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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida U.S. Senate candidate appears to still be running for president

"Rocky" Roque De La Fuente is a California businessman who moved to Orlando in March and is running for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. He's also apparently still running for president, as he had been before he filed for the race here.

Rocky 2016 campaign

"Rocky" Roque De La Fuente is a California businessman who moved to Orlando in March and is running for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. He's also apparently still running for president, as he had been before he filed for the race here.

A late entry in Florida's U.S. Senate race last month is apparently not giving up on his primary ambition: to become president of the United States.

Florida newcomer and Democrat "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente entered the state's U.S. Senate race in late June, after moving to Orlando in March from his home state of California.

But even as he filed his Senate candidacy in Florida on June 20, De La Fuente continued to loan and spend money for his presidential campaign based in San Diego, Federal Election Commission records show.

And despite landing a spot on the Aug. 30 primary ballot here, he's still working to get on other states' ballots for the November general election as an independent presidential candidate.

According to his most recent FEC report, De La Fuente gave his presidential campaign another $389,500 on June 30, making for a total of $6.4 million that De La Fuente has personally loaned that campaign. Last month, he also continued to spend tens of thousands of dollars on consultant fees, transportation and other bills, spending $362,000 in all in June. …

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CDC: There may be additional locally spread Zika infections

First, the good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it and the state have planned ahead and prepared for Zika to reach Florida's shores.

But there remains uncertainty as the first cases of Zika likely spread by mosquitoes in the United States were confirmed Friday.

"As we have anticpated, Zika is now here," CDC Director Tom Frieden said on a call with reporters and scientists. "There may well be more cases that we are not aware of right now because most people infected with Zika do not show symptoms."

The four cases confirmed by the Florida Department of Health on Friday involve three men and one woman who live in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Health officials believe the infection was spread within a one-mile radius around Wynwood, north of downtown Miami, where all four patients work. They were infected in early July.

But the CDC is not encouraging people to steer clear of Wynwood.

"We currently do not see a situation where people should cease travel into the area," Frieden said. "If, however, cases were to continue in the area, even after the mosquito control efforts were undertaken, that would be a very different situation." …

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Times editorial board recommends Murphy, Rubio

Niether endorsement was glowing but the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Friday recommended primary voters pick U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on Aug. 30.

In the Republican Primary, the editorial board said Republican Carlos Beruff's modeling himself after Donal Trump "leaves Rubio as the only viable alternative, despite his apparent lack of interest in the job."

In the recommendation, the board noted Rubio, 45, has built a conservative voting record and focused on foreign policy as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Perhaps in a second term, Rubio would be more focused on his job and rediscover Tampa Bay," the editorial board wrote.

As for Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson, the editorial board said Democrats should have stronger options for U.S. Senate. But despite saying Murphy has a thin resume, the board said Murphy deserved the Democratic nomination over Grayson.

"Murphy understands the issues, works well with Republicans and is the pragmatic choice for Democrats," the editorial board wrote.

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Beruff again accuses Marco Rubio of ducking debates in GOP primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is out with a new web-ad again accusing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of being afraid to debate him.

Rubio has yet to agree to any debates with Beruff ahead of their Aug. 30 GOP primary race.

“He won’t show up because he’s afraid to debate Carlos Beruff,” a narrator says in the 30-second web video.

Beruff has agreed to attend at least three debates, but his campaign said Rubio has yet to confirm for any. Last week, Beruff issued a similar message through a statement calling on Rubio to “man up.”

Ironically it was Beruff who was accused of ducking debates earlier in the campaign before Rubio jumped back into the contest. In June when he faced three other lesser known opponents, Beruff skipped a forum where he would have faced them. When pressed days later during an interview on a Sarasota television program about why he didn’t agree to debate them, Beruff said he’d debate when “there’s somebody worth debating. At this point, I don’t think there is any.”



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Did Hillary Clinton win over this Florida delegate? 'Hell no'

Dawn Abate of Sutart on the convention floor Thursday in Philadelphia

Alex Leary | Times

Dawn Abate of Sutart on the convention floor Thursday in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA - Dawn Abate was willing to give Hillary Clinton a chance.

"Hillary has to figure out how she can make us believe she’s going to do any of the things she says she will do," the Florida delegate said Thursday afternoon, hours before Clinton gave her speech.

Abate, 39, of Stuart, is a hardcore Bernie Sanders supporter and had a neon yellow Sanders shirt draped across her shoulders. “It’s been a very emotional week. We’re all in mourning,” she said. “The energy here has been so unfriendly." 

But she said she would hear out Clinton, who did acknowledge what Sanders had done and addressed some of his core issues, including campaign finance and income inequality. "You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong," Clinton said. "And to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I've heard you. Your cause is our cause."

Was Abate moved?

"Hell no," she said Friday by text message. "But I will not let Donald Trump be president either, so sadly, I have to bubble in her name."

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Democratic groups weigh in on U.S. Senate debate controversy

Pam Keith, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Pam Keith U.S. Senate campaign

Pam Keith, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Two other political groups are now voicing their opinions on whether Miami Democrat Pam Keith should be included in an Orlando TV station's upcoming primary debate for Florida's U.S. Senate race.

The Boynton Beach-based Democratic African American Women Caucus says, quite bluntly, that Keith shouldn't complain about being excluded, because the fact is she didn't meet the qualifying criteria to participate.

"Put the race card away. It doesn't apply here," caucus president Leslie Wimes said of Keith, in an email statement to the Herald/Times.

But the Democratic Progressive Caucus -- a subset of the Florida Democratic Party -- is echoing the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women in urging WFTV Channel 9 to change its mind and invite Keith. Florida NOW, which endorsed Keith, said it was "outraged" she wasn't invited.

Keith has accused WFTV in Orlando of "blatant racism and sexism" for excluding her from its televised primary debate next month between the two leading Democratic candidates, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy. Keith is African American and the only female candidate seeking Florida's U.S. Senate seat this year. Grayson and Murphy are white. …

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Gov. Rick Scott orders testing, spraying after first Zika cases likely spread by mosquito

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a news conference in February at the Hillsborough County Health Department after his decision to declare a state of emergency in five counties affected by the Zika virus.

Zack Wittman | Times

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a news conference in February at the Hillsborough County Health Department after his decision to declare a state of emergency in five counties affected by the Zika virus.

Four people likely contracted Zika virus from mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday. 

One woman and three men have been infected, and all four live in Miami-Dade or Broward counties. This is believed to be the first time the virus has been spread by mosquitoes within the continental United States.

Under an emergency declaration, Scott already gave the state authority to spend $26.2 million to combat Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than normal.

“If it becomes clear that more resources are needed, we will not hesitate to allocate them,” he said in a statement Friday.

Additionally, Scott and other state leaders announced plans to double down on efforts in South Florida to fight the virus. Among them, the Florida Department of Health will give $620,000 to OneBlood so the blood bank can start testing donations for Zika. …

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Voter registration snapshot: One week in one important county

It's one snapshot in time: three days in July in Pinellas County. But county figures on the uptick in voter registration suggest how aggressively third-party groups, most aligned with Republicans and Democrats, are signing up new voters in advance of the presidential election. For the first three days of this week, here's the tally on which groups submitted how many voter forms:

Community Voters Project: 397

Florida Democratic Party: 92

Republican Party of Florida: 13

Libertarian Party of Pinellas: 7

League of Women Voters: 5

NAACP St. Petersburg branch: 3

That's 517 voters in less than 72 hours in one county. The Community Voters Project, a nationwide group, is targeting six states, including Florida, in an effort to sign up as many African-American and Latino voters as possible in the 2016 election cycle.

"We're seeing some big numbers," Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said.

Why is Pinellas important? Here are three reasons:

* Big media: Pinellas and Hillsborough together comprise the state's largest TV market, No. 13 nationally, making its voters a major national target of political advertising. …

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PolitiFact: What did happen with Trump's Florida condo projects?

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine questioned Donald Trump's business ethics, saying the Republican presidential candidate swindled customers in a past real estate deal in the Sunshine State.

"Retirees and families in Florida - they believed Donald Trump when he said he'd build them some condos. Thousands of them," Kaine said on the third night of the Democratic National Convention. "They paid their deposits, but the condos, they were never built. He just pocketed their money and walked away. They lost tens of thousands of dollars, all because they believed Donald Trump."

A Kaine spokesman told us the senator was referring to not one, but two failed condo projects: One in Tampa and one in Fort Lauderdale. Trump's campaign did not respond.

We wanted to know if people lost tens of thousands of dollars in deposits while Trump took the money without consequence. Since there are two projects, we'll take them one at a time.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

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Women's group 'outraged' by Pam Keith's exclusion from U.S. Senate debate

The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women says it's "outraged" that an Orlando TV station is excluding Democrat Pam Keith from its U.S. Senate primary debate next month.

Keith -- an African American from Miami and the only female candidate in the Senate contest -- wasn't invited to WFTV Channel 9's "one-on-one" debate between U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy because she hasn't polled high enough to meet the threshold to participate.

Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in the two polls she has been included in; the station said candidates needed to have at least 15 percent support in order to be eligible.

"This discriminating action by the station and other candidates demonstrates the ongoing fight both women and minorities face in our society," Florida NOW said in a statement. "To summarily dismiss Ms. Keith’s candidacy as inconsequential is an insult to all voters, especially women and people of color."

The group endorsed Keith's campaign several months ago.

Earlier this week, Keith also blasted WFTV and her opponents for the decision to exclude her. She decried their decision as "blatant racism and sexism."

The station hasn't responded. …

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Conservative super PAC goes after Patrick Murphy in new ad

A dark-money conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has launched an ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for a vote supporting the Export-Import Bank.

The ad from American Future Fund began airing this week on certain Florida markets. It urges viewers to call Murphy and tell him to support HR 5715 to "stop supporting corporate welfare" and "stop supporting state sponsors of terror."

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "just another misleading attack by Republicans to distract from Marco Rubio's record of skipping work and missing many important closed intelligence briefings."

The Washington Post reported the ad buy is worth $1.5 million and is targeting "networks that attract a disproportionate share of Democratic viewers, including MSNBC, while eschewing GOP-heavy networks, such as Fox News Channel."

"Also arousing suspicions are the markets in which the ad is airing — Democratic strongholds like West Palm Beach and Gainesville are seeing the ad, while GOP-heavy areas like Fort Myers and Pensacola are not," The Post reported.

Watch the ad below.

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Sarcasm from Trump? 'That's bull,' Alex Sink says

PHILADELPHIA - Donald Trump says he was being "sarcastic" when he asked Russian hackers to get Hillary Clinton's State Department emails.

"Well, that’s bulls---. You’re running for president of the darn United States of America and you can’t be sarcastic," said a fired up Alex Sink, standing on the Democratic convention floor this afternoon.

We were down there to ask how Clinton will get past her image problem.

“I know from personal experience what millions of dollars in negative advertising can do to somebody who is a good person like she is," Sink said. "This week has been a good opportunity to start laying the story for 'Hey wait a minute, she’s a fantastic person, a wonderful leader, well prepared and she’s going to think about ordinary Americans.' She really does care.”

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Ted Deutch: My daughters will proudly vote for Hillary Clinton

Ted Deutch in Philadelphia

Alex Leary | Times

Ted Deutch in Philadelphia

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch addressed the Democratic convention on Thursday. Below is his speech, as prepared for delivery.

In 2008, before I came to Congress, my wife, Jill, and I got to meet Hillary Clinton.

More importantly, our two daughters, Gabby and Serena, got to meet her.

They were 12 years old. They showed Hillary these cute dolls of theirs – dolls that wore shirts that read: "One day, a girl will be President."

That wasn't just a dream of my daughters, it was a dream of my mother.

She passed away in December.

In one of our last conversations, she talked about how excited she was to live to see a woman president.

And, at 91, she knew what her granddaughters knew at 12: Electing Hillary Clinton isn't about making history. It's about creating the future.

It's not about electing a woman. It's about electing THIS woman – who will create opportunity for all of us.

That opportunity is what my dad fought for when he served in World War II and earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge.

It's what I'm fighting for when I serve the great people of South Florida, including so many members of the Greatest Generation. …

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Charlie Crist hits 'the bank' in Philly

"This is a good place to be — for a lot of reasons. We must have set up five fundraisers today. This is the bank."

— Charlie Crist, U.S. House candidate from St. Petersburg, as quoted by the New York Times.

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Assessing the would-be Democratic governor candidates

PHILADELPHIA — Florida Democrats gathered in Pennsylvania this week may have been focused on electing Hillary Clinton in 2016, but they also witnessed unmistakable jockeying for Florida governor in 2018.

We are in the invisible primary phase of that open governor's race, where the prospects quietly laying the groundwork and generate buzz among the partisan activists and fundraisers who pay attention long before more sensible people do. As hundreds of Florida delegates to the Democratic convention gathered for daily breakfasts this week in a downtown Marriott, three of the four leading prospects for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine debuted stump speeches (or at least showed off their speaking skills). The fourth, state Sen Jeremy Ring of Broward County, did not attend, but the early Yahoo executive already is actively courting prospective donors nationally from the high tech world. …

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