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July 27, 2015

Group attacks David Jolly for refusing to cut money for botanical garden in D.C.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s Senate campaign was only hours old when he began taking fire from his fellow conservatives.

The Club for Growth, a political action committee backing Jolly’s GOP primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, said that Jolly may have only been in office for 16 months, but during that time he "racked up a terrible record on fiscal issues."

"Jolly is so addicted to big government, he couldn’t even muster up the courage to cut spending for a national greenhouse in D.C.," the PAC said in a statement emailed on the afternoon of July 20, 2015, the same day Jolly announced that he would be vying for Marco Rubio’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat.

Jolly has only been in office since March 2014, after winning a special election for the late C.W. "Bill" Young’s 13th congressional district seat. Given such a short tenure, we wondered what action was so wasteful it would warrant Club for Growth’s assertion that Jolly had squandered too many greenbacks on a greenhouse.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.

Breakdowns, lax security cited in audit of state voter database

With planning for the 2016 presidential election underway, a new auditor general's report sharply criticizes Gov. Rick Scott's administration for its handling of the backbone of democracy in Florida: the electronic system that holds vital data on 12 million voters in the nation's biggest battleground state.

The audit found that internal security controls need improvement; a disaster recovery plan has not been tested since 2011; 14 state employees had "inappropriate and unnecessary access privileges" to the database; no mechanism exists to ensure that production changes are "properly authorized, tested and approved'; security training for employees hired during the past year were not done on a timely basis; and measures to protect confidential and exempt voter information need improvement.

The audit has heightened tensions between Secretary of State Ken Detzner and county election supervisors, who call the report "troubling." A group of four supervisors, including association president Brian Corley of Pasco County, met with Detzner two weeks ago to complain about poor communication from the agency. They later realized that Detzner had already responded to the critical audit but didn't bother to tell them about it. Their letter is here.

Auditors found that the system broke down eight times between December 2014 and February of this year, and was offline for a three-day period between Feb. 24 and 26. Auditors clearly were concerned about the state's maintenance and level of security on the system, known as FVRS for Florida Voter Registration System.

Continue reading "Breakdowns, lax security cited in audit of state voter database" »

In Confederate flag battle in Panhandle, it's North vs. South

Photo(11)Supporters and opponents of the Confederate flag will square off again on Tuesday, this time in a Florida Panhandle community with a geographic twist as "northerners" may be more supportive of the flag than people in the South.

The place is Walton County, sandwiched between Panama City and Destin in northwest Florida. Founded in 1824, it's one of the oldest counties in Florida and perhaps best known as the home of Seaside, the photogenic New Urbanism beachfront community used as the setting for the Jim Carrey film The Truman Show.

Walton is bordered by Alabama on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and the rebel flag has fluttered on the grounds of a Civil War memorial on the lawn of the Walton County Courthouse since 1964 -- the same year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

In the aftermath of last month's massacre at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., opponents launched an aggressive effort to take down the flag. The five-member Walton County Commission heard both sides debate the issue two weeks ago, and delayed a final vote until Tuesday -- at the courthouse in DeFuniak Springs on the county's north side, not far from the Alabama border.

Continue reading "In Confederate flag battle in Panhandle, it's North vs. South" »

Doctor linked to Rep. Alan Grayson files to replace him in Democratic primary

Dr. Dena Minning, an Orlando Democrat who the Orlando Sentinel reports has been romantically linked to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has filed to run for his House seat in 2016.

Grayson will leave the House in 2016 in hopes of being elected to the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio is vacating to run for president. Minning, a physician and biochemist, has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to replace Grayson in the 9th District.

More on Minning from the Sentinel's Scott Powers:

A Democrat, Minning, 44, has no Florida political background. She is a medical doctor and a biotechnology entrepreneur who founded and runs MedExpert Consulting Inc.

In the past two years she was listed as a federal lobbyist with her company to represent Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, which advertises the drug Rapivab as a “first-and-only one-dose intravenous treatment for influenza.”

Grayson is declining a re-election bid for his seat, for now,  to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. That has opened up what is becoming a Democratic free-for-all to replace him in Florida's 9th Congressional District, which has a solid Democratic voter base.

Minning has not spoken to any major media about her candidacy, except in a written statement, nor even about the prospect, or about her relationship with the congressman. His marriage of 19 years ended in a contentious court battle over the past 18 months, finally coming to an annulment earlier this month. Nor has Grayson commented about Minning, except in a written statement about her candidacy.

Mason-Dixon poll shows no clear favoring in U.S. Senate race


There is no clear front runner in either the Republican or Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate in 2016, a new Mason-Dixon Florida Poll shows.

According to the poll of 500 registered Republican voters, U.S. Rep. David Jolly was the choice of 16 percent. Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera was second with 10 percent of the vote. U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller were the choice of 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Todd Wilcox was sitting at 2 percent.

Maybe more telling is how many voters are undecided about the field. The poll showed 55 percent said they were undecided about who they would pick.

If former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has said he is considering the contest, gets in the race, he could scramble the field. McCollum would immediately jump to the top of the list. When asked if McCollum were running, 22 percent said they would support him. Jolly would drop to 11 percent. DeSantis would be third with 8 percent, followed  by Lopez-Cantera and Jeff Miller at 7 percent and 6 percent. Still 45 percent of Republican voters said they were undecided even with McCollum in the contest.

The Democratic field is even closer. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson was the choice of 33 percent of registered Democratic voters. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was the choice of 32 percent. But like the Republicans, a lot of voters remain very undecided. The poll showed 35 percent were undecided.

The race doesn’t change much if U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham gets in the race. If she gets into the contest, Murphy would lead the field with 26 percent. Grayson would get 24 percent and Graham 11 percent. But the undecideds grow to 39 percent.

The telephone poll was conducted from July 20 to July 25 and the margin of error is 4.5 percent. 

July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

Jeb Bush's best weapon: Donald Trump

via @adamsmithtimes @KirbyWilson88

Jeb Bush has raised more than $100 million for his presidential campaign, but the strongest 2016 weapon of late hasn’t cost him a dime: Donald Trump.

For weeks, the blustery billionaire has made it next to impossible for any other Republican candidate to be noticed or emerge as a viable alternative to the former Florida governor.

Even as Bush and his allies publicly tsk tsk The Donald’s inflammatory rhetoric, many of them are quietly thrilled at how helpful Trump has been, albeit unintentionally.

“When this is all said and done, it will be to Jeb’s credit that he had a crazy son of a (gun) riding him in the early going, because it made him look much more sane,” said Tallahassee lobbyist and former Bush political strategist J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich. “And for the Republicans in the mid to lower tiers in this huge primary field, Trump has been a huge detriment. They have not been able to gain traction or get attention to make any kind of move.”

Since mid June, when Bush and Trump both formally jumped into the race, only three candidates have gained ground in the average of national Republican polls: Bush, Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Bush’s average level of support rose nearly 3 percentage points to 13.4 percent nationally, Trump’s rose nearly 15 points to an average of 18.2 percent and Walker’s rose 1.4 points to an average of 12 percent. Every other Republican during those seven weeks when Trump dominated the media coverage saw the numbers drop.

“The Republican field is Gov. Bush and everybody else, with some stars in that everybody else category like Sen. (Marco) Rubio and Gov. Walker,” said former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, a Broward Republican. “The problem for a challenger is they need oxygen, they need the media to pay attention to them and Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen.”

More here.

Jimmy Fallon gets wind of Miami congressman's Donald Trump conspiracy theory


Jimmy Fallon used his Tonight Show monologue Friday to reflect on Donald Trump's Republican presidential candidacy -- and name-dropped the Miami congressman who has posited Trump might be a Democratic ringer.

"Trump's got everybody all worked up," Fallon said. "In fact, one GOP congressman named Carlos Curbelo actually suggested that Donald Trump may be a phantom candidate that has been planted by Democrats.

"The DNC strongly denied this -- while Hillary said, 'Crap, they figured it out! Take off the wig, Bill! You're fired!"

Here was Trump's response to Curbelo's theory.

Will the roadmap through Florida redistricting include revising Senate map early?

Crisafulli and GardinerLike the aftershocks of an earthquake, Florida legislators are feeling the tremors of the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling on their own districts — particularly in the state Senate.

Senators who thought they had comfortable re-election bids are now facing uncertainty as questions loom about whether the same factors that led the court to invalidate the congressional map will provoke judges to reject the Senate political boundaries, too. That would force the Legislature into another special session to redraw the Senate map and potentially make politically safe districts for many incumbents more competitive.

Legislative leaders are privately discussing whether to proactively redraw the Senate map before it is thrown out by a court or — in their worst-case scenario — redrawn by the court.

“One could say that since the court has returned the congressional maps to us twice, there is reason to believe a Senate map could be returned as well,” said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, who will head the House redistricting committee when lawmakers return in special session in August.

But, Oliva told the Herald/Times, “if any discussions are happening about the Senate maps, it’s happening between presiding officers.” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, would not confirm that discussions are taking place.

More here.

July 24, 2015

Term limits? It's no hurdle for ex-lawmakers who return home

It has been more than two decades since Florida voters embedded term limits in the state Constitution when they declared "eight is enough" for most members of the Legislature. 

But while term limits broke the grip that career politicians held on the state Capitol, it created a wealth of political opportunities for them at the local level to be county commissioners or constitutional officers -- well-paying jobs that in many cases don't come with term limits.

It's a direct result of term limits, and it happens so routinely that it often escapes attention.

More here.