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Former Secret Service agent and Md. Senate candidate Dan Bongino says he’s thinking of entering Florida U.S. Senate race

Republican Dan Bongino, the former Secret Service agent who nearly defeated an incumbent Democrats in race for Congress in Maryland last year, says that he is considering entering the Republican race for Senate in Florida, and will probably make up his mind by the beginning of 2016.

Bonging moved to Palm City earlier this year, which immediately led to speculation that he was interested in the open 18th Congressional District seat in 2016 currently held by Patrick Murphy, who is running for the Senate on the Democratic side.

“I’m keeping my options open,” Bongino said on Tuesday, saying he definitely is contemplating getting into the race.

When asked about the current state of the Republican race, Bongino is quick to say that he believes that all four of the major candidates: Carlos Lopez-Cantera, David Jolly, Ron DeSantis and Todd Wilcox — are all “great guys.”

“There’s not a lot of excitement out there,” he says of the contest to date. “We’re a year away,” he says of the election for U.S. Senate. “In political dog years, that’s right around the corner and, we have people polling in the single digits here,” he says, basing that opinion on his trips around the state as a public speaker.

Bongino, who will turn 41 next month left the Secret Service in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland, where he won the nomination before losing out to incumbent Democrat Ben Cardin. Last year, he lost out by two percentage points to incumbent Democratic Rep. John Delaney.

He’s the author of the Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked away from it All, published in 2013, and his next book, The Fight: A Secret Service Agent’s Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine, is due out next January.

When asked if he’ll have the resources to run a competitive statewide election, Bongino said he would.

“It’s about volunteers, media and money,” he says about what it will take to have a winning campaign. Bongino says he was a 100-to-one underdog against Cardin, and about a 60-to-one underdog to Delaney in his two respective runs for office in Maryland, and said he was able to have all three assets in hand in both campaigns.

Bongino says that he quit a six-figure salary with great job security as a secret service agent to run for office against Cardin. When asked why he did that, he said it’s the perilous times that we live in that compelled him to run for office in 2012.

“We are clearly living with an ideologically driven president who puts the best interests in the country a distant second to his own ideologically pure pursuits, ” Bongino says of Barack Obama. “It’s time to get off the couch.”

In addition to publishing his second book, Bongino keeps busy contributing as a contributing editor to The Conservative Review website, as well as hosting a podcast which he maintains is at the top of the iTunes charts when it comes to news and political programming.

Bongino says he knows it sounds like a cliché, but it’s not about him as he contemplates entering the senate race. “I just want to see some of the energy out there where we can push a good candidate in a high turnout year over the finish line. And if that happens, great, I’ll be there to help.”

Either way, Bongino says he’ll let the public know by early in the New Year.

Martin O’Malley to make rare Florida fundraising stop next month in Miami Beach

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, languishing a distant third in the Democratic race for president, will make a rare appearance in Florida next month, at a fundraiser in Miami Beach co-hosted by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Rena and Richard Florida.

That’s urban development guru and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida.

The event takes place Dec. 2.

“I got to know Governor O’Malley when I was mayor of Miami and he was mayor of Baltimore, and I am confident that he is the best shot our party has to keep the White House,” Diaz wrote in an email announcement. “We need your help to get him there.”

O’Malley has been spending virtually all his time in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that will go first in the Democratic elections beginning in February.

Except for a speech in Fort Lauderdale at the end of July at the National Urban League’s annual meeting (an event also attended by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders), O’Malley has not campaigned at all in Florida.

The Florida Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for March 15.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera rails against Washington Republicans in new video

On the campaign trail, Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been hammering home the difference between himself and the other Republicans in the GOP senate primary race by claiming that he is a Florida Republican, not from Washington D.C.

CLC makes that same point again in a new video that his campaign is pushing out on social media Monday.

“And it’s time as Republicans we look in the mirror, and face the hard facts,” Lopez-Cantera says from a speech given at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando earlier this month. “Too many Republican leaders have broken their promises to uphold our conservative values. You know, too many get to Washington, and they never leave. They start representing Washington, and forget that it’s their job to represent us.”

The entire two-minute plus video includes other shots from the Sunshine Summit.

Two of Lopez-Cantera’s opponents in the Senate race are D.C.-based politicians — congress members Ron DeSantis and David Jolly (The fourth candidate in the race is former veteran and CIA contractor Todd Wilcox, who has never held elected office).

Watch below:

New NH GOP poll shows majority of voters still yearn for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has said consistently that he’s not a candidate for president in 2016, and he certainly won’t be in New Hampshire next February: The deadline for all candidates to file for next winter’s presidential primary expired Friday.

However, if he was, he’d be the leading candidate in the Granite State, according to a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll published Sunday.

The poll shows Romney with 31 percent support, compared to Donald Trump‘s 15 percent.

However, with Romney not mentioned in the survey, the New York City real estate magnate continues to lead in New Hampshire with 22 percent support, double that of Marco Rubio, who ran second in the poll, with 11 percent. Ben Carson was next with 10 percent. John Kasich and Ted Cruz were tied for fourth, with 9 percent and former Gov. Jeb Bush had 8 percent. All others had either 4 percent support or less.

The poll shows that New Hampshire Republican Party voters’ priorities have changed in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. All year, jobs and the economy had been the top issue among these voters, but now 42 percent said terrorism and national security are the most important issues facing the country.

This does not appear likely to have much effect on preferences in the race for the GOP nomination, however, with one in four saying that Trump was the “best equipped” to handle the American response to the Islamic State. Another 13 percent believed that Rubio could lead the response better than others.

The poll of 500 New Hampshire Republicans and independent voters who said they intend to vote in the Republican primary was taken Tuesday through Thursday of last week and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Florida immigrant coalition blasts GOP proposal to crack down on “sanctuary cities”

Florida GOP lawmakers in Tallahassee Tuesday announced a number of bills that would crack down on illegal immigration.

Among those bills include HB 675, sponsored by Yalaha House Republican Larry Metz, which would punish so-called “sanctuary” cities that don’t cooperate with federal officials attempting to deport undocumented immigration. It would call for the Attorney General to file civil actions to halt sanctuary policies and impose fines of up to $5,000 per day on cities that have “written or unwritten” sanctuary policies.

The bill is similar to the federal “Kate’s law” that has been proposed in Congress. That legislation was named after Kate Steinle, the woman who was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant who was arrested for prior crimes but released under the city of San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policies preventing law enforcement from detaining immigrants living in the country illegally for minor crimes.

Metz’ bill would also suspend the sovereign immunity for local governments with sanctuary policies, allowing the victims or victims’ families of a violent crime perpetrated by an undocumented immigrant to receive punitive damages.

This past summer, the Center for Immigration Studies listed seven counties in Florida that alleged were sanctuary counties — Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Broward. However, sheriff officials in Tampa Bay area counties all denied that claim in a report published by the Tampa Tribune

“This is a radical bill that would rip parents away from their children and force all state entities to essentially turn-in families who lack immigration status,” said Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Families that call Florida home and are integral to the fabric of our communities. Beyond the fueling of hate and racism that will further divide communities, this “big brother is watching” bill actually strong-arms local government, at taxpayer expense, to go after its own residents. It is not only costly; it will actually harm our safety by undermining the public trust.”

Other bills addressing illegal immigration introduced by the Legislature for 2016 include making it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to stay in the state beyond their deportation order (HB 9) and try to crack down on welfare benefits going to immigrants here illegally (HB 563).

The last year where Florida lawmakers attempted to pass a number of anti-immigration bills was 2011. Latino advocacy groups rallied in Tallahassee against all of them.

“Thousands of Floridians, businesses, law enforcement officials and many others stood up to tell them we are Florida and we don’t want anti-immigrant bills,” says Rodriguez. “What makes them think we will accept them now?”

Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Progressive Coalition is criticizing Governor Rick Scott for his letter to Congressional leaders indicating his opposition to any Syrian refugees being relocated to Florida.

“Republican governors and politicians are feeding hysteria that threatens to poison our country for years to come,” said Susan Smith, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida President. “By falling into this trap, we inadvertently support and further the mission of ISIS to foment hatred and division, and we will once again find ourselves on the wrong side of history.”

“In school, we all learn the words to the poem which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty,” Smith added. “No one is suggesting that we open our borders without security checks. But as leaders on the global stage, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to demonstrate the values on which our country was founded: welcoming those who seek safety and freedom from oppression.

“We can do better. We must do better.”

Poll of 4 heartland states show strong support for restoring ties with Cuba

new poll finds a majority of voters in Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee think  restoring relations and relaxing the travel ban with Cuba is the right thing to do.

The poll of four heartland states was conducted by The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center in partnership with Engage Cuba. It shows that although 70 percent of voters think the United States is on the wrong track, 58 percent of those same voters are for President Barack Obama’s new policies on U.S.-Cuba relations.

“For years, U.S. policy toward Cuba was dictated by a small group of individuals in the U.S., but issues of trade, investment and travel impact all Americans,” said Peter Schechter, director of the Arsht Latin America Center. “One year after President Obama began to normalize relations and allowed for some openings, there is majority support – from Democrats and Republicans – to continue the momentum. You would be hard-pressed to find any other Obama administration policy with this much Republican support.”

In January, Obama eased economic restrictions on Cuba in the biggest diplomatic breakthrough between the countries since the days of Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959 and the ensuing Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis.

The action sought to cut red tape for U.S. travel to Cuba, permit American companies to export telephones, computers and Internet technology, and allow US firms to send supplies to Cuban private enterprises.

Travel restrictions were liberalized somewhat, but U.S. travelers still have to go on supervised group trips to visit the island.

The new poll shows overwhelming support for removing those restrictions on travel, with 67 percent supporting removing all restrictions, and 28 percent wishing to maintain them.

Among Republicans, it’s 54-39 percent for ending those restrictions. Among independents, it’s 66-31 percent, and among Democrats, it’s 83-12 percent supporting the removal of restrictions.

Randy Perkins becomes latest candidate to declare in Florida CD 18 race

The race to replace Patrick Murphy in the Congressional District 18 race just got more crowded, with the announcement that Democrat Randal “Randy” Perkins has entered the contest.

Perkins is CEO of the South Florida-based AshBritt Environmental, a disaster recovery company.

“I have worked hard my entire life. But I’ve also been fortunate to have so many opportunities along the way that allowed me to support a family, build a successful business, and give back to my community,” Perkins said in a prepared statement.I’m running for Congress because Washington is making it harder for people to succeed – and that’s simply wrong.”

“The Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast need someone who will lead the charge to create jobs, fight for small businesses, and expand access to education and vocational training – and keep the promises we’ve made to our seniors and our veterans by protecting Social Security and Medicare and reforming the V.A.,” he said.

It’s not a surprise that Perkins is getting into the race, as talk began circulating in July that he was considering a bid for higher office.

There are now 13 candidates running to succeed Murphy: nine Republicans and four Democrats.

Perkins is considered an extremely successful businessman who may self-fund at least part of his campaign. In a statement, he said he would use his business experience to help others not so fortunate.

“People say, ‘If you just work hard, you can achieve anything,'” he says. “But I know as well as anyone it’s not that simple. Every day I see hardworking Floridians that do not have the same opportunities that allowed me to succeed. In Congress, I’m going to use my business experience to break through the gridlock and actually get things done.”

David Jolly “beyond disappointment” about president’s post-Paris immigration stance

Pinellas County U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate candidate David Jolly says it’s “heartbreaking” that President Obama isn’t redirecting his strategy toward combating the Islamic State, in reaction to the terrorist attacks that occurred Friday night in Paris.

“It’s more than disappointing, this is heartbreaking,” Jolly said in a telephone interview Monday morning. “I have been imploring the president and others have as well, that we need to do more to defeat ISIS and terror cells.”

Insisting that he wasn’t being partisan, the 43-year-old Republican said he would “beg of” the president to reconsider his comments, even as late as this morning that, “he is just going to continue along this path.”

Speaking to reporters in Antalya, Turkey earlier, Obama said, “There will be an intensification of the strategy that we’ve put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work,” adding, “It’s going to take time.”

Although a few Republicans (such as Lindsey Graham) are advocating for thousands of U.S. ground troops be sent to Syria to combat ISIS, many others — including Jolly — are not. He says that the best military force to contend with an asymmetric threat like the Islamic State is by having U.S. Special Operations more actively engaged.

“I don’t think we’re at the place of moving a land army into the Middle East,” Jolly said. “Nor should we be, but through a coalition with the U.S., Russian and Western European allies, I think we can deploy an international force of special operators that finally can quench this threat, and ultimately protect it from coming to the homeland.”

CBS News is reporting that U.S. officials are pressing France and Turkey to send special forces to Syria to work alongside the 50 U.S. operatives already deployed there.

One of Jolly’s opponents in the Republican race for Senate, Ponte Vedra Beach U.S. Rep.  Ron DeSantis, today criticized Obama’s previously announced plan to allow thousands of Syrian refugees to find safe haven in America, saying, “We have to err on the side of protecting the American people and we cannot run the risk of bringing terrorists into the United States.”

Jolly was more nuanced when asked his thoughts on bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

He said somewhat ambiguously that he supports bringing in refugees who “we know do not compromise our safety.” But he said the emphasis now should be on providing resources to Western European nations or other areas that can create a safe haven for refugees. “Where perhaps we are supporting them financially and we are providing some type of security assistance, ” he suggested, instead of admitting any Syrian refugees until a more secure vetting process can be implemented.

Jolly said Congress has been absent in the debate.

“We have a responsibility as Congress to bring up an AUMF (Authorization to use Military Force) that reflects where the American public is today,” he said. “And I think the American people feel an urgency and a concern that if we do not significantly escalate our current response to this threat, we risk an attack on the homeland, and that would be greatest tragedy of all.”

Carlos Lopez-Cantera stands with Rick Scott, calling Congress to block funding for Syrian refugees to Florida

Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is standing foursquare behind his boss, Governor Rick Scott, in opposing any Syrian refugees coming into Florida.

“We have recently become aware that private organizations could receive federal funding to house up to 425 possible Syrian refugees in the state of Florida,” Lopez-Cantera, a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. “As Lieutenant Governor of Florida, I stand with Governor Scott, and we must use whatever power we have to refuse to accept these so-called refugees in our state. There is no mechanism to verify whether these individuals have any involvement with Islamic terror groups, and Florida cannot take that risk.”

Scott penned a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier on Monday, acknowledging that the law does not allow the states to unilaterally reject such refugees. He called on Congress to block the funding that would allow such refugees to come to Florida.

In his statement, Lopez-Cantera makes the same request.

“I call on Congress to take immediate action to prevent any federal money to fund the relocation of possible Syrian refugees to Florida, and to immediately pass legislation to suspend President Obama’s ability to accept refugees from Syria until we can assure that we are not putting Floridians’ safety at risk.”

From Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015, 2,709 refugees worldwide have come to Florida. Those include 104 Syrians, most of whom settled in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties.

In addition to Scott, at least 11 other Republican governors said on Monday that they oppose allowing any Syrian refugees to come into their states.

Carly Fiorina says she is the leader the world needs in a time of terror

If you’ve followed any of the stump speeches of the 15 Republican candidates still standing in the race for the presidential nomination, you know that everyone of them spends considerable time criticizing what they call the fecklessness of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton‘s foreign policy.

So in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris apparently committed by the Islamic State on Friday, most of the candidates who appeared at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit on Saturday in Orlando had a target rich environment in which to attack.

Speaking in her staccato style that has won her acclaim on the campaign trail, Carly Fiorina delivered an intense message of U.S. exceptionalism and boasted extensively about her credentials to lead the nation (and the world) in the continuing war on Islamic terrorism.

“Our most pressing and immediate national security challenge is radical Islamic terrorism around the world, and here at home, both lone wolves, and packs of wolves,” Fiorina said to a cheering crowd. “ISIS must be confronted and it must be destroyed and we must call it what it is.”

“No, Mrs. Clinton. No, Mr. Obama. Climate change is not our most pressing national security challenge,” she commanded, again to whoops and cheers throughout the hotel ballroom. No candidate on Saturday elicited such enthusiasm.

Listing important European and Middle Eastern allies by name who she says are fighting ISIS on the ground, Fiorina promised it would be a new day for them if she was elected president.

“All, every single one of them has asked the United States of America for support. For weapons. For material. For intelligence sharing. Mostly, this administration has said no. I. Will. Say. Yes.”

As the former head of Hewlett-Packard has said in the debates and on the campaign trail, her first two phone calls would be to “my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu,” to tell him that the U.S. will standby Israel always and forever. Her second call will be to the Supreme Leader of Iran (who she said may not take the call). He’ll get the message, she says, which is to say, new president, new nuclear deal.

That wasn’t the end of her boasting about her national security cred.

“I understand the world, and who’s in it. I have operated around the world for decades. In business, in charity, and in policy. I have held the highest security clearances available to a civilian. I have advised the CIA, the NSA, departments of Defense, Secretary of State, Homeland Security. We need a president who will speak. He will see. Who will act on the truth. She must understand,” as the crowd erupted. “She must understand how truly exceptional this nation is, and call evil by its name.”

“Others will not call it Islamic terrorism, ” she added. “I will, and I have the courage to lead.”

She concluded by invoking Margaret Thatcher‘s comment that she wasn’t ready to manage the decline of a great nation. “We’ve been managing the decline of this great nation for far. Too. Long. Now.”

All in all, it was another impressive performance. Yet so far, the robust fundraising and poll numbers haven’t followed suit.

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