Republicans targeting Nelson with billboard on algae bloom

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is hoping to tie anger about the toxic algae bloom that has fouled waters in the Treasure Coast to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat the GOP wants to knock off when he seeks re-election in 2018.

Starting today, commuters driving past Interstate 95 at 10th Avenue near exit 64 will see a billboard urging them to “TELL BILL NELSON: Do more to fix Florida’s algae crisis.”

Nelson authored legislation that was passed into law in 2014 to direct $82 million for research into the causes and control of algae blooms and to give additional resources to communities affected by them.

The senator has also sponsored legislation that would, for the first time, pave the way for states and local communities hit hard by algae blooms to get federal assistance.

That legislation passed the Senate’s Commerce Committee in May. The Senate’s GOP leadership will determine when it is brought to the floor.

Nelson, first elected to the Senate in 2000 after a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, could face Gov. Rick Scott in what would be an expensive, all-out battle Democrats can’t afford to lose if they have any hope of recapturing a majority in the Senate.

The GOP is already at work softening up Nelson.

“After 40 years in Congress, Bill Nelson has only reinforced his ineffectiveness as a lawmaker,” NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin said. “Floridians deserve a senator who will win the fight to fix the algae crisis, and decades have proven that Bill Nelson isn’t the man for the job.”

An algae outbreak curdled sections of the St. Lucie River in 2016, damaging businesses and angering residents who blamed Lake Okeechobee discharges for the smelly bloom.

State lawmakers passed a plan this year that would have the state store water south of Lake Okeechobee as a means of eliminating the discharges and, they hope, the algae spread.

For his part, Nelson is aware he has a political target on his back.

His campaign sent out a fundraising pitch Thursday mentioning Scott and President Donald Trump.

“CNN has ranked Florida’s Senate race as one of the most competitive races in the country next year,” the campaign pitch read. “And just last week, Gov. Rick Scott and Donald Trump met in New Jersey to begin plotting their campaign against Bill Nelson.”

The campaign said “a generous group of donors has stepped up big time and has offered to MATCH every donation we receive this week.”

“With Trump personally recruiting Scott to be his rubber stamp in the Senate, we CANNOT afford to waste this extraordinary opportunity to have your donation DOUBLED – making every dollar you give go TWICE as far – but time is running out.”

The donation match ended on Friday, but Nelson’s fight for re-election is only just warming up.

Mast rips media in roundtable discussion

Rep. Brian Mast

Forget Russia. Forget WikiLeaks and its document dumps. Forget, even, all of those undocumented residents who, according to President Donald Trump, voted illegally and cost him the popular vote.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, said the press was “the greatest saboteur” in the 2016 election.

Mast, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, made the comment during a roundtable discussion with other members of Congress filmed by CBS News.

“If I would point to anyone as the greatest saboteur of our election, it would be the press and the way they drive the message that they want to drive – hands down,” Mast said.

His comment drew an immediate response from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

“Yeah, but what’s the alternative?” Pascrell asked Mast. “You want to do it like Greece and Turkey in terms of how they control their media, particularly their print media? I think the press has done a fantastic job.”

Pascrell then decried attacks on the press over the past six months.

“I would say the alternative is more editorializing and less opinion,” Mast said.

Members of both parties told CBS News that the press seizes on political discord, but, with Trump branding unfavorable reports as “fake news,” ripping the press has become a staple of some Republicans.

Asked for comment Wednesday, a spokesman for Mast said the congressman will let his remarks speak for themselves.

While Mast described the press as the “greatest saboteur” of the 2016 election, he has been critical of Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies said tried to influence the election.

“Unfortunately, the vacuum of power created by the Obama Administration has also been filled by Russia to sow chaos through both physical and cyber warfare,” the congressman says on his web site. “Russia’s expansion in Eastern Europe must be stopped and their attempts to influence the outcome of American elections must not be tolerated.”

Democrats have said their internal polling indicates that Mast will be among the most vulnerable Republicans in the country when he seeks re-election next year. The seat is expected to be a key part of the Democrats’ push to recapture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In an effort to tie Mast to the unfolding Russia scandal, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has cited reporting that a Mast consultant used information the Russians stole from the DCCC’s computers in 2016.

“Congressman Mast’s campaign used information stolen by Russian hackers and then got caught trying to mislead his voters about what his campaign had done,” Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesman, said Wednesday. “Frankly, it’s telling how far Washington he’s gone that he’s now pointing fingers at the media instead of taking responsibility for his own dirty tricks.”

Republicans have said they aren’t worried about Mast’s re-election prospects and have labeled the used-hacked-information charge as a “ridiculous lie.”

NEW: Frankel, Democratic women to wear white during Trump speech

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel will join a group of Democratic congresswomen in wearing white — a show of support for women’s rights — to President Donald Trump’s first address before a joint session of Congress.

The move by the House Democratic Women’s Working Group, for which Frankel serves as chair, mirrors a similar demonstration from Trump’s inaugural, when Frankel and several other Democrats wore pink. White was chosen because it was the official color of the suffragette movement, the group said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, left, is joined by other Democratic House members in wearing pink as a peaceful protest of President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Provided)
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, left, is joined by other Democratic House members in wearing pink as a peaceful protest of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Provided)

» LIVE UPDATES: President Trump’s speech before Congress

“We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump Administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women. We will not go back,” said Frankel, whose District 21 is composed of much of central and southern Palm Beach County, including Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.

Frankel’s guest for the address tonight is Treasure Coast resident Sherry Riggs, who credits the Affordable Care Act with saving her life. Lawmakers typically receive one guest ticket each to presidential speeches.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Donald Trump in Palm Beach

 

Frankel looks to keep heat on Trump, GOP about Obamacare repeal

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, speaks during a press conference with Sherry Riggs of Fort Pierce behind her. (Wayne Washington/Palm Beach Post)
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, speaks during a press conference with Sherry Riggs of Fort Pierce behind her. (Wayne Washington/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, has invited a Fort Pierce woman who credits the Affordable Care Act for saving her life to be her guest as President Donald Trump makes his first speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

Frankel and other Democrats are looking to keep the heat on Trump and other Republicans who say they will repeal the ACA, better known as Obamacare, and replace it with something better.

Some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, are hearing from constituents during angry town hall meetings that they don’t want Obamacare repealed unless it’s replaced with something that won’t drive up costs or lead to more  people without health care.

Members of Congress are allowed to bring a guest to hear Trump’s speech, and Frankel’s will be Sherry Riggs, a 55-year old barber who says she turned to Obamacare in 2015 after learning she could not afford private health insurance because of a preexisting heart condition.

Months after signing up, Riggs, a mother of three, underwent heart surgery, the first two procedures she has now undergone while using Obamacare.

“If it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act, I would be dead twice now,” Riggs said during a press conference with Frankel Monday morning.

Learn more about Riggs and the debate over repeal at http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today.

Where’s Rubio? Unknown group wants to know

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

It’s Wednesday afternoon. Do you know where one of your U.S. senators is?

Speaking Up for America – a group that doesn’t appear to be registered as a corporation or a political committee in Florida or with the Federal Elections Commission – has paid for an advertisement in The Palm Beach Post describing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as “lost.”

The ad has a picture of Rubio and a tongue-in-cheek description.

“He may respond to the title ‘Senator Marco Rubio,’ though his constituents have been unable to verify whether this is still the case as they have been unable to contact him in recent weeks,” the ad reads. “Senator Rubio was recently re-elected to the United State Senate and may be found in Washington, D.C. Many of his concerned constituents have been trying to reach him by phone, email, fax, the Senate website, and the Postal Service about a variety of issues, but they have been unable to reach the Senator and have received no response to their communications.”

The ad finishes with: “If found, please return Senator Rubio to his constituents by way of a Town Hall meeting or other suitable gathering in which the Senator demonstrates his accountability to his constituents by listening to and honestly addressing their concerns.”

Rubio’s office didn’t take the swipe laying down.

“We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, including the two individuals likely hiding behind this anonymous ad,” the senator’s press secretary, Matt Wolking, wrote in an email to The Post. “Our Palm Beach office only has one employee and serves multiple counties, but he greets any protesters who show up and has already met with hundreds of these activists.”

Wolking was just getting warmed up.

“This dishonest ad is part of a coordinated strategy of disruption revealed in an online activist manual, which instructs liberal protesters to carry out ‘mass office calling’ in which the group ‘all agree[s] to call in on one specific issue that day,’ he wrote. “They are further instructed that ‘the next day or week, pick another issue, and call again on that.’ Their goal is to flood offices with calls and emails, disrupt our ability to respond, then complain to the press that they aren’t getting a response.”

Trump’s selection of Chao as transportation secretary means detour for Mica

U.S. Rep. John Mica
U.S. Rep. John Mica

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao as his transportation secretary is a detour for outgoing U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Winter Park Republican some Floridians saw as a likely contender for the post.

Chao 63, was labor secretary under President George W. Bush and the first Asian-American woman on a president’s Cabinet. She is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Trump’s announcement is expected to be made Tuesday afternoon.

Mica was defeated after 24 years in Congress this month by Democrat Stephanie Murphy. A brother, Dan Mica, formerly represented parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties in Congress.

Mica, chair of the House subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets, and on another panel which oversees transportation spending, was available and talked up among Florida Republicans as a possible Trump appointee.

Trump, Clinton feature prominently in Perkins-Mast race

Your party’s presidential nominee is worse than mine. So there!

In the final days of the closely watched District 18 congressional race, Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Randy Perkins are using their opponents’ presidential nominee as a cudgel.

Mast has called on Perkins to repudiate Hillary Clinton, whose campaign was rocked by news that the FBI has re-opened its investigation into how she handled emails that passed through the personal server she had set up when she was U.S. secretary of state.

“Randy Perkins has no qualms about making his race about the presidential candidates, so it’s time for him to answer for the fact that Hillary Clinton, who he endorsed, is under investigation by the FBI,” Mast spokeswoman Madison Anderson said. “His silence on the dishonesty and scandal-ridden career of his pick for president speaks volumes of how he would serve in Congress. After all, his entire career has been about him garnering millions in no-bid government contracts by gaming the political system. His latest endeavor, Congress, will be no different. We call on Randy Perkins to break his silence and denounce Hillary Clinton’s scandal-ridden career and presidential campaign.”

Perkins wasted little time firing back, tossing the widespread condemnation of Trump’s comments about women back at Mast.

“Brian is trying to hide the fact that he’s anti-women’s choice, he does not support equal pay for equal work and is committed to ‘100% de-funding’ services like breast cancer testing, Zika screenings, and prenatal care for women in need,” Perkins said. “He and Donald Trump are both anti women.”

Republican Brian Mast (left) and Democrat Randy Perkins.
Republican Brian Mast (left) and Democrat Randy Perkins, candidates for the congressional District 18 seat.

Clinton praises Murphy during campaign stop in Broward

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton used her campaign stop at Broward College Tuesday to praise U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, continuing her campaign’s push for congressional victories that could make life easier for her if she wins the presidency.

An estimated 1,750 Clinton backers turned out to see Clinton, opening another two-day swing that will take her to Lake Worth and Tampa on Wednesday.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for complete coverage of Clinton’s trip.

Hillary Clinton campaigned at Broward College on Tuesday. (Wayne Washington/The Palm Beach Post)
Hillary Clinton campaigned at Broward College on Tuesday. (Wayne Washington/The Palm Beach Post)

New ad draws attention to Mast’s service, rips Perkins

A political action committee backing Republican congressional candidate Brian Mast is airing another television ad touting the former U.S. Army bomb technician’s military service and ripping his Democratic rival, Randy Perkins.

The ad, part of the Congressional Leadership Fund’s $3.1 million push in the competitive and closely watched U.S. House of Representatives District 18 race, draws more attention to a fiery TCPalm editorial board meeting last month where Perkins questioned how Mast’s war-time service makes him capable of solving policy problems.

Mast lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. His military service has been at the center of his campaign.

In the 60-second ad, which will begin airing in West Palm Beach today, former Army medic Cody Bonk of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, recounts hearing calls for a medic after an explosion in Afghanistan.

“I immediately take off running towards that area, and then I realize it’s Brian Mast,” Bonk recalled.

Bonk then notes, in brutal detail, Mast’s injuries and criticizes Perkins for asking Mast during that editorial board meeting what he pays for health insurance.

“I find that pretty insulting and disrespectful,” Bonk said of Perkins’ questions. “I was there with him. I applied the tourniquets. He’s given more than enough for this country. I think he earned his health care.”

Mast
Mast

 

Mast, Perkins touting points made during debate

Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Randy Perkins, battling it out in one of the most competitive and important congressional races in the country, are both highlighting points made during Monday’s debate in Palm Beach Gardens.

Mast, a former U.S. Army bomb technician who lost both legs in Afghanistan, jumped on Perkins’ comment that he would “print more money for our seniors” in an effort to portray Perkins as fiscally reckless.

Brian Mast
Brian Mast

“Clearly, Randy Perkins is unprepared to serve in Congress,” Mast says in a news release highlighting their debate exchange.

Perkins, a wealthy businessman, latched onto Mast donations he said came from lobbyists for All Aboard Florida, a passenger rail project that would connect Miami to Orlando.

Both Perkins and Mast have opposed the project, as do many residents in Martin County, which is part of District 18.

“Why would All Aboard Florida’s backers back Brian Mast?” Perkins asked in a news release. “I think we know the answer.”

Randy Perkins
Randy Perkins