November 05, 2014

After 'shellacking,' Democrats say they will 'retool'

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant stated the obvious: "We took a shellacking." But she said the party will pick up the pieces from Tuesday's drubbing and keep working to restore a semblance of a two-party system in Florida.

"We're going to retool and move forward," she said.

Tant said the "national headwind" was a big problem in Year Six of the Obama presidency, along with the Republicans' lopsided advantage in the product that dominated the race for governor: money to buy TV ads. From the Democratic leader's point of view, the election looks like this: Gov. Rick Scott had the advantages of incumbency, vastly more money and wrote his campaign $12.8 million worth of checks -- and still barely won, at last count, by slightly less than 66,000 votes.

"I'm mystified," Tant said, by another disappointing Democratic turnout in South Florida, where this time fewer Democrats showed up in Miami-Dade, despite what she called an "unprecedented" grass-roots vote-building effort for an off-year mid-term election.

"Clearly we have to do things better," Tant said. She vowed that Democrats will continue to hold Republicans accountable while speaking up for middle-class families in Florida on issues such as education, health care and the minimum wage.

FL-26 changes political party hands again

@PatriciaMazzei @cveiga

South Florida’s 26th congressional district lived up to its label as a swing seat Tuesday, changing political party hands for the second time in two years.

Florida lawmakers redrew the boundaries of the state’s southernmost district in 2012 so that it’s almost evenly split among registered Democrats (35 percent), Republicans (33 percent) and independents (32 percent).

Low turnout in Tuesday’s election, particularly among Democrats, benefited Carlos Curbelo, the Republican who ousted Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami. Garcia spent only one term in office, having defeated Republican David Rivera in 2012.

Granted, Garcia was tainted by campaign scandals. So was Rivera. But the back-to-back victories by opposing parties in the district suggest it could remain competitive for years to come.

On Wednesday, Curbelo said he’s not worried that the frequent turnover, depending on the composition of the electorate in a given election, could affect his future chances.

“If I work hard and do a good job for this district, and I represent the community with effectiveness, I think I’ll get another shot at it,” Curbelo said. “It is certainly too early to start thinking about the next election.”

More here.

Nine reasons why Sheldon didn't come close to beating Pam Bondi

Although his campaign had raised nearly $1 million and his opponent, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi got some last-minute bad publicity, Democratic George Sheldon managed to get only 42 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election.

That’s just one percent more than the two Democrats running for the other two Cabinet posts, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture, and they raised a combined $80,000 between them.

So, what happened?

Continue reading "Nine reasons why Sheldon didn't come close to beating Pam Bondi" »

NextGen Florida director: the fight against climate change in FL is just beginning

NextGen Florida spent $19.8 million in Florida between Aug. 7 and Oct. 22 this year with the influsion of cash coming from California billionaire and former hedge fund investor Tom Steyer. Their goals: to defeat Gov. Rick Scott,  raise awareness about climate change and bring young people to the polls. They failed on the first, succeeded on the second, and the report card on the third goal appears to be mixed.

Here's the campaign wrap-up by Florida  Director Jackie Lee:

Continue reading "NextGen Florida director: the fight against climate change in FL is just beginning" »

Crist reflects on losing to Scott in governor's race

In his victory speech to supporters Tuesday night, Gov. Rick Scott described his defeated rival Charlie Crist as "very gracious."

On Wednesday, Crist added some details to that brief phone call, including a push to expand the Medicaid program in Florida.

Crist said he told Scott: "I just want to wish you well even though we had our differences" -- which, considering the tone of both candidates' TV ads, is probably the greatest understatemtnt of the campaign. The conversation turned to Scott's view that the campaign was over and it was time to move the state forward, and Crist said he told Scott: "Medicaid expansion might be an area where you can bring Florida back together." As Crist recalled it, Scott told him: "'I'll look at that.'"

Crist's loss by 70,000 votes out of 6 million cast was almost by the identical margin that Democrat Alex Sink lost to Scott four years ago. It also was Crist's third statewide defeat, which proved to be a political death knell for several other big-name Florida politicians such as Bill McCollum, Tom Gallagher, Bill Gunter and Jack Eckerd.

Crist was not ready to say he's leaving the political stage. "I care about Florida and I love my family," Crist said. "I want to remain active in a way that will help the quality of life in Florida. That's enough for me." He said he and his wife Carole will escape to Useppa Island near Fort Myers for a few days of relaxation.

"I've got to recharge my batteries," Crist said. "I left it all on the field."

Legislative leadership takes shape: Gardiner names Galvano as majority leader

Bill GalvanoIncoming Senate President Andy Gardiner named Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton as his majority leader Wednesday, as he starts crafting his Republican leadership team. 

“Over years of serving together in the House, and now the Senate, I have witnessed Bill’s strong work ethic, innate intellect and willingness to tackle tough issues,” said Gardiner of Orlando. “Bill has proven he has the support of our caucus and is ready to lead in this important role.”
Gardiner, of Orlando, faces an unprecedented challenge as the leadership -- and ego -- quotient of the Senate includes three former Senate presidents and two senators locked in a virtual tie over the Senate presidency in 2016.
Senate President Don Gaetz. R-Niceville, steps down from the podium on Nov. 18 to return to the rank and file next year to serve the final two years of his extra term, obtained when the Senate staggered districts and terms because of redistricting and gave some senators extra time. He joins former Senate presidents Gwen Margolis, D-Miami and Tom Lee, R-Brandon, in the chamber. 
Sen. Arthenia Joyner of St. Petersburg is the designated Senate Democratic leader. 
Galvano represents Senate District 26, which includes DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, and parts of Charlotte, Highlands, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2002-2010 and was elected to the Senate in 2012. He earned an associate’s degree from Manatee Community College, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami. Senator He and his wife, Julie, have been married for 21 years and have three children.

November 04, 2014

Republicans win super-majority in Florida House

Florida Republicans reclaimed a super-majority in the state House of Representatives, flipping six seats Tuesday night.

To capture a veto-proof majority, the GOP needed to oust at least five Democratic incumbents.

Republicans targeted seven sitting lawmakers: Rep. Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland; Rep. Michael Clelland of Lake Mary; Rep. Mark Danish of Tampa; Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg; Rep. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami; Rep. Linda Stewart of Orlando; and Rep. Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor.

Two wins came early in Tampa Bay, where attorney Shawn Harrison prevailed over Danish, and special prosecutor Chris Sprowls bested Zimmermann.

Sprowls called it a "hard-fought victory."

Clelland lost to former Republican Rep. Scott Plakon in Seminole County. In neighboring Orange County, Stewart lost to Republican Mike Miller.

Castor Dentel also failed to win re-election. Her challenger, Republican Bob Cortes, owns a towing company and has served on the Longwood City Commission.

Republicans picked up an additional seat when Republican Rene Plasencia ousted Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders in Orlando.

Read more here.

GOP picks up South Florida seat: Carlos Curbelo defeats Miami Rep. Joe Garcia

@PatriciaMazzei @cveiga @dchangmiami

Carlos Curbelo flipped a South Florida congressional seat for the Republican Party on Tuesday, besting Miami Rep. Joe Garcia in a midterm election dominated by the GOP.

Garcia, a freshman Democrat, was undone in part by scandals, much like the Republican he defeated two years ago.

Curbelo, a Miami-Dade County school board member, led from the moment the first election results were posted through the end. He won the 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West, with 52 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 48 percent.

“Tonight begins the work of giving the people of Florida’s 26th congressional district the honest and effective representation we need,” Curbelo said.

More here.

Sachs, Rodriguez hold off strong Republican challengers

Democrat Maria Sachs held onto her seat in the Florida Senate Tuesday, surviving a bare-knuckle challenge from former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff that cost the candidates a combined $1 million.

The race, a rematch of the 2012 election, was the closest watched contest in the Senate. The attack ads were attention grabbing, the stakes sky high.

If Sachs had lost, the GOP stood to grab a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber. What’s more, Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, of Clearwater, would have firmed up his chances of becoming Senate president in 2016.

Bogdanoff outspent Sachs by more than $400,000, state records show. Still, Sachs won re-election in District 34, which straddles the eastern stretches of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The incumbent said she felt "humbled" by the voted of confidence. "It shows that money and negative personal attacks are not going to win people of this district," she said.

Incumbent state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, of Miami, will also be returning to Tallahassee.

Rodriguez prevailed over Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva in House District 112, which spans Brickell, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, the Roads, and parts of Little Havana and Coral Gables.

Rodriguez said his campaign was rooted in two things: "supporting the community and trying to do good work."

Diaz Leyva raised more than $430,000 for his bid to unseat Rodriguez. The incumbent had collected about $345,000 in campaign contributions.

A third closely watched contest — the battle for for House District 114 in Miami-Dade County — also went to the incumbent, Republican Rep. Erik Fresen.

Observers predicted a close finish in the swing district, which includes West Miami and parts of Coral Gables, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay. But Fresen, a well-known lawmaker who was first elected to the seat in 2008, easily defeated Democrat Daisy Baez and independent Ross Hancock.

Fresen never doubted he would win overwhelmingly, he said.

"It’s a testament to the work that I've done and the record that I have,” said Fresen, who has chaired the House Education Budget Subcommittee. "I'm happy to be back representing District 114."

Read more here.

After courthouse-tax plan fails, what's next for the fix?


Even before the polls opened Tuesday, Miami-Dade's legal industry was preparing for the next steps after losing a fight to raise property taxes to build a new county courthouse. 

Officials with the civil court are reportedly set to meet with members of County Mayor Carlos Gimenez's administration to come up with a plan to deal with the current courthouse's disrepair and other issues. The failed ballot item would have secured $390 million in borrowed dollars for a replacement, and the big challenge will be coming up with a Plan B for that kind of money.

Jorge Luis Lopez, the County Hall lobbyist and lawyer who helped run the failed ballot campaign, said Tuesday night he doesn't think it makes sense to try again with voters. Instead, he expects judicial and county leaders to look at alternative revenue sources. Among the ideas floated: higher fees for speeding tickets, and revenue from red-light cameras. 

"The truth of the matter is voters roundly declined to fund the needs using property taxes," he said. "You have to explore the other options before you go back to them."  

In a statement, the county's chief civil judge, Bertila Soto, said in part:

 “While tonight’s outcome is disappointing, we know that this campaign has already been a success because it brought public awareness and a universal consensus that conditions at the Dade County Courthouse are dire and solutions are required immediately. It’s now incumbent upon County Hall to take the necessary steps to ensure that the courthouse undergoes full inspections and that the plan to replace the courthouse be executed... Tomorrow, the work continues to achieve what this community deserves and needs -- a cost-effective, efficient and safe civil courthouse."

Read more here