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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Video: Tim Kaine speaks with Tampa Bay Times

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Monday called birtherism a "bigoted lie" and that Donald Trump still has to be made to answer for his embrace of it for several years. Following his rally in Lakeland, he spoke about the Clinton-Kaine ticket and young voters, his connections to Florida, and offshore drilling.

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Jill Stein barnstorming Florida this week

Jill Stein

Still Stein campaign

Jill Stein

Green Party nominee Jill Stein hasn't made much of a showing in most Florida presidential polls, but she will make a big Sunshine State swing this week, hitting Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando and Miami Wednesday through Friday. You can RSVP here.

The schedule:

Tampa on Wednesday

September 28, 2016 at 6:30pm – 9pm
The Cuban Club 
2010 N Avenida Republica De Cuba 
Ybor City, FL 33605

Sarasota on Thursday

September 29, 2016 Noon – 2:00 pm
Robert L Taylor Community Center 
1845 34th St
Sarasota, FL 34234

Orlando on Thursday

September 29, 2016 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Flamboyan Banquet Hall at Acacia's El Centro Borinqueno
1865 N Econlockhatchee Trail 
Orlando, FL 32817

Miami on Friday

September 30, 2016 at 6pm – 10pm
Miami Dade College 
300 NE 2nd Ave 
Wolfson Campus, Chapman Hall 
Miami, FL 33132

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Citing 'clear' choice, Human Rights Campaign endorses Patrick Murphy

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter

Richard Graulich / AP/The Palm Beach Post

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter

The Human Rights Campaign announced its support this afternoon for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

"The choice for LGBTQ Floridians could not be more clear in November," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Patrick Murphy has a record of leadership on equality while Marco Rubio has dedicated his career to opposing LGBTQ equality."

Griffin added: "Patrick Murphy believes that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination, including LGBTQ people. That’s why Patrick Murphy supports the Equality Act, and why we’re proud to support his campaign."

Murphy said he was proud of the endorsement.

"Our state deserves a senator who represents the voice of the LGBT community and all Floridians in the U.S. Senate," Murphy said in a statement provided by the HRC.

Nabbing HRC's endorsement means Murphy can expect campaign and fundraising help from the group's political action committee during the remaining weeks before Election Day.

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Chamber poll: Clinton, Rubio, medical pot leading

Floridians narrowly favor Hillary Clinton for president and Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, according to a new poll released Monday by the Florida Chamber.

A constitutional amendment to expand medical marijuana in the state is favord by 73 percent of voters, according to the poll, conducted via 617 live phone interviews statewide.

Clinton is up 43-41 against Donald Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson has 8 percent support.

Rubio leads Patrick Murphy 46-42 in the Senate race, right on the 4-percent margin of error.

The Chamber notes Trump is struggling in South Florida and among Hispanic voters and women but commands a lead among white voters in the state, largely mirroring trends nationwide.

On medical pot, the high numbers are significant, as it will take 60 percent support from voters to pass the amendment, and the earliest television ads are just beginning in opposition to the initiative.

Three other constitutional amendments are also polling above 60 percent. A solar power amendment backed by utility companies and the Chamber that would enshrine existing regulations in the state constitution has 66 percent support.  Two tax exemption amendments are polling well above 80 percent.

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Would Rubio raise retirement age for Social Security?

A liberal advocacy group is out to make Social Security an issue in Florida’s heated U.S. Senate race.

Americans United for Change is vowing to pressure U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio into signing a pledge to “renounce his support for raising the retirement age” for Social Security.

Rubio makes clear on his website that he is not in favor of changing the retirement age for current Social Security recipients or those “near retirement.” But he states that he favors “Gradually increasing the retirement age to keep up with changes in life expectancy.”

In a piece published by the National Review last year, Rubio called for changing Social Security's retirement age only for people under 55 years of age.

“If Senator Rubio refuses to sign this pledge against benefits cuts and privatization, he will be hounded to explain why wherever he goes,” said Alison Morano, state director for Americans United for Change’s new Social Security campaign called “Hands off my Social Security!”.

Rubio’s campaign fired back saying the group is distorting Rubio’s positions on Social Security in a bid to help Democrat Patrick Murphy. …

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Billboard in Miami links Trump and Rubio

A depiction of the billboard going up near Sen. Marco Rubio's office in Miami

Florid's Voice

A depiction of the billboard going up near Sen. Marco Rubio's office in Miami

Democratic-aligned groups today unveiled a billboard in Miami that calls attention to Marco Rubio’s support for Donald Trump

“The digital billboard ad, located directly next to the Palmetto Expressway exit for Rubio’s Miami Senate office, will run for four weeks, warning drivers about not only the danger of a Donald Trump presidency but the danger of the Florida Republican senator’s outspoken endorsement of Trump,” according to a release from Florida’s Voice, which joined with For Florida’s Future, a super PAC tied to Tom Steyer.

“Recent polling in the state indicates that a majority of Latino voters are unaware (47%) that much of Rubio's immigration position mirrors the GOP nominee and platform and that 58% would be deterred from giving him a second Senate term if they knew that he supported Donald Trump.”

The Spanish-language billboard includes a quote from Trump and Rubio.

“I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country,” Trump is quoted as saying.

“We have to make sure that Donald wins this election,” says Rubio. …

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Tampa, Hillsborough firefighters unions endorse Dana Young in state Senate District 18

Dana Young

Times files

Dana Young

State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, on Monday touted endorsements from the Tampa and Hillsborough chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters in her campaign for state Senate District 18.

"A proven leader" who would "make our communities safer" and who "has held several leadership positions after demonstrating her ability of bringing people together in a collegial fashion," according to a joint statement from Hillsborough County Firefighters Local 2294 president Derrik Ryan and vice president Ken Forward.

“First responders, like our firefighters, put their lives on the line every day to ensure the safety of our community,” Young, the House Majority Leader since 2014, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "If elected, I pledge to continue to represent their best interests and fight for their protection, just as they have done for us.” …

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Patrick Murphy makes weekend campaign stops in South Florida, Treasure Coast

In an unannounced campaign stop Saturday, Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign said the Democrat toured Treasure Coast waterways affected by algae blooms.

Patrick Murphy U.S. Senate campaign

In an unannounced campaign stop Saturday, Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign said the Democrat toured Treasure Coast waterways affected by algae blooms.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy spent part of this past weekend stumping around South Florida and the Treasure Coast, familiar territory for the Miami native and Jupiter congressman.

Friday and Saturday nights, he spoke to Democratic clubs in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. And earlier Saturday, Murphy also toured waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties -- in his congressional district -- that are affected by algae blooms.

Murphy's algae tour in Stuart and Fort Pierce was not an announced campaign stop. In a press release afterward, his campaign provided images of the photo-op and said Murphy met with St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky at the two locations.

Murphy's campaign used the weekend's events to tout Murphy's focus on environmental protection and his dedication to serving in public office -- attempts to strike a contrast with Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy has plans to be in Sarasota and Tampa next weekend.

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Active military get first shot at Trump vs. Clinton

The wait to vote in the presidential election is already over for thousands of Tampa Bay area residents.

While most Floridians still have weeks until they can weigh in on Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, thousands of voters who call the Bay Area home but are on military bases or overseas are already getting their ballots. That is because late last week, local elections officials were required to ship ballots to military and overseas personnel to assure it reaches them and can be returned in time to be counted.Combined, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties say they’ve already shipped out almost 10,000 ballots.
 
How many were shipped out statewide will be tallied later this week. In 2012, more than 65,000 ballots went out to military and overseas voters.

Some of those ballots will come back really fast, said Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett. Unlike traditional vote-by-mail ballots, voters overseas and in the military can fax their ballots in on a secure line to local supervisors of elections. Bennett said he’s certain some of the more than 1,000 ballots his office sent out will start arriving to be counted by mid-week. …

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New Republican ad mocks semantics of Patrick Murphy's résumé

The National Republican Senatorial Committee continues to use TV ads to highlight Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's disputed work as a CPA and a small business owner.

NRSC / Youtube

The National Republican Senatorial Committee continues to use TV ads to highlight Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's disputed work as a CPA and a small business owner.

In a new ad that debuted over the weekend, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has found a different way to poke fun at Patrick Murphy's disputed credentials of working as a CPA and a small business owner.

Both the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's campaign and his Republican critics have tried to paint Murphy's résumé as a clear-cut issue -- but the nuances of Murphy's job experience require particular language to describe them accurately.

More from PolitiFact: "A guide to the attacks on Patrick Murphy’s résumé"

The NRSC plays off that necessary specificity in its new ad, "Audition," which is airing in Tampa and Orlando. (The NRSC supports Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.)

The 30-second spot shows an actor reading lines to play the part of Murphy, but he's repeatedly interrupted because he's not saying the lines in a way that accurately conveys Murphy's credentials.

 …

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Democrats want FDLE to probe Trump-Bondi connection

A group of Florida Democrats in Washington want the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Donald Trump’s $25,000 contribution to Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Given the suspicious circumstances surrounding the timing of Trump’s donation – which was simultaneous with the office’s decision not to take action against Trump and Trump University – a thorough and proper inquiry of the events surrounding Attorney General Bondi’s treatment of this investigation is clearly warranted,” reads the letter addressed to Commissioner Rick Swearingen.

It was signed by U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

Bondi said she was not influenced by Trump’s donation to her political committee and that the issues surrounding his real estate seminars never reached her desk.

But Democrats — including Hillary Clinton’s campaign — have tried to capitalize on news media coverage, which took off recently after it was discovered Trump used his foundation to make the donation and paid an IRS fine as a result. …

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What Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio are up to the week of Sept. 26

What Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio are up to the week of Sept. 26:

Murphy has House duties in Washington. This weekend he'll be in Sarasota and Tampa.

Rubio is raising money in Nashville today then will be in Washington Tuesday through Thursday. Campaign events later in the week have not yet been determined, an aide said.

The thing to watch this week in Washington is the budget deal, which contains $1.1 billion in to fight Zika. After this week, Murphy and Rubio should hit the campaign trail full time.

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Susannah Randolph revving up group to beat Donald Trump in Florida

Herpac.org  is selling these bumper stickers

Floridians Against Trump

Herpac.org is selling these bumper stickers

Democratic activist and former Orlando-area congressional candidate Susannah Randolph has launched Floridians Against 
Trump, a grassroot group aiming to help beat Donald Trump in Florida. The group intends to use social media and grassroots events to educate and mobilize voters.

“As a swing state, Florida is poised to be play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the presidential election. Our state also has the dubious distinction of being one that has suffered the ill effects of Donald Trump’s predatory capitalism,” said Randolph. “While Donald Trump’s wallet got fat, hard-working Floridians have been the ones stuck footing 
the bill.”

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Tampa Senate candidate Bob Buesing releases first TV ad

Bob Buesing, a Tampa lawyer and Democrat running for one of the most competitive state Senate districts in Florida, today released his first TV ad.

The ad highlights three of Buesing's, "bonus kids," the word he uses to describe the six at-risk youth he and his wife have taken in over the years.

"Every kid in Florida deserves a fair shot," Buesing says in the ad. "We can't let special interests undermine our values."

Buesing faces House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Joe Redner, who is not affiliated with a party, for the open Senate seat in District 18. Young released her first ads in mid-August.

The Buesing ad features three "bonus kids": Laura Lee, who now works full-time as a waitress and volunteers for the campaign; Bianqa, who graduated from technical college and works as a hospital lab technician; and Alberto, today a certified nurse assistant and community college student.

The ad is the beginning of an expected six-figure ad buy, according to the campaign. See the full version below:

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Carlos Lopez-Cantera. For most of the summer, the lieutenant governor and Miami Republican was hardly visible, almost in political exile. But since September began, Gov. Rick Scott suddenly has Lopez-Cantera back in the public eye, hitting the road, touring businesses, visiting schools and attending meetings.

Loser of the week
Rick Kriseman. St. Petersburg's mayor had to explain how millions of gallons of partially treated sewage ended up in the wrong place, despite warnings. Awash in state and federal inquiries into the spills, Kriseman placed two top officials on leave. Late Friday, Kriseman then admitted that 58 million gallons of spilled sewage wasn't as clean as he claimed

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