Scott Powers - 5/33 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Gwen Graham’s politics molded by father, Florida life

One thing distinguishes Gwen Graham from other candidates (and possible candidates) for Governor — she is a hugger.

Prepare to be hugged, Florida.

Graham, 54, the one-term former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, has little professional political experience, having run for only one election. She won that one by barely a percentage point, taking Florida’s 2nd Congressional District away from Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, only to give it up when redistricting painted her district red.

Now Graham is entering a race that already has two major Democratic candidates, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King, and appears wide-open for more, all seeking a shot at something her party hasn’t won in nearly a generation, the governor’s office.

Yet Graham is a woman who grew up in politics, daughter of legendary Democrat Bob Graham who served as governor when she was in junior high and high school, and as U.S. Senator through much of her adulthood.

It’s as close to Florida gets to a Democratic royal family: Her grandfather was a state senator; her uncle, publisher of The Washington Post. The Grahams have been established in South Florida for generations, though she has spent most of her life in Tallahassee.

From her father, she shares moderate positions on many economic issues and her deeply-held liberal viewpoints on Florida’s environment and justice, and a strong alliance with organized labor.

The National Journal rated her the most independent member of the Florida delegation.

Her voting record in Congress showed that mix of moderate economic and foreign affairs politics. And she cast some votes progressive Democrats hold against her, supporting new leadership against U.S. House Speaker. Nancy Pelosi, and for the Keystone XL Pipeline, keeping the military prison open at Guantánamo Bay, and for an attempt to suspend debt relief to Iran.

But on other issues such as her efforts to help restore Apalachicola Bay and the Everglades, to support veterans seeking jobs, women’s rights, children’s issues, she’s been reliable for Democrats.

Consequently, only a handful of the strongest right-wing or left-wing groups scored her exceptionally well or horribly bad on their respective political agendas, while others often crossed over to give her at least a little, but restrained love.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, typically reserving high marks for Republicans, scored her a 75, as did the Associated General Contractors of America. She received only a 39 from progressive Common Cause and just 64 from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Nevertheless, Defenders of Wildlife gave her an 83; the Human Rights Campaign, 100; Club For Growth, 7; and Freedom Works 16.

One issue she’s carved out clearly is support for women and women’s health. Planned Parenthood gave her 100, while National Right to Life, a 0. And last time she ran, Emily’s List backed her.

Gwen Graham also has inherited much of her father’s image and connections and is someone able to bring in a Bill Clinton or a Joe Biden to campaign for her, and able to attract some of the top mainstream Democratic political operatives to work with her.

While in office, she also picked up on her father’s “workday” events, regularly spending a day working someone else’s job in Florida, in a hotel, a textile factory and elsewhere.

But while her father’s calling card was his handshake, Gwen Graham’s is the hug. A self-professed serial hugger, Graham fashions a matronly image to governing.

Graham is twice-married, currently to Steve Hurm, general counsel to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. She has three young-adult children, Sarah, Graham, and Mark, from her previous marriage, and spent several years as a stay-at-home mother before going to work at Leon County Public Schools as a chief labor negotiator. Previously she had briefly practiced law in both Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

Hurm, a career law enforcement officer, has been battling Stage 4 prostate cancer, and Graham, who first declared a strong interest in running for governor last summer, put off a final decision until he was able to progress through treatment.

Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz vow bipartisan opposition to drilling

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and three Florida members of Congress, Democrats U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch, and Republican Vern Buchanan sounded an alarm Monday against President Donald Trump‘s potential interests in oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts and said they’re gathering bipartisan support in opposition.

Nelson, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Buchanan of Longboat Key announced they intend to file bills Monday to tighten protections set in drilling moratoria, adding they already have four other Florida Republican co-sponsors, and hope to get the entire Florida delegation. The bills are a reaction to an executive order Trump signed Friday, re-examining prospects of oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic.

The trio of Democrats gathered Monday at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Campus in Dania Beach, joined by Richard E. Dodge, executive director of Nova’s National Coral Reef Institute, to profess the dangers offshore drilling can pose to Florida’s ecology and beach tourism economy. They offered plenty of horrific remembrances of the Deepwater Horizon spill of seven years ago.

“Welcome to paradise,” Nelson said. “We want to keep that paradise.”

Nelson and Wasserman Schultz said they have all of Florida’s Democratic members of Congress and hope to get Florida’s Republican House members to sign on as co-sponsors, and that they already have commitments from Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, and Matt Gaetz.

One uncertainty, however, is whether Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will sign onto Nelson’s bill.

Nelson said he has spoken with Rubio, but “he has not signed on yet.”

The current federal bans on oil and gas leases and drilling off both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast extend until 2022. But Trump’s executive order on Friday rescinds a President Barack Obama order banning sonic testing for oil and gas on the Atlantic side, and also orders the U.S. Department of Interior to reassess the oil and gas prospects there.

The bills would require that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard weigh in as well, and sets other precautions, such as requiring NOAA to carry out a long-term marine environment monitoring and research program for the Gulf of Mexico. It also would extend the Gulf-side ban through 2027.

Buchanan, a lifelong opponent of drilling off the Florida coast, declared in a news release, “Florida’s beaches are vital to our economy and way of life. Our coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean.”

The sponsors said Trump’s order puts Florida’s coastlines at risk, signaling a desire to open the areas up to oil and gas leases.

“The oil boys will not stop. They think they have a friend in the White House. This is the opening salvo,” Nelson said of Trump’s executive order.

Wasserman Schultz called drilling along Florida’s coasts potential “environmental and economic suicide” for Florida.

“So let me be crystal clear: Florida’s bipartisan congressional delegation locks arms to defend our coast. We are drawing a unified line in the sand,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Rene Plasencia stars in Airbnb promotional video

Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia and his family are starring in a new promotional internet video released Friday by the vacation rental home marketing giant Airbnb.

The minute, 41-second video shows interviews with Plasencia, his wife Marucci Guzman, and their daughter, in scenes at vacation homes they have rented through Airbnb in Georgia and Tallahassee, as Plasencia and Guzman sing the praises of Airbnb.

They talk about the price, convenience, and other advantages of renting lodging through Airbnb, rather than hotels, for both pleasure trips and extended stays in Tallahassee for Florida Legislative Session business.

“Yeah, I would definitely recommend Airbnb for other travelers for either,” Plasencia says. “Really, for fun.”

Among the shots in the video are scenes from Plasencia’s and Guzman’s February wedding at the rustic cabin they rent regularly in Georgia.

The video also features the homeowner of the house Plasencia and Guzman rent in Tallahassee, identified as Quincie, who talks about the friendship she’s developed with them. So the video also aims at promoting to future Airbnb homeowner clients.

“Well, that’s the bonus. It’s just not all about the money,” Quincie says of the friendship.

Plasencia was not immediately available Friday to discuss the video.

He was not paid for the video, according to Airbnb.

Plasencia abstained from voting yesterday when the House of Representatives considered House Bill 425, which would have assisted Airbnb’s business, by imposing a statewide deregulation of local ordinances restricting vacation rental homes. The House voted down two amendments to the bill, without Plasencia’s votes.

He is not on any of the three committees that held hearings and voted in favor of HB 425.

HB 425 now is up for a third reading and House vote.

First Chris King campaign video mocks Rick Scott’s jobs record

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching his first campaign video on the internet, mocking Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs record and using the current governor in the video.

The ad begins with footage taken from one of Scott’s own videos, showing him in a radio studio declaring his mantra, “What have we done in the last six years? We have focused on jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“Here are the facts,” Scott continues. But that’s as far as he gets. As the video freezes on him, and then goes into a loop, repeating, “Here are the facts,” King offers his own list.

King is the Winter Park affordable housing developer who is one of two declared Democrats running for the 2018 election, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Citing the Orlando Sentinel, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and POLITIFACT, King’s new video notes that under Scott:

“Half of Florida’s jobs pay less than $15 an hour.”

“Florida ranks 40th in household income.” and

“there’s no question Florida’s wages are low by national standards.”

Then comes King’s slogan, “It’s time for new leadership,” followed by a a few seconds of silent video of King laughing and pumping his fist at some sort of luncheon.

Sally Boynton Brown coming from Idaho to be new Florida Dems president

Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party who also made a run for national chair this year, was named the new president of the Florida Democratic Party.

Brown replaces Scott Arceneaux, who in January as executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, under the transition taking place under newly-elected state chair Steven Bittel.

She also was known for a controversy that arose during her run for the DNC chair, when she declared at George Washington University, in a discussion of racial politics within the Democratic Party, that her job was to tell white people when to shut up. She has insisted that all the ensuing controversy – and she lost that election to Tom Perez – was taking her comments out of context; she was referring to white people trying to describe black culture.

Brown announced last week that she was stepping down from the Idaho Democratic Party after five years as executive director.

“Sally shares my optimistic, idealistic enthusiasm,” Bittel said in a news release issued by the Florida Dems. “Her national profile and experience as president of the Democratic State Party Directors are a testament to her impressive party and infrastructure building skills. I look forward to her bringing her knowledge of state party management to Florida as we work to turn our state back to blue.”

During her time as national president of the Association of State Democratic State Executive Directors, Brown traveled the country, training other Democratic parties how to operate, build infrastructure, balance budgets and win elections.

As the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, Boynton Brown has overseen Democratic victories, and begun successful statewide party building campaigns including candidate training and internship programs.

Also, Boynton Brown expanded the donor base in the Idaho Democratic Party, bringing them into the black and operating with a consistent surplus.  Most recently Boynton Brown received the We Are Emily national award from Emily’s List for her work in Democratic party building.

“I am thrilled to join the FDP team as we engage the grassroots in the work needed to build our party and to win local, state and federal races throughout Florida,” Brown said in the release.

“I look forward to working with everyone across the state as we invigorate the party and save Florida from the GOP policies that harm our lives every day.”

 

Supreme Court denies Aramis Ayala’s first writ to win back cases Rick Scott reassigned

The Florida Supreme Court denied the first attempt by Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala to win back first-degree murder cases that Gov. Rick Scott reassigned to another state attorney.

In denying Ayala’s emergency, non-routine petition to overturn Scott’s executive orders reassigning the cases to Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King, the Supreme Court concluded that the matter “is more properly addressed” through her other legal challenge, a writ of quo warrento, which she later filed.

That leaves the matter where most expected it to be left, in her second challenge of Scott’s action, a case that has drawn broad support for both Ayala and Scott from a variety of outside groups who expect the ruling to be pivotal in determining the extent of powers in Florida of both the state attorney and the governor.

At issue are Ayala’s refusal to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, and Scott’s determination that she is derelict in her duties, giving him the responsibility to reassign potential death penalty cases to someone else, in this case to King in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

In a ruling issued late Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied the first petition from Ayala, stating, “The Petition asks this Court to answer the same question of law, on a temporary basis, that the Court is asked to address in the separately filed Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto. That question is more properly addressed after both parties have been heard in the Quo Warranto action and will not be answered on a “temporary” basis.”

House forms first-ever Legislative Progressive Caucus

More than a dozen Democratic Florida House members have formed the Progressive Legislative Caucus, with firebrand state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando elected as its first chair.

The caucus held its organization meeting last week with Smith becoming chair, state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando vice chair, and state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo of Boca Raton as clerk.

“As we enter the final weeks of the 2017 legislative session, the Legislative Progressive Caucus will adopt caucus positions on key legislation to underscore our values and priorities,” Smith stated in a news release.

Other charter members included state Reps. Robert Asencio of Miami, Lori Berman of Lantana, Daisy Baez of Coral Gables, John Cortes of Kissimmee, Nicholas Duran of Miami, Joseph Gellar of Aventura, Evan Jenne of Dania Beach, Barrington Russell of Lauderdale Lakes, Sean Shaw of Tampa, Emily Slosberg of Boca Raton, Richard Stark of Weston, and Clovis Watson of Alachua.

The caucus put out a release stating that its members were inspired by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and aim to unite the progressive wing of the Democratic Caucus as a collective block to influence key legislation and advocate for progressive policy solutions that benefit all Floridians.

The caucus is committed to advocating for social and economic justice and security for all Floridians, protecting civil rights, civil liberties and advancing environmental protection and sustainability in the Sunshine State, according to the release.

21 “March for Science” events taking place across Florida today

Yes, scientists feel they’re under attack by politics too, and like minority groups, women, gun advocates, gun opponents, social activists, and others, they’re taking it to the streets.

Twenty-one “Marches for Science” are set to take place in Florida Saturday, Earth Day, all declared as satellite marches to the main one that will take place in Washington D.C. Organizers say they’ll have more than 400 such marches worldwide this weekend.

March for Science organizers are declaring their mission as to champion “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

Organized through scientists and supporters discussing the prospect through social media, on their website they declare that, yes, their effort “is explicitly a political movement, aimed at holding leaders in politics and science accountable. When institutions of any affiliation skew, ignore, misuse or interfere with science, we have to speak out.”

In Florida marches are planned Saturday for Clearwater, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Fort Walton Beach, Gainesville, Hudson, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami, Naples, New Smyrna Beach, Orlando, Palm Beach County, Panama City, Pensacola, Sarasota, Titusville, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach.

The dozens of partners sponsoring the event range from environmental groups such as the Earth Day Coalition and The Nature Conservancy, to science specialty groups as the American Society for Cell Biology and the Planetary Society, to broad groups such as the National Center for Science Education and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as several universities.

They’re maintaining the marches are non-partisan.

“Science is nonpartisan,” said Blake Williams, spokesman for For Our Future spokesman, which is co-organizing the Florida marches. “Advocating for evidence-based policies and solutions serves everyone’s best interests, and Saturday’s march is about speaking out in support of science together.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidates call Frank Artiles’ resignation ‘right thing’

Democratic gubernatorial candidates and potential candidates are declaring Friday that Frank Artiles did the right thing and one is wondering why Gov. Rick Scott stayed out, after Artiles resigned his seat in the Florida Senate because of his vulgar comments to comments earlier in the week.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, an announced candidate, called Artiles’ resignation the “right move for Florida.”

“The kind of hurtful rhetoric that Senator Artiles used, while still far too common, only serves to divide us against each other,” Gillum said. “From every corner of our state, we know that there is a lot more that we share in common than what separates us. Now we must refocus our attention on the issues that can help the most people: creating good paying jobs, reinvesting in public education, and ensuring access to health care for all.”

Orlando businessman Chris King, an announced candidate, questioned the silence of Scott on the Artiles matter, after the senator accosted two black, Democratic colleagues in a private club Monday night with a tirade of vulgar and racist comments.

“While it’s gratifying so many Floridians across the state came together to demand accountability, there was one conspicuous absence — Rick Scott,” King said in a release. “The Governor of our great state should be the first voice to demand racism is never normalized, not duck and hide from leadership. Governor Scott’s refusal to stand with the well-meaning people of Florida is a result of the arrogance that comes with decades of one-party rule, and an important reminder of the need for change.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is exploring a candidacy, declared, “After doing all the wrong things, Sen. Artiles finally did the right thing by resigning.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, who is exploring a candidacy, tweeted her reaction:

“I’m proud of @SenAudrey2eet & @SenatorThurston for standing up to a bully. Their strength is why Artiles’ hate is leaving the Senate.”

David Simmons condemns Frank Artiles comments; calls for due process, suggests PTSD might be factor

Republican state Sen. David Simmons sharply condemned racist and vulgar comments made earlier this week by state Sen. Frank Artiles. 

The behavior is nothing new, Simmons said, but he puts his faith in the Senate’s due process to determine a judgment by the body.

Simmons, of Altamonte Springs, then suggested that Artiles’ behavior might be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder — or some other circumstance — and the Senate needs to hear of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances before passing formal judgment.

Artiles has acted like this before, he added.

“I consider his comments reprehensible and unacceptable. I believe that at the same time that he is entitled to a full and fair hearing,” Simmon said.

On Tuesday night, in the Governors Club in Tallahassee, Artiles reportedly accosted Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, who are both African-American, calling her a “b***h” and a “girl” in a dispute over legislation.

Artiles also used a variation of the “N-word,” referring to her and to white Republicans who supported Joe Negron as Senate President. Artiles apologized on the Senate floor Wednesday, but refused growing calls for his resignation.

Thurston has lodged a Senate rules complaint against Artiles seeking his expulsion. An investigative report by General Counsel Dawn Roberts is due next Tuesday. Simmons said that process needs to proceed.

“I do not believe this is an isolated incident of conduct. I believe that Sen. Artiles has spoken to multiple people in this fashion,” Simmons said.

“I also know that he is an Iraq veteran. I know while there’s no question that he said these things, because he’s admitted it and apologized fort them. The question I have is what aggravating and mitigating circumstances exist regarding why he is and has been acting in this manner. I don’t believe that he should be denied the ability to show that he may have PTSD; he may have some other circumstances,” Simmons continued. “I don’t know. I’m not going to prejudge the type of judgment that we should impose upon him as a Senate.”

Simmons explicitly said he condemned Artiles’ comments Thursday, a declaration that came after the Orange County and Seminole County Democrats jointly issued a statement Thursday afternoon demanding that Simmons speak up. Simmons said he had previously spoken up, giving a similar response to another reporter before the Democrats’ joint statement.

The Orange and Seminole Democrats’ statement, signed by Orange Democratic Chair Wes Hodge and Seminole Democratic Chair Jeff Wilkinson, denounced Artiles’ comments as “bigoted” and called on Simmons, “to immediately condemn his colleague’s remarks. They do not represent Central Florida’s values, and cannot be allowed to go unaddressed.”

Simmons, who says he’s 98 percent decided to run for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District for Orange and Seminole counties, a seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, did just that, calling Artiles’ comments “reprehensible,” and part of a pattern of behavior.

“We all know they’re not the only comments he’s made. He made comments against the Senate president. He’s made comments against other Republican senators. And he’s made comments to other senators, on other occasions,” Simmons said.

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