March 31, 2010

Dockery takes a stand; McCollum, Sink don't

The most heated debate in Tallahassee today is expected to concern Sen. J.D. Alexander's plan to close two state-run prisons to populate the private Blackwater prison in the Panhandle.

Where do the three leading gubernatorial candidates stand on the issue?

Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum dodged the issue and CFO Alex Sink, a Democrat, wasn't available for comment. Only upstart Republican candidate Paula Dockery, a state senator from Lakeland, took a stand. She called the deal "outrageous" and demanded a more thorough vetting.

McCollum's office issued a non-answer: "The Legislature is in the very early stages of the budget process, and I know they are facing tough decisions. I encourage them to continue to make public safety a top priority as they move forward in budget negotiations." His office didn't respond to follow-up questions.

And Sink's office said they couldn't reach her Tuesday evening.

As the candidates avoid the issue, state lawmakers worked behind closed doors late Tuesday to strike a compromise on Blackwater and the cuts to the Department of Corrections.

Continue reading "Dockery takes a stand; McCollum, Sink don't" »

March 30, 2010

Sen. Dockery: Stop 'outrageous' Blackwater prison deal

State Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, just issued a press statement in opposition to the Blackwater private prison deal:

Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), is strongly opposed to the lengthy proviso language that was quietly inserted into the Senate’s proposed budget during last week’s Ways & Means Committee hearing. “The proposal to close unnamed existing correctional facilities resulting in the layoffs of over 1,000 state corrections officers to move inmates to private facilities is a policy decision that deserves to be vetted through a completely transparent process. As chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, I find it outrageous that major change in how we run our state correctional facilities was not reviewed by committees that were created for this explicit purpose,” said Senator Dockery. “Transparency cannot exist when there has been no opportunity for debate or testimony.”

March 08, 2010

Candidates for governor not eager to touch hot button legislative issues

Either Attorney General Bill McCollum, Sen. Paula Dockery and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink could inherit the remnants of the budget and policy struggles Florida legislators have before them come inauguration day in January. So where will they be this legislative session?

McCollum says he won't be ``getting into the weeds'' on the budget. Sink says she'll be keeping ``a very watchful eye'' on lawmakers.

``Both of them are cautious,'' said Karen Woodall, a longtime lobbyist identified with farmworkers, tax reform and liberal causes.

Meanwhile, Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland, the underdog candidate in the Republican race, is the only one to have a vote on the legislative issues. Full story here.

March 03, 2010

JD, not Paula Dockery, to chair Sen. ethics & elex

Senate President Jeff Atwater tapped Sen. J.D. Alexander to chair the Ethics & Elections Committee now that Sen. John Thrasher stepped down once he became head of the Republican Party of Florida. Atwater spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said Atwater chose Alexander, who was chair last year, because he was already on the committee. That way, she said, the president wouldn't have to tap someone from another committee and start a domino effect of "shuffling people around" from one committee to the next.

One of those people who wanted to be shuffled: Sen. Paula Dockery, a sometime-rival of Alexander. She wrote Atwater earlier today:

This letter serves as a notification of my desire to serve as chair of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, in addition to my current chairmanship of the Criminal Justice Committee. The people of Florida are rightfully demanding substantial ethics reforms. The chairperson that you select for this committee will be in a position to truly listen to the people and begin the restoration of the public trust.

I have been emphasizing this need for the past three years and have researched changes that would restore the integrity of our beloved institution, and my sincere desire to use my leadership skills for this critical purpose, as well as my record on transparency and open government makes me the logical candidate for the job.

Thank you in advance for your careful consideration in this matter.

February 23, 2010

Sen. Dockery to Caputo: Put up or shut up on Tea Party war

Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, is getting dragged into a Tea Party civil war. One Tea Party group is suing another linked to the controversial Central Florida operative Doug Guetzloe, who has thrown support toward her but denies major involvement in Tea Party politics.

Enter Michael Caputo (no relation to reporter Marc Caputo, i.e., me). He's an operative with close ties to uber-attack man Roger Stone and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which largely backs Dockery's Republican primary opponent, Bill McCollum. Caputo (who intriguingly worked for Russian Prez Boris Yeltsin once) also helped the 2006 failed Frank Bolanos campaign against Dockery pal Sen. Alex Villalobos.

Caputo's main dog in this fight, though, is South Florida Tea Party, which filed a Jan. 19 federal lawsuit v. TEA Party of Florida, affiliated with Guetzloe. Caputo, saying 33 other groups have joined the suit, sent out an email missive making allegations against Dockery and the senator just responded. Her email is first:

Continue reading "Sen. Dockery to Caputo: Put up or shut up on Tea Party war" »

February 05, 2010

IG report: No wrongdoing with 'pancake' e-mails

Florida Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos was cleared Friday of allegations that she skirted state public records laws in a series of unusual e-mail exchanges with a co-worker.

A 24-page report by Gov. Charlie Crist's chief inspector general said Kopelousos and a top aide were not using "code words" when they sent e-mails with subjects such as "pancake" and "French Toast."

The report also said an employee's error caused a delay in sending a state senator 8,000 e-mails in response to a public records request.

Kopelousos told investigators that no employee tried to subvert public records laws. She added, "At the end of the day, I'm responsible. Period. Whatever decisions are made at that agency, I am responsible." (Full story is here)

February 01, 2010

Poll: Charlie Crist should run as an indy, smack Marco Rubio

A new poll from Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates shows that Gov. Charlie Crist should consider running as an independent, rather than as a Republican, now that former House Speaker Marco Rubio has opened up a 14-point lead among self-identified likely 2010 Republican voters. A quarter of the voters are undecided. Error margin: 5.6 percent.

It’s not just the 14-point spread that’s troubling for Crist. It’s the internals. Of those Republicans who say he’s doing a good job, only 47 percent would vote for him over Rubio.

And voters from all three major categories (Republicans, Democrats, independents) all give Crist about the same marks on his image.

“Charlie is flat. There’s no intensity. A Republican should be doing much better among Republicans than with Democrats,” said Tony Fabrizio, the pollster who tacked on the Senate race questions in a poll he took for a private client interested in state policy.

Fabrizio’s solution: Crist should consider running as an independent. And start chipping away at Rubio.
But even as an indy, Crist has troubles in a three way race that ropes in Miami Rep. Kendrick Meek as the Dem. Rubio would pull 31 percent of the vote, Crist 26 and Meek 24 percent.

Fabrizio says in his analysis: “Among those GOP voters who have an opinion (positive or negative) of BOTH Crist and Rubio, Crist trails Rubio by a 50 point margin. While these results are somewhat exaggerated, it spells big trouble for Crist because Crist is known to 100% of GOP voters whereas Rubio is known to about 60%. Based on this data, if Rubio’s image growth is left unchecked, it is likely that Crist will fall even further behind in the ballot.”

It’s not as if voters don’t know who Rubio is, either. In a theoretical matchup where Crist would run for re-election against fellow Republican Bill McCollum, Crist would do better than he does against Rubio.

“Rubio is known and liked in the Republican primary universe. They have done a good job in the earned media world. The problems for Charlie are numerous,” he said.

Download 2-10 FL SW - Crist's Quandary

January 27, 2010

Poll: McCollum, oil drilling in. Haitian TPS, ObamaCare out

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has jumped to a 10 percentage point lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race for governor, according to Quinnipiac University's latest Florida poll measuring the issues of the day in the state.

McCollum trounces his Republican rival, Lakeland Sen. Paula Dockery, but his 41-31 percent lead against Sink isn't that commanding with 25 percent of the electorate undecided.

“Attorney General Bill McCollum has moved out to a double-digit lead in the race for Governor.  He’s beating CFO Alex Sink among independents and doing better among Democrats than Ms. Sink is doing among Republicans,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.  “But McCollum shouldn’t start picking out draperies for the governor’s office.  Certainly part of his lead is due to being somewhat better known than Ms. Sink – although neither one is a household name in the state."

Also, expect Democrats to question whether the poll oversampled Republicans. Even if the poll did, though, independent voters appear to be trending Republican.

By a 49-42 percent margin, voters also said they favor McCollum's threat to challenge the health-insurance plans initially pushed by President Barack Obama. They oppose the plan 57-32.

Voters by a 50-46 percent spread also oppose another Obama administration initiative -- granting temporary protective status for 18 months to Haitians who were illegally living in the United States prior to the earthquake in Haiti. By a 51-43 percent margin, they say current immigration laws should by enforced rather than waived. And they're almost evenly split, 47-48, on whether the nation should increase the number of legal immigrants in the United States.

Support is strong for oil drilling generally, the poll found. But while Florida voters favor drilling in federal waters, they oppose by a 53-39 percent drilling within five miles of the coast.

Download 012710 FL GOV + BP

January 25, 2010

Dockery begins to roll out endorsements

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, announced her first endorsement from a fellow lawmaker Monday and more are expected in coming days as she ramps up her campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

State Sen. Dennis Jones, a Republican from Seminole, "enthusiastically endorsed" Dockery as the next governor in a statement issued by her campaign.

“It has been my honor to serve with Senator Paula Dockery since 1996. During that time, I have been so impressed with her knowledge of the issues, willingness to listen and her honesty. Having Paula on your side of an issue means that half of the work is already done. It is a pleasure to be supporting her for Governor of the State of Florida.”

Jones' support is no surprise. The two lawmakers work together often in the Senate.

January 23, 2010

DOT calls Atrak threat a bargaining ploy

Top state Department of Transportation officials are calling Amtrak's threat to end rail service in the SunRail corridor a bluff. And legislative leaders question the federally-subsided corporation's motives. It's setting up a high speed game of chicken that threatens to derail one of Gov. Charlie Crist's top priorities. Read more here.