Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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

Scott is "in active campaign mode, and engaged in an image makeover"

"The 2014 governor's race is already attracting attention. Will Charlie Crist go Democratic? Could he beat Alex Sink? What about Nan Rich?"

But the early maneuvering isn't exclusive to the Democratic side of any potential 2014 ballot. Under the radar, Gov. Rick Scott is raising millions of dollars. A campaign-style ad touts his education credentials. And he has embarked on a statewide "listening tour" of school administrators, teachers, students and parents.
"Just don't call it 'campaigning.'"
"Governor Scott's top priorities continue to be to help Floridians get a great education and a great job while keeping the cost of living low," said Jackie Schutz, deputy press secretary for Scott. "His events across the state focus on these goals."

Longtime political observers see the flurry of activity differently.

Scott and his team "are definitely in active campaign mode, and they're actively engaged in an image makeover for this governor," said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida.

"Gov. Scott working on re-election in 2014". See also "Rick Scott School Funding Effort Could Require Juggling" and "Rick Scott Continues to do his Homework on Revamping FCATs".

Appearance schedule

"Obama in Hillsborough, Romney in Sarasota this week".

He's all yours

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist would be riding a new horse ... well, donkey ... if respondents to the latest Florida Current poll have their way." "Readers Poll: Charlie Crist, a new party animal".

Florida donors thought the message was grand

"Romney's speech to Florida donors stirs controversy, outrage".

Meanwhile, George P. Bush draws smattering of Young Republicans

"Florida became the battleground for the youth vote Monday, as Michelle Obama and the son of former Gov. Jeb Bush arrived within hours of each other on college campuses in Tallahassee and Gainesville hoping to drum up support for their candidates among pivotal young voters."

The first lady spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of 10,750 cheering supporters at the Stephen O’Connell Center at the University of Florida and then darted to Tallahassee to another packed house of 8,850 at the Leon County Civic Center.

The greeting was more subdued for George P. Bush, son of Florida’s former governor and nephew of the former president, as he launched his six-college bus tour on behalf of the Maverick PAC, a political action committee designed to increase activism among young Republican professionals.

About two dozen members of Florida State University’s Young Republicans Club greeted Bush for the first-of-its-kind event intended to counter the Democrats’ successful youth campaign four years ago.

"First Lady fires up college crowds as campaign appeals to youth vote". See also "Mrs. Obama says UF crowd her largest yet in 2012 campaign".

The Week Ahead

"The Week Ahead for Sept. 17 to Sept. 21".

It beats working

"Count George P. Bush among those who wish his father, former Gov. Jeb Bush, will run for president someday. But he doesn't think it'll happen."

But the son might follow in his father's path. He is considering running for office in Texas, where he now lives.
"Jeb Bush for president? His son says probably not".

Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms

"In Summer, Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms Plague Freshwater".

"Rubio invokes a boutique brand of anti-Fidel Castro freedom"

Stephen Goldstein: "Freedom: It's the watchword of the right-wing nut jobs who have turned the Republican Party into a looney bin, the mantra that informs the beginning, middle, and end of every speech their spokespeople deliver, the lingua franca of their narrow, calcified slice of the hoi polloi, the poll-tested word guaranteed to resonate with gullible multitudes."

One of their major, Koch-brothers-backed front groups calls itself FreedomWorks. It should add "with billionaires' money." If they had their way, they'd rename the Liberty Bell and Statue of Liberty — and french fries.

Sen. Marco Rubio invokes a boutique brand of anti-Fidel Castro freedom. Rep. Ron Paul glorifies freedom from anything and anyone governmental, especially the Federal Reserve. Mitt Romney revels in the quasi-religious freedom of markets. State your preference: There are freedom-lovers only too willing to join your cause or to invite you to embrace theirs. No matter that it's verbal mush, they'll jump at any chance to "let freedom ring."

"'Freedom lovers' revel in hypocrisy".

Grayson not shy in debate

"Grayson-Long debate in downtown Orlando gets testy".

'Ya need to be careful with that Public Disclosure of Financial Interests

"Okaloosa County Commissioner James Campbell had planned to retire in the coming weeks from both his elected and city government positions."

Instead, Gov. Rick Scott removed Campbell from office on Monday, hours after the two-term commissioner and longtime Niceville parks and recreation director was arrested for allegedly failing to fully disclose money on his annual Florida Commission on Ethics Public Disclosure of Financial Interests. . . . According to the probable cause arrest affidavit, the Republican Panhandle office had a working agreement since 2004 -- Campbell's first year on the commission -- with the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival to be compensated for recruiting sponsors. In 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011 he failed to include his commission for attracting sponsors, the affidavit stated.
"FDLE: Mullet Festival Payments Sink Okaloosa Commissioner".

"Tea party-affiliated members want deeper cuts"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Congress seems unable to agree on a new farm bill, which is the vehicle for the food stamp program known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.) Roughly 3.5 million Floridians receive SNAP benefits. The Senate has passed a bill that would cut food stamps by $4.5 billion over 10 years. A House committee has passed a version that would cut $16.5 billion over a decade. That’s stalled, in part because some tea party-affiliated members want even deeper cuts."

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, is chairman of an agriculture subcommittee and favors the $16.5 billion in cuts. He characterizes them as an attempt to close loopholes. His office says the SNAP budget has doubled in the last two years, and the cuts he supports amount to just 2 percent.

But the charities point out that too many people who qualify for assistance don’t get it now. Many charities spend considerable effort helping people fill out applications for food stamps. And the “loopholes” Rep. Rooney would close actually represent efforts to cut bureacracy that delays assistance. Closing the “loopholes” would cut off people who, for example, have a car that puts them over the $2,000 asset limit but who have disposable incomes at the poverty level. Why make people sell a car they need to hold a job?

Debra Susie, executive director of Florida Impact, an anti-hunger organization, notes that Florida’s error rate in granting food stamps is less than 1 percent, second only to Alaska. So “fighting fraud” is not an issue for Florida.

"Food-stamp cut makes no moral or practical sense".

"Romney supporters were nowhere to be seen"

"What seemed like a flash mob was part of a major voter registration effort, organized by the college administration. Several hundred students from [Miami Dade College’s] eight campuses came together to highlight the importance of voting in November’s national election."

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supporters were nowhere to be seen.
"Voter registration rally thrills MDC campus".

"Dorworth is a credit-card-carrying member of the Atlas Shrugged wing of the GOP"

Daniel Ruth: "Unless voters in his state House district finally awaken to the realization they are represented by the political equivalent of DeLorean Motors, they will elect Chris Dorworth, R-Brother Can You Spare A Dime?, to another term in Tallahassee and clear the way for him to rise to the speakership in two years."

Say, you're going to need more Kleenex to handle all that drool. . . .

Irony abounds. Dorworth, a Lake Mary Republican, is a credit-card-carrying member of the Atlas Shrugged wing of the GOP. These are stout-hearted souls who love to tout their fiscal conservatism, rugged individualism, and tightness with a buck that would make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Beyoncé in a Jimmy Choo store.

"So how is it possible that Dorworth, R-If I Were A Rich Man, whose personal bottom line looks as though he uses Maynard G. Krebs as a financial adviser, is in line to become one of the most powerful politicians in Florida?"
Well, here is one possible explanation for how the Legislature's resident beefcake boy for red ink managed to become the Daddy Warbucks of clout.
"While Dorworth may possess all the personal business acumen of a Saharan snow shovel salesman, he does do a pretty bang-up job of peddling his influence to anyone looking for a time share on a state representative."
Dorworth, R-Checks Please!, created one of those phooey-filled political action funds called Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy, which more accurately should have been named the Committee for Mr. Dorworth! Your Table Is Ready.

The future speaker has managed to pull in nearly $1 million to the fund, which is more about selling access and influence once he grabs the speaker's gavel. Does anyone honestly believe Disney Worldwide Services would fork over $155,000, or Automated Health Care Solutions would contribute $55,000, or Southern Gardens Citrus would offer up $32,500 because all these egalitarian corporations yearn to advance freedom and liberty and democracy for one and all? . . . .

Dorworth's ability to raise unlimited gobs of money from special interests seeking a seat at the speaker's table speaks to the corrupting influence of money run amok in Tallahassee.

"Look closely for the forked tongue".

Litigation narrows Clemens' lead in SD 27

"On Monday morning, Judge Terry Lewis of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court of Florida effectively narrowed the lead of Rep. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth over Democratic primary rival Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach. Bernard’s suit alleged that at least 40 absentee ballots and nine provisional ballots cast for Bernard were improperly discarded by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office headed by Democratic Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher." "Lawyers for Mack Bernard: Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Not Counting Every Democratic Vote". See also "Judge rejects Bernard's challenge in close Senate race".

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A Tallahassee judge took a good, hard look Monday at the signatures on 40 rejected absentee ballots from an eyelash-thin Palm Beach County state Senate race. What he saw wasn’t enough to make him second-guess the county canvassing board’s decision not to count them. That a judge reviewed the ballots and upheld the outcome should be good enough for anyone with credible concerns about this race."

After a hand recount in August, state Rep. Jeff Clemens edged out fellow Democratic Rep. Mack Bernard in the District 27 Senate primary by just 17 votes. But Rep. Mack’s campaign pointed to 40 absentee ballots that were rejected because of problems with their signatures, which must match signatures on the voters’ registration cards. The campaign collected sworn affidavits from two dozen of the voters, who said they had signed the ballot envelopes themselves.

The goal, of course, is to count all legitimate votes, particularly in a race this tight. Rep. Bernard’s lawyer argues that many of the 40 absentee ballots were tossed because Haitian-American voters whose primary language is Creole misunderstood the English ballot instructions, and printed their names instead of signing them. But voters have an obligation to complete ballots correctly, and Florida law, correctly, limits the ability of judges to second-guess elections officials tasked with deciding if the ballots meet legal requirements. Campaigns that seek out absentee voters, as Rep. Bernard’s did, also bear responsibility for informing those voters.

On Monday, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis agreed that the signatures on the disputed ballots didn’t match the voter registration cards. And he ruled that state law doesn’t allow him to consider the voters’ affidavits or hear their testimony. Rep. Mack’s attorney said he would appeal, but his case, which he says is based on parsing state legislators’ intent when writing the law, seems weak.

"Ruling on absentee state Senate ballots should stand".

"Illusion about holding the line on gambling"

Fred Grimm: "Leaders in the state Legislature, as they snuffed out bills that would have created so-called 'destination casinos' last session, explained that they’re determined to staunch the 'expansion of gambling.'"

Truth is, they’ve had about as much luck slowing down the gambling industry in Florida as they’ve had keeping Burmese pythons out of the Everglades. In November, voters in both Palm Beach and Lee counties will be voting whether to legalize slot machines at their local racinos. Not that local voters have any such authority. But the track operators know a “yes” vote will up the pressure in Tallahassee. Up in Gadsden County, 63 percent of the voters approved a slot referendum in January, as the local track operator replaced quarter-horse racing with a novel new form of pari-mutuel gambling: rodeo style barrel racing.

Gaming operators are talking about opening jai-alai frontons in Florida City and Sunrise, no matter that jai-alai has about as much cachet in modern Florida as shuffleboard. It’s all about slots, slots and more slots.

Meanwhile, gambling conglomerates, looking for destination casinos, are pouring money into Florida politics.

And on the other end of the gambling spectrum, Internet cafes have contributed more than $700,000 to state campaigns this year, looking to preserve the fiction that no gambling occurs in their storefront gambling dens.

It might work. In Florida, home of the un-roulette, we cling to an illusion about holding the line on gambling. But the line keeps moving.

"A roulette wheel that pretends it isn’t".

Political cheerleader

Frank Cerabino: "College mascots usually don’t play a role in national politics."

But when Lynn University, a 2,400-student private school in Boca Raton, scored a coup by becoming the site of one of the three upcoming presidential debates, Big LU, the mascot of the Fighting Knights, found himself with a new role.

He has been recast as a political cheerleader.

While President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney debate inside the Wold Performing Arts Center on Lynn’s campus on the night of Oct. 22, Big LU will be standing on the school’s soccer field, the designated student watching area, and reacting to the big-screen TV broadcast of the debate.

"Lynn mascot, Big LU, ready to fire up student crowd at October presidential debate".