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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.” 

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Wright State president David Hopkins announced Tuesday the university has withdrawn from hosting the first presidential debate in September.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

IHOP coming to Bechtle Avenue in Springfield

By the numbers

80: Estimated jobs created by new IHOP location in Springfield.

60: Parking spaces IHOP is requesting for new restaurant.

$2.9 million: Money being spent on three new retail stores on North Bechtle Avenue, including a $2.1 million Hobby Lobby location.

An IHOP restaurant is coming to a new shopping center on Bechtle Avenue in Springfield as the busy retail corridor continues to rebound after a slow down during the Great Recession.

The national breakfast chain, also known as the International House of Pancakes, will build a new restaurant in an outlot at 2206 Bechtle Ave., near the new Hobby Lobby development.

Over the past six months, more than $2.9 million has been spent on new retail stores on Bechtle Avenue.

The shopping center north of Walmart was originally planned in 2006, but the recession slowed the development, said Stephen Thompson, Springfield’s planning, zoning and code enforcement administrator.

“It’s good to finally see these projects come to fruition,” Thompson said.

The new IHOP could break ground as early as May 16, said Jamila Gilbert, marketing director for the developer of the Miami Valley region’s IHOPs. A late summer opening has been targeted, she said.

The restaurant will be IHOP’s newest prototype, called the Rise and Shine Design, Gilbert said. The lot will be about 1 acre and could include a more than 8,400-square-foot restaurant, according to city planning records.

It was announced last year that seven IHOP restaurants were planned for the Miami Valley market but not all of the locations had been released.

The Miami Valley’s IHOPs are being developed by Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Prestige Development Group, which is still in the process of closing on the Bechtle Avenue property.

The first of those restaurants opened in Beavercreek late last year. Each site will create as many as 80 jobs, development officials told this news organization last year.

“We’re excited to be developing in the region again,” Gilbert said.

The restaurant filed a variance to increase the number of parking spaces at its location and will appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals on May 16. The restaurant wants 60 parking spaces, more than the typical 46. City staff will be recommended approval of the variance, Thompson said.

It’s the latest in a string of developments on Bechtle Avenue. Hobby Lobby spent about $2.1 million to construct a new 55,000-square-foot location on North Bechtle Avenue, while Kay Jewelers recently opened a new $163,000 location inside the Bechtle Crossing shopping center at 1654 N. Bechtle Ave.

Dollar Tree is also currently building a $658,000 location in one of outlots in front of the Hobby Lobby development. The former Dollar Tree and Ashley Furniture locations are both being demolished to build a Dick’s Sporting Goods later this year.

The corridor also includes several major retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot, Kohls, Meijer and Lowes.

IHOP operates multiple franchise restaurants in the Columbus and Cincinnati markets. But prior to the opening of the Beavercreek restaurant, the closest IHOPs to Springfield were in Columbus, Grove City and West Chester.

The IHOP will be a good addition to the corridor, Springfield resident Rick Boop said. The city needs more breakfast spots in town, he said, especially in light of the recent Perkins closings.

“A lot of people liked those (restaurants),” Boop said.

Springfield resident Lauren Davey has never eaten at IHOP but believes it will be good for the area. She also hopes to see another breakfast spot enter the market.

“We should get a Waffle House first though,” she said.

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.

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

Georgia woman campaigns for sheriff who shot her

A Georgia sheriff has received an unusual endorsement in his bid for re-election.

Victor Hill, who is running for sheriff against four other competitors, accidentally shot Gwenevere McCord last year, yet she threw her support behind him in a 12-second robocall to county voters late last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported

>>Read more trending stories

“Hi! This is Gwenevere McCord and on May 24 I will be voting for Sheriff Victor Hill because he’s the most effective sheriff this county has ever had. Please join my family and I and vote Sheriff Victor Hill,” the Jonesboro resident said in the recording.

It is believed to be the first time McCord, who was critically injured in the shooting, has publicly made any statement about Hill, who is seeking a third term as sheriff.

McCord was shot May 3 while Hill was demonstrating police maneuvers to her at a Gwinnett County model home where McCord worked as a real estate broker at the time.

McCord and Hill were the only two people inside the home at the time of the shooting. McCord was shot in the abdomen and had numerous surgeries and other procedures. She lost a kidney, spleen and part of her large intestine as a result of the shooting, her father Ernest McCord said previously.

Hill was charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.

>>Read more trending stories

The head of the county Democratic party said McCord’s endorsement seems to show there’s no bad feelings between the two.

“She said it was an accident and now she’s proving that by endorsing him,” said Pat Pullar, chairwoman of the Clayton County Democratic Party and a political consultant.

Nonetheless, another political observer called the endorsement “unusual” in a political career marked by setbacks and comebacks.

“It’s unusual that a sheriff would have shot someone other than carrying out his responsibility as sheriff,” said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at The University of Georgia. “And it is unusual that the victim would turn around and say ‘although he shot me, he’s a great person to return to office’.

With four other challengers in the race, the crowded field may “suggest that a number of people view Sheriff Hill as vulnerable,” Bullock said.

Man arrested at Ohio Trump rally has ties to Atlanta

—Staff writer Leon Stafford contributed to this article.

The man with metro Atlanta ties who rushed the stage this weekend at an Ohio Donald Trump rally denied having ties to ISIS during a CNN interview on Sunday.

Thomas Dimassimo, whose mother is former Cobb County Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo, told CNN that a video of him with Islamic writing and music was doctored. The video, which shows him dragging an American flag on the ground, was taken from a protest at Wright State University more than a year ago, he said.

“I am not a member of ISIS. I have no known ties to ISIS. I’ve never been out of the country. I only speak English,” DiMassimo said during the CNN interview. He called Trump a “bully” in the interview and said he wanted to show that he is not afraid of the Republican front-runner.

“… It was more important for me to show that there are people out there who aren’t afraid of Donald Trump,” DiMassimo told CNN. “He says scary things. He lets his people do scary things. He’s threatened Mexico, Islam, you name it, and yet I’m unafraid. And if I can be unafraid enough to go take his podium away from him, then we all can be (un)afraid enough to not let this man walk into the White House.”

DiMassimo’s mother, Faye, currently works as manager of Atlanta’s infrastructure bond program. She resigned as Cobb County’s transportation director in November to take the job.

Cartersville attorney Lester Tate is representing the family and helped Thomas DiMassimo retain an attorney in Ohio. Tate said the family has received several threats since Saturday’s incident, and they have been reported to police.

“While the family is very supportive to him in this process, they certainly don’t condone jumping over a barrier and trying to rush through secret service agents,” Tate said.

Tate also said it is “unfortunate” that people are associating DiMassimo with a terrorist organization.

“He’s a college student with strong beliefs who acted out inappropriately on those beliefs,” Tate said.

A right-wing website claimed that video of a protest at Wright State University last year, showing DiMassimo dragging an American flag on the ground, has been used by ISIS, but its veracity was unclear and some said it was a hoax.

That uncertainty, however, did not stop Trump from echoing the sentiment on his Twitter account Saturday: “USSS did an excellent job stopping the maniac running to the stage. He has ties to ISIS. Should be in jail!”

Thomas DiMassimo said he “had no intention of hurting anyone,” but that he had pre-planned his protest before arriving at the rally, a Dayton police report of the incident released Sunday said.

DiMassimo, 22, was arrested Saturday on misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and inducing panic at the rally, held at a hangar near the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.

DiMassimo told police he had planned to run up on stage, take a microphone and yell, “Donald Trump is a racist,” according to the report.

Instead Secret Service and other security officers thwarted DiMassimo’s plan, swarming him about four feet from the stage where Trump was holding the rally.

A secret service agent allegedly “busted his own nose as he fell on top of DiMassimo” while attempting to handcuff him, the report said.

DiMassimo’s mother, Faye, left her position as Cobb’s transportation director in November to become administrator of the city of Atlanta’s infrastructure bond program.

Anne Torres, communications director for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, declined to comment Saturday night on the arrest.

“This inquiry is a personal matter unrelated to Faye’s work with the administration,” she said. “We are not in a position to comment.”

Video of the event shows four Secret Service agents leaping into action and surrounding the Republican front-runner until DiMassimo was hauled away.

“I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump said.

The Dayton Daily News reported that most people at the rally didn’t see the incident, but Dal Haybron did. The newspaper quoted him as saying Secret Service agents were “too gentle.”

“He jumped over the rail and immediately they just nailed him,” Haybron said. “Boom. Done.”

The newspaper also reported that DiMassimo, as a Wright State University junior last year, helped lead an anti-racism protest that included students standing on American flags and holding signs saying, “Not my flag.”

“I thought it would ruffle some feathers, but I did not anticipate how tense the backlash would become,” DiMassimo told the newspaper at the time. “If anything, all that has shown is that people in this area and people on the Internet care more about a symbolic piece of cloth, than they do a black person’s life … or, even beyond that, our Constitutional rights.”

Last August, DiMassimo — who reportedly had small parts in “Yes, Dear,” “Reno 911!,” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” as a child actor — was among a group of counter-protestors at a Confederate flag rally in Stone Mountain.

Photos from the event, which came a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., show DiMassimo with what was reported as a shredded flag around his wrists as he walked with counter-protestors. He also was accused of standing on the controversial flag during the event.

DiMassimo’s arrest comes in the wake of violence in Chicago on Friday, after Trump cancelled an event there because of hundreds of protesters, who then clashed with supporters. Five people were arrested.

Trump scored a resounding victory in Georgia two weeks ago.

Faye DiMassimo’s resignation — just 18 months before the first pitch at SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves’ future home — raised eyebrows, because of the tens of millions in road projects planned before the opening of the ball field; the proposed expansion of transit in the county, which she championed; and her lead on the effort to build a controversial I-285 bridge that is considered a critical safety element for the new stadium.

Donald Trump in Dayton

Super Tuesday highlights

A look at who won and who lost on Super Tuesday. Staff video by Anthony Shoemaker.
40 items
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