Thursday, October 18, 2012

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

"Dorworth in a surprisingly tight race"

"A new poll paid for by the Florida Democratic Party shows Republican state Rep. Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary in a surprisingly tight race."

Dorworth, who is line to become speaker of the Florida House in 2014, leads Democratic challenger Mike Clelland 40 percent to 37 percent, according to a summary of the results prepared by The Kitchens Group, a Maitland-based polling firm. That’s within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points. The remaining 23 percent are undecided.

The Kitchens Group surveyed 308 likely voters on Oct. 13 in House District 29 in Seminole County.

One-in-four respondents — 25 percent — had an “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” opinion of Dorworth, a controversial lawmaker who has struggled with financial turmoil. Only 16 percent had a “favorable” or “very favorable” opinion of him and 59 percent had no opinion.

"Poll shows Dorworth in tight re-election race". Meanwhile, "Disney, trial lawyers help underwrite ads for Dorworth".

500,000 Floridians have cast absentee ballots

"In a sign of the intense interest in the presidential race, about 500,000 Floridians have already cast absentee ballots and that number is growing by the day."

More than 1.8 million additional voters have requested the ballots, which are typically mailed in.

The heaviest voting so far is taking place in Tampa Bay, Miami-Dade and the so-called I-4 corridor.

"500,000 Floridians have cast ballots".

Outsourcing madness

"County tax collectors in Florida are fighting a proposal by Gov. Rick Scott’s highway safety chief to hire a private vendor to distribute millions of new license plates across the state. The tax collectors warn that if tag sales are outsourced, costs will go up and the quality of customer service will go down." "Tax collectors fight state plan to outsource license-tag sales".

"Justices battle"

"An election that normally gets scant attention has heated up this year with the decision by the state Republican Party and some conservative groups to oppose the retention of three Supreme Court justices." "Justices battle effort to have them voted out of office".

FlaDem hopes dimming in SD 8

"With less than three weeks left until the Nov. 6 election, the Florida Democratic Party has yet to buy any advertising time on Orlando broadcast networks to promote Frank Bruno, the Volusia County politician once seen as one of the minority party's strongest Senate challengers. It's a clear signal that Democratic hopes are dimming in Senate District 8, which includes parts of Volusia, Marion and Lake counties and was considered one of the state's two most competitive races." "Democratic hopes fade in Volusia Senate race".

Matt's mad

Matt Towery whines, claiming that "Only Republican Gaffes Dominate Presidential Coverage".

"Increase in job openings in STEM-related fields"

"An increase in job openings in STEM-related fields is trumpeted as a sign of an improving state economy and now lawmakers want Florida's higher education system to produce home-grown graduates that can more readily fill those positions." "Job openings touted, but how to fill them?" Meanwhile, "Jobs agency offers cuts to workforce boards, development programs but not itself".

So much for Schwab

"Charles "Chuck" Schwab rolled into Towne Square this afternoon to urge seniors to vote for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Schwab, who's traveling around the state this week to stump for the Republican candidate, argued President Barack Obama and his administration slowed the nation's growth and hurt retirees' investments and savings with falling interest rates." "Mitt Romney campaign stages 'Victory Town Hall for Seniors' in Leesburg".

DEP wants to sell conservation land

"Department of Environmental Protection asks for no new money for the Florida Forever land-buying program but asks the Legislature for authority to spend up to $50 million from the sale of state land for new conservation land-buying. Audubon Florida says the department should ask the legislature to go back to funding land-buying." "DEP asks to sell so it can buy more conservation land in the coming fiscal year".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Florida man charged in dinosaur smuggling case".

Mini-Mack "rarely let facts get in the way of his attacks"

"Florida's sleepy U.S. Senate race saw a jolt of energy Wednesday night as Connie Mack IV came charging at Democrat Bill Nelson in their first and only televised U.S. Senate debate."

Mack accused Nelson of chronic tax-raising, of taking President Barack Obama's side over Florida Medicare beneficiaries, and even using cows to exploit a tax loophole. The 45-year-old Fort Myers congressman looked confident, stayed firmly on message and rarely let facts get in the way of his attacks on the 70-year-old incumbent senator.

"Bill Nelson cast the deciding vote to cut $700 billion out of your Medicare to pay for Obamacare. I voted against Obamacare," Mack said in his opening remark, a charge that PolitiFact Florida rates Mostly False.

"Bill Nelson voted for higher taxes 150 times — 150 times!" he continued, repeating a claim PolitiFact Florida rates False. "I've got a simple litmus test: If you voted for higher taxes 150 times, it's time for you to go."

It was a feisty 60 minutes at Nova Southeastern University, long on charges and counter charges and short on substance from the men vying for the world's most deliberative body. . . .

At least three times, Mack used essentially the same line in the debate organized by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association: "Senator, the people of the state of Florida are tired of you saying one thing to them and then going back to Washington, D.C., and voting with Barack Obama 98 percent of the time."

"Nelson finally retorted, 'Is that the only line that you have memorized?' drawing laughter from the audience."
Mack seized on his one opportunity to share a stage with Nelson by aggressively casting Nelson as a liberal ally of Obama, often using suspect or false charges.
"Feisty Senate debate between Bill Nelson, Connie Mack short on substance". See also "Nelson, Mack lash out at each other in Fla. U.S. Senate debate | Video", "Nelson, Mack tussle in Florida's only Senate debate", "Nelson and Mack clash on Medicare", "Finger Pointing Dominates Bill Nelson-Connie Mack's Only Debate" and "Mack, Nelson take gloves off in Senate debate". Related: "Breaking down Florida's U.S. Senate debate".

Palm Beach absentee ballot snafu

"Questions raised about legality of Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor’s plan to copy flawed absentee ballots".

HD 107 primary challenge rejected

"Both key witnesses at the center of the contested House District 107 race denied collecting fraudulent absentee ballots on behalf of the Miami Gardens Democrat who narrowly won the primary. Wednesday’s testimony prompted Leon County Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis to rule against Rep. John Patrick Julien, a North Miami candidate who had alleged fraud in trying to overturn his primary election loss to Rep. Barbara Watson." "Judge rejects Florida House primary challenge".

"Florida's low wages haven't kept up with inflation"

"South Florida is the least affordable of the nation's 25 largest metro areas for moderate income households struggling to pay for housing and transportation, according to a new study released Thursday."

South Florida households that make between $25,444 and $50,888 per year end up spending nearly three-fourths of their income just for shelter and to get around, the national study found.

Those who live in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties shell out an average 40 percent of their income for housing and an additional 32 percent toward transportation, according to the research conducted jointly by the Washington-based Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago.

In contrast, their counterparts in the nation's other large urban areas pay an average of 59 percent of their gross income for both, the study reported.

Researchers blame South Florida's high percentage of low wages that haven't kept up with inflation.

"Our income being gobbled up by housing, transportation costs".

"Lord of the Three Rings"

Frank Cerabino: "Somebody needs to defend presidential candidate Mitt Romney for talking about the 'binders full of women' he collected when he was the governor of Massachusetts."

Poor Mitt’s being called “Lord of the Three Rings” since Tuesday night’s debate. While sidestepping a question on equal pay for women, Romney opted instead to wax lovingly about his devotion for hiring women in leadership positions in Massachusetts state government.

“And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet,” he said. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ And I brought us whole binders full of — of women.”

For some reason, the virtual universe has exploded with mockery over this remark. “Mitt Romney, Binder of Women” is how some people have put it.

This is very unfair. For starters, Romney’s probably got binders for lots of things. His financial services company provided the seed money for Staples, which is in the binder business.

So I’ll bet Mitt’s got more binders than he knows what to do with.

And if you think his binders full of women are impressive, imagine what his binders full of Caribbean tax shelters look like. I’m guessing those are the 5-inch, slant-ring, high-capacity ones.

So ease off, Romney. It’s not like he’s got some agenda against women, at least not the top 53 percent of them who don’t need to rely on Planned Parenthood for their lady parts’ preventative and diagnostic care.

"Turns out Romney’s ‘binder full of women’ was a gift in more ways than one".

CD 22 Poll

"Congressional District 22 -- rock-ribbed conservative Adam Hasner vs. outspoken liberal Lois Frankel -- has something many districts do not: more than a quarter of its voters are up for grabs. They don't belong to any party. Yet, a Sunshine State News Poll of 750 likely voters in the district shows that only 6 percent of the undecideds remain that way. Conducted by Voter Survey Service (VSS) of Harrisburg, Pa. on Oct. 14-16, the poll puts Republican Hasner and Democrat Frankel dead even at 47 percent. " "Adam Hasner and Lois Frankel in a Dead Heat at 47 Percent".

Obama claims Florida ground game advantage over Romney

"President Barack Obama's Florida campaign argued Tuesday that it has a ground game advantage over Romney, who seems to be benefiting from a shift in polls in this crucial state in the race for the White House."

The memo from Obama Florida Director Ashley Walker points to a closing of a gap in absentee voting and gains made in voter registration since Obama beat Republican nominee John McCain in 2008.

While more Republicans are requesting and returning absentee ballots, Walker noted that the margin is far smaller than it was four years ago. This year, just more than 900,000 Republicans have requested absentee ballots, compared to nearly 834,000 Democrats, or a difference of more than 61,000. But at the same point before the 2008 election, the difference in requested ballots favored Republicans by about 250,000.

The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott shortened early voting from 14 days to eight days, which puts more pressure on the Obama campaign to emphasize absentee voting. It's doing so by encouraging supporters to request absentee ballots in person and fill them out and turn them in on the spot.

The Romney campaign pointed out that there's only one number that matters, and that's the difference in overall voter registration from 2008. There are almost 89,000 more Republicans now than there were four years ago, while the number of Florida Democrats has dropped by more than 94,000.

"Obama camp touts absentee ballots shift".

Southwest Florida science haters in red water

"Red tide is microscopic algae that can release toxins poisonous to marine life. It can cause respiratory irritation. Officials are cautioning people with asthma and emphysema to avoid the beach until the toxin levels are reduced." "Red tide reported on southwest Fla. beaches".

"Negron will barely need to roll up his sleeves to win"

"In the race for the new Florida Senate District 32 seat, there will be no debates, candidate placards littering roadsides or glossy color fliers in your mailbox. No name calling, robo-calls or innuendo about the candidates’ places of birth. However, if name recognition, political connections and campaign contributions are any indication of victory, Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) will barely need to roll up his sleeves to win. 'I take every race seriously,' said Negron. 'If someone has taken the time to pay the filing fee and get their name on the ballot, I consider it a contest.' That is about all Negron’s opponent, businessman Ray D’Amiano, D-Stuart, has done. D’Amiano, 55, has not responded to interview requests from local newspaper editorial boards. He doesn’t have a website and for every $285 that Negron has raised, D’Amiano has raised $1." "Negron outraising political newcomer".

New Jersey pharmaceutical executive drops a cool million in West's lap

"A super PAC that supports U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, got $1 million from a New Jersey pharmaceutical executive, new Federal Election Commission reports show."

The Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition was formed in July and started running ads in September slamming West’s Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy. The PAC’s first report, filed Monday, shows Mutual Pharmacy Co. senior adviser Richard Roberts contributed $1 million on Sept. 2. The PAC got only $81,000 in other contributions.

According to the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which tracks campaign spending, Roberts was chairman and CEO of URL Pharmaceuticals, also known as Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., until the company was sold to Japanese firm Takeda in June for $800 million.

Murphy’s camp labeled Roberts a “millionaire drug profiteer” and said his contribution shows that West “puts the interests of Big Pharma over the interests of his constituents.”

"Drug exec donates $1 million to PAC that supports West".

Or so he hopes

"Don Gaetz says Ellyn Bogdanoff Poised to Capture Dem-leaning South Florida District".

Scott sniffs up to "Jeb!"

"Gov. Rick Scott has joined a chorus of critics calling for changes to the Florida Board of Education’s strategic plan, which has stirred controversy over a set of learning goals based on factors such as race and ethnicity. The goals are intended to cut in half the number of students performing below grade level in reading and math over a six-year period." "Scott: Education goals unacceptable". Related: "Jeb Bush gloats about Florida education reforms looks ill-timed".

FlaDems convene circular firing squad

"As two of Florida's three Haitian-born legislators contest their primary election defeats through the courts, one of them is insisting his conflict isn't just with his opponent, but with the very leadership of his own Democratic Party." "Rep. John Patrick Julien: Florida Democratic Leaders Expect Haitians to Be Their Slaves".

FPL rate proposal in Supreme Court

"Public Counsel J.R. Kelly is asking the state Supreme Court to stop regulators from considering a proposed rate settlement offered by Florida Power & Light Co." "FPL rate proposal challenged in state Supreme Court". See also "FPL Rate Proposal Challenged in Supreme Court".