October 20, 2014

Rick Scott ad: Obama backs Crist. Next Scott ad: water is wet

@MarcACaputo

Maybe voters forgot that Florida's then-Republican governor, Charlie Crist, stood on stage and literally embraced President Obama and his stimulus plan.

Maybe voters forgot that, in 2010, Republican Marco Rubio used it against Crist in a Senate primary.

Maybe voters forgot that, in 2012, Crist appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention and advocated for Obama's reelection. And maybe they forgot, too, that Crist campaigned for Obama all over Florida.

Maybe voters forgot that, at the end of 2012, Crist tweeted out a photograph of himself and his wife at a White House event to mark his official decision to become a Democrat.

Maybe voters didn't hear about Crist stumping with Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, on Friday in Orlando and Miami Gardens.

So now that Obama's approval ratings are more abysmal than Crist's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, the incumbent wants everyone to still know that Crist backs Obama. 

Gwen Graham, D-Margaritaville, gets Jimmy Buffett to host voter rally

@MarcACaputo

Florida music icon Jimmy Buffett plans to hold an Oct. 29 get-out-the-vote rally for Democrat Gwen Graham in her effort to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland.

Buffett is set to perform “a short acoustic set with his friend Mac McAnally” and tout Graham’s candidacy, according to a press release. More details are forthcoming about the time, location and ticket availability.

From the free media exposure to voter mobilization to fundraising, Buffett’s appearance for Graham is the type of star-power help most candidates dream about. Polling indicates the race between her and Southerland is tight in Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Tallahassee area to Panama City.

The “Margaritaville” singer has been friends with the Graham family for decades. Buffett founded the Save the Manatees advocacy group in 1981 with then-Gov. Bob Graham, the candidate’s father.

Last month, Buffett was spotted in Tallahassee dining at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee with lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl. They represent Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings.

Sharkey and Biehl also represent the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, Inc., which would love to cash in on Florida’s new but limited prescription cannabis law. That law is highly restrictive, though, and the association and potential investors would love for Amendment 2 to pass.

It’s probably a good bet that the old smuggler at least supports the medical marijuana amendment, but so far he hasn’t said much (or been asked much) about it. Some polls show it struggling to get near 60 percent – the threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment – while others have it polling at levels indicating it will be approved.

0ptimus FL poll: Rick Scott tops Charlie Crist 41-40, no Fangate Effect found

@MarcACaputo

Widely reported and heavily mocked, the ‘Fangate’ from Wednesday’s governor’s debate doesn’t appear to have had any effect on the race, according to a new poll from the Republican-leaning firm 0ptimus that shows the contested remains tied.

Gov. Rick Scott gets 41 percent support from likely Florida voters and Democrat Charlie Crist gets 40 percent – a lead by the Republican that’s well within the poll’s 1.5 percentage-point margin of error.

Meantime, Republicans have been outvoting Democrats when it comes to casting absentee ballots. More than 890,000 have been voted and GOP ballots outnumber Democratic ones, 48-35 percent. That’s a better margin for Republicans than in 2012, but it’s worse than 2010.

Early in-person voting, which Democrats tend to dominate, begins today.

Continue reading "0ptimus FL poll: Rick Scott tops Charlie Crist 41-40, no Fangate Effect found" »

October 19, 2014

'Mediscare' accusations abound in debate between Miami congressional candidates

@PatriciaMazzei

Accusing each other of trying to scare voters, Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and competitor Carlos Curbelo appeared in a pointed live television debate Sunday, a day before early voting begins in the close political contest.

Garcia, a freshman Democrat seeking reelection, charged Curbelo with misleading voters by referring to Social Security and Medicare as a “Ponzi scheme” that might not be around for future generations.

“He talks about turning the page, but what he’s turning the page to is fear tactics and scare tactics,” Garcia said.

Curbelo, a Republican Miami-Dade County School Board member, threw the accusation back at Garcia for running advertisements that claim Curbelo would end Medicare benefits for seniors.

“That is the ultimate hypocrisy,” Curbelo said.

The exchange was one of several cutting ones in the debate on WPLG-ABC 10’s This Week in South Florida, the first one between the men in Miami-Dade broadcast in English. They faced off last week on a Spanish-language station.

More here.

'Rick Scott is betting his mansion on Tampa' --and other tidbits from the $83m ad war

@SteveBousquet and @MarcACaputo

Gov ad spendFor the past year, living in Florida has meant having Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist as constant and mostly unwanted companions.

If you own a TV, you get the picture.

Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. About $83 million since March.

For months, TV viewers have been forced to withstand a seemingly endless barrage of vicious ads from Scott and Crist as they try to trash talk their way to the Governor’s Mansion, 30 seconds at a time.

Scott and Republicans have spent $56.5 million on ads and Crist and Democrats have spent $26.5 million. Scott has bought far more ads in Tampa Bay than anywhere else: It’s the biggest TV market in Florida and Crist’s home base.

“Gov. Scott is betting his mansion on Tampa,” said Scott Tranter, a principal and consultant for a Republican-leaning data analytics firm, 0ptimus.

Using data from broadcast stations and the Florida voter file, 0ptimus has concluded that Tampa Bay viewers have seen the most negative ads from Scott about Crist, with 95 million impressions since Sept. 1.

That means a Scott ad has been seen in whole or in part 95 million times across the Tampa Bay TV market.

In a first-of-its-kind race where both candidates have been governors, voters say the two men have cheapened and demeaned the high office they seek. Their total lack of mutual respect is magnified by the fact that they refuse to address each other as “governor” and instead use “Rick” and “Charlie.”

More here

Report: Florida's tip, Cape Sable, losing ground to rising seas

@JenStaletovich

From the sky, Florida’s rugged tip looks like a scrap of emerald green lace: marshes and mangroves and tree islands all knit together by ribbons of creeks and lakes.

But at Cape Sable, a remote outpost where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico, the coast is fraying.

Usually, geological change is so slow that “you never see something in your lifetime,” Audubon Florida biologist Peter Frezza said recently as he piloted his boat around acres of mud flats filling Lake Ingraham. “But we’re watching this happen.”

For more than a decade, scientists have seen the cape as the tip of the sword in climate change. Sliced open by canals dug through the marl dividing marshes from the bay a century ago by Henry Flagler’s land company, the cape is particularly vulnerable to rising seas. Flagler was hoping to drain the wetland and lure homesteaders and ranchers. Story here.  

Gov. Rick Scott promised a change at DCF but expert says 'numbers are cooked' as deaths kept off the books

UNDERCOUNT-Charlize_Terrell@Marbinus

In Lake County, a disfigured 2-month-old whose mother did not want him is left alone in a motel room for 90 minutes, and is later found smothered. His family had been the subject of 38 prior investigations by the state’s child welfare agency.

“It is a general consensus,” a report said, “that [the mother] was involved in the death of her child.”

In Santa Rosa County, child welfare authorities allow a “chronic and severe” drug addict to bring her newborn home, though her two older children had been removed from her care for their safety. Eighteen days later, the mother takes an unprescribed Lortab painkiller and places her baby next to her in bed. The child is found dead.

And in Polk County, a mother leaves two toddlers alone in a “kiddie pool” — and returns to find her 1-year-old daughter face-down in the water. Her 2-year-old son later discloses he pushed his sister down while she was crying. He now suffers nightmares. 

The children, who all perished last year, are tragically bound by more than death: Even as the Florida Department of Children & Families has promised greater openness, the three fatalities, and dozens of others like them, have never been counted among the state’s victims of fatal abuse or neglect.

No state can protect every child who is born to troubled, violent or drug-addicted parents, and even youngsters for whom child protection administrators make all the right choices can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. To ensure that state social service agencies learn from mistakes, the federal government requires that states count and investigate all child fatalities that result from abuse or neglect.

Regulators don’t, however, strenuously oversee how the counting and investigating occurs.

After the Miami Herald published a series examining the deaths of 477 children — and Florida’s failure to protect some of them from abusive or neglectful parents — the state promised a new era of openness and more rigor in the way it investigates child deaths.

But except for abiding by a new state law that required DCF to create awebsite listing all child fatalities, Florida has continued to undercount the number of children it fails.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott promised a change at DCF but expert says 'numbers are cooked' as deaths kept off the books" »

October 18, 2014

Race between Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo comes down to the wire

@PatriciaMazzei

The ghost of David Rivera lingers over the fierce race for Florida’s southernmost congressional district.

Engulfed in scandals, he lost the seat two years ago and came in fourth place this year when he tried to win the Republican Party’s nomination again.

But his tainted legacy is never too far from his former opponents.

The man who won this year’s GOP primary, Carlos Curbelo, is campaigning as the anti-Rivera. The man Curbelo wants to defeat, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, is seeking reelection without having the vulnerable Rivera to use as target practice.

Garcia’s own 2012 political advertising — hammering Rivera as corrupt — has come back to haunt him.

More here.

CDC agrees to help Florida prepare for Ebola, sort of

The federal Centers for Disease Control agreed Saturday to some -- but not all -- of Gov. Rick Scott's Ebola-related requests.

The CDC will hold a conference call with Florida hospitals next week on best practices, Scott said Saturday. The organization has also given Florida the green light to spend about $7 million in federal grant funding on protective suits for health care workers. 

"The CDC indicated that we will receive formal approval next week, but based on this preliminary approval, we have already begun using these funds to enhance our Ebola preparedness efforts," Scott said in a statement.

The governor is still waiting on the CDC to contact passengers on a plane that stopped in Fort Lauderdale after carrying a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola. 

He also has yet to receive 27 of the 30 Ebola testing kits he requested.

"With a population of more than 19 million people, tens of millions of tourists, and numerous ports and international airports, we must ensure Florida can rapidly test any future patients who have the potential for Ebola," he said.

The conference call with Florida hospitals will take place Monday at 3:30 p.m.

The call will provide "guidance for proper use of Personal Protective Equipment, safe handling of medical waste and effective clinical strategies within the hospital setting."

October 17, 2014

After FanGate, Scott pivots to Ebola

Two days after Florida’s gubernatorial debate turned into FanGate, Gov. Rick Scott convened a press conference in Dania Beach to talk about a more serious subject: Ebola.

The Republican incumbent assured reporters that Florida was prepared for a potential health crisis — and repeated calls for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contact passengers on a plane that stopped at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after carrying an Ebola patient.

"The CDC and the federal government have already failed to get ahead of the spread of Ebola in Texas and we’re not going to let that happen in Florida," Scott said.

But some observers say the news conference Friday was about more than emerging health concerns, pointing out that no cases of Ebola have been reported in Florida, and healthcare professionals consider it highly unlikely that any Fort Lauderdale passengers caught the virus.

"He’s playing politics with fear," said Charles Zelden, a professor of history, law and politics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. "He’s following the Republican Party playbook, which is to scare people into voting — and he’s trying his darndest to put FanGate behind him."

Read more here.