September 22, 2010

Cabinet debates at UF canceled

The upcoming debates for the three Cabinet positions have been canceled, according to Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings. He said the campaigns of Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater never confirmed their participation in the debate. “There’s not much of a debate without either of those two,” Ridings said.

Atwater's press guy Brian Hughes e-mailed this: "The schedule in these final weeks of the campaign is packed with candidate forums, grassroots organizing, and travel around the state. There are countless requests of Jeff's time and we simply can't be everywhere all the time." Bondi had a similar statement.

Scheduled for Oct. 5 at the Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida, the other four Cabinet candidates had said they would debate, including Dan Gelber, Loranne Ausley and both Agriculture Commission candidates, Adam Putnam and Scott Maddox.

Ridings said his group, along with Leadership Florida, declined to just produce the Ag Commission debate because of logistics. The two groups are still on to produce debates for the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race at Nova Southeastern University.

September 16, 2010

Florida GOP hits Ausley on tax votes

RPOF is out with another update to its "Costly Ausley" website, hitting Loranne Ausley for six votes against three bills to reduce the so-called intangible personal property tax. The last bill finally eliminating the tax was approved in 2006. It cost $130 million in the first year and $160 million the next year.

"With a long record of raising taxes, increasing the size of government, and stifling Florida's economy, there is much more to reveal about Loranne Ausley," RPOF Executive Director Ronnie Whitaker. "Today is just the latest disturbing example of Ausley's job-killing tax hikes for Floridians to know about." (Of course, the vote was against cutting the tax, so "tax hike" isn't exactly correct -- she voted for keeping the tax rate the same.)

Ausley spokesman Kevin Cate sent out a pre-rebuttal to the attack: Senate President Jeff Atwater has raised more than $2 billion dollars in taxes and fees and accepted nearly $10 billion dollars in stimulus funding, but he seems to have amnesia about his own record. Atwater is hiding behind the disgraced Republican Party of Florida, whose own financial oversight was so poor that it has led to arrests, indictments and now potential law suits, to try and attack Loranne Ausley.

September 09, 2010

Sink creates a no-limit political committee

Asked earlier this month about establishing a political committee to raise unfettered contributions, Alex Sink said this: "If my campaign decides to set up a 527, then the contributions will be fully transparent."

But her answer on Sept. 2 was less than transparent. State records show two days earlier, on Aug. 31, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate signed a form to solicit contributions and manage a 527 called Hold Them Accountable, Inc.

The committee was established two weeks earlier by the Sink campaign's lawyer, Ron Meyer, and lists a longtime Sink family friend, Liana Fox, as the chairperson. It received one contribution -- a $500 check -- from the campaign finance chairman, Richard Swann, an Orlando lawyer.

Asked about the misleading statement, Sink spokeswoman Kyra Jennings would only say "the campaign has followed the rules."

September 07, 2010

RPOF attacks Ausley for opposing TABOR-like bill

The attacks are stepping up in the CFO's race. The Republican Party has just set up a new website to attack Loranne Ausley for her record in the Legislature. First up is an attack on her 2004 vote against a TABOR-like measure or "smart cap" that would restrict state spending to the previous year's budget plus inflation. The party says that makes her "Costly Ausley." (An eagle-eyed reader notes that the site adds an extra "r" in Ausley's name.)

The proposal went nowhere in the House in 2002. It passed that chamber 74-43 in 2004. Her CFO opponent Jeff Atwater was in the Senate at the time, but he never got the chance to vote on it -- it died in committee in the waning days of session. (Another one of those "just ran out of time" bills?) The late Jim King was leading the Senate at the time.

Most Republicans are a big fan of the proposed constitutional amendment, but they just can't seem to get it passed in the Legislature, even with huge majorities. Whose fault is that? (Here's more on a similar proposal in 2009, during Atwater's tenure as president.)

Ausley spokesman Kevin Cate e-mails this in response to the site (without directly addressing the bill in question): "Senate President Jeff Atwater's latest attack is pathetic, and just shows Floridians how hard he is trying to hide from his tax-raising, big spending record. Floridians know that Jeff Atwater has a reputation for being weak, but for him to throw punches from behind the shelter of the scandal-riden Republican Party of Florida, tell us everything we need to know."

September 01, 2010

Ausley hits Atwater for SB 6 support

Ah, it seems so long ago -- Gov. Charlie Crist was a Republican and he spurned his party by vetoing the teacher merit pay bill, SB 6. Afterward, he was showered in support from teachers and many in the education community.

Well, Loranne Ausley, the Democratic candidate in the down-ticket CFO race, is trying to catch lightning in a bottle again. She called out her opponent, Senate President Jeff Atwater, for allowing the bill to go through on his watch and for supporting efforts to bring it back next year. (Education isn't a central role of the chief financial officer, but the issue is a distinction between the candidates.)

"“We’ve heard Jeff Atwater and others say that SB 6 is coming back,” Ausley said. “There is no discussion of coming to the table and having a discussion. Everything we’ve heard is shoving it down our throats again. That is not acceptable."

Flanked by about 10 PTA members, principals and the VP of the state's largest teacher union, Ausley said she is not opposed to accountability or reform, but "we want reform that we all are at the table discussing."

July 12, 2010

Will legislators expand the special session? Sink lists the reasons why

Will legislators expand the special session to address some needed oil spill issues, or just adjourn and smack the governor? That is the question today as CFO Alex Sink gave legislative leaders some food for thought with an outline of suggested legislation lawmakers could adopt to make it easier for Floridians to be compensated for losses from the oil spill, streamline the claims process and make it clear that Florida won't be depending on the federal government's interpretation of what its businesses and individuals deserve to get from BP.

“Without protecting our state waters through the constitutional amendment process, the Florida we know and love is in critical danger,” Sink wrote in a letter to Cretul and Atwater. “But you also should take this session to pass smart, meaningful legislation that will directly impact the lives of so many of our residents and offer critically needed help for our small business owners.”

Here's the letter:

Continue reading "Will legislators expand the special session? Sink lists the reasons why" »

May 24, 2010

Sink calls for feds to takeover oil cleanup

With the oil still gushing unabated, CFO Alex Sink is asking President Barack Obama to take control of the Gulf cleanup efforts. "Floridians want to know: Where is the Federal government’s leadership?" she wrote in a letter to the White House. "Why must a small business owner looking for assistance through this crisis have to work through BP – why isn’t the Federal government handling claims of lost income and revenue, and interfacing with BP on behalf of Florida’s citizens?

Sink, a Democrat, asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to brief the Cabinet tomorrow. (Or a future meeting, given the less-than-24-hour notice.)

Meanwhile, her potential Democratic gubernatorial rival Bud Chiles is demanding the state cut the involvement of a private firm, WRSCompass, who is helping counties makes oil disaster plans. “The very idea that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has delegated one of its most basic responsibilities to a private company with questionable credentials should be appalling to our citizens," he said in a statement through a PR agency. "The fact that this firm numbers oil companies among its clients raises serious questions about whether it can be trusted to work in the public interest."

May 12, 2010

Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races

A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll shows wide open races for statewide offices with few voters confident about which candidate to elect. (Here are the findings.)

Take the race for Attorney General: voters are 73 percent undecided in the Democratic primary (feature Sen. Dan Gelber verse Sen. Dave Aronberg) and 72 percent undecided in the three-way Republican primary (which pits Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp against prosecutor Pam Bondi and former agency head Holly Benson).

The most intriguing figures come in the Agriculture Commissioner election where the poll tested a the match-up between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. It's a deadlock with Maddox at 31 percent, Putnam at 30 percent and undecideds at 39 percent. (The margin of error is 4 percent for this question.)

"The huge number of undecided voters is really where this election rests," said PR guru Ron Sachs, whose firm isn't representing any candidates.

Continue reading "Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races" »

May 07, 2010

April 13, 2010

First quarter fundraising roundup

Here are the highlights of the official first quarter fundraising numbers that came out last night. (With a helpful assist from Christina Johnson over at On3PR)

Toplines in the governor's race: Republican Bill McCollum raised just less than 1.4 million in the first three months of 2010, compared with Democrat Alex Sink's 1.1 million. Sink still holds the overall edge in campaign cash, though, with $5 million on hand compared to $3.8 million for McCollum. GOP challenger Paula Dockery has $410,000 on hand. That figure includes $280,000 in personal cash she has put into her campaign.

An interesting note in the AG race. Days before the official numbers came out, Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber announced an impressive haul of $330,000. Turns out that number was pumped up with about $100,000 worth of in-kind contributions. His actual cash haul was $218,000.

Other AG candidates: Sen. Dave Aronberg took in $259,000 to use in the primary against Gelber. On the Republican side: Lt. Gov Jeff Kottkamp raised $232k, Pam Bondi raised $222k and Holly Benson raised $198k.

Senate President Jeff Atwater and Congressman Adam Putnam both opened up wider leads in their races for CFO and Agriculture Commissioner. Atwater took in $446,000 and has almost $2 million on hand. His Democratic challenger, Loranne Ausley has $346,000 on hand. Putnam had about $1.2 million on hand, while Democrat Scott Maddox has $314,000.