Rick Scott camp says it matched 3 months of Bill Nelson fundraising in 3 weeks

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate campaign says it has raised $3.2 million in the three weeks since Scott launched his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

That’s the same amount Nelson’s campaign recently trumpeted as its record-breaking haul for the entire first quarter of 2018.

Three-term incumbent Nelson began April with $10.5 million in cash on hand for what is expected to be one of the nation’s premier 2018 Senate races. Scott and Nelson are expected to formally qualify for the ballot this week.

The Scott campaign released its figure this morning along with a quote from Darlene Jordan, the Palm Beach fundraising veteran who is Scott’s Florida finance chairwoman.

“We have seen an unmatched outpouring of support from across the entire state for Governor Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, and this is only the beginning,” said Jordan, who was a national finance co-chair for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential bids and state finance chairwoman for Scott’s 2014 re-election.  “Every dollar raised gets us closer to electing a results-driven leader who will shake up Washington, D.C. We are thankful to everyone who has helped kick off this campaign, and we look forward to continuing to build on this momentum and accomplishment.”

This week: Charlie Crist poised to do something he hasn’t done in 24 years

Charlie Crist campaigning in West Palm Beach during his 2014 Democratic bid for governor. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida this year will witness something it hasn’t seen for nearly a quarter-century: a Charlie Crist re-election campaign.

U.S. Rep. Crist, D-St. Petersburg, has already raised more than $2.6 million in pursuit of a second term in Congress  — but this is the week it becomes official. Florida’s window for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and judicial candidates to submit paperwork and pay filing fees to secure spots on the 2018 ballot opens at noon today and closes at noon Friday. The ballot qualifying period for state and local offices is June 18-22.

Crist has been a presence in Florida politics since the early 1990s as a Republican, an independent and a Democrat. He just hasn’t stayed in a single job for very long. The last time Crist ran for re-election was 1994, when he was a Republican state senator and successfully sought a second term.

In 1998, Crist was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate but lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Graham.

In 2000, Crist was elected state education commissioner. He couldn’t run for re-election, however, because voters had approved a constitutional amendment making it an appointed post beginning in 2003.

In 2002, Crist was elected Florida attorney general.

Rather than seek re-election in 2006, Crist — still a Republican — ran for governor and won.

Rather than seek re-election as governor, Crist in 2009 launched a 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate as the slam-dunk favorite for the Republican nomination. By early 2010, however, he had fallen behind Marco Rubio in GOP polls. Crist left the Republican Party to pursue an independent bid for Senate, losing to Rubio in the general election.

Crist was still an independent in 2012 when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in favor of President Barack Obama‘s re-election. He changed his registration to Democrat at the end of that year and ran for governor in 2014 as a Democrat, but lost his bid to deny Republican Gov. Rick Scott a second term.

In 2016, Crist ran for U.S. House and won. And now — unless he’s got some shocking last-minute maneuver up his sleeve — he’s poised to run for re-election.



‘The most patriotic speech in all of American history?’ asks Mast GOP challenger

Republican congressional candidate Mark Freeman in his campaign video.

Mark Freeman, a physician who spent $1.6 million of his own money on a losing 2016 GOP primary bid in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House District 18, is making another try for the seat against fellow Republican Rep. Brian Mast.

Freeman filed candidate papers with the Federal Election Commission last month and launched a campaign website last week that, so far, consists mainly of an eight-minute video of Freeman speaking.

“The most patriotic speech in all of American history? You be the judge,” says a message on Freeman’s website encouraging visitors to watch his video.

“When darkness casts its many shadows pent upon our civil land divided, let blood for blood defend these principles,” begins Freeman in an oration that touches on America’s founding principles and makes no allusion to Mast or Freeman’s campaign.

“We the American people affirm to all peoples that America must be first among the nations so that the nations shall be led in justice…We must now dedicate ourselves anew to the ascendant glory of American preordination, by which the world will ever be atoned,” Freeman says in the video.

In 2016, Freeman finished third in a six-candidate GOP primary for the District 18 nomination, garnering 15.8 percent of the vote. Mast won the primary with 38 percent and went on to win the general election.

Mast has angered some Second Amendment advocates by calling for a ban on “assault weapons” in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Gold Star mother Karen Vaughn considered challenging Mast in the primary but decided against.

Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith have opened campaigns for the District 18 seat.

On Pompeo nomination, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott find common ground

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted against most of President Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks in early 2017, including a No vote on Mike Pompeo for CIA director.

But Nelson will vote for Pompeo to be secretary of state, the senator’s office announced late Wednesday.

Nelson hinted at a change of heart last week, telling The Tampa Bay Times that he saw Pompeo in “a better light” after learning of his secret trip to North Korea to discuss denuclearization with Kim Jong Un.

Facing a re-election challenge this year from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson took a pounding from Scott and the GOP this week before finally announcing his position on Pompeo.

“This position is critical to our national security interests and Senator Nelson needs to do what is right and stop playing politics in an election year. I am hopeful he will take a break from being a rubber stamp for the Democratic leadership in Washington,” Scott said Wednesday morning before Nelson announced his position.

After Nelson announced he’ll vote for Pompeo, Scott expressed barbed gratitude.

“Glad @SenBillNelson came to his senses after voting against Mike Pompeo last year. Maybe if every year was an election year Nelson wouldn’t be such a party line politician,” said a Wednesday night tweet on Scott’s campaign Twitter account.


Trump in Palm Beach: Sheriff’s OT bill for feds $3.3 million and growing

President Donald Trump greets motorcycle cops from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens at Palm Beach International Airport on Sunday. (Melanie Bell/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies who help protect President Donald Trump when he visits Mar-a-Lago racked up nearly $3.3 million in overtime during presidential trips between November and early February – money that county officials expect to get back from the federal government.

Congress set aside $41 million in March to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for “extraordinary…personnel costs” incurred through Sept. 30 “for protection activities directly and demonstrably associated with any residence of the President that is designated or identified to be secured by the United States Secret Service.”

Palm Beach County drew on a similar pot of federal money last year to get reimbursed for $3.4 million in security costs from Trump’s seven Mar-a-Lago visits in early 2017.

Trump has made 10 trips to Mar-a-Lago since November, wrapping up his most recent visit on Sunday. He greeted local law enforcement officers before boarding Air Force One and later paid tribute to them on Twitter.

During Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips between Nov. 21 and Feb. 4, which covered at least a portion of 27 days, sheriff’s deputies earned $3.26 million in overtime, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
Payroll data is not yet available for the five visits Trump made between Feb. 16 and Sunday, which covered at least a portion of 20 days.

The presidential details are paid entirely with overtime so that routine law enforcement operations aren’t compromised, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said last year.

“We don’t take anybody off the road that handles normal calls for service,” Bradshaw said.

Adam Putnam coming to Forum Club next week

Adam Putnam at the Riviera Beach Marina last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a 2018 candidate for Florida governor, will appear next Monday at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch that organizers originally hoped would pair him with GOP rival Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, however, had a scheduling conflict and could not attend the event at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, his campaign said.

DeSantis and Putnam have opened Republican campaigns for governor. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, is also expected to get in the GOP nominating contest.

Tickets for the Forum Club lunch are $40 for members, $60 for guests of members and $85 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at the Forum Club website  or by contacting Kelsey Joyce at kjoyce@forumclubpb.com.

Putnam and DeSantis — and Corcoran, if he gets in the race — are slated to appear at a Florida Family Policy Council forum in Orlando on May 5 and a Broward County Lincoln Day dinner on May 18.

The Republican Party of Florida is also teaming with Fox News to host a nationally televised GOP candidates debate in Orlando on June 28.




Patrick Murphy, Jeff Greene not ruling out late Democratic bids for Florida governor

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (left) gave his OK to a poll testing his name as a candidate for governor, with former Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Jolly (center) as running mate; Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene (right) isn’t ruling out a Democratic run for governor, either.

Two Palm Beach County Democratic figures – former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene – are not ruling out making late bids for Florida governor.

Murphy, a two-term House member who lost a 2016 race for U.S. Senate, gave his OK to a poll that tests his name as a gubernatorial candidate with Democratic voters, a person familiar with the poll confirmed. The poll also floats the names of some potential candidates for lieutenant governor – including former Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Jolly, who has been touring college campuses across the nation with Murphy to discuss partisan gridlock and governmental dysfunction.

The poll testing Murphy’s name was first reported by The Tampa Bay Times.

“Some supporters wanted to do a poll and I didn’t say no,” Murphy said in a text message to The Palm Beach Post this morning. “I certainly didn’t say yes to actually running!”

Greene, a Palm Beach resident who lost a 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, told The Palm Beach Post he has concerns about whether the four Democrats now running for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham,  Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — will have the money and message to win in November.

“I have definitely not ruled out getting into the race…I’m still looking at it. The filing date is not til June,” Greene said. The qualifying period for gubernatorial candidates ends at noon on June 22.

Greene said his experience as an “accidental educator” — he founded The Greene School in West Palm Beach because he wasn’t satisfied with public or private school options for his children — has given him insight into education that other candidates lack.

Greene’s net worth was estimated at $3.8 billion — about $700 million higher than his nearby Palm Beach neighbor, President Donald Trump — on the latest Forbes 400 list.

Greene noted that Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s personal wealth helped him win close races in 2010 and 2014.

“If I did get involved I’d be able to get my message out and spend whatever it would take to get me over the top,” Greene said.


Trump still trails John F. Kennedy for Palm Beach visits, Truman for Florida stays

Before boarding Air Force One on Sunday, President Donald Trump stopped for a picture with motorcycle cops from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. (Melanie Bell/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump wrapped up a six-day Florida trip on Sunday — pausing before he boarded Air Force One to greet motorcycle cops and Air Force personnel and pose for pictures.

Trump’s latest Mar-a-Lago visit was his 17th trip to Palm Beach as president — but he still trails John F. Kennedy for presidential Palm Beach stays, and he’s far behind Harry Truman for presidential time in Florida.

Trump’s latest trip included a two-day summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trump arrived in Palm Beach last Monday after a stop in Hialeah to promote tax cuts.  He also took a side trip Thursday to Key West to visit Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a headquarters for fighting drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Since becoming president, Trump has spent at least a portion of 72 days in Palm Beach. The actual time he has logged in Palm Beach County — primarily at Mar-a-Lago and his nearby Trump International Golf Club — has been roughly 53 days. That’s more than 11 percent of his presidency.

Kennedy, whose family owned an oceanfront compound on North County Road until 1995, spent at least a portion of 97 days in Palm Beach while he was president, according to records from the Kennedy Presidential Library.

It might be several months before Trump catches Kennedy as the leader in Palm Beach presidential visits. Trump didn’t make any Mar-a-Lago visits between mid-April and Thanksgiving last year.

The president who spent the most time in Florida was Truman, who between 1946 and 1952 spent all or part of 192 days in Key West at a U.S. Navy facility that became known as the “Little White House.”

Harry Truman in Key West, John F. Kennedy at St. Edwards Catholic Church in Palm Beach.

Trump, en route to golf club, predicts Michael Cohen won’t ‘flip’

President Donald Trump’s motorcade arrives at Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach this morning. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

Moments after he arrived at Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach this morning, President Donald Trump blasted a New York Times article that said his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, “could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump.”

Cohen’s office, residence and hotel room were raided by federal investigators April 9. In a series of tweets this morning, Trump called Cohen “a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if……..it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”

Trump accused the Times of relying on “non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael.” The Times said its story is based on “interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with” the Trump-Cohen relationship.

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is quoted as saying “Donald goes out of his way to treat him (Cohen) like garbage.” Former Trump associate Sam Nunberg is quoted as saying Trump has “taken Michael for granted” and that “Michael now holds the leverage over Trump” and “should maximize” that leverage.

The Palm Beach Post asked Stone if he had any comment on the article or the president’s tweets and if he knew the identity of the “drunk/drugged up loser” Trump mentioned.

“Not a reference to me. Beyond that I have no comment,” Stone replied.

Nunberg told CNN’s Abby Phillip: “I have no idea who POTUS is talking about so I have no response.”




Always a Palm Beach connection: Mar-a-Lago gets passing mention in Comey memos

View from the west of Mar-a-Lago during last month’s Palm Beach County GOP fundraiser there. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump was tweeting from Mar-a-Lago late Thursday night and early this morning about fired FBI Director James Comey, his book tour and the release of 15 pages of redacted memos Comey wrote after meetings with Trump in 2017.

The Comey memos include little that hasn’t been made public before. For Palm Beachers, there’s a mention of Mar-a-Lago in Comey’s account of a Jan. 28 dinner he had at the White House with the president.

Topics Trump mentioned during a wide-ranging conversation included “the extraordinary luxury of the White House (which he favorably compared to Mar-a-Lago),” Comey wrote.

A portion of then-FBI Director James Comey’s memo after a Jan. 28, 2017 dinner with President Donald Trump at the White House.

Trump on Thursday night said the memos vindicated him.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” the president tweeted at 10:37 p.m. Thursday.

This morning, Trump added: “So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!”