Friday, August 23, 2013

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

Prosecutors charge operatives for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez with unlawfully submitting absentee-ballot requests

"Miami-Dade prosecutors on Thursday charged two political operatives for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez — including his campaign manager — with unlawfully submitting absentee-ballot requests online on behalf of voters."

Campaign manager Esteban “Steve” Suarez, 34, who is also the candidate’s cousin, and campaign aide Juan Pablo Baggini, 37, were charged with attempting to request absentee ballots for 20 voters in May.
"Francis Suarez, a sitting city commissioner and lawyer, was cleared of any wrongdoing during the investigation, according to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office. His only involvement was advising his campaign to seek legal advice to make sure any online requests did not run afoul of the law."
The campaign did so — but failed to heed a recommendation that the requests be submitted differently to avoid potential problems, sources close to the investigation said.

Neither Steve Suarez nor Baggini were arrested. Instead, as part of a deal negotiated with prosecutors, each was charged with a misdemeanor, will plead no contest and will receive probation. Their attorneys will appear in court Friday.

"Suarez aides charged in absentee-ballot probe".

St. Petersburg College is acting like a fast food restaurant

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "St. Petersburg College is among the colleges acting like fast food restaurants and cutting workers' hours to avoid providing them health coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. SPC president Bill Law says he can't find the money in a $147 million budget to offer health insurance for 250 adjunct professors. The college prepares students for good jobs after graduation — meaning jobs that include health benefits. Its faculty deserves the same consideration." "St. Petersburg College shouldn't skirt health care law".

Scott laff riot

"Gov. Rick Scott contends Obama following his lead".

"A turbulent summer"

"Following a turbulent summer that saw the state education commissioner resign and angry parents call for a moratorium on school grades, Gov. Rick Scott will convene a group of educators, business leaders and lawmakers in Clearwater next week to hash out Florida’s education woes." "Amid controversy, state education leaders to huddle". See also "Education Summit next week in Clearwater".

Disney proposes 16-month contract extension to its biggest union

"Disney has proposed a 16-month extension to the Service Trades Council, a coalition of six unions that together represent more than 30,000 workers across the giant resort, from housekeepers and bus drivers to quick-service cooks and costumed-character actors. . . . The deal would guarantee raises of at least 3.5 percent or 35 cents an hour for most workers, though it would also permit Disney to raise health-insurance premiums by anywhere from $3 a week to $11 a week, depending on the plan." "Disney World offers unions an early contract extension".

Meanwhile, Florida's other theme park employees are negotiating . . . never mind, most of Florida's other theme park employees are not unionized (e.g., Universal and Sea World) and will take what they are given, without the benefit of collective bargaining.

"Sounds like somebody needs a diaper change."

Scott Maxwell: "Rick Scott is facing mounting pressure to appoint a new lieutenant governor." But, to Maxwell,

Scott's inaction is my favorite thing he's ever (not) done.

Truly, I can't think of anything he's ever done before that I like better than what he's not doing now.

The lieutenant governor's staff is all gone. The office is shuttered. The travel budget is frozen. We're finally spending precisely what this office is worth: nothing!

Who'd want to change that?

Florida Democrats, that's who. They declared Scott's delayed decision "a disservice to the people of the state of Florida" and then griped about Scott instead flying around in his "private jet."

Sounds like somebody needs a diaper change.

Seriously, I know it's the job of political operatives to portray every little thing as a Category 5 disaster. (In fact, the only folks more shrill and whiny than the Florida Democrats are the Florida Republicans.) But this is a dog of an issue for Democrats to jump on.

"Rick Scott's inaction is reason to cheer!".

Ted Cruz, a cubano arrepentido

Fabiola Santiago writes: "when I clicked on a picture of Cruz’s birth certificate, I burst out laughing so hard I spilled my cafecito."

Turns out that Rafael Edward Cruz (the senator’s real name) is the son of Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, a Cuban exile from none other than Matanzas — my proud birth place, home to poets, creators of guaguancó music and natives so clever they tricked the first Spaniards to arrive into hopping in canoes and drowned them all in a river. Hence, legend goes, the city’s name, which means “slaughter.”

So regardless of what Sen. Cruz wants to be, in Miami, he’s considered a matancero.

His birth certificate says so.

The last time I laughed this hard was when Mitt Romney coined “self-deport” during a Florida campaign stop, and the first thing that came to my mind was, can I apply for government-funded self-deportation to Paris?

We know how that story ended. He self-deported from the campaign trail back to Massachusetts.

So here’s my advice for Sen. Cruz: Sip a sturdy café at Versailles; wear a crisp linen guayabera and take out of the closet the father from Matanzas.

Here — whether we’re members of the Italian American Civic League in Wilton Manors or the Alliance Française in Miami or have no affiliation but deep roots that shape our hearts — we honor who we are. It’s our strength, and if there’s one thing we loathe, it’s a cubano arrepentido, one who denies his heritage.

"Texas is welcome to keep tea party darling Ted Cruz".


"Gubernatorial-debate plans being made".

What to know Friday

"Miami’s Top 5: What to know Friday".

Giving Allison Tant time to read resumes

Daniel Ruth: "This probably falls rather neatly under the category of: "What were you thinking?" Obviously not very much."

Did it not occur to Democrat Allie Braswell that if he threw his hat into the ring to challenge Republican incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater next year that having declared bankruptcy three times might just disqualify him in the eyes of voters from overseeing a $70 billion state budget?
"Did the Oviedo Central Florida Urban League CEO never consider someone would look into his past?"
There are perfectly plausible reasons to run against an entrenched incumbent even if you have less chance of winning than the Academy of the Holy Names does against the New England Patriots. Veteran state legislator Charlie Crist ran an ill-fated 1998 race against Sen. Bob Graham, knowing he was going to his voting-booth doom.

But the campaign afforded Crist, then a Republican, the opportunity to boost his profile statewide, which enabled him to get elected education commissioner in 2000, attorney general in 2002 and governor in 2006. As for the future, we'll see.

But that wasn't the case here. This looks more like a telling commentary on a Democratic Party with the bench strength of the Afghanistan air force.

At the moment, [FlaDem Chief Allison] Tant and the rest of the Democratic brain trust are left with the prospect of recruiting Occupant, To Whom It May Concern and Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe to replace the fleeting Camelot that was the Braswell campaign.

Elsewhere on the Democrat roster of titans, Thaddeus Hamilton has filed to run against Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. As an independent four years ago, Hamilton rallied to capture 2 percent of the vote against Putnam. That wasn't a campaign. It was vespers.

Attorney General Pam Bondi might face a challenge from George Sheldon, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and a former assistant Florida attorney general under Bob Butterworth. Although an extremely able public servant, Sheldon has run twice unsuccessfully for statewide office. Good man. Good luck trying to supplant someone who has spent more time schmoozing on Fox News than burning the midnight oil over legal briefs.

That's not to say there aren't any number of credible Democratic candidates across the Florida hustings. It's simply that there seem to be precious few who are willing to spend the next year and a half running around the state on what is likely to be a fool's errand to succeed well-funded and well-known GOP incumbents.

They have likely figured it's better to wait until 2018, when there will be all manner of open seats. It also gives Allison Tant time to actually read some resumes.

"Democratic chances bankrupt in more ways than one".

Easing minimum mandatory sentences

Tee Miami Herald editors argue that "State lawmakers should revisit easing minimum-mandatory sentencing." "Get smart on crime, not just ‘tough’".

Charter school follies

"A Broward civic activist has urged the School Board to determine whether the publicly funded Ben Gamla charter schools violate the Constitutional separation of church and state." "Review Jewish-oriented charter school in Hollywood, board urged".

"GOP consultants want to keep their strategies secret"

"GOP consultants want to keep their strategies secret. The legal challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida and other plaintiffs suspects they will show the GOP conspired to rig the realigned districts to favor their incumbents." "Judge hears redistricting dispute".

Now they're talking

"Two Republican congressmen from Florida are up in arms about recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) continues to monitor tens of thousands of Americans who are not linked to terrorism." "Vern Buchanan and Dennis Ross Tee Off on NSA".

"What is the Republican Party of Florida’s problem with female politicians?"

"The 2014 general elections are more than 14 months away but the fur is already flying in the Sunshine State as the two major parties are ripping into each other."

Under fire for her role in backing Allie Braswell for state CFO, Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, is up in arms about the attacks coming from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). After jumping in at the end of last week, Braswell left the race on Monday after reports emerged that he had filed for bankruptcy three times. The short-lived candidacy raised questions and concerns about Tant and the Florida Democrats especially as Braswell appears not to have been vetted yet received the party’s support.

Looking to change the conversation, in a statement released on Wednesday, Tant complained about the “Debbie Dunce” attacks from the RPOF against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the “Tant Rant” jabs thrown her way.

“What exactly is the Republican Party of Florida’s problem with female politicians? From ‘Debbie Dunce’ to ‘Tant Rant,’ Lenny Curry and the RPOF have repeatedly attacked women in language that they would never use for a man,” said Tant. “This is mudslinging of the lowest order. Attempting to discredit female leaders by referring to them as ‘ranting’ or attacking their intelligence is offensive at best and sexist at worst. When the Florida GOP keeps resorting to juvenile and sexist name-calling, it’s hard to take their outreach to women seriously.”

"Florida Dems and RPOF Already Clashing as 2014 Elections Loom".

"Three things every politician should not have to be reminded of"

Jeremy Wallace: "Every election cycle is filled with embarrassing gaffes by politicians and would-be candidates. But in just the last 48 hours, we have been reminded time and again that there are some basic rules that anyone running for office should commit to memory. Here’s my impromptu list of three things every politician should not have to be reminded of, but alas, we have learned otherwise." "3 ways to start a political campaign with a thud".

Indian River Lagoon "is in deep trouble"

The Miami Herald editorial board believes that the Indian River Lagoon "is in deep trouble this year. The phosphorous-laden runoff being directed out of the lake to prevent flooding is being sent into the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee River on the West Coast because it is too polluted to be sent into the Everglades, which needs the water." "A symbol of Florida’s environmental degradation". See also "Scientists point to water quality problems, septic tanks as woes for Indian River Lagoon".

Nancy Smith: "Toxic Martin County Waters Spark Senators' Anger, Resolve".