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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 Thursday, December 31, 2009

RPOFer Speaker facing bona fide challenge

    Dean Cannon is poised to become Florida House speaker, but he first "will have to win re-election."
    For most presiding officers-to-be, that's a formality — but Democrat Amy Mercado could extend him.

    Mercado is a Hispanic activist who organized the Central Florida Puerto Rican community for the Barack Obama campaign and knows the changing face of District 35, which stretches from Winter Park east to Union Park and south toward Orlando. Hispanics make up 20 percent of its registered voters, and Democrats (39 percent) now outnumber Republicans (35 percent).

    "His priorities are very different than what the district needs at the moment," says Mercado, 36. "I have nothing against oil drilling per se, but it amazes me that he's even taking this on. This shows he believes he's a shoo-in for this seat."

    Cannon says that "I promised myself when I ran that I would fight for what I thought was right and not what would have an impact on my election."

    University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett, who has written about the rise of the Florida GOP, said that — for the first time in years — nothing is certain.

    "The Republicans have got to the point where the seeds of decline are there," he said. "Cannon has some potential challenges out there, the first of which is to make sure he wins his own district."
    "'Shadow warrior' Rep. Dean Cannon girds to cement power grip".

    McCollum's political hackery

    "Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska's political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press today."

    The letter was signed by top prosecutors in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington state. All are Republicans, and McMaster and the attorneys general of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania are running for governor in their respective states. ...

    While it's not uncommon for states to challenge federal laws in court, one legal expert said political bluster was likely behind the letter.

    "I do think that it is some combination of the losers just complaining about the officiating, or complaining about how the game was played, in combination with trying to make the bill look as seedy and inappropriate as possible, for political purposes," says Andy Siegel, a former University of South Carolina School of Law professor now teaching at Seattle University School of Law.

    "It is smart politics to try to tarnish it and make it look less like an achievement and more like some sort of corrupted bargain," he said.
    "GOP attorneys general threaten suit over health care".

    Billy is not limiting his "inquiry" to the Nebraska "political deal" (political deals we suspect he tried to cut during those many years he foundered around in the House of Reps (perhaps the Sink oppo research folks will take a look at that); McCollum is thinking about challenging the "constitutionality" of the federal bill. "McCollum wants to review federal health care bill" ("He rejected several questions about his motivation being political.")

    One suspects he is about to join the ranks of the 10th amendment wackos (read: the RPOF base).

    Greer fight continues

    "A dozen prominent political donors have added their names to the growing list of those calling for the resignation of embattled state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer. The letter, delivered this week, argues that Greer's spot at the top of the party hurts fundraising and morale among the GOP faithful. "

    Party leaders will meet Jan. 8 and 9 in Orlando, and Greer's future as chairman should be a main topic of conversation. Activists say they will try to remove him as chairman at the meeting. Greer said party rules do not allow them to do so.
    "Despite the calls for him to step down, Greer remains defiant."
    Former Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler's name at the bottom of the letter is perhaps the most surprising. The St. Petersburg developer is a longtime backer of Gov. Charlie Crist, and his son, Brent, is close friends with the governor. Crist handpicked Greer as chairman and continues to support him. ...

    In a letter to the party on Dec. 21, Greer called it "treason'' that some party members are "airing dirty laundry'' in an effort to oust him.
    "Florida GOP leader Jim Greer defiant amid criticism". See also "Greer faces more calls to resign".

    Cotterell's quiz

    Bill Cotterell quizzes his readers this morning

    1. Supervising the unloading of a moving van in front of the Governor's Mansion at this time next year will be (a) Alex Sink, (b) Bill McCollum, (c) Paula Dockery, or (d) someone not yet in the race.

    2. In Washington, the junior senator from Florida will be the negotiably honorable (a) Charlie Crist, (b) Marco Rubio, (c) Kendrick Meek, or (d) Maurice Ferre.

    3. Florida's all-new Cabinet will be (a) two guys named Jeff and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, (b) CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Dan Gelber and Agriculture Commissioner Cary Baker, (c) Atwater, AG Jeff Kottkamp and a Republican agriculture commissioner, or (d) Agriculture Commissioner Scott Maddox, Attorney General Dave Aronberg and Baker.

    4. U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, will (a) be re-elected with his customary 60 percent-plus vote, (b) win by a career low of less than 55 percent, (c) survive a tough primary with Al Lawson, then win big over token Republican opposition, or (d) lose.

    5. Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer will (a) keep his job in a Pyrrhic victory that makes it not worth having, (b) keep his job as a face-saving favor to Crist, then leave in a few months to spend more time with his family and day job, (c) turn it over to Allan Bense in the name of party unity and be cheered by the same people now throwing stones, or (d) be so thoroughly vindicated that Crist's successor begs him to stay on indefinitely.

    6. Speaking of vindication, former House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, will (a) claim victory when the attorney general's office either doesn't appeal the dismissal of charges against him or loses that appeal, (b) claim victory despite a blistering Ethics Commission report that says his actions don't quite violate the rigid confines of Florida's toothless-watchdog laws, (c) claim victory when the House gives him a reprimand, preceded and followed by laudatory speeches by members who'll say his budgeting sleight-of-hand was no worse than what most appropriations chairmen do, or (d) all of the above.

    7. The "tea party" backlash against federal fiscal policies will (a) become the new operating principles of the Republican Party, (b) fade away like the Townsend Clubs of the 1930s, Gene McCarthy campaign of the 1960s and nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, (c) be proved wrong when the economy comes roaring back, thanks to President Obama, or (d) continue to get a lot of news attention but not have much real effect.

    8. The big story of the 2010 legislative session will be (a) final resolution of the Seminole casino gambling compact, (b) how they deal with a couple billion more in revenue shortfalls, (c) how they finally get serious about corruption, including the legal bribery known as campaign finance, or (d) how they don't get serious about it but pretend they do.
    Cotterell's answers to these and other questions here: "As long as you're betting on next year's politics ...".

    "Oversight and transparency are inadequate"

    The Tampa Trib editors: "If not for political considerations and some questionable staff decisions, Alex Sink's proposed reforms for the board that oversees state pension investment funds probably would enjoy bipartisan support."

    But Chief Financial Officer Sink, a Democrat, is running for governor. So that makes her sensible suggestions radioactive to Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican also running for governor, and to Gov. Charlie Crist, who faces a tough GOP primary in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

    They happen to be her fellow trustees on the Florida State Board of Administration, which manages the state's $112 billion pension fund.

    But Sink is correct. Oversight and transparency are inadequate - her own office demonstrates that.

    The St. Petersburg Times reports three weeks after Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein's firm made a $200,000 contribution to the Democratic Party at a Sink fundraiser, her chief of staff, Jim Cassady, urged SBA officials to consider it for legal work. This never happened. Rothstein, who normally gave to GOP candidates, is suspected of running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme from his law office. He awaits trial on federal fraud and racketeering charges.

    Cassady and SBA officials deny any favoritism and say his involvement only resulted in courtesy calls. Perhaps, but his involvement is troublesome, and Sink should ensure the episode is thoroughly scrutinized.
    "Bolster pension oversight".

    RPOFers running Florida like a business

    "Just when public schools thought they would get a break from budget cuts, the state is giving them some more bad news: They're losing money again, in large part because the state underestimated enrollment. ... Central Florida's seven counties will lose a combined $11 million." "Region's schools lose out on $11M".

    Lane's list

    Mark Lane: "Everybody's running lists this week of things that happened in 2009. That's a newspaper tradition. My tradition, however, is to celebrate the end of a year by running a list of things that didn't happen in Florida." He starts with this:

    1. The Florida economy (and/or real estate market) bounces back. Our real-estate bubble burst earlier than other states, giving Florida more time to work through things. First in, first out, as we like to say. ...

    5. Gov. Charlie Crist cruising toward re-election as governor. No strong Democrat challenger seen. Despite grumblings on the right, no significant Republican challenger emerges.

    6. Big-name Democrats announce they're running against incumbent Sen. Mel Martinez in 2010. The state's chief financial officer, Alex Sink, is seen as the frontrunner, say Tallahassee insiders.

    7. Gov. Crist appoints retired senator Connie Mack to fill U.S. Senate seat after Sen. Martinez steps down. "It would just be too brazen to appoint some crony who never held elected office just to keep the seat warm," says one Tallahassee insider.

    8. Gov. Crist appoints former attorney general Jim Smith to fill U.S. Senate seat after Martinez steps down. "It would just be too brazen to appoint some crony who never held elected office just to keep the seat warm," says one Tallahassee insider.

    9. Marco Rubio drops Senate bid. The former House speaker made the announcement after failing to raise enough money to launch a statewide campaign. ...

    Bonus. State of emergency in Okaloosa County. So many state buildings were built there while Rep. Ray Sansom was House speaker that the county started sinking into the Gulf of Mexico under their combined weight. Sansom orders a study be conducted by Northwest Florida State College, where he is a vice president.
    Read the rest of the list here: "Top 10 list of things that didn't happen in the Sunshine State".

    Florida may be "going bag free" ... Teabaggers in a dither

    "Saying that plastic bags pose a threat to sea turtles and other marine mammals, clog storm water drains and mar the landscape, Florida regulators are considering following the lead of San Francisco, Ireland and Mexico City in going bag free." "Florida officials look at bag ban".

    The "Space Caucus"

    "Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and members of the 'Space Caucus' are vowing to cushion the blow of at least 3,500 layoffs when the shuttle fades into history as early as next year." "'Space Caucus' vows to ease blow of shuttle layoffs".

    "Sliced up underwater sea grass beds all around Florida"

    The St. Pete Times editors: "Boat propellers have sliced up underwater sea grass beds all around Florida, impairing the environment needed to nurture marine wildlife. The Ocean Foundation, a Washington-based organization, says it has come up with a way to pay for repair of those damaged beds: Allow developers to pay a 'mitigation fee' when their projects will destroy sea grasses, and use the money to replant grasses elsewhere in boat-scarred beds." "Sea grass plan doesn't cut it".

    The developers club

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Dan Shalloway's defense of his role in the corruption scandal that felled his former partner, ex-Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell, is that it's OK to conceal the truth. The Florida Board of Professional Engineers bought that defense in October, whittling a proposed $10,000 fine to $2,000."

    It's not surprising then that one of the four board members who voted in Mr. Shalloway's favor had undisclosed ties to Mr. Shalloway and the engineering company he founded, now known as Engenuity Inc. As The Post's Charles Elmore reported Sunday, Bijay Panigrahi, CEO of BPC Group in Orlando, rents an office from Engenuity next to Engenuity's offices on Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach. Mr. Panigrahi proposed the two firms partner on a South Florida Water Management District contract. He met with Mr. Shalloway to discuss the deal before dropping the idea, undoubtedly after the bad publicity from the Newell scandal.
    "A lingering smell from Newell: Shalloway's undeserved break on fine".

    No "massive development"

    "State officials scooted under a legal deadline on Christmas Eve, delivering a bah humbug message to a request from Volusia County and the Miami Corp, the county's largest private landowner. The Florida Department of Community Affairs, the state's chief planning agency, filled 13 pages with reasons why the Volusia County Council should not change the county's long-term comprehensive plan and allow a massive development the company proposed." "State advises Volusia to kill massive growth plan".


    "You know you're living in a weird state when the governor promotes a pay-per-minute sex chat line. Or when a congressman asks the House speaker to move a day's worth of votes so he can watch a college football game." "This was the weird that was Florida".

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