Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Politics

Ahead of debate, Paul Ryan stops in St. Petersburg

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan quietly arrived in St. Petersburg on Monday to continue preparations for his Thursday night debate against Vice President Joe Biden.

Ryan's campaign did not announce the stop, and Ryan has not scheduled any public events while in town.

Ryan is staying at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in downtown St. Petersburg, as is former solicitor general Ted Olson, who is playing Biden in the debate practices.

Ryan was spotted briefly Tuesday afternoon wearing shorts and a polo shirt by the Vinoy pool.

Ryan is scheduled to fly to the debate site in Danville, Ky., today.

"Joe Biden is as experienced a debater as anyone in national politics, and he has a deep resume in domestic policy and foreign affairs," said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck. "This is congressman Ryan's first time on this big stage, so we're taking preparation seriously. After the president's performance last week, we know Joe Biden will coming at us like a cannonball."

Ann Romney in Tampa today

Ann Romney will tour H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa this afternoon.

It's not a public event, though Romney will be accompanied on her visit by pool reporters.

Scott quiet on voter fraud case

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott largely avoided answering questions about the voter registration fraud case that has ensnared the Republican Party of Florida.

When asked if he's had discussions with the state party about the case, Scott dodged, saying it was right for the party to fire the vendor at the center of the problem.

When asked if the case hurts the credibility of get-tough-on-fraud Republicans, Scott again didn't answer.

Instead, he went on about the importance of getting involved in elections.

"My focus is on making sure that I tell people all the time, that in our state, I want people to go register to vote," Scott said. "They need to go talk to the candidates. When you're running for office, when you're in your community or in your state, vet the candidates, get involved, pick your candidates, support them, and then go out the vote. That's where my focus is."

Meanwhile, Scott stood by the decision of the state party to oppose three state Supreme Court justices up for merit retention.

Scott would not say how he will vote but said it was the party's right to oppose the justices.

"The Republican Party makes the decision what they want to get involved in,'' Scott said. "But it's a retention vote, it's important for all the citizens to decide if they want to keep judges or not. It makes a lot of sense."

McKeel named budget chair

Soon-to-be House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced his first major committee assignment Tuesday, naming Rep. Seth McKeel of Lakeland as chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee for the next two years.

McKeel, 37, a real estate executive, is expected to share the budget-writing duties with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, but incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has not announced any appointments yet.

Times/Herald staff writers Michael Van Sickler, Toluse Olorunnipa, Mary Ellen Klas, Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

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