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15 posts from November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

Charlie Crist's campaign, donors look like extension of Obama for Florida


Charlie Crist’s career as a Republican was ruined four years ago after he hugged President Barack Obama onstage; now he says it could be his salvation as a Democrat.

Running again for his old post with a new party affiliation, Crist is being embraced by another aspect of the president: former Florida campaign workers for Obama, who has twice carried the Sunshine State.

At least seven former Obama Florida campaign workers — from his pollster to a top political consultant to media experts to his fundraiser — now form the nucleus of Crist’s new campaign team.

And top Obama donors, pleased with Crist’s help on the campaign in 2012, are expected to follow.

“I’ve always liked Charlie Crist, even when he was a Republican,” said Ralph Patino, a Coral Gables lawyer who helped the Obama campaign’s Futuro Fund raise $30 million last year for Hispanic outreach.

Patino, who hosted a Friday Democratic National Committee fundraiser headlined by Obama, invited Crist the day before when the governor stopped by and asked for his support.

“The Obama world has an interest in Crist — they had him speak at the Democratic National Convention,” Patino said. “That showed me, even back then, that they had an interest in Charlie Crist.”

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/12/3749087/charlie-crist-campaign-team-looks.html#storylink=cpy

In race for money in AG race, Bondi holds huge lead over split Dems

Bad news for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi: In October, her opponents started to raise money.

Good news for Bondi: It’s not much.

October campaign finance reports in the Attorney General race were released Tuesday, showing her campaign raised $76,578 in October, for a grand total of $481,479. In addition, an Electioneering Communications Organization named “And Justice for All” that’s dedicated to her reelection raised $84,100. That committee has raised a total of $894,082.

That gives Bondi, a former state prosecutor who was first elected attorney general in 2010, more than $1.3 million to spend against two Democratic challengers who entered the AG race near the end of October.

Because of that late entry, Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston and George Sheldon, the former secretary of the Department of Children and Families, had little time to scrape up enough money for a splashy debut of their campaigns’ finances.

Thurston, who announced on Oct. 26 that he was running, but didn’t file to run until Nov. 1. So he couldn’t raise any money until this month.

Sheldon raised $5,931 in October contributions after announcing he was running on Oct. 21.

Continue reading "In race for money in AG race, Bondi holds huge lead over split Dems" »

Sen. Clemens, pushing 75 mph speed limit, knows his subject

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a first-term Democrat from Palm Beach County, has quickly established himself as somebody who generally asks astute questions and strives to learn about the details of legislation.

And it turns out that in co-sponsoring a bill to increase the speed limit on Florida's rural interstate highways from 70 to 75, Clemens, you might say, knows his subject first-hand. Clemens and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg will be pushing the 75 mph speed limit bill, so a logical question was whether either lawmaker has a lead foot (the driving history of Florida motorists are public records).

Brandes, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has a clean driving record. But Clemens, a 43-year-old Detroit native who's a professional musician and a former newspaper reporter, got two speeding tickets in one week in 2011 while on North Florida interstates. He was clocked at 79 in a 70 mph zone both times, in Marion and Leon counties. Not exactly fast 'n' furious, but a little too fast for the police.

"I don't know that I'd call it a factor" in his decision to sign onto the bill, Clemens said, "but I certainly question the need for issuing speeding citations on long flat rural roads."

The Brandes-Clemens bill (SB 392) would give the state DOT the authority to raise the maximum speed limit to 75 in areas where it is now 70 -- mostly long stretches of Interstates 10, 75 and 95, and parts of Florida's Turnpike, I-4 and the Suncoast Parkway in Tampa Bay. As written, DOT would set the "safe and advisable" minimum speed limit on those highways.

-- Steve Bousquet

Jeb Bush endorses Rick Scott for re-election

Former Gov. Jeb Bush arrived early to the campaign for governor today with an endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott, commending him for a "business-friendly" climate and a dropping unemployment rate. 

Bush praised Scott on education, but made no mention of the emerging battle between Scott's acolytes and his own over implementation of the Common Core education standards. Scott has attempted to appease the Tea Party and other conservatives by stalling the implemenation of the controversial standards pursued and supported by Bush's education foundation. 

The Florida Democratic Party noted what a difference four years make. It pulled out this quote from Bush's endorsement of then Attorney General Bill McCollum, who lost to Scott in the primary:

 "Never in my mind did I imagine some guy stroking a $25 million or $30 million check out of his own bank account to run a campaign," Bush said at the time. "People think that's a little weird. I think he has to explain why that's a legitimate way of campaigning.”

Here's Bush's statement from the Republican Party of Florida, which is operating as Scott's campaign team until he announces. The Jeb video on McCollum follows:

Continue reading "Jeb Bush endorses Rick Scott for re-election" »

GOP seizes on Clinton's criticisms of Obamacare rollout


Republicans couldn't help but react with glee to former president Bill Clinton's remarks Tuesday that the Obama administration ought to accept a change in the law that would allow all Americans to keep their current health insurance plan.

In an interview published on Ozy, a web magazine, Clinton said Obama should honor his the promise that he has been making for years: If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it.

“I personally believe even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, applauded Clinton for joining a bipartisan call for Obama to act.

"These comments signify a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage under President Obama’s health care law," Boehner said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama agrees with Clinton and said he has asked aides to devise a way to accomodate those people losing their plans. But he declined to outline the possible fixes, or even a timetable for action.

“The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options, as he said, to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled and they can’t afford a better plan, even though they’d like to have a better plan,” Carney said.

Lawmakers from both parties have introduced bills to allow Americans to keep their plans, but the White House has not endorsed any proposal.

What's in a fib? For first time, Q-poll shows Obama new viewed as more dishonest than honest


President Obama's poll numbers have been tanking for weeks now, amid his administration's incompetent rollout of the Obamacare siign-up website and, more recently, his fib that under the law "you can keep your insurance. Period." (He should've just promised that people could keep their political dysfunction).

Now, Quinnipiac University's polling institute has found that it has cost Obama dearly.

"For the first time today, American voters say 52 - 44 percent that Obama is not honest and trustworthy. His previous lowest marks on honesty were May 30, when 49 percent of voters said he was honest and 47 percent said he wasn't," Quinnipiac reported.

"American voters are divided 46 - 47 percent on whether Obama "knowingly deceived" the public when he said people could keep their existing health insurance plans if they wished...

"American voters disapprove 54 - 39 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, his lowest approval rating in any Quinnipiac University national poll since he became president, as even women disapprove 51 - 40 percent, according to a national poll released today.

"Today's results compare to a slight 49 - 45 percent disapproval October 1. President Obama's lowest score before today was a 55 - 41 percent disapproval in an October 6, 2011 survey.."

And it gets worse for the president. Compared to Obama, Republican slightly edge him (by an inside-the-error-margin amount) on handling: Health care 42-43; the economy 41-45; immigration 40-41%, and the federal budget 40-45.

Only 43 percent say Obama's administration is competent compared to 53 percent who say it isn't.

Maybe these are outlier results.

But his approval rating really isn't. Gallup's tracking poll yesterday already found Obama's approval rating index at near record lows, -14 percent. And now Quinnipiac finds it at -15.

Normally, we don't blog every national poll. But this is significant.

Since Florida often reflects the nation, these numbers probably look similar just in the Sunshine State.

Here's the whole poll and write-up.

Scott and Bondi: We support Mississippi's attempt to sue FEMA over flood insurance

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi don't like the rising flood insurance rates threatening nearly 300,000 Florida homeowners so they're filing an amicus brief supporting Mississippi's lawsuit against the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program’s rate hike.

Scott and Bondi, however, have stopped short of putting Florida's muscle into the melee and have chosen not to join the lawsuit or file a companion challenge of their own.

“We are supporting Mississippi in their lawsuit against FEMA because the NFIP rate hike will not only hurt Florida families but will devastate our real estate market,'' Scott said in a statement.

Bondi said: "Floridians are facing outrageous, unaffordable flood insurance premiums, and we support all efforts to protect policyholders from these devastating insurance rates.” Here's the brief:  Download Amici-Brief-Filed-as-Exhibit

Court orders state to release teacher performance data

A panel of appellate judges on Tuesday ordered the state Department of Education to release controversial data on teacher performance.

The Florida Times-Union had filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the data, which will soon be tied to pay raises.

Initially, a trial court ruled against disclosure, saying teacher evaluation records were exempt from public records laws until the end of the school year in which the evaluation was made. But that ruling was overturned by the First District Court of Appeal.

“Given the strong public policy in Florida in favor of public records disclosure under the State Constitution... we reverse,” Judge William A. Van Nortwick Jr. wrote.

On Tuesday, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said he was disappointed with the outcome.

The FEA had joined the education department in the case.

“The evaluation data on teachers that is about to be made public is meaningless, which is why we joined in to enforce the public records exemption and prevent it from being published,” Ford wrote in a statement. “The numbers to be released are subject to misinterpretation. They have not been put in their proper context.”

Ford called Florida’s value-added model for evaluating teachers “deeply flawed,” because it relies on data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, and only a third of educators teach students and subjects tested on the FCATs.

He also pointed out that data would not take into account a new law requiring teachers to be evaulated based only on students they teach.

Education department spokesman Joe Follick said state education officials were reviewing the opinion and discussing their options.

Read the opinion here.

AT&T's Criser tapped to become next university system leader


He was the front-runner all along, but now it's official.

A search committee tasked with finding the next head for the state university system has selected AT&T Florida president Marshall Criser III for the job. The full Board of Governors will be asked to approve the decision on Nov. 21.

It's all but a done deal. The search committee selected Criser after interviewing him and three other finalists today. During discussion about the candidates, members said that all of the finalists had good qualities but one stood out from the rest.

Criser has agreed to step down from the University of Florida Board of Trustees if he takes the job. Over the next few days, he will work with Board of Governors staff to come to agreement on his salary and other contract issues. Edit: We've been told those negotiations likely won't start until after the full board votes.

He is expected to attend the Nov. 21 meeting in Miami where the board hopes to introduce him as the next chancellor.

Full report here.

UPDATE: With Criser leaving AT&T Florida, there is now speculation about who might take his place. After all, it is one of the state's largest and most visible employers. The Times/Herald hears that Joe York, currently vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs, is in line for the promotion. But nothing is final.

Feds approve American-USAirways merger; Bondi is on board

UPDATE: The Justice Department has reached an agreement to allow American Airlines and US Airways to merge, creating the world's biggest airline.

The agreement requires the airlines to scale back the size of the merger at Washington's Reagan National Airport and in other big cities, including Miami.

In August, the government sued to block the merger, saying it would restrict competition and drive up prices for consumers on hundreds of routes around the country. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and attorneys general from five other states joined to stop the sale. On Nov. 1, Bondi met with American Airlines CEO Tom Horton and later described the meeting as productive.

On Tuesday, Bondi said she was "thrilled" with the agreement which requires the airlines to divest slots at Reagan National in Washington D.C., LaGuardia in New York City as well as gates at Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami.

Slots are required for take offs and landings at Reagan National and LaGuardia because of congestion and the divestitures will enable new carriers to enter the Washington, D.C. and New York markets. The same will happen as the result of gate divestitures, she said in a statement.

“I am thrilled that we have reached an agreement that will not only keep jobs in Florida, but also will lead to additional jobs in our great state,” Bondi said.  “The agreement also ensures that air travelers have ample options before them."

The airlines have said their deal would increase competition by creating another big competitor to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which grew through recent mergers.

The settlement reached Tuesday would require approval by a federal judge in Washington. It would require American and US Airways to give up takeoff and landing rights or slots at Reagan National and New York's LaGuardia Airport and gates at airports in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami to low-cost carriers to offset the impact of the merger. More here. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.