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New Q-poll: More than half of Floridians want a new guv, GOP primary could hurt Scott

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

More than half of Floridians say Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t deserve another term, according to a new poll released by Quinnipiac University this morning.

And the poll showed that Scott, who is planning to run for reelection, could have problems with a primary challenge. More than half of GOP voters – 52 percent – said they would prefer another candidate instead of the incumbent, the poll found.

And Scott’s approval rating among Florida voters remains dismal, the latest poll found.

Florida voters disapprove 45–36 percent of the job Scott is doing, and more than half of the voters surveyed – 52 percent – said he does not deserve a second term, compared to 30 percent who say he should be reelected in 2014.

Scott’s ratings “are just plain awful,” pollster Peter A. Brown said in a press release.

“The numbers cannot be sugar-coated,” Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said. “When voters in a politician’s own party want him to be challenged in a primary by another candidate, it’s difficult to see it as anything but outright rejection.”

By a 55-29 percent margin, voters said they wanted another candidate to challenge Scott in two years. And GOP voters felt the same way, with 53 percent saying they wanted another candidate compared to 30 percent who supported Scott. Republican voters did give Scott a 63-19 percent job approval rating and 55-26 percent said he deserves a second term.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who recently made a high-profile party change and became a Democrat and is considering a run for governor, has a 47-33 percent favorability rating. Not surprisingly, he’s got a negative rating – 28–56 percent – among Republicans, the poll found.

That’s compared to Scott’s a 31-43 favorability rating among voters. Democrats and independent voters view Scott unfavorably while slightly more than half of Republicans view him favorably. Democrats view him unfavorably by a 60-16 percent margin, independents by a 25-48 percent margin while Republicans give him a 55-18 percent favorable rating.

Alex Sink appears to have faded in voters’ memory since her 2010 loss to Scott. More than half – 57 percent – of voters haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion, compared to 27 percent who view her favorably and 14 percent who view her unfavorably.

The poll of 1,261 voters using land lines and cell phones was conducted from Dec. 11-17 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Senate OK’s merit pay for teachers

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Florida Senate approved legislation Thursday that would end tenure and tie teacher pay to student performance — the latest round in a long clash between Republican lawmakers and the state teachers union.

The 26-12 vote split on party lines, with Democrats opposed.

 Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, was the lone Democrat to crossover and support the measure; Republican Sens. Dennis Jones of Seminole and Paula Dockery of Lakeland joined Democratic opponents.

The measure (CS/SB 736) is similar to legislation that convulsed Florida last spring, before then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it following demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns by the Florida Education Association.

 Crist broke with the Republican Party following his veto; and the FEA endorsed Democrat Alex Sink over the GOP’s Rick Scott in last fall’s governor’s race.

Scott campaigned in favor of the legislation.

“This bill ought to be a teacher’s dream – to be paid for a student’s success,” said Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, sponsor of the bill.

Crist, Sink rally in Tally against offshore drilling

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will lead a bipartisan rally today to support a constitutional ban on offshore drilling today.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, and Sink, a Democrat, will appear with lawmakers and others at an event at 12:30 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

Crist called lawmakers in for a special session last year to pass a similar amendment to put on the November 2010 ballot, but they snubbed him. The legislature met briefly and adjourned without doing anything after Crist abandoned the GOP and became an independent to avoid a Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race, which he eventually lost to Marco Rubio.

Before leaving office in January, Sink struggled to get BP claims czar Ken Feinberg to improve his claims process after tens of thousands of Panhandle residents, and hundreds of Floridians throughout the state, complained about problems with his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

That system remains troubled as Feinberg is set to begin making final payments to more than 500,000 applicants for damages caused by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Yesterday, senators discussed creating a state system for victims of BP’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to expedite the claims system.

Next Friday, Feinberg will appear before a House committee at the behest of House Speaker Dean Cannon. Hundreds of Panhandle officials and residents are expected to show up. Complaints about Feinberg’s payments from the $20 billion fund set up by BP include delays, an inability to find out where claims are in the process, and inconsistencies in who gets paid and how much.

A federal judge recently ruled that Feinberg is not independent of BP, as he contends, and ordered him to quit saying that he is.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is so fed up with Feinberg’s erratic claims system that on Monday he asked a federal judge to take it over “to facilitate the timely and just processing of claims.”

Scott filling out inner circle with Crist holdover, axed Sink employee

Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott added five more high-level workers to his staff – including one fired by his former gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink – as the new governor continues to put together an administration at the end of his second official week on the job.

Scott hired Melinda Miguel to come back to her old post as inspector general, which she also held under Gov. Charlie Crist.

And Scott tapped Doug Darling as his third deputy chief of staff (Darling will be in charge of Cabinet affairs). Then-Chief Financial Officer Sink axed Darling, who was her chief of the Division of Accounting and Auditing, for failing to discover a scheme to defraud the state of millions of dollars. The plan was revealed by an auditing firm. Darling, a former Marine, later went to work as chief of staff and, until now, inspector general for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Jesse Panuccio, an associate at Cooper & Kirk, and C.B Upton, general counsel for the Department of State, will join Scott’s legal team.

And Brian Hughes will go to work for Scott’s spokesman Brian Burgess. Hughes recently served as spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s winning campaign. Hughes also served in the military and is a decorated Air Force vet, according to a press release on Scott’s Facebook page.

Jim Morrison bandmates demand apology, not pardon

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet’s pardon of the late iconic rocker Jim Morrison nearly 40 years after his death wasn’t enough, his Doors bandmates are saying.

In fact, it was unnecessary, The Doors’ remaining members Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger contend, because Morrison never did what he was accused of.

“Four decades after the fact, with Jim an icon for multiple generations – and those who railed against him now a laughingstock – Florida has seen fit to issue a pardon,” the band members and the Morrison family wrote in a press release. “We don’t feel Jim needs to be pardoned for anything.”

What they want instead is an apology.

“If the State of Florida and the City of Miami want to make amends for the travesty of Jim Morrison’s arrest and prosecution forty years after the fact, an apology would be more appropriate – and expunging the whole sorry matter from the record,” they wrote.

Morrison was convicted after police reported he taunted a crowd March 1969, at the now-defunct Dinner Key auditorium in Miami with verbal sexual come-ons and simulated oral sex, then pulled down his pants and exposing himself to thousands of fans. He was convicted in 1970 of public profanity and indecent exposure and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

He died in a Paris bathtub in 1971 while his appeal was pending.

Read the entire press release after the jump.

Sink ‘wins’ MSNBC ‘Worst Candidate of 2010′ award

Monday, December 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Two top-tier Florida candidates – Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink – won the dubious distinction of making MSNBC’s “Worst Candidate of 2010″ list this morning.

Crist – an independent who jumped the GOP ship when it looked like he couldn’t win a primary against Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race – and Sink – a Democrat who lost her bid for governor to Republican Rick Scott – were named as two of the three “worst candidates” by MSNBC hosts Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie.

But the worst of the worst, according to MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” hosts?


“You lost to a guy who defrauded Medicare,” Todd said when announcing the “winner, pausing for effect. “In Florida! Okay? More people on Medicare in Florida than maybe any other state.”

Scott started up and was CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain that wound up paying an historic fine to the federal government – $1.7 billion – for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Crist, clemency board give ‘Lizard King’ redemption

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Whether or not the “Lizard King” unzipped his pants and exposed himself to a crowd of thousands more than 40 years ago remains a mystery.

Jim Morrison’s alleged antics will remain forever a part of the late rocker’s legacy.

But the charges against him for indecent exposure and public intoxication won’t.

Gov. Charlie Crist, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, acting as the state Clemency Board, granted Morrison, the lead singer of “The Doors,” a pardon Thursday afternoon as one of their final acts as a panel before leaving office.

Should Jim Morrison have been pardoned?

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Rod Smith new Dem chief? ‘I believe I’ll be the appointee’

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Despite grumblings from Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel to the contrary, former state Sen. Rod Smith insists he’ll be the next state party chairman.

“I believe I’ll be the appointee,” said Smith, a Gainesville-area former prosecutor who most recently was Alex Sink’s running-mate in her losing bid for governor.

His bid to replace Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman, who is retiring, got a boost yesterday when an officer of the Alachua County party stepped down to make room for Smith.

Smith would have to be elected the chairman of the county executive committee or state committee man before he can be eligible to run as head of the FDP.

Once that happens, Smith said he’ll continue to build support from activists, donors and other county leaders.

“It’s a process that’s ongoing. It sometimes appears slow and ponderous but it’s an important process that allows people to have input about their concerns,” Smith, 61, said.


Rod Smith to announce Monday he wants to be new top Dem

Friday, November 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Former state Sen. Rod Smith will announce Monday he’s ready to take over the helm of the Florida Democratic Party as a replacement for Karen Thurman, who resigned today.

Smith, just off the campaign trail after running as Alex Sink’s running mate in her losing bid for governor, said he’s trying to build a consensus among Democrats smarting from major losses in this month’s elections in Florida and nationally.

Apart from Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s victory, Republicans swept the Florida Cabinet and nailed down a veto-proof super-majority in both the state House and Senate.

“I’m going to try to create a culture of success,” said Smith, a Gainesville lawyer and former prosecutor who earned a reputation as a dynamic orator during his tenure as a state senator.

Smith said he’s trying to get the support of a handful of other Democrats who’ve thrown their hats in the ring to replace Karen Thurman, who resigned today.

“I want to be a unifier. I don’t want to create division,” said Smith, a “This isn’t like a lot of campaigns. This is about trying to make sure that you first do no harm. Right now I’m focusing on trying to convince people that this is the right thing to do for me and for the party but I also remain open to listening to people’s concerns.”

Smith, who’s got behind-the-scenes backing of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said he’s already won the support of Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel, who said Friday he’ll support Smith’s bid.

Whoever takes over for Thurman has their work cut out for them, said Broward County Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar.

State Dem party leader Thurman should step down, senator says

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

After getting trounced in the Florida House and Senate races and a GOP sweep of the Cabinet, state Sen. Jeremy Ring is demanding that Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman resign.

“With the momentum of all the losses on the Democratic sides, there needs to be new leadership. Karen Thurman needs to resign. Immediately,” Ring, D-Margate, said of the Florida Democratic Party chairwoman early today.

Republicans swept the Cabinet seats and won a veto-proof majority in both the state Senate and ultimately recaptured the governor’s seat after Palm Beach County’s election returns left Rick Scott’s victory in the lurch overnight.

Ring, a moderate Democrat who frequently votes with Republicans, said the “election activities of the Republicans trumping the Democrats” at polling places he visited on Election Day demonstrate that his party is in a shambles.

“Whether it was hundreds of more signs and volunteers and palm cards and all the precincts covered, I didn’t see any coordinated effort on the Democratic side yesterday,” Ring said.

Ring was among several prominent Democrats who tried to oust Thurman when she was reelected as chairwoman two years ago.

Those efforts failed because no replacement could be found, Ring said.

He blamed Thurman for that.

“Part of any leader’s job is not to only raise money and recruit candidates but they should recruit their successor…part of her job is to have a succession plan. Clearly there isn’t one,” he said.

Sink concedes, Scott celebtrates

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Democrat Alex Sink is now conceding the governor’s race to Rick Scott.

After a long night, Scott’s campaign staff and supporters are gathered in a ballroom celebrating Sink’s long-awaited concession speech and anticipating Scott’s arrival.

Late results from Palm Beach County left the state without a clear winner last night, but after most of the returns are in Sink appeared to have at least 30,000 fewer votes than needed to trigger an automatic recount.

Confident Scott: ‘I will be the next great governor’

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

A confident Scott and his wife Ann came on the stage shortly after 2 a.m. – nearly two hours after Alex Sink had gone home – and spoke to about 100 weary stragglers.

“I apologize this has taken so long,” the ever-polite Scott said, adding that he was glad it didn’t rain although it could have without him knowing it when he was sequestered in his suite watching the election returns on television.

“After all the votes are counted..I am absolutely confident I will be the next great governor of the state of Florida,” he said.

Scott said he would have more to say later today

“We know we’re going to win and we look forward to getting this state back to work,” he said, riffing on his trademark “Let’s Get to Work” campaign slogan.

Scott sidestepped a question about his disappointment over not being able to declare victory.

“I had a great speech,” he said, smiling. “I had a great speech. We had great confetti and everything. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Big lobbyist turnout at high-security Scott fete

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Some of Tallahassee’s most powerful lobbyists crowded into the ballroom at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina for “outsider” GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott’s election night party, including those once bankrolling his primary opponent Bill McCollum’s campaign.

Scott, who campaigned as an “outsider,” defeated the attorney general after a brutal primary campaign, not unlike his general race against Democrat Alex Sink.

Scott’s imposing security staff blocked off hallways at the waterfront marina and hotel and even employees complained about the restrictions. One hotel guest trying to leave the property had to plead with Scott’s bouncers to let him leave without walking around the entire hotel to get to his car.

The movers-and-shakers in attendance included Fred Leonhardt, who was on McCollum’s finance committee, and donors who contributed at least $100,000 to Scott’s campaign.

Others on the A-list getting an early foot in the door with Scott included Ron Book, Billy Rubin, Dave Ramba, Jim Eaton, Pat Malloy, Jennifer Green, and U.S. Sugar’s Robert Coker.

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, a handful of other GOP legislators and former RPOF executive director Will McKinley and former RPOF fundraiser are also in the house.

Scott convoy gets flashing blue light escort out of Lee County

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

It might be jumping the gun a bit, but Rick Scott’s convoy got a courtesy sheriff’s escort out of town as the GOP gubernatorial candidate headed across the state to West Palm Beach on the day before the election.

The escort was a benefit of having Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, no relation to the candidate, on your side. The sheriff provided escort without being asked, Scott’s campaign staff said.

The lanky Scott, who said he lost 10 pounds since launching his gubernatorial bid seven months ago, is en route to West Palm Beach for a barbecue lunch where he’ll be joined by U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.

Scott’s wife Ann has also shed some weight on the campaign trail, a switch from most candidates who plump up after visits to umpteen pancake breakfasts and barbecue meals.

When offered a choice of cookies on his campaign bus this weekend, Scott opted for the more decadent chocolate chip than oatmeal raisin.

“Two more days of eating bad,” he joked.

LeMieux joins Scott for some Palm Beach BBQ Monday; Clinton visit includes Sink

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will join Rick Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll in West Palm Beach for some (more) barbecue at the Park Avenue BBQ and Grille around noon tomorrow.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates will also visit their campaign headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale and a school in Davie before a homecoming party in Naples Monday evening capping Scott’s weeklong tour of the state leading up to Election Day.

Scott’s campaign rented the Cambier Park Bandshell and will have a live band to greet Scott, who moved to Naples seven years ago. Scott and his wife Ann’s pals Wayne and Susan Mullican, who joined the Scott family on the bus tour Sunday, took out a full page ad in the Naples Daily News to advertise the event.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Alex Sink will be onstage with the most sought-after Democrats nationwide tomorrow evening: Former president Bill Clinton, who’ll be in the Sunshine State stumping for pal Kendrick Meek. Clinton’s visit – his twelfth for Meek’s U.S. Senate bid – comes after a shakeup over reports that Clinton tried to persuade Meek to drop out of the U.S. Senate race.

Bob Graham and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will also campaign for Sink in Ft. Myers on Monday, but not only AFTER Scott has already left town.

Scott bus tour day 5: field trips, Jeb!, Haley and tea

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott bookended two GOP rock stars between a Tea Party rally and a private screening of the education documentary “Waiting for Superman” on Day 5 of his statewide bus tour as the clock ticks down until Election Day.

Rick Scott and RGA head Gov. Haley Barbourdd

Former Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the day with a rally for the GOP Cabinet slate and gubernatorial candidate Scott at an airport hangar in Orlando.

“There’s a cloud on our state. I think there’s a lot of pessimism in our state right now. I think we need a can-do leader that lifts the cloud,” Bush said. “I think he’s the right guy for the right time.”

Scott capped off the day-long flyaround on a chartered plane with a rally near Tampa starring Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the head of the National Governor’s Association. (more…)

Bush star power with Scott and GOP Cabinet slate in Orlando

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

ORLANDO _ Florida GOP political icon Jeb Bush pumped up support for the Republican statewide candidates at a rally in Orlando this morning.

About 150 supporters crowded into a hangar at a private airport in Orlando to cheer on gubernatorial candidate, who made the Orlando event his first on the fifth day of his week-long statewide bus tour.

“There’s a cloud on our state. I think there’s a lot of pessimism in our state right now. I think we need a can-do leader that lifts the cloud,” Bush said in his introduction of Rick Scott. “I want a tax cutting, budget cutting, job creating governor and Rick Scott is the one.”

The rally was the first event on the fifth day of Scott’s week-long statewide sweep leading up to Election Day.

Bush and his lieutenant governor pumped up the crowd for the GOP Cabinet slate, who also joined Scott on the platform with Bush and his former lieutenant governor Toni Jennins.

Scott kept to his jobs, jobs, jobs theme in a brief speech before heading to a Tea Party rally in Jacksonville.

“All of us up here know we create jobs by getting government out of your life…and an attitude that business people are the lifeblood of the country,” he said.

Bush praised Scott to reporters after the brief event.

“I think he’s the right guy for the right time,” he said.

Bush said he was disappointed in Gov. Charlie Crist, who abandoned the GOP to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

“He responds to heat and light” rather than being true to his core convictions, Bush said.

Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink is slated to be in Orlando later this morning.

Chock full o’donuts with Scott

Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Ever punctual, Rick Scott’s bus tour was running so ahead of schedule after a donut breakfast that his caravan had plenty of time to make two unscheduled visits to two more diners before making a fourth planned stop in Santa Rosa Beach.

Scott met with several hundred supporters at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Panama City and made brief stops at a Waffle House and Mike’s Diner before meeting with the Ft. Walton Chamber of Commerce in Walton County.

The rail-thin Scott, who looks as though he never ate one of the fried pastries in his life, then stopped for lunch at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach.

Rick Scott and his mother Esther at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach (Photo courtesy Rick Scott campaign)

There, Scott’s crackerjack advance team met with a situation that put their planning skills to the test.

News of a hostage situation and police shooting in Pensacola, where Scott was heading, caused some quick recalculation. Local officials have shut down I-10 where Scott’s convoy was scheduled to travel. Check back later to see if the detour caused a delay.

Aaronson says Scott pleaded fifth more times than Capone, terrorist

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Andrew Abramson

Democratic County Commissioner Burt Aaronson is never one to mince words, and at a campaign event for Alex Sink on Thursday at Century Village, Aaronson railed against Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott.

Sink, addressing an audience of senior citizens, repeatedly referred to Scott pleading the fifth amendment 75 times at a deposition regarding fraud at Columbia/HCA. Scott was CEO of Columbia, the company that was fined a national-record $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.

While the company was charged with fraud, Scott was never personally charged.

After Sink’s speech, Aaronson joked to the audience that Scott pleaded the fifth so many times, “I think he took a fifth (of liquor) at times. He was drunk.”

Aaronson then said Scott pleaded the fifth more times than notorious 1920s gangster Al Capone and Pakistani terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

UPDATE: New Scott ad bashes Sink over ‘Debate-gate’

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Alex Sink campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin slams Scott for new TV ad.

“The ad’s a fraud. Rick Scott is a fraud. All of his attack ads in this campaign have been judged to be false,” McLaughlin said. “If it wasn’t this debate flap it would be something else because he makes these up. They are fabrications just like his entire Medicare fraud scheme was against the government and the taxpayers.”

GOP governor hopeful Rick Scott released a new television ad hammering Democratic opponent Alex Sink for breaking the rules during Monday night’s debate.

The ad begins with a clip of Sink featured in one of her own TV ads saying: “And if someone lies or cheats, I hold them accountable.”

“Cheating. Roll the tape,” a voiceover says then launches into a series of television news clips discussing Sink’s breach.

Scott, who dropped another $1.5 million into his campaign this week, began running the ad statewide today, just five days before Tuesday’s election.

Sink set off a firestorm after apparently reading a cell phone message during a commercial break at the debate Monday night. Scott went after her during the debate for breaking the rules, and Sink quickly fired her campaign aide who sent it. Both candidates had agreed not to have any communications with their staff during the hour-long face-off.

Sink went on the left-leaning MSNBC show Hardball Tuesday night to defend herself, saying she thought the call may have been from her 18-year-old daughter who is out of the country.

CNN later reported that an examination of the audio showed that Sink was told by the hairdresser who handed her a cell phone that the message was from staff before Sink read it. Sink’s campaign did their own audio analysis that found CNN’s conclusions were wrong.

The release of the statewide ad Thursday came as a surprise.

Scott, on the third day of a week-long sweep of the state, has said repeatedly that his campaign had already purchased all of its television air time and did not intend to ad any new advertisements and has instead been releasing web-based ads as well as radio.

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