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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A 'happy' Jeb Bush brings campaign to Central Florida

MAITLAND — Repeat after Jeb Bush: He is not angry. Not even a tiny bit.

Florida's Republican former governor is happy — joyful even. And campaigning throughout Orlando Monday the merriest of presidential candidates reminded supporters over and over again that he is nothing like some of churlish counterparts in the GOP primary.

Here's the deal: I don't have anger in my heart," he told hundreds at a community center in Maitland Monday evening. "We shouldn't be scolding people. We shouldn't be saying outrageous things that turns people off to the conservative message."

I'm not a grievance candidate," he told more than 150 fans in Longwood, warning that the race was sure to be a long one and poll numbers would rise and fall. "I'm the tortoise in the race — but I'm a joyful tortoise."

And in Longwood, after predicting his "hopeful, optimistic message" would win him strong support among Hispanic voters, he chided former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for having compared the Obama administration's nuclear agreement to the Holocaust.

"We need to tone down the rhetoric," Bush said. "The use of that kind of language is just wrong. This is not the way we're going to win elections." …

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Bush criticizes Huckabee's Holocaust reference; Rubio declines comment

Reporters on Monday asked Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio about Mike Huckabee saying President Obama’s deal with Iran is marching Israelis to “the door of the oven.”

Bush, in Orlando, said: “The use of that kind of language, it’s just wrong. This is not the way we’re going to win elections.”

Rubio, in Columbia, S.C., declined to weigh in. “You'll have to ask Gov. Huckabee what he meant by that,” he said, adding, "I don't generally comment on what other candidates say.”

Bush and Rubio both say the Iran deal is a bad one.

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Is easy accord likely at last on redistricting? Lawyers hint it is as Senate settlement appears underway

Signaling a new sense of cooperation between lawyers for the Legislature and a coalition of voters groups over redistricting, a hearing to organize the trial schedule for the congressional map lasted just over three minutes Monday as both sides hinted that an early accord is likely. 

“I think there’s a high likelihood, with the specific direction that the Legislature has from the Supreme Court, that maybe we won’t need a long remedial hearing,’’ said David King, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida. 

King and lawyers for the House and Senate agreed to trial schedule for the new congressional map that ends on Sept. 25. 

“Thanks for being so agreeable,’’ said Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, as the hearing adjourned.

Meanwhile, the ruling that invalidated the congressional map is also provoking discussions over a possible settlement in the Senate map, as the Herald/Times reported first last week.

After the brief hearing on the congressional map, the lawyers for the House, Senate and the plaintiffs – along with a private court reporter – congregated in a conference room in the LeonCounty courthouse. …

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Clock running out on Hard Rock casino table games but Galvano says it's déjà vu

A deal authorizing blackjack and other types of card games at casinos such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood and Tampa expires Friday.

The state’s top gambling regulator wrote a letter to the tribe chairman Monday asking for a meeting where tribal leaders are expected to give state officials a timeline for closing down blackjack tables.

Ken Lawson, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, pointed out that the existing compact requires the tribe to close its blackjack tables within 90 days if legislators do not renew the provision. A proposal to extend the games for one year was considered but did not pass the Florida Legislature. Story here. 

Update: Sen. Bill Galvano, who was one of the lead negotiators with the Tribe on the original gaming compact, told reporters Monday afternoon that he believes negotiations will resume with the Tribe and they were in the same situation in 2010, when the first compact was invalidated by the Florida Supreme Court. The court ruled their table games in violation of state law and the Tribe sat down and negotiated a deal with the Legislature.  …

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Rubio, Bush to compete for Koch brothers' support

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush will compete for the support of the Koch brothers next week in South California.

Politico reports that the Floridians will be joined by Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. The gathering is being hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and many top donors will be on hand. The event is Aug 1-3.

The candidates will also take questions from Politico’s Mike Allen.

Rubio attended one of the forums in January, alongside Cruz and Rand Paul, and many thought he had the strongest showing.

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Breakdowns, lax security cited in audit of state voter database

With planning for the 2016 presidential election underway, a new auditor general's report sharply criticizes Gov. Rick Scott's administration for its handling of the backbone of democracy in Florida: the electronic system that holds vital data on 12 million voters in the nation's biggest battleground state.

The audit found that internal security controls need improvement; a disaster recovery plan has not been tested since 2011; 14 state employees had "inappropriate and unnecessary access privileges" to the database; no mechanism exists to ensure that production changes are "properly authorized, tested and approved'; security training for employees hired during the past year were not done on a timely basis; and measures to protect confidential and exempt voter information need improvement. …

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What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of July 27

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of July 27.

Rubio is in South Carolina today and will file “First-in-the-South” presidential primary papers in Columbia. This evening he’ll have an event at a brewery in Greenville then attend a rally at a Crossfit center. On Tuesday morning, Rubio will hold a national security forum in Greenville. He is back in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bush begins his week in Florida, and meets with pastors in Orlando at 12:30 p.m. today. Then he heads to Longwood to tape an interview with Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo, tour a small business and hold a town hall. Later in the day Bush will hold a grassroots meeting in Maitland. Friday, Bush will address the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Hillary Clinton is also going to be there.

Previous week here.

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Dr. Dena Minning, linked to Rep. Alan Grayson, files to replace him

Dr. Dena Minning, an Orlando Democrat who the Orlando Sentinel reports has been romantically linked to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has filed to run for his House seat in 2016.

Grayson will leave the House in 2016 in hopes of being elected to the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio is vacating to run for president. Minning, a physician and biochemist, has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to replace Grayson in the 9th District.

More on Minning from the Sentinel's Scott Powers:

A Democrat, Minning, 44, has no Florida political background. She is a medical doctor and a biotechnology entrepreneur who founded and runs MedExpert Consulting Inc.

In the past two years she was listed as a federal lobbyist with her company to represent Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, which advertises the drug Rapivab as a “first-and-only one-dose intravenous treatment for influenza.”

Grayson is declining a re-election bid for his seat, for now,  to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. That has opened up what is becoming a Democratic free-for-all to replace him in Florida's 9th Congressional District, which has a solid Democratic voter base. …

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Confederate flag battle in Panhandle pits North against South

Map courtesy Almanac of Florida Politics

Almanac of Florida Politics

Map courtesy Almanac of Florida Politics

Supporters and opponents of the Confederate flag will square off again on Tuesday, this time in a Florida Panhandle community with a geographic twist as "northerners" may be more supportive of the flag than people in the South. The place is Walton County, sandwiched between Panama City and Destin in northwest Florida. Founded in 1824, it's one of the oldest counties in Florida and perhaps best known as the home of Seaside, the photogenic New Urbanism beachfront community used as the setting for the Jim Carrey film "The Truman Show."

Walton is bordered by Alabama on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and the rebel flag has fluttered on the grounds of a Civil War memorial on the lawn of the Walton County Courthouse since 1964 -- the same year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. …

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Poll shows no clear favorites for U.S. Senate

There is no clear front runner in either the Republican or Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate in 2016, a new Mason-Dixon Florida Poll shows.

According to the poll of 500 registered Republican voters, U.S. Rep. David Jolly was the choice of 16 percent. Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera was second with 10 percent of the vote. U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller were the choice of 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Todd Wilcox was sitting at 2 percent.

Maybe more telling is how many voters are undecided about the field. The poll showed 55 percent said they were undecided about who they would pick.

If former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has said he is considering the contest, gets in the race, he could scramble the field. McCollum would immediately jump to the top of the list. When asked if McCollum were running, 22 percent said they would support him. Jolly would drop to 11 percent. DeSantis would be third with 8 percent, followed  by Lopez-Cantera and Jeff Miller at 7 percent and 6 percent. Still 45 percent of Republican voters said they were undecided even with McCollum in the contest. …

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The isolation of Rick Scott

AP's Gary Fineout looks at Rick Scott's rocky relationship with, well, most everybody:in his party:

....He's not actively helping the Republican Party of Florida, his recent budget vetoes angered already fragile relations with Senate Republicans, and he's at odds with other statewide elected officials such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. There are questions about his relationship with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera after Scott didn't rely on the former legislator to help push his agenda in the Legislature this past spring.

The battle over the budget and Medicaid expansion - which resulted in a rare special session in June to reach a final deal - damaged the governor's ability to win approval of his top priorities and his campaign promises. His poll numbers, which have been lackluster, are sinking again. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week: Charlie Crist 
Jason from Friday the 13th. The Phoenix rising from the ashes. The Terminator. Whatever simile you choose, it is now clear beyond any doubt that Charlie Crist’s political prospects can never be killed for good. Now it looks likely that he will run for Congress in Pinellas County. 

Runner up: Rick Scott, who acted swiftly and decisively to protect military recruiters in Florida by moving them to armories after the attack on two facilities in Tennessee.


Loser of the week: Jeb Bush 
Congrats on the new Mason-Dixon poll showing you ahead by double digits in Florida. But your Tallahassee speech touting restrictions on lobbying was borderline laughable, as you’re aggressively courting lobbyist campaign money and at an event organized by lobbyists to a crowd loaded with lobbyists.

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Gwen Graham: 'My goal is to run for re-election in Florida's 2nd Congressional District.'

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a rising star in Florida politics, is not rushing to plot her next move in light of a Florida Supreme Court decision that could reshape her already competitive North Florida district in a more Republican way.

"I'm waiting like everybody else to see what maps are produced," the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee said in an interview outside the House chamber on Thursday.

"I'm not someone that plays the what-ifs," she told the Tampa Bay Times. "When the maps are redrawn and the courts have approved them, I will evaluate where I can best serve. My goal is to run for re-election in Florida's 2nd Congressional District. I would like to continue to have the honor of being here."

She added: "I'm a supporter of fair districting, whatever the courts determine that to be. I'm not going to in any way try to weigh in on that. That's for the Legislature and for the courts to decide."

Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, has vaulted to the top of Florida's Democratic bench and has been talked about as a 2016 U.S. Senate candidate or a 2018 candidate for governor. …

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Senate, feeling effects of congressional redistricting, faces new dilemma


Crisafulli and GardinerLike the aftershocks of an earthquake, Florida legislators are feeling the tremors of the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling on their own districts — particularly in the state Senate.

Senators who thought they had comfortable re-election bids are now facing uncertainty as questions loom about whether the same factors that led the court to invalidate the congressional map will provoke judges to reject the Senate political boundaries, too. That would force the Legislature into another special session to redraw the Senate map and potentially make politically safe districts for many incumbents more competitive.

Legislative leaders are privately discussing whether to proactively redraw the Senate map before it is thrown out by a court or — in their worst-case scenario — redrawn by the court.

“One could say that since the court has returned the congressional maps to us twice, there is reason to believe a Senate map could be returned as well,” said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, who will head the House redistricting committee when lawmakers return in special session in August. …

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Term limits? For many ex-lawmakers, it's a path to a second career

It has been more than two decades since Florida voters embedded term limits in the state Constitution when they declared "eight is enough" for most members of the Legislature. 

But while term limits broke the grip that career politicians held on the state Capitol, it created a wealth of political opportunities for them at the local level to be county commissioners or constitutional officers -- well-paying jobs that in many cases don't come with term limits.

It's a direct result of term limits, and it happens so routinely that it often escapes attention.

The full story is here.

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