US House votes to protect, fund Postal Service; Rooney opposes, Diaz-Balart, Steube absent

Aug. 22, 2020 by David Silverberg

Tonight the US House of Representatives voted to protect the US Postal Service (USPS) from disruptive changes designed to impede mail-in voting and provide $25 billion in funding to ensure its continued operations.

The Delivering for America Act (House Resolution 8015) passed by a vote of 257 to 150.

Among Southwest Florida representatives, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) voted against the measure, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) were absent.

“…For the sake of every senior who is delayed in getting his or her Social Security check, every veteran who is delayed in getting his or her medication, every working family who is delayed in getting their paycheck and every voter now facing the prospect of choosing between their vote and their health, we need to pass this bill,” House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) urged her colleagues in a speech on the floor.

She recounted a conversation with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy: “He said to me frankly, and I have to give him credit for his honesty, he said, ‘I have no intention of replacing the sorting machines that we’re removed from the Postal Service – offices.  I have no intention of replacing the blue mailboxes…’ that have been ripped from our neighborhoods and he had no plans for ensuring adequate overtime, which is critical, critical in the timely delivery of the mail.  He said he had no intention of treating ballots as First-Class mail.”

Documents released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-12-NY), chair of the House Oversight and Government Committee, have revealed that DeJoy had deliberately misled Congress and could not be trusted.

DeJoy has since announced that the Postal Service will be treating ballots as First-Class mail.

In a pair of tweets today, President Donald Trump denounced the bill: “Representatives of the Post Office have repeatedly stated that they DO NOT NEED MONEY, and will not make changes. This is all another HOAX by the Democrats to give 25 Billion unneeded dollars for political purposes,  without talking about the Universal Mail-In Ballot Scam…. ….that they are trying to pull off in violation of everything that our Country stands for. Vote NO to the Pelosi/ Schumer money wasting HOAX which is taking place now. Then fight the $51 million unasked for Ballots. Only ABSENTEE BALLOTS are acceptable!”

Although Trump keeps drawing a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, there is no difference. He has applied to vote by mail in Florida.

Steube also denounced the legislation in a tweet: “The latest political play from the Democrats is a conspiracy theory that Republicans are using operational changes to the USPS as a means to disenfranchise the American people. This is dishonest, ridiculous and even dangerous. Enough of the scare tactics, Speaker Pelosi.”

There were no immediate comments from Rooney or Diaz-Balart.

The bill now goes to the Republican-dominated Senate where it is unlikely to either pass or be brought up for a vote. Trump has threatened to veto it if it gets to his desk.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Banyai wins Dem nomination in congressional race; GOP contest still undecided

Cindy Banyai

Aug. 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

With all precincts reporting, Cindy Banyai is the winner of the Democratic primary in the 19th Congressional District.

David Holden called her to concede shortly after 8 pm, Banyai told The Paradise Progressive.

“It’s such an honor to be selected as the Democratic nominee in such a year as 2020,” she said in an interview. “This shows that Southwest Floridians are craving real leadership by people ready to serve the people.”

Banyai brought in 28,731 votes or 58 percent to David Holden’s 21,192 or 42 percent, according to a WINK News tabulation that included data from both Lee and Collier counties.

Banyai celebrated with an online party and then put her three children to bed at 8:30.

In State Representative District 105, which held a Democratic primary, Maureen Porras was the winner with 63.5 percent of the vote, or 1,452 votes, to Javier Estevez who had 36.5 percent or 835 votes.

As of 9:00 pm, the winner of the Republican primary was not yet clear, with state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) leading in Collier County with 8,300 votes or 28.7 percent of the vote, according to the official count of the Collier County Elections Office, and state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) leading in Lee County with 18,772, or 25.10 percent of the votes, according to the Lee County Elections Office.

In the hotly contested state Senate District 27, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Estero) was well ahead of state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers), by a vote of 47,935 or 74.8 percent of the vote to Fitzenhagen’s 16,115 votes or 25.16 percent. The Republican winner there will face Democrat Rachel Brown.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

With Republican turnout threatened, Trump reverses his attacks on mail-in voting in Florida

08-04-2020 Lee Co. mail turnoutLee County mail-in voting as of today.                     (Chart: Lee County Elections Office)

Aug. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg.

In a reversal of his previous vociferous opposition to mail-in voting, President Donald Trump now says that mail-in voting is “safe and secure, tried and true”—in Florida.

He announced the reversal in a 12:55 pm tweet today, August 4.

The full tweet stated (capitalization his): “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”

It is unclear to what “Democrats attempts” he was referring.

Trump’s previous attacks on mail-in voting were threatening Republican turnout in the key swing state. He has charged, without evidence or outside confirmation, that mail-in voting is “inaccurate and fraudulent” and rigging the election.

The Florida Republican Party attempted to hide Trump’s anti-mail Twitter rants by deceptively blurring out his criticisms in campaign flyers mailed to voters.

“He’s sowing the seeds of his own downfall with his rhetoric around vote by mail,” Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist with the consulting firm, BaughmanMerrill, was quoted as saying in a Politico article, “Trump’s assault on mail voting threatens his reelection bid.

According to the Politico article, BaughmanMerrill commissioned a poll that found that “Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base — 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan — said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November.”

In Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, mail-in voting is well under way.

As of this writing, Lee County is reporting that 67,768 ballots have already been cast. That’s 14.48 percent of a total of 468,141 voters. Of these, 33,329 were Republican, 24,020 were Democratic, 10,006 had no party affiliation and 413 fell into the “other” category.

In Collier County 37,136 voters have mailed in their ballots, or 17.09 percent of the 217,312 voters eligible. Of those, 20,702 were Republican, 10,985 were Democratic, 5,246 had no party affiliation and 203 were “other.”

08-04-2020 Collier County mail turnoutMail-in voting to date in Collier County.      (Chart: Collier County Elections Office)

Also threatening voting by mail are new measures that will serve to slow down and disrupt US Postal Service (USPS) operations. On July 10, Trump’s newly appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a major campaign donor, sent out a memo to all USPS personnel, announcing elimination of late and extra mail delivery trips.

Despite the new measure, mail has not been delayed in Lee and Collier counties, David Walton, a USPS corporate communications specialist told The Paradise Progressive in response to a query.

DeJoy’s memo follows years of attacks on the USPS by Trump, who has mainly complained that it is not charging Amazon.com enough for deliveries, although USPS makes money from Amazon.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

UPDATED: Supreme Court rules against Trump, preserves DACA; SWFL politicos react

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA protest in favor of DACA in New York, Sept. 9, 2017.     (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

June 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated 5:30 pm with reactions and statements.

The US Supreme Court today ruled against the Trump administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protecting the legal residency of immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16.

The 5 to 4 decision, whose majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, brings to an end the administration’s two-year effort to end the program initiated under President Barack Obama in 2012.

Numbers for DACA recipients in Lee and Collier counties are unavailable. However, there are an estimated 800,000 DACA “dreamers” nationwide and 32,795 in Florida.

Local dreamers have been profiled in the past by WINK News and NBC2.

In his opinion Roberts wrote that the administration did not follow proper legal procedures in attempting to end DACA.

Roberts made clear that the decision did not deal with the substance of the DACA program. “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” he wrote. “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

Southwest Florida representatives and candidates reacted with relative predictability to the Supreme Court decision.

The two Democratic candidates for Congress in the 19th Congressional District hailed the decision.

“DREAMERs have always been Americans,” stated David Holden. “This is their home and I’m glad the Supreme Court saw through this administration’s cruelty and made a decision to uphold justice. Many families in SWFL have DACA, DAPA [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents], or fall somewhere in the grey scale of our current, practically impossible immigration system.”

He continued: “With this win, we must generate the momentum necessary to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and their families; find permanent solutions for those who fall under TPS [Temporary Protected Status]; and realize an immigration system that is empathetic, efficient, and unbiased. The Senate now has no excuse and must pass the overwhelmingly popular Dream and Promise Act, or H.R. 6. SWFL owes much of its economy, culture, and community to immigrants, and I’m thrilled they can sleep a little easier tonight.”

Cindy Banyai expressed support for the decision: “The Supreme Court ruling blocking Trump’s cancellation of DACA is a major step in checking administrative overreach,” she stated. “As Justice Sotomayor noted in her opinion, cancelling DACA on the back of hateful rhetoric towards the same group of people needs to be called out. There is no room for racism and xenophobia in our country and this decision helps restore balance and accountability in that regard.”

Of the sitting members of Congress for Southwest Florida, only Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) issued a statement: “I am pleased that the individuals who benefit from DACA are still protected, but as I’ve repeatedly said, both sides have been playing politics for far too long on this issue, and it’s time to come up with a permanent solution for those who are here at no fault of their own. I reiterate my willingness to work with anyone and everyone on a bipartisan, bicameral solution that provides a path toward permanence, while also adhering to the rule of law. DREAMERS, who are here at no fault of their own, and have not violated US laws, deserve to be here legally, freely, and with certainty.”

Of the nine Republicans running, only Darren Aquino responded to The Paradise Progressive‘s request for comment and issued a tweet on the subject: “I 100% disagree with the recent #DACADecision. You’re looking at a politicized justice system that works to stop Trump at all costs. Illegal immigration hurts us in so many ways. I am going to propose national E-verify legislation to combat illegal immigration” [sic].

Trump issued four rapid-fire tweets on the subject immediately after the Supreme Court decision was announced. He stated that he needed new Supreme Court justices and a new legal solution to end DACA. “The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again,” he stated in one tweet. “The DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than EVER anticipated. Nevertheless, I will only act in the best interests of the United States of America!” he wrote in another.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) hailed the decision: “Today is a joyous and proud day for our country, as the Supreme Court has rejected the Trump Administration’s illegal, immoral assault on young immigrants who make America more American, which the Court rightfully found to be ‘arbitrary and capricious,’” she stated.  “The Court’s decision upholds our values, the law and the will of the American people.  Dreamers have the overwhelming support of the public, with more than three out of four voters saying Dreamers should be allowed to stay – including more than two-thirds of Republicans.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS ROUNDUP: Banyai gets Dem enviro endorsement; Fitzenhagen calls it quits

June 12, 2020 by David Silverberg.

06-02-20 Cindy Banyai serious
Cindy Banyai

The Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DECF) has endorsed Democrat Cindy Banyai for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, according to an announcement made by her campaign.

The Caucus works to preserve Florida’s environment and support lawmakers and candidates who do the same.

“I’m honored to be recognized by the DCEF for my commitment to preserving our environment and our water in Southwest Florida,” Banyai told The Paradise Progressive. “I’ll continue to advocate for community participation in sustainable development and climate action in Congress as I have within the UN system.”

Fitzenhagen calls it quits

12-03-19 Heather Fitzenhagen
Heather Fitzenhagen

State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers) has dropped her bid for Congress in the 19th Congressional District and will instead seek a state Senate seat in the 27th District, for which she has already qualified.

The seat is seat currently held by State Sen. Lizabeth Benaquisto (R-27), who is retiring after reaching her term limit to take up a job as executive vice president at Hope Healthcare in Fort Myers. The seat is being sought by Democrat Rachel Brown and Republican State Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Estero).

Fitzenhagen’s withdrawal from the congressional race leaves nine Republicans running.

As of this writing, Fitzenhagen had not posted any statements online or on social media about her decision. She is no longer listed as a candidate on the state’s list of candidates for the 19th Congressional District but is listed as qualified for the 27th Senate District.


Today at 4:26 pm, The Paradise Progressive posed the following questions to State Rep. Fitzenhagen:

    1. Can you confirm that you are no longer seeking the 19th Congressional District seat?
    2. Have you issued a statement to that effect? (Don’t see anything on your website, Facebook page or Twitter)
    3. Are you seeking the District 27 State Senate seat?
    4. Are you endorsing another candidate?
    5. If so, whom?
    6. What do you plan to do with the campaign funds you have on hand?

As of this posting, no response had been received.


Republican Dr. William Figlesthaler issued a statement today thanking Fitzenhagen for her legislative service, saying: “For years, she has fought against both radicalized Democrats and establishment, do-nothing, Republicans in the Florida House.” He posted a 19-second video tribute to her on a webpage that requests donations to his own campaign.

As of March 31, Fitzenhagen had raised $110,790 for her campaign. According to a poll released on June 2 by Political Prowess Polling, only 3 percent of 800 Republicans likely to vote in the August 18 primary indicated they would vote for her.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Rooney may support Biden, he tells NYT; Trump is “driving us all crazy”

05-31-17 Rep. Francis Rooney town hallRep. Francis Rooney at May 31, 2017 town hall meeting in Bonita Springs.   (Photo: Author) 

June 7, 2020 by David Silverberg

Conservative Republican Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), representing Southwest Florida, is considering supporting Democrat Joe Biden for president because Trump is “driving us all crazy” and Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic led to a death toll that “didn’t have to happen.”

Rooney’s remarks appeared yesterday in The New York Times, deep in an article titled, “Vote for Trump? These Republican Leaders Aren’t on the Bandwagon,” which was updated today.

Rooney said of Biden, according to the article, “What he’s always been is not scary. A lot of people that voted for President Trump did so because they did not like Hillary Clinton. I don’t see that happening with Joe Biden — how can you not like Joe Biden?”

Rooney was withholding a full endorsement, he said, because he was uncertain whether Biden would remain in the political mainstream.

According to the article, Rooney has been lobbied by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Biden ally.

Rooney announced his retirement from Congress in October 2019, in large part because of the backlash that occurred when he said he was open to hearing the evidence of wrongdoing during the president’s impeachment trial. Since that announcement he has evidenced increasing disillusionment with Trump and the Republican Party.

Rooney’s change of heart is especially stunning because he ran in 2016 on a staunchly conservative platform and campaigned with Trump. In his first term he voted 97 percent of the time with Trump. Prior to his election he was a generous donor to the Republican Party and conservative causes.

Rooney’s statements came on the same day that former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced his endorsement of Joe Biden.  The New York Times article detailed the disillusionment of former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and military leaders with Trump.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

Poll shows Aquino-Askar Republican congressional primary race; undecideds hold the key — UPDATED

06-01-20 Republican field CD19Breakdown of the findings of the first open poll of the Republican primary race in Southwest Florida.

June 2, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Updated at 3:45 pm with additional data

A poll by an independent polling firm, Political Prowess Polling, has Republican congressional candidate Casey Askar polling equally with former actor Darren Aquino in the 19th Congressional District Republican primary race.

However, the real prize that will determine the winner of the Aug. 18 Republican primary will be winning over the 27 percent of undecided voters it found.

Key findings, according to the poll’s executive summary:

 Undecideds are leading the way.

 Recent events have skyrocketed Aquino & Askar.

 Some analysts are predicting [State Rep. Dane] Eagle [R-77-Cape Coral] to rise to the top of the polls.

 Under 30% of voters chose any of the four sitting politicians in the race.

 Indecisive voters could make the difference for Darren Aquino or Casey Askar.

The poll was first reported in part today by The Paradise Progressive in the article “SWFL State of Play Today.” Subsequent to the posting of that report, Aaron Montgomery, the firm’s strategic polling coordinator, contacted The Paradise Progressive with new details.

The poll was conducted by robocall on May 27 and 28 among 800 registered Republicans likely to vote in the primary. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

It was not conducted on behalf of any candidate but rather was part of the firm’s 2020 Republican Primary Research Set, an independent series of studies on Republican primaries across the country, according to Montgomery.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

 

US House passes major revision of coronavirus business aid; Rooney absent for sixth time, Diaz-Balart, Steube approve

US_Capitol_west_side 3-2-19

May 28, 2020 by David Silverberg.

By a near-unanimous vote of 417 to 1, the US House of Representatives today passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (House Resolution 7010), which eases the terms of  government emergency loans for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The lone “nay” vote was cast by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-4-Ky.).

Despite new House rules allowing remote and proxy voting, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent. This makes the sixth major coronavirus-related vote that he has missed. As of this writing, Rooney had not issued a statement on his absence.

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) both voted for the measure. As of this writing, neither had issued statements explaining their votes .

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, makes a variety of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help businesses hurt by the pandemic.

Under the bill, businesses have more time to use loans, extending the period from eight to 24 weeks.

Businesses will now also get greater flexibility in using the loans. Until now the businesses had to use 75 percent of their loans for payroll and limit other costs to no more than 25 percent of the loan in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. Under HR 7010 that ratio changes to 60 percent and 40 percent respectively. The new bill also allows businesses to defer payroll taxes.

The bill was a bipartisan effort, introduced by Reps. Chip Roy (R-21-Texas) and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips (D-3-Minn.).

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: US House passes $484B business aid bill; Rooney absent, Diaz-Balart, Steube approve

04-23-20 Final HR 266 voteThe final vote on the latest Coronavirus aid bill.       (Image: C-Span)

April 23, 2020 by David Silverberg.

By an extraordinarily lopsided bipartisan vote of 388 to 5, the US House of Representatives tonight voted in favor of House Resolution (HR) 266, providing $484 billion in further stimulus, aiding small businesses devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Two of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted for the bill.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent, making this the fourth major Coronavirus relief package whose vote he has missed.

Ironically, on April 16 and 17 Rooney was vocal on the need to replenish the Paycheck Protection Plan, the previous stimulus bill for business that almost immediately ran out of money once it launched.

“Over 90 percent of our Southwest Florida economy is tied to small business owners that need the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to be funded and functioning,” Rooney argued in an April 17 statement.

“Most of these businesses are desperately trying to do the right thing by keeping their employees on the payroll and continuing to pay their bills. The people that are being helped by this program do not have weeks, or even days to wait – they need this funding immediately. This economic disaster was not caused by anything that these businesses did and was not a market driven collapse. The government, in response to the deadly health aspects of COVID-19, shut the economy down -and the government must provide assistance. Now is not the time for partisan political games.”

He also tweeted: “Small businesses are hurting and the original PPP funds have been exhausted. Hopefully leaders of both parties will quickly work out an additional funding plan.”

That was precisely what was in HR 266.

A request for comment by Rep. Rooney and his office had not been answered as of this posting.

Passage of the bill by the House approves action taken earlier by the Senate. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature to be enacted into law.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

BREAKING NEWS: Figlesthaler suspends campaign for 19th Congressional District seat

02-05-20 Figlesthaler speechDr. William Figlesthaler in a campaign video.

March 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

Dr. William Figlesthaler, a Republican candidate for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, the seat currently held by Rep. Francis Rooney, has announced suspension of his political campaign.

“This morning I made the difficult, but important decision to temporarily suspend our on-the-ground campaign activities moving forward,” Figlesthaler announced in a 12:15 pm tweet.

Figlesthaler, a Naples-based urologist, stated that he was launching a medical hotline and online help center.

Figlesthaler was the highest financed congressional campaign for the 19th District thanks to a $410,000 loan from the candidate.

The Figlesthaler suspension brings to 10 the number of candidates seeking Rooney’s seat: seven Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent.

Figlesthaler’s full statement follows below:

This morning I made the difficult, but important decision to temporarily suspend our on-the-ground campaign activities moving forward.

As a physician, I have seen first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all.

Over the last few months, we have built an incredibly talented and robust campaign team completely dedicated to winning this election.

My team has worked tirelessly over the last couple of days to transition our campaign operations into a resource center designed to help the citizens of Southwest Florida navigate the multitude of resources available to help them through this time of uncertainty.

Our entire campaign team will be focused on managing our “Need Help? Ask!” crisis hotline and resource center.

If you, or a loved one is in need of assistance or has questions regarding the virus or the fallout because of it, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Our team can be reached via phone at 239-424-9868 or online at NeedHelpAsk.com

I want to reiterate, America is the greatest and most resilient nation on Earth, and we will get through this.

Thank you, God Bless.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg