Hurricane Irma: Sens. Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio are bipartisan disaster buddies

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson in Belle Glade on Wednesday. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

BELLE GLADE — Glades residents who lined up Wednesday for a hot meal and some bottled water after Hurricane Irma also got a chance to interact with both of Florida’s U.S. senators.

“This is bipartisanship here,” Florida Democratic Sen.  Bill Nelson proclaimed Wednesday as he and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio stopped by a food and water distribution center for Irma victims.

Rubio and Nelson also visited citrus growers in Lake Wales and Ave Maria University students in Immokalee on Wednesday.

The pair flew together on a Coast Guard plane on Monday to survey damage in the Keys. They planned to meet at an emergency operations center in Jacksonville on Tuesday, but missed each other by about 30 minutes.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson hand out meals in Belle Glade on Wednesday. That’s former Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell next to Rubio and County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who represents the Glades, next to Nelson. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The working relationship between Rubio and Nelson could take some of the partisan edge off next year’s expected challenge to Nelson by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Last year, when Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy challenged Rubio for re-election, Nelson came to Rubio’s defense after Murphy accused him of failing to deliver on federal money to fight the Zika virus.

 

 

Opioid crisis: Latvala says state ‘should do our part’ to help Palm Beach County

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, talks to reporters after today’s discussion on the opioid crisis.

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, listened to Palm Beach County elected officials, first responders, medical professionals and advocates talk about the opioid crisis for about three hours today at the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay helped organize the meeting in which Latvala, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and other elected officials heard about an 11-month old baby being treated for heroin addiction, daily overdose deaths and a shortage of detox and treatment beds.

“This is the number one public health crisis facing our community and the country. This is the number one criminal justice issue facing our community and the country,” State Attorney Dave Aronberg said near the beginning of the meeting.

Latvala, expected to announce a run for governor next week, said he learned a lot and believes the state should provide help.

“I think the sheer number of people that came to talk about this issue for a guy from Pinellas County where this is really not that big of an issue, it was stunning to me that there were that many people – the magnitude of the calls to the fire department, the involvement of the Sheriff’s department, just the whole community seems to be zeroing in on trying to solve this problem, so I think the state should do our part to try to solve it with the community,” Latvala said after the roundtable discussion.

Look for a more complete story later today at MyPalmBeachPost.com

 

Today: Opioid crisis briefings for Latvala in Lake Worth, Trump in New Jersey

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will host an opioid roundtable in Palm Beach County today. He’s expected to make an announcement about the 2018 governor’s race next week. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman and potential 2018 candidate for governor Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will visit the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College this morning to hear from a slew of elected officials and experts about the state’s opioid crisis.

» WATCH LIVE: The opioid roundtable is being livestreamed via The Florida Channel

And at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., work-vacationing President Donald Trump is scheduled to participate in a 3 p.m. briefing on the opioid crisis with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

In Florida, Latvala says he wants to visit the epicenter of the crisis to determine how to steer money — including $54 million in federal grants — to address the problem.

The discussion at the Palm Beach State College Public Safety Training Center begins at 9:30 a.m. and is scheduled to end at noon.

Follow PostOnPolitics.com, MyPalmBeachPost.com and @gbennettpost on Twitter for coverage today.

Among the elected officials expected to speak today: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, state Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington, and West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio. Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and other first responders and medical and treatment professionals are also expected to make presentations. Fifty minutes of public comment are also scheduled.

Said Latvala in a statement released by his office: “Opioid abuse is a crisis facing our entire state. It’s costing lives and money. In fact, Florida hospital charges related to the heroin epidemic top $4 million a day. But the crisis seems to be affecting Palm Beach County more than many other parts of the state with more than 300 opioid overdoes in Palm Beach County already this year. Senator Rader and Commissioner McKinlay have worked particularly hard to bring attention to the issue. I want to visit and hear directly from the professionals and families directly involved with the issue.”

Latvala is expected to announce his 2018 political plans next week. Latvala, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are considering entering the GOP race for governor, where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the only major Republican candidate.

 

Rep. Brian Mast, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay host joint town hall Saturday

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay — once candidates for the same congressional seat — will hold a joint town hall meeting on Saturday morning at Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee.

 

The event begins at 10:30 a.m. and ends at noon in the school auditorium. Doors open at 10 a.m. The meeting is open to the public, but seating is limited and attendees are asked to RSVP at https://mast.house.gov/townhall.

 

McKinlay, a Democrat, was briefly a candidate for the same District 18 congressional seat that Republican Mast ended up winning last November.

 

McKinlay opened a campaign in 2015, but dropped out of the race later in the year after concluding she couldn’t do her commission job and raise campaign money to compete with millionaire businessman Randy Perkins in the Democratic primary.

 

Mast, who beat five rivals to win the GOP nomination, defeated Perkins in the general election.

Melissa McKinlay begins fundraising for 2018 commission re-election bid

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay on election night in 2014 (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who quietly opened a re-election campaign for her western-county District 6 seat earlier this month, has begun hitting up supporters for campaign cash.

 

She’s the first commission candidate to open a 2018 campaign. McKinlay’s seat and two others will be on the ballot next year. District 2 Commissioner Paulette Burdick and District 4 Commissioner Steven Abrams face term limits in 2018.

 

McKinlay was elected to the commission in 2014. In 2015, she opened a campaign for Congress — then pulled out of the race after deep-pocketed businessman Randy Perkins got in. Perkins won the Democratic nomination but lost to Republican Brian Mast.

 

A McKinlay fundraising email says she hopes to raise $38,000 by April 30. The election is more than 19 months away, but, her email says, “this is an important time to show potential challengers that we are up to the task – and that you are on my side.”

 

 

Bill Clinton makes case for Hillary’s candidacy on Belle Glade stop

With US Congressman Alcee Hastings at his side, former President Bill Clinton speaks on the campaign trail for his wife Hillary Clinton Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center in Belle Glade. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
With US Congressman Alcee Hastings at his side, former President Bill Clinton speaks on the campaign trail for his wife Hillary Clinton Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center in Belle Glade. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Former President Bill Clinton spent his 41st wedding anniversary campaigning for his wife in Belle Glade Tuesday, making the case for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as the best way to get the education and infrastructure improvements he said the country desperately needs.

“She’s the best change-maker I’ve ever known,” Bill Clinton said. “I’ve known her a long time.”

The trip, Bill Clinton’s first to Belle Glade, was part of his wife’s ongoing and relentless effort to win the Sunshine State. About 440 people came to the hear him speak, according to estimates from Belle Glade’s mayor, Steve Wilson.

Clinton’s appearance came as Donald Trump has sought to tar the Clinton campaign with allegations of the former president’s inappropriate conduct with women.

President Clinton made no mention of those allegations, nor did he reference the firestorm scorching the Trump campaign in the aftermath of recently released video where the celebrity real estate mogul is boasting about his own misconduct with women.

Indeed, Bill Clinton did not utter Trump’s name. The closest he came was in reminding his wife’s supporters that many foreign policy experts have already rendered their verdict on the election.

“Dozens and dozens of them said they couldn’t be for her opponent,” Bill Clinton said.

Hundreds enthusiastically greeted the former president at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center at Palm Beach State College.

Bill Clinton’s appearance in Belle Glade was the first of three he’s scheduled to make in Florida today. He is expected to make other stops in Lee County and in Pinellas County.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton will campaign in Miami with former vice president Al Gore.

Excited Belle Glade community members cheer as former President Bill Clinton speaks on campaign trail for his wife Hillary Clinton Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
Excited Belle Glade community members cheer as former President Bill Clinton speaks on campaign trail for his wife Hillary Clinton Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Before the former president took the stage, several elected officials took the stage to tout Hillary Clinton and blast Trump.

Wilson noted that the prospect of “the history of the first female president of the United States of America” should be enough to spur people to register and vote.

McKinlay, whose district includes Belle Glade, ripped Trump for his comments about women.

Telling the crowd that she has two daughters, McKinlay said: “If any man in this country thinks it OK to refer to them as a piece of…I won’t say it because there are too many pastors in the room. That is not the message that we need to send to the country and to the rest of the world.”