Gunshine state? Post-Parkland polls show gun control popular in Florida

Boca Raton High School student Victoria Machado at a gun control rally last week. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Two new polls of Florida voters — one from Florida Atlantic University and the other from Quinnipiac University — find strong support for stricter gun control laws, including expanded background checks, a ban on “assault weapons” and raising the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.

Both the polls released today also find a majority of voters disapprove of the idea of arming teachers, as suggested by President Donald Trump and others to deter shootings like the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland.

Click here to read all the details at

Is Florida governor’s race a witness protection program option?

Florida candidates for governor and the percentage of voters who have heard of them, from left: Republican Adam Putnam, Democrat Philip Levine, Republican Ron DeSantis, Democrat Gwen Graham, Republican Richard Corcoran, Democrats Andrew Gillum and Chris King.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has won two statewide elections and has spent $3.7 million on his 2018 campaign for governor — but 75 percent of voters in a new Quinnipiac University poll say they haven’t heard enough about him to form an opinion.

And Putnam is the best-known candidate in the race.

Click here to read about the rest of the Quinnipiac poll — including the Bill Nelson-Rick Scott Senate race and President Donald Trump’s approval rating in Florida.

Other candidates for governor are unknown to between 81 percent and 93 percent of the state’s voters, according to the poll.

The poll gives Democrats some optimism about regaining the governor’s mansion that the GOP has held since 1999. By a 45-to-37 percent margin, voters say they favor a Democrat for governor over a Republican. And  only 22 percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Trump, compared to 42 percent who say they are less likely to vote for a pro-Trump candidate.

“In the governor’s race, none of the candidates is well-known. Florida voters can expect massive – and probably nasty – TV advertising as the candidates for governor try to introduce themselves, and their opponents, to the electorate,” said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

The new poll doesn’t appear to be an outlier on gubernatorial anonymity. A University of North Florida poll this month also found most voters not knowing about the candidates for governor. And a recent Mason-Dixon poll found a plurality of voters undecided in the Republican and Democratic primaries for governor.

Trump, Nelson among pols including Parkland in fundraising emails

This email from President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign includes a “contribute” link.

The Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has touched off a heated political debate over guns and school safety. Not surprisingly, politicians — including President Donald Trump and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson — are trying to tap into that passion to raise some money.

Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign sent an email over the weekend that features a picture of a the president and first lady Melania Trump visiting a hospitalized survivor of the shooting that claimed 17 lives.

It’s part of a “Trump-Pence weekly newsletter” that includes a “contribute” link at the end directing recipients to a webpage to make an online contribution to Trump’s campaign.

Nelson has also highlighted the Feb. 14 Parkland mass shooting in campaign emails that direct recipients to a gun control survey and, ultimately, an opportunity to contribute to his re-election bid.

“Enough is enough!” says one recent Nelson campaign email. “These senseless shootings are not going to stop unless we, as a society, stand up and put a stop to them.”

A survey on guns by Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign leads to a denunciation of his likely rival and opportunity to give money.


An accompanying survey on “commonsense” gun control measures leads to a page that says: “Trump’s pick to run against me, Rick Scott, has an A-plus rating from the NRA. I’m counting on grassroots supporters like you to help me defeat Scott and keep fighting for commonsense gun laws in the Senate. Will you give $5 today to help protect Florida’s Senate seat?”

Respondents are then directed to an online contribution page offering them the chance to contribute $5 or more to Nelson’s campaign.

As Trump meets governors, Parkland shooting tops agenda, Scott gets shout-out

President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott at the Broward Sheriff’s Office two days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump, who has a “business session” with governors from around the U.S. on his schedule this morning, said Sunday night that the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will be “first on our list” of topics to address.

“The governors — we’re going to have a lot of meetings tomorrow. We’re going to have some very important meetings. We’ll be talking about Parkland and the horrible event that took place last week,” Trump said Sunday night in remarks to governors in the State Dining Room of the White House.

He then took time to single out one of his favorite governors.

“I want to thank Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. Rick, please stand up. You’re doing a great job. Really great job,” the president said, according to a White House transcript.

The Parkland shooting, Trump continued, “will be one of the subjects. And I think we’ll make that first on our list, because we have to end our country of what’s happening with respect to that subject. So we’ll be talking about that and many other things.”

Should Gov. Scott remove Broward Sheriff Israel over Parkland shooting?

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel with Gov. Rick Scott at a news conference in Parkland the morning after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting that claimed 17 lives. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, is urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over his agency’s handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland.

State Rep. Bill Hager

Israel calls Hager’s request “reckless” and “disingenuous political grandstanding” and says the House member’s letter to the governor is “riddled with factual errors, unsupported gossip and falsehoods.”


Click here to read Hager’s letter accusing Israel of “neglect of duty and incompetence.”

Click here to read Israel’s response blasting Hager and defending the “incredible work” of his agency.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office  had 23 interactions with gunman Nikolas Cruz or his family from November 2008 to November 2017, according to records. When the shooting occurred, the Broward deputy assigned to be the school’s security officer, Scot Peterson of unincorporated Boynton Beach, remained outside the building for four minutes while the shooting was taking place, Israel said.

CNN reported Friday that when police from neighboring Coral Springs arrived at the school, they found three other Broward deputies who were outside the building but did not go in.

In a statement posted on its Twitter account Saturday night, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said the CNN report is merely a “claim” that’s under investigation and the media should “Stop reporting it as fact. There is no confirmation.”

The statement also says the 23 interactions with Cruz or his family are lower than some had claimed. “STOP REPORTING 39; IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE,” the statement says, adding that the incidents to which deputies were called were determined to not be “arrestable offenses.”

In a letter to Scott responding to Hager, Israel says: “I am very proud of the incredible work that so many from BSO and other agencies (including CSPD, FDLE, Sunrise, FBI, ATF and others) performed on February 14. And I am equally appalled that Rep. Hager felt a need to engage in disingenuous political grandstanding, perhaps in the hope he will garner some headlines, at the expense of the truth. I would urge Rep. Hager to publicly apologize for helping to spreading this false gossip and misinformation.”


Ron DeSantis: Enlist retired military, cops to prevent school shootings

U.S. Rep. and Republican governor candidate Ron DeSantis appearing on Fox Business Network with a West Palm Beach background behind him.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, a candidate for Florida governor, says schools could enlist retired military and law enforcement officers to prevent mass shootings like last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis made the comments today on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings With Maria” program.

DeSantis and GOP primary rival Adam Putnam have both campaigned as Second Amendment supporters and opponents of gun-control measures.

DeSantis was supportive of a bill — cautiously endorsed by President Donald Trump — to improve federal background checks, but had concerns about whether the measure would be effective because of past examples of “ineptitude” by government officials.

DeSantis said he favors improving school security “so that these are not soft targets anymore.”

He added: “I think we can easily, in Florida particularly, have a program where retired military and law enforcement officers are enlisted to help provide school security so that these are now hard targets. If they are hard targets, these guys are not going to want to do what they’re doing.”

He continued: “The other thing we have to look at is, if you’re a danger to society, we have to look at our civil process, these guys used to be committed 50-60 years ago to an institution if they were a danger to themselves and others. Now it’s gotten a little more liberalized where all these warning signs where they say unless you actually commit a criminal offense, there’s nothing you can do. I don’t think that’s the best way to protect the public. So I think looking at that could really, really make a difference. That’s different than saying we’re going to do some major gun control which is basically just going to end up just falling on the law abiding gun owners.”



Republican Trump critic Kurt Jetta quits congressional race, promises donor refunds

Republican Kurt Jetta has ended his campaign for the seat of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel.

Delray Beach businessman Kurt Jetta faced a pair of difficult tasks in his 2018 campaign for Congress — winning a Republican nomination as a critic of President Donald Trump, then unseating Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, in a heavily Democratic district.

Jetta has reached the conclusion it can’t be done.

“I could keep grinding away in some hope of a breakthrough, but the odds of success are low and the opportunity cost of me not attending to my company, TABS Analytics, is high,” Jetta said in a recent email to supporters announcing he’s ending his campaign.

Jetta put $250,000 of his own money into the campaign and said he received $114,000 in contributions. He pledged to give refunds to his donors.

“You did not invest in this campaign to see me quit so early in the process, so I will be putting in enough money to the campaign account so that you will receive your donation back by the end of the year,” Jetta told supporters. “While I don’t regret taking a run at this office, I am very disappointed that it will end like this, and I’m sorry to disappoint you, as well. Going forward, I will be dedicating my public service efforts to organizations that are addressing the opioid epidemic, the issue that propelled me into this campaign in the first place.”

Republican Derek A. Schwartz remains in the District 21 race. Frankel, first elected in 2012, won a third term in 2016 with 62.7 percent over Republican Paul Spain.

Transcript, photos: Trump, Melania, Rubio, Scott meet cops after Parkland school shooting

Sen. Marco Rubio (near American flag at left), first lady Melania Trump, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, President Donald Trump, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi with first responders in Fort Lauderdale on Friday night. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

FORT LAUDERDALE — President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi met Friday night with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and about two dozen law enforcement officers and first responders who were called into action for Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Click here for a full story on Trump’s Friday arrival at Palm Beach International Airport and visit to Broward Health North Hospital and the sheriff’s office.

Here’s a transcript of the meeting with first responders as provided by the White House:

I just got back from the hospital. A young woman was shot — four bullets, two in her lungs. And they got her over to the hospital in less than 21 minutes. She had no chance, and, between the first responders, your people who got her — you know who I’m talking about — they got her there, Scott.

What a job you’ve done, and the doctors did a great job over at the hospital — a combination which is incredible. And I hope you’re getting the credit for it. Because, believe me, you deserve it. The job you’ve done is unparalleled.

President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Fantastic community here. Thank you. What a great job you’ve done, and we appreciate it very much. An incredible job, and everybody’s talking about it.

SHERIFF ISRAEL: You know what? I’m giving them all raises next week. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Give them a raise. Give everybody here a raise.

SHERIFF ISRAEL: Mr. President, these are the leaders. They led SWAT teams; they led staging areas; they led command posts. These are the leaders who led the first responders for police and fire, our deputies who were able do the amazing things we did in Broward County.

So these men and women are — and we’re — so appreciative and honored that you and the First Lady could come down and spend time in Broward County and let us know what it means to you. So thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Scott, and you did fantastically.

You know, I know Broward very well. I’ve been here many times. I don’t live very far away. I’m right up the road. We actually drove down. We landed over at Palm Beach International and we drove down. And this was supposed to take place on Sunday or Monday. And I said, “No way.” And then Marco said, “Hey” — he wants to go down early too. We didn’t want to wait. We didn’t want to wait.

Maybe we could ask you each to say your name and a little bit about what you do. You have a lot of folks here. I’d like to get the world to see the great job that you’ve done.

So the governor of Florida, we all know — Rick Scott has done a fantastic job. Fantastic governor. Truly a state that’s doing well. We know that Rick, right?.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: Yeah. (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: So I just want to thank you. (Inaudible) say something.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: First off, I want to thank you for coming down. As soon as it happened, Kirstjen Nielsen called me, and made sure that — if there was any federal resources, you know. And thank you for the conversation we had. And you promised any resources the federal government could provide.

I know everybody in law enforcement here is grateful to the Sheriff, and everybody has worked really hard. As you said, the hospital did a really good job. We’ve had the opportunity to visit the patients over there. The kids are — it’s horrible what happened, but they’re very optimistic about the future. So I just want to thank you and the First Lady for being down here —

First lady Melania Trump shakes hands with Coconut Creek officer Michael Leonard, who arrested the gunman, as Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and President Donald Trump look on. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)



GOVERNOR SCOTT: — and showing your gratitude for all the individuals that took care of everybody.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rick. Fantastic job. Fantastic governor.

Attorney General Pam Bondi.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BONDI: Thanks, President, and thank you and the First Lady, again, for being here. And, Sheriff, thank you for the great job you did. And, FBI, thank you for everything you did. And Governor, of course, you.

We were on the ground with our advocates from all over the state. They came on at a moment’s notice. And we had the very difficult job of being with the deceased’s families. There is no easy way to talk to someone about losing a child, especially (inaudible). And so it was very, very difficult.

And then, today, we went to the hospital and got to see what you saw. So some very good coming out of that. And we’ve also seen a lot of good with the citizens coming forward, wanting to help and wanting to help our first responders. And from all over the country, people have been reaching out — in such horror and tragedy.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: The Attorney General has great victim advocates. She’s done it (inaudible) at Pulse, and then she — after the Las Vegas shooter, she took a lot of her individuals out with her to help out there. And she’s done a great job here, bringing her child advocates and helping people — or victim advocates helping people.


THE PRESIDENT: I’ll tell you who appreciates it, too, are the parents. Because I was at the hospital with a lot of parents. And they are really thankful for the job you’ve done. Now, in those cases, their child is in really great shape considering they, in most cases, would not have been. But they are really thankful to everybody. Thanks, Pam.

UNDERSHERIFF KINSEY: Steve Kinsey, I’m the undersheriff for Broward Sheriff’s Office. Thank you for coming, Mr. President and Ms. First Lady. We really appreciate your support of law enforcement. You and the Governor are always behind us.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

COLONEL POLAN: Jim Polan. I’m a colonel assigned to operations for the Sheriff’s Office. Again, thank you for being here.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jim.

COLONEL DALE: Jack Dale. I’m the colonel of investigation. So we led the investigative effort.

THE PRESIDENT: Great. Good job.

DEPUTY WIRTH: Chris Wirth. I’m a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office assigned to the bomb squad responders (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chris.

LIEUTENANT CARDINALE: Chris Cardinale from Sunrise Police. I was one of the first responders there, along with Captain Bradley, Jim McLean (ph) from Coral Springs, and Deputy Carbocci from BSO. And the victim you were talking about earlier, this gentleman here, along with Jim McLean brought her out first, and then we got her on a — got her some rescue.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. And you found her in a very odd place, too. Not easy to even find. What a job you did. Thank you very much.

MR. BRADLEY: Gareth Bradley. I was one of the SWAT medics that responded —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Great job. I’ve heard about that. Heard about you. Great job. Thank you.

DEPUTY HANKS: Mr. President, I’m Deputy Hanks. I’m assigned to the Parkland district. I was part of a small contingent of the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies and Coral Springs officers that made the initial entry into Building 12, where the incident happened.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.

FIRE CHIEF FERNANDEZ: Mr. President, Joe Fernandez, fire chief for Broward County under Sheriff Israel. Thank you for your support for the fire rescue service. We’re in a much more forward-leaning posture thanks to your support, equipment, and we were able to work tightly with law enforcement to save those lives.

THE PRESIDENT: You did. Thank you.


COLONEL PALMER: Good evening, Mr. President. My name is Colonel Gary Palmer. I’m executive director of the Department of Detention, where he’s being housed currently.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. Great job, thank you.

SPECIAL AGENT FORCELLI: Mr. President, Pete Forcelli, special agent in charge of ATF’s Miami field division. Thanks for your support, and it’s great to work with these fine people. The law enforcement and public safety community down here in South Florida is like no other I’ve had the honor of working with. Amazing people.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s very nice. That’s very nice. Thank you very much.

SPECIAL AGENT LASKY: Robert Lasky, special agent in charge, FBI. We’re happy to lend a hand and be a part of the team to overcome these events. Of behalf of me and the thousand people that work for me, thank you for all your support and thank Broward County. They’re a tremendously professional organization.

THE PRESIDENT: Great job, Bob. Really great job. And you had a lot FBI guys down here, quickly. So great job. Thank you very much.

SPECIAL AGENT LASKY: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Marco. We know Marco.

SENATOR RUBIO: Mr. President, we just want to thank you and the First Lady for coming. Obviously, the Governor and the Attorney General for their response. And the stories of the heroism from the schools that inspire — teachers; the administrators, some who lost their lives; and the men and women of law enforcement who rushed into this building not knowing what’s on the other side.

This is a community and a state that’s in deep pain. And they want action to make sure this never happens again. It’s happened too often. And I know, and I hope, and I pray we’ll come together. And I know you want to solve this, and —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re behind them. I can tell you that, Marco. I spent a lot of time with Marco. He’s behind you, 100 percent, as is the Governor, as is Pam, as we all are. Really, as we all are.

You have a great story to tell. Go ahead.

OFFICER LEONARD: Mr. President, thank you for having me here. My name is Officer Michael Leonard. I’m with Coconut Creek Police Department. I was the one that located the shooter. With the assistance of my backup, once they arrived — Sergeant (inaudible) of the Coral Springs Police assisted me in handcuffing and taking him into custody.

THE PRESIDENT: That was so modest. I would have told it much differently. (Laughter.) I would have said, “Without me, they never would have found him.” (Laughter.)

But, you know, their story is amazing because Coconut Creek is not that close. And they heard he wasn’t around, and they can’t find him, and there was a description, and you were in a different area. And you said — it must have been sort of strange because you were so far away. You said, “I think that maybe is the shooter.” And very few people would have done what you did. I think it was a fantastic job


THE PRESIDENT: So now I’ve told the real story. (Laughter.)

First Lady, would you like to say anything?

THE FIRST LADY: Thank you all for what you do, and saving our children. That’s the most important. They’re our future. And let’s take care of them because they will go through a lot with what they experienced two days ago. And we need to take care of them. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Very nice. Thank you.

SHERIFF ISRAEL: Mr. President, I just want to, on behalf of this agency, thank you. You know, when you get to spend time with the President of the United States and the First Lady, it’s something you’ll never forget. But our conversation is not what I’m going to remember most. I’m going to remember about a half hour that you and the First Lady spent with the son of — who was shot — of one of our injured deputies. I’ll never forget that, and for you to do something like that is amazing. And it shows what you think of law enforcement, and we appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. He’s a good boy. (Inaudible.)

Congratulations. Let’s sit down, and thank you all very much.

Watch Florida Sens. Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio address Parkland mass shooting

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both gave Senate speeches today addressing Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.

Here is Nelson’s speech:

And here is Rubio’s speech:




Bill Clinton’s frequent Florida appearances could be a #MeToo casualty

Bill Clinton at an October 2016 appearance in Belle Glade for Hillary Clinton. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Former President Bill Clinton has been a frequent election-year presence in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in Florida — stumping for such Democrats as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Charlie Crist, Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel and Kendrick Meek.
But 20 years after he survived the Monica Lewinsky scandal as president, Politico reports that Bill Clinton could be shelved for the 2018 midterms amid heightened awareness of sexual harassment and the desire of Democrats to draw a clear contrast with President Donald Trump on the issue.

Bill Clinton appears with Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek in Delray Beach in 2010. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Putting Clinton on the stump “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was,” says House Progressive Caucus Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., in a Politico article that says the 42nd president has become “too toxic” for Democrats.

Bill Clinton with former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in Palm Beach Gardens in 2014. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Bill Clinton narrowly lost Florida to George H.W. Bush in 1992 (the last person to lose Florida but win the presidency), then carried the state in 1996. He’s become a popular figure in the Sunshine State, and particularly deep-blue Palm Beach County, since leaving office.

Bill Clinton at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth for a 2012 rally for President Barack Obama’s re-election. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

In 2016, Bill Clinton’s Palm Beach County appearances included a rally for his wife in Belle Glade a month before the election, a high-dollar fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens in the summer and a key primary-season stop at the Port of Palm Beach as Hillary Clinton sought to ward off the Bernie Sanders insurgency.

He raised money in West Palm Beach for Democratic congressional hopefuls Frankel and Murphy in 2012 and then campaigned for Murphy’s re-election in Palm Beach Gardens in 2014. In 2012, when he was a frequent “explainer-in-chief” surrogate for Obama’s re-election bid, he appeared at the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College for the Obama campaign. He appeared in Delray Beach for Meek in 2010.