"For nearly a decade, Republican presidential candidates have counted on Florida's Cuban-American community to win the state and, with it, the presidency."
This year's hopefuls are again making the rounds in Little Havana and on Miami's Spanish-language radio, mixing criticism of Fidel Castro's Cuban regime with scathing comments about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez."Republicans struggling to keep their lock on Florida's Cuban vote".
But this once fail-safe plan has become more risky as Florida's increasingly diverse Hispanic community no longer guarantees a monolithic vote. Of the state's estimated 3 million Hispanics, Cubans represent a third. Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, more traditionally Democratic voters, make up another third, and Central and South Americans round out the group.
And if "Bush's Mr. Cellophane" is the best they can do, the GOPers are in trouble: "Before the Dems, there's Mel".
"Staunch Republican" Kills Self After Allegations He Abused His 12 and 15 Year Old Daughters
St. Petersburg City Council Chairman, and "staunch Republican" John Bryan "suicide came after news spread Friday that authorities were investigating allegations that he had sexually abused three girls, including two of his adopted daughters, ages 12 and 15." As an aside, Bryan was the "former finance chairman for U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, Bryan ['a fierce ally of Mayor Rick Baker'] helped push Baker's agenda through the City Council." "Scandal and suicide". See also "Councilman resigns, then apparently commits suicide" and "Tribune: St. Petersburg Councilman Resigns, Commits Suicide". More at Blast Off.
"Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's suggestion this week that it's 'unsettling' to have the Government Accountability Office weigh in on the Iraq war is earning her some blogging brickbats."
Ros-Lehtinen has been a consistent supporter of the war effort; the GAO report suggested the Iraqi government has failed to meet a majority of political or military goals. ..."Ros-Lehtinen tweaks the GAO, gets tweaked herself".
Think Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, writes that the Miami Republican has "had no problem citing the work of the GAO...or enlisting the GAO's resources to pursue her agenda. It's only when she doesn't like the agencies' conclusions that she finds fault with the work of the office."
That's our open-mouth-insert-foot Ileana; recall when she admitted "calling for the assassination of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, two weeks after saying she never made the remark." "Lawmaker Admits Call For Castro's Assassination".
GOPers Back Themselves Into A Corner
You reckon politics had anything to do with the special session postponement?
Republican House and Senate leaders postponed a special session this week after they could not agree on budget cuts, but officials in both chambers said Friday that the delay offers possible political benefits for each chamber."Republicans in House, Senate benefit from budget cuts delay".
Senate Republicans get more time to present the case for their unpopular plan; House GOP leaders get to work on a compromise and avoid pairing ugly fights with costly budget cuts.
Democrats say the majority party is just delaying the inevitable.
In the meantime, Florida continues to embarrass itself with garbage like this: "Chain gang as a budget tool?" ("The state could save millions of dollars by housing low-security inmates in tents, slapping them in leg irons and putting them to work maintaining roads, Florida's prisons chief said Friday.") See also "Tents urged for some inmates" and "DOC secretary offers chain gangs, tents to save money".
"The 4th District Court of Appeal Friday refused a Palm Beach Post request to disclose the names of two plaintiffs seeking to delete sections of a grand jury report that criticized a 'pay to play' atmosphere in the city of West Palm Beach." "Court rejects request to reveal pay-to-play plaintiffs". More from the Palm Beach Post editors: "Court dragging its feet on West Palm corruption".
"State officials have shot more than 800 swamphens in the past 18 months, determined to wipe out a bird that has been rapidly spreading through wetlands" "Wildlife officials gun down exotic purple birds".
Voter Registration Law Challenged
Naked Politics reports: "The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, the same group that raised questions about Florida's efforts to purge felons from the voting rolls, today said that it has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to reject recent voter registration law changes. The organization is asking the federal government to reject the 2007 law, which softened a 2005 law that imposed fines on third party groups who register voters if they do not turn in registration forms within a certain time period. Lawmakers changed the 2005 law because the federal courts ruled it unconstitutional. Any changes to Florida voting rights law must receive 'pre-clearance' from the federal government because five counties remain subject to federal scrutiny because of past discrimination complaints. The Brennan Center argues that DOJ should reject the new law because they contend it will adversely impact the registration of black and Hispanic voters. ... Go here to read the letter to DOJ: Download brennan_center.pdf" "Feds urged to reject Florida voter law".
"A 'more realistic' approach is needed"
"Crist's plan to fix Florida's billion-dollar budget crunch was dismissed Friday by top lawmakers and program advocates, with one leading legislator [Sen. J.D. Alexander, chairman of the budget committee overseeing general government spending] saying a 'more realistic' approach is needed. Environmentalists, road builders and -- perhaps most ominously for Crist -- influential lawmakers criticized his bid to patch the $1.1 billion budget hole with cuts, shifts in funding -- and more spending." "Lawmakers say Crist's budget cuts won't fly".
Putting The Reins on CRAs
"Anxious educators predicted 'catastrophic' consequences Friday if a new Florida Supreme Court ruling upends a construction-financing scheme that school districts throughout the state have relied on for nearly 20 years." "School leaders alarmed over ruling".
The deep thinkers on the Miami Herald editorial board think the ruling is wonderful:
The Florida Supreme Court this week put the reins on Community Redevelopment Agencies, known as CRAs, leaving their supporters reeling in surprise. There are 178 CRAs created by local governments in Florida to revitalize blighted areas. The agencies collect a portion of the property taxes within defined tax-increment districts to spend on improvements there."Big change for CRAs".
The CRAs' record is decidely mixed. Some -- in Miami Beach, for example -- have wrought wonders. Others, like Miami's CRA, which has been hampered by conflicting agendas, have yet to live up to their promise. With the court's ruling, the CRAs, which are governed by boards made up of elected officials, will now have to be more accountable. This is a good thing, even if it makes CRAs' jobs more challenging.
A more sober perspective from the Orlando Sentinel editors:
Opponents of Orlando's planned downtown venues may have cheered Thursday when the Florida Supreme Court ruled voters need to approve certain methods of paying for public projects, but they'd be smart not to schedule the victory party just yet."Get to work".
That party could turn into a wake for revitalized downtowns all across Florida, not just Orlando. It could make it harder to pay for new roads and build town centers. It also would require taxpayers who don't directly benefit from improvements to pay for them. ...
The biggest blow delivered by the ruling will be to Florida's schools -- especially in growing counties such as Orange, where a form of what's called "tax-increment financing" has been used to build more than $1 billion worth of classrooms.
Dodd on Cuba
"On the eve of a presidential forum targeting Hispanic voters, Democratic candidate Chris Dodd seeks to one-up his more popular rivals by coming to Miami today to demand an end to the trade embargo with Cuba. The stance, guaranteed to kick up a backlash among hard-line Cuban exiles, puts the Connecticut senator at odds with the Republican field and most of the Democrats. When Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, announced in Miami two weeks ago that he favored allowing Cuban Americans to freely visit and send money to family on the island, he said he supported the embargo because it would serve as leverage against the repressive regime." "Dodd wants to end Cuba embargo".
"Florida's no-fault auto-insurance law is set to expire Oct. 1, and the Legislature is not expected to renew it. If the law expires, what would it mean to motorists?" "What no-fault means to you". The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Lawmakers have enough ideas to craft a solution — albeit an imperfect on — to PIP".
Giuliani A Regular Rocket Scientist
"Touring Giuliani says Florida is crucial in '08". More on the man who married his cousin here: "Giuliani stresses national security, electability".
Crotty Free to Run Against Keller
"The episode, which helped launch a regional effort to bolster ethics and disclosure rules, traces back to a prayer group that Orange County Mayor] Crotty and Carter attend together. It was at those weekly gatherings that the two first discussed investment opportunities for the mayor."
The ethics complaints lodged last year by Michael Slonecker alleged Crotty broke state conflict and gift-ban laws and abused his official duties by allowing top staff to give Carter favorable treatment while the two were in business."Crotty is cleared in ethics probe".
But an ethics investigator determined Crotty did not have a conflict of interest when he voted on an unrelated business project involving Carter, citing in part the fact that business trusts were involved and no direct contract existed between Carter and Crotty.
The ethics panel's report also said Crotty did not misuse his office when a controversial supermarket project pushed by Carter received favorable regulatory treatment from the mayor's top staff despite objections of residents and district Commissioner Teresa Jacobs.
Slonecker argued that the Carter project in question, a Publix supermarket in Horizon West, was allowed to violate county development codes -- rules Crotty is bound to enforce as mayor.
But when [County Commissioner] Jacobs questioned why the codes were being ignored, Crotty's top staff told her that she could not bring the issue to a vote. That spared Crotty from disclosing his ties to Carter, Slonecker said.
The Ethics Commission and its investigators disagreed.
"We have five finalists for the House District 34 seat being vacated by [term limited] Republican David Mealor. Republicans Chris Dorworth and Allen Roosa, Democrat Stephan Bacallao, and independent candidates Francisco Denis and Joe Rosier met Friday’s 5 p.m. qualifying deadline in Tallahassee. ... A little history — all but one of the candidates have run for the District 34 seat in the past and lost to the eventual winner. Roosa ran against Mealor and lost in the 2004 Republican primary. Mealor then defeated Bacallao in the general that same year." "House District 34 has its horses".
"Nelson, joined by an influential Senate colleague, embarked Friday on a two-day tour of the Everglades, a visit intended to provide a scenic backdrop for ripping Bush administration support of the famed wetland." "Nelson visit highlights Glades restoration".
The Jenne Mystery
Steve Bousquet: "In a maze of elaborately built schemes involving secretaries, a developer friend, his former law firm and consulting businesses - all of it concealed from the IRS -- Jenne sold his office and his integrity for about $84,000. The way this once-savvy Democrat trashed the dream job that Gov. Lawton Chiles gave him nine years ago raises a basic question: Why would someone throw away so much for so little?" "For once, Broward sheriff can't get even".
The Absentee Ballot Thing
"A state probe found no criminal wrongdoing took place during the March election, in which ousted [Riviera Beach] Mayor Michael Brown claimed newly elected Mayor Thomas Masters used illegally obtained absentee ballots. ... [Masters campaign manager Richard] Giorgio said Friday that the FDLE investigation vindicates his consulting firm and the Masters campaign. ... The report proved that voters who did not request absentee ballots received them, especially after being visited by Masters or his campaign workers." "State finds no crime in Riviera vote".
"Republican Reps. Mack, Bono announce their engagement".
"Cape Coral businessman Jeff George announced Friday he was running for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV's seat in Congress. The announcement was made at the Islamic Center for Peace in Fort Myers. Running as an independent, George said he is gathering petitions to qualify for the November 2008 election." "Cape businessman to challenge Mack".
"Crist is nearing completion on a deal to give the Seminole Tribe of Florida the first Las Vegas-style table games in the state, along with slot machines, in return for up to $200 million a year that would be earmarked for education." "Vegas games a step closer". See also "Seminoles up the ante in bid for expanded gambling rights", "AP Newsbreak: Indian gambling deal could net $1 b over 5 years" and "In the cards: Vegas slots?"
"In his quest for the Republican nomination for president, Rudy Giuliani is blessed by his reputation as the mayor who cleaned up crime and stood tall after 9/11 in New York City, but cursed by his past stances for gun control, gay rights, abortion rights and protection for illegal immigration. So when he spoke to a crowd of Pinellas County Republicans Friday night, he wanted to shore up his credentials as an authentic Republican."
What better way to do that than by bashing “the media”? ..."Red Meat For The GOP: Rudy Bashes 'The Media'".
“Don’t let the media convince you of what they would like anyway, and that is the Republicans can’t win in 2008,” he said.
“The media,” he said, want a Democrat to win, and of course, any Democrat would be in favor of “appeasement and retreat” in the face of terrorism, and “more government spending, higher taxes, more government regulation, more government control, socialized medicine,” and opposed to cutting taxes as a way to pay for repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Stop The Madness
"As it stands, it's anyone's guess why 4,450 teachers and 190 administrators received the $2,100 bonuses from the state-financed MAP program, which relies on a complex formula of student test scores and job evaluations to reward educators. The teachers and administrators didn't apply for the bonus. They only discovered it when the money showed up in their bank accounts. " "Merit-Pay Plan Flunks Test".