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11 posts from August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

Redistricting session ends but challenges to map likely to continue

RedistrictOldNew@MaryEllenKlas and @MikeVanSickler

Florida legislators completed their hasty fix of a congressional redistricting map Monday, sending the plan on to Gov. Rick Scott for approval as they scramble to meet Friday’s deadline set by a state court.

In an attempt to address the concerns by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis - who said the map violated a constitutional ban on partisan gerrymandering - the legislature moved 368,000 voters in North and Central Florida into new districts as it changed the boundaries of seven congressional seats.

The House and Senate voted for the map along party lines, as a handful of Jacksonville Democrats voted with Republicans in solidarity with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat whose winding district was invalidated because it packed Democrats voters into the district so that Republicans in surrounding districts would face less competition.

The new map makes the biggest changes to the districts now held by Brown, John Mica, R-Orlando, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. Lewis ordered the Legislature to fix Districts 5 and 10, held by Brown and Webster, by Friday, saying they were in violation of the state’s Fair Districts rules.

No South Florida districts were modified. Story here.


Continue reading "Redistricting session ends but challenges to map likely to continue" »

Who is that voice on that anti-Crist robo call? Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist, TBT@AdamSmithTimes

Democrats across Florida heard a mysterious recorded call over the weekend that seemed aimed at attacking likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

The voice in the recording? Charlie Crist.

"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm pro-life. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. It's sad that in his fourth try for governor my opponent has resorted to distortions and untruths. … Floridians need a consistent, conservative governor that they can trust. I would appreciate your vote on Election Day."

Not exactly your standard Democratic primary platform.

But the voice in the robocall really is Crist's and so were the positions he stressed. But it was Crist circa 2006 — not 2014. Story here.

Continue reading "Who is that voice on that anti-Crist robo call? Charlie Crist" »

At Recall Gimenez debut, a casual air and a message from the sky


Hours after the Recall Gimenez group hosted their first press event, a close ally to the mayor said privately: "The plane was a nice touch."

That would be the airplane organizers hired to tow a RECALLGIMENEZ.COM banner around County Hall 10 times during the Monday event. It was advertised as a press conference, but amounted to a series of interviews by recall leader Jack Garcia, a retired firefighter, and his young political operative, Tony Diaz.

You can read the full report by clicking here

Elections complaint filed against Charlie Crist for ad shot in public school


Charlie Crist is now facing an elections complaint over an ill-advised campaign ad filmed at the public high school that is his alma mater.

First came the revelation that the ad shot at St. Petersburg High violated Pinellas school district rules prohibiting the use of their property for political purposes. The school's administrators had given Crist permission to shoot the ad, but they shouldn't have. Soon after, the school system's lawyer asked Crist to stop running the ad. 

Today, the Republican Party of Florida announced it has filed an official complaint about Crist's ad to the Florida Elections Commission. The crux of the argument, according to GOP spokeswoman Susan Hepworth, is that "Crist improperly used school staff and administration resources to produce the ad, and the ad creates the impression that the school endorsed Crist."

Crist's campaign accused the GOP of playing politics while ignoring that Gov. Rick Scott also stands accused of misusing public resources -- the powerful optics of campaigning with uniformed officers in his case -- for partisan reasons. A police union official filed an elections complaint against Scott about that Tampa event.

"Unlike Rick Scott, who misled police officers to get them to participate in a campaign event, we requested and received permission from the school to shoot the ad," Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said via email. "... The real reason the Scott campaign doesn't want folks seeing this ad is because the truth hurts and they don't want Floridians to know that Rick Scott cut education by $1.3 billion and slashed Bright Futures scholarships in half."

RPOF: NextGen Climate Action "falsely" attacked Scott

Days after billionaire climate-change supporter Tom Steyer blasted Gov. Rick Scott in two ads, the Republican Party of Florida is hitting back.

On Monday, the party released an ad denying claims that Scott had accepted campaign contributions from the Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas oil company accused of conducting unauthorized drilling activities at its Collier County site.

What's more, the ad said Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist had "failed to keep his commitments" to the Everglades and travelled to campaign events on private jets owned by polluters. (Last month, Crist flew to an environmental press conference on a jet belonging to developer James Finch, whose company was twice fined for pollution.)

In a statement, RPOF Chairman Leslie Dougher linked Steyer to President Obama, saying the two had met right after Steyer announced plans to spend millions to elect Democrats.

"Obama badly wants to save Crist, one of the only politicians in America who has fully endorsed Obamacare and says it's 'great,'" Dougher said. 

But Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said Crist's record on the Everglades and the environment "speaks for itself."

"Rick Scott was a fake environmentalist for three days last week but Floridians will judge him based on three years of gutting environmental enforcement, halting work on key Everglades restoration projects, trying to sell environmentally sensitive state lands, and proposing oil drilling in the Everglades -- all to help his big donors make more money," Gilfillan said.

The RPOF ad will run in Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, where Steyer's ads are running.


Mystery group has anti-Crist robo call


Voters across Florida heard a mysterious robo call over the weekend that seemed to aimed at attacking likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

"It had someone who sounded like Charlie Crist, saying ...'I stand for traditional marriage, I'm pro-life, I'm against amnesty for illegal immigrants," said one caller on our voice mail. "That seemed clearly like fraud."

On a website tracking unwanted callers, "gd" wrote: "just received a call with edited snippets of Charlie Crist or some voice imitater designed to make him appear conservative. Despicable conservative GOP tricks; would not expect any better from Gov Scott the Medicare rippoff felon."

Despicable? Actually, the only thing nefarious about the call is its source, which is kept from anyone receiving the call. A woman at the end of the recording saying it was paid for by "the conservative" and includes a phone number - 727-350-9348 - that when reached gives calls the option of being removed from a call list. This appears to the connected to a political committee run by Stafford Jones, a Republican operative and Alachua party chairman, who enjoys making mischief in Democratic primaries.

The recording itself is indeed Charlie Crist - circa 2006, when he campaigning against fellow Republican Tom Gallagher for the gubernatorial nomination.

The full message:

"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm pro-life. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. It's sad that in his fourth try for governor my opponent has resorted to distortions and untruths… Floridians need a consistent, conservative governor that they can trust. I would appreciate your vote on election day. Thank you so much and God bless you, and God bless Florida."

That recording has been kicking around for years. The Marco Rubio campaign talked about using the recording in late 2010 after Crist left the Republican party and ran for senate as an independent eager to peel Democratic votes away from Kendrick Meek.

A spokesman for the Crist campaign called it a "shady voter suppression tactic."

"Republicans are so desperate they're not even bothering to cover their tracks: they’re targeting Democratic primary voters with a robocall that’s nearly a decade old, hoping to fool them into thinking it’s new," said spokesman Brendan Gilfillan. "Republicans are running scared – so they're trying to suppress the vote. But it won’t work."

Florida Sen. Nelson to travel to Ukraine, now battling pro-Russian insurgents (updated)


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat, is scheduled to travel to Ukraine, the war-torn nation battling pro-Russian supporters inside its borders and fearing masses of Russian troops outside.

Nelson will leave for the region later this week, though specific times haven’t been released.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a press release Monday, his office said he’ll have a series of meetings on defense planning and other issues.

The former Soviet republic but now-independent nation has been roiled by protests and fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Kiev government. The U.S. and NATO have supplied non-lethal equipment to Ukrainian forces, and the Obama administration could send weapons to Ukraine if Russia were to invade, Nelson’s office said.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed to be able to bring aid to the area.

Nelson, in a statement, said, “I believe Putin's offer of humanitarian aid is a guise to invade."

In a mid-afternoon conference all with reporters, Nelson gave more details on his trip:

Nelson will fly commercial to the region, and will be in the capital of Kiev in the Ukraine. His exact schedule is being held quiet for safety reasons. While in the Ukraine and nearby nations, he will meet with diplomats and U.S. and NATO military officials. He will also visit with the Ukrainian government to show them the support of the Armed Services Committee, as well as to gather information to share with his committee colleagues. It’s his first trip to the country.

“We have a situation that changes by the hour,” Nelson said in the conference call. While Ukrainian forces have surrounded rebels, suggesting the situation could ease, it’s impossible to know what will happen.

“By the time I get there, who knows what will have happened,” he said.

While the Obama administration has resisted sending military equipment, Nelson said he supports doing so. “I support giving arms to the government to help them protect themselves from the big Russian bear,” he said.

As early voting gets underway, Nan Rich debuts new mailer


With early voting already underway in several counties, Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich has a new mailer out.

One side includes an endorsement from former Democratic Gov. Buddy MacKay.

The other highlights Rich's experience in the Florida Senate, where she served for eight years, and stresses her progressive credentials.

"Nan has always been a leading progressive advocate for children, women, seniors and social justice issues," the mailer reads. "Her successful efforts to expand support for home and community-based care programs for seniors has allowed thousands of Florida’s frail elderly to remain in their own homes instead of moving into nursing homes."

Rich is the underdog in the Aug. 26 primary. Her opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, is better known and better financed.

Rich's latest mailer went out to Democratic primary voters across the state last week, campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford said.

The ad was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party. But it was neither an endorsement nor a gift, FDP spokesman Max Steele said.

Steele said the party often helps candidates get lower rates on mailers and TV ads. 

"It's something we offer to both candidates," he said.

To get the lower rates, the ad must be endorsed by three elected officials. In this case, the elected officials were: state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando; and state Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey.

Who is Charlie Crist? The politician who is what you want him to be

In an extended profile on Charlie Crist, the Tampa Bay Times asks the question: "Who is Charlie Crist." The answer is complicated. Find it here. 

Some excerpts:

Continue reading "Who is Charlie Crist? The politician who is what you want him to be" »

Campaign cash flows in legislative races with primary contests

For a handful of candidates eying the state House and Senate, it’s August 26 — not November 4 — that matters most.

The August primary will determine the outcome of two South Florida races: House District 94 in central Broward County and House District 107 in northern Miami-Dade County. Because no other candidates are running in November, the winner of the Democratic primary in each race will win the seat.

In the Senate, the District 36 primary winner is all but certain to join elected colleagues in Tallahassee because only a long-shot write-in candidate is on the ballot in November.

We offer a snapshot of key primary races in South Florida here.