October 30, 2010

Special interests give big to both Ds and Rs leading to general election

What recession? Despite the state having the highest jobless rate in decades, homeowners struggling with mortgage rates, and consumer spending depressed, Florida's Republican and Democratic parties hauled in nearly $31.6 million in the two months since the primary election -- a record for Democrats -- according to finance reports filed on Friday.

Corporations, labor unions, wealthy individuals and political committees donated uncapped sums to fuel one of the most expensive election cycles on record. And even though polls show a lopsided number of voters favor Republicans this election cycle, the Florida Democratic Party showed its fight too -- raising just slightly more ($32,000) than the Republican Party of Florida. 

The Republicans, marred by a year of intra-party infighting, were helped in part by Rick Scott, the millionaire businessman who has financed his own campaign with a record $73 million, making it the most expensive race in Florida history. 

By contrast, Democrat Alex Sink finished the fundraising cycle having raised $11.2 million, including $6 million in soft money from in-kind contributions. Her campaign was aided by the Florida Democratic Party, which has no limits on what it can collect from contributors. She used the money to pay for the salaries of Sink’s campaign manager, communications director and other top deputies. 

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MD Poll: Cabinet Dems doomed. So are Amends 4,5,6,8.

Every major constitutional amendment on the ballot looks doomed and so do each of the three Democrats running for Florida’s Cabinet, according to a new poll of likely Florida voters.

In another sign of the rightward shift of the electorate, this Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Survey shows independents are throwing crucial support behind the GOP candidates.

So Pam Bondi will likely be the next attorney general, Jeff Atwater will likely be the next chief financial officer and Adam Putnam will win the race for agriculture commissioner.

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Alex Sink isn't saying what she knew about Meek-Clinton-Crist talks

Democrat Alex Sink made four stops in Miami-Dade and two more in Broward yesterday, giving brief interviews to reporters who invariably asked  about the talks former President Bill Clinton had with and Kendrick Meek over the U.S. Senate race.

“Clearly, it’s been a distraction,” Sink acknowledged at one point. Will it have an effect on the governor's race? We explore that here.

As the de facto head of the Florida Democratic Party, what did Sink know about the discussions? She wouldn’t tell, other than to say that she heard discussions and “rumors” for weeks.

 “I didn’t want to be involved,” she said, noting she’s focusing on her own campaign.

 But was she included in any of the discussions or negotiations? 

“I didn’t want to be involved,” Sink said again.

Asked if her response was “no,” Sink repeated her line: “I didn’t want to be involved.”

“I’m going to be very forthright. And tell you that I have been really focused on my race for governor… particularly in the last three or four days. I am a strong supporter for Kendrick Meek. I’ve endorsed him. I’m getting ready to vote for him on Tuesday.”

“I’ve been really focused on convincing Floridians to get out and vote and vote for Alex Sink for governor," she said. "I am focused on things that I have control over. And one of the thing that I have control over is shaking hands and meeting with all Floridians from all walks of life and representing the fact that this is a critical historic election for Florida.”

Sink, who met with black leaders and community activists at a fried catfish lunch served at Jackson’s Soul Food in Overtown, said she’s not worry about a depressed African-American turnout. She said she met Thursday night with black pastors and none brought up the Meek matter.

“It really didn’t come up. What I heard last night in my multiple stops was an enormous amount of enthusiasm...The African American community understands and Floridians understand that the person who is elected as governor to lead our state out of this economic crisis that we’re in is critically important to our future,” she said. “I am seeing lots of momentum, lots of enthusiasm.”

But in the background, Rick Scott loomed. While the Jackson waitresses served up soul food, a giant plasma screen over the bar flashed Rick Scott’s latest commercial that brands Sink as a failure and ends with this message: “Alex Sink can’t run this state.”


October 29, 2010

Democratic donor files another -- yes, another -- lawsuit against David Rivera

A Democratic donor filed a new lawsuit Friday against Republican congressional candidate David Rivera and the Florida Commission on Ethics in an effort to force Rivera to reveal more information about his finances. In the suit, attorney William Barzee -- a donor to Joe Garcia, Rivera's opponent in the race for Congressional District 25 -- is asking a judge to order the Ethics Commission to make Rivera clarify the financial disclosure forms Rivera filed as a state representative. Barzee, who had previously made a complaint about Rivera to the Ethics Commission, wants the inquiry completed before election day on Tuesday.

From 2003 to 2009, Rivera said in his disclosure forms that he worked as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development. But USAID told The Miami Herald that it had no record of Rivera or his consulting company. Rivera then amended his disclosure forms, omitting any reference to USAID or other consulting work over seven years. His current financial forms list only Rivera's $30,000 salary as a state representative.

Rivera's attorney, Stephen Cody, said the suit "has no legal merit," and said any decision to investigate Rivera's finances falls only within the discretion of the Ethics Commission -- not the court.

Barzee's suit will be heard by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley, who last week threw out another lawsuit by Barzee seeking to have Rivera disqualified as a candidate over the disclosure forms.


Alex Sink faces Kendrick Meek flap questions in Little Havana

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink -- who could be the biggest loser amid the rumors that former President Bill Clinton asked Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek to drop out of that race -- brushed off questions about the flap at Little Havana's Versailles restaurant Friday morning.

"I haven't been involved with that," she said.

When asked if she was worried that the rumors would hurt African-American Democratic turnout on Tuesday, Sink added: "Not at all."

"I met with a number of African-American pastors last night," she said. "They understand what's at stake. They're all supporting Meek very enthusiastically...I am really focused on the Alex Sink campaign for governor right now."

Questions about the Senate race persisted after Sink drank Cuban coffee, ate a guava-and-cheese pastry ("Delicioso!" she declared) and sat with Hispanic supporters, including several Republicans, who touted her economic and education plans.

"What I know is this: I'm a very strong supporter of Kendrick Meek," Sink said. "I'm going to vote for Kendrick Meek...He has strong grassroots support."

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October 28, 2010

Video: Rick Scott on the road: Day 3, Six cities

Republican Rick Scott spent Day 3 of his statewide bus tour Wednesday traveling from Vero Beach, Titusville, Lake Mary, Ocala, Newberry and Gainesville. He treated his supporters to two breakfasts and one pizza lunch. He stopped for his weekly hair cut at the Bent Pole in Melbourne and he finished the night at a black tie and blue jeans event at and equestrian stadium in Gainesville.

Video: Rick Scott on the road: Day 3, Six cities

Ocla, Republican Rick Scott spent Day 3 of his statewide bus tour Wednesday traveling from Vero Beach, Titusville, Lake Mary, Ocala, Newberry and Gainesville. He treated his supporters to two breakfasts and one pizza lunch. He stopped for his weekly hair cut at the Bent Pole in Melbourne and he finished the night at a black tie and blue jeans event at and equistrian stadium in Gainesville.

2 polls show Alex Sink up, Rick Scott disliked by half of likely voters

   Democrat Alex Sink has a slight lead over Rick Scott in two new governor's race polls that both show half of likely voters have a negative impression of her Republican rival.

Sink leads Scott by 3 percentage points in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey. And she's up by 4 percentage points in the Quinnipiac University poll released earlier Thursday.

Both leads aren't solid and are essentially within the polls' error margins. Also, the Quinnipiac survey found that 9 percent of those who name a candidate say they could change their mind by Nov. 2. That makes the race too close to call, putting pressure on both candidates and their political parties to turn out their base voters. Sink could have more of a challenge motivating Democrats, who are less enthusiastic about voting this year.

Both polls anticipate a disproportionately higher number of Republican voters casting ballots this year, but Sink leads anyway thanks to the support of independent voters, who decide close Florida elections. Also, registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans in Florida.

“A very large Republican turn-out margin seems to be the only shot Scott has to win this race,'' Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said in an analysis.

Coker's poll shows Sink with a 51-37 advantage over Scott among independent voters. Quinnipiac's independent split: 42 percent for Sink and 37 percent for Scott. Both polls show that more Republicans will vote for Sink when compared to the Democrats who will vote for Scott.

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Video and transcript show what Alex Sink knew and when in cheat flap

When a stylist handed Democrat Alex Sink a phone message sent from campaign staff at Monday's debate, Sink didn't seem to know what was going on at first. But a new video and transcript (see below***) from CNN indicates that the candidate at one point should have realized that the no-notes rule of the debate had been broken. And she didn't say anything at the time.

From today's story

Sink said she read the message because she thought it could involve her daughter, who is studying abroad in Europe. But neither she nor her campaign could explain why an emergency message would be conveyed to the phone of makeup artists during a commercial break.

When the stylist approached Sink, she chatted with the candidate for a few moments, but the sound hasn't been released by CNN. The sound cues in as the woman offers Sink a grape or something to eat.

"There's this phone message,'' the woman says, noting it could be from "Brian.'' Sink: "I don't know.'' The stylist starts to say "they're saying you need to stand up,'' but she stops when a stage hand asks Sink if she's okay.

"Yeah,'' Sink says as he leaves. She turns her attention to the stylist and asks: "They're saying what?''

Stylist: "Stand up to them more.''

At that point, Scott had spied what was going on and sicced CNN political editor Mark Preston on Sink. "I'm sorry, did you just show the blackberry? I'm sorry,'' he says, bendidng over to pick up the Motorola Droid.

Said Sink: "Oh that's okay. It didn't have anything on it that was....'' She stops talking. Republicans said that was evidence of Sink realizing the rules had been broken and that she understood the message. Sink denied it Wednesday.

"I couldn't tell what it said. I didn't understand it,'' she said.

***Here's the transcript, as heard through a video posted by CNN and enhanced audio shared with the Herald/Times over the incident, which began at 19:27:28 on Monday:

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