Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Columns

Florida Democrats mostly quiet as John Conyers faces calls to resign

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan is facing mounting allegations of sexual harassment and growing calls — including one from Nancy Pelosi on Thursday — that he resign the seat he has held since the 1960s.

So what do Florida Democrats think? We’ve reached out to the 11 House members and Sen. Bill Nelson. The reaction ? Near silence.

This stands in contrast to general Democratic outrage about allegations facing Donald Trump, Roy Moore and others.

Kathy Castor of Tampa: ?

Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg: ?

Val Demings of Orlando: "If the allegations are true, yes."

Ted Deutch of Boca Raton: Declined comment, citing his seat on the Ethics Committee, which has opened an investigation.

Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach: ?

Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach: ?

Al Lawson of Tallahassee: ?

Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park: ?

Darren Soto of Orlando: "At this time, Rep. Soto doesn’t have a comment."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston: "The House Ethics Committee must carry out a swift, fair and thorough investigation into these troubling allegations to ensure justice for all parties. I strongly support legislation that will reform and revise the process for reporting sexual harassment with a safe pathway for harassment victims to come forward and share their stories that ensures accountability for the accused and justice for aggrieved employees."

Frederica Wilson of Miami: ?

Sen. Nelson of Orlando: ?

Tax cut bill issue

Potentially one of the most consequential Florida political stories since the 2000 recount is the exodus of Puerto Ricans into Florida who could dramatically shift the political balance in the Sunshine State. Since Oct. 3, more than 204,000 Puerto Ricans have landed at airports in Tampa, Orlando and Miami to escape the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Anyone moving to Florida from Puerto Rico is instantly eligible to vote.

Gov. Rick Scott, a likely candidate for U.S. Senate, has visited Puerto Rico and touted his efforts to help the island recover and transplants to transition into Florida.

His rival, incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson, last week argued that the Senate GOP’s tax plan would be especially harmful to Puerto Rico because it gives Puerto Ricans different treatment on child and earned income tax credits and eliminates a manufacturing deduction for Puerto Rico.

"Passing this GOP tax bill would be like sending another hurricane to Puerto Rico. We should be working to help Puerto Rico recover, not make things worse," Nelson said on Twitter.

Not agreeing on this

We’ve so far heard few differences on the issues from the four main Democratic candidates for governor, but a slight one has emerged concerning raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine has made raising the minimum wage a central part of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, but in contrast to Democratic rivals Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King, Levine is not endorsing a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour.

"What I’m proposing is this — come up with a number that’s fair across the state, but let the local communities decide what’s right," Levine said on a South Florida TV interview. "Remember something: In Miami Beach, it costs a lot more to buy a hamburger than it does up in Tallahassee, so why should we have the same minimum living wage? So we should let our communities decide."

Levine notes that he’s the only candidate with an actual record of helping pass a minimum wage increase — to $10.10 — as Miami Beach mayor, though that increase so far has been blocked by the courts. He has taken some criticism for using taxpayer money to defend the city’s minimum wage ordinance.

"Now, I’m for raising the minimum wage, too, but this is about our mayor putting on a show to aid his campaign at the expense of every taxpayer in this city," Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said earlier this year.

Orlando area trial lawyer John Morgan, who is leading a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, originally was uncertain about the $15 level, as was Graham (and Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign) but both have come around to $15.

Trump in Florida

President Donald Trump will hold a campaign-style rally in Pensacola next Friday, just as voters in nearby Alabama head to the polls in the Roy Moore-Doug Jones Senate battle.

Just three days ago, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would not campaign in Alabama on Moore’s behalf, reports the Associated Press.

The Make America Great Again rally will be held at the Pensacola Bay Center. Nearby Mobile, Ala., is in the same TV market.

Winner of the week

Marco Rubio. The GOP Senate tax plan has given Rubio an opportunity to demonstrate his consistent knack for appealing to all sides on controversial issues. By championing an increase in the child tax credit, he highlighted his focus on working families. By leaving no one doubting that he ultimately could vote against the bill, he avoided antagonizing party leaders and the elite donor class.

Loser of the week

Florida greyhound racing tracks. A constitutional amendment proposal by state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to make greyhound racing go the way of cockfighting and dog fighting in Florida has gained ground. The proposed ban on dog racing unanimously passed a Constitution Revision Commission committee, though it still must pass the full commission before making it on the ballot.

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