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2 posts from April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

Charlie Crist's major challenge: the apathetic voters of South Florida

@MarcACaputo & @stevebousquet

Sam Oser is 88, and he wants to live long enough to see a Democrat get elected governor of Florida again — even one who used to be a Republican.

So Oser is ready to embrace Charlie Crist, a career politician of changing stripes who’s a Democratic newcomer. No matter, says the West Palm Beach retiree: Democrats are doomed to irrelevance until they reclaim the Governor’s Mansion after a 16-year absence.

“We’re outnumbered,” Oser said of the Republicans’ dominance in Florida, sipping coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts. “The only way we can move ahead is to have a Democratic governor.”

The Bronx-born Oser, a World War II veteran who needs a walker to get around his Century Village retirement complex, is now a foot soldier in an increasingly diverse army of South Florida Democrats who view Republican Gov. Rick Scott as vulnerable and believe their best hope is Crist, his predecessor.

But for Crist to win, South Florida voters need to do something they haven’t done in years: vote in bigger numbers in a governor’s race.

About a third of Florida’s 4.6 million Democrats live in the three-county metropolis of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, a sprawling breadbasket of liberalism that proved critical in both of President Barack Obama’s Florida victories.

But off-year or midterm races for governor are a different story.

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

more here

Hialeah mayor’s testimony highlights own involvement in shadow-banking schemes

@PatriciaMazzei @jayhweaver

A big-city mayor took the stand in Miami federal court last week and admitted he charged exorbitant, illegal interest rates to a Hialeah businessman — Florida law calls it “loan sharking” — which he failed to report as income on his tax returns.

But he was not the mayor on trial.

Carlos Hernandez, Hialeah’s current mayor, testified as a government witness in the tax-evasion trial of his predecessor, Julio Robaina.

On the stand, Hernandez was asked specifically if he had received as much as 36 percent interest annually on loans he made to a Hialeah jeweler later convicted as a Ponzi schemer.

“Yes, sir,” he told prosecutor Richard Gregorie. Florida law says anything over 25 percent interest is a crime.

Hernandez was also asked if he plans to amend his tax returns.

Yes, he said. Hernandez’s tax returns from that time, which have been public for years, show he did not report the income.

Why Hernandez, mayor of Miami-Dade County’s second largest city, can’t be charged with violating Florida’s loan-sharking laws is clear: The statute of limitations — one year — ran out long ago.

Why he couldn’t be charged with federal income-tax evasion is not as clear. Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

More here