"No really, I'm running as a Republican!"
You're pretty much screwed when your entire campaign message is, "No really, I'm running as a Republican!" That's what we heard last week, and it's going to be what we hear next week. In this primary, nothing else matters."FL-Sen: A losing message". See also "Crist vows to run as a Republican".
Rarely have polls swung so sharply. Last May, one survey found Crist with a 37-point lead on Rubio. Early last month, a poll showed Rubio with a 34-point advantage."Sunny Charlie hits rough water". See also "" and "".
Yet in an interview after the news conference, Crist seemed content, his smile as warm as ever. He said he enjoyed his debate with Rubio on Fox News last Sunday. He used the encounter to call attention to a joint investigative report by The St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald on Rubio's alleged private use of funds from two political committees he controlled.
"The more people hear about the reality of Marco Rubio instead of the idea of Marco Rubio, they don't like what they see," Crist told me, adding he was not worried that going on the attack might clash with his nice guy image. "I always enjoy telling the truth." And there is at least some evidence in the most recent polls that it's now Rubio's turn to come back to earth. One showed Crist within 11 points, though others showed a gap still in the 20- to 25-point range.
Sink shake up
William March: "With her fundraising slowing, her polls looking less favorable than last year and some Democrats expressing dissatisfaction with her campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is shaking things up."
Sink announced Thursday her campaign manager, Paul Dunn, is leaving, and she's adding a new deputy campaign manager in charge of finance, Shellie Levin of Miami."Democrat Sink shakes up her gubernatorial campaign staff". See also "Manager, senior adviser, finance director out as Sink campaign has shakeup".
At least for the time being, her campaign will operate under the direction of Jim Cassady, whose title is chief of staff. Cassady was previously chief of Sink's staff as Chief Financial Officer, and worked on the 2006 campaign in which she won the CFO job.
Levin, 58, a lawyer and fundraiser for Democratic candidates, is a veteran of 13 years as a strategist with Emily's List, the national political fundraising group that supports pro-choice women candidates.
The campaign announced the moves only in a terse statement saying Levin "will help the campaign continue to reach out to Floridians up and down the state to share Alex's vision for the future of Florida."
But campaign insiders say that Sink is seeking to reshape the campaign with people who have long known and worked with her.
"Crist is now at the center of the political firestorm over a contentious education bill that the Florida House voted Thursday to send him for approval."
Whether Crist will sign SB 6, the so-called teacher tenure bill, is anything but certain. While supportive earlier in the session, the governor said this week that he cannot ignore the loud outcry from teachers and some parents. Thursday, the governor repeated his concerns about the proposal and refused to say whether he would veto it."State House OKs bill abolishing tenure; bill goes to Crist".
"Florida would become the first state in the nation to enact such a broadside on teacher tenure, which Republicans said would reward excellent teachers with higher salaries and get rid of a system that promotes mediocrity"
"The Legislature truly just doesn't care about public schools," thundered Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the teachers union. "The 2010 legislative session turned back the clock to the 1960s in Florida. They've truly just undone everything we've accomplished since Reubin Askew was governor.""House passes landmark teacher merit-pay bill". See also "Update: Merit-pay bill passes in House".
If it becomes law with Crist's signature, the Florida Education Association may challenge the legislation in court, arguing that it interferes with collective bargaining and leaves too many details to be worked out later by the Florida Department of Education.
"Democrat Kendrick Meek is the first U.S. Senate candidate in state history to qualify for the ballot by petition. Meek, a four-term congressman from Miami, reached his goal Thursday after supervisors of elections certified 115,557 petitions. He needed 112,476 to qualify." "Meek petition drive certified for Senate bid".
"The state's $1 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe easily scaled its first legislative hurdle Thursday as lawmakers disregarded warnings from Christian groups and rival horse and dog tracks that the measure would be bad for the state." "Seminole gambling deal passes Florida House panel".
"Gambling camel's nose is now well under the tent"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Nearly three years ago Gov. Charlie Crist made a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would give taxpayers a cut of gambling profits while, at the same time, preventing the spread of new casinos. The Florida Supreme Court killed the deal."
Last year, the governor completed a second agreement, but the state House of Representatives balked."A lot of money for a lot of gambling".
But this week the governor, tribe and legislators agreed upon a third compact that will aid the state in hard economic times. It will raise more than $1 billion the next five years, money that the governor would like to go to education.
The downside to the deal is that the gambling camel's nose is now well under the tent, and no one should be surprised to see Vegas developers clamoring to enter the Sunshine State five years hence.
Not a joke
"Mired in a financial scandal that threatens to drag into the fall elections, Florida Republicans have tapped a firm that investigated the Enron debacle to probe credit card charges and contracts tied to ousted chairman Jim Greer." "Florida GOP taps Enron auditor to review party finances".
"Can Florida voters handle the truth? Stay tuned for the fallout from statements about Social Security made by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in his first TV debate with Gov. Charlie Crist." "Social Security, Marco Rubio faces truth; Crist isn’t".
The Miami Herald editorial board works hard to pump up its readership, writing this morning that "this tired and aging tiger cannot change its stripes. Finding a real job for one million idle workers in state-run enterprises is impossible for a country that can't attract investment, doesn't believe in free markets and doesn't have the money to compensate for money-losing enterprises. "To spend more than we take in puts the survival of the revolution at risk,'' Castro warned. It is likewise impossible for the regime to act sensibly to resolve the political crisis sparked by hunger strikes." "Standing up to Cuba's crisis".
"Gov. Charlie Crist's (R-FL) Senate campaign in Florida just announced raising $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2010. This might seem impressive in theory, but in fact was less than a third of the amount that was raised by his rival in the Republican primary, the former underdog and (now frontrunner) Marco Rubio, whose campaign announced two days ago that he took in $3.6 million." "Crist Raises Less Than A Third Of Rubio's Haul In 1st Quarter".
"At the urging of a recent Pace High School class president, and over the warnings of civil libertarians, a House panel this morning unanimously approved a watered-down school-prayer measure that sponsors hope will protect religious freedom." "House panel unanimously approves school-prayer measure".
"New class-size amendment clears state House; will be on November ballot".
"It can't be true"
Paul Flemming: "An argument made with erroneous data doesn't nullify the point. It just undermines the discourse right along with the odds of coming out the other end with good policy."
As Republicans have rammed through their merit-pay legislation in this year's session, they've repeated a startling statistic aimed at showing that bad teachers are entrenched in schools. Without tougher standards — eliminating tenure, requiring that teachers be primarily evaluated on quantitative student test results and making it easier to can teachers who aren't up to snuff — Florida's schools won't get better, they say."Don't let facts get in the way of the 'facts'".
Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. Tom Grady are chief among the lawmakers who have relied on an incredible set of facts to make their points.
"Under current law, as it works today, 99.76 percent of all teachers in the state of Florida receive a satisfactory or better rating," Grady said on the floor of the House Wednesday. "That applies to the failing schools of Florida."
Department of Education officials started this with testimony and evidence offered in hearings and to legislative staff. They said last year, 99.74 percent of Florida's 237,868 teachers got satisfactory ratings. Furthermore, DOE folks said, 39 districts reported every single one of their teachers got satisfactory or better evaluations.
Problem is, it can't be true.
"A contentious debate"
"It started with a simple request in 2004."
Muslims asked Hillsborough County school board members to consider giving students off for two of their most important holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha."No easy fix to Hillsborough schools' Good Friday flap".
The request didn't seem unreasonable, given that the school district's calendar already included days off for Christian and Jewish holidays.
To be fair and avoid potential lawsuits, board members directed a committee of school leaders, teachers, parents and others to study the idea. Its recommendation: Eliminate all school holidays built around religious celebrations.
That was the beginning of a contentious debate that saw Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly criticizing school district leaders on national television and school board members receiving death threats.
Six years later, the debate is still heated, as the school board weighs whether to keep schools open on Good Friday.
Low attendance among students and employees on Good Friday is driving the possible switch, but such a move could mean scrapping the whole secular calendar.
"About 20 out of 40 management and other staff positions at the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance are being eliminated." "Embattled workforce alliance slashes jobs".
Children's services boards
"Florida's nine regional children's services boards on Thursday narrowly survived what they saw as a grave threat: a plan to ask voters every six years whether to renew the tax-assisted boards or abolish them." "Vote ends referendum-requirement plan for children's services boards".
"The Florida Senate has passed a proposed state constitutional amendment to require a uniform accounting for state and local government funds." "Florida Senate OK's proposal for uniform accounting".