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Archive for November, 2012

Aronberg taps Krischer to head transition team

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 by George Bennett

Democratic State Attorney-elect Dave Aronberg has turned to former state attorney Barry Krischer to head his transition team.

Aronberg got 57.7 percent to defeat Republican Dina Keever and no-party candidate Robert Gershman in the state attorney race. He’ll succeed Peter Antonacci, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott this year after Michael McAuliffe resigned to take a private-sector job.

Krischer was state attorney from 1993 to 2009.

See the complete Aronberg transition team after the jump…


West-Murphy update: Judge sets hearing, Division of Elections official arrives

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 by George Bennett

Florida Division of Elections Bureau of Systems Certification Chief David Drury and St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker watch a recount today from the Fort Pierce mayor's race.

FORT PIERCE – A St. Lucie County circuit judge has scheduled a two-hour hearing for Friday on Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West’s request for a recount of all 37,379 ballots cast during early voting in St. Lucie County in his tight reelection fight against Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Murphy holds a 0.58 percent lead over West in unofficial returns from congressional District 18, which includes St. Lucie and Martin counties and northern Palm Beach County.

West has not conceded, citing errors in St. Lucie County’s initial early vote tally that prompted Secretary of State Ken Detzner to send three officials to Fort Pierce today to observe and report on the St. Lucie County elections office.

St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker said her office double-counted some early ballots and failed to count others on election night. But Walker said the problem was limited to ballots from three of the eight days of early voting and was fixed Sunday during a recount of those votes.


Scott on ObamaCare: “no is not an answer”

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott continued Wednesday to shift away from his once staunch opposition to the federal health care overhaul, with his office underscoring his willingness to negotiate how Florida can take part in the effort.

Scott last week told the Palm Beach Post that ”just saying no is not an answer,” to the Affordable Care Act, a position that has become clear following President Obama’s re-election.  Scott had expected the election of Republican Mitt Romney and a Republican-controlled Congress to lead to repeal of the 2010 law.

But Thursday, Scott’s office issued a press release containing an Associated Press story in which the governor is quoted saying he is looking to work with federal officials on implementing the law in Florida.

“The election is over and President Obama won. I’m responsible for the families of Florida…If I can get to yes, I want to get to yes,” Scott is quoted.

The health care law requires consumers to carry insurance beginning in 2014 face a penalty.  Coverage would be purchased through online health marketplaces — called exchanges — employer-provided insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. Some who can’t afford insurance will be eligible for subsidies.

If Florida doesn’t establish its own exchanges, the federal government will do it for the state. Scott and other governors have until Friday to tell federal officials if they plan to implement their own exchanges. States planning to do so must supply a blueprint by Dec. 14.

Scott and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, both acknowledge that Florida would be hard-pressed to meet these deadlines. Scott and Republican leaders in the Legislature effectively have ignored provisions of the Affordable Care Act, rejecting millions of dollars in benefits already offered states.


Gov. Rick Scott’s mother, Esther, dead at 84

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott’s mother, Esther, a fixture in his 2010 campaign for governor, has died at age 84.

Scott posted on his Twitter page Tuesday evening, “My Mom – one of the only constants in my life – has passed away. Ann and I are comforted by all the thoughts and prayers for our family.”

Esther Scott had been struggling with health issues. Scott traveled to Kansas City to be with her in late October after she was hospitalized with an infection and placed in the intensive care unit.

She divided her time between Kansas City and Florida. Esther Scott had been featured in television spots during the governor’s race two years ago, assuring viewers that her son, a first-time political candidate, was “a good boy.”

Scott earlier mentioned that his wife’s mother and father also have died in the past year.

West asks court to order full recount of early votes in St. Lucie County

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by George Bennett

Republican Rep. Allen West‘s campaign says it filed a request for an injunction late today ordering St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker to conduct a recount of all 37,397 ballots from early voting rather than the 16,275 ballots the county canvassing board decided to recount Sunday.

A copy of the filing wasn’t immediately available.

A partial recount of early votes on Sunday showed Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy losing 667 votes and West losing 132 — a net gain of 535 votes for West that reduced Murphy’s small lead in the congressional District 18 race.

“It stands to reason that if the remaining early votes were to be recounted, additional errors would be uncovered and the tabulation of votes revised accordingly,” a statement from West’s campaign said. “Until these remaining early ballots are recounted, however, the Canvassing Board has arbitrarily applied differing counting standards to similarly situated ballots. The erroneous decision of St. Lucie County to ‘re-feed’ only some of the early votes cast in this election violates the Florida Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to voters.”

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered three representatives to St. Lucie County to observe and report on the elections process there. St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties make up District 18.

Weatherford ready to disconnect legislators from their spending committees

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

In the wake of another big spending election, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday that he will make limiting the dollars flowing into political spending committees a top priority in next spring’s legislative session.

The Wesley Chapel Republican, who will take over leadership of the House at next week’s organizational session of the Legislature, said it is time to disconnect lawmakers from committees they can establish to raise and spend unlimited contributions from Florida’s biggest industries.

Weatherford, himself, raised more than $2 million for his Committee for a Conservative House, which he used to help elect favored candidates and for political expenses. One way to reduce the influence of these murky committees, he said, is to raise Florida’s $500 limit on individual contributions to political candidates.

“I think $500 is archaic,” Weatherford said of the current limit, in place about 20 years. “When you compare us to other states…Florida has one of the lowest contribution limits in the country.

“We all know people are spending a lot of money on campaigns, unfortunately, none of it is going to the actual campaign,” he said.

The campaign proposal is likely to be debated in an Ethics and Elections Committee the incoming speaker has established and was among a wide range of topics covered Tuesday as Weatherford prepares to assume leadership in the House, with Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, set to become Senate president.

Florida’s difficulty in tabulating all the ballots in last week’s election also will be part of the committee’s mission, Weatherford said. But he was reluctant to say that a 2011 law reducing the number of days and sites for early voting was a root cause of Florida’s election struggles.

Democrats and voting rights groups have argued in court that Florida’s ruling Republicans enacted the law to depress Democratic turnout.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the problems are,” Weatherford said.

Stand Your Ground task force finalizing recommendations

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

PENSACOLA _ After four months of testimony regarding Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, a panel headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is finalizing recommendations to the legislature about how – if at all – the law should be changed.

But critics of the task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in the aftermath of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer were disappointed by the panel’s suggestions, saying they will do little to clear up what they call haphazard application of the law.

The panel’s first recommendation is an affirmation of the law.

“The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons have a fundamental right to defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner.”

Other recommendations include:
- Asking the legislature to examine the “unlawful activity” of the law. The statute says that the Stand Your Ground law can be invoked as long as people are not engaged in “unlawful activity.”
- Training for prosecutors, law enforcement officials and others about how the law works.
- Having the lawmakers consider setting standards for neighborhood watch groups, now left up mostly to local law enforcement.
- Asking lawmakers to examine the definition of “criminal prosecution” to clear up confusion by law enforcement officials about what they are allowed to do under the law.

“The Task Force heard examples of law enforcement expressing concern for the definition of ‘criminal prosecution.’ The concerns were that law enforcement was not assured of the ability to fully investigate by detaining or arresting upon probable cause a person engaged in use of force,” that recommendation reads.

The panel, just back from lunch, is slated to discuss the “10-20-Life” law as it relates to the use of Stand Your Ground, possibly making a recommendation to relax that gun-related statute that includes mandatory sentences for crimes in which a gun in used.

Criminal defense lawyers and the sponsors of the Stand Your Ground law vehemently objected to a proposal to do away with the immunity from prosecution portion of the law, saying that would effectively gut the statute.

Palm Beach County circuit judge Krista Marx brought up the issue of immunity, arguing that only judges can give immunity. Under the law, people who use the Stand Your Ground defense are immune from prosecution unless a judge decides they may have committed a crime.

She said law enforcement can still investigate whether a crime was committed.

“So when you use the word immunity and suggest that a law enforcement officer or even a state attorney can infer immunity on somebody, it’s incorrect,” Marx said.

But state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the law, disagreed. He wanted to make sure the law continued to keep people who use Stand Your Ground from having to hire a lawyer to defend themselves in court.

“I think the legislature does have the authority to say who will be prosecuted and who will be not prosecuted,” Baxley said. “And in that generic sense that they’re immune from prosecution if in fact they were a law-abiding citizen they were doing nothing wrong except what they should do, which is stop a violent act so nobody got beat raped or murdered. You do not detain them. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do…They’re stopping a violent act. And that’s what I want the statute to do at the end of the day.”

State ‘concerned’ about St. Lucie County results in West-Murphy race, sending staff to assess

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by George Bennett

The Florida Division of Elections is sending three employees to St. Lucie County on Wednesday to try to figure out how 799 votes disappeared in Sunday’s partial recount of the close, nationally watched congressional race between U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy.

“We are concerned whenever there is a question about the accuracy of results,” Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said in an e-mail this afternoon. “We are sending three employees, including the bureau chief, from the Bureau of Voting Systems Certifications, to assess the tabulation process in St. Lucie County.”

St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties make up congressional District 18, where unofficial returns since election night have shown Murphy leading West by less than 1 percent. But St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker acknowledged that her office had problems uploading some electronic memory cartridges from early voting on election night.

West has not conceded, saying he wants a full recount of all ballots from early voting.

Murphy, who’s in Washington today for freshman orientation, said Monday he was “comfortable” with St. Lucie County’s tabulating.

Cate said the Division of Elections spoke to Walker on Saturday about the issue and was under the impression the county’s canvassing board would recount all 37,379 ballots cast during all eight days of early voting — not the three days the canvassing board decided to recount on Sunday.

The canvassing board’s attorney said Sunday that only 16,275 ballots from three days needed to be recounted because the cartridge problem was limited to those days.

The partial recount shaved 667 votes from Murphy’s total and 132 from West’s — a net gain of 535 votes for West that reduced Murphy’s unofficial margin of victory to 1,907 votes or 0.58 percent district-wide. That’s still a bigger lead than the 0.5 percent threshold for a recount under state law.

While the West-Murphy race doesn’t meet the statutory standard for a recount, Cate said counties have the discretion to re-run ballots if they suspect a tabulation error in initial results. That was the case in St. Lucie County.

“If a county canvassing board determines that its unofficial returns contain a counting error in which the vote tabulation system didn’t count properly marked votes, the county canvassing board may correct the error and retabulate the affected ballots. This decision is made by the county canvassing board, not the Department of State,” Cate said.

Technically, Cate said, what St. Lucie County conducted on Sunday was not a recount but a “retabulation” under state law.

Former Florida elections chief on West-Murphy: ‘How do you get away with doing a partial recount?’

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by George Bennett

Former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a three-decade veteran of Florida elections, says he understands why Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West would be “a little steamed” by Sunday’s disputed partial recount of early votes in St. Lucie County.

A recount wasn’t required by state law because Democrat Patrick Murphy’s margin was larger than 0.5 percent. But St. Lucie County elections officials acknowledged problems with the way electronic memory cartridges of early votes were uploaded on election night and scheduled an emergency canvassing board meeting Sunday to recount all 37,379 early votes for all the races on the ballot.

On Sunday, however, the county said the cartridge problem was limited to the last three days of early voting, so only 16,275 ballots cast on those days would be recounted. The recount revealed a 799-vote error in the West-Murphy race that resulted in a 535-vote net gain for West and reduced Murphy’s margin to 0.58 percent.

“Why did they do a recount when it was outside the one half of one percent? If in fact they did order a recount, why did they order a partial recount?” said Browning, who emphasized he has no first-hand knowledge of the situation but says he’s been puzzled by what he’s read about it.


With Dorworth defeated, Crisafulli named House Speaker-designate

Monday, November 12th, 2012 by John Kennedy

In the wake of the surprising upset of a future leader, House Republicans on Monday chose Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island as speaker-designate for 2014.

The announcement that the Republican caucus had rallied around Crisafulli coincided with the completion of a manual recount in Seminole County that showed Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, defeated by Democrat Mike Clelland by the margin of 146 votes.

Dorworth, who was speaker-designate for 2014, had raised more than $500,000 for his re-election campaign, vastly outspending Clelland. Dorworth, though, has been plagued by personal financial problems and Clelland, a lawyer and former firefighter, was helped in Tuesday’s election by a strong Democratic turnout in Central Florida for President Obama.

Dorworth is the first incumbent tapped as a future speaker to lose re-election in Florida, since Democrat Sam Bell was upended in 1988 after leading the charge for the state services tax a year earlier.

“I am proud of the way our Republican House members have handled the adverstity that has come our way over the past week,” said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who will take over as House Speaker at the Legislature’s organizational session next week.

Crisafulli, 41, was just elected to his third term. He’s a real estate broker and has interests in agribusiness. Crisafulli is a descendant of Doyle Carlton, Florida’s Democratic governor from 1929-33.

“I understand the weight of the responsibility that has been placed on my shoulders and I know with the support of the House, we will set forth a bold agenda that honors Floridians over the next four years,” Crisafulli said.

Former Dem chair who said Christians want Jews ‘slaughtered’ draws foe in comeback bid

Monday, November 12th, 2012 by George Bennett

Former Palm Beach County Democratic chairman Mark Alan Siegel, who was pressed to resign by Florida Democratic leaders in September after a videotaped rant against pro-Israel Christians, will attempt a return to party leadership next month.

Siegel plans to run for the county Democratic Party’s state committeeman position. The state committeeman, state committeewoman and party chair represent the county on state Democratic Party issues.

Democratic Executive Committee member Mike Rios said today that he will also run for state committeeman. Rios is head of the Puerto Rican/ USA Hispanic Democratic Club and lost a state House primary this year.


Coalition calls for Florida voting changes, federal investigation

Monday, November 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of unions, civil rights groups and left-leaning organizations is demanding a rewrite of Florida’s election laws and is seeking a federal inquiry into long lines during early voting and on Election Day.

“Now marks 12 years of Florida being a voting disaster area,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project that sued the state on behalf of the NAACP after the 2000 presidential debacle. “We will be looking into further investigating what happened in Florida in 2012 just like we did in 2000.”

The Advancement Project, Florida New Majority Education Fund, two Democratic state senators and the union representing state workers said on a conference call with reporters today that long lines voters faced on Election Day and during early voting appeared to disproportionately impact minority voters who typically vote for Democrats.

That proves that lawmakers were seeking to suppress Democratic turnout with HB 1355, a sweeping election bill passed last year that shrank the number of early voting days and affected voters who move from one county to another.

“It’s increasingly coming out that this was not just a case of misadministration or bad management,” said Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority.

Perera pointed to a Palm Beach Post report that found that the architect of HB 1355, Republican Party of Florida general counsel Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell, was also a senior lawyer at the state Division of Elections in 2000 and was the mastermind of the error-riddled felon voter purge list.

“As more and more of this comes out, it appears a systematic effort to suppress voters. And that is a crime against democracy. There needs to be investigations about what happened and why, whether that be the Department of Justice, congressional hearings or the UN,” he said. “But people who are responsible for making this not a democracy need to be held accountable.”

The coalition is asking lawmakers to repeal HB 1355 and:
- Reinstate the 14-day early voting period and extend the number of voting hours each day to 12;
- Allow more early voting sites based on the number of voters in each county;
- Give county elections supervisors more flexibility with early voting site locations, now restricted to elections offices, public libraries and city halls;
- Permit people voting outside of their precinct to vote a regular ballot on statewide or county-wide races.

But state Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat who saw long lines in many precincts in his district, said he holds little hope that the Republican-dominated legislature, which passed the elections bill over the objections of Democrats, and Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill into law, would make the changes.

Scott also refused to extend early voting hours despite long lines, Braynon said. The Justice Department has oversight of the Voting Rights Act, which includes provisions making it unlawful to discriminate against minorities in elections.

“One of the first steps is to file a complaint with the federal government, whether it be with the Department of Justice on the Voting Rights Act violation. I think the intent was there and I think we may have it rise to the level of a federal investigation as to was this actually intended voter suppression with a full conspiracy and everything,” Braynon said. “As much as I believe that my colleagues in the legislature believe in democracy, I just don’t believe that the governor, as he has proven with his reaction to the long lines and also with the signing of and why 1355 was even created, that they’re going to assist us with this effort.”

Some elections officials blamed the long lines not only the shortened early voting period but on the lengthy ballot which included 11 proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the GOP-dominated legislature. In Palm Beach County during early voting, the ballots had to be printed individually, add to the logjam.

Recount brouhaha: Numbers shift, Murphy camp claims win, West camp vows legal action

Sunday, November 11th, 2012 by George Bennett

FORT PIERCE — A partial recount of early ballots from St. Lucie County further narrowed Democrat Patrick Murphy’s thin margin of victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West, prompting the West campaign to call for a recount of all the early-vote ballots.

Murphy’s total dropped by 667 votes and West lost 132 votes in the recount of 16,275 ballots from the last three days of early voting in St. Lucie County. West’s net gain of 535 votes still leaves him about 0.58 percent behind Murphy in congressional District 18, which also includes Martin County and part of Palm Beach County.

A margin of 0.5 percent or closer is needed to trigger a recount under state law.

West’s campaign manager, Tim Edson, called the recount a “sham” because St. Lucie County’s canvassing board originally announced it would recount all 37,379 early votes cast in the county. He said the West campaign will pursue “every legal action available to make sure every vote is counted fairly and accurately in this election.”

Murphy attorney Sean Dominick said there is no reason for additional recounts.

“They’re sill outside the margin for a recount and there is absolutely no reason to think that any of the other days would change the outcome at all,” Dominick said.

“They (the West campaign) got what they wanted. They lost. It’s time to step aside and let Patrick Murphy do the business of the people of the 18th congressional district and he looks forward to representing them in Congress.”

The early vote totals came into question on election night when some electronic memory cards containing early ballots could not initially be read by tabulating machines. The ballots were scanned later in the evening and changed what had been a small West lead into a small Murphy advantage.

Elections officials said the problem was confined to ballots from the last three days of early voting. But the West campaign said it was told Thursday that the problem was with the first three days.

“The real issue now is trying to determine if the batch that they recounted was in fact the correct batch of affected votes. They say they know they counted the right batch of early votes. But the public has no way of knowing that,” said Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a volunteer attorney for the West campaign.

“I think it would have been a lot simpler if they had just done what they said they were going to do on their Internet site and recount all the early votes. There was no reason not to do that,” Shapiro said.

A notice on the St. Lucie County elections website on Saturday advertised an emergency meeting of the canvassing board this morning “to recount all ballots cast during early voting.”

But Assistant County Attorney Heather Young began the proceedings by announcing only the last three days of early voting would be recounted because those were the only days for which there was a problem reading memory cards. And while the meeting was advertised as a “recount,” Young later said it was more properly a “re-feed” of ballots.

As St. Lucie County recount begins, West camp calls it a ‘sham’ and Murphy lawyer raises qualms

Sunday, November 11th, 2012 by George Bennett

Members of the public watch elections workers feed ballots through scanners in a partial recount of early votes from St. Lucie County

FORT PIERCE — A recount of early votes from St. Lucie County began this morning with lawyers for apparent Democratic congressional victor Patrick Murphy and Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West raising early qualms.

St. Lucie County’s elections office announced Saturday that, because of concerns about the way tabulating equipment uploaded early vote totals on election night, it would conduct a meeting this morning “to recount all ballots cast during early voting.” That would be 37,379 ballots.

But Assistant County Attorney Heather Young began proceedings today by announcing the recount would only cover the final three days of early voting — Nov. 1-3 — because she said those were the only days tabulating equipment had a problem reading memory cards. A total of 16,275 ballots were cast on those three days.

West’s campaign said it was told last week that the problem occurred with the first three days of early voting — Oct. 27-29 — and therefore the recount of the final three days doesn’t address its concerns. West campaign manager Tim Edson said he’d prefer a recount of all eight days of early voting.

“What’s going on today is a sham,” Edson said. “It does nothing to at all to address the concerns we had after being told yesterday they would be recounting all early votes.”

An attorney for Murphy, Sean Dominick, told Young early today that there is no legal basis to recount early votes (state law calls for a recount only in races decided by 0.5 percent or less; Murphy was declared victor by 0.72 percent) and only ballots that were not counted before the election should be counted today.

“To the extent that there are votes that are uncounted, we are all in favor of any vote being counted,” Dominick said to Young.

Young answered that “the only way to do that is to feed all of them because we can’t identify which votes may or may not have been counted.”

Young said she was acting on a recommendation from the Florida Division of Elections.

Young later said that today’s exercise, though described as a “recount” in the public notice from the Supervisor of Elections office, is actually a “re-feed” of ballots. And while national interest is focused on the West-Murphy congressional race, Young said the “re-feed” covers all the races on the St. Lucie County ballot.

Follow updates on the recount at

West-Murphy drama continues as St. Lucie County schedules recount of early votes

Saturday, November 10th, 2012 by George Bennett

Returns submitted to the state Division of Elections today show Democrat Patrick Murphy edging Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West by 2,442 votes or 0.74 percent — a big enough margin to avoid an automatic recount under state law.

But the counting isn’t completely finished.

St. Lucie County’s elections canvassing board has scheduled an emergency meeting for 7 a.m. Sunday to recount all the early votes cast in the county. Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker on Wednesday estimated there were about 37,000 early votes.

West has not conceded and has raised questions about the early vote tally after some electronic memory cards storing early ballots could not initially be counted Tuesday night. The ballots were counted later in the evening and turned a narrow West lead into a small Murphy advantage.

West’s campaign, which has been sharply critical of Walker’s office, said tonight that the Sunday recount “should help shed light on the situation of this election. This is the action we were seeking to ensure the results of this election were fair and accurate.”

The West campaign also wants to review voter sign-in sheets from the election and compare them to the number of ballots cast.

“While we still look forward to reviewing the poll books used to check in voters during early voting and Election Day, this recount goes a long way to ensuring an accurate outcome,” according to the statement from the West campaign.

House Republicans look ready to elect Crisafulli as ’14 Speaker

Friday, November 9th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The apparent upset loss of Rep. Chris Dorworth, a Lake Mary Republican in line to become state House speaker in 2014, led Friday to the emergence of another Central Florida Republican as likely leader of the chamber that year.

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican just elected to his third House term, is gaining support from fellow Republicans for the post.

Dorworth, who  is now trailing Democrat Mike Clelland by 123 votes after provisional ballots were counted Thursday by Seminole County elections officials, has released his supporters to find a new leader, said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

“Nobody has done more for other members than Chris Dorworth,” Gaetz said. “But we have to make a decision in a state of great sadness.”

Crisafulli, 41, is a real-estate broker and in the agribusiness, who most recently was chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, and also served on the House Redistricting Committee. He is a descendant of Doyle Carlton, Florida’s Democratic governor from 1929-1933, and Vassar Carlton, a Florida Supreme Court justice in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“We need to look at what’s next,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, another Crisafulli supporter. “Steve’s got depth and he’s a work horse, not a show horse.”

Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is set to take over the House reins at the Legislature’s organizational session later this month. Although Dorworth’s defeat looks almost certain, Weatherford has not publicly unveiled any plans for succession.

The Dorworth-Clelland contest is expected to be subject of a recount by elections officials Sunday. But House Republicans said Crisafulli is likely to be named Dorworth’s successor by no later than Monday.


Longtime county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein won’t seek reelection

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by George Bennett


Longtime Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein said today that he will step aside in December after 10 years.

Dinerstein has been elected to five consecutive two-year terms as head of the county GOP. His current term ends in December.

“It’s been 10 years and it’s a volunteer job and my wife and I have given up a lot of things so that I could do this. This is a discussion that went on over many months and it has absolutely nothing to with the outcome of the election,” Dinerstein said.

In a county where Democrats hold a registration advantage over Republicans of about 16 percentage points, Dinerstein has played the role of happy warrior, championing Republican positions and long-shot candidates.

But Dinerstein had an uncharacteristically pessimistic take on President Barack Obama’s reelection Tuesday. (more…)

Scott’s latest proposed corp tax cut draws ire of Democrats

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott told a business gathering Thursday that he intends to push next year for another cut in the state’s corporate income tax, a $2.1 billion levy that has drawn the wrath of companies and tea party groups.

Scott would raise an existing $50,000 exemption from the tax to where companies would not have to pay until they owe $75,000 in tax. It would remove another 2,000 businesses from the corporate tax rolls, the Republican governor said.

“I’ve made a commitment to the people of Florida to eliminate the business tax over seven years – and over the past two years we have been able to eliminate the tax for more than 75 percent of businesses that fall under it,” Scott said Thursday, after announcing his plan at a National Association of Realtors convention in Orlando.

“Everything  we do must be tied to helping families get jobs, and eliminating this tax will ensure more small businesses can hire people,” Scott said.

Florida Democrats don’t see it that way  — and ridiculed Scott for ignoring themes emerging from Tuesday’s elections.

“On election night, the people of Florida sent a clear message that they have rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s failed priorities and policies which have slashed funding for our public schools while giving hand outs to the corporate special interests who
epitomize the broken politics of Tallahassee,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “But Governor Rick Scott apparently didn’t get the message: announcing today that he will hand out even more of our tax dollars in special interests giveaways instead of investing in middle class families.”

But the proposal ignited a vigorousback-and-forth between the parties, with Republicans ridiculing the rival party for ignoring Obama’s own support for reducing the federal corporate income tax rate.

The state GOP called Scott’s approach a  “middle-class tax cut for small business owners.”

“It took less than 48 hours for the Democratic Party to abandon one of Barack Obama’s most important campaign promises,” said Mike Grissom, executive director of the Florida Republican Party.



With West seeking recount, Murphy hits up donors for ‘Victory Protection Fund’

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by George Bennett


With U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, going to court to seek a recount in hopes of overturning Democrat Patrick Murphy ‘s apparent narrow victory, Murphy is sending a fundraising appeal to donors.

Says a Murphy e-mail: “When other campaigns have been faced with similiar situations, they have been burdened with legal bills and lengthy and expensive fights that could go on for weeks — months even. We need urgent resources for our Victory Protection Fund to make sure we can protect this victory. We would not be asking for more funds if it was not so urgent.”

Murphy raised about $4 million for the congressional District 18 race, but tells contributors in the e-mail that “We threw everything we had at winning in the last few days.”

West seeks injunction to impound ballots, voting machines

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 by George Bennett

St. Lucie County ballots have already been put in a sealed room.

FORT PIERCE — Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West wants courts to order elections officials to impound ballots and voting machines in preparation for a recount following his narrow loss to Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

Motions for injunctions were filed in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. Information wasn’t immediately available from Martin County, the third county in congressional District 18.

West trails Murphy by 2,456 votes or 0.78 percent. That’s not close enough to trigger a state law that requires a recount for races decided by 0.5 percent or less. But West claims irregularities in the way St. Lucie County counted its early ballots.

St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker has already sealed ballots after West’s attorney made a request to the canvassing board early this morning.

Walker said some of the 18 memory cards that stored information from more than 37,000 early ballots could not be uploaded properly on Tuesday night, so the ballots were recounted later.

West led by 1,833 votes at around 9:30 p.m. and continued to hold a narrow lead as totals were updated throughout the night. But after the early votes from St. Lucie County were recounted, Murphy had a 2,456-vote advantage.

A statement by West campaign manager Tim Edson said there was “complete chaos” in Walker’s office and accused Walker of “hostility and demonstrated incompetence.”

Walker called the complaint a “low blow.”

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