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Jeb Bush rising, Rubio falling among Florida Republicans; Clinton tops GOP field in 2016 match-ups

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by George Bennett

Jeb Bush has big lead in Florida over other potential 2016 Republicans but trails Hillary Clinton.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a big lead over the rest of the field of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates in his home state, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds, but Democrat Hillary Clinton would carry Florida over Bush or any other GOP nominee.

Bush, who recently said he’s “thinking about running for president,” is the top choice of 27 percent of Florida Republican voters. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is second at 14 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is third with 11 percent. All other Republicans are in single digits.

Rubio was in second place, 4 points behind Bush, in a November Quinnipiac poll of Florida Republicans. He slipped from 18 percent to 16 percent, but was still in second place to Bush, in a January poll. The latest poll is the first time Rubio has fallen behind an out-of-state candidate in Florida.

In a general election match-up, Clinton would top Bush in Florida by a 49-to-41 percent margin, the poll says. She defeats other Republicans by 12 points or more.

Quinnipiac polled 1,413 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points. Republican and Democratic samples each have a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Would-be Deutch GOP challenger tweets to Rubio, Jeb, Romney, Cruz, Limbaugh, Palin for fundraising help

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by George Bennett

Lake Worth Republican Henry Colon is appealing to GOP stars via Twitter to try to scrape up the cash to challenge U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in Deutch’s heavily Democratic Palm Beach-Broward district.

Colon says his campaign only has about $2,300 as Friday’s noon deadline approaches for congressional candidates to pay a $10,440 fee to qualify for the ballot. He used his Twitter account last week to send a series of tweets aimed at prominent Republicans in hopes of raising the cash he needs.

“I’m a Hispanic Conservative Republican Candidate running for Congress in FL CD21-Need help with Qualifying Fee by 4/30,” Colon said in tweets that mention the Twitter handles of Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner, talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and others.

Asked what kind of response he’s received, Colon said, “I’d love to comment further on that after Friday.”

Crist 48, Scott 38 in new Q poll with Dem-leaning sample

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by George Bennett


Despite a TV ad blitz by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Democrat Charlie Crist continues to hold a big lead in a new Quinnipiac University poll that includes a Democrat-leaning voter sample sure to raise Republican hackles.

Crist gets 48 percent and Scott gets 38 percent in the new poll. That’s basically the same lead Crist held in Quinnipiac’s poll three months ago, before Scott and his allies poured $6 million or more into TV ads promoting the incumbent and trashing Crist.

The poll also finds Floridians supporting same-sex marriage by a 56-to-39 percent margin. That’s a dramatic turnaround from 2008, when 61.9 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The new poll of 1,413 registered Florida voters was conducted April 23 – 28 and has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points. Quinnipiac’s longstanding practice is to ask voters which party they identify with, rather than their actual registration, with the argument that self-identification is a better gauge of voter mood. The latest sample found 31 percent saying they consider themselves Democrats, 25 percent Republicans, 34 percent independent and 11 percent identifying with other parties or saying they didn’t know.

During the 2010 midterm elections, exit polls found 36 percent of Florida voters who cast ballots identifying as Democrats, 36 percent as Republicans and 29 percent as independents. In actual statewide registrations, Democrats have a 39.2-to-35.1 percent advantage over Republicans.

Other highlights of the new Quinnipiac poll after the jump…


Scott finds few complaints in meeting with seniors on Medicare Advantage

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by George Bennett

Gov. Rick Scott greets seniors at the Volen Center in Boca Raton.

BOCA RATON — Gov. Rick Scott assembled about 20 seniors here this morning for a roundtable discussion on Medicare Advantage cuts under the federal health care law — an issue Scott and Republicans have used to criticize Obamacare.

But the group that met with Scott at the Volen Center had few complaints and said they hadn’t experienced many changes since the Affordable Care Act took effect.

One woman praised Medicare Advantage for making drugs affordable, but did say she’s had trouble finding an orthopedic surgeon to do a knee procedure.

Scott mentioned her concerns later to reporters.

“As I travel the state, what I hear from people is they’re having a harder time getting physicians. One lady here talked about the number of orthopedic surgeons that are now, she can’t get an orthopedic surgeon to help her,” Scott said.

Focusing on seniors’ concerns about the Affordable Care Act, especially in Florida, makes political sense. But Ruthlyn B. Rubin urged Scott and seniors to take a broader view.

“We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America, it’s not the United States of Senior Citizens,” Rubin said.

Campaign docs: Judge Lewis was prepared to switch races a week ahead of Monday’s move

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by George Bennett

Group 14 Judge Diana Lewis, now a candidate for Group 32 seat

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Sandra McSorley‘s decision not to seek re-election and Circuit Judge Diana Lewis‘s decision to run for McSorley’s Group 32 seat became public Monday, but appear to have been percolating for at least a week.

Lewis, who now holds the Group 14 seat, faced a well-financed challenge for that seat from attorney Jessica Ticktin. Lewis signed a candidate oath form for McSorley’s Group 32 seat on April 21, according to Florida Division of Elections records. When Lewis actually submitted the form, however, isn’t clear; it was stamped in by the division Monday morning.

McSorley signed a letter withdrawing from the Group 32 race on Friday, April 25. That letter was received by the division Monday morning.

After McSorley signed her letter but before it was received by the Division of Elections, Lewis signed forms on Saturday, April 26, appointing a campaign treasurer and deputy treasurer for a Group 32 candidacy.

As of this morning, the moves mean Lewis has gone from having a potentially tough re-election challenge in Group 14 to being the only candidate in Group 32. But Ticktin said late Monday that she plans to switch races so she can continue challenging Lewis.

Meanwhile, at least one of the four candidates in the open Group 30 race — attorney Samantha Schosberg Feuer — is planning to jump into the Group 14 race.

The qualifying period for judicial candidates ends at noon Friday, so there’s plenty of time for more drama to play out.

After Ukraine visit, Frankel urges working with allies on sanctions, ensuring free elections

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Frankel: Back in the U.S.A.

After visiting Ukraine with congressional colleagues and Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, called for the U.S. to work closely with European allies to impose sanctions on Russia and to help Ukraine have free elections next month.

Frankel and other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee visited Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The congressional delegation saw Biden in Ukraine.

Frankel called Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s aggression in eastern Ukraine “very disconcerting” and said she supported President Barack Obama‘s responses so far.

“We definitely have a role, but the role has to be together with our European allies. First of all, military action is not warranted. I really haven’t heard anybody talking about that. Economic sanctions and diplomatic discussions are the way to go,” Frankel said.

She said sanctions need to be coordinated with European allies because those countries rely more heavily on trade with Russia.

Frankel said corruption is a problem in all three countries she visited and that helps Putin in Ukraine.

“Putin is counting on an illegitimate government. It makes it much easier to take steps like he did with Crimea,” Frankel said.

Elections are scheduled for next month in Ukraine and the U.S. has pledged to help.

“If they could have a fair and free election — and I say ‘if’ because it doesn’t appear that they’ve had one…They need a strong leader who could clean up corruption and who could really stand up” to Russia, Frankel said.

Frankel said violence in eastern Ukraine appears to be “designed to really intimidate, to thwart this election from happening — the last thing Putin wants is for Ukraine to have a new elected president.”

Frankel said the three countries she visited are all being held back by corruption at all levels of government.

“They’re not going to have the kind of economy and democracy they say they want unless they get through this,” Frankel said. “We have a role to play, an important role, but so do these countries themselves…If they don’t deal with the corruption they’re never going to have the strength they need.”

Judicial intrigue! Judge McSorley withdraws re-election bid, Judge Lewis switches races

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Intrigue abounds as the qualifying period for congressional and judicial candidates gets underway across Florida.

Veteran Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Sandra McSorley withdrew her re-election bid for the Group 32 seat in a letter that was dated Friday and landed in the Florida Division of Elections files this morning.

Circuit Judge Diana Lewis, who holds the Group 14 seat but was facing a potentially well-financed challenge from attorney Jessica Ticktin, filed papers today to switch from Group 14 and run instead for McSorley’s Group 32 seat.

Don’t be surprised if more candidates switch races soon. Before McSorley’s departure, the only open judicial seat was the Group 30 seat that Judge Lucy Chernow Brown is leaving because of retirement. Four candidates have opened campaigns for that seat, including attorneys Samantha Schosberge Feuer and Jaimie Goodman, who both appear ready to spend big bucks. One or more of the Group 30 candidates could leave for the Group 14 race.

The qualifying period ends at noon on Friday. Stay tuned.

Heavyweight bout: Ex-boxer Jameel ‘Big Time’ McCline files as Dem primary challenger to Rep. Alcee Hastings

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Jameel "Big Time" McCline of Delray Beach in 2007 photo (TAYLOR JONES/THE PALM BEACH POST)

Former heavyweight boxer Jameel “Big Time” McCline of Delray Beach has paid a $10,440 qualifying fee to challenge U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary for congressional District 20.

The period for Florida congressional and judicial candidates to pay fees and submit paperwork to qualify for the ballot opened at noon today and ends at noon Friday.

Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Jean Enright has also qualified as a Democratic challenger to Hastings, who is an 11-term congressional veteran. Republican Jay Bonner has also qualified for the ballot in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Enright and Bonner had announced their candidacies months ago.

Bill Clinton to keynote Florida Dems’ fundraiser; Jefferson-Jackson banished in rebranding

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Depiction of the Trail of Tears from a National Park Service brochure.

Former President Bill Clinton will keynote the Florida Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood on June 28.

Clinton’s presence illustrates “the tremendous energy nationally among Democrats to defeat a tea party Republican like Rick Scott,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.

The event, like many other Democratic fundraising dinners across the U.S., has been called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in the past. But Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant is rebranding this year’s event as the first annual “Leadership Blue Gala.”

Karp didn’t address the reasons for scrapping Jefferson and Jackson, saying: “With the new name, the biggest annual gathering of Florida Democrats highlights the energy and leadership the Party is bringing to Florida.”

The Jefferson-Jackson name has fallen from favor with many Democrats because of Thomas Jefferson‘s slave ownership and Andrew Jackson‘s Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced Native Americans from their lands and onto the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

Palm Beach County’s Democratic Party ditched the Jefferson-Jackson name in 2009, renaming its annual event the Truman-Kennedy-Johnson dinner in honor of Cold War Democratic presidents who weren’t Jimmy Carter.

Reluctant Hastings joins Twitter: ‘I have more to do with my time than sit around twittering — or twerking’

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, in Pahokee last week.

One of the last social-media holdouts in Congress has joined the Twitterverse.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, was one of only eight members of Congress who didn’t have Twitter account, The Washington Post reported last week. Hastings, 77, signed up last month, saying “the kids in the office” persuaded him to do so. His Twitter handle is @RepHastingsFL.

He’s approaching it warily.

“I have more to do with my time than sit around twittering — or twerking,” he said with a laugh last week.

Subscribers to can read more in this week’s Politics column.

Former Pahokee mayor at Lake O meeting: Coastal residents ‘are trying to wipe us out’

Friday, April 25th, 2014 by George Bennett


PAHOKEE — Former Mayor J.P. Sasser said Thursday that coastal Florida residents who complain about discharges from Lake Okeechobee don’t care about people in the Glades, where rising lake levels put pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover Dike.

“They are trying to wipe us out,” Sasser said during a meeting on the lake and the dike with U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.

“Those people over there on the coast don’t give a rat’s backside about us. They want to raise the level of Lake Okeechobee, they want to do everything to Lake Okeechobee so it doesn’t affect their lifestyle. They don’t care about our lifestyle,” said Sasser, who drew an occasional “Amen” from the audience at Pahokee High School.

“They don’t care anything about us. They want the water to go anywhere but them. If it’s on top of us, that’s perfectly acceptable. I think we’ve got level heads here. But we as a community have got to be of one voice…We’ve got to be a community on this. We can’t be divided.”

The corps releases water from the lake to reduce flood risks and ease pressure on the earthen dike, which was built in the 1930s and has had seepage and erosion problems. But the lake discharges, along with runoff from homes and farms, have caused damage to the St. Lucie estuary east of the lake and the Caloosahatchee River on the west. The rivers became so polluted last year that oysters and sea grasses died and a toxic algae bloom caused health officials in Martin County to post warnings against contact with the water.

Ouch! Democratic leaders in Nan Rich’s home county reject call for primary debate with Crist

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Nan Rich with Hillary Clinton at a 2008 rally at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

In a blow to Nan Rich in her home county, leaders of the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee on Tuesday night voted down a resolution calling for a Democratic governor’s primary debate between Rich and frontrunner Charlie Crist.

Crist, the former Republican governor who became an independent in 2010 and a Democrat in 2012, has become the heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination over Rich, a former state Senate Democratic leader from Weston. Crist has rejected Rich’s calls for a primary debate, saying he’s focused only on Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Broward County DEC Chairman Mitch Ceasar said the party’s Management Committee — a group of about 20 officials — voted down a resolution calling for a Crist-Rich debate after “significant and emotional” discussion. Ceasor wouldn’t reveal the vote totals or discuss how he or other individuals voted.

Broward County has more registered Democrats — 563,805 — than any other county in Florida.

Broward County Democratic State Committeewoman Maggie Davidson, a Rich supporter who brought up the resolution, said: “I’m disappointed but they feel as though the bottom line, I guess, was we didn’t want to have any divisiveness.”

Hillsborough County’s Democratic Executive Committee approved a resolution Monday calling for Crist and Rich to debate.

In Palm Beach County, Democratic Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo declined to take a position on whether Crist and Rich should debate, saying “it’s up to the candidates.”

‘Outsider’ who challenged Obama to 3-point shooting contest wins GOP congressional primary

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Businessman and former college basketball player Curt Clawson, who introduced himself to Southwest Florida voters during the Super Bowl with an ad challenging President Barack Obama to a three-point shooting contest, won a special Republican primary Tuesday for the congressional seat of cocaine-busted Trey Radel.

Clawson, who branded himself “The Outsider,” got 38.3 percent to win the four-candidate primary.

State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, the former Wellington councilwoman who was the favorite of the GOP establishment, finished a distant second with 25.7 percent. Benacquisto did not have to give up her seat because Florida’s resign-to-run law doesn’t apply to candidates pursuing federal offices. With her Senate seat on the ballot in the fall, she has about $185,000 in her re-election account.

In a congressional district where Republicans have a 45-to-27 registration advantage, Clawson will be the heavy favorite in a June 24 special election against Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood.

Radel resigned in January after pleading guilty to a cocaine possession charge. Because the charge was a misdemeanor, Radel did not lose his right to vote in Florida and cast an absentee ballot in the primary, according to the Lee County elections office.

Earth Day politics roundup: Hold hearing, tour recycling plant, celebrate Everglades, profess concern

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (left) with "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, Sr. at a recycling facility in Broward County.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera toured a recycling plant in Broward County. Sen. Bill Nelson held a hearing on sea-level rise in Miami. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, took time out from her visit to Ukraine to bemoan rising temperatures on Twitter. And a slew of other elected officials and candidates used social media to offer hashtagged expressions of concern for the environment and future generations on Earth Day 2014.

Some examples after the jump…


Allen West rips ‘cowards’ who walked out on his Middle East speech in Chicago

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Allen West at a Palm Beach County GOP dinner this year (BRUCE r. BENNETT / PALM BEACH POST)

Former Rep. Allen West of Palm Beach Gardens spoke about the Middle East at DePaul University in Chicago on Monday night and, according to West’s account, nearly half his audience staged a walkout.

“I guess the truth hurts,” West wrote on his website.

Conservative Republican West was no stranger to controversy during his stormy single term in Congress (here’s one example, and here’s another), and he seemed to relish ticking off a segment of his audience at DePaul.

“But I had my own fun at DePaul. As I stood waiting to speak and surveyed the crowd, it was easy to pick out the ones there to make some protest statement — especially on a college campus where the topic was the Middle East and the Israeli-Arab situation,” West wrote.

West said it was after he made remarks critical of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its late leader Yasser Arafat that about 30 people in the crowd of 70 walked out “at the command of some individual…To me they were cowards who refused to hear anything that countered their radical agenda.”

West wrote that the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict must be based on “a recognition of the right for the Jewish state to exist. There has to be a renouncing of Islamic terrorism.”

Today in Florida: Special GOP primary that has drawn Sarah Palin, Rand Paul endorsements

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto campaigning this month in congressional District 19.

Over on Florida’s west coast, four Republicans are vying in a special primary today for the congressional District 19 seat of former GOP Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.

State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, who got her start in politics on the Wellington village council, is part of the GOP field. So is former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, big-spending businessman Curt Clawson and small-spending businessman Michael Dreikorn.

The race has drawn some national attention, with Sarah Palin weighing in for Benacquisto and appearing with her at a fundraiser while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have endorsed Clawson.

In a district where Mitt Romney got more than 60 percent in 2012, today’s GOP primary winner will be the favorite in a June 24 general election against Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood.

Rick Scott to Hispanic voters: ‘Yo sé el valor de un trabajo’

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by George Bennett

Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s Let’s Get To Work committee has released its first Spanish-language TV ad.

Scott himself speaks a sentence in Spanish (Yo no soy un experto en la política pero yo sé el valor de un trabajo — “I’m not an expert in politics, but I know the value of a job”) before professional narrators take over.

According to the Republican Party of Florida, the committee is spending $500,000 for TV and on-line spots that will begin airing Wednesday in the Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers markets

Murphy aide’s side business billed $91,500 in political consulting fees last year

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by George Bennett

Eric Johnson, left, when he was chief of staff to former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler. (Sundance Channel photo)

Eric Johnson was chief political strategist for Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West in America’s costliest House race in 2012.

Murphy tapped Johnson to be chief of staff for his congressional office, a position that paid Johnson $113,417 last year.

For Johnson, taking the six-figure Capitol Hill job didn’t mean giving up his work as a political consultant. His company, Johnson Campaigns Inc., was paid a combined $91,500 in 2013 by the campaigns of Murphy, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and three Democratic state House members.

Subscribers to can find out more details on how Johnson balances his official and political jobs in this week’s Politics column.

Rep. Ted Deutch: Crist-Rich Democratic primary debate would be ‘worthwhile’

Friday, April 18th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, at a town hall meeting west of Boynton Beach on Thursday night.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, isn’t taking sides in the Democratic primary for governor between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich.

But Deutch sounds sympathetic to calls from underdog Rich — and Republican Gov. Rick Scott — for Crist to debate his Democratic primary rival.

After conducting a town hall meeting with more than 100 people west of Boynton Beach, Deutch was asked by a reporter Thursday night if Crist and Rich should debate.

“I think it would worthwhile for the people of Florida to be reminded of the issues that most people in the state care about, which would be the issues that are debated that night, instead of being forced to watch millions of dollars in commercials funded by outside groups that support the governor,” Deutch said.

Scott also thinks Republican-turned-Democrat Crist should debate former state Sen. Rich. Scott made the suggestion after Crist, in West Palm Beach this week, declared “Give me Scott.”

After one week, Crist spokesman ‘pursuing other opportunities’

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 by George Bennett

A week after he was announced as media contact for Charlie Crist‘s gubernatorial campaign, Eric Conrad and the campaign have parted ways.

“He’s pursuing other opportunities,” was all Crist communications consultant Kevin Cate would say this afternoon.

Conrad, who has worked in Florida with President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign, the Florida Democratic Party and Enroll America, didn’t immediately return a call.

It’s the second time Republican-turned-Democrat Crist’s camp has seen a rapid departure from a visible post.

When he launched his campaign in November, Crist planned to bring Democratic hot hand Bill Hyers on as campaign manager after Hyers helmed Bill De Blasio‘s mayoral victory in New York. But Hyers never actually started on the job; Crist said he “wanted to stay in New York because it was good for him.” Crist eventually hired former Obama operative Omar Khan as campaign manager.

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