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Infamous dates: The moments that influenced Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

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With its Lego project, the Tampa Bay Times crushes my hopes and dreams

Last week, the digital geniuses at the Tampa Bay Times debuted a multimedia presentation that used animated Lego figures and constructions to tell a complicated story about a planned toll road on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

“How the plan to fix Tampa Bay’s most important bridge fell apart, told in Legos” from Eli Zhang, Caitlin Johnston, Anthony Cormier, and Martin Frobisher is an absolute must-click for its combination of shoe-leather reporting and “Everything Is Awesome” visualization.

It’s a great read.

It’s visually stunning.

It’s also — to me and only me — heartbreaking.

Please allow me to explain, without taking anything away from the great work of the Times reporters, while also knowing that many in the Times newsroom will take some pleasure in my agony.

Back in May, I wrote in a Facebook post: “it hit me what my next project will be. The next enterprise of Extensive Enterprises, so to speak. People won’t get it at first. They’ll think it’s silly. Then it will get the right people’s attention. And then everyone will say, ‘How much does it cost to do that for us?'”

My excitement originated from a video from Bloomberg: “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Legos.

The introduction was — “Curious how the White House Correspondents’ Dinner works? We explain … with Legos.”

It’s that simple.

As soon as I finished, I had a Eureka moment. Why not bring the Lego video concept to Florida politics? Isn’t that what I’ve done before — take a national idea and make it Sunshine State-sized?

My plan was straightforward. I would first produce a video about some storyline involving Florida politics. From there, I would partner with public relations firms who needed a new way to tell their side of a food fight happening in the Florida Legislature.

“Marion Hammer wants 18 year-olds to bring guns to college campuses … told in Legos.”

“The Workers Comp food fight … told in Legos.”

“Why you can’t get Uber in Miami … told in Legos.”

Whatever. You get the point.

A team of folks (much funnier than I) would help write the scripts. I’d build the Lego sets. Kevin Cate would shoot the videos.

It’s ratings gold, Jerry.

Except for one thing — Lego sets are not very easy to build. At least not the interesting ones.

And, like the Times, finding the right Lego Minifigures is next to impossible.

Kristen Hare of The Poynter Institute details the roadblock the Times team faced.

“We’ve found many Lego-people-packs online,” said (Adam) Playford, director of data and digital enterprise at the Times. “But they all have too many weirdos, like Lego Bananaman and Lego Grim Reaper. Regular Lego people are apparently no longer in vogue.”

Playford and Co. solved their Lego-people-problem by putting out an all-hands-on-deck request to the staff at the Times. I, of course, do not have that luxury.

So … and here’s where some of the agony begins to set in … I worked with a firm in London to create custom Lego Minifigures.

For the script of the first video, I would tell the story of Marco Rubio and the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

I ordered Minifigures resembling Rubio, Donald Trump, Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson, Carlos Beruff (in a trademark black shirt), Ron DeSantis (pictured here in a Navy outfit, of course), and David Jolly.

As for the sets; well, let’s just say what the Times built for its very nice story about a bridge is, um, child’s play.

I started by building the small city building sets:

Soon, I became more ambitious, building bigger sets:

I assembled cars, planes, and trucks (including a replica of one the U.S. Senator drives) so we could shoot the pivotal scene from outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera tells Rubio he should re-enter the race.

I even built The White House (which was very difficult because it’s from the “Architect” class of Lego sets, which is basically Lego’s way of saying “A lot of f*cking pieces are in this box.”

I’ve been building and collecting Lego sets for nearly seven months, thinking the entire time that no one else would bring an idea I first saw on Bloomberg to Florida politics.

And then my bitter rival, the Tampa Bay Times, unveils its pretty little story about a bridge.

When I read the first tweet about the story, I knew what it was about without clicking on the link. My heart sank to a depth deeper than those caissons that hold up the Howard Frankland.

Sure, as my wife and other friends have said, I could continue my Lego project — and I still might.

But that’s like making “Deep Impact” after you learn that “Armageddon” is in production.

“Deep Impact” is probably the better film, but everyone remembers “Armageddon.”

If I do a ” … as told by Legos” video now, critics will say, “but didn’t the Times do that first?”

And screaming “but Bloomberg did it before either of us” does nothing to solve the problem.

Now I am stuck with a whole lot of Legos — which is OK, since my daughter, Ella Joyce, loves building with them.

In fact, Legos are one of the things we’ve been able to do together.

Just yesterday, Ella became sick on our way to a Christmas event replicating a train ride to the North Pole (it’s awesome, and I recommend it to every parent.) We were forced to turn around, missing one of our favorite holiday traditions.

To make up for it, I finished building this — bringing the North Pole to Ella:

If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that, as an entrepreneur, when a light bulb goes off, move quickly. That’s what worked for Sunburn, Florida Politics, INFLUENCE Magazine and everything else I’ve done.

I moved too slowly on this project and, subsequently, I lost out.

That won’t happen again.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a …

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AFP Florida conveys to lawmakers their holiday wish list for 2017

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is getting in the holiday spirit, playing off a classic Christmas poem to highlight the organization’s 2017 priorities.

The statewide organization launched a new web ad Monday that is meant to target Florida lawmakers over the holiday season. The AFP-FL ad — called “A Holiday poem to FL lawmakers” — asks Floridians to tell the House and Senate to make taxes fair, end political favoritism, be good stewards of transparent government, and empower Florida children with the best education they can receive.

In the new ad, AFP-FL riffs on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to ask Florida lawmakers to follow a plan laid out by the statewide advocacy organization.

“Lawmakers should focus on real priori-(ties)/So sunshine-state boys and girls can live in prosperi-(ty)/To deliver good government is what they should do/Just follow these steps we’ve laid out for you,” reads the poem. “The first is be fair, no one likes to be cheated/Special favors and corporate welfare are bad and need be defeated/No more handouts to grinches or cronies without care/It’s not right, and it’s not helping those who pay their fair share.”

The statewide organization led the charge in 2016 against incentives, including Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $250 million for Enterprise Florida. It also actively opposed Rep. Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate bid, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on ads targeting the Treasure Coast Democrat.

“As 2016 comes to an end, I am thankful for the hard work of our activists who knocked over 1,000,000 doors and make over 3 million phone calls,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL. ” But if we want to make Florida the best state for families and entrepreneurs we need to stay focused on successfully advocating for policies that continue to cut red tape, keep taxes fair while ending political favoritism, and expand the successful school choice policies that empower our kids with the best education possible. I hope legislators, new and old, enjoy this holiday season with their families and come back in 2017 prepared to tackle the most critical issues to our state.”

The new AFP-FL ad will run throughout the holiday season.

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Alan Grayson files bill named after Tampa youth to promote civil rights compliance

In perhaps his last act as a member of Congress, Orlando-area Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson announced Friday he was filing the “Andrew Joseph III Act,” a bill which requires any jurisdiction seeking a specific federal grant to have an independent civilian review board in place.

In February of 2014, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies ejected 99 students from the Florida State Fair, including Joseph, a 14-year-old African American, for rowdy behavior during the annual Student Day – a day off from Hillsborough County Schools with free admission to the fair. After interrogating him, stripping him to the waist, and arresting him without notifying his parents, deputies dropped Andrew two miles from the fair. He was killed attempting to cross I-4 to return to the fairgrounds.

In February, the family of Joseph filed a lawsuit against Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and several deputies, the Florida State Fair Authority, the Hillsborough County School Board and the school district. The suit alleged the “unjustified arrest and detention of a nonviolent and non-resistant juvenile.”

“This is not just one person’s tragedy. It is not just the tragedy of these parents standing at his grave site. It is the tragedy of America,” Grayson said from the House Floor earlier this year. “We persist in being a country of sometimes casual racism, racism that sometimes goes unnoticed.”

Grayson first took interest in the case publicly in the fall of 2015, where he held a press conference with the parents of Andrew Joseph in Tampa. Two months later, he sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling on her to have the FBI investigate the case.

“Andrew was forced to take off some his clothes, for the stated purpose of allowing the police to check for gang-related tattoos,” Grayson wrote. “He was photographed, and information about him was entered into a database. With no evidence of wrongdoing, or even suspicion of wrongdoing, the police nevertheless removed Andrew (a 14-year-old without adult supervision) from the Fair, by patrol car. The police released Andrew well away from the Fair, by patrol car. The police released Andrew well away from the Fair, near four busy thoroughfares, two of them Interstate highways. At no time did the Sheriff’s Office attempt to contact Andrew’s parents, or direct him to do so.”

In March of 2016, Grayson returned to Tampa near the scene of Andrew Joseph III’s death to announce that the Justice Department would not be investigating the case. In a letter to Grayson that he made public that day, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik wrote that “accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgement are not sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.”

“It’s been two years!  And I don’t have a police report. Not one sentence,”  Joseph’s father, Andrew Joseph Jr. said at that news conference (The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says that the Florida Highway Patrol did write up a report).

“I absolutely do not know how I can ever show my appreciation and gratitude to Congressman Grayson,” said Deanna Joseph, Andrew’s mother, in a statement on Friday. “This has given us hope that the world will never allow another tragic death of a child in the manner in which Andrew Joseph III’s life ended.”

The Andrew Joseph III Act, H.R. 6505, calls for building a stronger system of law enforcement accountability, and instill a greater confidence in community policing.

Grayson will be leaving Washington when the new Congress is sworn in next month. He gave up his congressional seat earlier this year to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, where he fell a distant second to Jupiter Representative Patrick Murphy.

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Florida’s congressional delegation scores big WIIN, funding Everglades, water projects

Florida’s Congressional delegation scored a win this week with the passage of a bill that will fund major water projects in Florida, including the Central Everglades Planning Project.

Four Florida congressmen put out press releases Thursday touting their votes for The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, which passed the House with a 360-61 vote.

WIIN would provide more than $1.5 billion in funding for Florida projects, including $976 million for Central Everglades Planning Project, $308 million for the Picayune Strand restoration project and $220 million for Port Everglades Dredging.

Republican Rep. Thomas Rooney put out a press release touting the bill’s CEPP provisions, which will significantly improve the water flows through the northern estuaries, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

“With Congressman Tom Rooney’s continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe in the press release. “Approval of the federal water bill by the full Congress, followed by appropriating funding, is vital to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also joined in with a press release on WIIN, congratulating Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair and Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster for the bill’s passage.

“By investing in our nation’s ports, dams and drinking water services, we are not only helping the local economy, but also the families across the country that rely on having easy access to safe drinking water,” Diaz-Balart said. “The legislation also focuses on reducing the backlog of projects the Army Corps of Engineers have, saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the most important and necessary projects to be prioritized.”

Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Patrick Murphy also joined in with statements on the bill, though their feelings on the bill were somewhat mixed despite praise for provisions which will bring more business and jobs to South Florida.

“This bill is not perfect, and I’m disappointed that the Republican leadership included offensive provisions at the last minute putting water resources at risk in drought-afflicted California,” Deutch said. “As we begin the 115th Congress in January, I will continue to work tirelessly in Washington to fight for the interests of South Florida.”

Murphy added that while he was “disappointed to see partisan riders included in the WIIN Act instead of a bipartisan WRDA conference bill, Floridians should not have to wait another year for this project to be authorized.”

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Ed Narain the latest name to be floated as potential chair of Florida Democratic Party

In the 72 hours since Allison Tant announced she would not run for another term as Florida Democratic Party chair, all sorts of names have been floated as possible successors.

DNC Committeeman Alan Clendenin, former House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, former lawmaker Dwight Bullard and former lieutenant governor candidate Annette Taddeo are just some of Florida Democrats being mentioned in the conversation.

Another is Ed Narain, the outgoing head of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, whose ascendancy in the Legislature was snuffed in August when he narrowly lost a run for the state Senate District 19 race to Darryl Rouson. Narain was elected to the Florida House District 59 seat in 2014 and would have easily won re-election to the seat this year, but opted to run for the open Senate seat.

“It’s an honor for my name to be discussed with other Democratic leaders from around the state but I’m an outsider when it comes to party politics and I’m not sure leading the party is where I can best contribute,” Narain wrote to FloridaPolitics on Sunday night about the his interest in the position — not completely rejecting a possible candidacy.

Meanwhile, former legislator and state education commissioner Betty Castor suggests a positive move for the FDP would be to move their headquarters outside of Tallahassee.

“It is obvious that the Democratic Party needs to build its bench,” Castor emailed to FloridaPolitics. “There are others far more intricately involved, but the Dems should start where there are opportunities. Democrats did well in Hillsborough and Orange with positive growth in Osceola as well as South Florida. Municipal elections are always prime areas. My own hope would be to see the state headquarters moved to a population center, perhaps Tampa.”

Former CFO Alex Sink said Tant did a relatively good job during her tenure, but thinks four years is long enough for any party chair.

“I think she’s done extremely well under challenging circumstances and let’s not forget the fact that we did carry the state for President Obama in 2012, when everybody in the country thought that Romney would win,” she said on Friday.

“I think that some of the other significant things that have been accomplished is this whole change of the politics of Orange and Seminole counties, and a very successful effort in energizing and registering Latinos, which is something that we’ll be able to build on in years to come, and the numbers of Latinos officeholders who were Democrats. There are lots of accomplishments that Allison can point to.”

Sink admits that having Florida go red for Donald Trump was extremely disappointing, but says that, in reality, Florida has been a red state over the past couple of decades, making it challenging for any party chair.

“It’s a burnout job,” she says of the position. “It’s thankless. It’s mainly fundraising, and when you don’t control the levers of power in Tallahassee, which we don’t, it’s tough. Not a single state office holder and almost super majorities in both houses of the Florida Legislature. You just don’t have a lot of leverage.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.9.16 — GOP dominance

Where do you begin? One of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, to start with, in Donald J. Trump beating Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

Lots of analysis there, including about the Democratic nominee, who for the second time in eight years, thought she had the presidency in her grasp, only to lose out — forever.

What about closer to home? Although Florida Democrats have had huge disappointments in 2010 and 2014 across the board, at least they had 2006, 2008, and 2012. But not 2016.

Down went Patrick Murphy, early into the evening. Down went Clinton, officially losing the state before 10 p.m.

In Hillsborough County, a House District 63 seat that has gone back and forth between Shawn Harrison and a Democrat and Shawn Harrison went this time to … Shawn Harrison, and not Lisa Monteliione.

Ross Spano won over Rena Frazier in HD 59. And Jackie Toledo easily defeated David Singer in the battle for House District 60 in Hillsborough County.

Wipe out city.

Congratulations to Blaise Ingoglia, who from the time he became the RPOF Chairman in early 2015 vowed to turn Florida red, and did so last night.

The Florida Democrats led by Allison Tant and Scott Arceneaux? I really don’t know.

What about Washington? It’s now got the presidency, the House and the Senate. Oh, and the Supreme Court as well, now that Mitch McConnell‘s move to not make a move on replacing Antonin Scalia will pay off big time next year.

In other news …

It was not a good night for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. In addition to his girl, Hillary, losing in Florida, the mayor’s appeal for city voters to reject the charter amendment on allowing the city council to order internal audits won a smashing victory, 64-36 percent.

The upset of the night in Hillsborough County was Andrew Warren’s narrow victory over Mark Ober for state attorney.

It will be Jim Davison vs. Luis Viera in the special election in Tampa City Council District 7 race.

Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly in their CD 13 battle.

Donald Trump told Jack & Tedd on WFLA 970 yesterday morning he’d go quietly if he lost the election.

Now that he’s in the Senate for another six years, Marco Rubio waxes on how he can help make the political discourse a little more palatable in Washington.

Americans for Prosperity – Florida was one of over 50 groups who spent money in the Florida Senate race. In AFP’s case, they spent more than $2.5 million trying to bring down Patrick Murphy.

Bob Buckhorn was campaigning early yesterday against that charter amendment regarding the city council calling for their own internal audits of city departments.

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Marco Rubio wins second term in U.S. Senate

Sen. Marco Rubio is heading back to Washington D.C.

The Miami Republican defeated Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. According to preliminary election results, Rubio received 52 percent of the vote. Murphy received 45 percent.

The victory caps off a tough political year for Rubio. He faced a devastating loss in his home state in March, coming in second to Donald Trump in Florida’s presidential preference primary.

 “This nation is at a pivotal crossroads and throughout his career, Rubio has proven himself as a steadfast and distinguished conservative leader committed to holding government accountable,” said RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “Once again, our great state rewarded the Senator’s dedication to public service and protecting the founding principles of this country.  We look forward to working with him to restore the trust and confidence the American people want to have in their government.”

He jumped into the U.S. Senate race in June, after weeks of brushing off calls and questions about whether he was going to run for re-election. He often cited concerns about the top of the ticket as one of the reasons he was running for a second term.

Rubio spent months fielding questions about his tepid support for Trump and whether he planned to serve a full term if re-elected. In October, he said he would “serve six years in the United States Senate, God willing.”

Despite a big push to turn Florida blue, Murphy failed to gain traction.

The Treasure Coast Democrat was relatively unknown, despite having the support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden. He trailed Rubio in almost every poll since June, and was dogged by claims he padded his resume.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to be Florida’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. I’m proud of the campaign we built and so grateful for the passion Florida families across the state put in to this fight,” said Murphy in a statement. “While we hoped for a different result, the people of Florida have spoken and I respect their choice. I congratulate Senator Rubio on his victory and on the incredible honor of representing this state again in the U.S. Senate. Floridians are counting on him to fight for them, and he has my support in that fight.”

Murphy was first elected in 2012 to serve in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He unseated Republican Rep. Allen West, and easily won re-election two years later. But his campaign was plagued by criticism of his limited accomplishments during his time in office.

Murphy said he is “grateful to the people of Florida’s 18th District for putting their trust in me over the past four years.”

“I will always remain true to that promise, and I will always fight for Florida,” he said.

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On eve of election, Marco Rubio says it’s up to those in public office to inject more ‘responsible discourse’

Even before the end of this presidential election cycle, lots of Americans are concerned about how hard it might be to heal the divisions exposed in this country following the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton battle.

That includes Marco Rubio, who said Monday it’s not lawmakers in Washington who have to learn to get along better, but the public itself.

“We’ve reached a point in our political discourse where it’s not enough to disagree. People now believe that if someone has an opinion that you don’t agree with, then they’re a bad person. You have to delegitimize them as a person, and I hope we can pull back for a little bit,” Rubio said in speaking to two reporters who hung out until the end of his campaign stop with volunteers at the Hillsborough County Republican Party headquarters in Brandon.

A poll conducted by Monmouth University last month laid out those divisions starkly. It reported 70 percent of American voters say this year’s presidential campaign has brought out the worst in people. Only 4 percent say it has brought out the best in people. Another 5 percent said it had done a little of both, while 20 percent say it had done neither. Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (65 percent), and independents (66 percent) agree the 2016 campaign has brought out the worst in people.

Perhaps most depressingly, the poll found 7 percent of Americans reported losing a friend over this election. Slightly more Clinton supporters than Trump supporters reported losing friends.

“We have to be able to have the capacity to have debates over tough issues without ending up hating the people on the other side of it, and we’ve reached a very dangerous point in our politics where, I’m not just talking about political figures, I’m talking about everyday people, longtime friendships … have ended over a presidential campaign and over a political debate,” Rubio said. “We’re not going to be able to solve problems if we hate each other.”

“We can disagree on things,” the Florida GOP senator added. “We’ve always been a country with strong disagreements. But if we’re a nation where we’re literally at people’s throats, over every issue, we’re not going to be able to make a lot of progress. And so I hope that those of us who are in public service will do our part to try to inject more responsible discourse into our politics.”

Rubio will learn later on Tuesday whether he’ll spend the next six years commuting from Miami to Washington D.C. as Florida’s junior senator — or six more weeks, if Democrat Patrick Murphy can upset him in their contest for U.S. Senate.

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Americans for Prosperity spends more than $2.5 million to effort to defeat Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy frequently bashed Marco Rubio on the campaign trail this fall as a “puppet of the Koch Brothers,” citing the 98 percent grade he received from Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit political advocacy group considered the political arm of Charles and David Koch.

In fact, AFP’s Florida chapter announced Monday they knocked on more than one million doors and spoke to over three million people on the phone in their effort to defeat Murphy’s bid for U.S. Senate. They also launched a website, PayMorePatrickMurphy.com along with TVdigital, and mail ads to try to ensure the Treasure Coast Democrat doesn’t win tonight’s U.S. Senate race against Rubio. It’s unusual in the respect that the group is best known for working on legislative issues at the state level, and has rarely become involved in Florida electoral politics.

“The majority of our work is not that world at all,” admits Andres Malave, a spokesperson for AFP-Florida. He hints that may be changing in the future, however.

“We usually focus on state issues, and as we in Florida continue to grow, we’re now, I think, at a point where we’re going to start doing a lot more work to try to impact the work of our federal delegation, and certainly the senators,” he said, but admits that when it comes to a direct advocacy campaign such as what they’ve employed against Murphy, “we have not partaken in it a lot.”

One exception was in 2012, when the group spent money in direct advocacy in Florida against the re-election of President Obama. 

Andres said the same issues AFP-Florida opposes in the state were obvious targets against Murphy, referring to opposition to a “pay-to-play attitude,” corporate welfare, and acceptance of the Affordable Care Act. “All of those boxes Patrick Murphy checked. And for us it was just an opportunity to rally our base and make them understand why it was so critical to keep him out.”

AFP-Florida was one of more than 50 outside groups to spend money in the U.S. Senate campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Americans for Prosperity had spent more than $2.5 million into the Florida Senate race.

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