2020 watch: Michael Bloomberg to visit Broward, West Palm Beach

Michael Bloomberg during a 2008 visit to West Boca. (Palm Beach Post staff photo by Chris Matula)

Potential 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire gun-control activist and former New York mayor, is making at least two appearances in South Florida this week.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast — and rearrange your schedule now for a new podcast Thursday…

Bloomberg is slated to appear in Coral Springs on Friday at a gun-control event with parents and survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

On Saturday, Bloomberg will be keynote speaker at the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual Truman Kennedy Johnson dinner in West Palm Beach.

Bloomberg was mentioned as a potential independent candidate for president in 2008, 2012 and 2016. He’s said to be leaning toward a Democratic bid for 2020.

Campaigning and raising money for 2018 candidates — especially in key states like Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire — is one way for presidential hopefuls to boost their visibility and amass chits for 2020. Bloomberg recently announced he’ll contribute $20 million to help Democratic Senate candidates this year. 


What happened to Chris King’s ‘bullet tax’?

Democrat Chris King made it past the Aug. 28 primary when Andrew Gillum tapped him as his running mate. King’s proposed “bullet tax,” however, did not make the cut. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Chris King finished a distant fifth in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for governor, but his progressive platform impressed primary winner Andrew Gillum enough to earn King a berth on the general election ticket as Gillum’s  running mate.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

In a primary race that saw all five Democrats try to outdo each other in support for gun control and opposition to the National Rifle Association, King drew attention with a proposal to impose a new tax on bullets.

King was asked about the bullet tax Tuesday after he made an appearance in West Palm Beach to denounce Republican nominee Ron DeSantis on health care.

“Part of what happens when you lose an election and you now have a new boss is he sets the ultimate priorities,” King said. “And as we’re assimilating, it doesn’t appear that that one has moved forward into the general election.”


Ted Deutch, other Dems call on Putnam to resign over gun check failure

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam campaigning for governor in Riviera Beach last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, called on Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to resign after The Tampa Bay Times reported that Putnam’s office failed to conduct federal background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits for more than a year in 2016 and 2017.

Putnam responded late Friday with a statement suggesting a much smaller-scale problem that his office worked to correct.

“To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application,” Putnam said in a statement released by his office. “Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

The lapse occurred between February 2016 and March 2017 because the employee in charge of background checks could not log into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to a June 2017 Office of Inspector General report that the Times obtained through a public records request.

“The integrity of our department’s licensing program is our highest priority,” Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Aaron Keller told the Times. “As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants’ non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.”

Deutch, whose Palm Beach-Broward district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, reacted angrily on Twitter this afternoon.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign,” Deutch tweeted.

The story prompted Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who launched his Democratic candidacy for governor a week ago, to issue his first statement of the campaign.

“Adam Putnam isn’t just a self-proclaimed ‘proud NRA-sellout,’ he’s a downright danger to Floridians and should drop out of the race for Governor and resign from his position as Commissioner of Agriculture immediately,” Greene said.

The four other Democratic candidates for governor also teed off on Putnam this afternoon.

“Drop out now, Adam,” Democrat Gwen Graham tweeted.

“Adam Putnam should resign,” said Winter Park businessman and Democratic candidate Chris King.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated…An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role,” said former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in a Facebook live post, accused Putnam of “a complete and total dereliction of duty. It put the everyday citizens of this state, their lives, in harm’s way and at risk…This man does not deserve to be the next governor of Florida.”



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.


Democrat Chris King seeks the ‘bold and progressive’ lane in governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King campaigning west of Delray Beach on Monday. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

WEST DELRAY — As he tries to break out of a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary field, Winter Park businessman Chris King — the only candidate who has never run for elected office — told a liberal group here Monday that he’s the candidate of new ideas and “a new politics.”

“In a nutshell, I am the candidate that says that this is a moment for new ideas and fresh ways of thinking,” King told about 50 women at a meeting of a group called SEE. “I am the candidate that folks say is willing to take very bold and progressive positions, not always because they’re helpful politically, but because they’re right for the future of our state.”

Those positions include flat-out opposition to the death penalty, support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use, free community college and trade school, expanded affordable housing programs and a pledge not to accept any money from the sugar industry.

Monday’s appearance was part of an 11-county “Turning the Tide” tour focused on criminal justice reforms that King began last week.

Chris King says “big ideas” separate him from his Democratic primary rivals. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

King, 39, has languished in single digits in most Democratic polls, but a Florida Atlantic University poll this month showed him getting 10 percent of the Democratic vote — within striking distance of former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (16 percent) and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham (15 percent) and ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. And that was before King went on the airwaves with his first TV ad last week.

The SEE group, which President Dana Aberman said was formed the day after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, displayed a sign that said “Womens Rights are Human Rights” at the meeting and one that depicted a clenched fist with “Rise and Organize.” Another sign offered Laurence W. Britt‘s 14 “Early Warning Signs of Fascism,” which include “Powerful and Continuing Nationalism,” “Controlled Mass Media” and “Corporate Power is Protected.”

There was much discussion of gun control in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. King supports a ban on “assault”-style weapons and universal background checks for gun purchases. He said the 2016 Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando and February’s mass slaying at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have created a new type of activist who is not only interested in gun control.

“They want a new politics. They want an aspirational politics. They want to take on folks that have not gotten things done, whether it’s gun safety or affordable housing or health care and they want new leaders who are willing to do big things. And that’s been our story,” King said.

King said he wants to “end the death penalty once and for all” — a position that puts him to the left of his Democratic rivals.

Graham “personally opposes the death penalty but will enforce Florida law,” her campaign said Monday. Gillum “is in favor of it, but very sparingly,” a campaign spokesman said. Levine’s campaign said he is “not an advocate of the death penalty,” but “in certain and rare circumstances, the death penalty should not be ruled out.”

King said in an interview that his willingness to stake out such positions should convince a plurality of Democratic primary voters “to see me as the candidate of fresh ideas and a new perspective on politics, a Democrat who can win and a Democrat who can be transformative. So everything I do will be trying to convince folks of that.”

With a little more than three months until the Aug. 28 primary, King said, “the race right now is incredibly wide open…..I’m going against three candidates that have been in the political world – they or their families – for years and years and years. I’m the new guy. So I have more of a burden to introduce myself. But I think there’s an incredible opportunity to do that.”

Texas school shooting: Alcee Hastings blasts Republicans, other pols weigh in

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, quickly pointed to Republican opposition to gun control after this morning’s shooting at a high school near Houston, Texas.

Preliminary reports say at least eight people were killed in the shooting.

“Watching yet another school shooting unfold, knowing that Republicans in Congress have blocked every single effort to reform gun control, is heartbreaking and infuriating. We are averaging 1 school shooting per week with casualties. @SpeakerRyan when will enough be enough?” Hastings tweeted at 11:31 a.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in an afternoon news conference, said the guns used in the mass shooting — a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver — were owned legally by the suspect’s father. Abbott said it wasn’t clear whether the father knew his son had the guns.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, also a gun control advocate, is waiting to form judgments.

“Heartbreaking news. I’m monitoring the situation, and my thoughts are with the victims, their families, and the students of Santa Fe High School,” Frankel told her Twitter followers at 11:30 .am.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, tweeted: “It’s been three months since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. If you are watching this, it should move you to tears. More important, if you’re an elected official, it should move you to action to keep kids safe. And if it doesn’t, then just get the hell out of our way.”

Later, Deutch added: “Another piece of our heart was torn out of us this morning. To the grieving families and survivors, please know that all of us South Florida are here for you. Just like the families and communities of Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Dunblane have been with us.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said on Twitter that he is “Praying for all those in Texas today. At some point, we as a society have to say enough is enough. We have to come together and do more to protect our kids in school.”

Said Florida Gov. Rick Scott: “My wife, Ann, and I are devastated to learn of the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas today. I just spoke to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and offered any assistance or support they may need in response to this horrific act of violence against innocent students, teachers and law enforcement. As we continue to mourn the loss we experienced in Florida on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we unfortunately know the enormity of the grief they are experiencing and our hearts are broken over this senseless tragedy.”



In NRA speech, Trump blames Parkland massacre on unheeded ‘red flags’

Two days after the Parkland shooting, President Donald Trump visited the Broward Sheriff’s Office with Sen. Marco Rubio (near American flag at left), first lady Melania Trump, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi with first responders in Fort Lauderdale. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland shows the need to pay closer attention to “red flags” and improve school safety, President Donald Trump said this afternoon at the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas.

Gun control advocates have called for tighter restrictions on firearms purchases in the wake of the February mass shooting that claimed 17 lives, but Trump and the Republican-controlled House and Senate did not include such measures in a school-safety bill that passed in March.

“All of us here today are deeply committed to school safety,” Trump told the NRA this afternoon. “Our entire nation was filled with shock and grief by the monstrous attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida. We mourn for the victims and their families.”

The president touted recent post-Parkland legislation that approves more money for training, metal detectors and other school safety measures.

“We agreed that it’s not enough to simply make us feel like we’re making a difference. We must ensure that we’re actually making a difference and my administration has approved an aggressive strategy on community safety. We’re working to improve early warning systems,” Trump said.

Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz had numerous interactions with law enforcement before the shooting.

“There has never been a case where more red flags have been shown,” Trump said.

“Law-abiding gun owners want to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others. We all want that. We all want that,” the president said, drawing applause.

“All of us agree that we must harden certain schools. At the same time, the police have to be able to get into those schools if there’s a problem. We want armed guards…We strongly believe in allowing highly trained teachers to carry concealed weapons if they’re highly trained,” Trump said.

The call for allowing teachers to be armed drew loud applause.
Added Trump: “There’s no sign more inviting to a mass killer than a sign that declares: ‘This school is a Gun-Free Zone.’ Come in and take us.”


‘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.

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 MyPalmBeachPost.com

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.