Tuesday, March 11, 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.

The CD 13 showdown

"After almost $9 million in outside spending, a storm of attacks and counterattacks and endless speculation about its implications for the midterms, voters will cast their ballots in the Florida special congressional election on Tuesday. . . . Here are POLITICO’s five things to watch in the race for Florida’s 13th District, where polls close at 7 p.m. EDT."

1. Early bird special - We might get an idea of which way the race is going early in the evening. That’s because, as of Sunday night, 117,000 people had already voted by mail — a figure that could surpass the number who head to the polls Tuesday.

2. North or south - As Election Day takes shape, keep a close eye on turnout reports from across the southwestern Florida district.

3. The spoiler - No one thinks a third candidate on the ballot, Libertarian Lucas Overby, has a shot at winning. But some Republicans are worried that Overby, who has raised a minuscule $30,000, could siphon off crucial votes from Jolly, and they’re determined to make sure he doesn’t.

4. The spin game - No matter the outcome, each party will try to frame it in its favor.

5. The recount factor - Florida might be best known for its 2000 ballot-counting shenanigans. And with operatives from both parties predicting a close race, another recount isn’t out of the question.

"The Jolly-Sink showdown: What to watch".

"The various campaigns and the pundits are expecting a close contest in Tuesday’s special election for the congressional seat left open by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., spending recent days scrambling to make last-minute appeals." "CD 13 Candidates Make Last Pitches in Close Contest".

See also "Florida special election pitting Sink , Jolly a testing ground for parties’ midterm strategies", "Florida Contest Closing With Appeals to the Middle: Jolly vs. Sink", "Florida special election pitting Sink, Jolly a testing ground for parties’ midterm strategies" and "Live results tonight: Florida 13th district special election".

"Scott rejects the idea that [his relationship with Fernandez] doesn’t pass the smell test"

Steve Bousquet writes today about one of Rick Scott's biggest, let's call him a "supporter" - one Mike Fernandez, a billionaire who made his money suckling the government teat (and at the same time whining to high heaven about "welfare queens"." Bousquet points out that

As Gov. Rick Scott gave his State of the State speech to open the legislative session last week, his cheering section looked on from the upstairs visitors box in the House chamber.

Scott’s wife, Ann, was there with their two daughters, sons-in-law and their young grandsons. Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, was there. So was Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who raises lots of money for GOP candidates.

Also nearby was Mike Fernandez, a wealthy Cuban-American healthcare executive from Coral Gables and co-finance chairman of Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign.

"Fernandez has written three personal checks totaling $1.25 million to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work reelection fund, including $1 million in a single check in November. Firms in which he has an interest have given another $150,000 to Let’s Get to Work and $40,000 more to the state Republican Party, plus $15,000 to Scott’s reelection fund."
Fernandez owns MBF Healthcare Management, MBF Family Investments and other firms. The companies have won lucrative long-term contracts under the state’s Medicaid managed care program. Scott rejects the idea that it doesn’t pass the smell test for his leading fundraiser to have such a big stake in contracts doled out by agencies under Scott’s control.

"Whatever business Mike does with the state of Florida, he does on his own," Scott said. "If you listen to his story, he was escorted out of Cuba on a government plane. He believes in the dream of America, which is what I believe in."

The sheer magnitude of Fernandez’s investment in Scott’s future ensures that this story will be around for a long time.

On Monday, the Florida Democratic Party said: "It really pays off to be Rick Scott’s top campaign donor."

"Coral Gables billionaire Mike Fernandez strongly backing Gov. Rick Scott". See also "" and "".

Disney profits soar, unions negotiate for $10.10 minimum

"The last time Walt Disney World and its largest group of unions negotiated a new contract, the resort was slogging through a year in which attendance sank and Disney's broader parks-and-resorts division posted its lowest operating profit in half a decade. Nearly four years later, the two sides are back at the bargaining table. Disney World is drawing record attendance, and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recently announced the highest annual operating profit in its history. The more than 36,000 workers represented by the Service Trades Council — everyone from bus drivers to costumed-character performers — have noticed." "As Disney profits soar, unions negotiate for higher pay".

Changes in Florida election law

"A Florida Senate committee Monday moved forward with a bill that would make a few changes in Florida election law, including putting new restrictions on drop-off locations for absentee ballots and allowing online voter registration in the state." "Voting bill would allow on-line registration; restrict absentee drop-off locations".

Tucker Carlson, the best the NFIB could do?

"Besides the reception with Scott, the NFIB program features Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, state CFO Jeff Atwater, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, Weatherford and Rep, Mike Hill, R-Pensacola. Media figure Tucker Carlson is scheduled to meet with some members of the NFIB on Tuesday night." "Backing Rick Scott, NFIB Unveils 2014 Legislative Agenda".

Florida's Gender-Pay Gap

Nancy Smith writes that "Female income inequity is real and it's wrong, but women aren't going to win the war for equal pay by blatantly lying about it." "Feminist Group Won't Win by Lying about Florida's Gender-Pay Gap".

Raw political courage

"Senate backs tax holiday smaller than Scott wants".

"Ana Alliegro, arrested in Nicaragua last week, appeared for the first time Monday in Miami federal court, where prosecutors made sure she remained incarcerated amid an ongoing campaign-finance scandal tied to former congressman David Rivera."

According to an indictment, Alliegro and unnamed “co-conspirators” helped steer almost $82,000 in unreported contributions to the campaign of another co-conspirator, Justin Lamar Sternad, in a 2012 Democratic congressional primary. . . .

Outspoken and aggressive, Alliegro, a self-described Republican “bad girl,” said nothing Monday in federal court, where she appeared tired. . . .

In the Democratic race against Joe Garcia, Sternad had no political experience, no political name and little money. That’s where Alliegro came in, according to Sternad and the indictment. As early as May 2012, Alliegro allegedly began steering money to him and running his campaign. In June, $11,500 in cash was deposited into his campaign account. He then paid his $10,440 qualifying fee with the money.

Sternad never reported the source of funds, a violation of federal law. The indictment says Alliegro told him to lie on campaign-finance reports.

The bulk of the illegal money — some of it cash — was used to underwrite the cost of mailers, one of which savaged Garcia over his divorce. It’s unclear where Alliegro, who isn’t personally wealthy, got the $82,000 to spend on Sternad’s long-shot campaign.

The indictment says that, as early as July 2012, Alliegro and an unnamed co-conspirator met with a graphic designer to develop Sternad’s mailers.

A month later, as the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald noticed Sternad’s suspicious campaign filings — because they lacked details about the source of funds — two campaign vendors said in interviews that Rivera and Alliegro were behind Sternad’s campaign.

The FBI began investigating the case after the Herald articles.

"Ex-Rep. David Rivera’s friend pleads not guilty to federal charges".

Saunders Looks Safe

"After surviving one of the most contested Florida House races in 2012, Joe Saunders can expect a much easier assignment in 2014. The Orange County Democrat gained some political experience during his time with Equality Florida but he turned his eyes to running for elected office in 2012, setting his sights on the House seat Darren Soto was leaving as he ran for the Senate. After a contested primary with attorney Shayan Elahi, who spent more than $60,000, Saunders moved on to the general election to take on Republican Marco Pena, an executive at Florida Hospital." "Joe Saunders Looks Safe in November After Dramatic House Win in 2012".

Crist out-raised Scott in February

"Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist out-raised Gov. Rick Scott in February, the first time the former governor has out-grossed the current one in the four months they’ve been officially running against each other."

Scott’s down month might be a brief lull. He is slated to attend a $25,000-a-head fundraiser with former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the South Florida mansion of health-care executive Mike Fernandez of Coral Gables (who has given $1.25 million to Scott’s re-election).

And the spring is when the governor has the most leverage over the fate of bills, a time-tested method for opening the wallets of companies and contributors with business in the Legislature.

"Crist's $1.1 million haul bests Scott".