September 03, 2014

No surprise, but Broward's low primary turnout was even lower for GOP voters

Overall turnout in Broward for the primary election was all-around lousy, but it was slightly higher among Democrats than Republicans.

Broward Supervisor of Elections summary data shows turnout was 14.4 percent for Democrats, 10.91 percent for Republicans and 3.65 percent for non-party affiliated voters. Overall turnout was 10.77 percent -- the second lowest turnout in the state and only ahead of Glades County.

It’s not a surprise that Democratic turnout would be slightly higher in the left-leaning county. Heading into the primary Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Gov. Rick Scott were assured easy victories. But Crist had a more interesting race for Broward in that he faced former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston while Scott faced a couple of unknown challengers. The Democratic primary for Attorney General also included a Broward legislator -- Perry Thurston -- who lost to George Sheldon.

One part of Crist's strategy is to drive up turnout in South Florida but that could prove a challenge in Broward where voters have turned up in low numbers in recent non-presidential years.

Other races on the Broward primary ballot including county commission, school board and judicial races failed to excite voters. During the general election, a couple of races in eastern Broward could drive up turnout in that slice of the county including the race between Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach and former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in a Palm Beach/Broward district. The county commission’s lone GOPer, Chip LaMarca, faces a rematch against Democrat Ken Keechl.


September 02, 2014

Truth-O-Meter says Crist's attack on Rick Scott and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein misleads voters

The Republican Party of Florida attacked former Gov. Charlie Crist in a TV ad alleging that he let Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein pick judicial appointments in exchange for campaign donations.

Crist’s campaign fired back with its ownad Aug. 18 that included a slew of attacks on Scott, including this one:

"Now he’s teamed up with a felon convicted of running a Ponzi scheme to smear Charlie Crist with false attacks."

The text on the screen states "Rothstein gets 50 years in $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme."

Crist’s ad shows a photo of a grinning Rothstein wearing luxury watches and attributes that to an ABC News story from June 2010 when Rothstein was convicted. The Republicans’ ad about Rothstein used the same image.

While the photo of Rothstein remains on the screen, the text of the ad says: "Scott Rothstein bought expensive things" and then the text on the screen says "FALSE ATTACKS." (The small print refers to a Sun-Sentinel article about an auction of Rothstein's possessions.)

That’s a whole lot of Rothstein mash-up going on for viewers.

For nearly five years, media reports have outlined how Rothstein donated generously to a long list of politicians including Crist. But this was the first we had heard of an allegation about Scott teaming up with Rothstein, so we decided to check it out.

In fact, there is no evidence that Scott and Rothstein have literally "teamed up" -- what Crist is referring to is the Republican Party using the Rothstein scandal to attack Crist. The evidence that Crist cited in his ad backup was simply a news report about Rothstein’s conviction.

"Ponzi schemer's words + Rick Scott's money = teaming up," Brendan Gilfillan told PolitiFact Florida in an email. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated this ad.

August 28, 2014

Rich shows her support for Crist at Broward rally

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and his Democratic primary rival former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston put on a united front at a rallies Thursday in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

To show that longtime state Democratic politicians have fully embraced Crist as their own, several took the stage to praise the former Republican governore. Among them: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant and Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar and state Sen. Chris Smith. Crist’s pick for lieutenant governor, Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade, also spoke.

Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, defeated Rich, by nearly 49 percentage points inTuesday’s primary. Now he faces a a more expensive campaign and tougher foe in Gov. Rick Scott. The Democrats held the event next at the Urban League of Broward, next to Broward’s African-American library — a nod to the importance of the black and Democratic vote in Broward.

Rich introduced Crist and praised him for calling for increased education funding and Medicaid expansion.

“Charlie Crist will need all of our support to win,” she said. “He has mine."

Crist thanked “Nan Rich for being such a class act,” even though he all but ignored her during the primary and refused to debate her. He repeated campaign promises for equal pay for women, raising minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.

He sounded like the rest of the Democrats in the room when he trashedScott and saying of Scott's side “all they care about is their fat cat buddies.”

Also in attendance were George Sheldon, who easily beat state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

Sheldon worked as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth between 1999 and 2002. He followed Butterworth to the Department of Children and Families. In 2008, Crist, who was governor at the time, named Sheldon to lead the agency.

Thurston was one of the only speakers to acknowledge the low Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s primary: only 11 percent of Broward voted, the second lowest in the state. Part of the reason for low turnout in Broward was the ballot lacked any exciting countywide races and included mostly district contests for school board and county commission.

“We didn’t show up like we should have shown up, but we have a second opportunity,” he said.

The key challenge for Crist is to boost turnout in South Florida in November. When Democrat Alex Sink lost her race against Scott in 2010, turnout in Broward was only 41 percent.

Sheldon drew big cheers when he voiced his support for medical marijuana, which is on the ballot in November. He also called for automatic restoration of the right to vote for ex-offenders.

A similar rally was held earlier on Thursday in Orlando.

About 250 Democrats showed up at the Fort Lauderdale event and waved signs representing different liberal constituencies including blacks, the LGBT community and women. A few people also waved signs for NextGen Climate, the PAC of billionaire Tom Steyer who is attacking Scott on environmental issues.

Shortly before the Democratic event started in Fort Lauderdale, Republican Party of Florida chair Leslie Dougher spoke outside the event bashing the Democrats for low turnout. She hit on familiar themes including the fact that more than 800,000 jobs were lost when Crist was governor, omitting much of the United States was in a recession.

“Florida Democrats are uniting behind Charlie Crist’s record of failure, but Floridians are going to unite against Charlie Crist on November 4th,” she said in a statement released earlier in the day.

August 26, 2014

Broward School Board member appears to survive N-word controversy


Four Broward School Board incumbents appeared likely to hold onto their seats on Tuesday – including Ann Murray, who faced questions during the campaign over her past use of a racial slur.

Seven years ago, Murray uttered the N-word while working as a supervisor in Broward’s school bus department. She was reprimanded, but the incident did not become public until several years later, and Tuesday marked Murray’s first attempt at re-election following the controversy.

Narrowly, it appeared Murray would survive a challenge from Felicia Brunson, the vice mayor of West Park. Brunson, who is black, had received the important endorsement of Broward’s teachers union.

Yet Murray prevailed. Neither candidate returned phone calls late Tuesday.

The N-word issue surfaced at times during the campaign, but voters on Tuesday repeatedly said they either didn’t know — or didn’t care — about it. Murray previously apologized for saying the word.

More here.

Poll workers had to verify voters' ID over the phone during power outage at Plantation precinct

Plantation High School, which has two voting precincts, had a power outage this morning as voters first started to trickle in to cast ballots in the governor’s race.

The EVID machines which poll workers use to swipe voters’ drivers’ licenses to verify their identities don’t have battery backups at the hundreds of precincts on election day, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The machines do have battery backups during early voting when there are about 20 sites -- so therefore less equipment is needed.

So on primary day, that meant poll workers at the high school had to call the Supervisor of Elections’ call center at Nova Southeastern University to verify voters’ identities. During the power outage, zero voters showed up at one of the high school precincts while 10 showed up to vote at the other precinct. Power was back on by about 9:45.

We're hearing very few reports about other election day problems amid light turnout. 

In response to a question about whether any Republican voters were told there were no ballots for them at the Pompano golf course, Cooney said “I fielded a call about the poll deputy saying something to a voter about this not being a primary election or Republican primary. There were two voters at that precinct early this morning who were given incorrect information but they both voted. They weren’t turned away or anything. They did explain to them that there are three ballot styles: Democrat, Republican and nonpartisan. Two voters were given incorrect information that had to be corrected.”


August 06, 2014

Alan Mendelsohn out of prison, gets medical license back

Convicted Broward fraudster Alan Mendelsohn is out of prison — and able to practice medicine again after the state returned his license last week.

Mendelsohn, a Hollywood eye doctor who raised millions for Florida politicians, served two years and six months in federal prison for his role in a highly publicized political corruption case.

He was released in July, his attorney Alvin Entin said.

Mendelsohn's medical license, which had been suspended following his conviction in 2011, was reinstated on Aug. 1, records show. The state Board of Medicine ordered three years' probation and 10 hours of ethics training.

Entin said Mendelsohn’s conviction did not involve his work in medicine.

"By all indications, at the time of the sentencing, he was a very well respected, very competent, very talented doctor," Entin said. "People get messed up in politics all of the time."

Read more here.

August 05, 2014

Crist's jobs event in Ft Laud was largely a repeat of his attacks on Scott about ed cuts and Medicaid expansion

Many of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s ideas unveiled today in his “Fair Shot Florida” plan to grow middle class jobs were familiar campaign talking points.

“Today I’m here to talk about the first part of my plan to expand Florida’s middle class, help small businesses grow and create jobs and build an economy that works for everyone not only those at the top: it’s called Fair Shot Florida. I call it that because too many families in Florida today -- small businesses as well -- are not getting a fair share under Rick Scott.”

 Crist criticized Gov. Rick Scott for rejecting billions of federal dollars for high-speed rail expansion and for the state’s failure to expand Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid “will create as many as 120,000 new high quality jobs,” Crist said at his policy announcement in Fort Lauderdale this afternoon.

PolitiFact previously fact-checked Crist when he said "Expanding Medicaid would create 63k jobs.” PolitiFact rated that claim Half True.  The 63,000 figure comes from a White House study chastising states such as Florida for failing to expand Medicaid. The Florida Hospital Association’s most recent analysis in 2013 predicts 120,000 jobs over about a decade -- the association supports expansion. Meanwhile, Moody’s predicted between 10,000 and 30,000 jobs. Most of the health care experts we interviewed agreed that injecting billions of federal dollars into Florida for Medicaid would spark some job growth, but it’s difficult to pinpoint a number, particularly as there are other changes in the healthcare landscape.

PolitiFact Florida gave Scott a Full Flop on Medicaid expansion. Scott initially opposed Medicaid expansion but later said he supported but didn’t advocate for it and the Legislature rejected it.

Much of Crist’s plan focused on his promises to restore education cuts under Scott. Crist promised if elected he would return per pupil K-12 funding to $7,126 -- the amount in 2007-08 when Crist was governor.

Crist also promised to reverse Scott’s cuts to Bright Futures.

But both Crist and Scott oversaw changes to Bright Futures that laid the groundwork for fewer students to get the college scholarships. The reason that the Legislature under both governors tightened SAT requirements, leading to fewer scholarships, was to reduce the exponential cost of the program.

Crist promised to expand eligibility so that 180,000 students will get the scholarships -- 50,000 more than predicted for this year.

“It will cost at least $190 million, but Charlie believes it’s an essential part of undoing Rick Scott’s cuts to education,” his written plan stated.

When asked by a reporter how he would pay for that Crist wasn’t specific but pointed to the state’s almost $3 billion surplus.

Crist was asked by a reporter to respond to a comment by Scott campaign chairman Sen. John Thrasher that the state lost 832,000 jobs during Crist’s tenure and unemployment tripled.

Crist said that was “trash talk” by his opponent and that he didn’t cause for the global economic meltdown.

PolitiFact Florida previously rated a similar statement by Scott about job losses and unemployment under Crist as Half True. While Scott has correctly cited the numbers economists have repeatedly said that Crist didn’t cause the recession which was largely as a result of the housing market crisis.

Some of Crist’s policy ideas lacked specifics including dollar figures; for example he called for expanding career and technical education programs at community colleges. He also called for loan forgiveness for students in high-demand fields and a student loan finance authority to help students refinance their debt. Crist also said he would provide free tuition for teachers who get master’s degrees in STEM subjects.

Crist’s press event coincided with Scott’s tour this week about the environment. Crist briefly touched on the environment saying that Florida should take steps to grow businesses including “investing in high-tech industry like renewable energy and our space program.”

When a tracker tried to ask a question about Crist's residency in St. Petersburg, Crist campaign staffers shut down the question and answer session and said it was only for credentialed media. 

Crist held the event at Axis Space Coworking in Fort Lauderdale, a business that provides shared office space to small businesses. Crist has several appearances in Broward this week: he met with the Sun-Sentinel editorial board earlier today, opens a Coral Springs campaign office tonight and opens a campaign office on Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale tomorro 


July 28, 2014

Tonight's Broward GOP speaker famous for mosque fight

Call it the summer of speakers from the fringe for the Broward Republican Executive Committee.

In June, BREC -- the main county GOP group -- invited conspiracy theorist Trevor Loudon of New Zealand to speak while tonight the guest speaker is Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who was parodied on The Daily Show in 2010 for her opposition to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The mosque had been around for decades and wanted to construct a larger building.

After Cardoza-Moore made broad generalizations about Muslims, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi asked her:

“You do know I’m Muslim right?”

“Nobody is perfect,” she replied.

Cardoza-Moore noted that the mosque had already been around for 20-something years, prompting Mandvi to ask “20 years -- it’s been 20 years of nonviolence?”

Cardoza-Moore replied “None yet.”

When a spokeswoman for the mosque said that they had been there for 30 years, Mandvi quipped that it wasn’t a sleeper cell but a “comatose cell.”

Broward GOP chairman Tom Truex said in an interview that Cardoza-Moore was recommended as a speaker by the county’s Jewish Republican Club.

“She has a point of view that some of our membership was interested in,” he said.

Truex argues that it’s just the media griping about the speakers. Truex said the bulk of the meeting is about other business including listening to judicial candidates and a representative from Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. He also says he has opened the floor to a variety of speakers.

“We’ve had libertarians, speakers from a variety of perspectives.”

We asked for an example of a speaker who had a moderate perspective and Truex said a few months ago he had the president of the Log Cabin group -- a gay Republican group -- do the invocation at the beginning of the meeting though he said he got complaints for that.

BREC has drawn attention for an internal fight about gay marriage with some activists criticizing two elected officials who are Republicans -- County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and school board member Heather Brinkworth -- for participating in the gay pride parade in Wilton Manors. Both LaMarca and Brinkworth defended their decision to reach out to the gay community which is part of their constituency.

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is seen as more friendly to liberals so the fact that a speaker was parodied on the show isn’t an automatic turnoff for Republicans, but it raises questions about the party’s focus in a critical election year. As leader of the Broward GOP, Truex has the difficult task of trying to unite various factions ranging from tea party activists to more moderate business-type Republicans. The question is if such speakers will turn off some Republicans from the group’s main task: helping elect Republicans to local, state and federal office.

With more than 230,000 Republican voters in the county -- one of the largest contingents in the state -- the Broward GOP could play a key role in helping turn out the vote for Gov. Rick Scott or trying to win back a state Senate seat for Ellyn Bogdanoff and hang on to other local seats.

Internal party warfare is common among political clubs -- the Broward Democrats brawl over whether to re-elect chairman Mitch Ceasar every four years while Herald political reporter Marc Caputo details Miami-Dade Democratic dysfunction related to the governor’s race.


July 21, 2014

Scott makes new jobs promises at campaign event

Another week, another policy tour for Gov. Rick Scott with a focus on ... you guessed it ... jobs.

Scott’s campaign brought his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour to Pompano Beach this morning at Hoerbiger Corp., which manufactures parts for compressors. The company is headquartered in Switzerland and employs about 350 people at the Pompano Beach site. 

Scott chatted up workers as he toured the facility (without the safety goggles that reporters and other visitors had to wear) and then gave a short speech in which he talked up the growth in manufacturing jobs.

Scott also used the event to bash his expected opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, for jobs lost during his tenure. Scott didn’t name Crist, but said that FLorida “lost 832,000 jobs in four years” before he became governor while under his watch the state has added “over 620,000 jobs.”

Both statements ignore this context: Crist governed during a national recession while Scott led during a national recovery. Unemployment rose under Crist and fell under Scott though economists warn against any simple claims about credit or blame.

This particular jobs plan focused on manufacturing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs and included the following promises should he win a second four-year term:

* Permanently eliminate the manufacturing sales tax -- under Scott the Legislature eliminated it through 2017.

* Create a program to give STEM teachers summer jobs in the private sector and pay them with $10,000 in state money

* Secure $10 million to create $10,000 STEM degree programs. (In 2012, Scott urged all four-year colleges to offer $10,000 degrees.)

* Pursue $30 million for workforce training focused on STEM and other high-skilled, high-wage jobs

* Expand the number of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the state from one to three

* Achieve it's first Top 10 and second Top-25 public research institution

The first day of Scott's tour coincided with the campaign announcing an endorsement by the Manufacturers Association of Florida. Scott took his tour to Boca Raton in the afternoon and plans to continue the tour in Orlando tomorrow. 

Kevin Cate, a spokesman for the Crist campaign, said that Crist will soon release his own policy proposal about jobs. 


July 09, 2014

Broward absentee ballot requests are up compared to '10

Absentee ballot requests for the primary in Broward County have already surpassed the number during the 2010 primary.

As of early July, Broward received 110,505 absentee ballot requests for the primary election. In 2010, the county mailed 86,465 absentee ballots for the primary, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. (Not everyone who requests an absentee ballot ultimately uses that ballot to vote so it isn’t a concrete prediction of turnout.)

Democrats hoping to oust Republican Gov. Rick Scott this year will focus considerable effort on Broward County because it has the second biggest contingent of Democratic voters behind Miami-Dade. Broward’s 41 percent turnout in the 2010 general election was one of the factors in Democrat Alex Sink’s loss to Scott. This year, former state legislator Nan Rich of Weston faces former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary and there are also some primaries in local races.

Crist has held several fundraisers here and has one tonight at YOLO, a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. On Tuesday night he house hopped for fundraisers at the homes of three Democratic mayors: Joy Cooper in Hallandale Beach, Peter Bober in Hollywood and Frank Ortis in Pembroke Pines.  

Scott has also held several public events in Broward in recent months including at a Cuban restaurant in Oakland Park which he used as a backdrop for this Spanish-language ad.

Broward plans to start sending domestic absentee ballots to voters July 22.