Lois Frankel defends Gwen Graham, hits Andrew Gillum on super PAC ads

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, has not made a formal endorsement in Florida’s five-Democrat primary for governor.

But Frankel has issued a statement through former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s campaign defending Graham against attacks by a super PAC that supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the primary. Frankel weighed in after The Collective Super PAC  announced it will spend nearly $500,000 on TV ads that criticize Graham’s votes during her term in Congress from 2015 to 2017.

“In Washington, I’m fighting to end Citizens United and the use of secret money in campaigns,” said Frankel. “It’s extremely disappointing that any of the Democrats running for governor would undermine this fight by accepting secret contributions and encouraging their allies to attack a fellow Democrat with secret ads.”

The Collective Super PAC has already spent more than $1.2 million in support of Gillum, the only black candidate and only non-millionaire in the race. The super PAC’s largest donor is an affiliated 501(c)(4) group, The Collective Future, which isn’t required to reveal its individual contriibutors.

Polls last week by Florida Atlantic University and Mason-Dixon showed Graham leading the Democratic field and Gillum in fourth or fifth place.

The Collective said last week that its new ad “focuses on one of Gillum’s primary opponents, who continues to tout progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected.”

Graham voted to loosen some financial restrictions in the Dodd-Frank bill and supported the Keystone XL pipeline. She generally backed President Barack Obama and Democratic leadership on the Affordable Care Act, but voted in 2015 for a bill to reduce the scope of Obamacare’s employer mandate by making it apply to 40-hour-a-week employees rather than 30-hour-a-week employees.

Frankel differed with Graham on the three votes highlighted by The Collective, but defended Graham.

“I served with Gwen Graham in Congress. She voted with Democrats to save the Affordable Care Act from Republican attacks. Gwen defended President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from Wall Street’s attacks. And she rallied the Florida delegation to protect our environment from polluters’ attacks. Anyone attacking her today is not doing so in the best interest of Democrats or our state,” Frankel said.



Jeff Greene draws curious elected officials, notes his ‘crazy amount of wealth’ at Palm Beach event

Democratic candidate for governor Jeff Greene, left, talks to Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters and Masters’ sister, Cora Masters Barry, at Greene’s Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa on Wwednesday night. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — About 100 people showed up Wednesday evening at Jeff Greene‘s Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa for a meet-and-greet event with Greene, the billionaire real estate investor making a lavishly self-financed Democratic bid for governor.

Whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination for governor, Jeff Greene has clinched the catering primary with Wednesday night offerings that included shrimp, lobster, bruschetta and beef kebabs. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Attendees included Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Paulette Burdick, who said she’s looking for a candidate to support, and Mack Bernard, who’s backing Andrew Gillum for governor but wanted to check out Greene. Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters was there in a listening mode as well.

Also attending — but not necessarily endorsing — were Palm Beach Town Councilman Lew Crampton, South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer, South Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Stella Jordan and former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio.

“I’m watching and I’m listening. I need someone that I can support to be our next governor in the state of Florida. It’s vitally important that we elect a Democrat,”said Burdick, who said she was “impressed” by Greene’s detailed response to her question about a state affordable housing trust fund.

A Florida Atlantic University poll released Wednesday afternoon shows Greene, who entered the race last month, within striking distance of Democratic leaders Gwen Graham and Philip Levine as the Aug. 28 primary approaches.

Greene and his four Democratic primary foes share similar liberal stances on education, the environment, gun control, abortion rights and other issues. But Greene, who has already poured more than $10 million of his own money into his campaign and launching a new $3.2 million TV ad blitz today, told the crowd his wealth can lift Democrats from their two-decade losing streak in governor’s races and help other Democrats on the ballot.

“I’ve been blessed with this crazy amount of wealth that I could never spend. We’re planning on giving it away to make a difference in people’s lives but can you imagine the difference I could make by being the first governor in 20 years in the state of Florida from the Democratic Party?” Greene told the crowd.

Fielding audience questions, Greene was asked how he’d work with the Republican-controlled Legislature if he’s elected. He didn’t concede that the GOP will keep the Senate, where it has a 23-16 advantage now.

“We have five Senate races that are winnable. I’ve met them all,” said Greene, who said he’s ready to give financial help to down-ballot candidates if he’s the party nominee.

Jeff Greene says he’ll open his checkbook for other Democrats if he’s the party’s nominee for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“You can’t win an election if you have both your arms tied behind your back in a fight. And I think this time, thanks to my good fortune, I have the ability to go toe-to-toe, and I intend to do it, with these Republicans,” Greene said.

If Democrats can win the state Senate, Greene added, “maybe then some of those unreasonable folks on the other side of the aisle in the House will think, ‘You know, let’s not mess with Jeff Greene, let’s not mess with this new Democratic governor.'”

West Palm Beach Democratic Club President Jim Gibbs, emphasizing that he was speaking personally and not as a party official, said he’s supporting Greene because of his deep pockets.

“I think that he has the one weapon the Democrats have been missing for winning statewide races. I think that all five candidates are the same for the issues. We get to 49 percent, 49.5 percent and lose because we can’t match the Republicans with money,” Gibbs said in an interview.

“Florida’s a Democratic state and we lose because we don’t get out the vote. So I think his money is the difference between victory and defeat. I hate to be so Macchiavellian about it….We’ve got to win,” Gibbs said.






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.


Trump in Palm Beach: Feeling the love at PBIA, hearing a curious futon claim

President Donald Trump greets supporters as first lady Melania Trump looks on at Palm Beach International Airport on Tuesday night. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump is back at his Mar-a-Lago estate today after an absence of more than seven months.

The president, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron arrived around sunset Tuesday at Palm Beach International Airport.

Bea Doone-Merena, 90, of Boca Raton, painted these portraits of Trump and showed them to the president. He kept the one on the right and autographed the one on the left for her. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Trump appeared to be in good spirits as he spent about 18 minutes with a group of more than 100 supporters who gathered on the tarmac to greet Air Force One.

It was a much longer time than the president usually spends with the airport well-wishers.

“It was the best one ever. He was energized, delighted to see everybody. He loves the people. That gives him energy,” said Sue Snowden, the former Palm Beach County Trump campaign co-chairman who organizes the PBIA gatherings.

Bea Doone-Merena, a 90-year-old artist from Boca Raton, brought two oil paintings of Trump to the event. She gave one to the president and he autographed the other for her.

“He let me kiss him on the cheek. How do you like that?” Doone-Merena said afterward. “It was fabulous.”

Trump could be heard touting the success of the stock market as he interacted with supporters.

One woman told the president she could help him make good on his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C.

“I invented futons. I know how to drain it,” the woman insisted.

Early versions of the American futon were called “Brouwer beds.”

Trump did not have a discernible reaction.

Futons are a traditional Japanese type of bedding. The American adaptation is often credited to William Brouwer from the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Reporters were led away from the president before it could be determined if the woman had a connection to Brouwer or was staking an alternative futon claim.

Click here for complete coverage of the president’s return to Palm Beach.

Palm Beach County Dem Chair Terrie Rizzo eyes state party’s top job

Palm Beach County Democratic Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The sudden departure of a Democratic chairman cleared the way for Terrie Rizzo to become leader of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party in 2012.

Now Rizzo is making a bid to lead the Florida Democratic Party after Stephen Bittel abruptly resigned as chairman last week after being accused of inappropriate behavior toward women.

The state party is expected to choose a successor to Bittel next month. Rizzo said Monday she will be a candidate.

Palm Beach County Democrats have a statewide reputation for being well-organized under Rizzo’s leadership. She also has connections across the state as chair of the Florida Democratic Party’s caucus of county chairs.

“If elected to serve, I will work tirelessly and lead with unparalleled motivation to achieve the goals of our party to ensure the inclusion of those who have been left behind, protect every voter’s rights, lift up new leaders, and grow our Democratic base,” Rizzo said Monday in a post on her Facebook page. “Thanks to the grassroots efforts of Democrats from Destin to Dade, we have had monumental victories these past months. Florida Democrats must continue to move forward, build on the Democratic enthusiasm we’ve generated in cities and counties across the state, and now more than ever, we need an experienced and steady hand at the ​whee​l​. I believe my work as Chair of the Palm Beach Democratic Party, as the elected Chair of all Florida Democratic County Chairs and as a current DNC representative from Florida have prepared me well to be that steady hand, and I will work with full dedication and commitment for that purpose.”

Rizzo, 70, is a fitness professional who lives in Boynton Beach. She became acting chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party in September 2012 after Mark Alan Siegel was pressed to resign by party leaders for saying in an interview at the Democratic National Convention that pro-Israel Christians want to see Jews “slaughtered.” Rizzo was elected to a full two-year term as chairwoman in 2012, then re-elected in 2014 and 2016.

Bittel, a Miami real estate investor and major fundraiser, became state party chairman in January. He resigned shortly after Politico Florida reported that he created a hostile work environment for women with inappropriate comments, leering and keeping a breast-shaped stress-relief ball in his desk.

Asked to comment on Bittel, Rizzo said: “The party will regroup and move forward.”

President Trump in Palm Beach: Season 2 begins this week

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania outside Trump International Golf Club watching the Palm Beach Central band on Feb. 5 before a Super Bowl party. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump is expected to return to Mar-a-Lago this week to kick off another season of golfing and governing.

The 2017-18 Winter White House season will look different from the 2016-17 version — from a new, post-Charlottesville mix of charities renting the Mar-a-Lago ballroom to new staging areas for pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators who used to gather on Bingham Island.

Click here for a complete story on what to expect when the president returns to Palm Beach 

>>PHOTOS: Look at our gallery of Trump’s Thanksgiving visit

>>Follow our Trump in Palm Beach Facebook page

Former Trump Florida campaign director, from West Palm Beach, seeks key GOP post

Karen Giorno chats with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera at the Palm Beach County GOP’s 2016 Lobsterfest in Boca Raton. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

West Palm Beach resident Karen Giorno, the state director for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign when he won the Florida GOP primary by carrying 66 of 67 counties, has launched a campaign to become Florida’s Republican National Committeewoman.

The committeewoman is one of three party officials who represent Florida on the Republican National Committee and have a say on party rules and the site of the 2020 GOP convention.

Former Florida Committeewoman Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale stepped down after President Trump tapped her to be ambassador to Costa Rica. The Republican Party of Florida’s board, which consists of about 35 members, will choose an interim replacement next month. More than 200 RPOF members will then vote in January on a committeewoman to serve the final two years of Day’s term.

At least three other names have circulated as potential candidates for committeewoman: Manatee County GOP Chairwoman Kathleen King, former RPOF Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan and Brevard County Republican State Committeewoman Cheryl Lankes.

Giorno is a longtime Republican operative with experience going back to an internship in the George H.W. Bush White House. She was director of Trump’s Florida campaign through the March 2016 primary, then continued as the top Florida official while also taking on the role of political director for 11 southeastern states. In a September 2016 shakeup, Giorno moved to a job in Trump Tower in New York overseeing national voter engagement and coalitions; veteran Florida campaign strategist Susie Wiles became Florida director.

A website Giorno has set up for her committeewoman bid features a 2016 quote from Trump calling her “a valuable asset to my team and a consummate professional” and an endorsement from Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett.




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.




Charities bail on Mar-a-Lago after Trump Charlottesville comments

“Where is everybody?” The main Mar-a-Lago ballroom, shown here before a 2016 Palm Beach County GOP dinner, could be empty for much of the 2017-18 social season.

PALM BEACH — Two more charities announced Sunday they won’t hold their annual fundraisers at President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago Club and the Kravis Center added its name to the list this morning, continuing an exodus that has accelerated since Trump blamed “both sides” for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and MorseLife pulled the ripcord Sunday, bringing to 19 the number of charities deciding to leave Mar-a-Lago in recent months. The Kravis Center’s 2018 Wine Auction brings the number to 20.

Click here to read Palm Beach Daily News Society Editor Shannon Donnelly’s latest reportage.

And click here to read the latest tally of who’s in, who’s out and who’s on the fence for the upcoming social season at Mar-a-Lago.