Thursday, June 4, 2020

Rick Scott: State Investments in Mote Marine Laboratory Will Help Fight Red Tide

Rick Scott

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott announced the state of Florida was sending almost $2.2 million to help expand the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ozone Treatment System which is leading the fight against red tide as it continues to hurt the Sunshine State.

Scott said on Monday that the state government will invest $2,178,000 “to test innovative technologies to mitigate the effects of red tide utilizing specialized clay field experiments and other innovative approaches for controlling and mitigating the impacts of red tide including expansion of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ozone Treatment System.”

The governor’s office explained why the funds would help combat red tide.

“These systems have proven to successfully clean water, ridding it of the algae that causes red tide,” Scott’s office noted. “Three additional mitigation technologies are also in development at Mote Marine Laboratory. Last week, Governor Scott announced a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and world-renowned experts and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida (USF) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to focus on using a form of specialized clay to quell the effects of red tide. Red tide is naturally-occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year.”

The governor, who is currently challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in one of the closest Senate races in the nation, offered his take on Monday.

“As our state continues to battle naturally-occurring red tide along our Gulf Coast, we will stop at nothing to help our communities deal with this issue. Today, I’m proud to announce the latest of our aggressive actions to fight red tide and direct nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory to expand its Ozone Treatment Systems, and fund work of a new partnership between the state and world-renowned scientists that we announced last week between FWC, Woods Hole, Mote Marine Laboratory, USF and DEP to conduct new field testing of a specialized clay focused on quelling red tide,” Scott said.

“Last week, I urged FWC to create a new Florida Center for Red Tide Research and reconvene the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and since red tide began impacting our shores, we have directed more than $14 million in grants and other funding to combat this natural phenomenon,” Scott added. “Florida will not stop working until our communities recover from red tide and the innovative and deliberate steps we have taken over the past week show our resolve to act quickly and do whatever it takes to get results for the families of our state.”

Michael Crosby, the president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, said the funds will help against red tide.

“Mote Marine Laboratory welcomes this significant support from Governor Scott to build on the wealth of knowledge that has resulted from many years of impactful research collaborations with FWC and other partners by launching a rapid response initiative that will utilize applied science and innovative technology approaches for controlling and mitigating the impacts of red tide. The primary focus of this initiative will be to determine the most effective and ecologically sound methods for mitigating adverse impacts from the harmful algae, K. brevis, along the southwest Florida coast and canal systems. The initiative will be structured to rapidly examine novel potential mitigation products through laboratory, mesocosm and pilot-scale field deployments that may have applications for other harmful algal blooms throughout Florida and around the world,” Crosby said.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

NFIB Backs Ron DeSantis for Governor

The Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) threw its support behind former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., to be the Sunshine State’s next governor.

The NFIB Florida PAC announced its endorsement of DeSantis on Monday.

“Ron DeSantis is the clear choice for small business owners in the governor’s race,” said Bill Herrle, the NFIB’s executive director in Florida. “DeSantis believes in free enterprise and supports cutting taxes and reducing the scope of government – the same policies that have grown Florida’s economy, created jobs, and positioned our state as an economic leader.”

Herrle, whose group consists of more than 10,000 businesses across the Sunshine State, jabbed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate, on economic issues.

“Andrew Gillum’s progressive polices are an outright threat to free enterprise. His anti-business approach will deflate small business optimism, which is currently at record-breaking levels,” Herrle said.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of NFIB. I have always been a strong supporter of small businesses and I know the important role they play in Florida’s economy,” DeSantis said. “As governor, I look forward to working together with NFIB to keep taxes low and reduce burdensome regulations. I am committed to maintaining an economic climate where small businesses can thrive so that Floridians can achieve their version of the American dream.”

The Florida Democratic Party insisted the NFIB is “a conservative special interest group which has fought for years for massive tax cuts for the wealthy while taking away health care from millions of Floridians” and a “well-known astroturf group funded by right-wing billionaires with an agenda of ripping away health care from working families to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich.”

“It’s no surprise that the group that sued to take away health care from Floridians would back Ron DeSantis’ campaign. NFIB is a billionaire front group that is supporting Ron DeSantis because he has spent his entire career working to take away Floridians’ health care to pay for massive tax cuts to the rich. DeSantis has spent his time in Congress fighting for his donors at the expense of Floridians and their health care — and that’s why corporate special interests are pouring big money into his campaign,” said Kevin Donohoe, a spokesman for the Florida Democrats.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

Palm Beach Atlantic University Adds More than $400 Million to Local Economy

Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University, an interdenominational school located in West Palm Beach,  released a study on Monday which showed it has added more than $403 million in financial benefits.

“According to the University’s Office of Institutional Assessment, Accreditation and Research, an indirect multiplier of 2.5 was used to determine the broadest economic impact generated in the community, which was $2.9 million higher than last year’s,” PBA noted on Monday.

President William M. B. Fleming Jr. said the school, which spends 98 percent of its annual budget in Palm Beach County, said PBA was helping South Florida on many fronts.  The school’s annual budget includes more than $67 million in addition to more than $33.3 million on faculty and staff salaries. More than 38,000 guests visited the school last year.

Fleming insisted the budget and salaries do not tell the whole story of how PBA impacts the area.

“Our students play a significant role in PBA’s impact in the community,” said Fleming. “More than just supporting higher education and fueling prosperity at the local level with their tuition plus dollars, our students are mobilized citizens, uniting our community in a common effort to make this a city where people want to live, work and play. They also provide inspiration by offering their talent to local businesses that greatly value their gifts, preparedness and business ethics.”

Fleming noted the student body spend more than 130,000 hours on community service in the area. Since being launched in 1968, PBA students have logged more than 3.35 million hours of community service.

With more than 50 undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees offered in West Palm Beach, in Orlando and online, PBA has just under 4,000 students and more than 16,000 alumni. There are more than 170 faculty members teaching at PBA.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

Ron DeSantis Reels in Pro-Life Support

Ron DeSantis

Pro-life groups at the state and national levels have thrown their support behind former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. to be Florida’s next governor.

G. Halisky, the chairman of Florida Right to Life PAC, threw his group’s support behind DeSantis in a letter forwarded to the media on Friday.

“On behalf of Florida Right to Life PAC, I am pleased to inform you that we have given your candidacy our endorsement. The endorsement indicates that you are the best pro-life candidate in the race and is a recommendation that our members and supporters vote for you,” Halisky wrote.

“Our endorsements are being published on the Florida Right to Life website and sent to our chapters. The endorsement may be used as your campaign sees fit. With best wishes for the success of your campaign.”

The National Right to Life Committee endorsed DeSantis on Wednesday. David O’Steen and Karen Cross wrote DeSantis to endorse him and contrasted his record with that of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate.

“National Right to Life, the federation of state right-to-life organizations, is pleased to endorse you for election as governor,” O’Steen and Cross wrote. “You are a strong advocate for life. You support pro-life legislation, including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would protect unborn children by prohibiting abortion at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods. You oppose the use of government funds for abortion, and you oppose giving hundreds of millions of dollars of government funds to abortion providers. In contrast, your opponent, Andrew Gillum, supports a policy of abortion on demand, and using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life,” they added. “We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons – whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia.  All voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to elect you as governor so that you can work to advance vital pro-life public policies.”

 

Republican Matt Caldwell Builds Momentum in Florida Agriculture Commissioner Race

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, continues to build momentum as he looks to become Florida’s next agriculture commissioner.

Caldwell announced on Monday morning that his efforts have led to more than $1 million since winning the Republican nomination in last month’s primary.

At the end of last week, Caldwell’s campaign had raised $309,143, while Friends of Matt Caldwell had raised $724,500 since the primary. So far, Caldwell has raised more than $3.5 million for his campaign.

On Monday, Caldwell weighed in on his efforts.

“I am proud to have earned the trust of Florida voters who have helped us raise over one million dollars in the three short weeks since the primary. It is proof that Floridians are placing their trust in me,” Caldwell said.

“Workers, farmers, consumers, and business owners all over the state have generously taken their hard-earned dollars and donated to show support for my candidacy,” Caldwell added. Since day one, I have clocked nearly 100,000 miles in all corners of the state to campaign on principles and my proven track record. This enthusiastic show of support statewide only reaffirms my conviction that Floridians want proven, principled leadership in the Department. I aim to give it to them.”

While the race is overshadowed by other contests, including close races for governor and the U.S. Senate, Caldwell insisted the agricultural commission race should not be overlooked.

“The commissioner’s role is often misunderstood, even by people running for this very office,” said Caldwell. “This race is not about a single issue. Floridians have more diverse needs that we must meet: growing jobs, protecting our state’s precious resources, promoting Florida businesses, and shielding consumers from fraud. It is important that Florida’s next commissioner come prepared with a profound understanding of these complex issues.”

Caldwell faces attorney Nikki Fried, the Democratic nominee, in November. Current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam faces term limits after eight years in Tallahassee.

 

Synan Says: The Real Top 25 in College Football, Week 4

There are a lot of questions surrounding the ACC, including whether or not its teams should  have a shot at the college football playoffs.

It was only two years ago when you could make a legitimate argument that the ACC deserved to be ranked as one of the two best football conferences in America. Clemson was back. Florida State was just two years removed from winning a National Championship. Louisville had an electric Heisman winner and Virginia Tech hired young hot shot Justin Fuentes to bring them back to glory.

A funny thing happened. Other than Clemson, the conference has completely flamed out. This past weekend was downright embarrassing for ACC football. Now we will have to ask if an ACC team can make it to the playoffs. There will be  Power 5 conference champions, Notre Dame, and the loser of Georgia against Alabama to consider for four spots in the playoffs. An undefeated ACC champ is almost certainly in, but a one loss ACC Champ could have a problem comparing resumes with other teams.

What happened Virginia Tech and Boston College? It became pretty clear in the opening week that Miami and Florida State would not be national contenders so what other teams might rise up in the ACC in their place? Despite both being undefeated, the Hokies and Eagles went out and laid complete eggs with Virginia Tech losing at 0-3 Old Dominion and Boston College flopping at 0-3 Purdue. OK Duke, you’re up next.

For those looking to glean something from UCF hosting a Power 5 school in Pitt this week, don’t bother. It is a program that seems to be in freefall even though the team is 2-2. The Panthers took a loss at a North Carolina team that is also a mess. It’s near impossible to judge UCF when their schedule is so terrible. Their only hope is for arch rival USF to keep winning. Sad predicament for Knight fans to hope your rival wins every game before a Black Friday matchup that should draw national attention. I saw them score a lot of touchdowns this weekend but also gave up yards and points to a Florida Atlantic team that Oklahoma laid to waste.

Onto the rankings. Stanford gets a boost this week because being lucky is better than being good and a road victory against Oregon is a premier win no matter how they got it. West Virginia takes a hit because Tennessee is so terrible but the Mountaineers have plenty of big games left to make their case. Yes, the SEC is still the best conference, and by a pretty big margin so you may see that in the rankings.

TOP 25

  1. Alabama (4-0) Comfortable home win over Texas A&M.
  2. LSU (4-0) Wins versus Miami and at Auburn keep them here.
  3. Stanford (4-0) Wins versus Southern Cal and at Oregon.
  4. Georgia (4-0) Still living off win at South Carolina.
  5. Clemson (4-0) Georgia Tech has historically been a house of nightmares. Not this year.
  6. Ohio State (4-0) Win at TCU not as enticing this week.
  7. Notre Dame (4-0) Put a whipping on Wake Forest. Can’t wait to see them versus. Stanford.
  8. Kentucky (4-0) Huge win over Mississippi State. Also won at Florida.
  9. West Virginia (3-0) Smacked around Kansas State.
  10. Oklahoma (4-0) That looked ugly against Army.
  11. Penn State (4-0) Needed overtime in Week 1 to beat Appalachian State. Struggled with Illinois until the fourth quarter.
  12. UCF (4-0) Should have tried to get a game with Nebraska to make up for UNC game.
  13. Cincinnati (4-0) Unimpressive against Ohio and coming back to Earth after hot start.
  14. South Florida (4-0) Have beaten two Power 5 schools but neither Illinois or Georgia Teach are any good.
  15. Auburn (3-1) Washington win makes them highest ranked 1 loss team.
  16. California (3-0) I don’t think they can beat Oregon or Stanford.
  17. Syracuse (4-0) Congrats on being in the Top 20! You’re reward is a trip to Clemson this week.
  18. Washington (3-1) Still control their own destiny in conference play.
  19. Duke (4-0) The hopes of the ACC ride with the Blue Devils so there’s almost no hope.
  20. Colorado (3-0) Colorado State losing to an FCS team hurts their cause.
  21. Michigan (3-1) Poor Nebraska got taken to the woodshed by Big Blue.
  22. NC State (3-0) Have a good senior QB, but it really hurts to not play WVU due to Florence.
  23. South Carolina (2-1) Rolled a Vanderbilt team that took Notre Dame to the last play.
  24. Mississippi State (3-1) They got the license plate that ran them over. It said KY 28 7.
  25. Oklahoma State (3-1) They have beaten Boise State  but crumpled versus Texas Tech.

 

Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.

Gas Prices Continue to Drop Across Florida Despite Higher Oil Prices

While the average American is paying 27 more cents a gallon than they did at this time last year, gas prices continue to slip in the Sunshine State despite a rise in the price of oil.

AAA released a study on Monday morning which showed the average gallon of gas in Florida cost $2.71 on Sunday, down two cents over the past week and well below the national average of $2.85 per gallon. While prices at the pump in Florida are 4.5 cents higher per gallon than they were least year, gas prices in the Sunshine State have been on the decline, falling every day for more than three weeks and dropping more than nine cents a gallon.

Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, weighed in on Monday, saying he expected prices to continue to drop but warned there could be changes in supply due to international tensions.

“Even though oil prices rose last week, prices at the pump slipped lower because of declines in gasoline demand,” Jenkins said. “The latest figures from the EIA show weekly demand hitting 4-week lows. Combining this autumn trend with the recent switch to a cheaper-to-produce winter blend gasoline, and prices at the pump could move even lower this fall. However, upward pressure persists due to concerns that there could be major crude supply challenges this fall, due to US-led sanctions against Iranian crude and sharp reductions in economically-stressed Venezuela.”

The West Palm Beach-Boca Raton area had the most expensive gas in Florida with prices averaging $2.84 a gallon followed by the Panama City market where prices stood at $2.81 a gallon and Miami where prices averaged $2.80 a gallon.

The least expensive gas price averages in Florida could be found in the Tampa Bay area with prices in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market at $2.63 a gallon followed by the  Melbourne-Titusville area and Orlando where, in both places, prices averaged $2.66 a gallon.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

 

The Gloves are Off Between Ron DeSanits and Andrew Gillum

With little more than six weeks to go, the contest to see who will be Florida’s next governor is growing increasingly nasty.

At the end of last week, the Republicans turned up the heat on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Republican Party of Florida unveiled a website on Friday calling on Gillum “to tell the truth about his luxury Costa Rica vacation in 2016 with lobbyists and a suspicious $15,000 deposit in his bank account.”

“In May of 2016 Mayor Andrew Gillum went on a luxury Costa Rica vacation with his lobbyist friends and investors in the Edison restaurant, which received $2.1 million in taxpayer funding that Gillum approved. The Edison in Tallahassee is the same restaurant at the center of the ongoing FBI investigation involving Gillum and his associates,” the RPOF insisted. “Andrew Gillum promised to release his receipts from this trip but his campaign released only a few of the receipts. Floridians deserve answers, and they deserve them now. The clock is ticking.”

RPOF officials tried to make the case against Gillum on Friday.

“Ask yourself this question,” said state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, the chairman of the RPOF. “Would you trust an elected official that has a suspicious $15,000 deposit made into his personal account? A deposit that large should have an easily explainable answer, but unfortunately we’re not getting receipts or answers these days out of Andrew Gillum.”

“Andrew Gillum refuses to come clean about the $15,000 deposit in his bank account and who really paid for his luxury vacation to Costa Rica,” said Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for the RPOF. “Gillum’s botched attempt to cover up the truth and hide his connection to the ongoing FBI investigation only resulted in a poorly-redacted bank statement. Does Andrew Gillum have a lobbyist-fueled slush fund? The voters of Florida deserve answers.”

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) also took aim at Gillum on Friday.

“Radical far-left Democrat Andrew Gillum’s crusade to make Florida into a high tax state is continuing to be the ‘bold dividing line’ of the gubernatorial race,” the RGA insisted. “At a recent press conference to defend his billion-dollar tax hike on Florida’s job creators, Gillum praised California’s tax rates, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands are fleeing California’s unaffordable taxes to states like Florida.

“These comments come as Gillum is receiving campaign help from far-left darling Elizabeth Warren – another staunch advocate of trillion-dollar tax hikes – and plans to campaign with more tax-hiking Democrats in high-tax New Jersey,” the RGA added. “Gillum has made it clear that he utterly rejects Florida’s lower tax levels. Floridians can’t afford to jeopardize their state’s way of life to pay Gillum’s California-level tax rates.”

The Democrats, in turn, have been pounding away at former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla, Gillum’s opponent.

Central Florida businessman Chris King, Gillum’s candidate for lieutenant governor, assumed the usual role of the running mate and went on the attack on Thursday night.

“Apparently, divisive, gutter politics-style attacks on Mayor Andrew Gillum’s character and integrity weren’t enough for our opponent. Now, Ron DeSantis has taken to spreading lies that Andrew wants to ‘destroy capitalism,’” noted King. “Let’s be clear: Andrew and I have bold, progressive plans that put Floridians first and will move our state forward. Instead of the failed status quo, we’re simply out to do right by working people so that our state works for everyday people again — through fully-funded schools, access to affordable healthcare, and an economy that works for all Floridians.

“But apparently, that’s striking fear into DeSantis and the political insiders who back him, which is why they’re resorting to these blatant, desperate falsehoods. It’s a sad way to campaign, but it’s how Donald Trump, Rick Scott, and Ron DeSantis try to keep a broken political system going in the face of an insurgent, grassroots campaign like ours.,” King added. “DeSantis has the wrong priorities for Florida, plain and simple. In Congress, he voted with Trump 94 percent of the time — even when it would protect big health insurance companies, corporate polluters, and the gun lobby at the expense of our families.

“Floridians suffered under politicians who have had the wrong priorities for far too long — and we can’t afford another four years of the same failed status quo,” King insisted. “It’s time to make everyday Floridians the priority. As your next governor and lieutenant governor, Andrew and I will focus on improving schools, making healthcare more affordable, and fighting for a better future for all Floridians.”

In the meantime, liberal groups are targeting DeSantis for not returning money from businessman Steven Alembik’s company SMA Communications. In recent days, Alembik’s tweet calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim and using a racist word to describe the former president has been in the news. The DeSantis camp insists the money from SMA Communications was spent in the primary.

“Money talks, and by not returning his contributions from a racist who freely uses racial slurs Ron DeSantis is sending a message that these comments are ok,” said Zach Hudson, a spokesman for liberal group American Bridge. “Ron DeSantis and his ever-growing list of white supremacist supporters might find this type of racist rhetoric acceptable, but the people of Florida don’t.”

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

Unemployment Rate in Florida Held Steady in August

Florida saw 20,000 new private sector jobs in August but the state’s unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, the same as it was in July.

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott announced the new jobs numbers, noting that since he took over at the start of 2011, Florida has seen more than 1.6 million new jobs as the unemployment rate went from 10.8 percent to 3.7 percent under his watch. During that period, the national unemployment rate went from 9.3 percent to 3.9 percent.

“The Florida turnaround story continues with another milestone being achieved – 1.6 million jobs created in under eight years,” Scott said at an event in Brevard County on Friday. Floridians should be proud of this accomplishment and the entire nation should take note – by cutting taxes and creating a positive environment for business, we’ve grown our economy. We’ll never stop fighting for job creation.”

Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, also weighed in on the new jobs numbers, showcasing Promise, a campus in Brevard County which helps special needs adults.

“The creation of more than 1.6 million new private-sector jobs is not an accident. Florida businesses are confident in our business-friendly environment and talented workforce, and programs like Promise in Brevard are great examples of the investments businesses are making in our state,” Proctor said.

In the past year, more than 220,000 new jobs were created in Florida with the leisure and hospitality sector leading the way with 54,600 new jobs followed by construction with 39,300 jobs, education and health services with 29,300 jobs, professional and business services with 28,400 jobs, and trade, transportation, and utilities with 23,600 jobs.

Okaloosa and St. Johns Counties tied for the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.9 percent followed by Walton County and Monroe County where it stood at 3.0 percent. Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.3 percent, followed by Hardee County at 6.2 percent and Sumter County at 5.5 percent.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

 

Darren Soto Looks Like a Growing Factor in Florida Politics

While we’re still more than six weeks out until Election Day, the heavy lifting is over for U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., and he is now able to turn his attention to state and national politics.

Soto has been one of the main political beneficiaries of the growing Puerto Rican population in Central Florida. Only 40, Soto, the first member of the Florida congressional delegation of Puerto Rican ancestry, has spent the past decade impressively moving up the political ladder. Making his first bow in an unsuccessful state House bid in 2006, Soto claimed a state House seat in a special election a year later and served three terms there before winning a state Senate seat in 2012. Soto was able to build something of a reputation as moderate Democrat when he was in Tallahassee, leading the Florida Chamber of Commerce to back his state Senate bid over Republican Will McBride in 2012.

When then U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., decided to forego a third term to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Soto defeated two prominent liberals–Grayson’s wife Dena and Central Florida activist Susannah Randolph–in the primary and went on to defeat engineer and Navy veteran Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election, winning by more than 50,000 votes and taking 57.5 percent of the vote.

Grayson assumed Soto was vulnerable to the left and offered a primary challenge last month but was utterly routed. Soto resoundingly crushed Grayson at the end of August, winning 66 percent in the primary.

Liebnitzky waits Soto in November but the rematch simply doesn’t look competitive. That being the case, Soto has started to go to bat for fellow Democrats in other races. For example, on Thursday, Soto took to the stump in Haines City joined by Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez and Chris King, the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor.

Soto and the other Democrats were trying to reach out to rural voters and the freshman congressman weighed in on the matter.

“We can jump start development in communities that have been neglected by Washington and Tallahassee Republicans for far too long,” said Soto. “We do this by investing in our infrastructure and our people, by funding research to fight agricultural challenges like citrus greening, and by strengthening other industries to help diversify our rural economy.”

At the same time, Soto is sharpening his attacks on Republicans in Washington and reaching out to Puerto Rican voters. On Thursday, marking the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Soto took aim at President Donald Trump’s handling of its aftermath.

“A year later, we know the GOP-controlled Congress grossly underfunded disaster relief and the administration’s delayed response tragically cost close to 3,000 American lives. To add insult to injury, President Trump ends FEMA assistance for evacuees and shows disdain towards official death tolls,” Soto noted.

“But in the face of adversity, my fellow Boricuas are more resilient than ever before,” Soto added “We‘ve witnessed our community unite, opening their homes and given selflessly to help those in need. As Puerto Ricans continue to recover and heal, we will also continue fighting for supplemental relief funding and for additional resources for our new residents in Florida.”

Where Soto goes from here will be interesting to see. In his first term, he’s shown a knack for working with fellow members of the Florida delegation and there have been several times when he has paired up with fellow Central Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy. More interestingly, Soto has been able to work with Republicans like U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Matt Gaetz, both from Florida, on issues ranging from medical marijuana to foreign oil spills. For the moment, Soto looks safe from the GOP and, after he dismantled Grayson, his left flank is secure. All this being the case, Soto looks set to be a factor in Florida politics for years to come, especially as the Puerto Rican population continues to grow in Central Florida.

This analysis was written by Kevin Derby who can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.