Sunday, May 04, 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 is nowhere near closing the sale"

The Miami Herald editors write that the "Quinnipiac poll released last week showing Gov. Rick Scott trailing Charlie Crist by 10 points, 48 to 38, offers fresh evidence that Florida’s voters are far from happy with the state’s chief executive and may be ready to make a change."

If Mr. Scott wants to turn those numbers around, he must at a minimum be aware of how he got into this fix. Part of it involves early blunders that plunged his approval rating to 29 percent at one point.
"Convincing voters that he can do better in serving all the voters of the state is Mr. Scott’s principal challenge, but this race is no sure thing for anyone."
And why is Charlie Crist in the race if he was so eager to trade Tallahassee for Washington, D.C., in 2010, when he ran for the U.S. Senate instead of seeking reelection? Then he switched from Republican to Independent — and now he’s a Democrat! Is he interested more in governing or in getting even with old foes in the Republican Party?

Mr. Crist is closer to Florida’s political center than Mr. Scott, but he’s nowhere near closing the sale. He demands to debate Gov. Scott, but won’t offer the same courtesy to state Sen. Nan Rich, the other Democrat in the race, whose underfinanced campaign is a long shot. At last report, Mr. Crist had raised $7.7 million, compared to her relatively paltry $540,000.

That says a lot about the viability of her candidacy, or lack of it. Where Sen. Rich is dead right, though, is in attacking Mr. Crist’s unwillingness to debate her. Mr. Crist should quit dodging. What’s he afraid of?

Gov. Scott lost ground in the first part of this year despite spending about $7 million in campaign ads in the past two months. Clearly, he has a lot of work to do if he expects to regain the trust of Floridians by Election Day in November.

It’s far too early to place bets. Election Day is exactly half a year away, giving Mr. Scott time to get out of trouble. He is going to have the biggest campaign chest, and the race will almost surely tighten, but both he and his challengers have to show Florida’s voters that they won’t disappoint once in office. And it’s time for Floridians to start paying attention to the race.

"Victory is no sure thing for Gov. Scott or Charlie Crist".

Deep thinkers

"The Florida Legislature closed its 2014 regular session Friday approving discounted tuition for undocumented immigrants, medical marijuana for epileptic children, tax subsidies for sports-stadium builders and an election-year package of tax cuts for Gov. Rick Scott. In a year with recovering state coffers, lawmakers approved a $77.1 billion budget that's about $2.5 billion larger than the current fiscal year's." "Lawmakers wrap up 2014 session".

See also "Lawmakers Approve Budget and Adjourn Session", "'More thoughtful session': Legislature switches gears this year", "Reform of Florida child-welfare system one of several bills sent to Scott on last day", "Schools emerge as big winner from session" and "Sales tax holidays, discounts cap Scott’s $500M tax cut plan".

The Tampa Trib editors: "Editorial: Governor should veto bill raising speed limits" and "Editorial: No gambling expansion, but tax cuts and a shot at college for immigrants".

"Florida lawmakers channeled their inner libertarian"

"On some issues this year, Florida lawmakers channeled their inner libertarian." "Lawmakers show Libertarian bent in election-year session".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: 'Sine Die'".

Aren't we special

Only Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti and the U.S. have a constitutional right to bear arms. "Sen. Marco Rubio: U.S. stands alone with its Second Amendment rights". Aren't we special.

Another line of duty death

"FHP trooper, 2 others struck by truck, killed".

"'An abomination' and a waste of taxpayer dollars"

"Leon County school officials acknowledged findings of a statewide grand jury that labeled the use of construction managers 'an abomination' and a waste of taxpayer dollars but continued awarding contracts to them anyway." "Leon schools kept construction process in place after warnings".

Raw political courage

"Fla. Gov. to tout tax cuts approved by legislators".

"The latest death-chamber debacle"

Carl Hiaasen: "No species in nature kills its own kind more often or more creatively than humans do, yet we cannot seem to devise a reliably swift, painless method of capital punishment."

Oklahoma’s bungled execution of Clayton Lockett is the latest death-chamber debacle. After receiving a supposedly lethal injection, the convicted murderer began writhing, mumbling and tried to rise off the gurney. . . .

When Lockett squirmed back toward consciousness, the execution was stopped. Prison officers said he died of a heart attack 27 minutes later. By that time the blinds to the chamber window had been shut to prevent the witnesses from seeing Lockett’s continued suffering. . . .

We’ve tried all kinds of ways to kill — firing squads, the gallows, gas chambers and electric chairs — with mixed and sometimes grisly results.

One of many nationwide nicknamed “Old Sparky,” Florida’s electric chair was retired in 2000 after several cinematic screw-ups. Real sparks and smoke came from the face mask of Jesse Tafero while he was being executed for the murder of a Highway Patrol trooper. Years later, inmate Pedro Medina’s head actually caught fire while he was strapped in the chair.

In both cases, prison officials said Old Sparky had functioned flawlessly, and blamed the unexpected combustion on sponges that were placed beneath the inmates’ death caps. There was much debate about whether the men died before, during or after the scorching.

The chair was eventually rebuilt to support the bulk of Allen Lee Davis, a monster who’d murdered a pregnant woman and her children in Jacksonville. In 1999 he became the last person to die by state electrocution in Florida.

Blood dripped from Davis’ nose during the procedure. An autopsy also revealed burns to his head, leg and groin, the gruesome death photos provoking such worldwide outrage that the state mothballed the electric chair and switched to lethal injection. . . .

In one of two incidents during 2006, a misplaced catheter prolonged for half an hour the consciousness — and agony — of Florida Death Row inmate Angel Diaz.

"Cruel and unusual ways of execution".

The Gainesville Sun editorial board warns that, as "Florida tries to speed up the rate of executions, evidence is mounting that the death penalty can lead to prisoners being tortured and innocent people being killed."

If the death penalty can't be administered without prisoners being tortured and innocent people being killed, speeding up the rate of executions is the last thing that the state should be doing.
"Death penalty pause".

"David Rivera's madcap political pratfalls"

Fred Grimm has a little fun at David Rivera's expense today: "We’ve all missed David Rivera's madcap political pratfalls since voters in the 26th Congressional District bounced him out of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. Rivera had been a living manifestation of a Carl Hiaasen novel, except a Hiaasen novel goes for $26.95 hardback. U.S. Rep. Rivera served up his news pulp exploits for free, one of South Florida’s finest entertainment bargains."

Justin Lamar Sternad might not welcome Rivera’s comeback with quite as much enthusiasm as news reporters. The hapless Sternad, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations and is awaiting sentencing, must now endure a revival of the story painting him as the Rivera campaign’s hand-picked patsy.

The political neophyte seemed to have been conjured out of the murk back in 2012. Nobody had heard of Sternad when he filed to run for the District 26 seat. Sternad, a Republican, has since claimed that one of Rivera’s political operatives recruited him to run in the Democratic primary, paid his filing fee and secretly funded his campaign. The not-so-legal strategy was for Sternad to create a primary campaign distraction for Joe Garcia, the Republican Rivera’s likely general election opponent. (And eventual winner.)

Earlier this year, Sternad revised his 2012 federal election disclosure forms to explain how $81,486.15 happened to fall out of the sky and into his campaign. “The contribution was given to me, in cash, by a third party from Ana Alliegro. I later discovered that Ana Alliegro was working with David Rivera,” he wrote.

So how did David, kicking off his 2014 congressional campaign last week, explain Sternad and Alliegro and the election shenanigans of 2012? “Nobody cares about a fake campaign from two years ago,” he told the Mega TV host.

"Nobody but those lying newspaper reporters. And the occasional FBI agent."
But everybody cares about a femme fatale. The comeback of our favorite political bad boy is sure to revive interest in his entertaining, tempestuous buddy, the self-proclaimed “conservative bad girl,” Ana Sol Alliegro. I’ve seen her described as a “political consultant,” a terminology that's much too tame. Thank goodness Ana returned (with more than a little nudge from the FBI, judging by the handcuffs) from her sojourn in Nicaragua in time for David’s comeback campaign. David will need her special expertise.

Ana, denied bond, simmering in jail since her extradition on March 7, has had plenty of time to contrive a campaign strategy for her old friend. Perhaps she can vote by absentee ballot. With Ana’s help, David might carry her entire cellblock.

But harping on Ana and Justin’s not-so-excellent adventure would be misleading. There’s so much more to the David Rivera saga than a piddling $81,000 going into, as he put it, a “fake campaign” that nobody but a motley assortment of reporters and federal prosecutors find interesting.

Rivera’s unexpected candidacy brings back fond memories of so many other financial peculiarities.

Read about those "many other financial peculiarities" here: "David Rivera is running for office again because he misses the limelight".