"As the Republican gubernatorial candidates raised record-shattering sums all year, Democrats kept talking about the silver lining. Republicans Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher would spend millions bashing each other, the thinking went, and the eventual nominee would wind up bloodied and weak for the Democrats to finish off in November."
Well, it hasn't happened. Crist and Gallagher have barely nicked each other and - fortunately for Republicans and unfortunately for Democrats - political observers increasingly doubt they will. With polls showing Crist way ahead of Gallagher for the Republican nomination, the question is whether Gallagher, 62, wants to start slugging hard or maintain good will for the future."Silver lining for GOP: No blood in primary". See also "The GOP brawl we all expected might not occur".
"If Gallagher's going to win this thing, he's going to have to go negative," said Republican pollster James McLaughlin, who is connected to neither campaign and doubted Gallagher would go negative. "My guess is he's just trying to make himself viable for the future."
Gallagher still has $3.6-million in the bank. But the evidence of an erosion of financial support, coupled with Gallagher's continuing slide in the polls, have led to speculation of a possible exit. The campaign says Gallagher will keep up the fight, but a key adviser, Tom Slade, told the Times an internal campaign poll this weekend will decide Gallagher's next move, which sounds as if an exit strategy may be under consideration."Gallagher's Next Move?" See also: "Gallagher Responds To Money Numbers" ("Gallagher, who collected $45,740, dismissed his poor performance by saying he had not tried to raise money in July despite being more than $3.5 million behind Attorney General Charlie Crist in money raised for the GOP primary.")
In the meantime, "Crist smiles his way to lead". See also "Front-runners keep leads as primary nears" and "Crist riding good vibes past critics".
"Momentum continues to love all in the Democratic primary for governor."
Both U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith say their financial reports for July show their campaigns are hotter than a pistol fired on the Fourth of July at the equator."Democrats For Governor Claim Momentum".
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Working for Katherine Harris was like working for Meryl Streep's super-demanding, hypercritical boss-from-hell character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, said another former campaign aide." "Ex-Harris aides provide peek into campaign".
"The price of home and condominium insurance has soared to dizzying levels. Insurers have dumped longtime customers and slashed coverage for others. The state's home insurer of last resort now is the biggest property insurer in Florida." "State failures leave policyholders without a net".
A Possum Thing
"If the road to the Governor's Mansion runs through this tiny Panhandle town, only one of the four major candidates for the job paid the full toll Saturday at the 37th annual Possum Festival." "Candidates follow possum trail to court rural voters". See also "Candidates in touch with marsupials".
"An anticipatory buzz fills the room. Six crisp American flags, erect as soldiers, line the dais. More than an hour before the vice president's arrival, the GOP faithful stand at the ready." "Cheney generates money, enthusiasm for GOP faithful".
McInvale Gets Her Payback
"A pair of 30-second spots featuring state Rep. Sheri McInvale, the Orlando lawmaker who switched to Republican from Democrat earlier this year, began running on area cable stations Friday. The first ad is a biographical spot, with McInvale introducing herself as a 'fifth-generation Floridian' who attended Edgewater High School. The ad shows McInvale in several parts of her district, including Thornton Park and Eatonville. ... The second ad is a Spanish-language one, and it includes Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, singing McInvale's praises. There is also a version for Spanish-language radio. And the Republican Party paid for all of it." "Converted GOP lawmaker gets lots of party help in campaign".
GOP To Falter Without Cuban Boogeyman?
"Some suggest that Republicans may have a challenge firing up their Cuban-American base once Fidel Castro is out of the picture." "Cuba without Castro holds risks for GOP".
"Last week's episode involving a portable fan at a campaign forum can be seen as a metaphor for the race between Crist and Gallagher for the Republican nomination for governor. Crist doesn't overlook the small stuff. By breezily toting a fan to a sweltering community center in Polk County on Tuesday night, he looked better prepared in a race that so far has generated more hot air than real substance. Gallagher, in a freshly starched white shirt, was caught off-guard. In the heat of the moment, a politician with more than three decades on Florida's political stage lost his cool." "On campaign trail, the snit hits the fan".
"A Pinellas-Hillsborough district may provide the state's most competitive Senate race."
Street by street, door by door, fundraiser by fundraiser, [Frank] Farkas, Kim Berfield and Charlie Justice are battling for what has been called the most competitive state Senate race in Florida."3 officeholders, 1 tough race".
They are hearing from voters who are fed up with skyrocketing property insurance, feel trapped by property taxes and are vocal on issues ranging from schools to Terri Schiavo.
But the race in this Pinellas-Hillsborough district is unique: No other Senate race in Florida features three House members running against each other.
CFO, AG Fundraising
"The latest fundraising reports show Democratic CFO candidate Alex Sink leading her field in July money-raising and Republican Bill McCollum outraising Skip Campbell in the attorney general race." "New CFO, AG Numbers".
The Judge Thing
"Crowded field jockeying for Broward Circuit judge positions".
From the "Values" Crowd
Those smiling faces at the Chamber of Commerce are at it again: "The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce called Saturday for the removal from the November ballot of the half-percent sales tax for health care for the uninsured." "Sales-tax increase concerns Chamber".
"The miscalculations of the county's Democratic Party also are apparent. The Democrats believed they had an opponent for the commissioner in first-time candidate Joe Abruzzo, 25, of Boca Raton. But Mr. Abruzzo abruptly pulled out of the contest and entered the House District 86 race shortly before the qualifying deadline. The Democrats had no time to find a replacement. Mr. Abruzzo has insisted there was no collusion with Commissioner McCarty and that his decision was based on his own assessment. Whatever the reason, Mr. Abruzzo did a disservice to voters by withdrawing so late." "It's McCarty, in a slide".
"The Democratic primary for Florida's 24th congressional district pits Andy Michaud, a well-financed veteran of two election campaigns, against Clint Curtis, an underfunded political newcomer. But less than three weeks before early voting begins, it's Curtis who is out pressing the flesh, making stump speeches and pushing for donations. Michaud, meanwhile, has been missing in action. Curtis, a Titusville computer programmer, says his opponent in the Sept. 5 Democratic primary is ducking him." You will recall Mr. Curtis:
Curtis claims Feeney asked him and his former employer, Yang Enterprises, to create a software program in 2000 to rig elections."Opponent, where art thou? asks Democrat".
In 2004, Curtis testified before a congressional hearing in Ohio about the alleged incident and submitted to a lie-detector test that, he said, proved he was being truthful.
Consider whether you want to patronize "CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc." in light of this bit of wingnuttery:
Political fallout from Orange County's passage of a fair-housing ordinance that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination hit Mayor Rich Crotty's re-election campaign with the recent defection of a prominent supporter."Crotty loses backer over gay housing ordinance".
Crotty said Tuesday that the county's decision to include sexual orientation in its protected classes of residents prompted Tom Hutchison, chief executive officer of CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc., to defect from his campaign steering committee.
Hutchison's e-mail to Crotty argued that the mayor's recent "position (actually lack thereof)" of "favoring the absolutely ridiculous vote on legal protection for equal housing for gays" prodded him to "withdraw my name from any further association" with the campaign. "I am not interested in supporting candidates with seemingly zero Christian biblical principals on the issues regarding the alternative gay lifestyle," it concluded.
"Orlando -- Democratic candidate for governor Jim Davis and about 50 of his supporters opened a campaign headquarters Saturday afternoon. The office is in a five-story building on East Colonial Drive next to Orlando's Vietnamese district. It is just blocks from the Orlando headquarters of Rod Smith, Davis' opponent in the Democratic primary. Smith opened his office two weeks ago." "Davis opens campaign office".
"Voters Shift Balance"
"Not long ago, your vote [in Tampa or Orlando] did not matter as much."
When retirees ruled, before young working families flocked to Florida, when Hispanic mostly meant Cuban-American, and South Florida "condo commandos" could deliver Democratic Jews to the polls by the thousands - back then, a person in Tampa or Orlando might have been forgiven for thinking his vote hardly counted."Voters Shift Balance".
These days, some people in once-dominant centers of geography and ethnicity are complaining or growing anxious at the dilution of their influence ... .
Love For Sale
"Lobbyists had a captive audience with Rep. Connie Mack in late March when they provided a private jet so the Fort Myers Republican could fly to Naples for a campaign fundraiser." "Private flight with lobbyists just a perk?"
In the media's drive to appear "balanced", as opposed to simply reporting the facts, media assessments of our education governor have been far too kind; at least some of the independent numbers are mentioned in this piece today:
The percentage of high-school sophomores with proficient reading scores has dropped during the Bush administration -- 33 percent when he was elected, as high as 37 percent in 2001 and now just 32 percent. ..."Jeb's last semester". See also "Standardized, high-stakes test now key". How convenient ... everything will be OK at some point "before the end of the decade", after Jebbie leaves office, and long after the election to replace him. Of course, if things continue to slide, "Jeb!" need only blame his successor.
Independent studies of Florida's graduation rate found it continuing to lurk near the bottom of national rankings, estimating that roughly three of five students ultimately earn a diploma.
Average scores on the SAT, the almost universally used college-entrance exam, have dropped a point since Bush took office, but that is partially explained by his administration's push to encourage more middle-of-the-pack students to take the voluntary test.
Bush acknowledged the disappointing progress among high-school students, but said he expects improvement over the next few years. Before the end of the decade, children who started school under Bush's programs will be graduating.
This piece is a little better:
The amount of per-pupil spending in Florida remains mired in the bottom tier. Education Week, using 2002 data, the latest available, ranked the state 47th in terms of per-pupil funding that was adjusted for regional differences. ...And the following reflects Jebbie's abject inability to understand the impact of property taxes on average Floridians (while at the same time railing against the intangibles taxes on millionaires)
Florida remains below the national average in starting teacher pay and average teacher pay, although Education Week ranked Florida 21st nationally in terms of starting pay and 29th in average pay.
Despite the passage of the class-size amendment, which calls for the state to bear the cost for implementing, the burden of paying for public schools have steadily shifted away from state government to local taxpayers. What this means is that school districts are relying more and more on growth in property taxes to pay for education."Florida still pays for education on the cheap". See also "With vouchers come new choices -- and markets".
In 1999, the state spent $6.77 billion on day-to-day operations of public schools, while local districts spent $4.28 billion. This year local districts will spend $8.36 billion, while the state will spend $9.89 billion.
When asked about this shift, Bush said: "Does it matter to a school administrator or teacher where the money comes from? It's irrelevant."
Democratic legislators say it is important, because instead of directing more state money to education the shift enabled Bush and the Legislature to cut taxes at the state level instead of boosting money for schools.
The following observations about the federal No Child Left Behind Act apply equally applicable to Florida's FCAT scheme: "Building an illusion of progress". Concerning Florida, we read the following:
- "One example of the pressure on schools to maintain the illusion of progress concerns widely varying reports on high school graduation rates (one of the performance standards under the act). Florida claims a graduation rate of 71 percent. But other reports show the rate to be between 57 percent and 61 percent. The difference depends on how you count the students: Florida counts recipients of high-school equivalency diplomas."
- "The study found that in 2004-05 -- the fourth year of No Child Left Behind -- 55 percent of black male students nationwide did not receive high school diplomas with their cohorts. In 2001-02, that figure was 59 percent. Florida, with the highest enrollment of black males in the country, graduated 31 percent of black male students on time in 2004-05 and 36 percent in 2001-02. New Jersey, in comparison, graduated 70 percent of black males on time."
What Up Bill?
"Sometimes you have to wonder what team Sen. Bill Nelson is playing for. He was one of only four Senate Democrats on Thursday to support a bill aggressively pushed by the Republican leadership in Congress that would have given a huge estate tax cut to America's richest families. Fortunately, the bill - which cynically also included an increase in the minimum wage - ultimately failed. But Nelson's vote almost handed Republicans a significant political victory. And had the bill gotten the 60 votes it needed, the country's tax burden would have been further shifted away from our most affluent citizens." "Bill Nelson, friend of the rich". See also "Nelson's record may appeal to conservatives".
Ell Tee Gossip
"Like love-struck schoolgirls scrawling imaginary married names into their spiral notebooks, there are two or three dozen starry-eyed Florida politicians dreaming about how their names would look followed by these words: Lieutenant Governor." "Who's No. 2? Gov. wannabes keep us guessing".