Monday, October 28, 2013

Consider giving newspaper subscriptions as gifts and/or buying one or more subscriptions for delivery to your workplace; whenever you visit a newspaper site online, please click on one or more of the advertisements and make an effort to patronize newspaper advertisers. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

GOP "ready to hit Crist as soon as he makes his candidacy official"

Bill Cotterell: "Gov. Rick Scott told Republican women Sunday his re-election "will be the biggest race in the country" next year and that winning it can change country's direction back toward Republican economic policies."

Scott's stump speech at a Florida Federation of Republican Women breakfast was a stark display of his strategy for handling likely Democratic candidate Charlie Crist. Scott takes the high road, never mentioning Crist's name but contrasting differences between his own administration and the four years preceding it, while the state party does the gut-punching against a former champion Republicans now consider a turncoat.

Republican National Committeewoman Sharon Day introduced Scott with a few digs at the Democrats, calling them "desperate" and "dysfunctional." Crist was the star attraction at the weekend Florida Democratic state conference a few miles away at Walt Disney World -- touring caucuses and chatting up hundreds of delegates in hallways, since he had no official role at his new party's confab. The Republican-turned-Democrat says he willw announce his political plans for 2014 on Nov. 4.

"Day said the GOP is ready for him."
"We welcome any Democrat candidate in the race -- even some of those who are having a bit of an identity crisis," Day said, drawing laughter from the GOP women. Turning to Scott, she asked, "Governor, did you ever think you would have to run against a Republican, an independent and a Democrat -- and it would be the same person?"

Crist himself said during the weekend he expects a nasty Republican onslaught. Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, talking with reporters outside the Democratic event, said his party will be ready to hit Crist as soon as he makes his candidacy official.

"Scott says his will be the nation's premier race of 2014".

Where's Marco?

The Miami Herald editors: "On Tuesday, a mash-up of Republican Party activists, business executives and evangelical leaders are taking their case to Capitol Hill, where they hope to strong-arm members of the House GOP to pass their own legislation. Those recalcitrant lawmakers can’t fail to note that the coalition are the people who have been solidly in the GOP’s camp for decades. To spurn them now would make the GOP’s tent even smaller than it already is." "The door opens a crack". See also "Immigration reform pitch gets aggressive".

GOP goin' hard after Garcia

Jeff Henderson: "Patrick Murphy was supposed to be the most vulnerable Democratic congressman in Florida, but increasingly it’s looking like that dubious distinction belongs to Joe Garcia."

After his close election to defeat Allen West, Murphy looked vulnerable, especially given the Republican lean in his district. But Murphy has proven a hard worker with strong constituent services unwilling to put himself in the middle of risky issues -- and has shown himself to be a strong fundraiser. By the end of September, he had brought in almost $1.62 million and spent less than $484,000. . . .

In Miami, Garcia has also done well with fundraising, but ethics issues continue to swirl around his office. If it sounds familiar, a similar scenario helped propel Garcia over Republican David Rivera in 2012. Garcia has been working hard, stashing just under $1 million in the bank to ready himself for a heavy barrage of Republican attacks next year.

Republicans also have a real front-runner in the race in Carlos Curbelo. The Miami Dade School Board member has just under $410,000 in the bank, giving him a clear head start over his Republican rivals. Democrats are already drawing their fire on Curbelo while the national GOP is hammering away at Garcia.

Much more here: "Joe Garcia Replaces Patrick Murphy as GOP's Top Florida Target in Congress".

Friends of Rick

"At the height of his influence, Perez was important enough to command a sit-down meeting with Gov. Rick Scott. In December, Perez chartered a private jet to fly to Tallahassee for a talk with the governor. Joining Perez on the flight were state Rep. Eduardo “Eddy” Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, and then-Homestead Mayor Bateman." "Troubled past casts cloud over powerful college CEO".

With money from lobbyists and corporate donors with business before Scott

"Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly pledged to slash government spending since his 2010 election. Yet more than $800,000 has been spent for substantial improvements to the Greek Revival mansion where he and his wife live."

Taxpayers have footed the bill for things like the cleaning of oriental rugs and refinishing the oak flooring at “the People’s House,” a sprawling edifice at 700 North Adams Street that serves as private residence as well as official entertainment venue for the state’s chief executive. Some money, though, has come from lobbyists and corporate donors with business before Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
"Florida pays $800k to fix up governor's mansion".

Bondi pockets cash from the usual suspects

"Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has reported 1,100 contributions for her 2014 re-election campaign, about 50 of them from out of state, according to state campaign finance records."

Among them are Philadelphia-based cable television giant and NBC Universal owner Comcast Corp., California-based Internet search engine and Web portal Yahoo Inc., and father and daughter real-estate moguls Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump of New York. . . .

Representatives with Comcast, the nation's largest operator of cable TV services, did not respond to a request for comment. But the corporation this year also has given to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, several Republican legislators and the state's Republican and Democratic parties, online records show.

Yahoo representatives also did not respond, but it too contributed to Putnam, some lawmakers and the Republican Party of Florida. Yahoo, however, has given only to Republicans, and far less — a reported total of $13,500 compared to Comcast's roughly $205,000.

Trump raised hackles when his Donald J. Trump Foundation also gave $25,000 to Bondi's other fund, known as an electioneering communications organization, called “And Justice for All.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Trump for $40 million, citing complaints in Florida, New York and elsewhere over what was formerly called “Trump University.”

"Bondi receives cash from notable names".

Meanwhile, this from Dem "AG candidate Sheldon: Bondi should have resigned" ("Democratic candidate George Sheldon criticized Attorney General Pam Bondi on Sunday for delaying an execution so she could raise money for her re-election.")

"Contrary to Republican rhetoric, Florida government is not a big, bloated bureaucracy"

Bill Cotterell: "Privatizing of government work has been a trend for about 25 years. The idea is the agencies should concentrate on their 'core' missions, like cleaning up the environment or educating children, while leaving the support services to the private sector."

Sometimes, it goes far beyond that, though. Prison health services are currently being turned over to two companies, and the Republican-run Legislature is awash with campaign contributions from companies that would just love to take over operation of all Florida prisons. Collecting highway tolls or managing the big People First human-resources operation, privatizing is supposed to be not only cheaper, but better. That’s a matter of considerable conjecture. Contrary to Republican rhetoric, Florida government is not a big, bloated bureaucracy. In fact, we have the nation’s smallest personnel system, in terms of employment cost per taxpayer and ratio of state employees to population. So the only way contractors can do something cheaper is by having fewer employees, paying them less, providing fewer employment benefits — or all three. And whether service gets better depends on what you’re satisfied with. If you’re the one who decided to contract out for some work, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re saving the taxpayers money and quality hasn’t suffered.
"Saving money, losing jobs through privatization".


"Legislators moved swiftly last spring to shutter senior arcades and Internet cafes popping up all over the state. But less than a year after they did that, they may have to go back to the drawing board because several businesses are reopening." "Florida lawmakers may have to tackle Internet cafes again".

Glory days

Fred Grimm: "A lonely match at Dania Jai-Alai".

"The 'practical liberal'"

Jeremy Wallace: "A Democrat who has dubbed himself the “practical liberal” is planning to challenge U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, for re-election to Congress. Bradenton resident Mitch Mallett, who for nearly 8 years has been the host of a liberal A.M. radio talk show, said he plans to file to run for the 16th Congressional District, which includes all of Sarasota and most of Manatee County." "Mallett plans to challenge Buchanan".

Florida has 3.6 million food-insecure residents

"Florida’s food programs are bracing for cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that kick in Friday — while watching warily as U.S. House and Senate conferees prepare to negotiate a federal farm bill, which could have much more far-reaching consequences for hungry Floridians."

Food banks and other programs that help Florida’s 3.6 million food-insecure residents have known for years about the cuts coming this week. The cuts were built into the 2008 federal-stimulus package that temporarily added money to SNAP, also known as food stamps, during the depths of the economic recession.
"Florida braces for cuts to food stamp program".

"Tea party Republicans 'bigots,' 'paranoid'"

"U.S. Rep. Grayson calls tea party Republicans 'bigots,' 'paranoid'".

FlaDems fawn over onetime "Reagan Republican"

Dara Kam News Service of Florida: "Hundreds of Florida Democrats fawned over former Gov. Charlie Crist this weekend at their annual conference as the onetime "Reagan Republican" campaigned relentlessly, receiving a hero's welcome more than a week before he officially announces his candidacy for governor."

For some party loyalists, former Republican Gov. Crist poses a problem.

"He's very personable. But I'm a skeptic. So I'm in the back of my head thinking what's the motivation and how is he going to profit off the constituents?" said Lois Porcella, who lives in Palm Beach County. "It really comes down to the core philosophy of the party and how that candidate is projecting those principles to the voters. I understand that the end goal is to defeat the Republicans. But still you can't give up your center being." Rich called the race a choice between "substance and style" and said Democrats are at a turning point.

"This primary is going to be about what kind of Democrats we are. About a year out, Democrats always start to think about we need to have a conservative Democrat and that we can't afford to have a progressive. I beg to differ with them. We have elected Barack Obama twice in this state, an African-American man twice who has progressive principles," Rich said. "I believe there's a growing progressive movement in the state … I'm finding it as I travel. People are excited. They want a Democrat that has the core Democratic values and principles. That's what I'm going to present."

But being shut out of the governor's mansion since Jeb Bush was elected in 1998 has made many Democrats more pragmatic. And national Democrats are already organizing with an eye on Crist, who will formally announce his candidacy Nov. 4 in his hometown of St. Petersburg and who has already been traveling around the country to drum up support.

"Pragmatic Democrats Back Charlie Crist". See also "Florida Democrats conference becomes Charlie Crist show" and "Crist tells Democrats 'hope is coming'".