Saturday, August 04, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

As the Veep talk shifts from Saint Marco to Bobby Jindal, we are reminded by this piece in the Palm Beach Post of Jindal's brief career as an exorcist. "Jindal's writing on 'exorcism' gets new attention". More: "Bobby Jindal's Exorcism Problem". Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Inside the shady world of ballot-brokers"

Marc Caputo: "For an elderly political junky who needs money on the side, it’s the perfect job with an exotic-sounding name: Boletero."

It literally means “balloteer,” but the post carries the Spanish nickname in deference to the dozens — if not scores — of paid small-time operatives who find ways to turn out or collect absentee mail-in votes in Miami-Dade.

It’s a shady world, as the case of 56-year-old Deisy Cabrera in Hialeah shows.

Cabrera was charged Wednesday with a state felony for allegedly forging an elderly woman’s signature on an absentee ballot, and with two counts of violating a Miami-Dade County ordinance banning the possession of more than two filled-out absentee ballots.

“The ‘boleteros’ hover on the edge of the letter and spirit of the law,” said Christian Ulvert, a top state Democratic campaign consultant who has run races in Little Havana and Miami Beach.

“These boleteros in Miami Dade have become like some political consultants,” Ulvert added. “You don’t want them working for you. But you don’t want them working against you. So some candidates figure you just have to pay them.”

It’s a cottage industry in a county where nearly 50,000 people have already returned their mail-in ballots, out of 150,000 requests. All that for an Aug. 14 primary that consists of relatively small races and the contest for Miami-Dade mayor.

The exact number of boleteros is unclear. Consultants estimate there are as many as 100 in the county.

Many act as free agents for multiple campaigns, earning as much as $5,000 for about a month’s worth of work, consultants say. An individual campaign can pay as much as $1,000.

"Top boleteros — who tend to be Republican — have access to about 200 voters and as few as 30."
The more voters they say they represent, the more money they can earn from each campaign they work for — especially this year, when the Aug. 14 ballot in cities like Hialeah has as many as two-dozen candidates and questions. Boleteros can theoretically cash in on every race.
Much more: "‘Boleteros’: Inside the shady world of ballot-brokers".

Early Voting

"Early voting begins Saturday across the state". See also "8-day early-voting period for primary election starts Saturday", "Early voting starts Saturday" and "Early voting times, locations for Palm Beach, Martin counties".

"They’re baaaack"

Fabiola Santiago: "For Genting, no doesn’t mean no".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Gerard Robinson Leaves; Jim Greer, Charlie Crist Linger". See also "Week in Review for July 30 to Aug. 3".

13,000 Floridians may not know that they can vote

"As Gov. Rick Scott defends his administration’s effort to remove potentially ineligible voters from the voting rolls, more than 13,000 Floridians who had their voting rights restored may not know that they can cast ballots in November. Since 2007, state officials have been unable to locate nearly 17,604 former felons who had their rights restored under an 'automatic' process that was established by former Gov. Charlie Crist and undone by Scott last year." "Thousands of felons may not know they can vote".

Not a lot of credibility

Rick Scott doesn't bring a lot of credibility, and certainly no heft, to this debate: "Rick Scott Fights Defense Cuts as Sub Missile Testing Brings 100 Jobs to the Space Coast".

The price of Teabaggery

The Tampa Bay Times editors on "the irony of the [Pinellas County] Fluoride Four's foolish decision. They saved the county $205,000 by no longer adding fluoride to the drinking water. But taxpayers will spend roughly $27,000 on free dental care for 267 children who showed up last week, including the cost of fluoride treatments. And that's just the start." "Paying for Fluoride Four's foolishness".

The best we can do?

"UF, at 80th, Is Florida’s Top School -- Forbes".

RPOF "hush money"?

"Jim Greer: Republican Party tried to pay me hush money". Related: "Jim Greer judge: Government must release potentially embarrassing police report".

FCAT Follies

"With Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigning in the wake of a series of public-relations miscues and grading mistakes surrounding Florida's high-stakes testing and accountability regime, critics are sensing an opening to change the direction of the school-reform movement in Florida." "FCAT critics see opening with Education Commissioner's resignation".

Late to the game

Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Charlie Crist should become a Democrat, Dan Gelber says".

"More interested in expanding private school tuition vouchers than in improving public schools"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "There is a serious leadership void in public education in Florida and Tampa Bay, and if wise choices for key positions aren't made soon it could get worse."

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson's abrupt resignation this week following the FCAT testing debacle means the state will have its third education commissioner in less than two years. The search for a new school superintendent in Pinellas has produced an uninspiring list of finalists and should start fresh. ...

It's depressing, but this vacuum also presents opportunities.

Robinson is a slick salesman with no Florida roots or love for public education, and he won't be missed. On his rocky one-year watch, the credibility of standardized testing collapsed completely, marred by ever-changing standards and ridiculous mistakes in assigning school grades. His explanations and excuses were not good enough, and the commissioner of public education should not be more interested in expanding private school tuition vouchers than in improving public schools.

His resignation puts pressure on Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Education to make a better choice this time. Florida needs a commissioner who believes in public education and in credible accountability that informs rather than punishes.
"Turning point for public eduction in Florida".

Raw sewage

"More than half of required counties have opted out of septic tank inspections".

Campaign Roundup

"Campaign Roundup: Primary clock ticks down".

Outa here

"Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is spending a week in the south Caribbean on a trade mission." "Fla. LG heads to Trinidad-Tobago for trade mission".

"New brainstorm to tempt the private market: bribes"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has a new brainstorm to tempt the private market: bribes. The idea is as offensive as that description, and it ought to be abandoned before private insurers start naming their price." "Bribery and insurance shouldn't mix".

SD 17 candidate withdraws

"Democratic Party officials are scrambling to find a replacement after their candidate for the District 17 state Senate seat abruptly pulled out of the race. The Hillsborough County Democratic Party announced Friday that Wes Johnson, a retired nuclear and biomechanical engineer from Town 'N Country, has withdrawn from the race to represent the new district spanning northwest Hillsborough and southeast Pasco counties." "State Senate candidate Wes Johnson drops out of race".

"Someone is conspicuously absent"

"Someone is conspicuously absent from the campaign brochures produced by Republican candidates in Florida this summer:"

Gov. Rick Scott.

Hobbled by weak poll numbers, awkward on the stump and still somewhat estranged from the party establishment that shunned him in 2010, Scott is invisible on the campaign trail across Florida.

He also has steadfastly avoided taking sides in party primaries to a greater extent than either of his two predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.

Colorful images of Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio can be seen everywhere in GOP circles. But candidates sometimes appear to go out of their way to avoid showing Scott’s picture.

In the hotly contested Republican primary for a Tampa Bay Senate seat, Rep. Jim Frishe hands out brochures featuring pictures of him with three stalwarts of the GOP: Bush, Rubio and U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. But not Scott.

In the GOP primary for a Jacksonville Senate seat, Rep. Mike Weinstein’s flyer prominently features him with a smiling Rubio. A much smaller photo shows Weinstein, one of Scott’s first supporters, standing between Scott and Bush.

In a competitive South Florida Senate race, Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff’s Facebook profile picture is her smiling with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. In another snapshot, Bogdanoff poses with Attorney General Pam Bondi. Not seen: a photo of Scott.

A flyer that promotes Chris Nocco for Pasco County sheriff shows seven leading Republicans who support him. Scott’s face is nowhere to be found, even though he appointed Nocco sheriff last year.

“Campaign flyers keep coming out, and not one mentions the governor,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, one of the seven Republicans in Nocco’s brochure. “It’s very different.”
Scott is keeping his distance, too. He has not campaigned with presidential candidate Mitt Romney or U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who has a huge lead in polls in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
“I’m not planning to get involved,” Scott said. “Let the primaries work. I’ll be supportive of the Republican candidates after the primaries.” ...

Until now, it has been common practice for candidates to use photos of themselves with the governor as a means of flaunting their friendliness with the titular head of their party.
"Gov. Rick Scott: the GOP’s invisible man on the campaign trail".

HD 5

"HD 5: Despite GOP Primary, Marti Coley in Good Shape to Head Back to Tallahassee".

"Butterfly ballot" blues

"An infamous 'butterfly ballot' gave flight to Palm Beach County's bumbling election image that still sticks 12 years later. Now four candidates are vying for the chance to change that perception of election incompetence; forged during the disputed 2000 presidential race and reinforced by occasional hiccups that followed." "Elections chief candidates pledge to avoid more Palm Beach County vote-counting gaffes".

Never mind those promised lower insurance bills

"Auto insurance reform laws passed by the Florida Legislature to lower premiums may not decrease your bill." "PIP changes might not lower insurance bills for drivers, report says". See also "Lower Rates Yet to Appear in PIP Filings".