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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Demoted prison investigators hurl new charges, allege Scott's office interfered

Charges of corruption against the Florida Department of Corrections escalated Tuesday as two demoted senior investigators filed a new lawsuit, accusing the agency of retaliating against them for alleging cover-ups, inmate abuse and political interference on behalf of a company whose lead lobbyist became the governor’s general counsel.

In the 544-page compliant filed Tuesday in circuit court in Leon County, Doug Glisson and John Ulm allege that their bosses systematically tried to discredit them and set them up for demotions by concocting charges, violating agency procedures and even forging signatures. 

They claim that the governor’s office has wielded influence over agency investigations and point to both the governor’s former top lawyer, Pete Antonacci, and his chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, as being involved. …

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tim Canova dole out schmears

Under attack by her Democratic opponent and facing criticism for her national role as Democratic National Committee chair, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired back Tuesday at Tim Canova and portrayed him as an outsider.

“I have consistently, actively, vocally supported and advanced the causes that help make people's lives better and my opponent has done absolutely nothing,” she said. “He has never been involved in this community and so it’s very nice to say you share the same opinions on an issue. There is a difference between putting your body in front of an oncoming train and making sure that you are standing up actively engaged on these issues and saying, yeah, I’m going to hold up my hand and say yeah, me too.”

Her comments at a press conference followed her bagel fundraiser hosted by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank at a real estate investment office on Las Olas Boulevard, where donors were asked to donate up to $5,400.

That prompted Canova to ask in a fundraising email “$5,400 for a bagel?” At the same time as her fundraiser, he offered up free bagels at a deli in Cooper City. …

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Carlos Beruff polls says he's winning U.S. Senate race

Carlos Beruff and David Jolly are leading the pack in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate, according to a new internal poll that Beruff’s campaign is circulating among his supporters.

To be sure, the poll showed 50 percent of the 800 likely Republican primary voters did not make a choice in the poll. But among those who did, Beruff, the Manatee County land developer, was the choice of 17 percent. Jolly, the Pinellas County Congressman, had 16 percent. The margin of error of the poll was 3.46 percent.

None of the other three candidates topped 10 percent in the poll. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, was at 9 percent. Orlando area businessman Todd Wilcox was at 5 percent and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was at 3 percent.

Beruff’s campaign said the poll shows “Beruff is gaining traction.” Beruff, who got in the race late in February, is the only candidate who had been running television ads for the last two months.

Poll Results:
Carlos Beruff - 17 percent
David Jolly - 16 percent
Ron DeSantis - 9 percent
Todd Wilcox - 5 percent
Carlos Lopez-Cantera - 3 percent

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Mitch McConnell says "we're doing everything we can" to get Rubio to run for Senate again

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left no doubt that he is trying to convince Sen. Marco Rubio to run for another term.

During an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told host Joe Scarborough that “we’re trying to draft Marco to run again.”

Scarborough asked if McConnell thinks Rubio will do it.

“I hope so,” McConnell said. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage him to run.”

McConnell’s comments come five days after U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said “strongly encouraged” Rubio to reconsider his decision and seek re-election.

"I understand the argument and the people who are coming forward and asking me to reconsider are people I respect and enjoy serving with," Rubio said last week. "But I have a really good friend running for the Senate who I think is a good candidate, who I think gives us a real good chance to win if he were to be nominated."

Rubio was referring to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican who is one of five Republicans running in the Aug. 30 GOP primary.

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Pinellas voter information cards have 'closed primary' reminders

All 623,000 Pinellas voters will soon be getting this reminder.

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections

All 623,000 Pinellas voters will soon be getting this reminder.

Tens of thousands of Florida voters changed parties before the March presidential primary to vote for or against a candidate. But some of missed the registration deadline, and election supervisors don't want that to happen again.

Supervisors across the state will be mailing new voter cards to voters in advance of the Aug. 30 statewide primary, and Pinellas' Deborah Clark is including a reminder that Florida is a "closed primary" state, meaning that only Republicans and Democrats can vote for partisan candidates in the primary.

For the primary, the deadline to register or to change parties is Aug. 1. (All voters can vote in nonpartisan elections and for statewide constitutional amendments and local charter questions).

Clark's office said Tuesday it will mail 623,000 voter information cards over the next four weeks. Voters can call (727) 464-VOTE with questions.

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For much-traveled Gov. Rick Scott, ceremonial bill signing No. 10

Gov. Rick Scott was at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples on Tuesday to ceremonially sign a bill that creates a dedicated source of money for restoration of the Everglades and other things.

Courtesy of Gov. Rick Scott's office

Gov. Rick Scott was at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples on Tuesday to ceremonially sign a bill that creates a dedicated source of money for restoration of the Everglades and other things.

Gov. Rick Scott must be getting to like these ceremonial bill signings, where local leaders are invited to help him celebrate enactment of a bill already signed into law. On Tuesday, it was a ceremonial two-fer.

Scott planned stops in two TV markets, Naples and West Palm Beach, to twice ceremonially sign a bill that creates a dedicated source of money for restoration of the Everglades, a program the Legislature branded as the Legacy Florida Initiative. They're designed to attract good publicity.

In each of the past two years, Scott has signed the state budget -- the most important bill of any session -- in private, with no lights, cameras or questions. But Tuesday's dual ceremonies bring to 10 the number of victory lap events this year compared to two in 2015 for a governor widely seen as laying the groundwork for a U.S. Senate candidacy two years from now.

That's a lot of blue Sharpie pens, which Scott hands out as souvenirs after a signing ceremony. …

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Florida to get $5 million from failed Digital Domain venture

From our friends at the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is going to recoup $5 million out of $20 million the state invested in a failed visual effects film studio.

State and local governments have reached a settlement in a complicated legal battle that involved filings in bankruptcy court as a well as a civil lawsuit filed in St. Lucie County.

Digital Domain had promised to create about 500 jobs at a Port St. Lucie animation studio and a West Palm Beach film school, but it filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Under the settlement Florida taxpayers will actually get back about $3 million since part of the settlement money will go to lawyers hired by the state.

Florida has also gotten back the rights to $20 million in film production tax credits that were initially pledged to Digital Domain. 

More here.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz target of another payday loan ad

The hits keep coming for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will now face another TV ad campaign over her support for payday lenders.

Allied Progress said today it was putting $100,000 behind this ad that will run in Wasserman Schultz's district as she faces Democratic primary opponent Tim Canova.

This is the second time the liberal group has run ads against Wasserman Schultz and is part of a broader campaign against payday leders. Allied Progress is planning to run ads against either Rep. Alcee Hastings or Patrick Murphy over the political contributions they have gotten from the industry.

"Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz trusts that the CFPB, regardless of whether this bill becomes law, will ultimately do what's right," spokesman Ryan Banfill said. "The ad, like all the others, intentionally takes her out of context. Here's what Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz actually said: "Payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital that are working poor. She also said that what we really need to do is increase the minimum wage to $15/hour so payday loans aren't necessary. This is a PAC masquerading as a consumer group. The group apparently has decided they can't win a debate without resorting to distortions and bullying. That's unfortunate for the people who just want to responsibly pay their bills but are short on cash. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will continue to fight hard to protect consumers as her constituents know she always has."

Below is the interview used in the ad:Full Story

Alan Grayson weds Dena Minning, who's seeking to replace him in Congress

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got married over the Memorial Day weekend to his fiancee Dena Minning.

Courtesy of Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got married over the Memorial Day weekend to his fiancee Dena Minning.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got married over the Memorial Day weekend to his fiancee Dena Minning, the candidate who's seeking to replace him in the race for Florida's 9th Congressional District.

Grayson's campaign confirmed the wedding, held in Melbourne Beach, in a statement this morning.

"Rep. Alan Grayson and his wife Dr. Dena Grayson had a small, private wedding ceremony Sunday evening, with friends and family in attendance to celebrate their union, in the Florida beach town where Dena grew up," spokeswoman Brook Hines said.

Minning, also a Democrat, revealed the marriage on social media late Monday by updating her Twitter and Facebook accounts to reflect her married name.

She also updated her Facebook profile photo to one of her and Grayson, with the caption: "My handsome, brilliant, and amazing husband, Alan Grayson!!"

The Orlando Political Observer first reported on the nuptials Monday night.

It's the third marriage for Grayson, who finalized a messy and highly publicized divorce last year from his second wife, Lolita Grayson. That marriage was annulled last summer.

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Donald Trump's Miami mega obstacle

From the New York Times' look at the toughest battlegrounds for Donald Trump:

...If Mr. Trump has effectively staked his campaign nationwide on strong support from whites, Florida may present the most punishing test of his strategy, as Hispanics here, including conservative-leaning Cuban-Americans who twice helped George W. Bush carry the state, turn away from his candidacy en masse.

Mr. Trump has trampled local sensibilities in myriad ways, from his belittling treatment of Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bush to his personal coarseness, slashing comments on immigration and endorsement of open relations with the Castro government....

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Weatherford plots his political future, with a wary eye on Trump

Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford

Scott Keeler | TIMES

Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford

Donald Trump's outsized presence on the political landscape will shake up Florida in a multitude of ways, including redefining the field of contenders for governor in 2018. That's clear after a talk with Will Weatherford, the former House speaker who left office in 2014.

Will he run for governor?

"I tell people I'm not running towards it, but I'm not running away from it," Weatherford said. "I'm really focused on our company and our business. My guess is sometime after the election, I'll have to make a decision internally."

Weatherford supported Jeb Bush for president and said he has no plans to support Trump,  a "very divisive" figure and fear-mongerer.

But if Trump wins the White House, it will be viewed as a validation of his slash-and-burn style with its personal insults, and that would change the political tone in the country. "It's been very negative," Weatherford said. "That is much less appealing to me."

Put another way, it might be better for Weatherford if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins in November. (Remember too that presidents' popularity ratings often nosedive in the first midterm following their election). …

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Pam Keith, the other Florida Democrat running for U.S. Senate

While Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson attack one another in an increasingly bitter battle to become Florida Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate, Pam Keith is quietly turning heads to present herself as an alternative contender.

The 47-year-old labor attorney and former naval officer has flown under the radar, criss-crossing the state for months to build support in her bid for Florida’s open seat.

She’s been in the race longer than any of the seven other major candidates, Republicans or Democrats. But without much money, few endorsements and barely any consideration in statewide polls, Keith remains unknown to most Floridians.

She knows the odds. But she also knows there’s 90 days left to persuade Democratic voters that they should choose her in what is a closely watched race that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Keith, a Miami resident, also has a possible opening: A significant portion of voters are still undecided, and the flaws of Murphy and Grayson — two sitting U.S. congressmen — are getting more attention, potentially turning off the party’s more independent voters. …

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As Marco Rubio rehabs his career, a vocal, visible senator emerges

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks with reporters on May 26, 2016

Alex Leary | Times

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks with reporters on May 26, 2016

WASHINGTON — Two months after a brutal home-state loss that ended his presidential campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio is in a one-man race against time and perception.

He rails on the Senate floor against Zika, visits a Jacksonville slum, discusses Orlando's heroin scourge and pops up on local TV and radio shows across Florida — all of it to prove the job isn't as awful as he may have made it seem.

The once overly scripted presidential candidate has relaxed, flashing humor on Twitter, but also frustration about speculation over what he'll do after leaving the Senate in January, or if he'll run for another term, gossip fueled by his renewed focus on Florida and media outreach.

Rubio's rehab project has layers but one measure stands out: Since leaving the presidential trail, he has not missed a single vote.

The beating Rubio took in Florida at the hands of Donald Trump was in part due to his notable absenteeism in Washington, and a view that he treated the job as a stepping stone. …

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Grayson, Murphy try to raise money off talk Rubio could run for re-election

Alan Grayson fundraising email

Grayson campaign

Alan Grayson fundraising email

Chatter Marco Rubio could run for re-election is a money-making opportunity for Democratic hopefuls Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy.

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Marco Rubio apologized to Donald Trump for 'small hands' dig

"I actually told Donald -- one of the debates, I forget which one -- I apologized to him for that. I said, 'You know, I'm sorry that I said that. It's not who I am and I shouldn't have done it.' I didn't say it in front of the cameras, I didn't want any political benefit."

-- Marco Rubio to CNN re: his "small hands" attack on Donald Trump.

Meantime, Democrats on Sunday highlighted Rubio's reversal:

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