Friday, November 08, 2013

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

"Florida voters might consider a reformulated Crist"

The Tampa Trib editors write that, "Even as Charlie Crist was kicking off his 2014 gubernatorial campaign, the Republicans already were depicting him as an opportunist, turncoat and career politician."

They have plenty of ammunition to use against the former governor, attorney general, education commissioner and legislator who has morphed from a law-and-order Republican to a populist Democrat.

Yet his announcement speech Monday showed why it is possible Florida voters might consider a reformulated Crist and why his entry into the race has made former lawmaker Nan Rich’s bid to become the Democratic candidate for governor seem all but irrelevant.

Crist has always seemed driven more by what he thinks voters want than political ideology, and the St. Petersburg native clearly thinks Floridians are weary of the harsh partisan divide that dominates politics today. He offers a middle ground, at least in tone.

"Still, he outlined a mainstream Democratic platform that favors education funding, mass transit, voters’ rights and environmental protections."
He chided Gov. Rick Scott for slashing education funding. He also notably promised to seek a revival of the high-speed rail project that Scott killed shortly after taking office. That issue might find some traction in the I-4 region, where the Tampa to Orlando route was projected to be an economic boon.
"Crist is never so comfortable and energized as when he is campaigning, and he possesses the political skills that Scott painfully lacks."
But Scott’s well-financed campaign will make sure the man who chose to leave the governor’s office to run for the U.S. Senate, and who selected disgraced Jim Greer as head of the Republican Party of Florida, faces a lot of troubling questions in the coming months. As Crist essentially acknowledged, he’s going to be in for a rough ride. But we give him credit for a smooth start.
""Charlie back at it".

More: "GOP Cranks Up Attacks on Charlie Crist as Florida Dems Claim Momentum". See also "Rick Scott's Camp, Charlie Crist and Nan Rich Exchange Fire".

Sink walk off

"Even as Alex Sink faces an easier path to the Democratic nomination in a special election for an open seat in Congress, Republicans are helping her cause by staying out of the contest."

Bill Young may have held the seat for 43 years before his death in October but his fellow Republicans aren’t exactly lining up to run for it now. On Thursday, Frank Hibbard, the former mayor of Clearwater, said he was not running for the Republican nomination for the seat. Hibbard joins several other big-name Republicans like Jeff Brandes, Rick Baker, and Jack Latvala by staying out of the contest. It’s also increasingly looking that members of Young’s family will remain on the sidelines.
"Alex Sink Facing Watered-Down GOP Opposition for Open Congress Seat". See also "Jolly aiming to raise profile as he runs for Young’s seat" and "David Jolly Enters Race for Bill Young's Congressional Seat".

More: "Ehrlich won’t challenge Sink in race for Young’s House seat".

Stand Your Ground stands

"Effort fails to repeal ‘Stand Your Ground’". See also "Stand Your Ground repeal voted down in committee", "Gaetz, Thurston clash over 'stand your ground' repealer", "Florida lawmakers defeat ‘ stand your ground’ repeal" and "House panel votes down 'stand your ground' repealer".

Disney sets profit records

On the eve of collective bargaining with some of its biggest union, we read that "Powered by parks, Walt Disney Co. sets sales, profit records".

Weinstein will remain in party finance post

"Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich, who’s challenging Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary for governor, appears to have lost a round in her battle for respect from the state Democratic Party."

The party’s finance chairman, prominent Broward County lawyer Andrew Weinstein, will remain in that voluntary post despite Rich’s complaints that he helped set up a fundraiser for Crist.

Party officials usually are expected to remain neutral in their party’s primary contests.

As the Tampa Tribune reported Tuesday, the day of the fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale, Rich said she was told in conversations with state party Chair Allison Tant and executive director Scott Arceneaux that Weinstein had been asked to resign from the voluntary position as the party’s top fundraiser.

"Weinstein to remain Democratic finance chairman despite complaint".

State backs off subpoena

"A subpoena for the notes and audio recordings of WFSU reporter Lynn Hatter as part of a fraud investigation into a group [insurance agents] providing false information about the federal health care law has been withdrawn by the Department of Financial Services." "Atwater agency pulls subpoena of reporter".

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

"Norma Reno struggled to regain her composure Wednesday after Hillsborough County Commissioners killed her hopes of adding a Hispanic-leaning commission district through a voter referendum." "Bid for single-member district fails at Hillsborough commission".

"Sunshine State still trails the top-ranked states"

"Florida's fourth and eighth graders mastered basic academic skills this year better than counterparts two years ago, but the Sunshine State still trailed the top-ranked states whose ranks it wants to join, according to national tests results . . . ." "Florida students improve on math, reading skills".

"Is this really a winning strategy?"

Paula Dockery writes that, "With the 2014 election for governor a year away, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist announced his intention to run again — this time as a Democrat."

And Republicans were quick to pounce, calling him … gasp … an opportunist!

I don’t know how many voters they hope to rile up with this incendiary accusation. They’re willing to bet pretty heavily, dropping a half-million dollars on their “opportunist” campaign blitz.

News flash: Most voters think all politicians are opportunists. In fact, I looked up “opportunist” in Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus. After listing numerous synonyms, including “self-seeker” and “go-getter,” it said, “See also businessperson, politician, rascal.”

Is this really a winning strategy?

Dockery continues, pointing out that
Crist, once a darling of the Republican Party, ran with its blessing for numerous positions: the Florida Senate, education commissioner, U.S. Senate, attorney general and governor.

Was he an opportunist during those election attempts? No, he was a rising star of the party.

The lesson to be learned here: You can run for numerous offices as long as you don’t switch teams. Much like a professional athlete, you might be beloved on Team A but ridiculed and despised on Team B. Switching teams is the ultimate sin, even if you are no longer welcome on your current team.

But the electorate does not want hyper-partisanship and gridlock. Voters are registering “no party affiliation” in record numbers in Florida. Polls are showing that a majority of voters want cooperation and compromise. Fewer voters are identifying as far right or far left on the political spectrum. Voters want their elected officials to listen to them and to be willing to negotiate on their behalf.

The governor should be in a position of strength. He has the power of incumbency, a huge campaign checkbook and an improving economy. But by sticking to its current strategy, the party apparatus, once under Crist’s control, is signaling weakness. The party’s nasty attacks show worry. It also is playing into his hands.

Crist is a skilled political campaigner who sees the changing political tides. He threw his hat in the ring because the opportunity presented itself for someone to step in and change the tone of politics. Voters want to replace anger and hatred with “nice.”

And no one is going to out-nice Charlie.

Read it all here: "GOP might want to pin a different label on Crist".

2 percent of Florida

"The Mormon church stands to own nearly 2 percent of Florida by completing a deal to buy most of the real estate of the St. Joe Co. for more than a half-billion dollars." "Mormon church-owned company buys huge swath of Florida land". See also "St. Joe Co. announces sale of 382,834 acres to Mormon Church affiliate".

Lesbian custody battle

"The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner has parental rights to the child and is ordering a lower court to work out custody, child support and visitation arrangements." "Fla. Supreme Court settles lesbian custody battle". See also "Florida high court: Birth mom denied rights to egg donor ex-partner".