October 24, 2014

Cases against 2 former aides to Miami Rep. Joe Garcia remain unresolved


U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia fired his chief of staff last year for orchestrating an unlawful absentee-ballot request scheme in 2012. Jeffrey Garcia ended upserving 65 days in jail.

But the legal wrangling didn’t end with him.

Two more aides who prosecutors say helped submit hundreds of ballot requests online without voters’ permission still have pending cases with the Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office.

Prosecutors initially had two years to press misdemeanor charges against John Estes and Giancarlo Sopo. The statute of limitations was set to expire in July for Estes and this Sunday for Sopo. Had no charges been filed by then, the two men would have been in the clear.

Yet prosecutors now have a third year to make their case — because Estes’ and Sopo’s defense attorneys have agreed to a limitations-statute extension, in a bid to try to talk the prosecution out of charging their clients with anything. The defense has maintained the aides were unwitting participants duped by Jeffrey Garcia, no relation to the congressman.

More here.

Rick Scott gets Twitter shoutout - and photo! - from Mr. 305 himself: Pitbull


Looks like Florida Gov. Rick Scott wasn't the biggest name at his Republican fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables on Friday.

That distinction apparently goes to Miami native Armando Christian Pérez -- better known as Pitbull -- who on posted to his Twitter account (@pitbull) a photo with the guv, Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and state Rep. Erik Fresen.

"Proud to meet and discuss Florida's future with Governor @scottforflorida LG @lopezcantera and Rep @ErikFresenFL," Mr. Worldwide wrote.

He also attached a photo that -- let's be honest -- could be far more persuasive campaign-flier art for voters who may not be into politics but may be into Pitbull's signature brand of Latin pop. (¡Dale!)

Pitbull is registered to vote in Miami-Dade County, voting records show -- without political-party affiliation.


To pump up early vote, Charlie Crist rallies from Miami to Jacksonville Saturday


RainHow important is this weekend's in-person early vote for Democrat Charlie Crist? He's planning rallies from Miami to Jacksonville in one day.

Republicans as of this morning led Democrats in total pre-Election Day ballots cast by 144,000. All but 2,000 of those votes were by mail-in absentee ballots. When it comes to early voting in person, Democrats fare much better (they handily beat Republicans in 2012 but didn't in 2010).

Republicans have more-reliable (but fewer) voters than Democrats. And so far they've had another advantage this week during early voting in Democrat-rich South Florida -- the weather. It has been awful. Few things depress turnout like tropical depressions. As for why so many Democrats are sitting on absentee ballots they have voted, well maybe they have leaky roofs. Allegedly, the rain will clear up tomorrow.

Here's Crist's schedule for Saturday. Don't be surprised to see him visiting black churches Sunday for "Souls to the Polls" rallies:

Continue reading "To pump up early vote, Charlie Crist rallies from Miami to Jacksonville Saturday" »

Charlie Crist's False claim about insurance

Candidates in this year’s gubernatorial race have launched so many attacks against each other, it’s hard to keep them all straight. Even the candidates themselves seem to be having problems.

During the Oct. 21, 2014, CNN debate in Jacksonville, Democrat Charlie Crist seemed to mix his talking points when it came to insurance rates.

"We haven't had a hurricane in eight years and your property insurance rates have gone through the roof. Now why is that? I'll tell you why," he said. "It is because Rick Scott is not letting the department of insurance regulate insurance. He actually signed a bill last year that said that the Department of Insurance Regulation cannot regulate insurance."

Because we have a fairly long memory here at PolitiFact Florida, that didn’t sound right to us. Crist’s campaign told us they didn’t want to expound on this any more, so we looked into it ourselves. We found that Crist is actually using two unrelated attacks at once here, so stick with us and we’ll sort this out. Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check for PolitiFact Florida.

Poll: Teachers disapprove of Rick Scott

Public school teachers really don't like Gov. Rick Scott, according to a poll released Friday by the Democratic Party of Florida. 

The survey, conducted by the firm Hamilton Campaigns, found that 81 percent of public school teachers who are likely voters have a negative opinion of the way Scott handled education.

Sure, teachers tend to be Democrats. But 62 percent of the educators who identified themselves as Republicans gave Scott negative marks.

Democratic candidate Charlie Crist fared much better. Only about 28 percent of respondents had a negative opinion of the way he handled education while serving as governor, according to the survey results.

"The results of this poll confirm what many Floridians already know: Rick Scott has failed Florida's education system," Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said in a statement Friday. 

Will that make a difference on Election Day?

The survey found that 64 percent of teachers, regardless of their party affiliation, planned to vote for Crist. About 17 percent said they would vote for Scott.

The Republican teachers were divided: 34 percent planned to vote for Crist; 43 percent for Scott; and 7 percent for Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie

The results aren't entirely surprising.

Scott is a strong supporter of vouchers and charter schools, a position that has put him at odds with the teachers union as well as rank-and-file educators.

Crist, who used to be a Republican, supported many of those same education policies while serving as governor from 2007 through 2010. But he won over teachers in 2010 by vetoing a controversial bill seeking to tie teacher pay to student performance. And he has since supported a teachers union lawsuit challenging the school voucher program.

The Florida Education Association is one of Crist's biggest and most important supporters.

Read the memo on the poll below.

Download Memo



Charlie Crist ad goes after Rick Scott's jet, mansion and K-12 spending again

From a press release:

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The day Rick Scott skipped a deposition about his potentially illegal use of private emails to conduct public business, the Crist for Governor campaign released an ad highlighting one of the prime examples: the Scott Administration’s use of private emails to raise funds to improve the governor’s mansion.


Scott: Feds need to monitor Ebola volunteers

Gov. Rick Scott is once again calling on the federal government to step up its Ebola-prevention efforts. 

Scott made his latest remarks Friday, after Dr. Craig Spencer tested positive for the virus in New York.

"The news of Dr. Spencer testing positive for Ebola after returning to the U.S. last week from treating Ebola patients makes it clear that the CDC and federal government must do more to protect health care workers around the world and our citizens here at home," he said in a statement.

The Republican governor pointed out that the U.S. Department of Defense requires daily medical checkups for military personnel returning from Ebola-infected areas. Scott asked that the same 21-day period of care and quarantine be extended to volunteers. 

"Ensuring that all workers abroad are required to take the same safeguards and precautions as our U.S. military personnel will not only provide an equal level of care for these selfless health care workers, it will also better protect all our citizens here in Florida and across the country from any threat of this deadly disease," he said.

No word yet on if the federal government will comply.

Some critics say Scott has been focusing on Ebola to showcase his leadership skills before the Nov. 4 election. But he has also received some praise for his handling of the situation. During a debate earlier this month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said Scott was doing a good job on Ebola preparedness.

Cook Political Report: Miami Rep. Joe Garcia one of 'most vulnerable Democrats'


South Florida voters used to competitive political races -- this is the nation's largest purple state, after all -- may not realize just how important the tossup congressional contest between U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo is nationally.

On Friday, 11 days before the election, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington D.C. released its analysis of vulnerable Democratic incumbents. And Garcia is on it.

The report notes that Garcia has attacked the Republican Curbelo for calling Social Security and Medicare a "Ponzi scheme" but doubts how effective that message has been, considering it did little to hurt the GOP in a 2010 Indiana campaign. It also mentions the criminal investigation that landed Garcia's former chief of staff in jail, and the fact that many voters who cast ballots in 2012 may sit out this year's midterms.

"Garcia is certainly one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country," the report concludes.

Read it here (subscription required).

1.5m votes cast, GOP still leads but Dems have cut advantage-rate in half since Oct. 6


About 1.5 million pre-Election Day ballots had been cast as of Friday morning and the Republican advantage over Democrats is slowly eroding in terms of a percentage advantage.

Yesterday morning, Democrats were down 10.8 percentage points compared to Republican ballots cast. Now, Democrats are down 9.8 percentage points.

That's the first time since votes have been posted Oct. 6 that the Republican advantage has been cut to below 10 points. On Oct. 6, when overseas ballots (mainly military) were coming in, the GOP advantage was 20.5 percentage points.

Now that tomorrow marks the first weekend of early voting (and perhaps the first weekend without rain in Democrat-heavy South Florida) there's a good chance Democrats will -- or should -- close the gap more.

But elections aren't decided on percentage-point gains. They're decided by the number of ballots cast. Votes won't be tallied until Election Day. But the totals by party in ballots cast before then gives us an idea about the strength of each side.

And the GOP is still winning outright: 144,109 more ballots cast than Democrats by absentee and in-person early vote.

That's a small increase of 1.3 percent for the GOP since yesterday, while the total number of ballots cast increased by 11.2 percent.

Here are some dueling memos from the campaigns about turnout (Scott and Crist), background on related posts are here, and here are the numbers as of this morning:

Total early and absentee votes

PARTY    EVAB     %
REP        681,752 46%
DEM        537,643 37%
IND        247,245 17%
TOTAL     1,466,640  

Absentee ballots

PARTY     AB's        %
REP        580,006 47%
DEM        437,926 36%
IND        208,773 17%
TOTAL     1,226,705  

Early vote

PARTY      EV        %
REP        101,746 42%
DEM         99,717 42%
IND         38,472 16%
TOTAL        239,935  





Scott campaign memo: The Obama turnout model is a 'pile of rubble' for Charlie Crist


The war of the memos continues. Yesterday, a Charlie Crist advisor made the case that the campaign is on track to turn out pre-Election Day voters. Now its Rick Scott's campaign that's deep-diving the numbers and arguing that it's winning the turnout war on multiple fronts. The memo:


Continue reading "Scott campaign memo: The Obama turnout model is a 'pile of rubble' for Charlie Crist" »