Thursday, August 22, 2013

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

"Governor’s race starts to heat up"

"Labor Day has generally been the kickoff of general elections as candidates sprint through the last two months of the election. But things could be different in Florida as the governor’s race starts to heat up."

So far, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is the only major gubernatorial candidate in the race. Rich has done little in terms of making much of an impression despite being in the race since last spring and she has not done well in terms of fundraising.
"Rich continues to get more attention from Republicans than she does from her own party. Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), insisted on Wednesday that Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant was getting ready to back former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2014. Crist had been a Republican for most of his political career but, losing to Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary, he left the GOP in 2010 to stay in the race with no party affiliation. At the end of 2012, having endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election, Crist joined the Democrats."
The RPOF continues to bash Crist and talk up Scott while, besides Rich, other potential Democratic candidates appear unlikely to run. Former CFO Alex Sink, who lost to Scott in 2010, talked to the Tampa Bay Times this week and left the door open to running but noted her family was not exactly supportive of a second gubernatorial bid. Sink also said she assumes Crist is going to run. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., continues to say he has no plans to run for governor, repeating this week that he had no intention of jumping in the contest. Crist has a memoir coming out in early February in which he explains why he left the GOP. The book should give Crist some media exposure and possibly a tour of the state. Scott has certainly indicated that he intends to get a quick start on the election. Last month, Scott told National Review that he would spend $25 million in early 2014 to define his opponent.
"Florida's 2014 Gubernatorial Race is Starting Early". Related: "Gubernatorial-debate plans being made".

"The climate is changing, the seas are rising and we're at fault"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The climate is changing, the seas are rising and we're at fault." "We have been warned".

Scott, Bondi can't get over it

Having had their clocks cleaned in the courts, "Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet are taking issue with President Barack Obama's 'navigators' program intended to guide people through the requirements of the new Affordable Care Act, saying it lacks privacy protections." "Scott, Bondi, take shots at health-care law's 'navigators' on privacy grounds".

Another genius

"Andy Gardiner will take over as the president of the Florida Senate in 2014 but his duties shouldn’t be too new or overwhelming since he has served in the leadership off and on during his years in Tallahassee." "Andy Gardiner Brings Leadership Experience and Political Skills to Senate Presidency".

Carroll avoids testimony about alleged "compromising positions"

"The tangled criminal case that included allegations of widespread illegal taping and improper relationships in the office of former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is coming to an end."

Prosecutors this week reached a deal with Carroll’s former aide Carletha Cole that will result in the charges being officially dropped in 12 months if Cole stays out of legal trouble."
"Cole was arrested in 2011 and accused of giving a reporter a secret recording containing a conversation between Cole and Carroll’s chief of staff."
Cole’s attorneys asserted that their client was being set up because she witnessed unprofessional behavior by Carroll and other employees, including walking in on Carroll and a female aide in a “compromising position.” Carroll denied the allegations. Cole’s attorneys also contended that there was widespread taping in the office. . . .

The trial could have been potentially embarrassing for the administration of Gov. Rick Scott since several former and current employees were ordered to testify.

"Charges dropped in former Lt. Gov. taping case".

Another fine Jebacy

"Florida's Students Fall Behind in College Preparedness".

"Virtual mooning"

Nancy Smith wonders, "How is it Bill Nelson comes to Martin County with empty pockets and empty promises and gets a hero's welcome, but Gov. Rick Scott flies in with $40 million to help solve the polluted St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon (added to the $20 million from last year) and he virtually gets mooned by the local press?" "Next Martin County Visit, Rick Scott Should Use the Bill Nelson Approach".

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

"Town hall meeting to defund Obamacare draws large crowd in Tampa".

To replace Fasano

"For weeks, Democratic leaders stayed tight-lipped when it came to backing a candidate to replace Mike Fasano in the state House, even though three Republicans had already entered the race. On Wednesday, with less than a week before the filing deadline for the special election for House District 36, a Democrat emerged to challenge them: Amanda Murphy, a Raymond James investment advisor." "Democrat Murphy to run for House 36 seat to replace Fasano".

Texting (with lobbyists) while voting

"Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton plans to release a pair of legal reports on Orange County's "textgate" affair next Wednesday, with a news conference later that day to discuss the findings."

An email was sent Wednesday to the attorneys of county officials involved in the controversy, notifying them of the pending release of both a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation and another report with Ashton's own findings.

Several top Orange County leaders face potential violations of open-government law because of actions surrounding a vote commissioners took on a paid sick-time referendum in September.

Commissioners blocked the ballot measure, but subsequent news media requests showed that text messages with lobbyists who had opposed the initiative had been lost or deleted.

"The state attorney has been involved with this investigation personally," said Richard Wallsh, Ashton's chief assistant. "He wants to spend some time reviewing it over the weekend."

The group behind the paid sick-time effort, Citizens for a Greater Orange County, also has a pending civil lawsuit filed against those same county officials.

Much of the attention has swirled around lost or deleted phone texts. If those messages involved public business, they are regarded as public records that must be open to inspection.

It's not clear who would be the target of the probe, although an untold number of texts have never been recovered from commissioners Jennifer Thompson and Fred Brummer; Graciela Noriega Jacoby, the chief of staff for Mayor Teresa Jacobs; and former Commissioner John Martinez.

"State attorney to release 'textgate' findings next week".

"Surplus" state land for sale

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is looking for up to $50 million worth of conservation land that it can sell to buy new land. Some sites on initial list of 5,331 acres of possible surplus lands were questioned by environmental group representatives during a workshop." "DEP hears concerns about state lands surplus list including waterfront tracts". Related: "DEP issues list of land-sale prospects as Cabinet OKs 20,800-acre purchase".

"3-way brawl"

"Global Tel Link, Securus Technologies and CenturyLink are taking their fight for a multimillion contract to provide telephone services at state prisons to administrative court. Meanwhile, the current contract expires Sept. 24." "3-way brawl: Telecom companies fight for multimillion dollar prison telephone service contract".

Your tax dollars at work

"Florida taxpayers spent more than $2.6 million in the past year to provide security for Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott and dozens of visiting out-of-state dignitaries who came to make speeches, play politics, fish and soak up the sun." "Security for Scott, others is costly".

Scott nowhere in sight

"FPL, sister firm to cut 1,000 jobs".

"It's just rhetoric"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Scott and state lawmakers need to accept that nothing they may try to do in Tallahassee — be it coming up with gimmicky $10,000 bachelor degrees at colleges or new accountability matrixes — will make up for the fact that Florida universities have far fewer dollars to spend per student than those in other states. The governor, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz talk about wanting to improve the state universities. But until they back it up with investment, it's just rhetoric." "Florida higher ed losing ground".

"Florida Republican leaders don't know what they are talking about"

"As the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act draws near the debate over the plan intensifies. This week, Cabinet members opened a new front of criticism by questioning the federal government's handling of personal information. And a Democratic congresswoman suggested that either Florida Republican leaders don't know what they are talking about or they are trying to sabotage the ACA." "ACA supporters respond to GOP attacks".

I'm guessing not

"Will BlueWare scandal prompt tighter review of incentive projects?".

"Detectives go to the FBI to complain about absentee ballot fraud investigation"

"Frustrated by allegations of obstruction of an investigation of election fraud that tainted his campaign last year, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has asked police administrators to request all communications between the detectives assigned to the case and prosecutors. . . . His decision Wednesday comes a day after the Police Benevolent Association president said former public corruption detectives have gone to the FBI to complain about the absentee ballot fraud investigation."

The case was transferred to Broward prosecutors last year after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle recused herself to avoid a possible conflict of interest. Cabrera had been a regular visitor to the Hialeah campaign office of Gimenez, who shared a political consultant with Fernández Rundle.

Luis Rodriguez, a former detective in the Corruption Unit, said he is willing to tell the FBI about what he considers serious failures in the investigation.

Rodriguez was not assigned to the case.

He questioned why a warrant was never sought to search Gimenez’s campaign office and why Cabrera’s notebooks were shelved instead of analyzed.

The three notebooks contained handwritten notes on hundreds of voters and what appear to be payments from judges and judicial candidates.

Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, said that there wasn’t sufficient probable cause to seek a search warrant.

Rodriguez resigned on Friday after being transferred to general investigations as part of a restructuring of the Public Corruption Unit.

He described his transfer as an act of reprisal from his superiors because he worked last year on the campaign of Gimenez’s opponent, former County Commissioner Joe Martinez.

"Gimenez responds to allegations about campaign fraud investigation".