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Prosecutor and defendant on same host committee for Sen. Maria Sachs

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

The massive host committee for an upcoming fundraiser for Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs includes State Attorney Dave Aronberg and a man being prosecuted by Arongberg’s office, Democratic activist Clarence “Shahid” Freeman, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he tried to blackmail Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent last year.

Aronberg supports Sachs and agreed to be on the host committee, but wasn’t involved in choosing who else would be on the list of nearly 100 Sachs backers, said Aronberg spokesman Mike Edmondson.

“We’re not the ones that put together those committees, the candidates do,” said Edmondson, who said there’s no reason for Aronberg to remove himself from the host committee.

Sachs and Freeman at her ceremonial swearing-in last year.

Sachs, an attorney, represented Freeman when he was charged with misdemeanor battery for a 2009 incident in which a woman accused him of grabbing her breast and buttocks.

Freeman pleaded not guilty in that case. Charges were dropped in 2011 after Freeman completed the terms of an agreement, according to court records. Details of that agreement are not included in court files.

Sachs defended her association with Freeman last year after he attended her ceremonial swearing-in a few weeks after the latest charges were filed.

“For 30 years I’ve been in criminal justice and I believe in our criminal justice system. I believe in the Constitution and everybody’s presumed innocence. I’ve lived that as well as believed it,” Sachs said at the time.

Nights spent in district ‘not relevant’ to legal residency, Sachs asserts

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by George Bennett

Facing accusations she doesn’t live in the Senate district she represents, Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs declined in a Tuesday interview to estimate how much time she spends at the 740-square-foot condo unit in Fort Lauderdale that she lists as her official residence.

Sachs also rejected the idea that the amount of time she spends at the address has a legal bearing on whether she’s a resident of Senate District 34.

“It’s not relevant to the issue of legal residency,” Sachs said.

Sachs and her husband own a house west of Boca Raton that’s just outside District 34. Critics have suggested Sachs has spent few if any nights at the condo, which she rents from lobbyist and friend Judy Stern.

“The issue is not how many nights you spend there but how many days you spend in the community,” Sachs said.

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read more about Sachs’ and the residency controversy by clicking here.

Sachs: ‘I am a legal resident of the District I represent in the Florida Senate. Period’

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 by George Bennett

Sachs

Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs has won two procedural victories over a complainant who accused her of not living at the Fort Lauderdale address she lists as her residence.

The rulings do not address the merits of the claim that Sachs lives outside Senate District 34, but Sachs said they bolster her declaration of residency.

“I am a legal resident of the District I represent in the Florida Senate. Period. The Florida Senate Rules Committee as well as the Commission on Ethics of the State of Florida have both issued reports that support that fact,” Sachs said in a recent e-mail to The Palm Beach Post.

Sachs and her husband own a house west of Boca Raton that is outside Senate District 34. But Sachs last year changed the address on her voter registration and driver license to a 740-square-foot Fort Lauderdale condo unit that she rents from lobbyist and friend Judy Stern in District 34. Sachs also removed her name, but not her husband’s, from the homestead exemption on their Boca Raton property.

After a conservative website and media outlets questioned Sachs’ residency claim earlier this year, Tamarac resident Matthew Feiler filed complaints with the Senate Rules Committee and the Florida Commission on Ethics.

(more…)

Questions about Sachs and others lead Legislature to review residency rules

Sunday, August 11th, 2013 by George Bennett

State Sen. Maria Sachs

Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs and her husband own a $1 million home on 5 acres west of Boca Raton, but she says her residence is a 740-square-foot condo she rents in Fort Lauderdale from lobbyist and friend Judy Stern.

The Boca house is outside the Senate district Sachs was elected to represent, but the condo is inside District 34.

Florida’s Constitution says that each legislator shall be “an elector and resident of the district from which elected.” Even taking Sachs’ Fort Lauderdale residency claim at face value, elections records show she wasn’t an elector, or registered voter, of District 34 until three days after the 2012 election.

Sachs, who says she’s following the law and is being targeted for partisan reasons, isn’t the only Palm Beach County legislator to claim residency in a rented place while owning a house outside her district. And Sachs isn’t the only lawmaker in the county delegation who was registered in another district last election day.

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost can read more about it by clicking here.

Questions about the residency claims of Sachs and other lawmakers have led Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to pledge to clarify residency rules for state legislators.

“Neither the House nor the Senate has historically developed a clear set of principles to determine the residency of our members,” Gaetz and Weatherford wrote in a joint letter last month.

Ethics complaint filed against Sachs over residency

Friday, June 28th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs has been hit with an ethics complaint accusing her of lying about where she lives.

Matthew Feiler, a Tamarac resident, filed the complaintcomplaint on Thursday, accusing Sachs, who was elected to the Broward-Palm Beach District 34 seat in November after a brutal election against Republican former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, of falsifying public documents and violating state law requiring that lawmakers live in the districts they represent.

Sachs, whose district office is in Delray Beach, claims she lives in a Fort Lauderdale condo owned by lobbyist pal Judy Stern. But the complaint alleges she actually lives at a $1.5 million estate in Boca Raton owned by the former prosecutor and her husband Peter.

The complaint was filed after a WPLG Miami “Local 10″ investigation by Bob Norman. Private investigators videotaped Sachs arriving at her Boca home and leaving in the morning. The conservative website “Media Trackers” first questioned Sachs’s living arrangements in April.

The dispute about Sach’s living arrangements came up during hearings on Stern’s daughter Barbra’s appointment by Gov. Rick Scott to the state Elections Commission. Barbra Stern is part-owner of the condo Sachs claims is her home.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee signed off on Barbra Stern’s appointment, but only after Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, questioned Stern of Fort Lauderdale — about her ownership interest in the unit. Stern at the time said her mother paid the bills on the unit, that she hadn’t visited the condo for years and she had no idea who lived there.

The Sachs-Bogdanoff battle was one of the most expensive – and ugliest- state Senate races last year. Republicans had hoped to keep Bogdanoff in the Senate in the newly-drawn district, but Sachs’s victory helped Democrats gain two seats in the chamber.

Wednesday’s complaint is Sachs’ latest ethics challenge. The commission found probable cause earlier this month that Sachs failed to properly disclose a Tallahassee condo along with her state legislative income on three years’ worth of financial disclosures. The panel decided not to punish her because she amended the forms.

Ethics panel finds probable cause that Maria Sachs erred on financial disclosures

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause to believe that Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, failed to properly disclose a Tallahassee condo along with her state legislative income on three years’ worth of financial disclosures.

But, since Sachs amended the forms, the panel is not recommending any further action unless Sachs requests a hearing, according to a press release issued by the Commission this morning.

Former Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein filed the complaint against Sachs last fall in the lead-up to the November election as the Democrat was embroiled in a bitter campaign battle against former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. Sachs defeated Bogdanoff in the chase for a newly drawn District 34 seat in one of the state’s most hotly-contested Senate races.

Sachs has also been questioned about a separate condo-related arrangement. was also embroiled in a separate condo-related dispute earlier this year about whether she lives in her district or not.

Barbara Stern and her mother, lobbyist and longtime Sachs friend Judy Stern, are listed as owners of the 740-square-foot unit in Fort Lauderdale in Sachs’ Senate District 34. Sachs owns a house with her husband just outside District 34 in Boca Raton, but rents the condo and lists it as her residence. The Florida Constitution requires legislators to live in the districts they represent.

The conservative MediaTrackers.org website said in in April that it visited Sachs’ Fort Lauderdale address on April 2 and was told by a neighbor that the unit had been vacant for at least six months.

Sachs, who has said she pays $950 monthly rent for the unit, disputed the MediaTrackers report.

“I have fully met the requirements of the law regarding legal residency in District 34,” Sachs said in an April email.

Expedited death penalty process on its way to Gov. Scott

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Death Row inmates would get executed faster under a measure on its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

The Senate approved the bill (HB 7083) with a 28-10 vote this afternoon despite the objections of some Democrats who said the fast-tracked process is risky.

The “Timely Justice Act,” approved by the House last week, creates shorter time frames for death penalty appeals and take away the governor’s discretion about when to order an execution.

If Scott signs the bill or allows it to become law without his approval, 13 Death Row inmates would fit its criteria, meaning the governor who has signed nine death warrants in the 29 months since he took office would have to order 13 executions within six months.

Sen. Joe Negron, the bill’s sponsor, said the changes are necessary to bring justice to victims. The average length of time between arrest and execution in Florida is 20 years, and 10 Death Row inmates have been awaiting execution for more than three decades, Negron said before the vote.

The delay makes “a mockery of the court system,” Negron, R-Stuart, said. Court and jury decisions “at some point…needs to be carried out.”

But Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, argued that speeding up the process could result in the execution of innocent people.

Twenty-four Florida Death Row inmates have been exonerated, the most of any state in the nation.

“Once the execution is completed, it’s over. There’s no going back,” Sachs, a former prosecutor, argued. “I don’t see the reason for the swiftness especially with DNA evidence that can exonerate.”

Florida is the only state in the nation that allows a simple majority of the jury on capital cases. Critics of the bill had tried to change it to require a 10-2 majority of the jury as Alabama requires. All other states with the death penalty require unanimous jury decisions.

Tallahassee’s Fat Monday, Deutch’s rare Obama dissent, GOP’s Mar-a-Lago bash

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by George Bennett

This week’s Politics column explains why state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and other lawmakers circled March 4 on their calendars.

Nearly $1.1 million in campaign cash flowed to House and Senate incumbents on that date, with Sens. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, and Joe Negron, R-Stuart, leading local recipients.

Also this week: U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, supports President Barack Obama 93 percent of the time, but he’s taking the lead in opposing one Obama proposal.

And find out what it cost the Palm Beach County GOP to raise $180,000 at a February Lincoln Day dinner at Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago.

Read all about it by clicking here.

Post-Easter bunny relief

Monday, April 8th, 2013 by Dara Kam

For decades, it was against Florida law to dye animals, including bunnies, chicks and ducklings. The law was intended to put an end to pink peeps (and other baby fowl) at one time sold for Easter basket treats but then grew up into unwanted barnyard birds.

The law, however, also got in the way of pet groomers who wanted to dye dogs for parades and competitions. So the legislature did away with the law last year, prompting protests from animal rights organizations and some Democratic lawmakers.

Now Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, is backing a move to repeal the repeal of the law and once again make it illegal to dye animals or sell colorized creatures. Sachs’ one-time opponent, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, included the dog-dying amendment in an omnibus agriculture bill this year.

Sachs garnered the groomer’s support by adding an exception that would allow pet owners to pamper their pets with special colors. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the measure (SB 650) unanimously this morning, and a similar proposal (851), with the support of several GOP members, is ready for a House vote.

Swift action in Senate on storefront gaming center ban

Monday, March 18th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate is moving quickly on a ban on storefronts gaming centers in the aftermath of a multi-state sting that led to nearly 60 arrests and prompted Jennifer Carroll to resign as lieutenant governor last week.

The Senate Gaming Committee unanimously approved the ban despite protests of owners and workers at adult arcades and Internet cafes and Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who said the measure (SB 1030) casts too wide a net. Several veterans groups and other charities said the measure would also impact their businesses.

Palm Beach County storefronts that serve mainly senior citizens who play games that look like slot machines would be shuttered under the measure that would ban stand-alone businesses (with some exceptions) that run gambling operations and prohibit them from giving out gift cards or accumulating points. Sachs said she intends to try to remove the prohibitions on gift cards or accumulation of points.

Lawmakers aren’t going after “legitimate business models” like Chuck E. Cheese or Dave and Busters, Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said.

“We are attempting to close down illegitmate businesses that operate and sound like a gambling operation. If it’s a duck, we’re calling it a duck. They are illegal,” he said.

But Gale Fontaine, the head of the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association who owns senior arcades in Broward County, said her strip mall sites are operating under a section of Florida law. Fontaine was acquitted several years ago of charges of running an illegal gambling operation.

“We are not a gaming center,” Fontaine told the panel. “We are the same as a children’s arcade only our children are 80 or 90 years old.”

The arcade operators, who operate under a different section of law than Internet cafes but would be treated the same under both the House and Senate plans, asked lawmakers to impose more regulations instead of shutting them down.

But the bill sponsor, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he believes the games are illegal.

“This is about gambling. It’s about a loophole that has been created due to incredibly new technology that frankly has outpaced the will of this Legislature to do something about it,” Thrasher said. “It’s not about regulation. It’s about a policy decision It’s about closing loopholes perceived or otherwise that have been used to create…illegal gambling.”

The measure could go to the floor for a full vote within one week, the bill’s sponsor, Thrasher said. The House version passed its first committee on Friday and is expected to get a floor vote as early as Thursday.

Palm Beach County Democrats file universal background gun check bill

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Rep. Lori Berman, Sen. Maria Sachs, Rep. Bobby Powell

Acknowledging their proposal to close a “gun show loophole” is a long shot, two Democratic Palm Beach County lawmakers are hoping their identical bills will at least create a debate about the issue during the 2013 legislative session now underway.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, pitched their identical “Universal Background Check Act” bills (HB 1343, SB 1640) that would require background check every time a gun is sold.

“I am not so sold on the idea that this bill is going to pass. I’m being very candid with you,” Sachs told reporters after a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “But let’s have the discussion. Let’s bring everybody to the table and let’s have this discussion so that we have a gun policy in this state that’s reflective of the diversity of the state.”

Currently, a person buying a weapon in a gun store must pass law enforcement background checks, but persons buying arms at gun shows or privately from an owner do not, meaning they could be felons or otherwise prohibited from owning weapons.

Sachs and Berman, joined by county commissioners Mary Lou Berger, Paulette Burdick and Shelley Vana, former commissioner Burt Aaronson and state Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, said they both support Second Amendment rights.

But Berman cited figures from the Coalition to End Gun Violence that showed that background checks are only completed on about 60 percent of the gun sales in the country.

“The issue is that we need to stop the proliferation of people having guns and we need to make sure it’s all being done in a correct, proper and legal manner and that anybody who’s buying a gun has to do it through the proper channels. And that’s what this bill tries to address,” she said.

The bill would require anyone who wants to transfer or sell a gun to use a licensed gun dealer to conduct the transaction. The dealer would be responsible for the background check. If the buyer is ineligible to purchase the gun, the dealer would have to run a background check on the seller in order to return it.

If neither person passes the background requirements, the dealer would have to turn over the gun to the local sheriff within 24 hours.

“This is not a gun show loophole bill. It is a universal background check bill. And it is so brazen it even includes confiscation of firearms,” said National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former president of the national association.

But Vana, a former state representative, said the bill makes sense.

“This is a no-nonsense, non-radical method of trying to rein in the terror that has rained down on our citizens,” Vana said.

Hammer says federal law already makes it a felony to sell a gun to anyone a seller knows or reasonably should have known is prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

The bill goes way beyond “fixing a perceived problem,” Hammer said.

“It’s not about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. It’s about making criminals out of law abiding people and taking their guns.”

Pink peeps prohibition back on tap

Thursday, February 7th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, has filed a bill (SB 650) that would reinstate a ban on dying animals – including bunnies, chicks and ducklings – after the legislature stripped the 50-year-old prohibition last year.

Animal rights groups asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto the measure, included in an omnibus agriculture bill, last year.

The repeal of the ban on dying animals, including bunnies and baby chickens, was pushed by Sachs’s one-time foe, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. Sachs defeated Bogdanoff in one of the state’s most expensive and hotly-contested legislative races in November.

Bogdanoff contended that dog groomers wanted the prohibition lifted so they could colorize pets in competitions or parades.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida praised Sachs for sponsoring the ban, which would also make it illegal to sell or give away baby chickens, ducklings or rabbits.

A statement from ARFF posits that Bogdanoff’s defeat was “an outcome perhaps impacted by Bogdanoff’s ill-conceived amendment.”

“ARFF is very happy that Senator Sachs has introduced legislation to reinstate the protections afforded animals in the 1967 law that was repealed,” said ARFF spokesman Don Anthony wrote. “We urge Florida legislators to pass this important bill.”

Senate Dems elect new leaders

Monday, November 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Senate Democrats, up by two after November’s elections, elected Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale as their leader for the next two years.

And the 14 members of the Democratic caucus selected Maria Sachs of Delray Beach as Smith’s second-in-command as Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tempore.

Smith and his House counterpart, House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, are the second pair of black Democratic leaders since Smith served as House caucus leader with former Sen. Les Miller of Tampa in 2005-2006. Both Thurston and Smith, who once ran against each other for a state House seat, are Fort Lauderdale lawyers. Smith’s

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and his second-in-charge, Sen. Garrett Richter along with former Senate president and now CFO Jeff Atwater attended the break with tradition. Today’s ceremony event was held in Old Capitol but generally a brief affair conducted on the chamber floors.

Facing Gaetz who sat in the front row, Smith called on the lawmakers to implement the federal health care law, something the GOP-controlled legislature has refused to do since the law was passed in 2010.

“The election’s over. It’s been debated…litigated and proscrastinated,” Smith said. “It’s time to implement Obamacare and show our citizens that Florida cares.”

Sachs defeats Bogdanoff in brutal, costly Senate District 34 race

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach

After a brutal and expensive contest, Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs is returning to Tallahassee after edging out GOP opponent Ellyn Bogdanoff in the state’s only battle between two incumbent lawmakers.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Sachs, a former prosecutor from Delray Beach, handily defeated Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, in Palm Beach County, winning more than 56 percent of the county votes. Bogdanoff maintained a lead in Broward County in the newly drawn, Democratic-leaning district.

Speaking to supporters at a Democratic victory party in West Palm Beach Tuesday night, Sachs called her victory a defeat of a political “machine” that “beat up a little guy.”

Instead, she added, “it’s the little guy here who beat them up.”

“And we didn’t do it with money, did we? We didn’t do it with limousines. We didn’t do it with phony TV ads. We didn’t do it with airplane banners. You know how we did it? We did it with people,” she said.

Sachs said the race wasn’t about her and Bogdanoff but “about the power of money of corporate greed and the arrogance of power trying to take over the people.”

Bogdanoff and Sachs were both elected to the Senate two years ago after serving in the state House. After redistricting, both women’s districts were redrawn and they opted to run for the new seat encompassing portions of southern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County.

The race was considered by leaders of both parties the most important legislative contest in the state. A Bogdanoff win would have allow Republicans to maintain a two-thirds majority in the chamber and meant a virtual carte blanche to pass legislation without cooperation from Democrats.

With a price tag estimated at up to $10 million, the District 34 race was one of the most expensive legislative races in Florida. And the contest was highlighted by ugly attacks on both sides with accusations involving limo rides, the Holocaust and abortion.

Sachs threatened to sue the state Republican party over a mailer she said scared Jewish voters. The mailer accused Sachs, whose husband is Jewish and who traveled to Israel with Gov. Rick Scott, of “a political power play” with her vote against the state budget that included funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum and holocaust survivors.

Palm Beach County Republican Party chief Sid Dinerstein also filed an ethics complaint against Sachs last month, accusing Sachs of breaking state law by neglecting to report her legislative salary as income and a Tallahassee condo she owns with her husband on her financial disclosure forms. And the Republican Party of Florida also ran TV ads accusing Sachs of more than $7,000 worth of limo rides without submitting receipts for the state-paid travel.

The Florida Democratic Party paid for ads accusing Bogdanoff of “crimes” including “child abandonment, senior abuse and neglect, plus forcing pregnant women to have ultrasounds,” referring to Bogdanoff’s votes on legislation and the budget.

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz congratulated Sachs on her win but was unapologetic about the partisan attacks.

“Senator Bogdanoff ran a hard-fought campaign in a district where Republicans are less than one-third of registered voters. The hard work and vigor she displayed on the campaign trail comes second only to the dedication with which she has approached her role in the Senate. I am proud that our Republican Caucus strongly supported Senator Bogdanoff and that many members of our caucus raised resources to help her and came to South Florida to walk door-to-door for her. She will be truly missed in the Senate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a statement. “I fully expect Ellyn Bogdanoff to resume her service to the people of Southeast Florida in future years. I congratulate Senator Maria Sachs on her victory and look forward to working across the aisle with her in the days ahead.”

Sachs joins a handful of Democrats who made surprising upsets in legislative races on Tuesday. Democrats ousted incumbent state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, and nailed down two open seats in GOP-dominated Central Florida. Late Tuesday night, future House Speaker Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, appeared to be leading Democratic opponent by less than 100 votes.

Boca police make rare arrest for vandalism of Maria Sachs political sign

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

While Charles Mitchell certainly isn’t the first person to damage a political sign, he was one of the rare people actually arrested for the offense.

Mitchell, of Boca Raton, was arrested early this morning when a police officer saw Mitchell “running from a destroyed Maria Sachs political sign located at 200 West Yamato Road,” according to the police report.

The officer had witnessed Mitchell destroy the sign moments before. According to police, Mitchell said, “I did a bad thing. I will pay to have the sign fixed.” The police officer later found a second Sachs sign vandalized on NW 2nd Ave.

Sachs was listed as the victim on the police report. The damage was estimated at $200.

Democrat Sachs is facing Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff in the state’s only senate race between two incumbents.

Bogdanoff chastised for Republican mailer saying Sachs voted against Holocaust funding

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Republican Party mailer

DELRAY BEACH — Maria Sachs, surrounded by Democratic Jewish politicians, her Jewish husband and her in-laws who survived the Holocaust, demanded an apology today from state senate opponent Ellyn Bogdanoff for a Republican Party mailer that accuses Sachs of voting against the state budget that included funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum, Florida Holocaust Task Force and South Florida Holocaust Survivor assistance program.

“Ellyn Bogdanoff, you crossed the line,” said Sachs as she choked up during a news conference at the South County Civic Center. “You talk about lies, limos, lost receipts, but this is wrong. This is repugnant. This is absolutely over the line. I demand an apology to the Sachs family, my mom and dad (in-laws) who live here in Century Village. I demand an apology to everybody in our state legislature, especially those who are behind me and all the work they have done to make sure our survivors are honored and respected and never ever used as a political tool.”

Before the news conference, Bogdanoff, a Jewish Republican, defended the mailer.

“If you vote against the budget to make a political statement, you are making a political statement about everything in that budget,” Bogdanoff said.

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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.

Florida Democratic chairman’s Joe Namath moment: ‘I promise’ Sachs will beat Bogdanoff in Senate race

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by George Bennett

Joe Namath making his 1969 guarantee that Jets will beat Colts in Super Bowl III. He delivered -- will Rod Smith and Florida Democrats do the same in Senate District 34?

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith says the state Senate District 34 race between Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs and Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff is the Democrats’ top Senate priority this year and he’s promising that Sachs will win.

The two incumbents were thrown into the same race by redistricting.

Smith’s promise has a brash, Joe Namath pre-Super Bowl III tone. But the new Palm Beach-Broward district has a Democratic tilt, so a Sachs isn’t really an underdog.

“The number one race and focus is right here in Maria Sachs. Number one for the state. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, whatever the work is, we’re going to to do it because we’re going to win this race,” Smith told about 120 Sachs supporters Monday night in West Delray.

Smith said Sachs looked at the new map and, rather than run against Democratic Rep. Joseph Abruzzo in Senate District 25, said “I’ll take a Republican, I’ll take her out.”

Smith added: “And that’s what’s going to happen down here, I promise.”

“However much money we need to raise, however much money we need to spend. However many times we have to hit every one of you up to help us, we’re going to do it. Because I’m not going to be at the end of night saying ‘Oh, I wish we had done just a little bit more in Palm Beach and Broward County.’ We’re going to take this seat and I promise you, it’s a Democrat-performing seat. It voted for Barack Obama last time; it will again. It’s voted for Bill Nelson every time; it will again. And it’s going to vote Democrat if we go out and tell our precincts, our neighborhoods, our communities and our friends that this is the number one race for us, and we win this race.”

High partisan stakes in Bogdanoff-Sachs Senate race

Monday, May 21st, 2012 by George Bennett

Bogdanoff

With redistricting leading incumbent Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs to run in the same Palm Beach-Broward state Senate district, both candidates are bringing out the big partisan guns.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith plan to attend Sachs’ campaign kickoff event tonight at the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, one of the most popular Republicans in the state, announced his endorsement for Bogdanoff today.

Atwater used to represent a coastal Palm Beach-Broward Senate district that leaned Republican. But the new district where Bogdanoff and Sachs are running has a Democratic advantage.

Democrats have successfully cleared the field for Sachs, with former Rep. Kevin Rader dropping a Sachs primary challenge and running in another district instead. Bogdanoff, meanwhile, faces a challenge from the right by Mike Lameyer in the GOP primary.

Prison privatization pre-vote round-up: Scott, labor unions and selling state prisons

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: CCA spokesman Steve Owen confirmed Florida is one of the states approached by the Nashville-based private prison corporation regarding a “purchase-and-manage” plan to help federal, state and local governments in a tough economy by selling prisons to CCA in exchange for a 20-year contract. Jump to the bottom of the blog to read the letter from CCA exec Harley Lappin to 48 states’ corrections chiefs, including Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker, on Jan. 13

Here’s an update on some of the recent developments in the prison privatization plan scheduled for a Senate floor vote this afternoon. Opponents of the measure, including Lakeland Republican Paula Dockery, insist their 20-member coalition of Democrats and Republicans will hold together and kill the measure on a tie.

• Gov. Rick Scott said today that he wants the House and Senate to approve the privatization deal, which would outsource all Department of Corrections operations in an 18-county region in the southern portion of the state – including more than two dozen prisons and work camps. Scott a few weeks ago called a handful of GOP senators against the plan into his office, urging them to support be good Republicans and support the proposal. They refused.

“This is an opportunity for the taxpayers of the state to save money,” Scott said. “We’re at a four year low in our crime rate and the number of inmates we have is down from what we anticipated.”
Scott offered assurances that the state would not move forward with the privatization unless vendors promised their costs would be at least 7 percent less than what the state is now spending on the region – an estimated $16.5 million of about a $232.3 million budget.

“There is no way we’ll do this if we don’t save money,” Scott said. “The bill says if we don’t save at least 7 percent we don’t do prison privatization. Why wouldn’t we put ourselves in the position to save money to put into programs that we know we need to fund.”

Some lawmakers believe Scott already has the authority to order the privatization on his own, but the first-term governor would not say if he would take that route if the bill (SB 2038) dies this afternoon.

“The right thing is for both the house and Senate to pass the prison privatization bill,” he said.

• Sen. Maria Sachs and a coalition of labor union leaders fired up the troops this morning at a press conference where they pledged to keep on fighting the privatization until the session ends on March 9.

This afternoon’s vote will “define who we are as a people,” Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat and former prosecutor, said.

“Are we a government composed of for-profit corporations?” Sachs asked, warning that the prison privatization is a “slippery slope” that could lead to privatization of other state functions.

• And The Huffington Post is reporting that Corrections Corporation of America, one of the two vendors interested in bidding for the lucrative South Florida contract, is pitching a different privatization plan to 48 states, including Florida.

CCA has set aside $250 million to buy prisons from the state – in exchange for 20-year contracts to operate the prisons.

Read the letter from CCA executive vice president and chief corrections officer Harley G. Lappin after the jump.
(more…)

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