December 04, 2014

David Rivera still hasn't reported how he paid for campaign robocalls


Another financial reporting deadline has come and gone for this year's political candidates -- which means another deadline has come and gone in which David Rivera has yet to report how much he paid for automated telephone calls to voters.

The robocalls, featuring Rivera himself speaking in Spanish, were the only politicking Rivera did this summer after placing his short-lived campaign on hold. The Miami Republican briefly ran for his old congressional seat.

At the time, Rivera hadn't reported raising any money. That hasn't changed since. His Dec. 1 report continues to list $0 contributions.

Carlos Curbelo campaign explains financial reporting errors to Federal Election Commission


U.S. Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo's campaign responded this week to questions from the Federal Election Commission over more than $93,000 in omitted or mislabeled political contributions.

The FEC had sent the Miami Republican a pair notices last month identifying the problems in a two of his financial reports. The issues had first came to light when Curbelo amended one of them a few days before the Nov. 4 election.

In the response Curbelo filed Tuesday, the campaign explained that some contributions questioned by the FEC for being duplicates actually belonged to different individuals with the same name or address. The campaign also listed $52,875 in "corrupted data" initially misreported due to what the campaign called a "software issue" from switching accounting programs near Election Day. Some $42,000 from political organizations was mislabeled as coming from individuals.

Curbelo had laid out most of those changes in the Oct. 28 amendment to his Oct. 15 quarterly financial report, so the total amount of money he raised remains the same as on Oct. 28. That amendment raised eyebrows because so many political action committees had been omitted or mislabeled -- in a race where Rep. Joe Garcia, the incumbent Democrat, had made an issue out of the influx of outside dollars.

According to the Dec. 2 response, Curbelo's campaign corrected the labeling and totals from $51,000 from PACs and other groups, and $21,000 from individuals.

November 25, 2014

The 2014 governor's race votes and ad spending by Florida media market


The race for Florida governor was officially certified last week, so now we have final numbers. By our estimate, more than $103 million was spent on TV ads since March. 

All told, 6,026,802 Floridians cast ballots. Of them, about 53 percent voted early in person or by absentee ballot (1,878,537 absentees + 1,309,198 early votes = 3,187,735).

More people voted in the governor's race than any other contest: 5,951,561. Scott received 2,865,343 votes to Crist's 2,801,198. That's 48.14 percent to 47.07, a margin of 1.08 percent, or 64,145.

Scott's raw-vote margin was 4.2 percent bigger than in 2010, when his margin was 61,550 over Democrat Alex Sink. On a percentage basis, though, Scott did worse than in 2010, when his win-margin was 1.2 percentage points (the overall number of people voting in the governor's race grew 11 percent since 2010).

Here's how the 2014 votes broke down by media market, along with the ad spending:

Florida votes & ad spending




November 24, 2014

FEC asks Carlos Curbelo's campaign to explain finance report errors


Carlos Curbelo was elected to U.S. Congress earlier this month, but his campaign work is not over.

The Federal Election Commission has asked the Miami Republican to respond to a series of questions for omitting or mislabeling more than $93,000 in campaign contributions, which Curbelo has blamed on a computer software problem.

The federal agency issued Curbelo’s campaign two notices last week — one of them 11 pages long — that, if not answered adequately, could result in audits or fines.

Nicole Rapanos, Curbelo’s campaign manager, said Monday that the campaign plans to respond as early as this week with a complete accounting of contributions and donors omitted or mislabeled.

“Once we get everything answered, we should be OK,” she said. “We’re not trying to hide anything.”

More here.

November 17, 2014

Sellers starts work as Scott's chief of staff Dec. 1

Melissa Sellers confirmed Monday she has accepted the post of chief of staff in Gov. Rick Scott's second administration, effective Dec. 1. Sellers, 32, managed Scott's successful re-election campaign and has been viewed as the odds-on favorite for the powerful position.

"It's humbling and I'm honored," said Sellers, 32, a journalism graduate of the University of Texas. The chief of staff controls access to the governor, acts as a intermediary with the Legislature and agencies and is chiefly responsible for executing the governor's agenda.

Sellers will replace Adam Hollingsworth, who is leaving the post after two-and-a-half years, and she will be Scott's fourth chief of staff, also following Mike Prendergast and Steve MacNamara.

Scott also appointed Jackie Schutz as communications director. Schutz is returning to the governor's press shop after working on media relations in the campaign.

November 12, 2014

Election altered balance of Florida’s school choice debate

The state representatives who lost their seats last week had more in common than their political party.

Three of the six Democrats were classroom teachers who supported the teachers union — and who opposed plans to expand the school voucher program.

Voucher advocates say they invested "substantial" resources to topple the three incumbents — former state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Mark Danish of Tampa and Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor — as well as former state Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando.

Their political committee, the Florida Federation for Children, spent $1.31 million on political races in Florida in 2013 and 2014, records show.

It is hard to tell whether the investment tipped the balance in the four House races, but one thing is certain: The incumbents' absence will be noticeable when the Legislature convenes.

"The Dems lost their entire education team," said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity.

What's more, observers say voucher expansion is likely to be on the fast track when lawmakers return to Tallahassee.

"They have the House, the Senate and the governor clearly supporting it," said veteran lobbyist Tom Cerra, who represents the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards and the Miami-Dade school district.

Read more here.

November 11, 2014

Tribune lays off veteran political reporter William March, without warning


Bad news for Florida politics: The Tampa Tribune yesterday afternoon suddenly and apparently without warning laid off its well-respected political writer William March, who had been with Tampa Bay's smaller newspaper since 1984. He began covering state politics in 1994 when a young GOP activist in Miami named Jeb Bush had the gumption to think he could win the GOP nomination for governor against much more experienced candidates.

I can personally attest to March being an annoyingly tough and well-sourced competitor with vast knowledge and curiosity about Florida's complex politics and a reputation for fairness. He's also a good guy.

We did the Florida This Week TV show together on WEDU Friday, and March had to sprint back to the office after the taping  to finish his weekender. It was nice of the powers that be at the Trib to let March, 65, finish up covering the election a week ago and then his wrap-up weekender before handing him his departure papers Monday. He said he had no warning.

"There were disagreements over our coverage of the governor's race. I don't know whether that had anything to do with it," he said. "I was told it was a straight lay-off."

November 09, 2014

The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election


Those who ignore history are condemned to look like Florida Democrats in a midterm election.

Before Tuesday’s Republican drubbing of Democrats at the polls, there were warning signs — lessons that should have been learned or heeded — that were either ignored or downplayed by Democrat Charlie Crist, his campaign or his supporters.

Take, for instance, an August column headlined “Florida Democrats’ biggest problem is ... Florida Democrats,” where I noted how poor primary turnout, especially in South Florida, was a potentially bad sign for Crist.

One Democratic reader told me on Twitter that the column was full of “histrionics.”

Continue reading "The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election" »

November 08, 2014

Scott's weak victory strengthens clout of GOP's powerful legislature

Rick Scott victoryThe biggest winner in Tuesday’s election in Florida was the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature. It coasted to victory with little effort, broke fundraising records and came away with enough political power to control the agenda — even that of Gov. Rick Scott’s.

Florida voters gave the governor four more years in office, but more people voted against him than for him. Unofficial election returns gave Scott a 1.1 percent victory over Democrat Charlie Crist, a margin of nearly 66,000 votes out of 6 million cast, nearly identical to Scott’s 61,550-vote win over Alex Sink four years ago. Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie got 223,000 votes.

By contrast, Republicans in the Legislature picked up a super-majority in the House and preserved their majority in the Senate, essentially restoring the numbers they had in 2010 when Scott was first elected in the Tea Party wave.

The results are a reminder that Florida remains a deeply divided state with a majority that swings right during the mid-term elections and swings left in presidential years.

The returns also show that, even in a year in which Republicans swept most competitive seats and the Florida GOP invested more than $100 million re-electing the governor, Scott’s political persona remains weak. He will go down in the history books as the only governor elected twice without getting a majority of the vote either time.

“There is no mandate for Rick Scott,” said Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant. “We’re going to continue to hold him accountable. He does not have the support that he thinks he has.”

As a result, the Republicans in the Legislature are expected to set the agenda and shape it, as they have done in Scott’s first four years.

“We’re going to pick up right where we left off,’’ said Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, the incoming House speaker. “We will continue to work on what we’ve been working on — providing a good environment for businesses to create jobs and a lower unemployment rate.” Story here

Expect legislation to track the agendas of some of the GOP’s largest donors. Among them:

Continue reading "Scott's weak victory strengthens clout of GOP's powerful legislature" »

November 07, 2014

Tampa Bay region liked Libertarian Wyllie the most

Florida's Libertarian streak appears to run right through the heart of Tampa Bay.

Voters from Tierra Verde to Wesley Chapel must love their craft beers, because Libertarian candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie performed better in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties than elsewhere.

Wyllie got 3.75 percent of the statewide vote, according to unofficial returns that will change slightly after the counting of provisional and overseas ballots. That's less than what most polls projected he would receive, but Wyllie did better in Tampa Bay, where he ran a TV ad.

The Palm Harbor resident, who made a statewide tour of craft breweries, got 5.6 percent in Pinellas and 4.8 percent in Hillsborough. Pasco, the home of Wyllie's running mate Greg Roe, gave Wyllie 7 percent of the vote, his high-water mark. Those three counties account for 22 percent of all Wyllie votes statewide (Pinellas and Hillsborough also have the most Libertarian Party voters).

The Wyllie boomlet continued up the Nature Coast. He got 6 percent in Hernando and 6.5 percent in Citrus before fading to 3.74 percent in Levy, almost identical to his statewide share of the vote.

Compare those numbers to Wyllie's dismal South Florida showings: Miami-Dade, 1.4 percent; Broward, 1.9 percent; Palm Beach, 2.2 percent.