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Scott: Isaac will showcase how Florida handles storms

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Even as Tropical Storm Isaac gains strength and poses a growing threat to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t say whether holding a convention in Tampa during hurricane was a bad idea, repeatedly side-stepping questions about the site selection during an emergency briefing with the media this afternoon.

“Everybody likes to come to Florida. I’m sure they’re going to have a great convention,” Scott said.

Scott tried to turn the looming disaster, expected to bring high winds and gusts into the Tampa Bay region, into a Sunshine State sales pitch.

“The convention was a big opportunity for our state to show what a great place it is to live, work and play. Now what they’ve learned, what they’re going to find out this week, is we know how to deal with hurricanes. We’re prepared. This is a state that knows how to deal with those things,” he said. “On top of that we’re the best hospitality state around. We have 87 million tourists here a year. We know how to have conventions, how to have large events and we’re going to do a great job.”

Florida officials’ job is to keep residents and visitors safe, Scott said.

“We’re going to make sure that happens and we’ll do everything we can to make sure they have a great time,” the governor said at convention emergency operations center in Tampa at noon.

Winds are emergency officials’ greatest worry for the Tampa region, Scott said.

“But around the state we’ve got rain, we’ve got wind, we’ve got storm surge and then we’ve got the risk of tornadoes,” he said.

Scott warned visitors to the area who are staying at neighboring Pinellas County beaches to stay put instead of heading into the water-surrounded downtown convention site.

“If someone’s staying close to the beach, stay close to the beach. Don’t start venturing into the Tampa side because you don’t know what’s going to happen as far as your ability to get home,” Scott cautioned, adding that he planned to be in Tampa today only.

Scott said he spoke with Mitt Romney twice yesterday and “brought him up to speed” about emergency preparations statewide and in the Tampa area.

Late yesterday, GOP officials canceled Monday’s opening day Republican National Convention events and said the convention would resume on Tuesday. They are expected to issue a revised schedule later today.

The “roll call of the states” officially nominating Romney was supposed to take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow. But the nomination is now expected to happen on Tuesday along with other events previously scheduled for Monday.

GOP moves Romney nomination up to Monday

Friday, August 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

TAMPA – Mitt Romney will become the GOP’s official presidential nominee at the onset of the Republican National Convention on Monday, a break from tradition to keep the party faithful “on message,” according to Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus.

The decision about the early “roll call of states” wasn’t prompted by worries about Tropical Storm Isaac or to avert a disruption from Ron Paul backers, Priebus told reporters today. Rather, it’s about controlling the message.

“I just think it’s better for us to get all our business done in one shot … do everything on Monday, the nomination, all our rules and resolutions, get that done, so we can get on to telling the Mitt Romney story, how we’re going to help save our country,” he said.

The purpose of the early roll call was not to allow the convention to wind up before the scheduled end on Thursday if Isaac threatens the Tampa Bay region or to thwart Paul supporters from hijacking the nomination from the floor, he said.

“Oh no… It’s to get all the business of the party out of the way and get on with the two things, prosecuting Barack Obama, the promises he made and what he delivered, and telling the Mitt Romney story.”

Priebus also said he’s not worried about Tropical Storm Isaac.

“I’m feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday,” he said. “Right now we don’t have to change anything. Obviously we worry if this thing turns into a hurricane and the safety of people if it hits shore, but as far as the convention is concerned we’re full steam ahead and we’re going to have a great week.”

- Tampa Tribune staff writer William March contributed to this post.

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…)

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.

Dick Morris auctions tour of Fox News at Lake County GOP fundraiser

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

It’s not unusual for Florida politics to make national headlines, and a recent GOP fundraiser dinner featuring Dick Morris and a visit to Fox News has the spotlight on the Sunshine State once again, at least for one left-leaning media group.

The swaggering strategist raised $6,000 for Lake County Republicans earlier this month by auctioning off a guided tour of Fox News’s New York studio. Morris is a pundit for the news network.

Morris, Bill and Hillary Clinton‘s one-time friend and advisor who has since disavowed the former first couple, was the keynote speaker at the sold-out Lake County GOP’s Lincoln/Reagan dinner on March 9.

The Lake County Republican’s website touted Morris and the money he raised but has taken it down since the left-leaning Media Matters questioned Fox News’s ties to the political fundraiser.

“Keynote speaker Dick Morris auctions himself as personal tour guide for a visit to Fox News in New York and raises an additional $6,000 for the Lake County REC Campaign Season,” the website’s cached promo reads.

Read Media Matters’s take on the Lake County GOP, Dick Morris, Fox News and fundraising here.

Gingrich – on the rise and on the defensive – in Jax today

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

With his popularity on the rise, conservative iconoclast Newt Gingrich will address a tea party crowd at The Landing in Jacksonville this afternoon.

The event takes place as Gingrich is on the defensive for his relationship with Freddie Mac. Bloomberg News reported this week that the former U.S. House Speaker earned at least $1.6 million over nearly a decade as a consultant for the beleaguered government-backed mortgage company. His GOP opponents in the presidential primary have hammered Freddie Mac for its role in the mortgage meltdown and the mortgage giant has symbolized for conservatives government overreach.

Gingrich himself has blamed Freddie Mac for the housing collapse.

Meanwhile, Gingrich’s star is on the rise among GOP voters, according to two recent national polls. One poll found that Gingrich has the best chance among GOP voters to defeat President Barack Obama next year. And another showed Gingrich’s popularity jumped 8 points from last month, trailing Mitt Romney by just two percentage points and making the race a statistical dead heat.

The First Coast Tea Party event in Jacksonville begins at 2 p.m. and was moved to riverfront site because of “the size of the event,” according to the Zamar Conference Center, where the gathering was originally scheduled, website.

UPDATE: FL Dems want to know – What have Republicans done for you lately?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Florida Republicans call the Dems new website “desperate.” This from Republican Party of Florida spokesman Brian Hughes: “With the most recent state reports showing RPOF outraised Florida Democrats by 5-to-1, it’s no surprise they are desperate to raise money. But this lame website demonstrates a level of desperation that is even worse than we thought possible. Instead of touting their anointed leaders, Barack Obama or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they recycle ridiculous, cheap attacks. This tactic is more evidence why Floridians reject Democrats on Election Day.”

The Florida Democratic Party launched a new website today blaming Gov. Rick Scott and his fellow Republican lawmakers for the state’s dire economic straits.

The website accuses “Rickpublicans” of ethical lapses and causing teacher layoffs, among other things, and blasts Scott for “backsliding” on his campaign pledge to create 700,000 jobs over seven years as governor.

And the Dems remind viewers that Republicans have had a stranglehold on the state legisalture and governor’s mansion for more than a decade.

The site gives this definition of a “Rickpublican:”
[rick-puhb-li-kuh´n]
noun
1. Proper name for Florida Republicans wrought with greed and corruption who are hell-bent on selling out to the corporations and special interests while leaving Florida’s middle class families out-to-dry.

The Dems also use “Six Degrees of Separation” to link half a dozen GOP politicians – including Palm Beach County’s Adam Hanser and U.S. Rep. Allen West – to Scott, whose popularity among voters remains dim.

Scott loves teachers, but

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Rick Scott made a passing reference to his push to eliminate teacher tenure and introduce performance-based pay over opposition from the state’s largest teachers’ union.

The Republican governor conceded, he loves teachers. But….

“Great educators are priceless. Every one of us has a teacher in our past who made a lifelong difference in our lives,” Scott said.

“Educators, like other professionals, should be rewarded based on the effectiveness of their work, not the length of their professional life. That’s why Florida needs to pay the best educators more and end the practice of guaranteeing educators a job for life regardless of their performance.”

Scott, a tea party favorite

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott drew cheers from a tea party rally on the steps of the Old Capitol when he pledged, “the right things are happening,” and urged the 300 activists to keep the heat on Tallahassee.

“We’ve got the next 60 days,” Scott said on the Legislature’s opening day, as a similar crowd opposing his budget proposal rallied across the street. “We’ve got to make sure we finish strong. Show up every day, and let everyone know what you believe in. Don’t be hesitant, don’t be shy.”

Scott hinted he needed help from the crowd of conservative activists to get his pension-cutting, government-shrinking budget approved by fellow Republicans in the Legislature. The crowd roared.

“Thanks for working for us,” shouted Jack Pritchard, 70 a retired mechanical contractor from Marion County.

Scott kept talking, “The right things are happening because of you,” the governor said.

Worst budget year and ideology drives GOP cuts

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Facing the worst budget year in memory, new Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-packed Florida Legislature begin the 2011 session this week, pledging to slash spending and make good on campaign pledges that powered them last fall.

With the approach of the opening day Tuesday, unions, teachers and scores of groups in the cross hairs of budget cuts have been rallying against Scott and fellow Republican leaders who, in turn, are pulling support from tea party loyalists eager to shrink government.

Though it hasn’t commanded the national attention of Wisconsin and other partisan battlegrounds, purple state Florida is in for a bruising spring, with lawmakers looking to close a $3.6 billion budget hole and revive an economy flat-lined by an almost 12 percent jobless rate.

“Priority number one is the budget,” said House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. “Everything else is number two.”

But it’s not a simple numbers game.

Political ideology is shading most of the exchanges between Republicans in power and Democrats pushed to Florida’s fringe by the November elections.

Read full story here:   http://bit.ly/fY27Vb

 

 

Rallies from left to right mark session opening

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Organizers across the political spectrum Friday began taking aim at the state Capitol for next week’s opening of the two-month legislative session.

The Facebook-drive Awake The State protest has about 30 rallies planned Tuesday from Key West to Pensacola — with critics of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature’s budget-cutting the focus.

 Teachers, government employees, cops and firefighters form the core of those pushing back against proposed pension overhauls, but expected reductions in schools and health-care programs are drawing more opponents, said Damien Filer of Progress Florida.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who say, `this is going to be my first rally of any kind,’” Filer said. “I’ll be interested to see what kind of momentum remains among people after next week.”

A West Palm Beach rally is planned from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, in the 100 block of Clematis Street.

Tea Party activists expect to counter-punch, with several thousand Scott supporters expected in Tallahassee. (more…)

Mr. Sunshine casts more clouds on rail

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott made an early morning stop Wednesday at Fox & Friends’ New York studios and — again– said he’s not interested in $2.4 billion in federal cash for high-speed rail.

“The federal government gives you all this money, and you have to pay for it down the road,” Scott said, adding that he disputed ridership and job-creation statistics touted by rail promoters.

South Florida’s Tri-Rail doesn’t help convince him. Scott said Tri-Rail costs about $65 million annually to operate, but pulls in only about $10 million from fares.

A high-speed train linking Tampa to Orlando, “just doesn’t make sense for the taxpayers,” he concluded.

(more…)

Swoope named Enterprise Fla boss

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

A month after firing his predecessor, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named a Mississippi economic development executive to lead the public-private partnership, Enterprise Florida.

“Bringing new energy and expertise to Florida’s economic development activities is an ideal task for which Gray Swoope is well suited,” Scott said.  “I am excited to have him leading the job creation and economic development mission in Florida.”

Scott last month abruptly fired Enterprise Florida’s CEO, John Adams, shortly after concluding the agency’s annual meeting. Scott gave no reason publicly. But the new governor clearly has ideas about how the state’s job recruitment should be conducted — beginning with his proposal to establish an economic development agency controlled by his office.

How Swoope figures in those plans wasn’t clear from Scott’s announcement Monday. But Scott may have hinted he plans to maintain a commanding role in bringing industries to Florida when he concluded that Swoope “will be a tremendous complement to my efforts as governor.”

In Mississippi, Swoope worked for Gov. Haley Barbour, and is credited with having helped woo such manufacturers as Toyota and GE Aviation to the state. Swoope also was part of a redesign of Mississippi’s package of economic incentives and help cut the workforce and budget of the Mississippi Development Authority, sure to draw raves from his new Florida boss.

Pension fund gets some love from analysts

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The state’s pension fund has consistently met its investment goals – fairly average compared to other states– but also is “financially sound,”  a report released Monday shows.

The state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) gave the $114 billion Florida Retirement System generally satisfactory marks in its review of the fund, which covers almost 1 million government workers and retirees. 

 The pension fund is a big target for lawmakers this spring, with Gov. Rick Scott proposing that employees contribute 5 percent of their paychecks to help finance their retirement benefits — saving the state $1.3 billion.

 The money could help lawmakers patch a budget shortfall of at least $3.6 billion. But it also could help Scott make good on his campaign promise to reduce property taxes by $1.4 billion, something the GOP governor says he’ll do over the next two years.

As part of his push for changing the fund, Scott warns that the pension fund is on shaky financial footing.

 OPPAGA disputes that. Anaysts acknowledge  the FRS has a so-called funding ratio of 87.9 percent and currently does not have ”sufficient assets to pay current and future expected benefits for participants and their beneficiaries.”

But, OPPAGA points out, “experts generally consider public pension plans with funding ratios at or above 80 percent to be fiscally sound.”  

 

Scott turns into Mr. Sunshine

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott will lead a two-day tour of  ‘Sunshine Ambassadors,’ barnstorming across five cities in two days this week to prod tourists toward visiting Florida.

Scott, a relatively recent transplant to Florida, himself, regularly punctuates his speeches with praise for the state’s weather. But beginning in Orlando on Tuesday, Scott will lead an entourage of Visit Florida officials touting Florida’s vacation potential during planned stops in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

“We know that every 85 visitors create one Florida job, so I urge all Floridians to join with me in supporting this effort to increase jobs and grow the state’s economy,” Scott said Monday.

During the two-day tour, the Floridians will be giving away prizes and vacation packages to the state during promotional events. The trip’s last stop will be at Chicago’s Midway Airport, where Scott will board a charter flight with 120 prize winners en route to a four-day stay in Orlando.

Scott may seem an unlikely sunshine ambassador these days in his home state.

 His $65.9 billion budget proposal cuts $4.6 billion in state spending and 8,681 jobs. Scott’s rejection of $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail also prompted Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston to claim that instead of being on path to create 700,000 new jobs, the new Republican governor was imposing more damage on Florida’s economy in his first weeks in office.

McCollum, Bondi solicit GOP support for federal health care lawsuit

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum and his successor Pam Bondi are urging fellow Republicans throughout the country to join his lawsuit against the federal government over the new federal health care law.

McCollum and Bondi, who will take over on Jan. 4., sent a letter to 13 Republicans who won election this month as attorneys general or governor hoping to shore up support for the lawsuit now working its way through the federal courts.

“Having a majority of the states litigating our constitutional rights is a powerful message,” they wrote.

Oral argument on the case is set for Dec. 16 in Pensacola.

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.

McCollum endorses Scott for governor…finally

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

After more than two months since GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott defeated him in a brutal primary election, Attorney General Bill McCollum finally came out in support of his one-time foe.

“Florida is facing a critical time. Our state needs conservative leaders who will grow our economy and create jobs. We need merit pay and an end to teacher tenure in our public schools, major litigation reform, smaller government, low taxes and a repeal of Obamacare. With this in mind, I will cast my vote for Rick Scott for Governor. It’s the better choice for Florida,” McCollum’s less-than-enthusiastic statement, released by the Republican Party of Sarasota, read.

McCollum, at one point a shoe-in for the nomination, lost the GOP primary after Scott spent $50 million of his own fortune on campaign ads attacking the former Congressman for being a Washington insider.

McCollum said recently he would not endorse Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink, in part because she supports the federal health care law over which McCollum has sued the federal government.

A federal judge recently allowed McCollum’s lawsuit to proceed.

McCollum was the final holdout among state GOP leaders who at one point pilloried Scott, who was forced out of the hospital chain he founded shortly before Columbia/HCA was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government for Medicare fraud.

‘Outsider’ Scott gets support of nearly all GOP state House reps and senators

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

All but a baker’s dozen of GOP state House and Senate members are backing Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott, who ran as an “outsider” in a brutal GOP primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Scott released a list of campaign co-chairmen that included nearly all of the state legislature’s Republicans, some of whom backed McCollum in the primary and objected at the time that Scott, who spent $50 million of his own money in the primary, couldn’t be trusted.

McCollum has refused to endorse Scott in the general election against Democrat Alex Sink.

The list of GOP legislators who haven’t signed on either, according to the campaign document, include:

Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Sens. Victor Crist, Nancy Detert, Rudy Garcia, Steve Oelrich, and Alex Villalobos, who publicly endorsed Sink this week.

Also missing was Ft. Lauderdale Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, who’s running against Democrat Rep. Kelly Skidmore in the race to replace Senate President Jeff Atwater. Atwater’s stepping down to run for chief financial officer.

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