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6 posts from June 20, 2014

June 20, 2014

Texas-talking Ted Cruz welcomed like a Miami son by Miami-Dade GOP

Ted Cruz had a Miami homecoming Friday, even though the firebrand U.S. Senator is from Texas.

The son of a Cuban exile, Cruz was welcomed as a long-lost son by the Miami-Dade Republican Party at its Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual fundraiser he helped sell out and amp up by giving a note-less conservative stem-winder that criticized President Obama for everything from domestic spying to his “feckless and naïve foreign policy.”

But it was Cruz’s Cuban roots that made him like a Miami son.

“Like many people in this room, my dad was born in Cuba, in Matanzas,” Cruz said as he opened up, drawing applause from the 500 or so attendees.

Continue reading "Texas-talking Ted Cruz welcomed like a Miami son by Miami-Dade GOP" »

Jacksonville Rep. Fullwood fails to qualify, blames clerical error


Scroll through the lists of candidates qualified to run for the Florida House and there is one anomaly: incumbent Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, remained listed as "active" and not "qualified" when the noon deadline passed.

That made him the only incumbent eligible for re-election who didn't qualify. He would have been unopposed. Now there is no one running in District 13 to represent Jacksonville's urban core.

Fullwood blamed it on a clerical error by the notary public who helped him complete his paperwork. One box wasn't properly checked off, and Fullwood didn't find out until ten minutes before qualifying ended. That wasn't enough time for him to fix it by the deadline, and the state wouldn't let the notary correct the issue either, he said.

"It was unfortunate, but mistakes happen," Fullwood told the Times/Herald.

There is a silver lining: because no one filed paperwork, the state will have to reopen qualifying for District 13. Fullwood plans to make sure his documents are complete and on time this second round.

"It'll work out," he said.

Controversial school voucher bill, Pop-Tart bill to become law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a sweeping education bill that will, among other things, expand the state school voucher program.

The expansion was not as dramatic as lawmakers had initially proposed.

Still, the proposal drew strong opposition from the Florida PTA, the statewide teachers union, the Florida Conference of the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which argued the measure would drain resources from public schools. LULAC also raised concerns that the bill would drive more immigrant children into private schools, which are not subject to state standards for teaching English as a second language.

Mindy Gould, the legislation chair for the statewide PTA, said she was disappointed by Scott's action.

"He did not care enough to listen to the concerns of hundreds of thousands of people," she said.

But Lane Wright, a spokesman for the education reform group StudentsFirst Florida, called the expansion "a great step forward for school choice in Florida."

"We think it is really important to prioritize low-income students and students who are in failing schools," Wright said.

The larger bill (SB 850) will also let the parents of special-needs children access state dollars for private-school tuition, tutoring, educational materials and various types of therapies. The legislature has set aside more than $18 million for the initiative.

The measure was a priority for the Foundation for Florida's Future, the influential think tank founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

"Every child has unique learning needs, and we should strive to customize education opportunities that meet those needs," Bush said in a statement Friday. "Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature, Florida is giving families the ability to achieve more successful outcomes for their children."

Another part of the legislation requires state colleges to create accelerated learning programs for high-school students. Independent colleges will also be able to enter into contracts with local school districts.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, said the initiative would offer students across the state "the opportunity for advancement through a collegiate high school."

SB 850 wasn't the only education bill signed into law Friday.

Scott also inked the so-called Pop-Tart bill (HB 7029), which allows children to play with simulated weapons in school without fear of being disciplined. It was nicknamed the Pop-Tart bill because a boy in Maryland had been suspended for nibbling his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.

The NRA supported the measure. But many educators said it was unnecessary.

FSU sets new presidential search timeline


The Florida State University presidential search committee, with the help of its newly hired consultant, set a timeline for evaluating candidates that could have a new leader named by the end of September.

The application deadline is Sept. 2. Sen. John Thrasher, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston and others who have already applied remain in the running, but the search firm will spend the next two months recruiting additional candidates.

The advisory committee will meet Sept. 5 to discuss all of the applicants and select finalists to bring to campus for interviews on Sept. 8 and 9. 

Some or all of those finalists will be invited back the following week to meet with various stakeholder groups -- students, faculty, staff and alumni -- Sept. 15 through 18. 

The committee will reconvene on Sept. 22 to decide which of the finalists they will recommend to the FSU Board of Trustees, which is ultimately tasked with picking the school’s next president. The state Board of Governors must also sign off on the selection.

Whether the search committee sends one name or more to the trustees will depend on the candidates, Chairman Ed Burr said.

“We are hoping to have more than one qualified candidate to recommend,” he said.

The timing of the search also may have political implications, since Thrasher, the St. Augustine Republican considered the front-runner for the FSU job, is also running for re-election.

Continue reading "FSU sets new presidential search timeline" »

Another shady Florida political candidate

From the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

How does a Nigerian-educated pharmacist raise $182,000 in the governor’s race with no name recognition, no political ties and a website that says she’s running for “new age ruler?”

She gets it from hundreds of donors who say they live in Florida but do not, from dozens of addresses that don’t show up on a map and from at least three people who appear to be dead.

The campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Yinka Adeshina is a curious one, having reportedly raised money in March, even though most Floridians have never heard of her and Gov. Rick Scott has no plans to debate her before the primary.

While $182,000 is small potatoes in a race where Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist each raised $2 million in a single month, Adeshina reported bringing in cash from people all across Florida — and she plans to ask taxpayers to give her even more.

A state law lets candidates take public financing if they raise more than $150,000 on their own, as long as the donors live in Florida. Adeshina has surpassed that threshold and filed paperwork signaling her intent to collect taxpayer money for the campaign.

More here

Greer's biographer on reaction to 'The Chairman'

Two weeks from Saturday, Florida inmate No. C07705 will leave prison a free man. He's Jim Greer, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, whose book, The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer, recently hit newsstands.

The 400-page book is Greer's account of his "rise and betrayal," from being plucked from obscurity by Charlie Crist to his party chairmanship to Crist's support of John McCain for president in 2008 to Greer's re-election to his close relationship with party operative Delmar Johnson that began Greer's downward spiral and ended with his imprisonment for grand theft.

In the midst of a heated campaign for governor, the reaction to The Chairman has been muted for obvious reasons: Neither political party has much to gain from calling attention to Greer and the sensational charges in his book. Republicans want to forget a dark chapter in the GOP's history and Democrats don't want Greer's past ties to Crist to burden the likely Democratic nominee for governor. 

"The people who read it seem to like it, and the people who haven't read it and who are promoting one particular candidate (Crist) seem to be less kind," said author Peter Golenbock. "I've offended the Republicans and the Democrats, so it's not easy to get people to jump on the bandwagon."

A book tour by Greer would be a sight, but Golenbock said that hasn't been decided.

"We haven't discussed it but I would hope so," said the author of nine New York Times best sellers, including several sports books."Basically, we're laying low until he gets out. We don't want to do anything to upset that applecart."

In the book, Greer recalls how he worked to clear the GOP field for Attorney General Bill McCollum's 2010 run for governor, long before a guy named Rick Scott emerged. Greer said Crist called the nerdy-looking McCollum "Howdy Doody" behind his back, and that Greer got a rude reaction when he told Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson not to run. "I think it's a hell of a shame," Greer recalled Bronson telling him.

Not until page 365 of the 400-page book does Scott's name appear.

Golenbock, a St. Petersburg resident, said he and Greer began work on the book two days after Greer was sentenced and their collaboration ended just before Greer went off to the Gulf Forestry Camp in Wewahitchka last year (Greer is now at a Bridges of America halfway house in Orlando and the Department of Corrections web site has posted an updated mug shot of him, looking a lot thinner).

Sizing up the reaction to the book, Golenbock said: "The people who read it seem to like it, and the people who haven't read it and who are promoting one particular candidate (Crist) seem to be less kind ... I've offended the Republicans and the Democrats so it's not easy to get people to jump on the bandwagon."

"There's a terrible wrong that's been done," Golenbock said of Greer. "The whole thing just got out of hand."