"Miami Sen. Alex Villalobos' vote against the governor's voucher program has drawn the interest and money of a national school-choice group bankrolled by the families that founded Wal-mart and Amway."
"Wal-mart, Amway step into state race".
The group, All Children Matter, supports candidates nationwide who favor using public voucher money to send poor children to private schools.
It also opposes voucher opponents, like Villalobos, who was instrumental in killing a plan this spring to save the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program. The plan, the legacy of Gov. Jeb Bush, was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.
Villalobos' opponent, School Board member Frank Bolaños, supports vouchers.
All Children Matter is just one of a number of groups and committees weighing in on the race, which is one of the hottest and toughest legislative campaigns in the state.
Bolaños supporters include powerhouses like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Bush fundraisers.
And the "big tent" GOP claims that Dems don't allow competing viewpoints.
Meanwhile, the rats are jumping ship:
With Gov. Jeb Bush expected publicly to endorse his opponent soon, state Sen. Alex Villalobos has the state's second-most popular Republican in his corner: gubernatorial frontrunner and current Attorney General Charlie Crist."With friends like Charlie.....".
Or does he?
Crist, asked about Villalobos this morning, offered tepid-at-best praise for the Miami senator, who happens to be Crist's Miami-Dade honorary campaign chairman.
"Can growth pay for all of Crist's promises?".
Rod Smith Bio
"Of all the candidates for governor, Rod Smith's path to politics seems the least likely. The only child of a poor Oklahoma farmer, Smith grew up working with his father picking winter vegetables such as peppers and eggplants. He worked on his family farm through law school and embarked on a legal career helping workers, including police and firefighters, organize into unions." "Rural Route To The Top".
Davis Goes Condo; Things Get Nasty
"Jim Davis campaigned for governor at four heavily Jewish retirement condos Monday, the same day an attack ad questioned his support for Israel. He faces Rod Smith in the Democratic primary Sept. 5." "Broward retirement homes host gubernatorial hopeful Davis".
"The Democratic campaign for governor took a nasty turn Monday as an obscure political group bankrolled by a giant sugar grower attacked U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa for missing a congressional vote supporting Israel in its burgeoning war against Hezbollah." "Mailers attack Davis for missing pro-Israel vote".See also "Group's flier attacks Davis on Israel", "Democratic gubernatorial contest gets testy" and "Campaign for governor takes negative turn".
Who is behind the attack piece?
Sugar growers sure seem to be doing a lot to get Democrat Rod Smith elected governor. "Smith's Sweet Tooth or His Achilles Heel?". See also "Outside groups remain armed and ready".
First, the industry steered thousands of dollars in contributions directly into Smith's campaign account -- including at least $14,000 from employees, family members and affiliated companies of the state's two largest growers, U.S. Sugar Corp. and Flo-Sun/Florida Crystals.
Then, U.S. Sugar and a pair of subsidiaries plowed $205,000 into a separate political group that paid for mailers and phone calls on Smith's behalf.
And now this: U.S. Sugar and a subsidiary pour $100,000 into another group that attacks Smith's rival in the Democratic primary, Jim Davis.
Fortunately for Davis, "Jewish Supporters Come to Davis' Defense".
Candidate Website Reviews
"The Tampa Tribune reviewed 79 Web sites of the candidates for major local and statewide offices. The search uncovered what was useful and what was not, what was quirky, comedic and downright mean."
Most Engaging Web Site: Jim Davis, Democratic candidate for governor. Davis has the most blog-friendly Web site of any candidate running for major office. With polished Web pages, viewers can scroll through an up-to-date campaign blog, post pictures to a photo blog or register as a guest blogger."Candidates' Web Sites Let Users Click And Pick".
This could pioneer the 21st century town hall, drawing debate from voters of every political persuasion to measure a candidate's worth. That doesn't happen for Davis. The blog entries have generated few public comments. His opponent in the Democratic primary, Rod Smith, has drawn several comments on each of his blog entries, but most are from people friendly to the campaign and devoid of any serious questions.
Most Useful Web Sites: Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher, Republican candidates for governor. Most casual Web surfers wouldn't dream of spending THAT much time analyzing the policy papers and political agendas of the gubernatorial candidates. But they're there if you want them, on issues ranging from the economy to education to consumer advocacy. Leave time for lunch.
Both sites are remarkably similar in what they offer, including streaming audio and video, as well as pages to help visitors register to vote. Links are easy to find, though Crist's page is too busy.
Both candidates lose points for posting no blogs, a regular feature in about every campaign Web site for major office. But the amount of information available qualifies each site as a destination for the politically committed.
Best Home Page: Walter G. "Skip" Campbell Jr., Democratic candidate for attorney general. Once you get past the unfortunately long Web address (the URL in geek-speak), Skip Campbell's Web page will have you enchanted for at least a few seconds. ...
Best Advertisement For a Webmaster: Katherine Harris, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Harris' blog hasn't been updated since May 29, the date it launched ("Please check back within a few days"). Her events calendar contains only one listing, Election Day, Nov. 7 ("Details: Get Out and Vote").
"Florida's teetering property insurance industry got what it wanted this year from the state: new power to raise consumer prices. The Legislature crafted the industry incentives as insurers poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into election campaigns of lawmakers, state political parties and candidates for statewide offices." "Insurance companies shower Fla. politicians with donations to get rate hikes".
Building the Base
"Bush administration prepares shift to reunite Cuban families".
Issues That Move The GOP Faithful
"Gallagher discusses gay marriage, abortion, adoption and adult billboards." "Ad Watch: Tom Gallagher".
Too Much Bob?
"In leaning so heavily on Graham, Davis also has ignited criticism that he can't stand on his own. It's hard to image a candidate squeezing more mileage out of a single supporter than Davis has from Graham. Since Graham publicly endorsed him a year ago, the Davis campaign has plastered Graham's name on news releases, fundraising letters and mailers. Davis named Graham his campaign chairman, and he had Graham introduce him to the crowd at last year's Florida Democratic Party convention." "Smith criticizes Davis ads that rely on Graham".
"427 percent to Custer"
"There are reasons why politicians sometimes avoid appearing in public with their opponents, and not wanting to be confused with playing the part of Homer to Marge Simpson certainly is one of them."
That may explain why U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson might well prefer scooping his eyes out with a spoon rather than be caught dead on the same dais with his likely Republican opponent, Katherine Harris, R-Nurse Ratched.""No Good Can Come From These Things".
A former colleague who has since joined the ranks of flackdom was distressed to discover Nelson had not committed to a candidates forum this week during a Florida League of Cities convention in Jacksonville.
Apparently, neither had Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, of whom it could be guessed that he would rather eat cold peas than share much more time in the same room with his gubernatorial opponent, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, R-Torquemada.
After all, both Nelson and Crist lead their closest rivals something on the order of 427 percent to Custer, the black plague and Anne Boleyn.
McCain Hearts Crist
"McCain backs Crist in governor's race". See also "McCain and NRA endorse Crist".
"In the complaint, filed with the Federal Election Commission, the group accuses Bacardi of improperly helping Martinez by using its corporate offices for the fundraiser, serving $500 in refreshments and tapping a company vendor list to solicit donations. Under law, companies cannot directly help federal campaigns. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also alleges the Martinez camp masked donations from Bacardi executives by not properly disclosing their occupations on filings with the FEC." "Watchdog group targets Martinez".
"The commando attacks of this paramilitary, anti-Castro, anti-communist group are fewer these days, and their weekly clandestine training sessions at a secluded camp near the Everglades are temporarily on hold. But Alpha 66, a Cuban exile group that has supported an armed overthrow of Cuba's Communist regime for 45 years, is preparing for its next fight with the great expectation that the Cuban people will rise up against their government." "Anti-Castro Alpha 66 still fighting for Cuba".
Ganging Up on Representative B
"But even in Republican-dominated Collier, Harris still had to deal with sniping from her three largely unknown rivals for the GOP nomination during a candidates' forum sponsored by the county's Republican Party. The trio contended Harris has no chance of defeating Nelson." "Rivals confront Harris at forum".
But Harris is not above taking a cheap shot or two:
A simple sorry won’t be good enough for this one, says Will McBride, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate."McBride is no Rodriguez". But it seems to have backfired on her: "Harris went on the defensive Monday night, trying to disassociate herself from a campaign supporter who is accused of asking a racially charged question at a public forum days earlier." "Sparks fly at Senate forum".
The Tampa-born McBride is still steaming over a question at a candidate’s forum Friday in Pinellas County from a Katherine Harris supporter. She asked him why he had changed his name from "Rodriguez."
Jackie Brownhill, the woman who asked the question, was wearing a Harris for Senate campaign sticker on her lapel. When McBride said he confronted the woman later she said “the campaign asked me to ask you.”
McBride said his name has always been William Richard McBride, as it states on his birth certificate. He said Harris should be embarrassed by "this kind of dirty politics."
The Lame Duck ...
keeps on waddling: "Jim Davis, Rod Smith and Alex Villalobos be warned: Gov. Jeb Bush could be gearing up for campaign season. The Foundation for Florida's Future -- that's the nonprofit group Bush put together to promote his policies -- recently spent $126,750 on 'media production,' according to records disclosed on its website. It's the largest single expense the foundation has incurred since Bush revived it last year." "Bush's Foundation is Stirring".
Volusia Political Money Down
"With four weeks left before the Sept. 5 primary, campaign contributions for Volusia County races are far off the pace set in recent high-profile local races." "County political coffers pinched".
From the "Values" Crowd
See "State's universities want to hike tuition 7%" and "DCF to cut jobs in statewide overhaul".
"What happened to Gallagher?"
Mike Thomas asks: "So what happened to Gallagher? Well, Charlie Crist happened for one. It has been said he has the brains, as well as the weight, of the Straw Man. Crist obviously has been off to see the Wizard. He has outfoxed, out-hustled and outmaneuvered Gallagher." "Wily old pro Gallagher gets outfoxed again".
Money to Burn
"Charlie Crist is launching his sixth television spot in the Republican primary for governor, an ad that highlights the tough-on-crime campaign themes that are central in his stump speeches." "Pass the Remote".
"NRA Endorses Crist -- Is Smith Next?".
"The current farm bill has widespread support among U.S. agricultural producers, including Florida sugar cane growers, who strongly favor extending it for another five years. But everything from the recent suspension of World Trade Organization talks to the federal budget deficit and midterm elections will influence whether that extension occurs, sugar growers learned from a variety of politicians and experts Monday during a conference in Asheville, N.C." "Lawmakers, experts don't see big changes in sugar policy".
Big Dog Backs Klein
"Klein looks to ex-President Clinton to boost campaign".
Even as Gov. Bush pushed the state deeper into the insurance business, he fretted about pushing the state deeper into the insurance business. His worry would make sense only if there were a functioning insurance business in Florida."New blow from reality hits private insurance".
And this issue is here to stay: "Angry residents jam insurance meeting at Merritt Island High".
"In a troubling sign for a campaign entering the final stretch of a tough primary, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith is switching TV advertising firms."
It's the second time in a matter of weeks that Smith has switched firms handing his crucial TV campaign, and the latest move comes amid decidedly mixed assessments of the effectiveness of Smith's first TV spots."Rod Smith changes TV ad firms for 2nd time".
"I don't think much of those ads Smith has," Annette Bassow, a retiree in Broward County, said Monday of a commercial featuring Smith talking about rising insurance rates beside a loud helicopter. "He was shouting too much."
The Smith campaign is bringing on board Washington-based media consultant Dane Strother to replace Stan Adkins of Coral Gables, who worked on Smith's first state Senate race and has limited experience handling major statewide campaigns. Adkins replaced another high-profile national media consultant, Saul Shorr of Philadelphia.
Johnson Out At Home
"Celebration Rep. Randy Johnson is having a hard time finding any home cooking in Central Florida as he tries to win the Repubican nomination for chief financial officer. Johnson's rival, Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, picked up endorsements Tuesday from nine Orlando-area elected officials, including House Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Orange Coiunty Property Appraiser Bill Donegan." "For Johnson, No Place Like Home".
"A citizen named Robert Gomez plans to drop his lawsuit to knock Frank Bolaños off the Sept. 5 ballot, according to attorney Ron Meyer. The suit was to be heard today. ... Meyer said he's still pushing two other lawsuits filed on behalf of Rep. J.C. Planas against opponents Juan E. Planas (aka "JP") and Carla Ascencio-Savola. Those cases are to be heard Wednesday. The Bolaños injunction was to be heard today. For more on Villalobos-Bolaños race read today's story." "Bolaños wins one in court". For more on those other lawsuits see: "3 candidates face legal challenges".
"It's too easy to note Tony Masilotti's eight-year record as a county commissioner and conclude that many of his constituents will be better off if he continues to skip meetings and shirk his duties." "Masilotti AWOL, again".