Friday, January 17, 2014

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

Scott's committee pulling in million dollar checks

"Get ready for a governor's race that will be unprecedented in the amounts and types of campaign money being raised and spent, with $10,000, $100,000 and even million-dollar checks dominating the donations."

With Gov. Rick Scott's incumbency and head start — Democratic leader Charlie Crist did not enter the race until Nov. 11 — the Republicans have an overwhelming early lead in money.

Combined, Scott and the Republicans raised $43.2 million last year, and Crist and the Democrats raised $8.6 million.

"'It's unreal,' said Lance deHaven-Smith, a political scientist at Florida State University who recalls that Jeb Bush won the Governor's Office 16 years ago by spending a then-unheard-of $12 million."
Florida's $3,000 maximum contribution law for candidates' official campaign committees is largely being legally bypassed in the governor's race. Candidates and political donors are turning as never before to independent political committees, which are able to collect and spend unlimited amounts.

Though independent groups, including Gov. Rick Scott's Let's Get to Work committee, were players in the 2010 election after court decisions increased their freedom, they now dominate.

"The trend of change has accelerated. It's going to continue accelerating," said Walt Dartland, vice chair of Common Cause Florida, which advocates campaign-finance reform. . . .

This year Scott has not contributed any of his own money, and it appears he may not have to. Last year, Let's Get to Work raised $23 million. That included more than 100 checks of more than $50,000 each. The committee got $1 million each from three Republican donors: Mike Fernandez of Coral Gables, Lawrence DeGeorge of Jupiter and William L. Edwards of Hollywood. The Florida Chamber of Commerce gave $655,000, and Florida Power gave $555,000.

"Big checks pour into Florida governor's race".

Questions to answer

"Florida voters may have conservation, marijuana questions to answer".

Absentee ballot information remains public

"Miami-Dade County will no longer block the public from obtaining key information that has helped detect attempted voting fraud."

Overturning a decision by his appointed elections supervisor, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday that Internet Protocol addresses for absentee-ballot requests submitted online are public record.

Gimenez explained his position in a memo to Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who had asked the mayor to use his executive authority to make the IP addresses available. Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley had said she would keep them secret.

"Miami-Dade mayor overturns elections supervisor, will keep key absentee ballot information public".

Short election cycle

"The increasing number of independent voters should be a coveted demographic among candidates who run in Pinellas County. Voters who don’t identify themselves with a single party are often credited with helping President Barack Obama carry the county in the last two presidential elections, and winning the county for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a Democrat, in 2010."

“No candidate today can afford to ignore the independent voter because increasingly more Americans are classifying themselves as independents,” said Darryl Paulson, a University of South Florida political science professor emiritus.

Yet to expect Congressional District 13 hopefuls David Jolly, a Republican, and Sink to aggressively court independents ahead of the March 11 special congressional election would be naive, he said.

The two candidates are trying to appeal to voters in all parties. Sink met with independent elected officials from the district Thursday, and Jolly campaign spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said the campaign “intend(s) to reach out to every voter.”

But reaching independents is difficult. People shed their party affiliations, or never adopt one in the first place, for different reasons.

"Short election cycle shuns independents". Meanwhile, "District 13 candidates take to the airwaves".

"Embarrassment to Gov. Rick Scott"

The Tampa Trib editors "Months after unveiling a $63 million upgrade to its unemployment website, the state continues to struggle to process claims from thousands of unemployed Floridians who depend on the money for rent and food."

But news that the federal government is sending U.S. Department of Labor employees to Florida to help fix a broken website can hardly be greeted with optimism considering the troubles with the Obamacare website.

Their arrival, at the urging of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, is more likely to bring embarrassment to Gov. Rick Scott than a quick fix of the unemployment system’s problems. That said, Scott needs to make this problem a priority and hold accountable the people responsible for the mess.

"The state’s jobless website failure demands accountability".

Bean counters run wild

"Any university that doesn’t receive at least 26 points under the new 50-point system will lose 1 percent of its state funding in 2014-2015." "New performance model for Florida universities penalizes low performers".

Williams to seek re-election to House

"Rep. Alan Williams will seek re-election to the Florida House and will not run for a seat on the Tallahassee City Commission. At least two of the five primary challengers he has drawn have said they would drop their bids if he decided to stay in the House. " "Campaign Note: House: District 008".

"Scott and Black Legislative Caucus Clash"

"Rick Scott and Black Legislative Caucus Clash After Missed Meeting". Background: "Florida black lawmakers snub governor".

Crist swoops in to Tallahassee

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist stopped in Tallahassee on Thursday to raise cash as part of his campaign to reclaim the Governor's Mansion, this time as a Democrat." "Crist swoops in for Tallahassee fundraising". Crist laments that "Scott's ethics, education and environmental policies have broken his heart." "Crist: My heart is broken".


"Jack Latvala, Allen West Lose as David Jolly Triumphs".

NJ GOPer scandal comes to Florida

"New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faces one of his first major tests since his backyard political scandal erupted: reassuring top Republican donors that he has taken steps to address allegations of political payback in his home state and that he remains a viable presidential contender for the party's establishment."

Christie, who leads the Republican Governors Association, will travel to Florida this weekend for a series of fundraisers to help Republican Gov. Rick Scott. It will be his first out-of-state trip since the scandal involving lane closures at the George Washington Bridge escalated.
"Christie facing GOP donors as bridge scandal boils".

Florida Delegation Backs Federal Spending Bill

"Florida Delegation Overwhelmingly Backs $1.1 Trillion Federal Spending Bill".


"State to spend $2.8 million on 'Florida Welcomes You' signs". And our Highway Patrolmen get paid, what?

Sink Vows Bipartisanship

"Alex Sink Vows Bipartisanship Even as DCCC Backs Her".

Scott focuses on voter-rich Miami-Dade

"Rick Scott focused on voter-rich Miami-Dade County this week as he looks to shore up his support in November."

Around 475,000 Miami-Dade residents voted in 2010, which made up about 9 percent of the total number of Floridians who cast their ballots. Alex Sink beat out Scott in Miami-Dade, 56 percent to 42 percent in 2010. Other Republicans did better, though. In the 2010 Senate race, local boy Marco Rubio took 45 percent here while Democrat Kendrick Meek, another favorite son from Miami-Dade, carried 30 percent (well above the 20 percent he took across the state) and Charlie Crist’s no-party-affiliation bid got 25 percent.
"Rick Scott has Miami on his Mind".

"A whole lot of hardscrabble lobbying going on"

Nancy Smith wonders "What if Charlie Crist wins? Florida Atlantic University board members might want to think that one through before they hand George LeMieux the keys to the kingdom. Though the board is due to choose the university's new president from a three-candidate shortlist Friday, insiders tell Sunshine State News the selection might already be in the bag for Gunster lawyer LeMieux. There's been a whole lot of hardscrabble lobbying going on." "One Last Word to the Wise on George LeMieux ...".