The shocking truth about gerrymandering from Jon Meacham in West Palm Beach

Presidential historian Jon Meacham at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch on Tuesday. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

WEST PALM BEACH — In addition to weighing in on the meaning of the American revolution and the perils of political tribalism during a Tuesday Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch, Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian Jon Meacham made a surprising revelation about gerrymandering.

In case you’ve forgotten high school civics or the last decennial brawl over redistricting, gerrymandering is the centuries-old practice of drawing legislative boundaries, often in bizarrely contorted shapes, to maximize the influence of the political party in control.

During an audience question-and-answer session after his prepared remarks on Tuesday, Meacham was asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling on a gerrymandering case this year.

Meacham surprised many in the crowd of more than 600 at the Kravis Center by insisting the term be pronounced with a hard “G,” as in “Gary,” rather than the more widely used soft “G,” as in “George.”

“Will you all take a campaign of mine forward? Will you promise me this?” Meacham said. “With all respect, it’s (pronounced) ‘Gary-mandering.’ It drives me crazy. It’s OK — everyone does it. And it drives me insane.”

Original Boston Gazette political cartoon from 1812 ridiculing Massachusetts “Gerry-mander.” (image from Library of Congress)

Gerrymandering gets its name from Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, proponent for the Bill of Rights and vice president under James Madison. Many historians, and the Library of Congress, note that Gerry pronounced his name with a hard “G” that has somehow softened over the ensuing centuries.

As governor of Massachusetts in 1812, Gerry signed a redistricting plan that benefited his Democratic-Republican party. The electoral map included a district with a shape that a Boston Gazette political cartoon compared to a salamander.

The term “Gerry-mander” was born.

“It was named after Elbridge Gerry from Massachusetts,” Meacham reminded the Forum Club audience, using the hard “G.”

Meacham acknowledged that those who use the soft “G” have plenty of company, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder is leading a Democratic Party effort to fight Republican gerrymandering in key states when the next round of redistricting occurs after the 2020 census.

“Eric Holder does the same thing and he’s running that whole thing so I’ve asked him to do it,” Meacham said of his pronunciation plea. “He was uninterested.”


Dem Chris King rips Rick Scott, NRA; touts gun control in new TV ad

Chris King in his new TV ad.

Winter Park businessman Chris King, the only Democratic candidate for governor aside from Philip Levine to advertise on TV so far, is airing a second ad in Palm Beach County and other Florida markets that invokes the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre and this year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting to call for tougher gun control measures.

King doesn’t allude to any of his Democratic primary rivals, instead taking aim at two targets loathed by Democratic primary voters: Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the National Rifle Association.

“Two years ago, 49 people were murdered at Pulse nightclub –– and Rick Scott and the Legislature did nothing,” King says in the 30-second spot. “Then tragedy hit Parkland. But this time, a movement of young people refuses to accept the unacceptable.”

King, a first-time candidate who last week told a Palm Beach County audience he represents “a new politics,” continues: “I want to shake up the old politics. I’ll stand up to the NRA and hold both parties accountable –– to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and require background checks on all gun sales. I’m Chris King and I’m running for governor. Join us.”

King’s campaign spent $1 million on his initial ad. His campaign described this one as “part of an open-ended significant ad buy.” In addition to the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast market, it will air the Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne and Panama City markets.


Latest Rick Scott TV ad takes aim at Bill Nelson’s decades in office

Woman in new Rick Scott ad says Democrat Bill Nelson started in politics in 1972. That’s just a little bit less than I am old… and I’m no spring chicken.”

On the day Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson dipped a toe in the Florida messaging wars by launching a digital ad campaign, Republican Gov. Rick Scott countered with a $2.2 million TV ad buy calling for “somebody new” in Washington.

Scott two weeks ago began airing a person-in-the-street ad labeling Nelson a “party-line politician” influenced by arch-liberal House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The ad didn’t mention any specific votes or issues. Scott’s new ad doesn’t mention any specific issues, either, aside from the longevity of Nelson’s political career.

Nelson, 75, was elected to the Florida state House in 1972 and to the U.S. House in 1978. He took a break from public service after losing a 1990 Democratic primary for governor, returning in 1994 to the then-elected post of insurance commissioner, then winning the first of three U.S. Senate terms in 2000.

“He started in politics in 1972. That’s just a little bit less than I am old… and I’m no spring chicken,” says one woman in the ad.

“He’s not a bad guy, but it’s time for someone new,” another woman says.

Scott and his allies have spent more than $13 million on TV ads in the Senate race. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent $2.2 million on Nelson’s behalf.

Pam Bondi weighs in on a South Florida GOP congressional primary

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi holds up synthetic drug packaging aimed at kids during a 2014 visit to West Palm Beach. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is endorsing conservative blogger Javier Manjarres in the Republican primary for a Palm Beach-Broward congressional seat.

Javier Manjarres

“I have known Javier for many years and can attest to his indisputable commitment to preserving our American way of life. He is one of the strongest conservatives on the political playing field today, and I am confident that when elected to the U.S. Congress, his unique approach of addressing issues facing our nation will serve his constituents – and all Americans well,” Bondi said in a statement released by Manjarres’ campaign today.

Manjarres is running against Nicolas Kimaz and Eddison Walters in the GOP primary for heavily Democratic congressional District 22, the seat held by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

Deutch faces a primary challenge from Jeff Fandl.

Manjarres released this statement on Bondi’s endorsement: “I appreciate the support that Attorney General Bondi has extended to my congressional campaign. I am proud of the work she has done for our state, especially her ongoing effort to eradicate the opioid epidemic, and her support for President Trump‘s pro-American agenda.”

Levine’s internal poll shows him leading Democratic primary for governor, 33 percent undecided

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Public polls on the Florida Democratic gubernatorial race and internal polls that the campaigns choose to make public seem to agree on two points: Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is ahead — but a large number of Democratic voters haven’t made up their minds as the Aug. 28 primary approaches.

Levine’s campaign released an internal poll today that says Levine leads the Democratic field with 30 percent, followed by former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham at 20 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 12 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 6 percent with 33 percent undecided. PPP conducted the poll of 583 likely Democratic voters last Monday and Tuesday. It has a 4 percent margin of error.

Gillum’s campaign released an internal poll recently that showed Levine at 20 percent and Gillum and Graham tied at 13 percent in an initial ballot test. That poll showed 52 percent of voters were undecided.

Potential candidate Patrick Murphy commissioned a poll that showed Levine at 20 percent and Graham and Murphy tied for second at 14 percent with 41 percent undecided in an initial ballot test.

A Florida Atlantic University poll this month showed Levine holding a within-the-margin-of-error lead over Graham with 42 percent undecided.

Levine has been advertising on TV since November and no other candidate was on the air until King launched a $1 million TV campaign two weeks ago. Gillum and Graham have not gone on TV yet.

Levine’s poll shows him leading Gillum, the only black candidate in the race, by a 27-to-19 percent margin among African-American voters. The poll shows Levine leading Graham, the only woman in the race, by a 30-to-17 percent margin among female voters.

Bill Nelson releases first digital ad of his re-election campaign

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s new digital ad features this 1980s picture of him as a U.S. House member who served as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, facing an energetic challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is today releasing his first 2018 campaign ad — a digital spot rather than a more expensive TV advertisement.

Scott and his allies have already spent at least $11 million on TV ads. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last week made a $2.2 million ad buy in support of Nelson, who is seeking a fourth term.

Nelson’s new ad, titled “Stars,” celebrates Florida as a place “for doers, for dreamers, for builders, for adventurers. In Florida, we don’t just reach for the stars, we travel to them.”

Then, Nelson adds, “I know. I flew on the Space Shuttle.”

For longtime Florida politics watchers, it’s familiar stuff, as is Nelson’s next line: “And when I looked back at our planet, I didn’t see political divisions, I saw how we’re all in this together.”

But most of today’s Florida voters weren’t around in 1986 when Nelson, a U.S. House member at the time, flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist.

Nelson’s campaign says the new ad “will reach Florida voters through a variety of digital platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.”

Legalizing marijuana: Why nobody is winning the John Morgan primary

After his success with a medical marijuana referendum in 2016, attorney John Morgan favors full legalization but isn’t impressed with pot postures of this year’s Democratic candidates for governor.

The four Democrats running for Florida governor all favor some degree of legalizing or decriminalizing recreational marijuana use.

But John Morgan is not impressed.

Morgan, the Orlando-area trial lawyer who poured a combined $7 million into the losing 2014 medical marijuana campaign and the victorious 2016 follow-up, says Democratic frontrunners Gwen Graham and Philip Levine are too timid on the issue of full legalization. And he’s dismissive of the legalize/regulate/tax stances of Andrew Gillum and Chris King.

On the GOP side, gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis oppose legalized pot.

After his success with medical marijuana, Morgan says he’s not interested in pursuing another pro-pot referendum. Instead, he has already pumped more than $450,000 into his Florida For A Fair Wage committee, which is trying to put a question on the 2020 ballot to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Click here to read more details about Morgan’s views, candidates’ marijuana stances and where legalization efforts stand at

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump warned he was willing to cancel North Korea talks

President Donald Trump speaking at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in April. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: For more in-depth news about the doubt expressed about the North Korea talks while at Mar-A-Lago, click here.

In cancelling a planned denuclearization summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump is following through on a warning he issued at Mar-a-Lago last month.

Trump’s open letter to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

At the conclusion of a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, Trump seemed to relish the possibility of accomplishing something with North Korea that eluded past presidents.

“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime…And I hope to have a very successful meeting,” Trump said of the talks with Kim.

But Trump said he was willing to walk before or during the meeting.

“If I think that it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go. If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting and will continue what we’re doing,” Trump said during news conference with Abe.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson quickly blasted Trump this morning.

“The cancellation of this summit reveals the lack of preparation on the part of President Trump in dealing with a totalitarian dictator like Kim Jong Un. We’ve seen similar lack of preparation by the president in dealing with the leaders of China and Russia,” Nelson said.

At Mar-a-Lago in April, Trump and Abe pledged to continue their “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea until Kim agreed to “complete and verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization.

“We will not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations. Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea denuclearizes,” Trump said at the time.

“There is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. It will be a great day for them. It will be a great day for the world,” Trump said.

Abe also urged caution.

“Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward. Maximum pressure should be maintained,” he said through a translator.


Trump ramps up ‘witch hunt’ tweets; how they compare to ‘#MAGA’ and ‘fake news’

Trump ‘witch hunt’ tweets by month, via

Even before this morning’s “WITCH HUNT!” tweet, May has been a record-breaking month for President Donald Trump‘s use of the term to criticize the ongoing probe into whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.

The @realDonaldTrump Twitter account has used the term 15 times this month, shattering last month’s record of nine “witch hunt” mentions, according to

Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump has used the term “witch hunt” 49 times as president, according to the site devoted to archiving his tweets.

For comparison, he has tweeted “MAGA” — the Trumpian abbreviation for “Make America Great Again” — 74 times as president.

Trump has tweeted the term “fake news” 194 times since taking office.



Dave Aronberg, courted by Dems for U.S. House seat, weighs in on Dem primary


Democratic congressional candidate Lauren Baer picks up an endorsement from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been courted in the past by national Democrats to run for Congress, is endorsing Lauren Baer in the Democratic primary for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House seat.

Baer, a former foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, is running against attorney and Navy veteran Pam Keith in the Aug. 28 primary in District 18, the seat held by freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

“Our community is facing many challenges. From the opioid epidemic to threats to our environment, we need a representative in Washington who will seek common sense solutions — and actually accomplish them. I am proud to endorse Lauren Baer, who has the experience of bringing people together in these divisive political times,” said Aronberg in a statement released by Baer’s campaign.

Some Democrats tried to woo Aronberg to run for Congress in 2010 against U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, when he held a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also approached Aronberg about being a 2016 candidate and again last year about running in 2018.

Aronberg’s support is the latest in a shock-and-awe endorsement campaign by Baer. She has previously announced the backing of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, current Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch and a variety of other elected officials. In addition to Aronberg, the Baer campaign today rolled out endorsements from Democratic state Sen. Lori Berman, state Rep. David Silvers, St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman Rachelle Litt, former Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, Treasure Coast Black Chamber Founder and President Chauncelor Howell, Puerto Rican Association for Hispanic Affairs President Robert Roldan and Vice President Jacquelene Burke.

Mast, a decorated Army combat vet who was mentioned as a potential nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, faces two GOP primary challengers: physician Mark Freeman and businessman Dave Cummings.