Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-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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The Blog for Saturday, February 17, 2007

HD 49 Special Election Qualifiers [Updated]

    "Six Democrats and a Republican qualified Friday as candidates for House District 49. The Democrats are vying in the March 20 primary for the right to face Tony Suarez, the Republican, in the general election. ... A quick look at the candidates trying to win the Democratic nomination:"
    Bill McManus, a former state legislator from Massachusetts, who captured 41 percent of the vote for the District 41 seat last year.

    Ana Maria Mendez, a union organizer, ran unsuccessfully for Osceola County Commission in 2004 and the Osceola County School Board in 2002.

    Israel Mercado, a pastor and professor, who captured about 48 percent of the vote against Quinones in 2004.

    Ruth Ann Raia, owner of a pet boarding house, who got 47 percent of the vote in November when she ran against Quinones. ...

    Ricardo Rangel, a former Osceola County organizer and liaison to the Puerto Rican community for Democrat John Kerry's presidential campaign.

    Darren Soto, a commercial and civil-rights lawyer, who was involved in a voting-rights lawsuit several Kissimmee residents filed against the city.
    "6 Dems among 7 lined up to replace Quinones".

    Wingnuts Disappointed?

    A "former Florida Christian Coalition leader Pat Neal says many social conservatives are 'a little disappointed' in the state's new governor and worried about the coming presidential election." "Social conservatives losing faith in values of Crist, '08 hopefuls". Along those lines see "Romney attacked for being Mormon" and "Romney handles religious heckler in first Florida public appearance" (the apparent values voter mumbled "'You sir, you are a pretender. You do not know the Lord.'")

    "Backlash" to RPOF "Ploy"?

    "Asked this week whether the Republican Party of Florida would continue to bankroll a proposed ban on gay marriage, Gov. Charlie Crist said the party's money 'can be spent on other things that may be more pressing, like elections.'"

    But to anyone familiar with how these ballot measures play out across the country, influencing elections is exactly the point.
    On one hand:
    'The marriage amendment will bring people out to vote who are pro-family, traditional values voters,'' said Orlando lawyer John Stemberger, who is spearheading the petition drive to put gay marriage up for a vote in 2008. "We're going to have to have the most robust, well-funded effort in the country.''
    On the other hand,
    Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights group, argued that opposition to the Virginia amendment helped push people to the polls who narrowly elected Democratic Sen. James Webb over conservative Republican George Allen.
    "Turnout ploy may misfire in marriage vote".

    The Best He Could Do?

    McCain "said his state committee will include:"

    -- Former Attorney General Jim Smith, [the former Dem who pouted on his tractor after losing in a Dem primary, then, after specifically promising not to, endorsed the GOPer candidate for Governor] who ran against Bush in the 1994 primary for governor, but then became a Bush political ally.
    -- Former state GOP Vice Chairman Allison DeFoor
    and senior advisor to Jeb Bush’s 1994 campaign for Governor
    -- Mac Stipanovich, former chief-of-staff to Governor Bob Martinez and one-time Bush strategist
    -- J. Antonio Villamil, former Chairman of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors
    -- Cory Tilley, a Tallahassee political and public relations consultant and former deputy chief of staff and press spokesman for Bush.
    "McCain Announces Florida Team". See also "McCain's Florida Team In Place".

    McCain's in trouble in Florida if this is the best he could do. Meanwhile, "Romney builds impressive Florida team as he tries to climb polls".

    See also "Romney well-received at The Villages". Of course, Herbert Hoover, or even Dubya, would be "well-received at The Villages".


    The Palm Beach Post editors hammer Frankel:

    Mayor Frankel wants voters to believe that she's a reformer because she has 35 pages of proposals - most lifted from Tampa's ethics code - about disclosure and behavior. But it's too late for the mayor to take her own advice. When it comes to her contributions, there's concealment, not disclosure. A grand jury investigating city corruption found that at least one development firm that contributed to the mayor circumvented the $500 limit on individual contributions by using straw donors - friends and employees who wrote checks that then were reimbursed by the company.
    "Voters won't turn page if Frankel grandstands".


    "Rep. Vern Buchanan sided with President Bush on Friday, joining dozens of other Republicans from battleground districts who declined to formally criticize Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq."

    With the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war, it was expected that Republicans from the most vulnerable congressional districts would join the Democrat-led rebuke of Bush's plan to send another 21,000 troops.

    But only 17 Republicans broke ranks to vote with Democrats, most from solidly Republican districts, including Rep. Ric Keller, a conservative from Orlando.
    "Buchanan joins most Republicans, stands with Bush". See also "Weldon, Feeney vote no on Iraq resolution" and "Miller blasts resolution as political ploy". But see "Boyd votes for Dems' Iraq resolution".


    "Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration expects a nearly $110 million budget surplus. So, why does Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities have a waiting list of 13,000 families?" "Surplus of bureaucracy".

    Cheap Hit

    "Florida pays an executioner $150. On the street, that amount wouldn't buy a very professional killing. It's no different when the state pays." "The state can't execute".


    Steve Bousquet thinks Charlie's Chief of Staff is fab. "Good advice, but wisely ignored".

    Mack Strikes Out

    "Kennedy responded that if Mack wants to create a moral litmus test for oil-exporting countries and other trade partners, the congressman should hold Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and China to the same standard." "Mack, Kennedy spar over TV ad".

    A snarly response from Kennedy came rather quickly. Mack, he said, was a hypocrite.

    "If, in fact, your objection to our program is the politics of President Chavez and the actions that he’s taken — which you feel threaten our democracy, I would suggest you hold all the 558 million barrels of oil we import annually from Venezuela to the same moral standard and not just the small slice we provide at a discount to the poor," he wrote.

    Kennedy took it a step further.

    "Perhaps I missed your letter renouncing oil from Kuwait because of its socialist policies of universal health care, education and food for its citizens. Russia, I’m sure, is also in your doghouse because of President Putin’s growing tendency to clamp down on democracy,” he wrote. “And while you’re at it, I’m sure you have every intention of ending our country’s $310-billion-a-year trade with China, the largest superpower on Earth."

    Mack called Kennedy’s response "irrelevant."
    "Reps. Mack, Kennedy engage in war of words"

    Argenziano to PSC?

    "Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, said Friday that her modest personal life and 10 years in the Legislature would make her a good addition to the five-member Public Service Commission that has long been viewed as a rubber stamp for utility companies seeking higher rates."

    "I'm not anti-utility. I'm fair," she said. "I think the people of the state are tired of people who are just pro-utility."

    Argenziano is single and, unlike most lawmakers, has made the $29,000 job as a state lawmaker her full-time task as she represents all or part of 13 counties in a sprawling district that reaches from rural Marion County to the outskirts of Tallahassee.

    "I come from a different background than most commissioners," she said. "Typically somebody like me wouldn't get picked."

    Argenziano has bucked Republican leadership regularly and criticized former Gov. Jeb Bush specifically.
    "Populist senator aims for PSC post".

    Charter Schools "Financial Emergency"

    "At least 10 charter schools in Palm Beach County are in financial straits, casting a shadow over stability for about 1,300 students. Of the district's 36 charter schools, 16 are running on negative balances, according to a report reviewed Friday by the school district audit committee.
    Auditors pegged 10 of those charter schools as being in 'financial emergency,' meaning they're in deficit spending and may be unable to pay creditors, salaries, payroll taxes or pension plans, said school district auditor Lung Chiu." "Sixteen charter schools strapped".

    "Built-in advantage for the party in power"

    "Various studies show that being listed first among the names of candidates on a ballot can add up to six percent of the votes as citizens choose the first name if they're ambivalent or uninformed about the race."

    In Florida, as in many states, there is a built-in advantage for the party in power.

    Current law gives the first slot to the representative of the party held by the governor. That means that since 1998, with Jeb Bush's two gubernatorial victories and Charlie Crist's last year, Republicans get the first slot. ...

    Two bills would change that, giving both parties equal access to the top spot.

    House Bill 415 and Senate Bill 1606 would vary two different ballots by precincts, with half getting ballots with Democrats holding the top spot and the other half with Republicans listed first.
    "Democrats want chance to be 1st on ballots".Oliphant Cleared

    "More than four years after she was accused of neglect during a botched primary, the Florida Elections Commission on Friday dropped all charges and potential fines against former Broward Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant. In a unanimous vote, the commission, which originally hoped to fine her $55,000, agreed with a state administrative-law judge who ruled last fall that elections officials failed to prove Oliphant intentionally neglected her duties." "Elections panel drops all charges, potential fines against Broward's Miriam Oliphant". See also "Oliphant is cleared in botched '02 vote".

    Anti-Castro "Militant" or "Terrorist"?

    "An attorney for members of a socialist student group is demanding police step up the investigation into an alleged attack on two of the group’s members who led a counter-protest last month against an anti-Castro militant."

    The two, who head the Miami-based Bolivarian Youth group, came out to counter a demonstration by about 100 people in support of former Cuban CIA operative Luis Posada Carrilles, who is blamed by Cuba and Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people. Posada, who has denied any wrongdoing, is being held in federal custody after entering the country illegally in 2005.

    According to local television news footage and witnesses, Posada supporters yelled at the students and then charged across the street and attacked them. In the video, Posada supporter Miguel Saavedra appeared to throw a megaphone at Martinez but missed. Martinez said he was punched by other protesters. Swanson and Martinez fled in their car and filed a police report several days afterward but say nearly a month later, detectives have yet to contact them.
    "Socialist group accuses police of not probing alleged attack".

    Posada a "militant"? Please.
    Long considered the godfather of vicious anti-Castro violence, Posada--a k a Bambi, Comisario Basilio and Ramon Medina--has practiced the art of sabotage, bombing and attempted assassination for much of his 78 years. Yet unlike the way that many terror suspects with Middle Eastern names have been rounded up by US authorities and detained indefinitely under special anti-terrorism provisions, the Department of Homeland Security has chosen to treat the Posada problem as a simple "illegal entry" immigration proceeding. Any "special circumstances" appear to have more to do with Posada's tenure with the CIA in the 1960s, his politically powerful right-wing Cuban-American allies in Florida and with Washington's hostile relationship with Venezuela, from where, in 1985, Posada escaped from incarceration as a mastermind of the October 6, 1976, midair bombing of Cubana Flight 455, which killed all seventy-three passengers on board.
    "Test on Terrorism". To be sure, the "Bush administration has stopped short of prosecuting him as a terrorist, however, even though the Justice Department called him as much" last October, according to the New York Times:
    In papers filed in federal court in El Paso on Thursday, [the Bush Justice Department] described him as "an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks on tourist sites."
    "Castro Foe Puts U.S. in an Awkward Spot"

    Trib Hearts Milligan

    "Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink made a wise choice in crossing party lines to pick Milligan, a Republican known for his straight talk and pro-consumer attitude. The retired three-star Marine general who holds a master's degree in economic analysis was a breath of fresh air when he was elected state comptroller in 1994. Few in public life can match his reputation for rising above politics to do what's best for the people of Florida." "Consumers Get A Fighter". See also "Welcome back".

    Welcome to Dixie County

    "But what ACLU lawyers see as a violation of law, many locals see as a fitting tribute to the county's Christian heritage. And those locals don't like outsiders suggesting they can't see straight. 'I don't think they have the right to come in here and tell us what to do,' said Wanda Wester, a 68-year-old Dixie County native. 'We all believe in God. If they don't like it, they can stay away.'" "Dixie County to outsiders: Stop preying on Commandments".


    "How does pre-K stack up?".

    "Tree Lovers"

    "Florida Power & Light knows this well: Nothing can rile up a neighborhood like a tree-cutting or tree-removal plan. The Florida Department of Transportation has learned the same lesson. Now a tree flap in Miami's Upper East Side may be resolved thanks to two government entities actually sitting down and talking to each other." "Tree lovers win".

    Road Show

    "State lawmakers brought a town-hall tour on property taxes to Tampa Thursday night - and more than 200 people answered the call for suggested fixes to the crisis." "Property Tax Debated".


    "Study on jail crowding in Broward spreads blame to entire justice system" Among the claims: "Public Defender Howard Finkelstein discounted most of the proposed solutions and homed in on the 975 people in jail this week with bail amounts of $5,000 or less. He said those people have been deemed a low risk to society and are being held simply because they're poor.".

    A Welcome Flip-Flop

    "After being sharply criticized for allowing developers to bury gopher tortoises alive, the state wildlife commission on Friday released a plan intended to virtually eliminate the practice and halt the species' decline." "Wildlife panel unveils plan to save tortoises".


    "Crist Friday made his 11 appointments to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, filling out the group that can put proposals directly on the ballot." "Crist adds to tax and budget commission".

    Secret Taping of Public Meeting

    "Circuit Judge John Cooper refused to dismiss charges Friday against a Big Bend fish and wildlife officer who secretly made his own recording of a hearing that was openly taped by the state agency." "Judge won't drop charges in case of secret recording; trial is April 16".

    Lights, Camera ...

    "The state currently reimburses producers up to 15 percent of the total Florida budget, so long as they spend at least $850,000 in qualified expenditures, such as wages and services."

    Still, some projects are left wanting because the state's $20-million incentive fund disappears so quickly.

    Crist wants to increase the incentive pool from $20 million to $75 million a year. Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp says the incentives will be used to convince film companies to create permanent production studios for television series, commercials and digital entertainment.
    "Florida Ought To Be In Pictures".


    "South Florida health care providers and elected leaders are right to express concerns about proposed federal cuts in hospital funding. The burden of proof is on the Bush administration to prove the sharp reductions are in the nation's best interest. The outcry follows plans by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to close the door on reimbursements to certain hospitals for treating poor and uninsured people." "Health Costs".


    "A recent New York Times report detailed how lobbyists are still helping to pick up the tab for lawmakers for birthday bashes, concerts, Broadway shows and vacation weekends, despite the bans. What gives?"

    Both of Florida's U.S. senators, Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Bill Nelson, were among lawmakers cited in the Times report. Mr. Martinez invited $5,000 contributors to spend this Presidents Day weekend at a Disney World resort. Mr. Nelson invited guests bearing $5,000 to a Super Bowl party in Miami.

    These examples, however, were not among the most excessive. Both events took place in Florida. Mr. Martinez's office said he would not be staying at Disney World, only mingling with contributors at a pair of receptions. Mr. Nelson's office said his "party" was a brunch on the morning of the Super Bowl; there were no tickets included. Other lawmakers, by contrast, hosted events at luxury locales outside their home states.

    As bad as this is, it could be difficult for Congress to ban this practice. Courts have interpreted the Constitution as restricting the limits that can be placed on campaign fundraising. And it's a reality that members of Congress have to raise money to run their campaigns.
    "Way over line".

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