Florida "Wide Open" for GOPers
From The Politico, yesterday afternoon: "GOP prepares for a wide-open Florida" (via Political Safari): "Floridians like to brag that their state is a 'microcosm of America,' with the same demographic diversity as the nation as a whole. And with the recent decision by the state legislature to move the state’s presidential primary to Jan. 29 – a week ahead of the other mega-states on so-called Tsunami Tuesday – Florida is also mirroring the very uncertain national contours of the fight for the Republican presidential nomination. ... Interviews with representatives of all three campaigns in Florida [Giuliani, McCain and Romney] as well as with unaligned political observers reflect a still very fluid race that is shadowed by the two Republican super-powers there: Jeb Bush and current Gov. Charlie Crist." Much more here.
"Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are leading their closest presidential rivals 2-1 in Florida, the battleground state suddenly poised to have a major say in deciding the presidential nominees."
But a new St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll shows that despite their big leads -- Clinton tops the Democratic field by 23 percentage points, and Giuliani leads the GOP slate by 14 -- the frontrunners have not secured Florida's support nearly nine months before the primaries."Clinton, Giuliani lead in Florida" ("The telephone survey of 901 voters was conducted May 6 to May 9 for the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 from a list of registered Florida voters by Schroth, Eldon & Associates, whose clients are primarily Democrats, and the Polling Company, which mainly works with Republicans.")
That's especially true for the GOP, where one in three Republicans is either undecided or supporting someone not yet in the race.
The poll also shows that Florida GOPers are in a serious jam on the Iraq issue: "Forty percent of Florida voters support the president's troop surge in Iraq, including less than one in three independent voters, and 57 percent of voters oppose the surge. One in three Florida voters say the president is doing a good job overall and only 26 percent say he's doing a good job handling Iraq. But Republican presidential candidates will have to be careful distancing themselves from Bush too much on Iraq. More than 70 percent of Republicans support the troop surge and 63 percent prefer the president's plans for Iraq over Democratic congressional leaders'." "Election all about Iraq, whatever your party".
Money Changes Everything
"Last year, 140 seats in the Florida Legislature were up for grabs. But a new study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that few of these contests ever became competitive."
Crunching campaign finance data, the institute declared that only 12 races became real contests -- with a whopping 61 seats settled unchallenged and another 67 becoming one-sided because of the vast disparity in cash between the candidates."No Contest". Here's one of the reasons: a detailed May 10 study by the National Institute on Money in State Politicsof one of the biggest RPOF sugar daddies: "Names in the News: St. Joe Co." (.pdf format).
Florida's competition numbers were among the lowest in the nation. But they reflected the region. Neighboring Alabama was even worse, with only 6 percent competitive, while Georgia had a mere 7 percent of its legislative seats proving financially competitive, the study found.
Weakening Local Control
"At the height of the recent legislative session, cities and counties faced more than a dozen proposals that would cost them money or preempt their ability to write rules on everything from fireworks to fertilizer to fire hydrants. State lawmakers say the changes create uniform statewide rules. But local leaders say they weaken local ordinances. And they could leave residents looking to the distant state capital instead of the local city hall next time they have a complaint." "Lawmakers flex muscle, weaken local restrictions".
"Corrupted by Special Interests"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The cable television deregulation bill the Florida Legislature sent Gov. Charlie Crist does what one would expect from a lawmaking process corrupted by special interests." "TV deregulation fails consumers".
Adam Smith: "Name one of our state senators. Mike Fasano? Charlie Justice? Victor Crist? Now imagine him winning the White House in four years. Nutty as it sounds, that's precisely the career trajectory Barack Obama is on the way to accomplishing. Anyone who underestimates the Illinois senator's prospects at winning the presidency isn't paying close attention." "The easy case for President Obama".
That's Our Mel
A lot of coverage about the Howard Dean and DNC's objections Florida moving its primary up; yet
hardly anyone has mentioned Dean's counterpart with the Republican National Committee, who also has been unable to control Florida lawmakers bent on violating the his [Republican National] committee's schedule, too."Martinez said his piece and watched". If you want more Mel, see "Spotlight on Mel" in Scott Maxwell's column today.
Considering he is Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and his party controls the Legislature, you might think he'd have a bit more sway than Dean. But unlike Dean, Martinez has been virtually silent on the matter, except to remind Florida Republicans that they would lose half of their delegates to the national convention by scheduling such an early primary.
"Once I made sure they knew they couldn't come to me and say 'Gee, Mel, but you're the chairman' ... then that's all I did, " Martinez said. "The party's rules are inflexible, but the party also understands that the states are free to do what they will. They just need to know the consequences of what they do."
Martinez predicts other states will want to move up their primaries now, too. "It is probably going to be a free-for-all. For the future ... we may need to think about a national primary day or something like that."
"A weblog created to constructively look at Broward judges' performances on the bench is now raising concerns that the comments have gone too far. Critics say what they viewed as funny and informative discourse about doings at the county courthouse has degenerated into bitter and vile attacks on judges and attorneys. The growing concern has pitted factions of the courthouse against one another and launched charges of censorship." "Broward court blog is going too far, critics claim".
Pigs at the Trough
"Mike Vasilinda vs. Ron Sachs, Round 2".
"The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007"
Broder: "Blessed with the wonderful title of 'The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007,' the legislation has the valuable goal of assuring that there is a paper trail to verify the accuracy of touch-screen and electronic-voting systems."
The measure is a response to problems that marred last year's election, with disputes in several states and districts about the accuracy of reported voting tallies on new touch-screen systems. One controversy, involving 18,000 potentially missing votes in Sarasota County, is still unresolved.The legislation, however,
Democrats, whose House candidate in that Florida district was the apparent victim of the possible machine malfunction, are understandably eager to enact remedial legislation. The bill, written principally by Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Rush Holt of New Jersey, came out of committee last week and is slated for early action on the floor.
has run into a buzz saw of criticism from the people who actually manage elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State, facing a division in its own ranks, has taken no position."Paper trail bill could lead to chaos at polls".
But the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Association of Counties have declared its deadlines impossible and the funding inadequate.
Rubio Speaks ...
"A fair, simple tax proposal".
"The Legislature probably has closed the book on property insurance for 2007. Unfortunately, a year that began with the state threatening to stare down the industry will end with the state blinking. Since the industry won almost everything in 2005 and 2006, anything less than a clear victory for consumers in 2007 leaves Floridians justifiably disappointed. Most frustrating is that during the [regular] session the Legislature gave back some of the gains from January's special session and backed off from some of the bold talk." "A retreat on insurance".
The "Republican Din" Dims
"Broward lawmakers had more success than in past years getting their heavily Democratic voices heard over the Republican din in the state Capitol. They didn't get everything they wanted. Legislators still left Tallahassee without property tax relief or a streamlined health insurance program for the state's poor children. Property taxes will be addressed in a special session starting June 12. But Broward lawmakers did take the lead on issues such as election reform and revised gambling rules, placing a host of bills on the governor's desk by the end of the regular session May 4." "Democratic-led Broward delegation gets voice heard".
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter has been cleared of allegations that she falsified her Palm Beach County voter's registration and voted illegally — this, after a high-level FBI agent made unsolicited phone calls to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to vouch for Coulter. "Coulter's in the clear on voting problem".
The caller wasn't just any G-man. According to PBSO documents, he was Supervisory Special Agent Jim Fitzgerald, of the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Va. — the closest reality gets to the serial-killer catchers on CBS' Criminal Minds.
So why would an FBI profiler who went after the Unabomber take time from his busy day to even think about a municipal election snafu?
Fitzgerald is mum. But when the bureau heard about this from Page Two, it immediately launched an internal review of the agent's involvement.
"We're looking into it," bureau spokeswoman Ann Todd said.
She declined to say whether Fitzgerald acted on his personal behalf or as an FBI agent or on someone else's orders.
County Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson, meanwhile, decried what he called "FBI intrusion." He referred the Coulter case to PBSO after poll worker Jim Whited [a staunch Republican] originally reported the incident.
"This doesn't bode well in terms of the public's impression that celebrities receive preferential treatment," Anderson said. "I'm curious about how anyone can justify the FBI's intrusion."
And check out this, let's call it a "correction", in the Orlando Sentinel's Political Pulse: "We received a complaint about the original Ann Coulter photo that we posted with this story. We meant her no disrepect. Hopefully, this new photo will be more to everyone's liking." No comment.
"The issue seems so simple, it is surprising Florida's Department of Environmental Protection doesn't get it. Divers and ocean advocates are worried. Marine ecologist Brian Lapointe of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, who specializes in nutrient pollution, is concerned. All fear Lake Worth's plans to dump 4 million gallons of nutrient-rich effluent into the ocean each day will harm Horseshoe Reef, one of South Florida's most beautiful and pristine reefs." "Pollute now, test later risks Horseshoe Reef".
"Comedian Jon Stewart often jokes that the only way to get young people to vote is to institute a draft. Florida's uneven property tax structure and insurance crisis may be the next best thing to catch their attention -- threatening their ability to afford the American dream."
Jay Solly, 27, a member of the Broward County Young Republicans, says an increasing number of new members come in asking questions about property taxes and wanting to do something about them."Young homeowners outraged by high property tax bills".
"They don't want to talk about the war. They don't come in asking about presidential candidates. They want to talk about what is hitting them, and it all starts from being priced out of a dream," he said. "They want to know what they can do at the grassroots level. 'Whose fault is this?' These are young people who are starting to pound their fists on the table."
Luv Those "Fiscal Conservative" Values
"Luckily for the Miami-Dade delegation, House Speaker Marco Rubio is one of their own -- a big reason why the county made out so well this lawmaking session." "Lawmakers: Miami-Dade made out well this session".
The Rules are Different Here
Beth Reinhard yesterday"
Outsiders don't seem to understand why we get to move up our presidential primary to Jan. 29, making it one of the first in the nation."No one wants to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire in the winter, anyway."
So what if we're the only state that didn't play by national party rules allowing only four small states to vote before Feb. 5? We're Florida, right?
We're so sick of those states babbling on about their historic place in presidential politics, their quaint meetings with candidates in living rooms. We don't know much about history and charm, but we do know this: Their combined populations could fit into Miami-Dade and Broward counties.Read the rest of it: "In Florida, we want to play by our own rules".
One Boston Globe columnist sneered this week: "With its now-routine ballot controversies, single-issue voting blocs, and big-money media markets saturated with campaign ads, Florida is the antithesis of old-fashioned retail politics: It's a political Wal-Mart.''
Now that's offensive. We're at least as fabu-less as a political Target.
"Protecting against identity theft and encouraging economic development were the leading reasons legislators gave this year for approving more than 20 exemptions to state public record laws, according to a report from the Florida First Amendment Foundation." "Bills aim to thwart ID theft".
Eugene Robinson: "I'll wager that the evidence against Posada, which I find compelling, is more solid than the secret evidence against most of the detainees at Guantanamo. But Posada's alleged crimes were against the Castro regime. George W. Bush's stance toward Cuba has been even more hardheaded and counterproductive than the policies of his predecessors. The zero-tolerance policy toward the Castro government has been popular, however, among the most strident exiles in Florida - the old men who will greet Posada when he comes home to Miami and a comfortable retirement." "When is a terrorist not a terrorist?".
The Sun Sentinel editors yesterday: "the Posada case puts U.S. international credibility in question. ... One thing's for sure. Posada should not be treated as a hero in Miami, or anywhere else. Violence won't bring freedom to Castro's Cuba any more than it brought liberty after Fulgencio Batista's rule."
Hiassen: "The Great Equalizer"
Carl Hiassen: "In the absence of a sane growth-management policy, nature is becoming the great equalizer in Florida."
A 17-month drought has made a puddle of Lake Okeechobee and has parched the Biscayne Aquifer. Parts of the Everglades are drying up, while advancing seawater endangers the well fields that serve hundreds of thousands of residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties. ..."Not many politicians are brave enough to cite overpopulation as a cause of the current crisis, though it is. There are too many people using too much water, but it's easier to blame the weather."
Drought cycles here are nothing new, but this is the first one to occur with 18 million people encamped on the peninsula. They might cut back on sprinkling their geraniums, but they won't stop taking showers or washing their laundry.
The state's primitive, low-tech economy revolves around cramming as many humans as possible onto every available acre. Few in Tallahassee have the guts to admit that it's time to change course. ...Read the rest of it: "Overcrowding? Nature will fix that".
One way to gird for the future -- and protect families who already live here -- would be to impose building moratoriums in those counties where the water shortage is most acute.
This is way too simple and sensible. Moratoriums can't be enacted unless local leaders are willing to stand up to developers, a rare occurrence indeed. The state is requiring counties to recycle water for nonpotable uses, but that doesn't curb the liquid appetite of sprawl.
Randy Schultz wonders what might happen if our friends in Tally "couldn't lie for a day"; here are some questions that one might pose:
"Former Jeb Bush Budget Director Donna Arduin, why are you telling House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, that abolishing the property tax for homesteads and raising the sales tax wouldn't help the wealthy at the expense of the poor when every other study shows that it would?""Please pass 'pants on fire' legislation".
"Marion Hammer, chief lobbyist in Florida for the National Rifle Association, where is the evidence that letting employees bring guns to work in their cars wouldn't also pose a threat to the employees who aren't packing?"
The Justice Effect
"Republican Senate President Ken Pruitt, Majority Leader Daniel Webster and President Pro Tempore Lisa Carlton took the rare step of picking sides in a primary last week, when they publicly lined up behind one of the GOP contenders in the special election to succeed former Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon."
But their decision appears to have at least as much to do with Sen. Charlie Justice, a freshman Democrat from St. Petersburg, as it does with Richard Corcoran, the candidate they endorsed in the race for Argenziano's 13-county, north-central Florida Senate seat."GOP heavies back contender -- but it's still no sure thing".
Justice slipped into a Republican-held Senate seat last November following a GOP primary in which former state Reps. Kim Berfield of Clearwater and Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg tore each other to shreds.
People in the Capitol say Senate leaders want to head off a repeat performance by interjecting themselves into the Argenziano contest, which features a three-way primary between Corcoran, the former chief of staff to House Speaker Marco Rubio, and state Reps. Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Charlie Dean of Inverness. ...
Internal polling has Dean, a well-known former sheriff in Citrus County, as the front-runner. Baxley, meanwhile, is a favorite of the National Rifle Association and evangelical groups, and could be at an advantage in an ultralow-turnout election likely to be decided by particularly conservative voters.
Blame the Firefighters
GOPer flack and alleged columnist Mike Thomas knows why property taxes are so high:
Major beneficiaries of the [local government] revenue spike have been politically powerful police and firefighter unions, which enjoy lucrative pension plans."Never mind surplus: Pols still need more".
"It's Hard to Imagine a Worse Time"
"This month, drought-weary Floridians have seen 200 wildfires burn close to 100,000 acres and fill the air with smoke across the state. The Legislature saw the same thing and yet still decided to approve a provision that prevents local governments from passing new laws that ban fireworks. It's hard to imagine a worse time for state lawmakers to cave in to fireworks industry lobbyists than when the state is brown, dry and ready to go up in flames." "New fireworks threat".