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College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

>> Read more trending stories

Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Hillary Clinton TODAY on the TJMS

Hillary Clinton will be back on the campaign trail Thursday with events in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Then she addresses the Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington.

But first she'll be on the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning at 7:50 and 8am.  It's her first major interview since pneumonia forced her to take a few days off after a 9/11 event on Sunday.

Wednesday, her doctor released a two page letter updating her health.  It included results of a test on her heart revealing a calcium score of zero.  Clinton's doctor says she's fit to serve at commander in chief.

Protesters take opposing sides on proposed Newton mosque

About a dozen protesters, several of them armed, gathered in front of the historic Newton County courthouse Tuesday to protest the presence of Muslims in America generally and a proposed local Muslim burial ground and mosque, specifically.


“Who are we to say it’s not going to be a refugee compound?” said Phillip Morris, a Walton County resident who turned out against the mosque.


Nearby, a sign read “Unite against Islam, stop the Islamic immigration refugee invasion now!”


A young teenage boy waving an American flag wore a shirt that read “God hates Islam.”


As the protest got underway, James Stachowiak, of Evans, Georgia, wielding a semiautomatic rifle, railed against Islam and Muslims through a megaphone.


“Islam is not here to assimilate,” he said. “Mohammad preached the establishment of a global caliphate.”


The anti-Islam protesters were met with a slightly smaller group of counter protesters who said they were there to support religious freedom.


“I am personally Christian and we believe defending other people’s right to worship will keep our right to worship safe as well,” said Newton County resident Kendra Millerd.


Georgia Security Force III%, a local militia, called for the rally after posting a video that caused the county to cancel a meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday. At that meeting, commissioners were expected to lift a temporary moratorium on new places of worship, clearing the way for the cemetery and mosque, which the militia opposes.


The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the armed protest by what the organization called “anti-Muslim extremists.”


“These armed bigots do not represent the people of Newton County, who are as warm and welcoming as other Georgians,” CAIR Georgia executive director Edward Ahmed Mitchell.


As of Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Newton County had not invited the agency to get involved. A spokesperson for the local Sheriff’s Office confirmed the group was still under investigation.


The militia’s video, which was posted online over the weekend but has since been taken down, shows several members of the militia decrying Islam and allegedly trespassing on the Muslim congregation’s property to hang an American flag. The Newton County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into the group.


“ …. A self-made video circulated on social media of a militia group from a neighboring county, [which] may have been trespassing on private property, and exhibiting harassing or violent behavior,” County Manager Lloyd Kerr wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately in today’s society, uncivil threats or intentions must be taken seriously.”


He added that the temporary moratorium on new places of worship will expire on September 21 if the commission takes no action.


“The Board of Commissioners intends to honor the expiration date and has no plans to extend the moratorium,” Kerr wrote.


For more on this story visit

Wright State withdraws from holding first presidential debate

Wright State president David Hopkins announced Tuesday the university has withdrawn from hosting the first presidential debate in September.

He said Tuesday that Wright State is withdrawing as host of first presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 26, citing escalating costs for security and the inability to raise enough money.

Hopkins said in an exclusive interview that he was motivated in part by security concerns raised by the recent attack in Nice, France.

“I can’t assure the safety of our students and the community,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins informed the Commission on Presidential Debates at noon Tuesday, and hopes to recoup at least some of the $2 million fee that was paid to the commission in advance. Approximately $500,000 had been spent already on Nutter Center upgrades.

The university has raised about $3.5 million in contributions, state funding and in-kind pledges.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, was listed as the debate’s backup site.

The Commission on Presidential Debates posted this announcement on its website:

“In light of Wright State University’s announcement of earlier today, the September 26, 2016 Presidential Debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The Commission very much appreciates Wright State’s efforts. Hofstra University served very successfully as a presidential debate site in 2012. On September 23, 2015, the Commission announced that Hofstra University had agreed to serve as an alternate site this debate cycle if needed. The Commission looks forward to working with Hofstra once again.”

The president of Wright State’s faculty union, Martin Kich, said canceling the debate was probably for the best.

“I think It’s unfortunate we’ve gotten two months away from it and we have to pull the plug on it. I don’t think that makes anyone look good," Kich said. "But if the alternative is we would be left with a sizeable financial liability because of this, then I think it’s the smart thing to do,” he said.

Kich said he felt the university was low-balling what the debate was actually going to cost.

“Under ideal circumstances, I think it would be a nice thing for the university to host this kind of an event, but given the financial issues the university is grappling with, from the start this seemed like a kind of dubious proposition.”

Read more here.

The Obama administration issued guidance on transgender access to school bathrooms

The growing bathroom backlash from Georgia Republicans.

Greg Bluestein  @bluestein

Tamar Hallerman

Georgia conservatives are riled up about the Obama administration’s recent directive to public schools over bathroom rules, and the backlash has spanned from carefully-worded responses to potty-mouthed outbursts.

The White House’s guidance last week directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, intensifying the debate over LGBT rights that’s already raging as the Obama administration battles North Carolina over the policy. It didn’t take long for Georgia Republicans to wade in.

“It is absurd that we need a ‘federal restroom policy’ for our nation’s schools,” wrote Rep. Tom Price on Facebook. “This is yet another abuse and overreach of power by the ‪#‎Obama‬ Administration, and a clear invasion of privacy. Schools should not have to fear retaliation for failure to comply.”

House Speaker David Ralston opined on  Fannin County fight, urging Georgia senators to protect schools from a federal government that’s “dictating to our locally-elected Board of Education with regards to the policies they enact in a way never before seen.”

And Rep. Doug Collins, locked in his own primary battle, said on Facebook that “Obama is once again disregarding the separation of powers.”


“Girls should use girls’ bathrooms, and boys should use boy’s bathrooms,” he wrote. “It is as simple as that.”

Gov. Nathan Deal has so far kept mum on the debate, though several other Republican governors have vowed to defy Obama’s directive.

And then there was the press release from former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, who’s running in the crowded GOP race to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

Here’s the (PG-13) statement his campaign released over the weekend:

“Common sense has fled the addled brains of our nations leaders. Kickstands to the left, hoo ha’s to the right. We don’t need the President to make this decision for us.”

Yes folks, nothing but the news here.

People post political comments on Facebook for 'self-affirmation,' study says

Trending on Facebook

More popular and trending stories

Growing tired of the endless Bernie memes or Trump posts on your Facebook feed?

>> Read more trending stories  

A set of studies have found the reason why your social media connections feel the need to post their views.

The Huffington Post reports that a Harvard study found that sharing personal beliefs or feelings on social media works as a release for people because it rewards them for letting something out rather than keeping it in. “Expressing beliefs that are important to you functions as a self-affirmation,” psychology professor Joshua Hart of Union College told The Huffington Post. “It reminds you of the values that are central to your identity, and this gives you a psychological boost.”

A study by the Pew Research Center found that the people posting their opinions on social media are “less likely to share their opinions in face-to-face settings” because people are more likely to feel safer giving out their retorts when behind a computer screen rather than in person. “They’re expressing themselves in a forum where they’re likely to get a reaction, whether it’s the one they want or not,” Hart told The Huffington Post.

Hart said most people who post are also looking for the approval of others and “become more confident in their beliefs” when more people like, retweet or comment on the post. The Huffington Post said that there is not very much difference between Republicans, Democrats and independents regarding the number of posts with the leading posts on your own feed most likely factoring in based on your location.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Photos: President Obama visits Atlanta

Anti-Trump movement: What happens next?

On Thursday, a group of conservatives aimed at keeping Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee for president, met in Washington D.C. to test the winds on a plan or plans to stop the New York billionaire’s run for the White House.

Organized by conservative activists Bill Wichterman and Bob Fischer along with right-wing radio host Erick Erickson, and  held at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, “Conservatives Against Trump” had some two dozen participants – most all of whom said they would not talk specifics on the record about what happened.

The only officiall response from the group came from a press release posted by Erickson on his website, the Resurgent. 

The Statement read:

“We are a group of grassroots conservative activists from all over the country and from various backgrounds, including supporters of many of the other campaigns. We are committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected. We believe that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person.

"We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.

"We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party. If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

"We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

"Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump. Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.”

While most held their tongue about the meeting, some shared some general themes discussed there. Here are a few of the things discussed at the meeting on Thursday, according to some participants.

The suggestions

1. Getting a third party on the ballot. "It's certainly not too late," Rep. Trent Franks, (R-Ariz.) and a Ted Cruz supporter, who attended the session said.  "You could get another party on the ballot. A candidate could be picked as late as August. … It would have to be a movement conservative.  I was there to listen.  I am worried about the kind of damage that Trump could cause to our party. … As a conservative, I can’t trust Donald Trump to do the right thing,” Franks told The Washington Post. “However, I can trust Mrs. Clinton to do the exact wrong thing. Therefore, if it comes down to a one-on-one contest, I would vote for Trump."

2. Working prior to the convention to support Ted Cruz, thus eliminating the need for another candidate or a fight on the convention floor.

3. Probably not working so hard for Ohio Gov. John Kasich would need more than 100 percent of the delegates left to be allotted to get to the 1,237 number needed for the nomination.

>> How many delegates does Donald Trump have?  

4. According to Fox News, a plan was floated to possibly send a last-minute candidate to the convention in Cleveland if no candidate reaches the 1,237 delegate mark.

Also on Thursday

Trump has said that “riots would result” if his path to the nomination is blocked at a contested Republican convention this summer in Cleveland. Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, warned against talk of riots, and said he believes that a contested convention is now more likely to happen. It will be the first since 1976. Ryan, as Speaker, is in charge of running the convention.

>>What is a contested convention and will the Republicans have one?

What's coming?

What’s happened already

1. According to reporting by the New York Times, by the end of February,  at least two campaigns had  drafted plans to overtake Trump in a brokered convention.

2. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, (R-Kty.), has a plan that would have lawmakers break with Trump explicitly before the general election.

3. Kasich advisers say the Ohio governor is shooting for a convention battle in which he believes he can win.

4. Tech CEOs and business billionaires traveled to an island off the Georgia coast two weeks ago to take part in the American Enterprise Institute World Forum, a meeting held annually. The main topic of the meeting, though not intended to be so to begin with, was how to stop the Trump candidacy. Those attending the meeting included: Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, Napster creator and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and Tesla Motors and SpaceX honcho Elon Musk all attended. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), political guru Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who recently made news by saying he “cannot support Donald Trump.”  Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) and almost-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.),  Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Diane Black (Tenn.).

5. Republican Party donors are debating whether or not to continue funding the dump-Trump effort. Some of those donors – New York hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and members of the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family – are expressing  doubts over the effectiveness of their spending on anti-Trump advertising.

6. According to reporting from Politico, anti-Trump groups have outlined a state-by-state bid to keep Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination. That would force a contested convention this summer in Cleveland. 

Sources: The New York Times; The Washington Post; Politico; Fox News; The Resurgence; The Blaze

Abernathy III, son of civil rights icon, has died

Ralph David Abernathy III, a former Georgia state senator and namesake son of a civil rights icon, has died.

Abernathy III was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago, and revealed that he was hospitalized for several weeks last year after it had spread to his liver.

“I knew then that I couldn’t hide it any longer,” Abernathy III told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February. “That was right around the time Jimmy Carter announced he had cancer, so that gave me encouragement.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he was saddened to learn of Abernathy’s passing, and that the younger Abernathy carried on his father’s work.

“He was known for his saying: ‘If the elevator to success is broken, take the stairs,’” Reed said in a prepared statement. “His work ethic and his commitment to the ideals of his father meant he could not sit idly by when confronted with injustice, and he worked tirelessly throughout his career to protect children and strengthen families.”

Abernathy III died two days short of his 57th birthday. He had a tainted political career after he was convicted in 1998 on 35 felony charges related to false reimbursement requests to the Legislature. Abernathy, a Democrat, was prosecuted by Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker and served about a year of a four-year prison sentence.

In the past year, he was trying to raise $3.5 million to build a “freedom plaza” outside the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, an iconic landmark from the Civil Rights era where his father was pastor.

The church, which is owned by Abernathy, is in a state of disrepair.

Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin said Abernathy’s passing is a loss for everyone concerned about human rights. The councilman also said he was concerned about the future of the church and the plaza project.

“He was a long-time advocate for civil rights and human rights in our city,” Martin said. “He will be sadly missed.”

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson tweeted: “The Abernathy family is legendary in GA and the Civil Rights movement. My prayers are with them at this sad time.”

Abernathy’s vision for the plaza included a 25-foot bronze monument dedicated to his parents, Ralph and Juanita Abernathy, Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and John Lewis; and a wall featuring the names of all “freedom fighters” and Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff.

Abernathy’s father, Ralph David Abernathy Sr., was a leader of the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King’s closest friend. In 1957, the elder Abernathy co-founded, and was an executive board member of, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He died in 1990.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, was a long-time friend and said he spoke to Abernathy III recently about funding for the Wheat Street church, another civil rights-era house of worship that is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District. Smyre was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974, becoming the youngest member in its history at age 26.

“I’m so saddened,” Smyre said. “He was a public servant to the end. My last encounter with him was on the church project. He came to see me and talk to me and some civil rights leaders about funding.”

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