Stage set for RPOF country clubber vs. teabagger fight
Jim Stratton: "By the time Republican Party chief Jim Greer announced his resignation on Tuesday, party elected leaders had orchestrated a plan to replace him with veteran lawmaker and former lobbyist state Sen. John Thrasher."
Saturday, at the party's annual meeting in Orlando, that plan hit a snag."Real battle brewing over next Florida's GOP chief". See also "GOP exhibits moment of fellowship", "‘Pretty mild’ meeting caps busy week for RPOF" and "Day leads GOP field".
Broward County National Committeewoman Sharon Day announced she would run for the job too, after being encouraged by a host of county activists who were unhappy state party leaders had seemingly anointed Thrasher. ...
Day's decision to run sidetracks — for now at least — a plan by key GOP lawmakers to install Thrasher as the party's CEO and chief fundraiser. He'd been handpicked to succeed Greer, who was forced from the job by a combination of front-line loyalists and party fundraisers.
Her candidacy reflects a desire among the GOP faithful to have greater influence over the direction of the party and a broader disaffection among voters for anyone perceived as an "establishment" politician. Thrasher, who is highly regarded by many party leaders, is a consummate Tallahassee insider who once served as House speaker.
The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard: "After months of bloodletting in the U.S. Senate primary and a backlash that toppled the state party chief last week, Florida Republicans urged one another Saturday to join forces in 2010 against their true nemesis: the Democrats."
If party leaders got a dollar every time they used the word "unity'' at their annual meeting Saturday, they could have taken the whole crowd to Disney World. Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who will be replaced at a Feb. 20 election, asked each of the 300 activists to shake the hand of the person next to them. ..."Florida Republican activists call for unity". See also "Florida GOP seeks its 'heart and soul' amid identity crisis" ("After dominating state elections for 15 years, Florida Republicans are suffering a rare identity crisis. They're part of a national losing streak over the past two election cycles.")
The increasingly competitive U.S. Senate primary pitting Gov. Charlie Crist against former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has divided many activists, mirroring a broader, nationwide debate between moderates and conservatives over the party's direction. ...
Obama's message of hope has faded, said North Florida Congressman Adam Putnam of Bartow, and been replaced by anger.
"But anger alone will not retake the majority for of the Republican Party,'' said Putnam, who is running for state agriculture commissioner. "It is just a passion. It is not a plan for government. . . . So for our Republican Party to be successful at the state level and at the national level, we have to have people understand what our vision and what our leadership will bring.''
In a sign of just how disenchanted voters are with the political establishment, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found tea party activists more popular than either the Democrats or Republicans.
"The rumor that won't go away"
Adam C Smith: "It's the rumor that won't go away: In the face of a tougher-than-expected primary challenge from Marco Rubio, right, Charlie Crist could drop out of the Senate race and run instead for re-election as governor. Last week alone Joe Scarborough raised the prospect on his MSNBC show, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley spread the rumor on his Facebook page. Forget it." "Crist: 'Zero' chance of leaving Senate race". See also "No party change, either".
Jeb's dead hand
Jeremy Wallace: "As Florida Republicans struggle to define their future, a towering figure from the past has returned to call the shots."
Bush has dimmed the star of Gov. Charlie Crist, whose Senate candidacy no longer seems a sure thing and whose control of the state GOP has grown weaker by the day."Back in the game: Jeb Bush".
Indeed, Bush, a two-term governor, has shown in recent weeks that he can still tower over state politics:
• Within hours of Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer's announcement of his resignation last week, Bush began publicly pushing his friend, state Sen. John Thrasher, to replace him.
That quasi-seal of approval included a video message from Bush to party leaders in Florida's 67 counties encouraging them to support Thrasher.
• Bush has become more aggressive in raising money and campaigning for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, and has sent key policy advisers to work for McCollum, who raised $1.4 million in the fourth quarter, the best showing of his campaign.
• While Bush has not formerly endorsed Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate, his influence in the race has been anything but neutral.
Jim Ash: "If Sen. John Thrasher becomes chair of the Republican Party of Florida next month, which seems all but certain, it won't be Gov. Charlie Crist's party anymore. The ceremonial leader could once again be former Gov. Jeb Bush, an ardent Thrasher supporter who insiders say worked behind the scenes with party donors and legislative leaders to negotiate the ouster of embattled Chairman Jim Greer, Crist's hand-picked favorite." "Two challengers announce they will run for GOP chair".
Meek can't buy a headline
William March: "Crist and Marco Rubio can't seem to avoid headlines, but U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek can't buy one. Crist and Rubio are battling for the Republican nomination for one of Florida's U.S. Senate seats - and one of them probably will face Meek, a Miami Democrat. Meek faces a low-intensity primary, against former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre." "Meek's Senate drive is low profile".
Aaron Deslatte: "Kendrick Meek wants to introduce you to the learning-impaired child who overcame dyslexia to get through college, joined the Florida Highway Patrol, won a seat in the Legislature and worked his way into a prime position of influence in Congress."
The Miami-Dade Democrat is son to political royalty and more or less inherited his congressional seat from his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek. But he says his U.S. Senate campaign is the hardest-working in the country, a contrast with that of his likely general election opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist."GOP infighting boost Kendrick Meek's campaign status".
Cannon has a race on his hands
Scott Maxwell thinks the East Central Florida races to watch include State House 35th District, the 8th Congressional District, and the 24th Congressional District:
One of the most interesting local races involves State Rep. Dean Cannon [in HD 35], the guy who's supposed to be our next house speaker — but only if he can first get re-elected. "7 election races worth watching".
For the first time, the Republican power-broker from Winter Park has a serious, credible challenger — one whom Robinson describes as "the best candidate I've ever worked with." Her name is Amy Mercado. She's an executive with the National Mango Board and an activist in the Democratic Party who helped organize support for Barack Obama.
What's more, Cannon's once-solid-GOP district has morphed, so that Democrats now outnumber Republicans.
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Stand your ground. It's the most macho of assertions, evoking time-honored traditions of armed combat and lawless frontiers."
But the phrase has come to mean something else in suburban streets and strip malls across Florida: Shoot first. Ask questions later."Give some ground".
The problems arise from a 2005 law that confers immunity -- not just a defense, but total immunity -- on someone who shoots another person under vague and subjective circumstances.
"The pandering begins"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida has the fourth-highest number of uninsured residents at nearly 4 million, yet Attorney General Bill McCollum and Republican legislators are more concerned with stopping health care reform than with helping those Floridians get health care."
Mr. McCollum, a candidate for governor, has joined other GOP attorneys general in questioning whether Congress has the constitutional authority to make individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty. ..."Put patients over politics: Florida Republicans make wrong case on health care".
But the actions of these Florida Republicans are about politics, not health care. The legislation is unpopular, especially among GOP voters, and so the pandering begins. Such pandering, of course, will do nothing to get health insurance for any of those uninsured Floridians.
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "The brazen board did not stop there. It also gave its chief executive officer, Mary Jo Monahan, a check totaling $154,591. And it gave Monahan another parting gift: proprietary rights to a Family Service Centers program that provided professional development training to nonprofit organizations. Family Service Centers had invested heavily in the program's creation and operation, but Monahan was handed the rights to the program, its name and its Web site and now operates it as a private business." "Tax dollars or not, money misspent".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "For the first time in history, reports the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta, public schools in the South no longer enroll a majority of white students. As the year 2009 ended, more than half of all students in the 15 states the SEF includes in its report were black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or multi-racial."
The SEF, which has been involved in public education issues since 1867, revealed two years ago that low-income students — those eligible for free or reduced lunches — are also a majority in the South's public schools."Classroom changes".
"Last year, when an ambitious Fort Lauderdale lawyer named Scott Rothstein decided to hire someone to develop political strategies for businesses seeking government contracts, he turned to none other than Ken Jenne, the disgraced former sheriff who had just been released from jail. " "Several reasons why Broward County is awash in corruption".
"In a couple of dozen interviews, longtime Broward political activists and academic observers say the primary reason behind the present scandals is the uncommonly cozy relationship between lobbyists-campaign managers and elected officials." "Reason No. 1 for Broward corruption: Lobbyist-politician lovefest".
"Corruption in South Florida has traditionally been attributed to the transient nature of South Florida society -- most people come from somewhere else. Sleazebags end up here after failing elsewhere, getting a new start in a place where they're not known. The cities here don't have roots and long-standing traditions to crush corruption before it gets too far. " "Reason No. 2 for Broward corruption: Voters don't care".
" In the past two-plus years, the major corruption prosecutions in Broward have been done by the feds, much of it through undercover sting operations: four Hollywood cops and two county sheriff's deputies, plus former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman, Beverly Gallagher at the School Board and Josephus Eggelletion on the County Commission. Add in Sheriff Ken Jenne's case of hiding ill-gotten money, and it makes for a lengthy record. The FBI undercover agents didn't have to work too hard to find subjects." "Reason No. 3 for Broward corruption: Increased scrutiny". Related: "Cluster of corruption cases might widen".
"Police officers on Rothstein detail suspended".
"Crist on Tuesday signed a transportation bill that will provide new funding to Tri-Rail, South Florida's cash-trapped commuter train, and boost billion-dollar rail projects in the Central Florida region." "Crist approves millions more dollars for Tri-Rail".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Innocence commission to investigate wrongly convicted long overdue".
"A House committee that will determine whether or not Ray Sansom should be sanctioned for legislative misconduct will review his testimony before a Leon County grand jury." "Sansom: House committee will meet to consider possible legislative misconduct".
"A sense of entitlement"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Frank Peterman, the secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, has tried to mask his exploitation of the taxpayers as fulfilling some job role. It suggests a sense of entitlement and a failure to appreciate tough economic times." "Peterman should repay taxpayers".
"... into the embrace of the Democrats"
Mike Thomas: "It took Nixon to go to China, and Dr. Cecil Wilson to go to the Democrats. The Winter Park physician went where no other leader of the American Medical Association had been before — into the embrace of the Democrats. There he stood, practically arm-in-arm at the podium with Senate leader Harry Reid, signing on to ObamaCare on behalf of the nation's doctors. This is the same AMA that shot down every health care proposal from TrumanCare to HillaryCare." "Winter Park's Cecil Wilson, next AMA chief, steers toward middle".
Them durn unions
The Miami Herald editorial board isn't spewing anti-union hatred like their brethren in central Florida: "With $700 million or more at stake for Florida schools, the federal government's new Race to the Top grant promises to bring needed improvements for teacher training and compensation with a focus on improving struggling schools."
But make no mistake. The new program is not a panacea."But here's the rub: Teachers unions don't want to participate unless the plan is changed. A union's lack of support may not kill Florida's proposal but it can certainly diminish the possibility that the Sunshine State will qualify for as much money as it needs to support true reforms."
It does not deal with the $1 billion education hole in the state budget this year or the one expected next year. The Obama administration's stimulus dollars for schools will end next year, and Race to the Top money can't be used to plug those holes.
Credit these editors for actually explaining at least part of the teachers' objections, instead of blithely attacking the teachers collective voice as mere "weak concerns and selfishness" and mere "selfish careerism". Instead of mindless ad hominem attacks, the Herald editors explain that
the crux of the unions' disagreement with Mr. Smith is -- no surprise -- the FCAT. Union leaders believe Florida's grant proposal puts too much emphasis on the FCAT to track student improvements that would be used to measure teachers' success in the classroom."Race to the Top".
Crist said last week that "I don't think [the RPOF turmoil] will have any impact at all" on his race."Nonetheless, Rubio blasted Crist for the perceived flip-flop.".
But his shifting positions on a range of hot-button conservative issues – among them, he was for President Barack Obama and the federal stimulus before he was against them, sort of -- have rendered him guilty of committing the often-mortal offense in politics of modulating his message to appease a targeted audience of voters.
The latest example came Friday.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Crist said in 2006 he would not push for tougher abortion restrictions, saying he wanted to "change hearts, not laws."
As a U.S. Senate candidate, Crist said in a press release last week that he would "fight for pro-life legislative efforts" in the Senate.
Crist communications director Andrea Saul explained those "efforts" could include supporting adoption, not necessarily tightening restrictions on abortion. "They're not mutually exclusive," she said.
"Have we learned absolutely nothing?"
Jane Healy: "Florida's history certainly has had its share of booms-gone-bust. And the situation now seems to be no exception. Can't we learn something from these? Apparently not." "Ignoring the lessons of booms-gone-bust".
Grayson's Lilliputian opposition
"Grayson's $850,000 overall total – if it stands – would surpass the $647,349 he had reported raising in the first nine months of the year – and would more than double the cash-on-hand total that stood at $477,627 on Sept. 30."
That will likely dwarf the combined total raised by the large field of GOP contenders vying to challenge Grayson. For instance, the Armando Gutierrez campaign reported Thursday raising roughly $210,000 in fourth-quarter contributions, plus another $100,000 from the candidate himself."Grayson hauls in $850K in donations for re-election".
Another contender, state Rep. Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, just jumped into the race and won't file a report until April. And local traffic-signal company owner, Bruce O'Donoghue, said he doesn't expect to get into the race until later this month. Attorney Todd Long, who lost in a close 2008 primary race to then-U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, could not be reached for a donation estimate, nor could other minor candidates.
"On Tuesday, two Miami City Commission seats up for grabs". The Miami Herald editorial board: "The Herald recommends for Miami City Commission".