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305 posts from August 2010

August 28, 2010

Post-primary winners and losers

Loyal readers of my column -- mom and dad that means you -- know that every Florida election is followed by a roll call of winners and losers. Drumroll, please . . .

Column here.

August 27, 2010

Crist back to opposing health care bill

Gov. Charlie Crist just released another statement on his position on the federal health care bill. He's back in opposition to it. He's "clarifying" his earlier comments because "apparently there may be some confusion regarding my position."

In the statement, he says he would have voted against the bill, but, "But being an independent, I have the freedom to be an honest broker for the people of Florida without regard for political party, and the reality is this: despite its serious flaws, the health care bill does have some positive aspects."

The Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek camps, naturally, have pounced, saying this is further evidence that Crist is a political opportunist/flip-flopper of the first rate who simply cannot be trusted. (Full Crist statement below.)

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Crist flip-flop #563? 'I would have voted' for health care bill

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio's campaign, always on the watch for flip-flops by rival Charlie Crist, has seized on this interview the governor gave to an Orlando television station in which he says he would have voted for the health care legislation in Congress.

Whoa. As the Rubio campaign points out, that's not what Crist said in July. And Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek's campaign, which has been pulling out Crist's greatest hits on a daily basis, released the letter he sent Meek urging the Miami congressman to vote against it.

That was then, this is now:

UPDATE from Crist campaign: Apparently, based on an interview this afternoon, there may be some confusion regarding my position on health care. If I misspoke, I want to be abundantly clear: the
health care bill was too big, too expensive, and expanded the role of government far too much. Had I been in the United States Senate at the time, I would have voted against the bill because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program. But being an independent, I have the freedom to be an honest broker for the people of Florida without regard for political party, and the reality is this: despite its serious flaws, the health care bill does have some positive aspects. Repeal must be accompanied by a responsible substitute  repeal without passage of a substitute law protecting those with pre-existing conditions, closing the prescription drug donut hole for seniors, and allowing parents to keep their children on their insurance coverage until age 26 would be wrong. While I would not have supported the legislation, we have to recognize the positive components and work together across party lines to make our health care system more affordable for both consumers and the government. This debate must not be about political posturing; it must be about protecting the people of Florida and America, and I intend to do that hard work when I get to the United States Senate.

State rep sets off race for Frederica Wilson's seat -- before it becomes open

State Sen. Frederica Wilson hasn't secured a seat in Congress yet. But that isn't stopping at least one person from jumping in an expected race to replace her in the Florida Legislature.

State Rep. Oscar Braynon II, a Miami Gardens Democrat with three years in the state House, announced his candidacy for Wilson's 33rd District seat Friday -- even though is not officially an opening for Wilson's post yet.

“As a member of the State Legislature, I have seen first-hand the tremendous impact that can be made within a community when there is honest, transparent and solid leadership," Braynon said in a written statement. "As the State rebounds from a tumultuous economic climate, I am committed to working hard to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens and underrepresented cities are not left behind.”

Florida does not require elected leaders running for federal office to resign from their exisiting posts, so Wilson, who was not up for re-election this year, did not have to give up her seat to vie for a spot in Congress. Only if she defeats lawyer Roderick Vereen, who is running without party affiliation, in November would Wilson have to resign. And then, depending on how long is left on her term, which expires in 2012, would the governor appoint someone to the vacancy or call for a special election to replace her.

UPDATE: Thanks to a sharp reader for pointing out that the governor cannot appoint someone to fill a vacancy in the Florida Senate, as the governor's office had originally told us this morning. (The governor can fill vacancies in the House, depending on how much time is left in a term.) If Wilson resigns, a special election will be held for her seat.

The Economist picks apart Rubio agenda

Check out this blog in The Economist on Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio's policy agenda. You know this is a smart magazine when it spells programs programmes. The magazine fails to acknowledge, however, that Rubio has said the government should consider raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits.

It's true that advancing policy proposals is more courageous than running on facile outrage: having an agenda courts the risk that people will take your agenda apart. Nonetheless, I don't find it convincing to praise Mr Rubio simply for having put forward an agenda. The problem remains that Mr Rubio suffers from a fundamental malady that afflicts the entire tea-party movement. Tea-partiers who believe that the federal government must dramatically cut its budget deficit remain resolutely unwilling to draw the inevitable conclusion: either taxes must go dramatically up, or major, popular federal programmes (defence, Social Security, Medicare) must be dramatically cut. One thing we should have learned from the 2000 elections, and the budgetary debacles that have followed, is that an unwillingness to make the numbers in your proposals add up is a character flaw of the first order.

Read the whole thing here.

Crist walks fine partisan line to win support

Charlie Crist, in his indie bid for U.S. Senate, is appealing to Republicans and Democrats. And this leads to seemingly different messages in different parts of the state.

A week ago, speaking in the Democratic bastion of Broward County, Crist said "thank god" he left the Republican Party. But yesterday in the conservative Panhandle region he had a different message. He told Pensacola reporters he remains a conservative and the held the same ideology he did when he won the governor's mansion in 2006 as a "Jeb Bush Republican."

See a Q and A and TV clips below.

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After sitting out primary endorsements, Sen. Ring backs Meek

Broward Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring sat on the sidelines in the endorsement game for the U.S. Senate primary. There was some question before the primary about whether Ring would join Democratic Property Appraiser Lori Parrish in endorsing Republican turned independent Gov. Charlie Crist. Ring told us last week that he doesn't think endorsements by elected officials matter much.

But on Friday, Congressman Kendrick Meek -- the victor over billionaire Jeff Greene -- announced that he had secured Ring's endorsement. Here is what Ring said in the press release:

"On Tuesday, Kendrick Meek proved the naysayers wrong, and he'll do it again in November. Kendrick is the Real Democrat in this race and the only candidate who has consistently stood up for middle-class Florida families. My constituents need the very best leaders now more than ever to protect Medicare and preserve Social Security. We don't need just friends of Israel in Washington, but fierce defenders of the Jewish state who advocate strongly on her behalf. The global recession impacts every community I represent and for our state to return to a path of economic recovery, we deserve real leaders in the U.S. Senate like Kendrick Meek. My constituents demand that their elected representatives advocate for Democratic values and Kendrick Meek is that person Florida needs in the U.S. Senate. I know Kendrick will represent my constituents well and I proudly endorse his candidacy."

Lien spat between West and Klein continues

Lien-gate between Republican Congressional candidate Allen West and Democratic Congressman Ron Klein has continued throughout the week with dueling press releases from both sides.

The background: while elections offices were still counting ballots in Tuesday's primary, around 10 p.m. Klein's campaign released its first TV ad that juxtaposed West talking about the need for "individual responsibility" with a copy of an $11,000 IRS lien for unpaid taxes. The Klein campaign provided a copy of the lien which shows it is for an Indiana property in 2005. The ad also highlighted an American Express judgment for about $5,500 and liens on his Plantation home (county records show a few liens from his HOA -- each less than $1,000 and reflect the AmEx judgment.)

West's campaign doesn't dispute the American Express judgment or Plantation liens. But campaign manager Josh Grodin insists that West never lived or owned a home in Indiana and that the IRS lien was an error. He said earlier this week he would supply the documentation to reporters to prove it.

On Thursday, Grodin said he initially thought it would be easy to obtain that documentation.

"It has proven to be a lot more difficult than I originally thought," he said. Grodin said the IRS supplied West with a refund but he said he doesn't want to provide reporters copies because it contains personal information and he's confident he'll get the documentation showing the error from the IRS. But Grodin said the campaign's tax attorney said that it can take up to 60 days to obtain such information from the IRS.

We tried to get the information ourselves from the IRS but had no luck. Mike Dobzinski, IRS spokesman for Florida, said he could not discuss an individual taxpayer's circumstances to confirm or deny whether an IRS lien was an error.

Here's what the Klein campaign had to say in a press release Thursday about West not coughing up the proof yet:

"Why did Allen West promise to provide proof that a federal tax lien filed against him was false, and then fail to provide that proof?” Klein campaign spokeswoman Sarah Rothschild said. “That answer is because Mr. West’s first reaction to criticism is to tell lies and then attack.”

“The irony is that West, who constantly claims the importance of personal responsibility, is shifting the blame and attempting to pass the buck. West has deliberately misled the voters of South Florida to try to cover up his lack of personal responsibility and that is inexcusable. The voters of this district do not want to be lectured on fiscal responsibility by someone who chooses not to pay his own bills and taxes.”

And here's West's latest written  response to the ad:

"When one considers that Ron Klein is questioning the roughly $15,000 my family has or is working to repay, I have several questions for Ron Klein:  What about the trillions of dollars you have wasted at the taxpayer's expense?  As a Member of the House Financial Services Committee, why did you allow American taxpayer-funded TARP money to be provided to foreign banks and financial institutions?  Why did you allow your office to exceed its allocated operating budget?  Why do you refuse to take accountability for the failure of stimulus money to actually stimulate the economy?  While you sat on the House Financial Services Committee, South Florida has seen its unemployment rate more than triple from 4% to nearly 13%."

August 26, 2010

Katy Sorenson backs Eugene Flinn for Miami-Dade County Commission

In the battle of the South Dade mayors to represent District 8 on the Miami-Dade County commission, Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn now has one thing former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell does not: the endorsement of the commissioner the two are hoping to replace.

Katy Sorenson threw her support behind Flinn Thursday afternoon, saying she and him "share similar values and priorities."

"I know that Gene is committed to principles of good government and citizen participation, and I firmly believe that he will uphold the highest ethical standards as a public officias, as his eight-year record shows," Sorenson said.

The endorsement is not particularly surprising: Sorenson has often been a progressive voice in County Hall, and Bell has positioned herself as more conservative. The former president of FLorida Right to Life surprised some political observers by making it into the runoff despite not being one of the top two fundraisers in the race.

But the endorsement could still carry some weight in a district where Sorenson is still popular.

"I'm overwhelmed today," Flinn said. "This is a strong message. This is an outstanding boost to this campaign."

Steve MacNamara pulls double duty: Harid. staff chief -- and general counsel

Incoming Senate President isn't just firing people these days. He has hired Steve MacNamara to be his chief of staff and the Senate's top lawyer. Letter here:

Allow me to take this opportunity to let you know that I’ve asked Professor Stephen R. MacNamara to serve as both Chief of Staff and General Counsel during my term as Senate President.  Most have you have worked with Steve in the past and I know all of us that know him look forward to working with him these next two years.

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