August 26, 2014

Easy wins by 2 Miami-Dade School Board veterans

@cveiga

Miami-Dade County’s longest-serving school board members coasted to reelection on Tuesday, securing four more years at the helm of one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Perla Tabares Hantman and Marta Pérez easily beat challengers Duysevi Miyar, an English teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High, and Lawrence Orihuela, an adjunct professor and retired teacher.

With no central issue driving the school board races and mostly civil campaigns, the incumbents relied on their records to sway voters.

More here.

Miami voters endorse SkyRise tower

@NewsbySmiley

Miami voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed SkyRise Miami, a swooping observation tower and tourist attraction proposed on a spit of land behind Bayside Marketplace.

The public supported the 1,000-foot tower — coupled with a long-term lease extension for Bayside’s operator — by a roughly two-to-one margin. The vote gives developer Jeff Berkowitz the green light to begin construction and triggers a $10 million upfront payment to the city of Miami.

At a campaign party held in a private room at the Hard Rock Cafe at Bayside, Berkowitz swished a glass of Grey Goose vodka on the rocks and declared victory upon the release of only early and absentee voting tallies, which favored the agreement by more than 70 percent.

“It’s a mandate,” he said. “Up, up and away.”

More here.

Primary marked by low turnout in South Florida

@glenngarvin @AndresViglucci

Without any marquee races to excite them, South Florida voters trickled in to the polls Tuesday in a primary election marked by a turnout that was light even by the low standards of off-year voting.

Though large numbers of voters and balky technology have turned some recent South Florida election days into marathons of endless, sweaty lines, Tuesday’s low turnout meant minimal problems at the polls. And zero waiting to vote.

Voters had their pick of booths at precincts across South Florida, where they were often outnumbered by poll workers, campaign volunteers and even, at times, candidates.

“Unfortunately, the turnout appears to be very low,” Democratic governor hopeful Nan Rich said during a lonely stop at North Miami’s Sunkist Grove Community Center. “I guess people are busy with their everyday lives.”

More here.

Charlie Crist crushes Nan Rich. But race against Rick Scott is far tougher

@MarcACaputo

Florida Democrats made it official Tuesday: They want a former Republican governor to beat the current Republican governor.

Heading into Tuesday’s primary election, Charlie Crist’s win over longtime Democrat Nan Rich was never in doubt. Only the size of his double-digit win — about 50 percentage points — was in question.

The general election pitting Crist against Gov. Rick Scott is far less certain. It’s close to a tie race. And it’s brutal.

Amid his cakewalk of a primary, Crist has had to deal with the bitter reality of Scott’s multi-million campaign juggernaut, which has spent nearly $28 million since November, trashing the Democrat on the airwaves from the moment he officially entered the race.

Crist thanked Rich in his acceptance speech and assailed Scott for everything from immigration policy to voting rights to abortion opposition.

The only time my opponent isn’t looking out for the special interests is when he’s looking out for those who share his extreme out-of-touch tea-party ideology,” said Crist, pledging that “in 70 days, we want to make Florida Scott-free.”

Earlier, at a campaign stop in Tampa, Scott contrasted the jobs gained during his term with the jobs lost when Crist was governor during the Great Recession.

“Charlie gives great speeches. He’s really good at it. But there’s no action. He lost 832,000 jobs,” said Scott, who faced token Republican opposition from utter unknowns Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder.He defeated them with 88 percent of the vote.

More here

Poll workers had to verify voters' ID over the phone during power outage at Plantation precinct

Plantation High School, which has two voting precincts, had a power outage this morning as voters first started to trickle in to cast ballots in the governor’s race.

The EVID machines which poll workers use to swipe voters’ drivers’ licenses to verify their identities don’t have battery backups at the hundreds of precincts on election day, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The machines do have battery backups during early voting when there are about 20 sites -- so therefore less equipment is needed.

So on primary day, that meant poll workers at the high school had to call the Supervisor of Elections’ call center at Nova Southeastern University to verify voters’ identities. During the power outage, zero voters showed up at one of the high school precincts while 10 showed up to vote at the other precinct. Power was back on by about 9:45.

We're hearing very few reports about other election day problems amid light turnout. 

In response to a question about whether any Republican voters were told there were no ballots for them at the Pompano golf course, Cooney said “I fielded a call about the poll deputy saying something to a voter about this not being a primary election or Republican primary. There were two voters at that precinct early this morning who were given incorrect information but they both voted. They weren’t turned away or anything. They did explain to them that there are three ballot styles: Democrat, Republican and nonpartisan. Two voters were given incorrect information that had to be corrected.”

 

Primary voting in Florida slow but smooth, state says

Polls across Florida opened smoothly Tuesday, and more than 1.1 million ballots had been cast by the time precincts opened for the statewide primary election. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's chief elections officer, said absentee or mail ballots totaled 856,378 and that another 296,902 Floridians had cast ballots at early voting sites.

That may sound like a lot of votes, but it's less than 10 percent of the state's pool of nearly 12 million voters. It's possible that statewide turnout could approach the modern low for a primary (17 percent in 1998), but Detzner declined to speculate on the size of the turnout and said the surge in voting by mail in Florida is a positive trend.

"Voters find absentee voting to be convenient. They can vote in their home. They can take their time," Detzner said.

Detzner reminded the public that polls close at 7 p.m. local time but all voting does not end until 8 p.m. Eastern time because the western Panhandle is in Central time. County election supervisors must file preliminary vote totals by 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, and those totals will include absentee and early vote totals from all 67 counties, he said.

Election results can be found online at enight.elections.myflorida.com.

Detzner said the only problem he knew of was that one poll worker in Orange County overslept, resulting in one polling place opening late. But he said no voters were inconvenienced.

Voters can check their polling place or the status of their ballots at elections.myflorida.com and use the voter information lookup. They can call their county elections office or the state's voter assistance hot line at 866-308-6739.

Ex-Lt. Gov. Carroll rips Scott, others in new book

In a new book, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll describes the misery of being in a “boys’ club” led by Gov. Rick Scott, who showed no interest in her ideas to reach out to black and Hispanic voters and whose staff members treated her shabbily.

Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Florida and held the largely ceremonial job for more than two years. She's now a political analyst for WJXT, Channel 4 in Jacksonville. Her 174-page book, "When You Get There," is published by Advantage, a South Carolina company.

She describes Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, as "even more ruthless" than his predecessor, Steve MacNamara, a control freak who choked off access to the governor and shut her out of important meetings. She describes being "ambushed" on March 12, 2013, the day Hollingsworth and general counsel Pete Antonacci forced her to resign because of her past public relations work for a veterans' group linked in an internet cafe fraud investigation.

Carroll was not accused of any wrongdoing. Her story hits bookstores on Wednesday -- her birthday. By coincidence, her grievances about Scott will spill into public view on the very day he will launch his general election campaign for a second term.

Working with Clarence McKee, a black political consultant, in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she devised a plan to reach out to black voters with local newspapers, radio and phone calls and that despite the campaign’s objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami’s black community. “The campaign didn’t want it, but I did it anyway,” she writes.

As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and had she not directed a “minority stealth” campaign, “Scott would have lost the election.”

McKee, a Scott supporter, said in interview that Carroll’s account was true and that she pushed for more outreach to Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach in the final weeks of the 2010 race, in which Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 62,000 votes.

Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his own staff and lacking in a personal touch, who ignored her birthday and showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a hot Greek church. “Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn’t have,” Carroll said of Scott.

In a parting shot, here's what Carroll has to say about her successor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who was chosen after a 10-month absence: "The new lieutenant governor is being treated even worse than I was from what I hear. He only has a small staff and he doesn’t have security. They gave him a car to drive himself around in. They haven’t given him much to do."

Exemptions from the Affordable Care Act includes millions in bill-sharing groups

When she was eight weeks old, Ashlyn Whitney suffered a severe respiratory-tract infection that put her in an intensive care unit for 12 days.

“Because she was so young, she couldn’t handle it,” Ashlyn’s mother, Nicole Whitney, recalled. “They had to give her oxygen.”

The baby, now a year old, recovered from her illness, known as respiratory syncytial virus.The bill for her treatment at the West Boca Medical Center in Palm Beach County came to about $100,000 — a sum that included almost $4,000 in fees for her birth and pre- and post-natal care — but every dime of the tab was picked up by a medical bill-sharing organization set up for its Christian membership.

Such religious groups are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. Although as many as 30 million Americans will remain without health insurance by 2016, despite the best efforts of the ACA’s proponents, all but about seven million of them will be spared having to join the new system because of exemptions created by the act itself, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The exempted religious organizations generally pool their members’ money to pay the medical expenses of anyone in the group who gets sick, injured or becomes pregnant. Also exempted from the law are members of federally recognized religious sects who have religious objections to insurance or to such systems as Social Security or Medicare.

Most of the other 20 exemptions address circumstantial situations such as homelessness, eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy, the death of a close family member or an experience with domestic violence. Members of Native American tribes are also free to not sign up for health insurance, as are those whose income is too low or who are serving a prison sentence.

The organization that Nicole Whitney and her husband, Jonathan, joined two years ago was Medi-Share, a program set up in 1993 by the Melbourne-based, not-for-profit Christian Care Ministry, which says on its website that its members “make the rules — and their dollars don’t support unbiblical choices such as abortion, or drug or alcohol abuse.” More from Nick Madigan here.  

August 25, 2014

Tom Steyer's NextGen group targets Rick Scott for "hiding" Duke Energy ties

@MarcACaputo

First there was an ad. Then there was a response ad. Now there's a reply to the response.

The tit for tat for tit ad war between billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Gov. Rick Scott continued on Monday when the activtis's NextGen Climate group released its latest spot tying the Republican to a controversial Duke Energy deal that socked customers with higher fees to build a nuclear plant that was ultimately never built.

NextGen released the first spot earlier this month, which PolitiFact rated as "half true."

Scott's Republican Party of Florida tried to pin the deal on Democrat Charlie Crist -- a claim that was "false," according to PolitiFact (both ads and another were fact-checked here).

Now, based on that last spot, NextGen says Scott is simply "hiding."

Fact-check of RPOF's ad about Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein buying Charlie Crist's judicial picks

Florida’s famous Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein now lives in a federal prison, but Republicans hope that he can help smear the reputation of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Back when Crist was a Republican, Rothstein and his Fort Lauderdale law firm donated generously to Crist and the Republican Party of Florida, as well as several other politicians.

In 2010, Rothstein was convicted in a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Rothstein’s testimony in a related case provided fodder now being used by Republicans to attack Crist in a TV ad.

"Convicted swindler Scott Rothstein bought expensive things with stolen money. He even bought a governor," says the narrator. "Rothstein boasted about contributing huge sums of money to the campaign of then Gov. Charlie Crist and the influence it gave him over judicial appointments. Now cooperating with prosecutors, Scott Rothstein admits he gave hundreds of thousands of campaign cash to control Crist’s appointments of key state judges."

Florida newspapers have extensively covered Rothstein’s case over the years. We wanted to know if the facts matched up with the ad’s brief description. To do that, we reviewed everything we could find on the case and conducted new interviews of people who had dealings with Rothstein on judicial appointments.

What we found doesn’t reflect well on Crist, who took Rothstein’s money and placed him on a key commission that selected judges.

But we also failed to find hard evidence that Rothstein actually controlled Crist’s judicial appointments as the ad claims. Those who served on a judicial nominating commission with him painted a portrait of someone who was all style but not much substance. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our rating and the full fact-check.