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Nelson says no, again, to gov’s race talk

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 by John Kennedy

In case he wasn’t heard the first time, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday again dismissed talk that he was considering challenging Republican Gov. Rick Scott next year.

“The truth is, I have no plans to run for governor,” said Nelson, elected last fall to his third Senate term. “I have no intention of running for governor. I’m trying to serve as senator, and that’s why I’m here today.”

Nelson passed through Tallahassee on Wednesday on his way to the Panhandle’s Marianna, where he was to join anthropologists and law enforcement officials at the closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Scientists have found evidence that suggests unknown bodies may be buried on the grounds of the century-old reform school.

Strategists from both leading parties have been buzzing about the idea of Nelson retaining his Senate seat while running for governor next year. Speculation stems from the view that expected candidate and recent Democratic convert, former Gov. Charlie Crist, would drive too many Republicans to the polls next year, angry and eager to vote against him.

Nelson looms as a less-antagonistic choice for Democrats, the theory says. And, if elected governor, he would be empowered to appoint his successor in the Senate — assuring Democrats would keep the seat.

Rubio votes against Violence Against Women Act hours before delivering GOP SOTU response

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Rubio practicing for his GOP response to the SOTU Tuesday

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, just hours before delivering the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight.

The Senate easily passed the reauthorization of the 1994 law which expired in 2011, authorizing $659 million over five years in spending for domestic violence programs that include shelters, legal assistance and training for law enforcement officers.

Rubio objected to some portions of the act, which expanded services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims and includes a controversial provision allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of domestic violence on reservations.

Read Rubio’s statement on his “no” vote Tuesday after the jump.

Nelson says election is call to work toward the middle

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Democrat Bill Nelson was elected Tuesday to a third term in the U.S. Senate, easily defeating Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and remaining Florida’s only statewide elected Democratic officeholder.

The Nelson-Mack contest was overshadowed by the presidential race in Florida, butstill included $39.3 million in spending on both sides. Nelson said his victory showed Floridians wanted a centrist willing to work across the aisle in starkly divided Washington.

“We have a lot to do now,” Nelson told several hundred supporters gathered at a downtown Orlando hotel. “We have to bring this country together.”

Nelson also reached out to his opponent, the namesake son of the two-term Republican senator he succeeded in 2001.

“Connie Mack is my opponent, not my enemy,” Nelson said.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Nelson’s win was testament to his style over a 40-year career in office, beginning with his election to the state House in 1972.

“Sen. Nelson has stood up for the values that make our state great,” Smith said.

Nelson joins chorus of Democrats urging Scott extend voting hours

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson added his voice Saturday to a chorus of Democrats urging Republican Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting hours, scheduled to end later in the day.

Long lines at polling places were still being reported around the state — with waits topping an hour common. Scott has already dismissed calls from Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and others to push the early voting deadline past 7 p.m. Saturday.

“You should be doing everything in your power to make sure everybody has the chance to vote, and that their vote is counted,” Nelson said in a letter Saturday to Scott. “Instead, Gov. Scott, you are allowing people to be turned away and jeopardizing the credibility of Florida’s election.”

Surveys show the presidential race in Florida is tight, with Republican Mitt Romney likely holding a narrow lead. Republican leaders say Nelson’s opponent, Fort Myers U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, could be lifted to victory by a strong GOP turnout, overcoming polls that show him trailing by an average 6.7 percentage points heading into the campaign’s final weekend.


Post-Sandy, Nelson sends out a pitch for Red Cross

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 by John Kennedy

With the Northeast digging out from Hurricane Sandy, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson paused Tuesday to send out a fund-raising email for the American Red Cross.

“One days like today, it’s crucial we put politics aside and come together as Americans,” Nelson said in a message to supporters with a link to the Red Cross site.

Nelson as been portraying himself as a centrist, tired of the Washington gridlock, in his re-election fight with Republican Connie Mack.

He’s already campaigned in usually reliable Republican areas like the Florida Panhandle. And on Halloween, Nelson plans to continue working GOP turf — with a lunchtime appearance planned at Miami’s Versailles Restaurant, a must-stop on the Florida political itinerary for Republicans, but rarely a Democratic detour.

Mack is planning three stops Wednesday with Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who will be campaigning in Florida with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Nelson plays up centrist stance and roots in North Florida stops

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Democrat  Bill Nelson visited family gravesites Tuesday and reminisced about his bonds to rural North Florida in campaign stops steeped in the past but designed to assure his future in Washington.

The two-term U.S. senator, who polls show holds a comfortable lead over Republican Connie Mack IV, is appealing to conservative voters across a stretch of Florida his rival must win big.

Nelson, whose ancestors farmed here in Chipley beginning in 1829, is looking for help from voters who usually lean Republican – a crossover move now increasingly important as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gains strength in Florida.

“I have always gotten a healthy slice of Republicans that look at me as ‘me,’’ Nelson said. “Not as a partisan label. Same thing with independents…in bipartisan consensus building, I’ve been able to pass some things.”

Nelson stood in a Baptist church cemetery where three generations of his family are buried. While he spoke before a few family members, friends and reporters, roosters crowed in the distance on an otherwise quiet, sunlit autumn morning.

Two weeks from Election Day, the Democrat said he is confident President Obama will regain his lead in Florida.

But in a campaign swing that began Monday in Pensacola and continued across country roadsides dotted with Romney signs, Nelson didn’t mention Obama’s name, instead playing up his own strength as a centrist, consensus-builder.

Full story here:


Nelson and Mack trade heat in lone Senate debate

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican rival Connie Mack IV blistered each other over a wide range of policy and character issues Wednesday night in their lone debate of the Florida U.S. Senate race.

In the hourlong exchange, the two contenders dueled over a host of issues that have emerged as flashpoints in the race. It also got personal plenty of times.

“My opponent has a pattern of not telling the truth,” Nelson, a two-term incumbent, said after being steadily challenged by Mack through most of the exchange.

Mack, who has been trailing in most polls, openly tied his candidacy to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by urging voters to send both to Washington.

“Mitt Romney needs someone who he can count on,” Mack told viewers. “We need another Republican senator from the state of Florida. I’m asking you to stand with Mitt Romney.”

The debate, from Nova Southeastern University, was televised live across most Florida media markets. Sponsored by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida, it is the only debate the two candidates would agree to take part in.

A tale of two contenders: Nelson seeks Gatorade, Mack wants ‘to win’

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The contrast between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Connie Mack started early Wednesday evening as the pair arrived at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University for the lone debate of the U.S. Senate race.

Nelson, the two-term incumbent, did a few television interviews before disappearing inside the cavernous theater where the hourlong contest, to be televised statewide, is slated to begin at 7 p.m.  Nelson checked camera angles and asked a couple of questions about the order of tonight’s questioning by a panel of journalists.

He also asked for a bottle of Gatorade on his way into the auditorium.

“Gatorade is to me what spinach is to Popeye,” Nelson assured.

Mack arrived about 20 minutes later — aboard a bus wrapped with his name and campaign themes. He also started swinging — almost as soon as he hit the ground.

“He’s running a stealth campaign,” Mack said, criticizing his opponent for declining to take part in more than one debate.

When asked by reporters what his strategy is going into the hourlong debate, Mack was ready with an answer.

“To win,” Mack said.

Mack’s Mom: ‘We mothers understand’

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate contender Connie Mack IV, dubbed by an earlier GOP opponent as the ‘Charlie Sheen of Florida’ for his youthful wild side, Monday began airing a TV spot featuring his mother promoting him while acknowledging he was “a bit of a handful.”

Mack was blistered by one-time primary rival George LeMieux for altercations which occured when he was in his 20s. They included a nightclub arrest in Jacksonville a few months after his father, Connie Mack III, was elected to the U.S. Senate, a fight a few years later with then-Atlanta Brave Ron Gant, and a couple earlier road rage episodes.

In the latest TV ad, Priscilla Mack said, “My Connie was a good kid, a bit of a handful. We mothers understand.”

The camera then turns to Connies pere et fil looking on with a sort of ‘boys will be boys’ expression.

The candidate’s campaign manager, Jeff Cohen, said the calculus behind the spot will pay off.

“In a sea of unbelievable negative TV ads, we are confident that this ad will truly stand out and reach voters in a very compelling way,” Cohen said.

Here’s the spot:

Nelson’s lead dwindling in U.S. Senate race? Maybe

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by John Kennedy

With the lone debate upcoming between Florida’s U.S. Senate contenders, Republican Connie Mack was crowing Monday about a new Rasmussen Reports survey that shows Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson’s lead down to one-percent.

But even those running the robo-poll aren’t sure what to make of the new numbers — a dramatic downturn for Nelson from last week’s Rasmussen survey that showed the Democrat on top by 11 percentage points.

“It is highly unlikely that public opinion shifted 10 points within a week,” the polling firm acknowledged. “That suggests either last week’s results or this week’s may be an outlier. Polling theory suggests that one out of every 20 polls will produce results outside the margin of error.”

The Rasmussen poll of 750 Florida voters was conducted Oct. 11. It has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 4 percent. Because it uses automated dialing to reach respondents, Rasmussen is prohibited from contacting cell-phone users, now believed to represent about one-third of voters and a population that skews Democratic.

But it may also make sense that Mack is gaining on Nelson as Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has overtaken President Obama within the Sunshine State.

“If Mitt Romney wins, I win. If I win, Mitt Romney wins,” Mack has said. “So we are certainly going to be tied together.

Mack and Nelson are scheduled to face-off Wednesday night on live, statewide television for their only debate of the race from Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

Nelson goes on Mack attack, again

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is up with a new TV spot accusing Republican opponent Connie Mack IV of being a shill for special interests.

Mack, a four-term member of Congress, makes no bones about getting plenty of support from third-party spending groups. But Nelson blasts him for filing legislation that would help Chevron oil and also a hedge fund operator who is a top donor to his campaign.

The spot concludes that Mack is “deep in debt to the special interests.”

Here’s the ad:




Poll: Obama, Romney a toss-up for Florida; Nelson builds lead

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by John Kennedy

A new poll showing President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a too-close-to-call fight for Florida, also has Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson building on his lead over Republican Connie Mack.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Thursday has Obama ahead in the nation’s biggest battleground state, 48-47 percent among likely voters and those leaning toward a candidate. Obama’s faltering performance in the first presidential debate didn’t seem to matter much to Floridians, pollsters found.

“Most Florida voters were locked into their choice prior to the debate, and only 6% of likely voters made up their mind post-debate,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Overall, Romney’s supporters are slightly more enthusiastic about their candidate than are Obama’s backers.”

In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Mack has acknowledged that his fortunes are closely tied to how Romney does in the state. But the latest findings show Nelson ahead 52-39 percent, with only nine percent of Floridians undecided.

A week earlier, the Marist survey showed Nelson with an 11 percent lead and seven percent undecided.

The latest survey polled 1,410 Floridians from Oct. 7-9. It has a 3.1 percent margin-of-error.

Meanwhile, Nelson, who has been accused by Mack of ducking debates and trying to run out the clock on the Senate contest, is kicking off his homestretch tour of Florida on Friday in the Orlando area.

 The campaign said Nelson will appear with entertainer Jimmy Buffett that day, part of 19 planned stops across the state leading to Election Day.

Mack gets another PAC in his corner

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate contender Connie Mack, already the beneficiary of heavy third-party spending in his bid to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson, got another organization in his corner Tuesday.

RAND PAC, a leadership fund run by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, is airing a TV spot attacking Nelson for his support of sending foreign aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. Paul said he is siding with Mack for his refusal to support anti-American regimes.

 “Our country is $16 trillion in debt and faces yet another trillion dollar deficit,” Paul said. “It makes no sense to send our hared-earned taxpayer dollars overseas, especially to countries with hostile governments that hate us.

 Mack also was endorsed Tuesday by the Florida Medical Association, an opponent of the federal health care overhaul which singled out Nelson for his support of the measure.

Here’s the Paul spot:

Mack’s ‘penny plan’ for budget-balancing could cost plenty

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack’s signature “penny plan” for balancing the federal budget could force deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, the independent Congressional Research Service reported this week.

Mack spokesman David James, however, dismissed the findings as “one opinion.” He also said the goal of Mack’s plan is to force Congress and the president to reach agreement to avoid the kind of slashing included in the CRS findings.

“It’s only if agreement is not reached that 1 percent cuts across the board would occur,” James said Friday.

The CRS study was prompted by a request from Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.  Mack’s plan has 70 co-sponsors in the House and 14 supporters in the Senate. Sanders, who sides with Democrats on most issues, is among those who fear the legislation could gain new strength following the November elections.

Under the proposal, the federal government would reduce spending by 1 percent each year over six years. In the seventh year, federal dollars would be limited to 18 percent of gross domestic product, a measure of the overall economy’s size. By Year 8, the plan would balance the budget and save $7.5 trillion over 10 years, Mack and supporters say.

If Congress and the president couldn’t reach an agreement about what to cut, the plan would trigger automatic across-the-board spending cuts over a decade, beginning in 2013. CRS concluded that would force an almost $2.9 trillion reduction in defense spending; $1.1 trillion from Social Security; and $211 billion from Medicare.

For his part, Mack has been hitting his opponent, two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for supporting the Budget Control Act, part of last year’s debt ceiling fight. The measure’s central, sequestration tool would force across-the-board cuts that could hit veterans benefits and defense spending hard, especially in Florida and other military heavy states.

James, however, defended Mack’s blistering of his opponent – even though the Republican also advocates dangling the potential of deep cuts to balance the budget. The difference? Timing, he said.

“It’s huge. In terms of sequestration, that’s a $500 billion blow to the Defense Department in one year,” James said.

After tough talk about talking — U.S. Senate race will have only one debate

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican Connie Mack renewed his blistering Tuesday of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson over what now looks all but certain to be a single debate between the two contenders.

Mack, trailing in the polls, wants plenty more. Nelson doesn’t need them.

“The voters of this country are getting three prime-time opportunities to view their choices for President and sadly Bill Nelson does not think the voters of Florida are entitled to the same opportunity,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager.

An Oct. 17 debate at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University, to be broadcast by television stations across Florida, is shaping up as the lone contest. Mack didn’t want the Tampa Bay Times as a co-sponsor of a CNN debate proposed for Oct. 30 — sending everyone back to the drawing board.

CNN, Bay News 9 of Tampa and Central Florida 13 began talking of picking up the second debate — but Nelson’s side wanted it earlier than Oct. 30, since early voting will be underway by then. Mack said he’d be willing to debate Oct. 25 or Oct. 27 — but Nelson’s campaign said it now looks unlikely that CNN will take part in anything that’s not slated for Oct. 30.

So Nelson’s not interested.

“At this point, we’ll have one debate Oct. 17 — and that’s still one more debate than Mack had in his primary,” said Nelson spokesman Paul Kincaid.

Farmer Bill Nelson taken to woodshed by GOP committee

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

A Karl Rove-created political committee said Tuesday it is spending $2 million this week on a TV spot blasting Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for taking a Florida tax break on 55 acres of land he owns in Indian River County — where six cows graze.

“Bill Nelson’s decades as a career politician have taught him how to dodge paying hefty taxes and still make big profits for himself,” said Nate Hodson, a spokesman for American Crossroads, a committee created by President George W. Bush’s former strategist. “Floridians can’t afford another six years of Bill Nelson helping himself while he pushes higher taxes for everyone else.”

In the 30-second spot, American Crossroads also tars Nelson for supporting a Democratic-backed initiative that would have increased the federal estate tax — a move critics said would hit family-owned farms hard.

Nelson saved $43,000 in property taxes last year by leasing the land, long owned by his family, to a cattle operation. Under the state’s greenbelt laws, Nelson faces a reduced tax liability compared to the full market value of the land.

Nelson has sold neighboring parcels of land for development. A Nelson spokesman earlier denied any wrongdoing on the senator’s part.

Nelson’s campaign shot back, saying the new spot was “false and misleading.”

“It’s always been pastureland and always will be,” the campaign said.  “Even the courts have upheld its use as such.” 

American Crossroads is helping Republican Connie Mack in his race against Nelson. Although Mack is well back in the polls, he told the Palm Beach Post last week that he expects as much as $30 million to be spent on behalf of his campaign by third-party organizations like American Crossroads.

Here’s the TV spot:

Two polls show Nelson well ahead of Mack

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 by John Kennedy

While Republican Connie Mack IV made his way by bus across the northern half of Florida, he was dogged Tuesday by more bad poll numbers.

The Washington Post and Public Policy Polling both released surveys showing Mack well behind Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is running a low visibility re-election campaign. The Post showed Mack 14 percentage points back, while PPP had him down by 9 percent — slightly worse than where he stood three weeks ago.

“Nelson’s still not popular,” PPP concluded. “Only 34% of voters approve of him to 41% who disapprove. But he lucked out with an extremely weak opponent. Only 30% of voters have a favorable opinion of Mack to 44% with a negative one.”

Mack has been out to improve those negatives. On Tuesday, he campaigned in Orlando, where he was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, and in Lakeland.

Meanwhile, American Crossroads, the superpac formed by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, is airing a new TV spot in Florida blasting Nelson for supporting the federal health care overhaul.


Debate over Debates nearing end in U.S. Senate race

Monday, September 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The debate over Florida’s U.S. Senate debates appeared Monday to be nearing an end.

With Republican Connie Mack refusing to take part in a debate co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9-TV of Tampa, and sister station, Central Florida 13 have stepped in as co-sponsors with CNN of the proposed Oct. 30 exchange between Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“The discussions are going very well,” said Rod Gramer, vice-president and general manager of Bay News 9. “We hope to be able to have something wrapped up, maybe by the end of the week.”

Pete Mitchell, Nelson’s campaign manager, said his side would like to have the debate somewhat earlier. But an Oct. 17 Mack-Nelson debate also looks on — and sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

Mack’s campaign also accepted a proposed Oct. 23 debate at the University of Florida.  But talks about the talk-a-thons continue.

Look who’s talking: Mack ready to debate

Friday, August 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

After refusing to debate his Republican primary opponents, U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV said Friday that he has accepted an invite for an October general election debate at the University of South Florida.

Mack will presumably face-off against two-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.  Both men have primary races Tuesday.

One of Mack’s opponents, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon of Indialantic was so frustrated by Mack’s summerlong refusal to debate, he posted a mock debate on web site, where he answered questions flanked by a goofy-looking photo of his rival.

But the matter of a primary contest isn’t stopping Mack from embracing the October debate, organized by WTSP-TV, C-SPAN, and Florida’s Gannett newspapers.

 ”We believe several debates are appropriate for a Senate race of this magnitude, including this debate,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager. “We look forward to a series of issue-based debates on the right path for the future of our nation with Senator Nelson and thank WTSP and their partners for extending their offer.”

Another Crist embrace draws GOP anger

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s endorsement of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson brought a swift reaction Thursday from the state GOP.

“Just when we though Charlie Crist couldn’t sink any lower, he’s surprised us once again,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said in a news release condemning, “The Two Faces of Charlie Crist.”

Crist’s embrace of Nelson is expected to be completed Friday at an Orlando fund-raiser at the home of uber-trial lawyer, John Morgan, the former governor’s boss. Remember, it was Crist’s hug for President Barack Obama that sent his career as a Republican on a downward course.

Also attending the Nelson cash call will be former President Bill Clinton.

Crist’s shape-shifting, though, is getting the most attention. It’s widely talked of as a likely prelude to his reemerging as a Democrat and candidate for governor.

Republicans, though, are steamed, pointing out that Crist’s snub of Republican primary frontrunner Connie Mack IV comes despite the then-governor having endorsed Mack in his 2008 congressional race, contributing to his campaigns between 2004 and 2006, and backing Republican Katherine Harris over Nelson in 2006.

Crist’s biography also wouldn’t be complete without his homage to Mack’s father, former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III, for whom Crist worked as a state director.

 ”With his latest attempt to reshape himself, Charlie shows he is absolutely willing to betray anyone and everyone, including his own political mentor and longtime friend,” Curry said.

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