Monday, August 25, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.


FlaGOP's "Pants on Fire!"

"Charlie Crist's vow to change Florida law about insurance regulation during a Facebook Q&A on Aug. 6 was not liked by the Republican Party of Florida."

In answer to a voter's question, Crist said he would reinstate the state insurance commissioner's power to renegotiate 2015 health insurance rates in time to keep costs down.

"The fact that we have a law on the books under Rick Scott that says the Office of Insurance Regulation can't regulate insurance is astounding," Crist said. "We deserve better, you deserve better."

But the state Republican Party contradicted him. "Wrong, Charlie," the GOP's Facebook account wrote. "It's Obamacare that prevents OIR (the Office of Insurance Regulation) from regulating insurance … a law that you think is great even though premiums will go up by double digits for Floridians."

"Is the party right that the Affordable Care Act stopped Florida from regulating insurance?"
The 2010 Affordable Care Act said states had to follow minimum federal guidelines for insurance plans, like requiring that pre-existing conditions be covered. The health care law also required insurance companies to justify unreasonable rate increases, defined as more than 10 percent year over year. . . .

So the state GOP not only misrepresented the terms of the law, but it also implied it was to blame for the state's (temporary) regulatory woes. And it was mostly Republican lawmakers who spearheaded change to Florida law after the state rejected a $1 million federal grant to help improve the process.

Most other states regulate insurance rates without the difficulty the Republican Party of Florida claimed. We rate its statement Pants on Fire!

"PolitiFact Florida: GOP claim on Obamacare rated Pants on Fire." Related: "GOP Anti-Obamacare Strategy at an End? Not a Chance."


So much for Scott's "transparency"

"Records produced in a Tallahassee attorney’s quest to get documents show that top officials in Gov. Rick Scott’s office found ways to limit access to records despite vows of transparency." "Records show governor’s office put up barriers to public records."


"It’s not fixed"

Joe Henderson: "You may have heard there were thousands of complaints late last year when the new [unemployment computer] system was introduced on Oct. 15, but the state promised to get things fixed."

It’s not fixed.
"The state unemployment computer system that was fixed? It’s not fixed."


"Campaign devoid of a campaign"

"In the Democratic primary for governor, Charlie Crist is expected to roll up a big double-digit victory over Nan Rich, a former state Senate Democratic leader who lacks money and name recognition." "Florida’s Charlie Crist and Nan Rich: the campaign devoid of a campaign."


Goin' local

"Tuesday's election focuses on local offices, issues."


Rubio at home in the heart of the Confederacy

"U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is scheduled to speak at a fundraising barbecue for South Carolina Republicans." "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio boosting SC Republicans."


FlaGOP dances victory jig

"Congressional district boundaries redrawn by the Republican-led Florida Legislature were approved Friday by a judge, who also ruled that this year’s elections can continue using a 2012 map he had earlier invalidated." "Judge rules for Florida Legislature across board in redistricting case."


CD 26 hopefuls move on as Rivera is charged

"David Rivera’s four opponents in the Republican congressional primary have largely ignored the once-influential politician, preferring instead to focusing on Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia." "U.S. 26th District hopefuls move on as David Rivera is officially named in campaign rigging."


"What is wrong with you people?"

Gary Stein: thinks "the voting process is so ridiculously easy, it's laughable." Nevertheless,

number of voters Tuesday will be embarrassingly low, but hardly shocking. . . .

People have their excuses, of course.

They were busy taking kids to school. They were busy picking kids up. They were more concerned with the elections in New York than the elections here. They were busy worrying about whether Fluffy the dog would be returned to its owner in Boca Raton. The judicial candidates confuse them because the only judge they know is Judge Judy. It's hard to concentrate on voting when you have something like that on your mind.

So the very, very few who take the minimal amount of time needed to vote will have the biggest say in things that matter to everybody. They will vote on people who will spend your tax money, fix your streets, hire your cops and firefighters, restrict hours in parks and libraries, set policy the affects your school children, decide if you get fined or go to jail, things like that. It is to the point where one floor of people in a condominium can affect an entire local election, because nobody else cares.

Oh, they care enough to complain, to me and others, when things are screwed up in their city or county or the courthouse.

What is wrong with you people?

"Could voting be any easier? Of course." See also "A steady trickle of early voters turn out for final Sunday of balloting."


Yee Haw!

The Tampa Trib editors: "Hernando County School Board member John Sweeney compromised academic integrity to falsely puff up his son's high school scholastic record. A school district investigative report released last week showed Sweeney wanted a teacher fired for refusing to raise his son's poor grades, misled administrators by falsely indicating he had the superintendent's blessing, culled questions from a test as invalid to raise his son's scores, and portrayed the sophomore English class as an honors class in a failed attempt to improve the teenager's transcript. Yet Sweeney has the gall to seek re-election Tuesday, and Hernando voters should send him a clear message that they want better from their school board." "Editorial: School board member flunks Ethics 101."


Ethics Complaint

Steve Bousquet: "Gay-Marriage Issue At Heart Of Ethics Complaint In Miami-Dade Judicial Race"

1. Scott's victory margin

Unlike his bruising 2010 primary battle with Bill McCollum that produced a narrow victory, Scott's path to the Republican nomination is a breeze this time. He faces two opponents, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, who are so obscure that any votes they get could only be interpreted as shunning Scott. It likely will not amount to much, but it will be interesting to see if Scott's percentage is lower in counties where some of his policies are less popular with the party base, such as in the Panhandle, where opposition is stronger to Scott's support for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

The other things to keep an eye on:
2. Charlie can't cruise

3. Will Democrats vote?

4. Chosing Bondi's challenger

5. More ballots should count

After years of being accused by Democrats of trying to suppress turnout, Republican legislators have taken recent steps to make voting easier. Counties can offer up to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday before the election. The expanded use of electronic poll books to verify IDs should reduce the number of provisional ballots because the devices allow instant updating of voters' address changes. For the first time in a statewide election, voters who forget to sign absentee ballot envelopes can cure the problem if they fill out an affidavit and provide proof of ID by 5 p.m. Monday. In past elections, unsigned absentee ballot envelopes were not counted.

"Five things to watch in Tuesday's primary."


Not everyone swooning over Charlie

"Charlie Crist Won Democrat[ic] Hearts But Other Voters Aren't Swooning."


Right next to the Wal-Mart

Aaron Deslatte: "Here's one aspect of Florida's medical-marijuana debate getting little airplay: Would the dispensaries be crowded into poor and minority neighborhoods?"

If voters statewide pass Amendment 2 this fall, the dispensaries have to open somewhere. Critics of legalizing marijuana such as Attorney General Pam Bondi and others have warned it could lead to pill-mill-like explosions of dispensaries "on every street corner." But there is some evidence that they may be concentrated in poorer, urban and disproportionately minority areas, not suburban strip malls.

A new study published this month in the Journal of the American Planning Association found evidence that the dispensaries are being concentrated in poorer, minority communities within states that have already legalized medical marijuana.

"Will medical-pot centers end up in low-income areas?."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.


Judge gives victory to GOP in map case

"A judge on Friday gave a victory to the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, rendering a decision that effectively forces voters to choose candidates in November based on a congressional map that he ruled was invalid because it favored the GOP."

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis approved a new congressional map that been swiftly adopted earlier this month during a special session. But he agreed with attorneys for the Legislature that there was no time to implement the new map before voters head to the polls this year. Florida’s primary is Tuesday.
"David King, an attorney for the groups that sued the Legislature over the district boundaries, said they were disappointed with the decision and planned to appeal the ruling."
The groups had been heartened by the judge’s July ruling invalidating the 2012 map but said the redrawn map offered little more than cosmetic changes and was still unconstitutional. They had hoped Lewis would either adopt a map proposed by them or draw up one on his own.
"Judge: Use flawed map for this election cycle." See also "Candidates reactions mixed over Lewis's ruling" and "Judge Lewis accept new maps."


"battle for equality rages on in the Sunshine State"

"It’s been nearly six years since Florida voters cast their ballots to ban same-sex marriage, but the battle for equality of marriage still rages on in the Sunshine State." "Fight to Legalize Gay Marriage Only Gets Hotter."


"Scott Ups the Ante on Education"

"Scott Ups the Ante on Education Spending; Oh, Pooh, Responds Crist."


"More concern for political influence than academic excellence"

The Tampa Tribune editors: "Two recent events highlight the political mess Tallahassee has made of Florida’s higher education system."

In Polk County last weekend, Florida Polytechnic celebrated its grand opening, with Gov. Rick Scott and other notables on hand for the festivities. . . . In Tallahassee, Florida State University has gone nearly six months without a president and, as the Tribune’s James Rosica reports, students and alumni are expressing their fury about the situation on a website developed to take comments on the search. Both situations are the direct result of the state showing more concern for political influence than academic excellence.
"Treating higher education as political toy."


Florida’s parties raise millions

"Florida Republicans and Democrats are spending millions they received this year from corporations and wealthy donors." "Florida’s 2 political parties raise millions."


Nary a "scientist" in sight

"In a TV show to be aired Sunday, four of the five contenders revealed disagreements over gay marriage, immigration and sea-level rise." "Miami GOP congressional candidates spar over key issues."


On the cheap

"Irizarry was a caseworker for Children's Home Society, a non-profit contractor for the Florida Department of Children and Families. It was his job to check on the safety of children who had been victimized by abuse and neglect." "Child welfare worker arrested in Rachel Fryer case."


"If you can’t beat them, join them"

Jeff Henderson is under the impression that, rather than smothering his opponents with money, "Scott upset Bill McCollum and beat Alex Sink by stressing his business background and how he would use that experience to be fiscally responsible in Tallahassee and keep the state government out of the way so the private sector would grow and create jobs. Despite Scott’s awkward public persona, it worked. Floridians gave Scott the keys to the car instead of career politician McCollum or Sink who had some private-sector credentials of her own."

Henderson now complains that

Scott’s attitude increasingly seems to be if you can’t beat them, join them. Scott is calling for an extra $800 million for transportation projects, called for $1 billion spending on the environment earlier this month and, on Thursday, boasted that he would raise education spending to its highest level based on per-student spending.
"Rick Scott Can't Let the Race Turn Into a Spending Contest."


Turnout down

"Early voting numbers down from 2012."


HD 61

"Those running in the House District 61 race, like most candidates, have been encouraging people to get out and vote. And they practice what they preach." "Dist. 61 candidates ask for your vote – and haven’t missed a vote themselves."


Weekly Roundup

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Weekly Roundup: Nobody's Perfect" and "Arrivals and Departures, Aug. 22, 2014."


Broward GOPers looking for volunteers

"A group of Republican activists, mostly from northwest Broward, has set up a political action committee to fund a volunteer mobilization effort on behalf of the party's 2014 candidates." "Republican group raising money to mobilize in northwest Broward." See also "Less than 100 days before election, Broward Republicans continue infighting."


Thurston gets boost

The Orlando Sentinel endorses "Thurston for Dems' AG." See also "Sheldon and Thurston Bogged Down in Last Days of Dem AG Primary."


The best Wisconsin can do?

Kevin Derby: "Having released a new book earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the U.S. House Budget Committee chairman and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, hit Florida on Friday. Ryan was former Gov. Mitt Romney’s, R-Mass., running mate on the 2012 presidential ticket." "Paul Ryan Hits Florida With Questions About 2016 Left Hanging."


Southerland desperate

"The most vulnerable Republican congressman in Florida is going on the attack against his Democratic opponent as he focuses on his opposition to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law." "Steve Southerland Attacks Gwen Graham over Obamacare."


"Political Enemy No. 2"

"Unfazed by the Democratic critics who regard her as Political Enemy No. 2 – right behind the governor – Attorney General Pam Bondi touted her record Thursday as a fighter and vowed to continue the course after the November election."

"We don't have to moderate our message. We don't have to change, come up with some fancy new marketing plan. All we have to do is just stick to what we say we're going to do and do it," she told a gathering of 75 to 100 Republicans at the Palm Beach County Republican Party's 2014 election Victory Office.

Bondi described her fight against politically safe enemies: human traffickers, producers of synthetic drugs aimed at children, Internet predators, and doctors who recklessly prescribe addictive painkillers.

"Pam Bondi vows to keep fighting range of enemies."


Nan likes Nan

Nancy Smith: "At the End of the Day It's Nan Rich Who Embodies Character."


Dems crafting 2016 presidential nominating calendar

"Democrats are preparing to approve the 2016 presidential nominating calendar, setting the stage for a successor to President Barack Obama."

The Democratic National Committee, or DNC, was expected to adopt a schedule on Saturday that would begin with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016, followed by voting later that month in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The 2016 framework was in line with plans pushed by Republicans and gives states incentives to hold their primary contests between March and June, aiming to avoid a front-loaded calendar that encroaches on the Christmas holidays.
"Democrats to vote on 2016 primary calendar plan."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.


Scott unreceptive to climate change "teaching moment"

Update: The Tampa Trib editors: "Scott has heard the science, now he should act."

"After months of dodging questions about climate change, Gov. Rick Scott met today with a panel of climate scientists who have been trying to brief him on the human influence on global warming."

Then he quickly left the office without answering any questions. The scientists were Jeffrey Chanton of Florida State University, David Hastings of Eckerd College, and Ben Kirtman, John Van Leer and Harold Wanless of the University of Miami. . . .

Scott listened for half an hour with a throng of reporters watching, then excused himself without answering questions.

"Scott briefly sits with climate scientists." "Scientists arrived hoping for a ‘leadership’ moment from the governor on climate change but left concerned that his silence means he wants to continue to do nothing." "Gov. Rick Scott meets with scientists but remains silent on climate change." See also Scientists fear Scott avoids climate change."


League of Women Voters want new congressional maps

"A coalition of plaintiffs has asked a Tallahassee judge to redraw the state’s congressional maps and implement them for the 2014 midterm election. That request came from the plaintiffs, led by the League of Women Voters of Florida, who successfully challenged the state’s congressional maps in court." "Judge urged to redraw redistricting maps." See also "Black voters become focus in redistricting fight" and "Legislative lawyers ask court to consider role of Democratic operatives in redistricting case."


Another fine education Jebacy

"Florida at Back of the Pack in ACT Scores."


Failing Charters

"For children at two charter schools,"

the first day of school brought unwelcome news. The state Board of Education on Monday denied appeals from two failing charters to remain open after they earned consecutive failing grades.
"A bad couple days for Florida’s Charter Schools." See also "Want to see the list of Florida's 250 failed charter schools?"


CD 8

"In a congressional race that might otherwise be an uneventful re-election stroll for incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, Democratic nominee Gabriel Rothblatt is drawing attention for family connections that are fueling his run with money. Congressional District 8, which covers Indian River and Brevard counties and part of eastern Orange County to Bithlo, has a solid Republican-leaning voter base and a long history of backing Republicans." "Congressional candidate has faith in technology."


Scott promises to boost school funding

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott is promising to boost school funding in Florida to its highest levels if he is re-elected. . . . The state cut $1.3 billion from schools in 2011." "Gov. Scott promises to raise school funding again."


Crist focuses on Scott

"Charlie Crist focuses on Rick Scott, ignores primary foe."


FlaGOP "scrambling" to protect incumbents

"The Republican Party of Florida, which declined to discuss its strategy, spent $40,357 the first week of August in four of the five Senate contests in which sitting members have drawn GOP opponents." "Florida Republicans ‘scrambling’ to protect state Senate incumbents."


"Redistricting Redux"

"The authors and critics of Florida's re-drawn congressional map were back in a courtroom Wednesday haggling over the same seat that sparked their two year legal fight: the African-American-leaning district of Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville." "Redistricting Redux in the courtroom." See also "Black voters become focus in redistricting fight as both side claim to offer better protections," "Soto: Hispanics might lose clout" and "Black voters become focus in redistricting fight."


"Whoda thunk"

Adam C. Smith: "Whoda thunk you'd see Democratic consultant Steve Schale pounding the pavement in Pinellas County on behalf of Republican state House candidate Chris Latvala?"

Schale, after all, is one of the brightest lights in Florida Democratic political circles, having helped Obama win Florida twice and now helping Charlie Crist, try to unseat Gov. Rick Scott. And House District 67 at least on paper should be one of the more competitive districts in Florida, one in which some credible Democrats are running.
"Who's that big shot Dem campaigning for GOP Fla House candidate?."


Taddeo has never before held a public office

"Should anything happen to the state's top executive, this is the person who will assume responsibility for running Florida. And in the case of Taddeo, that means one of the largest states in the union could possibly be led by someone who has never before held a public office. In fact, someone who has lost the only two elections she's previously entered." "Crist's lieutenant governor choice would cause outrage, if anyone cared."


Good luck asking Rick Scott about King Ranch

On YouTube: "Ask Rick Scott on King Ranch Trip (08-19-2014)."


Shaping the region's politics

"Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been one of the leading figures in South Florida politics for three decades now and she continues to shape the region's politics by throwing her support to Republican allies." "Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Works to Shape S. Florida's Elections Next Week."


Funny how that works

"The group was founded and is funded by United Auto Insurance, which appears frequently in court cases against personal injury lawyers." "Auto insurance political committee flexes muscle in Miami judicial races."


Latvala wades in

"Influential Republican State Sen. Jack Latvala is not endorsing any of the seven Republicans running for the Pinellas County Commission District 4 seat being vacated by his former wife, Susan Latvala, who is retiring from office. But he isn’t being shy about saying whom he does not want elected." "Sen. Latvala pans Pinellas GOP candidate."


"In the convoluted, money laundering world of Florida politics . . ."

Steve Bousquet: "Those recent robocalls to Democratic voters featuring the voice and the conservative views of former Republican Charlie Crist have prompted Democrats to file a formal complaint with the Florida Elections Commission. Their target is Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon."

Lee engineered what he said were about two million robocalls to voters, using the same calls Crist used in his successful 2006 Republican campaign for governor, in which he called himself a pro-life, Ronald Reagan Republican who opposed same sex marriage and supported public display of the 10 Commandments -- views now starkly at odds with Crist the Democrat. Lee has taken responsibility for the robocalls and used a long-dormant electioneering communications organization (ECO) called Conservatives, which also created a web site featuring all of Crist's audio clips at www.charlieinhisownwords.com. . . .

Conservatives is headed by Stafford Jones, a Republican activist from Gainesville and a behind-the-scenes player in state politics. Conservatives' largest donor ($7,500) was Innovate Florida, a political committee run by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. In the convoluted, money laundering world of Florida politics, Conservatives also got $5,000 from a committee that calls itself Jobs for Florida, which got a $2,500 check from the Florida Police Benevolent Association, a group that supports Crist's candidacy for governor.

The complaint was filed by Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. It cites a state law, Ch. 106.147(1)(c), which states that "No telephone call shall state or imply that the caller represents any person or organization unless the person of organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to make such representation."

"Tom Lee's robo-rewind on Crist prompts complaint by Democrats."


Putnam still won’t answer questions

"Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam still won’t answer key questions about his trips to King Ranch, where he and other top Florida Republican elected officials have visited." "Gov. Rick Scott and Adam Putnam disclose a few more details on King Ranch trips."


Federal prosecutor names Rivera as co-conspirator

"A federal prosecutor identified former congressman David Rivera as a co-conspirator in a campaign-finance scheme to prop up a little-known candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary." "David Rivera named co-conspirator as friend pleads guilty in campaign-finance case."


Crist votes early

"The man campaigning to be governor again came home to St. Petersburg on Monday to vote early in the Florida primary." "Crist casts early ballot."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.


Miller looms as potential future statewide candidate

Jeff Henderson: "Jeff Miller drew some national attention on veterans' issues in recent months and he’s now using it to expand his profile and his political prominence across the state."

Miller is starting to pitch in for his fellow Republicans when they need help. In early March, less than two weeks before the special election, Miller did an event focusing on veterans' affairs with David Jolly, who was then running in a tight race against Alex Sink. This coming Tuesday, Miller will swing across North Florida to Jacksonville for an event with Ander Crenshaw on veterans' affairs.
Henderson continues:
The event comes a week before the Republican primary. Crenshaw has generally been an easy winner but he is facing a more serious challenge this time out in Ryman Shoaf, a Navy captain who worked briefly for Ted Yoho. Shoaf has waged an impressive campaign but remains an underdog. Still, this is the most serious challenge Crenshaw has seen in years and Miller dropping in a week before the primary can only help the longtime congressman.

Events across the state are a bit of a change-up for the Panhandle congressman. No doubt about it. Miller has always cast a longer shadow in the Beltway than he ever has in Florida. Part of that comes from Miller’s stomping ground, since the Panhandle is easily the most isolated and insular part of the state.

Still, Miller could end up as a potential candidate for statewide office, especially if his efforts to head up the House Intelligence Committee collapse. Despite his many years in politics, Miller is only 55 so there is time for him to head back to Florida, if that’s what he wants.

"Will It Soon be Jeff Miller Time in Florida?."


Finding truth in negative campaign ads

"PolitiFact Florida checks out a slew of claims made in the governor’s race involving oil drilling and energy companies." "Finding the truth in negative campaign ads in Florida’s governor’s race."


"The Horror Behind Curtain No. 2"

Nancy Smith: "All Aboard Florida (AAF) is like a rigged "Let's Make a Deal" TV experience. They tell you the Big Prize is the shiny new passenger train service. But no matter which curtain you choose, you're going to get what's behind curtain No. 2 -- the freight-train nightmare from hell." "All Aboard Florida: The Horror Behind Curtain No. 2."


MacDougall, Curbelo, go after each other

"Two candidates, Ed MacDougall and Carlos Curbelo, went after each other in what may be the last GOP debate for Florida’s 26th congressional district." "Miami GOP congressional candidates tussle in TV faceoff."


Crist talks pot

"Charlie Crist Takes On Scott Administration over Pot Plan."


Vanguards of the environment go after Crist

"The plane’s owner, Bay County contractor James Finch, has been fined in the past for filling in wetlands or allowing unfiltered runoff to flow into waterways, in violation of environmental permits, reports PolitiFact Florida." "GOP: Charlie Crist used jet owned by 'serial polluter'."


Churches as polling precincts

"Church's last election as polling site Aug. 26."


"Nothing rivals the pollution of political signs"

http://flaglerlive.com/'s Pierre Tristam: "Every election season glaciers and polar ice caps melt a bit more from the hot air. But nothing rivals the pollution of political signs. Those things take over properties at the busiest intersections, spiking up from the ground in the shape of stunted billboards or deranged name tags. They assault the eyes, soil the landscape, mock the First Amendment and serve almost no purpose."

The signs say nothing. A name is just a name. It doesn’t tell you whether the candidate is smart, compassionate, inquisitive, honest, ethical. It doesn’t tell you anything about the candidate’s history, the candidate’s voting record, the candidate’s work ethic. It may tell you a lot about the candidate’s ego. The larger the sign, the more the candidate is trying to compensate for something. The more frequent the sign, the more insecure its peddler. And the more colorful or dazzling the sign, the more empty-headed the man or woman behind it, as dazzle usually compensates for missing substance.
"The Phony War Over Campaign Signs."


Thurston picks up big endorsement

The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Perry Thurston choice for attorney general."


Subsidizing political visits

"Florida taxpayers spent more than $2.46 million to provide security for Gov. Rick Scott as well as governors from other states. . . . . Taxpayers also paid for 58 protective details of other elected officials including three trips by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." "Florida spent more than $2.46 million on security."


FlaBaggers in a dither

"Obamacare: 93,800 Florida ACA Customers Have Immigration ‘Inconsistencies’."


"Outlaw Libertarian"

"The Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Adrian Wyllie is running in a year when polls show voters are starved for an alternative to Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, the likely Democratic nominee." "Meet Adrian Wyllie, the outlaw Libertarian in Florida’s governor’s race."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.


About those "secret hunting trips"

"To say that Steve Crisafulli is comfortable working with the sugar industry is an understatement."

Crisafulli, who becomes the most powerful man in the Florida House of Representatives this fall, has been a major beneficiary of the state's sugar industry. During the last two election cycles, agricultural interests have contributed at least $200,000 to Rep. Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and his political action committees. U.S. Sugar contributed nearly half of that total, $94,500.

And now, through a spokesman, the House speaker-designate has confirmed that he took at least one secret hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas.

"The Times/Herald revealed last month that Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other Florida politicos took secret hunting trips to King Ranch that were orchestrated by and at least partially paid for by U.S. Sugar. The cost of lodging, travel and other items was funneled through the Republican Party of Florida, which said it was for fundraising."
Current law lets donors give unlimited contributions to parties and political committees, as long as the gift serves a vaguely defined "campaign purpose." Parties can then turn around and bestow the gifts on politicians who need not tell taxpayers what they received or who paid for it.

Last month, Crisafulli and current House Speaker Will Weatherford would not respond to questions about whether they went on the trips, too, although both received Texas hunting licenses. After the Times/Herald stories published, Weatherford acknowledged going.

"I went to King Ranch once in 2011, once in 2012 and once in 2013," Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a statement. "All three trips were Republican Party of Florida fundraisers. In those three years, I shot one deer. I personally paid for all costs associated with the mounting of the deer which my wife would not allow me to hang in our home."

Now Crisafulli, 43, has acknowledged going, too — although, as with Weatherford, Scott and Putnam, he would not say who accompanied him on the trip or what was discussed.

"With close ties to sugar, Florida's next House speaker admits taking King Ranch trip."


Jebbie critical to Scott’s chances

"Jeb Bush is lending his political star power to embattled Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is locked in a tight race for re-election in the nation’s largest swing-voting state."

Speaking at B&K Installations, a metals factory in this southern Miami-Dade County farming community, the former Florida governor and potential White House hopeful on Friday credited Scott with the state’s economic recovery, saying the incumbent Republican had created a “field of dreams” for Floridians looking to prosper after the recession. He also criticized Scott’s likely Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, as a craven opportunist. . . .

Seven years after leaving office, Bush remains one of the most popular politicians in Florida and a revered figure among many Republican voters, who will be critical to Scott’s chances in November.

"Jeb Bush stumps for Scott in Miami-Dade as Crist campaigns nearby."


FlaBagger follies

Matt Reed: "Port deal meets dumb U.S. politics."


"How to make a difference"

Joe Hendersonthinks you should "Give tea party credit for learning how to make a difference." I look forward to his column crediting those few in Hillsborough who have trod in the footsteps of Joseph Shoemaker, who, sadly, have yet to make much of a difference in Hillsborough County.


Crist's school bus tour

"Charlie Crist launched a statewide bus tour last week, aiming to turn heads in the state’s top media markets and convince voters of his commitment to public schools." "Charlie Crist boards school bus to tout his education record, bash Fla. Gov. Rick Scott’s."


You might call it "mediocre"

Bill Cotterell: "A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts and MacArthur Foundation says Florida state workers pay premiums that are not too high, not too low, but just about right. Similarly, what they get for their $50 or $180 a month is neither the best nor worst deal among state employees in all states (Pennsylvania for some reason didn’t respond to the survey)." "State-worker health care in the middle…."


Nelson next in line to chair Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

"Democrat Bill Nelson’s name won’t appear on the ballot, but he’s got a lot riding on this fall’s election. Florida’s senior senator is next in line to chair the influential Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. But he only gets the gavel if his party retains control of the Senate, an increasingly iffy scenario, according to several political handicappers who study congressional campaigns." "Senator Bill Nelson in line to lead critical panel."


Money rolls in

"With industries ranging from casinos to taxicabs looking to influence the Legislature, new reports offer a glimpse of the millions of dollars in fees that lobbying firms collected during the second quarter of the year. The reports, due before a Thursday night deadline, show that at least four lobbying firms collected $1 million or more in fees from April 1 to June 30 — a period that included the second half of the 60-day legislative session." "Lobbying firms collect millions during second quarter."


In case you wanted to know

The Rick Scott front group running robocalls attacking Crist has received "sizable contributions from Disney Worldwide Services, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Medical Association and Anheuser Busch Companies, according to Florida Division of Elections records." "Robocalls using Crist’s words from 2006 defended, assailed."


The best Yoho can do?

"The gloves have come off in the 3rd Congressional District primary race as the early voting period begins Saturday, with incumbent Rep. Ted Yoho and challenger Jake Rush continuing to attack each other’s conservative credentials."

Yoho’s camp recently sent out a mailer claiming that Rush comes from a family of longtime Democrats who have supported Democratic candidates, including Betty Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bill Nelson, and raised money for the Democratic National Committee.
"Early voting begins as Yoho-Rush attacks escalate." See also "Conservative Party of Florida does about-face, endorses Yoho."


Miami Herald endorses Crist

"The Herald recommends, for Governor, Democratic primary." This from the Sun Sentinel editors: "Charlie Crist flawed, but best choice for Democrats."


"Florida's fading River of Grass"

"An Everglades restoration progress report released Tuesday identifies signs of success as well as a long, expensive to-do list to save Florida's fading River of Grass. Florida and the federal government are in the midst of a decades-long, multibillion-dollar effort to protect what's left of the Everglades — unique wetlands that provide important animal habitat and also boost South Florida's water supply." "Everglades report shows restoration progress, needs"


"Scott-Crist confrontation one of most extraordinary in Florida history"

David R. Colburn, historian at the University of Florida, writes in the Tampa Bay Times that it is "apparent that Florida's gubernatorial contest will pit Republican Gov. Rick Scott against former Republican governor, now Democrat, Charlie Crist."

The Scott-Crist confrontation stands as one of most extraordinary in Florida political history. There has never been a gubernatorial contest in which two candidates had previously held the state's chief executive office, let alone one in which both had served as governor from the same party.
"So what do the candidacies of these two men tell us about our state and its politics today?"
The most obvious observation is that Florida voters do not really care if a candidate has lived in the state his or her entire life, because so many voters are relatively new to Florida themselves. Approximately one-fourth of the population (five million people) have relocated to Florida from another state or another country since 2000. Many of these voters believe that someone who has resided in the state for a short period is better positioned to understand their needs.

A second observation is that many Floridians do not appear terribly concerned about whether a candidate has remained true to one party or not. A significant number of Floridians, for example, are Blue Dog Democrats — they are registered Democrat but consistently vote Republican. Additionally, the largest group of newly registered voters during the past 20 years has been independents, in part because these residents do not value party labels.

A third observation is that today's voters do not seem to care whether a candidate's political values are deeply rooted or not. Crist's history certainly seems to underscore that point. On the one occasion that he ran an issue-oriented campaign against Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate seat in 1998, he was soundly defeated. While Scott has not shifted parties, he has changed his tune on funding for public schools, mass transit and Medicaid.

"Much more here: The looming electoral confrontation between Charlie Crist, left, and Rick Scott stands as one of most extraordinary in Florida political history. There has never been a gubernatorial contest like it. Colburn: What Scott vs. Crist tells us about Florida politics".

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Today's Florida political news and punditry.


State argues special election before March would be impossible

"The latest twist in Florida’s nationally watched redistricting saga came Friday when the state’s top election official told a judge that special congressional elections can’t be held until next year." "State says no special election possible before March." See also "State expects special elections to be next March" and "Detzner: New congressional elections can't happen until 2015."


"If I were his mother, I'd be horrified"

Scott Maxwell writes that he "saw one of the most bogus pieces of campaign mail this week that I've seen in a long time. (Which is like trying to sniff out the stinkiest skunk in the den.)"

The mailer claims that state Rep. Jason Brodeur is responsible for "EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY REFORM."

It even urges recipients to "Thank Jason Brodeur" for his super-ethical ways, claiming Brodeur helped rid the world of the appointed members on "the scandal-plagued Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority."

Um … what? . . .

Brodeur calling himself a reformer is like a cow patty calling itself a rose bush.

Maxwell explains why here: "Brodeur's bogus boasting."


"Voters will see some big changes"

"Early voting for the Democratic and Republican primaries and nonpartisan elections open to all voters starts Friday in Broward County, and voters will see some big changes from previous elections." "Early voting begins Friday in Broward." See also "Early voting in Palm Beach County starting for Aug. 26 elections." Related: "Voters love casting ballots by mail, but red tape can prove challenging."

The Gainesvile Sun editors: "Get out the vote."


"Tom Lee is Back"

"State Sen. Tom Lee says Charlie Crist has made a 'mockery of the political process' and is now leading a campaign to against the former governor." "Sen. Tom Lee is behind those ‘conservative Charlie Crist’ robocalls." See also "Attacks on Charlie Crist Show Tom Lee is Back."


Crist gets more public money

"Crist on Friday received more than $474,000 when he received his second check of public matching funds. He has now received slightly more than $1 million in state money to assist his campaign." "Crist gets another boost with public money."


Weekly Roundup

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Arrivals and Departures, Aug. 15, 2014" and "Weekly Roundup: Signed, Sealed, Delivered."


All Aboard hiccup

"All Aboard Florida is drawing the concern of two Florida congressmen who joined together, despite partisan differences, in asking the federal government to conduct a study to see if its plan to connect Orlando to Miami by high-speed rail is viable. " "Bill Posey, Patrick Murphy Team Up Against All Aboard Florida."


Dithering Jeb unsure about whether feds should enforce federal MJ prohibition

"Former Gov. Jeb Bush is conflicted over the federal government’s role in medical-marijuana states and refrains from criticizing President Barack Obama over the issue." "Jeb Bush conflicted over feds role in medical-marijuana enforcement." See also "Bush latest heavyweight to stake out medical pot position."


Scott's "Extreme Makeover"

Aaron Deslatte writes that Nan Rich "is who she is, a South Florida liberal, unabashed advocate of abortion rights and expanding the state government's footprint in health care. She sponsored bills mandating background checks for gun buyers. She was Charlie Crist before Crist was Crist, way back five years ago when he "blindly supported irresponsible gun legislation pushed by the NRA." She was sponsoring bills to allow same-sex couples to adopt children when Crist was backing Florida's gay-marriage constitutional ban."

Scott, though, has been undergoing his own Extreme Makeover: a weeklong environmental tour, an about-face on education funding and an abandonment of the tea party. The corporate raider who cut water-management money and dismantled Florida's growth-regulation agency is now pledging $1 billion for water conservation.
"Rich holds true to principles — dooming her chances."


Scott spinning at the speed of sound

"Unemployment in the Sunshine State is now the same as the national rate. . . . Gov. Rick Scott, who has largely focused his re-election campaign on job creation, seemed to believe the news was another step in the right direction for Floridians." "Unemployment Rate Remains Unchanged at 6.2 Percent."


Bus tour may have violated state law

"Charlie Crist’s School Bus Tour may violate state law on use of school buses." "Crist campaigned in real school bus despite state ban."

Meanwhile, "School bus carrying Charlie Crist rear-ended in Orange County, troopers say."


Sheldon eligible

"A Leon County circuit judge ruled Friday that George Sheldon has no residency issues that disqualify him from running and serving as Florida attorney general." "Judge rules George Sheldon eligible for attorney general primary." See also "Judge: Sheldon can stay on ballot in AG race." See also "Questions raised about where attorney general candidates really live."


Maybe next year

"Florida granted 1-year No Child Left Behind waiver."


Cohn blasts Ross

"Alan Cohn, a Democratic candidate challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, blasted Ross at a Tampa forum Friday for not having an adequate presence in Hillsborough County." "Cohn blasts U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross for not having office in Hillsborough."

Friday, August 15, 2014

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider "liking" us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.


"Who is Charlie Crist? The answer is complicated"

"On the stage, Crist asked a raucous crowd to 'please give a warm Florida welcome' to Obama, and the president walked toward Crist, leaning forward to give him a quick hug. Cameras clicked. Later, in his book, Crist would say it 'ended my career as a viable Republican politician.'" "Who is Charlie Crist? The answer is complicated." See also "Charlie Crist, Nan Rich Take Different Paths in Lead-up to Primary."


Crist bashes Scott

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist brought his school bus tour to Tampa, blasting Gov. Rick Scott for cuts in public school funding as the two continued their battle over who has been more favorable as governor to education." "Crist bashes Scott during Tampa school bus stop."


"Standardized testing a detriment to public education"

"Among critics of modern education, standardized testing is one big detriment to public education. And in Lee County -- the ninth largest district in Florida -- the School Board wants to appeal the process entirely."

Whatever the standards, whatever the test, the Lee County School Board doesn’t want it -- and board members are looking into exactly how they can pull their district (so far the only district in Florida to discuss this) out of standardized testing.
"Lee County School Board Wants Out of Standardized Tests."


Bolton laff riot

"John Bolton Gets Busy in Florida as 2016 Beckons."


Jeb spreads his "influence" on medical MJ

"Jeb Bush is adding his influential [seriously?] voice to the medical marijuana debate in Florida, saying the ballot initiative could harm Florida’s reputation." "Jeb Bush: ‘I strongly urge’ Floridians to vote against medical marijuana." See also "Opposing Amendment 2, Jeb Bush Can Play a Major Role in Defeating It."


GOPer exposed as man behind hit-Robocalls

"State Sen. Tom Lee hosted a fundraiser for Charlie Crist at his Brandon home in 1998 when Crist ran against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Graham."

Today, however, Lee lambasts Crist as the embodiment of why the public distrusts elected leaders. And he is leading a campaign to make sure hundreds of thousands of Democratic and independent voters in Florida hear Crist in his own words tout his rock-ribbed conservatism. . . . .

The robocall campaign is less about partisan politics, Lee claims, than honesty. Crist "has failed the litmus test of character and integrity that should be the prerequisite."

Lee's campaign is not entirely honest or transparent either. He did not initially disclose his involvement, and nowhere in the robocalls does it explain when the recordings of Crist were made or that the purpose of the calls is to damage Crist.

"Sen. Tom Lee is behind those 'conservative Charlie Crist' robocalls."


Big of them

The Miami Herald editors: "Unintended torture not part of the bargain." "Death penalty woes."


Is Florida's unemployment rate still higher than national rate?

"New jobless numbers are due out and will show whether the state's unemployment rate is still higher than the national rate. . . . . The unemployment rate is important for Gov. Rick Scott because he campaigned in 2010 on a pledge to add 700,000 jobs above normal growth." "Florida's new unemployment numbers due out."


Boleteras season

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Early voting marks start of election fraud season." "Voters beware of boleteras."


Following the rules

"The Obama administration is granting Florida a one-year extension of its No Child Left Behind waiver. . . . . Florida was one of five states granted a waiver extension Thursday. The others are Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Wisconsin." "Florida granted 1-year No Child Left Behind waiver."