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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ron DeSantis has the resume but can he win?

Ron DeSantis on Fox News in 2012

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Ron DeSantis on Fox News in 2012

Two years ago, just a couple months into his rookie term, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said had no higher plan.

“Guys who come here and try to plan how they are going to, kind of, advance up the ladder — that is not really me,” the Republican from Ponte Vedra Beach told the Hill newspaper. “That is not saying that I would never do anything or that I could not do something. But when you start doing that, you start making decision based on these hypothetical things in the future.”

Now because of the planning by Sen. Marco Rubio, DeSantis has his chance.

He’ll announce his campaign for Rubio’s seat, becoming the first notable Republican to enter the race following a string would-be candidates taking a pass.

“As a candidate for Senate, I look forward to offering reforms based on limited government principles that will make our country stronger and more prosperous. I see a bright future for Florida and for America and my campaign will be about the ideas and principles that will help us achieve a more perfect union,” DeSantis said in a statement first obtained by the Associated Press.

By his own telling, he’s got quite the background. …

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Jeff Miller getting close to Senate run; Ron DeSantis to jump in Wednesday

Rep. Jeff Miller is readying a run for U.S. Senate and will give a speech tomorrow morning to the Palm Beach Republican Club.

Miller isn't expected to make an announcement but his appearance is a strong clue of his intentions. The North Florida resident isn't terribly well-known but is respected among fellow Republicans and he's had a high-profile post as chairman of the House VA committee.

UPDATE: The AP reports that Rep. Ron DeSantis, who previously signaled his interest, will announce his campaign on Wednesday. DeSantis will get the backing of conservative groups such as the Club for Growth.

“As a candidate for Senate, I look forward to offering reforms based on limited government principles that will make our country stronger and more prosperous. I see a bright future for Florida and for America and my campaign will be about the ideas and principles that will help us achieve a more perfect union,” DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach, said in a statement.

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FDLE arrests two prison guards for inmate abuse

Dwight Sims@JKnipeBrown

Two guards at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City have been charged in connection with the brutal beating of an inmate, which they allegedly tried to cover up.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested Correctional Officer Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan, 37, and Correctional Officer Donald Dwight Sims, Jr., 21, on charges of aggravated battery and failure to report. Jernigan is also charged with tampering with evidence. The investigation, the latest of several in the Florida prison system involving alleged brutality, began at the request of the Department of Corrections with investigative assistance from the department’s Office of Inspector General.

The investigation determined that Jernigan and Sims beat inmate Shurick Lewis, 41, at Columbia Correctional on Feb. 11, 2015, while he was being moved from a holding cell to a confinement cell. Prior to the battery, Jernigan and Sims ordered other inmates to clear the area and proceeded to a small area with no video surveillance. …

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PolitiFact Florida checks Rubio's claims the U.S. is not upgrading weapons systems

Sen. Marco Rubio's claims about defense spending warranted a review by the Truth-O-Meter, after the presidential hopeful said the U.S. is not upgrading its weapons systems.

"We are the only nation that is not building the aircraft, the long-range bombers, the additional aircraft carriers, the nuclear submarines that we need for our national defense," Rubio said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Summit on April 25, 2015.

He also said that "we are the only nation that is not modernizing its nuclear weapons."Full Story

Gov. Scott in D.C. on Wednesday to argue for hospital funding

Gov. Rick Scott will meet Wednesday in Washington with HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell as he attempts to get federal health care funding for low-income residents.

The meeting comes not long after Scott filed a lawsuit arguing it is illegal for the federal government to tie Low Income Pool funding with an expansion of Medicaid, which Scott once supported but now opposes.

"We hope HHS will reconsider LIP funding in Florida, and it’s critical for us to get that information immediately so the Legislature can construct a budget that best meets the needs of low income families during a special session," Scott said in a statement.

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Poll backs Rubio's emphasis on national security

Sen. Marco Rubio’s focus on national security and foreign policy — he’ll give his first speech as a candidate next Wednesday in New York — comes as Americans are increasingly concerned about turmoil overseas.

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that voters consider national security and terrorism the second highest concern behind job creation and economic growth.

“By contrast, in March, 2012, only 6% picked national security as a top government priority,” according to the Journal. “The change of focus is particularly striking among Republicans: The new poll found 27% of Republicans cited national security as the top priority, more than for any other issue. In 2012, only 8% of Republicans named it as the top issue.”

Rubio, a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, has long viewed the issue as a priority and recent events, including the rise of the Islamic state, have played to that. Rubio on the campaign trail argues he is more prepared than one of the former governors, such as Jeb Bush, who are running for president. …

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Fla GOP announces new leadership

The Republican Party of Florida, following a post-election shake-up that saw Gov. Rick Scott's choice to lead the state party defeated by state state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, announced new top staffers today:

***Brad Herold, who has been serving as deputy director under interim director David Johnson, was promoted as expected to executive director. Herold has been Marco Rubio's deputy state director, and previously managed Mikke McFadden’s U.S. Senate campaign in Minnesota against Al Franken. He also has run campaigns for the state party and former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, and worked in the administrations of former Speaker Will Weatherford and Governor Rick Scott.

***Wadi Gaitan is the new communications director. Gaitan most recently served as press secretary for the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Conference and in 2014 was communications director for Carlos Curbelo's congressional campaign. He starts May 13

***Mallory Deason, most recently public relations manager for Enterprise Florida, is the new press secretary. She previously worked in Rick Scott’s press office in various roles, including as deputy press secretary. …

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'Les habla Jeb Bush'

Jeb Bush continues to make an effort to reach Hispanic voters, with the release of a video today in which he speaks entirely in Spanish.

"Here in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become a day where we celebrate our ties with México and the great contributions of the Mexican-American community in the U.S.,” Bush says in the video. “Happy Cinco de Mayo to all.”

Bush met his wife, Columba, in Mexico.

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Alan Grayson's girlfriend to run for his House seat?

Legislators carved the Orlando area's 9th Congressional District seat now held by Alan Grayson with an eye toward electing another Hispanic, and many see Democrat state Rep. Darren Soto as a strong fit for it should Grayson step down to run for U.S. Senate. Now Politico has unnamed sources saying Grayson's girlfriend might run for it:

As Florida Rep. Alan Grayson mulls a Senate campaign to the consternation of national Democrats, his girlfriend is quietly preparing her own bid to succeed Grayson in the House, POLITICO has learned.

Grayson’s girlfriend Dena Minning, a self-described “biotechnology entrepreneur” who claims an MD and a Ph.D in biochemistry, has reached out to at least one Democratic-leaning group and clearly expressed her interest in running for the post, according to a message shown to POLITICO on the condition it not publish the contents or name the organization....

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This Republican insists Rick Scott is worst Fla's worst gov. -- ever

Rick Scott campaigning in 2010

Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott campaigning in 2010

John Romano's column today looks at Republican political scientist Darryl Paulson's recent comment that Rick Scott is the worst governor Florida has ever seen.

..."His leadership has been so inconsistent, so flaky, you can almost say there has been no leadership," Paulson said. "The bottom line is he's done a terrible job for the state."...

More here

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Former Florida Senate president to sit on Huckabee finance team

Former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos will be on Mike Huckabee’s national finance team, continuing a relationship that began in 2008 when Haridopolos co-chaired Huckabee’s Florida effort.

“Even though I’m fortunate to have a relationship with both Jeb and Marco, I felt personally it was such a strong bond (with Huckabee) that I wanted to help him,” Haridopolos said in a telephone interview Monday from Hope, Arkansas, where Huckabee will formally enter the race this morning.

“I’m optimistic that he’s going to do a lot better than people expect.”

Haridopolos helped lead Huck's 2008 effort along with Dan Webster and then House Speaker Marco Rubio, who announced his campaign last month in Miami. Haridopolos, now a lobbyist at a firm that employs Huckabee's daughter, helped raise money for Rubio’s Senate campaign.

“I really didn’t anticipate Marco running for president,” Haridopolos said. “It actually surprised me, and I made a commitment to Mike a while ago.”

Haridopolos said he will be on Huckabee’s national finance team and provide general advice. …

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Court sides with lawyers for consumers in ruling against PSC

In a rebuke to the Public Service Commission, a state appellate court ruled Monday that the utility regulator hurt utility customers when it refused to explain why it banned the public’s lawyers from asking questions in certain rate cases. 

The ruling by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ordered the PSC to explain why it refuses to allow the Office of Public Counsel to conduct discovery in pending rate cases as had previously been the tradition. 

The Office of Public Counsel is the agency whose lawyers are charged with representing the public in rate cases. They argued the PSC was inviting lawsuits from them by refusing to explain why they refused to allow the public's lawyers from asking questions and seeking discovery in rate case proceedings known as “proposed agency action" or PAA.

The cost of those lawsuits are borne by the public. In a 3-0 decision, the appellate court agreed.  Download 1st DCA on OPC

“The PSC ill serves rate payers by insisting that utilities incur the expense of litigating and re-litigating this issue in a piecemeal manner before pre-hearing officers in individual PAA rate cases,’’ wrote Chief Judge Robert T. Benton of the First DCA. …

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Bush leads in new poll but Rubio rising

A new WSJ/NBC news poll finds Jeb Bush leading among GOP primary voters but Marco Rubio is climbing.

Bush got support from 23 percent of voters. Rubio got 18 percent. Scott Walker 14 percent. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both got 11 percent.

Writes the Journal: "Nearly three quarters of GOP primary voters said they could see themselves supporting him, even if he wasn’t their first choice, a larger share than claimed by any rival. ... When Republicans were asked whether they could see themselves supporting each of the top GOP contenders, 74% said yes to Mr. Rubio—more than Mr. Bush, with 70%, and all the other declared and potential contenders. That is up from the 56% who said they could see themselves supporting Mr. Rubio in March."

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Primary challenger for GOP Reps focuses launch on early session end

Could this be an omen of things to come? People are already jumping into the 2016 state legislative election pledging never to leave session early like the House did last week.

Gary Price, a former city councilman in Naples, announced Monday that he’ll seek the GOP nomination to replace Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who faces term limits next year. The other two Republicans who have announced interest are Naples Reps. Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo.

That’s Price’s jumping off point. In a press release announcing his candidacy Monday, Price set up what could become a common campaign refrain as representatives seek reelection or higher office in 2016, facing fellow Republicans in the primary and Democrats in the general election.

“Sadly, members of the Florida House did a disservice to their constituents last week by walking away from their Constitutionally-required duties and leaving unresolved legislative issues on the table,” Price said in the release. …

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Scott reappoints FDLE, DEP chiefs, who also need Cabinet's OK

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday reappointed two state agency heads on an interim basis, subject to ratification by the Cabinet at Tuesday's meeting. Scott reappointed FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Jon Steverson, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Neither agency head was confirmed by the Senate in the regular session that adjourned on Friday.

In his statement announcing the interim reappointments, Scott noted that the newlyt-adopted Cabinet governance guidelines allow for him to name interim appointees subject to Cabinet approval at the next regular Cabinet meeting or at an emergency meeting. By coincidence, Scott and the Cabinet meet Tuesday. Ironically, the governance guidelines Scott cited were inspired by the controversy over the forced retirement of Swearingen's predecessor, who was ousted from his job at FDLE in December.

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