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Florida Democratic Party adds communications and research staff

Monday, June 3rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Democratic Party continued to remake its office under new Chair Allison Tant, unveiling a few more changes Monday with a former spokesman for U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, named the party’s communications director.

Joshua Karp worked for Frankel’s campaign last fall and also served as communications director for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. Karp takes over for Brannon Jordan, who served the past two years under former Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

Also named to new posts Monday were Max Steele, the party’s new press secretary and a former staffer the past two years, and Casey Nesselhauf, research director, who has worked the past four years as a researcher at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Their combination of Florida experience, relationships, and political savvy will make our party even stronger, and ensure we are holding Rick Scott and the Florida GOP accountable,” Tant said.

Florida’s redistricting fight continues on paper trail

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Republican-allied campaign research and consulting firm surrendered more than 1,800 pages of records this week but asked a judge Thursday to block a demand by Democratic-leaning groups for more emails and documents in a lawsuit over last year’s legislative redistricting battle.

Data Targeting, Inc., a Gainesville-based political affairs firm, said in a motion filed with Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that organizations seeking the records are on an “old-fashioned fishing expedition.”

Lawyers for the company add that documents sought may include “proprietary” information that could threaten relationships with clients and reveal business secrets.

Lewis is expected to rule Friday in the matter, part of a post-redistricting clash that is already in the Florida Supreme Court. There, justices are being asked to dismiss the lawsuit before Lewis, which was filed by the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

Court documents filed earlier with Lewis show that emails were exchanged between aides to Senate President Don Gaetz,
House Speaker Will Weatherford and consultants who analyzed proposed maps.

The emails also show that in 2010, Rich Heffley, a Florida Republican Party consultant advising Gaetz, then the Senate’s
redistricting chairman, organized a “brainstorming” meeting at the state  party headquarters in Tallahassee.

Other documents in the case show that Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who are both angling for Senate presidency in coming years, emailed district information to consultants for review.

The  Supreme Court last year ruled the Senate’s initial proposal for redrawing the 40-member chamber unconstitutional. The 5-2 decision found  the Senate plan protected incumbents, packed minority voters into districts and numbered Senate districts in a way to give incumbents more time in office.

It marked the first time since the court was brought into that stage of redistricting in 1972 that justices overturned a legislative map. The House map was approved by justices.

Florida GOP urges Dems to #FreeNanRich

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Republican Party has stepped-up its pot-stirring in the Democratic Party kerfuffle over gubernatorial contender Nan Rich being denied a speaking spot at the upcoming Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

State GOP Chairman Lenny Curry sent letters Thursday to 13,000 South Florida Democrats urging them to mount a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #FreeNanRich.

Curry accused his Democratic counterpart, Allison Tant, of bowing to the wishes of big contributors who are uneasy with the liberal bent of the former state senator from Weston.

Curry also said that Tant is looking to head-off a potential Democratic primary challenge to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat gaining behind-the-scenes support from many party leaders.

Tant and her advisers have said she denied Rich’s request for five-minutes to speak from the podium at next month’s dinner because she is trying to streamline the event’s agenda. The Jefferson-Jackson gala is scheduled to take place at Hollywood’s Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa.

Curry said in his letter, “While Senator Rich and I might not see eye to eye politically, she has a long history of leadership in public service and deserves five minutes of speaking time as the only announced gubernatorial candidate in your party.”

 

Scott calls tuition hike a “tax increase…that must be stopped”

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott underscored his veto this week of a 3 percent tuition hike by sending letters Friday to administrators at the
state’s 12 public universities, calling a tuition hike, “a tax increase on our families that must be stopped.”

With assurances already in hand from most schools that they won’t seek an increase from the State University System’s Board of Governors, Scott’s letter is aimed chiefly at blunting an automatic, 1.7 percent cost-of-living boost.

The provision was included in state law to help schools meet rising costs, even when no tuition hike is approved.

But Scott appears intent on getting schools to refuse the inflation dollars.

“As with many matters that come before us, I know there are several legal opinions concerning who would implement a tuition increase and how they would go about doing it,” Scott said in his letter.

“Again, we are committed to fighting against any tuition increase in Florida,” he added. “We should be proud that our state offers affordable tuition and a high quality education, just as we are proud to have no state income tax.”

Running for re-election next year, Scott could have the distinction of being the first governor in almost two decades to halt Florida’s tuition rise. It appears Scott and his advisers see the cost-of-living provision as a potential asterisk on an otherwise potent political claim – one aimed directly at a possible rival.

Scott’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is now a Democrat who many expect to seek that party’s nomination for governor next year.

Under Crist, lawmakers and business leaders across Florida had pushed through legislation giving universities more authority to raise tuition. Crist joined with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Council of 100 and others in promoting tuition hikes as a means of plowing more dollars into universities.

Florida GOP slaps Pafford for budget vote

Monday, May 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

With Gov. Rick Scott stopping at a Palm Beach County school Monday to tout teacher pay raises, the Florida Republican Party launched an internet strike on Democratic Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, one of 11 lawmakers voting against the state’s proposed $74.5 billion budget.

‘Why Did Pafford vote against Governor’s budget that’s a win for public schools,’ was one of the headlines in a Florida GOP release that interlaced newspaper stories on the teacher pay raise with stinging words for Pafford.

Pafford was accused of being part of a ‘(Dis) appreciation week for teachers.’

“They apparently didn’t listen to my debate,” Pafford said Monday of the GOP criticism.

Pafford said he voted ‘no’ on the budget because it failed to adequately serve poor Floridians, the elderly and disabled. Mostly, he centered his opposition on the Legislature’s failure to expand health insurance to low-income residents, a battle that consumed much of the session and ended in a stalemate between the House and Senate.

“The budget is not plugged into the reality that exists outside this chamber,” Pafford said Friday on the House floor.

The GOP blast on Pafford came shortly after Scott toured Wynnebrook Elementary School in West Palm Beach, among a handful of school stops the governor plans to make this week. The budget includes $480 million that could give teachers a $2,500 pay raises by next June.

 

 

Sen. Arthenia Joyner quietly selected to take over Democratic caucus

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Senate Democrats quietly elected Arthenia Joyner to take over as chairwoman of the caucus next year in a behind-closed-doors meeting on the last day of the legislative session.

Joyner, a Tampa lawyer, will become the first black woman to chair the caucus, now chaired by Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.

Joyner was selected without fanfare and during an unannounced meeting, a departure from how House Democrats handled a contested election won by Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg lawyer, in February. The House caucus election, broadcast on The Florida Channel, resulted in a tie vote. Rouson won by a single vote in a second round of balloting.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant called Joyner “a tireless advocate for Democratic values and ally to Florida’s middle class families” in a press release announcing her election.

House unveils its low-cost answer to Medicaid expansion

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Weeks after Republican legislative leaders defied Gov. Rick Scott and refused to expand Medicaid, the House rolled out a health insurance plan Thursday that parallels a longshot proposal already introduced in the Senate.

The House would build on Florida Health Choices, a five-year-old insurance marketplace designed for individuals and small businesses.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, has advanced a similar approach in the Senate, where it has drawn little support compared with a more ambitious proposal from Senate budget chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

With just over three weeks remaining before the Legislature’s May 3 adjournment, the battle lines are clear. While Scott and Negron have expressed support for drawing billions of federal dollars to finance health coverage for an additional 1 million Floridians, the House proposal shuns federal money.

“The Florida House has developed a plan that will fit the needs of Florida, not the requirements of Washington,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.  “Our plan increases our commitment to a strong safety net and ensures Floridians are not on the hook for billions that we currently do not have.”

The House’s Florida Health Choices Plus would cover an additional 115,000 uninsured Floridians at a cost of $237 million annually to state taxpayers. Florida has close to 4 million residents without health coverage, contributing to hospitals losing $2.8 billion in charity care last year.

Democrats, hospitals and health-care organizations have joined advocates for low-income Floridians in pressing Republican leaders to embrace the Medicaid expansion allowed states under the Affordable Care Act.

Florida stands to draw $51 billion in federal aid at a cost to taxpayers of $3.5 billion over the next decade — with the first three years of the expansion fully paid for by the federal government.

Negron’s proposal in the Senate, if approved by the full Legislature and signed into law by Scott, is seen as likely winning approval from the Obama administration. That would clear the way for it to be financed as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion.

Following the plan’s release, House Democrats and Scott found rare symmetry.

Both sides gave a nod to the effort by House Republicans — but said it fell short.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale called it “bare-bones health coverage.”

“Though personally, at a glance, I am not enthralled by the proposal, I recognize that it is at least a minimal attempt toward achieving a legislative compromise on the important topic of health coverage for Floridians,” Thurston said.

Scott weighed-in supporting the Senate plan.

“The House’s plan will cost Florida taxpayers on top of what they are already taxed under the president’s new health care law,” Scott said. “This would be a double-hit to state taxpayers.”

He added, “The Senate’s plan will provide health care services to thousands of uninsured Floridians while the program is 100 percent federally funded. As it stands today, the Senate’s plan is in line with what I said I would support because it protects both state taxpayers and the uninsured in our state.”

Much of the proposal released Thursday by the House was devoted to making a case against expanding Medicaid. The Health Choices Plus plan would cost low-income Floridians $25-a-month, letting them choose from a variety of insurance options supplemented by $2,000 annually in taxpayer contributions.

Those taking part in the program would be expected to be employed, unless they could not work because of a disability.

Health care advocates earlier questioned the similar Bean proposal in the Senate — saying it’s lack of significant financing would blunt the kind of coverage Floridians could obtain.

 

 

Nelson says no, again, to gov’s race talk

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 by John Kennedy

In case he wasn’t heard the first time, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday again dismissed talk that he was considering challenging Republican Gov. Rick Scott next year.

“The truth is, I have no plans to run for governor,” said Nelson, elected last fall to his third Senate term. “I have no intention of running for governor. I’m trying to serve as senator, and that’s why I’m here today.”

Nelson passed through Tallahassee on Wednesday on his way to the Panhandle’s Marianna, where he was to join anthropologists and law enforcement officials at the closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Scientists have found evidence that suggests unknown bodies may be buried on the grounds of the century-old reform school.

Strategists from both leading parties have been buzzing about the idea of Nelson retaining his Senate seat while running for governor next year. Speculation stems from the view that expected candidate and recent Democratic convert, former Gov. Charlie Crist, would drive too many Republicans to the polls next year, angry and eager to vote against him.

Nelson looms as a less-antagonistic choice for Democrats, the theory says. And, if elected governor, he would be empowered to appoint his successor in the Senate — assuring Democrats would keep the seat.

Darryl Rouson victor in tight Florida House Dems leadership battle

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida House Democrats selected Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg lawyer, as their next leader with a 23-21 victory over Mia Jones of Jacksonville.

The 44-member caucus handed the 2014-2016 leadership post to Rouson after a first vote ended in a 22-22 tie.

“The best interest of this caucus is at stake. And the honor and integrity of this caucus today was at stake. The world was watching,” a tearful Rouson told the caucus.

Perhaps anticipating a tie-breaker, current House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, warned the caucus to stick with the promise of a cake and ice cream celebration.

Rouson served on former Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team (back when Crist was a Republican) and comes from Crist’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

“I care about what we get when we go home and how we can brag to our constituents…we affected policy and we brought something home,” Rouson, who said he fasted prior to tonight’s vote, told the caucus after his win was announced.

House Democrats picked up six seats in November, and Rouson’s supporters lauded his efforts to help incumbents and freshmen on the campaign trail.

West Palm Beach Democrat Mark Pafford nominated Jones, calling her a champion of the middle class and progressives and “a leader whose time has come.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard, a former state representative from Miami who was elected to the Senate in November, cautioned the caucus about moving forward as the minority party in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Don’t get into the back-biting. Don’t get into the deal cutting. Don’t get into the knee-capping…Do not sell your votes short,” Bullard advised.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arcenaux, filling in while the second vote was being counted, congratulated the caucus for shrinking the GOP advantage in November.

“It’s now time for all of us to stop thinking in the mindset of the minority and start getting into the mindset of the majority,” Arcenaux said. “What we learned this cycle – hard work. None of our people got outworked. We got outspent…but we never got outworked.”

But nominating Rouson, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee said that Rouson would help boost the caucus’s numbers in the upcoming elections.

“It is integrity. It’s how you handle pressure,” that will ensure the Democrats keep gaining, she said.

Scott’s budget gets another gentle review — this time from Senate

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A day after the House budget committee gave Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $74.2 billion state spending plan a mostly gentle review, its Senate counterpart followed suit Wednesday — although a few stylistic differences emerged.

Senators seemed more concerned than the House about the state maintaining fat reserve funds — a particular focus of Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, also extracted an acknowledgement from Scott budget director Jerry McDaniel that the Legislature could move forward with a funding boost for Florida State University similar to the $15 million extra the governor wants for University of Florida to help it achieve top 1o ranking by academic reviewers.

McDaniel also pledged that Scott’s plan for $2,500 pay increases for teachers would not interfere with local collective bargaining agreements between union representatives and county school boards.

Several counties have reached deals that require raises to be based on performance standards — which may affect how counties dole out the pay hikes sought by Scott.

“We recognize that some teachers may get $4,000; some may get $1,000,” McDaniel said.

Otherwise, the Senate panel followed a course similar to that cut Tuesday by the House budget panel. Democrats’ questions pivoted mostly on school funding and why Scott was not endorsing the Medicaid expansion authorized under the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe we have too many questions than answers,” McDaniel said, echoing comments he made a day earlier.

But McDaniel may have given some hope to health care advocates who have been looking for signs that Scott’s resistence is waning.

“He does not yet propose expansion,” McDaniel told the committee.

Florida Congressional Democrats seek federal probe of voting law

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida’s Democratic U.S. House members, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold a hearing regarding Florida’s voting law that shrunk the number of early voting days, required more voters to cast provisional ballots and was intended to curb voter registration by outside groups.

The Democratic delegation asked for the hearing based on a report in The Palm Beach Post on Sunday that detailed how Republican Party of Florida consultants and staff sought to alter Florida’s early voting laws in the aftermath of the 2008 election to curb Democratic turnout.

“In light of these allegations, we are extremely concerned over the integrity of this law and the justification for its implementation,” U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Wasserman Schultz wrote to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Martin Castro in a letter sent today. “As you know, trust in our democracy is what holds our country together. Voters must be able to trust that their elected officials are acting in their best interest.”

The commission held hearings in Florida in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 election and made numerous recommendations based on its findings, many of which were included in the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002.

House Dems select new leaders, too

Monday, November 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Rep. Perry Thurston officially took over as House Democratic Leader for the next two years in a ceremony in the Old Capitol, finalizing the minority caucus’s leadership switch before tomorrow’s organizational session.

Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, welcomed 24 new state representatives to the 44-member caucus, a five-seat gain in part due to newly-drawn legislative districts.

“I like to refer to us as…the heart and soul of the legislature,” Thurston said.

Echoing President Obama’s emphasis on the middle-class, Thurston said the outnumbered Democrats will continue as “the voice of opposition” but with new-found strength since breaking the GOP supermajority stronghold in the House as well as the Senate. If Democrats hold together, they would be able to block procedures or legislation that require a two-thirds vote, including proposed constitutional amendments.

Thurston said Democrats should take a lesson from the GOP to make their numbers even stronger.

“The way the other side did it, they did it by sticking together,” he said. “We’re going to be here and we’re going to be ready to fight.”

Speaking of the November election, Thurston said that Democrats predicted that a sweeping election law (HB 1355) passed last year would create problems.

“We understood it was going to be disastrous,” Thurston said. “That disastrous vote, with people standing in line eight, nine, ten hours, we argued against that. And we’re going to continue to advocate against issues that are going to affect our state.”

Thurston and his counterpart Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are both black lawyers from Fort Lauderdale. Smith also served as the head of the House Democrats in 2005 and 2006.

Smith said the site of the ceremony, typically a brief event held on the House and Senate floors, was significant.

“We both decided to have our events here in the Old Capitol, a place that wouldn’t welcome us a few years ago. But now we’re both taking our leadership positions tonight in this building,” Smith said.

The House Dems also selected Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, as the leader pro tempore, and named other representatives to leadership positions, including Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who is the caucus’s policy lead.

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.

Florida Dems ask Scott to extend early voting

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are asking Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting an extra day, blaming the GOP-backed changes to the election law that shrank the number of early voting days for long lines at the polls.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Scott should take the lead from his predecessor Charlie Crist who extended early voting four years ago in response to long lines around the state and election machine problems in certain counties.

Lawmakers last year cut back on the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and did away with the final Sunday before Election Day. Democrats have historically used early voting in greater numbers than Republicans in Florida.

Although the number of early voters casting ballots was down in Palm Beach County from four years ago, voters are still having to wait in long lines, in part because of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by lawmakers. About a third of Florida voters are expected to vote early either by mail or in person before Tuesday’s election.

Voters in Palm Beach County continue to wait as much as two hours to cast ballots at the county’s 14 early polling places. On Wednesday, 14,615 voters cast ballots – down 90 votes from Saturday – the busiest day at the polls with 15,525 county voters casting early ballots.

Smith joined former state and senator Dan Gelber in making the demand on Scott.

Here’s Smith’s statement:

“In 2008, Floridians had 14 days of early voting — and Florida’s then Republican governor still found it necessary to extend early voting. The long lines at the polls show it was clearly a mistake for the GOP controlled Legislature in Tallahassee to cut early voting in half — but it is past time for Governor Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue: protecting the right of every eligible Floridian to make their voice heard by participating in our democracy is an American responsibility which every elected leader has sworn to uphold and defend. In light of of the record turnout this year, we call on Governor Scott to extend early voting hours in every county across Florida through Sunday, so that Florida citizens can exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right and freedom to participate in this election.

“To all Floridians of whatever persuasion, do not be deterred from casting your vote. It is the sacred duty of every citizen.”

Leading Republicans didn’t seem too interested Thursday in meeting Smith’s demand.

“There’s no unusual circumstances, no weather-related events,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, moments before leaving Tallahassee for a multi-city bus tour promoting presidential contender Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

“There’s nothing out there in the state of Florida that would create the basis for an emergency order,” Putnam said.

In 2008, Crist’s decision to extend daily hours of early voting stunned his then-fellow Republicans and was seen as helping President Obama claim Florida over Republican John McCain. Crist, who has abandoned the GOP, has been campaigning for Obama this fall.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll also dismissed the Democrats’ request.

“It’s not the end yet, and we still have Election Day as well, when people certainly can turn out to vote,” Carroll said.

Obama team bullish with eight days to go

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s campaign team held a bullish conference call with reporters shortly after President Clinton addressed an Orlando crowd Monday morning.

“We’re winning this race. And I say that not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that’s going to come or some hidden vote,” said Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod.

Axelrod said the Obama team’s confidence was based on “cold, hard, data-based” facts on early voting and swing state polls.

“You’re going to get spun and spun and spun in the next week,” he said. “In just eight days we’ll know who’s bluffing and who was not.”

In Florida, Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina said record-breaking early voting in some areas, including Jacksonville, overcame a GOP advantage in absentee ballots.

“That is a really strong, incredible sign of strength,” Messina said.

Some voters waited as long as six hours before casting their ballots, he said. “That’s what enthusiasm looks like.”

The Obama camp’s enthusiasm comes a day after Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker declared Romney the winner of Florida. Coker said Mitt Romney has nailed down the I-4 corridor crucial to a statewide sweep. In a poll of the region from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach conducted for The Tampa Bay Times and its media partners, Romney held a 51-45 percent edge over Obama with 4 percent undecided.

“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Coker told the Times. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Obama dropped by an Orlando campaign office Sunday night before bailing on the Central Florida event with President Bill Clinton (who showed up with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson) and instead returning to the White House to monitor Hurricane Sandy threaten much of the Northeast.

“The president…has real responsibilities. Those responsibilities come first,” Axelrod said. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time but that’s as it has to be. We’ll try to make it up on the back end. It’s not a matter of optics. It’s a matter of responsibility.”

Obama’s aides pointed to polls showing the president leading in key swing states, including Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

“As is befitting the Halloween season, Gov. Romney is running around the nation posing as an agent of change,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney’s economic plan would cost “middle class” $5 trillion in tax cuts “skewed to the wealthy” and a $2 trillion boost in defense spending the Pentagon is not seeking.

Romney’s plan is “an echo of the failed policies of the past,” he said.

“We’re going to be pounding that message everywhere in the final days of this campaign,” Axelrod said.

The Obama camp’s swagger drew sneers from the other side. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski sent out the following e-mail shortly after the call.

“All – a couple things stuck out to us while we were listening to Axelrod and Messina on their call – they are extremely defensive about Pennsylvania acknowledging OFA and Restore Our Future are going up with ads, Bill Clinton will be headed to at least four states that were not on Messina’s map as of April 2012 and they are spending time reaffirming their confidence about Wisconsin – a state they won by 14 points in 2008. Oh, and Axelrod made it two days in a row that the campaign has attacked the Des Moines Register. You’re right Axe, 8 days and we’ll see who is bluffing.”

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Rouson’s running for Speaker; more likely, minority leader

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by John Kennedy

State Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, announced Monday that he is in the running for House Speaker in 2014.

But given that Democrats are outnumbered 82-38 in the House — with few chances the balance will change dramatically in November — it’s more likely Rouson is angling to succeed Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, as minority leader.

Rouson was first elected in a special election in April 2008, giving him a few months seniority on members of the class entering the Legislature that fall. For the past two years, Rouson has been the Democrats’ ranking member on the budget committee overseeing the courts and criminal justice.

Bogdanoff, Sachs set to meet with voters Saturday

Friday, October 12th, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) and Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton), who are both vying for a senate seat in District 34 on Election Day, will be in Palm Beach County on Saturday to rally voters in the newly-drawn Palm Beach-Broward district.

Bogdanoff will be bicycling through coastal communities starting at 7:30 a.m. at El Prado Park in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Bogdanoff will finish at Boston’s on the Beach in Delray Beach. Throughout the tour, which Bogdanoff is calling Ellyn’s Bicycle Classic, the senator is expected to make stops in Boca Raton and Highland Beach.

Meanwhile, Sachs will be canvassing in Boca Raton Saturday morning. The senator is meeting firefighters at Panera on Military Trail in Boca Raton, according to campaign officials.

The District 34 race between Sachs and Bogdanoff is the only Senate district in Florida where two incumbents are running against each other. It’s also a race both Republicans and Democrats consider key for the future of their parties.

Sachs and Bogdanoff are both facing a largely new set of voters.

Forty-nine percent of constituents in the new district are from Bogdanoff’s old district, and 39 percent are from Sachs’ former district. But the new district is also mostly Democratic, where 58 percent voted for Barack Obama in 2008, possibly putting Bogdanoff at a disadvantage.

Fla GOP launches TV spots against Crist

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The Florida Republican Party is taking to the airwaves this week to cloud renegade former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Ads that start airing statewide Tuesday — and will stretch through Friday — use Crist’s own words against him as the GOP attempts to blunt the impact of the former chief executive’s endorsement of President Obama.

In the spot, video clips show Crist describing himself as a “pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax Republican,” and concluding, “I’m about as conservative as you can get.” In between, Crist praises Jeb Bush, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin in the video montage.

Crist’s convention speech is widely talked of as the opening act of a come-back which could include a 2014 run for governor — as a Democrat.

Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry said Crist’s convention speech this week will be even weirder than that given by Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“If many Democrats thought Clint Eastwood’s speech was a bit odd, wait till they see Charlie Crist – a man who has built his career bashing virtually everything President Obama and the Democrats stand for, including the President’s spending programs and ObamaCare – debate himself,” Curry said.   

Here’s the Florida GOP ad: http://bit.ly/TVW6lO

Crist further angers GOP with plans to speak at Dem Convention

Monday, August 27th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Charlie Crist’s plans to speak at next week’s Democratic National Convention brought a fresh round of outrage Monday from Republican leaders — already sizing up the renegade former Republican executive as a likely opponent in the 2014 governor’s race.

“It’s got to be an historic moment,” said Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry. “A self-proclaimed Jeb Bush, a self-proclaimed Ronald Reagan Republican, who is on the record opposing most of the policies of President Obama is going to speak at the Democratic convention.

“I’m not quite sure what they’re thinking,” he added. “I know what he’s thinking.”

Curry said, “I don’t know what his plans are. It certainly looks like he’s in a position to do something.”

Curry also challenged Crist’s central theme — expressed in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday — that the Republican Party had moved too far to the right for him, and that’s why he was endorsing President Obama. Curry and Republican researchers have released a trove of Crist quotes and policy positions from his long political career that clearly cast him as a pr0-gun, anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage Republican.

Instead, Curry said Crist’s latest move follows a pattern that saw him run unsuccessfully as an independent for U.S. Senate when Republican Marco Rubio became the party’s nominee in 2010.

“Charlie left the Republican Party because it was the most likely scenario in which he could win the United States Senate seat,” Curry said. 

The timing of Crist’s announcement — on the eve of the Republican National Convention in his Tampa Bay-area home — infuriates Republicans even more. Asked if the party would run TV spots ridiculing Crist’s conversion, Curry said, “You just gave me an idea.”

“If Charlie Crist wants to…rain on our parade, we’re going to respond,” Curry said.

 

 

 

Casino King Adelson doubles down on Florida GOP

Friday, August 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Las Vegas casino king Sheldon Adelson double-downed on his $250,000 contribution to Gov. Rick Scott’s political committee by giving the same amount to the state’s Republican Party in June, according to campaign finance reports released Friday.

Adelson, who financed Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and recently contributed $10 million to a political action committee backing presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, was among the top individual donors to the state party over the past three months, records show.

Adelson’s check to the party was posted June 4. A day later, the same amount went to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee, records show.

The Florida Republican Party collected $9 million between between April 1 and Thursday, bringing its total to almost $12 million for the year. It’s also a big bounce-back from  the year’s first quarter, when the party which controls the governor’s office, Legislature, Cabinet, and a majority of Florida’s congressional seats pulled in its lowest contribution total in three years.

The Florida Democratic Party raised almost $2.2 million in the latest report, bringing its total to about $3.1 million for the year.

Adelson, though, clearly sees Florida as ripe for casinos, with the entire gambling industry emerging as a potent player this election cycle. The Seminole Tribe, whose compact with the state would be effectively nullified by the approval of non-tribal casinos, also steered $250,000 to the state Republican Party.

The tribe also pushed $5,000 toward the state Democratic Party, records show.

The Republican-ruled Legislature has long been split on gambling — with the House overwhelmingly opposed and the Senate mostly tolerant of expanding card rooms, slot machines and the arrival of street corner internet cafes.

But the industry cash flowing to the state Republican Party also is only part of the picture.

Political committees guided by GOP legislative leaders also have been on the receiving end of big money from the industry, which then gets converted into campaign mailers and TV spots flooding Florida households as election season deepens.

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