Slain student’s parent could chair investigative panel into school shooting’s botched response

FORT LAUDERDALE — A special Florida legislative investigative committee, says state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, will investigate the shocking revelation by law enforcement authorities late Thursday that an armed school officer on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not try to stop the gunman who slaughtered 17 people in the worst school shooting in the state’s history.

Corcoran said the House plans to include the provision for the committee — which could be chaired by an as-yet-unnamed parent of one of the murdered students — in a package of gun and school safety legislation that it will release Friday. Details of the committee structure were still being worked out Thursday, he said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is releasing his own proposals Friday morning to bolster school safety and to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness, told POLITICO through his spokesman that there must Continue reading “Slain student’s parent could chair investigative panel into school shooting’s botched response”

Shalala poll shows her dominating Democratic field in Miami

MIAMI — In one of the nation’s top races for congressional Democrats, Donna Shalala’s likely opponents have treated her like the candidate to beat — and a new poll she paid for shows why.

Shalala, a friend and appointee of the Clintons as well as the former president of the University of Miami, leads the crowded primary field with 24 percent of the vote in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, with state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez trailing her with a distant 10 percent, according to the poll of 600 Democratic voters conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International.

All six other candidates polled in the single digits. At least 70 percent of the district’s Democratic electorate had no idea who they were.

After the pollster read respondents positive and negative messages about Shalala (concerning the 77-year-old’s health, for instance) Shalala’s numbers jumped 16 percentage points, to 40 percent, over her opponents while Continue reading “Shalala poll shows her dominating Democratic field in Miami”

Rubio calls for firearm task force

TALLAHASSEE — Responding to his critics in the wake of Florida’s latest mass shooting, Sen. Marco Rubio says a task force of experts should examine the “epidemic” of mass shootings and expressed concern that Congress essentially bans federally funded research into firearm violence.

Rubio has an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, and voted for numerous bills expanding gun rights, including Stand Your Ground, when he served in the Florida Legislature. And the degree to which he would give ground to gun-control supporters remains far from clear after the slaughter of 17 people last Wednesday afternoon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Fort Lauderdale suburb.

Still, Rubio also indicated a willingness to expand background checks; consider a “gun-violence restraining order” to remove weapons from those accused of domestic violence; examine banning so-called “bump fire” conversion kits that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire like machine Continue reading “Rubio calls for firearm task force”

In third bellwether contest, Florida Democrats again carry the day and hope for a blue wave

Strike three.

For the third Florida bellwether election in a row, the Republican candidate lost to the Democrat, giving activists and elites in both parties a sense that the GOP’s political grip is slipping in the nation’s largest swing state heading into President Donald Trump’s first midterm election.

Aside from her big 7.4 percentage-point win, what made Margaret Good’s victory Tuesday night over Republican James Buchanan so significant was that it took place in Florida’s 72nd House District. It had been held by a Republican in Sarasota County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12,000, or about 10 percentage points. Buchanan, the son of local Congressman Vern Buchanan, also had an advantage in name ID.

And Trump had carried the district by 4.6 percentage points in a state that he won by just 1.2 points in November.

But now Trump is too toxic even for Sarasota, say Continue reading “In third bellwether contest, Florida Democrats again carry the day and hope for a blue wave”

Alan Grayson says he’s running for Congress, but won’t say where

TALLAHASSEE — Firebrand Democrat Alan Grayson says he wants to return to Congress in 2018, but is not yet saying which seat he’s running for.

“Yes, this cycle is what I’m looking at,” Grayson told POLITICO Florida in a telephone interview Monday. “But Florida law says I can run anywhere.”

When pressed for specifics, he said: "TBD."

The Orlando Democrat has never stopped accepting online contributions since leaving Congress in 2016 to run for the U.S. Senate. He has $556,000 cash-on-hand, and has continued receiving small-dollar contributions since his loss in the Democratic primary to Patrick Murphy. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio defeated Murphy in the general election.

Grayson in recent months has again started actively soliciting online contributions from the same small-dollar base that in the past helped make him a dangerous fundraiser. During the last three months of 2017, Grayson raised nearly $60,000, all small contributions Continue reading “Alan Grayson says he’s running for Congress, but won’t say where”

Firing of teacher after same-sex wedding turns into Miami congressional campaign issue

MIAMI — A Miami Catholic school fired a lesbian teacher after she married her partner, drawing attention to a stalled gay-rights bill in the Florida Legislature and marking a new campaign issue in one of the nation’s most competitive Democratic congressional primaries.

The fired first grade teacher, Jocelyn Morffi, couldn’t be reached for comment, but her friends shared her story with local media. Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School didn’t dispute that Morffi was let go Thursday after her wedding — three days earlier — to partner Natasha Hass.

Morffi’s dismissal is probably perfectly legal.

“It’s 2018. But you may be surprised to learn that you can be fired from your employment not just because of gay marriage but also because you’re gay,” said state Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat who’s the first openly gay Florida House member and the top fundraiser in the crowded primary for Florida’s Continue reading “Firing of teacher after same-sex wedding turns into Miami congressional campaign issue”

In dueling Florida Senate polls, Nelson either leads or is tied with Scott

MIAMI — Sen. Bill Nelson is either tied with Gov. Rick Scott or starting to pull ahead of the likely Republican challenger in what could be the nation’s most-expensive Senate race, according to a pair of dueling polls released today.

In a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey of 625 registered Florida voters, Nelson is basically tied with Scott, 45-44 percent. That result is essentially unchanged since the firm’s October poll, which found the two tied evenly at 44 percent each.

A University of North Florida poll of 429 likely Florida voters, however, had better news for the incumbent. It showed Nelson leading Scott 48-42 percent. Nelson’s 6-point advantage has grown since UNF’s last survey, in October, when the Democrat had a marginal one-point lead over Scott, 37-36 percent.

The differences between the poll results can be chalked up to different sample sizes and methods (UNF surveyed fewer people but screened Continue reading “In dueling Florida Senate polls, Nelson either leads or is tied with Scott”