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(CNN)Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is seeking re-election to the Senate, publicly admitting he changed his mind and giving a boost for Republicans facing a tough fight to maintain their Senate majority in November. Rubio emailed supporters Wednesday announcing his decision, acknowledging the sharp departure from his previous stance. "In politics, admitting you've changed your mind is not something most people like to do. But here it goes," he wrote. "I have decided to seek reelection to the United States Senate." Rubio's announcement marks a 180-degree turn from where he was even just a month ago, when he insisted he would give up his Senate seat at the end of this term. Read more on CNN 
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State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto announced Sunday that she will not run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Curt Clawson. Benacquisto, who came in second to Clawson in the 2014 special election for the seat — after U.S. Rep Trey Radel resigned amid a cocaine-possession scandal — was widely seen as a top contender in the Republican-heavy district. “While I am overwhelmed by the support I have received to run in the last few days, after reflecting on the decision with my family, I have decided the best way for me to continue to serve Southwest Florida is to remain in the Florida Senate,” she said in a written statement.  Read more in POLITICO 
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Former Republican hopeful Marco Rubio offered a glimpse of his future on Monday — and it appears to involve a lot of working out.  The Florida senator unleashed a late-night Twitter tirade that included sarcastic tweets about "whether to chest or legs tomorrow at gym." The rant followed a story in the Washington Post that suggested he was lost at sea in terms of his political future.  "Rubio, according to conversations I've had with people close to him, is sort of betwixt and between when it comes to his next move," according to Monday's story by the Post's Chris Cillizza.  In response, the 44-year-old Rubio issued a flurry of messages about how he was spending his time, his ambitions and reporters "desperate for content."  Rubio suspended his campaign on March 15 after failing to win his home state of Florida to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who had mocked his younger adversary for his Senate absences and called him "Little Marco." Read more on Nbcnews.com
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It happens in Florida every two years. I’m not just talking about the qualifying period that determines the candidates eligible to run for office later this year. I’m talking about the manipulation of elections laws concerning write-in candidates that keeps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Floridians from having a say in who represents them. This is voter disenfranchisement by definition, and both Republican and Democratic candidates have used it to their benefit. The latest example came last week right in Jacksonville. Under Florida law, if all the candidates on the ballot have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, then all voters are allowed to cast ballots in the primary. State law also allows candidates to qualify as write-ins relatively easily: They don’t have to gather petition signatures or pay hefty fees like traditional candidates. Read more Jacksonville.com  
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U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff referred to President Obama as an “animal” during a recent Florida Republican meeting, prompting opponents from both parties to call on him to apologize. “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president — because he’s an animal, OK? ... has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses,” Beruff told the St. John’s County Republican Executive Committee on Thursday. Beruff’s remarks, recorded by a tracker and first reported by The Huffington Post on Sunday, were promptly condemned by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and his Republican colleague in the U.S. House, David Jolly, both of whom are running for the same Senate seat. Read more in POLITICO
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TALLAHASSEE – After his two-year stint as Senate president, Andy Gardiner has returned to Orlando with a handful of high-profile legislative wins and a political committee flush with cash to ponder a big question: what’s next? The 47-year-old hospital executive says politics will likely play a role in his future, but he’s not sure how.  “If I had something mapped out I would tell you, I really don’t,” Gardiner told POLITICO Florida. “I’m looking forward to spending some time at home.” Gardiner said he will spend the summer helping Senate president-designate Joe Negron of Stuart, who is overseeing the GOP Senate campaign infrastructure, raise money for candidates. He also said he plans to use his own political committee to boost the political fortunes of allies. Read more in POLITICO 
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THE ROTUNDA - Host, Trimmel Gomes appeared on i24News, an international 24-hour news current affairs television network based in Tel Aviv and broadcasting worldwide. Gomes provides updates and analysis on Florida's presidential primary.   Links to video segments:    3/15/2016 http://www.i24news.tv/en/tv/replay/evening-news/x3y4031#/evening-news/x3y4031     3/16/2016  http://www.i24news.tv/en/tv/replay/evening-news/x3ycw9k#/evening-news/x3ycw9k  
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TALLAHASSEE — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi made a surprise endorsement of Donald Trump on Monday, only to run into criticism over the way her office examined fraud claims against Trump University after the New York billionaire contributed money to her campaign. At issue is a $25,000 campaign contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to a Bondi-controlled political committee in 2013. It came just days after she said her office was reviewing complaints related to Trump’s school. Bondi’s office later determined it did not need to take any action against Trump University because of an ongoing lawsuit already filed in New York. That decision is getting renewed attention after Bondi endorsed Trump at a Tampa rally one day before the Florida primary. “Every time I’m surprised someone endorsed him, there’s a a quid pro quo — $25,000 buys a lot when it comes to a state-level politician,” said Katie Packer, a former Mitt Romney aide who now runs Our Principles, an anti-Trump super PAC. “It’s too bad people defrauded out of money by Trump University don’t have that kind of money to buy an advocate in the Florida Attorney General’s office.” Read more in POLITICO
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Press Release: (Tallahassee, Fla.) – Today, Tuesday, March 8, Uber debuts a new TV ad clearly connecting the dots and highlighting the longstanding relationship between Senate President Andy Gardiner and Florida’s largest taxi company. The ad begins airing this evening in Orlando and Tallahassee. The new TV spot, “Connect the Dots,” can be found HERE. Listen to more on Uber issue on 'Episode 50: The Final Countdown'
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TALLAHASSEE -- House and Senate budget negotiators finalized the roughly $80 billion 2016-17 state budget Monday night, in the process growing the overall spending plan by $123 million. The increased spending came largely from supplemental funding lists, known as “sprinkle lists” in Capitol parlance, that emerge at the end of final budget negotiations. The lists were unveiled during a 9 p.m. budget meeting. The House proposed $30 million in additional spending, while the Senate had $72 million in additional funding. On the lists was a $25 million boost for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, including a 3 percent increase for residential habilitation services, which amounts to nearly $11 million. Other things on the last-minute spending list include $11 million proposed by the Senate for the University of North Florida’s Skinner Jones Hall. Budget negotiators said the project had support throughout the process, but had slipped through the cracks. The Senate also put forward $10 million for the Department of State’s cultural grant list. Read more in POLITICO
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A weekly podcast focusing on the people and stories shaping Florida politics produced by Trimmel Gomes an award-winning journalist and former statewide news director of Florida Public Radio. Gomes hosted its flagship program "Capital Report" and created the public affairs program "It's About Florida." Gomes is political commentator and regular political contributor to WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee.

 

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