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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

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What is going on with Tom Lee and the CFO race?

Sen. Tom Lee has much to ponder

[Tampa Bay Times]

Sen. Tom Lee has much to ponder

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, appears to have stirred a hornet’s nest by announcing publicly that he intends to run for state chief financial officer in 2018.

It’s long been known that Lee wanted to run for the office -- he ran in 2006 -- and he’s made it no secret that he was considering it.

Still, many political insiders expected Lee would eventually decide to run for re-election to his state Senate seat instead of starting a primary fight with the current CFO, Republican Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Patronis to the vacant post in June and solidly backs Patronis to run to hold it in 2018.

But without filing officially, Lee told a local reporter this week he intends to run – and did so on the day before attending a high-profile public event with Scott and Patronis in Brandon.

Awkward.

On Friday, Lee stood with Patronis, Scott and other Republican luminaries at Brandon Honda, while Scott and Patronis touted Scott’s election-year proposal to make it harder for the Legislature to impose tax or fee increases.

Then a reporter asked Scott about the CFO race and about Lee’s announcement, and Scott made it clear where his loyalties are. …

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The guy who killed slavery monument scheduled to speak on importance of Confederate monuments

Sen. Dennis Baxley

[Tampa Bay Times]

Sen. Dennis Baxley

It's no secret that Sen. Dennis Baxley loves the losing side in the U.S. Civil War.

The descendant of a Confederate soldier, Baxley, R-Ocala, has never hesitated to promote his heritage. In 2007, he objected when lawmakers discussed changing the state song, including the removal of "darkeys" from the chorus. 

So it should be no surprise that, amid the national debate about what to do with Confederate monuments, Baxley, who helped write the state's "stand your ground" law, will be a featured speaker at a southern heritage event on Sept. 2 titled "the War on the South."

The event is the annual banquet for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Judah P. Benjamin Camp. To be held in Temple Terrace, it's already sparked protests

But while the group asserts that the removal of Confederate monuments is an affront to history, they have chosen a speaker in Baxley who has actively blocked other historical monuments. …

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Bill Nelson celebrates Steve Bannon's departure

Bill Nelson likes what he sees Steve Bannon getting the boot:

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Long before Trump hired (and fired) him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida

Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.

Times

Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.

With Steve Bannon leaving the White House soon, we're re-posting this Leary-Smith look at Bannon's significant, if mysterious, Florida ties.

SARASOTA — Steady weekend visits to the "Winter White House" in Palm Beach have solidified President Donald Trump's status as a Floridian.

But it's not just Trump who is adding a new dimension to the state's storied political history.Chief adviser Steve Bannon — the rumpled former executive of Breitbart News, revered as a brilliant strategist and reviled as a xenophobic champion of the extreme right — was shopping for a home in Sarasota last year before Trump enlisted him to fix the campaign.

Bannon, 63, surfaced in Sarasota more than a decade earlier for the most unlikeliest of reasons: nasal spray. …

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Pediatricians say Florida hurt sick kids to help big GOP donors

CNN, following up on Miami Herald reporting,  is shining a spotlght on Florida's decision to shift thousands of seriously ill Florida children from one well-regarded Medicaid program to others that don't specialize in very sick kids. "This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it's the children who suffered," said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here's the CNN report.

From the Florida Democratic Party: "Nearly two years since Rick Scott unlawfully purged thousands of children from a highly respected state Medicaid program, private insurance companies that donated millions to Governor Scott have continued to profit, but families are still reeling from the impacts of this callous policy change. Floridians want answers from Rick Scott and his self-serving administration: why did it take nearly two years to notify parents whose children were unfairly kicked off their healthcare that they could re-enroll with their former plan?"

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Former Wasserman Schultz staffer indicted on bank fraud charges

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, photographed in her Sunrise office.

Mike Stocker/Sun-Sentinel/TNS

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, photographed in her Sunrise office.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s former information technology aide and his wife have been indicted on bank fraud charges.

A grand jury late Thursday returned an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Imran Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, of Lorton, Va., on four counts: conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on a loan or credit application and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Awan, 37, previously had been charged in a criminal complaint with one count of bank fraud. The indictment expanded on the charges and also added Alvi, 33, as a defendant.

The indictment states that Awan and Alvi conspired to obtain home equity lines of credit for $165,000 and $120,000 from a credit union on two properties. They provided false information that the properties were Alvi’s principal residence and second home when they actually rented out the homes. Then, they transferred the proceeds to Pakistan. …

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Two Democrats appear to lead challenge of Dennis Ross

Ross

[ALEX LEARY | Tampa Bay Times]

Ross

Half a dozen Democrats have filed for the primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, but so far, only two have mounted substantial financial campaigns — Andrew Learned of Bloomingdale and James Gregory "Greg" Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates in Polk County.

Both are first-time candidates while Ross is a former state House member in his fourth term as congressman from the GOP-leaning 15th District in northwestern Polk and eastern Hillsborough counties.

Learned and Pilkington both say they're running in part because of Ross's support for GOP attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Learned, 30 and single, is University of Tampa graduate recently returned from overseas Navy deployments. He grew up in Valrico and runs a tutoring franchise there, Grade Power Learning.

Learned had raised $22,289 through June, including $2,000 from himself. He's hired the Pinellas County-based Blue Ticket political consulting firm plus a campaign manager, and has made digital ads he plans to distribute through social media, including on his Facebook page.

Pilkington, 54, is a business consultant, married with three grown children and a master's degree from the University of South Carolina. …

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Joe Henderson: Let Richard Corcoran sweat it out in a classroom

Corcoran

[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]

Corcoran

The latest from Joe Henderson:

You've seen and heard the stories about how air-conditioning breakdowns created sweltering conditions in many Hillsborough County public schools. It is a sweaty, stinking, ongoing mess, and there is no quick fix.

I listened as Superintendent Jeff Eakins explained all that at a news briefing on Wednesday. If it sounds like we've heard all this before, well, we have — much of it, anyway. Schools had the same issue last year. This just in: It gets hot in Florida every August.

The nutshell version is that the bulk of Hillsborough's more than 230 public schools are older buildings with cooling units that have reached the end of their usefulness. Your Florida Legislature keeps funneling public school dollars into private charter schools, so money to fix or replace failing systems is disappearing.

Fun fact: Hillsborough schools receive $145 million less from the state funds for routine maintenance than seven years ago. Thank your Legislature for that. …

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Gov. Scott says decisions on Confederate monuments should be left to the democratic 'process'

Workers place boards around a Confederate monument on Hillsborough County property in Tampa on Thursday, August 17, 2017. It took 24 hours to raise private funds in order to move the statue from its current location.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Workers place boards around a Confederate monument on Hillsborough County property in Tampa on Thursday, August 17, 2017. It took 24 hours to raise private funds in order to move the statue from its current location.

Gov. Rick Scott this morning avoided directly answering whether Confederate monuments should be taken down, saying the decision should be part of a democratic "process."

"Let everybody's views be heard. We are all part of representitive government, you have the opportunity as a citizen to go let your representative know what you believe," Scott told the Tampa Bay Times after an event in Tampa.

"We have a democracy," Scott said. "We have the ability to have conversations about things, whether it's policy or things like monuments, and that's what's going on around our country right now. Some of these decisions will need to be made locally, some will be decided at the state level, some will be decided at the federal level, but what everybody needs to do is go through the process that's set up to make policy changes and make changes if they do with regards to a monument."

Across the country this week, the debate has stirred passions on both sides. Scott had lunch with President Donald Trump on Thursday but Scott's office says the issue, or the violence in Charlottesville, never came up.

But Trump has made his views clear. …

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Trump bashing aside, Democrats struggle for united message

Chuck Schumer and the Democrats' 'Better Deal'

The Associated Press

Chuck Schumer and the Democrats' 'Better Deal'

It should be a golden opportunity for Democrats: The nonstop controversy surrounding President Donald Trump and the failure of Republicans on Capitol Hill to get much done.

But swelling energy on the streets masks deep problems confronting Democrats, who stumbled out of the 2016 election with a muddled message and crushed spirits. The party lacks a clear leader and is engaged in internal fighting reminiscent of the tea party takeover of the GOP.

"Voters have no clue what we stand for because we try to take every position under the sun," said Susan Smith, a progressive activist in Tampa Bay.

Hillary Clinton demonstrated that Democrats won't win just by demonizing Trump, but the party is struggling to find a common and compelling direction forward.

"Everybody wants to fight Trump, but Trump's not going to win us elections as much as crafting a bigger narrative," said Luis Miranda, former communications director for the Democratic National Committee. "It's a huge danger."

Clinton followed the Democratic playbook of tailoring her proposals for different groups: blacks, Hispanics, gays, young people, old people, the working class. It denied her a simple, unifying focus. …

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Andrew Gillum saw the sights in NYC with suspected undercover FBI

WCTV reports:

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is speaking out after a new photo has surfaced showing him in New York City with an alleged FBI agent.

“It looks like people hanging out. I really am deeply offended by folks ascribing other meaning to it,” said Gillum.

The photo shows a man known as “Mike Miller”- whom sources have said was an undercover FBI agent- developer Adam Corey, and Gillum. Corey was named in two Grand Jury subpoenas issued in June which requested communication between a list of local movers and shakers and the City of Tallahassee and the Community Redevelopment Agency....

More here

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Can a Democrat win Florida's gubernatorial nomination without knocking Donald Trump?

Philip Levine will announce his plans in October, and it looks likely he runs

Tampa Bay Times

Philip Levine will announce his plans in October, and it looks likely he runs

...."I may not respect the occupant of the office, but I respect the office," (Philip) Levine said. "Right now he's the pilot, and I'm on the plane like everybody else. I don't wish the pilot failure. I want a smooth and safe landing."

A lot of campaign professionals would dismiss this feel-good talk as a non-starter among rabidly partisan primary voters. They may be right. But the way the other Democratic candidates are struggling to raise money so far, nobody should underestimate the little-known mayor.

He has raised about $4 million for his political committee without hosting a single fundraising event. That includes nearly $2.6 million of his own money, and his campaign has signaled he may put in at least $10 million total.

The national leader he sees as the best model for Democrats?

"I'd have to say Michael Bloomberg, and I don't even know his party registration," Levine said of the billionaire former New York mayor, who is registered to neither major party.

Bloomberg looked at running for president in 2016 and concluded he couldn't win.

So far, Levine seems to think he can win Florida.

More here

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Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

Politico reports:

 A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

The committee responsible for the “Liberal Jack Latvala” site is funded by the political committee United Conservatives for Florida. That committee’s chairman is 20-year-old Skylar Lee Frey, who is registered to vote at a Sarasota home owned by Mac Stevenson.

More here

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Corcoran's House reshuffle rewards GOP freshmen

Florida Legislature's lobby between the House and Senate

Tampa Bay Times file photo

Florida Legislature's lobby between the House and Senate

House Speaker Richard Corcoran released his version of musical chairs on Thursday, giving 21 of the 27 freshman Republicans elected last fall vice chair positions, ousting veterans in many cases and replacing three lawmakers who have resigned since session ended -- Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, Eric Eisnaugle and Dan Raulerson. 

The big winner appears to be is Rep. Jamie Grant, who lost a bitterly fought race for House speaker designate for 2020 earlier this summer, and was awarded the chair of the Health Quality Subcommittee. As we have already reported, Rep. Paul Renner becomes the new chair of Ways and Means and the Ways and Means Chair, Rep. Jim Boyd, becomes the new chair of the Commerce Committee, replacing Jose Felix Diaz.

Republican Reps. Kathleen Peters and Cary Pigman, seem to have gotten the biggest demotions. …

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