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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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Older posts [back to 2002]

Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Republican Poll: Crist has commanding lead in primary

    Kevin Derby: "According to a poll from Gravis Marketing and conservative magazine Human Events released over the weekend, former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who joined the Democrats in December 2012, is holding a commanding lead over former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich for next month’s primary to see who will face off against Scott. . . . The poll finds Crist takes 68 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while Rich is far behind with 20 percent." "Charlie Crist Blowing Out Nan Rich in Primary Poll; Democrats Unsure on AG Candidate."

    Judge rules that pols can shield asset disclosure in "blind trusts"

    "A Florida judge on Monday ruled in favor of a law that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly."

    The ruling is a vindication for Gov. Rick Scott, who has kept his holdings in a trust for most of his time in office. This has allowed certain of his assets, such as his vacation home in Montana, to remain off his annual disclosure forms.

    Jim Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, filed a lawsuit in May contending that the use of a blind trust does not comply with a 1976 constitutional amendment that requires elected officials to annually disclose their finances.

    But Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper, in his ruling, states that the 2013 law that authorizes blind trusts is “reasonable” and “consistent” with the amendment because it helps politicians avoid conflicts of interest since the trust is managed by a third party.

    "Ruling supports politicians’ use of blind trusts." See also "Judge Upholds Blind Trust Law."

    HD 49

    "House 49 race pits 'Robocop' versus 'Coach P'."

    Siplin’s challengingThompson

    "Gary Siplin’s challenge to Geri Thompson should be competitive and even serve as a bellwether for how Democrats proceed in Tallahassee." "Geri Thompson and Gary Siplin Battle in Bellwether Primary for Democrats."

    Journalist mud fight

    After the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo penned "Dade Democratic dysfunction emerges in governor’s race, wherein he challenged a Sunshine State piece about Crist's running mate as "drip[ping] with hyperbole [and] misleading innuendo," Sunshine State news responded with this: "Don’t Close The Door On Annette Taddeo, Juan Cuba, And 537 Consulting Just Yet."

    The best of bad choices in redistricting fiasco

    The Tampa Tribune editors argue that the "conduct of the lawmakers behind this redistricting fiasco, and the looming primary, leave [Judge] Lewis with nothing but bad choices. But the best of those bad choices is to let the 2014 elections proceed. The voter-rights forces have won the war; they should resist engaging in another legal battle at this late date."

    They suggest that, after the districts "are redrawn, perhaps special elections can be held in the affected districts." "Keeping elections on track the best choice in redistricting mess."

The Blog for Monday, July 28, 2014

Florida Democrats convene circular firing squad

    Marc Caputo writes: "A governor’s race doesn’t seem to go by in Florida without Democrats ending up in a circular firing squad."
    A disgruntled Nan Rich supporter was the unwitting bullet this time.

    Angered with the way the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee treated her, party member Barbara Walters secretly filed an obscure tax complaint with the IRS last October — and then she leaked the information recently to a conservative-website columnist dedicated to tearing down Charlie Crist.

    The story targeted the county party’s leader, Annette Taddeo, just after Crist coincidentally chose her to be his running mate.

    IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related, Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo, read the Sunshine State News headline, which wondered why the mainstream news media wasn’t looking into the case.

    For starters, the complaint about employee classification for tax purposes is without merit, experts say.

    And the story’s headline is false.

    There is no IRS “investigation,” federal law-enforcement sources confirmed to the Miami Herald. Also, the story drips with hyperbole, misleading innuendo and, in one case, a statement that Walters said is “totally inaccurate.”

    “There were probably other ways I should have handled this,” Walters acknowledged on Sunday to the Herald.

    Walters’ fellow Democrats are furious. Regardless of the veracity of the story’s headline, it’s now out there. And it reinforces the “Democrats in disarray” narrative that looks all too familiar to a party that, despite superior numbers of voters, hasn’t won a governor’s race since 1994.

    Much more here: "Dade Democratic dysfunction emerges in governor’s race." The Sunshine State News responds here.

    Ex-lobbyist described by prosecutors as "bag man" in federal bribery trial

    "Ex-lobbyist Richard Candia, described by prosecutors as a 'bag man,' will testify against suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, above, at federal bribery trial." "Ex-lobbyist becomes star witness in bribery trial."

    Q Poll: Surprising Numbers on Medical, Even Recreational MJ Use

    The latest Florida Q poll has some interesting numbers regarding medical and even recreational marijuana use:

    Florida voters support legalized marijuana for medical use 88 - 10 percent, with support ranging from 83 - 14 percent among voters over 65 years old to 95 - 5 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    The lowest level of support is 80 - 19 percent among Republicans, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

    More surprisingly, "Sunshine State voters also support 55 - 41 percent 'allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use," or so-called "recreational marijuana.'"
    There is a wide gender gap and an even wider age gap: Men back recreational marijuana 61 - 36 percent while women back it by a narrow 49 - 45 percent. Voters 18 to 29 years old are ready to roll 72 - 25, while voters over 65 years old are opposed 59 - 36 percent.

    Support is 64 - 32 percent among Democrats and 55 - 40 percent among independent voters, with Republicans opposed 56 - 41 percent.

    "July 28, 2014 - Florida Backs Medical Marijuana 9-1, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Young Voters Lead Call For Recreational Marijuana" ("From July 17 - 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,251 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.")

    More: "Florida voters approve of medical marijuana," "Support for Medical Marijuana Soaring in Florida" and "Poll: Floridians ready to legalize medical marijuana ("The poll also found that 55 percent of voters would favor a straight legalization of pot for recreational uses, similar to states like Colorado.")"

    Right-Wing Radio, With a Florida Twist

    "Kevin Derby, senior political reporter for Sunshine State News and one of the state's most knowledgeable people on Florida political history, will hit Florida’s airwaves on a daily basis, starting today. His 'Sunshine State News Update' is set to launch on the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily conservative talk show, 'Ed Dean Radio Show.' Derby's 'Update" segment will air at 6 p.m.'" "Kevin Derby's 'Sunshine' Politics on Air Every Weekday."

    "Distortions and misrepresentations"

    William March writes that "Florida voters are being inundated by an unusually early and negative wave of advertising in the governor’s race, launched by Republican Gov. Rick Scott against his likely Democratic challenger Charlie Crist and drawing an immediate response from the Crist camp. The ads contain a number of distortions and misrepresentations of fact. Here’s one of the most obvious:"

    In repeated ads, Scott blames Crist for the 2008 global economic meltdown’s effects on Florida and takes credit for the effects of the recovery — a message that forms the basis of his campaign.

    Experts say neither governor had much to do with that history. The effects were largely determined by global or national forces and the state’s own, underlying economic structure.

    Crist, meantime, takes credit for aid that came to the state under the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan, helping prevent layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters. He also may be exaggerating the effects of that aid. In addition, the Florida Democratic Party is running ads castigating Scott for the kind of education cuts and tuition increases that also occurred under Crist.

    The state parties and Scott’s independent political committee Let’s Get To Work are airing many of the ads.

    They can accept donations of unlimited size, while the campaigns face contributions limits. Scott and the Republicans, with far more money, have run far more ads.

    March takes a close look at the ads here: "Scott, Crist ads malign, mislead."

The Blog for Saturday, July 26, 2014

Free hunting trips? Scott's not talking

    Short version: "Lawmakers can't accept free meals, drinks and trips from donors, but a loophole allows parties and political committees to do so. They can then pass on these gifts without detailing who gives or receives them — as long as the donation can be considered for a 'campaign purpose.'" "Fla GOP officials enjoy sugar industry ranch trips."

    More detail: "On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida’s power elite."

    As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America’s premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida’s sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses.

    Scott won’t answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch “in support of his political fundraising efforts.”

    Also keeping mum: state House leaders who have accepted similar trips in the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.

    Much, much more here: "Why won't Florida GOP leaders talk about trips to King Ranch in Texas?."

    What's wrong with Hillsborough?

    "HUD says Hillsborough gave housing money to rich."

    Chamber hacks in a dither: Floridians favor limits on carbon pollution

    "A majority of Florida voters polled say the favor limits on carbon pollution from power plants." "Florida poll: More than 7 in 10 voters concerned about climate change, back EPA action plan."

    Posey can't shake alligator rumors

    "Bill Posey Shows No Signs of Slowing Down," even in the face of those "alligator rumors."

    Weekly Roundup

    "Weekly Roundup: Different Speeds for Justice, Politics." See also "Arrivals and Departures, July 25, 2014."

    Nancy speaks

    Nancy Smith wants you to know that the "IRS is investigating a real complaint from a real person close to Charlie Crist's real Democratic lieutenant governor select. Just because I kept the complainant's name out of the story doesn't mean the complaint was anonymous. I have a copy of it, I talked with the individual who filed it."

    "Since You Brought It Up, St. Peter ...."

    Background: "IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related, Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo."

    "Backroom Briefing"

    "Backroom Briefing: David Jolly Under Fire; Jeff Atwater Defends State's Honor."

    "Politics dominate Florida Supreme Court"

    Martin Dyckman: "Scott letting politics dominate Florida Supreme Court" (subscription required).

    "The public is still being kept in the dark"

    The Gainesville Sun editors: "A Leon County judge found that Republican lawmakers and consultants 'made a mockery' out of a redistricting process that was supposed to be open and transparent."

    Yet even though Judge Terry Lewis struck down two congressional districts with his decision this month, the public is still being kept in the dark about the process in which those districts were drawn.

    The public and media were barred from the courtroom during the presentation of a key piece of evidence, which remains under seal: hundreds of pages of documents from GOP consultant Pat Bainter of the Gainesville firm Data Targeting.

    Now the First Amendment Foundation and a coalition of news organizations including the Halifax Media Group, owner of The [Gainesville] Sun, are pressing for the records to be released. The Florida Supreme Court should do so to allow the public to better understand Lewis’ ruling.

    "Release the records."

    Just what we need . . . more "Businessmen"

    "Businessmen face off in GOP House primary."

    "A 36-page ruling filled with soaring language"

    "A Miami-Dade judge on Friday overturned Florida's gay marriage ban, the second judge in as many weeks to make that historic ruling. In a 36-page ruling filled with soaring language, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel concluded that the ban, added to Florida's constitution by voters in 2008, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution." "Miami-Dade judge finds gay marriage ban in Florida unconstitutional."

    Rubio laff riot

    Jeff Henderson: "Marco Rubio Goes Right on Social Issues." See also "Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton Exchange Shots as Both Look Ahead to 2016."

    So much for that

    "A Leon County judge said he was unsure he could redraw the state’s congressional map before the election." "Judge skeptical about changes to Florida congressional districts before election." See also "Judge 'skeptical' he can delay election with unconstitutional map."

    "Greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience"

    Aaron Deslatte: "A page-turning chapter in Florida's gubernatorial campaign reads like an entertaining bit of beach-time crime fiction. But its implications are stark for taxpayers who assume that state stewards of their dollars take the job seriously."

    Gov. Rick Scott's office is suing over a failed jobs project from former Gov. Charlie Crist's past, which "had the makings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster: greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience willing to suspend belief."

    The lawsuit's author is William Scherer, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who was lead counsel for the victims of Scott Rothstein's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Scherer's vivid lawsuit has sections titled "The Color of Money" and "Death of a Salesman."

    The suit seeking to get the state's money back argues that the now-famous Digital Domain deal was an $82 million scam that duped Crist and lawmakers into overlooking red flags and giving Digital's architects "free money" to pay off their personal liabilities in California.

    Crist's campaign has called the lawsuit against the defunct company and a litany of investors "a stunt" launched by a Scott supporter. Scherer admits he's a political ally of the governor's — just as he was once a Crist ally when Crist was a Republican.

    "Crist's Digital Domain deal becomes lawsuit by Scott."

    HD 49

    "House 49 race pits 'Robocop' versus 'Coach P'."

    "Bareknuckle governor’s race"

    "In Florida’s bareknuckle governor’s race, it’s as if the 2010 campaign season never ended."

    The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday announced a digital media effort to highlight a sealed deposition that damaged Rick Scott on the campaign trail four years ago.

    At the same time, the Republican Party of Florida took to Twitter and mockingly marked Charlie Crist’s birthday by featuring a photo of the Democrat blowing out birthday candles with convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein — a relationship that haunted the then-governor in his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

    The state GOP also filed elections complaints Thursday that accused Crist of using the recent tour promoting his book — which revolves around his 2010 race — to help circumvent campaign-finance laws. Earlier this week, a batch of election-year complaints against Crist and Scott were rejected as baseless. The back-and-forth slugfest, which has led to $22 million in TV ads so far and a neck-and-neck race, promises only to intensify as each side tries to make the other guy look like a secretive crook.

    Democrats said they’ll reinforce the narrative with the launch of a new anti-Scott website, releasethedeposition.com. A video, featured on the website, would play as commercials on YouTube.

    "From secret Rick Scott deposition to Charlie Crist’s tie to Ponzi schemer, Florida governor’s race has more ‘mudslinging’."

    More: "Florida Democrats launch release the deposition website."

The Blog for Thursday, July 24, 2014

So much for Jeb's "favorite son" status

    Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning: "Florida voters back Clinton over Bush 49 - 42 percent in the 2016 White House race. "
    The Democrat tops other Republicans by wider margins:

  1. 53 - 39 percent over Rubio;
  2. 53 - 37 percent over Paul;
  3. 54 - 33 percent over Christie;
  4. 51 - 38 percent over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

    Independent voters back Clinton over Bush by a narrow 45 - 41 percent. Against other Republicans, her lead among independent voters is 16 to 20 percentage points. Clinton's lead among women runs from 56 - 36 percent over Bush to 61 - 28 percent over Christie.

    Florida voters give Clinton a 58 - 38 percent favorability rating, compared to 48 - 37 percent for Bush, 43 - 35 percent for Rubio, 32 - 28 percent for Paul, 35 - 36 percent for Christie and 33 - 30 percent for Ryan.

    "Secretary Clinton leads the Republicans against whom she is matched by double digits with the exception of former Gov. Bush who trails her by 7 points," [Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll] said. "Inside the Beltway they may be talking about Mrs. Clinton's potential weaknesses should she run in 2016. But at this point in Florida, the nation's largest presidential swing state, her assets overwhelm any vulnerabilities."

  5. "Rubio Narrows GOP Gap As Jeb Bush Sags (From July 17 - 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,251 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.)"

    Meanwhile, "Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton Exchange Shots as Both Look Ahead to 2016."

    Libertarian candidate brings down Crist's numbers

    Marc Caputo"Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are essentially tied 37-39 percent in Florida’s hotly contested governor’s race, partly because a little-known Libertarian candidate is sapping support from the Democratic challenger, a new poll indicates."

    Libertarian Adrian Wyllie pulls 9 percent support, according to Quinnipiac University’s survey, which shows Crist’s 2 percentage-point lead would grow to 5 points without Wyllie on the ballot.
    "The close race between the frontrunners is a marked improvement for the unpopular Scott since Quinnipiac’s last April survey. The results also underscore the power of the Republican’s mammoth $18 million ad campaign, which has damaged Crist and boosted Scott."
    [Moreover,] the underlying trends in Quinnipiac’s polling since April favor Scott:

    • Strong leadership. By 54-38 percent, voters say Scott is a strong leader compared to Crist’s 49-43 percent. That’s close to the opposite of the April findings. Scott’s index has moved 11 percentage points in the governor’s favor, Crist’s index has moved 12 points to his detriment.

    • Truthfulness. Crist took a notable hit in appearing honest and trustworthy. His -9 index (39-48 percent) is down from a +2 index in April. That’s a net 11-point shift. Scott’s index is about the same.

    • Favorability. Only 40 percent have a favorable impression of Scott and 45 percent an unfavorable impression. But his -5 favorability index is an all-time high and a 2-point improvement since April. Crist’s 40-42 percentage favorability spread is an all-time low; a -2 index that represents a 9-point shift to his detriment.

    • Job approval. Scott’s anemic 43-48 percent job-approval numbers is his best ever. The -5 index represents a 3-point shift in his favor since April.

    • Compassion and caring. Does Crist care about voters? More say no than yes now. His index is -3, a 9-point shift against him. Scott’s index is worse: -11. But that’s an improvement from -17. Crist is seen as more compassionate than Scott by 12 percentage points, but the spread is 3 points smaller than it was in April.

    • Head-to-head lead. Leaving out Wyllie, Crist’s 5-point lead of 45-40 percent has been cut exactly in half from his 10-point, 48-38 percentage lead he had in April.

    "The poll sheds no light on Crist’s decision Thursday to name Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo to his ticket."
    Another poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for Tampa-based WFLA-TV and released Tuesday, indicated Crist might have picked up support, however.
    "Poll: Libertarian Adrian Wyllie helps Gov. Rick Scott catch Charlie Crist." Details of the Quinnipiac Poll: "July 23, 2014 - Unknown Libertarian Confuses Florida Gov Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Don't Trust Scott Or Crist."

    Related: "Marc Caputo: Numbers favor Rick Scott, despite troubles." See also "Charlie Crist, Rick Scott Locked Tight in New Q-Poll as Adrian Wyllie Factors In" and "Adrian Wyllie a Factor in Florida Governor's Race, But Can He Be a Contender?."

    Fair Districts group ask judge to re-draw maps and push back election

    "On the eve of a hearing in which a judge is set to decide whether to allow congressional elections with unconstitutional maps to go forward this year, the groups that sued to block the plan are asking him to re-draw the maps and push back the election." "Fair Districts group proposes to break up Corrine Brown's district, threatens further legal action." See also "Florida judge must decide whether to delay map fix."

    Attack Ads

    Kevin Derby: "Charlie Crist, Republicans Exchange Attacks in TV Ads."

    Crist will get millions in campaign cash to counter his big-pocketed opponent

    "The former governor will get millions in campaign cash under the state’s public campaign financing program created to help low-budget candidates counter big-pocketed opponents." "Charlie Crist about to get millions in campaign subsidy."

    "Conservatives Place Their Bets"

    Kevin Derby: "On Monday, freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced he was backing attorney and Republican activist Paul Renner in the primary to replace state Rep. Dan Davis, R-Jacksonville, who is leaving the House to focus on running the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. In his endorsement, DeSantis stressed Renner’s service in the Navy." "Conservatives Place Their Bets in Jacksonville House Race."

    What Walmart Wants . . .

    Fabiola Santiago: "Florida has a fragile ecosystem in desperate need of conscientious stewards."

    That’s why it’s so hard to understand how the University of Miami’s leadership could have thought it was a good idea to sell to a developer a 135-acre site that includes a unique habitat for endangered plants and animals — one that only exists in this tract between two national parks in south Miami-Dade and in the Bahamas.

    But, preposterous as it sounds, UM has sold for $22.1 million the tract of pine rockland off Coral Reef Drive and Southwest 127th Avenue to a Palm Beach County developer, Ram Realty Services, known for building dense shopping and housing projects.

    The developer plans to add to the already crowded, sensitive area 900 apartments plus a Walmart, an LA Fitness Center, and Chik-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants. . . .

    [I]f a leading educational institution isn’t sensitive to the environmental plight of this state, then who is? If an educational institution chooses to participate in the rampant over-development of this state to the detriment of the conservation of a unique and endangered ecosystem, who’s left to inspire others to care?

    Government hasn’t been a responsible steward, and in this case, neither were UM President Donna Shalala and UM’s Board of Trustees, made up of influential Miamians.

    "UM wrong in sale of fragile land"

    "Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed"

    "Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades. What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy." "Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed."

    "Per-pupil spending is still about $189 below the historic levels of 2007"

    Aaron Deslatte thinks you should "know this: Crist bumped up school funding to record levels early in his term, then cut it as the economy crumbled; Scott, meanwhile, slashed $1.4 billion from schools his freshman year in office, and has gradually added money back since then. Today, total spending on education is bigger than ever, but that's because the school system has grown. Per-pupil spending -- which adjusts for student-population -- is still about $189 below the historic levels of 2007." "New Crist ad, same misleading education claims."

    Florida versus NY. Really?

    "Florida’s top finance official, CFO Jeff Atwater, is accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of running a deceptive TV ad campaign designed to lure businesses to the Empire State."

    “We know a huckster when we see one,” Atwater, who dashed off a letter about his concerns, told the New York Post about the Cuomo administration’s $113 million TV and radio “START-UP NY” ads in Florida and other states that promote New York's business climate and tourism.

    Cuomo’s office fired back, saying Atwater was misconstruing the incentives that the ad campaign is promoting.

    “For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn’t understand that the zero in StartUp’s zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses,” Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing said in an email response.

    In his July 18 letter, Atwater says the ads contain “glaring errors and misstatements” about New York as a place to work. And Atwater needles the number of New Yorkers who have moved to low-tax Florida, a job-creation leader.

    "From ‘huckster’ riff to math dis, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and N.Y. Gov. Cuomo have war of words."

    Labor relations, Florida style

    "A week after a former employee and union official testified before congress about problems at the Veterans Benefits Administration St. Petersburg Regional Office, management installed a surveillance camera outside the office of the union representing employees. On Tuesday, that union, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1594, filed [an unfair labor practice charge], saying it was an attempt by management to create a chilling effect on union activities." "St. Pete VA center camera riles union."

    Reality of amendment 1 in the eyes of the Legislature

    "Amendment 1 on the November ballot sounds like a godsend for green groups. If passed, the constitutional question could steer $700 million or more to conservation projects next year, and more than $1.3 billion annually within two decades. But the reality of the amendment may be in the eyes of the Legislature, which would have broad authority to decide what types of projects could qualify for the money." "Amendment aims cash at conservation efforts."

The Blog for Monday, July 21, 2014

"Crist has serious trouble on his hands"

    Marc Caputo believes Charlie "Crist has serious trouble on his hands."
    And beyond the horse-race headlines and the tragi-comic TV images of an odd-gazing Scott murmuring poll-tested platitudes (“I’m against discrimination”), Scott has numerous advantages.

    “One number should worry you: $70 million.

    "Scott has a number of other numbers on his side:"
    Campaign cash: Personal wealth aside, Scott’s campaign and political committees have raised almost $24 million and spent $22 million since Crist entered the race in November. . . .

    Government cash: Crist presided over a bust of an economy. Scott governed at the boom. . . .

    Polls: Scott led by an inside-the-error-margin amount of 2 percentage points in the most recent poll, released July 3 by Tampa’s WFLA by SurveyUSA. Scott’s 45-43 percent lead is a net change in his favor of 7 points since April, when the same pollster showed Scott trailing Crist 41-46 percent. Other polls in late spring also showed Scott gaining.

    Ads: Scott’s improved standing owes much to his TV ads. They basically buy votes in a state as big as Florida. About the time of SurveyUSA’s poll, Scott had run $14 million in ads and had paid for about $1 million more to run by month’s end. Compared to Scott’s $15 million, Crist had spent nothing until he announced his first ad after the July 4 holiday . . .

    Voters: Active registered Republican voters are closing the gap with Democrats, who outnumber the GOP by about 39-35 percent. . . .

    Race: Non-Hispanic whites are the most-consistent voters. And they form the base of the Florida GOP. Republican rolls are 84 percent white in a state where they comprise 78 percent of the population. . . .

    The economy: Friday brought news that the state added 37,400 private-sector jobs in a month. Under Scott, the state has added more than 620,000 private-sector jobs, compared to the nearly 820,000 private-sector jobs lost during Crist’s term, which ended 2010. The unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, compared to a peak of 11.4 percent under Crist in 2010.

    "Yes, Scott has flip-flopped on the figuring of his figures.

    "He’s now taking credit for every single private-sector job created (he originally said the 700,000 would be on top of forecast job growth). And yes, governors also have a limited impact on Florida’s economy, which is tethered in great part to the nation’s." Much more: "Numbers favor Rick Scott, despite troubles."

    Republicans have spent $16.1M to Dems $3M in governor’s race

    "Through the last week of July, Republicans have spent $16.1 million on television advertisements as part of the governor’s race versus the Democrats’ $3 million, according to an analysis of television ad buys in the governor’s race obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau." "Scott campaign dominating TV in governor’s race."

    "Cascading impacts"

    Tom Tryon thinks "the potential harm of changing two districts at this late stage, and the subsequent cascading impacts, would outweigh the benefits of requiring the districts to be redrawn now." "Fixing Florida's redistricting."

    SD 12

    "The race for Florida Senate District 12 pits two longtime Democratic rivals against each other: incumbent Geraldine Thompson and former state Sen. Gary Siplin." "State Senate race features longtime rivals."

    Election-year complaints tossed

    "A flurry of election-year complaints contending that the two leading candidates for governor are flouting Florida's campaign finance laws are getting tossed out."

    The [GOP] complaints contended Crist got an illegal campaign contribution because he appeared on billboards and in television ads paid by the Morgan & Morgan law firm that included Crist. Crist joined the firm after losing his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is now running for governor as a Democrat.

    [The Dem] complaints maintained that the Scott campaign broke the law when it transferred nearly $27.4 million from one type of campaign account to another. Shortly after the money transfer Let's Get to Work started paying for television ads that have largely criticized Crist.

    "Complaints against Crist and Scott thrown out."

    Slow news day

    Nancy Smith: "Shouldn't Annette Taddeo Have to Explain 537 Consulting LLC?"

    Really? Rich

    Without a hint of evidence, Florida Congressman Rich "Nugent appeared on [the radio] in Ocala on Monday and offered his take on the border crisis, saying a 'lot of these children' are 'gang members' and 'gang-affiliated.'" "Rich Nugent Avoids a Firestorm on Immigration."

    "Bondi appeals to protect Florida's sacred right to discriminate"

    Gary Stein: "Now that Florida is on the verge of actually doing something sensible and just, the hysterical griping will be getting louder. Much louder."

    It is going to happen. Count on it. In state after state, courts have overturned same-sex marriage bans like Florida's, declaring them unconstitutional. Florida will become the 20th state to legalize gay marriage, even as Attorney General Pam Bondi appeals to protect Florida's sacred right to discriminate.
    "End of Florida ban won't end whining."

    The Orlando Sentinel's George Diaz asks, "Ms. Bondi, since you're the moral arbiter in our lives, how do you reconcile your 'traditional values' against the personal reality of two divorces and an unofficial (nonbinding) ceremony in the Cayman Islands in 2012?"

    "Should Democrats shun opportunism, stick to its values and lose with honor?"

    Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "Former state Sen. Nan Rich, a true blue Democrat, expresses in just a few words the reason she and not Charlie Crist should be her party's choice to face Gov. Rick Scott in November:"

    "We need to make sure we don't have two Republicans running in the gubernatorial election," she told the Sun Sentinel's Rosemary Goudreau during the recent meeting of the Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

    Any unbiased review of their records will confirm Rich has been a steady advocate of Democratic causes and Crist — Republican, Independent, Democrat — has been relentlessly opportunistic. Democrats are poised to choose him over Rich in the August primary for one reason. They think he can beat Scott and Rich can't.

    If the party wants to be honorable, honest and true to its principles, Democrats will nominate Rich. But if it wants to have a shot at turning Scott out of office, it will have to choose Crist. So Democrats must wrestle with a basic question of political philosophy: Should the party shun opportunism, stick to its values and lose with honor?

    The short answer is: No.

    The long answer is: Hell no.

    "Although a Democratic governor would be unlikely to have much influence over the Legislature, the governor can fill judicial vacancies — including Supreme Court vacancies — by appointment. Legislative approval is not necessary. Charlie Crist might not be a Democrat through and through, but Democrats surely would be happier with his judicial appointments than with Gov. Scott's appointees." "Rich is better Democrat, but Crist has better chance."

    Gay Divorce

    "While a Monroe County judge’s ruling is giving hope to many Florida gay couples who want to marry, lawyers think the decision might bolster the case of a couple in Tampa who are trying to divorce." "Gay marriage ruling may help pair divorce."

The Blog for Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Spanking the entire gang of Republican rock-throwers"

    Scott Maxwell: "Florida legislators think you're an idiot."
    That is why — after being caught breaking the law and gerrymandering political districts — they are asking for permission to draw them again.

    Don't be an idiot.

    And I mean that with all due respect to hizzoner, Judge Terry Lewis — the guy who will decide what do to with Florida's blatantly gerrymandered districts.

    Florida legislators already hoped Judge Lewis would be an idiot once.

    They were sorely disappointed.

    "Lewis' ruling was the equivalent of bare-bottom spanking for the entire gang of Republican rock-throwers."
    Lewis used phrases such as "cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men."

    He said some of the operatives involved "made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed open and transparent process." And he said the entire case "goes to the very foundation of our representative democracy."

    Basically, Lewis said what anyone with one good eye already knew: that the zigzagging, racially unbalanced congressional districts were a politically rigged farce.

    The ruling was particularly amusing because GOP legislators had taken the stand with dramatically feigned indignation about how their honor and dignity were on the line.

    They went so far as to say the only way the judge could rule against them was to accuse the entire legislative leadership team of being a bunch of liars — that "every single witness, including two speakers of the House ... lied under oath …."

    Um, OK, the judge essentially said with his ruling that you're all a bunch of liars.

    "Special elections, punishment needed in redistricting scandal."

    Counties have latitude setting early voting dates

    "Florida lawmakers gave counties latitude in setting dates for early voting, and election superintendents took full advantage. The state’s elections website says early voting is Aug. 16 to 23 for the Aug. 26 primary. But it adds that 'each county Supervisor of Elections may, at his or her own discretion, offer additional days of early voting.'" "Early voting dates can vary county to county."

    Sentenced to Life as Juveniles

    "The Florida Supreme Court has asked attorneys how a new state law might affect cases dealing with inmates who were sentenced to long prison terms for committing murders or other major crimes when they were juveniles." "Florida Supreme Court Seeks Clarity on Inmates Sentenced to Life in Prison as Juveniles."

    HD 64

    "Another candidate’s late entry means incumbent state Rep. Jamie Grant now has a Republican primary fight. Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer and political newcomer, filed during the June qualifying week and will be on the August ballot for House District 64. With the entry also last month of a write-in candidate, the primary will be closed to all but Republican-registered voters. " "Engineer faces District 64 incumbent."

    "Crist’s pick for No. 2 gets respect"

    "The Miami-Dade County Republican Party leader quickly summed up the opposition’s greatest strength."

    “The best asset that the Miami-Dade Democratic Party has is Annette Taddeo,” Nelson Diaz, chair of the local GOP, said during a spring good-government seminar arranged by the Miami Dade College faculty union.

    “As the Democrat [sic] chair, she’s very involved,” he said. “She worked hard to organize and mobilize the left wing of her party — which is now the party’s base — making them more of a presence. She made us work harder.”

    Now, Taddeo has a much bigger role in state politics: running mate for Democrat Charlie Crist, who tapped her on Thursday to become the first female Hispanic lieutenant governor if the ticket can knock off Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

    "Even among opponents, Charlie Crist’s pick for No. 2, AnnetteTaddeo, gets respect."

    Scott has an idea: "Jobs for the Next Generation"

    "Florida Gov. Rick Scott is pledging to permanently eliminate manufacturing equipment sales taxes and create new incentives to encourage more science and engineering graduates. Scott plans to highlight his 'Jobs for the Next Generation' proposals during campaign stops over the next two weeks." "Florida Gov. to highlight job creation proposals."

    Political Pusillanimity

    "Jeb Bush, Rubio lay low on border crisis."

    "Scott’s either clueless, or lying"

    Carl Hiaasen, writes "Here’s a really clever idea:"

    Let’s run express passenger trains 16 times round-trip every day between downtown Miami and the Orlando airport. That’s right, the airport.

    Except the trains won’t go straight there, but will stop first in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, then head up the seaboard to Cocoa and hang a hard left 40 miles west across the middle of the state.

    Oh, and the trip will take at least three hours one way.

    Leaving aside the fact that you can inexpensively drive from downtown Miami to the Orlando airport in about the same time (or fly commercially in only 42 minutes), the project grandly known as All Aboard Florida raises other elementary questions.

    Like, “Why?”

    "As it waddles down the tracks, this turkey enjoys the robust blessing of the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, who said the following to a reporter last month:"
    “It’s all funding that will be provided by somebody other than the state. It’s a private company.”

    Scott’s either clueless, or lying. All Aboard Florida is a future train-wreck for taxpayers. With the possible exception of the Hogwarts Express, passenger rail services almost always lose money and end up subsidized by government. . . .

    Only three short years ago, playing the tea party scrooge, Scott killed a proposed high-speed train project between Orlando and Tampa. In rejecting about $2 billion in federal funds, the governor asserted that Florida taxpayers would have ended up paying to operate the rail service once it was finished. He was right.

    Now he’s yodeling a different tune, perhaps because his latest chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, formerly worked for one of the companies connected to All Aboard Florida. (When a reporter asked Scott if he’d talked to Hollingsworth about the project, he didn’t answer.)

    "Florida taxpayers about to be railroaded."

    New questions about whether Jeb will run

    "Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) joined with a team of bankers to create a private equity investment firm, a development that raises new questions about whether he will run for president in 2016."

    The news comes as Bush is viewed as a potential frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Polls show him running well in key states and many Republicans view him as party's strongest possible nominee. . . .

    The private equity industry became a focal point in the 2012 campaign. Democrats repeatedly painted Republican nominee Mitt Romney's private equity career in a negative light, in an effort to portray him as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans. If Bush runs for president in 2016, he could face similar attacks.

    "Jeb Bush created private equity firm."

The Blog for Saturday, July 19, 2014

As National Job Picture Improves, Florida Fails to Keep Pace

    Florida continues to benefit from Obama's national job recovery: Florida's "unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.2 percent — down from May's reading of 6.3 percent — and the state added 37,400 jobs."

    However, "the U.S. unemployment rate for June was 6.1 percent."

    Before June, Florida's jobless rate had been equal to or lower than the national rate for 13 months in a row. Nationally, the number of jobs is up about 1.8 percent during the past 12 months.
    "State unemployment rate ticks down to 6.2 percent."

    To be fair, Obama’s jobs recovery, as in Florida, has been a relatively low-wage jobs recovery.

    Scott Claims Credit for Tiny Unemployment Drop, But Is Unable to Explain What He's Done

    Rick Scott takes credit for Florida's June unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, notwithstanding the fact that Florida's rate has fallen behind and is worse than the U.S. unemployment rate of 6.1 percent." Consistent with Scott's inability to answer questions, and explain precisely what he has done to keep pace with national trends, it appears that he has done little more than "Being There" while the Obama economic recovery takes root. See generally "Rick Scott's nonanswers bring national ridicule."

    Rick Scott "insults everyone's intelligence"

    Aaron Deslatte: "News flash: Gov. Rick Scott doesn't answer questions."

    Yes, it's media-driven sound and fury, but when a governor can turn an oxymoron into a national cable-news debacle with CNN's Anderson Cooper claiming he "insults everyone's intelligence," voters deserve an explanation.
    "Scott's nonanswers are the 'in your face' variety. His public-relations staff has tried to soften him — losing the tie, holding news conferences in his office instead of behind a podium, workdays in a doughnut shop and restaurants."
    His discipline in staying on script is impressive. But television turns hard-nosed obstinacies that may be assets in corporate negotiations into cringe-worthy YouTube curiosities.

    Dodging one question is an art form. Dodging the same question repeatedly for 60 seconds is a bad week. And in the heat of a high-stakes campaign, it produces a positive-feedback loop.

    Instead of talking about gay marriage, medical marijuana, giving tax dollars to an Orlando-to-Miami rail company or alleged prisoner abuses, he's fielding questions about not answering questions.

    "Oh, gosh, I answer questions," he told the throng of TV cameras in Tampa this week. In Orlando, he was asked again about the law-enforcement snafu and blamed Crist for "mudslinging."

    Meanwhile, Crist tapped a Miami-Dade County Democratic chairwoman for a running mate — Annette Taddeo — in a county the party comfortably carried in 2010. The decision smacks of confidence. Scott looks like he's worried about making media missteps, which is often when they blow up on CNN.

    "The art of avoiding questions in a gubernatorial race."

    Easy target

    "The two men hoping to take on Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi this November have sharp criticism for the way she handled her first term in office. George Sheldon and Perry Thurston both say they could do a better job. Before they get to take on Bondi directly, one has to get past the other during next month’s Democratic primary." "Democrats vie to take on Bondi."

    Shilling hard

    Jeff Henderson shills hard for the Scott campaign today, arguing that "Charlie Crist hoped to get some positive attention by announcing Annette Taddeo as his running mate but his move was overshadowed by other events, some of which don’t help his campaign." "Charlie Crist's Gamble on Annette Taddeo Didn't Get Instant Payoff."

    Scott outspending Crist on television advertisements at a five-to-one clip

    "Through the last week of July, Republicans have spent $16.1 million on television advertisements as part of the governor’s race versus the Democrats’ $3 million, according to an analysis of television ad buys in the governor’s race obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau." "Scott campaign dominating TV in governor’s race."

    Atlas shrugs

    "With weeks left before the August 26 primary, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is once again raising campaign cash far faster than anyone else running in any of six Central Florida Congressional races – and is spending it far faster than anyone else too, according to the latest federal campaign finance reports."

    Grayson, the Orlando Democrat incumbent congressman in District 9, which covers Osceola, most of east Orange and part of north Polk, reported raising $1.8 million in contributions through June 30. That is nearly double anyone else running in the six congressional districts that cover all or parts of Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Volusia counties.
    "Yet Grayson also reported, to the Federal Election Commission, that he spent $1.2 million campaigning, even though he faces only token opposition in the August 26 primaries."
    Grayson’s district features a hotly-contested Republican primary, with three candidates who have been campaigning against one another for more than a year, mostly by taking shots at Grayson. Carol Platt of St. Cloud remained on top financially with $253,000 in contributions. Jorge Bonilla of Orlando raised $212,000. Peter Vivaldi of Windermere raised about $40,000. Democrat Nick Ruiz, who entered in April to challenge Grayson in the primary, reported raising $19,000.
    "Grayson leads in cash campaign in Central Florida Congressional races."

    Scott running low on wingnuts

    "Scott has rejected six nominees for two spots on the Palm Beach Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission [including] two black women." "Gov. Scott rejects 6 for judicial nominating panel, more applicants sought."

    Negron fears federal loan

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A powerful state senator from the Treasure Coast has jumped onto the region’s growing bandwagon opposing All Aboard Florida, the private long-distance passenger rail that plans to transport travelers between Miami and Orlando. But not — he says — because of the fears of traffic jams or inconvenienced boaters or the specter of environmental Armageddon that so many residents conjure."

    The supposed source of Sen. Joe Negron’s concerns? That the service might be created with help from a federal loan.
    "Concern over All Aboard Florida loan sounds more like cover."

    Environmentalists react swiftly

    "Elected officials and environmentalists in Florida reacted swiftly to the federal government’s decision Friday to reopen the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil exploration using sonic cannons to find deepwater energy reserves." "Florida officials oppose reopening of offshore oil exploration."

    Bits and Pieces

    Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Arrivals and Departures, July 18, 2014" and "Weekly Roundup: It's All About the Appeal."

    Simply unable to get over it

    "A Florida judge ruled that because the employer mandate was delayed, and not canceled, the compliance costs [Dr.] Kawa incurred in preparing his business to meet the requirements of the mandate did not amount to an unlawful taking -- even if he may have wasted significant resources. The same mandate would apply just one year later, the judge’s reasoning went." "Florida Orthodontist Braces for Oral Arguments in Obamacare Lawsuit."

    TeaBaggers in a Dither: "Millennials Are More Liberal and Less Conservative"

    This very recent libertarian poll [.pdf]shows that "Millennials Are More Liberal and Less Conservative than Americans over 30."