May 09, 2014

Why Leslie Dougher's endorsements email shows she'll be RPOF Chair

@MarcACaputo

With the backing of Gov. Rick Scott, Clay County's Leslie Dougher already was the frontrunner for Republican Party of Florida chair. Then House Speaker Will Weatherford said he wouldn't run and threw his support behind her. Now look at the "grassroots" endorsements in the following email she sent:

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April 09, 2014

Truth-O-Meter tackles Medicare Advantage attacks

Gov. Rick Scott, like many other Republicans, has pinned part of his re-election strategy on criticizing the Affordable Care Act. He’s attacked President Barack Obama’s signature legislation time and again in campaign ads, especially the law’s effects on Medicare. The ads claim that rate cuts will drastically alter seniors’ access to the doctors and care they want.

But the ads aren’t  telling the whole story. The Scott ads are about changes to Medicare Advantage, in which private companies administer insurance plans for Medicare-eligible recipients. That’s not the same as what’s referred to as traditional Medicare, which is what most people think of when they hear the name of the program.

Confused? That’s probably the point. But don’t worry, PolitiFact is here to help. We’ll iron out the differences between the two programs, and why distinctions should be made when referring to Medicare. Read PolitiFact's full report for fact-checks on claims by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida.

March 21, 2014

Campaign shakeup: Rick Scott's fundraising chief quits amid disagreements

@MarcACaputo

In a campaign shakeup, Gov. Rick Scott’s top fundraiser — billionaire healthcare CEO Mike Fernandez — abruptly quit his post late Thursday after weeks of behind-the-scenes disagreements.

Fernandez said he was quitting to spend more time with his family and businesses. And he praised Scott's campaign in a letter to the campaign's leadership team.

"Together, we have helped the Governor raise more than $35 million. This has been an unprecedented effort, which is only matched by our shared commitment to reelect our Governor this November," Fernandez's letter said.

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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.

March 11, 2014

Republicans' CD13 win gives Florida Democrats a bad case of déjà vu

@MarcACaputo

It happened again.

Another mid-term election year. Another Democratic loss. Another Republican win.

This time, the scene was the special election in St. Petersburg-based Congressional District 13, where Republican David Jolly carried more than 48.4 percent of the vote to Democrat Alex Sink’s 46.5 percent, according to initial results Tuesday.

Jolly’s 1.9 percentage-point victory came at a crucial time for the Republican Party of Florida. It watched Democrats gain legislative and congressional seats in 2012, when President Obama won the nation’s largest swing state for the second time.

But without Obama on the ticket, something weird happens to the Florida Democratic Party and its candidates in big mid-term elections: They lose swing races. Though this was a special election in a mid-term year, the pattern remains.

"Special elections are not an indicator of the future," U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, the DCCC chair said Wednesday morning, lamenting the close loss. "Special elections are not predictive, they are instructive." 

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February 26, 2014

Winners in Senate gambling bill were leaders in campaign cash

CoinsThe clear winners in the gambling bill released on Monday by the Senate Gaming Committee -- Genting, Gulfstream Park, Las Vegas Sands and the Seminole Tribe -- have also been among the most generous donors to Republican political funds this election cycle.

Senate Gaming Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said there were "no surprises" in the 453-page SPB 7052, which rewrites most of the state's gambling laws. He had telegraphed that it would include the opportunity for two resort casinos, one each in Miami Dade and the other in Broward.

What was surprising to some is that the bill failed to authorize additional gambling options for South Florida racinos or open the opportunity for race tracks to expand their gambling offerings across the state. That is the position that another big donor to Republicans -- the Seminole Tribe -- has been seeking.

The Senate bill does allow for some reduction in dog racing, a concession to the greyhounds tracks like West Flagler's track in Bonita Springs, which wants to reduce its requirement to offer racing at the rate it was racing in 1996. But the bill didn't give the track owners what they really wanted -- the chance to offer card rooms and slot machines without offering live racing.

There remains a very strong chance that a regulatory bill passes this year with no expanded gambling -- not even a destination resort -- leaving room for the governor to hold all the cards when negotiations take place over a new compact with the Seminole Tribe next year.

Guess who that helps? The biggest contributor of all, Disney Worldwide, which gave (along with its affiliates) a whopping $1.6 million this election cycle -- including $802,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. 

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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.

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January 29, 2014

Charlie Crist might have to raise $165,000/day to stay competitive with Rick Scott

@MarcACaputo

Charlie Crist faces the most-daunting of challenges in the governor's race: keeping at least half-way behind Gov. Rick Scott's money-spending rain-making juggernaut of a campaign effort.

Leading in the polls and better-liked, the former governor knows that the current governor has to greatly outspend Crist to redefine him successfully. So Crist likely needs to hold Scott to no more than a 2:1 advantage.

And since Rick Scott plans to spend as much as $100 million (through his committee, his campaign and the Republican Party of Florida), Crist wants to spend as much as $50 million.

Total cash on hand for Crist, between his campaign and political committee accounts: $3.9 million. Let's call that $4 million. That leaves a mere $46 million for him and Democrats to raise in the 278 days until the Nov. 4 Election Day (assuming he wins the Aug. 26 Democratic primary against Nan Rich, running since early 2012, who has only about $75,000 cash on hand in her campaign account as of the last reporting period that ended Dec. 31.)

So Crist and the Democrats need to start hauling in an average of about $165,467.63 daily. That includes weekends and holidays. 

The flip side to all the challenges Democrats face: Scott's goal looks even more daunting at first. 

Scott has about $24.6 million in his political committee’s bank. So he'd have to raise about $75 million more to hit $100 million. But Scott has the state Republican Party, which controls the Legislature and therefore the special interests seeking to curry favor, cranking up fundraising like never before. And, perhaps more importantly, Scott's independently wealthy.

After all, Scott spent $75.1 million of his own money in 2010.

So what's another $75 million -- especially if special interests pick up more of the tab than ever?

January 15, 2014

Rick Scott World rumblings: big shifts in gov's office, campaign and RPOF imminent

@MarcACaputo

There's a higher amount of traffic than usual about some big shifts in Gov. Rick Scott's office, his campaign and the Republican Party of Florida. The announcement could happen as early as Friday. Still, consider this all informed speculation based on multiple sources:

Melissa Sellers, the governor's spokeswoman, could soon be tapped to lead the campaign as manager, Republicans say. Sellers wasn't ready to confirm or deny the chatter. 

As the news started to break, Saintpetersblog's Peter Schorsch was the first to tweet that he heard about Sellers' possible move. So hat tip (assuming it's true, which it sounded as if it is). Schorsch noted the curiosity that Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, might not get the post (which many expected him to snag). With the appointment of Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera to lieutenant governor, where Scott wants to use the former legislator to press his agenda in the Legislature, it looks as if Hollingsworth has lost a measure of power (probably inevitable, regardless of who was chosen for the post).

It's unclear if Sellers, former spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, has ever run a campaign -- especially a $100 million behemoth that Scott's could become. Either way, given her representation of Scott, there's a good chance she's up to the task. And she could have help.

Tim Saler, RPOF's deputy director for political strategy, might be chosen to be the campaign's deputy director or its political director, sources said. He didn't want to comment.

Matt Moon, RPOF's communications director, could become communications director for the campaign. This press person, too, wouldn't comment along with RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth, who could take over his role at the party. It's always telling when press communications people don't communicate with the press. 

But don't think RPOF is going to be bare. It's going to be a bear (or a bull for you stock-market types).

The party is hiring a: Media Affairs Manager, Communications Assistant, War Room operative, Director of Press Advance (experience needed), Press Advance Field member, Hispanic Comms expert, Research and Rapid Response employee, Bracketing Manager, Digital Content/Community Manager, Digital Rapid Response Manager, Email Manager, Viral Marketing Manager, Website Content Manager, Copy Writer, Digital Insights Analyst, Graphic Designer, Paid Media Coordinator, and Digital-Political Coordinator.

"It's going to be bigger than Mitt Romney's campaign in Florida," a Republican said. "No one will ever have seen a campaign like this in Florida. The Democrats and Charlie Crist won't know what hit them."

October 29, 2013

Steve Crisafulli sounds alarm on House Democratic fundraising gains

In the wake of Amanda Murphy’s surprise victory two weeks ago, just how spooked are House Republicans about losing any more seats?

Very -- from the tone of a Monday e-mail from incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island to members of the House Republican caucus.

While Crisafulli notes that Republicans are raising money at a record pace, he stressed that average fundraising is actually declining. Meanwhile, he says, Democratic members are raising more money on average.

“This is a trend that must be broken!” Crisafulli states (bold and underline are his).

True fear? Motivational tool? Or both? There's no threat that Republicans will come even close to losing their majority (they control the House 75-45). 

What's interesting is how naked the emphasis on fundraising is among House Republicans. Not only is everyone told they must raise a certain amount, but now everyone knows that Crisafulli and other House leaders are keeping score.

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