Saturday, May 25, 2013

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

Charlie's posse

"It's a testament to Crist's political smarts that most of the people he's relying on lately are among the smartest and most plugged-in Democratic political minds in the state. Sometimes they offer advice, sometimes they make introductions. None is paid."

Among politicians, there is [Dan] Gelber in Miami-Dade; former state Sen. Steve Geller in Broward County; former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Palm Beach County, now head of the Washington-based Center for Middle East Peace; former state Sen. Tony Hill of Jacksonville; and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

The operatives he communicates with most frequently are the A-team of Florida Democratic politics: Johnson, Rep. Murphy's chief of staff; [Steve] Schale, who ran Barack Obama's 2008 Florida campaign; and Ashley Walker, who ran Obama's 2012 Florida campaign and developed a relationship with Crist as he campaigned for Obama.

"I talk to him, just as I talk to a lot of statewide Democrats, but I'm not committed to any candidate at this point," Walker said, echoing the sentiments of most of Crist's loose-knit crew of advisers, who also speak highly of prospective gubernatorial candidates Alex Sink and Sen. Bill Nelson.

A couple of Democratic pros in Tampa who keep their profiles lower have longstanding friendships with Crist: Mike Hamby, a businessman and former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party who went to Cumberland Law School with Crist; and Bernie Campbell, who works extensively abroad and even as he was working to elect Democrats across Florida a few years ago quietly helped craft speeches for the then-Republican governor.

Greg Truax, a public relations consultant in Tampa, these days serves as Crist's de facto "body man," accompanying the would-be candidate to public events. Former aide Michelle Todd of St. Petersburg often fields interview requests from national media outlets.

"Unquestionably, Crist's top adviser lately is John Morgan, his boss at the Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, a longtime political power broker who has backed Democrats and Republicans alike and is one of the state's top fundraisers."
Already, some Democratic allies are fretting that against an incumbent governor planning to spend $100 million in an era where messaging is shaped minute by minute, Crist will suffer if he fails to quickly invest in policy advisers, communications pros and opposition researchers. (Their first order of business, by the way, would be to look at Crist's own record and comments over his lifetime as a Republican.)

"If you're going to be successful you have to rely on the professionals,'' said Hamby, who is confident Crist would do just that. "He would build an effective operation. There's no question it's a different game today, just the whole nature of campaigns and how they operate."

Crist is giving every indication he's intends to run, speaking to Democratic groups, meeting with influential ministers, labor groups, activists and fundraisers. But nobody, except perhaps Crist and a few family members, knows for sure.

"Behind would-be Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, a loose-knit crew ofadvisers".

Scott's donor deal

"Hue and cry grows over deal for Scott donor".

"South Florida liberal"

"As Democrats look to knock off Gov. Rick Scott next year, the only official major candidate seeking the party’s nomination is playing up her liberal credentials. In recent days, former Florida Senate Democrat Leader Nan Rich tipped her cards as she continues her long-shot gubernatorial bid -- and her plan is clearly to go left."

Democrats continue to pine for a major candidate to enter the race -- former state CFO Alex Sink, despite her loss to Scott in 2010; former Gov. Charlie Crist, despite his previous political career as a Republican and running for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation; former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Meanwhile, Rich is signaling that she is going to run as a South Florida liberal, hoping this will rally Democratic primary voters to her standard.

"Nan Rich Goes Left, Earns Some Distinction".

R-Punta Gorda

"As summer begins, Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, appears in excellent shape as he seeks a fourth and final term next year in the Florida House." "Ken Roberson Looks to Have His Last Year in a House Seat Locked Up".

"Stubborn achievement gap among Florida students"

"Tests results reveal a stubborn achievement gap among Florida students. More than two-thirds of white students scores indicate they are reading at or above grade level while barely half of Hispanic students and 38 percent of black students reach the mark. " "3rd-grade FCAT reading and math scores remain flat".

"Partisan political shenanigans are not 'state secrets'"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's redistricting fight may be years away from a conclusion, but there are important rules of the road that are being established."

Florida's courts are in the midst of defining for decades how to implement new "Fair Districts" standards in the once-a-decade redistricting process – and, crucially, whether citizens should simply trust lawmakers to implement fair maps.

Republican legislative leaders have defended their work product last year, which resulted in slimmer GOP majorities in the Legislature and 27-member congressional delegation but kept them comfortably in control.

"The Supreme Court hasn't ruled yet on whether the challenge to the Senate maps can go forward."
But this week, the Legislature scored a victory when the First District Court of Appeal ruled in a 2-1 decision that lawmakers couldn't be questioned under oath about their intentions when they drew the congressional maps. The majority opinion drew a stern rebuttal from First DCA Chief Judge Robert T. Benton II, who wrote in his dissent that "partisan political shenanigans are not 'state secrets.'" The constitutional passage of Fair Districts "makes plain that how and why the Legislature redistricts is a matter of paramount public concern," he wrote. "Legislators should not, and until today did not, enjoy any blanket immunity from discovery, by virtue of their status as Legislators." Look for more ground to shift under the feet of the public and politicians before the fight is over.
"What's 'intentional' in redistricting is still being defined".

"Too many grudges"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Why are the Florida Legislature’s auditors going after Palm Beach County’s new ethics commission? Because a state senator harbors too many grudges." "Abruzzo using Senate power to seek revenge".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Scott Signs Budget, Then Heads for the Border". See also "The Week in Review for May 17, 2013".

"Lawyers to take over"

"Lawyers to take over jobless-benefit appeals in Florida".

"Avalanche of money flowing into campaigns"

The Tampa Trib editors: "State lawmakers took a big step this past legislative session toward making campaign finance reporting more transparent and accountable."

Although new rules signed into law this year will do little to stem the avalanche of money flowing into campaigns, they at least establish a reporting system that gives voters an understanding of the people and corporations behind the donations.
"Reforms let Florida voters follow the money".

Scott's vetoes about politics not priorities

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Scott’s vetoes more about politics than priorities".