October 30, 2012

With flooding and damage in the NE, will talk of a cat fund re-emerge?

Remember four years ago, when the candidates actually talked about a national catastrophic reinsurance fund to spread the risk of natural disasters across state lines, provide a cushion for reinsurance and make insuring disasters more affordable? 

The concept, which first came to life after Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami in 1992, emerged again after the seven-hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. Then-Sen. Barack Obama and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani embraced the idea.

A group of U.S. House members, including then-Reps. Ron Klein, a Democrat, and Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican, won support for a plan to create a voluntary catastrophe fund modeled after Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

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Couriel's latest mailer criticizes Margolis, but it's not what it appears

Photo (2)The latest campaign mailer sent out by supporters of Republican John Couriel’s state Senate campaign has a bit of a Through the Looking Glass feel to it because things really aren’t as they appear. 

For starters, the ad by a political committee backing Couriel attacks his opponent, Democrat Sen. Gwen Margolis of Miami, of being so close to lobbyists that “she travels on a lurxurious private jet to the State Legislature in Tallahassee…paid for by an H.M.O. special interest lobbyist and the taxpayers.” 

Then, it repeats the misleading claims that as a state senator Margolis had something to do with the Affordable Care Act and the $716 billion by claiming it’s a cut to Medicare, which it isn’t. 

Margolis supporters confirmed she does travel on a private plane, usually the one owned by Scott L. Hopes, who also happens to be a candidate for state Senate. Hopes, a Republican, is running against Rep. Dwight Bullard in the Democrat-dominated Miami district.

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Romney, in Ohio, campaigns with Florida voters via teleconference call

Republican Mitt Romney began his day campaigning in Florida today, conducting a teleconference town hall meeting in which he reached voters via robo-call. Romney told listeners he was in Dayton, Ohio, “where it’s snowing” and will be "criss-crossing" Florida tomorrow (with a planned fly-around with former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.)

Medicare and health care costs seemed to be on top of mind for many listeners. Callers were told the call would be recorded, so we listened in and took notes. Here are some excerpts.

Bonita asked about health care costs and Romney answered that the Obama administration has claimed that costs would go down $2,500 per family under his health care reform when in fact “they have gone up $2,500. That’s a huge burden,’’ he said.

“The answer, in my view, is not to have government step in and lower the reimbursement rates for Medicare” because that will lead to hospitals shifting the burden and raising the costs on everyone else.

He said the answer was “not to run health care like a government-run utility, like a monopoly, but instead to provide into healthcare more competition.”

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October 28, 2012

Senate campaign: contest between the self-proclaimed 'mainstream conservative' & 'Florida moderate'

Rick Johnson, a financial advisor from Shalimar is worried.

“I know it’s a tough time in Washington, but another four years of deadlock is not going to move this country forward,’’ he told U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV at a brief campaign stop last month in the military stronghold of Walton County in the Panhandle. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Mack didn’t hesitate with the answer. “We’re going to get this country back and that means more jobs, more security and more freedom,’ he said. “I appreciate you coming out.”

It doesn’t get more complicated than that for Mack, 45, a nine-year Republican congressman from Fort Myers who is challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate. Mack profile here.


 On a clear October morning, Florida’s senior senator stood on the red clay soil near his grandfather’s grave and pointed to the cow pasture behind him.

“I remember my bare feet on that cold earth that had been turned up by the big plow,’’ he told friends and relatives at the church cemetery halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. “These are the pioneers that saw technology change our way of life.”

Four hours later, Nelson was in Tallahassee, pointing again — this time at the world’s largest magnet housed at the National Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

“We are going to Mars,’’ he told the scientists. “We need to create a magnetic field around our astronauts so if there is a solar explosion, they won’t get fried. Can you do that?”

“Yes,’’ answered Greg Boebinger, the lab director. “It’s conceivable.”

It wasn’t much of a campaign day for Nelson in this low-key re-election campaign, but it was a lot like his political career: book-ended by a pilgrimage to his roots and an homage to Florida’s technological future.

After nearly 40 years in public office, Nelson has bridged the generations and the technological divide. He has watched its cow pastures transformed in the wake of the state’s population boom. He was a civilian crew member of the 1986 space shuttle Columbia and is now the lone Democrat to hold statewide office in the nation’s largest swing state. His centrist positions on fiscal and social issues, and his low-key demeanor have helped him remain in office even as political power in Florida has shifted from Democrat to Republican. He is arguably the last of Florida’s old-style Southern Democrats.

But if Republicans have their way, the state’s longest-serving Democrat will be ousted this year. Nelson profile here.




October 27, 2012

Mason-Dixon poll: Senate race tightens in crucial I-4 corridor

Start sweating, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Democrat leads Republican rival Connie Mack by only three points, 47 percent to 44 percent, in Florida’s bellwether I-4 corridor, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll.

Mack — who is within the poll’s margin of error — is gaining on the strength of Mitt Romney in Florida, the unpopularity of President Barack Obama’s policies and Nelson’s struggles to close the deal despite decades in public office.

But it may not be enough for Mack, said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll. "At the end of the day, if Nelson hangs on, I think it’s going to be more about Mack losing it than Nelson winning," Coker said.

The I-4 corridor runs from Tampa Bay through Central Florida and is heavily concentrated with swing voters. Thus, it’s a good measure of how the statewide vote might go. Nelson, who lives in Orlando, is losing by 1 percentage point in Central Florida, which tends to lean more Republican than Tampa Bay, where Nelson has a 7 point advantage.

Nelson leads among independent voters, 48 percent to 40, but 9 percent are undecided, the poll shows. More on the poll here.  Profile of Nelson here. Profile of Mack here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/27/3070071/poll-riding-romneys-coattails.html#storylink=cpy

October 26, 2012

Prosecutor in murder case at center of retention fight says justices are being unfairly targeted

The prosecutor in a controversial murder case that has galvanized opposition to the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention said Friday that the criticism  of the justices is “offensive and unfair” and they are being “attacked for overtly political reasons.”

Curtis M. French was a senior assistant attorney general in 2003 when the court ruled against him and ordered a new trial for Tallahassee murder Joe Elton Nixon. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Florida court ruling and now, nine years later, the Florida Republican Party has used the high court’s decision as its rationale for ousting the three justices from the state Supreme Court. Nixon remains on death row.

French not only has no hard feelings against the justices, he told the Herald/Times, he believes the criticism of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince is “politically motivated” and unjustified.

The Republican Party of Florida, as well as the conservative-leaning Restore Justice 2012 organization, have accused the justices of “judicial activism” for their ruling on the case. The party’s executive committee unanimously voted to oppose the justices retention because of this case and others.

 “They’re using the case that I worked on as a means to give Republicans the opportunity to appoint more right-leaning justices,’’ French said.

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October 24, 2012

Report from conservative legal group: Florida justices are not activist

A Florida professor commissioned by the conservative Federalist Society to review controversial cases of the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention concluded Wednesday that some of the most loaded charges used by opponents against the justices are unfounded.  Download Federalist Society

“There does not appear to be a pattern of unprincipled decision-making by any of the justices of the Florida Supreme Court,’’ wrote Florida International University profressor Elizabeth Price Foley after analyzing nine controversial cases since 2000. “There are disagreements, true. But disagreements do not suggest that those with whom you disagree are unprincipled.”

Although the Federalist Society does not take a position in the merit retention races, Foley said in a conference call with reporters that her review found that the controversial rulings “are in fact supported by some prior precedent and they do involve acceptable methods of legal reasoning.” 

Opponents who want to accuse them of judicial activism, she said, are “going to have a hard time making that label stick.’’ 

Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are on the ballot in a yes or no vote and, for the first time, the Florida Republican Party has mounted a campaign to encourage voters to reject them.

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October 22, 2012

Skipping amendments on long ballot? That means activists influence the vote, groups say

Millions of Florida voters will soon face their longest ballot ever, and history shows that some will raise the white flag and stop voting at some point — a decision, or non-decision, that could skew results of crucial down-ballot contests.

Ballot drop-off, or undervoting, is nothing new, and can be relatively harmless in nonpartisan races between two candidates where little is known about either person running.

But this year, voters who throw up their hands and say no more could indirectly help decide 11 state constitutional questions and local charter amendments that can write Florida's future.

Here's why: The law requires that 60 percent of voters must vote yes for a proposed constitutional amendment to pass. That's 60 percent of the voters voting on a question, not 60 percent of the total voters who show up. More from Steve Bousquet here.

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Write-in candidates: Sham or sincere?

TALLAHASSEE — They are the candidates you don't see. They don't collect signatures or pay fees to run. They almost never raise or spend money. They don't attend campaign forums or knock on doors. Their names never appear on the ballot. And they always lose.

Yet, write-in candidates matter in Florida.

When they run, voters lose.

This year alone, more than 900,000 Floridians were stopped from casting a ballot in 15 competitive state House and Senate races because a write-in candidate signed up to run.

It's a loophole in Florida's quirky election system that can be exploited to prevent Democrats and independents from choosing a representative from among only Republicans, and vice versa.

"It's a sham," said Carl Domino, a Jupiter Republican.

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Connie Mack declares war: on United Nations over election monitors

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, who has called for the U.S. to end funding of the United Nations, today announced that the international peacekeeping organization should be "kicked off U.S. soil" and "defunded."

The incident that sparked his outrage was an announcement by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that it will send 44 observer to polling places around the country on Election Day to monitor potential disputes at polling places. The organization is registered as an NGO with United Nations but the U.N. is not involved in monitoring elections in the U.S.

The request for voting day monitoring came from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the ACLU, among other groups. They warned in a letter to the OSCE of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”

Mack, who is chairman of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, said “Every American should be outraged by this news,'' and concluded that "the only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.”

His campaign said in a statement that U.N. monitoring "should be reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies."

Scott Simpson, of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the organization that brokered the meeting, called Mack's attempt to link the U.N. to the group irresponsible.

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