"It could be the single most important question for the presidential election in Florida: Can Barack Obama translate thousands of new Democratic voters into thousands of more votes?"
Because on the surface, the voter registration trend in Florida should be worrisome to John McCain and Republicans, who can't afford to lose Florida's 27 electoral votes. While the state GOP added about 126,000 voters this year through July, Florida Democrats added 236,000."Obama camp hopes new voters turn out on Election Day".
Since January, Democrats accounted for nearly 45 percent of about 530,000 new registrations in Florida, compared with 24 percent for Republicans and 31 percent for independents and minor parties. More than twice as many new Hispanic voters — a heavily courted electorate — registered Democratic as Republican, as did new voters under 35.
Adam Smith reminds us that, "of the new voters in 2004, Republicans beat Democrats in turnout by 10 percentage points."
More: "Democrats are excited over the gains in new-voter registration across the state, but it's hard to forecast the impact Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will have. " "Voting drives alter landscape". See also "Obama means it's not politics as usual for Pasco Democrats".
But "Jeb!" said ...
"Florida ranks among worst in ACT college entrance test scores". But what about the SAT? "This year's scores for the SAT, another widely used college entrance exam, have not yet been released. On last year's SAT, Florida also ranked near the bottom ... ."
One assumes "Jeb!" and his lapdogs in the media will acknowledge that his approach was, you know ... a complete and utter failure. See also "Fla. ACT scores continue to fall".
"A trickle of residents showed up for the first day of early voting Monday in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where elections supervisors were closely monitoring the use of new equipment. " "Turnout, problems light in early voting".
Hate them "fecal bacteria outbreaks"
"West Palm Beach may have to pay nearly $400,000 in penalties for problems at its water treatment plant that led to a fecal bacteria outbreak last year." "Fla. city to be fined for water problems".
Plus, they just ain't true ...
"In what had been a quiet campaign for the state House District 100 seat, challenger Robert Kellner is trying to mix it up with incumbent Evan Jenne. Kellner has filed a pair of complaints with the Florida Elections Commission: one charges that Jenne accepted contributions in excess of legal limits. The other contends that Jenne's state-paid legislative assistant is improperly working on his campaign. Jenne, 30, a Democrat seeking re-election to a second term, called the complaints 'completely and utterly false.'" "Jenne denies challenger's charges".
"Florida's process isn't as clean as it once was"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Florida's process isn't as clean as it once was. Bush persuaded the Legislature to shift the rules for appointing nominating commissions."
When Bush took office, each commission (there is one for the Supreme Court, one for each appellate court and one for each judicial circuit) had nine members -- three appointed by the governor, three by the Florida Bar, and three chosen by the first six members of the commission."Reduce politicism in selection of Florida's judges".
In 2001 the Legislature changed the rules, giving the governor the ability to appoint all nine members of each nominating commission. The state bar's role has been reduced to a purely advisory one. In effect, the Legislature was granting the governor power to stack the courts.
Like Bush, Crist has chosen most of his appointments to the nominating commissions along party lines. And the commissions have been doing their work without much controversy or notoriety. Still, the governor should ask the Legislature to return to the previous, more balanced scheme for choosing nominating commissions.
As governor, Crist will still have the final say on judicial candidates. But returning to Florida's nationally recognized, balanced selection procedure would give the governor comfort that he's choosing from the most qualified candidates available. And it would secure Crist a reputation as a defender of judicial integrity -- making Florida the best possible example as the American Bar Assocation continues its study of judicial selection.
To tackle daddy's boy
"With the primary just two weeks away, three Democratic contenders in the 9th Congressional District race debated Social Security and energy policy Tuesday in a campaign forum. The Democratic winner faces incumbent Republican House member Gus Bilirakis in November, and the GOP first-termer drew criticism on energy policy." "Bilirakis challengers debate their differences".
"Champion of Business"
"Banks have filed three lawsuits against state Rep. Peter Nehr in recent months as the Republican tries to balance his failing business with a run for re-election."
His financial problems come to light in the midst of a tough battle for re-election.And this is oh ... so appropriate:
Nehr is facing a rematch with Democrat Carl Zimmermann, a 57-year-old Palm Harbor resident and a Countryside High School teacher. Nehr defeated Zimmermann in 2006 by fewer than 1,500 votes, or 3 percent, despite the GOP's advantage in the district.
Nehr received the "Champion of Business" award earlier this year from the Associated Industries of Florida for his bill that made property tax assessments friendlier to businesses."Nehr's debts become campaign issue".
"The cost of incarcerating an elderly offender is about three times more than incarcerating younger ones, said Herb Hoelter, co-founder of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, which studies prisons. He said the aging inmate population burdens the state with expensive medical needs, including wheelchairs and cancer treatments." "Older inmates take a toll on Florida tax dollars".
"State Rep. Trey Traviesa, a staunch Republican known for his strong antiabortion views, announced Tuesday that he wasn't seeking re-election in a race where he was a clear favorite."
Just a week after telling a Times reporter that his re-election seemed certain, Traviesa said he decided to drop out of the House District 56 race, saying he needed to spend more time on his business, a health care company called the Laser Spine Institute."Once Traviesa files his letter of resignation with the state, an executive committee of Hillsborough Republicans has little more than a week to find a replacement."
"My business has grown by leaps and bounds, and I have to look the situation in the face," Traviesa said. "Politics just doesn't fit right now."
According to Sam Rashid, a Plant City Republican activist, Richard Corcoran, the brother of Traviesa's political consultant, is in the mix. Others cited Jamie Wilson, former Republican Party of Florida official who is now in-house lobbyist for the Moffitt Cancer Center; former House member Sandy Murman; Rachel Burgin, a Traviesa aide; and Tampa Bay Lightning lobbyist Ron Pierce, who was a policy director for former Senate President Tom Lee."State Rep. Traviesa won't seek re-election".
"Experts try to close health-care gap for minorities".
State gives up
"About 10 million Florida motorists will get $1 off their annual vehicle registration renewals in 2009-10 as the result of a federal lawsuit settlement approved Tuesday by Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet. The suit accused the state of violating the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act by selling personal information from vehicle registration and driver license records to mass marketers from June 1, 2000, to Sept. 30, 2004." "Lawsuit settlement will give $1 off vehicle registration renewals to Florida motorists".
"Orlando state Sen. Gary Siplin's Democratic primary against Maurice Woodard is starting to border on the surreal."
Ads from interest groups on both sides of the Aug. 26 contest are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV ads and direct-mail pieces, all aimed at painting the other side as bright-red Republican."GOP group barrels into Dems' primary for Orange seat".
The latest is a Republican group that has sent a mailer blasting Woodard -- who switched his registration to Democrat in 2007 -- for supporting a GOP administration that "shipped our jobs overseas, wrongly started the war in Iraq and destroyed our economy."
At the same time, a pro-school-voucher group financed by the family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton launched a television ad Monday that labels Woodard a "George W. Bush Republican."
"You know, the same guys who give billions to Big Oil but can't afford health insurance for the poor," the commercial's female narrator says.
The line of attack wouldn't be noteworthy if it came from the playbook of a left-wing group such as MoveOn.org. But the committee that paid for the mailers, called Our Community Deserves the Best, was set up by Republican operatives.
What goes around ...
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he fears Russia's aggressive action against Georgia may have some serious consequences on the American space program. If Russia fails to hold back military action in the former Soviet republic, it could hurt U.S. chances of accessing the International Space Station once NASA retires the space shuttles in 2010, the Democrat from Orlando said Tuesday. The Russian Soyuz vehicle will be the only option available for NASA to send crew and cargo to the space station until the shuttle's replacement becomes available for manned missions in 2015. Nelson fears deteriorating U.S.-Russia politics may result in 'Russia denying us rides or charging exorbitant amounts for them.'" "Sen. Nelson: Russia's action against Georgia could hurt U.S. space program".
"In what one lawyer likened to passing on a sandwich for a chance at an all-you-can-eat buffet, lawyers from groups often in opposition teamed up today to argue against a demand to restart work on what would be the world's largest reservoir. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Federico Moreno heard arguments, but took no action, in the Miccosukee tribe's suit against the South Florida Water Management District." "Judge hears arguments today to stop work on reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee".
"State regulators Tuesday aggressively grilled State Farm officials, asking them to justify their request for an average 47 percent increase in homeowners insurance rates. For State Farm Florida's 900,000 homeowners policyholders there are thousands of dollars in higher premiums at stake. The three-hour public hearing will be part of the regulators' review of the request from State Farm." "Officials question State Farm rate hikes". See also "Hurricane insurance hearings create own storm".
"The plaintiffs - a group of business and school officials - trying to remove Amendment 5 told Judge John C. Cooper today said the question is misleading because it doesn't explicitly tell voters that $8 billion in school revenue does not have to be replaced after 2010, the first year the changes would take effect. Defense attorneys Mark Herron and Lou Hubener countered that the ballot question does not imply that a specific schools budget amount would be required after 2010. The defense also pointed out that the legislature is not obligated to spend a specific amount on public schools now." "Tax amendment challenged in court".
More: "Judge to hear tax swap amendment challenge".
"Her motion died without a second"
What exactly do these folks do for "$92,575-a-year"?
Despite a plea that the Florida Parole Commission needs racial diversity, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet unanimously re-elected Commissioner Fred Dunphy on Tuesday. ..."Crist, Cabinet re-elect Dunphy to Parole Commission". See also "State Keeps Parole Panel All-White".
"I think we should reopen the entire selection process in hopes of generating additional candidates," said Sink. "I believe that our commission, to the extent we possibly can, ought to reflect the diversity of the population of Florida."
Her motion died without a second, so Crist called the vote.
After his re-election to the commission, Dunphy was named its chairman in a 3-1 vote. Sink dissented without comment. She said afterward she preferred Commissioner Monica David, the outgoing chairwoman, for the vice-chair spot.
Commissioner Tena Pate remains vice-chair of the panel.
The commission is all-white and, if Vinson had been chosen, it would have been all-female.
"Term limits are forcing Republican Will Kendrick of Carrabelle to step down from House District 10. Largely rural, the district covers Hamilton, Madison and Taylor counties and parts of Alachua, Columbia, Dixie, Franklin, Jefferson, Levy and Wakulla counties." "Four candidates vying for House 10 seat".
"The head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Tuesday budget belt-tightening may force 40 to 50 layoffs and that the state might pull out of all but the biggest drug cases." "FDLE may be forced to cut more positions".
Hittin' the bricks
"Florida's top regulator of mortgage brokers said Tuesday that he will resign next month after his agency licensed thousands of brokers with criminal backgrounds, including racketeering and money laundering." "State regulator quits under fire over criminals' broker licenses". See also "Fla. Mortgage Chief Resigns" and "Florida financial regulator resigns".
"Pay to Play"
Joel Engelhardt: "Pay to play is alive and well in Palm Beach County. Sure, West Palm Beach got slammed with the "Pay to Play" nickname over a grand jury report that discovered that - horror - campaigns are financed by people who want something. But if it weren't for players, who else would play?" "No 'players,' no campaigns".