Friday, October 10, 2014

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

Debates could alter the outcome of the Florida governor's race

"The first of three critical hours that could alter the outcome of the Florida governor's race is [tonight], when Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist face off. . . . Adding even more potential for drama: the stakes are heightened because the candidates are in a too-close-to-call contest.

The two organizations that aggregate poll results show, in effect, a tie: RealClearPolitics has Crist ahead by 1.4 percentage points; HuffPost Pollster has Scott ahead by 0.8." "In close governor's race, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott prepare to go head to head."

See also "Scott, Crist to meet in first gubernatorial debate," "Scott, Crist face off in first of three debates tonight" and "Five things to watch in the debates for Florida governor."

Meanwhile, "Adrian Wyllie sues to participate in Fla. governor’s race debate with Gov. Rick Scott, Charlie Crist," "Libertarian Wyllie sues to join gubernatorial debate" and "Libertarian Wyllie sues to get into Florida governor debate."

Atwater faces challenge

"With the neck-and-neck governor’s race getting all the attention, there hasn’t been much press on the 2014 contest for chief financial officer of the state of Florida. " "CFO Atwater faces challenge from public finances veteran."


"By Attacking Scott Instead of Bondi, Sheldon Waves a White Flag in AG Bid."

FlaGOP pays "lip service" about minority-voter outreach

"The Florida branch of the NAACP is holding its statewide convention in Panama City this weekend, and one of the highlights of the annual soiree is a candidate forum slated for Friday night."

Despite much lip service from both parties about minority-voter outreach, no Republican candidates agreed to appear at the event. . . .

Crist, a lifetime member of the NAACP, is slated to appear at a gala dinner on Saturday night.

"Backroom Briefing: No-Shows for the NAACP."

"Senators Take Sides"

"Senators Take Sides in Florida Governor's Race."

"Poor choices"

The Miami Herald editors: "Florida is giving us the spectacle of its 44th governor, Charlie Crist, trying to get his job back from the 45th, Rick Scott. Voters don’t seem to care much for either." "Poor choices in Fla. governor’s race."

Scott "sweetness offensive"?

Nancy Smith: "Rick Scott's campaign people aren't going to listen to me -- heck, my own kids don't even do that -- but here comes my advice anyway: Go on an all-out, total-market sweetness offensive." "Psst, Gov. Scott: Show Voters Your Good Work -- and Your Class."

GOP front group surprises no one

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced on Thursday it was backing Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, the Republican challenger, over U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in what is expected to be a tightly contested race." "Joe Garcia's Team Fights Back After US Chamber Supports Carlos Curbelo."

Bondi's "spurious and self-serving" explanations

John Romano picks apart Bondi's "vigorous and vacuous arguments against gay marriage. Bondi has repeatedly stated that hers is not a personal crusade but rather her responsibility as the state's top law enforcement official. This argument would carry much greater weight if the Attorney General did not pick and choose which laws and constitutional amendments to aggressively enforce."

Florida's voters also recently passed a constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to avoid partisan politics when redrawing districts. A recent court case indicated lawmakers ignored that law and mysteriously deleted pertinent documents. There were also indications party operatives falsely submitted a map under a college student's name to avoid detection.

The Attorney General has not seemed overly concerned with those abuses.

She has also largely ignored constitutional issues involving the Sunshine Law, school vouchers once ruled illegal by the state Supreme Court and corporate pollution laws.

On the other hand, she has aggressively defended such partisan issues as warrantless searches, prison privatization and a flawed voter purge.

The Attorney General's explanations seem spurious and self-serving, and are completely incompatible with her actions in other matters. She should drop all appeals immediately. Further delay might indicate a preference to wait until after the upcoming election, which would amount to a despicable abuse of power.

"The curious case of Pam Bondi vs. Common Sense." More: "Bondi celebrates her 'tremendous' defeat on gay marriage."

"Hispanic voters strongly back Charlie Crist"

"Democrat Charlie Crist holds a sizable 53-29 percent lead over Gov. Rick Scott among Hispanic voters, according to a new poll that indicates this fastest growing segment of the electorate doesn't like Republican positions on immigration, Medicaid and the minimum wage."

The poll, released as the two major candidates square off Friday in a debate hosted by Spanish-language network Telemundo, is the latest spot of good survey news for Crist.

The Democrat appears to be gaining ground on Scott and edges the Republican in four statewide likely voter surveys released this week. Crist's lead in those general polls, though, is inside the polls' margins of error, meaning the race is pretty much a tie.

The horse-race question aside, the Latino Decisions/La Raza survey bucks some conventional wisdom when it comes to the importance of immigration to Hispanic voters.

At 22 percent, immigration is the second-most important issue behind fixing the economy (24 percent) and it's virtually tied with health care (21 percent). Creating more jobs and handling unemployment ranks fourth at 19 percent. The poll's margin of error: 4 percentage points.

Part of the reason immigration isn't such a high concern for Florida Hispanics is that the two largest groups, Cubans and Puerto Ricans, aren't as affected by the issue. Cubans get a special pathway to citizenship if they land on U.S. soil and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

"Poll: Hispanic voters strongly back Charlie Crist, Medicaid expansion."

"Taddeo rips Scott on women's rights"

"Annette Taddeo, Lt. Gov. candidate on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket, blasted Rick Scott on women's rights while talking to reporters before a Women-For-Crist rally at the University of Central Florida, Thursday." "Lt. Gov. candidate Taddeo rips Scott on women's rights in Orlando."

Scott's "complex web of finances"

"A candidate running against Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit that claims the governor is using his complex web of finances to shield assets from the public." "Lawsuit: Gov. Rick Scott shields more than $200 million in assets."

"Ballot tampering scheme"

"Miami-Dade County prosecutors accused the two men, who worked for Homestead mayoral candidate Mark Bell, of filling out four absentee ballots against voters’ wishes." "2 arrested in ballot tampering scheme during Homestead election last year." See also "Homestead family: We were victims of ballot fraud."

"UC benefits system "plagued by problems"

"Florida’s new unemployment benefits system continues to be plagued by problems that keep the jobless from getting timely payments." "As anniversary of Florida unemployment site approaches, benefits still lag."