Sunday, July 06, 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.

Minor Party and NPAs outnumber GOP registrants in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Orange

"Since 2010, Florida’s voter roll has expanded by more than 500,000 voters, to 11.7 million, and nearly 90 percent of the growth is in unaffiliated voters. During the same period, the size of the two major parties has remained relatively stagnant."

Combined with voters who belong to minor parties, no-party voters now outnumber Republicans in the state’s big three counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, in addition to Orange, the heart of the I-4 corridor in Orlando.

They account for 3 million voters or one of every four voters in Florida, making them potentially decisive in a close 2014 race for governor — if they vote.

"[T]he big question about Florida’s rapidly expanding pool of no-party voters: Will they vote? By refusing to join a party, they have made clear they are turned off by partisanship."
Many unaffiliated voters are young and registering for the first time. Of the 5,000 newly-registered NPA voters in Hillsborough County in the first four months of this year, nearly one-third are 25 or younger. . . .

The growth of no-party voters is most obvious in South Florida.

In Miami-Dade, Republicans now comprise 28 percent of the electorate, compared to 29 percent who belong to no party or a minor party, and 43 percent who call themselves Democrats. . . .

Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who closely studies voting patterns, said the biggest drop in early voting between the 2008 and 2012 elections in Florida was among voters of no party. He said that’s because the major parties direct political messages at their own voters, not independents.

“They’re not getting steered to cast absentee ballots. They’re not getting mobilized on Election Day,” Smith said. “If you’re registering as an NPA, the two parties are less likely to think that you can be persuaded."

"Big surge in no-party voters could reshape Florida politics."

Emails, text messages and documents expose Hollingsworth dealings

"Hollingsworth became one of Scott’s most trusted advisers, a position he used to influence the administration’s rejection of billions in federal high-speed rail money, then later lobby for a rail project that would benefit his employer, emails, text messages and administration documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau show. Hollingsworth, through his office, declined to comment." "Scott adviser against high-speed rail lobbies for new employer’s plan."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Few Fireworks on the Week of the Fourth." See also "Arrivals and Departures" and "Week in Review for June 30-July 3."

Does Crist risk energizing the conservative Cuban exile community?

"When Charlie Crist went to Miami's Little Havana recently, the Democratic candidate for governor stood before a crowd and said what few politicians have in decades of scrounging for votes in the Cuban-American neighborhood: End the trade embargo against Cuba."

In a sign of just how much the climate has shifted, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who backed trade limits when she ran for president in 2008, is now calling for the embargo to be lifted. She described it as "Castro's best friend" and said it hampers "our broader agenda across Latin America."
"Crist's campaign will be the first statewide test of whether the trade restrictions are still a live wire for politicians in Florida, home to 70 percent of the nation's Cubans."
Overall, polls of the community have confirmed a tilt toward engagement, with the most recent survey by Florida International University finding Cuban-Americans in Miami split over the embargo, which was a near record, and 71 percent saying it had not worked either very well or at all. . . .

But some scholars and political operatives say Crist risks energizing Republicans in the conservative exile community while attracting little support from younger Cuban-Americans and newer arrivals, who tend to be less politically active.

The recent Florida International University poll found that less than one-third of those who have arrived since 1995 are U.S. citizens. Voter registration rates among newer arrivals lag their older counterparts by double digits.

"Democrats courting Florida's changing Cuban voters."

Secret . . . secret

"Scott's secret plan to clean up the environment?"

Same-sex Wedding Industry Boom

"Wedding industry businesses and tourism bureaus in the area are already preparing in case the state's ban on same-sex marriage in overturned." "Same-sex wedding boon expected if Florida's ban falls."

"Outraged" over Common Core

"Laura Zorc, co-founder of the 15,000-member grass-roots group Florida Parents Against Common Core, said the test looks like other Common Core standardized tests the state rejected. 'I’m outraged,' Zorc said." "Common Core foes ‘outraged’ over FCAT’s replacement."

"A Latvala pawn"?

It is no secret that Jack Latvala is floating around the margins of the Ellyn Bogdanoff, Maria Sachs race:

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican whose political committee has collected more than $1 million, has pledged to help Bogdanoff raise money for a battle some insiders estimate could cost between $2.5 million and $5 million for each side. But Sen. Andy Gardiner, who will take over as president after the 2014 elections and has been raising money for Senate races for two years, has decided to keep his cash on ice in the District 34 match, at least until later in the election season, according to sources close to Gardiner and Bogdanoff. Gardiner, R-Orlando, may be prepared to unfold his wallet if Bogdanoff shows she can get within reach of Sachs in late September or October, they said. But for now, Gardiner is unwilling to risk party resources on a seat that seems to him to be a longshot.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida last week, Sachs accused Bogdanoff of essentially being a Latvala pawn.

“Sen. Latvala has a personal interest in the outcome of this race. He came back to be president. Whatever he can do to achieve that end, he will,” said Sachs. “I am a voice for the people in the district, not a vote for any particular person to become Senate president.”

Bogdanoff acknowledges she’s in Latvala’s corner but said that’s not her reason for running. She “absolutely loves public policy” and believes “it’s way cooler to be on the inside” to shape public policy.

“Am I a vote for him? Well, yeah. He’s my friend. Whether he wins or loses, he’s got me as a friend and he’s got me as a loyal supporter of whatever he aspires to do because he has been a loyal supporter of what I aspire to do. That’s what friends do,” she said. “It’s very rare in this process and, when you find it, you don’t let it go.”

"High-stakes Senate rematch pits old foes."

Scott's whine backfires

"You could say that in World Cup terms, it was 1-nil, Mr. Scott over Florida gubernatorial challenger Charlie Crist. But take a closer look at the scoreboard." "Scott arrives at Daytona, but Crist shadow lingers."

"Empty political gestures"?

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott has mounted a sweeping campaign to honor one of the state’s most important voting groups: veterans. . . . His critics among the Democratic Party call these moves empty political gestures and challenge the substance of Scott’s work on behalf of veterans." "Scott’s good will to veterans challenged by Democrats."

Why not?

Beth Kassab: "Nan Rich v. Charlie Crist. Why not debate?"

"The toxic for-profit education mess"

Fred Grimm argues that the for-profit education business is "a business plan based on the kind of lowdown ethics that brought us subprime mortgages."

Just as Florida was ground zero when it came to peddling subprime mortgages, we’re up to our ears in the toxic for-profit education mess.
"A two-year investigation into for-profit education business by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions found that 'when students withdraw, as hundreds of thousands do each year, they are left with high monthly payments but without a commensurate increase in earning power from new training and skills.'"
It’s pretty easy to understand why. The Senate report found that many of the for-profit college operations “fail to make the necessary investments in student support services that have been shown to help students succeed in school and afterward.” Senate investigators reported that in 2010, for-profit colleges devoted an average of 22.7 percent of their revenue on “marketing, advertising, recruiting, and admissions” while spending just 17.2 percent on actual education. These operations claimed a bigger chunk of their revenues as profit, 19.4 percent, than they spent on teaching.

The government’s interest in this highly profitable genre of private enterprise is pretty obvious. It’s not so private, given that 15 of nation’s leading publicly traded for-profit college corporations receive 86 percent of their revenues from taxpayer dollars by exploiting federal student loans or Pell Grants or the GI Bill. For-profits enroll just 13 percent of higher-education students, but take 25 percent of the total amount of federal loans and grants distributed each year.

Taxpayers aren’t getting much for their money. Senate investigators claimed that more than 60 percent of the students drop out without so much as a two-year degree. Instead of high-paying jobs, former students often come away from for-profits with only high-interest debts. The default rate on federal education loans among for-profit college students runs five times higher than nonprofit colleges. . . .

These aren’t merely scandalous endeavors, they’re scandalous endeavors financed with public money.

"For-profit schools forsake students."