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9 posts from August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014

Legislative lawyers detail role of national Democratic operatives in redistricting feud

Democratic operatives working for two national groups played a significant role in helping one set of plaintiffs in Florida's redistricting trial draw alternative maps that are now being offered as an alternative for the court to consider, according to depositions made public Wednesday in the trial.

The depositions were cited at a hearing before Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis by George Meros, a lawyer for the Florida House of Representatives. Meros worked to discredit a map presented by the the Romo plaintiffs, one of the voters groups that brought the lawsuit. The other group of plaintiffs is led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida. 

This is the second time that Democratic political operatives were found to be as interested in gerrymandering their districts as Republican operatives were accused of doing for their maps. According to records released last year, Florida Democrats plotted with congressional leaders and political consultants to redraw congressional districts to benefit their party, according to new court records that show they were just as interested in gerrymandering as Republicans.

Lewis ruled on July 10 that Republican legislative leaders allowed GOP political operatives to "infiltrate" the redistricting process and "making a mockery" of their claims of transparency. Unlike the Republicans, however, the Democrats do not control the Legislative process and there is no evidence to show that the maps drawn by their operatives were ever voted on by lawmakers. They have relied on the court as the venue for them to make their case about alternative maps. 

The plaintiffs now want Lewis to consider their map as an alternative to the one drawn by the Republican-led Legislature last week. Mero said the testimony showed that the map was drawn by Eric Hawkins, a consultant to the National Committee for an Effective Congress, a Washington-based consulting firm organization that works to elect Democrats.

Continue reading "Legislative lawyers detail role of national Democratic operatives in redistricting feud" »

Racial divisions emerge as judge decides fate of congressional redistricting plan

Terry LewisThe racial tensions that coursed for years beneath the surface in Florida’s redistricting battle came into sharp focus Wednesday as lawyers for each side blasted each other for attempting to use black voters for partisan gain.

The arguments emerged at a hearing Wednesday called by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to decide whether the Florida Legislature’s redrawn congressional map meets the constitutional standards imposed by voters in 2010.

Lewis said he will decide "as quickly as I can’’ whether to accept the new map drawn by legislators last week in a three-day special session. Legislators had until Aug. 15 to revise two congressional districts he ruled invalid – one held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and the other held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Republican.

At the center of the controversy is Congressional District 5, which has been held by Brown for 22 years since the Legislature linked together African American communities from North and Central Florida so they could elect the first black to Congress since Reconstruction.

Continue reading "Racial divisions emerge as judge decides fate of congressional redistricting plan" »

Miami-Dade commissioner in tough reelection fight gets heavyweight endorsement: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


Less than a week before Election Day, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell unveiled the endorsement of popular Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"I ask you to go out and vote for my great friend," Ros-Lehtinen says in a Spanish-language web video. "Lynda Bell has always fought for our values, creating jobs, keeping your taxes low and protecting our families."

Bell faces a serious reelection challenge from first-time candidate Daniella Levine Cava, who has been heavily supported by state and local Democrats. The race is nonpartisan, but Levine Cava is a Democrat and Bell is a Republican. So is Ros-Lehtinen, whose 27th congressional district partly overlaps with Bell's. Ros-Lehtinen drew no challengers this year and was automatically reelected.

With the video, Bell's campaign is trying to attract reliable, Cuban-American Republican voters -- many of whom may be going to the polls Tuesday for a different race, the GOP primary for Florida's 26th congressional district.

Decent turnout in that more high-profile contest could benefit Bell, since, relatively speaking, few nonpartisan voters cast ballots in primaries because there are fewer races for them to consider.

Here's the Ros-Lehtinen endorsement video:


Broward Democrats urge passage of medical pot

From the category of no surprises, last night the Broward’s Democratic Party officially voted in favor of the medical marijuana amendment on the November ballot.

The full body of the Democratic Executive Committee unanimously voted in favor of  Amendment 2, chairman Mitch Ceasar said. About 150 members were present.

The vote is symbolic, however it means that the county Democrats can now advocate for passage on palm cards they plan to distribute to about a half-million voters.

“Polling shows even Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents are overwhelming in favor this situation in florida,” Ceasar said. “Ask the typical registered Republican, they are in favor of the ‘vote yes’ [side in favor of medical pot] -- it's just power structure that’s not.”

The Florida Democratic Party passed a resolution in June in support of Amendment 2.

Statewide, polls indicate that about 70 percent of voters back the amendment -- it takes 60 percent to pass it. While support crosses party lines, it is strongest among Democrats -- lawyer John Morgan, who employs former Gov. Charlie Crist, is spearheading the effort to get the amendment to pass. Crist, who will be on the ballot the same time as the amendment, supports it while Gov. Rick Scott has said he personally opposes it.

The “Vote No” group is primarily funded by Republicans including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Earlier this month, amendment opponents gained the support of former Gov. Jeb Bush.


Yawn. RPOF files another Crist-billboard complaint




The Republican Party of Florida filed a complaint with the the Florida Elections Commission against the Charlie Crist campaign this week for allegedly failing to include the mandatory prominent disclaimers  that tell people who is paying for the ad. Yawn. Seemed like yet another petty complaint that nobody other than a couple campaign workers actually cares about.

This is the second Crist-billboard complaint RPOF has filed. The previous one was thrown out.

To us, the real scandal would be if the Charlie Crist campaign spent money to erect big billboards near his hometown where his name ID already is 99 percent. Turns out, the billboard were in-kind donations from W.S. Media Inc. of Sarasota, an outfit connected with chiropractor and longtime Crist ally Gary Kompothecras and Jay Burmer, another longtime Crist friend and political operative who works with Mr. 800-Ask-Gary.

The Crist campaign of course scoffed at the complaint and sent an image of their billboard clearly showing the disclaimer. That should put the matter to rest, except that the image released by the Crist campaign is nonsense. In reality, the billboard's disclaimer is virtually invisible. 

Does it matter? Not a bit to normal voters. It might to the Florida Elections Commission, however.

Development v. enviro conflict as port dredging damages coral reef, state says


The $205 million dredge project to deepen Port Miami has spread a blanket of silt and clay over the bay bottom that is smothering coral and damaging sea life, state environmental inspectors have found.

In a letter Monday, the state Department of Environmental Protection warned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the project, that work is violating state permits, churning up too much sediment and having a “profound effect” on the sea floor. The agency gave the Corps two weeks to respond.

“A fast response to this issue may minimize long-lasting impacts,” an inspection concluded.

The warning follows a similar complaint last month from the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper watchdog group, which threatened to sue in September unless work is cleaned up. Story here. 

Florida prison officials announce 'system-wide' reforms after gruesome deaths

Florida’s Department of Corrections, embarrassed by reports of a mentally ill inmate killed by guards — allegedly when they locked him in a brutally hot shower and left him — says it is instituting a series of system-wide reforms.

The measures will be unveiled Wednesday morning at a news conference at Everglades Correctional Institution.

“Stories report we have fallen short in specific instances with regard to facility leadership, safety, security, training and services for mentally ill inmates,” said Mike Crews, secretary of the department. “We’re fixing the problems that have been identified and as we identify new issues, we will fix those too. Our department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything less.”

Two years ago in June, 50-year-old Darren Rainey was marched into a locked, closet-like shower and left there for as long as two hours, until he collapsed and died. The shower was used on several occasions as a form of punishment for mentally ill inmates, fellow inmates have told the Herald. Story by Julie K. Brown here. 

Video: Scientists ask Rick Scott to commit to climate change action, he offers no answer


Gov. Rick Scott listened to five of Florida’s top climate scientists Tuesday as they urged him to show leadership and develop policies to offset the impact of human-induced climate change to the state. Story here. 

Rick Scott ad juggernaut goes Creole


Gov. Rick Scott started his Spanish-language media outreach earlier than ever -- especially for a Republican -- and now he's doing the same with Creole speakers.

Today, the Republican Party of Florida unveiled its first Creole radio ad that, like most of Scott's English- and Spanish-language spots is about one major thing: jobs. The ad's title: "Lap Travay," literally translated as "it works," is an echo of the Scott campaign's "it's working" motto.

"We should expect from our elected officials that if they make a promise, they keep it," a female narrator says. "In 2010, Governor Rick Scott promised to fix Florida’s economy and get the state to start creating jobs.  Today, Florida has created over 600,000 private sector jobs."

The ad then pivots to Scott's track record on tax cuts and education spending (PolitiFact check to follow).

Just how many Creole-speaking and Haitian voters will be inclined to vote for Scott is anyone's guess. But there aren't many to start with. The highest concentration of Creole speakers by Congressional district live in the Miami-based seat of U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, and most are Democrats. But some, such as former North Miami Mayor Joe Celestin are Republicans and they're working hard to keep Democrat Charlie Crist from beating Scott.

Beyond the content of the ad, the language is the message for Scott. He's leaving no stone unturned and few voters untouched. 

All told, Scott and Republicans have spent at least $22 million and Crist and Democrats have dropped about $7 million on TV ads alone. Factor in radio spots, and especially multi-lingual outreach, and Scott remains well ahead in paid media.

Crist still needs to win Tuesday's Democratic primary against former state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich, whom he's expected to easily beat.

The same can't be said of his match against Scott. Polls indicate the governor is pulling ahead, albeit by an inside-the-error-margin amount. The general election is expected to be that close (brace yourself for the possibility of a recount), and in a race like that, every vote counts all the more.

Here's the spot, followed by the translation and the original Creole text as supplied by RPOF:

English translation:

We should expect from our elected officials that if they make a promise, they keep it. In 2010, Governor Rick Scott promised to fix Florida’s economy and get the state to start creating jobs. Today, Florida has created over 600,000 private sector jobs.

By cutting taxes 40 times, Governor Scott has provided a climate for economic growth and opportunity.

On education, Governor Scott has increased funding for pre-school, lowered the cost of tuition by 15 percent for state universities and made in-state tuition available for all Florida students. Governor Scott is working to make sure that the American dream is available for every Floridian.

There is more work to be done. That's why going back is not an option, so let’s keep working together.

Paid electioneering communication paid for by Let's Get to Work 1531 Live Oak Drive Tallahassee, FL 32301.

Creole: Yon ofisyèl eli pou yo kenbe pawòl yo ak nou. Nan 2010, Gouvènè Rick Scott te pwomèt ranje ekonomi Florid la epi pou yo jwenn yo kòmanse kreye anpil djòb. Jodi a, Florid te kreye plus ke 600,000 djòb nan sektè prive.

Epi, Li te koupe taks 40 fwa, Gouvènè Scott te bay yon klima pou kwasans ekonomik ak opòtinite.

Sou edikasyon, li te vin ogmante finansman pou pwogram pre- school ak bese nan pri lajan pou peye lekòl 15% pou tout inivèsite leta pou tout etudian. Gouvènè Scott ap travay pou asire w ke rèv Ameriken an disponib pou chak Floridyen.

Gen plis travay pou fet. Tounen deye se pa yon opsyon. An nou kontinye travay ansam.

Un comunikasyon eleksyon paye pa an Nou Travay Ensam 1531 Live Oak Drive Tallahassee, FL 32301