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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio on NYT Cuba story: 'Nice try'

Sen. Marco Rubio is unhappy with another New York Times story.

A month after stories from the newspaper about the senator's driving indiscretions and financial background drew Rubio's online ire, Rubio voiced his displeasure with the Times again Monday, this time over a story about his lack of popularity in Cuba.

"NYT follows up traffic tix & 'luxury speedboat' stories with expose of Castro regime's propaganda on me. #nicetry," the Cuban-American Rubio tweeted.

The Times story, titled "Marco Rubio Is Hardly a Hero in Cuba. He Likes That," details the Cuban people's unhappiness with Rubio's staunch stance against reopening trade with Cuba. The communist-controlled island country has been the subject of an economically-damaging American trade embargo for half a century.

In the story, Rubio claims the Cuban people dislike him because they only consume state-sponsored news outlets. 

"For the record, I'm proud that the Castro regime feels threatened by us," he added on Twitter. "They fear freedom and democracy."

Read the New York Times story here


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State sends election fraud complaint to Jacksonville prosecutor

After a three-month review, Gov. Rick Scott's administration has referred an allegation of voter fraud to Jacksonville-area State Attorney Angela Corey for possible criminal prosecution. The complaint alleges that a Jacksonville man, Zakee Fur'qan, voted after his civil rights had been revoked because of a past felony conviction.

Fur'qan, according to the complaint, changed his name from Leon Edward Nelson, who was convicted of second-degree murder in Duval County in 1991 and changed his name nine years later. and the Florida Times-Union reported in April on the name change and that former Mayor Alvin Brown removed Fur'qan's name from a list of campaign supporters after learning about his past identity. Florida's voter registration form asks every applicant to swear that "I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored."

"I'm pleased that the evidence points to taking it to the next level," said the complainant, Mark Glaeser, a self-appointed civic watchdog. …

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Governor Scott touts legislation to help build new MLB spring training complex

Florida Gov. Rick Scott starts his day with a little baseball celebration.

The Republican Governor will hold a ceremonial bill signing for legislation this morning that allows a land swap between Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach to remove a final hurdle for the construction of a $135 million stadium that will be home to two major league baseball teams’ spring training teams.

The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros would co-operate the stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017.

The deal assures the Astros and Nationals will remain among the 15 spring training teams in Florida for the next 30 years. A year ago, the Astros were considered a potential threat to move to Arizona. They are the only team in either the American League West or National League West that continues spring training in Florida rather than Arizona.  …

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Donald Trump: Jeb will never be able to secure borders, negotiate deals well, care for vets

Jeb Bush denouncing Donald Trump's comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico, per the NY Times: “To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party....“He’s doing this — he’s not a stupid guy, so I don’t assume he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign,” Mr. Bush said.

Trump's response in a statement:

    I am very proud to be fighting for a strong and secure border. This is a very important issue, which all the other candidates would have ignored had I not started this important discussion. I will fix the border — no one else knows where to begin.

    Today, Jeb Bush once again proves that he is out of touch with the American people. Just like the simple question asked of Jeb on Iraq, where it took him five days and multiple answers to get it right, he doesn’t understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come “out of love.” …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

A leader in the polls


A leader in the polls

Winner of the week

Donald Trump an honorary Floridian because he spends so much time here — is now either leading the GOP field nationally or narrowly trailing Jeb Bush in second place nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire. What a country!

Loser of the week

Donald Trump Calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers will cost The Donald millions of dollars from businesses eager to distance themselves, from Macy's to Serta. (Who are these people who bought Trump mattresses?!)

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Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio hit July 4 parades in New Hampshire

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are working today, of course, each doing parades in New Hampshire.

Rubio walked with supporters in the Wolfeboro parade. Bush mingleg with crowds at the Amherst and Merrimack parades. Here are some of the images they shared on Twitter:

Enjoying a wonderful day in New Hampshire. I hope you're having a great 4th!

#July4th Parade in Amherst, NH

Not even a broken leg stopped her from coming to the #July4th Parade in Amherst, NH!


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John Romano column: Gay couples at home in The Villages

Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano with an unexpected story from the Republican stronghold in central Florida. An excerpt of the column:

The community has a soundtrack, and it is Fox News. Take a walk through one of the bustling town squares, and you can hear it descending from the speakers — or is it the heavens? — somewhere above.

This is the place Republican presidential candidates come to boost campaigns. The place conservative authors are rock stars, and Gov. Rick Scott comes to feel the love.

It is also the place where hundreds of lesbians have taken over a country club's breezeway and are dancing the night away to Pink songs.

Welcome to the Villages of diversity?

"You can tell just about anyone around here that you're gay, and you won't have a problem,'' said Villages resident Linda Bernat. "Just don't tell them you're a Democrat.''

Call it inexplicable, or call it encouraging, the folks of the Rainbow Family & Friends club call it home.

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Eyeing Senate bid, Lopez-Cantera faces decision: Stay or go?

After 18 months in Gov. Rick Scott's shadow, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera faces his first big decision -- and it might also be his last.

Should he stay as Scott's No. 2 or make a declaration of independence and go? The story is here.

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Florida Democrats plot a path to relevance

The rallying cry was familiar at Democrat Eric Lynn's congressional campaign kickoff last month in St. Petersburg. Florida Democrats don't win elections with their wallets, said Pinellas party chair Susan McGrath. "We win elections on the ground."

When Democrats have succeeded in Florida, they have relied on grassroots organizing. It was a cornerstone of the twice-successful Barack Obama election machine, and party officials see it as the best way to counter deep-pocketed Republican opponents.

But grassroots organizers need a cause to champion and a solid candidate to back. And for most of the past two decades, the Democrats have had neither, the losing campaign trail littered with unfocused messages and uninspiring candidates.

In November 2014, despite holding a voter registration advantage of 400,000 over Republicans, Democrats sank to new lows. They lost six seats in the Florida House and failed to unseat Republican incumbent Rick Scott, one of the nation's most unpopular governors.

In June, state Democrats released a task force report to try to account for the shellacking, doubling down on the importance of grassroots efforts. …

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Rubios and Christies join the Romneys for a slumber party in N.H.

Jeanette Rubio and her husband, Sen. Marco Rubio, are expected to be in Wolfeboro, N.H., over the holiday weekend.

Getty Images

Jeanette Rubio and her husband, Sen. Marco Rubio, are expected to be in Wolfeboro, N.H., over the holiday weekend.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, will join New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Christie's wife, Mary Pat, tonight at the Romney estate on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee, the Washington Post reports. 

The two couples will be overnight guests of Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at his 11-acre estate in Wolfeboro, N.H., the Post said. 

The newspaper quoted an unnamed Romney aide as saying the former GOP presidential candidate heard the Rubios and the Christies would be in Wolfeboro for the holiday weekend, so he invited them to spend the evening with him and his wife, Ann. 


IN WOLFEBORO - Jeanette + @marcorubio w/ gracious weekend host @MittRomney, and @AnnDRomney close by. #nhpolitics

The Post also said, "The Christies and Rubios will also be marching  in Wolfeboro's celebrated Fourth of July parade. One of the state's more colorful parades, Wolfeboro's includes such quirks as a lawn chair brigade. The Romneys are known to be annual presences along the parade route.''

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Gov. Scott is a very wealthy man, but he's not THAT rich ... is he?

The big surge in Gov. Rick Scott's personal wealth in the past year raises a question: Is Florida's governor the richest governor in the country? The short answer is no, not by a longshot, but he's way up there.

Scott's net worth is $147 million. He got rich running the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, left the firm in 1997 with a $10 million severance package and stock worth $300 million, became an investor and has nurtured an extensive portfolio, nearly all of which is in a blind trust. The annual statement he filed with the state this week shows his net worth grew by $14 million over the past year but is still well below the $217 million he reported when he filed to run for governor in June 2010. Scott has not yet made up the $73 million he spent in that campaign.

By comparison, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee reports a net worth of $2 billion. He's the son of the founder of the nationwide chain of truck stops known as Pilot Flying J, based in Knoxville, Tenn. Pilot's presence on America's interstates is as ubiquitous as mile markers. There are a dozen Pilot travel centers within a 100-mile radius of Tampa alone, with more on the way. …

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Bernie Sanders picking up steam against Hillary - even in Fla

These were among the 76 people who showed up for a Bernie Sanders event in Tampa late last month

Progressive Democrats of America

These were among the 76 people who showed up for a Bernie Sanders event in Tampa late last month

The biggest obstacle to Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic presidential nomination is a rumpled, white-haired grandfather who doesn't even call himself a member of the Democratic party.Sen. Bernie Sanders has no entourage or bevy of political advisers. He represents a state with half the population of Hillsborough County, and he has long been viewed by the national media as a quaint, fringie — a self-described democratic socialist, of all things! — from the People's Republic of Vermont.

But contrary to conventional wisdom about the Democratic presidential contest, people are listening to presidential candidate Sanders. A lot of people.

"This is a rigged economy and, brothers and sisters, together we are going to change that," Sanders, 73, told a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Madison, Wis., Wednesday night.

"He is galvanizing support unlike any candidate I have ever seen, and I've been doing this for a while," said Mike Fox, a St. Petersburg resident and national organizer for the political group Progressive Democrats of America, which is independently helping Sanders. …

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As death penalty debate reignites, Florida carves its own path

No prisoners have been executed, not since Jan. 15, when Johnny Kormondy - convicted of fatally shooting a Pensacola banker in 1993 and raping his wife - was given a series of three injections and breathed his last breaths.

A Supreme Court ruling last week means that unusual respite for convicted killers should end, with Florida resuming what has been an accelerated pace of executions ordered by Gov. Rick Scott.

Just don't expect the rest of the country to follow its lead.

With the exception of a few states like Florida, use of the death penalty has waned amid legal challenges in state and federal courts and shifting public opinion. Last week, two Supreme Court justices suggested the death penalty itself is not constitutional, writing that it's time for a robust debate and for the high court to act.

Other questions have fanned the debate over the death penalty itself. The Nebraska Legislature overrode their governor's veto to ban capital punishment in May, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up a case about the procedures that put Floridians on death row. …

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St. Pete's Rice decides not to run for 13th District seat

Darden Rice thought about jumping in the political fray to challenge incumbent Congressman David Jolly, but ultimately decided that her spot on City Council was where she should stay — for now.

Of course, if the state Supreme Court redraws the lines of the 13th Congressional District to include the Democrat-heavy southern neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, the 45-year-old first-term council member said Friday that she might reconsider.

“Who wouldn’t?” she said.

The  more than $400,0000 recently reported raised by Eric Lynn, the one announced Democratic candidate in the race, was impressive, Rice said. But that wasn’t the reason she decided against the race.

“When you don’t have widespread name recognition, you need to raise a lot of money. I have name recognition. That doesn’t keep me out,” Rice said. “But he does get credit for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do.”

Lynn issued a statement praising Rice’s decision.

“I respect Darden’s decision not to run. It is definitely better that the resources that would have been put towards an expensive primary fight are much better put towards taking on David Jolly next November,” he said.  …

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Jeb Bush used little-known tax strategy to build retirement

The Wall Street Journal:

In the tax returns he released Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush reported large deductions for payments to “pension and profit-sharing plans.” The payments averaged $350,000 a year for the past five years, far more than most people could contribute to an individual retirement account or 401(k) plan.

Other documents Mr. Bush has filed show that he used a little-known but perfectly legal tax strategy to establish a pension plan for two people working for his consulting firm, Jeb Bush & Associates LLC. Attorneys who work with such plans say one of them was almost certainly Mr. Bush himself and the other was likely his son, Jeb Bush Jr.

The strategy has allowed Mr. Bush to defer paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes since he established the plan in 2007 and to rapidly build up a large retirement-plan balance, the attorneys say.

“I have any number of clients in this age range, early to mid-60s, who have used these kinds of tax-shelter, defined-benefit plans,” said Charles M. Lax, an employee-benefits attorney with Maddin, Hauser, Roth & Heller, P.C. in Southfield, Mich. He reviewed Mr. Bush’s plan for The Wall Street Journal. …

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