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Abortion bills proof GOP wants to “turn the clock back” on women, Dems say

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

A pair of abortion bills approved by the Republican-led Legislature and expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott are more evidence the party wants to “turn the clock back,” on women’s rights, three Democratic leaders said Tuesday.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was joined by Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana and Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief now running for Orange County mayor, in condemning the legislation (HB 59 and HB 1047).

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Wasserman Schultz called the measures “extremist” and examples of “tea party-infused legislation.”

Berman said the legislation was unnecessary. “Women make decisions to terminate pregnancies for a variety of reasons, and never are these decisions done lightly,” she said.

The Democrats, though, said they held little hope that Scott would veto the legislation, which passed the Legislature on mostly party-line votes.

One bill (HB 59) would allow separate criminal charges for the death of a fetus no matter what its stage of development was when a crime was committed against its mother. The other measure (CS/HB 1047) could effectively reduce the time period that a woman could legally have a late-term abortion by several weeks.

Rep. Lori Berman

Republican lawmakers during debate this spring called the bills “common sense” measures.

The legislation setting tougher penalties for harming a fetus was dubbed the “Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” and stems from a Tampa case where a young woman six weeks pregnant, Remi Lee, was given pills by a former boyfriend, causing her to abort.

The bill would expand a law that already allows a separate manslaughter charge for a fetus that could survive outside the womb.

It also would toughen penalties for anyone convicted of a crime resulting in the death of a fetus, allowing murder charges to be leveled in cases where a fetus was considered viable, and lesser criminal charges in other cases.

The other bill would require a doctor to examine a woman wanting an abortion and refuse to perform the procedure if fetal viability was determined. Supporters of the bill have said that could prevent abortions around the 20th week of pregnancy, whereas Florida law currently bars most abortions following the 24th week.

Florida Dems fired up about dumping Scott in 2014; less talk about helping Nelson this year

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson faces a tough fight this fall that could determine which party controls the Senate, but the governor’s race two years from now inspired more passion at this week’s Florida delegation breakfasts at the Democratic National Convention.

Calls for President Obama‘s reelection were a surefire applause line for the many speakers who appeared before the hundreds of delegates and activists each morning. Calls for unseating Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 got nearly equal responses.

“Our task is not easy. And it’s not just this election. We need to help win for the president in Florida today, in November, we need to do that. We need to pick up legislative seats. But we need to keep that enthusiasm and organization going to defeat Rick Scott in 2014,” Democratic pollster David Beattie said at Wednesday’s breakfast.


More damage control: Siegel spurns resignation call, will take indefinite leave for anti-Christian rant

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel has rejected a call from Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith to resign over Siegel’s statement that fundamentalist Christians want to see Jews “slaughtered.”

Siegel instead will take an “indefinite leave of absence,” Smith said after huddling with Siegel and Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon and state Rep. Lori Berman for about an hour this morning at the Florida delegation hotel.

“Today I asked for Mark Alan Siegel’s resignation. He has declined. He is embarrassed and humiliated by his inappropriate comments and has requested an indefinite leave of absence, which I have granted. Effective immediately he has been removed from his responsibilities,” Smith said in a statement. “We condemn in the strongest possible manner his comments which are not reflective of the Democratic Party.”


Damage control: Palm Beach County Dem chair apologizes for anti-Christian rant

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel issued an apology this morning for his remarks last night that fundamentalist Christians want to see Jews “slaughtered.”

Here’s Siegel’s statement:

“I apologize to all Democrats and Floridians for my ill chosen words last night. After watching the interview I realize that what I said did not accurately make the point I was trying to establish. More importantly I apologize to all Christians, Jews and other people of faith for any embarrassment or anger my remarks may have caused. Throughout my life I have practiced religious tolerance among all people of faith. I am sincerely sorry for any remarks I made that may have diminished that record. I alone am responsible for my remarks and I pray that they are not taken as the position of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.”

Murphy, Frankel use different Democratic convention strategies

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democratic congressional hopeful Patrick Murphy has been making the rounds at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday and today while Palm Beach County’s other big-name Democratic candidate, Lois Frankel, is staying home.

Murphy and Frankel are two of the biggest Democratic non-incumbent fundraisers in America, with each raking in more than $2 million.

Murphy, a first-time candidate who’s challenging nationally known Republican Rep. Allen West, says he’s run into “a lot of people who don’t like Allen West. Of course, we’re in friendly territory.”

Frankel, a former West Palm Beach mayor and state legislator who also ran for Congress 20 years ago, is “spending the week in South Florida, talking to voters and hearing their concerns,” spokesman Joshua Karp said. Frankel faces Republican Adam Hasner for an open Palm Beach-Broward seat.

No ‘primary purgatory’ for Florida at Democratic convention

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Breakfast meetings of Florida’s Democratic and Republican convention delegations have many similarities — attractively arranged plates of food, amped-up partisan audiences, extensive bad-mouthing the other party’s nominee and a parade of speakers reminding delegates, just in case they forgot, how crucial Florida is in the presidential race.

One big difference: Florida Republican delegates heard regular jokes from visiting speakers about their lodging at the Innisbrook golf resort, 30 miles from the convention site in what Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called “primary purgatory.” The GOP punished Florida with a distant site because the state broke party rules by scheduling its primary Jan. 31 rather than waiting until March.

Florida’s Democratic delegation, on the other hand, is housed in the Marriott City Center hotel downtown, a few blocks away from the convention site. Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith said the Sunshine State delegation got the site after he drew a low lottery number when states chose hotels.

Tampa mayor compares GOP, Dem conventions; rules out 2014 run for governor

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who as leader of the host city for last week’s Republican National Convention was the only Democrat to speak during the gathering, kept things nonpartisan while thousands of Republicans boosted his local economy.

Here, however, Buckhorn is a Democratic National Convention delegate and free to speak his partisan mind.

“As the only Democrat that spoke at the Republican convention, I was looking for the trap door when I got up there on stage. Because I figured if I said anything that sounded anything like ‘hope’ or ‘change’ I was going down. God forbid if I had said “President Obama” — they would have ejected me out of that place,” Buckhorn joked to a Florida delegation breakfast.

“Those were our fellow Americans over there in Tampa last week and they just happened to have a different opinion on things….What I didn’t see (in Tampa) is what I saw last night in the hall. What I didn’t see was an arena that looked like America,” Buckhorn said of the more racially diverse Democratic crowd.

Buckhorn, elected in 2011, is touted as a future star in the Florida Democratic Party. But he said he plans to serve his full four-year term and not run for governor in 2014.

Nelson stops by Democratic convention, heads to Panhandle

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

Sen. Bill Nelson gives a radio interview shortly before the beginning of the Democratic National Convention.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Bill Nelson — the only Democrat now in statewide office in Florida — made a brief appearance on the floor of the Democratic National Convention this afternoon, granting a few interviews and greeting delegates before heading out of town.

“My campaign’s down there,” Nelson said when asked why he’s not sticking around for the entire three-day convention.

“I’m running my own race and that’s why I’m going back to Florida tonight. I’ll be in the Panhandle of Florida tomorrow morning early,” Nelson told a TV interviewer.

Nelson faces a tough reelection challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack, with outside groups pouring millions into the state to try to unseat Nelson.

Cory Booker wows Florida Democrats, jabs Eastwood and birthers

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some prominent Democrats have stumbled and equivocated this week when asked the classic Ronald Reagan question about whether the country is better off now than it was four years ago.

But Newark Mayor Cory Booker, seen as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars, offered a rousing defense of President Obama‘s economic record that brought Florida’s Democratic National Convention delegates to their feet at a breakfast today.


Health care law becomes personal for Florida Democratic chairman

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith told the state’s delegates at a breakfast this morning that his 25-year-old son, a law school student, was diagnosed three weeks ago with a rare form of cancer and just completed his first round of chemotherapy.

Smith hailed the provision in the new federal health care law that requires insurers to allow young adults to remain on their parents’ policies until they are 26 and said the law, which has been unpopular with voters, should be a selling point for Democrats.

“I have been shocked and amazed to realize that the richest country in the world cannot survive without universal, affordable, available health care,” Smith said, drawing applause from the hundreds of delegates.

“Every Democratic president since Harry Truman has recognized that and every Republican presidential candidate has opposed it and if there’s one reason we ought to win this election, and there’s so many, it ought to be first and foremost we ought to take the message out there that affordable health care will affect your life because I’ve watched it and it’s happened to me. Take that message out there.”

Democratic poll: Crist unpopular but edges Scott; Nelson leads Mack

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, one of the featured speakers at this week’s Democratic National Convention, has a net unfavorable ranking among Florida voters, according to a new survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

But Crist, who switched to no party affiliation in 2010 and is rumored to be mulling a 2014 run for governor as a Democrat, would edge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical matchup, PPP says.

Crist is viewed favorably by 36 percent of Floridians and unfavorably by 44 percent, according to the survey of 1,548 likely voters taken Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Democrats and independents have a net favorable view of Crist, while Republicans are overwhelmingly negative. The poll has a 2.5 percent margin of error.

Crist would beat Scott by a 45-to-42 margin, the poll says. But a generic Democrat would beat Scott by the same margin.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s attending the convention today only, leads Republican Rep. Connie Mack by a 45-to-38 percent margin in PPP’s poll. Voters disapprove of the job Nelson is doing by a 42-to-35 percent margin. But they’re even more negative toward Mack, with 27 percent having a favorable opinion of him and 45 percent unfavorable.

Wexler added to Democratic convention lineup that’s light on Florida speakers

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a lineup that’s largely devoid of speakers from the nation’s largest swing state, former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, who represented a Palm Beach-Broward congressional district for 13 years, will speak tonight to the Democratic National Convention between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Wexler resigned in the middle of his seventh term to take a job as president of the Washington-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in 2010.

Broward County U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, will play a prominent role in this week’s convention. And former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is a featured speaker.

Beyond that, no other prominent Floridians are scheduled to speak — a reflection of the lack of Democratic star power in the Sunshine State. The only Democrat to hold statewide elected office is Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces a tough reelection challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack this year. Nelson is keeping a low profile this week, with his campaign saying he’ll only be at the convention today.

Republicans scheduled five Florida speakers for last week’s GOP convention in Tampa: Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi, Mack, and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott ended up missing his speaking gig because of Hurricane Isaac.

Is Crist’s Democratic convention speech the opening of his 2014 governor’s campaign?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — National Democrats obviously are delighted to have former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as a speaker at this week’s convention. They’ve heightened the air of suspense surrounding Crist’s address by not revealing exactly when it will occur.

Florida Democrats, meanwhile, are looking beyond this week and pondering the possibility of Crist seeking the 2014 Democratic nomination for his old job.

See what Alex Sink, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Obama campaign have to say about Crist by clicking here.

Convention breakfast menu for Florida Dems includes Cory Booker, SEIU, NARAL

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 by George Bennett


Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who took constituent service to a heroic level in April when he ran into a burning house to save a woman from a fire, is among the speakers who’ll address Florida delegates at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Booker also made headlines in May when he said he was “very uncomfortable” with Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney‘s record at Bain Capital.

Booker and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner are slated to address the Florida delegation on Tuesday.

Wednesday’s breakfast speakers are SEIU Florida 1199 President Monica Russo, former Democratic legislator and 2010 CFO candidate Loranne Ausley and pollster David Beattie.

On Thursday, the lineup is Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who heads the Democratic Governors Association, and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan.

Florida’s Democratic delegates are staying at the Marriott City Center, which is about three blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention is being held. Florida’s Republican delegates last week were housed about 30 miles from the GOP convention site as punishment for holding a primary earlier than party rules allowed.

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