Republican Senate hopefuls call on Barack Obama to fire VA Secretary

Two Republican Senate hopefuls are calling on President Barack Obama to fire the head of Veterans Affairs.

On Monday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said the VA shouldn’t use wait times as a measure of success, comparing the wait times for health care to the house people wait for rides at Disney theme parks. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spent waiting for an appointment.

His comments immediately came under fire, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the comments “disgusting and beyond the pale.” Ryan, according to the Associated Press, stopped short of calling for him to step down.

On Tuesday, Republicans Carlos Beruff and Carlos Lopez-Cantera called on the president to fire McDonald. In a statement, Beruff said McDonald’s comments “are proof he’s not the right man to get the VA back on track.”

“VA Secretary McDonald’s comments demonstrate ignorance and are proof he’s not the right man to get the VA back on track. In the real world, if things aren’t going well, new leadership is brought in to chart a new course,” said Beruff in a statement. “But in government, we often have a complete lack of accountability. It is long past time for accountability at the VA. Our veterans deserve leaders in Washington who will eliminate the bureaucratic inefficiencies and waste. President Obama should fire McDonald today.”

Lopez-Cantera said McDonald has “”grossly failed to hold himself or his agency accountable to our nation’s heroes.”

“With continued reports of manipulated wait times at the VA, Secretary Robert McDonald’s comments were not only uncalled for, they were indicative of an appallingly dismissive culture within the highest levels of the VA,” said Lopez-Cantera in a statement. “Waiting for care at the VA is certainly not the same thing as waiting in line at Disney, and the Secretary should be ashamed of his nonchalance. Veterans have died waiting for care, yet Mr. McDonald and the rest of his leadership team have failed to take care of those who cared enough to risk their lives to protect our freedoms.”

Beruff and Lopez-Cantera are among the five Republicans running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. They’ll face Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In swing state suburbs, white women are skeptical of Donald Trump

For Donald Trump to win the White House in November, he’ll need the votes of women like Elizabeth Andrus.

Yet Andrus, a registered Republican from Delaware, Ohio, sees “buffoonery” in the presumptive Republican nominee and says “I am not on the Trump train.” With all the trouble in the world, she went on, “you just don’t want Donald Trump as president.”

Her negative impression of Trump was shared by most of the dozens of white, suburban women from politically important states who were interviewed by The Associated Press this spring. Their views are reflected in opinion polls, such as a recent AP-GfK survey that found 70 percent of women have unfavorable opinions of Trump.

Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s campaign sees that staggering figure as a tantalizing general election opening.

While white voters continue to abandon the Democratic Party, small gains with white women could help put likely nominee Clinton over the top if the November election is close. Democrats believe these women could open up opportunities for Clinton in North Carolina, where President Barack Obama struggled with white voters in his narrow loss in the state 2012, and even in Georgia, a Republican stronghold that Democrats hope to make competitive.

Patty Funderburg of Charlotte, North Carolina, voted for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, but says she’s already convinced that Trump won’t get her vote.

“He’s not who I’d want to represent our country,” said Funderburg, a 54-year-old mother of three.

Trump insists he’s “going to do great with women.” He’s also said he will link Clinton aggressively to past indiscretions with women by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

He made good on that pledge Monday, releasing an online video featuring a photo of the former president with a cigar in his mouth and statements that appear to come from women who have accused Clinton of sexual assault. Trump sent the video from his Twitter account with the message, “Is Hillary really protecting women?”

The businessman also has previewed an argument focused on national security, with echoes of the pitch that President George W. Bush successfully made to white suburban women during his 2004 re-election.

“Women want, above all else, they want security,” Trump told The Associated Press recently. “They want to have a strong military, they want to have strong borders. They don’t want crime.” He said “Hillary is viewed poorly on that.”

Not so in the AP-GfK poll. About 40 percent of women surveyed said Clinton would be best at protecting the country and handling the threat posed by the Islamic State group, and about 30 percent said Trump.

Throughout the primary, Clinton has talked about policies meant to appeal to women: equal pay, expanded child care, paid family and medical leave and more.

And Trump has his own complicated past regarding women and has faced criticism for his actions both in his personal life and at his businesses toward them. He’s vigorously defended his treatment of women, as has his daughter Ivanka Trump, who said her father “has total respect for women.”

A super political action committee backing Clinton has released its first television advertisements featuring Trump’s contentious statements about women.

“Does Donald Trump really speak for you?” the super PAC ad asks.

For many of the women interviewed, the answer appears to be no.

Andrus, a Republican who nevertheless voted twice for Obama, praised Trump’s political skills and argued his business career indicates an intellect and ability that could benefit the nation.

But his temperament, she said, is somewhere between “buffoonery” and “complete narcissism.”

“It would be like having Putin for president,” she added, referring to Russia’s sometimes belligerent president, Vladimir Putin.

Erin Freedman, a 38-year-old from Reston, Virginia, said Trump scares her. While she’s an enthusiastic backer of Clinton’s primary rival, Bernie Sanders, she said she’d have no problem backing the former secretary of state against Trump in a general election.

Even some reluctant Trump supporters say they want him to dial back the braggadocio and caustic insults, and engage people more seriously.

“He’s the nominee, so I’ll vote for him,” said Renee Herman, a 45-year-old from Sunbury, Ohio, who preferred retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and her home-state governor, John Kasich, in the GOP primary field. “But it’s time we get past all this showmanship and hear from him what he actually wants to do and his plans for how to do it.”

Trump’s best opening is that Clinton, who is on the cusp of clinching her party’s nomination, would enter the November race with a majority of Americans taking a dim view of her candidacy. Fifty-five percent have a negative view of Clinton, including 53 percent of women, in the AP-GfK poll.

“Anybody but Hillary,” said Carolyn Owen, a 64-year-old educator from Clayton, North Carolina, near Raleigh. She said Trump wasn’t her first choice, “but it’s better than the alternative.”

While Obama won the support of women overall in his two White House campaigns, white women have increasingly been shifting toward the Republican Party in recent elections. Obama only won 42 percent of white women in 2012. Romney won 56 percent of white women, more than Bush and the party’s 2008 nominee, Sen. John McCain.

Clinton’s hopes will largely hinge on replicating Obama’s coalition of blacks, Hispanics and young people. In both of his elections, Obama earned near-unanimous support from black women, while drawing the votes of roughly 7 in 10 Hispanic women. But she would have more room for error with those groups if she can increase Democrats’ share of white women.

Another potentially favorable scenario for Clinton involves Republican and independent women who can’t stomach a vote for Trump but also don’t want to vote for a Democrat. Maybe they simply stay home, keeping the GOP nominee’s vote totals down.

For Angee Stephens of Indianola, Iowa, that seems to be the only option at this point. She’s wary of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, which is the subject of an FBI investigation, and her past political decisions. But “Trump sort of scares me,” Stephens said.

In Georgia, Trump supporter Sue Everhart said she talks regularly with suburban Republican women struggling with whether to vote for Trump, and said some cite his boorishness. The former state party chairwoman said she tries to bring the conversation back to Clinton and remind Republicans “who we are running against.”

As for Trump’s penchant for controversial statements about women, Everhart said, “I learned a long time ago that most any man over 50 in this party, they like you as long as you’re making the cookies.”

“I should probably be offended,” she added. “But I’m not.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Trying to get jump on Zika preparations with money in limbo

Beg, borrow and steal: Zika preparation involves a bit of all three as federal, state and local health officials try to get a jump on the mosquito-borne virus while Congress haggles over how much money they really need.

With that financing in limbo, health officials are shifting resources and setting priorities — and not just in states where mosquitoes are starting to buzz. All but six states so far have seen travel-associated cases of Zika.

“Stealing money from myself” is how Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health describes raiding his agency’s malaria, tuberculosis and influenza programs to fund a Zika vaccine.

He needs more cash by the end of June to keep the vaccine on schedule. And there’s no guarantee those other critical diseases will recoup about $20 million.

“If we don’t get something soon, then we’re going to have a real problem,” Fauci said.

Adding to the stress: What if another health emergency comes along at the same time?

“It’s Zika now, but three months from now, who knows what it might be?” said Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist in Tennessee, where few counties have mosquito eradication efforts.

Yet with funding pleas unanswered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted $44 million to Zika from emergency preparedness grants that help state and local health departments with crises from flu outbreaks to hurricanes.

“You have to be careful when you take cuts from core infrastructure for the disease of the day,” Tennessee’s Jones said. “That’s a risky way to do things.”

Zika can cause devastating birth defects and fetal death if pregnant women become infected. Mosquitoes aren’t yet spreading Zika in the continental U.S., but the epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean has experts predicting small outbreaks here as mosquito season heats up. The more than 540 U.S. cases diagnosed so far involve travel to outbreak areas or sex with infected travelers. The CDC is tracking the outcomes of 157 Zika-infected pregnant women in the U.S., plus another 122 in U.S. territories.

Three months ago, President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fend off Zika. The House and Senate are arguing over how much to grant — and whether the money should come from cuts to other programs — with no final agreement in sight. House Republicans say the administration has padded its Zika request.

The Obama administration already shifted nearly $600 million from funds for Ebola flare-ups in West Africa and other accounts. On Friday, the president said lifetime care for a child born with Zika-caused brain damage may cost up to $10 million.

“Add that up. It doesn’t take a lot of cases for you to get to $1.9 billion. Why wouldn’t we want to make that investment now?” Obama said.

Many state and local health departments aren’t waiting, but efforts vary widely:

—Florida is no stranger to mosquito-borne outbreaks — it has handled small outbreaks of dengue, carried by the same mosquito as Zika — and is squeezing money out of its usual budget to step up training and traps for areas that need extra help. Officials opened a Zika information hotline that has fielded more than 1,700 calls since February. Miami-Dade County is stepping up enforcement of standing water violations and statewide, residents are being told to screen windows and rid their property of containers that trap rainwater.

Gov. Rick Scott has said the threat of a Zika outbreak should trigger the same response as an approaching hurricane and last week lobbied in Washington for more resources. While Scott hasn’t named a dollar figure, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has supported Obama’s request. “It’s a mistake for Congress to try and deal with Zika on the cheap,” he said on Friday.

—New Orleans’ health department has begun sending staffers into neighborhoods to educate residents about Zika and advise them on making their yards less mosquito-friendly — workers also preparing for hurricane season.

“Whether we get money or not, we’re going to do what we got to do,” said health director Charlotte Parent. “But it sure would help to have those extra bodies to get that work done.”

—Virginia took about $700,000 remaining from a federal Ebola grant to hire two mosquito biologists, pay for some testing of mosquitoes and travelers, and educate the public, including plans to hang information on 450,000 doors.

This marks Virginia’s first mosquito surveillance program since 2007.

—Texas can perform dozens of blood tests a week for Zika, but that capacity could easily be overwhelmed if there’s an outbreak, Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt said.

The state is spending $2 million in federal emergency preparedness money on public awareness but can’t estimate how much more it needs, in part because mosquito control, like in many states, is funded almost entirely at the county and local level.

—Savannah and surrounding Chatham County has Georgia’s best-funded mosquito-control department at $3.8 million and will send some mosquitoes for Zika testing at the University of Georgia.

“A lot of these counties wouldn’t be able to afford to do that,” said Savannah mosquito control director Jeff Heusel.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Alan Grayson: At least they’re not calling me Hitler

Democrat Alan Grayson has been dubbed “Angry Alan” by his Senate opponent, compared to Republican Donald Trump for his penchant for earning headlines with his mouth and has become the whipping post for some in the Washington party establishment who hope he loses Florida’s primary.

But he said things could be worse.

“At least they’re not calling me the Adolf Hitler of the Democratic Senate race. They haven’t quite gone there yet. It’s only a matter of time before they accuse me of both cannibalism and necrophilia,” Grayson, who is Jewish, said during an interview at a Florida Democratic Party fundraising dinner Saturday. “Nobody buys that!”

A not-so-angry Grayson made his way through a crowd of top Democratic donors, activists and elected officials at the event — the anti-establishment candidate working the establishment itself. He was pleasant and gracious, telling U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, “If there’s anything we can do for you while you’re here, please let me know.”

Ironically, establishment-backed candidate Congressman Patrick Murphy didn’t attend the Florida Democratic Party fundraising dinner. His campaign said he had a previously planned dinner with his family.

The Democratic primary has become increasingly nasty, with Murphy repeatedly criticizing Grayson over ethical questions about his management of a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has called for Grayson to quit the race, saying he has no moral compass. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have endorsed Murphy, as has the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Grayson has been called bombastic. He cursed during a live television interview while criticizing a New York Times article detailing the alleged ethics violations. He’s known for cursing at reporters.

“I’m saying what other people are thinking and nobody else is saying,” Grayson said. And to all the critics who get worked up over his inflammatory comments? He says quit taking his words so literally. Like when he said the Republican health care plan was to “die quickly” if you get sick.

“Did I really think that that was their health care plan? Did Jonathan Swift really think that the Irish should eat their children when he wrote a book about that? No. That’s satire. I assume that the voters have enough intelligence to be able to understand figures of speech, hyperbole, metaphors — the tools of public communication that have fallen by the wayside,” he said. “I don’t feel I have to pay a price for being interesting.”

Still, the Murphy campaign is making Grayson’s temperament an issue and notes that Grayson himself does a lot of name-calling. Grayson routinely calls Murphy a “sock puppet” and says he’s the establishment choice because he’s obedient.

“Grayson’s schoolyard insults fall lamely short of the truth. On the day Grayson announced his campaign, he launched negative, misleading attacks on Patrick,” Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in an email. “Grayson loves to hear himself talk on TV, but the time to judge someone is when the stakes are high and voters are watching. Alan Grayson fails the test, because time and time again he uses angry, bullying tactics to avoid the truth.”

Murphy and Grayson are seeking the seat Republican Marco Rubio is giving up after his failed presidential campaign. Republicans running for the seat include Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and businessmen Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox.

Despite many in the Democratic Party establishment lining up behind Murphy, state party Chairwoman Allison Tant, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz all said Saturday they’d be comfortable with Grayson as the nominee should he win the Aug. 30 primary.

“Alan Grayson is a colleague, and if he’s the nominee, I’m going to support him,” Wasserman-Schultz said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Poll finds Florida voters down on leaders, political choices, especially Marco Rubio

Florida voters are dissatisfied with their political leaders and national candidates, and profoundly unhappy with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, a new Gravis Marketing poll shows.

The survey found Florida voters showing high dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, presumed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But Florida’s two former presidential candidates? Much worse.

In the poll, Florida voters — who propelled Rubio from long-shot to U.S. Senate stardom in 2010 and then abandoned him in the March 15 Florida primary — now have an almost unprecedented low opinion of him. Only 20 percent said they approved of his job performance while 56 percent said they disapproved.

Some of that could be attributed to the hammering Rubio took from Trump and others during the campaign, charging that he was neglecting his Senate duties. But Bush drew no such charges; he fared only slightly better than Rubio.

Bush dropped out before the Florida primary. That may have been a good thing. The Gravis poll found that 28 percent of Florida voters said they have favorable opinions of him, while 53 percent said they have unfavorable views.

Winter Springs-based Gravis conducted the poll of 2,542 registered Florida voters last Tuesday and Wednesday. The firm said the survey was conducted using automated telephone calls and weighted by anticipated voting demographics, and Gravis claimed a 2 percent margin of error.

Polling like that may justify Rubio’s steadfast position that he would not jump back into the U.S. Senate race this year even though the Republican field is scrambled with no clear front-runners; or that he has no intention of being Trump’s vice presidential running mate; or of running for governor in 2018.

Bush also appears to be done with elected politics.

The same, obviously, is not true of Trump or Clinton, who head toward their parties’ conventions also holding low approvals among Florida voters.

Obama, by contrast, may be showing a little rebound: 46 percent of Florida voters said they disapprove of his job performance in the Gravis poll. But he broke even: 46 percent stated that they approve.

Trump drew a 38 percent favorable rating among Florida voters and a 54 percent unfavorable rating.

Clinton drew a 40 percent favorable rating and a 52 percent unfavorable rating.

Curt Clawson is why we can’t have nice things

Judging by the expression on her face, Lizbeth Benacquisto appeared genuinely surprised — and touched — by the standing ovation given to her by her colleagues in the Senate upon her return to the Florida Legislature.

The date was April 23, 2014, and it was the day after Benacquisto finished second in the four-way Republican primary to replace Trey Radel, who had been forced from office after being arrested in Washington D.C. on drug charges. Radel represented Florida’s 19th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Lee County and includes Fort Myers and adjacent Cape Coral. CD 19 is a haven for retirees, wealthy and otherwise.

Almost immediately after Radel announced his resignation, Benacquisto was declared the front-runner to succeed Radel and restore dignity to the seat.

Then Curt Clawson entered the race, spent $4 million of his own money for his campaign — much of it in negative advertising directed at his opponents — and Benacquisto would be left wondering what happened.

Clawson received 38 percent of the vote to Benacquisto’s 25 percent and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel‘s 25 percent.

Benacquisto took time away from Tallahassee to campaign. The special election overlapped with much of the 2014 Legislative Session. Almost any other lawmaker would have been criticized for missing the committee meetings and floor votes which mark the sixty days of a legislative session. But not Benacquisto, one of the chamber’s most beloved members. Photographs from the day she walked through the double doors and onto the floor of the Florida Senate show her being applauded and embraced by both Joe Negron and Jack Latvala, two former rivals then locked in a bitter struggle to one day serve as president of the body.

Benacquisto returned to her post as Majority Leader and easily won re-election in the fall of 2014.

Despite how well things worked out for Benacquisto after her loss, she really should today be serving in Washington, D.C.

Lizbeth should be running for re-election to Congress.

Unfortunately for Benacquisto and the people of southwest Florida, that is not the case.

Instead, the situation is that Clawson is not running for re-election. He announced Thursday he wanted to be closer to his ailing father. Kudos to Clawson for being the dutiful son, but he should never have been in office in the first place.

Clawson was just another faux outsider with a real checkbook who bought himself a line on a resume.

So much of Clawson’s political story was the kind of gimmickry that should have served as a harbinger for what has transpired during the 2016 presidential race. His former basketball coach showed up in his campaign commercials, one of which Clawson paid tens of thousands of dollars to air during the Super Bowl. He challenged President Barack Obama to “man up” and compete against him a basketball shooting contest.

Of course, Clawson’s campaign was backed by Tea Partiers like Michele Bachman and Rand Paul, but those endorsements played well in a community home to, among others, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, himself an “outsider” who used his checkbooks to bludgeon his opponents.

The unending television ads Clawson was able to pay for during a compressed special election drowned out any real examination of his background.

The Naples Daily News posted an expose on the jobs record of Clawson and found that it included “an Obamacare bailout, layoffs for workers and outsourcing, a poor workplace safety record and even the death of a worker, Shawn Boone,” according to a story by then-Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo.

Caputo asked Boone’s sister, Tammy Miser, what she thought of Clawson. This was her emailed response: “If Florida wants someone who will not respond to their needs, is in the habit of tearing down a community and does not act on the behalf of the public’s health and welfare then Mr. Clawson is the man for them.”

But if you have the kind of money Clawson has, that sort of damnation doesn’t really matter.

Once in office, Clawson was quickly revealed as less-than-ready for prime time.

During a House hearing in July of 2014, Clawson mistook Nisha Desai Biswal and Arun M. Kumar, two senior U.S. officials of Indian-American descent, for representatives of the Indian government, saying, “I am familiar with your country, I love your country. Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so. […] Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there. I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

That was one of several “airballs,” Clawson heaved during his brief time in Congress. Allied with Reps. Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, and Steve King, Clawson is one of those bury-your-head-in-the-sand-and-vote-against-everything conservatives who has gridlocked the nation’s capital.

Clawson voted against a temporary extension of a highway funding bill (which passed overwhelmingly) because he thought it relied on financing “gimmicks” that the government wouldn’t allow businesses to use, according to an analysis by Ledyard King of the USA Today. He also opposed the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act because he said it could have made undocumented immigrants eligible for tax credit refunds.

Clawson defied then-Speaker John Boehner. He was one of just ten Republicans not to support Paul Ryan as Boehner’s successor.

Meanwhile, it’s not exactly clear what Clawson accomplished in his first term, other than speaking some common sense on the issue of climate change.

No wonder Clawson is yet another politician stepping down because he wants to, as the cliché goes, spend more time with his family.

No matter how sick Clawson’s father is, the reality is Clawson is just another one of these rich guys who thought it would be neat to win an election, but found out how hard governing is once they are in office.

It’s telling that in the days that have followed Clawson’s decision to step away from politics, only one of his colleagues in the Florida delegation has released a statement to the press corps acknowledging his leaving.

With Clawson not running, Lizbeth Benacquisto has been given a second chance at possibly representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Several other candidates have already announced they will run or are considering it.

After the back-to-back disasters of Trey Radel and Curt Clawson, hopefully, the poor voters of southwest Florida will get it right this time.

Material from the Naples Daily News, Roll Call, and Wikipedia was used in this post.

Greg Evers complains about Obama transgender directive, but didn’t fix issue when he had the chance

State Sen. Greg Evers is making a lot of noise over the Obama administration’s directive to public schools instructing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.

But where was the Baker Republican – who is now a candidate for Florida’s 1st Congressional District – when he had a chance to solve the problem in Florida?

This week, Evers – former chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee – drafted a letter to both Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, imploring legal support to school superintendents who refuse to comply with new federal guidelines.

As noted in a press release, and reported by NWFdailynews.com, Evers’ letter urges Scott and Bondi to “make sure that ‘not one dime of federal funding’ is pulled from schools who are protecting ‘common sense school policies.’”

However, when the senator had an opportunity to take action on the transgender issue, his committee never allowed it to come up for a vote.

His inaction makes Evers one of the prime reasons Florida now has to deal with the Obama directive.

During the 2015 Legislative Session, state Rep. Frank Artiles filed a bathroom bill, cosponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, which can be found here.

While Evers placed it on the agenda of the Criminal Justice Committee, the Senate version of the bill (which can be found here) was never heard, and it died in his committee.

So now, instead of facing the problem legislatively, Evers – who, in announcing his congressional bid, said “things that need to be stopped in Washington” – is turning to a campaign stunt to get things done.

“I’m going to fight this every way I can,” Evers said about the new federal mandate. Except in the one way that would have mattered, apparently.

Presidential school bathroom edict an ‘egregious overreach,’ says Carlos Lopez-Cantera

A hot-button topic in Northeast Florida this week: the Barack Obama administration asserting that Title IX funding should be conditional on students being allowed to use the bathroom of their choice because of “gender identity” assertions.

Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have not weighed in on school bathrooms, but in Jacksonville for a stop on his campaign-related Florida First jobs tour, Thursday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera did.

Lopez-Cantera, running for the GOP nomination for Senate, called the Obama directive an “egregious overreach” by the federal government, which is again “meddling in states’ rights” issues.

CLC spoke as a father of two girls, aged 3 and 8, citing concerns for his children’s safety, and asserting that “whatever is done should be done at the local level.”

****

Another topic related to the president that Lopez-Cantera addressed: Carlos Beruff calling the president an “animal” during Beruff’s trip to St. Johns County last week.

Lopez-Cantera would not repudiate or endorse the comments, saying that Beruff’s comments “speak for themselves.”

Lopez-Cantera was similarly reticent on the delayed endorsement of him by Sen. Marco Rubio, which some observers interpret as a lack of faith in the Lt. Governor’s viability in the Senate race.

Lopez-Cantera wouldn’t address that, saying that he is “grateful for [Rubio’s] friendship,” and advising that this reporter “talk to [Rubio’s] team.”

****

CLC was in town visiting the River City Science Academy, a charter school on Jacksonville’s Southside.

The highlight of the visit, for this reporter: CLC visiting a 7th grade civics class.

“I’m the Lieutenant Governor of Florida,” said Lopez-Cantera. “Does anybody know what my role is?”

The students did not.

It was explained that the LG is “like being the vice president of the state.”

When asked the toughest thing about the job, CLC said it was “how big the state is.”

“We drive a lot,” Lopez Cantera said. “That’s probably the hardest thing about the job.”

When asked how he can “deal with people” by a student, Lopez-Cantera said that he likes “hearing more than talking.”

****

Lopez-Cantera has one more Jacksonville appearance on Thursday: a visit to the River City Republican Club meeting at 5:30.

Carlos Beruff’s ‘Angry Man’ campaign always ready to pick a fight

Carlos Beruff is running the kind of campaign you would expect from someone looking to pick a fight at a bar.

The Angry Man approach in his TV ads has certainly earned the Bradenton businessman name recognition as he seeks to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, but that can work both ways.

It’s a safe bet many Florida voters were repulsed recently when Beruff went full-out Roadhouse by calling President Barack Obama an “animal” and also suggested a total ban on Muslims entering this country.

Beruff’s “animal” comment – used as part of an attack on Obama’s handling of the military – was deservedly slammed from both Democrats and Republicans as racist and inflammatory.

And for what it’s worth, as reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Foundation, in 2015 the U.S. spent $596 billion on the military – more than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

To hear Beruff put it, though, that’s not nearly enough.

Of course it isn’t. For the Angry Man, it’s never enough.

But just as most people know better than to start an argument with a belligerent bar patron looking for a scrum, so you think voters can size this up as unhinged gibberish.

Oh, wait.

Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president by saying anything that sounded good to the crowd, even if a lot of it sounded like something you’d hear in a middle-school locker room.

That’s what Campaign 2016 has created.

Facts don’t matter as much as swagger. Personal insults and mocking taunts have become more important than grasping policy. Temperament is for wusses (or have we forgotten how Trump torpedoed Jeb Bush with that low-energy tag).

Judgment is dismissed as weakness. Experience is a liability. Anyone seeing the world as a complicated place requiring nuanced decisions is mocked. Science is dismissed when it doesn’t an agenda.

And out of that smoldering cauldron, Donald Trump and his Mini-Me, Carlos Beruff, aspire to hold two of the most powerful titles in this country – President of the United States, and U.S. Senator.

It’s enough to drive you to drink, but not at a bar. Someone might be looking to pick a fight.

David Jolly blasts Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s silence over Carlos Beruff’s ‘animal’ remark

Following the report over the weekend that Florida GOP senate candidate Carlos Beruff referred to President Obama as “an animal” over the weekend, every other major candidate in the Senate contest in Florida, both Republican and Democratic, criticized Beruff over the remark.

Almost everyone.

A request for comment sent to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s campaign spokesperson was not returned on Monday. This reporter followed up on Tuesday, again without getting any response.

That prompted David Jolly to criticize Lopez-Cantera. The Pinellas County congressman said that silence should prompt Sen. Marco Rubio to think hard. Rubio said recently he is about to announce his endorsement for his successor, and it’s widely expected to be Lopez-Cantera, an ally of his in Miami-Dade County.

“I have so much respect for Marco Rubio that I’d expect he’d withhold his endorsement until Carlos condemns Beruff’s racist remarks against the president of the United States” Jolly said in a statement Monday night.

Jolly was the first candidate to criticize Beruff, issuing a statement early Sunday evening after the Huffington Post first reported on the comment.

Meanwhile, Beruff isn’t apologizing one bit for his provocative statement. In an interview with the Ocala Star Banner, the Manatee County developer and first-time candidate said the comment was “taken out of context,” and that he did not regret the remark.

“I’m not a polished guy,” he said.

Pam Keith, who’s also running in the Democratic race, said Tuesday, “So what? He’s a nobody with a big mouth who has nothing to offer anybody but outrageous vitriol. It’s kind of par for the course these days. Who cares what he has to say?”

As FloridaPolitics.com reported Monday, three of Beruff’s four GOP senate opponents criticized the comment, as did Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, the two major Democrats in the race.

Beruff appeared to be more exercised that Murphy dared to criticize him, with his spokesman Chris Hartline saying that “Carlos will not be lectured by this young kid Congressman Murphy who has never had a job other than the one his dad bought for him in Congress.”