November 04, 2014

Sachs, Rodriguez hold off strong Republican challengers

Democrat Maria Sachs held onto her seat in the Florida Senate Tuesday, surviving a bare-knuckle challenge from former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff that cost the candidates a combined $1 million.

The race, a rematch of the 2012 election, was the closest watched contest in the Senate. The attack ads were attention grabbing, the stakes sky high.

If Sachs had lost, the GOP stood to grab a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber. What’s more, Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, of Clearwater, would have firmed up his chances of becoming Senate president in 2016.

Bogdanoff outspent Sachs by more than $400,000, state records show. Still, Sachs won re-election in District 34, which straddles the eastern stretches of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The incumbent said she felt "humbled" by the voted of confidence. "It shows that money and negative personal attacks are not going to win people of this district," she said.

Incumbent state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, of Miami, will also be returning to Tallahassee.

Rodriguez prevailed over Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva in House District 112, which spans Brickell, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, the Roads, and parts of Little Havana and Coral Gables.

Rodriguez said his campaign was rooted in two things: "supporting the community and trying to do good work."

Diaz Leyva raised more than $430,000 for his bid to unseat Rodriguez. The incumbent had collected about $345,000 in campaign contributions.

A third closely watched contest — the battle for for House District 114 in Miami-Dade County — also went to the incumbent, Republican Rep. Erik Fresen.

Observers predicted a close finish in the swing district, which includes West Miami and parts of Coral Gables, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay. But Fresen, a well-known lawmaker who was first elected to the seat in 2008, easily defeated Democrat Daisy Baez and independent Ross Hancock.

Fresen never doubted he would win overwhelmingly, he said.

"It’s a testament to the work that I've done and the record that I have,” said Fresen, who has chaired the House Education Budget Subcommittee. "I'm happy to be back representing District 114."

Read more here.

After courthouse-tax plan fails, what's next for the fix?


Even before the polls opened Tuesday, Miami-Dade's legal industry was preparing for the next steps after losing a fight to raise property taxes to build a new county courthouse. 

Officials with the civil court are reportedly set to meet with members of County Mayor Carlos Gimenez's administration to come up with a plan to deal with the current courthouse's disrepair and other issues. The failed ballot item would have secured $390 million in borrowed dollars for a replacement, and the big challenge will be coming up with a Plan B for that kind of money.

Jorge Luis Lopez, the County Hall lobbyist and lawyer who helped run the failed ballot campaign, said Tuesday night he doesn't think it makes sense to try again with voters. Instead, he expects judicial and county leaders to look at alternative revenue sources. Among the ideas floated: higher fees for speeding tickets, and revenue from red-light cameras. 

"The truth of the matter is voters roundly declined to fund the needs using property taxes," he said. "You have to explore the other options before you go back to them."  

In a statement, the county's chief civil judge, Bertila Soto, said in part:

 “While tonight’s outcome is disappointing, we know that this campaign has already been a success because it brought public awareness and a universal consensus that conditions at the Dade County Courthouse are dire and solutions are required immediately. It’s now incumbent upon County Hall to take the necessary steps to ensure that the courthouse undergoes full inspections and that the plan to replace the courthouse be executed... Tomorrow, the work continues to achieve what this community deserves and needs -- a cost-effective, efficient and safe civil courthouse."

Read more here

1 point ahead, Rick Scott appears on way to winning second term

@MarcACaputo @stevebousquet

BONITA SPRINGS ---Bolstered by a $100 million campaign and a stronger economy, Gov. Rick Scott overcame his own political liabilities and a fierce challenge from Democrat Charlie Crist on Tuesday as he won a second term that solidified Republican control of the state.

Polls showed the race would be tight, and it was.

As Scott clung to a 1.4 percentage point lead, Crist conceded before 11:30 p.m.

“It’s time to put all the division behind us and come together. Forget the partisanship,” Scott said in his victory speech.

“Florida is on a mission – and that is to keep growing.”

Continue reading "1 point ahead, Rick Scott appears on way to winning second term" »

Secretary of State: We are proving that Florida knows how to run elections

Secretary of State Ken Detzner was the first to declare victory Tuesday in Florida's general election, telling reporters 30 minutes after the polls closed on the state's west coast that "it has been a great Election Day in Florida."

He continued: "We are proving that Florida knows how to run elections,'' he said, citing the record number of absentee ballots and early votes cast. He dismissed the reports of occasional snafus as "classic" and insignificant. He said the emergency motion filed by the Charlie Crist campaign, which was denied by a Broward judge, was unexpected. 

"We feel like the judge ruled correctly and denied the motion,'' Detzner said after the polls closed Tuesday and precincts were still reporting. "Actually, we did not hear any of those reports that were alleged in the lawsuit. They were a surprise to us." 

He said there were problems with e-poll books in some areas but they were handled and were not a problem. He also said he did not hear of any long lines like there were in 2012. 

"We have proven we can show the nation that Florida can be very proud as to how it conducts itself,'' he said. 

"Reports for the general election will not be official until the election canvassing commission certifies them on Nov. 18,'' he said. 

He noted that if the election results showed that the margin was within half a percent point of the total votes cast, it triggers an automatic electronic recount. The earliest a recount could be called would be Saturday, after the first unofficial results are posted at noon. If 

Detzner said described the machine re-tabulation of ballots as a tranquil affair, unlike the frenzied search for votes that had Florida deadlocked for a chaotic five weeks in 2000 as the world watched the state scramble to pick the president. 

“People need to understand this year if there should be a recount…the law is different, technology is different, and we are prepared and we have been talking to supervisors,'' he said. 

Detzner said that 150,000 volunteers and officials participated in the carrying out the election at 6,200 precincts and, given those numbers, “you’re going to have errors."

"The secret to a successful election is being able to respond to those errors, solve those problems so that nobody is inconvenienced,'' he said. 


Gelber: It's not the wait in Broward, it's confused voters


Charlie Crist adviser Dan Gelber told reporters tonight that it is not the waits in various polling places in Broward County that prompted Crist to filed an emergency motion to extend polling hours for two-hours in Broward County, it is the confusion voters faced because precincts were changed as a result of redistricting.

"In Broward County, what happened today was post-redistricting, a lot of precincts were changed. So throughout the day we got a lot of reports that people were unable to get their addresses updated so they could know which precinct to go to,'' Gelber told reporters tonight at the Crist campaign's election-watch headquarters in St. Petersburg. "At least one precinct we know a machine was broken, the precinct was down actually for two hours."

 Gelber said there were "at least three pretty big, predominantly African-American precincts in Broward County with hour-long lines right now. And there are people in line all across this state. We want them all to vote."
A reporter asked Gelber about the fact that these precincts were changed during the 2012 election.
"Remember, a lot of people who maybe didn't vote, or maybe they didn't update them or maybe moved,'' he said. "This is post-redistricting, a lot of folks got different cards. ... They started doing provisional ballots and things like that. There was sort of too much disarray going on in Broward County and now we've got long lines in three of the precincts and it included some of those precincts where some of those calls were coming in."
Asked if it's usually up to the governor to decide to extend voting, Gelber said: "There's different processes. But a court has the authority to do it if they want to. They just have to find that there's a basis. ... If they dont, then the people who were in line at 7pm get to vote. That's the law in Florida."
"It's not the hour wait. The problem right now is that there are just too many people who were unable to find the right polling place."
As of this writing, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has reported that she has not received Crist's request and polls have closed. 

Update: Judge rejects Crist's late motion to extend polling in Broward

Broward County Judge Judge Jack Tuter rejected the Crist for Governor campaign's  emergency motion to extend voting hours in Broward County from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. saying it was filed too late, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told reporters at about 8 p.m.

One of the reasons “was the lateness of the hour,'' she said. "He wondered why if this issue occurred early in the morning that [lawyer] Mike Ryan did not follow up with the judge or someone, throughout the day, or speak to the Republican Party about the issue." 

Ryan said the court assumed they had met the "standard of irreparable harm" needed to bring the motion, the judge "didn't feel it could reopen the polls.” 

Despite concerns cited by the Crist campaign, Snipes said they were "not aware" of any lines or more than an hour that extended past the 7 p.m. closing time.

“As far as we know there were no major problems,'' she said. "We always have some kind of issues that pop up. we did not have any issues that occurred to our knowledge that would have kept a voter from voting.”

The Crist campaign sought the emergency ruling citing "individual and systemic breakdowns that made it difficult for voters to cast regular ballots" for filing the last-minute appeal.

The request came even as reports from early in the afternoon showed that overall turnout in the county was about 135,000 by midday, only half of the early vote totals. Meanwhile, the campaign says there are reports that there are lines in the black communities of Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale and Weston. 

Broward County Commissioner Tim Ryan also told the Herald that he was aware of a power outage at Croissant Park Elementary school in Fort Lauderdale that "slowed down voting in that location." 

The campaign also reported: 

Continue reading "Update: Judge rejects Crist's late motion to extend polling in Broward " »

South Florida's light voting great for Rick Scott, bad for Charlie Crist. But indies might save the Dem


As the polls are about to close, Gov. Rick Scott's team should be feeling a little more confident because Democrat-rich South Florida is doing what it does in midterms: not voting in strong numbers.

Miami-Dade is reporting that 183,000 people had voted as of 6 p.m. on Election Day. Add that to the 293,000 who had absentee and early voted, and the county's turnout was just under 37 percent with one hour to go. 

Broward County might be in a similar position.

As of 3:15 p.m., when turnout gets slowest, Broward County reported Election Day turnout at 136,000. That was on top of 248,000 who had voted before Election Day by early and absentee ballot. And that puts turnout at roughly 36 percent.

In a sign of desperation, Charlie Crist’s campaign just issued a press release saying it wants the polls to stay open longer in Broward. It claims, among other things, that voters were turned away at the polls due to re-precincting. Miami Herald reporters found signs of this, but they weren't widespread.  Download Crist motion for polls to stay open.

Considering overall state turnout could be at 49 percent, this could signify higher performance by Republican counties and Republican voters. And thus, a likelier Scott win.

Here's what we reported in April about South Florida turnout:

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

Crist's campaign said it's hammering South Florida voters to get them out, but the reporters we have at the polls aren't seeing much action.

Our freelancer Theo Karantsalis reports light turnout in Liberty City, an African-American area. And he just encountered a voter who's..... voting for Scott.

The Caleb Center, which drew hundreds of Souls to the Polls churchgoers on Sunday, was open for early voting only.

Voters continue to park near the Caleb Center and carefully walk across busy NW 54th Street to cast ballots at the Mildred and Claude Pepper Towers.

"I came out in the cold and dark to vote for a republican," said Shirley Smith, 47, an African-American from Liberty City, who voted the republican ticket in the 2010 and 2012 elections. "I am so tired of people thinking the government owes them something."

Smith, who first looked to see if anyone was listening, then added: "I know I am the minority around here, but my vote counts even if it's different."

There is no line and few people at the neighborhood polling site located in the 2300 block of NW 54th Street. Polls close at 7 p.m.

This doesn't mean Crist has lost and that Scott has won. Not by a longshot. One analyst said the story of the night might be independents, who are leaning Crist. 

In Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando counties in the Tampa Bay region, independent voters are coming out in droves, respectively: 22, 23 and 20 percent.

Even in GOP-rich Collier Countty, Rick Scott's home base, 20 percent of the voters are independents.

Republicans are boasting that they have more supervoters (those who voted in 4 of 4 elections, known as 4/4) to come out. But Democrats note that they're turning out more infrequent voters. Here's one Democrats' analysis:

As of end of the day yesterday, 31.0% of Democrats who had cast a ballot didn't vote in 2010, 43.4% of IND/NPA, 22.7% of Republicans. Dems have very nearly 80K more people who have cast ballots that DIDN'T vote in 2010 than Republicans.

On the other end of things, Dems have 54.2% of their 2/2s (and 49.3% of 4/4s) who had not yet voted as of COB yesterday; those numbers are remarkably similar for Reps: 53.7% of 2/2 and 49.5% of 4/4.

But, as GOP consultant Marc Reichelderfer told Adam Smith at the Tampa Bay Times, Republicans have more reliable Republicans voting:

"What I'm looking at is how many 4/4 voters and how many 3/4 voters are still out there waiting to vote," said Reichelderfer, suggesting that the Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal on 3/4 voters.

Add that 130,000 almost certain 4/4 votes today to the roughly 100,000 early and absentee vote advantage Republicans had going into today, and the 230,000 GOP lead looks tough to crack barring an massive Democratic turnout operation, he said.

After the 2010 cycles, elections officials cleaned up their lists of voters automatically receiving absentee ballots. The result, Reichelderfer said, that that many formerly consistent Republican mail voters have been shifted to election day voters, while the Obama campaign in 2012 shifted many of its most reliable election day voters to mail voters.

Miami Rep. Joe Garcia talks policy -- and gives driving directions -- to West Kendall voters


Miami Rep. Joe Garcia spent part of Election Day afternoon giving directions to would-be voters who were confused about where to vote.

They showed up at the West Kendall Regional Library, one of the county's largest precincts in the 2012 presidential election. Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade elections department redrew some precincts -- including those at the West Kendall library -- to make them smaller. The department says it notified those voters. 

But many of them either didn't receive a notification or didn't pay attention, because they kept getting turned away Tuesday by poll workers who printed out slips of paper listing their new, nearby polling places.

That left Garcia, the incumbent Democrat facing a strong challenge from Republican Carlos Curbelo, giving voters directions at the library parking lot.

"When you leave here, you cross the street, and it's right there on the left," he said in Spanish to a voter.

"Oh, so it's not by the Taco Bell," said the man. He identified himself to a reporter as Miguel Palacios, a 65-year-old registered Republican who called the situation frustration.

"This is very bad. I've always voted here. I wasn't notified," he said.

Garcia said about two-thirds of the people who walked into the polling place when he was there after 4 p.m. were sent somewhere else. 

"Do me a favor: Go in there and ask if you're in the right place," he told a woman as she walked in.

Garcia, holding a water bottle, hustled from one end of the parking lot to the other, trying to say hello to the voters who steadily trickled in. One woman and her son asked for a photograph with him. Another asked him about his position on immigration reform (he favors it and sponsored a stalled House bill on it). Another, who said he was a federal worker, asked him about across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration (he voted against).

"I voted for him," said 39-year-old Sandra Moore, a registered Democrat, who praised Garcia's visibility in the 26th congressional district. "He's done a lot that he said he would do. And he's active in the community."

Carlos Curbelo greets string of Republican voters in Miami's West Kendall


Carlos Curbelo greeted mostly Republican voters Tuesday afternoon at a West Kendall polling place where the sky was blue, the wind was blowing and people were arriving at a slow but consistent clip.

"This morning we have a little rush, but that's it," Curbelo said. 

He was the only candidate at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. A voter also named Carlos said today was his birthday. Curbelo pointed out that Nov. 4 -- Election Day -- is the Feast of St. Charles (San Carlos in Spanish) in the Roman Catholic church.

When the Republican congressional candidate, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, introduced himself to another voter, the voter replied, in Spanish, "I know who you are. I've seen you on TV."

"Pórtate bien," Juan Carlos Esquivel, a 49-year-old Republican, joked before walking into the precinct. "Behave."

After voting, Esquivel said he favored Curbelo because he's someone "defined, who's not switching positions to and fro."

Later, Curbelo stretched out his hand to greet a third voter, who shook it before he realized who Curbelo was.

"Oh, Carlos Curbelo! Take my picture with him," the voter told his companion in Spanish.

"This bodes well," Curbelo said.

The man, 67-year-old Gustavo Cruz, a registered Republican, pledged his family's five votes for Curbelo.

"Forty-nine years ago I was imprisoned in a Cuban concentration camp, and Joe Garcia says, 'Communism works,'" Cruz said in an interview after casting his ballot. "Yes, it works to do harm. That man over there," he added, pointing at Curbelo, "I've never seen do harm."

The voter was referring to a sardonic remark Garcia made earlier this year in which he criticized excessive U.S. government spending on the Mexican border. But Cruz seemed to take the comment literally.

"He's a crook," he said of the congressman.

David Rivera hits Election Day polls in Miami -- even though he's not on the ballot

@PatriciaMazzei  IMG_3433 (1)

Never mind that he lost his Miami congressional seat two years ago, and placed fourth out of five in this year's Republican primary to try to get it back.

Ex-Rep. David Rivera hit the polls anyway on Election Day in Southwest Miami-Dade County -- clad in a white polo shirt with "Congressman David Rivera" and the U.S. House of Representatives logo embroidered over his heart.

Misleading? Perhaps. He also wore it when he campaigned in the GOP primary for the 26th congressional district in August.

"What are you running for?" an elderly Cuban-American man asked Rivera in Spanish before walking into the precinct. "God bless you."

Rivera isn't running for anything, but he was collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot -- in 2016, as a Florida House of Representatives candidate. He would run in the district currently represented by state Rep. Frank Artiles, a Republican who won't be term-limited in two years and whom Rivera backs, suggesting the former congressman expects Artiles to run for something else, perhaps Miami-Dade County Commission.

IMG_3431 (1)In addition to the petitions, Rivera handed out yellow slate cards titled "Republican Voter Alert!" The next line read, "As a Life-Long Republican, Congressman David Rivera Recommends." For his former seat, he endorsed Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

The card said "Paid for by David Rivera" at the bottom, which is not exactly how disclaimers on political advertisements are supposed to read. It should identify the piece as an independent expenditure. And if Rivera spent more than $5,000 on them -- doubtful -- then he'd have to report the spending. Then again, he never did report how he paid for robocalls during the primary campaign.