DeSantis camp blasts donor’s N-word tweet; won’t return past contributions

Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump at a Tampa rally on July 31. (Zac Anderson/The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Republican Ron DeSantis‘s campaign for Florida governor has condemned a campaign donor’s recent tweet that called former President Barack Obama the N-word and pledged not to accept any more contributions from the donor.

But DeSantis is rejecting calls from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo and others to return at least $4,000 in past contributions from Boca Raton communications executive Steven Alembik and his business.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

Alembik’s SMA Communications gave $2,000 to the DeSantis campaign in July and $2,000 to a pro-DeSantis PAC in January. Alembik also gave $2,500 in 2017 to the Fund For Florida’s Future, which is not officially connected to DeSantis but gave $2.5 million to the DeSantis PAC early this year.

“That money was donated before the primary and has been spent. He (Alembik) said something last week and we are not taking any more money,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson.

“We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: We adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric,” Lawson said of Alembik’s tweet, which has been deleted.

Alembik told Politico, which first reported the story, that he is “absolutely not” a racist and had tweeted about Obama in anger.

Reached Friday, Alembik declined comment but had his company’s vice president of operations, Bianca J. Hennings, call The Palm Beach Post.

“I would never work for or work with a racist. This man stands for integrity,” Hennings said.

Alembik made news last year after President Donald Trump drew fire for initially blaming “many sides” for the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. When a wave of nonprofits responded by cancelling plans to host events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Alembik booked an event there for his organization, The Truth About Israel. He had DeSantis speak at its February event.

Alembik told The Palm Beach Post last year: “I’m reading about these groups pulling out of Mar-a-Lago and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous. Somebody needs to take a stand here and do something. My president is my president. I like what he stands for. With him as president, I don’t have to worry. He’s got Israel’s back.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Rizzo, who also chairs the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, called Thursday for DeSantis to return past Alembik contributions.

“Ron DeSantis’ campaign is funded by bigots — and he apparently has no problem with it. Since day one, DeSantis has run a divisive, toxic campaign, and it’s only getting worse with each passing day. If DeSantis doesn’t return the money from Steven Alembik immediately, he owns this,” Rizzo said.

 

Who do voters blame for Florida’s algae problem? What an FAU poll says

Algae in the Caloosahatchee River beside the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva, Florida, July 11, 2018. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida’s algae problem has emerged as a key issue in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, with each seeking to place blame on the other.

Scott says the toxic blooms fouling waterways east and west of Lake Okeechobee are the result of years of dithering by the federal government on Everglades restoration. Nelson and Democrats have blamed Scott for cutting back state environmental regulations.

A new Florida Atlantic University poll asked voters who they hold responsible.

Thirty-two percent blame state government, with 13 percent blaming the federal government and 17 percent saying city and county governments are responsible, according to the FAU survey.

Another 38 percent say they don’t know — which means you’ll probably see more TV ads on the issue from Scott and Nelson and their allies.

A new Inside Florida Politics podcast is coming later today. Catch up on the last episode here…

Rick Scott takes a page from Charlie Crist in latest TV ad

Charlie Crist depicted Democratic rival Jim Davis’s empty chair (left) in ads during the 2006 governor’s race; Republican Gov. Rick Scott is reviving the empty-chair theme this year in attacks on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, trying to paint Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson as an inside-the-Beltway layabout, released a new TV ad — using figures the Nelson camp disputes — that accuses the three-term Democrat of excessive absenteeism on Capitol Hill.

Scott’s ad, titled “Empty Chair,” shows an empty seat at a committee dais with Nelson’s name plate in front of it.

Floridians of a certain age may remember then-Republican Charlie Crist using an empty chair in TV ads during the 2006 governor’s race to accuse Democrat Jim Davis of missing too many votes as a member of Congress.

Hear about the Scott-Nelson contest and other races in the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast…

Scott’s new ad says Nelson “skipped 45 percent of the hearings on national security.” The Scott campaign said that’s a reference to Armed Services Committee hearings and provided figures that list Nelson as attending 352 of 636 of the committee’s hearings since 2001.

Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown called the ad “nothing more than another false attack by Rick Scott who is nothing more than a phony politician.”

Brown said Nelson “attended about 80 percent of the Armed Services meetings this year and 86 percent last year.” Scott’s camp says Nelson attended 76 percent of the committee’s hearings during 2017-18.

 

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, rivals in November, both say Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations should be heard. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Christine Blasey Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s.

“Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson.

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both called Monday for Ford’s allegations to get a full airing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here’s Scott’s full statement: “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here. Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name. In related news, someone must have told Senator Nelson to start doing his job now, and he is finally saying he’s interested in meeting with the Judge.”

Nelson on Monday tweeted: “I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.”

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also weighed in Monday via Twitter:

“Dr. Ford has made very troubling allegations that must be fully heard. Judge Kavanaugh has strongly denied them & should be given the opportunity to respond. I agree with the decision by @ChuckGrassley to provide both parties the opportunity to do so,” Rubio tweeted.

‘I will never roll on Donald Trump,’ says Roger Stone in West Palm Beach

Literally a circus atmosphere for Roger Stone’s speech to a pro-Donald Trump club in West Palm Beach. A camera from Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus” records Stone’s remarks. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With prosecutors interviewing a dozen of his associates, Roger Stone told hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump on Monday night that “it is entirely possible that Mr. Mueller will frame me for some extraneous crime.”

Stone, speaking to the Club 45 PBC at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, said he’s never colluded with Russia and will never go the route of longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and cooperate against Trump.

“I’m ready. I will never roll on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen I am not,” Stone said. “One reporter asked me last week ‘Are you worried?’ I don’t worry. I make other people worry.”

Click here to read the entire story.

And be sure to check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast…

DeSantis fundraising perks up after early Gillum money surge

Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) has an early money edge over Republican Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor’s race.

After getting blown out by Democrat Andrew Gillum in fundraising immediately after Aug. 28 primaries, Republican Ron DeSantis edged Gillum in money collected for the Florida governor’s race during the first week of September.

And a DeSantis PAC has snagged more than $2 million since the last Florida Division of Elections reporting deadline, including a $1.5 million check from Palm Beach County resident Laura Perlmutter, the wife of Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac Perlmutter.

As of Sept. 8, Gillum and his Forward Florida PAC had nearly $5.2 million in cash on hand for the general election while DeSantis and his Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC had nearly $2.6 million.

Hear more about the governor’s race in the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast…

The figures for DeSantis and Gillum and their PACs do not include spending by outside groups trying to influence the race.

The Service Employees International Union, for example, recently announced plans to spend $5 million on ads, communications and get-out-the-vote efforts to support Gillum and other “candidates dedicated to lifting up the middle class.” The Republican Governors Association recently launched a statewide TV ad campaign accusing Gillum of going “just too far” with his call for a $1 billion hike in the corporate income tax and other proposals.

Gillum and his PAC raised $4 million in the three days after Gillum’s stunning Aug. 28 Democratic primary victory over four better-financed rivals. DeSantis and his PAC raised only $521,880 in the same period.

Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 7, however, DeSantis raised $1.4 million while Gillum raised $1.3 million.

DeSantis’ latest total includes $380,951 collected by his campaign and $1 million raised by his PAC. Gillum’s campaign raised $874,285 during the first week of September while his PAC snagged $445,500.

DeSantis, whose GOP primary win was largely due to President Donald Trump‘s endorsement, will turn to one of Trump’s arch rivals — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — for fundraising help next week at an event in Coral Gables.

 

 

Florida Republicans Scott, Rubio, DeSantis dispute Trump on Puerto Rico deaths

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made seven trips to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Irma and had Puerto Rico Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marin (left) at the kickoff of his Senate campaign in April. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas this morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to claim that official estimates of nearly 3,000 deaths from last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were a Democratic concoction “to make me look as bad as possible.”

Trump’s claims drew widespread outrage and were disputed by Florida’s leading Republicans: Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.

Trump touched off the controversy before 8 a.m. in consecutive tweets.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” the president tweeted.

Trump added: “…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Democrats blasted the president, with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson calling his claims “shameful.”

Republicans defended the official death estimates.

“These days even tragedy becomes political,” said Rubio on Twitter. “3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes.”

While Rubio didn’t mention Trump, Scott — who has made multiple visits to Puerto Rico since the hurricane — was more direct.

“I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed,” said Scott, a longtime Trump ally who has distanced himself from the president since launching a Senate campaign. “I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR.”

DeSantis, whose nomination over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely due to Trump’s support, carefully distanced himself from the president.

“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson. “Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”

 

Bill Nelson ad tells Latinos that Rick Scott and Donald Trump are ‘muy buenos amigos’

New Bill Nelson ad notes that Rick Scott and Donald Trump are “muy buenos amigos.”

Amid suggestions he’s underperforming with Hispanic voters, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson‘s re-election campaign is airing a Spanish-language ad that says his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, and President Donald Trump are “muy buenos amigos.”

Nelson’s campaign released the new ad Wednesday night along with an ad in English that notes — as Democrats also did in 2010 and 2014 — that Scott was CEO of hospital chain that paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.

Check out the Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

Democrat Charlie Crist won the Hispanic vote by 20 points when he unsuccessfully challenged Scott in 2014, according to exit polls. But a recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Scott leading Nelson among Hispanic voters in a race that’s tied 49-to-49 overall. A Mason-Dixon poll in July gave Nelson only a 5-point edge among Latino voters.

The ad aimed at Latino voters features Nelson speaking briefly in Spanish (“Soy Bill Nelson, y apruebo este mensaje.”) before showing seven still images of Scott with Trump, who according to exit polls lost the Florida Hispanic vote by a 62-to-35 percent margin to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

An English translation provided by the Nelson campaign says: “Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are. Rick Scott and Donald Trump are great/close friends/pals. Scott raised $20 million to elect Trump. Then Trump recruited Scott to run for the Senate. We need people to stand up to Donald Trump and his extreme agenda.
If Scott goes to Washington, he will do what Trump wants. Rick Scott. We just can’t trust him.”

Scott was an early cheerleader for Trump’s presidential bid and chaired a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016. Scott and Trump met frequently during Trump’s first year in office, but Scott has kept his distance from Trump since launching his Senate bid in April.

 


	

A different Republican president is coming to Palm Beach for Rick Scott

Former President George W. Bush during a 2006 visit to Palm Beach County. He’ll be back Friday to raise money for Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate bid. (Bob Shanley/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will raise money for his U.S. Senate bid with a Republican president in Palm Beach, but the headliner will not be frequent island visitor and current White House occupant Donald Trump.

Instead, former President George W. Bush — the embodiment of a GOP that Trump campaigned against in 2016 — will appear with Scott in Tampa and Palm Beach on Friday.

Hear about the Senate race and other campaigns in America’s largest battleground state on the Inside Florida Politics podcast…

The specific location for the Bush-Scott Palm Beach event, which was first reported by Politico, has not been announced.

An invitation says $1,000 donors get a ticket to a reception, $2,700 contributors get a reception ticket and mention in an event program and those who pony up $25,000 get four reception tickets, a VIP photo for two and a program listing.

Scott raised money last week with Vice President Mike Pence but so far hasn’t campaigned with Trump, with whom he’s been close in the past. Trump publicly urged Scott to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

 

Ron DeSantis resigns from Congress to focus on Florida governor’s race

Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump at a Tampa rally on July 31. (Zac Anderson/The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Florida’s Republican nominee for governor, Ron DeSantis, announced today he is resigning from Congress to focus on his campaign against Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

DeSantis, whose GOP primary campaign was boosted by an endorsement and campaign appearance from President Donald Trump, made the announcement in Trumpian fashion — via Twitter.

DeSantis was in his third term representing a Jacksonville-area district in the U.S. House. In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., DeSantis asks that his resignation be retroactive to Sept. 1 so he does not receive any pay for September.

“As the Republican nominee for governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress,” says DeSantis’ letter. “Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary. In order to honor my principles and protect the taxpayer, I officially resign from the House of Representatives immediately. For purposes of pay, I ask that my resignation be retroactive to September 1 so that I do not receive any pay for the month of September.”