Pam Bondi Archives - Page 6 of 23 - SaintPetersBlog

Mitch Perry Report for 9.7.16 — Pam Bondi’s reluctance to investigate Trump University resurfaces on the campaign trail

Who knew Hillary Clinton was a fan of the University of South Florida Bulls?

“Hello, Tampa! Hello, USF! I know I’m only the second-most exciting thing that’s happened here in the last few days. Your big win to open your football season got some attention,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to the audience who gathered at the rather intimate student recreation center on the North Tampa campus on Tuesday (And yes, that 56-20 victory over Towson was impressive).

After dispensing further pleasantries (including a nice shoutout to outgoing Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner), Clinton got down to business, which was all about trashing Donald Trump as being hopelessly overmatched when it comes to discussing national security issues.

While flying to Tampa, Clinton held her second straight news conference with reporters, where she happened to mention the Donald Trump Foundation has recently been fined for illegal activity when it made a political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. As most readers know, Bondi’s office had received complaints from more than 20 Floridians to investigate Trump University because of their negative experiences.

“And of course, as we know, there was a phone conversation between them — they contradict each other,” Clinton said, adding the “American people deserve to know” what was said in that call because “clearly” Bondi “did not proceed with the investigation.”

Trump was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine to the IRS over the $25,000 donation. The Trump Foundation had not listed the contribution in its tax filings, and Trump later reimbursed the foundation for the donation.

Last night on the Fox Business Network, Bondi told host Neil Cavuto that she wouldn’t be “bullied” by Clinton. “I will not be collateral damage in a presidential campaign, nor will I be a woman bullied by Hillary Clinton,” the AG said.

As an RNC spokesman said yesterday, only one attorney general in the U.S. — New York’s Eric Schneiderman — ever pursued charges against Trump U. True, along with a separate federal class action civil lawsuit filed in California. Both allege Trump University defrauded consumers by as much as $35,000 each with promises of a real estate investing education they either did not receive or found to be worthless.

While the fact that Bondi’s office decided not to pursue charges against Trump U. may be completely legit, speculation about “pay-for-play” continues to color this story, and it ain’t helped by statements that Trump has made on the stump, statements his fans love for “telling it like it is.”

“When I want something I get it,” Trump said at an Iowa rally in January. “When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true.”

In other news …

SD 19 fallen candidate Ed Narain, who came so close before losing out to Darryl Rouson last week, said he’s optimistic about his future following last week’s tough election result.

After reporting earlier in the day that the Tampa Tiger Bay Club didn’t appear prepared to reschedule a debate between the candidates for state Senate District 18, the campaigns and the political forum have come to an agreement to host the debate between Dana Young, Bob Buesing, Sheldon Upthegrove, and Joe Redner on Oct. 21.

It’s getting rough and tumble already in the CD 13 contest between David Jolly and Charlie Crist, with Jolly bashing the former Republican for his “hidden” ties to Donald Trump.

A subcommittee with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Committee passed by a 2-1 margin controversial new rules that ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say could drive them literally out of town.

And there’s fallout in the local PR-political world, as Tampa’s Tucker/Hall is suing one of its former major principals, Tony Collins, for breach of contract.

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WaPo: Donald Trump pays IRS penalty for Pam Bondi contribution

Lost amid Hurricane Hermine coverage, the Washington Post reported Donald Trump ponied up a $2,500 penalty to the IRS after his charitable foundation broke the law by giving a contribution to one of Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s political fundraising panels.

The Post last Thursday reported that the Republican presidential nominee “filed paperwork informing the IRS of the political gift and paid an excise tax equal to 10 percent of its value.”

The news comes after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog, asked the Internal Revenue Service to “investigate whether the Trump Foundation violated federal law.”

Foundations like Trump’s are banned under federal rules from political activity, including giving contributions.

Moreover, the $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013 — “four days after Bondi’s office publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University’s activities,” according to a 2013 report in the Orlando Sentinel.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump, citing dozens of complaints over the now-defunct Trump University, alleging the program enticed students with a get-rich-from-real-estate scheme, then socked them with expensive and sub-par seminars.

But “after the check came in, Bondi’s office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed,” the Associated Press has reported. Bondi was elected to a second term in November 2014.

According to the Post, Jeffrey McConney, senior vice president and controller at the Trump Organization, said Trump had “personally reimbursed the Trump Foundation for $25,000, covering the full value of the improper gift. McConney blamed a series of mistakes, all of them unintentional.

” ‘It was just an honest mistake,’ McConney said. He added: ‘It wasn’t done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error.’ “

In addition, Nancy Watkins, “the treasurer of Bondi’s political group, said that she had actually tried to send the money back, without success,” the Post reported.

This June, after Bondi had evaded questions on whether she personally solicited the contribution, a spokesman told the AP she in fact had asked for the donation. Bondi has endorsed Trump for president.

The $25,000 went to “And Justice for All,” a now-defunct electioneering communications organization (ECO) that supported Bondi’s re-election. Under state law, ECOs can only pay for things such as television, radio or digital ads.

State offices were closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday, but Bondi has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Asked about the contribution after a March Cabinet meeting, she told reporters, “I’m going to let the accountants handle this. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The Post story has gotten little traction, coming out as the hurricane battered Florida’s Big Bend region and flew up the Eastern seaboard.

As Josh Barro, Business Insider‘s senior editor, tweeted on Sunday: “Why is nobody talking about this Trump/Bondi story that everybody’s talking about nobody talking about?”

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Personnel note: Sydney Ridley joins Frontier Communications

Sydney Ridley, former House Republican Leader Dana Young’s right-hand woman, is leaving to head government and regulatory affairs for Frontier Communications’ Florida operations.  

Ridley, who will be based in Tampa, “will represent Frontier’s Florida interests, involving extensive interaction and advocacy with public officials to include state and federal legislators (and) state agency representatives,” according to a press release. 

“Our growing presence in Florida as a critical telecommunications provider as well as nationally makes it extremely important that our company’s positions are represented to policymakers and regulatory bodies in a thoughtful and professional manner, which I know Sydney will do,” said Allison M. Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs for the Southeast region.

Ridley, who has been Young’s top legislative aide and her state Senate campaign manager, joins Frontier after a widely-publicized customer service disaster that resulted in a rare public apology from the company.

On April 1, Frontier took over Verizon’s landline, internet and cable TV service in Florida, specifically for Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota customers.

Soon after, thousands of customers have taken to the company’s Facebook page to complain of outages, poor service, and sudden billing increases. California and Texas are the two other states affected by Frontier’s takeover.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi met with Frontier executives and announced the Connecticut-based telecommunications company had “committed to improving communications and customer services in Florida.”

By May, Melanie Williams—Frontier’s top executive for Florida operations—said in a public statement the company “apologize(s) to every Tampa Bay area customer who has experienced service disruptions.”

Young called Ridley her “political right arm for six years, from the early days when I was a freshman member in the 11th floor Capitol Tower office, to the hustle and bustle of the House Majority office.” 

“Her knowledge of the (state) budget is second to none,” Young said in a text message. “I will miss her terribly, but am very excited for her as she starts this new chapter in her professional life.”

Ridley, a graduate of the University of Virginia, also has worked on the campaigns of Mike Prendergast for Congress, Jeff Brandes for Florida Senate and Dorothy Hukill for Florida Senate, the release said. 

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On eve of primary election, Kathy Castor laments low turnout so far in Hillsborough County

Tampa Bay Democratic U.S. Representative Kathy Castor expressed disappointment on Monday that only 13 percent of eligible voters in Hillsborough County have voted by mail or at the polls heading into Election Day on Tuesday, the last day to vote in this year’s primary election.

“We can do a lot better,” said Castor, who will face Republican Christine Quinn when she runs for her seat in Florida’s 14th Congressional District this November. “People need to value their right to vote, and they need to get out there tomorrow and exercise it. Thirteen percent is pretty dismal, so we can do better.”

Castor spoke at a press conference at held the Hillsborough County NAACP branch in Tampa. Dr. Bennie Small, local NAACP Chairman, attributed the paltry voting participation rate to apathy, as well as the fact that a primary election in late August doesn’t excite voters like a November general election.

Of course, there are also more than 1.5 million people in Florida who aren’t legally allowed to vote, thanks to the state’s outlier status when it comes to denying the automatic restoration of voting rights to ex-felons, or what Castor dubbed “the largest voter suppression effort in the entire country.”

Florida Democrats continue to talk about growing momentum to change that law, with Small saying, “we understand the Attorney General is going to take another look it.” The law could change if Governor Rick Scott and two of the three members of the Cabinet follow his lead. However, Scott has shown no inclination to do so.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the Miami Herald recently that she was open to reducing the wait time for ex-felons (now numbering over 10,000) to three years, but she still does not support automatic restoration for non-violent felons. Fellow Cabinet members Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam did say that they were prepared to revisit the current law.

However, most of the energy on trying to change that law is a ballot initiative being pushed by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“We’re not going to make it in 2016, but the petition drive is very close to the number of signatures needed to have the Florida Supreme Court approve the ballot language,” said Adam Tebrugge, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “Once it’s approved, that really should give a lot of impetus this campaign. “

Another barrier to full voter participation in this year’s elections, Castor said, is the fact that for the first time in a presidential election in 50 years,  the Voting Rights Act has been stripped of some its protections.  In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down the formula used in the 1965 Voting Rights Act to determine which states and localities must “preclear” voting procedures with the Justice Department or a federal court. Nine states, most in the South, and parts of Florida and five other states were subject to the law. Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties were the ones under the VRA.

That change means that changes by local officials – say moving a polling site – no longer has to be “pre-cleared” by the U.S. Dept. of Justice. “Instead, you have to go a very expensive and time consuming route to court,” Castor said. She added that Democrats in the House will again try to pass legislation through the GOP-led House to reauthorize the Voting Right Act and restore protections removed by the high court’s decision.

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Mitch Perry Report for 8.25.16 -Is Trump reversing himself on his signature issue of immigration?

Donald Trump was in Tampa yesterday, in case you didn’t hear about it — and he continued to “reach out” to minority communities in his speech. Of course, saying, “I say to the African-American parent, you have a right to walk down the street in the inner city, without having your child or yourself shot” may not be the elixir that persuades anyone to switch sides.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow describes the way Trump is going about it as “urinating on you and telling you to dance in the rain.” Blow says the only people even taking Trump’s outreach seriously are white people.

So does he really think he can get more black voters to his side? The Washington Post reported yesterday Trump has been motivated by a private poll of black voters conducted by campaign adviser Tony Fabrizio.

“The survey found that blacks have a lesser affinity for Hillary Clinton than they did for her husband and that their support dips once they learn about her advocacy for a 1994 crime bill signed by Bill Clinton, according to two people briefed on the poll’s findings,” the paper wrote.

Meanwhile, is Trump “softening” on immigration? Who knows? He did mention he was going to build a wall in his speech in Tampa yesterday, which hardly sounds like he’s backing off. Then again, in the second part of an interview he taped with Sean Hannity on Tuesday that aired last night, Trump’s position seemed to echo that of Jeb Bush‘s — you know, the guy’s whose position on immigration was deemed out of sorts with the majority of the Republican primary electorate last year.

“When I look at the rooms, and I have this all over, now everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,” Trump said. “But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject … they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person that has been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and the family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump.'”

Trump received a large round of applause from the studio audience when he said he would make sure those immigrants who could stick around would have to pay “back taxes.” However, that requirement was something that everybody who talks about comprehensive immigration reform says — pay a fine, back taxes, learn English, etc.

Does it matter? It could affect some of his supporters, despite the contention nothing will deter them from supporting him in the fall. Immigration was perhaps the major issue that allowed Trump to break out of the pack of 17 Republicans last summer. The idea that he would attempt to deport 11 million people has always been considered impractical and unfeasible. But to admit it before the election?

In other news …

Among those on the opening bill before The Donald spoke was his good friend and ally, Attorney General Pam Bondi. To commemorate the occasion, the activist group Progress Florida sent out a petition for people to write to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to investigate Bondi’s refusal to go after Trump University in 2013 after her campaign received a financial contribution from a Trump charity.

A group of immigration activists held court in front of the Fairgrounds before Trump’s speech in Tampa.

Jim Norman became a bit hot when asked about the situation that led to his political exile some six years ago at a candidate forum Tuesday night.

At a forum Tuesday night, the Senate District 19 candidates talked about how they’d be able to get Republicans in Tallahassee to go along with proposals to increase early childhood education.

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As Donald Trump returns to Tampa, Progress Florida calls again for DOJ to investigate Pam Bondi

Hours before Donald Trump will speak to thousands of followers in Tampa, an activist group is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate one of his biggest local supporters, Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds Wednesday, and if it’s like his other appearances in Tampa this year, one of the speakers warming up the crowd could be Bondi, who endorsed the New York City business mogul for president on the eve of the Florida presidential primary back in March.

That endorsement instantly ignited renewed attention to an issue that has dogged her since 2013. That’s when her office opted not to purse legal action against Trump University despite dozens of complaints, and shortly after received a $25,000 campaign contribution from the Trump Foundation.

Progress Florida issued an email Wednesday, calling on citizens to sign a petition calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to begin an investigation of Bondi. The email came with a video that has Trump repeating the phrase uttered at a rally that, “When they call, they kiss my ass,” regarding politicians trying to buy his support.

To review what happened: In 2013, Bondi received the financial contribution via a political action committee raising money for her 2014 re-election campaign. It came from one of Trump’s charities days after Bondi’s then-spokeswoman told a reporter their office was “currently reviewing the allegations” against Trump University in a class action lawsuit in New York.

“While there was never an investigation, staff, doing due diligence, reviewed the complaints and the New York litigation and made the proper determination that the New York litigation would provide relief to aggrieved consumers nationwide,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray told CNN in June.

The petition reads:

Dear Attorney General Lynch,

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has demonstrated a consistent pattern of “pay to look away.” Time and again, powerful interests have received preferential treatment by Bondi’s office and in return, Bondi and connected political interests have benefited from significant campaign contributions.

The attorney general is Florida’s chief legal officer and simply the perception of “pay to look away” is destructive to our state’s ability to enforce the law and protect everyday Floridians. We, the undersigned, urge you to launch an official investigation of Attorney General Bondi regarding her campaign contribution from Donald Trump and similar instances where campaign contributors had potential cases against them dropped by the Florida attorney general’s office.

Watch the video:

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Mitch Perry Report for 8.23.16 – Terry McAuliffe fulfills his promise

Donald Trump calls himself “the law and order candidate,” so one shouldn’t be surprised about his reaction to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe‘s announcement yesterday that he had signed papers restoring the voting rights of nearly 13,000 ex-felons.

Tump accused McAuliffe of “getting thousands of violent felons to the voting booth in an effort to cancel out the votes of both law enforcement and crime victims.”

Nevermind the fact that Virginia was just one of less than a handful of states that does not automatically restore the voting rights to ex-felons. McAuliffe’s announcement was a fulfillment of a promise he made when addressing the Florida delegation of Democrats at the DNC last month in Philadelphia.

In April, the Virginia Governor issued a sweeping order restoring rights to all ex-offenders who are no longer incarcerated or on probation or parole. That move was nixed by the Virginia Supreme Court however, which ruled last month that he had overstepped his clemency powers, agreeing with state Republicans who challenged his order, arguing the governor can only restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis and not en masse. So McAuliffe told Florida Democrats  that’s exactly what would do, and the first batch of 13,000 were given those rights yesterday.

His move comes as a couple of Florida Republicans in the Cabinet (some who still have aspirations in politics) told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas that they’re willing to revisit the Sunshine State’s hardcore rules on this subject. Yes, Florida is one of only 4 states (including Virginia)  that permanently strip felons of voting rights unless the governor lifts the prohibition.

“If someone does an analysis, we have been granting civil rights to those who were waiting who would have automatically had their rights restored (under the previous system) and it’s probably time for us to revisit,” CFO Jeff Atwater told the Herald.

“Having had some time and experience on the Clemency Board, I’ve come to believe that there are opportunities for improvement,” added Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

More than 10,000 men and women who have served their time remain on a waiting list to go before Putnam, Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott to have their cases reviewed individually, with the possibility of them granting them their voting rights. But hundreds of thousands have given up that hope.

In other news…

David Jolly has one of the best scores of anybody on the US Chamber of Commerce congressional scorecards. Yet the organization that spent more than $35 million in helping Republicans in 2014, hasn’t kicked out a dime for him this year.

It’s just not college students bummed at the absurdly high levels of debt they incur after graduating. The realtors want some legislative action as well, since it means that younger people have fewer dollars available to buy new homes.

Bob Buckhorn is being proactive in having his city prepared to deal with the Zika virus.

The Mayor also had some kind words to say of comedian/actress and now author Amy Schumer, after she offered some not so kind words about his city in her new memoir.

Tim Canova says Debbie Wasserman Schultz has too close of a relationship with Big Sugar interests.

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Martin Dyckman: Supreme Court nominees no reason to elect Donald Trump

Some Republicans to whom Donald Trump is the skunk at their garden party would have you elect him president nevertheless.

Mark Sanford is one. When last heard of, he was the governor of South Carolina, canoodling with a mistress in Argentina while his office pretended that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Now he’s a congressman, and he had an op-ed in The New York Times last week (Aug. 14) strongly criticizing Trump for refusing to release his tax returns.

Trump’s obstinacy “will have consequences,” Sanford said. It “would hurt transparency in our democratic process, and particularly in how voters evaluate the men and women vying to be our leaders.

“Whether he wins or loses, that is something our country cannot afford.”

Hear, hear.

But Sanford also hedged his bets.

“I am a conservative Republican who, though I have no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others, intends to support my party’s nominee because of the importance of filling the existing vacancy on the Supreme Court, and others that might open in the next four years,” he wrote.

There you have it. To Sanford, keeping Hillary Clinton from appointing new justices is worth letting everything else go to hell. The government, the country, maybe the world and certainly the court.

Trump might even nominate his conspicuous Florida cheerleader Pam Bondi.

Sanford isn’t the only Republican who has sold out for fear of a liberalized Supreme Court. That’s probably a factor with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and John McCain too.

Independents and die-hard Hillary-hating Democrats need to pay attention. If they don’t vote for her, they could have themselves to blame for making the Supreme Court a right-wing rat hole for another generation.

Republicans want a court that would uphold their state-by-state voter suppression schemes, shut its eyes to maliciously partisan gerrymandering, and make it impossible rather than merely difficult to sue people like Trump for consumer fraud, environmental pollution and other white collar crimes.

The Citizens United atrocity would continue to leave Congress in the grip of the Koch brothers and their allied oligarchs.

Clinton vows to appoint justices who would repeal that monumentally bad Supreme Court decision.

Trump doesn’t make that promise. He does, however, assure the religious right that his justices would repeal Roe v. Wade.

Exacting such commitments from future judges is another of those developments the Founders didn’t anticipate. They had the idealistic, if naive, view that integrity and competence would govern who got appointed.

But we have to take the world as it is, and there’s no shortage of capable lawyers who have declared that Citizens United was wrongly decided. Four of the justices at the time said so too.

The court has a history of renouncing prior decisions as wrongly decided or simply no longer applicable. It trashed two precedents in Citizens United.

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion more or less rationalized that full disclosure would restrain corporate election spending, that hasn’t happened. Dark money by the billions is sinking the ship of state.

And in South Dakota, the Kochtopus is fiercely fighting a ballot initiative that would require public disclosure of donors to advocacy campaigns, create a state ethics commission and provide public financing of political campaigns.

Fortunately, there are Republicans who disagree that the court is reason enough to sacrifice everything else.

John Yoo and Jeremy Rabkin, law professors in California, are two of them. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Aug. 14, they described the dangerous world we live in and warned that a Trump presidency “invites a cascade of global crises.”

Moreover, they argued, conservatives should not take Trump’s word that he would appoint suitable justices or that the Senate would confirm them.

“Even if Trump were to win in November, it is in the legislative and executive branches that conservatives will have to win their most important battles,” they wrote. “Does Trump look like the man to lead them?”

Yoo’s opposition is really noteworthy. He was the deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration who wrote the notorious memos condoning extreme methods of interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding. That’s a form of torture that Trump is salivating to resume.

If even Yoo can’t stomach Trump, what does that tell us?

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

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In Tampa, Patrick Murphy says Marco Rubio is running to be president, not a full-time Senator

Although they both have a primary election to get through in two weeks, both Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio are acting like the general election for U.S. Senate is already here. That was evident in Tampa on Monday morning, when the Jupiter Democrat denied he was overlooking Alan Grayson and the Aug. 30 primary, but then immediately lit into his probable Republican opponent.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” Murphy responded, adding that he’s going out and about to try to meet as many voters as he can. “Everyone I talk to, whether they’re Republican, Democrat or independent, tell me: Patrick, I want a senator who at least wants the job. Who at least wants to be there to solve our problems.”

Murphy spoke with reporters after making an appearance at Tampa Bay WaVE, a local nonprofit that has been helping entrepreneurs build, launch, and grow tech businesses since 2008. He was joined by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was one of the first elected officials in the Tampa Bay area to back his candidacy more than a year ago.

“Senator Rubio’s missed more votes than any senator from Florida in nearly 50 years. That’s to me is unconscionable,” Murphy added.

When Rubio announced in late June that he would reverse his previous stance and run again for his Senate seat, he refused to say that he would commit to fulfilling a full six-year term in office, saying, “What I’m not going to do any more are these unequivocal pronunciations.” The comment came after he had reversed his statements over the past year that he would not run for reelection to his senate seat. With Donald Trump on the rocks in his presidential run currently, there are more than a few Republicans who are already thinking of their potential field in 2020, and Rubio could very well be in that mix again.

“He’s in this because he wants to run for president again,” Murphy said. “That’s his ambitions. I care about working for the people of Florida, for getting things done for Floridians, and part of that is getting around and meeting entrepreneurs and meeting people, hearing what’s on their minds so I can be the strongest voices for them.”

In the days before the presidential primary, Buckhorn blasted Rubio for being a no-show in visiting Tampa for the majority of his five years plus as a senator. He repeated the charge on Monday.

“If it’s any indication, I’ve seen Patrick Murphy more in the last five weeks that I saw Marco Rubio in the last five years,” Buckhorn says. “I have never met Marco Rubio. That speaks volumes about his commitment to Florida, and certainly his commitment to the Tampa Bay area.”

Although Buckhorn is a supporter of Murphy, he’s also expressed praise for Rick Scott and Pam Bondi in the past, statements that have at times alienated him from some local Democrats. Buckhorn insisted that he wasn’t being partisan in expressing his disappointment about Rubio’s performance when it comes to showing Tampa some attention.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Democratic mayor or a Republican mayor,” Buckhorn added. We’re the third largest city in this state, we’re the economic engine that drives this state, and the fact that our U.S. Senator has never taken the time to spend any time to talk about issues with the local leaders, I think that’s an indictment right there.”

The Rubio camp has pushed back on those charges, but there’s no doubt that he’s been a much more visible in the Tampa Bay area in recent weeks, including a visit to a Republican Party of Florida field office in Brandon on Saturday, and making an appearance at Republican Convention watch party in South Tampa last month.

Murphy and Buckhorn spent more than a half-hour chatting with some of the local entrepreneurs who were at Tampa Bay WaVe, including Akira Mitchell, with TechStart TampaBay. It’s a local nonprofit that teaches kids how to code, build robots and 3D print. “Our focus is on the next generation of creators. We provide opportunity, inspiration and education for them.”

Murphy also spoke with Sherry Benton with taoconnect.com and Saravana Pat Bhava’s business with pikmykid.com. Both talked of potential remedies that they hoped the federal government could work on if Murphy makes it to the Senate.

Not surprisingly, his visit was blasted by the Rubio campaign.

“Patrick Murphy was caught lying about being a small business owner himself, making him the last person to know what it takes to help Florida’s entrepreneurs succeed,” said campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens. “Murphy doesn’t even know whether the business he claims to own is still operating. Florida’s small businesses already have a senator who fights for them, and that’s why local business groups from across the state are supporting Marco’s campaign.”

Ahrens comment referenced allegations made by reporter Miami television reporter Jim DeFede earlier this summer, who reported that Murphy exaggerated claims that he was a small business owner and a certified public accountant. The Murphy responded with a memo saying that the story was inaccurate with some of its claims.

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37% of likely Florida GOP primary voters back Mike Huckabee for governor in 2018

It’s never too early to think about the next election, and a new poll from St. Pete Polls has Floridians doing just that.

According to the survey, 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Gov. Rick Scott would make a good U.S. Senator. The survey found 16 percent of respondents said they were unsure, while 30 percent said he wouldn’t be a good senator.

Scott can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits. While he’s been mum on his future political plans, many Florida insiders believe he is gearing up to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work — continues to raise money, raising nearly $1.9 million in the first seven months of 2016. He’s also become the chair of a pro-Donald Trump super PAC, giving a larger presence on the national stage.

With Scott vacating the Governor’s Mansion in a few years, speculation has already begun about who will replace the Naples Republican come 2018.

While Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial run, other possible contenders include CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Florida resident.

When it comes to the governor’s race, 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Huckabee; while 26 percent stated that they would pick Bondi. Nearly 8 percent of voters said they would pick Putnam, while nearly 7 percent said they would vote for Atwater.

About 1 percent of voters said they would vote for Corcoran, 3 percent stated that they would pick former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and less 1 percent said they would vote for former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Seven percent of voters polled said they would vote for someone else. And with more than two years until the election, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would vote for.

The survey was conducted Aug. 2 and polled 1,835 likely Republican primary voters through an automated calling system. Voters were chosen at random from the state’s registered voting lists. The margin of error is 2.3 percent.

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