Friday, December 14, 2012

Consider giving a newspaper subscriptions as gifts this Holiday Season. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Republican members of Congress gum up Commission on Civil Rights investigation of Florida voter suppression

"A divided U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will not convene hearings on Florida’s new election law, despite a request from the state’s six Democratic members of Congress, who charged that the measure intentionally limited access to the polls by blacks and many other Florida voters."

But four members of the deadlocked commission – all Democrats – are independently requesting a U.S. Justice Department probe into the origins of the law, HB 1355, passed last year by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
"A commission vote was held Dec. 7. Of the eight members, four are Democrats, two are Republicans and two are independents who were appointed during the administration of GOP President George W. Bush."
Prior to the vote, letters were received from three Republican members of Congress — Senator Charles Grassley and U.S. Rep. Steve King, both of Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, of Arizona — requesting that the commission also investigate alleged bias on the part of Obama administration Justice Department in dealing with GOP attempts to change election laws. Included in their allegations, the legislators accused the Justice Department of trying to block GOP efforts in Florida to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls.

When one of the independent commissioners tried to expand the scope of a possible hearing to include those GOP complaints, that amendment was opposed by the Democrats, so that the vote ended 4-4. And after that vote, the independents and Republicans voted against the initial proposal, which again ended in 4-4 vote, meaning the request was denied.

"Dems to Justice Department: probe Florida election law".

Second amendment follies

"Man fires assault rifle at deputies near Tampa". Thank goodness these folks didn't have guns handy: "Fight over pizza ends in near drowning in Florida".

"To understand the governor’s real priority"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Scott made a show this week of demanding more oversight of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. To understand the governor’s real priority for the state-run insurer of last resort, however, check his remarks two weeks ago at the annual insurance industry meeting."

As the governor sees it, the homeowner insurance problem in Florida isn’t that private companies have dumped hundreds of thousands of policies if they have even a moderate hurricane risk. The problem, the governor says, is Citizens, without which those homeowners likely would have no insurance except at a price that would undercut Gov. Scott’s push to make Florida a cheaper place to live. Claiming to speak for the roughly half of Florida families making $40,000 a year or less, the governor said Citizens represents “a threat to each and every Floridian” from a “hurricane tax” — an assessment to cover Citizens claims.
"More evidence that Citizens’ $350 million plan won’t work".

Crist's low moving flip-flop

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist completed his conversion to the Democratic Party on Thursday at a camera-ready media event at which he revised his views on yet another issue: same-sex marriage." "Now a Democrat, Charlie Crist regrets signing anti-gay marriage petition".

"Skepticism of a Crist candidacy"

Paul Flemming: "Charlie Crist for Governor in 2014 is a mortal lock."

What is less than certain — though there will be loads of chattering-class speculation masquerading as certainty to the contrary — is Crist’s appearance on November’s 2014 ballot. He has to win the Democratic primary first.

Who can challenge him for name recognition?

Not Nan Rich, you say. Who can claim greater success as a statewide candidate? Not Alex Sink, you counter. Who can tap the fundraising well of deep-pocketed Dems from Manhattan to Hallandale Beach? Not Buddy Dyer, you retort.

But here’s the thing.

At about this point in 2009, after Mel Martinez announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate, there was no greater certainty among the punditocracy than that Charlie Crist would be the next senator from Florida.

You recall how that turned out.

"Here’s [Flemming's] own, rough-and-ready version of an interesting take."
In 2006, Charlie Crist running against check-his-pulse Jim Davis, polled 2.5 million votes, good for 52.2 percent. That represented, if you’ll allow a very rough pro-ration of estimated Republican turnout, about 675,000 ballots from voters who weren’t Republicans.

In 2010, Rick Scott, running against the under-funded and poorly executed campaign of Alex Sink, got elected with 2.6 million, or 48.9 percent, of the vote, a number that represents about 650,000 votes beyond the rough estimation of projected Republican turnout.

What does it mean? I’d venture to say this: Put an R behind a candidate’s name, spend upwards of $50 million, and you can win even with some incredible negatives.

That 10-cent analysis doesn’t consider the possibility of a disciplined Republican grass roots that turned out in droves, nor does it account for the overall voter rolls swelling by nearly 800,000 in the intervening four years, nor the increasingly post-partisan, NPA-registering electorate that continues to intensify. I’ve got to leave something to the doctoral students.

"Another factor:"
There is a significant portion of mainstream, dedicated Republicans who didn’t particularly like Crist or Scott, but voted for both of them. Those same voters are so vehemently in hate with Crist now that it will drive them into love with Scott.

So it would be a grand electoral experiment to have Crist on the ballot in 2014 with a D after his name. I’m fascinated by what might happen, either way. But I remain skeptical of Crist’s chances even as I tote up the reasons to believe.

Chits are going to come back as winners, chiefly with the Florida Education Association and Crist’s veto of merit-pay legislation. . . .

If Crist is an iffy proposition as the Democratic nominee and an even more questionable general-election opponent, then why are the Republicans paying him so much attention? The quick-strike team at RPOF has been out in full force for months and has ramped itself up into a frenzy since last Friday. Those folks are a lot smarter than I, or at least have access to much more polling than I do, so I can’t help thinking a Crist candidacy is a serious challenge to Scott.

There’s a whole laundry list of things in support of my skepticism of a Crist candidacy that starts with Jim Greer’s criminal trial early next year and runs through to the fact that our current seven-year run without a hurricane making landfall (see for reference HB 1A from the January 2007 special legislative session and the vast tax increase that awaits all Floridians in a worst-case scenario).

"Crist in 2014 ... we can dream, can't we?".

Responding to "verbal missile barrage"

"Despite being the only county that failed to meet the post-Election Night deadlines to submit vote totals -- and her office being the target of a verbal missile barrage that featured the words 'botched' and 'disaster' -- St. Lucie County long-serving Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker is confident the final numbers submitted to the state are correct." "St. Lucie Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker: 'The Right People are in Office'".

Not for you

"Fla. won’t restore rights to famed jewel thief ‘Murph the Surf’".

FPL four-year rate deal

"The Florida Public Service Commission agrees to modify a Florida Power & Light settlement offer and will allow the company $358 million and four years of guaranteed profits as it bring three new power plants into service." "Regulators agree to give FPL four-year rate deal". Related: "Legislators urge regulators to vote no on proposed FPL settlement".

Scott at work

"Florida tops foreclosure list for third straight month". Meanwhile, "Florida attracting new residents".

"Crist-Backed Election Reform Legislation Already 'Dead’"

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan "Bucher, a Democrat and former legislator -- called one of Election 2012's most mistake-prone supervisors -- said Republican lawmakers are not going to back at least one bill already filed to overturn the 2011 election changes because former governor and newborn Democrat Charlie Crist is behind the proposal."

Last month, Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, was joined by Crist in Tampa to announce his plans to reverse Republican election measures introduced in 2011.
"Susan Bucher: Charlie Crist-Backed Election Reform Legislation Already 'Dead’".

Kowtowing to the union

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: Tony Bennett, the man selected as commissioner of education suffered "a humiliating defeat last month in his bid for a second term as superintendent of Indiana schools. In a Republican state that strongly backed Mitt Romney, Bennett lost to his Democratic opponent by 52 to 48 percent, though he raised far more money."

The union hating editors continue with this non sequitur: Bennett doesn't have to kowtow to the union to understand that parents and educators — not national think tanks — ultimately will determine whether he succeeds." "Indiana's lesson for our schools".

"Conservative kind of guy"

"Fresh on the heels of his upset victory over a Republican incumbent and anointed future House speaker, freshman Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, says he’s a 'very conservative kind of guy' who will make electoral reform his chief legislative priority." "Mike Clelland: Democratic Upsetter, 'Conservative Kind of Guy' with an Eye on Election Reform".

"Bush's Mr. Cellophane", speaks

George Dubya "Bush's Mr. Cellophane", speaks: "Florida's former senator and a one-time head of the national Republican Party, Mel Martinez, said Thursday that members of his own party need to get ready to go along with higher taxes." "Mel Martinez on higher taxes: 'Republicans are going to have to swallow the pill'".

Big of them

"William Michael Dillon received formal forgiveness from the state following a wrongful murder conviction." "Clemency board grants full pardon to wrongfully convicted man".