Thursday, December 12, 2013

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

"Incumbents stretch their cash lead"

"The majority of sitting Florida state lawmakers appear set to coast to victory in 2014, if new campaign finance reports are anything to go by."

Aside from the governor’s race -- in which Gov. Rick Scott is already raising and spending millions from his political committee Let’s Get to Work to hammer former Gov. Charlie Crist -- most incumbents in the Cabinet and state Legislature have sizable cash leads over their opponents.

At least the candidates who have opponents 11 months away from the midterm elections, that is.

Of the 20 senators vying for re-election next year, only five have official opposition: Sens. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando; Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; Tom Lee, R-Tampa; and Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Not a single challenger has more than $11,500 cash on hand, while Thompson, the incumbent with the lowest cash haul of the group, has a campaign fund of $58,700.

Cabinet members also have healthy cash leads in their re-election efforts.

Attorney General Pam Bondi raised $104,875 in November and has more than $506,600 cash on hand. Her two opponents vying for the Democratic nomination, George Sheldon and Rep. Perry Thurston of Plantation, have $51,300 and $21,200 in their campaign accounts, respectively.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam have cash on hand of $765,600 and $909,900, respectively, while their challengers have minimal campaign finance activity.

"Cash races are closer in competitive House races, especially in campaigns where Democrats will be looking to hold on to gains made in the 2012 election when they picked up five seats. Republicans still hold a 75-45 advantage in the House and have a 26-14 edge in the Senate."
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, raised $9,125 last month and has amassed nearly $71,000. Her top Republican challengers for the House District 30 seat in central Florida, Robert Cortez and Scott Sturgill, have cash on hand of $68,587 and $19,638, respectively.

Another Orlando-area swing seat, House District 29, features incumbent Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, against former Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood. Plakon raised more money in November ($4,070) than Clelland ($2,850), but trails in the overall money race with $73,250 cash on hand to Clelland’s war chest of $93,000.

Plakon is part of a troupe of former House members looking to return to the Legislature. Some, like Plakon, lost their re-election bids but others were crowded out of their seats during the redistricting process last year.

"Most incumbents stretch their cash lead but key House races tighten".

Teabaggers say: "Jump!"

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears to be abandoning his attempt to expand the Florida Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Asked by reporters in Tampa on Wednesday whether he still thinks the state should accept the federal funding available under to expand the program, Scott didn't answer and criticized the law instead." "Scott apparently backs off Medicaid growth".

Statewide foreclosure rate remains high

"Foreclosures dropping, but statewide rate remains high".

High poverty, low insurance states like Florida . . .

"The slow rollout of a new federal health insurance marketplace may be deepening differences in health coverage among Americans, with residents in some states gaining insurance at a far greater rate than others."

The demarcation may be as simple as Democrat and Republican.

Newly released federal figures show more people are picking private insurance plans or being routed to Medicaid programs in states with Democratic leaders who have fully embraced the federal health care law than in states where Republican elected officials have derisively rejected what they call "Obamacare."

On one side of the political divide are a dozen mostly Democratic leaning states, including California, Minnesota and New York. They have both expanded Medicaid for lower-income adults and started their own health insurance exchanges for people to shop for federally subsidized private insurance.

"On the other side are two dozen conservative states, such as Texas, Florida and Missouri. They have [all] rejected the Medicaid expansion and refused any role in running an online insurance exchange, leaving that entirely to the federal government."
The new federal figures, providing a state-by-state breakdown of enrollment in the new health care program through November, showed that the political differences among leaders over the initiative are turning into differences in participation among the uninsured.

Even though many conservative states have higher levels of poverty and more people without health coverage, fewer of them may receive new insurance, said Dylan Roby, an assistant public health professor at the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Federal data show health disparities among states".

Among the handful of conservative states that rejected Medicaid expansion and refused any role in running an online insurance exchange, thereby leaving the work entirely to the federal government, "Floridians lead enrollment in federal marketplace".

Morganization of the Florida Democratic Party

John Morgan is toying "with the possibility of his other son, Mike [a 2008 law graduate], running for Florida attorney general next year. Just this week, he was asking his followers what they thought of Mike Morgan making a run for Pam Bondi’s job. Matt Morgan did the same on his own Twitter account." "John Morgan's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous".

More: "John Morgan's Son Mike No Match for Bondi, Sheldon or Thurston" and "John Morgan's Son 'Thinking' About Running for Attorney General".

Related: "John Morgan's medical marijuana investment nears $1 million".

"Billion-dollar conservation constitutional amendment"

"Florida's environmental lobby has amassed another $700,000 last month to help land a billion-dollar conservation constitutional amendment on next year's general election ballot."

Environmentalists from Audubon of Florida, the Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club, Wildlife Federation and other groups have also mustered 446,912 valid signatures -- nearing closer to the 683,149 required to place a question on the November 2014 ballot -- for an amendment that would steer billions of tax dollars to conservation programs, including springs protection and the Everglades.

The groups raised just over $401,000 in November and got another $300,000 in loans. Its biggest contributors for the month were: the Florida and National Audubon chapters ($205,000); Trust for Public Land ($100,000); and the Florida Wildlife Federation ($67,000).

Following five years of budget cuts, the groups have raised $2.1 million over the last year, and enlisted more than 340 organizations to help push the constitutional amendment.

The organization overseeing the drive, Florida's Water and Land Legacy Inc., set a goal of collecting all its signatures by the end of November. The 446,912 figure is just the official number already verified by counties and the state.

"Environmental groups raise $400k more for conservation amendment".

Ros-Lehtinen can't get off her one trick pony

"Displaying a photo of Obama shaking Castro’s hand, Ros-Lehtinen demanded answers from Kerry and the administration." "John Kerry and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Duel After Obama Shakes Raul Castro's Hand".

Florida's teachers take a bow

all those years of teachers' low wages and coming out of pocket to buy school supplies are paying off for Florida's students: "Florida's high-school-graduation rate rises again".

Firefighter and cop pensions in the cross hairs

Bill Cotterell: "A key Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to defuse 'a ticking time bomb' in local government pension plans with a complex formula for redistributing insurance premium tax revenue now reserved for improving retirement benefits for police officers and firefighters." "Senate panel OKs local pension overhaul". See also "Senate tries again on local pensions".

"Intriguing primary contest"

"Democrats might not have much of a chance of picking up the Florida House in 2014 but the stakes are high in Hillsborough County where an intriguing primary contest is shaping up for the seat held currently by the term-limited Betty Reed."

Attorney Sean Shaw, best known for his time as Florida’s insurance consumer advocate and for being the son of former Chief Justice Leander Shaw, has emerged as a serious candidate to replace Reed. But he has a major primary opponent in businessman and community activist Edwin Narain.
"Sean Shaw has the Edge in Hillsborough County House Race".

Rubio grubbing for wingnuts

"Marco Rubio Showcases Opposition to Patty Murray's and Paul Ryan's Budget Deal".

Fladems ramp up attacks

"Florida Democrats ramped up their attacks against Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday while Republicans fired back at former Gov. Charlie Crist who, despite spending most of his political career with the GOP, is the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year."

The Florida Democratic Party unveiled a website and Web video attacking Scott on Wednesday, hitting him on a host of issues. Bashing Scott for backing the GOP in Congress on fiscal issues and pointing toward scandals wich have hurt the adminstration this year on the site, the Florida Democrats are advertising it through social media and search engines.
"Florida Dems Launch Website Attacking Rick Scott as RPOF Hits Charlie Crist on Obamacare".