Hillary Clinton Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Joe Henderson: If some Democrats don’t care about ‘issues’ maybe that’s leaders’ fault

Um, Sally Boynton Brown?

If you’re trying to explain why Democratic voters didn’t turn out in sufficient numbers last November to deliver Florida to Hillary Clinton, I suggest a different approach than saying basically “they don’t get it.”

That’s not a direct quote from the newly hired executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, but it is the essence of her intemperate remarks at a progressive caucus gathering in Broward County.

The Miami New Times, on the scene at the event, quoted Brown saying, “This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we’re in now: I believe that we’re in a place where it’s very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters that are not voting.”

She was right about one thing: that isn’t popular. In fact, that’s just plain dumb.

First, let’s just say what everyone knows: She is effectively blaming lower-income people and minorities for her party’s problems, as if it’s their civic duty to vote for Democrats.

These are people profoundly affected by the issues of the day, and you can be damn sure they care about those things. If they aren’t voting, it’s because there is a disconnect between them and party leaders.

Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 330,000 voters in Florida, according to state elections data. There also are about 3.5 million voters unaffiliated to either major party.

With numbers like that, how do Democrats keep losing?

Start with their message — or lack thereof.

Republicans have been consistent about how they want to shape state government: fewer regulations, pro-business, lower taxes, squash any attempt at gun control, charter school expansion.

Republicans repeat those talking points until they’re ingrained in voters’ minds, particularly the independents. It worked well enough to give the GOP and Donald Trump wins in 58 of Florida’s 67 counties last November.

Issues obviously matter to Republicans. Is Brown saying they’re more passionate and responsive than those of her party? If that’s the case, point the finger at the person looking back in the mirror.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that Democrats approached the last election with a cocksure smugness. They didn’t explain themselves to voters because their attitude seemed to be that no one would be dumb enough to vote for Trump.

Guess what, Dems? There are millions of people right here in Florida who believe all you want to do is take their guns and give their money to someone else. Democrats used to be the party of working people, but now are painted as the playground of Hollywood elite. It’s their own fault.

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the people, Democrats seem to have lost the zest for battling in the trenches.

One stray word from a Democrat about gun control can send the National Rifle Association into rapid response. Democrats have allowed themselves to be pushed, shoved, bullied and ultimately defeated, and yet their response always seems to be “How could you?”

That, Sally Boynton Brown, is the problem that you don’t get. If you want more people to turn out on Election Day for your candidates, they need a better reason than, “It’s your duty to vote for us because we’re not them.”

GOP mocks national Dems for ‘zero chance’ of beating Vern Buchanan in 2018

Though the 2018 congressional elections are still a year and a half away, the news headlines continue to make Democrats believe that 2018 will be a wave election that could see them take over the House of Representatives.

It won’t be easy, even if the daily revelations from Washington continue to chip away at President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s ratings.

On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced 20 more congressional districts targeted for recruitment and potential investment, bringing the total to 79 GOP-held districts.

The new list includes Florida’s 16th Congressional District, held for the past decade by Sarasota Representative Vern Buchanan.

Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in his first race by just 369 votes under disputed circumstances in 2006 (Jennings claimed that voting machine problems resulted in some 18,000 lost votes). Since then, however, he’s never been seriously challenged by a Democrat, and his supporters say that will remain the case in 2018.

“The only thing more egregious than Hillary not campaigning in Wisconsin would be if the DCCC spent even just $1 attempting to defeat Vern Buchanan,” scoffs Sarasota County Republican Committeeman Christian Ziegler, who worked as a congressional aide for Buchanan for several years in Washington and Sarasota. “Locally, the Democrat Party lacks grassroots & donor excitement, the party registration isn’t there for them and most importantly, they do not have one credible individual on the bench that would be able to serve as anything more than a ‘paper candidate.”

“The Democrats have zero chance at winning this seat,” adds Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, noting his high re-election margins.

New College of Sarasota political science professor (and Democrat) Keith Fitzgerald says this is the time when the DCCC begins recruiting candidates for the next election cycle. He sees the new list as a sign that they are casting for candidates beyond districts where performance histories would usually suggest they would succeed.

“They want qualified candidates in place in advance of a possible wave election,” he says. “It is too early to say that a wave election is coming, but the early indicators are stronger than they were when the Republicans cleaned house in 2010.”

Fitzgerald is a former state representative who ran and lost a congressional bid to Buchanan in 2012. He says that the new list of DCCC targets (which also includes Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District) are mostly incumbents who normally would be considered safe politically, including Buchanan.

But after a cacophonous two weeks of political news, even some Republicans have invoked the word “impeachment” about Trump’s problems, which led the Justice Dept. to select former FBI Director Robert Mueller last week as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between the campaign and Russian officials.

“Rep. Buchanan, supported legislation that would devastate many of his constituents,” says Fitzgerald. If the tsunami comes, there is no telling how far it will roll ashore,” he says. “Representatives who have placed extreme ideology ahead of the health and security of their voters could be swept away.”

Buchanan supported the American Health Care Act earlier this month, which remains extremely unpopular with the American public. The controversial bill, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is already being considered dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, with a Quinnipiac poll showing only 21 percent support in the country.

The Democrats need to flip 24 seats to retake the House.

Florida CD 27 Republican incumbent Illeana Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this month that after since serving in Congress representing her constituents in Miami-Dade County since 1988, she will not run for reelection next year. The DCCC is hoping to flip that seat, and are hoping that other Republican incumbents will follow suit.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in the CD 27 by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

Julianne Holt heaps effusive praise about working with Andrew Warren in Hillsborough judicial system

On the same day Julianne Holt was elected to serve as the public defender in Hillsborough County in 1992, Harry Lee Coe was elected state attorney.

After Coe committed suicide in 2000, he was succeeded in office by Mark Ober, who served for another 16 years, before Democrat Andrew Warren narrowly defeated him in a major upset in November.

Although he’s only been on the job officially for a little more than four months, Holt says that in some ways, they’ve been the best four months of her illustrious career in the Hillsborough judicial system.

“What a fresh breath of air it is to practice law in Hillsborough County right now, and it is clearly due to the leadership of Mr. Warren. He deserves the credit for it,” Holt to a crowd of local Democrats at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee on Monday night in Ybor City.

Since taking office, Warren has been reviewing about two dozen death penalty cases that he inherited from Ober. He’s already announced that he won’t use the powers of the state in two of those cases, a move applauded by Holt.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had up to 29 death penalty cases pending in our office, we don’t have the resources — people resources or monetary resources — to handle that type of workload, even if I live to be one hundred,” she lamented, adding that in the 24 plus years that she’s served as public defender, Warren is the first prosecutor she feels give him time and respect, something that didn’t happen under his predecessors.

“He’s actually going to read the materials that I send to him,” she said. “He’s going to take them into consideration, and I’m not going to get everything I ask for, but … I can sleep at night knowing that there’s fairness and equity, passion, empathy and compassion because this man not only wants public safety in our community but he wants to change people’s lives in the criminal justice system.”

Warren ran an aggressive campaign in ultimately ousting Ober last year, saying that he was too focused on conviction rates than in making the community safer. He charged that under Ober, juveniles were being charged as adults in Hillsborough County more than “just about anywhere in the entire country.”

In a debate, Warren cited a Harvard University study that said Hillsborough was one of the worst counties in the entire country in handling death penalty cases. (The case also mentions Pinellas, Duval and Miami-Dade, alleging that all four shared a “history of overzealous prosecutions, inadequate defense lawyering, and a pattern of racial bias and exclusion.”)

Holt said the job as a public defender has taken an emotional toll on her over the years, but she had a renewed sense of purpose in seeing “true reform” happening in the community when it comes to criminal justice issue.

“This is a dream come true for me,” she enthused.

Left unsaid in her rhapsody towards her colleague was that in fact Holt endorsed Ober over Warren in last fall’s election.

In her letter of endorsement (available on the local FloridaYouJudge.com blog), Holt wrote that based on her knowledge of Ober’s “legal acumen and professionalism, as well as the accomplishments made under his leadership,” she was backing him in the contest.

After she was finished, Warren, who was in attendance, quipped, “How much do I owe you?” without further comment.

Although the duties of her job are generally of a nonpartisan manner, Holt also proudly spoke about her Democratic Party roots during an era when it wasn’t popular to be a “D” in the county.

“All of you know that for a long time, there was some tremendous efforts by the other party that if you were someone that was in office and they could pull you away, and tell you that they were going to promise you to do lots of things for you, that you should switch parties, and I stayed as committed as I could stay,” she said, referring to politics in Hillsborough County in the 1990s.

That certainly wasn’t the case last fall, when not only did Warren stunningly oust a 16-year incumbent in Ober, but Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump for president by more than six percentage points.

Donald Trump defends sharing ‘terrorism’ facts with Russians

President Donald Trump defended revealing information to Russian officials, saying in a pair of tweets Tuesday that he shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” and had “the absolute right” to do so.

Trump was responding to reports Monday that he revealed highly classified information to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week, putting a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk.

But Trump tweeted that he shared the information for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Trump says he wanted to share with Russia “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.” He noted that as president, he has an “absolute right” to do this.

The reports by The Washington Post and others drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. “At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also disputed the Post report. He said Trump discussed a range of subjects with the Russians, including “common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.” The nature of specific threats was discussed, he said, but not sources, methods or military operations.

The Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, said Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The ambassador has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

The anonymous officials told the Post that the information Trump relayed during the Oval Office meeting had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. They said it was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.

The New York Times and BuzzFeed News published similar reports later Monday.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman denied the report. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, on Facebook on Tuesday described the reports as “yet another fake.”

The revelations could further damage Trump’s already fraught relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies. He’s openly questioned the competency of intelligence officials and challenged their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election to help him win. His criticism has been followed by a steady stream of leaks to the media that have been damaging to Trump and exposed an FBI investigation into his associates’ possible ties to Russia.

The disclosure also risks harming his credibility with U.S. partners around the world ahead of his first overseas trip. The White House was already reeling from its botched handling of Trump’s decision last week to fire James Comey, the FBI director who was overseeing the Russia investigation.

A European security official said sharing sensitive information could dampen the trust between the United States and its intelligence sharing partners. “It wouldn’t likely stop partners from sharing life-saving intelligence with the Americans, but it could impact the trust that has been built, particularly if sharing such information exposes specific intelligence gathering methods,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about such intelligence sharing.

The revelation also prompted cries of hypocrisy. Trump spent the campaign arguing that his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be locked up for careless handling of classified information.

The Post said the intelligence partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russian officials. By doing so, Trump would have jeopardized cooperation from an ally familiar with the inner workings of the Islamic State group, and make other allies – or even U.S. intelligence officials – wary about sharing future top secret details with the president.

Afterward, White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency, the newspaper said.

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment Monday evening.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats expressed concern about the report.

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the Trump White House “has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and order.” He described the White House as “on a downward spiral.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also called the story “disturbing,” adding, “Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country.”

The controversy engulfed the White House. Reporters spent much of the evening camped out adjacent to Press Secretary Sean Spicer‘s office, hoping for answers. At one point, an eagle-eyed reporter spotted a handful of staffers, including Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, walking toward the Cabinet Room.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Baker recognizes previous stances on LGBT community will be campaign issue; Will it make a difference?

Near the end of Rick Baker‘s 36-minute speech announcing a re-election challenge to Mayor Rick Kriseman, the former two-term mayor invoked his mantra of St. Petersburg being a “seamless city” — and that includes the LGBT community.

“A lot has been said about me and the LGBT community by my opponent and by others,” he said on the steps of City Hall last week, without acknowledging why that was an issue when he was mayor and continues now as a candidate. “I want you to know that I believe that the LGBT community is a vital and important part of our community. I believe that when we work together, we have to work together with everyone.”

During Baker’s first go-round as mayor, from 2001-2010, he showed little interest in reaching out to that community.

As St. Petersburg’s annual Gay Pride parade grew to become one of the biggest celebrations of its kind in the entire Southeast, Baker assiduously eschewed attending the event. Nor did he ever hang the Pride flag over City Hall, a gesture Kriseman undertook during his first year in office.

“Personally, I don’t support the general agenda of the Pride event,” Baker told the then-St. Petersburg Times back in 2005. “And there are mixed feelings in the community. I’ve gotten petitions signed by hundreds of people who oppose the festival.”

One day after formally declaring his candidacy, a group of about two dozen activists gathered on those same City Hall front steps to denounce Baker’s historical relationship with the LGBT community.

The event was organized by Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee Susan McGrath, a major backer of Kriseman.

“St. Petersburg is not the same city it was 15 years ago, and we don’t need to look any further than the people who’ve been elected to office,” McGrath says, referring to the fact that there are currently three members of the LGBT community that sit on the eight-member City Council.

McGrath acknowledges that while the total population of the LGBT community in the city is “finite,” a much bigger part of the electorate are the citizens that identify as wanting to live in a fair and welcoming city.

“So, if you’re a candidate for office, and you don’t want people to recognize your record on that,” McGrath muses, “I can run a campaign that might be over in August or November. I’m going to try to sweep some things under the carpet so that I don’t lose any more votes than I have to.”

Over the past two years, St. Petersburg’s reputation as an inclusive city for the LGBT community solidified with a top ranking from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. The score judged municipalities in five categories: nondiscrimination laws, employment policies, city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership.

Organizers of St. Pete Pride say that since the event expanded to three full days, the economic impact has grown from $10-million to over $20-million.

While appreciating the reference to the LGBT community in his speech, some people in St. Petersburg remain skeptical if Baker has evolved on the issue of gay rights, or if it’s more of an election year conversion.

“Is this just for his political gain now that he knows that the LGBT community is a very vital and important part of our community, or is he genuine?” asks Equality Florida member Todd Richardson. He said that in his conversations with people in the LGBT community in the immediate aftermath of his campaign speech, he’s heard some people want to give Baker the benefit of the doubt on his evolution on gay rights and have the opportunity to sit down with him, but others remain dubious when he’s never been willing to do so in the past.

“I go by what someone’s done in the history of representing a city,” adds Ed Lally, a Democratic Party activist. “And he has a giant ‘F’ on his report card for any advancement of LGBT equality.”

Lally says he doesn’t have to question what’s in Kriseman’s heart when it comes to supporting diversity.

Others in the LGBT community aren’t as judgmental.

Jim Jackson is a Democratic Party activist running in the City Council District 6 race this year who stood behind McGrath at Wednesday’s news conference criticizing Baker.

“I was surprised and really encouraged that he would include that (reference to the LGBT community) in the last part of his speech,” Jackson said. “I very carefully listened to that, and after he was done, I went up and thanked him for being inclusionary in that part of his speech.”

“I will tell you that has never been a single time in all of the years that I have known Rick Baker, when my gender, my sexual orientation or any other personal status was at all significant in the way that he interacted with me, either on a professional or personal level,” says Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan, who moved up the ranks in the SPPD during Baker’s two terms as mayor.

“He was always my boss first, but he was also a mentor and a friend. But in every circumstance, he was fair and accepting of who I was. It was simply a non-issue.”

The two bonded, in part, over the fact that they are both parents of adopted children, Bevan says. Baker was one of the first people to contact her after Bevan announced she would be leaving the St. Petersburg Police Department to take the top job in Bradenton.

Chris Eaton, a local business official and former Democratic candidate for City Council and state representative, says the LGBT community vote is not a monolithic one.

“Not all LGBT members go to Pride and march, and not everybody wants to get married,” says Eaton. “Some people are concerned about the arts, and some people are worried about wastewater. Some people are concerned about straight talking honesty coming out of City Hall. And some people are concerned about their tax dollars that might not be fiscally responsible,” he said, reeling off a list of criticisms of Kriseman.

City Council Chair Darden Rice says she hopes that Baker understands that “the ball is in his court” to demonstrate a deeper understanding of why diversity is important.

“He has to go beyond equivocations, go beyond half-hearted statements, and really demonstrate that he understands and cares why this issue is important, and perhaps even acknowledge why some people in the community aren’t quite trusting him on this issue just yet,” Rice says.

“I like Rick Baker. I think he’s a good person,” adds Annie Hiotis, chief operating officer of the Tampa law firm of Carlton Fields. “I think he did some good things when he way mayor, but he certainly didn’t put diversity in the forefront at all, and when you’re the CEO of an institution, you’ve got to make that a priority for a city to reach its full potential.”

One potential opportunity for Baker to demonstrate his bona fides on the issue is to show up at the Pride Parade next month. Another, suggests Lally, is for the former mayor to sit down with Nadine Smith, the head of Equality Florida. “I think that would be a big signal to the LGBT community,” he says.

St. Petersburg-based political strategist Barry Edwards says Baker’s inclusion of LGBT rights in his speech “shows his sensitivity to the issue in the Saint Petersburg of today.”

“However at the end of the day the race for mayor will be decided upon by whom voters feel is a more competent steward of moving St. Petersburg forward,” he says.

Early polling in the Kriseman-Baker race suggests that it will be a close election.

In a city that went for Hillary Clinton last fall with nearly 60 percent of the vote, the demographics favor Kriseman.

In his campaign speech, Baker dismissed partisanship, saying, “that’s all they’ve got,” while betting that deep-seated relations with the electorate and dissatisfaction with the current administration will transcend party affiliation in what is officially considered a nonpartisan race.

Donald Trump to James Comey: Better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of talks

President Donald Trump, in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director, said Friday that James Comey had better hope there are no “tapes” of their conversations. Trump’s tweet came the morning after he asserted Comey had told him three times that he wasn’t under FBI investigation.

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation?’ He said you are not under investigation,” Trump said in an interview Thursday with NBC News. He said the discussions happened in two phone calls and at a dinner in which Comey was asking to keep his job.

Comey has not confirmed Trump’s account. Late Thursday, The New York Times cited two unnamed Comey associates who recounted his version of a January dinner with the president in which Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty. Comey declined, instead offering “honest.” When Trump then pressed for “honest loyalty,” Comey told him, “You will have that,” the associates said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed the report and said the president would “never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty.” Officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether Trump recorded his discussions with the FBI director.

The president’s morning Twitter comments again raised the specter of Richard Nixon, who secretly taped conversations and telephone calls in the White House during the Watergate investigation that ultimately led to his downfall. Trump’s firing of Comey already has left him with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Nixon to fire a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation tied to the White House.

Even before Trump’s provocative tweet, the White House was scrambling to clarify why Comey was fired. Trump told NBC he had planned to fire Comey all along, regardless of whether top Justice Department officials recommended the stunning step.

The White House initially cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s emails as the impetus for Trump’s decision. But Trump on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the Russia investigation — which he dismissed as a “made-up story” — was also on his mind as he ousted the man overseeing the probe.

The shifting accounts of the decision to fire Comey, whom Trump derided as a “showboat” and “grandstander,” added to a mounting sense of uncertainty and chaos in the West Wing, as aides scrambled to get their stories straight and appease an angry president. Not even Vice President Mike Pence was spared the embarrassment of having told a version of events that was later discredited by Trump.

The White House’s explanations continued to crumble throughout the day Thursday. On Capitol Hill, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe strongly disputed the White House’s assertion that Comey had been fired in part because he had lost the confidence of the FBI’s rank-and-file.

“That is not accurate,” McCabe said. “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

Unfazed, Sanders insisted she had heard from “countless” members of the FBI who welcomed the president’s decision.

McCabe also pointed out the remarkable nature of Trump’s version of his conversations with Comey. McCabe told a Senate panel it was not “standard practice” to tell an individual whether they are or are not under investigation.

Previous presidents have made a public show of staying out of legal matters, so as not to appear to be injecting politics. Trump’s comments demonstrated his striking deviation from that practice.

The ousted director himself is said to be confident that his own version of events will come out, possibly in an appearance before Congress, according to an associate who has been in touch with him since his firing Tuesday.

Trump and Comey’s relationship was strained early on, in part because of the president’s explosive and unsubstantiated claims that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Comey found the allegations confounding, according to his associate, and wondered what to make of what he described as strange thoughts coming from his new boss.

The president was no kinder to Comey on Thursday, calling him names and saying he’d left the FBI in “virtual turmoil.” He said that while he received a scathing assessment of Comey’s performance from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday, that memo was not a catalyst for his dramatic decision as the White House had said earlier.

“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

That’s far different from the White House’s initial account in the hours after Comey’s firing. Multiple officials, including Pence, said the president was acting at the behest of Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But it quickly became clear that the president had been stewing for days over the Russia investigation and Comey’s refusal to defend him in appearances before lawmakers. By Wednesday afternoon, the officials, like Trump, were saying he had in fact been considering ousting the FBI director for months because of a lack of confidence in his ability to lead the agency.

And the Russia investigation was still on his mind.

“In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” he said.

Sanders attributed the disconnect in the week’s explanations to the fact that she had not directly asked Trump when he’d made the decision to fire Comey until shortly before Thursday’s press briefing.

White House officials and others insisted on anonymity in order to disclose private conversations and internal deliberations.

The White House said Trump is weighing options for replacing Comey, a decision that could have broad implications for the future of the Russia investigation. Some senior officials have discussed nominating Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who ran the House committee that investigated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions in connection with the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Trump’s advisers have repeatedly tried to downplay the Russia-election matter, with Sanders saying Wednesday the FBI was “doing a whole lot more than the Russia investigation.”

But McCabe characterized the investigation as “highly significant” and assured senators that Comey’s firing would not hinder it. He promised he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress.

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he declared. He said there has been no interference so far.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: Betsy DeVos pleaded for students to listen, but shouldn’t she do the same?

As students at Bethune-Cookman University turned their backs and lustily booed commencement speaker Betsy DeVos, the rattled education secretary pleaded, “Let’s choose to hear each other out.”

It’s ironic that DeVos chose those words to find middle ground, considering Republicans across the land, and particularly in the Washington establishment she now represents, have demonstrated no interest in hearing anything but the echo of their own voices.

The best leaders spend a long time listening before they speak. Perhaps DeVos should choose to hear the voices of those who believe we are seeing what may later be viewed as a historic assault on public education.

Republicans — including those in the Florida Legislature — are showing barely restrained glee at that prospect. As the highest-ranking agency leader in that charge, DeVos and many in her party have shown almost willful ignorance of the havoc this is causing.

A story in Thursday’s Tampa Bay Times quoted Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins warning the district, which services more than 200,000 students, may see a deepening financial crisis.

The budget passed this week by the Legislature cuts per-student funding by $27 at a time when Florida’s population is booming. Eakins said there may have to be a teacher hiring freeze. He also has to find a way to pay for about $3 billion total in new school construction, repairs for existing schools, and debt on previous construction.

It’s also odd that Republicans complain about the treatment DeVos received, many calling it rude and so forth. Yet, how many of them chanted “lock her up … lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, or even as late as March as President Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Nashville?

By that standard, I thought students at Bethune-Cookman were kind to the representative of a government that increasingly is turning its back on them.

DeVos at one point declared, “We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other’s experience.”

This is the same person who earlier declared that so-called historically black colleges represented the original school choice plan.

Choice, huh? The University of Florida didn’t admit its first black student until 1958 — the year DeVos was born, the daughter of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. Florida State didn’t begin admitting black students until 1962.

The memory of that kind of school “choice” is still fresh for many of the parents or grandparents of black students today. Education was their path to a better life. They see a government trying to change that.

They see DeVos as someone who doesn’t understand them and doesn’t seem too interested in learning. Maybe what happened at Bethune-Cookman will change that, but I doubt it.

There was widespread anger across the campus when DeVos was originally announced as the commencement speaker. There was a petition drive to have the offer rescinded.

I would give her credit for showing up anyway, except I think she probably thought she could turn this into a photo op with smiling, applauding students endorsing what she has planned.

She got that photo op all right, just not the one she wanted.

The question is, was she listening to what all those booing students were really saying? Is anyone?

Darryl Paulson: Should the Florida GOP feel blue?

Florida’s Republican Party has governed Florida for less than a third of the past 150 years. After the Civil War, a coalition of newly enfranchised blacks, a small number of native white Republicans and northern carpetbaggers dominated Florida politics from 1865 to around 1885.

After the blacks were stripped of their voting rights at the end of Reconstruction, the Republican Party ceased to be a political force. By 1900, more than 90 percent of black voters were dropped from the voter rolls due to barriers to black voters adopted by the state Legislature and through constitutional amendments. As a result of the removal of black voters, not a single black or Republican was left in the legislature.

Republican Party fortunes were so bad that when the party failed to run a candidate for governor in 1918, the Florida Supreme Court declared that “The law does not know such a political party as the Republican Party.

From the 1880s to the 1950s, Democrats completely controlled the political process in Florida. Only once in that 70-year period did a Republican presidential candidate carry the state of Florida. Almost 57 percent of Floridians voted for Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928 over Democrat Al Smith. Smith was the first Catholic candidate for the presidency, and Protestant voters in Florida were not ready to support a Catholic candidate.

Partisan change in Florida and the rest of the South was triggered by events at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The convention adopted a strong civil rights plank which led to a walkout of most southern delegates and the formation of the States Rights or Dixiecrat Party headed by Governor Storm Thurmond of South Carolina.

The Southern states had agreed to support the national Democratic Party as long as the party did not interfere with racial policies and states’ rights. The bond was now broken. Beginning in 1952, the Republican Party won the electoral votes of three Southern states, including Florida. “Presidential Republicanism” was the wedge that began to open the door for the Republican Party in the South.

Republican strength in presidential elections would be followed by increasing Republican victories in Congressional elections. This would be followed by growing Republican numbers in the state legislatures and then in local elections.

From 1952 to 1992, Republicans won nine of the 11 Florida presidential elections. The only GOP losses were Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Lyndon Johnson campaign successfully convinced voters that Goldwater would lead the country into a nuclear war, and Florida voters were concerned about Goldwater’s proposal to privatize Social Security. Carter was helped by coming from neighboring Georgia. Republican President Gerald Ford assumed the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign and then became president due to Nixon‘s Watergate resignation scandal. Scandal and a bad economy contributed to Ford’s narrow loss to Carter.

Republican dominance in Florida presidential elections changed beginning with the 1996 election. Bill Clinton, who narrowly lost Florida to George H. W. Bush in 1992, defeated Republican Bob Dole by 6 percent in 1996. Republicans would win only three of the six Florida presidential elections from 1996 to 2016, and one of their losses was by 537 votes to George W. Bush in 2000.

Going into the 2016 election, almost all political observers predicted a Hillary Clinton victory in Florida and nationally. Although getting 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, Trump carried 30 states and won 304 electoral votes, including Florida’s.

In state elections, Marco Rubio retained his U. S. Senate seat and Republicans only lost one U. S. House seat despite the redrawing of districts which many believed benefited the Democrats. Republicans also retained large majorities in both houses of the legislature.

Looking toward the future, Democrats have several things working in their favor. First, the election of Trump has been a great motivating factor for Democrats. Massive turnouts at congressional town halls attest to the fact that Democrats appear to be more motivated than Republicans.

A second advantage for Democrats is that Republicans are in disarray. Republicans in the Florida House are battling their Republican counterparts in the Senate, and Republicans in both chambers are fighting Republican Governor Rick Scott. Growing factionalism within the party creates opportunities for the Democrats.

Third, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), once viewed as one of the premier party organizations in the country, has fallen on hard times. When Governor Scott’s hand-picked choice to lead the party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by state legislator Blaise Ingoglia, Scott abandoned his role as party leader.

Scott urged donors not to give to the RPOF, but to contribute to his “Let’s Get to Work” political action committee. The RPOF now has about half of the revenues it had four years ago.

For Democrats, they face the same problem they have faced for the past 25 years:  disorganization. Numerous party leaders have come and gone, and the results from been dismal. Democrats have just elected a new party chair, Steven Bittel, and hired a new executive director, Sally Boynton Brown. Will they do any better than their predecessors?

2018 is an off-year election, and the party occupying the White House usually suffers large losses. 2018 will provide a good look at whether Florida Democrats have got their act together and will achieve better results than they have achieved in the past.

It is hard to imagine Democrats doing any worse.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Elvis Pigott says he’s the fresh new face that the Hillsborough Commission desperately needs

If elected to the Hillsborough County Commission next year, Elvis Pigott would become the first millennial — Americans under the age of 35, as recently defined — to serve on the board.

The 29-year-old Riverview resident has filed to run for the countywide District 5, which becomes vacant next year after GOP incumbent Ken Hagan term-limits out. But Hagan hopes to stick around for another eight years, having filed to run for the North Tampa District 2 seat currently held by fellow Republican

But Hagan still hopes to stay for another eight years, having filed to run for the North Tampa District 2 seat currently held by fellow Republican Victor Crist, also term-limited next year. Although he hasn’t announced yet, Crist is expected to file to run for Hagan’s seat.

Although he hasn’t announced yet, many expect Crist to file to run for Hagan’s seat.

“We need new blood, we need a fresh face, we need a fresh set of eyes, we need new energy, we need another force that can relate to our now generation, that can relate to where we’re going in the future, not where we’ve been in the past,” says Pigott, who has served for the past 11 years as the pastor at Triumph and Deliverance Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Brandon.

Pigott, giving Crist his due, calls him a “phenomenal person” who could “advise” him and others, but he says it’s for Hillsborough County to put the fate of its future in the hands of “capable people before it’s too late.”

Pigott is running on a platform that puts an emphasis on education, economic development and affordable housing.

“What we call affordable housing is not really affordable housing for the economic state that we’re in,” he says of conditions in Hillsborough County. A study by The New York Times in 2015 ranked Hillsborough 98th out of the nation’s biggest 100 counties regarding potential earning power for low-income people.

Pigott emphasizes that it’s not just about finding affordable housing for county residents, but quality affordable housing. After reviewing some available affordable housing units, Pigott says he found them wanting: boarded windows, plumbing problems and graffiti strewn on walls. Rarely are they available immediately, he adds, with perspective renters having to go on waiting lists that run as long as three years.

County Commission candidates generally don’t talk too often about education, since that’s generally the purview of the school board. Pigott doesn’t accept that hands-off approach, though. He says it’s necessary to prepare kids to be ready to go to Hillsborough County schools.

Pigott specifically refers to how the cost to get a child into a HOST program can be expensive for parents barely able to pay the rent.

“This is our tomorrow,” he says of Hillsborough youth. “We must bridge the gap between ‘F schools, ‘ and we must not just sit on the board and say, ‘that has nothing to do with commissioners.'”

On issues like transportation, Pigott speaks admiringly of the BOCC’s newest member, Pat Kemp, a public transit advocate. “It’s important that we get light rail,” he says. “We have enough highways. The more highways you build, the more traffic you get.”

Led by former Commissioner Kevin Beckner, the BOCC passed legislation addressing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, after an earlier decade of being considered the worst major county in the state on such issues. The strongest opposition to such legislation has come from parts of the religious community, but Pigott says that’s not what he’s all about.

“When I decided to run for county commissioner, I want to run for that office, I did not run to push my religious beliefs,” he says, emphasizing that he is a “voice for the people.”

A simple Google search brings up Pigott’s name and face as being arrested by Hillsborough County Sheriff deputies for five different felony violations back in 2010. Pigott says he was arrested, but says it was his twin brother, not himself, who actually committed the crimes of which he was accused.

“I do have a twin brother, who actually lives in a different world that I do,” Pigott says, adding that his brother was looking at serving hard time. “I jumped in and said that was me.”

Pigott says that he was actually in Miami when the alleged offenses occurred, but he took the rap, bonded out and served three years on probation, all in the name of protecting his brother. He’ll probably need to clarify and refine that story as the campaign starts up next year.

Although the county has had African-American representation on its board, those representatives have usually come from District 3, a minority-majority district currently held by Chairman Les Miller. Pigott says he believes that a combination of minority and millennial voters can drive his candidacy, but he agrees it will be about turnout. “We’re going to have an Obama experience or a Hillary Clinton experience,” he says in referring to the difference in young/minority voters in 2016 vs. 2012 and 2008. “We’re going to have an Obama experience where people are going to come out for change and making things different.”

Speaking of the 44th POTUS, Pigott says Barack Obama is the person he most admires in public life.

“I want to be like him because he knows how to react under pressure,” he says. “I want to be like him because he teaches you patience. I want to be like him because he teaches you values in life, that no matter how high you get, hold on to morals, hold on to your values. He’s been a big inspiration for me.”

Although it’s impossible to break down how 2018 will play out locally nearly a year-and-a-half before the election, the fact is that Hillsborough definitely skewed left in 2016, helping Andrew Warren pull out a major upset for State Attorney over Mark Ober, and Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump by more than six percentage points. Whether that means county voters will choose youth over experience (and a Democrat over a Republican) in this countywide seat is a mystery for now.

Hillary Clinton blames misogyny, FBI, Russia, herself for 2016 loss

Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she’s taking responsibility for her 2016 election loss but believes misogyny, Russian interference and questionable decisions by the FBI also influenced the outcome.

The former Democratic presidential nominee offered extensive comments about the election during the Women for Women International’s annual luncheon in New York. Clinton said she’s been going through the “painful” process of reliving the 2016 contest while writing a book.

“It wasn’t a perfect campaign. There is no such thing,” Clinton said in a question-and-answer-session with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “But I was on the way to winning until a combination of (FBI Director) Jim Comey‘s letter on Oct. 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.”

She reminded the enthusiastic audience packed with women that she ultimately earned 3 million more votes than President Donald Trump.

“If the election were on Oct. 27, I would be your president,” Clinton said.

She also highlighted Russia’s role in hacking into her campaign’s internal emails and subsequently coordinating their release on WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Russia coordinated with Trump associates to influence the election.

“He (Russian President Vladimir Putin) certainly interfered in our election,” Clinton said. “And it’s clear he interfered to hurt me and help his opponent.”

Amanpour also asked Clinton whether she was a victim of misogyny.

“Yes, I do think it played a role,” she said, adding that misogyny is “very much a part of the landscape politically, socially and economically.”

After two unsuccessful presidential campaigns, Clinton is not expected to run for public office again.

“I’m now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance,” she said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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