Sunday, August 12, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

"The state's most dishonest campaign"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Even in a presidential election year, the state’s most dishonest campaign is the attempt to kick three justices off the Florida Supreme Court."

The new tactic is a lawsuit alleging that justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are not qualified to be on the November ballot because they supposedly had court staff illegally assist them in completing election paperwork. Last week, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis threw out the lawsuit ...

Rep. Scott Plakon-R-Longwood, is one of several House Republicans who accuse the court of “judicial activism,” meaning that he doesn’t like some of its rulings. He wrote to Gov. Scott, asking for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. Gov. Scott should have said no. Gov. Scott, who would appoint any new justices, asked the FDLE to investigate. In July, the FDLE reported that there had been no violations, finding that it was “common practice” for court staff to notarize election paperwork. In a statement, the governor still didn’t acknowledge that nothing illegal had been done.

When their six-year term ends, justices stand for merit retention, a Yes-No vote on staying in office. The system is designed to to remove judges because they are unfit to serve, not because people don’t like their rulings.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation, which brought the frivolous lawsuit, bills itself as a champion of conservative causes, such as limited government. In fact, the action against the justices is anything but conservative, since it seeks to undermine the separation of powers.

A tea party group called Restore Justice also is campaigning for No votes on justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince, based on selective rulings that date to the presidential recount in 2000. Under a different name, the group campaigned in 2010 against justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry because they tossed a deceptive health care amendment off the ballot. They won, but their margins were the lowest since 1990 and 1992, when three justices were targeted because of their ruling in an abortion case. ...

This campaign is a threat to Florida. Anyone who disagrees isn’t being honest.
"Reject smear campaign against Florida Supreme Court justices".

Admin ruling on voting restrictions in two weeks

"Judge Thomas P. Crapps of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings will issue a final ruling in two weeks, regarding implementation of a controversial new elections law, HB 1355, by the Legislature during the 2011 session and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. Crapps announced his intention after adjourning a hearing Friday, at about 2:15 p.m."

The disputed provisions of the law are:

- reduction of the days and times during which voters may vote early;

- stipulations that a voter who has moved from one county to another, and failed to alert his new elections supervisor of his move before Election Day, will only be permitted to submit a provisional ballot (which is counted toward the election only if the voter proves his eligibility within a couple of days after voting); and

- the imposition of allegedly onerous new burdens and restrictions on organizations dedicated to registering people to vote.
"Republicans and the Scott administration insist the law is necessary in order to cut costs incurred by lengthy early voting periods and to prevent voter fraud." "New Voting Laws: Court to Issue Final Order in Two Weeks".

Tuesday's primary a snoozer

"Outside of some local, legislative and congressional races, Tuesday's primary election is a bit of a snoozer."

Unlike two years ago, when there were competitive primaries to pick Republican nominees for governor and attorney general and Democratic primaries for attorney general and U.S. Senate, there's only one statewide race on the ballot and even that's not stirring up excitement.

The race to see which Republican will face Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson seems to be all but forgotten after four major candidates, including former Sen. George LeMieux, dropped out. That leaves Rep. Connie Mack IV as the heavy favorite against former Rep. Dave Weldon, who doesn't have statewide name recognition or the money to effectively reach voters.

"There's hardly anything that's really driving folks to the polls at all," said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. "Having LeMieux dropout undercut some of the excitement among the Republicans. Dave Weldon's campaign was late to get in, slow to ignite and it does seem like a coronation of Connie Mack."
"Fla. primary lacks excitement of statewide battles". See also "Will early primary mean lower voter turnout?".

The Ryan risk

William March: "Choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney made a bold statement on his campaign's central economic issues but also one that could be risky — particularly in the crucial swing state of Florida."

"Both Ryan and Romney want to end Medicare as we know it and implement budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest few — no matter the expense for the middle class or the consequences for our economy, said Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux.

Edward F. Coyle of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a liberal-oriented group, said the Ryan choice creates "the most anti-senior ticket ever."

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Romney "doubled down on his commitment to take our country back to the failed policies of the past."
"Romney's VP choice could be risky in swing state Florida". See also "'Game On' -- Florida Voices: Paul Ryan" and "Of Mitt Romney's gaffe and Paul Ryan's Tampa Bay plans".

Supervoters deliver

Anthony Man: "For candidates, supervoters deliver super results".

While the Old White Men hide in the Fly Loft


Bondi fits in with a list of speakers that showcases Republican race and gender diversity. So would Rubio, a potential candidate for keynote speaker now that Ryan has landed the VP slot. In 2008, Sarah Palin filled both roles.

The overall speakers list, in fact — unlike the top of the ticket — is heavy with Hispanics and women.

They include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz, a Hispanic whose presence is also a nod to the tea party movement; Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Bondi may not get the kind of spotlight she'd have enjoyed if the legal challenge she led to the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act had succeeded. She said last week she's been told not to discuss the time of her appearance.

Also missing from the list is the name expected to be listed second to Romney on the Florida ballot Nov. 6 — Senate candidate Connie Mack IV.
"Like everything at RNC, who speaks is a matter of politics".

"Scott’s been on the losing side in nearly every case"

"Thus far, Scott’s been on the losing side in nearly every case and the legal costs are growing. Florida taxpayers have spent at least $900,000 on private lawyers, filing fees, expert witnesses and other costs associated with the lawsuits. Nearly all of the cases, including at least five election-related cases, are still working their way through the courts."

While the GOP-dominated legislature blames judges for striking down what they say is good policy, most of the federal judges who’ve ruled that the new laws are unconstitutional were nominated by Republican presidents George H.W. Bush or his son, George W. Bush.

Scott or his agencies have lost challenges to laws banning doctors from asking patients if they own guns, requiring state workers to contribute 3 percent toward their pensions and forcing applicants for welfare benefits to undergo drug screening. And a judge also struck down as unconstitutional a part of last year’s budget that would have privatized a quarter of the state’s prison system.

Cases yet to be ruled on include changes in teacher pay, privatization of health services in the state’s prisons and a lawsuit filed by the Palm Beach County Commission, challenging a state law allowing people with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns into public buildings.
"Legal tab piles up as Scott Adminstration defends changes to laws and policies".

Obama gushes about Crist?

"Most Democratic leaders in the state seem to think the question is not if, but when the Republican-turned-independent becomes a Democrat, with an eye on the 2014 governor's race. By that line of thinking, it seems inevitable he also will endorse President Barack Obama."

The question is: When does it make sense? Just thinking out loud here, but what better time than Aug. 27-30, when thousands of journalists from across the country converge in Tampa Bay hungry for any tidbit of surprising news? Crist is mum on his plans for now, but Obama and senior adviser David Axelrod both have gushed about Crist to Buzz. Surely they'd love to see him take the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, arguing that his lifelong party has become too extreme.

Whether Crist could win anything but a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary remains an open question, however, given his long record as a self-described conservative Republican. A July 26-29 automated poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling suggests Crist wouldn't even be especially strong against unpopular Gov. Rick Scott.

Thanks to Scott's rising approval ratings among independent and Republican voters, Crist only narrowly leads Scott 44 percent to 41 percent. Forty-one percent of Florida voters had a favorable opinion of Crist and 41 percent had an unfavorable opinion — not exactly a groundswell of support.
"Speculation among state leaders that Charlie Crist could turn Democrat, eye 2014 governor's race".


"Endorsement question gives South Florida candidates heartburn".

Batista would be proud

"A Florida House candidate may have broken campaign-finance laws by spending more money than he raised, back-dating checks and potentially using money from another campaign managed by the same political consultant, bank records from a lawsuit show."

The suit against Maykel “Miguel” Balboa was filed by his Republican primary opponent, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez of Hialeah, who failed Friday to persuade a judge to toss the political rookie Balboa from the ballot or shut down a political committee managed by consultant Sasha Tirador — who is also Balboa’s boss.

“He’s just pissed off because Balboa, with very little money, is literally beating Eddy Gonzalez,” Tirador said of Gonzalez’s lawyer, J.C. Planas.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley said he didn’t feel comfortable regulating political speech or disqualifying candidates so close to Tuesday’s election. He pointed out that Gonzalez had other remedies — namely an elections complaint — to stop Balboa’s allegedly unlawful conduct.

Gonzalez plans to file such a complaint on Monday and send the records to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, Planas said.

“What we have found is a serious violation of the campaign finance laws,” he said in an email.

Planas, a former state representative, attached to the email subpoenaed bank records of Balboa’s campaign account — a move Balboa and Tirador’s lawyer, Joe Geller, called a blatant political maneuver days before Tuesday’s election.
"Bank records raise questions in Hialeah legislative race".

Joe Carillo: Boletera detective

"Joe Carillo: the private eye who blew open the Hialeah ballot case".

So much for Bondi's tough-on-drugs message

Scott Maxwell: "Bondi and Co. aren't sending the tough-on-drugs message they've crowed so much about. Right now, they're sending a message to other doctors in the state that, even when Florida portrays you as one of the state's most extreme pill-mill offenders, you might get off easier than a pot peddler." "Secret deal for doctor weakens pill-mill fight".

Scott has cost homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars

"The state-run insurer is using a massive home inspection program — along with dozens of coverage cutbacks and policy changes — in an aggressive campaign to bolster its bottom line and reduce its level of risk. The campaign — which has intensified at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott — has already cost homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars. And the pocketbook impact could easily reach the billions as more and more homeowners are affected." "Citizens Insurance: A storm over reinspections, rate hikes".