Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Scott keeping bid for U.S. Senate on hold

Gov. Rick Scott is widely considered to be prepping for a 2018 U.S. Senate run, but don't expect him to make an announcement anytime soon.

"People are tired of long campaigns," he said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "I've got session coming up. I've got a budget coming out and I'll have another session next year. I'm in no rush. I like this job a lot. You can feel like you can get something done."

Scott has his own personal history as evidence that he can wait longer than the typical political candidate who has an eye on a statewide office, said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. In 2010, Scott waited until April to get into a contested primary for governor, giving him just four months to campaign before the Republican primary against then-Attorney General Bill McCollum, who had an 11-month head start on him.

"He's not your typical candidate for statewide office," Smith said.

Most candidates would need at least a year to build up statewide name identification and raise money. Not Scott, who besides already being a statewide name, spent more than $70 million of his own money to win the governors mansion in 2010.

By holding off on a decision to run, Smith said Scott essentially freezes out any other candidates that might want to get into the race.

Scott was in Washington, D.C., for the Trump inauguration and hosted the Florida Sunshine Ball. But his more frequent visits, complete with sharp criticism of Democratic policies, have stoked speculation he'll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, who has been in the Senate since 2000.

Nelson filed his statement of candidacy for 2018 with the Federal Election Commission in June 2013.

Democratic drama

Even though the state Democratic Party voted overwhelmingly to make Miami developer Stephen Bittel their new chairman last weekend, the drama around the selection isn't quite over.

On Friday, a Miami judge refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging Bittel's eligibility to be chairman. Miami attorney Bruce Jacobs, a Bernie Sanders supporter, sued Bittel and the state party, claiming the party did not follow party rules or the law in selecting Bittel.

In order to be a state party chairman, Bittel had to be either a county party chairman or a state committeeman. The Miami-Dade Executive Committee elected him to be the state committeeman in December, but Jacobs said that meeting wasn't conducted properly and his election should be overturned. Attorneys for the Florida Democratic Party have argued that the election was legitimate and the suit should be thrown out.

The state party has already refused two attempts by Jacobs to block Bittel from the chairman's post before he won the seat Jan. 14. Jacobs said he's pressing on because the party leadership is trying to force the rank-and-file to accept Bittel rather than giving everyone a fair shot at the position.

Will Rubio back Tillerson for post?

Sen. Marco Rubio has announced support for Rick Perry as energy secretary, saying he has "the experience and leadership" the agency needs.

"I am confident he will work diligently to support our military's nuclear reactors, maintain and modernize our nuclear stockpiles, fortify our power grids, and implement a true 'all of the above' energy policy that encourages job creation and innovation and protects our environment. I look forward to working with Rick in this new role, and I'm proud to support his nomination."

Rubio's support was never in question, and he has issued a number of statements in favor of Trump's picks. But he has yet to announce his stance on Rex Tillerson, whom he aggressively questioned about Russia and other issues, drawing praise and criticism for doing so. Trump wants Tillerson as secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote Monday on Tillerson.

Putnam passes $7M

The Republican many expect to run for governor started 2017 off with a bang, financially.

At the start of January, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam collected a $250,000 donation check from Florida Power & Light — the largest single donation Putnam has received yet for his political committee, Florida Grown PC.

That donation helped Putnam top $7 million raised since he created Florida Grown in 2015. He's spent just over $2 million out of that fund, but still holds nearly $5 million in the account.

Florida Power & Light now has given a total of $587,000 to Putnam's account since the start of 2015. That makes the utility company the largest single donor to Florida Grown.

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