Wednesday, February 05, 2014

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

"Crist losing fundraising momentum?"

"Is Charlie Crist losing fundraising momentum? The former Republican governor made headlines when he raised $2.1 million in November. But, just two months later, his numbers tell a different tale. In January, a political committee backing Crist raised only $375,000. Further analysis shows an even starker picture: two donors alone made up $200,000 of the total."

If it hadn’t been for those two donations -- one from Monte Friedkin and another from the Ferraro personal injury firm – the committee would have raised only $175,000.

Monte Friedkin, incidentally, is best known as a Florida Democratic political bankroller who hands out campaign checks as freely as he does advice on how to govern.

"The Fundraising Woes of Charlie Crist".

Real Yawner

"Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the first Hispanic to serve as Florida’s lieutenant governor, took the oath of office in a private ceremony." "Lopez-Cantera sworn in as Florida lieutenant governor".

"Shift on gay marriage changing political landscape"

"When the new attorney general in Virginia decided recently to oppose his state’s ban on gay marriage, it might have been dismissed as an isolated move by a Democrat seeking to reverse Republican policy. But it underscored the speed and breadth of a fundamental change in the country." "‘Stunning’ shift on gay marriage is changing political landscape". Related: "Gay couples not waiting around for political, legal changes".

"Florida a low-income state where crime flourishes and education is shortchanged."

Scott Maxwell asks "what if you could actually quantify the state of a state? With numbers. And data. That's what the folks at Politico just did, assembling their inaugural 'State of the States' report."

Florida is a low-income state where crime flourishes and education is shortchanged.

You can't start with worn-out tires and a cheap engine and expect to win the Daytona 500. . . .

[And] we're one of the worst in America (46th) when it comes to income inequality.

And of course, we have the fruits of the Florida (Jeb Bush) education revolution:
We trail most of the U.S. on all three education metrics: 32nd for eighth-grade reading scores and 34th for math scores and graduation rates.
Maxwell has some suggestions:
Politicians in this state have to stop feeding the low-wage beast. They have to stop offering incentives to companies that pay below-average wages.

Politicians also have to step it up when it comes to education — because good schools and sound economies go hand in hand.

The best states focus on teachers' needs and student success. Florida politicians too often focus on political games.

While other states make sure students are ready for college and the work force, Florida leaders make excuses for their latest convoluted school-grading system — and why they needed grade inflation to make it work.

"Florida's state: We're fit but poor. We can do better" (subscription).

"Democrats slam Scott budget"

"Democrats including Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, chided Scott proposals, saying more money should be put into education, health care services and environmental programs." "House Democrats slam Scott budget; Republicans supportive but say no 'rubber stamp'".

"Jeb!", a Chamber hack to the end

"Former Gov. Jeb Bush is appearing in a TV ad unveiled Tuesday from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce praising David Jolly, the Republican candidate in the race. Jolly takes on Democratic candidate former state CFO Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 special election. The U.S. Chamber endorsed Jolly on Monday."

The Sink team pushed back in a message to supporters sent out on Tuesday. “David Jolly is wrong for Pinellas, but he’s got good reason to make his tea party supporters happy,” the Sink campaign insisted. “Super-PAC attacks against Alex are hitting the Pinellas airwaves. Funded by the likes of Karl Rove, these right-wing groups have already purchased millions in TV time to blast their negative ads ... the same forces backing the dysfunction in Washington are lining up against Alex. They’re eager to put their lobbyist friend David Jolly in Congress.”
"Conservative Groups Hit Alex Sink on TV as Jeb Bush Backs David Jolly".

"Florida loves charter schools"

"Florida loves charter schools. It is not surprising since the charter industry has friends at the top of every key committee in the legislature. In Florida, charters open and close like the flow of waves on the lovely beaches that surround the state. Some make a huge profit, others disappear."

There are now almost 600 charters in the state, so what’s another one, two, ten, or fifty? Many of the charters operate for profit, and make millions. Florida would love vouchers, if the legislature had its way, but the courts struck down a general voucher law as unconstitutional, so the only voucher schools are for students with disabilities (the McKay Scholarship program). There is little supervision of these schools, little regulation, and they have become big business in choice-loving Florida. Actually, Florida voters turned down an effort by the Jeb Bush team to change the Constitution in 2012 to permit vouchers. So, paradoxes abound. The voters don’t like vouchers, but the legislature does.

The voucher industry continues to grow and thrive because the legislature doesn’t like regulation. That has allowed fly-by-night “schools” to prosper, so long as their services are targeted to students with disabilities.

The schools spawned by the McKay Scholarships were the subject of a journalistic expose in 2011, which said the program had created a cottage industry of fraud and chaos (the author Gus Garcia-Roberts won a prestigious journalistic award for this series), but the legislative supporters of the program were undaunted.

And so, here comes another! The sponsors of a voucher school in Milwaukee that closed down decided to move to Florida. And why not?

"If Your School Fails, Open Another One, Preferably in Florida".

"Rich Claims Chiles' Legacy"

"Nan Rich Claims Lawton Chiles' Legacy With Buddy MacKay's Endorsement". See also "Nan Rich: I’m the only true Democrat in gubernatorial race".

Lie down with dogs

"After losing out to David Jolly, Kathleen Peters should not expect an easy 2014 as she turns to defending her Florida House seat."

Despite not even spending a year in Tallahassee, with the support of Jack Latvala, Peters ran for the Republican nomination in the special congressional election called after Bill Young’s death. Primary rival David Jolly went after Peters’ conservative credentials from the start and did a good job of painting her as too liberal for many Republican voters and questioning her position on abortion.
"Kathleen Peters Faces Major GOP Threat in Leo Govoni".

Fast-tracking death

"With 132 Death Row Inmates Readied for Execution, Lawyers Contest Fast-Track Law Before Florida Justices".

TV blitz

"Crist starts TV blitz". See also "Charlie Crist all over Web and TV as campaign steps up".

"Graham faces an uphill slog"

"Democratic challenger Gwen Graham is raising more money than GOP incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland, recently released campaign finance records show. Still, political analysts say the former Leon County school administrator faces an uphill slog to oust Southerland in Florida’s Second Congressional District, one of the nation’s most politically polarized." Despite money edge, Graham still faces tough ride to oust Southerlandp>

"Anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay couples, anti-environment, anti-education"

"Jeb Bush said it better than I can say it," Crist told Scarborough on Tuesday:

“He said today’s Republican Party is perceived as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay couples, anti-environment, anti-education. I mean, pretty soon, there’s nobody left in the room.”

But Bush is backing Scott in the election, something the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) pointed out on Tuesday.

"Charlie Crist Uses Jeb Bush Remark on National TV to Explain Away Party Switch".

Scott proposes to screw state workers again

"Gov. Rick Scott has once again proposed paying performance bonuses for state workers, but some lawmakers say they plan to push for pay raises instead."

Scott has proposed setting aside $167 million for bonuses that would be paid to up to 35 percent of employees in September, based on their evaluations for the period between January and June. Workers rated "outstanding" would receive up to $5,000, while those rated "commendable" would receive up to $2,500.
"Lawmakers scrutinize Scott's plan for state-worker bonuses".

Sink heads to DC

"Republican David Jolly is headed to Tallahassee, where Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and other top-tier Florida Republicans will ask donors to pour money into Jolly’s campaign. Democrat Alex Sink, meanwhile, will be in Washington, D.C., for a fundraiser featuring prominent Democrats such as New York Rep. Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second most powerful Democrat in Congress, as well as members of Florida’s congressional delegation." "District 13 candidates away for fundraisers".

Haters run wild

"School Choice, and Fairness, Growing by Leaps and Bounds".

Scott and Crist couldn’t be more of a contrast

"Even Charlie Crist’s most ardent naysayers concede he’s one of the country’s best retail politicians."

He’s got charm, charisma and a Bill Clintonesque-appeal, they’ll admit. He loves the camera, and the camera, with his shock of white hair and George Hamilton tan, loves him. On the street, at airports or in line at the grocery store, Crist — the self-appointed “People’s Governor” — works the room with relish, shaking hands, patting backs and handing out his cell phone number like candy.

Gov. Rick Scott couldn’t be more of a contrast. He appears awkward on camera and in person. He jets around the country courting corporate honchos to bring their business to the Sunshine State. His staff’s attempts to humanize the former health care executive by dressing him in button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up failed. Instead, they’ve turned to tweeting pictures of Scott and his wife Ann with their grandsons.

Research shows that the more likeable a candidate is, the better his or her chances of getting elected.

"Crist vs. Scott: A Study in Contrast Will Hinge On Who Will Make The Other Least Likeable".