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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Believe it? Trump tied in Florida

Anybody who knows anything about politics in Florida knows to count on high-profile statewide races to be close. Barack Obama won Florida by less than three percentage points in 2008 and less than one in 2012. Rick Scott won by one percentage point in 2014 and just over that in 2010.

It's been a few weeks since the last credible Florida poll, but as of July 11 RealClearPolitics.com polling had Trump averaging 43.8 percent support in Florida and Hillary Clinton 43.5 percent. We've heard of recent private polls showing Trump especially strong in areas of Tampa Bay and gaining ground in Miami-Dade, but we've yet to hear a clear and confident analysis of why Trump is so far defying conventional wisdom and demographics in America's biggest battleground state.

"I didn't think so two months ago. I do now," former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas said when asked if he thinks Trump can win Florida's 29 electoral votes. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Allison Tant. Yes, the Florida Democratic chairwoman watched as her close pal Debbie Wasserman Schultz was jeered at a Florida delegation breakfast in Philadelphia last week. But Tant presided over a week where Florida Democrats saw a parade of A-list speakers court them. Day after day, she showed off her own fire and passion for fighting for America's more vulnerable citizens, including her disabled son.

Loser of the week

Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The writing was probably on the wall for the ousted Democratic National Committee chairwoman at least a couple years ago, given how many detractors in the U.S. House and the White House saw her looking after her own interests ahead of theirs. Her legacy and reputation would be in much better shape had she quit the DNC before she had no choice.

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Tim Kaine to campaign Tuesday in Daytona Beach

Tim Kaine will campaign in Daytona Beach on Tuesday, a day before Donald Trump visits.

"Building on a three-day, jobs-focused bus tour with Hillary Clinton, Kaine will discuss his and Clinton's plans to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, at a public event at Daytona State College," according to a release.

Public info here.

Trump has a town hall on Wednesday but details have not been released.

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Koch Brothers want to help out Marco Rubio

The Koch Brothers are looking to get involved in Florida’s Senate race to help Marco Rubio, a top Koch official told reporters at a gathering Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Effectively, they already are, with a dark money group tied to the billionaires funding an ad against Democrat Patrick Murphy. But a more direct role could be a boost for Rubio and Republicans trying to hold the Senate.

The Kochs are focusing on Senate races rather than Donald Trump. Their network has already spent $21 million on five Senate race, the Wall Street Journal reports: Nevada, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Now comes Florida.

Rubio is favored by the Kochs and a top political advisor, Marc Short, headlines in February by joining Rubio’s presidential campaign.

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Rubio wins Sarasota straw poll over Beruff

Marco Rubio beat Carlos Beruff in Saturday's straw poll conducted by the Sarasota GOP.

Rubio: 247 (57.4%)

Beruff: 183 (42.6%)

Beruff is from Manatee County and Rubio's strong showing is another indication of the odds Beruff faces.

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Donald Trump in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville on Wednesday

Donald Trump will campaign Wednesday in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, his campaign said today.

Daytona Beach will be a town hall at 3 p.m. Jacksonville is a rally at 7 p.m.

"Further details forthcoming," the campaign said.

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Wasserman Schultz on resigning: 'Sometimes you just have to take one for the team'

"This has been a difficult week, there's no question about it. It has been a remarkable team effort, and you know sometimes you just have to take one for the team, and that's OK. It's OK."

-- Debbie Wasserman Schultz, now former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, speaking Thursday to the National Jewish Democratic Council in Philadelphia.

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How U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff avoided $235,000 in taxes last year

TALLAHASSEE — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff has been a land developer, jeweler and now a politician in his bid to defeat Sen. Marco Rubio for re-election.

But in at least two Florida counties he has the additional titles of farmer and lumberjack.

While the wealthy land developer has never worked a plow or chopped trees himself, he has been able to shield nearly 2,000 acres of future development land from taxes by claiming an exemption created a half-century ago for Florida's farming communities.

Beruff, who vows to cut taxes if elected, avoided paying $235,000 in 2015 taxes for his business holdings. He did it by claiming that 1,884 acres his companies bought to develop in the future are agricultural land because they are leased to cattle companies or have planted pine trees or other crops.

While Beruff is not a farmer, the exemptions are all legitimate, his campaign says. …

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Florida U.S. Senate candidate is still running for president

"Rocky" Roque De La Fuente is a California businessman who moved to Orlando in March and is running for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. He's also apparently still running for president, as he had been before he filed for the race here.

Rocky 2016 campaign

"Rocky" Roque De La Fuente is a California businessman who moved to Orlando in March and is running for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. He's also apparently still running for president, as he had been before he filed for the race here.

UPDATED: Aug. 1, 10:45 a.m. -- De La Fuente said in an interview with the Herald/Times on Aug. 1: "My primary objective is to serve the American people and I will serve where they want me to serve."

He acknowledged he's simultaneously pursuing both his U.S. Senate campaign in Florida and his ongoing presidential campaign elsewhere in the country. He said he wants to help "prepare the American people to have a third party candidate" in the presidential race and hopes to be on the November ballot in 40 states.

However, he added that getting elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida "is what I'm working on 99 percent of the time."

ORIGINAL POST:

A late entry in Florida's U.S. Senate race last month is apparently not giving up on his primary ambition: to become president of the United States.

Florida newcomer and Democrat "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente entered the state's U.S. Senate race in late June, after moving to Orlando in March from his home state of California.

But even as he filed his Senate candidacy in Florida on June 20, De La Fuente continued to loan and spend money for his presidential campaign based in San Diego, Federal Election Commission records show. …

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CDC: There may be additional locally spread Zika infections

First, the good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it and the state have planned ahead and prepared for Zika to reach Florida's shores.

But there remains uncertainty as the first cases of Zika likely spread by mosquitoes in the United States were confirmed Friday.

"As we have anticpated, Zika is now here," CDC Director Tom Frieden said on a call with reporters and scientists. "There may well be more cases that we are not aware of right now because most people infected with Zika do not show symptoms."

The four cases confirmed by the Florida Department of Health on Friday involve three men and one woman who live in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Health officials believe the infection was spread within a one-mile radius around Wynwood, north of downtown Miami, where all four patients work. They were infected in early July.

But the CDC is not encouraging people to steer clear of Wynwood.

"We currently do not see a situation where people should cease travel into the area," Frieden said. "If, however, cases were to continue in the area, even after the mosquito control efforts were undertaken, that would be a very different situation." …

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Times editorial board recommends Murphy, Rubio

Niether endorsement was glowing but the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Friday recommended primary voters pick U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on Aug. 30.

In the Republican Primary, the editorial board said Republican Carlos Beruff's modeling himself after Donal Trump "leaves Rubio as the only viable alternative, despite his apparent lack of interest in the job."

In the recommendation, the board noted Rubio, 45, has built a conservative voting record and focused on foreign policy as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Perhaps in a second term, Rubio would be more focused on his job and rediscover Tampa Bay," the editorial board wrote.

As for Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson, the editorial board said Democrats should have stronger options for U.S. Senate. But despite saying Murphy has a thin resume, the board said Murphy deserved the Democratic nomination over Grayson.

"Murphy understands the issues, works well with Republicans and is the pragmatic choice for Democrats," the editorial board wrote.

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Beruff again accuses Marco Rubio of ducking debates in GOP primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is out with a new web-ad again accusing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of being afraid to debate him.

Rubio has yet to agree to any debates with Beruff ahead of their Aug. 30 GOP primary race.

“He won’t show up because he’s afraid to debate Carlos Beruff,” a narrator says in the 30-second web video.

Beruff has agreed to attend at least three debates, but his campaign said Rubio has yet to confirm for any. Last week, Beruff issued a similar message through a statement calling on Rubio to “man up.”

Ironically it was Beruff who was accused of ducking debates earlier in the campaign before Rubio jumped back into the contest. In June when he faced three other lesser known opponents, Beruff skipped a forum where he would have faced them. When pressed days later during an interview on a Sarasota television program about why he didn’t agree to debate them, Beruff said he’d debate when “there’s somebody worth debating. At this point, I don’t think there is any.”

 

 

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Did Hillary Clinton win over this Florida delegate? 'Hell no'

Dawn Abate of Sutart on the convention floor Thursday in Philadelphia

Alex Leary | Times

Dawn Abate of Sutart on the convention floor Thursday in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA - Dawn Abate was willing to give Hillary Clinton a chance.

"Hillary has to figure out how she can make us believe she’s going to do any of the things she says she will do," the Florida delegate said Thursday afternoon, hours before Clinton gave her speech.

Abate, 39, of Stuart, is a hardcore Bernie Sanders supporter and had a neon yellow Sanders shirt draped across her shoulders. “It’s been a very emotional week. We’re all in mourning,” she said. “The energy here has been so unfriendly." 

But she said she would hear out Clinton, who did acknowledge what Sanders had done and addressed some of his core issues, including campaign finance and income inequality. "You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong," Clinton said. "And to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I've heard you. Your cause is our cause."

Was Abate moved?

"Hell no," she said Friday by text message. "But I will not let Donald Trump be president either, so sadly, I have to bubble in her name."

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Democratic groups weigh in on U.S. Senate debate controversy

Pam Keith, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Pam Keith U.S. Senate campaign

Pam Keith, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Two other political groups are now voicing their opinions on whether Miami Democrat Pam Keith should be included in an Orlando TV station's upcoming primary debate for Florida's U.S. Senate race.

The Boynton Beach-based Democratic African American Women Caucus says, quite bluntly, that Keith shouldn't complain about being excluded, because the fact is she didn't meet the qualifying criteria to participate.

"Put the race card away. It doesn't apply here," caucus president Leslie Wimes said of Keith, in an email statement to the Herald/Times.

But the Democratic Progressive Caucus -- a subset of the Florida Democratic Party -- is echoing the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women in urging WFTV Channel 9 to change its mind and invite Keith. Florida NOW, which endorsed Keith, said it was "outraged" she wasn't invited.

Keith has accused WFTV in Orlando of "blatant racism and sexism" for excluding her from its televised primary debate next month between the two leading Democratic candidates, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy. Keith is African American and the only female candidate seeking Florida's U.S. Senate seat this year. Grayson and Murphy are white. …

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Gov. Rick Scott orders testing, spraying after first Zika cases likely spread by mosquito

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a news conference in February at the Hillsborough County Health Department after his decision to declare a state of emergency in five counties affected by the Zika virus.

Zack Wittman | Times

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a news conference in February at the Hillsborough County Health Department after his decision to declare a state of emergency in five counties affected by the Zika virus.

Four people likely contracted Zika virus from mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday. 

One woman and three men have been infected, and all four live in Miami-Dade or Broward counties. This is believed to be the first time the virus has been spread by mosquitoes within the continental United States.

Under an emergency declaration, Scott already gave the state authority to spend $26.2 million to combat Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than normal.

“If it becomes clear that more resources are needed, we will not hesitate to allocate them,” he said in a statement Friday.

Additionally, Scott and other state leaders announced plans to double down on efforts in South Florida to fight the virus. Among them, the Florida Department of Health will give $620,000 to OneBlood so the blood bank can start testing donations for Zika. …

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