Friday, July 11, 2014

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

Judge: "Secret, organized campaign" by GOP operatives subverted the redistricting process

Update: "The ruling is not expected to disrupt this year's elections because the Legislature is expected to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. But ultimately the changes could affect the political careers of Florida's congressional delegation, which is currently dominated by Republicans." "Judge rules Florida Legislature broke laws on maps." See also "Judge Strikes Down Congressional Map" ("this year's elections will likely proceed normally.")

"In a highly anticipated ruling, a Leon County [circuit court] judge struck down a map of the state's congressional districts drawn by the Legislature in 2012, potentially throwing the political future of the state into turmoil." "Judge rules Florida Legislature broke law on district maps."

The judge ruled `"that the Legislature allowed for a 'secret, organized campaign' by partisan operatives to subvert the redistricting process in violation of the state Constitution."

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two of the state’s 27 districts are invalid and must be redrawn, along with any other districts affected by them, to bring the map into compliance with the state’s new Fair District amendments.

The 41-page ruling, issued late Thursday, invalidates the entire congressional map and raises questions now about whether the map will be redrawn before the November elections or revised later. The case, brought by a coalition led by the League of Women Voters, is expected to be appealed and ultimately decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

"Any change in the political lines for Congress would have a ripple effect on other races, though not until the 2016 election cycle."
Lewis rejected challenges to districts in South Florida and Tampa Bay, but said that District 5, held by Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, and District 10, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Park “will need to be redrawn, as will any other districts affected thereby.”

The judge agreed with the coalition’s prime argument: that Republican legislators and staffers collaborated with political consultants to create “a shadow redistricting process” that protected incumbents and the GOP. . . .

Lewis said political consultants “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting” while “going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it.”

“They were successful in their efforts to influence the redistricting process and the congressional plan under review here,” he wrote. “And they might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the Plaintiffs’ determined efforts to uncover it in this case.

"Judge throws out Florida's congressional map." See also "Judge: State congressional map violates Fair Districts standards" and "Judge Rules Florida Legislature Broke Laws on Maps."

As one pundit put it, "Elections in the Sunshine State are never easy." "Florida Has To Redraw Its Congressional Districts Because, Florida."

A small crook after all

"Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana's ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida's schools chief last year." "Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement."

Wooing Florida Hispanic Voters

Kevin Derby: "On Thursday, the Florida Democratic Party launched a new television ad in Spanish which will be running in Orlando, Tampa and Miami. The ad attacks Gov. Rick Scott on education." "Gubernatorial Campaigns Look to Woo Florida Hispanic Voters."

Lie down with dogs

"Diaz-Balart blasts Republican leadership on immigration reform," saying "it was 'highly irresponsible' for Congress not to act on the issue."

Murphy in the clear as GOPer "young guns" flop

"Despite winning one of the closest congressional races in 2012, Patrick Murphy is increasingly in the clear for 2014 from Republicans as events of this week clearly show."

Things got even more dreary for the Republicans this week. The NRCC released its final round of “Young Guns” who have the funds and momentum to knock off Democrat incumbents or pick up open seats. None of the hopefuls looking to take down Murphy made an appearance on the list -- a bad sign for what is supposed to be a competitive district.
"Republicans Backing Away From Challenging Patrick Murphy."

"His only opposition -- his only enemy -- was himself"

Nancy Smith: "Nan Rich won one Thursday. She didn't even have to be in the Biltmore Hotel's Granada Room. She didn't have to touch a microphone. She won because Charlie Crist addressed the Florida media brain trust unobstructed. In all his egotistical glory. His only opposition -- his only enemy -- was himself." "10-20-Life and Charlie."

Crist on the attack in SoFla

"The former governor attacked Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure on everything from education to missed opportunities to tap federal money." "Crist speaks to Florida press group in Miami."

"Florida can expect a close gubernatorial contest"

"A new poll shows Florida can expect a close gubernatorial contest in November with independents starting to break Gov. Rick Scott's way."

The poll of likely voters from WFLA and Survey USA finds Scott with a small lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite in next month’s Democratic primary despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican.

Scott takes 45 percent in the poll of likely voters while Crist takes 43 percent. While 7 percent back other candidates, 5 percent remain undecided. A Survey USA poll released on June 24 had Scott with 43 percent and Crist at 42 percent.

"Rick Scott Takes the Lead Over Charlie Crist in New Poll, Thanks to Independents."

"NRA gives Rick Scott thumbs up"

"More pro-gun bills have been signed into law in the past four years than during any other recent single governor's term, says the National Rifle Association, which sent a message to members applauding Gov. Rick Scott for setting the record." "NRA gives Rick Scott thumbs up for signatures on pro-gun bills."

Meanwhile, "Crist says state should review gun laws."

Rudderless Rubio "demanding religious freedom"

"Rubio, who is a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is using his Reclaim America PAC to gather the petitions demanding religious freedom." "Marco Rubio and Debbie Wasserman Schultz Respond to Hobby Lobby Decision."

Scott accused of misusing cops

"A former Broward County police officer is contending that Florida Gov. Rick Scott violated the state’s election laws. The complaint alleges that Scott broke the law when he had on-duty law enforcement officers stand with him during a campaign event held this week in Tampa." "Complaint filed over Gov. Scott’s use of police in Tampa."

"The Democrats are emphasizing that the complaint was filed by a 'retired Broward County law enforcement professional and former Marine' and downplaying Jeff Marano's role as president of the Broward chapter of the police union Police Benevolent Association." "Democrats, Charlie Crist use Broward police union boss to go after Rick Scott."

Always nice to see the perpetually anti-union Tribune Company using the term "boss" to describe a democratically elected union officer.

Ethics complaint games

"It’s the latest weapon in the fight to win the governor’s seat: Don’t like something your opponent did? File a complaint with a state agency. At least eight ethics- and elections-law complaints have been filed in the past four months, mostly by campaign surrogates." "Official complaints now part of campaign toolbox."

Here's the most recent: "Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist failed to accurately report his income on his financial disclosure forms, according to an ethics complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint, brought by Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, says Crist misrepresented his financial relationship with the St. Joe Company, a Panhandle-based real estate and timber firm that paid Crist to serve on its board. The complaint also blasts Crist for failing to report any income from his own consulting company, Charlie Crist, LLC." "Ethics complaint: Crist failed to disclose income, leases."