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18 posts from March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014

State House candidates raise big bucks in February

If campaign finance reports are any indication, at least two Florida House races are heating up.

State Rep. Erik Fresen, who is running for reelection in House District 114, raised $93,240 in February, state elections records show. His top contributors included charter school companies, education consultants, South Florida businesses, the state manufacturers association and the safety net hospitals political committee.

All told, Fresen has raised $260,239 for his reelection campaign.

"Given how much my opponent raised out of the gate, I figured I would maintain my competitive advantage," Fresen said.

Democrat Daisy Baez took in nearly $50,000 in the three months after she announced her candidacy. 

Her February numbers were more modest. Her total haul for the month, $8,506, included $1,000 contributions from the Lucida Treatment Center in California and Coral Gables art gallerist Sergio Cernuda.

Still, Baez's $81,445 total campaign war chest is nothing to sneeze at.

A third candidate, Republican Amory Bodin, has not raised any money.

The candidates in the competitive District 112 race also had a busy February.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, raised $24,500, state records show. So far, he has collected $117,976 for his campaign.

Republican candidate Daniel Diaz Leyva, meanwhile, picked up $10,622 in contributions last month, increasing his total to $141,762.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross: We'll pay for stadium redo, but treat us like other teams on taxes

@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

A day after news broke that the Miami Dolphins are trying again to get a deal to renovate their stadium, team owner Stephen Ross issued a statement saying the upgrades are necessary to keep professional football in South Florida.

It's the same argument Ross made last year when he sought county tourism tax dollars and a state subsidy to fund the makeover to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. But this time around, Ross says the team will pay for the improvements themselves -- if they can turn over ownership of the facility to Miami-Dade County and stop paying its annual, nearly $4 million property-tax bill.

He did not address concerns by the Miami-Dade School Board or the city of Miami Gardens that they would lose tax revenue to fund services.

Here's Ross' statement:

“I have made clear I want the stadium modernized because it’s right for our fans and it’s right for Miami-Dade and South Florida. I have decided the best way to get this done is to pay for the project with private funds. All we ask in return is that we are treated the same as all franchises in the state of Florida. A world-class city needs a world-class stadium. 

We haven’t won a Super Bowl bid in Miami-Dade in far too long, and we know that with the stadium as an issue, we never will unless it is modernized. The Super Bowl Committee will have to decide if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls so time is of the essence. It is time to move forward.

This privately funded project will create more than 4,000 local jobs. We can bring back the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff Championship and world-class soccer matches -- and all the revenue those big events generate for the local community. I am going to make the commitment and provide the resources because Miami deserves the economic benefits of a modernized stadium.

But for me, this is about something more. I grew up here in Miami-Dade and have been part of this area for most of my life. I want to do this for the community that has done so much for me, and for this storied franchise that means so much to the people of South Florida. With this project, we can secure the future of the Dolphins in Miami-Dade for another 20 years. That is more important to me than anything else.”

Remember that book the governor isn't writing? Amazon is taking orders

Chasing Sunshine

Gov. Rick Scott, long rumored to be writing a book, told reporters he wasn't planning on its release before November.

 "Are you writing a book?,'' the governor was asked directly after the Cabinet meeting last week.

"I'm not planning on...I'm writing a book. I'm not planning on having a book before the election,'' he replied. 

Apparently the people at Amazon.com have other ideas. The website on Tuesday began taking advance orders for a book it says will be available by April 15. The book's title is Chasing Sunshine: Remarkable People Who Found the American Dream in Florida, published by Greenleaf Book Group Press.

Scott's campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, said: "There's basically no book going anywhere until after the election. There are a lot of other things going on."

The blurb on Amazon.com says the people who are profiled in the book include "George Burgess, the world's foremost shark expert; Gladys Rubio, hurricane chaser; Tramar Dillard, best known by his rap persona, Flo Rida; and Mary Ann Carroll, one of the original Florida Highwaymen artists."

Scott collaborated on the 205-page book with an inspirational Florida author, Heidi Tyline King. His probable Democratic opponent, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, recently completed a three-week national tour promoting his book, The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.   

-- Steve Bousquet

Rick Scott gets personal in new TV ad. And drops big money: $2.2 million


Gov. Rick Scott's campaign is going back to the beginning.

In a new ad from his Let's Get to Work political committee, the governor released a 30-second autobiographic spot where he talks about growing up poor and seeing his parents struggle. Consider this the rags part of the rags-to-riches story.

"It's a significant buy: $2.2 million," said Scott's campaign chairman, state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St.Augustine.

The ad serves three immediate purposes: "It's an opportunity to re-introduce him," said Thrasher. It personalizes a governor who has struggled in the polls (this significant buy is earlier than his ad campaign in 2010 when he was a nobody). And it pivots to Scott's raison d'être: job creation.

"What can I do today that’s going to increase the chance that companies are going to hire more people in Florida?" Scott, at the ad's end, says he asks himself. "I want people to have the same shot I had."

Expect Florida Democrats to note that the "riches" part of his bio had the stain of a record $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine against his former hospital company, Columbia/HCA.

"It's not accurate. Obviously it's a lie....The fact that he made money shouldn't be an issue to anybody," Thrasher said. He then turned to Scott's leading Democratic rival.

"Charlie Crist is a professional politician. He's a professional mud slinger," Thrasher said, saying Crist should answer questions about working for the Morgan & Morgan law firm and how he made his money. 


How Rick Scott raised hellacash in February (but we didn't see it till now)


At a glance, it’s clear Democrat Charlie Crist’s political committee outraised Gov. Rick Scott’s last month by $827,350 to $184,257.

But the political committees don’t tell the whole story. The candidates’ campaign committees and the parties are a major factor.

And Scott is still winning that race. Here are the campaign-account breakdowns that were just posted:

Crist raised: $291,877.38
Scott raised: $585,318.00

Scott COH: $1,198,879.08
Crist cash on hand: $1,424,200.34

And then there’s the matter of the parties. A top Republican Party of Florida source tells us Scott raised $975,000 for the party last month. That’s all gravy. The Florida Democratic Party, which has no majority in the Legislature and no statewide elected seats based in Tallahassee, can’t come close to that right now.

Why Scott’s increased focus on raising money for the party and the campaign vs. the political committee? Because it saves money.

The candidate’s committee and the party get the lowest ad and mail rates. That can save an elections effort millions, perhaps as much as half. And Scott wants to spend $100 million. Crist wants $50 million.

Of course, not all is rosy in Scott World, especially when it comes to polls, as yesterday’s column noted. But the column also pointed out that it’s still early and Scott intends to start advertising statewide soon.

Expect the poll numbers to change. But also expect that Scott’s fundraising, at least for the next few months during the lawmaking session, won’t slack off in aggregate.

Guns-related bills show NRA's muscle

State lawmakers have a plan to keep kids safe at school: Allow teachers to pack heat.

The controversial proposal won the support of a Senate panel on Monday despite strong opposition from parent groups, school boards and the statewide teachers union.

It is one of several high-profile gun bills gaining traction in the Florida Legislature this year — and a sign that the National Rifle Association is once again flexing its muscle in Tallahassee.

Other NRA priorities: extend Stand Your Ground protection to people who fire a warning shot; let tax collectors accept applications for concealed-weapons permits; and protect a child’s right to chew pastries into the shape of pretend pistols.

Read more here.

And the Florida legislative fundraising winners are.....

From On3 PR:

On 3 Public Relations presents Florida’s state and legislative campaign finance reports for everything raised and spent through February 28, 2014. The M2 information, covering activities February 1-28, 2014 was due to the Florida Division of Elections by midnight Monday, March 10th. On3PR now tracks both monthly and cumulative totals for your convenience. Information was secured from the State’s Division of Elections website at www.DOS.STATE.FL.US.

Top Senate Fundraisers
Sen. Joe Negron (R-32); $553,154.00
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-30); $520,968.88
Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-18); $429,176.05
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-22); $390,265.00
Sen. Jack Latvala (R-20); $389,350.00

Top House Fundraisers
Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-51); $358,093.00
Rep. Erik Fresen (R-114); $260,239.10
Rep. Dana Young (R-60); $234,286.12
Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78); $221,590.00
Candidate Brad Drake (R-5); $212,835.00

Today in Tallahassee: Five Things To Know

The Florida House and Senate will each meet to take up a short list of their top priorities on Tuesday and the Florida Press Corps caps off the day with an entertaining salute to legislating. Here are five things to watch on Tuesday, March 10:
* The full Senate will meet to pass its proposal (SB 860) to make Florida a more veteran-friendly place by increasing financial aid and job assistance programs for military veterans. Also on the Senate agenda is legislation to increase regulation of Assisted Living Facilities (SB 248).
* The full House will meet to take up a package of bills to crack down on sexual predators who re-offend. The measures (SB 522, 524, 526, 528) have already passed the Senate and are expected to be signed quickly by the governor. 
* Florida's trauma centers come into the spotlight again as the House Health Innovation Subcommittee takes up a bill (PCB HIS 14-01) to resolve a legal fight between competing centers in in Central Florida. The debate comes on the heels of an investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times that explored how trauma centers profit by charging excessive and often-arbitrary fees.
* The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will take up two bills (SPB 7072 and 7074) that attempt to overhaul the state's management of child welfare in the wake of a series of high profile child deaths last year.
* The governor will be teased and impersonated. Former Gov. Charlie Crist will be the focus of a few punchlines. And legislators and lobbyists become fodder for an evening of ribald humor. It's all a part of the Sometimes Annual Capitol Press Corps skits held at The Moon at8 p.m. Proceeds benefit scholarships for students pursuing a career in journalism. 
By Mary Ellen Klas
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and @MaryEllenKlas