October 21, 2010

GOP issues landslide alert: We're beating Dems in early vote

Florida Democrats had been proudly touting the fact that they were doing better in absentee voting requests then they had in 2006, but the Republican Party of Florida has its own stats that could spell doom for every Democrat on a statewide ballot this year.

RPOF says that, for the first time ever, they've won the first two days of early voting. And compared to 2008 (the year of Obama, when Dems outperformed Reps), Republicans are doing far better in absentee voting requests and returns. If true and the trend continues, Democrats have a dim future. Maybe governor candidate Alex Sink could squeak by Republican Rick Scott, in large part because she'd not running as a Democrat and she's at times running away from President Obama. But the numbers suggest the Obama millstone will weigh her down as the red wave swamps Florida.

From RPOF:

Requested absentee ballots: Republicans lead by 228,930 – a 13.21% lead over Democrats. In 2008, Republicans had an 8.89% lead by Election Day. Then, President Obama only won by 2.8 percentage points after a massive ad blitz.

Voted absentee ballots: Republicans lead by 112,534 absentee votes – a 21.88% lead. In 2008, Republicans had a 10.8% lead on Election Day.

Early Voted: Republicans lead by 15,281 votes – a 11.32% lead (Monday and Tuesday). In 2008, Republicans were losing by 73,384 votes at this point in 2008. By Election Day, Republicans had lost the Early Vote by 23.97%.

"We don’t expect to win early voting, but any lead at all is shocking at this point and a testament to the incredible enthusiasm amongst Republicans," RPOF spokesman Dan Conston said.


October 14, 2010

Atwater ad ties Ausley to Pelosi

Jeff Atwater is out with a new TV commercial hitting CFO opponent Loranne Ausley. The ad tries to link Ausley with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and says Ausley is a "Tallahassee politician who wants total control of our money. Tough stuff from a campaign that has so far been pretty above board. The ad fails to mention, however, that Atwater's Senate pushed through (in a lean budget year) $2.2 billion in taxes and fees in 2009. Check out the ad (uploaded by the Ausley camp) below the jump.

October 12, 2010

Ausley TV spot hits on mess in Tallahassee

Here's CFO candidate Loranne Ausley's TV ad, heavy on the message of cleaning up the "pay to pay" culture in Tallahassee:

Jeff Atwater campaign spokesman Brian Hughes noted that his guy just pulled down five newspaper endorsements: "In the meantime, Ausley continues her campaign from the gutter. Ausley's commercial uses mops to claim that she'll clean things up. Well, it looks like Ausley needs those mops to clean up the trash and mud she's been slinging for months while hiding her liberal, tax-and-spend record."

October 08, 2010

Ausley urges Atwater to accept last-minute debate

CFO candidate Loranne Ausley today urged her opponent Jeff Atwater to accept a last-ditch debate -- on Oct. 28 in Miami for Univision. The Spanish-language station, which is sponsoring a debate today in the governor's race, has said that is the only date left that it can sponsor a debate.

"So I'm calling on Jeff Atwater to stop hiding, stop ignoring the issue of our state and his record, and have a debate," Ausley said. "No more excuses, no more stalling."

Earlier, a Florida Press Association/Leadership Florida debate for Cabinet races fell through after Atwater and AG candidate Pam Bondi didn't accept. Atwater's folks say they are considering the 28th: “We’re hoping to make it work,” said Atwater spokesman Brian Hughes. “But as you can expect, with 25 days left to go in a campaign, we can’t be everywhere all the time.” (Hughes points out they accepted the 21st, while Ausley's camp says it preferred both the 14th and 28th but would have taken the 21st if it were the only option.)

October 06, 2010

October 01, 2010

RPOF hits Ausley on property tax votes

The Republican Party of Florida is out with another installment of its "Costly Ausley" website, this time hitting CFO candidate Loranne Ausley for her votes against Republican plans in 2007 and 2008 to provide property tax relief.

The legislation allowed homeowners to take their "Save Our Homes" property tax savings with them when they moved to a new house. (You know, back when home values were spiking and people were getting higher property tax bills instead of lower ones.) A second bill to cap property tax rates passed the House but died in the Senate.

"Even in the toughest of economic times, costly Loranne Ausley refuses to give Floridians tax relief," RPOF Executive Director Ronnie Whitaker said in a statement. "With 11.7% unemployment, Floridians simply can't afford Ausley's tax-and-spend policies in the CFO's office." (We should note that the votes didn't occur exactly in the toughest of economic times...)

Here's the response from Ausley's press guy Kevin Cate: “Jeff Atwater has once again retreated to the comfort of the disgraced Republican Party of Florida. Floridians deserve a CFO who will speak up and hold politicians like Jeff Atwater accountable, not hide behind political parties and hoard money. This is a JV political hit job by a JV, and soon to be out-of-work politician.”

September 29, 2010

Atwater: Ausley has a free lunch problem

Only a day after Loranne Ausley called for the Legislature to follow the law and audit lobbyist expendiature reports, Jeff Atwater's campaign is hitting Ausley for a bill she sponsored that they say would undermine the lobbyist gift ban. The bill in question would have allowed lobbyists to pay for up to $19 in meals for a lawmaker at a meeting where governmental issues or items in the public were being discussed.

“That reform (requiring the lobbyist audits) included a very matter-of-fact gift ban,” said Atwater spokesman Brian Hughes. “Just a few years after that, she sponsored this legislation which undermined the gift ban. That’s hypocrisy.”

Ausley spokesman Kevin Cate e-mailed over a response that did not address her bill: “It’s nice to welcome Jeff Atwater to the campaign, if only to defend his refusal to follow the law and audit lobbyists. Now if only he had a platform, or a defense of his $2 billion in tax hikes, or his votes for the $48 million Taj Mahal, or the $110 million private prison to nowhere, or his RPOF AmEx card. I’m sure this will all be explained in detail at the debate that he refuses to have with the real fiscal watchdog in the campaign, Loranne Ausley. ”

September 27, 2010

Ausley: Follow the law and audit lobbyist reports

CFO candidate Loranne Ausley is once again hitting opponent Jeff Atwater for decisions by the Legislature on his watch. This time, it's the Legislature's failure to audit annual lobbyist disclosure reports -- as required by law. Passed in 2005 (and supported by both Ausley and Atwater), the law requires lobbyists to say how much they are getting paid, and by whom. The law also requires audits, but as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune noted, none have been performed.

“There is absolutely no excuse for not following the law,” Ausley said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in this building influencing legislators and legislation in Tallahassee, and Floridians have a right to know the whole story.”

Senate staffers have said there aren't enough Florida auditing firms without ties to lobbyists and that the audits could cost between $750,000 and $1 million. Atwater campaign spokesman Brian Hughes noted that lawmakers submitted a request for proposals calling for 10 auditing firms to compete for the job -- one firm replied.

Hughes also hit on the cost in a statement: "Where does Ausley want money for this new bureaucracy to come from? Is she ready to cut $1 million from our schools or services for our most vulnerable kids or seniors?"

September 23, 2010

Ausley wants Atwater to look into DLP issue

Democratic CFO candidate Loranne Ausley called on her Republican opponent, state Senate President Jeff Atwater, to investigate the connection between Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla and a disgruntled contractor with the Department of Corrections.

Standing outside Diaz de la Portilla's office minutes before a torrential downpour in Miami Thursday, Ausley also called on Atwater to produce any records of any meetings he or his staffers may have had with representatives of the Miami Beach-based Orion Medical Enterprises, a kidney dialysis company.

"The most important and critical challenge facing this office and the entire state of Florida is putting an end to the pay-to-play culture of corruption that is crippling our state and our economy," Ausley said, citing the Diaz de la Portilla letter as "what looks to me like a classic example of pay-to-play politics."

Last week, Atwater's spokesman said he could not find any records of the company meeting with anyone on the Senate president's office, and added that Atwater did not know about Diaz de la Portilla's letter on behalf of the company to DOC. Diaz de la Portilla sent the letter a week after his brother Miguel received a $15,000 campaign contribution from the contractor.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla and the company have denied any link between the campaign cash and the letter.

Jeff Atwater's 'Budd' still drawing $150k Senate salary

Outgoing Senate President Jeff Atwater is running almost full time for Chief Financial Officer, has cleaned out his office in Tallahassee and appears to have turned the reins of the Upper Chamber over to his successor, Mike Haridopolos, who has hired a few Senate staffers and fired many more.

Except for one: Budd Kneip, Atwater's longtime friend and Senate chief of staff who is continuing to draw his $150,000 annual salary at a rate of about $12,500 a month. That's more than Gov. Charlie Crist ($130,273) earns.

But there's another chief of staff doing all the staff chiefing these days: Steve MacNamara, hired by Haridopolos to be his right-hand administrator and part-time chief legal counsel for $175,008, or about $14,500 monthly.

So is Kneip working?

"Sen. Atwater has a district office and I was informed Mr. Kneip is working out of it," said Senate spokesman David Bishop.

We checked the district office in West Palm Beach and were told Kneip wasn't working out of there, but was "in the district." But then, when we noted this to Bishop, he clarified that Kneip was in the district office in the state Capitol. When we checked (c. 4 p.m.), Kneip wasn't there. Two aides were and insisted Kneip had been there earlier.

Bishop noted the Senate has saved a bottom line dollar figure of about $657,000 (including benefits) due to recent resignations and terminations.

The latest: Marta Hardy, a longtime health appropriations staffer who earned $109,356 and is one of the only Hispanic women in the Senate's upper management. Here's the tally from last week. Meantime, numerous staffers are preparing to get fired or are looking for work elsewhere because they feel they'll be in the unemployment line. Not Kneip. Assuming Atwater continues to cruise in his race, Kneip's a likely pick to be the top administrator for the CFO, where he stands a good chance of being paid more than his boss again.