Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-23-Fla.) speaks at a protest against President Donald Trump during his rally in Sunrise. (Photo: Matias J. Ocner, Miami Herald, TNS)
Welcome to State of Play, an occasional roundup of political news affecting Southwest Florida.
Nov. 27, 2019 by David Silverberg
Updated 2:05 pm with mentions of Reps. Greg Steube and Mario Diaz-Balart.
Despite a discursive, digressive and dissembling speech that touched on numerous topics and featured shout-outs to Florida politicians, President Donald Trump steered clear of mentioning Southwest Florida at his “homecoming” rally last night, Nov. 26, in Sunrise.
In contrast to past speeches made in southern Florida, Trump did not mention Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) or intervene in the primary race to replace him.
Rooney has stated that he is open to considering evidence that might lead to the impeachment of the president. He has announced his retirement from Congress and a Republican primary race is now under way.
In 2018 Trump’s intervention in the Republican primary for governor enabled the nomination of Ron DeSantis, then a member of Congress.
Trump called Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “one of the most popular governors anywhere in the country, true [then shouted] though he better not be more popular in Florida than me!”
He then began a strange, convoluted introduction of DeSantis, produced here verbatim:
“So here’s a quick story. I shouldn’t say this, but what the Hell, right? So Ron’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He was a congressman. Did an incredible job, always protecting me from the Russia witch hunt, until beyond, he’d be armed with these guys with Matt [Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.)] and everybody he offered an incredible race, and then he ran against a Democrat who is supposed to be unbeatable. He got beaten badly and, and now this is one of the most popular governors, but I always thought Ron was a little bit heavy and then one day I’m with him and I pat him on the shoulder and I go: ‘Whoa, that’s strong! That’s a lot of muscle, there!’ My hand didn’t sink in, like it does with a lot of people, and then I see him without a shirt one day and this guy is strong and he’s not fat.
“That’s all power. That’s all muscle! I want to tell you that, and I said, ‘Ron you’re one of the few I say it to, don’t walk around with a jacket all the time, take it off. People are going to see the real Ron!’ But he’s a great guy, he’s a tough guy he’s a brilliant guy and he’s our governor and I’m very proud. When we got involved with Ron, a lot of people were saying, ‘You think he can make it?’ I said, ‘He’s going to make it because he’s a champ, he’s a winner!’ and I want you to say a few words, Ron. Thank you.”
Reps. Gaetz, Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.), Michael Waltz (R-6-Fla.), Bill Posey (R-15-Fla.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.) received acknowledgments from the President, who also praised Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Pam Bondi, the former state attorney general who is now working on his impeachment defense team, as well as Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Petronis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), who has emerged as Southwest Florida’s top Trump defender, was unmentioned and absent, as was Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.).
In terms of specific mentions of Southwest Florida, the president boasted that he had delivered over half a billion dollars “to fix Lake Okeechobee” and that he had fixed the Hoover Dike and “restored the ecosystems in the Florida Everglades.” [Factual note: Lake Okeechobee and the Hoover Dike are nowhere near “fixed,” although work has begun as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP].)
“It’s been incredible and we did that altogether. They’ve been talking about doing it for years. They didn’t do anything, it’s all almost finished,” [Factual note: Work has been going on steadily since Congress first authorized CERP in 2000.] “It’s finished in some cases, but almost finished and all the money has been gotten for Florida.” [Factual note: Work on CERP is scheduled to continue until at least 2030.] “I also signed legislation authorizing $100 million to fight red tide and other toxic algae that damages our coastal areas and now Ron’s got the money that he wants.”
At no point did Trump acknowledge the work on CERP and blue-green algae done by Rooney during his two terms in Congress.
Cindy Banyai wins first endorsement
Cindy Banyai, Democratic candidate for Congress in District 19, has won her first endorsement, from No Democrat Left Behind, a coalition of groups supporting Democratic candidates running in heavily Republican districts.
“We want to bring this party together in a way it has never seen before,” states the coalition’s website. “This groundbreaking campaign is about the people who make this country great: you. We hope to show you that there are candidates from across the nation that are always ready to fight the good fight and stand up for what matters most.”
“The people of Southwest Florida deserve leadership that truly serves them and a dialogue on issues that matter most. No Dem Left Behind’s support of candidates in districts like ours, ensures that more than a few powerful elite voices are heard,” Banyai announced in a press release.
The coalition also endorsed Allen Ellison, Democratic candidate for Congress in District 17, which includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Venice and most of Lehigh Acres.
Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg