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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lights go out on Mike Pence in Clearwater

When the power goes out, VP nominee Mike Pence improvises with a megaphone.

Chris Urso | Times

When the power goes out, VP nominee Mike Pence improvises with a megaphone.

If his campaign plane skidding off the runway in New York last week didn’t faze Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a power outage at his rally in Clearwater on Monday night couldn’t either.

When the lights and microphone went out inside a hangar at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, Pence got his hands on a megaphone and continued to make his case for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, delivering lines that had the crowd chanting “U.S.A.!” and “Drain the swamp!”

Trump’s running mate said no one should believe Democrat Hillary Clinton’s “air of inevitability” that last week fueled speculation about who she would pick as Cabinet members.

“I tell you: Don’t be fooled,” he told an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500 or more. “This race is on.”

Pence’s first public campaign appearance in the Tampa Bay area comes as GOP spirits rose after the FBI’s decision to look into emails found on a computer that belonged to Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and both campaigns poured more resources into the Interstate 4 corridor, the pivot on which Florida elections tilt. …

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Worlds collide Thursday in Jax: Trump and Obama both making appearances

Donald Trump and President Obama will be in Jacksonville on Thursday.

Trump has a noon rally at Jacksonville Equestrian Center (tickets here).

Obama will be at University of North Florida Arena for an event that begins at 1:30 p.m. (tickets here).

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Obama praises Miami-Dade state Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in new TV ad

The Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores unveiled a new ad on Monday featuring President Barack Obama in voice-over.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Pinecrest resident in her first bid for public office, was one of 13 legislative candidates in Florida that Obama endorsed this month.

She and Flores are in a competitive race for the newly redrawn District 39 seat that spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. It leans Democratic and Hispanic.

"I know Debbie will fight to defend the progress we've made over the past eight years," Obama says in the ad.

Watch the ad below:

The president also cut a similar endorsement ad for District 37 state Senate candidate and current Miami Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

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Annette Taddeo records radio ad to support Dwight Bullard in Miami-Dade Senate race

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami


State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami

A Florida labor union is spending $45,000 on a new Spanish-language radio ad in Miami so that Florida Democratic Party vice chairwoman and former gubernatorial and congressional candidate Annette Taddeo can promote incumbent state Sen. Dwight Bullard in the final days before Election Day.

Bullard, D-Miami, is in a competitive race for re-election against Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles, who has vastly outspent Bullard in the bitter District 40 contest in central Miami-Dade County.

1199SEIU Florida, which represents 25,000 health care workers, is paying for the ad. The group said in a press release that Taddeo felt compelled to record the ad for Bullard "because of what she described as lies being spread against Bullard’s character in a deceitful Spanish-language ad."

Artiles recently aired a misleading ad on Miami TV, in which Artiles falsely said Bullard "voted to release violent criminals and sexual delinquents in our community." More here on why Artiles' claim isn't accurate. …

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Trump in Miami, Orlando and Pensacola on Wednesday

Donald Trump has filled out his schedule for Wednesday. 

He has a noon rally in Miami followed by a 4 p.m. rally in Orlando followed by one at 7 p.m. in Pensacola.

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PolitiFact Florida: No, Hillary Clinton did not meet with Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes

As early voters in Florida started casting votes, conservative websites buzzed about new evidence of crooked campaign tactics by Hillary Clinton to secure the crucial battleground state.

The alleged scheme centered on left-leaning Broward County, already in the news for distributing some mail-in ballots without Amendment 2, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

The claims originated from Roger Stone, a Donald Trump supporter and former campaign operative who talked of a "secret" meeting in an interview to conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones on Oct. 26.

"Yesterday Hillary Clinton shows up in Broward County — slips into a private meeting with the woman who runs the board of elections," said Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s common for election supervisors to meet with party officials if they have questions about election procedures. But a meeting directly with a presidential candidate would be unusual. Broward has about 600,000 Democratic voters — the highest number in Florida — so it is a key county for Clinton.

Jones has millions of followers. The claim about Clinton secretly meeting with Brenda Snipes took off on social media, and some suggested that it was part of a voter fraud scheme.

We found no evidence that such a meeting took place — because it didn’t.Full Story

Power surge: Utilities dump another $3.5 million into Amendment 1

Florida's largest utilities decided last week that $22 million wasn't enough to spend on Amendment 1, so they pumped in another $3.5 million into the effort, according new campaign finance reports.

Amendment 1, which has been dubbed a "pro solar" amendment by the political committee financed by the utility giants, would inject language into the state Constitution that could be used to keep solar competition out of Florida, making it easier for the utilities to control the solar market and preserve their utility monopolies. (For an explanation of how the amendment creates a barrier to competition, see our story here.)

At least $2 million of the added cash came from Florida Power & Light, the state's largest electric company, and $1 million came from Duke Energy, the second largest utility. The remaining $500,000 was split by two dark-money groups, the conservative 60-Plus Association and the mysterious Let's Preserve the American Dream, both 501c(4) organizations that do not have to disclose their donors. …

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Donald Trump stiffing Tony Fabrizio?

The Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump's hiring of pollster Tony Fabrizio in May was viewed as a sign that the real estate mogul was finally bringing seasoned operatives into his insurgent operation.

But the Republican presidential nominee appears to have taken issue with some of the services provided by the veteran GOP strategist, who has advised candidates from 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The Trump campaign's latest Federal Election Commission report shows that it is disputing nearly $767,000 that Fabrizio's firm says it is still owed for polling....

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Looking confident, Marco Rubio votes early — for himself and, apparently, for Donald Trump

Marco Rubio greets supporters at West Miami City Hall, where he voted early for the Nov. 8 election.

Patricia Mazzei | Miami Herald

Marco Rubio greets supporters at West Miami City Hall, where he voted early for the Nov. 8 election.

After voting early Monday, Marco Rubio fielded questions about how he voted for president, for U.S. Senate, for Miami-Dade County mayor and for two Florida constitutional amendments.

Not once did he — or anyone else — utter the name of his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy. Which may explain why Rubio looked so relaxed about casting his ballot for his own reelection.

“We’ve had our own campaign,” the Florida Republican senator said. “I’m pretty confident that, irrespective of the presidential ballot, that’s going to help us win.”

Eight days before the election, Rubio leads Murphy by 5.6 percentage points in a Real Clear Politics polling average.

Still, Rubio encouraged supporters who came to cheer for him at the West Miami Community Center voting location to vote.

“It took me less than 10 minutes,” he said.

Murphy also voted early Monday, in Jupiter.

“At the end of the day, I trust Secretary [Hillary] Clinton with our nuclear codes,” Murphy said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “That’s more than Marco Rubio can say about Donald Trump.” …

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In Miami, Haitian-American voters grapple with mixed feelings about Clinton

The Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles had a smart story over the weekend:

The Clintons have loomed large in Haiti for decades.

As Bill and Hillary Clinton ascended in the political world, their interest in Haiti — sparked by their 1975 honeymoon there — kept pace. They played key behind-the-scenes roles in Haiti presidential elections and publicly championed the Caribbean nation after the 2010 earthquake.

But that deep involvement in the politics of a foreign country wasn’t always welcomed by Haitians or the diaspora. And now some Haitian-American voters are threatening to turn their backs on Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential bid because they say the Clintons — and the Clinton Foundation — have not always done what’s best for Haiti.

In sought-after Florida, where the race between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump has remained tight, Clinton is finding that the Haitian-American vote is far from locked up. …

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Trump to hold rally in Miami on Wednesday

Donald Trump has a noon rally in Miami on Wednesday.

Trump will appear at Bayfront Park Amphitheater, according to his schedule. He's fundraising earlier that day.

The rest of his week in Florida is not yet set.

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Bob Graham endorses Bob Buesing in Senate race; cops line up for Dana Young

Bob Buesing, left, and former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham.

Bob Buesing

Bob Buesing, left, and former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham.

State Senate District 18 candidates Bob Buesing and Dana Young are touting more endorsements — he from former governor and senator Bob Graham, President Barack Obama and the Sierra Club, she from local and state unions representing police officers.

The latest endorsement for Buesing, a Democrat, came on Monday from Graham, who called Buesing “the right person to work across the aisle to address Florida’s challenges and get things done for the people of Senate District 18 in Tallahassee.”

“He’ll be a fresh voice in Tallahassee dedicated to protecting our environment and drinking water, strengthening our public schools, and providing innovative new ideas to grow good jobs here at home in Florida,” Graham said in a statement released through Buesing’s campaign. Buesing, a lawyer and early education advocate, also was one of 13 Florida Democratic legislative candidates, along with Rena Frazier in House District 59 and Lisa Montelione in House District 63, endorsed by Obama. …

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Murphy will donate campaign cash from Boston law firm at center of alleged payback scheme

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's campaign says the Jupiter congressman will donate nearly $22,000 in political contributions he received from a Boston law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe this weekend for allegedly engaging in a donation scheme.

The Globe, partnering with the Center for Responsive Politics, found that attorneys at the Thornton Law Firm have for several years been given "bonuses" to offset political contributions they have made, particularly to Democratic candidates -- including top party leaders and, this year, Murphy.

The newspaper reported that through what it calls a "payback system," three of the firm's partners alone received $1.4 million in "bonuses" between 2010-14, while at the same time donating nearly $1.6 million. "More than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days," according to the report.

MORE from The Boston Globe: "Law firm ‘bonuses’ tied to political donations" …

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Florida's congressional delegation about to face major overhaul

Rep. John Mica

The Associated Press

Rep. John Mica

WASHINGTON — In a career exceeding two decades, U.S. Rep. John Mica has earned considerable clout and can readily list his role in major projects across his Orlando-area district and beyond. Last week, Ivanka Trump praised his effort in leasing a vacant federal building near the White House that is now the plush Trump International Hotel.

But the 12-term Republican is in danger of being retired by a political newcomer who embodies the diversity reshaping Orlando and other areas of Florida.

"A lot of being a good political leader comes from having empathy and given my family's working-class experience as well as my experience as a working mom, I understand the challenges that come with trying to work hard to provide opportunities for your family," said Stephanie Murphy, a 38-year-old Democrat who has experience in national security and business and came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam.

"It's become very clear to me that people are hungering for a change," she said. …

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If vote is 'rigged,' where are Trump's Tampa Bay poll watchers?

If Donald Trump is convinced that the election is "rigged," then why do the Democrats have so many more poll watchers? That's certainly the case in Tampa Bay and South Florida during the early voting period.

Here's how it works. Republicans and Democrats, working for their parties or for individual candidates, sign up to be poll watchers, volunteer observers who can patrol early voting sites and keep an eye on voting who cannot wear any partisan badges and must abide by a state law prohibiting solicitation of voters within 100 feet of a polling place. The more poll watchers there are, the more people there are on alert for potential problems -- it's one more indication of a ground game.

In Pinellas, the Trump campaign has 44 poll watchers for the early voting period, and the Hillary Clinton campaign has more than twice as many, 94. The Marco Rubio Senate campaign has 91 poll watchers in Pinellas. (Campaigns and candidates have to apply for poll watcher credentials for Election Day, Nov. 8). Then there's Hillsborough, a bigger county with nearly 850,000 voters. Trump has 54 poll watchers and Clinton has 157. …

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