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Gov. Scott: Florida needs more early voting days

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNN‘s Soledad O’Brien this morning that the state needs a longer early voting period after some voters, including those in Palm Beach County, waited up to eight hours to cast their ballots.

Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature cut the number of early voting days from 14 to 8 in a sweeping election bill last year, despite long lines four years ago that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the hours of early voting. Former GOP officials, including Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Crist, say Republicans wanted to shrink early voting to cut back on Democratic turnout in response to the 2008 turnout that helped boost President Obama into the White House.

It’s the first time Scott, a Republican who came under harsh criticism for refusing to extend the number of early voting days this year, has said the early voting period should be longer.

“We’ve got to restore confidence in our elections,” Scott said.

The governor highlighted three things the state should based on conversations Secretary of State Ken Detzner had with supervisors in “low-performance” counties, including Palm Beach.

_ Length of the ballot: Scott held up a Miami-Dade County ballot that was 12 pages long because it had to be printed in English, Spanish and Creole.
“This took some people 40 minutes to get through. There were local issues, state issues. And it was just too long,” he said.

_ Early voting sites: Scott agreed with supervisors who have for years asked for more flexibility in early voting sites, now limited to city halls, public libraries and elections offices or branches that have been open more than a year.

_ Number of early voting days: “We’ve got to go back and look at number of days we have,” Scott said.

When O’Brien asked Scott if he wasn’t to blame for refusing to extend the number of early voting days despite the lengthy lines, Scott blamed the legislature for changing the time period with the 2011 HB 1355, which he signed into law.

“We had an election bill that was passed my first year” as governor, Scott said. “But we do need change.
We’ve got to have a bipartisan group come together and say we’ve got to improve this. We’ve got to restore the confidence of all elections in Florida.”

O’Brien, who has been covering the massacre of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., grew frustrated when Scott, a lifetime NRA member, sidestepped questions about gun control.

Scott said that the focus right now should be on the families and community in mourning.

“I support the Second Amendment. But what I want to focus on right now is the families, make sure our schools are safe. We’re at a 41 year low in our crime rate…Let’s step back and say what can we improve,” he said.

“With all due respect you’re not going to answer my question,” she said, pressing him for specifics. “I don’t feel like you’re telling me should people not be able to buy those high capacity magazines.”

The unflappable Scott, who rarely raises his voice and has mastered the art of staying on point, didn’t bite.

“My approach is respect the families, mourn their losses, make sure our schools are safe and then listen to Floridians and get their ideas,” he said.

“I hope all those conversations turn to meaningful legislation before I have to go out and cover another tragedy,” O’Brien responded.

After tough talk about talking — U.S. Senate race will have only one debate

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican Connie Mack renewed his blistering Tuesday of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson over what now looks all but certain to be a single debate between the two contenders.

Mack, trailing in the polls, wants plenty more. Nelson doesn’t need them.

“The voters of this country are getting three prime-time opportunities to view their choices for President and sadly Bill Nelson does not think the voters of Florida are entitled to the same opportunity,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager.

An Oct. 17 debate at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University, to be broadcast by television stations across Florida, is shaping up as the lone contest. Mack didn’t want the Tampa Bay Times as a co-sponsor of a CNN debate proposed for Oct. 30 — sending everyone back to the drawing board.

CNN, Bay News 9 of Tampa and Central Florida 13 began talking of picking up the second debate — but Nelson’s side wanted it earlier than Oct. 30, since early voting will be underway by then. Mack said he’d be willing to debate Oct. 25 or Oct. 27 — but Nelson’s campaign said it now looks unlikely that CNN will take part in anything that’s not slated for Oct. 30.

So Nelson’s not interested.

“At this point, we’ll have one debate Oct. 17 — and that’s still one more debate than Mack had in his primary,” said Nelson spokesman Paul Kincaid.

Jeb! to raise Cash! for Mack; one Senate debate also set

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will headline a fund-raiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack next month in Miami, the campaign announced Thursday.

The $500-and-up per-person event will be held the evening of Oct. 5 at Miami’s Grove Isle Club on Biscayne Bay.

Meanwhile, Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have agreed to what sponsors are calling the pair’s only live statewide television debate, Oct. 17. Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association are co-sponsoring the debate, which will be aired from Nova Southeastern University in Davie at 7 p.m.

WPTV-Channel 5 in West Palm Beach is producing the event, which will be carried by other broadcast partners in Florida’s 11 TV markets.

Mack and Nelson are still in discussions with Tampa’s Bay News 9 and CNN about another debate, tentatively planned for Oct. 30. The Nelson campaign wants to advance that date, to bring it closer to when early voting is scheduled to begin on Oct. 27.

Debate over Debates nearing end in U.S. Senate race

Monday, September 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The debate over Florida’s U.S. Senate debates appeared Monday to be nearing an end.

With Republican Connie Mack refusing to take part in a debate co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9-TV of Tampa, and sister station, Central Florida 13 have stepped in as co-sponsors with CNN of the proposed Oct. 30 exchange between Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“The discussions are going very well,” said Rod Gramer, vice-president and general manager of Bay News 9. “We hope to be able to have something wrapped up, maybe by the end of the week.”

Pete Mitchell, Nelson’s campaign manager, said his side would like to have the debate somewhat earlier. But an Oct. 17 Mack-Nelson debate also looks on — and sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

Mack’s campaign also accepted a proposed Oct. 23 debate at the University of Florida.  But talks about the talk-a-thons continue.

Two RNC attendees throw peanuts at black camera woman

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
TAMPA – CNN confirmed Wednesday that one of its black camera operators was taunted this week by two Republican National Convention attendees, who were removed by security officials.

Atlanta-based CNN said the employee was inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday night covering the convention when the two attendees began throwing nuts and saying, “This is how we feed animals.”

The cable news network said multiple witnesses saw the exchange, and RNC security and police immediately stepped in.

In a statement, convention spokesman Kyle Downey said the two conventioneers “exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”

CNN said it “worked with convention officials to address this matter and will have no further comment.”

CNN and state Republicans to host Jan. 26 GOP presidential debate in Jax

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

CNN and the Florida Republican Party announced Saturday they will host a GOP presidential candidates’ debate Jan. 26 from Jacksonville — five days before the state’s primary.

It will mark the third debate originating from Florida, the nation’s biggest toss-up state in the presidential contest. Nationally televised debates featuring the Republican presidential field were held last month in Tampa and Orlando.

“CNN and RPOF are going to make this debate the best opportunity for our presidential candidates to continue their dialogue with Floridians,” said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. “With a date exactly halfway between the South Carolina and Florida primary dates, this debate will be the must-attend event for this great field of Republicans.”

Florida set Jan. 31 for its primary, drawing penalties from the Republican National Committee for placing its contest ahead of March 6. The party had been trying to reserve the earlier dates for states which traditionally held the nation’s first contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

But efforts to avoid a frontloaded primary season now look like a lost cause.

As expected, after Florida’s leapfrog last week, South Carolina set Jan. 21 for its primary. Nevada has since tapped Jan. 14, while Republican Party officials in Iowa are eyeing Jan. 3 or 5 for its caucuses. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner says he is still considering scheduling that state’s first-in-the-nation primary for December, because of the early moves by other states.


Scott, again, says GOP debate should focus on jobs

Monday, September 12th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Republican presidential field takes part in another debate tonight — this time from Tampa — but Florida Gov. Rick Scott is mostly sticking with the same advice he’s offered for those heading into earlier exchanges.

“I think the biggest question for everybody in the country — if the Democrats were having a debate, it’d be the same same issue — it’d be about jobs. Who’s got the best blueprint for job creation?”  Scott said Monday.

Scott, a big supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also may have attempted to come to the defense of his favorite Republican, who tonight could have to clarify his recent debate comment that Social Security was effectively a “Ponzi scheme,” certain to run out of money. Calls for overhauling Social Security are eyed warily in Florida and other states with heavy senior populations.

“Without jobs, we don’t have any money for any the safety nets we have,” Scott explained. “We can’t afford any of the government programs we have. So it’s about jobs.”

Tonight’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate begins at 8 p.m. on CNN. It will take place at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Scott said he plans to watch the talk-a-thon, but won’t attend. He’s traveling Monday in advance of Republican Governors’ Association meetings.


CNN’s Schneider kicks off new Forum Club season Friday; AG Holder slated for January

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by George Bennett

CNN senior politcal analyst Bill Schneider will be the headliner Friday when the venerable Forum Club of the Palm Beaches kicks off its latest powerlunch season.

The event will be at the Cohen Pavilion at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Public tickets are $55 and may be purchased at the event. The buffet begins at 11:30 a.m.

Other Forum Club speakers confirmed so far: Ted Kennedy biographer Peter S. Canellos on Oct. 23, National Urban League CEO Mark Morial on Dec. 15, U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder on Jan. 8 and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Jan. 28.

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