Firefighters from West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton endorse Jack Latvala

Republican governor candidate Jack Latvala talks to reporters in Hialeah after kicking off his campaign.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, today announced three more endorsements from local firefighter unions for his 2018 Republican gubernatorial bid.

The West Palm Beach International Association of Fire Fighters Local 727, Boca Raton IAFF Local 1560 and Boynton Beach IAFF Local 1891 are endorsing Latvala, who earlier scored endorsements from Miami IAFF Local 587 and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365.

Latvala’s main GOP rival, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been endorsed by the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County, which represents 2,500 first responders in unincorporated areas and some municipalities.

Latvala and Putnam have opened 2018 campaigns for the GOP nomination for governor and could be joined in the Reppublican race by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast.

Three Democrats running for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — will appear today at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch in West Palm Beach.

Can one of these Florida Democrats halt two decades of failure?

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, businessman Chris King and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham before a Democratic candidate forum in Hollywood June 17.

Exactly one year before the 2018 primary, Florida’s three leading Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — will appear together today at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch in West Palm Beach.

If a June forum with the three candidates is any guide, the candidates won’t attack one another or draw sharp contrasts.

The late Lawton Chiles was the last Democrat to win an election for governor in Florida. That was in 1994.

Instead, each Democrat has been trying early in the campaign to make the case that he or she has the electability that eluded Buddy MacKay, Bill McBride, Jim Davis, Alex Sink and Charlie Crist. The last five Democratic nominees for governor have lost to Republicans.

The last Democrat to win a gubernatorial race was Gov. Lawton Chiles in his 1994 re-election bid.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum has pitched himself as the candidate best able to end the Democratic drought by firing up the party’s progressive base.

Former U.S. Rep. Graham presents herself as a candidate with a proven record of winning Republican and independent votes.

Winter Park businessman King plays up his status as an outsider who says he can counter the typical Republican criticism of Democrats because he has “created jobs…created successful businesses, created profit, delivered returns to investors, served customers all across the country.”

Check out PostOnPolitics.com, MyPalmBeachPost.com and @gbennettpost on Twitter later today for coverage of the Democratic forum.

 

 

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.

Double Deutch: Dem congressman, Trump censure advocate sets town halls

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, at a 2015 meeting with constituents. He’ll be hosting town halls in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton next week.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, has scheduled town hall meetings next week in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.

• On Wednesday, Deutch will speak to constituents and answer questions at 7 p.m. at Holiday Park Social Center at 1150 G. Harold Martin Drive in Fort Lauderdale.

• On Thursday, Deutch will appear at 10:30 a.m. at the Mae Volen Senior Center at 1515 West Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton.

Deutch, elected to Congress in 2010, represents Palm Beach-Broward District 22.

Deutch recently appeared on CNN to call for a congressional vote on censuring President Donald Trump over his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and in particular Trump’s suggestion that there were “fine people” among those marching against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Deutch noted that his father was wounded fighting Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

“This is a moment for Democrats and Republicans to come together to make a historical record that the United States Congress and the people we represent are appalled, appalled and disgusted, when the president of the United States looks at what happens and tries to provide cover for the anti-Semites and the racists who were marching in Charlottesville,” Deutch said.

 

 

 

Coming to a campus near you: Patrick Murphy, David Jolly anti-gridlock tour

Former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, and former Republican Rep. David Jolly will tour college campuses to discuss gridlock in Washington.

Former U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and David Jolly, R-St. Petersburg, are embarking on a bipartisan speaking tour to address “Why Gridlock Rules Washington and How We Can Solve the Crisis.”

The pair will “pull back the curtain on Washington and shine a light on the inside reasons why D.C. is in a state of chaos and dysfunction,” according to an announcement today.

Scheduled dates so far: Sept. 12 at the University of South Florida in Tampa; Oct. 4 at Florida International University in Miami; Oct. 18 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables and Oct. 25 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Additional stops could be added.

USF and The Tampa Bay Times are sponsoring the first 75-minute town hall-style event; other sponsors haven’t been announced.

Murphy, elected twice in a Republican-leaning Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional district, crossed the aisle on votes more frequently than most of his House colleagues. He gave up his seat in 2016 to pursue an unsuccessful challenge of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.  Murphy recently said he’s not running for office in 2018 but he’s only 34 and many expect him to re-emerge in Florida politics.

“Working across the aisle was a hallmark of my two terms in Congress, and the relationships I formed with members of both parties were invaluable.  I look forward to joining my former colleague as we share our perspectives on ways we must work together to improve our broken political system,” said Murphy.

Jolly launched a 2016 Senate campaign as well but bowed out when Rubio decided to seek re-election after his presidential bid fizzled. Jolly then lost his House re-election bid to Democrat Charlie Crist after redistricting gave his district a Democratic slant. Jolly has maintained a high profile of late as a Republican critic of President Donald Trump.

“Even in times of great disagreement there are ways of finding common ground, there are opportunities for bipartisan leadership to solve some of our country’s toughest issues.  I’m excited and proud to join my friend on a statewide tour to discuss how this can be accomplished in today’s hyper-partisan world of politics,” Jolly said.

The events will be 75 minutes

When will the shutout streak end for Florida lieutenant governors?

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (right) and Florida’s 10 previous lieutenant governors.

Since Florida re-established the office of lieutenant governor in 1969, the job has been a political dead end.

Eight men and two women have held the job before current Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. None has gone on to win another elected office.

And the streak probably won’t be broken soon.

Lopez-Cantera announced Sunday that he will not run next year to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, or for any other office in 2018.

“I am honored and grateful to all who have encouraged me to run for Congress but, after thoughtful consideration and deliberation with my family, we have decided that being a candidate in 2018 is not what’s best for our family,” Lopez-Cantera said.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, (left) and Sen. Marco Rubio at a 2016 Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch a few weeks before Lopez-Cantera dropped his Senate bid to make way for Rubio to seek re-election. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

“Beyond 2018, I look forward to spending even more time with my wife and two daughters while remaining involved in the greater Miami-Dade community, helping job creators be more successful, citizens be more empowered, and government be more efficient and accountable. There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to look for ways to be part of the solution — I may run for office again but not in 2018.”

Lopez-Cantera seemingly has a bright future if he decides to run in 2020 or beyond. He’s only 43, bilingual and has been seasoned in Florida’s largest media market, where he won elections for state House and for Miami Dade property appraiser.

Lopez-Cantera ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but dropped out when his friend, Sen. Marco Rubio, decided to seek re-election after quitting the presidential race.

Florida had a lieutenant governor from 1865 to 1889, when a constitution change abolished the office. Nearly a century later, a 1968 constitution change re-established the office.

Here’s a brief look at Florida’s lieutenant governors in the modern era and their political fortunes:

Ray Osborne (1969-71): Appointed by Republican Gov. Claude Kirk in 1969 after a constitution revision reestablished the office, he ran for Senate in 1970 but dropped out of the race before the GOP primary. Originally from the St. Petersburg area, Osborne settled in Boca Raton in the 1970s and practiced law. He died in Boca Raton in 2011.

Tom Adams (1971-75): Running mate of Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, he was censured by the state House in 1973 after it was reported that he used state employees in his private business. After Askew dumped him as running mate in 1974, Adams challenged Askew in the Democratic primary and was resoundingly beaten.

Jim Williams (1975-79): Askew’s second-term running mate, he ran for governor in 1978 but finished fourth in a seven-candidate Democratic primary. He was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to a U.S. Department of Agriculture post.

Wayne Mixson (1979-87): Running mate of Democratic Gov. Bob Graham. Graham won a 1986 Senate election and resigned the governorship on Jan. 3, 1987 to take office in Washington. Mixson became governor and served three days until Republican Bob Martinez took office. Mixson didn’t seek office afterward. He recently celebrated his 95th birthday and is Florida’s oldest living ex-governor.

Bobby Brantley (1987-91): Running mate of Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, he decided to leave politics and did not join Martinez for his unsuccessful 1990 re-election bid. Brantley is now a lawyer and lobbyist.

Buddy MacKay (1991-98): Running mate of Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, he won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998 but lost the general election to Republican Jeb Bush. When Chiles died in December 1998, MacKay served as governor for a few weeks until Bush was inaugurated.

• Frank Brogan (1999-2003): Bush’s running mate in 1998 and 2002, he resigned in 2003 to become president of Florida Atlantic University. Brogan later became chancellor of Florida’s university system and now holds that post in Pennsylvania.

Toni Jennings (2003-07): Tapped by Bush to succeed Brogan, she was encouraged by Bush to run for governor in 2006 but declined.

Jeff Kottkamp (2007-11): Republican running mate to Gov. Charlie Crist, Kottkamp ran for attorney general in 2010 but lost in the primary to eventual AG Pam Bondi.

Jennifer Carroll (2011-13): Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s 2010 running mate, she resigned in 2013 shortly after Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators questioned her about Allied Veterans of the World, a St. Augustine-based nonprofit accused of running an illegal gambling ring. Carroll, who once represented Allied Veterans as a public relations consultant, was not accused of wrongdoing but said she wanted to avoid being a “distraction.”

Carlos Lopez-Cantera (2014-present): Selected by Scott in 2014, he helped Scott win re-election that year. When Rubio launched a 2016 presidential campaign, Lopez-Cantera opened a campaign for Rubio’s seat but bowed out in June 2016 when Rubio decided to seek re-election.

 

 

 

 

Rep. Brian Mast hosts Thursday town halls in Port St. Lucie, Jupiter, Stuart

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Stuart, fields questions at a town hall meeting in Stuart in June. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, will host town hall meetings in Port St. Lucie, Jupiter and Stuart on Thursday.

Mast’s last town hall, in June, drew hundreds of constituents angry about Mast’s support for a GOP plan to overhaul Obamacare. The liberal group Indivisible Martin County, which bills itself as “resisting the Trump agenda,” encouraged people to turn out.

Mast further annoyed the anti-Trump crowd last week by saying President Donald Trump has shown “leadership” in his remarks about the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Here’s Mast’s Thursday schedule:

• Port St. Lucie Community Center, 2195 SE Airoso Blvd, 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.

• Jupiter Community Center, 200 Military Trail, 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

• The Grace Place, 1550 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Because space is limited, Mast’s office is asking people who plan to attend to visit https://mast.house.gov/townhall to indicate their interest.

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight: Mike Pence joins Donald Trump in Arizona, heads to South Florida

Vice President Mike Pence attends a morning service at the Church By the Glades in Coral Springs in March. (Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

Vice President Mike Pence is returning to South Florida.

The White House announced late Monday night that Pence will travel to Arizona today to join President Donald Trump at a rally in Phoenix. Afterward, Pence will fly on Air Force Two to Miami, arriving at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Pence will visit Doral, which has a large community of Venezuelan exiles and immigrants, to discuss unrest in Venezuela under left-wing President Nicolas Maduro.

Joining Pence will be Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Miami. They will participate in a “listening session” with Venezuelan migrants and community leaders at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Pence will then deliver a speech.

Trump recently said he’s not ruling out a “military option” for Venezuela, where the Maduro regime has drawn international criticism for his crackdown on dissidents.

Pence recently visited several Latin American nations.

 

Part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump, Melania reveal eclipse watch plans

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arriving at Palm Beach International Airport on April 6. (Rich Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump will watch today’s solar eclipse from the Truman Balcony at the White House, according to a White House pool report.

He will be joined by first lady Melania Trump.

The president will address the nation tonight at 9 p.m. “to provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia.”

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Will potential Democratic governor candidate cash in on the eclipse?

Trial lawyer and potential Democratic governor candidate John Morgan is promoting eclipse-viewing safety, and offering his firm’s services if things go bad.

Trial lawyer and potential Florida Democratic candidate for governor John Morgan is cautioning people to be safe when viewing today’s solar eclipse — and promoting his firm’s litigatory services in case eclipse viewing goes bad.

And speaking of promotion, click here for more Palm Beach Post eclipse coverage.

Morgan today tweeted a link to an article on his Morgan & Morgan law firm’s website titled “The Dark Side of the Solar Eclipse.”

 

The article warns of “special sunglasses that allow people to view the solar eclipse without seemingly having to worry about damage to their eyes. The only problem is that not all of them work, setting up a safety and product liability nightmare.” Included is a link to Morgan & Morgan’s product liability practice area.

“The spectacle and perhaps anxiety the eclipse fosters could cause gridlock and motor vehicle accidents,” the article continues — with a link to the Morgan & Morgan car accident practice.

Planning to watch the eclipse on someone else’s property?

“Property owners…could open themselves up to liability for slip-and-fall and other premises liability claims if they don’t take proper precautions to ensure their property follows all relevant laws,” the Morgan & Morgan article says, with links to the firm’s slip-and-fall and premises liability specialties. “If you’re an eclipse viewer and you’re hurt on someone else’s property, you could have a claim, depending on the circumstance.”