Scott Powers - 4/33 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Equality Florida launches Pulse commemorative action campaign

Florida’s largest LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida is launching a #HonorThemWithAction campaign in advance of the June 12 commemoration of people killed, wounded and affected by the Pulse nightclub massacre.

The effort at this point aims at creating online rallying opportunities for people interested in contributing time and action to the myriad events being planned for June 11 and 12 both in Florida and nationally, and to find ways to unite in resistance to discrimination and hatred of gays, said Equality Florida Public Policy Director Hannah Willard.

Equality of Florida launched a website, honorthemwithaction.org, as a starting point, along with encouraging the use of the hashtag in social media.

It’s also part of an ongoing effort to remind people that Pulse was targeted because it was a gay nightclub, and the night of the massacre was Latin night.

“The Pulse massacre was a shooting in a popular gay nightclub on Latin night in the middle of Pride Month, and the victims were overwhelmingly LGBTQ and Latinx young people,” Willard said in a news release issued by the organization. “We have to name the communities that were attacked, and we must ensure the lasting memorial is the real change of uprooting anti-LGBTQ hatred, discrimination and violence in our culture.”

She and Nadine Smith, Equality of Florida’s executive director, noted that an outpouring of involvement occurred in the days and weeks following the massacre, with more than 850 events around the country. They are seeking to get organizers of those events recommitted, and to help interested people plug in.

A national LGBTQ march is planned for the National Mall in Washington D.C. on June 11, with regional and local marches projected for around the country.

Deep-dive into Florida gubernatorial candidate’s fundraising efforts

Three Democrats and one Republican running so far for the 2018 Florida governor’s race are starting out with war chests built with big checks, from such sources as August A. Busch, George Soros, David King and Wayne Hogan, mainly cut to their independent political committees that have no limits.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam leads the pack — by far — but had an enormous head start on the others. Putnam’s Florida Grown PC opened in March 0f 2015, followed by Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s Florida Forward PC in March of 2016, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s Our Florida PC, and Winter Park businessman Chris King‘s Rise and Lead, Florida PC, earlier this year.

Still, with just 2017 figures tallied, Putnam’s Florida Grown has pulled in 120 checks of $10,000 or more; while Gillum’s Forward Florida has 21; Graham’s Our Florida, 19; and King’s Rise and Lead, five.

All the numbers reported here are through the end of April, posted Thursday on the Florida Division of Elections’ website.

King, who built wealth through a company developing affordable housing, has the biggest check so far, $1 million to his official campaign committee, from himself. Only he and Gillum have been officially in the race long enough to report official campaign committee donations, which normally are limited to $3,000 checks, except from the candidate. Gillum’s biggest official campaign committee check is just that, $3,000.

King raised $1.38 million in his official campaign committee, including another check from himself for $62,000, and $422,000 in his Rise and Lead independent committee. His father, attorney David King, also has contributed $166,000, and Winter Park accountant Thomas Beck, $47,000, to Rise and Lead.

But the independent committees are where the bulk of the candidates’ early money sits.

Putnam, who officially filed to run last week, had raised $11.4 million in his Florida Grown committee over the past 26 months, with $9.8 million of that coming in checks of at least $10,000. This year that committee has raised $3,96 million on checks of at least $10,000 to Florida Grown, which has raised a grand total of $4.58 million, on a total of 1,118 individual contributions this year.

The 2017 checks to Florida Grown are topped by FP&L’s $250,000 in January, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee Florida Jobs PAC’s $150,000 in February. The Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC also cut two $100,000 checks, in February and April.

Another 15 individuals, companies and PACs have donated $100,000 apiece, including Disney Worldwide Services, the Associated Industries of Florida’s AIF PAC, Anheuser-Busch Breweries heir August A. Busch of St. Louis, and several agriculture interests including U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston, Vero Beach citrus magnate William Becker, Myakka City industrial farmer John Falkner, and Peace River Citrus Products of Arcadia.

Gillum, who entered the race in early March, has the most-active official campaign fund, with more than 5,439 donations totaling $413,000, and consequently the greatest number of small donations. So far, he’s received 4,609 donations of less than $100 in that fund, compared with 233 for King, and 1,354 in Putnam’s Florida Grown PC.

Gillum’s Florida Forward PC, which he opened a year before, has taken only seven checks under $100. That committee has received 21 checks of at least $10,000, totaling $495,000 of the $665,000 Florida Forward has raised.

Tops among Gillum’s big donors are New York billionaire liberal-cause rainmaker George Soros, who donated $100,000 at the end of March; his son Alex Soros of New York, who donated $50,000 the same day; and Hollywood TV and movie producer Norman Lear, who donated $50,000, also on March 31.

Graham, who also officially filed last week, had raised $679,000 since early February in her Our Florida PC. Nineteen checks of at least $10,000 accounted for much of that, $645,000.

Those checks are topped by $250,000 she transferred into that committee from her congressional campaign committee in February. After that, airport construction magnate James Finch of Lynn Haven, health care software entrepreneur Michael Singer of Alachua, and attorney Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville, a former congressional candidate, each contributed $50,000.

As for the states of origin for the money, Gillum has shown the most ability to raise money outside of Florida, particularly in California and New York. His official campaign has drawn 282 checks from California totaling $39,000, and 213 from New York, also totaling about $39,000. He also has 104 checks from Georgia, totaling about $10,000.

Gillum has 3,815 checks from Floridians, good for $268,000.

His Florida Forward committee shows a similar pattern, though dominated by those big Soros and Lear checks. Four checks from New York brought in $165,000, and seven checks from California brought in $121,000. From Florida, Forward Florida has received 46 checks for about $287,000. The committee also has gotten $41,000 out of Massachusetts, and $37,000 out of Georgia.

Relative to what he’s drawn from the Sunshine State, Putnam has done very little out of state fundraising, with at least 3,055 checks from Floridians, totaling more than $10,800,000, in his Florida Grown PC. He has gotten $157,000 out of Missouri, including that big Busch donation, on eight checks; and more than $50,000 from Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, on a handful of checks.

Likewise, King and Graham have drawn relatively little from out-of-state.

Graham’s Our Florida PC has gotten 27 of 32 checks from Florida, tallying $623,000 of her $679,000. Another check came in from Washington D.C. for $20,000; two came in from Rhode Island totaling $20,000, and one from Utah for $10,000.

King’s official campaign committee has received 403 of its 480 checks from Floridians, worth $1.31 million of that committee’s $1.38 million total. He’s gotten seven checks each from Colorado and North Carolina, totaling $18,000 and $11,000 respectively. His Rise and Lead PC has received no out-of-state checks.

FloridaPolitics.com nabs three honors in Green Eyeshade Awards

FloridaPolitics.com received three honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Awards, highlighting the best journalism of 2016 throughout 10 states of the southeast United States.

Martin Dyckman received a second-place award for online serious commentary for his columns exploring the problems with Florida’s death penalty laws.

Jim Rosica received a third-place award for online business reporting for his stories on gambling in Florida.

Scott Powers received a third-place award for online political reporting for his stories on Central Florida politics.

The Green Eyeshade Awards, open to journalists from West Virginia through Louisiana, received more than 900 entries for awards that included breakouts for newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and online reporting, and for student journalists.

FloridaPolitics.com publisher Peter Schorsch hailed the awards as a breakthrough for his organization, in its first foray into journalism competitions.

“I would have never thought when I launched my local political blog that one day we would be competing with the major traditional news organizations, especially in categories like business reporting,” Schorsch said.

In Dyckman’s category, online serious commentary, the first place award went to Mary C. Curtis, a North Carolina journalist, for her columns published in Roll Call, The Undefeated, The Root and NPR. Andre Perry, a Louisiana journalist writing for The Hechinger Report, took third.

In Rosica’s category, online business reporting, Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post took the top honor, and Tom Hudson, of WLRN Public Radio and Television in South Florida, took second.

In Powers’ category, online political reporting, the WLRN staff took first place, and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting took second.

The other top online awards winners were:

The Palm Beach Post won first place in the online digital media presentation.

Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm.com won first place for online deadline reporting.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press won first place awards in both online non-deadline reporting and online investigative reporting.

Memphis Magazine won first place for the best online blog.

Alabama Media Group won first place for both online sports reporting and online sports commentary.

WLRN, WUSF of Tampa and WMFE of Orlando jointly won first place for online specialty site.

The Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact won first place for online public service journalism.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting won first place in online videography.

Florida’s Democrats, Carlos Curbelo call for investigation after James Comey firing

Florida’s Democratic members of Congress are expressing outrage over Tuesday evening’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and saying it solidifies their demands for an independent investigation into ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

In statements released last night, Democrats were using words like “disgusting,” “disturbing” and “preposterous,” even as many acknowledged that they were unhappy with Comey dating to his announced findings about Hillary Clinton‘s email scandal on the even of the 2016 election.

At least two Florida Republicans weighed in, as U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall expressed concern about the questions the Trump’s firing of Comey raises and called for a special investigation by Congress, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach called it “the right decision.”

Typical of many of the Democrats was U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who called Tuesday,  “a dark day for justice in America,” and then went on to criticize Comey for his past actions.

“The conduct of FBI Director James Comey before the 2016 Election was certainly disturbing, and undoubtedly deserved criticism and scrutiny,” Wasserman Schultz declared. “But the reasoning and timing behind this firing is absolutely preposterous and unbelievable. It smacks of a Nixon-esque cover up of President Trump’s Kremlin ties. And with this egregious political power play, there is now no question that a special prosecutor is needed, because Americans absolutely deserve an open, independent investigation into Trump’s Russian connections.”

Some were more measured. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park said the firing, “gives rise to many questions, which I have no doubt will be examined in the coming days.

“However,” Murphy continued. “the President’s action makes one thing crystal clear: there needs to be a swift, independent and non-partisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Congress and the American people deserve to know all the facts, especially if we are to prevent further foreign interferences in our democracy. We should follow the evidence wherever it leads—regardless of whom it may implicate. The American people deserve an inquiry that is above partisan politics and is solely devoted to uncovering the truth.”

On the Republican side, Curbelo called the firing “an extraordinary decision that “raises many questions all of which must be answered.

“Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time,” Curbelo continued. “It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”

DeSantis stressed that the firing should rightfully remove the concerns about politics in the FBI.

“President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties,” DeSantis stated. “I look forward to the President nominating a strong director who will keep the FBI focused on its core mission and out of the political thicket.”

Among other Democrats weighing in:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Now it is more clear than ever that we need an independent commission to get to the truth of Russia’s interference with our election.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa:

“President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is a blatant attempt to stall the FBI’s ongoing investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is also part of a disturbing trend — first, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is fired by Trump after informing the White House of deep concerns about Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his activities with Russia. Now, Comey is fired by Trump a week after testifying that the FBI is conducting its investigation.

“Trump may well be trying to distract the American people from the very troubling conflicts of interest, and those connections between Trump’s former national security adviser and Russia that were known about for some 18 days before Trump reluctantly fired Flynn. It is past time for an independent, bipartisan investigation. Trump may want to bury the investigation, but his presidency will continue under a cloud unless a special prosecutor or independent commission is established and the facts are fully presented to the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg:

“I don’t disagree with the decision to remove Director Comey from his post given his actions over the past year. But the timing is extremely suspect given the FBI recently announced they are investigating the Trump administration for alleged ties to Russia.

“Now President Trump gets to nominate the head of the agency leading that investigation. We need a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation, and the Senate must drill down to a degree like never before on whoever is nominated to replace Director Comey. The integrity of our top law enforcement agency – and our democracy – is at stake!”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton:

“Not since President Nixon have we seen such a disgraceful abuse of power and attack on the integrity of our system of justice. During one of the most important national security investigations of our time, Director Comey’s firing is a blatant attack on the independence of the Justice Department. This behavior – firing the person who is investigating you – may pass in [Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, but it is disgracefully below the office of the President of the United States.

“This is only the latest in a string of alarming moves by the White House: first they fired acting-Attorney General Yates for calling attention to their compromised National Security Advisor, then Preet Bharara, and now Director Comey.

“Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions has lost any remaining credibility by getting involved in an investigation from which he promised to recuse himself. Given the actions of the White House, the American people unfortunately must now question whether anyone affiliated with this Administration can investigate this case of Russian influence honestly, thoroughly, and independently. We need a special prosecutor and an independent commission to continue this investigation without the whiff of political oversight or interference.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar:

“The FBI Director’s firing cries out for a Special Prosecutor. Up until the moment of his dismissal, Director Comey was actively investigating President Donald John Trumps’ connection to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The American people deserve to know why Director Comey was fired without reason and Donald Trump needs to explain himself immediately.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens:

“Like many, I was stunned to learn that President Trump has fired FBI director James Comey. This dismissal came as Comey was leading an investigation into whether individuals connected to the president coordinated with Russia to impact the 2016 presidential election.

“This abrupt action raises many serious questions and is further proof that an independent prosecutor should be named to head the Russia investigation. It also could make the possibility of such an appointment more likely. The president may think that firing Comey will help his case, but no matter who conducts the investigation, Comey will now likely be called to testify under oath and his words could do the administration far more harm than good.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach:

“I am no fan of Director Comey, but I’m deeply disturbed by President Trump’s decision to fire the man who is investigating him. This just goes to show that it’s now more important than ever to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in our presidential election, and possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando tweeted this on Twitter:

“Trump fires Comey while under investigation about Russia-Watergate all over again! #Sayfie @FlaDems @HispanicCaucus”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee posted this on Facebook:

“The American people deserve to know the truth about the full Russia investigation and we need an independent special prosecutor to oversee it. #ComeyFiring”

House raises eyebrows by arguing prosecutors have no discretion on death penalty

In a friend of the court brief bound to raise state attorneys’ eyebrows throughout Florida, the Florida House is arguing that prosecutors have no discretion with regard to capital punishment, that the state Legislature’s intent was to rest all discretion with juries.

The House filed the brief in the Florida Supreme Court case of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala versus Gov. Rick Scott. The issues, in that case, are whether prosecutorial discretion gives Ayala the power to refuse all capital punishment prosecutions, as she’s done; and whether the governor has the right to strip capital cases away from her, as he’s consequently done.

The brief, filed late Wednesday, argues that a state attorney is not the one to decide on death penalties. It contends the state attorney’s role is more clerical, to review facts of a case to determine if aggravating circumstances exist that could merit a death penalty, and then leave the decision of death or life in prison entirely up to the jury.

The House of Representatives is one of the numerous bodies filing amicus curiae briefs in the case, indicating the enormous ramifications the legal battle holds for prosecutors, the governor, and the Florida Legislature. Among others expected is a dissenting brief from several Democratic members of the House and Florida Senate.

The official House brief declares, “the policy of this State, reflected in legislative enactments, reserves to the jury — speaking for the community and reflecting that community’s values — the threshold decision whether death should be an authorized punishment for a capital murder conviction. A state attorney, by contrast, has no authority to abrogate the Legislature’s death penalty policy within her circuit.”

Ayala’s lead attorney, Roy L. Austin Jr., called the House argument “stunning.”

“This is a stunning position that calls for an unconstitutional interpretation of the Florida statutes, not to mention contradicting the positions and pleadings from the governor, the attorney general, the FPAA and every state attorney in Florida,” Austin said in a written statement to Orlando-Rising.com.

On March 16, Ayala, the newly-elected state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, announced that she had reviewed Florida’s laws, court decisions, and the opinions of various parties to conclude that Florida’s death sentence law was not just for anyone, so she would not use it. Scott responded by stripping 23 cases from her and reassigning them to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

Ayala sued, both in the state Supreme Court and in U.S. District Court, asserting her rights under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, and challenging Scott’s authority to reassign cases if she had not violated any laws.

At issue in most of the filings so far is whether prosecutorial discretion could be exercised before or after Ayala or any other prosecutor reviewed all the facts of the case and weighed aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

But the House argued that the prosecutor does not have discretion, even after he or she reviews the facts of a case. That could fly in the face of the common practice among prosecutors, who often weigh a number of factors, from victims’ families desires to potential plea bargains, in deciding whether to pursue death penalty prosecutions.

In the brief, a section title lays it out bluntly: “The Legislature’s capital sentencing scheme leaves no discretion to the state attorney to assess whether death should be an authorized punishment in a capital murder case.”

In another argument that may make state attorneys uncomfortable, the House also challenged the independence of state attorneys.

Citing a 1939 Florida Supreme Court Decision and several statutes, the brief argues that a “state attorney in this State is not merely a prosecuting officer in the Circuit in which he is; he is also an officer of the State in the general matter of the enforcement of the criminal law. … It is the State, and not the County, that pays his salary and official expense. And when a state officer like the petitioner refuses or is unable to follow the State’s policies as set by the Legislature, the Legislature fairly can expect that either the Governor, or a chief circuit judge, will find someone who will.”

While installing panels, Gwen Graham vows to push solar energy

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent a good part of Wednesday installing solar panels on roofs in Orlando, while vowing she’ll do all she can to make the Sunshine State a solar energy leader.

It’s not one now.

Florida’s solar energy generation per person falls somewhere between Illinois and Ohio, well behind such un-sunshiny states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, and New Jersey, and far, far behind the national leaders of Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada, according to CleanTechnica.com, a renewable energy news website.

“We need Florida to be the solar capital of the world. We need to be encouraging the use of renewable energies. And we are the Sunshine State as we stand here on the roof in the direct sunlight, and we should be using the sun that Florida receives to cut down on our need for other energy sources,” Graham said.

Graham was on the roof of homeowner Ruben Garcia in east Orange County Wednesday afternoon, taking part in one of her “Work Days,” a tradition she borrowed from her father, former Gov. Bob Graham, regularly spending a full day working someone else’s job, to learn what Florida workers do.

She announced her candidacy for governor in the 2018 election on Tuesday.

Garcia and some of his neighbors are part of the Orange County Solar Coop of Fl SUN, to bulk-purchase solar energy equipment for their homes at bulk prices.

Graham and officials of the solar contractor she was working with, ESA Renewables, said Florida must change its law that prevents third-party owners. The law prevents companies from underwriting (and then owning) residential and commercial solar energy generation equipment, in exchange for charging the property owners for the energy they produce, at rates discounted compared with traditional power companies.

“That’s something that other states. They don’t have that prohibition. I think there are four other states that prevent third-party ownership. It makes it far more challenging for people to take care of solar energy,” she said.

Justin Vandenbroeck, a senior project developer for ESA, said the typical rate for solar power equipment installation runs about $3.50 per watt. [Garcia’s coop is getting a rate of $2 per watt.] It takes equipment, he said, to generate anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 watts to service a whole home. That’s about $20,000-30,000 per house.

While homeowners’ energy bills could go away entirely, at that price, it could take 10-20 years for payback.

It’s why states with third-party solar power owners have far more solar energy in place, he said.

Solar energy is only part of her environmental record and platform Graham pushed Wednesday.

She said she supports repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, for which Republican Gov. Rick Scott is seeking to fund, but said that project stands alone in efforts to clean up the Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

Graham also said Republican Senate President Joe Negron‘s plan is a good start, albeit a “very small” one.

“I think we need a comprehensive approach to the Lake Okeechobee issue. We certainly need to repair the Hoover Dam. I don’t believe we can focus on just bringing water south or just repairing the dam. We need to bring people together to develop a comprehensive solution,” she said.

“We’ve got to get good, smart people, who care about the environmental future of Florida. The Everglades are the environmental heart of Florida. We need to get good, smart people back together again who are just focusing on how do we reverse course,” She said. “I think the Negron plan is a good start, but a very small start.”

One difference she has with Negron, she said, is she does not think there should be a prohibition on Florida using eminent domain to address Everglades cleanup.

“We don’t want to be limiting the state of Florida in terms of what we need to be doing with our environment,” she said. “We have a long ways to go to get our environment back to a healthy state. Clearly, the last six years have been the worst in our environment’s history.”

Rick Scott declares opioid emergency in Florida

Rick Scott is declaring a public health emergency across Florida due to the epidemic of heroin and other opioids abuse, addiction, and overdose deaths wracking the Sunshine State.

While the governor signed an executive order Wednesday following action by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which declared a national opioid epidemic, it comes months after Democrats and a few others around the state urged him to declare an emergency.

Scott’s order will allow state officials to immediately draw down on more than $27 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant, awarded to Florida April 21.

Scott’s office said that before that grant award, Florida could have faced months of delays in distributing the money to local communities.

Also, Scott’s executive order calls on Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to issue a standing order for Naloxone, an emergency treatment for opioid overdoses. Naloxone can be used by first responders as an effective and immediate treatment for opioid overdoses.

Scott also directed the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to meet with communities in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange counties to identify additional strategies.

“I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up,” Scott stated in a news release. “The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help. Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic, and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”

In 2015 opioids were blamed for more than 3,900 deaths in Florida, according to Scott’s order.

And indications are it has become worse since.

On Tuesday, an Orange County heroin and opioid task force assembled by Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Sheriff Jerry Demings heard that treatment of patients with an opioid addition at Aspire, the county’s mental health and substance abuse contractor, has more than doubled since 2015. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was fueled by a 450 percent increase in heroin addictions.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said the governor’s declarations would “help strengthen our continued efforts to combat the national opioid epidemic claiming lives in Florida by providing additional funding to secure prevention, treatment and recovery support services.”

Republicans quickly attack Gwen Graham as non-achieving, non-transparent

Republicans wasted little time, setting their sights quickly on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham Tuesday, accusing her of having no achievements in public service, and hiding some of her congressional records.

In separate releases, the Republican Party of Florida said she lacks accomplishments to run on; the Republican Governors Association said the former congresswoman did not release her congressional records before leaving office at the end of December.

The pair of responses may indicate a level of concern the Republicans could have for a Graham candidacy, as neither party organization quickly attacked the announced candidacies of the other two Democrats running for governor, Winter Park businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Graham’s campaign dismissed the charges as typical partisan responses:

“These predictable, partisan attacks are about as standardized and one-dimensional as the high-stakes tests Florida Republicans keep heaping on our schools and kids. Let’s focus on Florida — that’s certainly what Gwen Graham is doing.”

In the RPOF release, Florida Republican Chair Blaise Ingoglia called Graham a product of the Democratic Party’s “cookie cutter machine.”

“Gwen Graham is just another example of what’s wrong with the Democrat Party — a candidate who is running on her father’s name ID, rather than on her own accomplishments. Graham’s only record of achievement is that of non-achievement! said running for office does not qualify you for governing a state,” Ingoglia stated in a release.

“It requires a track record of getting things done,” he added. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Graham, and the people of Florida deserve better and will ultimately choose experience over rhetoric.”

The Republican Governors Association brought up a side effort launched late last fall, when it sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Graham’s congressional office seeking all records associated with her family’s businesses. At that time, her office responded publicly to the media, saying there were no such records, but did not respond to the RGA because congressional offices are exempt from the FOIA law.

The RGA brought it up again Tuesday, in a news release saying she had promised transparency, but failed to deliver.

“Graham’s efforts to hide her congressional records proves she can’t be trusted to lead the state as governor. Floridians deserved to know if Graham used her position in government to benefit any of her families’ companies or affiliated businesses — and she can only prove that by immediately releasing these congressional records and communications.”

Out of the gate, EMILY’s List backing Gwen Graham in Florida governor’s race

No sooner has Democrat Gwen Graham entered the governor’s race than she picked up the endorsement of the national women’s candidates support group EMILY’s List.

Graham had also earned the EMILY’s List backing when she ran for Congress in 2014.

“Gwen Graham doesn’t need to tell Floridians that she’s a champion for women and families in her state — her record proves that beyond a doubt,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock stated in a news release. “While serving in one of the most divisive Congresses in memory, Gwen fought to ensure Florida’s veterans received the health care they deserved, to end gender discrimination in pay, and for affordable college education for Floridians and all Americans.”

Graham’s entry into the race Tuesday morning presents Florida voters with three major early Democratic candidates, including her, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; and one major Republican, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who entered the race Monday.

EMILY’s List also is backing four other gubernatorial candidates around the country so far, incumbent Govs. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and candidates Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan.

For a love of Florida, Gwen Graham launches bid for governor

Declaring a love for Florida and its people, as well as outrage over Tallahassee’s lack of emphasis on public education and the environment, Democrat Gwen Graham is running for governor.

In an announcement in Miami Gardens Tuesday morning, Graham, a former congresswoman and the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, promised that she would end high-stakes testing, work for an increased minimum wage and paid sick leave for Floridians, and take immediate and vigorous steps to protect the state’s environment.

But first, Graham professed a deep love for Florida. No one wants to talk about love, she said, but she will.

“My love for Florida, my love for Florida runs deep,” Graham said in her 20-minute address. “My dreams for Florida run wide. But my patience, my patience for the inaction in this state that I love has run out, and that is why I am running for governor. And that is why I am determined to win.”

Graham, 54, became the third Democrat to formally announce a bid for governor in 2018, following Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

On Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam became the first Republican to announce a campaign.

Standing before Miami Carrol City High School, where she said she spent a “workday” Monday, Graham spent much of her speech blasting the past 20 years of education reform efforts in Tallahassee as degrading students, turning over the schools to what she called the “education industry” intent on making money off high-stakes student tests.

“And as governor, I will not just criticize this culture of teaching to the tests, I will end it,” she said, even if she needs to use a line-veto to do so.

Graham also vowed to commit to technical and career-based training for students beginning in middle school; investing in roads, bridges and mass transit; and pushing to diversify the economy away from tourism and agriculture, and toward new economies, technology, robotics, health care and solar energy, with a new focus on entrepreneurs and home businesses.

She saved her last — and most searing — comments for the environment, accusing Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans of having done more to neglect and pollute it than at any time in history.

“The love we all have begins and ends with our beautiful, beautiful environment,” Graham said. “Our beaches and our waterways and our forests and our wetlands, our springs, and of course and our treasured River of Grass, our Everglades. Over the past six years, it has devastated me to see what Rick Scott and the Tallahassee politicians have done to pollute and ruin our precious land and waters more than any time in Florida history.”

She pledged to use Amendment 1 funds as voters intended “to protect and purchase threatened lands and waters;” as well as ban fracking and fight oil drilling off the coasts.

And she said it is time Florida began giving serious consideration to the long-term and immediate ramifications of climate change.

“We all know, we all know that climate change is real! We live on a peninsula! We live on a peninsula and we are surrounded by water and our coasts are being threatened by rising tides, and our forests are raging with fires.” she decried.

“But instead of facing reality, what does Donald Trump say? He calls it ‘a hoax.’ And what does Rick Scott do? He has promoted the use of the words ‘climate change’ in state government. The Florida we love is running out of time.”

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