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272 posts from October 2011

October 27, 2011

Welcome to the Senate race, Connie Mack, now eat some fists

If you didn't think U.S. Rep. Connie Mack was a potential frontrunner, just look at the welcome mat of press statements from his fellow Republican Senate candidates Adam Hasner, George LeMieux and Mike McCalister who took their share of shots at him the day after he unofficially joined the race.

Mack's entrance is a good thing for all the candidates because it means the press is paying attention to them after they languished in the shadows of the presidential contest. In the short term, Mack probably takes away more of the establishment votes/cash from LeMieux, a former senator.

From Hasner's camp:

“Normally we’d issue a generic ‘welcome to the race’ message, but there are too many differences between Adam and Congressman Mack on important policy issues. There is no time to waste in starting that conversation with the people of Florida, who will have to decide if another Washington incumbent can solve the problems Washington created in the first place. Adam believes Washington is the problem, not the solution, which is why he’s running for the United States Senate, and that won’t change no matter who gets in this race.”

From LeMieux's camp:

“Connie is a friend. His father was an outstanding US Senator for whom I have great respect. I welcome Congressman Mack to the race and look forward to detailed debates on the issues and our records...

“While Congressman Mack has done some good things in Washington, he will have to explain to Floridians why he voted to raise his own pay several times, why he joined Bill Nelson in voting for a Highway Bill that contained 6,376 earmarks, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, and why he specifically rejected efforts to eliminate wasteful earmarks like an aquarium in Connecticut and tourism funding in Kentucky. Florida Republicans are in for a really good debate as we choose our nominee against Bill Nelson.”

From McCalister's camp:

“Let me be the first to welcome Congressman Connie Mack to Senate race. He knows first-hand from his many years working with the Washington establishment how broken our government is and I’m certain that voters will closely examine his record on job creation, immigration, and government spending. As I continue to travel the state talking to Tea Party, 9/12, Republican, and other conservative leaders, I am more confident than ever that they want an outsider not tainted by years of political deal making. I will work hard to continue to earn Floridians’ trust and vote.”

PolitiFact checks Rep. Waldman's claim about packing heat

In the old days, before Oct. 1, 2011, when folks headed to the beach or a park in some Florida cities, local laws forbade them from strapping a gun to their bathing suit or bringing it along in the picnic basket.

But in the wake of the deadly shooting in Tucson, Florida legislators during the 2011 legislative session took up a slew of pro-gun laws and one -- House Bill 45 -- made it loud and clear that it's up to the state, not each individual city or local government, to set firearm laws. And that means holders of concealed weapons permits are free to bring that gun along with the sunblock and sandwiches to a local or state park.

State law doesn't allow permit holders to bring their guns everywhere -- in fact there's a long list that shows everywhere guns aren't allowed including: 

"Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;"
"Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;"
"Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;"
"Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building.""Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law."

State Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, who voted against House Bill 45, wants to expand the restrictions, so he plans to file a bill to ban carrying guns in many local government buildings in Broward County. 

In an Oct. 24 posting on the political blog browardbeat.com, Waldman said: "You are prohibited from walking into the Capitol with a gun, but you can go after the County Commission or the School Board. It is the height of hypocrisy."

Waldman's words drew more than a dozen comments from readers and these caught our eye:

"Jimbo is wrong. It’s legal to bring your gun into the Capitol. It’s illegal to bring it into the chamber, hence the 2nd metal detectors before you enter…"

Another commenter wrote: "Maybe Jim should file a bill to allow guns into the Capitol, instead. Let’s see how the gun nuts go for that."

PolitiFact dives in: did Waldman misfire?

Insurance group's four-point plan for fixing PIP

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America is recommending four fixes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The recommendations – more time to investigate suspicious claims, capping attorney fees, allowing private companies to inspect medical clinics and limiting medical treatments – would help reduce insurance fraud and ultimately save consumers money, the trade group said.

Paul Blume, Property Casual Insurers' senior vice president for state government relations, said the organization will push for changes to state law in coming months. A working group of experts, created by CFO Jeff Atwater, is studying ways to reform the system.

“By passing legislation in the upcoming 2012 legislative session that includes these four vital components, the Legislature will help close the loopholes that prevent regulators and the marketplace from investigating and fighting fraud,” Blume said. “Florida will also be able to protect its consumers and eliminate the rampant PIP fraud that is driving up the cost of insurance premiums in our state.”

Continue reading "Insurance group's four-point plan for fixing PIP " »

Julio Robaina taking sides in Hialeah races

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina — who has largely stayed out of the limelight since losing his bid for Miami-Dade County mayor earlier this year to Carlos Gimenez — returned to the airwaves last week in a political advertisement on Spanish-language radio.

Robaina recorded a piece supporting candidates for each of the five Hialeah city council races. Notably absent: an endorsement for mayor.

Robaina's successor and ally, Carlos Hernandez, is running against Raul Martinez and Rudy Garcia to permanently fill the seat. But it might not help Hernandez to get Robaina's backing: There's been controversy over how Robaina left the city's finances. And Robaina is under federal investigation for allegedly taking secret cash payments from convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez.

Robaina has denied any wrongdoing. Hernandez is not under investigation — but he failed to disclose the interest he earned on loans from Perez. Hernandez has said he never received interest payments on the loans.

Robaina's council picks? Isis Garcia-Martinez, Vivian Casals-Muñoz, Jose Caragol, Pablito Hernandez and Lourdes Lozano.

All but one are incumbents who served under Robaina. Lozano is vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Council member Jose "Pepe" Yedra.

Four of Robaina's five picks are on the Hernandez-backed candidate slate. Hernandez has not taken sides in the Casals-Muñoz race.

"This team has worked and will work for the good of Hialeah," Robaina says in the ad.

The piece is paid for by Citizens First, a Jupiter-based electioneering committee linked to Robaina's unsuccessful county run.


"Life has gotten better" since Florida banned dwarf-tossing, says reader born with dwarfism

We've heard from a few readers in response to our story about Rep. Ritch Workman's difficult push to repeal several state laws, including Florida's 22-year ban on dwarf-tossing in bars.

Bob Whittemore, an Arizona man born with a type of dwarfism called Achondroplasia , is outraged by the idea. He emailed his concerns to us, Workman, the Washington Post and Visit Orlando officials this week. Excerpts of his essay are below.

Have you ever been out on a beautiful day at a shopping mall with your spouse or significant other, when, from out of nowhere, someone with a video camera jumps in front of you, giggling, and beings to video you?

I have.

Have you ever, after a productive day of business, walked into a bar with your colleagues and customers to celebrate the day, and are suddenly grabbed by a total stranger who wants to pick you up and throw you as far as he can, because it would be a “hoot”?

I have.

The incident with the drunken clown who wanted to toss me happened back in the 1980's, in an upscale bar in Southern Florida. Yes, I said “upscale”.  You don't have to be an uneducated hick to do stupid things; copious quantities of alcohol makes many people stupid – from Ivy League professionals to those who will proudly tell you that they attend church every Sunday.

Continue reading ""Life has gotten better" since Florida banned dwarf-tossing, says reader born with dwarfism" »

The George LeMieux, Jim Greer he-said he-said over $150k contract

If you read this blog, you know many of these facts in dribs and drabs. But Adam C. Smith puts them together well:

It had never been clear what George LeMieux did to earn $150,000 for consulting services with the state GOP in 2008 and 2009 after he left his job as Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff for private law practice.

But LeMieux, now a leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, spelled it out in a TV interview.

“I helped the Republican Party on outreach issues to Hispanics, to African-Americans. I still advised the Governor’s Office on things that were more political,” LeMieux said in a Political Connections interview that aired Sunday on Bay News 9.

Here’s the problem: Former state GOP chairman Jim Greer, who signed the party checks and read about LeMieux’s interview, says the explanation is hogwash.

“Minority outreach — is he kidding?” Greer told the Times/Herald.

“Here are the facts: I was instructed to give George a $10,000-a-month contract which was common practice,” Greer said. “He provided no service whatsoever regarding minority outreach or anything else of value that I was aware of. He later informed me the contract was for him not receiving the full amount of an agreed-upon bonus for Gov. Crist winning the election.”

Greer, once a close ally of LeMieux and Crist, is facing criminal charges for allegedly setting up a secret fundraising company and funneling $125,000 in party money to himself. No trial date is set, and Greer insists he did nothing wrong, that party leaders were aware of his fundraising work, and that LeMieux actually came up with the idea to save the party money.

LeMieux denies knowing anything about Greer’s company, and a campaign spokeswoman said Greer is wrong about his consulting work for the party.

“It’s sad Jim Greer is worried about his impending criminal trial and he’s clearly under a great deal of stress. However, that doesn’t change the fact that George LeMieux provided advice to the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 and early 2009 on a wide variety of topics, including minority outreach,” said spokeswoman Anna Nix.

Like a number of Crist’s gubernatorial campaign staffers, LeMieux did receive hefty bonuses from the state party for his campaign work — $50,000 after Crist won the primary and another $150,000 after the November 2006 general election, when LeMieux was the governor’s chief of staff earning $162,000 annually.

Greer suggested the consulting contract was on top of those previously reported bonuses. He would not say who instructed him to pay LeMieux, but implied it was Crist.

“Due to George’s relationship with the governor and as the former chief of staff, his requests were adhered to many times without my knowledge,” Greer said.

More here


Rick Perry picks South Florida campaign chairs

Rick Perry's campaign put out a list Thursday of its South Florida presidential campaign chairs. The picks include Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and former Broward School Board member Kevin Tynan. There are also other choices in Miami-Dade and Broward, and chairs in Palm Beach and Martin counties.

See the full list after the jump.

Continue reading "Rick Perry picks South Florida campaign chairs" »

Flier in Miami commission race highlights dispute over gay-rights group's endorsement

A new attack flier in the down-and-dirty race for Miami Commission District 2 goes after candidate Kate Callahan, saying a gay-rights group linked to one of her campaign consultants improperly endorsed Callahan.

Flier front

Except the group, Unity Coalition, says it has not backed anyone in the race.

"We never, ever issued an endorsement in District 2 at all," said Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition's board of directors. He called the flier "completely fabricated."

The group did send out an email to candidates Donna Milo and Michelle Niemeyer -- first reported by the Political Cortadito blog -- informing them of the board's decision to back Callahan, Sosa acknowledged. But the group later told the candidates it was not going to formally and publicly back anyone in the race.

"We had a board meeting. We did decide to endorse Kate," Sosa said. "What occurs at a board meeting doesn't have anything to do with a public endorsement."

Callahan's campaign consultant, Vanessa Brito, sits on Unity Coalition's board. Sosa and Brito said Brito recused herself from meeting with the Miami commission candidates and reviewing their questionnaires. The group did not meet with candidates Williams Armbrister and incumbent Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

Despite Brito's recusal, Sosa said the board ultimately decided it did not want to appear like the group had any conflicts with backing Callahan. "We felt that regardless of whoever we endorsed or whoever we chose there was always going to be this question," he said.

"They did endorse Kate," countered Emiliano Antunez, Milo's campaign consultant. "After all hell broke loose...it was rescinded." Sosa says that since the endorsement was never publicly announced, there was never anything to rescind.

The flier says it was paid for Miamians for Honest and Responsible Government, an electioneering group run by a friend of Milo's. Milo has acknowledged that the group created anti-Sarnoff ads.

Unity Coalition asks candidates questions about issues important to Hispanics and members of the LGBT community, including gay marriage, gay adoption and immigration.

Building the biggest casino in the world? That's the point

Can Miami handle the biggest casino in the world?

That was the question raised Wednesday as local leaders pored over a bill designed to bring three large casino resorts to South Florida, including one by Malaysia’s Genting Group. Genting is the only developer to detail its plans for the Sunshine State, proposing a $3.8 billion waterfront resort that will be larger than any hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and contain four times as much gambling space.

“When you look at the enormous size and scope of some of these projects, it just doesn’t make sense,’’ Phil Goldfarb, president of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, told Miami-Dade commissioners at a hearing on gambling Wednesday. “We’re most concerned about existing businesses.”

The massive scale of Genting’s proposed Resorts World Miami energizes both sides of the gambling debate in South Florida.

Critics see the urban resort scrambling downtown Miami’s ongoing revival and stealing customers from hotels and restaurants from nearby neighborhoods and Miami Beach. Supporters point to tens of thousands of construction jobs needed to build something so large, and the tens of millions in tourist dollars it would generate once open. Story here.

October 26, 2011

Reconsideration alert: Connie Mack to enter US Senate race

Florida Congressman Connie Mack is planning to enter the Republican race for U.S. Senate, adding a big name to a contest that has lacked drama for months.

"Connie Mack is running for the U.S. Senate. He is making calls. He is assembling a team. And he will have more to announce about the run in the weeks ahead," said David James, a senior adviser.

Mack, R-Fort Myers, declined to enter the race this spring when two of his former colleagues from the Florida House, Adam Hasner and Mike Haridopolos, were running. But Haridopolos dropped out earlier this summer.

But this could be a tough race for Mack, who could be perceived as too moderate -- especially when it comes to immigration -- in a Republican primary.

Alberto Martinez, a Hasner adviser, said this via Twitter: "Game on."

Full story here