March 20, 2014



Broward LGBT activists held a fundraiser March 19 at the home of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

2014-03-19 Charlie Crist fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale 020After his five-minute speech, which you can watch here, Crist stated why electing him governor would be good for LGBT people in Florida:

"One of the most important things we can do is get a law on the books in Florida that recognizes the kind of things that President Obama is talking about. And that simply is why not have marriage equality throughout our country," Crist said.

"Certainly, we ought to have it in Florida and I believe that we win this election Nov. 4, we get some other progressives elected in the Florida House and Florida Senate, we’re going to have a great opportunity to get that done, and I look forward to the day we do."

Attendees included South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent; Florida Agenda publisher Bobby Blair; Ken Keechl, who's seeking to regain his Broward County Commission seat; former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, a state House candidate.

Crist’s Democratic rival is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

To view a photo gallery from the fundraiser, visit Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

March 17, 2014

Dems accuse Scott campaign of violating fundraising law

From the Associated Press:

The head of the Florida Democratic Party is contending that Republican Gov. Rick Scott's campaign broke the state's campaign finance laws by shifting money between accounts.

Election law complaints can be routine during an election year, but this one could be significant: If confirmed, it could result in a fine of as much as $82 million.

Allison Tant, who is the chairwoman of the state party, filed the complaint with the Florida Elections Commission late last week, naming both Scott and his political committee Let's Get to Work.

The complaint maintains that the campaign broke the law when the Scott campaign transferred nearly $27.4 million from one type of campaign account to another earlier this month.

"They have violated the law and the governor is supposed to uphold the law," Tant told The Associated Press.

John French, the chairman of Let's Get to Work, said last week the movement of the money was legal.

Scott first set up Let's Get to Work back in 2010 as a way to help out his campaign for governor when he was challenging a Republican who had the backing of many GOP leaders.

It was set up as an "electioneering communication organization," which is allowed to take unlimited contributions but is subject to limits on how it can spend the money. These types of political organizations can run television ads as long as they don't use the words "vote for" or "vote against."

Scott kept Let's Get to Work intact after his victorious election in 2010, and since the summer of 2011 he has raised millions for the organization. The governor has accepted checks from a long list of prominent business and political heavyweights, including The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Power & Light, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, and the Republican Governors Association. Story here.



March 03, 2014

PolitiFact examines dueling Medicare claims in gov's race


How do you get Florida seniors to tune in to the governor’s race in an off-year election? Make hair-raising attacks about Medicare.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott faces re-election in November and will likely face Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist. In an online ad titled, "Wrong for Florida Seniors," Scott makes some scary claims about Medicare cuts. The Florida Democratic Party fired back with an attack on Scott’s former tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA -- a hot topic in his first race in 2010.

Here’s part of the script of Scott’s ad:

"We already know that 300,000 people in our state were told they are going to lose their insurance, but now under Medicare we are seeing these dramatic rate cuts. It’s going to have a devastating impact on their ability to one, get the doctor, look they rely on their doctor, get to go to the hospital that they trust, make sure they get prevention services that they deserve. These Medicare cuts that the president has caused are the wrong thing for Florida seniors."

PolitiFact fact-checked Scott’s claim about whether dramatic rate cuts to Medicare will result in a "devastating impact" on seniors ability to keep their doctor, hospital and get prevention services. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Scott omits that the recently announced rate cuts were for Medicare Advantage plans, a subset of Medicare. Those plans represent about one-third of Medicare plans in Florida and nationwide.

The proposed rate cut won’t be finalized until April, and if it is, health care experts say we won’t know the full impact for a few months. That means it’s too soon to predict if the rate cut will have a "devastating impact" on seniors ability to keep their same doctor and hospital. It is possible that some seniors on Medicare Advantage will lose have to change doctors, but the impact could vary from county to county. Seniors on traditional Medicare are not affected by the cuts.

In response to Scott’s ad, the Florida Democratic Party issued a press release that accused Scott of overseeing "the largest Medicare fraud in the nation's history." We rated that claim Mostly True. In 1997, Scott resigned as CEO of Columbia/HCA amid a Medicare fraud investigation that ultimately led to a record $1.7 billion fine. In terms of health care fraud, that amount has been surpassed in recent years in cases involving marketing of drugs.

Read PolitiFact's full file on Medicare fact-checks here.


February 12, 2014

Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website

Gov. Rick Scott may wear the state seal on his cowboy boots, but it shouldn’t be popping up on his campaign website, say Florida Democratic Party officials, who argue that Scott isn’t following state laws prohibiting the use of the seal in public campaigns.

The official state seal appears when visitors to the campaign website click on a few videos, including a Feb. 3rd announcement of $80 million in cancer research and another on education funding. According to Florida statutes, “in no event shall approval be given for the use of the Great Seal for the following: (a) Political or campaign purposes.”

Florida Democratic Party’s communications director Joshua Karp says the law is well-known to both parties, but charges that Scott and his team “feel comfortable cutting corners.”

The campaign site, which launched Feb. 8, shows the seal only as part of videos made by the governor’s office “that are publicly available online and they can be used by anyone,” counters Scott’s new deputy communications director, Greg Blair.

Blair said the same goes for another criticism by the Democrats -- that the Scott campaign is using material -- pictures by staff photographers and press releases written by state workers -- paid for with taxpayer dollars on its campaign site. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook” for those, Karp said.

Continue reading "Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website" »

February 05, 2014

Democrats raise money, rip Gov. Scott at reception

Florida Democrats packed a downtown Tallahassee hall Tuesday night to raise money, rip Gov. Rick Scott and fondly remember their former two-time chairman, Charles Whitehead, who died last weekend.

The party's annual legislative appreciation reception was named in memory of Whitehead, a gregarious Panama City car dealer who led the party during the 1980s and returned in 1999-2000 when the party was adrift and struggling to raise money. Services for Whitehead will be Friday in Panama City.

Most Democratic lawmakers attended the reception, sponsored by a variety of influential interests including unions representing teachers, police and firefighters; Disney; Bright House; Calder Race Course; Realtors; Seminole Tribe; Walgreens; Walmart and Florida Blue, whose long-time lobbyist, Mike Hightower, a Republican and leading Scott fund-raiser, was on hand.

"Thank you for being there for us. Know that we always have an open door, and we're committed to making sure we hear all sides," said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. "So before we get to the session, keep writing those checks. We need those checks to keep coming in."

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, the incoming House minority leader, predicted victories next fall, including delivering "a Democratic governor" and gains in House and Senate seats that will create an "override-proof" Legislature.

Party chairwoman Allison Tant said the event raised just over $200,000 for the party. On Wednesday, party leaders planned to review a new poll by David Beattie of Hamilton Campaigns that Democratic sources say shows some improvement in Scott's poll numbers including a drop in his unfavorable rating. Said Tant: "We expected the race to tighten. This is not unexpected. We assumed that this was coming."

She said Scott will spend millions in an effort to "erase the memories" Floridians have of him. "It's up to us to combat that, and we will," Tant said.



February 02, 2014

Ex-Florida Democratic leader Charlie Whitehead dies

Charlie Whitehead, who was chairman of the Florida Democratic Party as its long heyday faded in the 1980s, has died.

Whitehead was a gregarious and well-liked party leader who was a long-time car dealer in Panama City at a time when Democrats were as dominant in state politics as Republicans are today.

For part of his tenure as chairman, his Republican counterpart was Tommy Thomas, who also was a Panama City car dealer (Thomas sold Chevrolets; Whitehead sold Fords).

"He wasn't just a Democrat or a Republican. He was a Floridian, Mr. Integrity,'' said former four-term state attorney general Bob Butterworth, who sought Whitehead's advice when he first ran for statewide office in 1986. "He considered his role as party chairman to be a public service. He did it with dignity, grace and professionalism and he made you feel good to be in public service. He saw it as a calling.''

Whitehead had not been active in statewide politics for some time, but he endorsed Charlie Crist as an independent U.S. Senate candidate in 2010.

In a 2004 interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Whitehead traced the start of his party's decline to the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

"Everyone he touched in Florida got elected, and it started to snowball. He built the Republican Party in Florida," Whitehead told the newspaper. "From Pensacola to Jacksonville, that's where he really killed us. Those are strong military areas, and he was strong on the military."

-- With reporting by Lucy Morgan, Tampa Bay Times staff writer

October 25, 2013

Of 'fortress precincts' and Hispanic voters: FL. election turnout war off to early start


Florida Democrats celebrate this weekend at Disney World; Republicans might wind up knocking on your door.

The contrast between the two parties — one reveling in repeat election wins and favorable polls at its state conference; the other canvassing neighborhoods door-to-door statewide — illustrates Florida’s state of political play over the next election year.

“Florida Democrats are in Orlando this weekend to talk to themselves,” Tim Saler, a top RPOF political strategist.

“While their wheels are spinning at their convention,” he said, “we will have hundreds of precinct captains knocking on doors and talking to thousands of real voters about the issues that matter to them.”

For months, even as Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers remained poor, RPOF says it has been identifying and then personally contacting thousands of voters — especially the estimated 450,000 Republicans who vote in presidential elections but didn’t in 2010.

More than half live in conservative “fortress precincts” targeted by the RPOF.

RPOF also recently announced three new Hispanic-outreach coordinators. Democrats had already hired three of their own.

Democrats have a bigger edge with Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. And they’re trying to keep it that way.

Since May, the Florida Democratic Party says it has hosted about six monthly voter-registration efforts outside naturalization ceremonies in Central and South Florida, where they also have held an average of three monthly Hispanic community events.

Democrats have tailored some events toward Venezuelans, Colombians, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Puerto Ricans in different areas of the state.

“We haven’t stopped our efforts since 2012,” said the Florida Democratic Party’s political director, Christian Ulvert, estimating the party has out-registered Republicans with Hispanics by a 3:1 ratio.

“We haven’t seen where the Republicans have been doing it in a coordinated way or effective way,” he said.

Full story here

October 24, 2013

Deerfield Beach businessman entering race for CFO says he's qualified for the job

William D. Rankin, a 53-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman, U.S. Army veteran and “normal, middle-of-the-road kind of guy,” says he is prepared to take on Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his well-funded re-election effort.

The Democrat said, “I have the qualifications to be the CFO.” Those qualifications include his position as the former director of asset management for the Ohio State Treasury, responsible for the accountability of more than $120 billion public trust and public retirement funds.

Rankin was also a U.S. Army special agent for 11 years, specializing in investigations of white-collar crime and government contract fraud. Injured in the service, he was honorably discharged.

A Cincinnati native, the divorced father of two adult children has been living in Florida since 1999 when he became director of Florida’s 2000 Census operation. He previously served as an outreach director for the U.S. Congressional 2000 Census Oversight Board, and worked with the state’s Haitian and Cuban communities.

Continue reading "Deerfield Beach businessman entering race for CFO says he's qualified for the job " »

October 01, 2013

State Rep. Darryl Rouson hit with $155,000 tax lien

State Rep. Darryl Rouson and his wife failed to pay more than $155,000 in federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010, according to a lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service.

In one of those years, Rouson, a St. Petersburg attorney, made $565,000 working for the powerhouse law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

The IRS lien is the latest setback for Rouson, who recently came under fire from fellow House Democrats for creating a party-related fundraising committee only he could control. His colleagues ousted him as incoming Democratic leader on Sept. 23, the day before the IRS filed its lien in Pinellas County circuit court.

“I don’t take this lightly,’’ Rouson said Tuesday. “I am working with my CPA and my tax attorney, and I’m very optimistic this will all get resolved.

“It’s been a tough summer,’’ he added. 

Continue reading "State Rep. Darryl Rouson hit with $155,000 tax lien" »

September 30, 2013

Ed Rendell to keynote Florida Democrats' state conference


Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor with a gritty voice and blue-collar demeanor, is scheduled to headline the Florida Democratic Party's state conference at the end of the month.

Here's Rendell's announcement Democrats are receiving in their email:

I want you -- the grassroots who are fighting every day to defeat Rick Scott -- to be the first to know: I am honored to be the keynote speaker at your 2013 State Conference on October 26, 2013.

It’s an honor to be a part of this Conference, the largest gathering of grassroots Democrats this election season.

As the governor of Pennsylvania for eight years, I was proud to be a Democrat who would work with anyone to move my state forward. We invested in the infrastructure that communities and businesses need to thrive. We invested in public schools and colleges, because education is the surest path to the middle class for millions of Americans.

Unfortunately, Republicans like Rick Scott don’t agree. They think the way to grow our economy is by giving wealthy special interests more tax breaks. They want to give the big corporations ever-larger handouts. Working people suffer, but Rick Scott doesn’t notice a thing.

Let’s do this together. We can defeat Tea Party Republicans like Rick Scott and elect a Democrat who will stand by the middle class, and everyone working to get into the middle class. We need a Florida Governor who will fight for Florida’s middle class.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at the State Conference in Orlando. Let’s do this together.


Edward G. Rendell
45th Governor of Pennsylvania