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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.

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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.” 

Here's how to endorse a political candidate on Facebook

For those who use Facebook as an outlet to voice their political opinions, one feature makes the boldest statement: officially endorsing the candidate of your choice on the social media platform.

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To endorse a candidate, users only have to complete five steps: 

  1. Click the Endorsement tab on the political figure's Facebook page
  2. Click Endorse
  3. Choose the audience you want to see your endorsement post
  4. Write something to go along with your post
  5. Click Post

According to Facebook, users who post their endorsements to a public audience can be featured on candidates' pages if the candidates decide to repost any specific endorsement status.

Only pages that mark a figure as a politician, political candidate or government official can have the endorsement option.

Among those who can be endorsed are presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Duke, a Great Pyrenees that won a third one-year term as honorary mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, in August, and Mayor Stubbs, a cat that has been the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, since the 1990s.

Police: Homeless man bitten on shoulder by gator near Melbourne bridge

Police: Homeless man bitten on shoulder by gator near Melbourne bridge

Gator snatches family dog at Florida park

A family dog was snatched and killed by an alligator during the weekend when it ran from its owner to chase a rabbit.

Sue Fortenbery told WFTS she was walking with her grandson and her 1-year-old Jack Russell, named Bolt, over the weekend in Pinellas County when Bolt ran off to chase a rabbit. The next thing she could hear was his yelping after he went through a hole in the fence and into the waterway at the preserve.

“The screams is what you can't stop hearing, the yelping," she told WFTS.

There are several openings on the trail, and Fortenbery said those openings are what led to Bolt being taken away by the alligator.

"If the fence wasn't open like this, he couldn't have gone through and the gator couldn't have got him," she said.

Fortenbery told WFTS that she is upset with Pinellas County officials after they told her they wouldn’t remove the gator but would keep an eye on the area. At the moment, the gator is not considered a nuisance “because they had no other complaints” and a better description of the animal would be needed.

WFTS reports the county has yet to survey the area and is asking the public to contact the Parks Department if the gator shows up again.

Gator attacks have been in the news recently with the incident at the Disney resort in Orlando when a child was dragged into the water and killed. A gator was found in Florida with a body in its mouth, and a 10-foot gator had to be put down after it attacked a woman.

Read more at WFTS.

Manatee romance causes traffic jam in Florida

An intimate moment among a group of manatees led to a standstill with traffic in Tampa on Tuesday.

WFTS reports that dozens of people exited their cars to view the “manatee mating ball,” which is when at least seven male manatees are competing for the attention of a single female, with the end goal being to push her into shallow water in order to mate. The act is a rare sight, with WFTS adding that it only can be seen every three to five years.

“The easiest way to identify a mating herd is when there are groups, a large number of manatees that look to be frolicking with each other in shallow waters, generally climbing on top of each other,” Kane Rigney, a manatee biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a video from May. “There will be up to 20 to 25 manatees in some circumstances with a single focal female, and there will be a lot of splashing, a lot of physical interaction with the manatees, kind of like a big bait-ball of fish, but you’ll see the manatees up on shore, rolling on top of each other and climbing.”

Rigney added that manatee mating season begins as early as March, but can take place through the summer and into October and November.

“We generally ask the public to stay away from mating herds — we like to allow that natural process to take place,” he said in the video. “Any interruption to that process can be considered harassment — but not only for manatee safety, but also for human safety. A lot of these manatees that you will see are thousand-pound animals, and at any time, those animals can change their behavior and roll onto a human causing very serious injury.”

Read more at WFTS.

Mothers who brought babies to 'Bad Moms' screening asked to leave, reports say

Brookynn Cahill was set to attend a showing of “Bad Moms,” the new comedy starring Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis, on Friday evening with a large group of other Florida moms at a Fort Myers, Florida, theater, but according to her and other members of the group, they were forced to leave because of their children, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

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According to Amber Cebull, one of the moms, there is a rule in place at Regal Cinemas that doesn’t allow children under the age of 6 into R-rated movies after 6 p.m., but "no one had communicated that children under 6 were not allowed in R-rated movies," she said. "We had breast-feeding moms with infants, one 4 weeks and one 7 months, and they refused them entry."

The mothers were the only two in the group with infants.

Cebull told WTSP the group was refunded the cost of the tickets.

Cahill told the News-Press that an employee singled out, along with another member of the group of around 50 women, Juliana Valverde, mentioning that there was a showing of a more kid-appropriate movie, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” playing in an hour.

"They made me feel like a terrible person for bringing my child," Cahill said.

Cahill said she and Valverde went back into the theater playing "Bad Moms." She said the manger told them to leave when they were caught.

"I think that they have a right to have their rules for their theater," Cahill said. "But I think it needs to be a little different with the age limit. Young babies are sleeping and being perfectly fine. If our babies are going to make a noise, we know how to handle this situation."

Valverde told the News Press that the manager also asked Valverde to “cover up” while she was breast-feeding in the theater. "I am very modest about breast-feeding and, because of the fact I was doing it, I was even more embarrassed. I always have a blanket to cover," she said.

“There’s always people that are going to feel uncomfortable and they shouldn’t,” Valverde told WTVR. “I don’t need anyone’s approval to feed my baby.”

The News-Press added that Florida is among the states “that allow women to breast-feed in any public or private place and exempts breast-feeding from public indecency laws.”

According to the News-Press, the group of women left the theater with Cahill and Valverde and got refunds for their tickets.

Two Fort Myers mothers were asked to leave a showing of "Bad Moms" because they brought their infants along to the...Posted by 10News WTSP on Monday, August 1, 2016

Photos: Democratic National Convention Day 3

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