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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Poll: 68 percent of Floridians favor clean energy goal

An environmental advocacy group touted new poll numbers Thursday that show the vast majority of Floridians favor making clean energy a priority.

A survey conducted by Hart Research and commissioned by NextGen Climate showed that 68 percent of likely Florida voters have either a favorable or a very favorable view of committing to a national goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2030. Just 5 percent of state voters held an unfavorable view.

The Florida numbers were in line with national numbers. The poll was conducted by interviewing 2002 likely voters in swing states New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada and the Sunshine State.

70 percent of total voters were favorable, compared with just 7 percent unfavorable.

This information, if reflected by the electorate, could have serious political implications.

The poll outlined a scenario in which only one of the two general election presidential candidates were to set the 2030 clean energy goal. For the purposes of the exercise, the two hypothetical candidates were Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton. …

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Jeb Bush’s ‘inclusive’ message to face tough test before African Americans

Jeb Bush casts himself as an evangelist for a Republican Party that welcomes new faces of all ages and colors. In campaign stop after campaign stop, he spreads his arms wide: “We have to campaign like this,” he says — not with an angry posture he sometimes mimics by frowning, wagging his index finger and grunting, “Grrr.”

That’s not much of a hard sell for Bush to make to Hispanics. The former Florida governor is an adopted Miamian who speaks Spanish with his Mexican-born wife.

But making the same case to African Americans, another overwhelmingly Democratic bloc, is a different story. But Bush will try anyway when he speaks Friday in Fort Lauderdale to the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil-rights group

Bush got a preview of the kind of skeptical crowd he might face at a meet-and-greet with pastors in Orlando on Monday. A black minister, David Outing, grabbed the microphone and asked Bush what he would do as president to represent, and not just pander to, the black community.

“I would do what I did as governor,” Bush responded. “My administration was as inclusive as possible.”

More here.

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Jeff Miller will not run for U.S. Senate, focus on VA instead

Rep. Jeff Miller will not run for U.S. Senate, saying he will focus on fixing the "toxic culture" at the VA.

The North Florida Republican had been strongly considering entering the race for Marco Rubio's seat and said he would announce a decision after August.

But today he warned of a presidential veto of his Accountability Act.

"It became clear to me that this Administration is not committed to reforming the VA," Miller said in a statement. "My personal commitment to the veterans of this country is greater than my desire to seek higher office.

"I have made the determination that I can best serve veterans as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the member from the First District of Florida. I have decided to forgo my candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and instead continue my efforts to reform the toxic culture within the VA.

"Vicki and I have prayed about this for weeks, and we feel that we have come to the best decision.  We appreciate the outpouring of support from our family, friends, and supporters from all across the great State of Florida and throughout the Nation.”

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Ted Cruz, Rick Perry launch attacks on Jeb Bush

Ted Cruz today attacked Jeb Bush as soft on Iran, the second day in a row that a Republican rival has taken a shot at Bush.

Appearing on a radio show the Texan said the billions of dollars Iran would get would lead to deaths and anyone who doesn't speak up bears responsibility. "One of the reasons Republicans keep getting clobbered is we have leaders like Mitt Romney and like Jeb Bush who are afraid to say that," Cruz said on the Chad Hasty show.

Bush opposes the Iran deal but hasn't employed the rhetoric of some other Republicans, including Marco Rubio, and said a new president couldn't rip up a deal on the first day of being sworn in.

Yesterday, Rick Perry leveled his own attack on Bush, nothing Florida's growth while Bush was governor was built on a housing boom. "Texas didn’t have a housing crash like the ones they faced in Florida and Nevada," Perry said in a speech. "One analyst recently estimated that more than a third of Florida’s job growth, under Jeb Bush’s administration, was due to the housing bubble."

Liek Cruz, Perry is struggling to emerge from a large pack of GOP contenders.

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Walton County goes shopping on eBay for new Confederate flag

Walton County's temporary Confederate flag until the "stars and bars" version arrives from eBay.

Photo courtesy Walton County

Walton County's temporary Confederate flag until the "stars and bars" version arrives from eBay.

It has been two days since Walton County voted to replace its Southern Cross Confederate flag with an earlier "stars and bars" version. But in the latest twist to this controversy, a different flag is fluttering outside the North Florida courthouse: a rebel flag with seven stars, not the 13-star version commissioners approved after three hours of acrimonious debate Tuesday.

As it turns out, Walton County had to go shopping for a stars and bars flag. The county found one, all right, on eBay -- for $19.95 plus tax.

A vendor was found in Los Angeles, and the flag is on order and should arrive in DeFuniak Springs in two to three weeks, Walton County spokesman Louis Svehla said.

"We waited 15 minutes on hold and they told us that because of high demand from South Carolina they were out of stock and did not know when they would be getting any in," Svehla said. …

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RNC adds three top staffers in Florida

The RNC is solidifying its presence in Florida, adding a staff director and two other top operatives to work on the 2016 elections.

Brian Barrett will serve as state director. Alex Garcia is deputy state director and director of Hispanic initiatives, and Ben Shankle is coming as data direction.

“The RNC is building the largest, earliest and most data focused field program in GOP history,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a release. “This new wave of staff will help us train our team, register voters, and meet one-on-one with activists, to build our infrastructure now in order to hand our eventual nominee a fully functional ground operation on day one.”

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingolia said: “The road to the White House goes through Florida, and our State Party is fighting for every vote across the state with a commitment to the ground game unparalleled in the history of Florida politics."

Bios from the RNC:Full Story

Donald Trump clear Republican leader in new national poll, ahead of Walker and Bush

Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican pack for president, taking 20 percent of Republican voters, comfortably ahead of Scott Walker with 13 percent and Jeb Bush with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac national poll released this morning.

But Trump, in a further sign of worry for the GOP, trails any of the three leading Democratic candidates by “wide margins,” the poll found.

Trump also tops the “no way” list as 30 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him.

Among Republicans, Marco Rubio polls at 6 percent (though still has a good fav/unfav ratio) along with Rand Paul, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, one percentage point above Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

Twelve percent of Republican voters are undecided.

“They love him and they hate him. Donald Trump triumphs on the stump so far, but do voters REALLY want him? Maybe not so much,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“The good news for Secretary Hillary Clinton is that she is over 50 percent among Democrats and has a double-digit lead over Trump.” …

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Alan Grayson fails to file FEC form

Alan Grayson failed to file a statement of candidacy for his U.S. Senate bid, the FEC website shows.

The Florida Democrat’s campaign blamed it on a “staff error.

“The proper form will be sent in today,” spokesman Kevin Franck told the Tampa Bay Times.

Federal candidates are required to file Form 2, also known as statement of candidacy, with the FEC within 15 days of receiving contributions of making expenditures in excess of $5,000. Grayson has bragged of big fundraising since launching his campaign on July 9.

It’s the second blunder from the fledgling campaign. On July 9, Grayson was seen in a video interview with Huffington Post Live from his U.S. House office, which may have violated rules because he was clearly engaged in campaign activity.

Grayson’s House communications director told the Washington Free Beacon that “The interview was done on a campaign computer, and there was no attempt to misuse government funds or resources.” But he added: “The congressman will not do any more interviews in his government office regarding his campaign for the U.S. Senate.” …

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Rubio and Bush: Clinton wrong on Cuba

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush react to Hillary Clinton's planned speech Friday calling for an end of the Cuban embargo.

Rubio: "After Secretary Clinton's failed 'reset' with Putin, now she wants to do a 'reset' with Castro. She is making another grave mistake. Unilateral concessions to the Castros will only strengthen a brutal, anti-American regime 90 miles from our shore. President Obama and Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and repressive governments, and weakens America's global standing in the 21st century. As president, I will stand with the Cuban people and only support an end to the embargo that is accompanied by real democratic reform."

Bush spokeswoman: "President Obama’s concessions to Castro have not resulted in more democracy or freedom for the Cuban people. In fact, Havana’s repression of its citizens has continued despite the Obama administration’s unilateral concessions, and in fact 75 democracy activists were arrested just last weekend. On Friday, Hillary Clinton will announce her support of President Obama’s call to lift the Cuban embargo. …

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Gov. Scott orders investigation of Planned Parenthood in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he has ordered an investigation of Planned Parenthood's 16 Florida offices "to ensure they are in full compliance with the law."

A release from Scott's office said he has asked the Agency for Health Care Administration's director, Secretary Liz Dudek, to send staff members from AHCA's licensure offices to the 16 offices in Florida that perform abortion procedures. "If a Planned Parenthood office is not following the law," Scott's release said, "we will move quickly to take legal and regulatory action against them."

Scott acted after a number of state legislators had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to launch an investigation of Planned Parenthood after videos released by anti-abortion groups accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, which is against the law and which the group has denied. An FDLE spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency has not received any formal request. …

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State game plans to address high failure rates on drivers license test

In light of the startling failure rates on the state’s new written drivers test, top aides to Governor Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet are pushing the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on what it is doing to improve the numbers.

The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month that three out of every five people are flunking the new written drivers test through the first six months of 2015. After decades of using the same test, Florida went to a new, longer test that officials say better tests a driver’s knowledge and reduces the chances of cheating. The result is that in some counties, fewer than 20 percent could pass the exam through the first two months of the year. Those numbers have improved some as the state has begun removing questions that produced high miss rates.

The issue came up on Wednesday during a meeting of cabinet aides, who typically meet a week before Scott and the full cabinet meet.

“What’s the game plan to improve these numbers,” asked Brooke McKnight, cabinet affairs director for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Obviously you have identified it as an area of improvement.”  …

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UPDATE: Hillary Clinton to call for lifting Cuban embargo Friday in FIU speech

Hillary Clinton will call for an end of the trade embargo with Cuba during a speech Friday in Miami, home to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, two of her Republican rivals in the race for president who oppose to the diplomatic thaw under way.

The Democrat, her campaign said Wednesday, “will highlight that Republican arguments against increased engagement are part of failed policies of the past and contend that the U.S. must look to the future in order to advance a core set of values and interests to engage with Cubans and address human rights abuses.”

The 11 a.m. speech at Florida International University – where Rubio had been a part-time political science professor -- will follow her appearance before the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Clinton is seizing on changing political and public mood toward Cuba. President Barack Obama, whom Clinton criticized in the 2008 race for president for saying he would meet with Fidel Castro, has cracked open relations. Earlier this month, embassies were re-established in Washington and Havana after more than half a century. …

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Scott and Cabinet to settle property lawsuit with lawyer Andrews

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will settle a lawsuit over access to property the state wants to acquire as part of a project to enhance the Governor's mansion.

The four officials plan to approve the settlement of three separate cases at a Cabinet meeting next Wednesday in a legal battle begun three years ago by Tallahassee lawyer Steve Andrews, who tried to prevent the state from acquiring the land that houses Andrews' law office to create a park adjacent to the Governor's Mansion. As the case unfolded, Andrews raised claims that Scott was using a private email account for official business. The public records issues remain unresolved and are not part of the proposed settlement.

Under the settlement, the state will be able to buy Andrews' land at 822 N. Monroe Street in Tallahassee, and Andrews will grant the state a permanent parking easement. Each side will pay its own costs and fees. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office immediately released the 13-page settlement document in response to a public records request. …

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PolitiFact Florida revisits six fact-checks related to African-American issues

It may not be the last time they face off, but Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton take their messages before a key demographic -- black voters -- when they give speeches at the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale July 31.

While black voters overwhelmingly register as Democrats, Bush has said he will campaign where Republicans often don’t, including before black audiences.

Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is a civil rights organization that works for economic empowerment in historically underserved urban communities.

All of the 2016 candidates were invited to speak, but the only other ones who will participate -- in addition to Bush and Clinton -- are Democrats U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and Republican Ben Carson, a black neurosurgeon who retired to West Palm Beach.Full Story

One Democratic committeeman's idea for Corrine Brown's district

Democratic National Committeeman Jon Ausman has a solution to one of the many outstanding questions raised by the upcoming redistricting.

When the Legislature re-draws the serpentine 5th Congressional District that currently curves to group together black communities in Duval, Alachua and Orange counties, they should make it horizontal (as the Florida Supreme Court suggested), and they should keep Leon County in one district.

"If the Legislature decides to split Leon County," Ausman said Wednesday, "there could be further litigation."

In other words, let the congressional map games begin.

The district Ausman built with the help of map guru Matthew Isbell accomplishes a number of important goals for Democrats and residents of the Tallahassee area: It keeps the county in one district, thus increasing their power as a voting bloc. And it all but guarantees a Democrat will be elected to Congress in the 5th District, likely Rep. Gwen Graham, who lives in Tallahassee.

Leon County Republican Chairman Evan Power supports the idea of keeping the state's capital county all in one district, but he wants to see it go west into the Panhandle, not east to include Jacksonville. …

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