A Guide to Florida’s Primary Election

(Photo: David Calvert / Getty Images)

Marco Rubio (Photo: David Calvert / Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida voters will go to the polls Tuesday and select the nominees for U.S. Senate, decide whether to amend the state constitution to give a property tax break to promote solar energy and have a say in who should represent them in the U.S. House. Here’s a look at the races and issues facing Florida on Election Day.


Marco Rubio’s last minute decision to run for re-election almost, but not quite, cleared the field in what was a crowded Republican primary to replace him. Rubio said while running for president that he wouldn’t seek a second Senate term. He repeated that claim when he dropped out of the race after badly losing the Florida presidential primary to Donald Trump. Then he changed his mind, causing Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly and businessman Todd Wilcox to drop out of the race. But homebuilder Carlos Beruff stayed in and has spent about $8 million dollars of his own money on his first run for office. He has repeatedly criticized Rubio for missing votes while running for president and failing to enthusiastically back Trump for president, but was still badly trailing Rubio in the polls as the primary approached. Rubio has campaigned as if he’s already won the nomination, refusing to debate Beruff and focusing more on his Democratic opponents.


U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are the two leading candidates to take on Rubio and have led strikingly different campaigns. Murphy wrapped up major endorsements early in the campaign and is the establishment favorite to try to win back Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat as Democrats try to regain a Senate majority. Murphy has excelled at fundraising and is backed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Grayson has a reputation for being a fiery, outspoken liberal who isn’t afraid to break beyond political norms. Most of fundraising has been through small donations. Both candidates have had issues during the race. Grayson has been dogged by ethics allegations over an offshore hedge fund he managed and a claim by the mother of his children that he abused her over two decades. He has said he’s done nothing wrong. Murphy has been criticized for embellishing his resume and for relying on $1.5 million in contributions his father gave to super PACs supporting his campaign.


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is facing her first primary since winning office in 2004. She has been one of the Democratic Party’s top leaders in Congress and served as Democratic National Committee chairwoman at President Barack Obama’s request for nearly five years, resigning in July after the DNC’s emails were hacked. The leaked emails showed staffers privately were supporting Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. Her opponent is Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who says Wasserman Schultz has lost her liberal values by sucking up to big donors and Wall Street. Sanders endorsed Canova, leading to a flood of donations from outside Florida in what appears to be an effort to take revenge at the party establishment for the way the presidential primary was handled. Canova has raised about $3.3 million – more than Wasserman Schultz and an astounding amount for a first time candidate running against someone who has served the area for more than 24 years in the state Legislature and Congress.


Florida’s congressional maps were ripped up and redrawn last year after the state Legislature lost a court battle. The state Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers violated a voter-approved constitutional amendment requiring districts to be drawn in a compact manner that doesn’t favor incumbents or political parties. That’s contributed to one of the most active election years for congressional races. At least seven of Florida’s 27 U.S. House members will be newly elected due to members retiring or seeking other political offices. Many of the state’s congressional primaries almost assure the victor will be elected in November because of the political makeup of the district. Republican primaries to replace retiring GOP Congressmen Jeff Miller, Ander Crenshaw, Curt Clawson and Richard Nugent will likely decide who is sent to Washington in November. The same goes for the Republican primary to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who is exploring a run for governor after her district was redrawn in a way that favors the GOP. Democratic primaries to replace U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, who are running for Senate, will also likely choose the next members of Congress in those districts.


Voters will decide on a ballot measure to provide property tax breaks for people who install solar panels on their homes. Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote in both chambers of the Legislature. The increased value to a home from the installation of solar panels or other renewable energy devices can’t be considered when assessing homes to determine property taxes. Environmentalists and business interests support the measure, which must receive 60 percent approval to pass.


Florida has nearly 12.4 million voters, including more than 4.4 million Republicans, 4.7 million Democrats and 2.9 million voters who aren’t registered with any party. Voting by mail began more than a month before the primary and in-person early voting began up to 15 days before the primary. More than 2.3 million requested vote-by-mail ballots and nearly 500,000 had cast ballots at early voting sites by Saturday.

Florida Officials Go into Damage-Control Mode over Zika

A view of the outdoor business The Wynwood Yard that has been closed since last Aug. 2, due to the cases of Zika in the area, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016, in the Wynwood area of Miami. Thank goodness it's the slow season in Florida. At least that's what officials and representatives of the state's $82 billion tourism industry are thinking in the wake of news that 15 people were infected with Zika in one small, trendy neighborhood in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

A view of the outdoor business The Wynwood Yard that has been closed since last Aug. 2, due to the cases of Zika in the area, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016, in the Wynwood area of Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

TAMPA, Fla. – Thank goodness it’s the slow season in Florida.

At least that’s what officials and representatives of the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry are thinking in the wake of the news that 15 people have been infected with Zika in a small, trendy neighborhood in Miami.

The outbreak has sent another chill through the Sunshine State’s all-important tourism industry just weeks after the Orlando nightclub massacre and the killing of a 2-year-old boy by an alligator at nearby Walt Disney World.

Florida officials have gone into damage-control mode, with Gov. Rick Scott insisting, “We have a safe state!” during a tour of the Zika hot zone in Miami’s Wynwood district.

Tourism is Florida’s biggest industry. Visitors spent some $89 billion here last year. And Disney is America’s No. 1 tourist attraction.

Outside of a few business owners in the affected square-mile neighborhood, however, Zika appears to have done little damage to tourism so far.

“We have not had anyone cancel a trip to Florida because of Zika,” said Jenny Cagle, vice president of Elm Grove Travel in Wisconsin. “It’s definitely a conversation. People are talking about it.”

Demetra Prattas, vice president of Turon Travel, a New York-based company that books art tours and trips, including the annual Art Basel festival that includes events in Wynwood, said: “I don’t think it’s a factor in deciding where to go. We’ve had no cancellations.”

The governor has been on something of a statewide Zika tour, meeting with county health officials and business owners in Miami and along the Interstate 4 corridor that runs through Orlando. He said tourists should use caution and not worry about mosquitoes, adding that Florida knows how to prepare for crises because of its hurricanes.

“We will make sure all the tourists feel comfortable coming to Florida,” he said Thursday in Wynwood, site of the first mosquito-transmitted cases of Zika on record in the continental U.S. “We’ve got to continue to support these businesses because, why? They have employees and those employees need their jobs.”

He said the state is doing everything it can to test people, spray against mosquitoes, get rid of the standing water in which they breed, and encourage people to use insect repellent.

The Visit Orlando tourism board issued a statement noting that no locally acquired cases of Zika have been reported in the Orlando area, which is over 200 miles from Miami. The board gave assurances that “safety is the top priority for our region.”

The next few months will be crucial, said Henry Harteveldt, founder of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-industry watcher.

“If Florida is able to address this efficiently and quickly and be able to pronounce with confidence that they’ve been able to eradicate, there won’t be long-term consequences,” he said. “If Zika remains a long-term challenge, it’s possible some potential tourists might think twice.”

Federal health officials have warned pregnant women to avoid Wynwood because the virus can cause severe birth defects, including stunted heads. England’s public health agency is advising mothers-to-be to postpone non-essential trips to Florida.

U.S. experts say expectant mothers planning a visit to the state should consult with their doctor.

For the most part, theme park visitors should be fine, said North Carolina State University entomologist Michael Reiskind, because the mosquito species most likely to spread the disease is less prevalent in Orlando and the theme parks are likely to spend heavily on insect control.

Kathy Torian, a spokeswoman for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm, said anecdotally there were minimal cancellations in the wake of the Orlando shootings and the Disney alligator attack.

In 2015, 106.3 million people visited Florida, a record number.

Some tourists are shrugging off the dangers.

“I feel very safe in Orlando. The recent tragedies and even the Zika concerns have not deterred me in any way from enjoying my vacation,” said a vacationing Tam Fuller, of Atlanta. “I keep my kids close to me at all times and stay aware of my surroundings, so I never feel unsafe.”

‘Little Ninja’: Zika-spreading Mosquito Puts up Tough Fight

Jade Brown, 7, right, touches the stomach of his mother Gabriella Acevedo, who is eight months pregnant, as they leave the Borinquen Medical Center, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 in Miami. The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the nearby neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. Acevedo has not been tested for the Zika virus and is concerned for the health of her unborn child. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Jade Brown, 7, right, touches the stomach of his mother Gabriella Acevedo, who is eight months pregnant, as they leave the Borinquen Medical Center, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI – The mosquitoes spreading Zika in Miami are proving harder to eradicate than expected, the nation’s top disease-fighter said Tuesday as authorities sprayed clouds of insecticide in the ground-zero neighborhood, emptied kiddie pools and handed out cans of insect repellent to the homeless.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the mosquito-control efforts in the bustling urban neighborhood aren’t achieving the hoped-for results, suggesting the pests are resistant to the insecticides or are still finding standing water in which to breed.

“We’re not seeing the number of mosquitoes come down as rapidly as we would have liked,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Mosquito control experts said that’s no surprise to them, describing the Aedes aegypti mosquito as a “little ninja” capable of hiding in tiny crevices, sneaking up on people’s ankles, and breeding in just a bottle cap of standing water.

Fifteen people have become infected with Zika in Miami’s Wynwood arts district, officials said Tuesday. These are believed to be the first mosquito-transmitted cases in the mainland U.S., which has been girding for months against the epidemic coursing through Latin America and the Caribbean.

On Monday, the CDC instructed pregnant women to avoid the neighborhood, marking what is believed to be the first time in the agency’s 70-year history that it warned people not to travel somewhere in the U.S. The Zika virus can cause severe brain-related defects, including disastrously small heads.

At the same time, U.S. health authorities have said they don’t expect major outbreaks in this country, in part because of better sanitation and the use of air conditioners and window screens.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspectors toting backpack blowers released white clouds of bug spray in Wynwood.

They also went door to door, handing out information, checking tires and other objects for standing water, and dipping cups to take water samples from vacant lots, building sites and backyards.

In one lush yard, an inspector tipped over a kiddie pool and a cooler full of water.

Daily aerial spraying for adult mosquitoes and larvae has been approved for the next four weeks over a 10-square-mile area around Wynwood, county officials said.

The city of Miami said it is running more street sweepers in Wynwood to remove the litter and stagnant water that can serve as breeding grounds, and police officers handed out 50 cans of bug spray to homeless people in the neighborhood.

“Be sure that you use it,” Officer James Bernat said as he gave repellent to several people who had been sleeping on the street.

Dozens of pregnant women streamed into Borinquen Medical Center, a clinic just outside Wynwood where doctors said they were getting more and more nervous requests for Zika testing.

On the sidewalk outside, eight-months-pregnant Gabriella Acevedo said she would rush back to her Wynwood home.

“I’m going to put the AC on blast and try not to go outside. I’ve been bitten by mosquitoes probably two weeks ago, but I don’t feel sick,” she said. “It’s just really stressful to me.”

Because of environmental regulations governing which chemicals can be used as insecticides, mosquito control authorities cannot easily switch to another compound if bugs prove resistant to it.

Nothing has worked to stop this mosquito elsewhere in the world except for the introduction of mosquitoes modified to pass on genes that kill their offspring, said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. And the Food and Drug Administration has not given approval to that approach in the U.S.

“We have to totally rethink mosquito control for Aedes aegypti,” Doyle said. “It’s like a little ninja. It’s always hiding.”

Frieden complained that in the U.S., “we really dismantled the mosquito monitoring and control infrastructure over the past few decades.”

The result: “We have blind spots where we don’t know where the mosquito populations are and what the susceptibility is to different insecticides,” the CDC director said.

The U.S. government might have underestimated how difficult it would be to control Zika’s spread, said University of Florida public health researcher Ira Longini.

But he also said there aren’t enough of the disease-transmitting mosquitoes living in and around houses to cause long-term or widespread outbreaks in this country.

“In defense of the CDC and the government, it’s a difficult problem to solve,” he said.

Promesa Could Play Huge Role in Key States


PHILADELPHIA (CB)—The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa) came to the forefront of a meeting of the Hispanic Caucus at the Democratic National Convention early this week during an exclusive interview with Manuel Ortiz, a K Street lobbyist with ties to the Democratic Party. Ortiz was part of a panel discussion on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis that included Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Liza Ortiz, campaign manager for Popular Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate David Bernier.

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From left, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; David Bernier’s campaign manager, Liza Ortiz; Manuel Ortiz, D.C. lobbyist and adviser to Ricardo Rosselló; and Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) during a panel on Puerto Rico hosted by the Hispanic Caucus during the Democratic National Convention.

Ortiz’s informed perspective on Hispanic issues in general elections shed light on the negative impact that Promesa could have with Hispanic voters along the I-4 corridor in Florida where more than 700,000 Puerto Ricans live.

“Stateside there is data from polls in Florida and New York that points to lower popularity with the electorate at a higher rate,” Ortiz told. “There’s always going to be bump in the road, if Promesa is able to create a framework that allows for transparency, the ability to look at the numbers, to work out a plan and provide the flexibility for the new administration that comes in to dictate a vision and not muddle democratic principles, I think it will all be well.”

Promesa could be a double-edge political sword—although some voters see it as a debt-relief measure for Puerto Rico, many others see it as an affront to democracy because all of the island’s financial affairs will be decided by nonelected officials.

In his evaluation, lobbyist Manuel Ortiz insisted it is impossible to delink status from Puerto Rico’s economic issues. On that front, he touted the New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Ricardo Rosselló’s plan to seek economic development by achieving parity in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.


For more on this story, check out the next print edition of Caribbean Business, available tomorrow.

Parents Won’t Sue Disney over Son’s Death By Gator

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The parents of a toddler killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World say they don’t plan to sue the theme park resort over the death.

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 15:  The beach area  of the Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian resort hotel is seen where a 2-year-old boy was taken by an alligator as he waded in the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon on June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The child was taken last night at about 9 pm and the search and rescue effort has become a recovery effort.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The beach area of the Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian resort hotel is seen where a 2-year-old boy was taken by an alligator as he waded in the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon on June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Matt and Melissa Graves of Omaha, Nebraska, said in a statement Wednesday they want to focus on their family’s future health.

A family spokeswoman, Sara Brady, says she couldn’t say whether a financial settlement had been reached with Disney World.

Disney World president George Kalogridis said in a statement the company continues to provide support for the family. He did not elaborate.

Authorities say an alligator pulled Lane Graves into the water June 14. His father, Matt Graves, says a second alligator attacked him as he tried to save his son.

Lane’s body was recovered the next day. An autopsy showed he died from drowning and traumatic injuries.

Young Cuban-Americans Get New Impressions on Island Visits

In this June 12, 2016 photo, Cuban American Fontaine Capel, center, travels on a regular bus line in Havana, Cuba. Capel was brought to the island by CubaOne, a new program inspired by the reestablishment of diplomatic and business ties between the U.S. and Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

In this June 12, 2016 photo, Cuban American Fontaine Capel, center, travels on a regular bus line in Havana, Cuba. Capel was brought to the island by CubaOne, a new program inspired by the reestablishment of diplomatic and business ties between the U.S. and Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA – Miranda Hernandez’ grandparents lost everything when they fled Cuba in the 1960s. She grew up thinking of the island as “North Korea with nice beaches,” she said.

But when four young Cuban-Americans started a program sending peers with similar island ties to explore their heritage after U.S.-Cuba detente, she applied.

On Friday, after a week in Havana visiting entrepreneurs, artists and relatives she’d never met, the 20-year-old senior at the University of California, Berkeley flew home with impressions certain to upset many of her grandparents’ generation.

“Right off the bat I’m going to say honestly it’s not that bad,” she said on Thursday afternoon as she visited the Havana apartment where her grandmother once lived. “A lot of people perceive Cuba as a terrible place where people aren’t happy, but that’s not the case.”

The declaration of U.S. detente with Cuba was made possible by the softening of a hard line held for half a century by Florida’s powerful Cuban-American community. Expectations for a fearsome backlash to follow any outreach to Cuba grew less so as the first generations of Cuban-American exiles were joined by new waves of economic migrants, and by children and grandchildren who never directly experienced communism.

Now the process of normalization between the U.S. and Cuba is accelerating and widening that softening of attitudes. Inspired by the reestablishment of diplomatic and business ties, the children and grandchildren of exiles are traveling to Cuba in increasing numbers, often as part of programs designed to support family reconciliation and political normalization.

Among the most notable efforts is CubaOne, the new program that took Hernandez to Cuba. Inspired by Birthright Israel, a program that has sent 500,000 young Jews to Israel since 1999, CubaOne hopes to send three groups of Cuban-Americans to the island by February. Its founders are putting nearly $100,000 of their own money into the fledgling program and hope to raise enough funds for future years from individual donors and the American airlines, hotel companies and other businesses starting to establish footholds in Cuba.

“It’s a new community and a new culture in Miami,” said CubaOne founder Daniel Jimenez, a 34-year-old digital executive at Ernst & Young, “Being here and listening to what 11 million Cubans have to say rather than the media in Miami is something every young Cuban-American should go through.”

With an average age of 25, CubaOne’s inaugural class of nine millennials included artists, entrepreneurs and writers from across the United States, many from families based in South Florida.

They traveled to the tobacco-growing region of western Pinar del Rio province before returning to Havana for six days of visits with independent business people and artists and stays in private bed-and-breakfasts.

“Young Cuban-Americans love Cuba, but we express that love differently than our parents,” said Giancarlo Sopo, one of CubaOne’s founders and the son of a veteran of the U.S.-backed forces in the Bay of Pigs invasion. “For us, loving Cuban means going there to learn about our culture, meet family, and engage the people.”

 At least four of the young people saw family members who they had never met, or had met only briefly, including Hernandez. She spent two days with her great-uncle Jesus Cervello Ruiz, the 78-year-old patriarch of the five family members who remain in Cuba. Some 15 more relatives live in the U.S.

Along with his daughter Caridad and twin 16-year-old grandsons, Ruiz took Hernandez to the hospital where his sister, her grandmother, was born, and the apartment where she lived as a young woman.

For Hernandez, a Republican like her parents, the small interactions with her relatives and other Cubans provide a three dimensional picture of the country she had only heard one side of, she said.

“No one has come back except me,” she said. “People here are happy, they don’t need a bunch of material things to make them genuinely happy.”

Ruiz, a retired mechanic in a state workshop, spent the trip wisecracking and gently teasing his great-niece and the journalists and program participants who accompanied her.

But at the end, as he stood in the doorway of the apartment where his sister lived before the revolution, tears welled in his eyes as he felt the pain of living decades separated from most of his family.

“I’ve been holding this pain but since I came in here I’ve been emotional,” he said. “This brings back memories.”

Tropical Storm Colin Leaves after Dumping Rain in Southeast

Beach goers get caught in a sudden downpour when a band associated from Tropical Storm Colin came ashore at Clearwater Beach, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Clearwater, Fla. A large portion of Florida's western and Panhandle coast was already under a tropical storm warning when the National Hurricane Center announced that a swift-moving depression had become a named storm. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Beach goers get caught in a sudden downpour when a band associated from Tropical Storm Colin came ashore at Clearwater Beach, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Tropical Storm Colin headed out to sea Tuesday after dropping heavy rains from Florida to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, flooding roads and causing power outages, especially in the Sunshine State.

Tropical storm warnings have been dropped for most of the southeast coast, with the only area still affected ranging from Cape Lookout to near Nags Head. The National Hurricane Center said that warning was likely to be dropped early Tuesday afternoon.

By 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm was moving into the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast, with maximum sustained winds up to 60 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

Forecasters said up to another 1 inch to 2 inches of rain could fall along the Outer Banks, with up to 3 more inches of rain in central Florida.

The Hurricane Center said Colin marked the earliest that a third named storm has ever formed in the Atlantic basic.

In Dare County, North Carolina, which includes pencil-thin territories from Kitty Hawk down to Hatteras Island, Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said rain had been falling nearly continuously since last week’s Tropical Storm Bonnie but that, so far, major flooding had not impacted the area.

“We’re really just seeing large amounts of water,” Pearson said, noting that many roads in the Outer Banks are at sea level, meaning that they can be quickly impacted by heavy rains, but adding that traffic may be slow but hadn’t been stopped anywhere.

Pearson said he expected skies to clear along the Outer Banks, good news for tourists who have flocked there for early summer vacations.

“We anticipate conditions to improve over the day,” he said. “Don’t let it ruin your day.”

Schools in Wilmington, North Carolina, opened two hours later than usual because of the weather.

In Florida, a survey team was investigating a possible tornado related to the storm that damaged homes and toppled trees on Jacksonville’s west side.

On Georgia’s Tybee Island, Susie Morris said she awoke Tuesday to no wind and no rain at the Lighthouse Inn Bed & Breakfast.

“I certainly don’t have any flooding whatsoever, thank goodness,” said Morris, the proprietor of the inn, a restored 1910 home that was once part of the former Fort Screven military outpost created around the time of the Spanish American War in the 1890s.

Lifeguards on the island posted red flags on the beach to warn swimmers of rip currents and 2- to 3-foot breakers.

Along the Georgia coast, the marshes did their job and acted as “a big sponge system” as Colin passed over, said Tim Cutting, who runs fishing charters from his base on St. Simons Island.

“The marsh does what it’s supposed to do naturally – it drains and floods like it has done for a million years,” Cutting said Tuesday.

The National Weather Service reported that about 2.7 of rain fell at McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport as the storm passed over the area. About 4 inches of rain fell at the Liberty County airport near Hinesville.

Up to 3 inches of rain fell near Topsail Beach, northeast of Wilmington, while the coastal North Carolina city itself received 1.75 inches. More than 2 inches fell at Pawleys Island in South Carolina.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as Colin moved across the state, dumping 9 inches of rain in parts of Pinellas County along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Flood warnings were issued in many parts of the Tampa Bay area and Tuesday’s commute was a difficult one with some roads underwater.

Scott cautioned that the state has seen severe flooding in unlikely places after previous storms.

“We’ll just see how well it runs off,” Scott said. “I always remember back to (Tropical Storm) Isaac in 2012, it went west but we had unbelievable flooding in Palm Beach County.”

No significant problems were reported in South Carolina, with a handful of roads closed in Charleston and near the Georgia-South Carolina state line.

The high winds and rain also knocked out power to about 10,000 Floridians heading into Monday evening from Tampa Bay to Jacksonville.

On Georgia’s Tybee Island, Morris said she’d continue to pay close attention to weather reports for the remainder of this year’s hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30. Does the early start to the hurricane season worry Morris?

“Worried, no,” she said. “I do watch the weather report… but no, I’m not worried.”

The Associated Press

National group launches Hispanic voter drive in Florida

MIAMI – The nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization has launched a major voter-registration drive in the battleground state of Florida to identify and sign up hundreds of thousands of potential Hispanic voters.

The Washington-based National Council of La Raza announced its plans Thursday morning at a news conference in Miami.

With nearly 5 million Hispanics, Florida has the country’s third-largest Hispanic population. About 2.6 million are eligible to vote, but less than 1.8 million are registered to vote, according to Florida election officials.

Hispanics in Florida are a diverse lot. Nationwide, Mexican-Americans make up the vast majority of Hispanic voters. In Florida, Cubans and Puerto Ricans represent the bulk of state voters.

The non-partisan NCLR has successfully registered voters for years in Florida and across the country. To date, they have added 245,000 Hispanics to Florida’s voter rolls. In 2012, they persuaded 55,000 voters to sign up to vote.

“We want to make sure our community has the information and the tools they need to become voters,” NCLR President Janet Murguia, who was flanked by several canvassers in red T-shirts, said at the news conference. “My message to anyone who is concerned about attempts to turn Americans against each other is to speak up.”

Murguia said the NCLR is focusing its voter registration efforts in several swing states, including Florida, where Hispanic voters can influence an election. Others include Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

To identify and register Hispanic voters, NCLR canvassers will go door-to-door, online through its “Latino Vote” app and a new program to identify high school seniors becoming eligible to vote. About 1 million Latinos turn 18 years of age each year.

Joining Murguia were several local Hispanic elected officials and community organizers.

“If we don’t vote, we don’t reach our political potential as a community,” said Miami Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Online: www.nclr.org

Rubio’s Political Reckoning Arrives in Florida Primary

MIAMI – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was among the Republican Party’s biggest stars when he burst onto the national stage in the tea party wave of 2010. Now, he is facing a home-state showing on Tuesday that could devastate his 2016 presidential campaign and damage his political brand for years to come.

The Cuban-American’s desire to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, and his past support for a forgiving immigration policy, have failed to excite conservative primary voters who instead have flocked to Donald Trump’s nativist politics.

“Marco’s always had good timing. This time, the timing just wasn’t there,” said Albert Lorenzo, who managed Rubio’s first state house campaign nearly two decades ago and stays in close contact with him.

Yet Lorenzo, like those closest to Rubio, suggest that should his bid end in disappointment, the senator’s career in public service is far from over. The 44-year-old Republican could run for Florida governor in two years, president in four years or even his own Senate seat later this year.

“He’s a talent you don’t find,” Lorenzo said.

Added Rubio ally, Miami city commissioner Francis Suarez: “I can’t think of anybody more popular in Florida than he is – except maybe the man he’s losing to.”

Indeed, the first-term senator has been looking up at Trump in Florida preference polls for months. Rubio is the decided underdog to the billionaire businessman in Tuesday’s do-or-die home-state contest.

Despite long odds, Rubio insists he’s focused only on winning his party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

“I haven’t even thought about what I’m having for lunch today, much less what I’m going to run for in two years or nothing at all,” he told reporters in West Palm Beach this week.

“If I never hold public office again, I’m comfortable with that,” Rubio continued. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen two to four years from now. But I have no plans. No thoughts. No contemplation. No meetings. Nothing about any future political run of any sort.”

Should his presidential bid end in disappointment, many who know him expect a political comeback, though those closest to Rubio believe he could turn to the private sector to help provide for his family.

With four school-age children, Rubio has struggled with his personal finances in recent years, cashing out a retirement account as recently as 2014 to upgrade home appliances and pay for school costs. The Republican would have such well-compensated options as becoming a media personality or joining a law firm.

He would also need to decide whether he wants to return to Capitol Hill.

In this March 11, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. greets supporters in Naples, Fla. After a brutal run of results in his campaign for president, Rubio's political future will be decided by voters in his home state of Florida on March 15. Given the change to breathe new life into his White House bid, they may instead deliver a loss staggering enough to push him out of politics. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Sen. Marco Rubio greets supporters in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Rubio has previously said he would not run for president and the Senate at the same time. An exit from the White House contest next week would give him plenty of time to qualify for another, albeit unlikely, Senate run.

The deadline to file the necessary paperwork isn’t until late June. And Federal Election Commission rules allow him to transfer any unused money from his presidential campaign to a Senate campaign account, albeit with caveats about individual donor limits.

Rubio would also be a prime candidate to run for the open governor’s seat being vacated by the term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. Such a move would give the senator’s political standing at least a year to recover after a brutal 2016 campaign.

Some conservatives suggest that may not be enough time to resurrect his political brand, should Rubio suffer an embarrassing loss on Tuesday.

“I think a loss in Florida is very bad for Rubio’s political future. It is hard to argue that Rubio is the right guy to run for governor of Florida if he couldn’t win a presidential primary there,” said Mark Meckler, a longtime leader in the national tea party movement. “Luckily, he’s a bright man, a seemingly nice guy, and probably has a solid future in the private sector. And perhaps after a few years out, he can come back and run again.”

Rubio could, of course, make another run for the White House in 2020 or beyond if he fails this year. The vast majority of recent Republican presidential nominees have not captured the nomination in their first attempts.

Rubio, who turns 45 years old in May, is the youngest of the remaining four 2016 contenders. His supporters note that Ronald Reagan was 69 when he assumed office.

“People are still getting to know Marco,” said Luis Rodriguez, a longtime Rubio supporter and former vice chairman of the Dade County Republican Party. “He has 20 more years he can run for president. If not now, in 5, 10 or 20 years he’ll be there.”

After a nasty 2016 campaign, however, it’s unclear if Rubio wants to be there.

“Life,” he said Saturday on Fox News, “is about a lot more than politics.”

Divide Growing Between Florida Governor, Other Republicans

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Since charging into office some five years ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has routinely had an awkward relationship with the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and other GOP officials.

Now, Scott is being handed a string of defeats that could render his final 2 ½ years in office nearly irrelevant. They could also serve as a reminder that there are limits to how much sway a multi-millionaire businessman used to his own way can have over politicians used to compromise and deal-making.

GOP legislators have already rejected Scott’s pitch for steep tax cuts and $250 million for business incentives. They have also scuttled a major gambling deal he negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and may reject his hand-picked leader for the state’s health department. And there is growing talk that if Scott vetoes parts of this year’s budget, lawmakers will override him.

The blame for the breakdown has been cast on a multitude of factors, including Scott’s seeming refusal to scale back his promises amid signs of the economy softening and revisions to Florida’s long-term financial forecast.
But other political factors could be at play as well. Scott last year angered lawmakers with extensive budget vetoes of hometown projects. He stopped raising money for the GOP after party activists last year rejected his choice to run the party. More recently, Scott’s flirtation with a possible endorsement of presidential candidate Donald Trump has drawn the ire of other Republicans.

Most Florida legislators aligned themselves with either former Gov. Jeb Bush or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and once Bush dropped out they shifted support to Rubio. Scott said in a Facebook post this week that he would not endorse anyone ahead of Florida’s March 15 primary. But he still noted how “the political class opposed me” when he first ran back in 2010 — an apparent nod to Trump, whose unorthodox candidacy has drawn rebukes from establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney.

“I think this is a relationship business, and I just wonder if we have spent the time necessary to build relationships,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “It’s a trust business. With some of the actions over the last two years, that trust has been frayed, and that’s led to some of the challenges.”

Whatever the ultimate source of the tension, Scott is already bracing for disappointments. An unrepentant Scott said that if lawmakers forgo the deal with the Seminole Tribe and reject his tax cuts, they are walking away from proposals that could bring jobs to the state.

“My responsibility as governor is to do exactly what I ran on in 2010 and 2014,” said Scott. “There’s no question what I ran on, turn this economy around, make sure people get a job.”

Scott has made job creation one of his top priorities. When he first came into office as part of a tea party wave in 2010, he tried to collide head-on with the Legislature by demanding large tax cuts and budget cuts. After seeing his poll numbers sink and resistance from legislators, Scott changed direction and at one point even came out in favor of Medicaid expansion despite staunch opposition among many Republicans.

GOP legislators rallied around Scott’s re-election in 2014, when he was challenged by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who once was a Republican and ran as a Democrat. But there has been a growing isolation in the past year. Some legislators have complained they rarely hear from Scott unless he wants something and have faulted some of his top aides.

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 02:  Florida Governor Rick Scott makes an introductory statement before the start of the Rick ScottÕs Economic Growth Summit held at the DisneyÕs Yacht and Beach Club Convention Center on June 2, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Many of the leading Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak during the event.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rick Scott at Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit June 2, 2015 in Orlando. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican legislative leaders have been careful to avoid direct criticisms of Scott in the last few weeks, but as the session winds down they have started to be more open about the divide that exists. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, for example, has noted on several occasions that Scott’s budget wish list wasn’t based on “reality” and that the governor wanted to spend more money on tax cuts than was available.

When pressed to name something that Scott accomplished this year, Sen. Tom Lee bluntly said the governor helped convince the House and Senate to work more closely together. Last year, the House and Senate were at odds over everything from Medicaid expansion to redrawing new congressional and state Senate districts.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican in line to become the next House speaker, tried to downplay questions about Scott’s agenda foundering in the Legislature.

“He has to get 100 percent of a 100 percent request to have a good year?” Corcoran said. “When has he ever gotten that year? He’s never gotten that year.”