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Democratic 2014 poll: Crist, Sink have solid favorable ratings among Dem voters

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 by George Bennett

A poll of Florida Democrats commissioned by Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert shows former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist enjoyed strong favorable ratings among Florida Dems before he endorsed President Obama and spoke at the Democratic convention.

Taken Aug. 5-7 by Democratic firm SE&A Research, the poll shows 59 percent of Florida Democrats had a somewhat or very favorable opinion of Crist and 52 percent had a somewhat or very favorable view of Alex Sink, the former Florida chief financial officer who lost the 2010 governor’s race to Republican Rick Scott.

In a hypothetical head-to-head Democratic governor’s primary matchup, Sink got 31 percent to 29 percent for Crist. That’s within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

Crist, who ditched his Republican registration for no party affiliation during a failed 2010 Senate campaign, endorsed Obama Aug. 26 and spoke at the Democratic convention the following week. Crist is widely rumored to be mulling a 2014 run for governor as a Democrat.

Ulvert is advising Palm Beach County Democratic state attorney candidate Dave Aronberg and the Florida Democratic Party on state legislative races. He’s close to former Democratic state Sen. and 2010 attorney general candidate Dan Gelber, but said he didn’t commission the poll on behalf of anyone.


Fair Districts advocates blast redistricting plans advancing in Legislature

Friday, January 27th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Organizations which backed the voter-approved constitutional amendments guiding redistricting Friday blasted proposed maps slated to be voted on later in the day by the House Redistricting Committee.

In a 12-page letter to House Redistricting chief Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat serving as legal counsel to Fair Districts supporters, effectively urged lawmakers to scrap the plans they’ve been working on.

The League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza have submitted an alternate approach to district maps that Weatherford today plans to introduce as an amendment to the House plan.

 The alternate proposal would “nest” three House districts within the 40-seat state Senate plan, making the boundaries more compact and logical for voters, Gelber said in his letter.

Congressional districts also would meander less, under the proposal. House, Senate and congressional maps recommended by the groups also would lean less Republican and prove more reflective of a state where registered voters are closely divided, with Democrats still holding a 500,000-voter edge.

“In sum, we believe that we have provided the committee with alternative proposals that comply with the Fair Districts amendments, while the proposals currently under consideration by the committee and those already passed by the Senate fail to comply with those amendments,” leaders of the organizations concluded in the letter to Weatherford.

The alternate maps likely stand little chance of being approved today.

But the letter lays out what could emerge as the central argument against the legislative maps when Florida’s redistricting effort advances for review to the state Supreme Court and U.S. Justice Department in coming weeks, and when Fair Districts advocate file an expected legal challenge.

Fair District backers want Cannon to call off the lawyers

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Days after a Miami judge ruled against a pair of Florida members of Congress, leaders of the so-called Fair Districts campaign Wednesday called on House Speaker Dean Cannon to abandon financing any further challenges to the voter-approved standard for drawing congressional district lines.

“We believe that it is time for the Florida Legislature to quit using taxpayer money to battle its own constituents,” Dan Gelber, a former Democratic state senator wrote on behalf of Fair Districts supporters. “Your efforts in this case are nothing more than an ill-advised attempt to obstruct a reform the people overwhelmingly supported.

“Surely, given the state’s economic challenges, there are better uses for taxpayer dollars,” Gelber concluded.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, who sought to have Amendment 6 declared unconstitutional. The House had intervened in the case, but Cannon insisted it was only because the Legislature would have to implement whatever ruling came out of the court.

Now that the court effectively ended the legal challenge, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and other backers of the Fair Districts effort — mostly Democratic-allied organizations — said the Republican speaker ought to also call off the lawyers.

A Cannon spokeswoman, Katie Betta, said the speaker was still reviewing the judge’s order and hadn’t yet determined the House’s next step.


Redistricting hearings called a “charade” by critics

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Supporters of the Fair Districts constitutional amendments guiding redistricting blasted Florida legislative leaders Tuesday for what some called a ”charade” of more than two-dozen public hearings scheduled to begin next week.

Former Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and lawyer now representing Fair Districts, was joined by the Florida NAACP, the state’s League of Women Voters, and Democracia, an Hispanic voters’ organization, in denouncing the Legislature’s slow-developing time frame to redraw political boundaries for state House, Senate and congressional districts.

Twenty-six public hearings are scheduled through the summer, including an Aug. 16 session at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. But the discussions are not intended to focus on line-drawing.

Instead, the Legislature won’t begin drawing maps in earnest until January. With legal challenges, Gelber and others said it was likely Floridians and candidates won’t know their districts until close to the beginning on candidate qualifying in June.

“That these are transparent hearings, that’s just a sham,” said Deirdre Macnab of the League of Women Voters.

The organizations have written House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and House and Senate redistricting chairs criticizing the schedule and urging that they drop what critics call a gag order in which the letter said lawmakers have been warned they “should not make public statements about redistricting lest they betray intent to engage in political favoritism.”

The organizations also called on U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, and Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, to drop their lawsuit challenging the Fair Districts amendments, approved by voters last fall. The measures prohibit lawmakers from drawing district boundaries to help one party or individual incumbents.

Taxpayers are picking up the legal tab for both sides in the lawsuit, which is scheduled for oral arguments in Miami federal court in July.

“It’s time we stop spending taxpayer funds to defeat the purpose of the voters,” said Leon Russell of the NAACP.

UPDATE: Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, responded to the Fair Districts criticism, saying all Floridians’ “viewpoints are heard,” in the process. He also urged critics to draw their own versions of the maps, a challenge Haridopolos earlier issued.

“I once again invite them to submit their own maps so everybody can see their concept of a ‘fair district.’ If the past is any indication though, they’ll come up with an excuse not to participate in this important process,” he said.

ACLU sues Rick Scott over state worker drug-testing

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

The ACLU is challenging in federal court Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order forcing all state workers to undergo drug testing.

The civil rights organization filed the lawsuit in federal court in Miami yesterday accusing Scott of violating the constitution’s guarantee to be free from unreasonable searches by the government. The lawsuit also asks federal judge Ursula Ungaro to issue an injunction immediately stopping all drug-testing of the state’s 250,000 state workers.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon called Scott’s order “profoundly un-American” because it is conflicts with the Fourth Amendment put into the Bill of Rights in response to warrantless searches by King George’s troops during the American Revolution.

“It could not be more invasive of privacy,” Simon told reporters during a conference call this afternoon.

In 2004, the courts struck down a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice random drug testing policy. The court found that drug testing of state workers without reasonable suspicion was unconstitutional and awarded the plaintiff in that case $150,000.

Yesterday, Scott signed into law a measure requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug screening. That new law is unrelated to the executive order and to the case filed yesterday.

The lawsuit is the first in what is expected to be a slew of challenges to state laws passed by the legislature during the session that ended last month regarding abortion, elections and freedom of speech.

“It’s a tsunami of anti-civil liberties legislation,” Simon said.

Update: Amends 5 & 6 sent to Justice Department after GOP delay

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The House and Senate agreed Tuesday to send to federal officials the voter-approved Amendments 5 and 6, apparently ending an icy standoff between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic-allied supporters of the redistricting measures.

Sending the amendments to the U.S. Justice Department for “preclearance,” is a routine step in the redistricting process. But Scott added a level of intrigue when he quietly withdraw the state’s request soon after taking office.

Supporters of the so-called Fair Districts amendments, which are aimed at requiring that compact legislative and congressional districts be designed by lawmakers without concern for incumbents or political parties, sued Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning to force the review to proceed.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Miami, include the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters,  Democracia, a Hispanic political action group, and five individuals from Monroe County. (more…)

Groups file suit against governor over halt to redistricting changes

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Supporters of two voter-approved constitutional amendments changing the way Florida lawmakers draw Congressional and legislative districts filed a lawsuit today demanding that Gov. Rick Scott move forward with the federal approval needed to implement the changes.

Shortly after taking office, Scott put the brakes on predecessor Charlie Crist’s request to the U.S. Department of Justice for the “pre-clearance” required whenever Florida makes changes to its elections laws affecting voters’ rights.

Scott reappointed Kurt Browning as Florida’s secretary of state. Browning, originally appointed by Crist, left his post last year to lead the fight against the “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters in November that now bar lawmakers from drawing districts that favor political parties or incumbents.


Greta Van Susteren headlines Scott inaugural event

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

FOX News anchor Greta Van Susteren will be the keynote speaker at Gov.-elect Rick Scott‘s inaugural event honoring women, his inaugural team announced this morning.

Van Susteren will headline the “Salute to Women in Leadership Breakfast” on Monday, the day before Scott is sworn in as Florida’ 45th governor.

The breakfast will “honor the contributions of many great Florida women, including the historic election of Jennifer Carroll as Florida’s next Lieutenant Governor and Pam Bondi, the state’s first woman elected to serve as Attorney General,” according to a press release issued by Scott’s inauguration team.

Bondi, a former Tampa prosecutor, is no stranger to Van Susteren. She frequently appeared on Van Susteren’s “On the Record” show as a legal analyst and got a shout-out from the FOX News host after defeating former state Sen. Dan Gelber in November.


Scott gets his guv on in hometown

Monday, December 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s inaugural festivities got underway this morning in his Naples hometown, a week before Scott officially takes the helm as Florida’s 45th governor on Jan. 4.

About 200 well-wishers crowded into a nippy courtyard as a Dixieland band played jazz at the Food & Thought Organic Market and Restaurant as Scott and Lt. Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll shook hands, posed for pictures.

“Who’s ready to create 700,000 jobs? Who’s ready to get rid of all regulations that are killing jobs in this state? Who’s willing to use accountability budgeting to look at every state agency? Who’s ready to get that done?” Scott said, echoing his campaign refrain.

Scott reiterated his pledge to scrutinize state spending to make sure taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck and got in a little president-bashing as well.

“We cannot continue to go down the path we’re on. We cannot continue to go down the path Barack Obama’s taking us…We are going to make sure we change how we run this state,” Scott promised.

Scott and Carroll and the newly elected Florida Cabinet are scheduled to make stops in Orlando and Clewiston today as party of four days of inaugural partying.


Gelber’s campaign denounces fliers calling AG candidate “toxic to Jewish education”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Andrew Abramson

Dan Gelber’s campaign continues to denounce mailers being sent out to the South Florida Jewish community, saying that Gelber is “toxic to Jewish education.”

Gelber’s campaign director, Christian Ulvert, called the attacks from the Committee for Florida’s Education, Inc. “disgusting.” Gelber, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, is a Jewish state senator from Miami Beach.

“There is no doubt in anybody’s minds these are mailers closely aligned with Pam Bondi and her campaign,” Ulvert said.

A spokeswoman for Bondi, the Tampa-area Republican prosecutor running against Gelber for attorney general, said her campaign had nothing to do with the mailers.


Bondi scooping up DC cash from Tim Kaine loser

Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Dara Kam

With barely more than a week until Election Day, GOP attorney general candidate Pam Bondi took time out from campaigning in the Sunshine State for quick trip to Washington DC to rake in some dough for ad time.

Bondi flew into DC briefly for a fundraiser hosted by former Virginia attorney general Jerry Kilgore, Bondi spokeswoman Sandi Copes said in an e-mail.

Bondi surely hopes she fares better than Kilgore did in his last election.

The Republican resigned as Virginia’s attorney general in 2005 to run for governor of the then-red state.

But Kilgore lost to Democrat Tim Kaine, now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Gelber camp blasted Bondi, who’s never run for office before, for the fundraising trip, setting off a typical finger-pointing volley in the contentious race to succeed Attorney General Bill McCollum.

AG wars: Bondi camp calls Gelber a liar

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP attorney general candidate Pam Bondi’s campaign consultant called out her Democrat opponent Dan Gelber for “a distortion of the truth” in his new television ad.

In the ad, Gelber accuses Bondi of promising to “side with corporate interests” if she is elected.

“Dan Gelber’s first television ad is a disappointing distortion of the truth and in keeping with a career politician’s ‘win at all costs’ attitude. He talks about corruption but has no problem corrupting the truth. He made an allegation that wasn’t true and offered no evidence, because there is none,” Bondi campaign consultant Brett Doster said in a statement.

The ad refers to remarks Bondi’s made on the campaign trail pledging to side with the Florida Chamber of Commerce in fighting the union-backed card check issue and statements she’s made saying that “the last thing we need is an Eliott Spitzer-type” AG.

Gelber interpreted that to mean she won’t go after white-collar criminals as Spitzer, known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” did before he went down in flames after being caught with prostitutes.


Gelber hammers Bondi over big business ties in first TV ad

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Dan Gelber slammed his GOP attorney general opponent Pam Bondi in his first campaign ad, accusing the former Tampa prosecutor of being too close to her business backers to go after corruption.

Bondi, who has never run for office before, won the endorsement of the state’s two biggest (and influential) business groups – the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida – in the three-way GOP primary and in the general race.

Gelber, a state senator and former federal prosecutor, has made going after public corruption one of his top priorities in the campaign.

“While she protects insiders, I’ll take them on,”

Bondi highlights differences with Dem opponent Gelber in ‘Night and Day’ ad

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP attorney general candidate Pam Bondi and her Democrat opponent Dan Gelber both spent years as prosecutors, but they’re as different as night and day, the name of her new television ad.

Bondi, a political newcomer who spent two decades as a Tampa prosecutor, contrasts her positions on taxes and federal health care reforms in the new ad, running in select markets.

Bondi’s ad was created by GOP consultant Adam Goodman’s company, The Victory Group, and debuted in the West Palm Beach media market.

AG candidate Gelber joins chorus pushing for broader BP claims payments

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Add state Sen. Dan Gelber, the Democrat candidate for attorney general, to the list of pols criticizing BP claims czar Ken Feinberg for his handling of payments to Floridians harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gelber, a former federal prosecutor from Miami Beach, sent a letter to Feinberg asking him to include the costs of preparing claims to payments to individuals and businesses. Feinberg said he won’t pay for legal or accounting fees associated with the filings.

“Citizens of our state are rightfully frustrated. They see promises from BP actors in commercials suggesting the company is prepared to do the right thing. Yet on the ground, they see obfuscation, and a process that is filled with more chutes than ladders,” Gelber wrote.

Gelber also joined Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor; Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent candidate for U.S. Senate; and Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican who lost the primary bid for governor, in demanding that Feinberg pay damages to those located where oil never reached the shore. Feinberg’s consideration of proximity to the oil spill in paying claims has been a major issue of contention since he took over BP’s botched claims process on Aug. 23.

Sink and the Florida Cabinet slammed Feinberg yesterday and Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, a member of a statewide task force looking into the economic damages caused by the disaster, gave Feinberg just a few weeks to speed up payments to businesses on the brink of bankruptcy in Northwest Florida.

GOP candidates’ refusal to participate leads to cancelation of Cabinet debates

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

With two of the three GOP Florida Cabinet candidates refusing to participate in a debate next month, organizers had no choice but to cancel the event.

Attorney general candidate Pam Bondi and Senate President Jeff Atwater, the Republican nominee for chief financial officer, would not agree to debate their Democratic opponents, Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings said today. The press association and Leadership Florida had planned to host the Oct. 5 event at the University of Florida.

GOP agriculture commissioner candidate Adam Putnam was the only Republican who signed up for the debate, Ridings said.

“Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater would not confirm. We are pretty much at the deadline. And every indication was that they would not participate,” Ridings said. “It didn’t make sense just to do the one” debate, Ridings said.


Attorney general debate scrubbed, Bondi won’t appear

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Organizers canceled an Oct. 5 debate at the University of Florida between attorney general candidates Dan Gelber and Pam Bondi because Bondi won’t appear.

GOP hopeful Bondi, a former prosecutor from Tampa who’s never run for office before, has a “scheduling conflict” preventing her from participating in the debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association, her campaign spokeswoman Sandi Copes said. Copes could not immediately say what Bondi had to do that trumped the debate.

State senator Gelber, a former federal prosecutor who also served as House Democratic Leader, earned a reputation as one of the legislature’s top arguers during feisty floor debates.

Aronberg, Gelber a state apart in last-minute push for attorney general

Saturday, August 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Democratic candidates for attorney general spent the day in opposite parts of the state waving signs and knocking on doors in a last-ditch effort to win votes in Tuesday’s primary election.

State Sen. Dave Aronberg is spending the day in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. His opponent, Dan Gelber, is stumping in North Florida with stops in Tallahassee and Pensacola.

Gelber topped all of the attorney general candidates – including the three Republicans in a tight primary – in campaign contributions. He edged out opponent Aronberg, who led the raise in fundraising until this month, by just $11,000.

Like the Republican primary, the Aronberg and Gelber race is too close to call.

“With 43 percent undecided this is anyone’s game right now,” Aronberg said while going door-to-door in South Florida.

Gelber strikes back at Aronberg in attorney general race TV ad

Friday, August 6th, 2010 by Dara Kam

State Sen. Dan Gelber gets defensive in his first television ad in the race against fellow senator Dave Aronberg in the Democratic attorney general primary.

With absentee voting already underway, Gelber, a Miami Beach lawyer and former federal prosecutor, highlights his years in the courtroom and accuses Aronberg of “political games” and “dishonest attacks” in a series of mailers in which Aronberg accuses Gelber of a potential conflict of interest. Aronberg’s made a big issue out of Gelber’s former law firm going to work for BP to defend the oil giant in any Florida lawsuits.

Aronberg calls Gelber request for attorney general debates ‘political stunt’ but says yes…if

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

State Sen. Dave Aronberg agreed to his colleague Sen. Dan Gelber’s request for debates before the primary election…sort of.

Aronberg and Gelber are in a heated Democratic primary for attorney general, and Aronberg’s taken off the gloves and attacked his opponent for Gelber’s former law firm’s representation of BP.

Gelber says he resigned from Akerman Senterfitt, the state’s largest law firm that recently was retained by BP, days before Aronberg demanded it.

Gelber then sent Aronberg a letter asking for 11 debates before the Aug. 24 primary.

Aronberg responded today calling a request for that many debates – nearly three a week – a “political stunt” and dragging BP into the debate arena.

“The next Attorney General will probably spend the better part of this decade involved in litigation of the state versus BP, Halliburton and other parties who might share liability for this disaster. Therefore, as we work together to agree on our debate schedule, I want to insist that at least one of the debates be held there so the citizens of that region can hear our plans for fighting for them as their Attorney General,” Aronberg wrote in a letter to Gelber.

Aronberg also agreed to a debate outside of South Florida, home to both Democrats, in Tampa Bay or Orlando.

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