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Charlie Crist names Gershom Faulkner as Outreach Director

Congressman Charlie Crist has hired Gershom Faulkner as Outreach Director, to serve as the St. Petersburg Democrat’s liaison throughout Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“Gershom is a great addition to our team,” Crist said Friday. “His dedication to service is unwavering – as a Marine defending our country, and through positions with former Rep. Frank Peterman and Congresswoman Kathy Castor. As a veteran, small-business owner and community leader, Gershom is uniquely qualified to serve as Outreach Director and we are excited to have him come on board.”

After graduating from high school in St. Petersburg, Faulkner joined the Marines where he served honorably during the Gulf War, receiving several commendations. After four years of active duty, he returned to St. Petersburg and began his service to the community, working with Frank Peterman, Jr. during his tenure as both a city councilman and state representative.

Before mounting a run for city council, Faulkner worked on several local and statewide campaigns, including Betty Castor‘s 2004 senatorial campaign and Kathy Castor‘s successful 2006 congressional campaign, afterward joining her office as Outreach Director.

During the 2016 cycle, Faulkner volunteered on the Crist for Congress campaign.

Faulkner expressed his thanks to Crist in a statement:

“I am pleased and honored to accept Congressman Charlie Crist’s offer to become our Representative’s Outreach Director. This is a position I did not seek but am honored to accept since I have a passionate desire to serve the community and have a firm faith in Congressman Crist’s ability to represent all people in our community in Washington.

“As President Obama evolved on the issue of gay marriage and LGBTQ issues, so too have I evolved. Like Congressman Crist, I am a strong advocate for equal rights and equal protection under the law for the LGBTQ community. I understand that in this ever-changing world, it is imperative to have a representative who is sensitive to the needs of everyone, not just the few or the privileged.

“Regardless of a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identification, I will work collaboratively with the community as a member of the Congressman’s staff to ensure that every voice is heard and that the needs of all the people are always my first priority.

“I am a veteran of the Gulf War who served in the United States Marine Corps. I was honorably discharged as a Sergeant. After leaving military service, I served as a legislative aide to former State Representative Frank Peterman Jr., and Outreach Director to Congresswoman Kathy Castor, I truly believe that my knowledge of how government works and my strong relationships within the district, will serve Congressman Crist well as his Outreach Director.

“The challenges facing African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, refugees, labor unions and women’s rights, are ALL issues that I stand ready to tackle – relaying solutions to the Congressman as articulated by his constituents.

“I am honored and excited to begin this new chapter of service to my community and my country. I will do everything in my power to live up to the trust placed in me by Congressman Crist. I am looking forward to helping citizens find solutions to their issues and restore the notion that government is an instrument of good for all people.”

Faulkner currently serves on St. Petersburg’s Civil Service Board and previously sat on the Southside St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) ad hoc Planning Committee. He is also President-elect of the St. Petersburg Midtown Rotary Club and serves on the board of the Neighborly Care Network.

Charlie Crist wants Trump administration to look into voter suppression, disenfranchisement

Democrats skeptical about President Trump‘s repeated claims of voter fraud in last November’s election are now challenging him to add voter suppression and disenfranchisement into his administration’s upcoming investigation.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge of a commission to probe what he believes was voter fraud in the election, despite a consensus among state officials, election experts — and both Democrats and Republicans — that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S.

“I’m going to set up a commission to be headed by Vice President Pence and we’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview taped Friday.

Seizing on that, Congressman Charlie Crist and 75 other Democrats are signing on to a letter originally penned by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, Alabama’s Terri Sewell and Washington’s Derek Kilmer calling for an evaluation of state voter restrictions in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida. Those states bar individuals with past felony convictions from voting unless they are able to meet a burdensome clemency requirement. This law has led to the disenfranchisement of an estimated 1.5 million Floridians. 

“Unsubstantiated voter fraud claims are being used as cover to enact policies aimed at disenfranchising certain voters — something Floridians are all too familiar with,” said Crist, the first-term St. Petersburg Democrat. “Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy. I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

“Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy,” Crist added. “I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

Clearly upset about the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes, Trump has steadfastly maintained that if it weren’t for voter fraud, he would have won the popular vote on November 8.

Despite that refrain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show that while election fraud does occur, “there is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.”

Trump’s focus seems intent only on looking at what happened in November, so the Democrats call for a look into other voting issues will unlikely find a sympathetic audience. Nevertheless, it gives them the opportunity to get out their beliefs that there are sustained, legalized measures in place currently that intentionally suppress the vote.

Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

Charlie Crist named to influential House Science, Space committee; hires 2 constituent staffers

Charlie Crist announced Tuesday he would be serving on the influential House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Also, the first-year Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg hired two new constituent service representatives — Michael Batista and Dillion Stafford — who will help assist Crist’s constituents of Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Since Crist was recently named to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is considered an exclusive committee, he required a waiver from the Democratic Caucus to serve on multiple panels.

Science, Space, and Technology have oversight on issues that directly impact both CD 13 and the entire state of Florida. The committee has authority over National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the National Weather Service (NWS).

Among the committee’s jurisdictions is the space industry, hurricane preparedness, and response efforts as well as climate change policy. It also oversees nonmilitary research from the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.

“In this role, I will be a fighter for the scientific consensus that climate change is real, happening and caused by humans. I will work to maintain robust support for NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to keep our communities safe,” Crist said in a statement. “And when it comes to investment in the aerospace industry — critical to our state’s economy and our country’s continued leadership in space exploration — I will be a vocal advocate.”

Hiring Batista and Stafford is to give Crist’s constituents better access to Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans benefits and outreach services. The two will be based out of the congressman’s flagship district office in downtown St. Petersburg, 696 1st Avenue North, Suite 203.

Also, Batista will serve as the congressman’s LGBTQ community liaison.

“I am thrilled to have Michael and Dillion join our team, helping provide constituent assistance and community outreach — vital roles to carry out our No. 1 job: serving the people of Florida’s 13th District,” Crist said. “Both Michael and Dillion are committed to serving our community, and their experience and understanding of the needs of Pinellas County residents will be an asset to our office’s commitment to excellent, responsive constituent service.”

In thanking the congressman, Batista said: “As a Floridian and a fellow resident of St. Petersburg, I am honored and overjoyed to have the opportunity to work alongside such a distinguished public servant as congressman Crist, now representing my home and the 13th District of Florida. It is also my pleasure to be assisting my friends and neighbors in Pinellas County.”

Batista also applauded Crist’s work to protect St. Petersburg waters and his dedication to equal rights in Florida, calling the opportunity to work with him “an honor and privilege.”

A Florida native, Batista is a graduate of the University of South Florida with several years’ experience in community outreach, volunteer work, and nonprofit lobbying for human rights issues. Before joining Crist’s office, he worked with the Florida Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign as a Voter Protection Assistant, and was a congressional intern for Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Stafford, another University of South Florida graduate who began his career as a field intern for Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial bid, also had high praise for the former governor turned congressman.

“Congressman Crist exemplifies strong leadership and has dedicated his life to not only St. Petersburg, but the entire State of Florida,” Stafford said. “I am both proud and excited for the opportunity to work alongside him in serving the people of Pinellas County.”

Stafford also brings a broad community experience to Crist’s office: former field organizer for State Rep. Mark Danish in Florida House District 63; community organizer with Floridians for Solar Choice; campaign manager for Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione‘s bid for HD 63; and as a member of the research team for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s 2016 Senate campaign.

Charlie Crist named to three key financial services subcommittees

Charlie Crist, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was tapped to serve on three of its principal subcommittees.

The freshman St. Petersburg Democrat has been named to:

— Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, which covers all matters relating to banking, including oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, mortgages, and federal regulators of financial institutions;

— Monetary Policy and Trade, which has jurisdiction over the Export-Import Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, which impacts access to capital and interest rates; and

— Oversight and Investigation, which is tasked with overseeing administration actions relating to financial services to promote good governance in this sector.

These assignments will serve as a complement to Crist’s work on the full committee, such as ensuring flood insurance is more affordable and enacting Wall Street reform.

“Our work on the Financial Services Committee — and particularly these subcommittees — will have a direct impact on residents of Pinellas County,” Crist said in a statement. “I look forward to having the opportunity to affect policies to increase access to capital for small businesses, particularly women- and minority-owned businesses that drive our local economy, as well as defending the Export-Import Bank, which has supported $200 million in exports from Pinellas County businesses since 2012On the Oversight Subcommittee, I will be a faithful watchdog on behalf of the people and their hard-earned tax dollars.”

More information on the roles and responsibilities of Financial Services is available on the committee website.

Tampa Bay area legislative delegation tries to figure out if local governments can work together on a transportation fix

State legislators representing the eight counties that make up the Tampa Bay area Legislative Delegation spent two hours in Clearwater on Wednesday discussing attempts to find a way to begin adequately dealing with the region’s myriad transportation issues.

According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C. based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to developing a regional transportation system. Which might make an interested observer ask – isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be all about?

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority was created by the Florida Legislature a decade ago to develop and implement a regional transportation master plan of the seven-county West Central Florida region. Yet as Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano recounted on Wednesday, it was created without a funding mechanism, after then Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the $8 million in appropriations that were created with it.

Galvano said, “That was  a shock to all of us,” adding that, “I don’t think he (Crist) realized the connection and it felt through the cracks.”

Whether TBARTA can ultimately become that vehicle as intended was only mentioned towards the end of the meeting held at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Lawmakers heard from Lightning owner and Channelside developer Jeff Vinik and Barry Shevlin, co-chairs from the transportation working group with the Tampa Bay Partnership, who worked with the Enos Center to produce the white paper.

Vinik’s comments were more general, saying that waiting another five to ten years to develop a master plan will constrain the growth of the Tampa Bay area. He said all options for transportation improvements – roadway expansion, BRT lines, light rail, commuter rail, etc. – all were on the table. “I know it’s critical that we reach consensus in a direction that we want to head,” he said.

Shevlin delved more into specifics.

“We’re a top twenty metro area, but we’re acting like a collection of municipalities and counties and not a region,” he stated, adding that there was obviously no regional structure for trnasportion planning  or decision making in general happening in the region. And twice during his public comments, Shevlin lamented the fact that on last Saturday, there were 14 different buses moving from Dover in Eastern Hillsborough County to downtown Tampa, yet there wasn’t a single vehicle going from Tampa to Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

Shevlin outlined four priorities that the Partnership believes need to happen.

One is to create a multi-county Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The second plan is to support a regional center for transit operations. Shevlin said HART and PSTA, the two biggest transit agencies in the Bay area, should have a “closer relationship,” but left it open as to how that happens.

Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala called for a consolidation between the two agencies more than four years ago. After two different studies were conducted, that merger never happened, though the agencies are poised to sign an interlocal agreement which will necessitate more joint efforts.

Shevlin also called for a uniform regulatory law in the state regarding ride share, which Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant later assured would happen in this year’s session. And the fourth priority is the regional transit study being conducted right now by the Florida Dept. of Transportation which involves the very controversial Tampa Bay Express project.

TBX was almost an afterthought in the discussions, even though the multibillion dollar plan has been hailed as a much needed congestion relief package. Democrats Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson, who represented the neighborhoods slated to be deleteriously affected by the TBX proposal, both counseled FDOT to double down on its efforts to communicate with the local community. “As it relates to TBX, my constituents don’t feel that they’ve been heard,” Shaw said.

Senator Galvano said that there has been too much parochialism in the past when it comes to local governments wanted to help out other governments in the 2.9 million universe that is the Tampa Bay area.

“I don’t know if we can get there,” he admitted. “It’s a real challenge, getting the mindset that you may have to ante up in your community for a regional plan that’s not going to impact your community for maybe one, two, three or maybe four years.”

As to whether TBARTA could ever become that agency?

“They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” state HD 63 Republican Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board when it was first created.  “If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road. ”

“We do have a shoestring budget,” echoed Ray Chiaramonte, TBARTA’s executive director. He did say that every local government except for Sarasota funded the agency last year.

Galvano said he appreciated the work from the Tampa Bay Partnership, but said looking at his colleagues, ranging from counties as diverse as Sarasota to Polk, that “it’s not about the Tampa Bay Partnership, it’s about us, and it’s going to take some effort.”

 

 

Poll shows Charlie Crist would beat David Jolly if a rematch is in the cards

Even though there are more than 20 months before Election Day 2018, a week does not go by without a mention — or several — in the media about a possible rematch between Charlie Crist and David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

In a new StPetePolls survey of CD 13 voters, Crist would edge out Jolly by about eight points if such a rematch were held today. Crist would get nearly 49 percent, compared to Jolly, who gets just under 41 percent. Nearly 11 percent of respondents were undecided.

As the incumbent, Crist received the support of almost 72 percent of Democrats, along with nearly 24 percent of Republicans. Those numbers are significantly better than his Republican predecessor; Jolly wins only 69 percent support from voters of his own party, while getting 18 percent of Democrats. Chris also has better numbers with independents (49 percent to 34 percent for Jolly).

Crist also does slightly better among white voters (46 percent to 45 percent for Jolly) and considerably better with black voters (66 percent to 20 percent for Jolly). The former Republican governor also fares well in every age bracket – except with voters over the age of 70, who prefer Jolly 48 percent to Crist’s 42 percent.

The poll was conducted Jan. 30 for FloridaPolitics.com using an automated phone call system with a sample size of 1,289. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences in demographics and that of the active voter population of CD13 as of Dec. 6, 2016. Demographics included political party, race, age and gender. The results have a 2.7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

 

Charlie Crist says Trump administration needs to rethink its executive order on refugees

It took a while, but Charlie Crist finally weighs in on Donald Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily banning refugees from entering the U.S.

While nearly every member of the Florida congressional delegation — and certainly every Democrat — was eager to express their opinion over the weekend or Monday, the St. Petersburg Democrat was quiet. Until now.

Although he does not believe it to be a de facto ban on Muslims, Crist says that the idea of a religious test of any kind “is unconstitutional,” adding that the administration needs to rethink the strategy “immediately.”

Here is the statement in full:

“Our number one priority is to keep America safe. But we must also ensure that America continues to be the beacon of light and hope to the world. These policies are not mutually exclusive. We can and should take steps to improve our vetting processes, while also allowing refugees fleeing persecution to seek a better life in the U.S.

“The confusion and fear created by the lack of coordination around this Executive Order is shocking and deeply troubling. It also appears the so-called religious test it would implement is unconstitutional. The administration needs to rethink this strategy immediately.”

Charlie Crist says tariff for border wall will hurt American consumers

Congressman Charlie Crist is blasting a proposal by President Donald Trump to pay for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border with a 20 percent tax on goods imported from Mexico.

Many expect the tariff to be part of a comprehensive tax reform package hammered out between Congress and the White House. Despite much fanfare on the announcement, several questions remain about Trump’s plan. White House officials clarified Trump’s words by saying the import tax will be only one of several options that could be used to finance the wall.

Crist, representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District, said a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods would only result in American consumers paying more for goods from south of the border.

“The merits of building a contiguous physical wall along our southern border are highly questionable – questioned by elected officials on both sides of the aisle. But what’s even more concerning is the idea that it could be paid for by taxing imports from Mexico by an additional 20 percent,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said in a statement. “That’s essentially asking the American people and American businesses to pay for the wall, through higher costs on the products we import from Mexico every day, from clothes to cars. I hope the administration abandons this misguided proposal.”

Charlie Crist serves up grab bag of issues: Seniors, Head Start and pipeline protest

It’s been a busy week for Charlie Crist.

The freshman Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg served up a medley of issues Friday, both local and national.

In a letter to Ann Linehan, Acting Director of Head Start for the Administration for Children and Families, Crist voiced his support for Lutheran Services Florida’s grant application to expand its “highly successful” Early Head Start Programs in Clearwater, Largo and South St. Petersburg.

All three cities are contained in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which Crist now represents.

“Lutheran Services Florida is the largest nonprofit Early Head Start Grantee in the Southeast United States, serving over 7,000 children and families as a part of its Head Start programs,” Crist writes. “I am proud to support the important work of Lutheran Services Florida in our community and this effort to expand its valuable programs.”

Crist was also named one of five vice chairs of the House Democratic Caucus Seniors Task Force, which serves to improve and protect the financial security, quality of life, health and well-being of Americans seniors.

In an announcement by Task Force Co-Chairs Doris Matsui, of California and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Crist will join as vice chair Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

“Fighting for our seniors – strengthening Social Security and Medicare – is one of my top priorities as a congressman,” Crist said. “I am honored by this opportunity to serve as a leader on the House Democrats’ Seniors Task Force, working to make sure our elders and loved ones are respected, well cared for, and the benefits they’ve earned are protected in the golden years of life.”

Finally, Crist released a statement voicing his opposition to the revived effort by President Donald Trump to accelerate the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order seeking to expedite both controversial multibillion-dollar underground pipelines that will cross several states.

Supporters say the pipelines will lessen dependence on foreign oil and create domestic jobs.

Opponents such as Crist, a former Florida Governor, believe such pipelines have excessive environmental costs, and come with the potential for destructive accidents, much like the BP oil spill disaster of April 2010.

 “I witnessed firsthand the devastation an oil spill can cause to the environment and economy when Deepwater Horizon exploded off Florida’s Gulf Coast during my tenure as Governor,” Crist said. “Pipelines such as these put the lands where the oil will be transported at serious risk, without creating significant long-term job or economic growth. The cons outweigh the pros here.

“That is why I was pleased the previous Administration halted construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and am extremely disappointed to see President Trump take action yesterday to advance them. This puts our environment unnecessarily at risk and fails to move us closer to a more sustainable energy future.”

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