Mitt Romney Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Marlins sale still involves Who’s Who of Republican politics even without Jeb Bush

The news began to break on Tuesday evening. Jeb Bush was reportedly no longer interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to anonymous sources.

Bush was yet another among the biggest names in Republican politics seeking to buy one of baseball’s worst performing teams. Others include President Trump’s family circle and a serious investor carrying the name of Romney.

The Bush family has been involved with baseball for decades. George H.W. Bush was captain of the 1948 Yale baseball team and a frequent patron of the Houston Astros. George W. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers in the 1990s.

Before we learned of Bush’s pursuit of the Marlins, news broke in February that current team owner Jeffrey Loria had a “handshake agreement” to sell the team. Not just to anybody, but to Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law and brother-in-law for $1.6 billion.

Charles Kushner, father of White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Joshua Kushner were seriously pursuing the purchase, but halted their bid. The problem developed when Trump was said to be strongly considering Loria for the role of ambassador to France. Loria is a major donor to the Republican National Committee.

“Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest Mr. Loria will soon be nominated to be ambassador to France,” read a statement from another member of the group, Joseph Meyer, Joshua Kushner’s brother-in-law. “If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it.”

Loria is yet to be nominated, leaving open the possibility the Kushners would re-engage if Trump goes in another direction for France. If so, Charles Kushner would need to address questions from his past regarding a conviction for tax evasion.

While Bush is apparently stepping aside, his partner, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is looking for other investors. If the Kushners do not get back in, the Tampa resident’s main competition comes from Massachusetts.

Tagg Romney, a venture capitalist and the 47-year-old son of the GOP 2012 nominee for President Mitt Romney, is making a strong bid and apparently picking up steam. Mitt Romney is not involved with his son’s bid.

In April, former Atlanta Braves’ legend and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine joined the group. In early May, former Oakland A’s pitching star and Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart joined Romney and Glavine. Miami native Alex Rodriguez declined an offer to join.

The two competing groups are said to be offering about $1.3 billion. The Marlins hope to close the sale by the time they host the MLB All-Star Game in mid-July.

Jeb Bush no longer interested in buying Marlins

Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race for the Miami Marlins.

The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team, two people close to the negotiations said Tuesday.

One of the people said former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved aren’t commenting publicly on the status of negotiations.

Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Romney and Bush-Jeter groups were relatively even in their price offers. Both bid about $1.3 billion to buy the team from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry.

Four weeks ago, Bush said he was optimistic he could close the deal. But one of the people confirming Bush’s withdrawal said he didn’t put up enough of his own money to have the controlling interest he sought.

The commissioner’s office wants the purchasing group to demonstrate it has enough cash both to close the deal and operate the team. Because of MLB’s debt service rule, more than half of the winning bid could require cash.

Manfred declined to comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Jeter didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Romney has not publicly discussed his interest in the team.

Jeter and Bush were part of rival efforts to buy the Marlins before joining forces. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star shortstop, retired in 2014 after 20 seasons with the Yankees.

The Marlins have said they hope to close a deal around the time of the All-Star game in Miami on July 11.

Bush, 64, lives in Miami. He served two terms as governor from 1999-2007 and was an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Republican nomination for president.

Jeter, 42, lives in Tampa and has long talked of his desire to own a team. Romney, 47, has been a Massachusetts businessman, venture capitalist and political adviser.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Announcing another bid for St. Pete mayor, Rick Baker savages Rick Kriseman

Speaking in impassioned tones Tuesday, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is ready to tangle head on against incumbent Rick Kriseman.

“You’re going to hear a lot about Republicans and Democrats over the next few months,” Baker said as he formally announced his bid for mayor on the steps of St. Pete City Hall. “Because that’s that’s the only thing they have.”

Baker was referring to earlier statements from Kriseman’s campaign manager about Baker’s support for Republicans like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Herman Cain in what has become a very Democratic city.

“They have no record that they can run on. They have no successes,” Baker added, before blasting Kriseman for failing to build a new Pier.

Surrounded by former mayors Bill Foster, David Fisher and Bob Ulrich, as well as former and current City Council members Wengay Newton, Leslie Curran, Bill Dudley and Jim Kennedy, Baker said that it was never his intention to run again for City Hall after two successful terms from 2001-2010.

But Baker heard too many critical things about the city he loves while on the campaign trail for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in recent months. That, he said, motivated him to get back into electoral politics.

Curran endorsed Kriseman for mayor in 2013, but since, she said she has become increasingly disappointed.

“Rick (Kriseman) ran on a platform of leadership, and I have seen none of that,” she said, endorsing Baker’s “proven leadership.”

The first part of Baker’s 36-minute speech was a nostalgia-filled recital of programs and initiatives accomplished during his two terms at the beginning of this century, parts of which he practiced talking about in recent months while campaigning for last week’s referendum expanding Al Lang Stadium for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It was a part of his effort in working with Rowdies owner and St. Pete entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

About halfway through, however, he pivoted sharply into a detailed and brutal attack on the Kriseman administration.

He began by blasting Kriseman for hiring a chief of staff, a public information officer, and a neighborhood liaison; all those positions Baker said he didn’t need because he was in charge when running City Hall from 2001-2010.

“We have a chief of staff (Kevin King) now, that I think a lot of people wonder, who’s running the city now, right?  Baker said. “A lot of people wonder that.”

“Did anybody wonder that when I was running the city?”

Baker accused Kriseman of dividing the city, and the results have been “disastrous,” specifically referring to how Midtown is doing these days. He brought up the recent departure of Wal-Mart there, leaving the area to become a food dessert.

“We worked so hard in Midtown,” he said. “We put so much effort into Midtown, and we did it because it was the right thing to do.”

While undoubtedly Team Kriseman will contest that, among those in attendance at the news conference was former Police Chief Goliath Davis, who endorsed Kriseman in 2013 but has also backed Baker in his earlier runs. He’s with Baker this time around.

“I’ve always been a Baker guy,” he said. On Kriseman, he simply said: “I’m not excited about what has occurred.”

One of Kriseman’s lowest moments as mayor occurred late last summer when heavy rains brought massive sewage dumps. Over 200 million gallons made way into local waterways.

Baker contested Kriseman’s charge that previous administrations ignored infrastructure issues in the city. At the time, he had spent $160 million on water and sewer capital improvements, he said, claiming the city was named the state’s best big city sewer system in 2010.

Sewage came back up when Baker stated that Kriseman would talk a lot about the past versus the future. “Backward is dumping 200 million gallons into the Bay,” he said.

Baker insisted he’s not been somnolent in the years since leaving City Hall, referring to his work with the Rowdies as well as helping the people in the Warehouse Arts District.

He also prominently discussed his involvement in local schools, criticizing Kriseman for not taking the same initiative.

As for problems depicted last year in South St. Pete schools dubbed “failure factories,” Baker didn’t blame the current mayor for that situation but wondered where his passion was in trying to ease the problems.

“Where is the involvement? Where’s the plan? Where is the all in response? I promise you, I will give a response. I will go into the schools and work with the school system, and work with the school board.”

At the end of his speech, Baker spoke to the LGBT community.

Over the years, the former mayor’s refusal to attend Pride events became an issue when he was in office. Baker knows, undoubtedly, it will be brought up again this year, with a City Council that includes three members of that community.

“I believe that the LGBT community, is a vital part of our community,” he said, noting that while in office, he had LGBT staffers at City Hall.

Before the speech, a crowd of a few dozen protesters held anti-Baker signs across the street from City Hall.

Pinellas County Democrat Bill Bucolo said he wasn’t there as a Kriseman supporter but as a Baker detractor.

“When he was mayor, we were known as being a very mean place. I think ‘mean’ is bad for business,” Bucolo said, specifically citing the incident where St. Pete Police officers ripped the tents of the homeless. “St. Pete’s not known for being a mean city anymore.”

(Rick Kriseman responds).

‘One more time’ — Rick Baker seeks to unseat Rick Kriseman

Six days after he led a successful push for the Tampa Bay Rowdies to extend its lease at Al Lang Stadium, Rick Baker pulled the trigger on a bid for a third term as Mayor of St. Petersburg, a job he held from 2001-2010.

Baker personally filed his paperwork with the City Clerk’s office Monday. A phone number listed on his intent-to-file form was actually for another candidate who ran for Pinellas County Tax Collector.

Baker’s entry into the contest had been rumored for months, but he steadfastly refused to comment while he engaged in a mini-campaign advocating for the approval of the Rowdies referendum, part of his job working as president of the Edwards Group, led by entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

In addition to eight years as St. Petersburg mayor, Baker previously served as president of the Fisher and Sauls law firm, chair of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and has been with the Edwards Group since December of 2012. He also worked as Vice President of Economic Development at the University of South Florida.

Since ending his second term as Mayor in January of 2010, Baker has been rumored to be a candidate for a number of political seats, but ultimately declined to run for any of them.

Although a series of polls show Baker leading incumbent Rick Kriseman, it will not be easy. Baker hasn’t been in a serious race since his first election in 2001, where he came out on top in what was a nine-person field. He easily defeated Democratic activist Ed Helm in his re-election bid in 2005.

Kriseman has been gearing up for the race for some time and has already raised more than $400,000 for his re-election effort. And his campaign team is prepared to make what is considered a nonpartisan race a very partisan one. Kriseman is a Democrat, Baker a Republican.

Many predict the intensity among progressive voters will have implications in the mayoral contest.

“It’s going to be somebody who stood on stage with people like Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, where Rick Kriseman was out knocking on doors for Barack Obama, right?” Kriseman’s campaign manager, Jacob Smith, told SPB back in March. “I think that is a dynamic that will absolutely come into this race. A lot of the most fired up people right now are the people who stand with Rick on a lot of issues.”

One factor that could also make this race interesting is the city’s black community.

When Baker last won re-election in 2005, he took every precinct in the city, including those areas where blacks were the majority. Much of his success was from his re-election platform — the “Baker Plan” — which addressed five key issues: education; economic development, particularly in Midtown; public safety; neighborhood associations; and improved access to city services. Black voters had been a deciding coalition for Baker in 2001 and successor Bill Foster in 2009.

Baker, who received widespread recognition for his concept of a “seamless city, had made significant strides during his time at City Hall in the relationship with the city’s south side. As mayor, he was able to prove that a Republican can be both tough on crime and strong on the environment.

Upon finishing his final term, Baker opted out decided from mounting a statewide campaign, citing more time to be with family.

Of course, this year, Kriseman is a stronger opponent those Baker has faced before, as well as an advantage as the incumbent.

In a campaign statement, Kriseman responded to Baker’s entry in the race, pointing out specifically that the former mayor is filing for “a third run.”

“I welcome all candidates to this race,” Kriseman said. “In just a few short years our community has moved forward on issues big and small, creating a city of opportunity and elevating St. Pete as a bold, progressive city. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and look forward to sharing our accomplishments and vision for the future on the campaign trail.”

“Rick Baker had eight years as mayor and is now asking voters for more,” campaign manager Smith added. “Unfortunately for Rick Baker, this city is eager to pursue its future, not turn back the clock and unwind our progress with the Rays, the Pier, the police department, and economic development and opportunity creation in South St. Pete. Rick Baker is simply out of step with St. Pete. His refusal to embrace all individuals in our diverse community, especially our LGBT citizens, and his high-profile work against our first African-American president disqualifies him from governing a city as inclusive as St. Petersburg.”

Baker’s campaign announced they will hold a media event on the steps outside the St. Petersburg City Hall Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.

Jacob Smith says intensity of electorate will help Rick Kriseman win re-election

Rick Kriseman will make his case re-election this year, mostly based upon the progress St. Petersburg has made since his inauguration as mayor in January 2014.

“We came in with a lot of really big, sort of thorny projects, and the mayor has taken a lot of them by the horns and made them happen,” says Jacob Smith, Kriseman’s newly minted campaign manager.

Among those “thorny” projects are a pathway toward a new Pier, the upcoming groundbreaking for a new police station and what Smith dubs ‘The Kriseman infrastructure plan’: the $304 million investment to fix the city’s aging pipes and sewage plants.

Smith says the mayor looks forward to having a “public conversation” with voters on infrastructure overhaul. Kriseman is also poised to give details about how the money will be spent, where the revenues to pay for it will come from, and what shape the project will ultimately take.

“A lot of people will say that they don’t know — they know we’re spending that money, but they don’t know exactly what the mechanics of that project are,” Smith said.

The infrastructure plan emerged after what is inescapably Kriseman’s lowest moment as mayor — his handling of the sewage situation late last summer.

After a whistleblower had come forth September alleging the mayor falsely claimed millions of gallons of wastewater spilled from a treatment plan wasn’t a safety hazard, lawmakers called for more oversight. That resulted in the Department of Environmental Protection laying down a mandate for fixing the problem or pay a significant penalty.

Smith prefers to look at the sunnier side of that imbroglio, saying that the mayor deserves props for finally acting on a decades-in-the-making problem in regards to sewage management.

The 27-year-old Smith is a Fort Lauderdale native who was Kriseman’s field director during the 2013 campaign and has added a lot more to his CV since then.

After the mayor’s decisive victory over Bill Foster in November 2013, he went to work immediately on Alex Sink‘s bid for Congress in the special election against David Jolly.

In 2014, he worked as a field director for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial effort and then began work from the start in early 2015 on Hillary Clinton‘s run for the White House. He was living in Brooklyn before moving down to St. Petersburg recently to devote all his energies to the mayor’s race.

Discussion about the sewage situation segues quickly into more positive news, such as an online Fiscal Times report published in January that of the most fiscally stable cities showed that St. Petersburg was listed as the 23rd best city in the country (of cities of more than 200,000 population) and first in Florida.

“Since Mayor Kriseman has taken office, St. Petersburg’s credit rating has gone up, and we’ve become a city more attractive to lenders,” says Smith. “We’ve been called the most financially responsible city in the state.”

Conventional wisdom has it that only one man stands between Kriseman and another four years in office — former Mayor Rick Baker.

There is no bigger guessing game in St. Pete politics than figuring out what Baker will do. Smith says it won’t matter who his main opponent is, Kriseman continue to do his thing.

A favorite criticism among Republicans is that Kriseman has been too partisan.

“Since 2013 Mayor Rick Kriseman has shown he is committed to progressive, left wing policies that have done nothing to improve the quality of life the City of St. Petersburg has come to expect,” says Nick DiCeglie, chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

“This absent leadership has led to an infrastructure failure that has resulted in raw sewage being dumped into Tampa Bay. This is unacceptable and change must and will occur in city hall later this year.”

Referring to his support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality and respect for immigrant rights, Smith says that the mayor represents the values that St. Pete residents believe in. “What the mayor really wants is a city that is welcoming to all, that respects everyone and that we are living up to our best potential and our best values,” he says.

There is no question that the Democratic left has been energized since last fall’s election. In January, Kriseman took part in the Women’s’ March, an event that drew more than 20,000 to the downtown area, the largest such rally in the city’s history.

Smith predicts the intensity among progressive voters will have implications in the mayoral contest and appears to have Baker on his mind when he thinks of who their main opponent will be.

“At the end of the day, Rick Kriseman has always stood by Barack Obama, endorsed Hillary Clinton. Campaigned for her,” he says. “Any opponent he gets is going to be on the other side of the issue, right?”

“It’s going to be somebody who stood on stage with people like Sarah PalinPaul Ryan, Mitt Romney, where Rick Kriseman was out knocking on doors for Barack Obama, right?” he says. “I think that is a dynamic that will absolutely come into this race. A lot of the most fired up people right now are the people who stand with Rick on a lot of issues.”

Whether it’s Baker, Foster or another Republican who will step up and try to take down the incumbent, it’s getting close to the time when that candidate will have to step up.

The Kriseman campaign announced this week he has the backing of half the current City Council in November and has already raised $260,000.

Americans feat they’ll lose coverage with Obamacare repeal: Poll

Though “Obamacare” still divides Americans, a majority worry that many will lose coverage if the 2010 law is repealed in the nation’s long-running political standoff over health care.

new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56 percent of U.S. adults are “extremely” or “very” concerned that many will lose health insurance if the health overhaul is repealed. That includes more than 8 in 10 Democrats, nearly half of independents, and more than 1 in 5 Republicans. Another 45 percent of Republicans say they’re “somewhat” concerned.

“No one should go without health care for even a day,” said Wendy Narug of DeMotte, Indiana, a small town south of Gary. A political independent who leans Republican, Narug works caring for people with disabilities. She favors repealing the Affordable Care Act, but not until Congress and President Donald Trump have a replacement ready.

Released Friday, the poll serves as a reality check for Republicans as they try to find a path to repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama‘s signature legislation. It found that even as few Americans want to keep the health law in its current form, many provisions enjoy broad popularity. The exception: the law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or face fines.

“They should come up with something that’s a little easier and more affordable for everyone,” said Narug. “Some people have to pay hundreds of dollars just to go to their doctors.”

The health law offers subsidized private insurance for those who don’t have job-based coverage, along with a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income people. About 20 million people have gained coverage since it passed. Employer coverage has also increased, but experts credit the law for the vast majority of the gains. Some 28 million people remain uninsured.

Trump has said he wants to replace “Obamacare” with a plan that provides insurance for everybody and lowers deductibles. But his pick for health secretary recently cast doubt on the notion that a Trump administration replacement is ready to go. Questions remained after Trump attended the GOP congressional retreat in Philadelphia this week.

Overall, Americans remain divided, with 53 percent wanting to keep the law in some form, and 46 percent favoring its repeal.

Most of those who favor repeal say that should happen only when a replacement is ready. And most of those who want to keep the law say changes are needed. Among those who favor keeping it, only 1 in 4 think it should remain unchanged.

“If the Affordable Care Act was affordable, I would have no problems with it,” said Kevin Wollersheim, a delivery truck driver from the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins. “Costs were supposed to go down, or at least not go up at such a high rate.”

Wollersheim is uninsured and expects he’ll have to pay about $200 in fines at tax time for failing to comply with the law’s coverage requirement. He said he didn’t even bother to look this year because premiums on Minnesota’s individual insurance market jumped by 50 percent and more.

That coverage requirement – known as the individual mandate – is a top target for Trump and GOP lawmakers.

The poll found that only about 1 in 3 support it, while just over half are opposed. Among Republicans, opposition rises to nearly 3 in 4.

“Don’t fine people; just make it affordable,” said Madlyen Sharp, a retired factory worker from West Plains, Mo., near the Ozarks.

The requirement was modeled on one that former GOP Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts in 2006, designed to get healthy people into the insurance pool and help control premiums. At the federal level, it narrowly survived a Supreme Court challenge in 2012.

Although the Obama administration argued that the mandate was essential for stable insurance markets, the main insurance industry trade group recently told Congress there are other workable alternatives. Trump’s executive order on health care opened the way for broader “hardship” exemptions.

Other major provisions of the health care law fared far better in the poll. They included elimination of out-of-pocket costs for preventive care (favored by 77 percent), allowing young adults to stay on parental plans until age 26 (73 percent), forbidding insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health problems (69 percent), and the Medicaid expansion (66 percent). The first three are favored even by most of those who would get rid of the law.

Although Trump and other Republicans have made it seem like “repeal and replace” would be an easy matter, many Americans seem to question that.

“Obamacare” is like “a 1,500-foot battleship driving along,” said Michael Wolski of Lakeland, Fla., who administers a homeless shelter. “The infrastructure has already been changed. It’s already in place. (Trump) can’t just rescind it. And what’s he going to replace it with?”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,036 adults was conducted Jan. 12-16, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump rewards Michigan party chair with national role

President-elect Donald Trump wants Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel to be national party chairwoman, in part as a reward for the party carrying Michigan for the first time in 28 years.

The choice of McDaniel to serve as Republican National Committee chairwoman was confirmed Tuesday night by a person familiar with Trump’s decision. The person asked for anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.

The niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also earned credit with Trump by faithfully supporting him after he won the party’s 2016 nod, despite sharp criticism from her famous uncle.

“Ronna McDaniel, what a great job you and your people have done,” Trump told thousands at Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last Friday. “I was very impressed with you. She didn’t sleep for six months!”

Trump’s decision also marks a key victory for outgoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

As Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, Priebus, who guided the at times unwieldy Trump through the general election, supported McDaniel as his replacement. Other Trump loyalists were urging him to name Nick Ayers, a close adviser to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

While Trump’s team has said there’s no outright power struggle, Trump’s deliberations over secretary of state were seen as an indicator of influence between Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon. Priebus was seen as supporting Mitt Romney to become Trump’s secretary of state. On Tuesday, Trump named Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his choice for the nation’s top diplomat.

McDaniel would seem to validate Priebus’ performance as the chairman who turned around the financially strapped committee and ended its presidential losing streak. McDaniel would probably maintain the strategy of early spending in states, digital data and local party infrastructure, RNC insiders said.

“They said a Republican could never win Michigan,” McDaniel told the audience in Grand Rapids Friday. “I knew better. You knew better and Donald Trump knew better.”

For her work in Michigan, part of a swath of northern states that had eluded Republicans since the 1980s, McDaniel is the right call, said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committeeman from Mississippi. Trump defied decades of precedent by also carrying Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — once-powerful, working-class Democratic states where manufacturing in smaller cities has declined.

McDaniel, 43, would face immediate pressure to hold onto control of Congress in 2018.

“I think she can help us hold a lot of these Rust Belt Democrats who voted for Donald Trump with good leadership and execution,” said Barbour. “Plus, she was willing to step out and support our nominee when her very famous uncle was doing the opposite. Now, that’s leadership.”

Trump’s choices for RNC chairman and other party leadership positions carry immense sway with its members, who will vote on the team early next year.

Should the committee approve Trump’s recommendation, McDaniel would become the second woman to be elected RNC chairman, and the first in 40 years.

That’s a good sign for the party and Trump, said Michigan Republican Bob LaBrant, considering the 2005 recordings of Trump making sexually degrading remarks that were released during the campaign.

“That sends a signal we need to send right now,” said LaBrant, former political director for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “And Ronna is the right one to carry the message.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump picks Rex Tillerson to lead State Department

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday he has picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, calling him “among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world.”

“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” the billionaire real estate mogul said in a pre-dawn news release from Trump Tower in New York.

Tillerson “knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department,” Trump said. In a tweet, Trump added that Tillerson “has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.”

In an accompanying statement, Tillerson said he was “honored” by his selection and shares Trump’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security.”

But Tillerson has close ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, which is certain to draw scrutiny and fuel a potential Senate confirmation fight. Leading Republicans have already expressed anxieties as they contend with intelligence assessments saying Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election to help Trump.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will hold confirmation hearings in January, called Tillerson “a very impressive individual” with “an extraordinary working knowledge of the world.” Corker, who had been considered for the secretary of state job, said Trump called him Monday to inform him of the pick.

Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said Tuesday that Tillerson was chosen because he is “a diplomat that happens to be able to drill oil.” Tillerson has “had to maintain relationships across the world in many places that aren’t the easiest places to have relationships,” Priebus said on MSNBC.

“The good Lord didn’t put oil in all freedom-loving democracies across the world and yet Rex Tillerson was able to make this work. Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, they hit it off, and they have a similar vision of how to get things done,” Priebus said.

Trump has made it clear he sees Tillerson’s deep relations with Moscow as a selling point. As ExxonMobil’s head, Tillerson maintained close ties with Russia and was awarded by President Vladimir Putin with the Order of Friendship in 2013, an honor for a foreign citizen.

For weeks, Trump has teased out the secretary of state decision process publicly, often exposing rifts in his organization. Besides Corker, he also considered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a one-time vocal Trump critic. Romney wrote on Facebook Monday that it “was an honor to have been considered” for the job.

Trump’s unconventional Cabinet vetting procedures are in keeping with his presidential style thus far, unconcerned with tradition or business as usual. In recent weeks, he’s attacked CIA intelligence, spoken to the leader of Taiwan — irritating China — and has continued his late-night Twitter tirades.

Beijing is looking forward to working with the new secretary of state “to push forward greater progress of the bilateral relationship on a new starting point,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Tuesday.

In Washington, a congressional investigation is in the works over a CIA assessment that Russia interfered in the November election on his behalf, a conclusion Trump has called “ridiculous.”

The issue is raising red flags among lawmakers concerned about the sanctity of the U.S. voting system and potentially straining relations at the start of Trump’s administration.

On Twitter Monday, Trump pushed back, saying: “Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!”

Putin, meanwhile, said he was ready to meet with Trump “at any moment.”

In the transcript of his interview with journalists which was released Tuesday in Moscow, Putin said “it’s widely known that the elected president of the United States has publicly called for the normalization of the Russian-American relationship. We cannot but support this.” Putin added that he thought a meeting with Trump would be more likely after Trump’s January inauguration.

“We understand it will not be a simple task considering the extent of degradation of the Russian-American relationship,” he said. “But we are prepared to do our bit.”

If confirmed, Tillerson would face immediate challenges in Syria, where a civil war rages on, and in China, given Trump’s recent suggestions that he could take a more aggressive approach to dealing with Beijing.

A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Tillerson came to ExxonMobil Corp. as a production engineer straight out of the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and never left. Groomed for an executive position, Tillerson came up in the rough-and-tumble world of oil production, holding posts in the company’s central United States, Yemen and Russian operations.

Early in the company’s efforts to gain access to the Russian market, Tillerson cut a deal with state-owned Rosneft. The neglected post-Soviet company didn’t have a tremendous amount to offer, but Exxon partnered with it “to be on the same side of the table,” Tillerson said, according to “Private Empire,” an investigative history of Exxon by Steve Coll.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Pinellas County GOP head Nick DiCeglie to run for head of state chairs

After successfully leading his county to go red in last month’s presidential election, newly re-elected Pinellas County Republican Party Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCigle is thinking ‘bigly’ for 2017. At next month’s state party meeting in Orlando, he intends to run for the Chairman’s Caucus Chairman, the leader of all 67 county GOP leaders from across the state.

“My goal – if successful – is to share what worked for us here in Pinellas County with the other chairmen in the state of Florida,” DiCeglie said last week in an interview at the Pinellas GOP’s offices in Clearwater last week.

Initially elected in 2014 and re-elected on Monday night, DiCigle says that unlike many other county chairs across the state, he has the luxury of being in a large county with a substantial donor base and other resources that he’s been able to adroitly tap into.

“I want to be able to share not on my successes and our successes here in the party, but to share those successes, so that collectively we can come together as a group of chairmen, (so) when these folks go back to their counties, they’re more knowledgeable, they’ve  learned something, and they can improve what their doing locally, that’s the ultimate goal,” DiCigle says.

The Long Island native has been active with the Pinellas Republican Party since 2009. After a stint as vice chair, he was elected chairman of the REC in 2014 when he defeated two other challengers to take the reigns of the local party. His biggest accomplishment to date was leading Pinellas to go red for Donald Trump in last month’s presidential election, a significant development in comparison to 2012, when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by nearly ten percentage points in the county.

DiCeglie is aware that some of the migration to the local Republican party in 2016 emanated directly from those attracted to Trump, and that some of those voters don’t necessarily have that strong of an allegiance to the GOP. His goal is to make them want to stay in the party.

“I think this is an opportunity for Republicans,  and we have a responsibility as a local party as well to change minds, and as we change minds, and as things improve in this country, we’re going to be able to not only register Republicans as voters, we’re going to bypass the Dems by significant margins,” he says, adding that one of his goals over the next to years is to “identify, engage, communicate and motivate this new electorate.”

The next big thing in Pinellas when it comes to elections is the St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, taking place next November. And while Rick Kriseman has been struggling at City Hall regarding  his handling of the sewage crisis, he still doesn’t appear to be in danger for re-election unless Rick Baker were to leave the private sector and run for the job he held from 2000-2009.

DiCeglie acknowledges that the list of potential challengers to Kriseman begins with Baker, but says if he doesn’t pull the trigger “there are other Republicans that we’re going to be engaging, though he says he can’t say who those people are just yet. He grows impassioned when discussing what he says has been a distressing lack of leadership at City Hall.

The GOP leader scoffs at the idea that the mayoral race is nonpartisan. “Tell that to Rick Kriseman,” he says. “He made that race extremely partisan four years ago,” referring to the tens of thousands of dollars that the Florida Democratic Party contributed to his campaign in 2013.

“We certainly want to play a role,” he says about the municipal election, where four City Council seats will also be on the ballot. “We don’t know exactly what that’s going to be, but there’s a significant concern about the direction about the city of St Petersburg, and we’re firm believers that any leader of mayor, who focuses on limited government and fiscally conservative values is certainly better than what we’re seeing right now.”

Regarding the election for state party chair, DiCeglie is a Blaise Ingoglia man, but says he’s friends with his challenger, Sarasota state Committeeman Christian Ziegler. “They’re both great people, and either way, we’re going to have a very strong party coming into this next cycle, no question about it.”

Chief of staff Reince Priebus? Some Donald Trump loyalists still dubious

When President-elect Donald Trump tapped Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, Republican leaders cheered the prospect of a close ally having a top White House job.

But as Priebus tries to wield his influence and bring more structure to the president-elect’s freewheeling political organization, he’s frustrating some longtime Trump allies who see him as too conventional a pick for an unconventional president. Others fear being left behind as Priebus fills out West Wing jobs.

The dismay over Priebus stems in part from a belief among some Trump loyalists that the outgoing Republican National Committee chairman expected Trump to lose the election. They resent the president-elect “rewarding people who thought he wasn’t going to win,” according to one top adviser.

Still, Priebus appears to have Trump’s trust. He’s been given wide authority to name senior White House staff, according to people involved in the transition, and in shaping the decision on who will succeed him at the RNC, though deliberations over that post continue.

“Reince Priebus has done an outstanding job,” Trump said in a statement to The Associated Press. “All you have to do is look at all of the Republican victories and one in particular.”

If Trump runs his White House like past presidents — and that’s hardly a sure thing — Priebus, 44, could hold enormous sway over what issues reach the Oval Office. Chiefs of staff also typically control who has access to the president — no easy task given Trump’s penchant for consulting a wide network of associates before making key decisions.

Priebus, a Wisconsin native and father of two young children, comes to the White House with no significant experience in foreign and domestic policy. He has close ties with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP congressional leaders. And he’s seen by those who have worked with him previously as a well-organized manager with little appetite for drama.

“One of the things he’ll bring to the White House is an ability to work well with people, to be inclusive, not to get in to intrastaff squabbles,” said Henry Barbour, an RNC member and Priebus ally.

Yet internal squabbling and competing factions are a hallmark of Trump’s political and business organizations. He cycled through three campaign managers during his White House run, with the feuds that led up to each shake-up playing out messily in the media.

In tapping Priebus as chief of staff, Trump appeared to be setting up another rivalry. He put Steve Bannon, the controversial conservative media executive, at the White House as a senior adviser and called him an equal partner with Priebus. Trump’s influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is also weighing a White House role, but will remain a personal power center even without a formal position.

Transition officials say Priebus and Bannon have a respectful relationship, and there’s no outright control struggle underway. But Trump’s deliberation over whom to name as secretary of state is seen as an indicator of a tug-of-war, with Bannon among those said to be against Mitt Romney. Priebus is seen as an advocate for Romney and was notably the only adviser who joined Trump for a private dinner with the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

Several Trump advisers described Priebus’ role only on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the chief of staff.

Josh Bolten, who served as President George W. Bush‘s final chief of staff, said he was concerned by the description of Bannon as Priebus’ equal. While presidents usually have multiple influential advisers, Bolten said, it’s imperative for the lines of authority to be clear.

“If that were to mean that there’s more than one chief of staff, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Bolten said.

Bolten is among several former chiefs of staff Priebus has consulted since the election. He’s spoken at least twice with Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, as recently as last week.

Priebus was frequently by Trump’s side in the final weeks of the campaign. After the release of a videotape in which the businessman was heard bragging about predatory behavior with women, Priebus stood by Trump and made clear the RNC would not abandon the party’s nominee.

But some Trump advisers contend Priebus and the RNC believed he would lose the election. Indeed, on the Friday before Election Day, top party officials told reporters their data showed Trump falling short by about 30 electoral votes.

Some Trump advisers have also blamed Priebus for the messy spectacle around the president-elect’s interview with The New York Times. Trump accused the Times of changing the terms of the interview and tweeted that he would cancel. Then the Times said the terms had not changed, and the interview was back on.

One person involved in the situation said it was Priebus who incorrectly led Trump to believe the Times had changed the terms of the interview.

“No matter how loyal the overall collection of personalities is to the president, there are always internal rivalries and tugging and pulling,” said John Sununu, who served as chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and has spoken with Priebus in recent weeks. “It’s up to the chief of staff to deal with all of that.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons