Saturday, October 06, 2012

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Desperately trying to change the subject

"State law enforcement officials are reviewing allegations of voter registration fraud against the Florida Democratic Party."

The Florida Department of State on Friday confirmed that it has forwarded complaints about voter registration fraud that have been filed against the Democrats, as well as two other groups – the Florida New Majority Education Fund and La Raza/Democracia USA. Neither agency would comment on the extent of the allegations or how many voter registration forms it involves.
"Voter fraud complaint filed against Fla. Democrats".

"Sancho is a man on a mission"

"Ion Sancho is a man on a mission. Just weeks from the presidential election, one of the most veteran election supervisors in the state of Florida, thinks there’s plenty for him and his colleagues to lose sleep over."

What keeps him awake at night? Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on. “We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.
"CBS4 Investigates: Does Your Vote Count?"

"Congressional vulnerability rankings"

"Florida will be crucial to deciding the presidential election, but it's also a key state in this year's battle to control the U.S. House of Representatives. Eight of Florida's 27 congressional districts are at least somewhat competitive this year; the remainder are safe for one party or the other."

1 Newly created seat, District 9: former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) vs. Todd Long (R).

Grayson is a big-spending, outspoken liberal who was voted out of office in 2010 and who is now making a comeback in an Orlando-area district. The district is 41 percent Hispanic and it gave Barack Obama 60 percent of the vote in 2008, so Grayson is a heavy favorite.

2 Republican-held seat being vacated by Rep. Allen West, District 22: Lois Frankel (D) vs. Adam Hasner (R).

West, a staunch conservative, abandoned this Democratic-leaning district to run for a different seat with more favorable demographics. That leaves two big political figures vying to represent portions of Boca Raton and West Palm Beach: Frankel, a former state House minority leader and West Palm Beach mayor, and Hasner, a former state House majority leader. Frankel is trying to play down her history of sharp elbows; Hasner is trying to play down the sharp right turn he took in his short-lived U.S. Senate bid, an ideological shift that seems ill-advised for a district that gave 57 percent of its vote to Obama in 2008. Frankel has a slight edge, but the contest remains close.

3 Republican seat held by Rep. David Rivera, District 26: Rivera vs. Joe Garcia (D).

Rivera, a confidant of Marco Rubio during their state legislative days, faces a serious challenge in large part because of fallout from ethics questions. . . . 4 Newly created seat, District 18: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D).

The contest between West and Murphy is one of the most bruising, expensive and, for TV viewers, entertaining races in the nation. . . .

5 Republican seat held by Rep. Dan Webster, District 10: Webster vs. Val Demings (D).

Webster, who defeated Grayson in 2010, has a favorable district thanks to redistricting — Obama won only 47 percent of the vote in 2008. That's a big help in his race against a highly touted Democratic challenger, Demings – the daughter of a janitor and a maid who rose to become police chief in Orlando. Even a Democratic poll had Webster up by 5 points.

6 Republican seat held by Rep. Steve Southerland, District 2: Southerland vs. Al Lawson (D).

Republicans appear to be getting just a little bit nervous about Southerland's chances of winning a second term. . . .

7 Republican seat held by Rep. Vern Buchanan, District 16: Buchanan vs. Keith Fitzgerald (D).

Buchanan has been hobbled by continuing ethics concerns, but his chances in the Sarasota-based district look stronger than they did just a few weeks ago. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reportedly withdrew a $230,000 ad buy that would have supported Buchanan's once-promising challenger, Fitzgerald, a former state representative. . . .

8 Republican seat held by Rep. C.W. (Bill) Young, District 13: Young vs. Jessica Ehrlich (D).

Young is an institution in the Tampa Bay area, having first won his seat in 1970. He's expected to win again, but it's worth keeping an eye on the Democratic nominee, Jessica Ehrlich, a former aide to members of both parties in Congress.

"Florida congressional vulnerability rankings".

Super voters

"No peace for the 'super voter'".

"Voter suppression redux"

Bill Maxwell: "During this presidential election year, as Republicans seek to oust President Barack Obama from the White House, Americans are getting a chilling blast from the past. The right to vote, which sets the United States apart from many other nations worldwide, is under attack like it has not been in nearly 50 years."

Using the ruse of wanting to assure that everyone who votes is eligible to vote, several state legislatures controlled by Republicans are introducing strict voter identification laws requiring the show of a photo. This requirement may seem innocuous, but its purpose is to suppress voting among racial and ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics and blacks, and other groups who tend to vote Democratic.
"It is voter suppression redux."
In 1963, during the height of the voting rights movement, Donald R. Matthews and James W. Prothro, professors at the University of North Carolina, wrote a prescient assessment of blacks and the vote in an article for the American Political Science Review:
"The vote is widely considered the Southern Negro's most important weapon in his struggle for full citizenship and social and economic equality. It is argued that 'political rights pave the way for all others.' Once Negroes in the South vote in substantial numbers, white politicians will prove responsive to the desires of the Negro community. Also, federal action on voting will be met with less resistance from the white South — and Southerners in Congress — than action involving schools, jobs, or housing."
Read Maxwell's column here: "A chilling blast from a racist past".

HD 47

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Registered Republicans hold a slight edge over Democrats in this district, which heads from Winter Park south through downtown Orlando to Conway, but its voters narrowly chose Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in the 2008 election."

After her eight years on the Orange County Commission, and her unsuccessful bid for county mayor in 2010, Democrat Linda Stewart of Orlando shouldn't have to introduce herself to most voters. Her opponent, Republican Bob Brooks of Winter Park, also is a former officeholder, though fewer voters would remember his three terms in the state House in the 1990s. Brooks seems to be counting on that.

As a county commissioner, Stewart distinguished herself for her leadership on two critical issues for Central Florida, growth management and diversifying the region's economy. She helped bring the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute to the Medical City in Lake Nona. And while her positions on issues such as state spending — she couldn't tell us an area in the budget she'd cut — would put her to the left of most lawmakers, she worked well with her more conservative colleagues on the commission.

Stewart is running on her record, but Brooks is running away from his. He was a culture warrior during his earlier time in Tallahassee, leading the charge for abortion limits, school prayer and school vouchers, and against gay-rights policies. Now, running in a district where such positions would turn off many voters, he is stressing job creation and education, although he concedes he supports imposing a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions.

Voters have good reason to be skeptical of any candidate who re-packages himself to get re-elected. We endorse Linda Stewart in House District 47.

"In House Districts 45, 47".

Orlando "the nerve center of Florida's political system"?

Aaron Deslatte: "Hard to argue with the perception that Orlando is the nerve center of Florida's political system. But maybe there's more than just a good airport and an abundance of persuadable voters behind it."

State Republican Party officials huddling at Walt Disney World this weekend for their quarterly business meeting are gathering on the grounds of a friendly super-corporation that's always willing to comp them hundreds of thousands of dollars in rooms, food and convention space.

Florida Democrats tend to huddle at Disney or Universal resorts for the same reason. It also helps that Disney has a blockbuster political contribution budget -- $2.5 million and counting -- this year.

And based on the fundraising activity slated for the coming weeks, the GOP's top brass might as well buy one of those discounted downtown condos. . . .

With outgoing presiding officers of the House and Senate – Dean Cannon of Winter Park and Mike Haridopolis of Merritt Island -- hailing from Central Florida, and Dorworth and Gardiner slated to take over in 2014, the region's political clout looks secure, particularly if Democratic Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer decides to jump into the 2014 gubernatorial race.

"But we know Orlando's perch on the critical Interstate-4 corridor of voters makes it a hub for attention around political season. What's sometimes forgotten is that the town is the state's economic king as well."
New data released by the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research show the Orlando MSA (metro statistical area) generated $4 billion in taxable sales in July, leading the next-closest MSA – Miami-Dade -- by about $750 million. Tampa was third at $3.1 billion, followed by Broward County at $2.36 billion.

For the same month a decade ago, Orlando's edge was slimmer – with $2.95 billion in taxable sales, compared to $2.7 billion for Tampa and $2.3 billion for Miami.

Orlando is dominating because of tourism, a bigger-than-ever economic component because of the recession's decimation of the construction sector. And with the sales tax the largest cash source for state government, the region's political clout might be surpassed by its economic power.

Political leadership is achieved by the ability to deliver resources -- as Disney demonstrates whenever it wants anything out of the Legislature.

And Metro Orlando is nothing if not a turnstile-turning Mecca of sales tax for Florida government and a campaign ATM for its politicians.

"Metro Orlando's clout not limited to politics".

FlaDem punching bag

"There's one person not on this year's ballot who is still getting his fair share of grief: Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has been battling poor poll ratings almost since taking office, but now he is turning into a target for Democrats running for the Florida Legislature. They have run ads going after the Republican governor on education, property insurance rate hikes and his push for tax cuts. " "Gov. Scott targeted even though he's not on ballot".

Florida's uninsured

"Medicaid covers more people in the United States than Medicare, and government spending on the program designed for uninsured low-income Americans has become a hot-button issue of the presidential campaign campaign. How many Floridians are uninsured and eligible for Medicaid? Examine the data yourself," by going here: "Visualized: Florida’s Uninsured and Medicaid Eligible".

"Romney spoke for 19 minutes"

"A newly confident Mitt Romney kicks off a three day-tour in the must-win state with a rally in St. Petersburg. He spoke for 19 minutes before a crowd of about 6,000 people, making the case that the sitting president has failed to keep his promises and is ill-equipped to solve the nation's economic maladies." "Romney romances Florida". See also "Pumped up Romney rallies the forces in St. Petersburg" and "Mitt Romney to appear in Central Florida on Saturday night".

Campaign Roundup

"Campaign Roundup: Justice retention, replacement Republican and a chicken suit".

Races could tip the balance of power in the Florida Senate

"In his first run for a state office, a Volusia County commissioner is heading into the final month of the 2012 campaign with more money in his account than a veteran Republican lawmaker. Although state Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, has raised $427,951, according to campaign finance reports as of Friday's deadline, she has spent $296,629, leaving her with $131, 322 to promote her District 8 campaign."

Hukill’s Democratic challenger, Volusia County Commission Chairman Frank Bruno, reports raising $317,493, an $11,000 loan to his campaign and spending $101,467, which leaves $227,026 to claim the district for Democrats.

The battle for the seat to represent Volusia, Lake and Marion counties is being watched closely because it could tip the balance of power in the Florida Senate. No one expects the Democrats to take control of the chamber where the Republicans hold a 28 to 12 advantage, but the Senate is more moderate than the House. . . .

Hukill voted for both proposals in the House, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the American Conservatives Union give her a 100-percent rating. Bruno has no voting record on state policy to rate.

In another central Florida race, the Democratic candidate for Senate District 14 reports having twice as much money on hand as the Republican candidate. State Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, reported raising $16,000 between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28 for a total of $175,000 in contributions. He reports spending $110,000. The Republican nominee, lawyer Will McBride, raised $1,800 during the latest reported period for a total of $75,317. McBride also loaned his campaign $205,000 and reports spending $246,979, leaving him with $33,000. Soto has $65,000 remaining his campaign account. . . .

Meanwhile, the finance report for the Democratic nominee for the northeast Florida Senate District 4 seat shows Nancy Soderberg revving up her campaign machine. Soderberg, who is taking on former state Rep. Aaron Bean, reported spending $117,000 in two weeks in September. The former advisor to former President Bill Clinton and the late Ted Kennedy hired Hutton Media of Jacksonville and spent $75,000 with the firm.

The buy wiped out a brief financial advantage Soderberg had.

"Spending heavy in 3 Senate races that could tip power".

"The future of an honest judiciary"

"Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince tell FSU law students the issue is not their future, but the future of an honest judiciary." "Three justices worry pressure groups could corrupt courts". See also "Justices make plea in retention votes".

Meanwhile, The Sunshine State News ain't happy: FSU "billed it as 'a forum to educate voters about merit retention and the process by which judges in Florida are selected,' but Friday's forum at FSU College of Law was anything but an unbiased look at the system: It was a one-sided campaign stop by three justices pitching for votes."

The hour-long “forum,” titled “Who Will Be the Judge?” was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida State University Alpha Phi Omega Community Service Fraternity, and the Florida State University Women in Pre-Law Society.

The panel consisted exclusively of the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention on the November ballot: Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince. And the “discussion” was moderated by Kelly Overstreet Johnson, a former president of the Florida Bar who at present is working on Quince’s retention committee.

"Justices: Vote for Us on Our Behavior, Not Our Rulings".

That was then

"This is Congressman Allen West in Washington: aggressive, blunt and partisan — the tea party hero who compares Democrats to communists and Nazis."

This is Candidate Allen West on TV in South Florida: even-mannered and surrounded by smiling schoolkids.

It's a shift that his opponent hopes voters don't buy. "Congress shouldn't be a kids' playground," Democrat Patrick Murphy says in an ad, standing to punctuate a point about West's rhetoric. "They're supposed to analyze problems and work together to solve them." . . .

So candidates in 2012 are responding with messages that play up a familiar "Washington is broken" refrain along with a side order of "let's all get along." Rage is out, solutions are in.

• "We've got to find a way to work together," says Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in an ad that makes no mention he's an incumbent and ends with an outsider's lament: "Because Washington needs to hear this."

• "If you like name calling or slick political ads, then flip the channel. But if you're looking for someone who thinks both parties got us in this mess, then hear me out," says Adam Hasner, a Republican running for Congress in South Florida who was once touted as one of the most partisan state lawmakers in Tallahassee.

• "In Congress, I'll work with both parties," says Joe Garcia, a Democrat seeking to dislodge Rep. David Rivera of Miami.

"In 2012 race for Congress, rage is out, solutions are in".

Jacksonville may be key to Florida for Obama

"The Obama campaign targeted the Jacksonville area with surprising success in 2008, nearly equaling Republican John McCain in Duval County votes as Obama carried the state. Whether Obama can do as well again may determine if he takes Florida a second time — and with it a second term."

In GOP regions of swing states, Republicans must turn out in huge numbers to overcome Democratic advantages elsewhere. Republican-friendly regions like southeast Ohio and southwest Virginia share northeast Florida’s mission of overwhelming Democrats at the polls.

For both campaigns, Florida is one of the keys to winning the White House. It’s even more important for Romney, whose paths to Electoral College victory are few without the state’s 29 votes. Even though each side has already spent $60 million on TV and radio ads, Republicans are expected to spend even more than Democrats in the campaign’s final weeks.

Polling shows a tight race in Florida with Obama slightly ahead in some surveys, making the Democrat’s turnout in Duval County essential to his overall strategy.

Sprawling and traditionally conservative, the Jacksonville area went for Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. After that, Democrats all but conceded Duval County, with its Southern feel and strong military presence. Obama, however, persuaded enough moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and independents to give his message of hope and change a chance to cancel out the usual Republican advantage there.

The Democratic campaign was more competitive in 2008 in part because it built excitement in Duval County’s large black community with voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts to support the nation’s first black presidential candidate on a major party ticket.

Duval County has more than 516,000 registered voters out of a total population of about 871,000. The percentage of black residents, 29.8, is nearly double the statewide figure. The campaign will have to keep the same enthusiasm among black voters to keep Duval competitive.

"Jacksonville area may be key to Florida victory".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: 'Hear Ye, Hear Ye,' Supreme Court in Session".

The latest of the 8,000 shuttle workers laid off from KSC

"Hundreds of technicians and support crew who have spent decades preparing each orbiter for flight will also be mothballed in two upcoming rounds of layoffs in early December and just after the new year. It’s just the latest of the 8,000 shuttle workers laid off from Florida’s KSC after the NASA shuttle program was ended and the gap widens before the Space Launch System advances." "Space Coast Waits for Political Will to Return Man to Space".

Decisions close to home taking a big bite out of Floridians' wallets

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "For all the focus on the federal deficit in the presidential campaigns, decisions closer to home are already taking a big bite out of Floridians' wallets. In the past year, state and local leaders, by direct action or acquiescence, have made sure the cost to live in Florida will be higher next year and beyond. It's a reminder that elections matter — and not just those races at the top of the ticket." "Who stands for Florida consumers?".

How active will "True the Vote" be in Florida?

"The Tea Party organization launching a multi-pronged voter suppression effort this election is under investigation by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for a possible 'criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.'"

Cummings sent a letter to True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht warning her that the Ohio branch of the group, in suing to throw thousands of students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans off the voting rolls, may be violating the law:
At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression. If these efforts are intentional, politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.
"Tea Party Voter Suppression Group Under Investigation For Possible ‘Criminal Conspiracy’".