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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

No contest: Fourth of Legislature elected without opposition

More candidates are running for the Florida Legislature than in past cycles, but one of every four seats was decided with no opposition. The lucky lawmakers are 12 senators (eight Republicans and four Democrats) and 30 state representatives (16Rs and 14Ds).

Their campaigns are over and they must stop fund-raising, but they can and will help other candidates while deciding what to do with their leftover campaign money.

Five legislators running for the first time in open seats won without opposition -- a rare feat. Technically senators-elect until they are sworn in in November, they are George Gainer, R-Panama City; Lauren Book, D-Plantation; and Perry Thurston, D-Lauderhill. Other senators elected unopposed are Republicans Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Tom Lee, Bill Galvano and Denise Grimsley and Democrats Audrey Gibson and Oscar Braynon.

Three House freshmen, all Republicans, got free rides. They are Reps.-elect Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages; Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto; and Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte. (Thurston and Grant are former House members). …

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Here's Hillary Clinton's newest TV spot in Florida

Hillary Clinton's campaign today begins airing a new TV ad in Florida and seven other states that features a family that benefitted from the Children's Health Insurance Program that Clinton helped enact.

"When Hillary Clinton was First Lady she was instrumental in passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and because she did, Kayla and millions of other kids have coverage," says Amanda Strine, whose daughter Kayla was diagnosed with chronic illnesses at age nine.  "That's what Hillary Clinton did, and that tells you a lot about the kind of president she'll be."

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Gov. Scott rejects Rep. McBurney for judgeship after NRA furor

When Rep. Charles McBurney of Jacksonville learned Friday that a member of Gov. Rick Scott's staff had called, he didn't need to ask why.

A time-honored tradition in the governor's office is that the governor calls the person he picks for an appointment and staff members deliver the bad news to everyone else. McBurney was a finalist for a Jacksonville judgeship. He didn't get it.

In eight years in the House, McBurney was a respected figure around the Capitol, but he made one big mistake by alienating Marion Hammer, the long-time lobbyist for the NRA, who has a mailing list of loyal supporters that would be the envy of many a Florida politician.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, McBurney, a former prosecutor, refused to hear a bill in the 2016 that he said would have shifted the burden of proof too far under the self-defense law known as "stand your ground" from citizens to state attorneys. A livid Hammer revved up the NRA membership and Scott got more than 8,000 emails demanding that McBurney not be chosen.

Scott chose Robert Dees, 53, a Jacksonville lawyer, from the field of six candidates. …

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The overhyping of underwhelming Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy


Patrick Murphy

For at least a year the conventional wisdom has echoed from Democrats and Republican alike in Washington, Tallahassee, and across Florida: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is the future of the Democratic party, a powerhouse statewide candidate and most likely Florida's next U.S. Senator.

Today, two months before Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's preferred candidate faces Alan Grayson in a primary and four and half before the general election, we're struggling to think of when Florida last saw a candidate who proved as overrated and over-hyped as Murphy.

The Times/Herald and others in recent weeks have shown the pattern with the 33-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County: He appeared to be a serial exaggerator of his accomplishments, from inflating the scope of his work on Gulf clean-up after the BP oil spill, to falsely claiming to have earned dual college degrees, to overstating his work as a CPA. This week a Miami TV station aired a two-part investigative series that portrayed Murphy as an unaccomplished, chronic embellisher. …

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Governor and Cabinet pay tribute to Orlando victims

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Friday lay yellow roses in front of photos of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. The photos are arranged in front of the Florida's Historic Capitol Building in Tallahassee.

Jeremy Wallace/Times

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Friday lay yellow roses in front of photos of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. The photos are arranged in front of the Florida's Historic Capitol Building in Tallahassee.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott and the three members of the Florida Cabinet on Friday took turns laying yellow roses next to photos of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.

Each of the 49 killed at the Pulse night club are memorialized in front of Florida's Historic Capitol in Tallahassee with state of Florida flags. Scott did not speak with reporters at the event, but later issued a statement that he has directed that the photos of the victims remain on display for 49 days.

"The memory of this horrific tragedy will never be forgotten, as well as the legacies of each of the 49 victims," Scott said in the statement.  "While we can never completely heal from the pain of such loss, we continue to be reminded of each life taken in Orlando and their individual impact on so many."

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Pam Keith qualifies for Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Florida

The first major party candidate to launch a 2016 campaign for Florida's U.S. Senate seat was among the last to get on the ballot ahead of Friday's noon deadline.

Labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith, a Democrat from Miami, dropped off her candidate oath and her $10,440 check at about 10:15 this morning at the Florida Division of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Keith first launched her U.S. Senate campaign in November 2014 and has been campaigning full-time across the state. But she's struggled to gain name recognition and campaign funds in the Democratic primary against U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and Alan Grayson, of Orlando.

The party establishment -- and its donors -- strongly backs Murphy, and Grayson has support among progressives in the party. Keith is painting herself as an alternative who, she says, can "energize voters to the polls" and offer something "new, outsider, fresh, solutions-oriented" that voters in this election cycle want. …

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Marco Rubio kicks off Senate fundraising Sunday in Coral Gables

Marco Rubio's donors have gotten back together to collect checks for the Florida Republican again, now that Rubio is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

They will launch their fundraising campaign Sunday in Coral Gables, a little more than three months after Rubio ended his bid for the presidency.

The reception is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the home of Claudia and Bernie Navarro, close friends of Rubio's who hosted donors several times during the presidential campaign.

At first, Rubio backers had hoped to turn a Friday night event for Carlos Lopez-Cantera's Senate campaign into a Rubio cocktail instead. But not all Lopez-Cantera donors -- such as Jeb Bush loyalist Jorge Arrizurieta -- are supporting Rubio. And a Rubio event would have required separate notice from a Lopez-Cantera one.

So Lopez-Cantera scrapped his reception -- and Rubio planned one of his own.

Suggested contributions are $10,800 per couple for the highest level of support. A "general attendee" is asked to give $2,700. …

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As candidate qualifying ends, some last-minute maneuvering

The week-long candidate qualifying period closed at noon Friday in Tallahassee and at elections offices around the state, with the usual last-minute jockeying for political advantage.

Democratic Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton, wearing a bright orange "Let Irv Serve" ball cap, moved from one Senate race to another in the final hour of qualifying, and will challenge Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, in an Aug. 30 primary for the District 31 Senate seat in Palm Beach County.

"Let the people decide," said Slosberg, whose residence is in Senate District 29, where another incumbent, Democratic Rep. Kevin Rader, is running. The 29th district dips into northern Broward County, while the 31st is wholy within Palm Beach, including Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth.

"It's going to be a bloodbath," said a Democratic operative who was part of the crowd hanging out at the state elections headquarters in Tallahassee. …

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Anitere Flores does have a Democratic challenger, so does Rene Garcia

Miami Dade state Senate districts

Miami Dade state Senate districts

Of course, Democrats wouldn't have just let Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores coast to re-election.

After some re-shuffling this week when Flores' previous Democratic challenger qualified in a neighboring district instead, Democrats were under the gun to find a candidate to put up against Flores in District 39. The deadline for candidates to file for this year's primary and general elections is noon today.

They found one: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest, filed her candidacy for District 39 on Thursday, but it doesn't appear - as of 9 a.m. - that her qualifying papers have been processed yet by the Florida Division of Elections. (That's not uncommon; there's usually a lag between when candidates submit their papers and when their affirmed to be "qualified" in the candidate list online.) …

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Todd Wilcox to drop from Senate race

Todd Wilcox, an ex-CIA officer and Orlando defense contractor, is dropping out of the race for U.S. Senate.

DAVID W. DOONAN, Special to the Times

Todd Wilcox, an ex-CIA officer and Orlando defense contractor, is dropping out of the race for U.S. Senate.

Todd Wilcox, an ex-CIA officer and Orlando defense contractor, is dropping out of the race for U.S. Senate.

He entered the race last year when Marco Rubio planned not to seek re-election, and campaigned against career politicians. He confirmed Friday that he'll step aside and endorse Rubio.

"There is no doubt that Republican control of the Senate is the only way to preserve the Constitutional integrity of our Supreme Court, realign our military’s force structure and ensure the basic freedoms and liberties that make ours the greatest country in the world," Wilcox said in a statement. "Senator Rubio and I don’t agree on everything. We've travelled different paths, but I respect his grasp of the challenges we face and I appreciate the reality that he, as the incumbent, is best positioned to defeat either Patrick Murphyor Alan Grayson in November."

Until this week, there was no clear favorite in the Republican primary, giving first-time candidates like Wilcox a rare opportunity. But Rubio’s decision this week to seek re-election changed the odds for a once-crowded field of Republicans. …

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Spanish-language ad blasts Marco Rubio as untrustworthy

American Bridge 21st Century will launch a Facebook ad against Marco Rubio in key Hispanic areas, casting the senator as untrustworthy and not just because he broke a promise not to seek re-election.

The Spanish-language ad will run over the weekend in Miami, Tampa and Orlando, the liberal super PAC said.

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Miami-Dade Senate candidates say challenger tried to get them out of District 40 race

Miami Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Korge is so ambitious for public office that he’s willing to go to extremes, his primary opponents say.

In the past month, Korge tried to pay a state senator to switch districts in Miami-Dade County, and he tried to persuade his other competitor to swap races with him, Korge’s two Democratic opponents in District 40 each told the Herald/Times.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, said Korge approached both him and his political consultant within the past two weeks and offered $25,000 if Bullard left the District 40 race for the open, coastal seat in District 38 — now being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis.

In a campaign statement, Korge — who on Wednesday switched from the District 39 race to the District 40 contest — said: “I unequivocally deny the accusation that I offered Dwight Bullard $25,000 cash to move to the District 38 Senate race.”

But he wouldn't say whether he offered Bullard the money in campaign support or fundraising help. …

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CBS Miami, part 2: More questions raised about Patrick Murphy's environmental company

After sending shockwaves through Florida and national political circles with its first report on Wednesday, Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami aired Thursday evening the second installment in its two-part investigation probing deeper into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's résumé inflation.

The 4-minute report on Thursday focused on the oil-skimming boats that Coastal Environmental Services -- under Murphy's direction -- owned, developed and operated, which the company promised would "leave conventional skimming vehicles in its wake."

Murphy was vice president of the company for no more than six months after the BP oil spill in 2010 and touts the experience repeatedly on the campaign trail as part of what makes him a "small business owner." (Whether Murphy actually owned the company -- a subsidiary of his dad's construction company -- is unproven, despite his campaign's assertions to the contrary.)

CBS Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede found that the skimmers Coastal owned weren't actually "tested and proven" the way the company claimed and that other marketing materials it distributed in 2010 inflated the company's experience. …

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Jeb Bush endorses Marco Rubio for Senate

It's all a Twitter-official love-fest now:

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Rubio has a new super PAC, which drops ad against Murphy

Marco Rubio has a new super PAC, which is out with a web ad hitting Patrick Miurphy over his resume issues.

Florida First Project will be led by a combination of Marco Rubio campaign and Conservative Solutions PAC veterans. Longtime Marco Rubio strategist Heath Thompson and Rubio pollster Whit Ayres will advise the Super PAC, while Dorinda Moss, who led Rubio’s presidential finance effort, will serve as finance director.  Conservative Solutions PAC veteran Warren Tompkins will direct the Florida First Project, while Conservative Solutions PAC strategist Mark Harris will advise and Jeff Sadosky, who previously served as adviser and spokesperson to Conservative Solutions PAC, will serve in a similar capacity for Florida First Project.

Responds Murphy camp: “The truth is that Patrick was an owner of Coastal Environmental Services, that his company had contracts to clean up oil, and that he’s a licensed CPA. This is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from Missing Marco’s disastrous rollout of his Senate campaign."

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