October 21, 2014

Fact-checking Rick Scott's claim about driver's licenses for Dreamers and whether the bill he vetoed would have changed "nothing"

Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are competing for the Hispanic vote, leading the candidates to argue about their stances on everything from the Cuba embargo to rights for illegal immigrants.

During the Telemundo debate Oct. 10, the debate moderator asked the candidates to explain their conflicting views on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In 2013, the Legislature passed a bill to give driver licenses to those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, sometimes called "Dreamers." Scott vetoed it.

Crist, a Democrat, said during the debate: "I’m in favor of a driver’s license for Dreamers. The governor recently signed a bill where they can have in-state tuition. And that was a good thing to do. But if you can’t drive to school, or you can’t drive to your job, good luck getting to work."

Scott, a Republican, responded: "The driver’s license bill that was passed, nothing changed. Those same individuals have the right to get a Florida driver’s license today."

Scott was partially correct and partially misleading. Floridians who get Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, called DACA, generally get work permits, which they can use to get driver’s licenses.

But he is overstating the situation when he says "nothing changed," because that bill would have affirmatively given those immigrants the right to use their DACA forms to get a driver’s license, even if their work permit didn’t arrive simultaneously. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read more.

October 20, 2014

Clean energy group delivers 92,000 petitions to governor

A group of clean energy advocates continued the drumbeat against Gov. Rick Scott's on Monday and delivered more than 92,000 signatures urging him to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA's Clean Power plan. 

The group, called Florida’s Clean Future coalition, had school children, college students and parents pull red wagons with boxes of petitions to the governor's office at the state Capitol as part of an aggressive initiative by climate change activists to keep a focus on the issue in the governor's race. The EPA requires the state to have a plan to reduce carbon emissions in place by 2030 and the first deadline is in 2015. The governor has remained silent about his plans to address the issue. 

Last week, scientists, business and community leaders called on Scott to listen to their climate change solutions. Meanwhile, NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid.


Miami-Dade mayor heads to D.C. for meetings


There's a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting Tuesday, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez won't be there.

Instead, he'll be traveling to Washington D.C., where he has been invited to a transportation and infrastructure briefing by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the National Economic Council, Gimenez's office said.

Before that, the mayor will participate in a forum titled "Fix My Commute." The event, hosted by the Washington Post, is part of a series -- "America Answers" -- on tackling local government issues.

Later, Gimenez is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Gimenez will be traveling with his spokesman, Michael Hernández, and the trip will be paid for by the mayor's office travel budget, Hernández said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigns en español. Praise, critics follow


As the number of Hispanic voters across the country has grown, so has the number of gringo politicians who want to say something to them — in Spanish.

But Miami is not always a good place to come practice. So many locals are fluent that they can be merciless to those who mangle the language of Cervantes.

More than a few of those critics privately assailed Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week when he used his closing at a debate against Democratic rival Charlie Crist to deliver a halting paragraph — far beyond the usual cursory few words — in Spanish, a tongue the Republican governor concedes he has yet to master.

Mi español no es perfecto,” Scott said Monday.

Yet Miami audiences can also be very forgiving. And plenty of people — namely Hispanic Republicans — have come to the defense of the governor, who is scheduled to participate in a third and final debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday on CNN.

At Monday’s GOP rally at the West Dade Regional Library, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami praised Scott in Spanish as “a governor who is even learning to speak Spanish. So his opponent’s campaign criticizes him... because he speaks with an accent.”

More here.

The Rick Scott and Charlie Crist management stories each campaign will alternately hate and love


Two stories about the management styles of the frontrunners for governor. Rick Scott's campaign and his supporters will probably hate the first one and love the second. It's the opposite for Charlie Crist. First the Scott story.....

From his poor poll numbers to his formidable fortune, Rick Scott’s political standing revolves around Columbia/HCA.

Scott was once hailed as a “wunderkind” for making the hospital chain the largest healthcare company in America. Then, he became a pariah after he and his company were investigated for Medicare fraud, leading to his ouster in 1997.

Today, Scott avoids even mentioning the words “Columbia/HCA.”

“In 2010, the Democrats attacked me,” Scott said at a debate earlier this month, omitting he was first attacked by Republicans. “And I said when I ran a company I would take responsibility for the actions while I was CEO.”

But Scott never really did take responsibility at the time. Initially, he denied anything was out of the ordinary. He ultimately faulted others under him.

For some former Scott allies, employees and supporters, the denial and blame-shifting is but one pattern of behavior Scott took with him from the board room to the governor’s mansion.

More here about Scott.

And as for Charlie Crist....

In his long history as a politician, Charlie Crist excelled at two things: making news and running for other offices.

Crist’s political biography is a chronicle of campaigning for: state Senate (1986 and 1992), U.S. Senate (1998), education commissioner (2000), attorney general (2002), governor (2006), U.S. Senate again (2010) and, now, governor again.

“The campaigning has always had more allure to him than the governing,” said George LeMieux, Crist’s former top political advisor who was appointed to an interim U.S. Senate post by the former governor.

Crist in 2010 sought that senate post LeMieux seat-warmed, making the governor the first in modern times to not seek reelection. It also marked the beginning of a stark political transformation that led Crist to flee the GOP, become estranged with LeMieux and ultimately become an independent and then a Democrat seeking his old job back under a new party banner.

In numerous interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, current and former advisors of Crist’s say they worked for an always-candidate, one who wasn’t so much obsessed with policy details as with poll numbers.

“I am,” he often reminded his advisers, “the most popular governor in America.”

More here about Crist

Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away

UPDATE: Former state legislator and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Tom Slade has passed away.

His family just sent this updated press release and obituary:

Tom Slade, former Florida State Senator and State Representative and perhaps best known for his leadership as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1993-1999, passed away this afternoon at Orange Park Medical Center following heart failure last week. Thomas H. Slade, Jr. was 78.

Tom Slade’s political career began in 1962 when he was elected to the State House of Representatives. He was elected to the State Senate in 1966. While seeking the Cabinet office of State Treasurer in 1970, Slade survived a plane crash at the Tallahassee Regional Airport with C.W. Bill Young, who was seeking the Congressional seat that Young served in until his own passing last year.

A successful Jacksonville businessman, Slade served as Chairman of the Florida Tax and Budget Commission in 1990 – a service that brought him back to the political arena, and he was encouraged to run for Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in 1993. As of his election that January, Florida’s Governor’s Mansion, State Cabinet, State House were all controlled by Democrats, with the State Senate in a 20-20 tie.  Slade focused on building the Party’s messaging, candidate recruiting, fundraising and campaign training, which by the end of his three terms following the 1998 elections, Slade had led Florida Republicans to statewide victories with the election of Governor Jeb Bush and Republican control and leadership of the Florida Senate, State House, the Cabinet, and a large majority in the Florida Congressional Delegation.

Slade offered his candidacy as Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1999, and following that unsuccessful bid, formed Tidewater Consulting, a governmental relations and political consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee.

Details of services for Tom Slade are pending and will be released in accordance with the wishes of the Slade family.


Continue reading "Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away" »

Nearly 900,000 absentee ballots cast as early voting begins; GOP still leading big


More than 888,000 absentee ballots had already been cast of Monday morning when early in-person voting began in Florida.

Right now, Republicans lead Democrats 49-35 percent in terms of absentee ballots cast by party. That 14 percentage point margin is lower than it was in 2010 but it’s far higher than in 2012.

Here's what's remarkable: the number of absentee ballots cast at this point relative to the 2012 elections is actually greater, by 140,695. And that's despite the fact that midterm elections have about a 50 percent turnout compared to presidential election years when turnout is over 72 percent. 

Democrats typically excel at early voting while Republicans dominate voting by mail.

But at a Miami rally today, Gov. Rick Scott and a host of other local Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, said the GOP needs to start banking in-person early votes as well.

“In 2012, when Mitt Romney lost, he lost because Republicans didn’t early vote,” Scott said. “We can win this election. We’ve got to get out and vote.”

The first part of that statement is probably historical revisionism. Romney lost for a variety of reasons, but it’s likely cause in Florida is that the GOP is so outnumbered by Democrats.

That remains the case today, with Democrats holding a 39-35 percent registration advantage of 455,946 voters. One troubling sign for both parties: the rise of the No Party Affiliation voters, who account for 23 percent of the rolls. Add in third party voters, particularly those who think “Independent Party” is really like NPA, and the proportion of independents swells to 26 percent.

Despite having such an edge, Democrats have typically been killed in midterms in Florida. Will this year be different? We'll know more in one week's time, when African-Americans (the most likely to vote early in-person) have a chance to vote after church. If Democrats haven't lowered the Republican edge to single digits in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrat Charlie Crist likely has a huge problem on his hands.

Here are the top 10 counties sorted by party affiliation

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      40,225 REP PIN 43%
      36,157 REP LEE 56%
      36,067 REP DAD 47%
      34,027 DEM PIN 37%
      28,146 DEM DAD 36%
      21,899 REP HIL 43%
      19,706 DEM HIL 39%
      19,022 DEM BRO 52%
      18,851 REP ORA 42%
      18,696 DEM ORA 41%

FSU trustees approve John Thrasher's contract


A delay caused by technical difficulties with the conference call phone line took almost as long as the meeting itself. But Florida State University's Board of Trustees has approved John Thrasher's contract, including a $430,000 base salary.

The board made some small changes, such as clarifying that a potential $100,000 annual bonus will be tied to Thrasher's ability to meet performance goals approved by him and the trustees. But members generally agreed on the substance of the contract (detailed here) and approved it unanimously.

Thrasher is expected to start work Nov. 10. The state Board of Governors must sign off on his contract first, but that should happen during its meeting Nov. 5 and 6.

Once that happens, Thrasher has promised to step down from the state Senate.

FSU Provost Garnett Stokes served as interim president but was unsuccesful in her bid for the permanent job. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that she agreed to stay on under Thrasher as his second-in-command and head of academic affairs. 

Thasher is expected to focus on fundraising and working with elected officials in obtaining more resources for FSU, leaving many of the day-to-day operations in Stokes' hands.

Scott wins endorsement from anti Common Core crowd

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards spent months trying to push Republican Gov. Rick Scott to take a stronger position against the controversial benchmarks.

But on Monday, one of the state's largest anti-Common Core groups announced that it would be supporting Scott on Election Day.

Florida Parents Against Common Core sent an email to 22,000 sympathetic parents on Monday, urging them to vote for the Republican incumbent.

"[Democratic candidate Charlie] Crist's unwavering support of the standards and federally aligned assessments confirmed the group's vital need to endorse Gov. Scott," founder Laura Zorc said in a press release.

Zorc said Scott had received the endorsement "because ONLY Gov. Scott has called for an independent Florida Standards Review Committee to evaluate additional improvements."

"Gov. Scott has committed to giving parents the opportunity to have a voice at the table for legislative recommendations and the adoption of better standards and policies," she said. "Once past the election and with a steady resolve and an aligned force, parents can continue efforts to improve the curriculum and assessment methods used in Florida."

With Charlie Crist outraising him, Rick Scott says he 'might' self-fund after saying he wouldn’t


In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott was clear about plowing his personal fortunes into his reelection campaign: “I won’t have to.”

But now that Democrat Charlie Crist outraised him 6:1 last week, Scott appears ready to open his personal piggy bank. He has spent $56.5 million on ads (at least two-thirds of them negative) to Crist’s $26.5 million (also heavily negative) yet he and Crist remain tied.

Rumors for weeks in Tallahassee were that Scott would commit $20 million to $22 million – a vast sum that still pales in comparison to the $75.1 million of his own money he dropped in 2010. The Crist campaign is trying to make that $20 million amount into gospel so it can scrounge for more cash. But that’s likely far too high.

“If I put in money, it will be nothing compared to what Tom Steyer – the radical, left wing billionaire from the West Coast – is helping Charlie with to bring these policies to Florida,” Scott said Monday in Miami at an early voting rally. “So if I end up putting money into the race, then it’s to make sure we have a strong finish.”

Steyer is on pace to spend more than $10 million in the race, as we first noted in August.

Asked if he might therefore put his own money into the race, Scott only said: "we’ll see.”

Question: “You haven’t yet though?”

Scott: “We’ll see.”

Scott could be plowing money into the Republican Party of Florida, which doesn’t have to report its finances until the end of the month. Scott signed an election bill that required more disclosure, but it omitted disclosing these types of transactions.