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Competing endorsements in Palm Beach County senate races

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County legislative candidates nailed down several endorsements recently, including support from polar opposites in the Senate District 27 primary contest between Democratic state Reps. Jeff Clemens and Mack Bernard.

The all-Palm Beach County senate district race is shaping up to be a business vs. labor union battle, not an unusual platform for many campaigns. Except this race is between two Democrats, who rarely receive glowing endorsements from business-backed lobbies (except in Democratic primaries.)

Two of the state’s biggest labor unions – the AFL-CIO and SEIU – are backing state Rep. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, Clemens’ campaign announced today. The AFL-CIO also endorsed Clemens in his run for the House seat he now holds.

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, nailed down an endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce today. Bernard already has the endorsement of one of Florida’s other top business lobbies – Associated Industries of Florida. The newly drawn District 27 seat stretches generally west of the turnpike in Palm Beach County.

The Chamber also endorsed state Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington. Abruzzo will face off against the winner of a GOP primary between Melanie Peterson and Geoff Sommers.

Avoiding what might have been a brutal primary against Abruzzo, Sachs is running for the new Democratic-leaning District 34, a Palm Beach-Broward seat, against Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

UPDATE: Allen West calls Social Security ‘a form of slavery’

Monday, July 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Tea party firebrand U.S. Rep. Allen West likened Social Security to a “form of slavery” in an interview on Fox News this weekend.

West, running for a second term in Congress in the new Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast District 18, said the number of Americans going on Social Security disability is higher since 2009 than the number of new jobs created, blaming President Obama for “creating this sense of economic dependence, which to me is a form of modern, 21st-century slavery.”

West blamed the “liberal media” for misrepresenting his comments in a post on his Facebook page.

“Over the weekend I was on Fox & Friends discussing the growing number of Americans becoming dependent on government programs from food stamps to social security disability. Of course the liberal media is now putting words in mouth and saying I attacked Social Security. The fact is, I will work to protect Social Security and Medicare for our seniors and for future generations. It is too bad the media refuses to report on the failed economic policies of Washington liberals and the dependency culture career politicians are creating to expand their political power,” West said in the post.

West opted to run for the new district instead of seeking reelection to his newly redrawn District 22 seat where Democrats now have a 9-point edge. West’s race against Democrat Patrick Murphy is one of the most high-profile Congressional battles in the state.

Murphy’s campaign jumped on West’s Social Security-bashing, pointing out in a press release that residents over the age of 65 make up about 22 percent of District 18.

“Our seniors have worked their whole lives for a safety net that will allow them to retire with dignity, and Allen West is intent on doing anything he can to make it disappear,” Murphy’s campaign manager Anthony Kusich said.

A week ago, West accused President Obama of wanting to enslave Americans with government programs.

“He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave,” West told the crowd at a campaign event in Port St. Lucie.

Crossroads GPS launches $6.5 million anti-Obama ads in Florida

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A political group founded by Karl Rove is spending $6.5 million to flood Florida airwaves with a TV ad blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Crossroads GPS, started by Rove and other former advisors to President George W. Bush, will launch the commercial, titled “Excuses,” in Florida on July 10, the group announced today. The ads will also run in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, and are part of a $25 million national blitz between now and August.

Frankel scores big in quarterly fundraising

Monday, July 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel nailed down $400,000 in this second quarter of fundraising for her congressional race, her campaign announced today.

That brings Frankel’s total contributions to a whopping $2.2 million and making her one of the country’s top-performing fundraisers, according to a press release issued by her campaign.

It’s the fifth quarter in a row in which Frankel raked in more than $300,000. Frankel’s the financial frontrunner District 22 Democratic primary pitting her against Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. The official campaign finance reports aren’t due to federal elections officials until July 15.

Frankel entered the District 22 race last year in a challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Allen West. But after state legislators redrew the Palm Beach-Broward district with a pronounced Democratic tilt, West opted to run for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district instead. Jacobs jumped in, setting up an all-female, Democratic duel.

Frankel’s press release boasting about her quarterly figures ignores the primary altogether and instead focuses on Republican District 22 candidate Adam Hasner.

“Our campaign continues to build a grassroots campaign based upon the idea of focusing on getting our economy working again. Over the next 5 months, Lois’ campaign will have the resources necessary to her message out in
Broward and Palm Beach Counties,” the release reads.

Also today, Frankel announced the endorsement of fellow Palm Beach County politico U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, while Jacobs announced the support of the SEIU labor union.

Back at you: Frankel challenges Jacobs to play nice in U.S. House race

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Congressional hopeful Lois Frankel said she’ll debate her Democratic opponent Kristin Jacobs before the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

But in return, she’s asking Jacobs, a Broward County Commissioner, to agree to play nice in the U.S. House District 22 campaigns. The winner of the contest between the two women will face off against Adam Hasner, a former state House representative who also served as House majority leader, in November.

Earlier today, Jacobs’ campaign manager asked Frankel to reconsider her refusal to participate in a Palm Beach Post/WPTV Channel 5 debate scheduled for July 12. The debate was canceled after Frankel said no.

In her response, Frankel agreed to a debate (Jacobs wants four before the primary election) without saying when. Then she made her own request.

“As I’m sure you know I have always debated my previous opponents- and I expect that we will debate as well.
However, with all the critical issues facing South Florida and our nation as well as the dysfunction of the Republican-led House of Representatives, we need to be concerned first and foremost about sending a Democrat to Congress from this seat. I’m sure you agree that has to be the most important outcome of this election cycle.

To that end, I am joining with both the Palm Beach and Broward Democratic County Chairs in calling for a positive primary campaign. I pledge to run no negative commercials against you, send no negative mailings
or any other kind of communications if you simply do the same. Voters are tired of the same old slash and burn campaigns, and we do not need to give Adam Hasner and his extremist allies any comfort from a needlessly divisive Democratic primary,” Frankel wrote, adding that she would be happy to work with Jacobs’ campaign to set up a debate date.

Hispanic voter battle: Moveon.org launches TV ad telling Romney to condemn the purge

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is launching a television ad in Florida urging Latino voters to tell presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to “condemn the racist voter purge” now being defended by Gov. Rick Scott in federal court.

The TV ad, scheduled to air in Tallahassee next week, is part of a national effort to drum up support from Hispanic voters for President Obama in the November election.

Yesterday, a plane towing a banner reading “ROMNEY: CONDENA LA PURGA DE VOTANTES LATINOS” (Translation: “Romney: Condemn the Latino voter purge”) flew over Orlando where Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.

Hispanics comprise the majority of a list of 2,700 potential non-citizen voters sent to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in April. The controversial voter purge is the subject of three federal lawsuits challenging Scott and another by Scott against the Obama administration for failing to grant access to a federal database. The flagged voters turned out to include many were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran who said he was born in Brooklyn.

It’s a king thing: Thrasher drops out of Senate prez race, backs Negron

Friday, June 15th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart

Uniting to shape the Florida Senate, John Thrasher has dropped out of a race for president in 2016 and is now backing Stuart Republican Joe Negron.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine

Former House Speaker Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, spilled the beans about the leadership race to his hometown paper, The Jacksonville Times-Union, this morning.

Thrasher, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and Negron led a botched coup this spring in an attempt to displace Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, slated to succeed incoming president Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, in two years.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a veteran lawmaker and wily campaign strategist, put down the mutiny with the aid of a bloc of Republican senators, many of whom are leaving office this year due to term limits.

The Senate leadership battle is playing out in the Senate campaigns this summer between the more moderate Latvala, who helped kill a number of priority leadership issues including a prison privatization effort, and conservatives Thrasher and Negron.

“This election cycle will go a long way toward determining the future of the Senate, including the Senate presidency in 2016,” Negron said, echoing Latvala’s sentiments about the summer campaigns.

One of those key races is Jacksonville’s District 4 seat, where Thrasher, Gardiner and Negron are backing Aaron Bean, a former House representative with whom Negron served before his election to the Senate in 2009.

Latvala is supporting Mike Weinstein, also a former House member and a prosecutor with the Jacksonville state attorney’s office.

“Sen. Gardiner has made it one of his top priorities for Aaron Bean to win. So we’re working together…We’re all in for Aaron Bean,” Negron said from Washington, D.C., where he is part of a multi-state group of lawmakers huddling about Medicaid costs.

The leadership race “transcends any individual competitor,” Negron said.

“For me it’s about two things. Making sure every senator has an opportunity to have a platform for his or her views to be heard and considered. Two, is my goal is to continue the Senate in the direction of pursuing a pro-business, pro-growth agenda,” he said.

Dueling lawsuits in voter purge: DOJ to sue Gov. Rick Scott admin

Monday, June 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Department of Justice will sue Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge, the federal agency told Scott’s administration the same day the governor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to “immediately cease this unlawful conduct,” blaming Scott’s administration for the problematic purge.

“Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court.”

Perez’s 0611 DOJTODETZNERfive-page letter came in response to a missive from Detzner last week accusing President Obama’s administration of conspiring to keep Florida from cleansing its voter rolls. Perez flatly denied it.

“In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong,” he wrote.

The SAVE database won’t work by simply matching the names and dates of birth of potential non-citizens. That’s what the Florida Department of State did with driver license and voter registration records to create a list of more than 180,000 voter flagged as potentially inelgible to cast their ballots. Many of those on the error-riddled list turned out to be naturalized citizens, and others were born in the U.S.

Scott used the purge to pump up tea party supporters at a rally in Tallahassee yesterday.

Scott has repeatedly blamed the problematic list on DHS, which failed to give Florida permission to access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” program that has more complete immigration data.

But Perez blamed Scott’s administration for the scrub flub.

“By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE Program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation. But Florida has failed to either to provide the necessary information to DHS, or to confirm that the necessary information would be available for verification purposes under the SAVE Program,” Perez wrote. “As a result, the significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.”

Scott pumps up tea partiers, digs in over voter purge

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott pumped up a conservative crowd at a Tea Party Express event in the Capitol city Sunday afternoon, urging the activists to help him gain support for a controversial non-citizen voter purge now in federal court.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his signature custom-made cowboy boots, Scott defended the purge and enlisted their aid getting President Obama’s administration to cooperate by granting access to a federal immigration database.

“Okay so the latest is who should get to vote in our state and in our country. People that are citizens of our country. It’s very simple, right? Who comes up with the idea that you get to vote if you’re not a citizen?” Scott asked near the end of a 15-minute speech at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum.

Scott explained that his administration unsuccessfully tried to get Homeland Security to give Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database the states are supposed to be allowed to use to check voter IDs, among other things.

“That database is obligated to be given to us and it says it’s for voter registration. Go look at it. It’s the SAVE database from Homeland Security. It’s our right to get that data. For whatever reason, they decided not to give it to us. Can you imagine why?” Scott said. “So we have to, you have to, demand that Homeland Security does their job. I’m going to continue to stand up for your right. I do not want one person’s vote in this state diluted by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote.”

Scott’s office on Friday released a document showing that 86 individuals were removed from the voter rolls since Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizen voters to elections supervisors in April. The error-riddled list turned out to include the names of Floridians who were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran. The state department contends that 46 of those people – about one-third of one percent – voted in previous elections. But a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review found that only six of those had cast ballots.

The purge has created a national firestorm and partisan split.

Scott remained steadfastly committed to the purge on Sunday.

“Here’s what we know. We know that people are on our voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. We know that people have voted that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. How many races should be decided by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote. Not one. Not one. Not one person should have the right to vote that doesn’t have the right to vote. That is wrong and it is a crime,” he said.

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder’s office last month told Scott to stop the scrub, saying it appeared to violate two federal laws. The federal “motor voter” law prohibits states from doing purges 90 days before an election. That deadline passed May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. And Friday the ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration over the purge, asking a federal court to put a stop to it until the Justice Department weighs in.

But a defiant Scott instructed the tea partiers to contact “everybody that’s involved” and demand that the state get access to SAVE, adding that he’s not backing down. The ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration on Friday, asking a federal court to stop the purge until the Justice Department weighs in.

“It’s not going to be easy. I need your support. You need to go out there and let everybody know that this is wrong.”

Scott said later he is considering suing the Obama administration over its refusal to grant permission to use the database.

“I’ll decide over the next few days what we’re going to do. But I’m going to defend our right to vote. I care about every individual’s right to vote. I don’t want it diluted by somebody else’s vote,” he told reporters after the event.

During his speech, Scott repeatedly urged the tea partiers to put their grassroots activism to use over the purge.

“Your job is to make sure those individuals do their job. Call them. Do what you’ve done to me. I think last week I got 5,000 e-mails. E-mail me. Call. And call everybody else…I’m going to do my job. I’m going to make sure that happens,” he said.

In her introduction of Scott, Tea Party Express co-founder Amy Kremer also riled up the anti-Obama administration crowd over the purge, calling it part of an effort by Democrats to “steal” elections.

“If the Democrats cannot win it fair and square, they will steal it. They have done it before. We cannot let them take this away from us,” she said.

The battle over the voter vetting is on hold in Florida as the state’s 67 elections supervisors have said they will not continue the process until the issue is straightened out between Scott and the Obama administration or the courts. The elections supervisors are the only ones who have the ability to actually remove voters from the rolls.

Scott said he’s confident the supervisors will do the right thing.

“They got elected. They know their job. They have an obligation. My job is to enforce the law that I’m responsible for. They have an obligation to enforce their laws. They’re not supposed to allow anybody to vote that doesn’t have a right to vote,” he said Sunday. “They’re going to do the right thing. They’re doing the right thing. Not one person has been kicked off a voter roll that has a right to vote. But we do know people have voted. We do know people are on the voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote.”

Scott, whose popularity among Florida voters remains lackluster, told reporters he appeared at the event to help get voters primed for the November elections.

“Just to energize the vote. Get people out. Let people know this election’s important. Every election’s important. You always hear that this election’s the most important one. But elections are important. They have an impact. If you want to change the direction of the state, the country, you’ve got to show up,” he said.

League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote get back to work in Florida

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a federal judge last week blocked portions of a controversial new election law signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote will get back to work registering voters, the groups announced Wednesday.

“Failure was never an option in this battle against voter suppression,” said LWVF President Deirdre Macnab. “Now it’s time for our volunteers to work overtime to make up for lost ground. Our goal? To make sure every eligible Floridian has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”

On May 31, Tallahassee federal judge Robert Hinkle stopped a 48-hour turnaround requirement in the new law for third party groups to turn in voter registrations to elections supervisors and halted a requirement that the organizations submit to the state the names of all “registration agents,” including those who simply hand out fliers. Hinkle wrote that portions of the law dealing with third party voter organizations likely violated at least two federal laws.

While Hinkle’s preliminary injunction was not a final ruling on the law, he wrote that the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, two of the plaintiffs in the case, were likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuit, opening the door for the nonpartisan groups to resume their work. The LWVF had registered voters in Florida for more than seven decades prior to the passage of the law, now being challenged in a federal lawsuit in Washington.

Rock the Vote registered more than 100,000 new voters before the 2008 election, the group’s president Heather Smith said last week.

“Florida is an important youth vote state,” Smith said today. “This decision enables us to get back to the work of encouraging a new generation of engaged voters and future leaders.”

It’s a king thing: Senate presidents-in-waiting like predecessor Tom Lee in District 24 race

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican in the running to be his successor, are backing former Senate President Tom Lee in a GOP primary to replace Sen. Ronda Storms.

Lee, R-Brandon, served as Senate president in 2005-2006 and prompted the much-hated gift ban that bars lawmakers from accepting gifts, including food and drinks, from lobbyists.

Gaetz issued a “statement of support” for Lee, who’s facing off against state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, in the primary. Storms announced last week she was walking away from her last two years in the Senate would instead run against the GOP incumbent Hillsborough County property appraiser.

The endorsements of Gaetz and Gardiner could boost Lee’s conservative creds in a race against Burgin, another conservative who sponsored some extreme anti-abortion legislation over the past two years. And the backing of the incoming Senate president could give Lee a campaign cash boost as well.

Gardiner’s statement emphasized Lee’s right-leaning history in the chamber.

“During his Senate Presidency, Tom brought to the floor and sent to Governor Bush legislation to permanently repeal the intangibles tax, a tax that punished seniors and savers who sought a better quality of life in Florida. In over ten years in the Senate, Tom personally sponsored Florida’s original parental consent amendment when no one else would, Florida’s ‘Choose Life’ License Plate law, and passed Florida’s landmark parental notification bill as Senate President,” Gardiner said.

And Gaetz lauded Lee as the “strong leader” needed to replace Storms, who got on the wrong side of Senate leaders including Gaetz on a variety of issues, including prison privatization, this year.

“As a former senator and former Senate president, Tom brings solid experience and a track record of real accomplishments to Tallahassee. He will hit the ground running at full speed with the knowledge and skill to help build Florida’s future. Tom Lee will be a leader in the Florida Senate the moment he walks on the floor,” Gaetz said. “Personally, I look forward to working closely with Senator Lee and relying on him for guidance and advice during my years as Senate President.”

Senate surprise: Ronda Storms won’t come back

Friday, May 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Republican firebrand Ronda Storms is dropping her state Senate reelection bid and instead will run against embattled Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner.

Storms, a lawyer and former Hillsborough County commissioner, had two years left before she was term-limited out of the Senate. But she said the porn scandal surrounding Turner prompted her to abandon the legislature and instead try to oust her fellow Republican.

“As a Republican I have a responsibility to make sure that he has an opportunity to be held accountable to the Republican voters,” Storms, R-Valrico, said.

Storms’ exit makes her District 10 seat another battleground for a Senate leadership battle between Republicans John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Although Storms is a conservative Christian who consistently supported anti-abortion efforts, she bucked Thrasher and other Senate leaders and joined forces with Latvala and moderates on several key issues, and was instrumental in helping to kill a prison privatization effort.

Storms, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Services Committee, has been an ardent advocate for children and a harsh critic of the Department of Children and Families. Among other battles, she has waged a war against the administration over its use of psychotropic medications on youth in state custody. She intensified her scrutiny of the agency in the aftermath of the tragic death of Nubia Barahona, whose adoptive parents are accused with her murder and the abuse of her twin sibling Victor.

Storms said the caustic atmosphere created by the leadership maelstrom over who will succeed incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, contributed to her decision to leave the chamber early.

“I was going to have to find an exit ramp at some point. So this was the point. It would be dishonest for me to say that it hasn’t been difficult to have this swirling tension all the time,” the passionate Storms, adding that “believe it or not, I don’t like conflict,” said.

“It is wonderful to think that I can go in and make changes and be an administrator and manager and say, ‘Here’s the way we’re going to behave’ and carry it out and cause it to happen all from the top without 10 people above your or ahead of you saying ‘no’ or creating dissension,” she said.

Storms said her possible replacements include former Senate President Tom Lee, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview and Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa.

UPDATE: Voting rights groups ask Scott to stop non-citizen voter purge

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of voting rights groups is asking Gov. Rick Scott to stop a statewide effort to purge thousands of potential non-citzens from the voting rolls, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also plans to ask the governor to stop the scrub.

Lawyers for the groups said in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the voting purge is in violation of the National Voting Rights Act which prohibits systematic purging of the voter rolls 90 days prior to a general election. The purge effort falls within that 90-day prohibition because of Florida’s Aug. 14 primary.

Last month, Detzner sent a list of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters to the state’s 67 elections supervisors flagged as potentially ineligible by matching driver’s license and voting records. But the list was riddled with errors and included some voters who were born in the U.S. and others who had become citizens since getting their driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. Detzner’s office then went to work on scrubbing a list of up to 180,000 flagged voters whose citizenship is in question.

Last week, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles officials said they would begin a more exhaustive vetting of the list by using a federal database with more up-to-date citizenship information. The list is exacerbating an already strained relationship between state and local elections officials as the November general election approaches.

Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition asked Detzner to abandon the non-citizen initiative, prompted by Gov. Rick Scott after he took office in 2010.

Many of the voters on the list are Hispanics, which could also be a violation of the NVRA which requires state voter list maintenance programs to be uniform and non-discriminatory, lawyers for the groups said.

“The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of our democracy. Florida has a shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information and inaccurate lists right before the presidential elections,” Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a press release. “This year’s deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair and antithetical to the values of our nation.”

Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said the group is wrong.

“We just received the letter, but we’ve had it long enough to know we disagree with their interpretation of the law. Not only do we believe it’s crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we’re obligated by law to do it,” Cate said in an e-mail. Detzner’s office will be sending a formal response to the coalition, Cate said, noting that the presidential primary was in January, not in August as the groups said in their letter.

Deutch also drafted a letter to Scott asking him to stop flushing the voter rolls.

“Given that this process fails to meet basic standards of accountability, and that the legal authority for automatic removal of registered voters is currently being challenged in both state and federal court, it is irresponsible to proceed so quickly and with so little room for oversight. If the goal is truly to remove ineligible individuals who were intentionally or somehow mistakenly registered to vote, then that process must move forward in a nonpartisan manner with transparency, uniformity, and great care,” Deutch’s draft letter reads. “Governor Scott, Florida has never encountered problems with mass voter fraud. Unfortunately however, our state does have a troubled history of wrongfully purging from our rolls the names of legitimate voters mistakenly deemed ineligible to vote. In both 2000 and 2004, the state pursued misguided efforts to purge the voter rolls that were shown to wrongfully include legal voters in these lists. Only when the lists and the process were made transparent could all Florida voters trust that no one would be wrongfully denied their right to vote.”

Future House Speaker Dorworth draws local GOP official in primary contest

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Rep. Chris Dorworth

Future House Speaker Chris Dorworth is facing a primary run-off against John Moffitt, the treasurer of the Republican Party of Seminole County.

John Moffitt

Moffitt filed his papers for the House District 29 seat yesterday, according to state Division of Elections records.

Reached by phone, Moffitt didn’t say why he launched a campaign against the powerful incumbent. But it’s an unusual move for a local party official to take on a future House Speaker.

“I’m not ready to make a statement at this time,” said Moffitt, whose message beneath his Twitter account (@johntheumpire) reads “Going to run for congress someday!” Like Dorworth, Moffitt lives in Lake Mary.

Dorworth, who’s collected more than $250,000 for his reelection effort, is scheduled to pick the gavel after incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford’s term ends in November 2014.

Maitland Democrat Michael Clelland is also listed as a candidate in the race.

Mack supporters demand LeMieux go away to ‘benefit the entire party’

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Political and financial heavy-weights backing U.S. Rep. Connie Mack are asking George LeMieux step out of the U.S. Senate race, a “difficult and selfless step toward unifying our party now.”

Mack supporters sent a letter to LeMieux saying that with Mack leading in the polls, it’s time for LeMieux to drop out.

“Your withdrawal from the election and endorsement of Connie would be of great benefit to the entire Party as we turn now to the fall elections and unify behind our shared goal of stopping President Obama and Senator Nelson from doing any more damage to our state and country. We thank you for your dedicated service to our Party, and hope that you will not only recognize how important it is for conservatives to win in November, but that you will take the difficult and selfless step toward unifying our Party now,” the group wrote.

The ask comes just days after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said some influential GOP’ers are trying to convince him to throw his hat into the race because they’re dissatisfied with both LeMieux and Mack and are worried that neither can oust incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix responded with a swipe at Mack.

“With Mack the Fourth’s history of violence and financial misconduct, voters will no doubt realize he lacks the maturity to be a United States Senator. George LeMieux is the only candidate who can defeat Bill Nelson in November and end Harry Reid’s reign as Majority Leader,” Nix said in a statement.

Read the entire letter after the jump.
(more…)

Spokeswoman for group pushing ‘parent trigger’ going to work for Obama campaign in California

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The spokeswoman of the California-based Parent Revolution group that pushed a controversial “parent trigger” bill in Florida is going to work for President Obama’s reelection campaign as the state spokeswoman.

Linda Serrato sent an e-mail saying she’ll start for Obama’s California campaign next week.

Serrato’s going to work for the Democratic incumbent after Florida Democrats – and some moderate Senate Republicans – excoriated the measure, also backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The parent trigger measure quickly evolved into a contentious battle over letting parents take over failing schools, with Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich taking the lead in fighting against it.

The measure died on a tie vote on the final day of the legislative session in March (not a single Senate Democrat voted in favor of the measure and just two Dems gave it a thumbs up in the House) but not before fiery messaging from Parent Revolution and opponents of the bill, including a coalition of Florida parent groups, the PTA among them.

“I feel honored to have worked with this dedicated, energetic and scrappy team. I have been proud to be a part of Parent Revolution’s work empowering parents to organize their communities,” Serrato wrote in an e-mail message announcing her departure.

Fla Dems edge out Republicans in voter registrations last month

Friday, April 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are picking up steam heading into the general election, beating the GOP in lassoing new voters last month by 8 percent, according to data released by the Florida Democratic Party today.

Registered Democrats in Florida now total 4,955,094 – 40 percent of Florida’s 12,328,235 registered voters – as of April 1, holding a 4 percent lead of the GOP, with 4,408,461 registered voters. Twenty-four percent – 2,964,680 – of Floridians are registered with no party affiliation. And independents grew by a larger percentage than either party last month, with 41 percent of new voters, or 23,333, shunning both the GOP and the Dems.

While the Democrats are crowing about the new registration numbers, they’re still down overall from earlier this year. Figures released by the Division of Elections in January showed 40.5 percent of Floridians registered as Democrats and about 36.2 percent as Republicans.

And Democrats still hold a smaller lead over Republicans than four years ago, when the gap favored Democrats by 5.8 percent heading into the 2008 presidential elections.

But that didn’t stop Democratic party officials from bragging about the March registrations.

“The Republicans’ Tea Party extremism and their continued assault on women and the middle class is turning off Florida voters,” FDP executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a press release. “The Democratic message of economic fairness and helping businesses create jobs — coupled with our strong grassroots organizing across the state — set the stage for us to out-register Republicans yet again and maintain our overall registration advantage. Florida Democrats are entering the general election season strong.”

More Hispanics, the subject of intense outreach by the GOP, also registered as Democrats in March, beating out Republicans by 46 to 17 percent.

Anti-abortion group launches ‘Yes on 6′ constitutional amendment campaign

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A group of anti-abortion advocates is urging voters to support a constitutional amendment they say will allow lawmakers to revisit a parental consent measure struck down by the courts.

“Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights” launched the “Yes on 6″ campaign last month, advocating for a constitutional amendment placed on the November ballot by lawmakers last year.

The ballot language does not mention parental consent – which would require a parent to give their permission before a minor girl can have the procedure – but would specifically exempt abortions from the privacy clause of the state’s constitution.

The Florida Supreme Court in 2003 struck down a 1999 parental notification law because of that clause, ruling that even children had the right to privacy.

The following year, voters required a constitutional amendment requiring that parental notification before a girl can have an abortion. Florida law now requires that parents or guardians be notified at least 48 hours before a girl can have an abortion and allows for judge’s to grant permission in certain cases.

But that law doesn’t go far enough, proponents of Amendment 6 on this year’s ballot argued.

Parents should be required to sign off on abortions as they must for body piercings and tattoos, said Randy Armstrong, a Tampa obstetrician and president of Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights.

“Parental consent is the number one issue that we have,” he said.

The proposed amendment, entitled “Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights,” would bar public money from being spent on abortions, something already prohibited by federal and state law. Currently, poor women can receive abortions paid for by Medicaid – the state/federal health care program – only in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. Like all other changes to the constitution, the proposal requires 60 percent of voter approval to pass.

The ballot summary that will appear before voters in November reads:

“This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.”

Down in other polls, Connie Mack-bashing George LeMieux wins over FFRW

Monday, February 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam


After trashing front-runner Connie Mack at a GOP women’s forum Sunday afternoon, George LeMieux emerged as the winner of the group’s straw poll in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

LeMieux, who served for about 16 months alongside incumbent (and target) U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is trailing Mack by 30 points in some polls.

But the GOP ladies apparently liked him enough to give him a considerable lead over retired Army Col. Mike McCalister and Mack, who came in last.

The results were interesting, FFRW VP Kim Carroll said in an e-mail, because a poll on the organization’s website prior to Sunday’s event resulted in a virtual three-way tie.

The candidates did not appear together during the two-hour forum, and were only in the same room together briefly, although the trio was scheduled to be on stage at the event’s conclusion.

Mack, who was up first, left the Hotel Duval shortly after fielding prepared questions from the women. McCalister followed, and LeMieux went last, hanging around after the meeting and working the crowd that included some of the state’s most influential Republican women, including RNC Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day. The straw poll of 117 members of the FFRW’s executive committee was held shortly after the forum.

One of the questions specific to LeMieux dealt with an explanation for his ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist, a once-loved politico now anathema to party loyalists after he jumped the GOP to run as an independent in a losing fight for the U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio.

“I’m my own man. And I proved it when I was in the US Senate,” LeMieux said. “I governed based upon my conservative values, your conservative values. A lot of us in this room supported the former governor at one time or another. And he disappointed all of us.”

LeMieux handled his response well, some of those present said.

Each of the candidates appeared separately onstage and were asked questions posed by members and selected and edited by FFRW chairwoman Cindy Graves.

Each candidate was supposed to be hit with a somewhat critical question. LeMieux was asked about his former employer Crist, McCalister was asked about whether he has exaggerated his military career and Mack was asked…nothing.

The Congressman was supposed to be questioned about criticism that he does not spend enough time in his Ft. Myers-area district but instead divides his time between Washington and California, where his wife and fellow congressional colleague U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack resides.

“Whoever was given the question to ask didn’t ask it,” Graves said.

Al Lawson to make another bid for Congress

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Veteran Tallahassee legislator Al Lawson, a Democrat, intends to run for Congress again, this time with the help of the GOP.

“Big Al” said he is going to make another stab at the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a tea party Republican who ousted long-time Democratic Congressman Allen Boyd in 2010.

After being termed out of the Senate in 2010, Lawson lost in a brutal primary by about 2,000 votes to Boyd, who held the seat for 16 years before losing to Southerland.

But the maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, slated to be voted out of the Senate this week and sent on their way to Attorney General Pam Bondi and ultimately the courts for review, may give Lawson (and other Democrats) a leg up against the incumbent from Panama City.

Five GOP-leaning counties that helped Southerland get to Washington – Okaloosa, Walton, Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee – will no longer be in the District 2 North Florida seat if the maps withstand Department of Justice scrutiny and expected legal challenges.

Lawson said one of the reasons he’s running again is because he didn’t like what Southerland said after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot last summer. Southerland suggested his $174,000-a-year Congressional salary wasn’t worth the safety risks and the time away from his family and funeral home business.

“Throughout my political career, I’ve always fought hard for workers, for economic development and jobs for this district. And this Southerland complained about his $174,000 salary that was taking away from his business,” Lawson, who served in the Florida House and Senate for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview. Lawson said he intends to formally file to run for the seat next week.

“He seems to be more concerned about the tea party than concerned about his distict where you have high unemployment, and people need somebody to fight for them in Congress. I have a 28-year history of doing that and it’s something the people need,” Lawson said. “I just need to retire him. And let him go back to the funeral home business.”

Lawson could face another veteran state lawmaker in what may be a crowded primary. Nancy Argenziano, a former Republican who switched to become an independent, wants to run as a Democrat for the seat. But she can’t because of a provision included in an election law (controversial for other reasons) approved by lawmakers last year and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June. That provision bars candidates from switching parties one year before the qualifying period for the general election begins, meaning the candidate must be registered in the party for nearly 18 months before the 2012 November election. Argenziano, who served in both the state House and Senate and also as the chairwoman of the Florida Public Service Commission, is challenging that part of the election law in court.

State Rep. Leonard Bembry, a Greenville Democrat and Boyd look-alike, also intends to run for the seat.

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