June 14, 2013

"5 minutes?" Democrat Nan Rich fundraises off Florida Democratic Party snub


From an email:

Dear Marc,

As you may know, I haven’t been invited to speak at the Florida Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser tomorrow night.  It seems to me that the Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser is exactly the kind of event where the Party would want to feature a Gubernatorial candidate who has been actively campaigning to defeat Rick Scott for the past year.  But they have decided not to do so and that is entirely their decision to make.

That decision, however, has not gone unnoticed by the media and scores of Democratic activists around the state who expected me to speak at J-J.  In fact, over the past few of weeks, a number of news stories have been written about giving me 5 minutes to speak at the event.

Continue reading ""5 minutes?" Democrat Nan Rich fundraises off Florida Democratic Party snub" »

June 11, 2013

GOP targets Democrats with robo calls urging them to 'free Nan Rich'

Putting its money where its mouth is, the Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday launched a robo-call campaign aimed at loyal Democrats urging them to "free Nan Rich" and let the underdog candidate for governor speak at the party’s annual fundraising dinner this weekend.

“Hi. I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida,’’ the recorded female voice says in telephone calls targeting 13,000 Democrats in Miami, Palm Beach and Fort Myers. The phone campaign is part of an aggressive GOP media pitch aimed at exploiting the rift that rose when Rich was denied a speaking spot at the event.

“While our parties may not agree on most issues, we do agree when it comes to honoring those in our parties who represent its core values,’’ the recorded voice continues. “But Florida Democratic Chair Allison Tant is refusing to let Nan Rich speak for five minutes at this Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.” Download RPOF_06112013_NanRich (1)

Rich, a former state senator, was left off the roster of the dinner to be held at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood even though she has been the only Democrat actively campaigning to defeat Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

Tant said Rich’s rejection was not a snub but an attempt to streamline and energize a program that has traditionally gone on for hours. Meanwhile, the high profile attention from Repupblican Party Chairman Lenny Curry has not suppressed interest but increased it, she said, noting that the party is sold 40 more tables than last year and is ahead of its fundraising goal.

“I hope it costs them some money,’’ Tant said with a laugh. “Maybe I ought to write Lenny a thank you note.”

RPOF’s focus on the issue – in an email to party stalwarts, the robo calls and press releases – has also helped draw attention to Rich’s campaign which, until now, had been dwarfed by a focus on former Republican governor turned Democrat, Charlie Crist, and former Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink.

“They are trying to be my best friend,’’ Rich said Tuesday, adding that the RPOF attention and the party rejection “is backfiring on everybody.

“I’ve received two to three weeks of incredible media attention I wasn’t able to get before and people recognize that I’m a legitimate candidate for governor,’’ she told the Herald/Times.

Tant said she was also “thrilled that Nan’s gotten some buzz." 

The party program, which last year included six key speeches, is designed to be kept to 90 minutes, said Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.

Speakers will include brief remarks from Tant, DNC Chairwoman Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Pembroke Pines, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and a keynote speech from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the rising star who gave a well-received speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and will help the party highlight its outreach to Hispanics.

Rich, a former Senate Democratic leader, agrees there is a need to shorten the speechifying. "I have sat there for hour after hour and there have been too many speakers,'' she said. But she is not persuaded they couldn’t make room for a five-minute speech from the only Democrat who has been campaigning to unseat Scott.

“We have a different view what the purpose of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner is,’’ she told the Herald Times. “I believe I’ve earned the right to speak and it is totally appropriate for me to speak. The truth is people all over the state are expressing that.”

Curry clearly sees the advantage in exploiting the disagreement. In the robo-call to Democrats, the recorded voice quotes Democratic activists and a newspaper columnist and urges people to call the Democratic Party.

"To make your voice heard, call the Florida Democrats at 850-222-3411 Tell them to free Nan Rich and let her speak,’’ the caller says.

Here’s the RPOF script:

“Hi. I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.

"While our parties may not agree on most issues, we do agree when it comes to honoring those in our parties who represent its core values. But Florida Democratic Chair Allison Tant is refusing to let Nan Rich speak for five minutes at this Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

"Maggie Davidson, state Democratic committeewoman from Broward, told the Sun-Sentinel that “Nan Rich should be allowed to speak. She’s a high-level Democrat and she should be highlighted.”

"The Sun-Sentinel’s Gary Stein, wrote that “Jefferson and Jackson themselves would be all in favor of letting Nan Rich speak.”

"To make your voice heard, call the Florida Democrats at 850-222-3411 Tell them to free Nan Rich and let her speak."

June 10, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Former Romney spokesman new press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida

 Susan Hepworth, who served as director of the national traveling press for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, is the new press secretary and deputy communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

The Kansas City native traveled full time with former Gov. Romney and the press corp during his race for president.

During the 2010 election cycle, she directed the day-to-day political operations at the RNC. Prior to that she was at Majority Strategies, a mail firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Hepworth began her political career in 2007 in Iowa on Romney’s first presidential bid right after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.

“I graduated on a Sunday, drove to Des Moines on Monday and I started working on the campaign on Tuesday,” said Hepworth, who started her new job June 7. “And that’s been my life.”

Winsor new state solicitor general

Allen Winsor succeeds Timothy Osterhaus as Florida’s solicitor general,  the state government’s top appellate lawyer. Osterhaus was appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal May 20th.

Winsor, 36,  has been the principal deputy solicitor general since January. Prior to that, he was a member of the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, most recently as a shareholder. He’s a 2002 graduate of the University Of Florida College Of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

The Florida solicitor general represents the state throughout Florida's appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The solicitor general also serves as the Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair and a visiting professor of law at Florida State University College of Law.

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June 06, 2013

Florida Dems announce big-data hire from Obama 2012 campaign


Florida Democrats have long faced a conundrum: They greatly outnumber Republicans (522,267 by the most recent count of active registered voters), but the state Legislature, governor's mansion and Cabinet are controlled by the GOP. Only one Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, holds a statewide elected office.

One reason for the disparity between registration and results: the Republican Party of Florida has had an organizational edge for years.  But President Obama's data-driven campaign helped counteract that for two presidential elections in Florida. The Florida Democratic Party wants to tap that savvy and know-how and, today, announced the hire of one of Obama's get-out-the-vote hands.

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June 04, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Israel named to council on violent crime and drug control

New Broward County Sheriff Scott J. Israel has been appointed to the 14-member Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council. Israel defeated incumbent Al Lamberti in November.

Volusia County Sheriff Ben F. Johnson, 62, of Deland, has been reappointed to the council.

The council provides advice and makes recommendations on issues including gang criminal investigations, money laundering and drug control.

Teachers recognized at Cabinet meeting

Five of the 2013-2014 District Teachers of the Year were recognized at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting:

Carrie Cooper, Columbia County, Columbia High School

Deborah Hodge, Dixie County, Dixie County High School

Kathy Griffin, Hamilton County, Central Hamilton Elementary School

Nicole Roddenberry, Jefferson County, Jefferson County Elementary School

Kelli Williams, Suwannee County, Suwannee Primary School

Scott, Brogan at TaxWatch awards for cost-cutting employees

Scott will be speaking at the Florida TaxWatch's awards ceremony for state employees who have contributed innovative and cost-saving ideas. The 25th Annual Prudential - Davis Productivity Awards gala will take place from 5 to 8:30 p.m. June 5 at the Florida State University, University Center Club. 

The ceremony will grant 191 awards to state employees from the Tallahassee/Northwest Florida area. Frank Brogan, chancellor of the state university system, will serve as master of ceremonies. 

FMA tweaks government affairs team

The Florida Medical Association is making some changes in its government affairs team, with some staffers getting new titles and more responsibility.

Katie Ballard, director of legislative affairs, will play a key part on the FMA's lobbying team along with fundraising efforts.

Eric Carr, legislative and political grassroots coordinator, will be responsible for rebuilding the FMA legislative key contact program.   

Michelle Jacquis, director of policy management and legislative operations, will track bills introduced in the legislature and coordinate public policy positions.

Holly Miller, governmental affairs counsel, will assume a more active role on the FMA lobbying team.

Monte Stevens, director of governmental affairs and public policy, will manage the FMA’s in-house lobbying team.

FMA General Counsel Jeff Scott providea legal and policy guidance and will draft bills and amendments.

Executive Vice President Timothy J. Stapleton will be responsible for developing and implementing the FMA's overall legislative and political strategy.

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June 02, 2013

Why the Florida Democratic Party, and Charlie Crist, need Nan Rich


The Florida Democratic Party knows it needs Nan Rich.

And, perhaps, so does former Gov. Charlie Crist, who could face her in next year’s Democratic primary for governor if he decides to run against her.

A long-shot for governor, Rich’s background is an inverse of Crist’s: a committed liberal and a longtime Democrat, but a virtual unknown. Rich, a former Democratic leader in the state Senate, represented Weston until 2012.

If Crist runs, which looks likely, the Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat will have to face her in a 2014 primary where only registered Democrats can vote.

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May 30, 2013

RPOF chief launches "FreeNanRich" Twitter campaign to mock Dems for dissing one of its own



Way to go, Florida Democratic Party, you've allowed the Republican Party of Florida to mock you for appearing to mistreat one of your own, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich.


Rich wants to speak at the Democrats Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. The FDP said no. It wants a streamlined program. So only three people can speak.


RIch said she just wants five minutes to speak. The answer was still no. More background is here.


RPOF chairman Lenny Curry is loving every minute. Here's a message he sent out:



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May 29, 2013

FL Gov. candidate Nan Rich: Dem Party is "inappropriate" for blocking 5-minute gala speech


After years of fielding complaints that its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was interminably long, the Florida Democratic Party had a solution: Make it shorter by having fewer speakers.

Now it has a new complaint: It's blocking former state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich, a gubernatorial candidate, from speaking.

"I think it's inappropriate, given the amount of attention the governor's race will draw," said Rich, a Weston resident. "I've been a candidate for a year, I've traveled the state and built a significant infrastructure and grassroots support. And I'm just asking for five minutes."

But it's five minutes too long in the eyes of the Democratic Party's chairwoman, Allison Tant, who decided along with party leaders to keep the June 15 fundraiser at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood limited to three speakers: Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and featured speaker Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio.

"The decision for our JJ program was to have a streamlined event where we have a national speaker. And this year we’re excited to have Julian who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Committee,” said Christian Ulvert, the state party’s political director.

“In years past, we’ve heard from the attendees that the program goes too long," he said. "We want a shorter program."

Party leaders are adamant: No extra time for Rich or anyone. Letting Rich speak, they say, would lead other Democrats to want to do the same. And that would weigh down the program.

"The program does not feature any candidates," Ulvert said. "This year we have a state convention a more candidate focused event. She’ll have great opportunity to showcase her candidacy and share her message."

Rich learned of the decision last week when she called Tant and was denied a speaking slot. Soon, the liberal Florida Squeeze blog, which opposed Tant for Democratic chair, began complaining about the treatment of Rich.

Rich said she understands the decision to limit the length of the program. She said she remembers one year in which now-Vice President Joe Biden had to wait until about midnight to speak and no one was there.

"It was embarrassing," she said.

But she's not asking for much, Rich siad. And she points out that the governor's race is different from other campaigns; so there should be special consideration.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is widely disliked and seen as beatable, although he'll be well-funded. Still, Rich isn't the only Democratic candidate. Unknowns Ryan Adam Lipner and Jessica Lana Stewart have filed. Neither has raised any money

Rich's campaign has raised about $121,000 and spent about $26,000 and her political committee has raised an additional $136,000 and spent about $62,000.

By contrast, Scott is ready to spend as much as $100 million by November 2014.

Rich's relatively weak fundraising has Democrats casting about for another candidate. Some are trying to recruit Sen. Nelson, but the Democrat isn't inclined to leave the seat he just retained in Washington. Former Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce sometime this summer. But the Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat isn't trusted by many grassroots Democrats.

"They want a true Democrat," Rich said. "They want someone who has consistent core values and principles. They don't see that in Charlie Crist."

But beyond the grassroots, Crist enjoys a major advantage. He has statewide name-identification, he's well-liked by President Obama's Florida team, and he'd be an instant frontrunner who has the best chance of beating Scott, most polls show. Like Castro, Crist spoke at the DNC.

Rich said she'll have the money and the organization to beat Crist. But she also would like a shot to make her case at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. She said she'll still attend, but she doesn't like the new rules.

"This runs contrary to the spirit of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner," Rich said.

April 15, 2013

Charlie Crist vulnerabilities are fueling speculation over Nelson running for governo

From @AdamSmithTimes

Major Democratic financial backers, including trial lawyers and teachers, are gushing about Charlie Crist and his prospects for 2014. Crist has not announced plans to run for governor again, but polls show him trouncing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by double digits.

The lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat at this point looks like he could grab the Democratic nomination without even a serious challenge. But oh-so-quietly, veteran Democratic fundraisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: a Charlie Crist train wreck that would ensure a second term for one of America's most vulnerable Republican governors.

The wariness and even downright hostility to Crist's candidacy are part of what's fueling speculation about Sen. Bill Nelson entering the race. Story here. 


April 10, 2013

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

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