March 09, 2017

Tampa's Buckhorn won't run for Florida governor in 2018

via @Danielson_Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has decided not to run for governor next year, opting instead to finish his second and last term at City Hall in 2019.

Buckhorn, 58, is giving two reasons for his decision. First, he doesn’t want to miss important family moments with his daughters Grace, 15, and Colleen, 11, to pursue an “all-consuming” 18-month campaign.

“The state of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction,” he said in a statement emailed to supporters and posted on social media at 5 a.m. Thursday. But “the timing for me and my family would be a challenge.”

Also, he said he loves the job he has, and has work to complete in the 24 months that remain before he is term-limited out of the mayor’s office.

“Finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine,” he said. “Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur.”

Even with Buckhorn out of the race, the Democratic primary is drawing a crowd: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who announced last week, plus expected or potential candidacies of former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Orlando area personal injury lawyer John Morgan, Winter Park businessman Chris King and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene.

See full story here.

Buckhorn's statement:

Continue reading "Tampa's Buckhorn won't run for Florida governor in 2018" »

March 08, 2017

Mason-Dixon poll: Nelson leads Scott in potential 2018 Florida Senate race


Sen. Bill Nelson leads Gov. Rick Scott in a potential 2018 U.S. Senate match-up, according to a new public-opinion poll that suggests next year's election will be defined by the presidency of Donald Trump.

Nelson is ahead of Scott by 46-41 percent in the survey released Wednesday by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That 5-percentage-point lead is similar to the 6-point advantage Nelson had over Scott in another poll released Monday by the University of North Florida. Scott has yet to declare his candidacy.

While favorable views of both candidates are almost identical -- 42 percent for Nelson and 41 for Scott, according to the poll -- more respondents viewed Scott unfavorably: 38 percent, compared to 25 percent for Nelson. President Trump is even more disliked: 43 percent hold a favorable opinion of him, compared to 48 percent who hold a negative one.

"This contrast in perception will be part of the dynamic of the race, as Scott stirs more passion and polarization (much like Trump), while Nelson is generally liked but perceived as a bland policy wonk," pollster Brad Coker wrote in a memo outlining the results. "The outcome of the race will likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump. The central question is how will the country feel about Trump in 2018?"

Florida appears just as divided in the poll as it did last November, when Trump won the state by about 1 percentage point. Asked about their preferred senate candidates, 47 percent said they'd back a Democrat who'd oppose Trump's agenda -- and 45 percent said they'd back a Republican who supports it. 

Historically in Florida, Republicans do better at getting their voters to the polls in midterm elections.

The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted by phone from Feb. 24-28. It has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

March 07, 2017

Rep. David Richardson drops out of race for 2018 House Democratic leader

David Richardson at GadsdenRep. David Richardson of Miami Beach notified members of the House Democratic Caucus late Tuesday that he was no longer running to be their designated leader in 2018-2020, saying instead he prefers the caucus to choose between Reps. Kionne McGhee of Miami and Bobby DuBose, of Fort Lauderdale,

"We must learn from the lessons of years past where a divided Caucus only weakened us,'' Richardson wrote in the email. "A united Caucus strengthens our voice so we can better serve those who look to us for leadership."

He said he will instead continue to focus on his ground-breaking work on prison reform. In the last two years, Richardson, a forensic auditor, has been on a one-man crusade to urge reform in the state's prisons. He has visited dozens of prisons, most recently focusing on the state's private prisons and has forced changes at the Gadsden Correction Facility in North Florida. 

Here's Richardson's letter: 

Continue reading "Rep. David Richardson drops out of race for 2018 House Democratic leader" »

All eyes on Corcoran as Florida session begins


via @stevebousquet

LAND O'LAKES -- Richard Corcoran puffed on his cigar, picked up a shotgun and blasted a clay pigeon out of the sky, and then another.

As the orange discs broke apart, the speaker of the Florida House reached for another favorite weapon — his iPhone. In the woods of Pasco County, he spoke in hushed tones about his ongoing battle with Gov. Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida’s use of taxpayer money.

Riding a golf cart with two of his six kids on a Friday afternoon, he was helping local Republicans raise money while sharpening his aim.

Corcoran is the most unpredictable force in Florida politics in decades. He’s a fearless political marksman who uses laws, rules, tweets, videos, lawsuits and sheer nerve to lay waste to what he calls “a culture of corruption” in Tallahassee.

Senators, judges, lobbyists, college presidents, teachers and business owners are all among his targets — with none bigger than Scott.

Some can’t stand him, but they can’t ignore him. None should be surprised about his agenda.

Six years ago, Corcoran and his allies wrote it down in a plan called Blueprint Florida.

Years before Donald Trump crashed the scene with his anti-establishment rhetoric, Blueprint Florida promised to overhaul a system fixated on personal advancement.

That manifesto lives on with Corcoran, who is outraged by the system that shaped him and now wants to tear it down as he considers a populist campaign for governor.

The irony is not lost on his opponents. Ridiculed as a “career politician” by the governor of his own party, he forges ahead.

Corcoran finds his prey in his war room — the speaker’s office at the Capitol in Tallahassee. On a recent afternoon, he marked up a Senate proposal for flaws, shouting and underlining. He sipped a Diet Coke, popping an Andes mint in his mouth and tossed an F-bomb at an enemy.

“I’m the most disruptive person,” Corcoran said.

At least on this point, both his friends and enemies agree.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

As tense session opens, sage words from a Tallahassee 'has-been'

BenseAn unusually tense atmosphere hovers over Tuesday's opening of the Florida legislative session, and one former leader might be able to calm everyone down. But former House Speaker Allan Bense is home in Panama City, tending to his businesses and mostly watching from a safe distance.

Like many, he's interested in how the political dynamics will play out among Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran, who wants to dismantle a system that Bense was a big part of more than a decade ago. 

"There's clearly room for improvement in Tallahassee," Bense said. "He (Corcoran) has unveiled things that really weren't working very well ... Clearly he's aggressive, and I respect him for that." He said Corcoran is right to call for a stricter six-year revolving-door restriction before ex-lawmakers can become lobbyists.

It's hard to believe Bense was eight speakers ago (followed by Marco Rubio, Ray Sansom/Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon, Will Weatherford, Steve Crisafulli and Corcoran).

"Remember, I'm a has-been. A nobody," Bense said over coffee at a Panama City diner. "I was, at best, a C as speaker. Probably a C-minus."

On that, few would agree. Bense was viewed as evenhanded and unpretentious. With his small-town sensibility, he got along with just about everybody. He didn't use procedural tricks to run over opponents and didn't exploit a public trust to run for higher office. He was accessible to the members and to the media, and if he didn't know the answer to a question, he said so with no spin.

His advice to Scott, Corcoran and Negron is to keep the line of communication open, which at the moment is not the case.

"Communicate," Bense said. "It's like a marriage. The more you talk, the more you learn."

Bense has good reason to hope for a budget deal: He chair a five-member board that will distribute proceeds of the settlement in the BP oil spill case to eight counties in Northwest Florida. The Legislature must include that money in the next budget.

"I think it's really early in the game," Bense said of the caustic mood. "Everybody's staking out their positions. Hopefully, we'll see some kind of a great ending." 

March 06, 2017

Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott in U.S. Senate race in Florida, poll finds

via @learyreports

Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott in a hypothetical U.S. Senate matchup, a new University of North Florida poll shows.

Democratic Sen. Nelson takes 44 percent of the vote vs. Republican Gov. Scott’s 38 percent, with 12 percent undecided. Scott has not officially entered the race but has made clear he intends to.

“Even though it’s very early in the 2018 election season, Nelson’s six-point lead is meaningful,” said Michael Binder, UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory faculty director. “This race is going to get national attention and Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year.”

The poll was conducted Feb. 13-Feb 26 via phone, with 973 completed surveys. The margin of error is +/- 3.14 percentage points. It found 51 percent of voters disapprove of Trump while 44 percent approve the job he is doing.

“Trump’s soft job-approval numbers could have huge implications during the midterm races, just ask all the Democrats that lost in 2010 when Obama’s numbers were the lowest they had been to that point, and Republicans that ran in 2006, when Bush’s popularity was plummeting,” Binder said.

Keep reading here.

March 03, 2017

Governor names long list of loyalists to Constitution Revision Commission

Florida Constitution Florida MemoryRounding out his list of appointees to the powerful Constitution Revision Commission Friday, Gov. Rick Scott tapped members of his inner circle and current and former appointees.

Those who have worked for the governor who now will serve on the panel with the power to put proposals directly before voters next year include his former general counsel Tim Cerio and his political consultant and data guru Brecht Heuchan as well as the state's education commissioner Pam Stewart and Nicole Washington, the governor's former education budget head.

Scott earlier this week named businessman Carlos Beruff to chair the 37-member commission which will be dominated by Scott's 15 appointees. The body will operate much like a Legislature as it screens ideas, debates the future of Florida, and decides how to reach compromise on putting issues on the 2018 November ballot.

To that end, the governor named only two people with legislative experience -- PSC Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, a former state representative from Panama City and an early Scott supporter, and former Sarasota state Sen. Lisa Carlton - although several of his appointees have lobbying experience. He also named former state legislator John Stargel, now a circuit court judge, as an alternate. 

In addition to Stewart of Tallahassee and Washington of Miami Beach, the governor named people who have worked in education or have sat on university boards of trustees. Among them: Belinda Keiser of Keiser College, Jose "Pepe" Armas, a physician from Miami, Marva Johnson, Winter Garden businesswoman who chairs the Florida Board of Education, Darlene Jordan, head of a Palm Beach non-profit and a member of the university Board of Governors.

Senate President Joe Negron, who last week announced his appointees, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, each have nine appointments to the commission that meets every 20 years to revise the state constitution. Each of the presiding officers has said they hope to use the unique commission to revise how education works in Florida by increasing "school choice."

Negron also named two people with legislative experience: former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and former Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga has made his three appointments to the panel, and included former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. Attorney General Pam Bondi is also automatically a member of the commission. 

Although many of the governor's appointees have worked for him or were his early political supporters, once appointed they do not report to him and do not have to be confirmed by the state Senate. 

From the governor's press release:

Continue reading "Governor names long list of loyalists to Constitution Revision Commission" »

Orlando Democrat Chris King files to run for Florida governor

Orlando Democrat Chris King, CEO of a firm that creates affordable housing, filed papers Thursday with the Florida Secretary of State to run for Governor in 2018. 

From his press release:

“I believe Florida can do so many things better if we have the courage to do things differently,” King said. "We’re going to run a campaign driven by a spirit of innovation and can-do optimism. We’re going to give voice to millions of Floridians who are struggling to make it and haven’t given up the hope that we can do better.  We are going to answer the call of every Floridian who wants a governor with the strength, vision and integrity to tackle important problems and provide innovative solutions.  And we are going to invite every Floridian who wants to rise up and be part of something big, bold, and better, to join this campaign.  I look forward to an exciting kick-off in April and an inspirational campaign to reclaim Florida’s bright future."

King is the founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, which creates affordable housing in Florida and across the Southeast.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, announced earlier this week. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is term limited -- there is a long list of Democrats and Republicans considering running for the seat.

March 02, 2017

Scott calls out -- by name -- Miami-Dade Republicans who want to eliminate Enterprise Florida


Florida Gov. Rick Scott's declaration of political war came to South Florida on Thursday from inside the ballroom of a La Carreta Cuban restaurant in Hialeah.

In typical mild-mannered fashion, Scott smiled and rattled off a list of five names: José Oliva. Manny Diaz Jr. Carlos Trujillo. Jeanette Nuñez. Michael Bileca. Then, before a gaggle of TV news cameras, he listed them again.

"We have politicians in Tallahassee, some local ones," Scott said. "And they voted to reduce the funding for marketing our state and completely eliminate Enterprise Florida. That's going to eliminate somebody's job."

With the annual legislative session set to begin Tuesday, Scott has been traveling the state in full-bore campaign mode against well-liked legislators -- fellow Republicans -- who back House Speaker Richard Corcoran's bid to do away with or cripple Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the state's economic-development and tourism agencies. Thursday brought Scott to House District 110, represented by Oliva, who's been designated the next House speaker.

"It's disconcerting," Oliva told the Miami Herald. "At some point here, the governor is going to have to revisit whether what he's doing is within our principles.... I wish he would reflect a bit and think, maybe these bona fide conservatives have a point."

Scott gathered a crowd of friendly local politicians and business people, most of them Hispanic, who said they side with the governor. Among them were Felipe Valls, whose family owns the popular La Carreta and Versailles Cuban restaurant chains; Carlos Gazitúa, whose family owns the competing Sergio's Cuban restaurant chain, and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, a Republican who advocated for state film-industry subsidies.

Scott argued Visit Florida is necessary to market a state dominated by a tourism industry sensitive to blips in the economy. He also said taxpayers' money is well-spent on economic development because the state gets a return on its investment from sales taxes created by new businesses.

His detractors, however, counter that the state is hurting businesses by subsidizing their competition.

"I'm glad he's visiting Miami," Trujillo told the Herald. "I wonder how much La Carreta has received from Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida? I'm pretty sure they haven't received anything -- and they've paid taxes for 40 years."

Diaz -- whose district borders the Hialeah La Carreta -- also seemed unfazed.

"I agree with the governor 99 percent of the time," Diaz said. "In listening to small-business owners in my district, we see this a little differently. I've spoken to many people in my district, and they are OK with my stance."

"It's offensive and shameful for the Governor to come to my community and mislead the thousands of small business owners who have never received a penny of corporate welfare," Nuñez said.

Scott asked the crowd -- and the people at home -- to call their lawmakers before the next House committee takes up the issue at 3 p.m. Monday.

This post has been updated.

Son wants to follow U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan into politics


Sarasota Republican James Buchanan, the son of 5-term Congressman Vern Buchanan, is running for a seat in the Florida House, setting up what could be one of the most competitive primaries for the Florida Legislature in 2018.

James Buchanan, 35, officially filed papers with the Florida Division of Elections today to become a candidate for House District 71, which includes parts of Manatee County and Sarasota County. He is taking on a prominent Manatee County attorney with deep family roots there, Will Robinson.

Currently, that district is held by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Vern Buchanan, a longtime car dealership owner, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and represents a district that know includes most of Hillsborough County south of Brandon. Vern Buchanan was first elected to Congress in 2006.