [his business speciality;] from minimum wage increases, to investing far more in public education [“I will be a champion and advocate for public education;”] social and legal equality for all, to expanding health care access and investment in mental health.

“If you’ve come here tonight and you are an advocate for public education or environmental protection or housing, or health care, I’m with you,” King said. “I want to be too.”

Yet King also dismissed all of that as secondary to his primary concern, fixing the economy to better provide for working families. King criticized Florida’s economy as low-wage, dead last among the 10 most-populous states in incomes, wages and productivity, with 45 percent of jobs paying $15 an hour or less.

“The biggest issue, the motivating issue for me and this campaign as we move forward, is to me the issue Florida faces today. And that is the fact that we have an economy that no longer works for so many our families,” he said.

For that he promised to lay out his economic plan which he is calling “Home Grown Florida,” focusing on fostering entrepreneurs and small businesses, education, and investment in infrastructure.

He also spoke in detail about the need to address water issues, and promised his campaign would “not take any money from big sugar. Not because it’s always wrong… but because the issues around water, sugar and the health of this peninsula are so critical, so compelling, that the citizens of Florida must know that their next governor is an honest broker, able to sit down with all parties, and not beholden to the financial interests of any.”

King comes into the race largely unknown politically outside limited circles in Orlando, but not unconnected. His father David King is a powerful lawyer who argued and won the redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. His mother Marilyn King is a longtime patients advocate who served as chair of the board of directors of Orlando Health.

After graduating from Harvard and getting a law degree from the University of Florida and a brief law career, King and his brother Michael King started Elevation Global Initiative, which arranges creative financing to re-invest in old housing and senior housing properties, to redevelop them as affordable-housing.

Both his father and brother say that Chris King has probably been preparing to run for governor since he was in high school. David King said his youngest son has “a calling,” and has been seriously contemplating the run for about a year and a half. In recent weeks he’s been raising early campaign money and assembling a campaign team that includes veterans of the Barack Obama and Charlie Crist statewide campaigns,

So far King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination, while several others are openly exploring runs, including Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando lawyer John Morgan. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appears to be clearing the field for his run for the Republican nomination.

Panel approves bill to require gambling warnings on Florida Lottery tickets

Lottery tickets, and places that sell them, could come with a warning: “Gambling can be addictive,” under a bill approved Tuesday afternoon by the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

Senate Bill 1370 may go where some Florida lawmakers are uncomfortable to follow, declaring the state’s lottery games to be a form of gambling.

As a result, the bill got a few no votes, including one from Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.

But the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Keith Perry of Gainesville, said he believes the Lottery is gambling and needs the warning; a majority on the committee agreed.

“This bill seeks to better inform individuals that gaming can be addictive,” Perry said.

The bill would require the Florida Lottery Commission to have all vendors and retailers place or print a warning on all lottery tickets, and on prominent signs in retailers which sell them, which read: “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE.”

The bill does not call for a phone number to also be printed for people to call if they fear they are addicted, but Perry said he would be open to such in an amendment.

Gibson, who asked about that, pressed Perry for what she saw as the heart of the issue, that the bill would have the Florida Legislature declaring that the Lottery is a form of gambling.

“I don’t consider the purchase of those products offered by the lottery to be gambling,” she said. “And I’m not inclined to support these [warning] statements either.”

The companion, House Bill 937, is in the House Commerce Committee.

‘Single worst case:’ Bill compensating Barahona twins’ survivors gets committee approval

In a case of two young children who endured torture, sexual abuse, violence, murder and attempted murder by an adoptive family while the Florida Department of Children and Families did nothing, a House committee Tuesday voted to support a $5 million settlement.

The money would go to Victor Docter Barahona, now 16, who survived the physical and mental abuse, torture, and attempted murder, and to other beneficiaries including blood relatives of his and his twin sister Nubia Docter Barahona, whose equally-horrific young life ended with her murder at age 10 in 2011.

“This is for me the single worst case that I’ve ever seen,” said state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican, who sponsored House Bill 6523 along with state Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat.

Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who fostered the twins and then adopted them, are awaiting trial on first-degree murder and numerous other charges in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The 2011 case led to national outrage and alarm toward, and reforms of, the Department of Children and Families, including reforms pushed by Diaz.

“At every step of the way there were errors, there were flags that DCF should have seen,” he told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Government Operations and Technology while presenting the bill.

Revealed evidence alleges that the twins had undergone seven years of abuse that included being tied up in bathtubs, force-fed feces, electrical shocks, sexual battery, and numerous other torturous acts during their custody with the Barahonas. Eventually, in 2011, the two children were found in Jorge Barahona’s truck bed covered with caustic chemicals. Nubia was dead; Victor was alive but in critical condition.

In a report he filed with the Florida Legislature on Feb. 28, House Special Master Parker Aziz agreed with Diaz that DCF had numerous opportunities and responsibilities to intervene.

“In sum, the cumulative effect of the evidence shows that DCF should have known the twins were being abused and failed to prevent the situation from continuing. DCF employees performed their tasks in a mere perfunctory fashion, filling out forms and bubbling in boxes without adequate critical thinking and analysis of the data they were collecting,” Aziz wrote. “The Department and its employees had a duty and breached that duty.”

Victor and the other blood-family survivors had sued DCF in two cases, one in circuit court and one in federal court.

On March 6, 2013, DCF entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs in the federal case for $1,250,000, which has been paid. As a part of the settlement, DCF agreed to settle the state negligence claims and not oppose this $3,750,000 claim bill and submit a letter supporting the claimants. On June 18, 2013 the state case was settled under the same terms.

Yet the compensation attempts for Victor and some of his blood relatives have died in the Florida Legislature in each of the last three sessions.

This year the companion bill is Senate Bill 18, which is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The twins had been placed with the Barahonas when they were preschoolers because their birth mother was a drug addict.

“God bless her children. May this never happen again,” Diaz concluded.

Randolph Bracy comes to Aramis Ayala’s defense with NY Times op-ed

Democratic state Senator Randolph Bracy has published a national defense of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala Tuesday with an op-ed column in the New York Times contending Gov. Rick Scott has overreached in removing cases from her.

In the column headlined “Florida’s Vengeful Governor,” Bracy argues that Scott’s reassignment of 22 death penalty cases from Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, prosecuted by Ayala, to Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit, prosecuted by State Attorney Brad King, is without precedent or any legal foundation.

Scott did so because Ayala announced that she had concluded that Florida’s death penalty is not just for anyone and she would not pursue it in any cases. Last month Scott used an executive order to reassign the case of alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd. On Monday he used 21 more executive orders to reassign the cases of 21 others.

Bracy called Scott’s actions “retaliation.”

“They are meant to punish the state attorney, Aramis D. Ayala, Florida’s first black elected prosecutor, for announcing she would no longer seek the death penalty because it was not in the best interest of her jurisdiction, which stretches from Orlando to Kissimmee,” Bracy wrote.

“Ms. Ayala rightly argued that capital punishment does not deter crime, nor does it protect police officers. Instead, it often leads to protracted appeals, and rarely delivers closure to the victim’s family,” he continued.

Bracy argued that Ayala is well within her rights and duties as a state attorney to make that decision and set that policy.

“Although Ms. Ayala’s critics have denounced her actions as dereliction of duty, they cannot point to a single law or statute that she has violated. That’s because she hasn’t,” Bracy writes. “There are no federal or state laws that say prosecutors must seek death sentences. And the United States Supreme Court has banned all state laws that make executions mandatory for murders.”

Although Ayala has received broad support from various Democratic, Civil Rights, religious, legal, and anti-death penalty groups, Bracy has been one of the few elected officials who has aggressively defended her.

Bracy concedes in the column that he might not share Ayala’s view on the death penalty, but he respects her rights and duties of prosecutorial discretion and the fact that she is an independent elected official placed in office by voters.

He also noted the racial history of the death penalty and his own effort, through a bill, to address equal justice concerns.

“As a black man, I see the death penalty as a powerful symbol of injustice in which race often determines who lives and who dies, especially in Florida,” Bracy wrote. “The state has the second-largest number of death row inmates in the country, after California, and African-Americans are grossly overrepresented on Florida’s death row. This disproportionality was a driving force behind my bill. And while I felt that Florida was not ready to relinquish the death penalty, I tried to make it more fair.”

Auburn license plate proposal dropped in committee

Football fans of rival Auburn University probably won’t be getting a Florida commemorative plate this year.

A provision to allow for the production of Auburn license plates was dropped from state Sen. Keith Perry‘s Senate Bill 1374 through an amendment added Monday in the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee.

That left the bill focusing on the intent of its title: on efforts to honor veterans in Florida with various highway designations and license plates.

The bill, touted for its veterans’ angles and with nary a word spoken about the Auburn plate during Monday’s committee meeting, was unanimously approved Monday afternoon by committee after an amendment struck the Auburn provision from the bill.

The companion bill, House Bill 1375, is now in the House Government Accountability Committee.

Lionfish tagging, hunting pythons, designating reefs: bills pass House committee

If anyone has ever tried to insert a passive integration transponder tag into a lionfish, they may have an idea of how seriously the Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is viewing control of invasive species.

Under House Bill 587, lionfish become one of three invasive species animals, along with python snakes and tegu lizards, the state would seek to better control through a pilot project that includes state-sponsored hunting and fishing, and the requirement that pet shop owners tag any of the animals they sell.

“The problem is with lionfish, it’s really difficult to do. You’re going to have to tag them. This will perhaps essentially hinder them [pets hops] from selling this invasive species,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Halsey Beshears of Monticello.

“So the elephant in the room question is: why are we selling invasive species?” asked Republican state Rep. Rick Roth of Loxahatchee.

“That’s a fantastic question indeed. I would ask you the same,” Beshears replied.

While Florida’s efforts to control pythons and tegu lizards are well-known, long-standing, and likely to use most of the $300,000 this bill would set aside for invasive species hunts, lionfish, native to Pacific Ocean coral reefs, are a different challenge altogether. Once released from someone’s aquarium, lionfish tend to make their way to the Great Florida Reef, where they attack and decimate native species of fish.

Republican state Rep. Holly Raschein, whose Key Largo-based district includes much of the Great Florida Reef as well as much of the Everglades, where the pythons and tegus are multiplying, called the bill “incredible.”

“As you all know, District 120 is like ground zero when it comes to the invasion of these exotic species. I’d like to see us go even further,” she said.

HB 587 was one of two bills considered and unanimously approved by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee Monday that would potentially help the Great Florida Reef ecosystem.

House Bill 1143 would create the largely on-paper-only Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area, designating a geographic box around the north portion of the Great Florida Reef as a conservation zone.

This would allow for authorities to apply for and receive state and federal grants for specific research and protection programs for the reef, which has been undergoing significant degradation in recent years, said Chair Ben Albritton, the Wauchula Republican who presented HB 1143 on behalf of Democratic state Rep. Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek, who was unable to attend.

“A serious coral epidemic began in 2014 and is continuing to spread along the world-famous Florida reef track from the Dry Tortugas north to Martin County,” Albritton said.

“In the last two years, 21 of the 35 coral species off our southeaster coastline have died,” Albritton continued. “The intent of the bill is to create a box of the north Florida Reef track and bracket the area for water quality monitoring.”

Democrat Debra Kaplan files to run for House District 31

Business consultant Debra Kaplan of Eustis has filed as a Democrat to run for Florida’s House District 31, to take on Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan.

Kaplan, 64, is a former cable-TV Emmy-award-winning political reporter in Connecticut, and Apopka, and former public relations agent, who said she strove to remain politically independent until recently, and then worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns.

She calls herself a political moderate on most issues due to her life experience, yet an avowed feminist.

“I’ve worked in the fields. I’ve worked in factories. I’ve worked in the dietary department of a hospital, pushing trays. I’ve waitressed. I’ve done backbreaking work. And I’ve been a journalist and public relations person and a promotions person,” she said. “I know what it’s like to sit around a kitchen table with a pile of bills when you’re not making a lot of money and trying to make things work. I understand what that feels like.

“I think that makes me understand the challenges of the people of this region, whether they are Democrats, independents or Republicans,” she said.

HD 31, which covers northeast Lake County and northwest Orange County, has a strong Republican base, though it is trending toward more independent voters, in part due to a growing Hispanic population. Sullivan is a two-term incumbent first elected with tea party backing, and then re-elected without a Democratic opponent last fall.

Kaplan, who has lived in the region since 1992, made the rounds of Democratic leaders in Lake and Orange counties, and said she’s lining up people she knew from the Clinton campaigns and met more recently to volunteer for and contribute to her campaign.

At least initially, she expects to stress elder-care, water, education, infrastructure and rights-restoration issues in her campaign.

“I see the possibility in this region. It’s growing. It needs an advocate because we’re often the stepchild of Orlando and other larger communities. We now need someone who will fight for infrastructure, the integrity of our water,” she said.

Twitter welcomes Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King

Orlando financial consultant Chris King may still be a few days from formally kicking off his candidacy as a Democrat for governor of Florida, but after a few silent weeks, he’s beginning to step out, first with the hirings of some key staffers, now with some tweets.

Word of King’s candidacy began circulating in February and on March 3 he filed his candidacy paperwork. But except for a brief statement issued that day, he’s been publicly silent.

On Thursday word got out about his campaign’s hiring of several key staffers, including Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign manager Omar Khan and several other Barack Obama campaign alumni, Jeremy Bird, Hari Sevugan, Larry Girsolano and Isaac Baker.

Now, for the first time, King’s trying his hand at Twitter, debuting with four tweets Thursday afternoon introducing his campaign.

“I’m running for Governor of Florida because politics as usual isn’t working.” declared one tweet. “Florida should lead the nation, but today we’re falling behind on jobs, wages, education, health care, and hope.” said another.

King hasn’t been much for social media until now. Four tweets are more activity than his Facebook page has seen since he opened it last summer. It has two posts.

King, 38, and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum are the only two formal candidates thus far in the 2018 contest to succeed term-limted Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

While Florida Agriculture Commissioner may be mainly clearing the deck before announcing his anticipated run for the Republican nomination, the Democratic field is likely to get more crowded, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Orlando attorney John Morgan all openly exploring possible runs.

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