October 14, 2014

FSU trustees expected to approve Thrasher contract, $430K base salary on Monday


A draft version of the contract between state Sen. John Thrasher and Florida State University shows that they have negotiated a five-year term starting Nov. 10.

The FSU Board of Trustees plans to meet via conference call Monday to discuss and likely approve the proposed contract. Thrasher, who expects to be re-elected to the Senate on Nov. 4, said he would step down from his Senate seat as soon as the Board of Governors confirms him. That formality should occur when the group meets Nov. 5 and 6.

Thrasher will have a $430,000 base salary with an opportunity to earn more through bonuses and deferred compensation. State law limits the use of public dollars for university presidents’ salaries to $225,000, so the rest will come from the FSU Foundation and Seminole Boosters.

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Report: Lopez Cantera's family profited from his legislative campaign

By Francisco Alvarado of the BrowardBulldog.org

Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is a generous big brother.

On October 09, 2008, about a month before then-state Rep. Lopez-Cantera won re-election by nearly 20 percentage points, his sister and her husband, a Miami-Dade police lieutenant, got into the electioneering business, forming High Ridge Consultants.

Eleven days later, Lopez- Cantera’s campaign cut High Ridge a $7,500 check — the first of several payments totaling $37,500 for claimed re-election campaign work done in 2008 and 2010.

Lopez Cantera’s all-in-the-family arrangement became the focus of a public corruption probe four years ago by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office into the alleged theft of campaign funds.

BrowardBulldog.org obtained a close out memo that explains how investigators determined that Lopez-Cantera’s sister, Monica Cantera-Serralta and husband Gadyaces Serralta, made a profit of nearly $10,000 during the 2008 campaign. Detectives did not examine payments made during the 2010 campaign.

Assistant state attorney Howard Rosen, who authored the March 14, 2011 close out memo, concluded that no crime was committed. Story here. 

Steroid testing looms for Miami PD amid new abuse allegations


With allegations emerging Tuesday that some members of the Miami police force were clients of the infamous Biogenesis steroid clinic, city and police officials can say they’re already moving to include the anabolic drugs on the list of banned substances for which officers will be tested.

But one has nothing to do with the other, apparently.

“There’s no correlation between the two,” said Major Delrish Moss.

Miami New Times reported Tuesday that Florida Department of Health investigator Jerome Hill discovered during an investigation of Biogenesis that Miami police were among the clinic’s clients, along with professional baseball stars, teen athletes and even a local judge. Hill also alleged that Biogenesis steroids confiscated by the department disappeared from the evidence room. 

Those allegations dropped as city negotiators prepare for a Thursday meeting with Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police to resume talks over details of a new contract. Negotiators broached the topic of steroid testing weeks ago, and union representatives were receptive. 

However, both Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso and FOP president Sgt. Javier Ortiz said they weren’t aware of any specific allegations of steroid abuse, and the likelihood of steroid testing was unrelated.

“I don’t have any evidence or allegations or anything of that nature at this time,” Alfonso said.

Moss, speaking on behalf of Police Chief Manuel Orosa, said the department has seen evidence of “rage-like” behavior from some cops, but never had the ability to test for steroids. He said the one current officer named as a Biogensis client in the New Times report, Sgt. Jose Gonzalez, was duped into attending the clinic to treat a legitimate health condition, and is considered a victim.

SurveyUSA/WFLA: Charlie Crist 45%, Rick Scott 41% (still a basic tie)


SurveyUSA's poll tracking for WFLA-TV shows that Charlie Crist is still marginally topping Gov. Rick Scott, 45-41 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is at 7 percent

But, like all other polls, that Crist lead is inside the error margin. So it's basically a tie.

Still, as noted last week, the trend has favored Crist, especially in the SurveyUSA track that shows him ticking up in support ever since he started advertising more heavily in mid September. Other posts today on CNN and 0ptimus polls are here and here.

SurveyUSA track 1014




CNN poll: FL gov race deadlocked 44-44% between Rick Scott, Charlie Crist


More evidence that Florida's race for governor is dead-even: a CNN/ORC poll showing it's.... dead even.

Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist pull in 44 percent of the vote each. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie gets 9 percent support among likely voters. Among registered voters, the poll shows more of an advantage for Crist: a 42-40 percent lead that's still well within the margin of error.

The poll of 1,035 voters (610 of whom say they're likely to vote) surveyed equal proportions of self-identified Republicans and Democrats, 34 percent, with 32 percent identifying themselves as independents.

The poll might be slightly better news for Crist than Scott in that, because the Democrat does marginally better with registered voters (that is, the total poll of the electorate) he has an oh-so-small extra reservoir of support he can tap. Likely voter screens in polls can miss Democrats more than Republicans and, as a campaign intensifies, registered voters become likely voters.

Still, this poll is evidence of the very definition of coin toss.

Here's the CNN story and here are the poll's crosstabs.

Mike Fasano endorses Charlie Crist in new TV ad

It was inevitable, but it's still going to infuriate Republicans.

It's a new TV ad that features Republican Mike Fasano, the former state legislator from Pasco County who was appointed tax collector by Gov. Rick Scott, explaining why he supports Democrat Charlie Crist for governor.

In the 30-second spot, Fasano describes Scott's campaign for re-election as being all about "tearing people down."

"When I saw the smears from Rick Scott against Charlie Crist, I had to say something," Fasano says, facing the camera. "Listen. I've known Charlie Crist for decades. We don't agree on everything, but he's a good man and was a good governor."

Throughout the campaign, Fasano has been urging Crist to focus more intensely on pocketbook issues such as the cost of property insurance and Duke Energy's cost recovery fee.

The ad, shot in Dade City (with the historic courthouse in the background) is classic Fasano with the informal style and his New York accent, gesturing with his reading glasses in his hand. It hits the air in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. A recent poll shows Fasano had a 95 percent favorability rating in his former West Pasco House district.

Jeb Bush's new TV ad for Rick Scott: "The choice for me is easy." (Spanish-version next?)


Gov. Rick Scott's campaign features a not-so-new but pretty-effective spokesman in a new ad: Former Gov. Jeb Bush.

"In my experience as governor, I've found that there are two kinds of politicians," Bush says. "Those that are driven by personal ambition. And those that deliver results."

In case anyone was wondering, the first politician Bush references is his successor and Scott predecessor and current Scott challenger Charlie Crist. What makes the ad effective is that this somewhat-negative message is shown, not told. That is, Bush never says Crist's name. The camera just cuts to B-roll of Crist on the campaign trail.

The rest of the spot revolves around Scott's record.

Now, the question is, how effective is Bush as a spokesman? Republican endorses Republican is only so newsy. And Bush never really liked Crist, even when he was a Republican. But, in a smaller election in Crist's home county of Pinellas (CD-13), Bush's endorsement and support probably helped David Jolly win. And Bush left office with high favorables (thanks to his leadership after back-to-back storms). He's also a frontrunner in the early race for president.

One of Bush's strongest assets is his Spanish-speaking abilities. He recently cut three spots for GOP candidates in Colorado, California and Arizona.

Expect this same ad to have a Spanish-language version, which would be highly effective in Miami-Dade, a county where Scott's having problems but where 72 percent of registered Republicans and 55 percent of the general electorate is Hispanic.


Families seek to get involved in school voucher lawsuit

Fifteen Florida families want to help fend off a legal challenge to the state school voucher program.

The families are hoping to intervene in a high-profile lawsuit brought by the Florida Education Assocation. The suit claims that the state school voucher program, which helps low-income families pay private school tuition, conflicts with the state's Constitutional duty to provide a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools."

In a motion filed Wednesday, the families said they would be affected by the outcome of the case.

"Most of the proposed intervenor-defendants do not have the financial means to send their children to private school, absent the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship," their attorney wrote. "Accordingly, if the program is eliminated they will be forced to look for alternatives or to send their children to public school -- in many instances the same public schools where their children were struggling or failing before becoming Florida Tax Credit Scholarship recipients."

The families come from nine different counties. (Six are from Miami-Dade and two are from Hillsborough.) Some have children with disabilities. Others have children who attend religious schools. 

The attorney said they represent the 69,000 children participating in the voucher program statewide.

Their legal fees are being paid for by the Alliance for School Choice, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Read the motion below.

Download McCall, Motion to Intervene

Wasserman Schultz's False claim about Wisconsin voter ID law

From our friends @PolitiFactWisc:

Separate judicial rulings in Wisconsin and Texas on Oct. 9, 2014 gave cheer to opponents of state laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

Here’s part of what the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had to say in a statement:

"With less than ten days before early voting starts in Texas and Wisconsin, I am pleased with the judicial decisions yesterday striking down burdensome photo ID laws in those states."

Did the brief Supreme Court order "strike down" the Wisconsin statute?

The DNC leader was in a minority in using that terminology, we found in reviewing media reports and reactions from legal and political observers.

But the New York Times’ headline on its story may have influenced some -- and in fact a DNC spokesman pointed it out to us in providing backup for Wasserman Schultz’s  claim.

"Courts Strike Down Voter ID laws in  Wisconsin and Texas,"  the  paper’s online headline declared Oct. 9, 2014.

The story beneath that headline, though, used "struck down" only when referring to the Texas ruling. Here’s what it said about Wisconsin: "TheSupreme Court on Thursday evening stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election."

There’s a significant difference between the rulings in the two states. Turn to PolitiFact Wisconsin's full report

0ptimus FL poll: Charlie Crist tops Rick Scott 41-39%; Wyllie at 13%


The new Republican-leaning data-analytics firm, 0ptimus, has released its latest survey in the Florida governor's race, and it looks a lot like the last survey: a basic tie between Democrat Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott.

Crist gets about 41 percent of the vote to Scott's 39 percent (it's 40.5 to 39.4 percent to be exact). Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is still pulling an impressive 13 percent in the poll. The margin of error is 1.3 percentage points.

So the race is basically frozen.

Two ways to look at the poll (and the other recent ones all showing a basically tied race:

Good news for Scott: Democrats, despite their numerical advantage on the voter rolls, tend to underperform in mid-term elections, when Republicans overperform. If the race remains essentially tied, there's probably a better chance that the Republican will win. Also, unlike in other races where undecideds break slightly more for the challenger, this race basically has two incumbents because Crist is seeking reelection to the post he left in 2010.

Good news for Crist: Crist is winning. And this poll has a Republican turnout advantage of 3% points -- that's lower than 2010 but higher than 2006. If Crist can get Democratic turnout to at least equal Republican turnout, almost every poll shows he wins. Most polls show he wins with a Republican turnout advantage of 1% point. Also, it's important to note that this and many other recent surveys is a robo-poll, which can lean more conservative. To compensate for that, 0ptimus surveys thousands more voters than most (this poll is 6,384) and adjusts the responses to give younger and minority voters (i.e., those who are more cellphone-oriented and more likely to vote Democrat) more representation.

So my forecast is the same: Flip a coin, if it lands on its edge, it'll be the best predictor of who wins the race right now.

Here are the crosstabs:

Candidate REP DEM IND
Scott 64.2% 14.9% 33.5%
Crist 16.7% 67.0% 38.6%
Wyllie 13.0% 10.6% 16.0%
Unsure 6.2% 7.5% 11.8%