Sunshine State News Blogs

Despite not making a fourth presidential bid in 2016 or currently holding office, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, remains active in politics and, this week, he gave a shout out to a congressman from Florida. Paul announced to supporters on Wednesday that he intends to be active in the 2014 elections with his Liberty PAC to help candidates for federal office. Paul and his team are behind U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., as they run for re-election and behind Paul Broun’s bid for the U.S. Senate in Georgia and Greg Brannon’s in North Carolina.

Paul also drew a line in the sand when it comes to “establishment Republicans” including those backed by Karl Rove.

“Sadly, establishment Republicans are determined to spend whatever it takes to defeat liberty candidates in 2014,” Paul insisted. "In fact, one so-called ‘pro-business’ group has pledged to spend up to $50 million to elect candidates that will continue the crony capitalism that has existed for years. Two years ago, Karl Rove spent $300 million to support ‘electable’ Republicans. His groups opposed liberty candidates like Thomas Massie and supported Big Government Republicans like Scott Brown.After all that time and money spent, most of the Republicans supported by Karl Rove’s groups were defeated.”

But Paul pointed to “liberty candidates” who won in 2012 like U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

“Great liberty candidates, like Thomas Massie, Walter Jones, and Ted Yoho, were elected when so many establishment Republicans lost,” Paul maintained.

Yoho doesn’t have Paul’s endorsement yet for 2014 but the Florida congressman kicked off his campaign for a second term last week with the backing of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the son of the former congressman. Yoho even called Rand Paul the “presidential front-runner” for 2016.

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Orlando businesswomen Marva Scott will be joining the Florida State Board of Education -- Gov. Rick Scott named her to the board on Wednesday.

Johnson currently serves as corporate vice president for Bright House Networks LLC. 

“I am confident that Marva will be a committed servant to Florida students," Scott said in a statement. "I look forward to working with her and the entire Board of Education to further ensure that all Florida students can get a great education so they can pursue their dreams.”

Johnson's term began Wednesday and will end Dec. 31, 2017.
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Gov. Rick Rick Scott announced Wednesday that Lockheed Martin’s mission systems and training facility in Orlando will be expanding, bringing up to 200 jobs and a capital investment of approximately $80 million.

The company currently employs nearly 7,000 in Orlando and is expanding the location due to a corporation-wide consolidation. Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

The company is currently the largest industrial employer in Florida, with a workforce of nearly 11,000 employees across the state.

“This expansion of Lockheed Martin is great news for Florida families in Orlando," began Scott. "Florida has proven to be the perfect business climate for companies like Lockheed Martin. Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created more than 503,500 private-sector jobs. Let’s keep working to create an opportunity economy that will create jobs for future generations.”

“Lockheed Martin’s mission systems and training facility in Orlando will add great value to Florida’s extensive aviation and aerospace sector, " said Gray Swoope, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. "Lockheed Martin is a world leader in the industry and has created thousands of employment opportunities and millions in economic impact in the state for more than 58 years. They are a great community partner and we look forward to seeing their continued legacy of success in the Sunshine State.”

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Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska announced on Wednesday that she is backing Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, in the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress.

“We have been lucky to visit Southwest Florida on several occasions and know it is one of the warmest places in the country,” Palin said. “The warmth comes not only from the sun, but also from the citizens. We met many dedicated patriots in Naples, Fla., on our recent book tour. They deserve better representation than what they have had recently. Lizbeth Benacquisto is the only proven conservative in the race. She served her constituents well, and has never forgotten who put her in office – the people. Lizbeth will take these values to Washington to fight for us all.

“Lizbeth Benacquisto is a proven conservative with an unwavering commitment to the principles of our founders and to the sanctity of life,” Palin added. “In the Florida state Senate she has a record that demonstrates a willingness to take on special interests and rein in the scope of government. A fierce advocate for her constituents, Lizbeth has introduced and pushed through legislation to protect our senior citizens.

“In particular, Lizbeth’s personal triumph over hardship and staunch defense of life is inspiring," Palin continued. “We need this fighter and advocate for women and innocent life in Washington!

“I admire and respect the good folks supporting other candidates in this race, but we’ll have to disagree on this one,” Palin said before taking aim at businessman Curt Clawson. “Lizbeth is running against a wealthy, self-funded candidate with lots of splashy campaign ads claiming to be a conservative. Since when do conservatives stand for crony capitalism and government bailouts? Please do your homework, voters. Look beyond the fancy anonymous campaign ads. Look at a candidate’s record, not just their rhetoric. Lizbeth is a genuine conservative with a track record to prove it.”

"On the national stage, there is no greater voice for principled conservatism and the spirit of the founders than Gov. Sarah Palin," said Benacquisto. "To have the support of Sarah, someone so dedicated to getting this nation back on the path to prosperity, is a tremendous honor.

"I am proud to have the recognition of Sarah and grateful that patriots in this congressional district know they have a conservative they can trust," Benacquisto added.

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A poll from St. Leo University released on Wednesday finds strong support for legalizing medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Floridians will vote on a proposed state Constitution amendment in November to legalize medical marijuana. If it garners 60 percent, the proposed amendment will pass.

The poll finds 75 percent of those surveyed favor legalizing medical marijuana with 30 percent of the total surveyed backing across-the-board legalization. Only 19 percent say they think marijuana should remain illegal under all circumstances.

The poll of 500 voters, was taken from March 16-19 and had a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.
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A poll from St. Leo University released on Wednesday shows President Barack Obama sinking in Florida with only 39 percent of likely voters approving of him while 50 percent disapprove of him. Obama carried Florida in both 2008 and 2012.

“Floridians strongly disapprove of the job that President Obama is doing in the White House,” said Frank Orlando, a political science instructor at St. Leo University. Orlando said this could help Florida Republicans in November, including Gov. Rick Scott. “This type of national feeling can make its way into state and local elections by damaging the party’s brand name. If President Obama’s approval ratings continue to fall, Scott will profit at the polls.”

The poll of 401 likely voters, was taken from March 16-19 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.
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A poll from St. Leo University released on Wednesday shows former Gov. Charlie Crist’s lead over Gov. Rick Scott shrinking. Back in December, a St. Leo poll had Crist with 46 percent while Scott took 34 percent. The new poll has Crist with 43 percent while Scott takes 39 percent. Scott does much better when matched against former state Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich. The Republican takes 40 percent while Rich garners 32 percent.

“Our polling shows good news for Gov. Scott, as he’s been able to take a sizable chunk out of Charlie Crist’s lead,” said Frank Orlando, a political science instructor at St. Leo University. “Gov. Scott has shored up some Republican voters, but he’s also doing about as well among independents and members of the opposing party as Mr. Crist. This is surprising, considering the fact that Crist, a former Republican, was expected to do well among Republicans and independents.”

Scott is above water in the poll, with 48 percent seeing him as favorable and 47 percent as unfavorable. But Scott is upside down when it comes to his performance, with 45 percent approving of him and 47 percent disapproving of him.

The poll of 500 Florida adults, including 401 likely voters, was taken from March 16-19 and had a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.
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A University of North Florida (UNF) poll released on Wednesday shows Florida backs efforts to give veterans in-state tuition for colleges and universities across the Sunshine State. As part of the “Florida GI Bill,” giving veterans in-state tuition was a chief legislative priority for both Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

The poll finds 55 percent of those surveyed strongly support the proposal while 14 percent say they somewhat support it. Only 16 percent say they strongly oppose giving in-state tuition to veterans while 6 percent somewhat oppose the idea.

The poll of 565 Floridians was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.12 percent.
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A University of North Florida (UNF) poll released on Wednesday finds half of Floridians support giving undocumented immigrants in-state tuition but the poll also finds the proposal generates passionate opposition.

The survey shows 33 percent strongly support the proposal to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition while 17 percent say they somewhat support it. But 29 percent strongly oppose the idea and 11 percent somewhat oppose it.

The poll of 565 Floridians was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.12 percent.
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A bill to prohibit minors from using tanning beds passed through the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday with a 6-2 vote. 

SB 572, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, would bar minors from using tanning beds at tanning salons. Sobel, whose husband is a dermatologist, pointed to the increased risk of skin cancer as the primary concern behind the legislation.

Research has increasingly supported that the use of tanning beds increases the risk for melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. SB 572 would place a prohibition on visits to tanning salons by minors, except if physicians prescribe the visits to treat certain medical conditions.

Under current law, minors 14 or older can visit tanning facilities with their parents’ consent, while children under 14 must be accompanied by their parents.
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Gov. Rick Scott plans to take the gloves off on Wednesday at an event in Tampa where he will talk about higher education costs. According to his campaign team, Scott will hit former Gov. Charlie Crist for raising tuition during his term in office. Despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November.

“Charlie Crist repeatedly raised tuition on Florida families,” Scott’s team insisted on Wednesday. “This year, we are going to right this wrong. We are working to undo Charlie Crist’s tuition increases and fight to cut tuition for all Florida families.

“College shouldn’t just be accessible to all – it must be affordable for all,” the Scott campaign continued. “While Gov. Scott is fighting to keep college tuition low and has challenged all state colleges to offer $10,000 degrees to make college more affordable for Florida families, Charlie Crist signed into law an automatic 15 percent  annual tuition increase that put college further out of reach for many Floridians.”

The Scott team pointed to Crist signing a 5 percent tuition increase in 2007 before raising it 6 percent in 2008 for universities. In 2009, the budget Crist signed allowed universities the option to raise it as much 15 percent.
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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., continued pounding President Barack Obama on Tuesday, labeling him a “disaster of a president” and promising to continue his political activism despite losing his seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2012.

“I've never been afraid to lead from the front when it comes to defending America,” West emailed supporters on Tuesday afternoon. “Barack Obama is a disaster of a president and his ultra-liberal leadership is destroying our country.”

West is trying to keep a seat at the political table with his Allen West Guardian Fund PAC which held an event in South Florida last week with Donald Trump and Greg Gutfeld. West insisted he has a “growing army of Guardian Fund supporters that are just as committed as I am to saving America" which will “succeed in reversing Obama's slide of liberal decline because our supporters are stronger than Obama's defeatism.”
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From his perch on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., asked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert about what the Obama administration plans to do with the Navy budget.

“My bottom line: make sure the administration makes national security decisions based on strategic need rather than sacrificing key defense assets to fund its own separate priorities,” Crenshaw said. “We need only consider the Ukraine to be reminded that the world is full of threats that must be managed to the best of our ability.

“That means maintaining LCS production levels, preventing the removal of 11 cruisers from the fleet, and making sure P-8 Poseidons, E-2D Hawkeyes, submarines, and all other assets are at the levels we need to accomplish Navy and joint missions for decades to come,” Crenshaw added.
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On Tuesday, Charlie Crist's campaign team unveiled the newest weapon in its arsenal against Gov. Rick Scott -- a new blog and online community called "Scott Free Florida."

"Rick Scott knows his reputation is in the dumps -- that's why he's prepared to spend over $100 million to try to fix his toxic image and reinvent himself in time for Election Day," wrote former state House Democratic leader and Crist supporter Dan Gelber. "We can't let that happen."

According to an email from Gelber, the campaign will contain a variety of content, from infographics to fact-checks to videos. 

The mission: to hold Rick Scott's feet to the fire and defend Charlie Crist's record against the "inevitable onslaught of false attacks." 

"Simply put, the stakes in this election are huge," wrote Gelber. "From slashing education funding to trashing our environment, there's plenty of reasons why Rick Scott will have to run from his record to get re-elected."  
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Tuesday brought another barrage of attacks over Mike Fernandez's departure from Gov. Rick Scott's campaign team, this time with Florida Democrats calling for Scott to fire staffers that allegedly made racially insensitive comments. 

"Rick Scott’s campaign staff mocked Florida Hispanics like schoolchildren. That’s unacceptable from the people trying to elect a governor in one of the most diverse states in the nation,'' said Ana Rivas Logan in a conference call with reporters. "These anti-Hispanic comments are exactly the kind of comments that made up my mind to leave the Republican Party." 

Rivas Logan filed as a Democrat in February, citing hostility toward Hispanics as a reason for her departure from the Republican Party.

"[Scott] needs to take a stand on this,'' she said. "He needs to fire these people and hold them accountable and say that bigotry does not have a place in politics."

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said Monday there was “no validity” to the report of the comments. An email released Tuesday by Republicans indicated that Fernandez never heard the comments he complained about. According to the Miami Herald, a business partner named “Luis” apparently did on the way to a Chipotle Grill, a Mexican restaurant.

“It’s culturally insensitive for him to hear a senior staff members [sic] mimicking a Mexican accent on the way to Chipotle. It shows that the team does not understand the culture YOU need to win,” Fernandez wrote. 

The Republican Party of Florida followed up with comments made by Democrats in a new Web video, noting that it was just last week that Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo spoke in support of Scott's decision to get on board with offering in-state tuition rates for Dreamers. 

"The fact that they will be able to pay the same amount that all Floridians pay to attend the university ... this is something wonderful," said Taddeo. 

Republican Executive Committee Chairman Nelson Diaz wondered where the outrage was over former Gov. Charlie Crist's comments about the Cuban community. 

"Where was the outrage from Florida Democrats when Charlie Crist insulted the Cuban-American community or Alex Sink made her offensive comment about immigrants?" asked Diaz. "Phony outrage is a specialty that the Florida Democratic Party attempts to perfect each election season.”

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On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott showcased $80 million in his budget proposal which would go to fighting cancer. Scott is calling for sending $60 million to help Florida Cancer Centers to reach National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation while another $20 million would go into research grants. Scott appeared at the University of Florida’s Proton Therapy Institute on Tuesday in Jacksonville.

“Cancer research funding is important to the health and well-being of countless Floridians,” Scott said. “It is because of the work of Florida’s cancer centers that patients can receive world-class treatment and the needed support to beat this terrible disease. We must continue to focus on enhancing Florida’s cancer research community until Florida is the best in the nation for research.”

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Newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla, was named to the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Veterans Affairs committees on Tuesday.

“I am honored to be appointed to serve alongside my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Veterans Affairs committees today,” said Jolly. “I look forward to working with fellow committee members to help create jobs, protect and enhance our beaches, improve our local and national infrastructure, and protect our Coast Guard assets in Pinellas and nationally.”

Jolly will serve on the Water Resources and Environment and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittees.

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What better place to look for a horror story than Florida? Apparently, TV producers are thinking the same thing because Season 4 of "American Horror Story" is going to be set in the Jupiter, Fla., of the 1950s.

And if they knew Jupiter like I know Jupiter, they might realize they've clicked just the right button in the Sunshine State.

The show's title was revealed by creator and writer Ryan Murphy via Twitter.

Look for "American Horror Story: Freak Show."

Here's what Entertainment Weekly has to say about Season 4:

"Freak Show finds Jessica Lange playing a German ex-pat who is managing one of the last freak shows in the U.S. Her group of “unusuals”? Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, and Frances Conroy all play performers whom Lange’s character has rescued; Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts are also in talks to return. Freak Show’s 13 episodes will track this group as they do anything to keep their business around."

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Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign team released a Web video on Tuesday focusing on President Barack Obama’s decision to take funds from Medicare Advantage to pay for his federal health-care law and link it to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November.

“With Medicare Advantage under attack, Florida seniors are faced with higher costs and the possibility of losing their doctors,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Scott campaign. “This Web ad tells the stories of those seniors who face greater uncertainty thanks to Obamacare. Sadly, Charlie Crist is only looking out for his political career by giving this dangerous law his full embrace."

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., to demand answers on federal employees handling public union duties on the taxpayers’ dime. The congressmen sent a letter to Katherine Archuleta, the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), demanding to know how many federal manhours were spent on union business in FY 2012.

"Since taxpayers pay the salary of all federal employees, they have a right to know how much of their money is used for conducting union business while on the clock," said Ross on Tuesday. "That's why I introduced the Official Time Reporting Act which would require OPM to submit an annual report to Congress on the use of official time by federal employees. We are more than $17 trillion in debt. I believe in fair representation; however, we must ensure that we are spending the people's hard-earned money wisely."

"Americans deserve to know where their tax dollars are being spent, and failure to publish an official time report only perpetuates their distrust of the Obama administration," said Gingrey. "The American people would be better served if the use of official time were fully repealed -- as I have proposed in my bill, the Federal Employee Accountability Act. Until this legislation becomes law, however, the least the administration can do to provide adequate transparency and accountability is disclose every penny of our taxpayers' money going to pay union salaries. OPM must commit to responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars by immediately releasing the FY13 Official Time Report."

OPM found federal employees spent 3.4 million hours on union business while on the clock in fiscal year 2011 as taxpayers were billed more than $155 million.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott announced his recommendation for projects in the Apalachicola Bay area to receive disaster assistance funding. According to a press release, these projects will help the affected communities "recover from the devastation and move forward to have sustainable fisheries and fishing communities in the future."

The projects are focused on four specific areas: the Apalachicola Bay Habitat Improvement, monitoring of the wild Apalachicola Bay oyster population, vocational and educational training for Apalachicola Bay oyster industry workers and Apalachicola Bay processor facilities upgrades.

“I am excited today to recommend these projects that will share $6.3 million to help restore economic vitality and provide relief to the oystermen and their families who have endured such hardship in the Apalachicola Bay area," said Scott. "In addition to bolstering their industry, this funding will be used to provide vocational and educational training for oystermen and their families so they are able to support their families for generations to come.”

Last month, Scott announced Florida was awarded $6.3 million in disaster assistance funding for the communities that were devastated by the collapse of the oyster harvesting industry in Apalachicola Bay. This disaster assistance funding follows Gov. Scott’s request for a commercial fishery failure. 

Scott's recommendations are subject to final approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

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One of the most vocal opponents of Common Core in Florida launched a bid for county office on Tuesday.

Erika Donalds announced on Tuesday that she is running for a spot on the Collier County School Board. Donalds, who works in finance and is active with the GOP in the region, is the Southwest Florida coordinator for Florida Parents Against Common Core.

As she launches her bid, Donalds' platform includes local control of schools and parent empowerment.

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Florida TaxWatch released a study on Tuesday which finds the state could save $10 billion over the next decade if Florida rolls back its class-size limit for grades 4-12. Voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2002 with class-size limits.

"The significant investment required from our state to comply with the class-size mandate has drained our education system of the resources it needs to effectively enhance student achievement," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "Florida should maximize the use of the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to ensure every student has the resources they need to succeed. Evidence has shown that reducing class size across all grades, as now required, has not proved to give our taxpayers a good return on their investment."

Bob Nave, the director of Florida TaxWatch’s Center for Educational Performance and Accountability, insisted the 2002 amendment has proven costly for Florida.

"Florida's hard-working taxpayers have spent more than $27 billion to reduce class sizes and the state has little to show for it," said Nave. "Florida has ample opportunities to increase student achievement at a much lower cost to taxpayers. Reinvesting money that has been restricted to class-size compliance will equip Florida teachers with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, and give more students access to a better quality education."

The report can be read here

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No wonder Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich looked so radiant entering The Moon in Tallahassee Monday night. Charlie Crist's Democratness -- if he ever had such a thing -- is imploding like a cream puff with bad egg custard.

"Did you see Charlie on Sunday?" Rich asked me. I hadn't, but it's all on record. Appearing Sunday on "This Week in South Florida" with Michael Putney, Crist answered a question about this year's proposed voucher program expansion by saying, "I don't know if we should expand it at this point in time."

Rich was incredulous. "By 'this point in time,' you know he means 'in an election year.' He wants it both ways and hopes nobody notices."

Crist went on to note other cuts in public school funding that have occurred, but didn't explain how Gov. Rick Scott's voucher expansion is any different from Crist's own voucher expansion four years ago.

"Charlie Crist and Rick Scott," said Rich, "both the same Republicans."

See Kevin Derby's story in Sunshine State News. 
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Florida Republicans are pushing back at the Democrats over a report that Mike Fernandez, who had been Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign finance co-chair, resigned due to campaign aides doing an over-the-top Mexican accent around him.

Fernandez resigned his post on Thursday night. The Miami Herald is reporting that Fernandez quit in part due to the aides’ behavior. The Scott team, including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, insists that nobody on the campaign has done anything like that.

Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), weighed in on Monday afternoon, insisting the Democrats have been the party treating Hispanics badly and making fun of them. Curry pointed toward congressional candidate former state CFO Alex Sink’s comment at a candidate forum at the end of February that immigration reform was needed for “people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping.”

Curry also cited former Gov. Charlie Crist’s comment that politicians need to “stand up to that small Cuban community” in South Florida when it comes to dealing with the Castro regime.

“Today I call on all Florida Democrats to condemn the myriad of actual insults that have been continually hurled at the Florida Hispanic community by members of their own party,” Curry said. “These comments are insulting and intolerable and they should be harshly condemned.”

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FreedomWorks announced on Monday it was backing U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho‘s, R-Fla., bid for a second term.

“FreedomWorks PAC is working hard to bring fresh talent to the table, but it’s also critical to protect the new generation of leadership that has begun repopulating the Republican Party,” said Matt Kibbe, the resident of Freedom Works. Kibbe praised Yoho as a “champion of pro-freedom legislation, and a grassroots-backed representative who came to Washington and actually did what he promised to do on the campaign trail.”

"FreedomWorks is a great organization that champions liberty and freedom,” Yoho said. “Their grassroots movement is exactly the type of organization we need to get the conservative message out, mobilize people, and support constitutional leaders. I am honored to receive their support and will continue to work tirelessly not just for conservatives, but all Americans.”

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Gov. Rick Scott's campaign finance co-chair Mike Fernandez abruptly quit Scott's campaign on Thursday evening, prompting questions about the real reason behind his departure.

According to the Miami Herald, Fernandez expressed frustrations to top Scott allies and "complained about two campaign aides who had joked around in a cartoon-style Mexican accent en route to a Mexican restaurant in Fernandez’s home town of Coral Gables."

Fernandez, however, said he was splitting from the campaign to spend more time with his family and businesses.

Questions about Fernandez's departure spilled into a Republican Party of Florida conference call held Monday morning which was supposed to revolve around Scott's latest attack ad against Charlie Crist.

After reporters asked Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera about Fernandez's departure, the lieutenant governor continued to say Fernandez left to spend more time with his family and his business, not because of comments made by campaign aides. 

"Mr. Fernandez left to spend more time with his family and concentrate more on his business," Lopez-Cantera said. "This is a diverse organization that we have here and I'm confident that there's probably no basis for any of that."

Lopez said he did not believe the incident happened -- and Scott's camp, he said, looked into the incident and came up dry.

"Like I said, this is a diverse organization," he said. "We don't tolerate inappropriate comments and I don't believe they even happened ... There's no validity that we can find to any of those comments, or what was written." 

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Former Ambassador Francis Rooney, who represented the United States at the Vatican, announced on Monday he was backing Florida Senate Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, in the Republican primary to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress. Rooney cited Benacquisto’s opposition to abortion in his endorsement.

“As the former ambassador to the Vatican, it is very important to me that Lizbeth has taken a firm stand in protecting the sanctity of life, and has been a leader in the pro-life community for her entire adult life,” said Rooney. “I’m voting for Lizbeth Benacquisto -- she will make us proud.

“As someone who has served this country and fought to protect conservative values, I know Lizbeth Benacquisto will be an excellent choice for our next representative from Southwest Florida,” added Rooney. “She is a proven, trusted, conservative leader, and we are lucky that she put herself forward for this position of public trust.”

“It is an absolute honor to have not only Ambassador Rooney’s support, but also his friendship,” said Benacquisto. “As a respected voice in the pro-life community, he and I share a commitment to protecting the sanctity of life.”

Benacquisto takes on businessman Curt Clawson and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel in the April 22 primary.

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Charlie Crist's campaign fired back on Monday after Let's Get to Work, a political committee with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, released a new television ad attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist over his support for Barack Obama's health-care law.

"When after four years, you have no record and no vision, you spend millions attacking your opponent," said Crist spokesperson Kevin Cate. "It's the Rick Scott playbook and Floridians have had enough." 

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Let’s Get to Work, a group with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, released a new television ad on Monday which will hit airwaves across the Sunshine State on Thursday. The ad, which is being backed by a $2 million ad buy, hits former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic favorite to challenge Scott, for supporting President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.

“While Charlie Crist continues to talk about how ‘great’ Obamacare is, the facts tell us that it’s been anything but great for Florida families,” said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. “Over 300,000 Floridians have lost insurance plans they like, seniors are losing their doctors due to Medicare Advantage cuts, and job creators are being hit with higher taxes and burdensome regulations. Obamacare seems to only be ‘great’ for Charlie Crist and his political career.”

View the ad below:

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