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Florida men in the veep mix

Florida Men In The Veep Mix
Kimberly Leonard's must-read briefing on what's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State
Jun 07, 2024 View in browser
 

By Kimberly Leonard

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks as former President Donald Trump listens at a campaign rally at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Miami. | Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo

Good morning and happy Friday. 

Two Republicans from Florida are getting a closer look to be former President Donald Trump’s new No. 2.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds have both received vetting questionnaires from the Trump campaign, POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt and Meredith McGraw confirmed. These types of questionnaires ask about things like relationships, finances, foreign travel and employment, said Ted Frank, an attorney who helped vet Sarah Palin as the running mate to the late 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain. The firm hired to do the vetting will scour message boards for rumors, review tax returns and analyze previous statements about public policy and about Trump.

“They are looking for anything that might be an embarrassing story after the selection is made,” Frank said, so the campaign can consider how it might respond or decide whether anything uncovered is disqualifying.

The situation is fluid. Trump isn’t expected to announce his pick until closer to the GOP convention in mid-July and campaign officials have stressed that anyone who claims to know what’ll happen before then is lying. Still, the widely reported list suggests the campaign is weighing the strengths and vulnerabilities each person would bring to the ticket.

It also means Democratic opponents are sharpening their knives to highlight perceived weaknesses. The Democratic National Committee War Room has already been putting Donalds on blast under an email banner titled “MAGA Veepstakes” for comments he made praising Black families during racial segregation in the U.S. (Donalds has since posted a video on social media to explain he was “talking about Black families, conservative mindsets, and conservative voting.”)

If chosen under a winning ticket, Donalds, 45, would be the first Black Republican vice president. He’s from Brooklyn originally and is seen as a rising star in the party. He used to be in finance and banking, and he and his wife helped promote school vouchers and charter schools — a hot topic with the GOP. But his future may turn out to be in Florida: As Playbook previously reported, Trump has publicly name-dropped the possibility of Donalds for Florida governor in 2026.

Should Rubio, 53, be chosen and elected, he’d be the first Hispanic vice president. Rubio has been recognized as the Senate’s most effective lawmaker in terms of introducing bills that get signed into law, and has appeal among more traditional Republicans. His mastery of foreign policy could be seen as crucial as wars continue to rage in Ukraine and the Middle East. Because he’s bilingual, Rubio would be able to seamlessly address voters in Spanish at rallies, on the radio and on TV, as Republicans continue to make inroads with Hispanics.

Democrats are likely to dust off their old playbook against Rubio, highlighting that he supported a federal 15-week limit on abortion, how he often missed votes in the Senate and his viral exchanges with Trump on the debate stage in 2016. The strategy failed in 2022 in Florida, however, where Rubio won by more than 16 points. Yet one challenging factor for Rubio — assuming he would serve in the Senate while running — is that leading up to November, Democrats leading the chamber could have the power to put him on the spot by forcing difficult votes, as they did with the contraception vote this week.

A final obstacle would remain for both men: Having a presidential ticket with two people from the same state does carry some legal issues, though they appear to be workable. That Floridians are in the mix despite this thorny reality shows just how influential the state is to the modern GOP.

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... DATELINE TALLAHASSEE ...

FDLE REPORT — “Florida investigated 2 former employees involved in Washington Post records lawsuit,” reports POLITICO’s Gary Fineout. “Florida’s main law enforcement agency launched an extensive investigation of two former employees who are tied to a contentious battle and litigation against the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis over the handling of public records. The 129-page report prepared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and obtained by POLITICO delved into allegations of conflicts-of-interest, workplace harassment, whether the two employees misled other top officials about FDLE’s budget and whether they tried to obtain improper pay raises for other employees, including the daughter of one those who was investigated.”

‘OPPOSED TO CENSORSHIP’ — “Parents sue over Florida’s book challenge rules,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury. “Three parents sued Florida’s top education officials Thursday, claiming that the state is discriminating against parents who want to oppose books being removed from local schools by not giving them a way to do so.”

TRASHED — “Florida scraps ballot rule that drew ire of election officials,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout. “Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is backing off an obscure new ballot rule that drew widespread opposition from election supervisors who feared it could trigger protests from activists during this year’s presidential election. The rule — which officially took effect this week — centers on what happens if a voter makes a mistake at a polling place and then requests a new ballot. It called on poll workers to cut off the four corners of the ‘spoiled’ ballot and to place it in a sealed envelope. Alarmed county election supervisors said this requirement would violate a state law on the right to a secret ballot and said that they feared voters could misconstrue a poll worker destroying a spoiled ballot to instead be workers altering legally cast votes.”

RULING — “Florida Supreme Court sides with DeSantis in fight with Democratic prosecutor,” reports POLITICO’s Gary Fineout. “The ruling, decided by a 6-1 margin of the high court, was not a surprise since justices had publicly expressed skepticism at Monique Worrell’s legal challenge when it came before the court in a December hearing. Worrell, a Democrat, contended that her suspension last August was politically motivated and Democrats at the time blasted the move as a way for DeSantis to bolster his flagging presidential campaign. Worrell has since filed to run again for state attorney of Orange and Osceola counties and will be on the ballot this November.”

PUSHBACK — “Public Counsel, other groups challenge TECO's $469M rate hike request,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie. “Industrial and retail business groups, energy justice groups, federal agencies and Walmart Inc. joined Public Counsel Walt Trierweiler on Thursday in filing testimony challenging TECO's request.”

BACKLASH — “Energy advocates criticize FPL conservation proposal before regulators,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie. “Energy justice groups told the Public Service Commission on Wednesday that Florida Power & Light Co. should drastically expand its energy conservation programs beyond a pending proposal for the next 10 years.”

EYES EMOJI — “Florida has paid vendor $50 million so far for stalled plan to import Canadian drugs,” reports the Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers. “A cavernous warehouse owned by Life Science Logistics sits on an industrial street in Lakeland, built three years ago under a multimillion-dollar contract with the state to import and store prescription drugs from Canada. The drug plan, pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to save Floridians money, had been in limbo until it recently got approval from Washington. But there are still requirements to fulfill before it can begin to receive the lower-cost drugs from across the border. The 100,000-square-foot warehouse hasn’t been used for its intended purpose. It’s been the site of occasional DeSantis news conferences and provided temporary storage for COVID-19 medication, hurricane equipment and other humanitarian supplies. And even though it has no drugs to distribute, Dallas-based Life Science Logistics has been paid $50.3 million so far under the contract signed in 2020 and is slated to get $14.5 million more a year through 2026.”

TIME FOR REFORM? — “Tallahassee seniors left in dark for days after tornadoes could spur housing policy change,” reports Ana Goñi-Lessan of USA Today Network — Florida. “After over 100 Tallahassee senior citizens were left in the dark for days after tornadoes ripped through the capital, elected officials and state agency leaders are looking to require developers who build affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities in Florida to include emergency generators … Wheelchair-bound residents of the 55-plus affordable housing complex were stuck on the second and third floor without elevator access; insulin and dialysis-dependent residents were at risk of becoming sick; and everyone lost all the food in their refrigerators, residents said.”

REDO — “Florida judge orders revised abortion ‘statement’ on financial impact of constitutional amendment,” by Dara Kam of News Service of Florida. “A Leon County circuit judge on Wednesday ruled a ‘financial impact statement’ that would accompany a proposed constitutional amendment about abortion rights needs to be revised, finding that the statement is ‘inaccurate, ambiguous, misleading, unclear and confusing’ … Financial impact statements appear with ballot initiatives to provide estimated effects of measures on government revenues and the state budget.”

— “Gov. DeSantis signs ‘Cassie Carli Law’ to ease the safe exchange of minors,” by Florida Politics’  Jesse Scheckner.

— “Florida officials urge low-income parents to get small children swim lessons paid by state,” reports Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

PENINSULA AND BEYOND

CHAIN REACTION — “As Trump threatens deportations, Miami’s undocumented grapple with uncertain future,” by the Miami Herald’s Syra Ortiz Blanes and Max Greenwood. “Any mass deportation operation would likely be weighed down by underfunded and understaffed government agencies, lengthy court battles and baffling logistics. But the former president’s promises have scared immigrants and their advocates, who fear a new Trump administration would tear apart mixed-status families and disrupt the livelihoods and lives of entire communities.”

— “Son of ex-Orange elections chief Cowles works for key voting machine vendor,” reports the Orlando Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher.

CAMPAIGN MODE

THIS WEEKEND — Conference in Orlando for the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida.

TIGHTER THAN OTHER POLLS — “Fox News Poll: Trump holds 4-point edge in Florida rematch as majority says conviction won’t matter to vote,” by Fox News’ Victoria Balara. FiveThirtyEight's polling average has Trump up by 9 points in the state. The Fox News poll also showed 66 percent support to legalize cannabis for adults and 69 percent support for the abortion right amendment.

BEHIND GOP CANDIDATE — “Andrew Warren campaign says he’s raised more than $200K in first 45 days as a candidate,” reports Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix. “Andrew Warren, the twice-elected Hillsborough County state attorney who lost his job two years ago after he was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis ... has brought in $190,000 to his main campaign account, with another $20,000 for his political committee, and that he has $225,000 in cash on hand.”

DISTRICT DISPUTE — “In Anna Paulina Luna’s reelection bid, a controversy over Florida beaches,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson. “It’s the rare issue where the representative of Florida’s 13th Congressional District — home to some of the state’s signature beaches — could have disproportionate sway. For years, there’s been a standoff between Pinellas beach communities and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The feds say they won’t add sand to eroding public beaches unless nearby property owners sign perpetual easements allowing public access to their land. Many landowners are refusing, meaning beaches in need of sand are slowly washing away. Luna opposes the federal government’s stance. Her Democratic rivals don’t like how she’s handling the situation.”

THIRD PARTY — ‘Swindlers,’ ‘Hijacking,’ and ‘Blackmail’: Inside the Kennedy campaign’s Natural Law Party meltdown in Florida,” by The Bulwark’s Marc Caputo. “Amid voter disenchantment with a Trump-Biden rematch, third-party activist Joseph Wendt believed 2024 could transform American politics. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might be the candidate to do it … So Wendt started the process of reconstituting the long-defunct Natural Law Party of the United States with the Federal Election Commission and he resurrected its Florida branch. He planned to hold a convention and nominate Kennedy for president so that RFK could appear on the Florida ballot as the Natural Law Party candidate. Kennedy’s campaign loved the idea. And the two sides started talking money. Wendt signed a $10,000-a-month consulting contract with Kennedy’s campaign on February 24 … Bureaucratic delays and mistakes turned into mistrust. A bitter rift grew. Wendt was ultimately paid nothing. And he lost control of the Natural Law Party of the United States, which was taken over by Kennedy allies.”

CHARGED — “Florida and Kansas are accusing 2 people of forging signatures for petition drives,” by the AP’s John Hanna and Margery A. Beck. “Florida and Kansas officials are accusing two petition circulators of forging voter signatures during campaigns to put an abortion rights measure to a vote in Florida and allow the No Labels party to put candidates on the Kansas ballot. Jamie Johnson, 47, and George Andrews III, 30, both from Dade City, Florida, in the Tampa area, were in jail Wednesday, each on $150,000 bail.”

PLEA AGREEMENT — “Central Florida political operative admits wrongdoing in ‘ghost’ candidate scheme,” by the Orlando Sentinel’s Annie Martin. “Longtime Central Florida political operative Eric Foglesong, a key player in the 2020 scheme to use ‘ghost’ candidates to promote GOP politicians, pleaded no contest to campaign finance-related charges on Thursday. As part of the plea deal, Foglesong agreed to serve five years of probation and pay $14,175 toward the cost of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation into the matter.”

— “Trump wants local police help on deportations. GOP sheriff candidates: not in Miami-Dade,” by the Miami Herald’s Max Greenwood, Syra Ortiz Blanes and Douglas Hanks.

DATELINE D.C.

FAMILIAR ACCOUNT — “Florida’s insurance crisis goes to Washington,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower. “[Deborah] Wood testified alongside insurance experts during a Senate Budget Committee hearing about how much climate change was to blame for Florida’s insurance crisis — and how what was happening in the state offered a glimpse of what homeowners nationwide could face. Senators were told that Floridians were paying the highest premiums in the country and that many of the state’s insurance companies are flimsier than they appear. They heard that the nation is ill prepared if climate change causes more hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.”

— “Feds expect to decide this year on Mosaic’s ‘radioactive roads’ plan in Florida,” by the Tampa Bay Times Max Chesnes.

 

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TRUMPLANDIA AND THE SWAMP

MYSTERY NUMBER — “How much is Mar-a-Lago actually worth? It’s a billion-dollar question,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Clarke and E.B. Solomont. “Estimates of the property’s value have varied wildly. As part of the civil trial, Trump testified that he believed Mar-a-Lago was worth between $1 billion and $1.5 billion — 40 times the $37 million appraisal by the Palm Beach County property appraiser’s office.”

ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN

BIRTHDAYS: State Sen. Jason Brodeur … former state Rep. Buzz Ritchie ... Myra Adams, political and religious writer … (Saturday) Kathy Mears, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson … State Rep. Kevin ChamblissLale Morrison of Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s (D-Fla.) office ... South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ron Hurtibise (Sunday) The Associated Press’ David FischerKarl Etters of Tall Timbers.

 

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Florida men in the veep mix

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