Nursing home deaths: Nelson wants probe, Graham raps ‘possible cover-up’

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, left, is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson wants the U.S. Senate to investigate the deaths at a sweltering Broward County nursing home that had its air conditioning knocked out by Hurricane Irma — a probe that would put the spotlight on Nelson’s likely 2018 challenger, Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson was the second high-profile Democrat today to zero in on Scott and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 patients have died.

Gwen Graham

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham accused Scott of a “possible cover-up” because his office deleted four voicemail messages from the nursing home to his personal cell phone in the 36 hours before the first patient died.

Graham filed a public records request asking Scott’s office “to attempt to recover deleted voicemails from the Hollywood Hills nursing home.”

Scott said the voicemail messages were deleted to free up space on his cell phone after aides retrieved the messages and state officials responded to them.

“The nursing home administrators placed four separate calls to my cell phone, like hundreds of others did during the storm. In each instance, the calls were promptly returned by state officials, and the voicemails were immediately deleted so the voicemail box had room for more incoming messages,” Scott said.

“In none of these calls did the staff indicate that any of their patients were in danger. I gave my cell phone number out as a courtesy to any group during the hurricane that needed access to state resources. It’s a ridiculous and irrational suggestion that my personal cell phone is somehow a substitute for 911,” Scott said.

Graham agreed in part with Scott.

“There’s no question Hollywood Hills should have called 911 — but the question still remains, could the state have done more to help?” Graham said.

Nelson’s letter doesn’t mention Scott, but asks the Senate Finance Committee to look into the state’s role in certifying the nursing home and to examine “the state’s response in the aftermath of the Florida incident.”


Republicans rip Nelson for Hurricane Irma-themed campaign email

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Belle Glade after Hurricane Irma. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson “reached a new level of tone deaf” this week when his 2018 re-election campaign sent out an email that boasts of Nelson’s efforts to cap airfares as Hurricane Irma approached Florida.

Email from Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s 2018 campaign.

Nelson’s email asks recipients to respond to a poll on whether airlines “should cap fares for those fleeing disasters.”

It also includes a box marked “Contribute.”

“Bill Nelson is spending time blasting out fundraising emails while countless Floridians are recovering from Hurricane Irma’s devastation,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson’s D.C. elitist behavior is always self-serving, but this kind of out of touch behavior reaches a new low.”

A Nelson spokesman didn’t comment on the contents of the email but said it’s President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott who have been playing hurricane politics.

When Trump visited Southwest Florida a few days after Irma struck, he publicly urged Scott to run against Nelson next year.

“Unlike Trump and Scott, Nelson suspended his campaign before, during and after the storm. In fact, while Trump and Scott were using a disaster event to campaign together in Fort Myers, Nelson was in North Florida handing out food to victims of the storm,” said Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown.


Florida Sens. Rubio, Nelson urge Trump to step up military role in Puerto Rico relief

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are both calling for a stepped-up military role in hurricane recovery for Puerto Rico. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Warning of “dire” conditions in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is urging President Donald Trump to put the military in charge of relief efforts there.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson also called for a stepped-up military role in a statement today.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency takes the lead in bringing federal assistance to local governments. But Rubio, who visited Puerto Rico on Monday, says in a letter to the president: ” There is no clear command, control, and communication between local officials on the ground and federal agencies, and many roads and bridges remained unpassable, making it even more difficult for repair crews to restore power and communications to areas of the island outside of San Juan. As a result, significant lifesaving resources are sitting in containers at the Port of San Juan, with no way to move that assistance to those who need it most.”

Rubio’s letter continues: “This unique situation requires a well-coordinated response led by the Department of Defense (DOD), which is the only entity capable of executing a recovery effort of this scale and complexity. DOD is internationally recognized for its humanitarian relief efforts and its expertise is required now more than ever. I urge you, as commander-in-chief, to make DOD the lead agency in the ground phase of recovery efforts…Unless DOD steps in quickly to establish emergency logistical assistance, it is my fear this situation will deteriorate rapidly.”


Christ Fellowship pastor Todd Mullins leads prayer in Congress

Christ Fellowship Senior Pastor Todd Mullins offering the invocation in the U.S. House today, via CSPAN.

Todd Mullins, the senior pastor at Palm Beach Gardens-based Christ Fellowship, offered the invocation to begin today’s session of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.

Mullins’ one-minute prayer asked God to give peace and comfort to hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. He also quoted from Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

Mullins is the pastor of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City. Shortly after Mullins’ invocation, Mast gave brief remarks to the House in which he said Mullins “works every single day to try to help and change lives.”

Here’s the video of Mullins’ prayer and Mast’s remarks to the House:



Today: Florida Gov. Scott in San Juan, meeting with Puerto Rico governor

Florida National Guard Adjutant General Major General Michael Calhoun with Gov. Rick Scott in Opa-locka after Hurricane Irma. Calhoun is among those accompanying Scott to Puerto Rico today.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is visiting Puerto Rico today  to assist Hurricane Maria recovery efforts and has a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio visited Puerto Rico on Monday and told his Senate colleagues: “What I saw is over three and half million American citizens potentially on the verge of a serious and growing humanitarian crisis.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, visited Puerto Rico Wednesday.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the island Tuesday.

Click here for a full story on today’s Scott visit.

Florida Chamber poll: Scott-Nelson tight; undeclared John Morgan tops Dems for governor

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, left, is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

An expected 2018 Senate showdown between three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is too close to call, according to a poll released today by the business-backed Florida Chamber Political Institute.

John Morgan at a 2014 event supporting medical marijuana. (Gainesville Sun photo)

The Chamber poll also finds 44 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans undecided about their parties’ candidates for governor in 2018.

Among voters with an opinion, trial lawyer and marijuana legalization advocate John Morgan leads the Democratic field for governor even though Morgan hasn’t said whether he’ll run. In the race for the Republican nomination for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big early advantage over his declared and potential rivals.

Scott, who faces term limits as governor next year and has been urged to run for Senate by President Donald Trump, edges Nelson by a 47-to-45 percent margin in the Chamber poll — essentially a tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

The survey of 615 likely voters was conducted Sept. 17-24 — a week after Hurricane Irma — by Cherry Communications using live telephone interviews.

Scott is viewed favorably by 57 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent in the poll. Nelson’s favorable/unfavorable score is 50/22.

Three Democrats have opened 2018 campaigns and raised serious money for governor: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. But the undeclared Morgan tops the field with 23 percent to 16 percent for Graham and other candidates in single digits.

Morgan is viewed favorably by 26 percent of voters in the poll and unfavorably by 20 percent, with 35 percent saying they’ve never heard of him. Graham has a 19 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable rating, with 58 percent saying they haven’t heard of her. Gillum is unknown to 72 percent and King 77 percent.

Among Republicans, Putnam leads the gubernatorial field with 26 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, at 9 percent. DeSantis has said he’ll announce this fall whether he’s running for governor. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who opened a campaign for governor in August, gets 2 percent and another potential candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, gets 1 percent.

Rubio, Nelson urge Trump to send more aid to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay handing out meals in Belle Glade after Hurricane Irma. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson — who made joint appearances in Belle Glade and other Florida locales after Hurricane Irma — are urging President Donald Trump to  approve additional aid to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to address a “life threatening situation” in the U.S. territories after Hurricane Maria.

Click here for a copy of the letter signed by the Florida senators.

Trump, who visited Texas after Hurricane Harvey and stopped in Southwest Florida after Hurricane Irma, plans to visit Puerto Rico next Tuesday.

Rubio visited Puerto Rico on Monday and told Senate colleagues Tuesday: “What I saw is over three and half million American citizens potentially on the verge of a serious and growing humanitarian crisis.”

Click here to see Rubio’s Senate floor speech.

Nelson also spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday and said Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands deserve the same post-hurricane attention that Texas and Florida received.

“Now what we need to do is to take that same effort that we saw in Texas and we’ve seen in Florida of people helping people and we have got to help the people of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” Nelson said.

Click here to see Nelson’s Senate floor speech.


Democrats defeat Trump ‘Apprentice’ to flip GOP Senate seat in Miami

Democrat Annette Taddeo campaigning with Charlie Crist in 2014 in West Palm Beach when she was Crist’s running mate in the governor’s race. Taddeo won a special Senate election in Miami on Tuesday. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Democrat Annette Taddeo won a special state Senate election in Miami on Tuesday over state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz — a former contestant on Donald Trump‘s The Apprenticeto capture a seat that had been held by the GOP.

In a district that voted for Hillary Clinton, Democrats highlighted Republican Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz’s ties to President Donald Trump.

As is often the case in special elections, the winners sought to give the contest significance beyond the boundaries of the district where it took place.

“Taddeo Trumps GOP, Dems winning again!” said a fundraising email late Tuesday night from state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, who is in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018, on behalf of the Democratic Senate Victory committee.

Although Republican Frank Artiles won the 2016 general election race for the seat before resigning in April, Senate District 40 voted for Hillary Clinton by a wide margin.

Democrats ran ads linking Diaz to Trump.

“If you were asking for the Democrats to draw up a candidate that had links to Trump you couldn’t do any better than someone who actually appeared as a contestant on The Apprentice. He was also an early Trump endorser. So Pepi Diaz is going to have to live with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, his anti-health care policies, and those aren’t particularly popular in Miami,” Clemens said in August.



Florida governor race: Gillum embraces Bernie Sanders health care proposal

Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum (left) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic Florida governor candidate Andrew Gillum is embracing the “Medicare for All” health care plan put forward by democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum — who raised early campaign cash from liberal luminaries George Soros, Jane Fonda and Norman Lear — has tried to position himself as the most progressive candidate in a three-way Democratic primary field that includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

“As we move forward with ensuring every American has affordable health care coverage, I stand with Senator Sanders ‘Medicare for All’ proposal. It moves us closer to affordable healthcare as a right for everyone in Florida and this country, and I’m proud to support it,” Gillum said in a statement today timed to coincide with the latest collapse of Republican efforts to overhaul Obamacare.

Rick Scott seeks $50 million for opioid fight, 3-day limit on prescriptions

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be in Palm Beach County today to announce his proposals to fight opioid abuse. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be in Palm Beach County this afternoon to outline his proposals for an additional $50 million to fight the opioid crisis.

He’s also calling for a three-day limit on prescribed opioids “unless strict conditions are met for a seven-day supply.” He wants anyone prescribing or dispensing medication to participate in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which tracks prescriptions of controlled substances. And he wants more reforms to fight unlicensed pain management clinics.

Check out Christine Stapleton’s advance coverage here and read later today for complete coverage.