Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene advertises himself as the rags-to-riches Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate who knows what it’s like to be the little guy and who’s willing to spend what it takes to help his party win control of Tallahassee.

But beyond his flood of mailers and $25 million TV ad campaign that have rocketed him to third place in the polls, another picture emerges of the businessman as told in lawsuits, liens and press accounts from former employees, contractors and others who did business with the developer.

Liked by some and loathed by others, the 63-year-old Greene is invariably described as a headstrong micromanager, a self-assured self-made man who doesn’t hesitate to use the courts and his $3.3 billion net worth to get his way.

The list of people involved in lawsuits or liens against Greene over the years runs the gamut — from Hollywood director Ron Howard Continue reading “Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor”

Nelson’s narrow lead with Florida Latinos worries Democrats

Sen. Bill Nelson holds a narrow 44-41 percent lead over Gov. Rick Scott among Latino voters in Florida’s Senate race, according to a new poll that’s raising fresh concerns among Democrats that the incumbent is in a dicey position with a core group of voters he needs to carry by bigger margins.

The poll of 400 Florida Hispanics, commissioned by a coalition of Democratic-leaning Latino outreach groups, showed that Scott topped Nelson among Cuban-American voters, who tend to vote Republican, by 24 percentage points. But Nelson’s advantage over Scott among Puerto Ricans, who tend to vote Democrat, was smaller: 7 points.

For Democrats, those numbers are a problem because a Republican who wins as much of the Hispanic vote as Scott is taking usually wins statewide in Florida. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the survey by 40-33 percent.

Still, Democrats say, there’s time. But it’s running out.

“Nelson has a lot Continue reading “Nelson’s narrow lead with Florida Latinos worries Democrats”

‘Where’s the blue wave?’ Voter data show Florida Democrats aren’t surging

What blue wave?

While it‘s notched four consecutive wins in local bellwether races, Florida’s Democratic Party has lost a share of its registered voters in Florida since 2016 and the percentage of Democrats casting vote-by-mail absentee ballots this month trails those mailed in by Republicans, according to new figures from the state’s elections division.

A Democratic blue wave might still come. But so could a Republican red tide.

After all, this is purple Florida, the nation’s biggest swing state, where hard-to-predict elections are won on the margins and a 2-point win for a top-of-the-ticket candidate can look like a landslide.

“If a blue wave is forming, it certainly hasn’t crested. Maybe there’s a red tide coming in and affecting the blue wave?” said Daniel A. Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who studies the state’s voter rolls and trends.

So far, there’s enough data to show that Continue reading “‘Where’s the blue wave?’ Voter data show Florida Democrats aren’t surging”

Stand Your Ground becomes top issue in Democrats’ race for governor

The battle over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law became the newest front in the political war over guns — especially for black voters — as all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates called for the repeal of the self-defense statute during a rally in Clearwater, where a white man has avoided arrest after fatally shooting a black man.

The July 19 caught-on-camera shooting that sparked the rally quickly became racially polarizing after the Pinellas County’s sheriff declined to arrest in the case, citing Stand Your Ground, the application of which already was viewed by many African Americans, gun control groups and some researchers as racially unjust.

Gun control was a key issue even before the shooting of Markeis McGlockton by Michael Drejka because of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland that shifted the debate about firearms in the state. Democratic primary polls show gun control is now a top three issue Continue reading “Stand Your Ground becomes top issue in Democrats’ race for governor”

‘Pitbull Trump defender’ takes on Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the kind of liberal rising star Republicans love to hate. And Rep. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican frontrunner for governor, is leveraging it to the hilt.

Since the New York Democrat pulled off her stunning primary upset of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley — and in the process became a sensation on the left — DeSantis has emerged as her chief congressional antagonist, whacking Ocasio-Cortez for her self-described socialist views and using her as a foil to raise money.

After the pair engaged in a recent back-and-forth over DeSantis’ reference to her as a “girl,” the Florida Republican’s campaign promptly emailed supporters that he was being “attacked by a socialist.”

His campaign liked what it saw in the response.

The “click through rate” for DeSantis’ Ocasio-Cortez email Thursday was about five times higher than usual, or 23 percent, said Brad Herold, a DeSantis spokesman, adding it Continue reading “‘Pitbull Trump defender’ takes on Ocasio-Cortez”

NRA, Republicans refute GOP sheriff’s stand-your-ground claims

A Florida sheriff claimed "stand your ground" essentially prohibited him from making an arrest in a politically charged and racially tinged shooting death, but his fellow Republicans who wrote the law, criminal-court attorneys and even the National Rifle Association are accusing him of misapplying Florida’s self-defense statutes.

In explaining why he didn’t arrest the shooter, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters on July 20 that his hands were tied because the stand-your-ground law “created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard” for the use of deadly force by a shooter.

Gualtieri also suggested his office could be civilly liable simply for arresting the shooter, and he stressed how Florida lawmakers last year changed the 2005 law concerning immunity from prosecution.

But on each of those three counts — immunity, civil liability and subjectivity — experts say Gualtieri is just wrong.

“Nothing in either the 2005 law or the Continue reading “NRA, Republicans refute GOP sheriff’s stand-your-ground claims”

San Juan mayor Cruz to endorse Nelson in Florida Senate race

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who earned the sobriquet “nasty” from President Donald Trump after Hurricane Maria, is endorsing incumbent Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for re-election — a move that Democrats hope will help activate the Puerto Rican community in November.

Cruz’s decision to publicly support Nelson as well as Congressman Darren Soto underscores the degree to which the Trump administration’s failure to provide aid and other assistance after Maria devastated Puerto Rico last fall has become a common campaign issue on the mainland as well as the island.

“Do you think Donald Trump respects us? Trump sees a Boricua and he sees paper towels,” Cruz said during a get-out-the vote stop in Orlando on Saturday, recalling how the president visited the island after the hurricane and insulted many for dispensing paper towels to storm survivors as if he were shooting a basketball.

“You deserve people that take Continue reading “San Juan mayor Cruz to endorse Nelson in Florida Senate race”

Scott’s fortune could top $500 million, according to federal filing

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s family fortune could be upwards of $500 million, a number much larger than he has reported in the past because Florida did not require the governor to include massive investments held by his wife, according to federal financial disclosure forms filed Friday.

The forms were filed as part of Scott’s bid for the U.S. Senate, and answer a question long asked by Florida political observers: How much is Scott really worth?

Scott is Florida’s wealthiest governor ever, and has used that personal wealth to fuel his political campaigns. But there has long been talk in political circles that Scott is worth much more than what appears in state financial disclosure forms.

The two-term governor told state election officials this year that his net worth was $232 million, a number that did not include investments held by his wife, Anne. Holdings under her name, which Continue reading “Scott’s fortune could top $500 million, according to federal filing”

Governor’s race could pit Trump surrogate vs. #MeToo supporter, poll shows

Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Gwen Graham have solid leads in their party’s respective primaries for governor, according to a new poll that foreshadows a general election pitting the candidate of President Donald Trump against the candidate of women’s issues.

DeSantis, a two-term member of Congress, has had a meteoric rise in the GOP primary, pulling to a 41-29 percent lead over Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, thanks in large part to Trump’s support, the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey showed. Trump will campaign for DeSantis on Tuesday in Tampa, the center of the state’s largest media market.

Graham, a former member of Congress, has 27 percent support in her primary against four men and leads the second-place Democrat, former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, by 9 percentage points, according to the survey. Saying that the race consists of “Gwen and the men,” Graham has made abortion rights and support Continue reading “Governor’s race could pit Trump surrogate vs. #MeToo supporter, poll shows”

Poll shows Trump endorsement gives DeSantis an edge in Florida governor’s race

Rep. Ron DeSantis has opened up a 12-point lead in Florida’s Republican race for governor, according to a new independent poll that indicates President Donald Trump is the key to his success.

DeSantis has built his campaign around the support of Trump, who endorsed the congressman in December and then followed up with another endorsement in June, thereby slighting the establishment front-runner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who had dissed Trump on the campaign trail in 2016.

DeSantis has featured the Trump endorsement in his mail and TV ads, which he began running last month.

Now that the ads have sunk in, DeSantis leads Putnam 42 percent to 30 percent, said Tony Fabrizio, a top Republican pollster who asked the questions about the governor’s race in a broader survey he took for an unspecified political group that’s not involved in the governor’s race. The primary is Aug. 28.

Among those likely Continue reading “Poll shows Trump endorsement gives DeSantis an edge in Florida governor’s race”

Florida Republicans play starring roles in Russia hacking indictment

MIAMI — The new indictment of Russian military officials who hacked Democrats during the 2016 presidential elections has Florida written all over it.

Two Florida Republicans and possibly a third — Rep. Brian Mast — play starring roles in the indictment, although none is named.

Unlike President Donald Trump‘s former political adviser Roger Stone and political operative Aaron Nevins, Mast’s identity is the least certain of any of the Florida Republicans hinted at in the indictment. The indictment released Friday details how a dozen Russian military officers used an online persona called “Guccifer 2.0” to disseminate information they stole from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee, which was led at the time by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

Almost as soon as the indictment was released Friday, Florida Republicans, Democrats and even allies of Mast speculated that the congressman’s campaign was likely implicated Continue reading “Florida Republicans play starring roles in Russia hacking indictment”

Nelson by 4 or Scott by 5? Dueling polls show Florida Senate race might be tied

Sen. Bill Nelson leads Gov. Rick Scott by 4 percentage points.

Wait.

Scott actually leads Nelson by 2 points. Or is it 5 points if it’s just likely Florida voters in the race for Senate?

It’s that time of the political season in Florida where dueling polls have dueling results.

Average the two surveys — one of which was released Tuesday by NBC, the other released Monday by CBS — and Florida’s contested Senate race is close to tied. And though it’s only June, it might be a safe bet to see the race as neck-and-neck in light of the past four top-of-the-ticket races in Florida, which have been decided by 1.6 percentage points or fewer.

In the poll of 1,002 registered Florida voters conducted by YouGov for CBS, Scott edged Nelson, the incumbent, by 42-40 percent. Each candidate is about equally strong with his respective political base, but Continue reading “Nelson by 4 or Scott by 5? Dueling polls show Florida Senate race might be tied”

Trailing in polls, DeSantis scores Trump’s ‘full endorsement’ on Twitter

With a new poll showing he’s trailing in the GOP primary for Florida governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis got a Friday boost from President Donald Trump, who made it clear that he backs the congressman’s campaign.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!”

The president’s show of support for DeSantis comes at a critical time for the Florida Republican. On Thursday evening, Fox News released results of a poll showing he was trailing Agriculture Commissioner and former Rep. Adam Putnam 32-17 percentage points among likely GOP voters in the race.

Still, there are signs that Putnam’s support is potentially soft. Continue reading “Trailing in polls, DeSantis scores Trump’s ‘full endorsement’ on Twitter”

Greene faceoff with Trump at golf club part of $2.9M ad campaign in Florida governor’s race

MIAMI — A billionaire member of Mar-a-Lago is running for Florida governor as the only candidate in the race to stand up to President Donald Trump “in his own dining room” — and Jeff Greene says he has a video to prove it.

Greene’s campaign told POLITICO he’s featuring the snippet of video as B-roll in one of two TV commercials he’s airing for a week as part of his mammoth $2.9 million introductory ad campaign.

The video was taken in December 2017 by his wife, Greene told POLITICO, after Trump started yelling at him near the buffet at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. He said Trump was enraged because Greene both supported Hillary Clinton and had told the Palm Beach Daily News during the campaign that the Republican was guilty of sexual assault.

“I walked by and he screamed, he pointed at me: ‘Jeff Continue reading “Greene faceoff with Trump at golf club part of $2.9M ad campaign in Florida governor’s race”

‘I do not favor separating families,’ says Scott in slight break with Trump

MIAMI — As he balances his U.S. Senate bid with his loyalty to the president, Gov. Rick Scott broke slightly with the Trump administration on Monday by saying he opposes its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents when they cross the border undocumented.

Scott, however, stopped short of calling for an immediate end to the policy — which has resulted in the parentless detention of thousands of children — and downplayed the administration’s role in enforcing it.

“What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bi-partisan inaction and failure from our federal government. They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos,” Scott said in a written statement.

“Let me be clear — I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is Continue reading “‘I do not favor separating families,’ says Scott in slight break with Trump”

‘Who is Bill Nelson?’

MIAMI — Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign has a Spanish-language web page. Sen. Bill Nelson’s doesn’t.

Scott is advertising in Spanish. Nelson isn’t.

Scott is learning Spanish and does interviews with Spanish-language media about once a week. Nelson isn’t and doesn’t.

For Democrats who recognize protecting Nelson’s seat is essential to their hopes of winning a Senate majority this fall, the veteran senator’s lackluster outreach to one of the fastest-growing voting blocs in the nation’s largest swing state is causing alarm.

The depth of Nelson’s troubles — and Scott’s advantage — came into sharp focus last month in four focus groups conducted in Central Florida’s influential Puerto Rican community, where few knew who Nelson was, despite his three Senate terms and holding elected Florida office for 41 years.

“There’s a lot higher awareness of Rick Scott. He’s got much higher name recognition. And people associate him with trying to Continue reading “‘Who is Bill Nelson?’”

Scott surges past Nelson with older Florida voters

Gov. Rick Scott is virtually tied with Sen. Bill Nelson among Florida voters, but the Republican is dominating the Democrat by 9 points among those nearing or at retirement age — a group that casts the majority of Florida’s votes.

The results, drawn from a forthcoming POLITICO/AARP poll delving into the policy views of Florida voters aged 50 and older, exposes a political divide that bodes relatively well for Republicans when compared to some nationwide polling that shows a more-favorable environment for Democrats.

Overall, voters in the nation’s largest swing state are almost evenly split when it comes to opinions of President Trump’s job performance, with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. But Trump’s job approval rises to 52 percent and his disapproval falls to 44 percent among voters older than 50 — a crucial demographic in the retiree-heavy state because they have historically cast about two-thirds of all Continue reading “Scott surges past Nelson with older Florida voters”

Gun background check failure haunts ‘proud NRA sellout’ Putnam

MIAMI — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s agency failed to conduct complete criminal background checks on concealed weapons permit applicants for more than a year, a failure that could have allowed tens of thousands of unqualified people to secretly pack heat in a state that has become known for its mass shootings.

The mistake, first reported Friday by the Tampa Bay Times, was kept hidden from the public for more than a year as Putnam became the Republican front-runner for governor and as he called himself a “proud NRA sellout” — a term he used on Twitter in July 2017, one month after an Office of Inspector General report, marked “confidential,” detailed the background check failure.

Putnam’s Agriculture Department said the issue was promptly dealt with when it fired a Division of Licensing employee in charge of determining eligibility for applicants. She simply stopped checking the federal National Instant Criminal Continue reading “Gun background check failure haunts ‘proud NRA sellout’ Putnam”

Trump breaks logjam, nominates Fajardo for South Florida prosecutor post

MIAMI — President Donald Trump broke through a logjam with his White House, the Justice Department and Sen. Marco Rubio’s office on Thursday by finally nominating a new federal prosecutor for the South Florida district that includes Mar-a-Lago in its jurisdiction.

Trump’s selection of Miami-Dade Judge Ariana Fajardo Orshan — recommended by Rubio and supported by Gov. Rick Scott — looked like a done deal months ago. But dysfunction in the White House counsel’s office and the unexpected involvement of a top Department of Justice official with Florida ties slowed down the process.

The White House didn’t explain the delay. Fajardo’s nomination was announced as part of a batch of nominations released Thursday. She is the first woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Rubio praised the appointment.

“I am pleased that the president has nominated Ariana Fajardo Orshan to serve as U. Continue reading “Trump breaks logjam, nominates Fajardo for South Florida prosecutor post”

In sign of tougher policy shift, Trump appoints Cuba ‘hardliner’ to lead Radio and TV Martí

President Donald Trump appointed Miami’s former mayor and self-described Cuba “hardliner” Tomás Regalado to run Radio and TV Martí, a sign that tougher U.S. policies could be in store for the island regime and its Latin American allies.

Regalado’s appointment to lead the U.S.-funded broadcast network, which counters Cuba’s state-run media, follows months of advocacy by Miami’s four Cuban-American Republican members of Congress, and it helps solidify Sen. Marco Rubio’s role as a key player in the Trump administration’s Latin America policy.

Rubio (R-Fla.), who recommended Regalado for the post and worked closely with the administration on recent Venezuela sanctions, had joined with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) in shaping Trump’s 2017 rollback of former President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba’s government, a policy announced in Miami when Regalado — a significant voice of Cuban exiles for decades — was mayor.

“This is a Continue reading “In sign of tougher policy shift, Trump appoints Cuba ‘hardliner’ to lead Radio and TV Martí”