Wednesday, September 05, 2012

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

"Jeb 'doing too much to not be up to something'"

"At the Republican convention in Tampa last week, Jeb Bush was 'doing too much to not be up to something,' according to one Republican operative. Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" titled its week of coverage in Tampa, 'The Road To Jeb Bush 2016.'"

One of Bush's current causes is helping to promote a new movie that tells, in Hollywood fashion, the story of two single moms who take over a failing public school in the hopes of turning it around. Titled, "Won't Back Down," it was produced by Walden Media and is being distributed by 20th Century Fox.

"I think it's going to have a game-changing effect," Bush said. "And it looks like commercially it's going to be viable, which is pretty great."

After the film was shown in Tampa last week, Bush sat on stage with Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of D.C. public schools, a Democrat, and the two discussed education reforms.

"The reform movement has thrust Republicans like Bush and Democrats like Rhee together in a patchwork of oddball relationships that are putting the Democratic Party -– which counts teacher unions as some of its largest and most loyal political contributors -– in an increasingly difficult position."
The Democratic National Committee, when HuffPost first asked on Sunday, originally waved off the idea that organizers from Rhee's group, StudentsFirst, or any other of the "Won't Back Down" [film*] promoters, were turned down for official coordination between the screening of the movie here this week and the official convention.

But after HuffPost wrote Monday that DNC political director Patrick Gaspard "raised no objections" when informed of the movie organizer's intentions to screen the film in Charlotte, Gaspard added more details to the story that made clear that he had given a firm stiff arm to attempts by Rhee's husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, to get official Democratic support or sanction for the movie.

Gaspard said in a phone interview Tuesday that Johnson "reached out and asked whether or not this film could be shown in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention."

"I informed them that that would not be possible, that we would not have a relationship with the film," Gaspard told HuffPost.

"And then after they asked whether or not they could be a part of the convention program, they then asked if the film could be shown on the convention through the auspices of the convention in a space provided by the convention, and whether or not it would be possible to spread word about the screening at official DNC events," he said, "and I reiterated again that the Democratic Party would not have any relationship at all with the screening and would not be involved, in any way, shape or form, with the promotion of the film."

Johnson also asked Gaspard if the movie could be advertised on the DNC's e-mail list. Gaspard said he also turned down that request.

The American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers union, has attacked the movie for inaccuracies and also gone after the owner of Walden Media, Philip Anschutz.

But anti-union ferver grows, as more high-profile Democrats abandon them. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, is currently locked in his own battle with the Windy City's teacher unions.

"Jeb Bush Says Education Film Will Be 'Game-Changing' For Reform Movement".

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*"Won't Back Down" stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Rosie Perez. Twentieth Century Fox screened the movie at the Republican National Convention, along with a Q&A session moderated by newscaster Campbell Brown. See "Teachers union speaks out against fall film 'Won't Back Down'".

Florida rule classifying students by parents' immigration status unconstitutional

"A federal judge has ruled the state is discriminating against potentially thousands of U.S. citizens who live in Florida, by charging them higher out-of-state tuition as non-resident students simply because their parents may lack legal U.S. residency. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore found Tuesday that Florida’s rule classifying such students according to their parents’ undocumented immigration status violates the Constitution’s equal protection provision." "Federal judge rules state cannot treat some Florida students as non-residents and charge higher tuition". See also "Ruling a win for Fla. students".

"Crist set to take stage"

"The former self-described 'as conservative as you can get' governor will tell tens of thousands of spectators and many more watching on television why he supports Barack Obama’s re-election." "With Charlie Crist set to address DNC on Thursday, most Democrats ambivalent".

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board luvs the Charlie: "As Florida governor from 2007-11, Crist's moderate agenda had more in common with the current Democratic platform than the stridently conservative one Republicans approved last week in Tampa at the Republican National Convention. Crist supported immigration reform, embraced stimulus funding as a way to keep Floridians working, backed public school teachers, sought to set a new alternative energy standard for the state to address climate change, provided a path for felons to get their civil rights restored, and even kept the polls open longer in 2008 for early voting."

Contrast that with today. In Florida under Gov. Rick Scott, Republicans have made it harder to register to vote and cast ballots. The governor rejected $2.4 billion for high-speed rail linking Tampa to Orlando, and he and legislative leaders have refused to accept millions in federal money for health care reform and to help low-income pregnant women. Scott signed a budget that cut $1.3 billion in public education last year, then bragged this year that the state had increased education spending by $1 billion when the truth is that Florida is still spending less on education than when he took office.

Of course, Crist is not wholly in line with Obama and Democrats — which actually makes his appearance more refreshing. He has repeatedly opposed raising taxes and gun control. He is no supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage. But on social issues, he has been a live-and-let-live lawmaker and has said the current GOP platform outlawing all abortions goes too far. Crist is a populist, and there is little room for populists anymore in the Republican Party.

Some have seen Crist's defection to Obama's camp as opportunistic, giving the possible future candidate a chance to address a national audience. But the real importance of Crist's presence is as a symbol of moderation and cooperation. Americans from different perspectives can work together for common goals toward a better future, even if they don't agree on everything. That is the antidote to extremism, writ large.

"Practical governing, not ideology". See also "Just a few Floridians to speak at Democratic National Convention", "3 Floridians scheduled for main-stage time at Democratic convention" and "Is Charlie Crist Getting the Ink He Wants?".

To many FlaDems, Crist appearance "revolting"

"To President Barack Obama’s reelection team, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s high-profile speaking role at the Democratic National Convention is a coup. But to many longtime Florida Democrats, it’s revolting."

But it’s unclear how much help Crist can be. A new Florida voter survey from Public Policy Polling found that, after Crist’s endorsement of Obama, he became less popular and now 36 percent have a positive view of Crist while 44 percent have a negative opinion overall.

"Democrats still appear to be somewhat skeptical of him as well though 44 percent rate him positively to 33 percent with a negative opinion," pollster Tom Jensen said in a statement.

The Democratic candidate who ran and lost against Crist for governor in 2006, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, said Florida Democrats “know who Charlie Crist is.” He said he understands the appeal of Crist in the short-term and that the 2014 governor’s race is a long way off.

“Outside of Florida, at a national level, Gov. Crist helps send the message that the Republican Party has lurched too far to the right,” he said. “Here in Florida, it’s a different story.”

"Some Florida Dems disgusted with Crist role at DNC". Scott Maxwell: At DNC, donors serve party — Crist serves self.

Ballot fraud alleged at ALFs and nursing homes

"Charges of absentee-ballot fraud at assisted-living facilities and nursing homes are at the center of Rep. John Patrick Julien’s legal challenge to the results of the District 107 primary race for the Florida House."

Julien, D-North Miami, who lost a razor-thin Democratic primary to Miami Gardens Rep. Barbara Watson last month, filed a court complaint Tuesday challenging the results of the race. After a recount, Watson won with 50.06 percent of the vote — a 13-vote edge.

The court complaint, filed in Leon County, alleges that several absentee ballots tied to a North Miami nursing home may have been cast fraudulently. It highlights a political consultant who advertised herself as “The Queen of Absentee Ballots” and a woman who appeared on Haitian Creole radio, warning absentee voters to consult with “teacher Carline” before filling out their ballots. . . . State law requires people to fill out their own absentee ballots, although there are exceptions for people with disabilities. Julien is alleging that several votes tied to the Claridge House nursing home and other healthcare facilities may have been improperly or fraudulently cast.

"Lawmaker’s suit alleges absentee-ballot fraud at North Miami assisted living facilities, nursing homes".

Scott hires Jindal's communications director

"Brian Burgess, the director of communications for Gov. Rick Scott, is heading to the Republican Party of Florida. Burgess will be replaced in the governor’s office by Melissa Sellers, a former communications director for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and who served as the director of regional media for the Republican National Convention in Tampa." "Rick Scott Brings In New Media Director from RNC, Bobby Jindal".

Poll: Crist edges Scott; Nelson leads Mack

"Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, one of the featured speakers at this week’s Democratic National Convention, has a net unfavorable ranking among Florida voters, according to a new survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling."

Crist would beat Scott by a 45-to-42 margin, the poll says. But a generic Democrat would beat Scott by the same margin.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who attended the convention briefly Tuesday then returned to the campaign trail, leads Republican Rep. Connie Mack by a 45-to-38 percent margin in PPP’s poll.

"Democratic poll: Crist unpopular but edges Scott; Nelson leads Mack".

Teabaggers go after Justices

"Tea party and Republican groups are on the September schedule for Restore Justice 2012, which seeks to deny retention of three Florida Supreme Court justices." "Group aiming to oust 3 justices starts state tour".

State's voting expert "utterly unconvincing"

Steve Bousquet: "The state of Florida is having trouble convincing a federal court that its reduction in early voting days does not discriminate against African-Americans."

One reason is that the state's professional witness was so utterly unconvincing. The judges said so themselves.

A panel of three federal judges ruled Aug. 16 that reducing early voting days would be discriminatory in five counties under U.S. voting rights oversight: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.

"The basic question was whether the state's decision to reduce early voting from 14 days to eight has the effect of 'denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color' in those counties." "Florida's early-vote 'expert' unconvincing".

Rubio and Castro

Nancy Smith: "Rubio and Castro are more than a pair of well-matched political opponents. They're all about party muscle, party domination in a nation of changing demographics. Now numbering more than 50 million, America's Hispanic population is projected to approach 80 million by 2030. That's 22 percent of the population -- most affecting the red-blue balance in key states." "Similarities in Julian Castro and Marco Rubio? Their Hispanicness, Not Much Else". See also "Political conventions highlight Hispanic split".

"'Old guard' at the PSC"

"The senator voted against her reappointment in 2009 and now is asking Gov. Rick Scott not to appoint her again because he said she is part of the 'old guard' at the PSC. In response, Edgar said, 'I believe Governor Scott will review experience and qualifications and will make the choice.'" "Sen. Fasano wants Lisa Edgar ousted from Public Service Commission".

Hasner troubled

"'Deeply Troubling,' Says Adam Hasner: New Democrat Platform on Israel".