January 28, 2015

Harsh new criticism leveled at Gov. Rick Scott over FDLE firing

Top state officials in both political parties leveled harsh new criticism at Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday for his decision to oust the longtime Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner absent public discussion with the three Cabinet members who also oversee the agency.

In his strongest criticism yet, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said "we were misled" about Scott's true intentions to orchestrate Gerald Bailey's removal after a glowing three-decade FDLE career.

When asked whether he believed Scott's version of the truth or Bailey's, Putnam paused and did not give a direct answer.

"Jerry Bailey's a fine man. He served our state very well. The way he was treated at the end of his distinguished career was shabby," Putnam said.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, accused Scott of violating the Florida Constitution, which he is sworn to uphold, by not giving the Cabinet members any voice in the replacement of the FDLE commissioner.

"Hubris appears to be the organizing principle of our executive branch," Joyner said.

Developing story here.

March 20, 2014

 

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Broward LGBT activists held a fundraiser March 19 at the home of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

2014-03-19 Charlie Crist fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale 020After his five-minute speech, which you can watch here, Crist stated why electing him governor would be good for LGBT people in Florida:

"One of the most important things we can do is get a law on the books in Florida that recognizes the kind of things that President Obama is talking about. And that simply is why not have marriage equality throughout our country," Crist said.

"Certainly, we ought to have it in Florida and I believe that we win this election Nov. 4, we get some other progressives elected in the Florida House and Florida Senate, we’re going to have a great opportunity to get that done, and I look forward to the day we do."

Attendees included South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent; Florida Agenda publisher Bobby Blair; Ken Keechl, who's seeking to regain his Broward County Commission seat; former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, a state House candidate.

Crist’s Democratic rival is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

To view a photo gallery from the fundraiser, visit Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

February 12, 2014

Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website

Gov. Rick Scott may wear the state seal on his cowboy boots, but it shouldn’t be popping up on his campaign website, say Florida Democratic Party officials, who argue that Scott isn’t following state laws prohibiting the use of the seal in public campaigns.

The official state seal appears when visitors to the campaign website click on a few videos, including a Feb. 3rd announcement of $80 million in cancer research and another on education funding. According to Florida statutes, “in no event shall approval be given for the use of the Great Seal for the following: (a) Political or campaign purposes.”

Florida Democratic Party’s communications director Joshua Karp says the law is well-known to both parties, but charges that Scott and his team “feel comfortable cutting corners.”

The campaign site, which launched Feb. 8, shows the seal only as part of videos made by the governor’s office “that are publicly available online and they can be used by anyone,” counters Scott’s new deputy communications director, Greg Blair.

Blair said the same goes for another criticism by the Democrats -- that the Scott campaign is using material -- pictures by staff photographers and press releases written by state workers -- paid for with taxpayer dollars on its campaign site. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook” for those, Karp said.

Continue reading "Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website" »

October 24, 2013

Deerfield Beach businessman entering race for CFO says he's qualified for the job

William D. Rankin, a 53-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman, U.S. Army veteran and “normal, middle-of-the-road kind of guy,” says he is prepared to take on Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his well-funded re-election effort.

The Democrat said, “I have the qualifications to be the CFO.” Those qualifications include his position as the former director of asset management for the Ohio State Treasury, responsible for the accountability of more than $120 billion public trust and public retirement funds.

Rankin was also a U.S. Army special agent for 11 years, specializing in investigations of white-collar crime and government contract fraud. Injured in the service, he was honorably discharged.

A Cincinnati native, the divorced father of two adult children has been living in Florida since 1999 when he became director of Florida’s 2000 Census operation. He previously served as an outreach director for the U.S. Congressional 2000 Census Oversight Board, and worked with the state’s Haitian and Cuban communities.

Continue reading "Deerfield Beach businessman entering race for CFO says he's qualified for the job " »

July 15, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Ferre appointed to Metropolitan Planning Organization in Miami-Dade

 Former Miami Mayor Maurice  Ferre, a Democrat who supported Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial race after losing his own bid for the U.S. Senate, has been appointed by the governor to the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Miami-Dade County.

Ferré, 78, succeeds Maritza Gutierrez.

Miami attorney named Bondi's associate deputy for legal policy

Nilda R. Pedrosa has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to serve as associate deputy attorney general for legal policy, based in Miami. Pedrosa’s previous positions include chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart; a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez; and assistant dean at Florida International University College of Law. Attorney Pedrosa is a Miami native and graduate of FIU and New England Law.

New appointments to Children’s Trust board in Miami-Dade 

Scott made three appointments to the Children's Trust governing board in Miami-Dade County.

Marissa Leichter, 36, of Surfside, the senior program attorney with the Guardian Ad Litem Program, succeeds Benjamin F. Gilbert Jr.

Trudy Novicki, 62, of Miami, the executive director of Krisiti House, Inc., succeeds Pamela Lillard.

Kadie Black, 30, of Miami, the external affairs director for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., succeeds Jose Gregoire.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

June 10, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Former Romney spokesman new press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida

 Susan Hepworth, who served as director of the national traveling press for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, is the new press secretary and deputy communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

The Kansas City native traveled full time with former Gov. Romney and the press corp during his race for president.

During the 2010 election cycle, she directed the day-to-day political operations at the RNC. Prior to that she was at Majority Strategies, a mail firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Hepworth began her political career in 2007 in Iowa on Romney’s first presidential bid right after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.

“I graduated on a Sunday, drove to Des Moines on Monday and I started working on the campaign on Tuesday,” said Hepworth, who started her new job June 7. “And that’s been my life.”

Winsor new state solicitor general

Allen Winsor succeeds Timothy Osterhaus as Florida’s solicitor general,  the state government’s top appellate lawyer. Osterhaus was appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal May 20th.

Winsor, 36,  has been the principal deputy solicitor general since January. Prior to that, he was a member of the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, most recently as a shareholder. He’s a 2002 graduate of the University Of Florida College Of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

The Florida solicitor general represents the state throughout Florida's appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The solicitor general also serves as the Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair and a visiting professor of law at Florida State University College of Law.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

November 03, 2012

'Soft-money,' big checks fuel lawmakers' personal committees

Florida legislators have padded their personal political committees with more than $20 million in special interest donations this election cycle, using the funds to buy attack ads, help colleagues win races and, occasionally, pay for travel, meals and perks.

More and more, special interest groups are sending five- and six-figure campaign checks to lawmakers through committees as a way to avoid the usual $500 cap on individual donations, a Times/Herald analysis shows.

The Florida Medical Association, for example, contributed $100,000 this cycle to a political committee controlled by incoming Senate President Don Gaetz and others. Disney donated $190,000 to another GOP-controlled group, Protect our Liberty.

And then there's GOP super-donor and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who pumped $250,000 into House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford's Committee for a Conservative House.

Decried by critics as slush funds, these "committees of continuous existence," or CCEs, allow powerful lawmakers to amass huge campaign treasure chests and spend the money with broad latitude. Each day, thousands of dollars course through the political system, flowing between CCEs, interest groups, consultants and lawmakers. By the time the money reaches voters in the form of a campaign ad, it can be difficult to know the true source of the funding.

More here

October 25, 2012

Another presidential race, another Palm Beach County recount

It's a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000.

About 27,000 absentee ballots can't be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results.

And it's all happening in Palm Beach County.

"By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county," said Ed Foley, an Ohio Sate University law professor and expert on election law.

But Foley and other elections experts say that unlike the butterfly ballot and hanging chads of the infamous Bush-Gore voting 12 years ago, this year's mishap with Palm Beach absentee ballots probably won't sway an entire national election.

"There are no perfect elections and glitches happen," Foley said. "In this case, they caught it in time and set up a pretty good review process that's transparent and is probably the best one possible."

Continue reading "Another presidential race, another Palm Beach County recount" »

October 24, 2012

NEWS ALERT: GOP and Dems agree -- Fraudulent letters bad

This just in.

Democrats agree with Republicans that the letters sent primarily -- but not entirely -- to Republican voters in at least 28 Florida counties is a bad thing.

Republicans can relax. Earlier today, they put out a release condeming the letters, which started arriving Friday in envelopes with Seattle, Wash. postmarks.

"This type of activity is not only disgusting, it is criminal, and must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in the release. "I call on Florida Democrats to join me in condemning this false letter writing campaign that appears to target likely voters in Florida, and help RPOF get the word out about this false campaign."

Sure enough, the Democrats agreed.

"We join with the RPOF in condemning this voter suppression activity from an unknown source out of state," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "Furthermore, we hope the involvement of the FBI and state law enforcement officials will put a stop to this activity so it comes to an immediate conclusion."
Although some Democrats and voters with no party affiliation have received the letters (in Pinellas, of the eight who received the letters, only four were Republican) state elections officials say that the vast majority of the recipients so far have been Republican, frequent voters, and in some cases, prominent.

Continue reading "NEWS ALERT: GOP and Dems agree -- Fraudulent letters bad" »

August 12, 2012

Scott, Romney offering conflicting messages about Florida economy

Numbers may not lie, but Republicans Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott are using them to portray two very conflicting points of view about Florida’s economic picture.In a new television ad, the Romney campaign plays melancholy music as it describes “Obama’s Florida” as a state with “8.6 percent unemployment, record foreclosures, 600,000 more Floridians in poverty.”

Scott greets the same 8.6 percent unemployment number as a sign of rapid improvement, proclaiming on his website that it is “the lowest it’s been since December 2008!”

Unlike Romney, Scott has carefully avoided criticizing the president and instead turned the data into promoting his record of creating jobs.

The governor also tells audiences “the number of unemployed has gone from 568,000 to 320,000,” “median home prices are up,” and Florida’s job growth rate “has been positive for 23 consecutive months.” It’s a dissonance that may become more distinct as Romney and Scott take the stage during the Republican National Convention this month and Romney tours Florida Monday, with a late-day stop in Miami.“What I’m going to talk about is pretty much what I do every day, what I ran on,” Scott said last week when asked what he’ll say during his convention speech. “It’s how do we get our state back to work.”But the numbers he cites don’t jibe with the narrative Romney’s campaign wants Floridians to hear. As the expected Republican nominee for the presidency, Romney’s team is carefully scripting a convention playbook that would persuade voters that the economy is still in the tank after 3 1/2 years under President Obama.

Read more here

It's Scott vs. Romney on the economy. See how the two interpret Florida's economic picture with this chart:

Scott vs. Romney chart

--Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa