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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 Monday, December 01, 2008

Leadership vacuum in Tally

    Bill Cotterell suggests that Charlie "could expend some of [his] popularity by proposing a sensible, fair system of taxation that doesn't convulse into deficit every time the economy slows down." He points out that
    The Legislature, with 35 new members in the House and 10 or so "redshirt" freshmen with less than a full term of experience, can be led. Nobody — least of all the Democratic minority, which has been saying the "T-word" for years — is going to accuse Charlie Crist and the legislative leaders of turning into tax-and-spend liberals.
    Cotterell continues, writing that "things were made better, or could have been, by governors taking chances." Cotterell walks down memory lane, pointing out three Governors (all Dems) who took hard stands, and one (a RPOFer) who folded like a cheap suit*:
    There have been times when governors have asserted leadership, or failed to. [Democrat] LeRoy Collins decided Florida would not join other Southern states in the era of massive resistance that followed the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 school-desegregation ruling.

    [Democrat] Reubin Askew didn't have to advocate the corporate profits tax in 1970 or oppose efforts to ban school busing in 1972, but he felt a duty to lead. [Republican] Bob Martinez could have taken the heat on the services tax in 1987, but he reversed course [now called flip-flopping], and [Democrat] Lawton Chiles tried valiantly to bring some sense and order to our tax system but was blocked by a newly GOP Legislature.
    "Fix tax system or hit the iceberg".

    Looking at the partisan makeup of those Guvs and Legislative Leaders who failed to show courage and/or leadership over the years, things don't look good for public finance reform in the near term.

    - - - - - - - - - -
    * Cotterell did not mention the respective party affiliations because he seems to be making a larger, nonpartisan point.

    "A budget gap approaching $6 billion"

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The numbers are in, and they aren't pretty. Florida faces a $2.1 billion shortfall in this year's state budget, and the outlook for the next one is even worse. When the Legislature reconvenes in the spring, its members will face a budget gap approaching $6 billion." "Florida's budget gap looks more like a canyon".

    Poor Mel

    Daily Kos takes a look at Florida 2010, including what we expect to be our favorite race, to wit: [Insert Name of Dem Here] vs. ["Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" / "Bush's Mr. Cellophane" / all-round "reactionary ogre"]:

    The Sunshine State ought to have one of the most exciting, highest-profile, and most expensive U.S. Senate races in the nation in 2010, when freshman Republican Mel Martinez is expected to seek reelection.

    Martinez is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the 2010 slate. He won election just 51% to 49% in 2004 over Democrat Betty Castor, and his approvals and reelects are in the toilet*:
    In June his approval rating was 23%, in July it was 24%, and in September it was 23%.

    We found that in hypothetical 2010 matchups Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink would lead Martinez 37-31, Congressman Robert Wexler would be tied with him 31-31 ..., Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz would lead him 38-37, Congressman Allen Boyd would lead him 37-33, and Congressman Ron Klein would lead him 37-33. Martinez is probably the most endangered incumbent in the country for 2010 and given his lack of popularity even with Republicans is ripe for a strong primary challenge.
    As for Saint Charlie, he - perhaps as a result of the never ending media-honeymoon - continues to enjoy
    exceptionally high approval ratings, and is likely not to draw a particularly strong opponent. Alex Sink and State Sen. Dan Gelber (who gets a free shot at the race, as his term expires in 2012) are the only ones rumored for the race, and it certainly seems that Sink would be best served either running against Martinez, or waiting until 2014 to run for Governor.
    "Next Year's Model: 2010 Races, Florida through Kansas"**. More: "Poll: Martinez "most vulnerable" Repub in nation".

    Some context from a recent Q Poll:
    Although Sen. Martinez gets a somewhat favorable job approval rating, only 36 percent of voters say he deserves another term, while 38 percent say no and 26 percent say they are not sure. If the election were today, 36 percent say they would vote for Martinez while 40 percent would support his unnamed Democratic opponent and 24 percent are undecided.

    "The road to a second term appears more difficult for Sen. Martinez than for Gov. Crist. Martinez' numbers aren't awful. The key to his winning re-election will be winning back the allegiance of independent voters, who currently are not in his corner. But with a third of independents saying they re undecided, he certainly has an opportunity to accomplish that end," said [Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.]
    "Sen. Martinez Gets Mixed Grades From Voters". By the way, "There has been some speculation that Martinez, a first-term Republican from Orlando, won't seek re-election but he said last summer he expected to get started after the New Year."

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *This poll has understandably received some criticism from the RPOF.

    **The dKos front-pager touches on some house races as well:
    FL-10 is home to ancient Republican Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young. C.W. Bill has been around for several generations, having been first elected in 1970, and he'll turn 80 years old in 2010. He's bound to retire some day, and he holds a district which leans slightly Democratic at the presidential level (with a PVI of D+1.1).

    Democrats have a built-in candidate just waiting for Young to hang up his spikes - State Senator Charlie Justice (and if ever there was a great name for a politician, it is "Charlie Justice"). He'd have to resign his Senate seat to run for Congress, but that should be a fairly easy call given the opportunity.

    FL-16: Sex scandals have flipped this R+2 district twice in the past two cycles - once from Republican Mark Foley to Democrat Tim Mahoney, and once from Mahoney to Republican Tom Rooney. (Foley, Mahoney, Rooney...apparently being Irish is a prerequisite to holding this seat).

    Rooney should get a fairly strong challenge his first time out of the gate, before he gets too entrenched, and there's one especially strong Democrat to take him on. That would be State Senator Dave Aronberg of Greenacres. Aronberg lives just outside the district, in the 19th Congressional District, but his Senate district overlaps considerably with the 16th.

    Aronberg is young (37), considered fairly moderate, has a base of support in his Senate district, and is exceptionally intelligent. The DCCC would do well to try and recruit Aronberg into the race, although he is not, in fact, Irish.

    FL-25: Orange to Blue candidate Joe Garcia came exceptionally close to knocking off incumbent Republican Mario Diaz-Balart in 2008, losing just 53% to 47%.

    With a seemingly strong base of support in Miami-Dade County, Garcia seems fairly well positioned to take another crack at the race. Garcia is only 40, and has a bright future in electoral politics if he wants to stay in the game. It doesn't look as though redistricting will help much (the Republicans will control it), so 2010 seems as good a time as any.
    See the discussion here.

    "Post-election doldrums pose a tactical problem"

    Bill Cotterell writes that

    the post-election doldrums pose a tactical problem for the politically ambitious. What do you do when you want to talk politics, and everybody else is sick of the subject?

    Filing for re-election, or higher office, is done for two purposes: scaring off opposition and raising money.

    All name-brand politicos — Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink — are waiting until after the holidays before signaling their intentions. But 11 House members have already signed up for re-election and five are running for the state Senate; nine senators have staked their claim for another four-year term in the Capitol, too.
    "Lawmakers ponder re-election".

    A Communist plot

    "Global warming is not only accelerating problems that already have sickened and shrunken coral reefs, it has created a new, potentially more lethal threat: Increasingly acidic ocean waters that can reduce living coral to dead rubble. The report, 'Corals and Climate Change: Florida's Natural Treasures at Risk,' concludes that 5,000-year-old reefs, which support an array of marine life, will be among the first ecosystems to collapse if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise in the atmosphere." "Climate change increases problems for Florida reefs".

    The RPOF's "white supremacist" problem

    "Derek Black says 'of course' he will attend a meeting Wednesday for new members of Palm Beach County's Republican Executive Committee. Never mind that the party chairman says Black's 'white supremacist' associations are not welcome and he will not be seated."

    You can understand why Mr. Black expects to be seated on the Republican Executive Committee - after all, he was elected by Florida Republican Party members

    His case goes like this: He says he won 62 percent of the vote in his district (published reports put it at 58 percent at the time).
    Whatever, Mr. Black was elected by PBC Republicans to run their Party. The fellow has all the trappings of a super-GOPer:
    A community college student who was home-schooled in West Palm Beach, Black once contributed a kids page to his father's Stormfront Internet forum around the time he was 12. The page included puzzles, games, animated Confederate flags and white-pride songs. He has since helped with his father's Internet audio broadcasts. ...

    At least four books and dictionaries have defined Stormfront as the Internet's first "hate" site dating back to 1995. Stormfront's site link on a Google search comes with this description: "Racialist discussion board for pro-White activists and anyone else interested in White survival."

    Barack Obama's election has helped drive up Stormfront traffic to record levels, Don Black said.

    Duke said the historic election has helped galvanize support for the causes he believes in: "Obama enables people to see more clearly. It makes it clear we're losing control of our country."

    But Don Black said press reports of threats against Obama on the Stormfront forums have been exaggerated. He said he suspects one contributor, who hadn't posted in six years, was deliberately trying to stir up trouble for the site recently. He said he does not condone violence and wants a "peaceful revolution" that ends racial preferences for minorities and promotes the civil liberties of whites.
    "David Duke helps son of ex-Klan leader in fight for Palm Beach County Republican seat".

    I thought Florida gays couldn't get married?

    "Gay rights group to protest at Gov. Crist's wedding".

    "Even by our [The Buzz] standards, this is pretty tacky: GaySoFla.com reports a gay rights group called Impact Florida is planning to protest the Dec. 12 wedding of Charlie Crist and Carole Rome". "Protesters at Crist's wedding?".

    With all due respect to The Buzz, is it "tacky" for Florida gays to use Charlie's marriage (of opportunity) to make a point when when Charlie - in a display of the grossest form of hypocrisy - actually opposed gay marriage?

    "Second to last"

    "Second to last: Gov. Charlie Crist (23 percent), one below former Gov. Jeb Bush (31 percent). The telephone poll was taken Nov. 5-16 and included 799 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points." "Bring Palin back in 2012, poll says".

    Love 4 Sale

    "The LeMieux Report".

    Don't expect a perp walk any time soon

    "McCollum and Bronson continue probing gas-price increases after Hurricane Ike" "Price-gouging investigations ongoing".

    'Ya reckon?

    "Many think property-tax reform still needs work".

    Charlie's tax increase

    "With Gov. Charlie Crist's decision earlier this month to push for tuition increases and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's declaration that fees must be increased to help government pay for services, the tenor in Tallahassee is becoming more favorable for any creative way to raise money. Those other increases do not mean the cigarette tax is a sure thing. Crist shunned it last week. 'That would be the last thing I would want to consider," Crist said. "I'm not shopping around with that, but I understand that others are. It's not something I'm warm and fuzzy about, so I'm not thinking a whole lot about it.'" "Smoking might get costlier".

    Way to go out on a limb there, Charlie

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Crist's appeal for an all-out ban on 'harvesting' Florida's wild soft-shell turtles is welcome news and let us hope an effective voice in ending the decimation of this important freshwater species to satisfy global appetites. Alabama and Georgia already ban soft-shell trapping." "Soft spot for soft-shells". Background: "Asian demand threatens Florida's softshell turtles".

    Take your biomass and ...

    "A company that is proposing to build a controversial biomass gas electric plant for Tallahassee-Leon County is now leaning toward taking the project elsewhere, a public-relations consultant for Biomass Gas & Electric told the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday." "Biomass firm may take plant elsewhere".

    Election/discrimination lawsuit

    "A Deltona woman sued Volusia County elections officials in federal court, claiming their failure to provide a Spanish-language ballot and other materials in the general election violated her voting rights. County attorneys last week filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which they said was without merit. In her lawsuit, filed Election Day, Crimilda Perez-Santiago contends the county discriminated against U.S. citizens of Puerto Rican descent who were educated in schools where the predominant language was Spanish." "Volusia election officials sued for not offering ballot in Spanish".


    The Miami Herald editorial board reminds us that "[i]t isn't only the Everglades National Park ecosystem that needs restoration. Just as important is the water source that created the 'River of Grass.' The Kissimmee River basin was once a contiguous natural area that served as the Everglades' headwaters. It was also prime farmland, and much of it was sliced into huge ranches. Now that science has shown the importance of the basin to the health of the Glades, efforts are being made to reclaim the land. A key acquisition occurred last month in Polk County when the Hatchineha Ranch LLC donated 1,130 acres to the Nature Conservancy." "Land Preserved".


    "Taxi drivers that service the airport and Port Everglades went on strike Saturday morning, refusing to answer the dispatcher until their complaints had been resolved. "

    Bourgeoiz could not sympathize with the drivers. "Consumers will go with what's cheaper and better," he said. "The solution is work harder."
    "Taxi drivers strike, causing long waits at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport".

    A fine idea at the time

    dThe Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Bright Futures has always been a great program for good students who want to go to college at Florida's remarkable bargain rates. In terms of tuition, we've got one of the lowest in the nation, and Bright Futures has made it so for nearly a decade."

    There is no need-based evaluation in this scholarship program, meaning teens from middle-class and even wealthy families who make decent, but not extraordinary, grades can get this scholarship paying at least 75 percent of their tuition.

    Given Florida's dire financial situation, however, this $436 million program is a little too terrific, and sensible lawmakers are now looking into ways to make some adjustments. It's now the second-largest state-run scholarship program in the country. ...
    "Tarnished future: Bright Futures is costing too much".

    "Obama is keeping to his promise"

    The Miami Herald editorial board makes a point: "President-elect Barack Obama has barred special interests from contributing to his inaugural festivities. He also is limiting contribution amounts to $50,000 or less. The special-interests ban includes corporations, PACs, registered federal lobbyists, non-U.S. citizens and registered foreign agents. In imposing the bans, Mr. Obama is keeping to his promise to reduce the influence of money on government." "Straight to the point".

    One man's "Agenda for Election Reform" ...

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board Zell Corporation complains this morning that

    there's a movement brewing to overhaul the nation's system of elections through a series of federal mandates. One such plan that's making the rounds uses the phrase "Congress should" almost 50 times in the course of a 19-page manifesto called "An Agenda for Election Reform."

    This agenda does its best to remove decision-making from state and local officials, where it largely belongs, and place far more power over elections in the hands of the federal government, where it largely does not.
    "Most election overhaul belongs in the hands of state government".

    Tell that to the kids at UCF and USF, and goodness knows wherever else who were in line waiting to vote long after the national election was called.

    "After All, He is Black"

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: Zell Corporation "thinks" that "Another scandal builds the case for Rep. Charles Rangel to step aside".

    With all due respect, shouldn't the local rag, which BTW was asleep at the wheel during the Feeney years, focus on local issues - say, the impeccable Mel Martinez?

    Good questions

    The Palm Beach Post editorial Board writes that, "[g]iven the cost, the public should know everything about the deal and how the district would use the land. Instead, there's a lot the public doesn't know, including:"

    # How much of the land does the district need? In June, when the deal became public, there was talk of the district needing less than half of U.S. Sugar's land to store water and let it flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Last week, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said "a majority" will be used for restoration. How much unneeded land would the public buy? Why buy it?

    # How much other land would the district need? U.S. Sugar's land is close to the lake. Creating a flow-way to the Everglades could require another 40,000 acres owned by Florida Crystals, the other dominant sugar grower and private landowner in the Everglades. How would the district get that land? Would the district try to trade some U.S. Sugar land for some Florida Crystals land?

    # What would happen with rock-mining leases on two parcels of U.S. Sugar land, leases that have raised the price of the deal roughly $300 million? Would the district buy out the leases so mining wouldn't interfere with restoration? Would the district let the miners operate, collect the lease payments to offset the cost of the land and work restoration around the mining?

    # Can the district make changes to the contract before Dec. 16? And why the rush to approve it in just 15 days? Mr. Sole and Mr. Buermann avoided the deadline issue during their conference call with reporters.

    # Finally, there's the biggest and most frustrating unanswered question: What's the plan for Everglades restoration?
    Go here for the rest of the editorial: "U.S. Sugar deal: Plenty of money, but few answers".

    "Americans are too ignorant to vote"?

    The Tampa Tribune passes this Kathleen Parker column along to us this morning: "A new report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) on the nation's civic literacy finds that most Americans are too ignorant to vote. Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics. In fact, elected officials scored slightly lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent compared to 49 percent." "Bailing Out Ignorance".


    "From Tropical Storm Arthur to Hurricane Paloma, there were 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and 800 deaths in North America and the Caribbean." "Hurricane season relatively kind to Fla.".

    Miami 2009

    "Though still almost a year away, Miami's 2009 race for mayor is getting more crowded. Joining already announced candidate -- and current City Commissioner -- Tomás Regalado: fellow Commissioner Joe Sanchez. Lesser-known candidate Juan Miguel Alfonso has also opened a campaign account in the mayor's race." "Two more jump in Miami mayor's race".

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