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Politics

Backroom Briefing: 'Rocky' Ready for Another Round

June 7, 2018 - 12:45pm

California didn’t work out for U.S. Senate candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente. But there’s always Florida.

The eccentric San Diego businessman, who has paid a $10,440 qualifying fee to force a Republican primary with Florida Gov. Rick Scott for a U.S. Senate seat, placed eighth Tuesday in California’s “jungle” senatorial primary.

De La Fuente, who has also filed to run in U.S. Senate contests in Minnesota, Washington and Wyoming, collected 2.2 percent of the overall vote in the Golden State, according to preliminary results posted by the California Secretary of State.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., topped the race with 43.8 percent of the primary vote, followed by fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, who got 11.3 percent. Five Republicans got from 8.8 percent to 3.1 percent.

In California’s primary system, voters can pick any candidate, regardless of party, with the top-two vote-getters advancing to the general election --- a process that has become known as a “jungle” primary.

In an interview with NBC News, De La Fuente wasn’t shy about his multi-state effort, noting that it only cost him $200 to apply to run in Wyoming, where he likes to ski.

"I'm the first person in history to go for more than two states for Senate,” he told NBC News. “Nobody has ever thought about it. Nobody has ever read the rules."

De La Fuente’s mostly campaign website, which gets a link on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, says he wants to “represent you” in the Senate to fight “causes that affect us the most.”

He then notes: “We need to preserve our beautiful California coastline.”

Florida laws don’t address a candidate --- other than president and vice president --- simultaneously running for office in more than one state.

DISCLOSURE DEBATE

Scott’s office is trying to fight back against a lawsuit contending the governor has not properly complied with financial-disclosure requirements, calling it “nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday scheduled arguments for July 17 in the dispute between Scott --- who last year reported a net worth of $149.3 million, including $130.5 million in a blind trust --- and Tallahassee attorney Donald Hinkle.

“An identical complaint has already been rejected by a court of law, and the Florida Ethics Commission has also repeatedly rejected Mr. Hinkle’s arguments,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said. “He should quit wasting everyone’s time.”

Hinkle filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that Scott has not complied with the state’s “Sunshine Amendment,” which requires elected officials to disclose details of their personal finances.

“Governor Scott has failed to fully disclose his financial interests by not disclosing the underlying assets in revocable trusts and various partnerships,” the lawsuit said. “Governor Scott also attempts to include in a ‘blind’ trust assets that do not qualify and to which he is not ‘blind.’ ”

Scott’s attorneys sought to dismiss the case, arguing that such financial-disclosure issues should be heard by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A Leon County circuit judge refuse to dismiss the lawsuit, prompting the appeal to the Tallahassee-based appellate court.

GREYHOUND SIDES READY FOR AMENDMENT RACE

A group trying to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would end greyhound racing in Florida emerged this week with a Facebook announcement.

The Committee to Support Greyhounds, “a group of passionate supporters of the greyhound breed,” said its campaign will share “real life events of happy, healthy, loving, greyhounds in all stages of life --- from young puppies to life at the track to retirement.”

The Florida Greyhound Association, which includes owners and breeders, also has filed a lawsuit that seeks to block the amendment from the November ballot. It alleges the measure, placed on the ballot by the state Constitution Revision Commission, is misleading and inaccurate.

Backers of the amendment, under the name “Protect Dogs --- Yes on 13 Committee,” called the new opposition group’s name cynical.

“This is an obvious attempt to confuse voters, and proof that they don't have a real message,” the measure’s supporters said. “While greyhound breeders try to sow confusion, we will continue informing our neighbors about greyhound confinement and racetrack deaths.”

MORE POST-SESSION SUMMER GRADES

As special-interest groups continue to post report cards for legislators, one of the latest came from the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity-Florida.

And as usual there were a few outliers, who otherwise could be deemed centrists or moderates.

Republicans, as expected, did extremely well. The free-market group gave “A-plus” grades to 66 Republican lawmakers, based on a list of bills in the 2018 session. Grades of “F” went to 35 Democrats.

Chris Hudson, AFP-Florida state director, said the 2018 session was “one of the most successful sessions for free-market, liberty advancing policies.”

In the Senate, no Republican got below a “B” grade. No Democratic senator received better than a “C.”

In the House, Democrats Kim Daniels of Jacksonville and Katie Edwards-Walpole of Plantation received “B” grades. Republicans Tom Goodson of Rockledge and Rene Plasencia of Orlando got “C” grades.

FLORIDIANS FOR PUERTO RICO

In another sign of how political consultants view Puerto Rico as vital in Florida’s elections, the state Republican Party is setting aside time for the issue at its upcoming Sunshine Summit.

The two-day party event in Orlando will include a panel discussion called “Puerto Rico Rising” to “discuss the island’s recovery progress and its plans for fiscal responsibility and integrity.”

“We look forward to an engaging discussion with these incredible Puerto Rican champions and solidifying our commitment to aiding our fellow citizens on and off the island,” state Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a prepared statement.

Not mentioned in a party news release was the fight over Puerto Rican voters, ranging from those who fled the island after Hurricane Maria to the more than 1 million Floridians who identify as Puerto Rican.

The GOP’s announcement followed more volleys in the U.S. Senate campaign over just who cares more about people from the hurricane-ravaged island.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who has become an ally of Scott, urged residents to return to the island as temporary federal assistance for emergency shelter comes to an end. The comment came after Scott last week made his sixth visit to the island and this week gave 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles to Puerto Rico police.

Rossello’s comment drew immediate scorn from Democratic lawmakers and candidates in Florida.

"The federal government, under President Trump's leadership, has failed to provide the necessary resources to rebuild Puerto Rico so that residents can return to their homes," state Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said in a statement. "Calling on residents now safe in Florida to return to Puerto Rico while conditions remain treacherous puts their lives at risk all over again.”

Meanwhile, to tout his Puerto Rican recovery cred, Sen. Bill Nelson this week rolled out an endorsement from Pedro Rosselló, who served as Puerto Rico's governor from 1993 to 2000.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Rick Scott tells Bill Nelson to get to work and then heads to California for fund-raising.” --- Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet).

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