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Please don’t go there, Adam Putnam

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

The immortal words of Wilt Chamberlin were on my mind Monday after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (at long last) announced that he is running for Florida governor.

Chamberlain, the All-World center and only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a game, was talking about the belief that he did not receive the respect and appreciation he deserved vis-à-vis his rival, Bill Russell. Fans had the impression Chamberlain’s size and physical gifts made the game come easier to him than to others.

The knock on Putnam — he is Jeb Bush 2.0.

In a more political environment, a comparison to the two-term former governor would be high praise indeed. But in the era of Donald Trump, when folks compare Putnam to Bush, they might as well say: “Please clap.”

As POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo wrote of the announcement, Putnam enters the race as Goliath of the field, just like Bush’s entry in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

“With more than $4 million in his political committee account, statewide name ID among Republicans and longtime Florida roots,” Caputo said. “Putnam should become his party’s nominee in the eyes of Tallahassee insiders and Republican Party activists.”

And yet, there is a sort of weariness about Putnam’s candidacy, especially since many of his key supporters are the same people who witnessed Bush’s collapse.

I’d make the argument that Bush’s 2016 loss might the best thing that could have possibly happened to Putnam’s 2018 aspirations. Were I among Putnam’s chief consultants, pinned to the campaign office’s bulletin board would be every newspaper front page headlining Bush’s poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

I’d make everyone look at pictures of Bush on stage after his last stand in South Carolina.

Let all that burn deep into their hearts and minds.

As for Putnam himself, he should wake up each day with a poster of Trump and Bush next to each other (this image may be best), serving as a reminder to never let what happened to Bush happen to him.

Perhaps Putnam already recognizes the danger of being Jeb 2.0. However, one minor way Putnam attempts to protect his right flank rings false.

On Friday, Putnam — or more likely his campaign/communications team — asked Twitter followers their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida. These are municipalities which limit cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Cutting off funding to sanctuary cities is a top priority for many Republican primary voters.

That same day, the Florida House voted to outlaw sanctuary cities, imposing harsh penalties on any elected official or community seeking to thwart the ban.

Opponents of sanctuary cities argue the bill seeks to target undocumented immigrants and impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies. The measure is offensive to immigrants and minority populations, they say.

Perhaps Putnam’s tweet was an honest attempt to gauge his followers. What I fear is that this was more likely an attempt, albeit a small one, by Putnam to burnish his right-wing credentials with GOP voters.

There’s nothing wrong with tacking to the right in advance of a bruising GOP primary. In fact, in doing so, Putnam proves he may not suffer the same fate as Bush (who was outflanked on the right).

But someone with Putnam’s agricultural background, it is hypocritical to cast doubt on sanctuary cities. Every farmer in Florida knows firsthand that the state’s bountiful crops wouldn’t be so bountiful were it not for the thousands of undocumented workers picking fruit and tending fields.

It may be an upsetting reality for Putnam (or not), but when researching his position on this particular issue, you wouldn’t know it. Although they would not be quoted on the record, the legislators who shepherded this bill say they heard very little — if at all — about the issue.

Furthermore, a cursory search of “Adam Putnam + sanctuary cities” turns up scant, if any, news articles.

While Putnam may not be my first choice for Florida governor, I would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But I don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

We’re rooting for the best version of Adam Putnam, whether it be as a David or Goliath.

Rob Manfred says 2 groups still in Miami Marlins’ bidding

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says two groups are still bidding to buy the Miami Marlins from Jeffrey Loria.

Former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are involved in one of the groups. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the Jeter/Bush group won an auction for the team with a $1.3 billion bid. Manfred said some reports on the sale have been premature.

“There are multiple bidders for the Marlins,” Manfred said Thursday at the groundbreaking for the Jackie Robinson Museum. “There is no agreement in place. We’re working with more than one group, and when we have a definitive agreement we’ll make an announcement.”

Asked about the timeline, Manfred responded: “The timeline is relatively short; it would be measured in days, not months.” He also said, “there is not a signed document on any topic.”

“We still have two groups involved in the process,” he added. “Timing is one of the things that both the buyer and the seller are working through, so it’s just impossible to say at this point, and I don’t want to get into really what the issues are. The only reason I commented on this at all is there had been so much out there that really (is) not quite accurate.”

As Manfred was speaking, ESPN announced it was cutting back its “Baseball Tonight” studio program from all game nights to Sundays and special events. The MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” will be broadcast on ESPN2 on weekdays from 4-5 p.m. during the season and for 30 minutes during the offseason.

A day earlier, ESPN announced about 100 layoffs amid a loss of subscribers and rising rights fees for live telecasts of games.

“We feel that we’ll continue to get outstanding coverage of baseball on ESPN,” Manfred said.

Manfred also said talks were ongoing with Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan about the team’s Chief Wahoo logo, which many find offensive.

“Those conversations have been productive, and when we come to a definitive timeline, believe me, we’ll let you know,” Manfred said.

Protesters gathered outside Cleveland’s Progressive Field before some games to demonstrate against the club’s use of the red-faced, smiling logo, which has been part of the team’s history dating to the 1940s.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after  the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady earned his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the down side, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

 

Derek Jeter, Jeb Bush join forces in bid to buy Marlins

Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush have formed a team in their attempt to buy a team.

The former New York Yankees star and former Florida governor have joined forces in their pursuit of the Miami Marlins, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

The person confirmed the partnership to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Jeter and Bush have not commented. They initially had competing interests in efforts to buy the team.

The person said Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum also is interested in buying the Marlins.

Jeter has long talked about owning a franchise. Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, was part-owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998.

Last week, Marlins president David Samson said talks with multiple parties interested in buying the team were in the “fourth inning.” He said owner Jeffrey Loria, 76, might sell before the end of the season — or not at all.

Price and financing could be major hurdles. Joshua Kushner, whose older brother is an adviser to President Donald Trump, had a preliminary agreement to buy the Marlins for $1.6 billion before breaking off negotiations. Loria bought the team in 2002 for $158.5 million.

Spokesmen for Jeter and Bush didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Jeter retired in 2014 after 20 seasons with the Yankees. His final manager, Joe Girardi, recently predicted Jeter would make a great owner — even if it’s in a city other than New York.

“That will be strange. In my mind he’ll always be a Yankee,” Girardi said. “But there is life after baseball, and sometimes the opportunity that presents itself is not always necessarily where you played.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott announces resignation of his chief inspector general

Melinda Miguel, the state’s chief inspector general, is stepping down.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Miguel, who has served as the governor’s chief inspector general since 2011, has resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Her last day, according to the Governor’s Office, is today.

“Over the last 27 years, I have been trusted with the mantle to stand and sere our great State of Florida and have been inspired and moved by your leadership and courageous determination to make it better,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “Now more than ever, I appreciate your stance for liberty, freedom and justice and you fighting for Florida’s families.”

Miguel’s career with the state dates back to 1989, when she served as a supervisor for player accounting services at the Florida Lottery. She worked her way up the ladder at the Lottery, spending four years as a supervisor, before becoming an auditor and investigator with the agency’s inspector general’s office.

Over the years, she served stints at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Education, and the Attorney General’s Office. In 2006, she was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Council of State Agency Inspectors General, a role she served in for about a year.

“Melinda has done a great job serving our state as Inspector General, and I’m extremely grateful for her commitment to ensuring government remains accountable to Florida taxpayers,” said Scott in a statement.

Scott announced Eric Miller, who currently serves as the inspector general at the Agency for Health Care Administration, will serve as the Governor’s Chief Inspector General.

Miller has served in his current position since September 2011. Prior to joining AHCA, he served as manager of corporate compliance at Citizens Property insurance.

“Eric has dedicated his career to serving our state for more than twenty years. As Inspector General at AHCA, Eric has firsthand experience in fighting fraud and ensuring tax dollars are used efficiently and effectively,” said Scott in a statement. “I am confident he will continue his great work as Chief Inspector General in my office.”

Miller’s first day as chief inspector general is April 21.

Can a moderate ‘old white guy’ beat Stephanie Murphy?

We cannot even get to the halfway point in the Legislative Session without turning to not-yet-developed 2018 races — especially with one Orlando congressional seat poised to become one of the most hotly-contested in the country.

Why?

Orlando is emblematic of Democratic hopes for their party. For the better part of the last few decades, the area has been represented by typical conservative white guys — Bill McCollum, Tom Feeney, John Mica, Ric Keller — and a gerrymandered African-American from Jacksonville (Corrine Brown).

Now, Central Florida has three Democrats: an African-American woman, Val Demings, who was Orlando’s first female police chief, former state Senator Darren Soto, who while born in New Jersey his father is Puerto Rican, and the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, Stephanie Murphy. This is the Obama coalition, the so-called “coalition of the ascendant,” led by women, minorities, and young people (both Murphy and Soto are in their 30s).

So, what is the GOP answer?

Frank Torres at the Orlando Political Observer reports that David Simmons, the 64-year old Seminole County state Senator, is considering his first congressional run at an age when most Americans are considering retirement. The move would position Simmons to collect three government pensions: one from Social Security, one from the State of Florida and another from the federal government.

Small government is for suckers.

Simmons’ candidacy likely appeals to NRCC operatives who may be inclined to overlook his rather bland, dull, and prematurely aged look in light of his hefty bank account (Simmons is a multimillionaire, by the way).

As it happens, I like a good Republican, particularly of the Jeb Bush type. Every year, I support about as many Republicans as Democrats.

However, can Simmons’ compassionate voting record withstand a bruising primary campaign likely to favor conservatives?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature did something I thought impossible: It granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Simmons was an unapologetic “yes” vote. That will make it tougher for Murphy to attack Simmons as anti-immigrant, but harder for Simmons to survive his primary.

Similarly, Simmons backed Medicaid expansion in the Senate — effectively enlarging and entrenching Obamacare — a move that’s unlikely to endear him to conservatives but may insulate him from Murphy’s attacks.

While I think the personal contrast between the 30-something Murphy and the 60-something Simmons couldn’t be starker, policy similarities offer Simmons a fighting chance — if he can make it out of the GOP primary.

OK, enough politics, I’m back to an exciting committee meeting with your elected leaders debating whether the University of Moscow can have a vanity license plate.

Florence Snyder: Whether Adam Putnam likes it or not, it’s still OK to tell the truth

If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to dial down the #Stupid in his own office.

The Baron of Bartow went full #FloridaMan on Ocheesee Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm an hour’s drive and a world away from what former Gov. Jeb Bush derisively — and correctly — referred to as “Mount Tallahassee.” The Wesselhoefts are central casting’s idea of decent, hard-working people being run out of business by “regulators” running wild. They dote on their small herd of Jersey cows like the Donald dotes on Ivanka.

Visitors to the Creamery’s website learn that the “Jersey girls” are “an intelligent cow breed, and we enjoy being around them because they are known for their calm, gentle and docile nature.”

The “plush green grass and open fields of fresh air and sunlight” at Ocheesee would make an ideal backdrop for those ubiquitous FreshFromFlorida commercials. Instead, Putnam and his lawyers at the firm of Orwell, Kafka and ? and the Mysterians are in their fifth year of spending public funds to force the Wesselhoefts to add vitamin A to their skim milk, or add the word “imitation” to their skim milk labels.

Yesterday, it was Putnam’s turn to get creamed.

A panel of Reagan, Bush, and Obama appointees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circled the constitutional wagons around strict construction and decided that it is not deceptive to refer to skim milk as skim milk.

Nobody claimed otherwise before Putnam was elected as the state’s agricultural regulator-in-chief. His jihad on Jerseys has attracted embarrassing international attention, including the No. 4 slot on an April Fools’ Day roundup of “stories you thought were pranks but are in fact genuine.”

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft suspects that Putnam and his Label Police are carrying water, currying favor, and otherwise doing the bidding of bigger, richer, more politically connected dairymen. At some point, he’s going to have to explain to the rest of us why she’s wrong.

Senate committee recommends Glenn Sutphin for Veteran Affairs director

The Senate Committee on Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Space and Domestic Security recommended Glenn W. Sutphin, Jr. as the executive director of Florida’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs Tuesday.

Sutphin, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott and a retired, was voted to his post unanimously by the committee.

He joined the military June 6, 1969, serving 30 years in the U.S. Army. His family has history of military service. Having served under Gov. Jeb Bush, he helped to foster an environment in Florida for veterans to be welcome, he said at the committee hearing.

“One of my jobs was to get units ready, get them out the door, the wounded back and unfortunately those who we had lost – try to get them back to their families, and get them taken care of,” he told the committee Tuesday. “All my life I’ve either lead troops, trained troops or cared for their families.”

His ethos in his military service, he said, consisted of these three things:  No mission was to be refused; no was not an answer; and failure was not an option.

In Tampa, potential CFO candidate Jeremy Ring tells his story

Broward Democrat Jeremy Ring isn’t officially a candidate for Chief Financial Officer, but he talked the part during a stop in Tampa on Friday.

Speaking at the Oxford Exchange as part of the Cafe Con Tampa weekly event, the former Yahoo executive introduced himself to the audience by humble-bragging about his private sector background, describing himself as the first salesman for the internet search engine company when he started there as a 24-year-old (he’s 46 now).

As proud as he was of his private sector career, Ring was self-deprecating when it came to his knowledge about politics when he decided to first run for the state Senate in 2006.

“I had never been to Tallahassee,” he says. “I barely knew that Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. When I lived in Silicon Valley, Nancy Pelosi was my Congresswoman – I never heard of her (actually, Pelosi represents San Francisco, an hour north of Silicon Valley, which is located in Santa Clara County). All true. I was the least experienced candidate in the history of the state of Florida.”

The meat of his message is on making Florida an innovative economy, a theme he campaigned on during his first run for office a decade ago. And he’s produced results.

In 2008, he helped create theFlorida Growth Fund, which invests in state and local pension funds involving technology and high-growth businesses with a significant presence in the state, and the Florida Opportunity Fund, a multimillion-dollar program that directs investments to high-performing funds committed to seed early stage businesses.

Ring says that Florida has one of the most complete innovation “ecosystems” in the country, not that it’s something that many lawmakers know or understand.

“Most elected officials in Tallahassee will inspire you instead of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll inspire you to be the next homebuilder or land use attorneys,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re lacking in this state to build an innovation economy is not the pieces. The pieces exist. It’s the culture. We don’t have the culture.”

Ring’s legislative record shows that he is definitely unorthodox compared to his Tallahassee colleagues. Last year he sponsored a bill that would make computer coding a foreign language option, an idea he received from his 14-year-old son. The bill failed, though St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring it again this year (Brandes and Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant were singled out by Ring as understanding innovation).

Ring is adamant that the worst thing the state could do was to “starve our universities,” and he was critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new offensive scrutinizing state university foundations. And he said that Florida cannot afford to freeze college tuition.

He tends to think that lawmakers (and the press) are in a bubble in regards to the general public’s attention span. In describing the uproar over former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli pulling the House out of Session days before it was scheduled to end (only to have to come back in a special session), he says ,”Not a single person called my office caring about that. It just wasn’t relevant to their lives.”

Acknowledging that it’s like a cliche, but Ring describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. And he is coldly realistic about his chances of success in capturing the CFO seat next year.

It would require raising an “incredible amount of money,” having a solid campaign team and essentially ignoring the Florida Democratic Party. The bigger challenge, he said, is that most Floridians don’t give a hoot about the CFO race, and that part of the campaign will be out of his control.

“What’s the Governor’s race going to look like?” he asked. “Is Donald Trump at one percent or 99 percent?”

Though he said he’s confident of raising substantial money both inside and outside of Florida and having a strong campaign team, “If Adam Putnam is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then no, but if John Morgan is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then a Democrat’s probably going to win.”

Headaches and money drain of “Water Wars” nearly avoided a decade ago

An old issue returned to the news last week when a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed special master recommended the Court rule against Florida in the ongoing Water Wars saga. Ralph Lancaster said Florida has not “met its burden” in proving reduced water flows from Georgia into the Apalachicola River are the cause for the harm befalling the region’s seafood industry.

For nearly three decades Florida has tried to ensure sufficient water comes into the panhandle region that houses a good portion of this state’s seafood industry. While the Apalachicola region will suffer the most, Florida taxpayers have a stake in all of this as well.

Since 2001, Florida has shelled out $72 million in legal costs to fight this battle. Of that total, as much as $41 million is coming out of this year’s coffers. Much of this money drain is going to outside law firms.

The price tag is not lost on state lawmakers. It is certainly front and center with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who reported a $17 million shortfall in covering current and pending bills.

“I think the price tag is what is raising some eyebrows,” said House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican. “We really want to dive down into the bills, the action items and the cost.”

The litigation, originally begun in 1990, picked up steam in 2004 following the failure of the three states to achieve a negotiated settlement on river flows and consumption. Metro Atlanta’s increased desire/need to tap into Lake Lanier in north Georgia was also a major issue.

Both Florida and Alabama have long argued that Atlanta’s booming growth came without responsible water management. That has left all three states susceptible to catastrophic damage when droughts occur.

Anyone remember the 2006-2008 drought in the south? Apalachicola certainly does.

There was one huge opportunity to reach that cherished negotiated settlement which would have saved all of these millions along with the oysters. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Compact, established in 1997, appeared as though it would achieve its goal of preventing more litigation.

Governor Jeb Bush was personally involved in working out an agreement with his counterparts, Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama and Gov. Roy Barnes of Georgia. Then-DEP Secretary David Struhs and his team were involved in the nuts and bolts.

The compact was extended numerous times, but shortly before it would finally expire in 2003, a tentative understanding was reached between the states. Florida negotiators indicated all that remained was literally putting the final details on paper.

But it was not to be. At the last moment, Florida negotiators said Georgia blew up the agreement.

Teri Donaldson certainly remembers it. As DEP’s General Counsel from 1999-2004 and a former federal prosecutor, she was significantly involved in the negotiations with Georgia and Alabama.

I remember being in her office the next day. As DEP’s spokesman, I had to ask the inevitable question of “what happened?” I won’t forget her response.

“Georgia moved the goal posts,” she said.

Georgia’s decision to back away effectively, but not officially, marked the end of sitting around the table to make a deal. After 2004, the parties would still be seated at tables, but on opposite sides in courtrooms.

More than a decade and $72 million later, this is where the water wars stand. Florida, especially Apalachicola, is worse off since the day the tentative agreement collapsed.

It is tough to see how things get better.

Florida lawmakers may be asking for some of that money back. At issue is the presentation of Florida’s case, which did not include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lancaster prominently mentioned this in his recommendation to the Court.

The Corps controls water flows coming from Georgia and has basically taken Georgia’s position. How could they not be named as a defendant?

That’s exactly what House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants to know. According to a report in the News Service of Florida, the legislature may “aggressively” seek refunds for this “failure to include an indispensable party.”

The water wars will continue and apparently the legal wars will soon begin. Legal wars are not cheap either.

We were so close to avoiding all of this.

 

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