Watch Bernie Sanders Discuss Brussels Attack on ‘Kimmel’

Bernie Sanders visited Jimmy Kimmel Live on “Western Tuesday,” the same day a terror attack killed over 30 people in Brussels, Belgium. During his interview with Kimmel, Sanders spoke about stopping ISIS as well as why Americans are more inclined to align with tough-talking candidates in the aftermath of a terror attack.

“I think people get afraid, and for good reason. ISIS is a disgusting, barbaric organization – we’ve seen what they’ve done in Paris, what they’ve done in Brussels – and people are afraid of an attack in the United States,” Sanders said. “But what we have to understand is that we’re not gonna undermine the Constitution of the United States of America in order to effectively destroy ISIS. We can do that. So our goal in this issue is to destroy ISIS in coalition with Muslim nations on the ground, with the support of the United States and other major powers. I think we can do that.”

Sanders said the key to stopping ISIS, in addition to the military, is better information sharing between nations as well as preventing radicals from engaging with these terror groups via social media. “At the end of the day, we can not allow the Trumps of the world to use these incidents to attack all of the Muslim people in the world. That is unfair,” Sanders added. “To imply that because somebody is a Muslim, they are a terrorist, that is an outrageous statement, equally so when he talks about Mexicans coming over the border are rapists and criminals. That is not what this country is about. We don’t need, in my view, a candidate running for president hurling these types of insults.”

Sanders later revealed that he has never met Donald Trump – “I didn’t go to his wedding either,” a poke at Hillary Clinton, who was in attendance at the nuptials – and that while he supports states’ rights to decide legalizing marijuana, he’s more concerned about issues that will affect his grandchildren’s future, like climate control and lead poisoned water.

Sanders also admitted that he and Clinton sometimes have private conversations, and that he’s not to blame for Clinton’s “historic” “unfavorability numbers” in some polls. “What I have tried to do in this campaign is focus on the real issues impacting the American people,” Sanders said. “We have been very careful about not attacking Secretary Clinton in any kind of personal way. Other people do that, we have not.”

Florida politicians react to Brussels attacks

Attackers detonated bombs at the airport and on a metro train beneath the European Union’s capital on Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and confirming the worst fears of European officials, who proclaimed the continent at war.

Here is a compilation of reactions by Florida politicians to the attacks:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

“Now is the time for steady resolve as we continue to press against the scourge of terrorism. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims of today’s horrific attacks and their families. The bombings in Brussels are a reminder that we must remain vigilant and ‘if you see something, say something’.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“This is the latest evidence that the civilized world is under siege from a determined enemy who exploits any openness in our societies to inflict the most harm possible on innocent civilians. ‎My condolences to the families of those lost today and my prayers go out to all those who have been injured. The United States and Europe must be united in striking ISIS wherever they seek safe haven to dismantle this terrorist threat once and for all.”

Governor Rick Scott:

“Thoughts and prayers with the victims their families in Brussels today. Thankful for our military and law enforcement for keeping us safe.”

Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera:

“Our prayers are with the people of Belgium and the victims of these horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels. These attacks of radical extremist terrorism are a painful reminder that the threat of ISIS continues to be a clear and present danger. As President Obama enjoys his Caribbean vacation in Cuba, which was until recently a state sponsor of terrorism, he has yet to outline any concrete plans for eliminating ISIS. We must develop a strategy where America leads and we work with our allies around the globe to wholly and completely wipe ISIS off the face of the planet.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“As I have said before, nothing is more important than the safety of the families of my neighbors and all Americans. We must ensure that law enforcement, intelligence agencies and military service members have the tools they need to keep us safe.  I will continue to work to provide the resources and the will to ourselves and our allies. We will keep America tough and smart and safe.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Ron DeSantis:

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings:

 “I am overcome with sadness and anger today, but take solace in knowing that those responsible for these cowardly attacks will be brought to swift and total justice. All of Europe was targeted by this morning’s savagery, yet the values that unite us remain unshaken. We will never relent in our fight against terrorism.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate David Jolly:

“Today’s barbaric and unjustifiable attacks underscore the need for America and the world to stand united against terrorism.  We also stand united in supporting the people of Belgium and send our deepest condolences to the victims impacted by these attacks. It is times like this that we remain resolved in our fight to protect and preserve the freedoms and liberties that are the foundation of the free world. Let us also be clear, the actions of ISIS or any other terror organization wishing to do harm to innocent people will not dim the light of democracy. These attacks are a solemn reminder that we face a real security threat and we must resolve to confront it before it again reaches our homeland.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy:

“The American people stand in solidarity with Belgium today in condemning the terrorist attacks that struck Brussels this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims of these bombings. Our international community must remain united and vigilant in combating extremism and terrorism wherever it occurs.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed and injured today in Brussels,” Rooney said. “ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks. It’s the latest in a systematic threat which ISIS leadership has been calling for for years, and it will not end here. Europe is the current battleground and will see more attacks like this and Paris. It will only be a matter of time before attacks like this are mounted on a much larger scale in the United States than what we saw in San Bernardino. ISIS has told us that is their goal. They have kept all of their promises so far, so I don’t know why we would ignore them now. We can either sit back and wait to be attacked or we can work with our allies to put an end to ISIS. That is our choice. So far we haven’t been up to the task, as evidence by Brussels this morning.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, via Twitter:

“Praying for #Brussels today. The War on Terror is still very real, and it’s a war we can’t afford to lose.”

State Sen. Thad Altman, via Twitter:

“Prayers for the people of Brussels, Belgium, the victims and their families, following the attacks in their country.”

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, via Twitter:

“My prayers are with the families affected by evil in Brussels today, and I thank our military for keeping us safe at home.”

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Brussels. America must stand united with our allies to wipe Islamic terrorism off the map.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, vai Twitter:

“Truth is, we have hateful people. We must pray for peace in our world. Prayers to the lives lost in Belgium.”

State Rep. Jeanette Nunez, via Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims of the terror attacks in #Brussels #Belgium. May God give you comfort and peace.”

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, via Facebook:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Belgian people and all those affected by today’s terror attacks. We must remain vigilant at home and abroad to prevent future acts of brutality.”

State Rep. Ross Spano, via Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Brussels and the victims and families whose lives are forever changed by this unthinkable act of terrorism.”

U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox:

“Our enemies are waging a war we must not continue to ignore,” said Wilcox. “The loss of life, the brutal injuries and the destruction that have rocked Brussels are unconscionable, and we as a people must decide that enough is enough.

“Their soldiers don’t march in lock step and they don’t answer to a single general. What they lack in conventional organization, they more than make up for in savagery and disregard for human life. Paris, San Bernardino and now Brussels – their only pattern is that of opportunities seized in the void of real American leadership.

“We are at war whether President Obama wants to admit it or not. Arab Sunni Islamic Terrorists have declared war on all of western society and America. The piece meal attempts to stave off ISIS expansion are not working. The Obama administration is erroneously focusing America’s diplomatic efforts to broker an ever elusive peace in Syria with total disregard for the realities on the ground and a naive assumption that removing Bashir Al Asad will somehow lead to ISIS abandoning their apocalyptic objectives. This isn’t leadership, it’s passive ignorance.”

The Florida GOP offered this image:

pray for belgium

Arizona is the biggest prize for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primaries

Facing an increasingly narrow path to the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders aimed to halt, or at least slow, his candidacy’s slide on Tuesday.

Democrats in Arizona, Idaho and Utah were making their choices as Hillary Clinton attempted to tighten her grip on the race.

The day’s biggest prize was Arizona, with more delegates up for grabs than the other two states combined.

Sanders campaigned heavily there, pressing forward with his message about income inequality and urging voters to take a gamble on his more ambitious liberal agenda. He spent $1.3 million on advertising there, more than double Clinton, according to data from SMG Delta.

“What this campaign is about is asking Americans to think outside the box,” said Sanders at a rally in Flagstaff on Monday night.

Election 2016 | Live coverage on Trail Guide | Track the delegate race | Sign up for the newsletter  

Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist, was hungry for wins after a series of losses to Clinton, the former secretary of State. She started building her lead at the beginning of the month with landslide victories in southern states, only to suffer a surprise loss in Michigan on March 8.

Even Sanders’ victory in Michigan illustrated the uphill nature of his battle. Clinton won by a much larger margin that same night in Mississippi’s primary, so, thanks to proportional allocation, she came away with a bigger lead in delegates.

She then regained her footing and swept Sanders in all five states that voted March 15, including Ohio and Florida.

Clinton has won 319 more pledged delegates than Sanders, according to an Associated Press tally. She’s also supported by the vast majority of superdelegates, party leaders and elected officials who can decide for themselves which candidate to support and aren’t bound by voters’ picks in nominating contests.

Despite increasing pressure on Sanders to wind down his candidacy, he’s kept up his fight against Clinton. He criticized her in Flagstaff for financing her campaign with corporate donations and receiving payments for “speeches on Wall Street behind closed doors.”

Clinton had a double-digit lead in the Arizona polls over Sanders and mentioned him only once in her speech at a high school gym in Phoenix on Monday while describing their differing views on making college more affordable.

She spent more time criticizing Republicans.

“The stakes in this election just keep getting higher and higher, and the rhetoric on the other side keeps getting lower and lower,” Clinton said.

Five things to watch as Arizona and Utah voters head to the polls

Five things to watch as Arizona and Utah voters head to the polls

It’s not exactly Tiny Tuesday. But after weeks of high-stakes, cross-country balloting, today’s presidential contests make for a fairly modest go-round.

Only a few states will be voting. Arizona holds its primary and Utah its precinct-level caucuses. Democrats in Idaho will also caucus.

A mere…

It’s not exactly Tiny Tuesday. But after weeks of high-stakes, cross-country balloting, today’s presidential contests make for a fairly modest go-round.

Only a few states will be voting. Arizona holds its primary and Utah its precinct-level caucuses. Democrats in Idaho will also caucus.

A mere…

(Mark Z. Barabak)

She said that she understands Americans’ frustrations, but that she had never seen such a divisive, mean-spirited presidential race.

“Anger is not a strategy,” she said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Mark Kaelber, 54, wore a Clinton button, T-shirt and sticker to the candidate’s rally and said he was disappointed by Sanders’ recent attacks.

“I have always admired Bernie, but it’s gotten really nasty. He’s implying Hillary is corrupt and bought and paid for. He needs to stop,” said Kaelber, a university admissions advisor. “It seems like he can’t accept the fact he’s not going to win. It doesn’t do anyone any good by him continually being negative toward her.”

Other Clinton supporters worried that Sanders has focused too narrowly on income inequality at the expense of other important issues.

“I love Bernie. My only concern with him is that he has been too much of a one-issue candidate,” said Kris Kyllo, a 65-year-old retiree from Chandler.

While campaigning in Arizona, both Clinton and Sanders sharply criticized Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is nationally recognized for his hard-line stance against immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Donald Trump on track to become the Republican nominee, Sanders has highlighted polls that show him beating the New York businessman in a general election by a wider margin than Clinton.

“There is no question that you are looking at the strongest Democratic candidate,” he said Monday.

His campaign team has repeatedly described the primary calendar as skewed in Clinton’s favor for the first half of the nominating contests and expect Sanders to pick up steam in western states such as Washington, which holds its caucuses Saturday.

“We’re at halftime here, and we agree we’re behind, but we think we’re going to win this game,” said Sanders strategist Tad Devine last week.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, expressed frustration with the sentiment that Clinton was already locking down the nomination, calling it a “media drumbeat to essentially disenfranchise half of the Democratic voters.”

Twitter: @chrismegerian and @LATSeema

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Jac VerSteeg: Political fratricide model fails Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio was convinced the Fratricide Model of politics was his ticket to the top. Now, after one brilliant win and one spectacular loss, the Florida senator claims to have renounced the model.

He will not, he says, run for governor in 2018. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam need not fear a Rubio challenge.

We won’t have Marco Rubio to kick around anymore?

Political fratricide worked for Rubio in 2010 when he broke in line to oppose and defeat Gov. Charlie Crist for a U.S. Senate seat. He was helped along by that year’s Tea Party revolt and the fact that newly Independent Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek split the no-to-Rubio vote.

Just as angry as the 2010 Tea Party faithful but with a new idol, Florida GOP primary voters this month delivered the final blow to Rubio’s second attempt at exploiting the Fratricide Model. They gave Donald Trump a victory in every county except Rubio’s Miami-Dade refuge.

What effect did Rubio’s fratricidal challenge to his mentor (and his better) Jeb Bush have on the contest? What if Rubio had shown respect, bided his time and supported Bush? No way to know, but Florida might have been the firewall for Bush and the anti-Trumpers that it so dismally failed to be for Rubio.

I do not think that every intra-party challenge can be characterized as an example of the Fratricide Model. It’s appropriate for rivals in the same party to let voters decide between them. But when one of the challengers has not earned the right to vie for an office and, further, damages the party or the office he seeks, that is political fratricide.

And that is what Rubio has done. He knocked off Crist – once a Republican rising star – and proceeded to disdain the Senate seat he won. As a result, the seat easily could go to a Democrat this November.

Then, of course, Rubio challenged Jeb. After helping to undermine the clear choice of the GOP establishment, Rubio proceeded to run a horrible campaign. The overall effect boosted Trump’s prospects and hurt the Republican Party.

What will Rubio do next? He claimed, upon returning to work in the Senate – if someone so often a no-show can be said to “return to work” – that, in addition to eschewing a gubernatorial bid, he would not be anybody’s veep.

You never know what to make of a politician’s claim that he won’t seek this or that office. How many times did now-House Speaker Paul Ryan claim that he would not accept the post? (By the way, Ryan also insists he won’t allow himself to be nominated at a fractured GOP convention this summer. Right.)

For Rubio, who has been assailed for overweening ambition, what better strategy than to affect a new humility and express no ambition whatsoever for political office?

Is it really believable that if, by some miracle, he emerges as a vice presidential candidate – perhaps for Ryan at a brokered convention – Rubio would turn down the chance?

It is more believable that Rubio does not plan to run for governor in 2018. Not because he doesn’t lust after political office, but because he was so badly burned this year by the Fratricide Model. Even Rubio should be able to see that he is less qualified and less deserving than the premier GOP candidate for the job, Putnam.

Putnam served in the Florida Legislature and then went on to serve in Congress for 10 years. Unlike Rubio, Putnam actually performed his job diligently and rose to be the third-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House.

Then, rather than stay in a secure seat in federal office, Putnam chose to return to state politics and has been elected and re-elected as Ag commissioner.

It is worth emphasizing that Putnam’s chosen trajectory brought him voluntarily back to Florida. Rubio’s chosen path was to attempt to move into the White House. Only a failure to reach that goal could bring him the “consolation prize” of a gubernatorial campaign. And even if he were elected governor, he would just treat it as a stepping stone back onto the national stage.

Could Rubio beat Putnam? Considering his drubbing on the Ides of March, the likely answer is no. His decision not to run for governor easily could be a case of sour grapes rather than an example of his newfound humility.

Since Rubio decided to give up his Senate seat, it is hard to see any political path that puts him back on that stage. His best option? Hope that anybody but Trump wins and that Rubio could find a spot in a Ted Cruz or John Kasich administration and bide his time.

But does anyone think that if Rubio saw a chance to return to political prominence he would hesitate to seize it even if it meant running over one of his Republican brethren? Oh, brother.

***

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida

Bernie Sanders’s Global Victory Over Hillary Clinton

As I wrote back in February—or March on the other side of the international dateline—the first balloting occurred in Wellington, New Zealand, where Sanders beat Clinton 21-6 in a midnight meet-up at a pub. The final total in the country was 476-63.

Republicans don’t hold an equivalent contest for ex-pats, making the Democrats Abroad tally the only real guess at how Americans overseas are thinking about the election. The largest totals come from exactly the countries one might expect: Canada, Australia, and Western Europe. An openly unscientific poll conducted by Military Times found that members of the armed forces back Trump and Sanders most, but those numbers are not statistically sound nor broken out by those living at home or abroad.

Democrats Abroad also get four superdelegates—or rather, eight superdelegates, each worth half a delegate. Clinton has secured commitments from three and Sanders one.

The results provide an interesting snapshot of opinion abroad, but its meaning is less than clear. It seems likely that Americans who live abroad are a more liberal group, which would explain their tilt toward Sanders. But he’s been criticized for his foreign-policy stances, which critics call vague, especially on the Middle East. Nonetheless, he handily won each Middle Eastern country, including Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel. He also won five of the seven votes cast in Afghanistan. As for Clinton, her term as secretary of state doesn’t appear to have won her much favor with the ex-pats.

Sanders vows to fight Clinton all the way to the convention, despite his steep delegate disadvantage. The nine delegates he picks up from overseas should help him some, though he still trails significantly.

Shelby Farah murder trial resumes Monday in Jacksonville

Celllphone store clerk Shelby Farah‘s 2013 slaying shocked Jacksonville to its core.  And a sharp debate continues between the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office on whether the trial of James Xavier Rhodes should be a death penalty case.

Farah’s mother, Darlene Farah, and State Attorney’s Office prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda disagree that the death penalty should be sought for defendant Rhodes.

Rhodes shot and killed Shelby Farah, 20, during a 2013 robbery of the Northside MetroPSC store at 3100 N. Main St. N. where she worked.

Darlene Farah has asked as recently as this month that the death penalty not be applied in this case.

Public Defender Matt Shirk asserted in a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey last month, “Mrs. Farah has been particularly vocal concerning her opposition to your office’s decision to seek the death penalty for her daughter Shelby’s murder.”

If the death penalty is pursued, Shirk asserts,  “this case will continue to be litigated for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. I believe that with every motion, petition or appeal filed on Mr. Rhodes’ behalf, she will relive the pain and loss she has felt since losing Shelby.”

The Farah family has been mourning for two years and seven months since her slaying.

It’s still fresh in her mother’s consciousness. Part of the reason why, Farah says, is that in recent days, “I have seen the video of my daughter getting killed repeatedly.

“James Rhodes didn’t take away one life. He took away many lives. Our lives will never be the same. My life will never be the same,” Farah said Sunday.

Such statement usually help make the case for a maximum penalty. Farah, however, calls it “pathetic that people are trying to use my daughter’s death for their [political] benefit.”

Her blunt take on the case is that many parties have political agendas that are taking priority over her and her family’s needs.

“The days before court dates,” Farah said, are “pure hell” at her house. Indeed, during the 31 months since her daughter’s death her mind has continually been occupied with it.

They are months that have torn the family apart. The kids have a hard time being at home where their sister’s absence remains an open wound, she said. Meanwhile, she said, the case has driven a wedge between her and her son.

Farah, a Jacksonville native, opposes the death penalty in this case, saying that the “state failed … raised and created James Rhodes.” He had been a ward of the state since his parents abandoned him at age 5.  He received physical and sexual abuse in a boys’ home.

Farah’s son supports the death penalty in the case. In spite of his mother’s pleas with the SAO to not show him the video, it was done. Since then, she said, her son has not slept at home, and says that “he hates me” and “never comes home.”

“I can’t help but feel like they are trying to play my son against me,” she said.

Despite her son’s position on capital punishment, Farah said that if Shelby were alive “she’d be trying to help James Rhodes.”

“Everybody always called Shelby the peacemaker,” her mother said.

There is little peace in the Farah home, and hasn’t been in the past 31 months. Farah tells of cooking Christmas dinner and he children decided not to be around to eat it.

Dinner went into the garbage.

Meanwhile, for Darlene Farah, the worries pile up. Her son, years ago, was making trips to visit college football programs. Played multiple positions at Cedar Creek High. Ran a 4.6 40.

“He’s so smart,” Farah added. “Always got perfect FCAT scores.”

Now? He’s dropped out of high school. Drinks more. And his mother frets.

“My son’s going to end up in a morgue or a prison,” Farah said if things don’t turn around.

“I done buried one child. I don’t want to bury another,” Farah said.

The trial resumes Monday morning in Courtroom 503 in the Duval County Courthouse. Long after final sentencing, though, the trial will continue for the Farah family.

Hillary Clinton wages costly fight with Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton raised $30.1 million last month and spent even more as she worked to lock up the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, campaign-finance reports filed Sunday show.

More than half her February spending — $17.4 million — went into advertising buys as Clinton raced to rack up delegates in her battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She also spent about $4.3 million on payroll and related staffing expenses last month.

The reports also show Clinton donated nearly $93,000 to her own campaign last month in the form of “in-kind payroll and benefits.”

Despite the heavy spending, Clinton started March with $30.8 million in available cash and last week won five more states, extending her delegate lead over Sanders.

Sanders, who has attracted hordes of small donors to his populist campaign, previously announced collecting a whopping $42.7 million in February, but had not filed his fundraising report to the Federal Election Commission as of late Sunday afternoon.

The Clinton’s report shows she is getting better at raising money from smaller donors. Nearly 30% of the money she raised from individuals donors last month came in amounts of $200 or smaller, compared to roughly 20% for the entire election cycle.

Her campaign aides boasted Sunday that she now has collected campaign money from more than 1 million donors.

“Thanks to the 1 million people who have now contributed to our campaign and the more than 8.6 million people who have supported Hillary Clinton with their votes, we have the resources we need to continue to run a strong campaign all across the country and a nearly insurmountable pledged delegate lead,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement.

Sunburn for March 18 – Florida’s 2018 election cycle has begun

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.

I GET OFF A CRUISE AND THE 2018 ELECTIONS GET UNDERWAY…

… at least that’s what it felt like to me as I disembarked from the Disney Magic after four wonderful days away from Sunburn (well, truth be told, there’s a patch of sunburn on top of my head). Two stories dominated Thursday’s Florida politics news, and while they certainly say a lot about what may happen in the year ahead, they are just as much about the 2018 elections.

Marco Rubio returned to Washington, D.C. and promptly put an end to speculation that he would run for re-election to the U.S. Senate or for Governor in 2018.

“I’m not going to be anybody’s vice president. I’m just not gonna — I’m not interested in being vice president. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. I’m not going to be vice president. I’m not running for governor of Florida,” Rubio said.

“I’m going to finish out my term in the Senate over the next 10 months. We’re going to work really hard here and we have some things we want to achieve,” the one-term senator said. “And then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

While Rubio was taking himself out of the 2018 mix, Rick Scott‘s office confirmed the worst kept secret in Tallahassee: chief of staff Melissa Sellers is leaving the administration April 1. Sellers plans to launch a political consulting business that will work closely with Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get To Work.

With those twin moves — Rubio hanging it up and Sellers hanging out her own shingle — the 2018 election cycle in Florida is officially underway.

Beyond its impact for 2016, Rubio’s retreat means the GOP nomination for governor is Adam Putnam‘s to lose. With more than $3.3 million in his “Florida Grown” political committee and three decades worth of wining political campaigns, Putnam is now the de facto frontrunner for the Republicans.

But ask Jeb Bush what its liked to be tagged with the frontrunner label early on.

Florida Politics was recently told by one A-list Republican that former Speaker Will Weatherford asked they not make any firm commitments right now about the 2018 race. Does that mean Weatherford will run? Not at all, but it’s no secret he’s thinking about it.

Weatherford’s supporters contend he would be able to raise $10 million in his first month on the campaign trail. More important, they say, he has a message that would contrast with that of Putnam, who they point out has been in political office since he was 21.

If not Weatherford, Putnam will face a challenge from some quarter, most likely from a self-financed outsider ala Rick Scott.

As for Scott, it’s clear by Sellers’ decision to set up shop in Tallahassee that he’s running in 2018. That may seem obvious now, but if you would have said anytime before 2015 that Scott, with his cellar-dwelling approval numbers, would be a contender in a 2018 race, you’d have been laughed out of the Governors Club.

One potential candidate who says we won’t see them running in 2018 to replace Scott is Pam Bondi.

Right after after Fox News’ Neil Cavuto introduced her as a “frontrunner, maybe” for Governor, the Republican Attorney General squashed the idea.

“I will say on the record, I am not running for governor,” Bondi said. “I’m supporting Adam Putnam who I feel, he is our Agricultural Commissioner, and I think he’ll be a great governor for our state.”

Put Bondi down for making the first endorsement in an election cycle more than three years away.

… BUT ENOUGH ABOUT 2018, LET’S STAY FOCUSED ON 2016

MARCO RUBIO: I WON’T BE ANYONE’S VP via Burgess Everett of POLITICO – Rubio ruled out becoming a vice presidential candidate … “Clearly, Ted [Cruz]’s positions are conservative, but I don’t have anything further to elaborate on. I don’t have anything to announce,” Rubio said … “Hopefully there’s still time to prevent a Trump nomination, which I think would fracture the party and be damaging to the conservative movement.” But Rubio ruled out a “unity ticket” as vice president to Cruz — or to anyone else, for that matter: “I’m not going to be anybody’s vice president.” Rubio said he will throw himself headlong back into a job that he all but abandoned months ago.

RUBIO NEARS TED CRUZ ENDORSEMENT via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Rubio is close to endorsing Ted Cruz, but the two proud senators … have some details to work out first. Cruz has to ask for the Rubio’s endorsement, and both sides need to decide that it will make a difference, according to sources familiar with the thinking of both senators.

CLUES IN DONALD TRUMP’S FLORIDA DOMINATION ABOUT THE GENERAL ELECTION via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The turnout numbers from Trump’s 19-point victory indicate the New York billionaire’s pugilistic, anti-establishment rhetoric helped expand the Republican electorate, but the ramifications of that as the campaign transitions from primary to general election remain the subject of dissection by political pros of all partisan persuasions. “I don’t deny he’s bringing in new people, but it’s being offset by the people who are coming in to vote against him and the people who are already here who don’t support him,” said Tim Miller, who served as communication director for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and is now spokesman for Our Principles, the anti-Trump super PAC. Exit polls Tuesday night showed an average of 38 percent of the Republican voters in the five states where primaries were held, including Florida, said they would consider voting for a third party candidate if Trump won the GOP nomination.

DISHEARTENED POLITICIANS BACKING RUBIO NOT READY TO MOVE ON TO DONALD TRUMP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “It is very difficult for me to see Rubio move on,” state Rep. Julio Gonzalez … a member of Rubio’s Florida leadership team, said. “I feel Marco had the best qualities of any of the other 17 candidates that had put themselves out there. All of the rest of the candidates are seriously flawed.” He’s hardly alone. More than a half-dozen members of Rubio’s leadership team in Florida said over the last 48 hours that they are not ready to unite behind Trump, with many leaving open the possibility of never getting behind him and holding out a glimmer of hope that a contested Republican National Convention could revive Rubio’s chances. For those running for re-election and facing Republican primaries in the fall, supporting Trump or not has consequences that could affect their own races. Rather than committing, many are just staying out of the discussion all together.

DAVID JOLLY, TODD WILCOX TRADE JABS OVER “INSIDER” POLITICIAN CLAIMS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – With Florida’s presidential primary all of 38 hours in the rearview mirror, Florida U.S. Senate candidates are now ready to take center stage. That was clear … when Jolly tried to ignite a mini-Twitter feud with fellow Republican Wilcox over who is the insider candidate in an election year that has so far been defined by who is the outsider candidate. Just before 9 a.m. Jolly started the skirmish accusing Wilcox of lifting parts of GOP presidential candidate John Kasich‘s budget plan and adopting it as his own. In a series of tweets, Jolly says Wilcox cannot take and “insiders” budget plan and call it an outsider plan. Wilcox, a businessman, fired back, making sure to note that Jolly is a congressman and a “Washington Politician” and even includes a little dig on being a K-Street insider.

TWEET, TWEET: @GoMeteoric: Leave it to a Lobbyist/Congressman to mock balancing the budget and giving tax relief.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Tiger Bay Club of Tampa will host a town hall debate between Jolly and Wilcox beginning noon at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, 1610 North Tampa St. next to Stetson Law School. More information and RSVP at www.tigerbay.com.

CARLOS BERUFF SAYS HIS BUSINESS HISTORY IS WHY HE WOULD BE GOOD FOR SENATE via Florida Politics – At a meeting of the NW Orange Republican Women Federated … Senate hopeful Beruff outlined why he would be right for the job. [He spoke] about his upbringing and business acumen. His family immigrated from Cuba to the U.S. in 1957, after a failed attack on the presidential palace in Havana. “My mother was the only woman conspirator in that pack,” he said. “She ran an exile to Miami, where I was born in 1958. I got the lottery ticket to be an American citizen that day. My brother and sister were both born in Havana. Two years we went back to Cuba, thinking Fidel Castro was gonna be a great guy. That didn’t work out too well.” Beruff said his record of creating businesses and jobs as a homebuilder in Manatee County convinced him he could do the same on a larger scale in the Senate. “I’ve created jobs, I’ve stimulated the economy, and I’ve built a business,” he said. “I can do that for the nation.”

CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA PLANS ‘FLORIDA FIRST’ CAMPAIGN SWING via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Republican Senate hopeful will kick off his “Florida First Tour” April 4 … the tour will give Lopez-Cantera a chance to meet with Floridians to talk about job creation, economic opportunity, education and veterans’ services.

— “Patrick Murphy announces endorsement of 45 congressional Democrats” via POLITICO

WHO WILL REPLACE JEFF MILLER? via Will Isern of the Pensacola News-Journal  As the political dominoes begin to fall following Miller‘s announcement that he will not seek re-election, several names are being floated as potential candidates to replace the outgoing congressman … The name  mentioned more than others is that of state Sen. Greg Evers … If Evers does announce a run for Miller’s seat, it would open up a three-way race among the local state representatives to fill his Senate seat. State Reps. Clay IngramMike Hill and Doug Broxson … Would announce for Evers’ seat should he run for Congress. One name that can be ruled out of contention for Miller’s seat is state Sen. Don Gaetz, who announced on that he would not run. … Matt Gaetz, however, is expected to announce for Miller’s seat … Other names being floated are Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford, and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. If Evers does announce and the three representatives all vie for his seat, Pensacola Republican power broker Jim Reeves says a slew of new faces are likely to emerge to run for the state House … electrical engineer Scott Adams and Escambia Republican Executive Committee member Jeremy Evans to contend for Ingram’s District 1 seat … Frank White, son-in-law of Sandy Sansing, would run for Hill’s District 2 seat; and Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jayer Williamson would purse Doug Broxson‘s District 3 seat.

CORRINE BROWN FUNDRAISES FOR IMPENDING “COURT BATTLE” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – This can’t be a good sign … “Friends of Congresswoman Corrine Brown 2016” is raising money for an impending legal battle. It’s not anything to do with One Door for Education. Rather, it’s a more familiar fight. Brown writes, “as you probably know, I’m in the fight of my political life. Bullies have played a dirty trick to force me out of office by redrawing my Congressional district to cover a largely rural area of north Florida and include 22 prisons, and convicted felons can’t vote … This dirty trick would prevent me from representing so many of the Florida communities I love. Before I took office no African-American in Florida had never been elected to Congress.”

FOUR ST. PETERSBURG CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS ENDORSE CHARLIE CRIST via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – Darden RiceJim KennedyKarl Nurse and Lisa Wheeler-Brown threw their support behind Crist, who is currently battling former Obama administration official Eric Lynn for the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District. Crist, said Rice, was the right candidate to cut through the “obstruction” and “partisan battles” in Washington, D.C. The former governor is non-partisan, cooperative and listens to people, said Kennedy. He supports education and environmental progress, said Nurse. And, perhaps, most interestingly, Crist, a veteran politician whose public career stretches back nearly 25 years, represents a fresh face for the nation’s capital, said Wheeler-Brown.

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— MORE FROM THE 2016 CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

SAVE THE DATE: Friends of Florida Agriculture is hosting a barbecue event Saturday, April 2, honoring Putnam and featuring Republican U.S. Senate candidates Ron DeSantisLopez-Cantera and Wilcox. Event begins 12 p.m. at the Ben Hill Griffin’s Peace River Ranch, 1445 Ben Hill Griffin Road in Zolfo Springs. Tickets are $25 per person, $50 per family (kids come free), and are available at www.Floridagrown.eventbright.com. RSVP with Julie Fazekas at RSVP@AdamPutnam.com or (863) 537-7001.

RITCH WORKMAN NOT LEAVING STATE SENATE RACE — NO MATTER WHAT MIKE HARIDOPOLOS IS SAYING via Florida Politics – Workman, term-limited from running again for the Florida House, says the former Senate President is contacting political allies in Tallahassee and in the newly-renumbered SD 17 floating his possible candidacy in the race and, to Workman’s chagrin, saying Workman intends to drop out of the race. Workman [said] Haridopolos is free to jump into the campaign, but he’s dismayed Haridopolos would use what he characterized as underhanded tactics in order to strong-arm his way into the seat. “He is welcome to get in the race,” said Workman, “but to start his campaign on a straight faced lie is disappointing.”

LINDA CHAPIN ENDORSES MIKE CLELLAND FOR SENATE via Florida Politics – Former Orange County Mayor Chapin came out with an endorsement of former House Rep. Clelland in his run for the open SD 13 seat Thursday. Chapin, the first Orange mayor elected countywide, trumpeted Clelland’s past experience in the Legislature and as a community leader in her endorsement of Clelland, a fellow Democrat. “I am endorsing Mike Clelland for Florida Senate because he has demonstrated the courage to take on entrenched political interests on behalf of our citizens,” said Chapin in a glowing review. “He is a lifelong public servant who will fight for working families in Central Florida.”

ED NARAIN PROUD OF HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE HOUSE, READY TO ADVANCE IN THE SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The 39-year-old second-term representative from Tampa had a very good session, as good as any member in the House Democratic caucus … sponsoring a bill to remove and replace the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. … also sponsored the legislation in the House that finally addresses the legacy of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna … If things go as he intends, Narainwill be serving in the state Senate in 2017. Last week he made the somewhat surprising announcement that he will take on fellow Democrats Betty Reed and Darryl Rouson for the state Senate District 19 … Narain said from the time he started working in the House last year he’s been fending off requests that he run for the Senate.

RAY PILON JUMPS INTO SENATE RACE; EDWARD JAMES NOW UNOPPOSED IN HD 72 via Florida Politics – Pilon decided to forgo a 2016 re-election bid for a fourth term in the House in favor of a Senate District 28 campaign, leaving his Democratic opponent Edward James running unopposed in a coastal swing seat. Pilon said his decision came from the resolution of Senate maps and local considerations. Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters declared publicly last year Pilon would not seek the seat when rumors first emerged, but Pilon said that contradicted his camp’s internal thinking. “We were honestly contemplating it (then),” Pilon said. “We saw what the maps were, took time to explore it and network it and made our decision.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Democratic Senate District 34 hopeful Gary Farmer is hosting a grand opening celebration for his Fort Lauderdale office. Event is Saturday, beginning 9 a.m. at the Rose Valley Arts Building, 2300 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Suite 300 in Fort Lauderdale. Parking is free and light refreshments and breakfast will be provided. More information with field director Jacob Flaherty at (845) 264-2783.

SAVE THE DATE: Democrat Jim Waldman is holding a volunteer organizing brunch Saturday for his campaign for Senate District 34. Event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP online for location details.

— “Wayne Harris adds $15K to pass 6-figure mark in HD 4 race via Florida Politics

HD 11 CONTEST GETS CROWDED, AS SEVENTH REPUBLICAN ENTERS RACE via Florida Politics – David Bunk of Fernandina Beach put in his paperwork … now faces fellow Republicans Cord ByrdJack DanielsBarry HollowayDonnie HornerTom Taylor and Sheri Treadwell in the race for [JanetAdkins’ seat, which covers northern Duval County and all of Nassau County. Horner currently leads the pack in fundraising, with more than $100,000 in contributions, though Treadwell has a slight advantage in cash on hand. Heading into March, Treadwell had about $88,000 on hand while Horner had just under $82,000.

DEMOCRAT PRESTON OUGHTON FILES IN HD 16 via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Oughton is an attorney and a graduate of the local Florida Coastal School of Law. Oughton will face the winner of the primary between School Board member Jason Fischer and Dick Kravitz, a former State Legislator who now works in a greeter/customer service role at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections even while he runs an active campaign, a position Kravitz secured after endorsing the Supervisor of Elections in last year’s election. No matter whether Kravitz or Fischer emerges, Oughton faces an uphill battle in terms of fundraising.

AFTER OPPONENTS DROP OUT, SCOTT PLAKON DRAWS ONE DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE IN HD 29 via Florida Politics – Fred Marra filed for the Seminole County seat earlier this month and, with Libertarian David Leavitt and fellow Democrat Chuck O’Neal both ending their HD 29 campaigns, he is currently the only candidate challenging Plakon.

BRUCE ANTONE DRAWS DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY CHALLENGER IN HD 46 via Florida Politics – Democrat Sheena Meade filed to run for the House District 46 seat … she plans to peg Antone as one of the “same old elected officials” practicing the “same old politics” voters are frustrated with. Meade, 20, said her campaign’s message will include a “renewed focus on early childhood education, a common-sense approach to increasing homeownership within the district, a more hands-on role in supporting classroom teachers and ensuring that we prioritize school spending directly on students and classrooms.” Currently, Antone and Meade are the only two candidates filed to run for the Orange County seat, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 5-to-1.

RENE PLASENCIA’S INTERN FILES IN HD 49 RACE via Florida Politics – Amber Mariano filed paperwork to run for the seat as a Republican … joining Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, who worked as former chief of staff for Rep. Joe Saunders when he held the seat from 2012 through 2014. HD 49 has a sizable Democratic majority and was a big pickup for Republicans in 2014, when Plasencia squeaked by Saunders with 51 percent of the vote. The district, which includes the University of Central Florida and its trove of young voters, has about 11,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. When he won his only term in the House, Saunders defeated Republican Marco Pena with 56 percent of the vote.

— “Brian Hodgers widens fundraising lead in HD 52 race” via Florida Politics

SEAN SHAW THANKS SUPPORTERS FOR EARLY FUNDRAISING PUSH via Florida Politics – “In just 72 hours, you’ve given more than $5,000,” said Shaw. “Because of your response, we’re already putting together our team and building the GOTV operation that will win here.” The Princeton graduate and former Insurance Consumer Advocate … is hoping his third crack at the House will be a winner. Shaw ran in Rep. Alan Williams‘ Tallahassee-based HD 8 back in 2008 and in HD 61 in 2014. So far no other candidate has filed in the east Tampa seat, left vacant when Rep. Ed Narain announced a run for state Senate. “With the election more than five months away, there’s lots of work to do,” said Shaw.

SAVE THE DATE: Republican Kathleen Peters is holding a fundraiser Wednesday, March 30, for her House District 69 re-election effort. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Edwards group 150 Second Ave. N., Suite 1600 in St. Petersburg.

— “Byron Donalds adds nearly $7K for HD 80 run, hitting $90K” via Florida Politics

SCANDAL-PLAGUED DAVID RIVERA MOUNTING LEGISLATIVE COMEBACK via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “Today I launched my candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118!” Rivera wrote in an email to potential supporters … “And the best part is, I have already gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures from voters within the district who want me to serve as their representative in Tallahassee.” Rivera’s announcement comes a day after his former friend, Marco Rubio, withdrew from the presidential race after he was shellacked by Donald Trump in [the] Florida primary. Top Rubio supporters dislike Rivera and many tried to keep him away from the presidential campaign, with mixed success. Rivera remains under federal investigation for his alleged participation in a scheme to fund a ringer candidate with at least $81,000 in secret money to undermine a rival in a 2012 congressional race.

IN DEBUT RE-ELECTION VIDEO, MIAMI-DADE MAYOR EMBRACES COUNTY’S RECOVERY FROM RECESSION via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is linking his tenure with the local economy’s recovery from a housing crash and brutal recession. “How things have changed since Mayor Carlos Gimenez took office four years ago,” the narrator states, citing increased housing sales, employment and the largest property-tax cut in the history of the county. “Mayor Gimenez kept his promises.” Gimenez took office in 2011 on the promise of reversing the increase in property-tax rates that his predecessor implemented. Gimenez delivered on the 12-percent cut, undoing the increase championed by then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled weeks before Gimenez took office in a special election. The Gimenez video was produced by Miami-Dade Residents First, one of his political committees backing Gimenez’s re-election. It was the first video from Gimenez, and follows a string of videos challenger Raquel Regalado has been producing since before she joined the mayoral race in early 2015.

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RICK SIGNS BUDGET, VETOES $256 MILLION AS PROMISED via the Associated Press — Scott signed the $82 billion budget on Thursday, following through with planned budget vetoes he announced earlier this week. The Republican governor vetoed dozens of spending items, including money for roads, cultural projects, health care and law-enforcement programs.This year’s total amount of budget vetoes is less than half of what the governor eliminated last year. Last year, his nearly $500 million worth of budget vetoes sparked the ire of top legislators since they came with little notice.

TOP AIDES TO SCOTT — MELISSA SELLERS, TIM CERIO — STEPPING DOWN via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Scott announced that his Chief of Staff and general counsel are stepping down from their posts. Their last day is April 1Sellers has been Scott’s chief of staff since November 2014. Cerio has been Scott’s general counsel since January 2015. Cerio previously worked at the Gray Robinson law firm and is returning to private practice.

FLASHBACK to 2/22 on Florida Politics: “Maybe Sellers really will leave the administration … right before Sellers ties the knot April 16.”

BOOK IT: Deputy Chief of Staff Kim McDougal will replace Sellers as CoS.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD DELIVERS 12,000 PETITIONS OPPOSING ABORTION BILL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The group, led by National Organization for Women’s lobbyist Barbara DeVane and Regina Sheridan, a Tallahassee-based activist, asked to meet with the governor about the petitions, but an aide told them he was not in the office. The petitions in part read, “Instead of attacking women’s rights and endangering their health, the legislature should focus on improving women’s health.” HB 1411 would create tough new rules for clinics, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges or transfer agreements with nearby hospitals and treating them more similarly to surgical centers under the law. It defines in statute the length of each trimester of a pregnancy, aligning with arguments used by the state in a battle with Planned Parenthood. The bill would also cut all Medicaid funding for non-abortion services — like cancer screenings or STD tests — at any clinic that performs elective abortions. Abortion rights activists argue that the combined effect of all these provisions is fewer clinics.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GAMBLING IN FLORIDA: COURTS CALL THE SHOTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – When legislators finished their annual session without a gaming bill or a compact with the Seminole Tribe, they raised the stakes on the future of casinos in Florida … precisely where gaming opponents want it. Instead of lawmakers deciding the future of expanded gambling, that decision will now be made by the courts in pending lawsuits before the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge. The court could conclude that lawmakers have no authority to authorize slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties without statewide voter approval, thereby neutering the Legislature’s influence. It could say that only the Legislature can decide where to put new games. Or a third option — the most explosive of all and the one the plaintiffs are hoping for — could open the door to unprecedented expansion of slot machines if the court rules that Palm Beach and Gadsden counties could seek permits to install slots machines because local voters have approved it. “It could become a free-for-all for slot machines across the state,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz … who spent the last six months trying to work out a compact with the governor and the tribe, as well as a gaming bill that suited the Senate and the diverse interests of the pari-mutuel industry.

FPL SUBMITS $1.3 BILLION PROPOSAL TO PSC via Jim Ash of WFSU – Millions of Florida Power and Light customers would see higher monthly bills if regulators approve the investor-owned utility’s $1.3 billion proposal … to help pay for infrastructure improvements. The company says the increases would cover the costs of strengthening power lines, three large solar energy centers and to complete a natural gas plant in Okeechobee County, among other things. The proposal asks for annual increases, beginning with 866 million in 2017 … the typical customer bill will grow at roughly the rate of inflation from now through 2020.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Jennifer Helen Ashton: First Protective Insurance Company

Joseph Farrell: Hernando County Association of Realtors; Pinellas Realtor Organization

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield: City of Flagler Beach; IBS Construction Group

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: CIOX Health; Shiver Properties

Berdell KnowlesJohn Allen Worley Jr.: JEA

Jerry Presley, Presley Consulting Group: Central Florida Small Business Council

Scott RossKenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: GDKN Corporation

Wansley WaltersStephanie Grutman Zauder, Ballard Partners: Global Tel*Link Corporation; Florida Juvenile Justice Association; Uber Technologies

Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting: Florida Psychological and Associated Healthcare; Florida Psychological Associates; Lake Wales Charter Schools; Queralyze; The Latt Maxcy Corporation

Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley Stewart: Frontier Communications Corporation

WEEKEND TV

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: A discussion with political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller on “Who owns to GOP? The RNC or Donald Trump?”

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Republican Senate candidate U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: WTSP 10 News Investigative reporter Noah Pransky; Hillsborough Young Republicans Secretary Holly Holobyn; Democratic political consultant Franco Ripple; and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Rep. Janet Adkins on the recent move to test backlogged rape kits, Democratic CD-5 candidate J.L. Holloway, and Prof. Michael Binder of University of North Florida on Tuesday’s presidential primaries.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Presidential Primary recap show, with speeches from Tuesday night and analysis from Michelle Ertel and Jeremiah Jaspon. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim regarding the 9/11 attacks and the families of the terrorists. Plus a new installment of “Common Ground” with Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Chris Ingram.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary YordonSteve Vancore, and Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Angela Corey, State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit and Asst. State Attorney Rich Mantei, plus Josh Newman of Newman Strategies and Solutions and Chris Hand, co-author of “America: The Owner’s Manual.”

***Tally Food Insider 101 is a Signature Culinary Entertainment Dinner Series designed to bring handcrafted experiences with a bold signature to Tallahassee. Each dinner concept is uniquely designed to tell a story that expands from the design and decor to the menu which features unique courses created with local fresh ingredients farmed within 100 miles of Tallahassee for the most part and prepared to deliciousness by Executive Chef Jason Bruner. Each dinner design incorporates the work of a local Tallahassee artist and features a local musician to complete a one-of-a-kind Thursday night experience to delight all the senses. Reserve your spot today!***

HULK HOGAN TRIAL MAY BE NEAR END, WITH CLOSING ARGUMENTS FRIDAY via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – Jurors will hear closing arguments in ex-pro wrestler Hulk Hogan‘s lawsuit against Gawker Media over a sex video … Also, a Florida court ruled in favor of a group of media companies that wanted documents unsealed in the case. The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland ruled that sealed documents in the case are public records and should be available to the public and the press. Earlier, lawyers for Gawker showed Hogan a promo video of him wearing T-back underwear and parodying the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” video. They also played a video of a Hulk Hogan deposition in which Hogan discussed his wrestling persona, his true identity, branding and celebrity. They also asked him if he tried to “shape” any of the media interviews he did in the days after the sex video was posted, by asking media outlets to not discuss the video. “I don’t recall,” Hogan said.

SEAWORLD TO STOP BREEDING ORCAS, MAKING THEM PERFORM TRICKS via Jennifer Kay and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Finally bowing to years of public pressure, SeaWorld … will immediately stop breeding killer whales, and soon stop making them perform theatrical tricks. SeaWorld’s 29 orcas will remain on display at the company’s theme parks, but in “new, inspiring natural orca encounters,” the company said. Attendance at SeaWorld’s parks dropped after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a highly critical documentary. SeaWorld reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million in February. SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said he approached the company’s killer whale quandary with a “fresh perspective” since taking the helm less than a year ago, and he realized, “society is shifting here.”

TAMPA ENTERS RUNNING TO HOST ADDITIONAL SUPER BOWL via Frances McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Tampa will be competing to host the Super Bowl in 2021 as well as 2019 and 2020. “It’s my understanding the dates have also been expanded to include a third Super Bowl; we’re talking 2019, 2020 and 2021,” Dennis Rogero, chief of staff for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, told the Tampa City Council … Tampa is competing with Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles. “There is a host committee being formed,” Rogero said. Outside the council chamber he said that Tampa is “very, very well positioned to not only be awarded it but to handle it very well.” The final bid is due in April followed by a presentation and vote to take place in May.

NEW X-MEN: APOCALYPSE TRAILER FROLICS THROUGH THE END OF DAYS via Brian Raferty of Wired – The sequel to 2014’s time-traveling X-Men: Days of Future Past is set in 1983, and focuses on an ancient mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who forcefully reawakens after thousands of years, hoping to once again lead his super-powered people. The only thing that can stop Apocalypse is, of course, Xavier’s team of outcast mutants, who’ll need to fight to secure their future (and, it should be noted, the future of mankind). They’re led here by both the good professor and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and staffed by such fresh-faced members as Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). “You’re not students anymore,” Mystique tells the youngin’s in her why-we-fight speech. “You’re X-Men.” But will even they be able to stop an apoplectic Apocalypse from sending Earth back to the bad old days? We’ll find out when X-Men: Apocalypse opens May 27.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Kelsey Frouge, St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell, Florida TaxWatch’s Rob WeissertSean Shaw. Celebrating today is the FEA’s Andy Ford and Ron Matus.

Bernie Sanders on the Border: ‘We Don’t Need a Wall’

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders called the controversy over immigration “trumped up” today during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales, Arizona, just days before the primary in this southwest state.

“The so-called immigration problem we face today at this particular moment, is a trumped up and exaggerated problem,” he said during a hillside press conference with the expansive, brown border fence stretching off into the distance behind him. His microphone was run off of a generator.

Sanders went on to quote numbers from the Pew research center that indicate more people have been going from the United State to Mexico, rather than the other way around.

“We don’t need a wall and we don’t need barbwire,” He said. “We need to fix our broken criminal justice system. First and foremost, it goes without saying that we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need to take 11 million undocumented people out of the shadows, out of fear, and we need to provide them with legal protection, and we need to provide them with a path toward citizenship.”

The Vermont senator said he would end the “deportation regime” currently at work in the country and spoke at length about “fear” and “sadness” he has seen in families torn apart by deportations. When asked specifically if he believed President Obama was part of that “regime” he said, “Yes.”

“The rounding up of families that happened around Christmas time and continues to happen must end, and as president I will end it,” he said before listing several of his immigration policy proposals, including expanding the deferred action program for immigrants who came to the country as children (DACA) as well as the proposals to grant status to parents of legal residents.

While touring the Morely Gate Border Crossing by foot, he spoke briefly with one DREAMer and another young woman who recently received asylum status.

He also spoke at length about ending private prisons and detention centers and called the work of Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio “inhumane” and a “disgrace.” Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, recently had a run-in with Arpaio during a visit to one of his so-called tent cities, which the senator called an “ambush.”

Arpaio endorsed Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, who is also campaigning in Arizona this weekend. Sanders had strong words for the businessman as well.

“I would hope that all of us are rightly appalled by the divisive bigoted and xenophobic comments of people like Donald Trump,” he said motioning to the border. “Trump’s labeling of Mexicans as rapists and criminals repulses all Americans of good will. Mexico is our neighbor, which we have extremely important relations with. To insult an entire nation is not befitting of anybody, let alone a candidate for president of the United States.”

Sanders’ primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, has not yet made a stop at the border during this campaign. When asked if he was trying to distinguish himself from her by coming to this site, the senator replied, “Well, I just wanted to make it very clear that I think we have a crisis in this country with 11 million undocumented people, that so many people, and I have met a lot of them, are living in fear and that they are being exploited.”

North Broward Hospital District board chairman, committee chairman suspended

On Friday, the state Inspector General sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott outlining serious concerns about how the North Broward Hospital Board has functioned during her investigation of the board’s contracts from 2012 to the present.

The worry: “possible improprieties” or “inappropriate actions,” including violations of charter or law.

The IG asked that David DiPietro and Darryl Wright, board chairman and Audit Committee chairman, be suspended, given an ability or a “perceived ability” to “retaliate/interfere” or “operate in a perceived management role of Broward Health.”

Among the myriad letters sent from Inspector General Melinda Miguel to Chairman DiPietro: a March 1 missive cautioning against “adverse personnel or retaliatory action against any person participating in the review.”

Clearly, she was not reassured by the actions in the time since that letter was sent. Those actions include hiring the Berger Siegelman law firm as outside counsel for the board. That was construed, by the Attorney General’s office, to violate statute related to noninterference, and to constitute malfeasance, providing support for the move to suspend the members.

At issue is the conflation of board oversight functions and managerial functions.

On Friday, the Governor issued executive orders suspending both men from their roles, so that they do not interfere with the audit.

The Inspector General’s complaints included the board hiring, at taxpayers’ expense, an outside firm to “manage” the audit for them.

The state inquiry came into being shortly after the CEO of Broward Health committed suicide by gunshot in January.

At issue are seven contracts, five with companies (EmCare, MedAssets, Premier Inc., G4S, and Zimmerman Advertising), and two with physicians, reported the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in February.

Bernie Sanders will not attend AIPAC conference

AIPAC has a tradition of inviting all the presidential candidates in election years to the conference. In fact, Donald Trump’s attendance this year has drawn backlash from attendees, some of whom plan to boycott his speech on Monday.

RELATED: Rabbis plan boycott of Trump at AIPAC

A petition started by Max Blumenthal, the son of former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal and a pro-Palestinian writer, had garnered more then 5,000 signatures urging Sanders not to speak at AIPAC. One of the signers is Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, who has endorsed Sanders.

On the other hand, foreign policy writer Robert Naiman wrote an open letter to Sanders encouraging him to speak at AIPAC — urging him to be a “truth-teller” to the group. Naiman is critical of the group’s hard-line pro-Israel stance.

AIPAC lobbies politicians on its pro-Israel agenda and energizes Americans around strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Its annual conference is a must-stop for politicians every year looking to appear before the influential audience.

The group has also been a source of criticism for the anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S., as well as other pro-Israel groups who believes AIPAC takes too rigid a stance against the Iran nuclear deal.

Bernie Sanders will not attend AIPAC conference

AIPAC has a tradition of inviting all the presidential candidates in election years to the conference. In fact, Donald Trump’s attendance this year has drawn backlash from attendees, some of whom plan to boycott his speech on Monday.

RELATED: Rabbis plan boycott of Trump at AIPAC

A petition started by Max Blumenthal, the son of former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal and a pro-Palestinian writer, had garnered more then 5,000 signatures urging Sanders not to speak at AIPAC. One of the signers is Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, who has endorsed Sanders.

On the other hand, foreign policy writer Robert Naiman wrote an open letter to Sanders encouraging him to speak at AIPAC — urging him to be a “truth-teller” to the group. Naiman is critical of the group’s hard-line pro-Israel stance.

AIPAC lobbies politicians on its pro-Israel agenda and energizes Americans around strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Its annual conference is a must-stop for politicians every year looking to appear before the influential audience.

The group has also been a source of criticism for the anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S., as well as other pro-Israel groups who believes AIPAC takes too rigid a stance against the Iran nuclear deal.