Friday, August 08, 2014

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

"You will have no conversations with political consultants"

Jeff Henderson: "After almost 14 years since the 2000 presidential election, Florida politics are still the stuff of late night TV fodder. Jokes about hanging chads and confused ballots remain par for the course and, by striking down the congressional districts, Judge Terry Lewis is setting up more material for comedians." "Sorry, Legislature! Congressional Redistricting Might Not Be an Easy Fix."

"House and Senate panels filed identical congressional maps Thursday that make changes to seven districts, including those found unconstitutional by a Tallahassee-area judge."

The map was filed on the first day of a special session called after Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled last month that two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts were drawn to favor Republicans, a violation of the 2010 anti-gerrymandering law passed by voters.

On the first day of the special session, attorneys for the Legislature updated members of House and Senate redistricting committees. The maps are set to be considered Friday.

In his ruling, Lewis found lawmakers made a “mockery” of the redistricting process by allowing political consultants to have a role. As a result, day one of the special session included a clear message about partisanship.

“You will have no conversations with congressional members … you will have no conversations with political consultants,” said state Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Trinity Republican chairing the House redistricting committee.

His comments came during a more than two-hour hearing during which members of the redistricting panels were briefed by attorneys who represented the Legislature during the redistricting lawsuit.

"Legislature ready to look at redrawn map of Congressional districts." The new maps "would shift the contours of seven U.S. House districts spread throughout Central Florida."
The new map would shift the city of Sanford out of Brown's seat, and remove an "appendage" of voters in Orange County out of Webster's. It would drop the black voting-age population of Brown's seat from 50 percent down to 48.1 percent, and shave some GOP voters from Webster's seat.

But it also changes the maps of five other congressional seats, within 23 counties. Lawmakers said they made those changes in order to solve overall compactness issues with their original plan.

"Legislature convenes rushed redistricting special session." See also "Florida Legislature opens session with plan for modest redistricting map changes."

Blind trust ruling on appeal

"A former aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew is appealing a ruling that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly. Jim Apthorp challenged the state law that allows blind trusts. The only public official who is using one is Gov. Rick Scott." "Appeal filed in blind trust case involving Scott."

New TV Spots

Kevin Derby: "Rick Scott, Charlie Crist Break Out New TV Spots."

Florida on track to have $1B surplus

"Economists on Thursday slightly lowered their forecast of tax dollars flowing into the state, but still project lawmakers to be on track to have at least a $1 billion surplus for the next budget." "State revenue filing fluctuates."

Crist campaign buzzless to many Dems

Marc Caputo thinks "Charlie Crist lost the summer."

The Democrat started his campaign in the fall with a bang, a double-digit lead in some polls. That margin has whimpered into a tie with Gov. Rick Scott, a result of the Republican’s mammoth ad campaign ($20 million since spring!).

But Democrats are privately grumbling that Crist, too, bears some blame. His campaign is buzzless to many Democrats.



Were it not for Scott’s self-inflicted wounds and likeability problems, Crist would look doomed right now and Democrats would be in full-blown panic mode at the beginning of August.

Instead they’re just nervous. Just like Republicans are about Scott.

“There’s worry,” says a top South Florida Democratic fundraiser and Crist supporter. “There’s not much excitement right now with Charlie.”

"Blame three major missteps:"
- The debate debate

- The parched grassroots.

- The black roots.

"How Charlie Crist lost the summer."

Traveling laff riot

"Nine Stops Across Florida Planned by Paul Ryan."

Meanwhile, Widfire Firefighters go another year without a raise

"The head of Gov. Rick Scott’s business-recruitment efforts received a $120,000 bonus Thursday. The Enterprise Florida board of directors approved the bonus for president and Chief Executive Officer Gray Swoope, whose base salary received a $45,000 increase, to $275,000, in October." "State business recruiter’s bonus is $120K."

"Candidate chicanery"

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida voters in 1998 passed a constitutional amendment that opened primary elections to all voters when no candidate from an opposing party qualifies to run. Allowing all registered voters to participate in those primaries is the right thing to do."

Unfortunately the law didn’t account for write-in candidates, an oversight that is once again being exploited by faux candidates with no realistic chance of winning even a sliver of the vote. By signing a few forms to get on the ballot, the write-ins effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters by triggering an unnecessary general election. . . .

Write-in candidates should have to run in the open primary. At the very least, they should have to pay a filing fee or get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, as legitimate candidates have to do.

"Editorial: End the write-in candidate chicanery."

Crist challenges Scott on Gay Marriage

"Charlie Crist: Rick Scott and Pam Bondi should not defend Florida’s gay marriage ban."

"The latest statewide silliness"

"The latest statewide silliness involves questions raised by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign about Democratic opponent Charlie Crist's domicile." "Backroom Briefing: Looking for Charlie and Taking Out the Cat Boxes."

"His incarceration was cut short at the discretion of the warden"

"Convicted Broward fraudster Alan Mendelsohn is out of prison — and able to practice medicine again after the state returned his license last week."

Mendelsohn, a Hollywood eye doctor who raised millions for Florida politicians, served two years and six months in federal prison for his role in a highly publicized political corruption case. . . .

Before his arrest, Mendelsohn was a Tallahassee power broker whose influence extended across the state.

He served on former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team and was the chief fundraiser for the Florida Medical Association’s political committee.

In 2010, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government by failing to report some $700,000 in income he had secretly diverted from campaign donations and lobbying clients.

He spent the money on a mistress, a luxury car, home renovations and his children’s private high school tuition, according to court records.

Mendelsohn was sentenced to four years in prison. His incarceration was cut short at the discretion of the warden, his attorney said.

"Former Broward power broker released from prison, gets medical license back."

Crist not worried Dems might spurn him

"The former governor seeking reelection — now as a Democrat — told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that he’s the anti-Rick Scott." "Charlie Crist says he’s not worried Democratic voters might spurn him."

Editors love them vouchers

The Tampa Trib editors have never seen a voucher it didn't love: "Editorial: Families deserve education options."

House candidate involved with fraudsters

"State House candidate Mike Miller of Winter Park was involved in helping save the contract of a company whose owners were convicted of fraud in federal court in a case arising from foreign language training at MacDill Air Force Base."

MiLanguages was a firm started by Eduardo Blanchet and Daniel Guillan as a way to secure a $100 million small business contract they were not eligible to bid for, according to a 2012 news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Tampa announcing their three-year federal prison sentences.

A separate Orlando-based company owned by the two had already secured a $50 million contract in 2002 to teach foreign languages at MacDill. That contract stipulated that companies related to the first firm were not eligible for additional small business contracts.

To get around that, Blanchet and Guillan formed MiLanguages and established “sham” ownership — altering corporate records and state filings, the indictment alleged — but maintained financial and day-to-day control.

Along with the prison sentences, the court ordered that the two had to return nearly $11 million to the federal government.

"Candidate steered work from MacDill contractor after owners’ conviction."