Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Trump's comments spark panic, outrage with Florida Republicans

If the pressure on Republicans over supporting Donald Trump was already painful, it became agonizing this weekend following revelations of his lewd comments in 2005 about groping and seducing women.

On Saturday, Florida's statewide and local GOP candidates and party leaders used words like "disgust," "shock" and "outrage," often speaking through spokesmen, emails or tweets. Still, few said they were withdrawing support.

Democrats argued that this time, it wasn't enough for Republicans to reject Trump's comments without rejecting Trump. They pounced and made it clear they intend to keep up pressure until Election Day.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen urged Trump on Saturday to withdraw as her party's presidential nominee, joining a growing number of GOP members of Congress asking for his resignation.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, retracted his support for Trump on Saturday, saying he won't vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stood fast in backing Trump, even while condemning Trump's comments on Twitter as "vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify."

That led the state Democratic Party to accuse Rubio of "unconscionable cowardice."

"If Sen. Rubio cannot withdraw his endorsement after this latest sickening news, then he should withdraw from the race," said his opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

A bright spot for Florida Republicans, if there was one, was media coverage of Hurricane Matthew. The storm led local newscasts Friday night and pushed the Trump story to the bottom of front pages Saturday — and gave some Republicans a convenient escape hatch.

Gov. Rick Scott, head of a super PAC that backs Trump, called the 11-year-old comments "pretty disgusting" and "absolutely wrong."

But when asked whether he still supports Trump, Scott demurred, saying he was focused on the hurricane.

Another possible bright spot is that many Trump backers simply don't care.

"The people I've been talking to today, it hasn't bothered them because of how long ago it was," said state Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, campaigning Saturday as she faces a re-election challenge from Democrat Jennifer Webb. "Most of the people I talked to were males, though."

Trump's most prominent Florida supporter besides Scott has been Attorney General Pam Bondi. But Bondi, who has built her career on opposing sex trafficking and sexual violence, didn't respond to repeated calls and text messages on Saturday.

Republicans who face tough challenges from Democrats were the ones most likely to react.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly, an underdog in his re-election battle against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, has said for months he doesn't support Trump without ever saying he'd actually oppose him.

"A man who brags about sexual assault isn't qualified to be president of the United States," Jolly said through a spokeswoman Saturday. He later told the Times/Herald, "I'm not voting for him."

Further down the ballot, state Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents because of his swing district.

Two weeks ago, Harrison told a candidates forum he couldn't imagine not supporting the nominee of his party.

But on Saturday, he said, he's "starting to wonder if this is really the standard-bearer we want. I'm a loyal Republican, but that only goes so far. The jury's out."

Republicans in safer districts were less likely to back away from Trump.

State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, on Saturday said the story "hasn't changed my enthusiasm about trying to get him elected."

"There's not a person on Earth who hasn't said something in private that they would regret if it was made public," Raulerson said.

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau staff writers Steve Bousquet, Jeremy Wallace, Times Washington Bureau chief Alex Leary, and Times political editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report. Contact William March at [email protected]

     
 
Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18