Tuesday, January 21, 2014

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming "liking" us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Republican operatives are worried about a Crist comeback"

Marc Caputo: "Jim Messina, campaign manager for President Obama's 2012 reelection, has joined Charlie Crist's campaign for governor."

Shortly after that announcement, the campaign touted another big-hire from Obama's team: Teddy Goff, digital director for the president's reelection campaign, who oversaw its social media, web video and online advertising efforts.

Goff has been hired along with his firm, Precision Strategies, which includes other top Obama advisors.

"Counting Messina and Goff, at least nine former campaign workers from Obama's 2008 or 2012 campaigns have signed up for Crist's campaign."
Gov. Rick Scott's campaign announced last week that it was bulking up, naming spokeswoman Melissa Sellers as campaign manager and state Sen. John Thrasher as campaign chairman.

Crist leads Scott in the polls, but the Republican is walloping Crist in fundraising. Crist is posting solid fundraising numbers, and the news of Messina should help boost him further. . . .

Judging by the laser focus on Crist -- and private conversations -- Scott's backers and Florida Republican operatives are worried about a Crist comeback. The addition of Messina could make them even more concerned.

"Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, joins Charlie Crist’s team". See also "" and "".

Same old

"Despite their new name, the education benchmarks known as the Florida Standards closely resemble the controversial Common Core State Standards." "Renaming ‘Common Core’ standards does little to end education debate".

"A very expensive indulgence"

A column by Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald that won't be read by Florida's Republican Party leadership: "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that a kid like Shimeek Gridine can’t be saddled with a mandatory life sentence."

So a circuit judge in Jacksonville sentenced the child to 70 years behind bars. For the young convict, the benefits of the high court’s ruling must seem elusive. . . .

Under state law, if Shimeek gets all possible credit for good behavior, he’ll be 77 before he emerges from prison. If he lives that long.

The Supreme Court ruled that in non-homicide cases, for child offenders, “A state is not required to guarantee eventual freedom to such an offender, but must impose a sentence that provides some meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

“Meaningful opportunity for release” won’t mean much to a dead man.

The Supreme Court ruling came out of another Florida case, a 16-year-old armed burglar named Terrance Jamar Graham sentenced to life with no possibility of release. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, noted that the state “has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law.”

"At the time the Supreme Court considered the case, only 129 juvenile offenders in U.S. prisons were serving life without parole sentences for crimes other than homicide — 77 of them in Florida. Meanwhile, 39 states had no juvenile convicts in non-homicide cases serving life without parole. After Florida, Louisiana was the next toughest state with 17."
It would seem that the Supreme Court had Florida in mind. But in 2012, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal upheld Gridine’s sentence. . . .

In October, young Gridine’s lawyer was trying again, this time before the state Supreme Court, arguing what would seem to be the obvious: That a 70-year sentence was tantamount to life. Though the best Shimeek could hope for, if the Supreme Court sides with his lawyer, would be the possibility of parole after 25 years.

But that introduces a sticky legal problem. In 1995, in another ill-considered gesture back when legislators were trying to outdo one another in getting tough on crime, Florida abolished parole. We still have a functioning state parole commission, but it deals only with the dwindling number of inmates (about 5,100) sentenced before the 1995 law was passed.

If the state legislature reinstated parole (a mighty if), Florida judges could fashion mean-sounding “life” sentences for the toughest juvenile cases that would still be compatible with the U.S. Supreme Court edict — rather than send a child like Gridine away until he’s 77.

Parole would also give Florida politicians a face-saving way out of another absurdity — the warehousing of harmless, elderly, sickly, very expensive prisoners who otherwise will serve out their mandatory sentences as high security nursing home patients. While a young prisoner costs about $22,000 a year, inmates over 50 (considered old by prison standards), with their escalating medical needs, run the cost up to about $67,000 per year.

Parole would allow Florida a civilized alternative to the legislature’s bizarre and costly notion that a 14-year-old should be subject to the same mandatory sentencing standards devised for adult convicts. Otherwise, by the time Shimeek Gridine walks out of prison at age 77 (if he lives that long), he’ll have become a very expensive indulgence in Florida’s get-tough-on-crime politics.

"Fred Grimm: Florida’s tough stance on crime is expensive indulgence".

Environmental groups to hold rallies Wednesday

"Environmental groups will hold 16 rallies across the state Wednesday, including one in Tampa, to pressure state lawmakers into cleaning up Florida’s degraded waterways." "Environmentalists to protest water quality in Florida".

"Sink’s glass jaw"

Jeff Henderson: "David Jolly and his Republican allies are throwing everything but the kitchen sink (no pun intended) at [Alex Sink] as they look to hold on to the congressional seat Bill Young kept in the GOP column for more than 40 years. They’re hitting Sink on Obamacare, moving into the district just for the race, her record in Tallahassee and now wasting taxpayer dollars on travel when she was state CFO."

This is a close race, to be sure, with a St. Pete poll showing Jolly ahead by 4 percent, even as national pundits think Sink has the momentum to win the race. But Sink has often failed to show the ability to take a punch politically. She tightens up when facing tough questions and can blow big moments like the debate with Scott and its aftermath. Sink’s glass jaw has nothing to do with the political glass ceiling since there are plenty of female politicians, like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nikki Haley, Jan Brewer and plenty of others who have no problems landing or taking political attacks.

Sink’s failure to brush off attacks and adversity does show her lack of electoral and campaign experience. Even with her success against Lee [in the 2006 CFO race] and being the widow of former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, Sink’s background is much more tied into the private sector than in politics. It showed in 2010 against Scott, another electoral novice certainly, but also one who gained political experience fighting against Obamacare in 2009.

This should be a close election, but Republicans are hoping they can trip Sink up with a barrage of attacks. The blows directed at her started well before the Republican primary. This race will be greatly shaped by how Sink deals with attacks against her, and Jolly and the GOP will do their best to test her ability to take a punch.

"Let's See if Alex Sink Can Take a Political Punch".

"Crist the wikigovernor"

Matt Reed will "leave it to the party faithful to decide whether Charlie Crist has been sufficiently Democratic or Republican."

His most important trait is real and decades-old: The guy lives to please and serve as many Floridians as possible — sometimes shifting positions and burning party leaders to do so.

Think that’s unprincipled? To the contrary, it may prove the most decisive and relevant principle in an age when everyone in the crowd expects to be heard and respected in Facebook comments, eBay reviews and text-voting for “American Idol” — not to mention their state government.

Call Crist the wikigovernor.

"Imagine Crist as the 'wikigovernor'".

Routine hit piece

A routine hit piece on public employee unions, this time by Bill Cotterell: "Union power? Numbers say no".