October 20, 2014

The Rick Scott and Charlie Crist management stories each campaign will alternately hate and love


Two stories about the management styles of the frontrunners for governor. Rick Scott's campaign and his supporters will probably hate the first one and love the second. It's the opposite for Charlie Crist. First the Scott story.....

From his poor poll numbers to his formidable fortune, Rick Scott’s political standing revolves around Columbia/HCA.

Scott was once hailed as a “wunderkind” for making the hospital chain the largest healthcare company in America. Then, he became a pariah after he and his company were investigated for Medicare fraud, leading to his ouster in 1997.

Today, Scott avoids even mentioning the words “Columbia/HCA.”

“In 2010, the Democrats attacked me,” Scott said at a debate earlier this month, omitting he was first attacked by Republicans. “And I said when I ran a company I would take responsibility for the actions while I was CEO.”

But Scott never really did take responsibility at the time. Initially, he denied anything was out of the ordinary. He ultimately faulted others under him.

For some former Scott allies, employees and supporters, the denial and blame-shifting is but one pattern of behavior Scott took with him from the board room to the governor’s mansion.

More here about Scott.

And as for Charlie Crist....

In his long history as a politician, Charlie Crist excelled at two things: making news and running for other offices.

Crist’s political biography is a chronicle of campaigning for: state Senate (1986 and 1992), U.S. Senate (1998), education commissioner (2000), attorney general (2002), governor (2006), U.S. Senate again (2010) and, now, governor again.

“The campaigning has always had more allure to him than the governing,” said George LeMieux, Crist’s former top political advisor who was appointed to an interim U.S. Senate post by the former governor.

Crist in 2010 sought that senate post LeMieux seat-warmed, making the governor the first in modern times to not seek reelection. It also marked the beginning of a stark political transformation that led Crist to flee the GOP, become estranged with LeMieux and ultimately become an independent and then a Democrat seeking his old job back under a new party banner.

In numerous interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, current and former advisors of Crist’s say they worked for an always-candidate, one who wasn’t so much obsessed with policy details as with poll numbers.

“I am,” he often reminded his advisers, “the most popular governor in America.”

More here about Crist

Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away

UPDATE: Former state legislator and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Tom Slade has passed away.

His family just sent this updated press release and obituary:

Tom Slade, former Florida State Senator and State Representative and perhaps best known for his leadership as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1993-1999, passed away this afternoon at Orange Park Medical Center following heart failure last week. Thomas H. Slade, Jr. was 78.

Tom Slade’s political career began in 1962 when he was elected to the State House of Representatives. He was elected to the State Senate in 1966. While seeking the Cabinet office of State Treasurer in 1970, Slade survived a plane crash at the Tallahassee Regional Airport with C.W. Bill Young, who was seeking the Congressional seat that Young served in until his own passing last year.

A successful Jacksonville businessman, Slade served as Chairman of the Florida Tax and Budget Commission in 1990 – a service that brought him back to the political arena, and he was encouraged to run for Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in 1993. As of his election that January, Florida’s Governor’s Mansion, State Cabinet, State House were all controlled by Democrats, with the State Senate in a 20-20 tie.  Slade focused on building the Party’s messaging, candidate recruiting, fundraising and campaign training, which by the end of his three terms following the 1998 elections, Slade had led Florida Republicans to statewide victories with the election of Governor Jeb Bush and Republican control and leadership of the Florida Senate, State House, the Cabinet, and a large majority in the Florida Congressional Delegation.

Slade offered his candidacy as Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1999, and following that unsuccessful bid, formed Tidewater Consulting, a governmental relations and political consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee.

Details of services for Tom Slade are pending and will be released in accordance with the wishes of the Slade family.


Continue reading "Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away" »

Nearly 900,000 absentee ballots cast as early voting begins; GOP still leading big


More than 888,000 absentee ballots had already been cast of Monday morning when early in-person voting began in Florida.

Right now, Republicans lead Democrats 49-35 percent in terms of absentee ballots cast by party. That 14 percentage point margin is lower than it was in 2010 but it’s far higher than in 2012.

Here's what's remarkable: the number of absentee ballots cast at this point relative to the 2012 elections is actually greater, by 140,695. And that's despite the fact that midterm elections have about a 50 percent turnout compared to presidential election years when turnout is over 72 percent. 

Democrats typically excel at early voting while Republicans dominate voting by mail.

But at a Miami rally today, Gov. Rick Scott and a host of other local Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, said the GOP needs to start banking in-person early votes as well.

“In 2012, when Mitt Romney lost, he lost because Republicans didn’t early vote,” Scott said. “We can win this election. We’ve got to get out and vote.”

The first part of that statement is probably historical revisionism. Romney lost for a variety of reasons, but it’s likely cause in Florida is that the GOP is so outnumbered by Democrats.

That remains the case today, with Democrats holding a 39-35 percent registration advantage of 455,946 voters. One troubling sign for both parties: the rise of the No Party Affiliation voters, who account for 23 percent of the rolls. Add in third party voters, particularly those who think “Independent Party” is really like NPA, and the proportion of independents swells to 26 percent.

Despite having such an edge, Democrats have typically been killed in midterms in Florida. Will this year be different? We'll know more in one week's time, when African-Americans (the most likely to vote early in-person) have a chance to vote after church. If Democrats haven't lowered the Republican edge to single digits in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrat Charlie Crist likely has a huge problem on his hands.

Here are the top 10 counties sorted by party affiliation

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      40,225 REP PIN 43%
      36,157 REP LEE 56%
      36,067 REP DAD 47%
      34,027 DEM PIN 37%
      28,146 DEM DAD 36%
      21,899 REP HIL 43%
      19,706 DEM HIL 39%
      19,022 DEM BRO 52%
      18,851 REP ORA 42%
      18,696 DEM ORA 41%

FSU trustees approve John Thrasher's contract


A delay caused by technical difficulties with the conference call phone line took almost as long as the meeting itself. But Florida State University's Board of Trustees has approved John Thrasher's contract, including a $430,000 base salary.

The board made some small changes, such as clarifying that a potential $100,000 annual bonus will be tied to Thrasher's ability to meet performance goals approved by him and the trustees. But members generally agreed on the substance of the contract (detailed here) and approved it unanimously.

Thrasher is expected to start work Nov. 10. The state Board of Governors must sign off on his contract first, but that should happen during its meeting Nov. 5 and 6.

Once that happens, Thrasher has promised to step down from the state Senate.

FSU Provost Garnett Stokes served as interim president but was unsuccesful in her bid for the permanent job. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that she agreed to stay on under Thrasher as his second-in-command and head of academic affairs. 

Thasher is expected to focus on fundraising and working with elected officials in obtaining more resources for FSU, leaving many of the day-to-day operations in Stokes' hands.

Scott wins endorsement from anti Common Core crowd

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards spent months trying to push Republican Gov. Rick Scott to take a stronger position against the controversial benchmarks.

But on Monday, one of the state's largest anti-Common Core groups announced that it would be supporting Scott on Election Day.

Florida Parents Against Common Core sent an email to 22,000 sympathetic parents on Monday, urging them to vote for the Republican incumbent.

"[Democratic candidate Charlie] Crist's unwavering support of the standards and federally aligned assessments confirmed the group's vital need to endorse Gov. Scott," founder Laura Zorc said in a press release.

Zorc said Scott had received the endorsement "because ONLY Gov. Scott has called for an independent Florida Standards Review Committee to evaluate additional improvements."

"Gov. Scott has committed to giving parents the opportunity to have a voice at the table for legislative recommendations and the adoption of better standards and policies," she said. "Once past the election and with a steady resolve and an aligned force, parents can continue efforts to improve the curriculum and assessment methods used in Florida."

With Charlie Crist outraising him, Rick Scott says he 'might' self-fund after saying he wouldn’t


In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott was clear about plowing his personal fortunes into his reelection campaign: “I won’t have to.”

But now that Democrat Charlie Crist outraised him 6:1 last week, Scott appears ready to open his personal piggy bank. He has spent $56.5 million on ads (at least two-thirds of them negative) to Crist’s $26.5 million (also heavily negative) yet he and Crist remain tied.

Rumors for weeks in Tallahassee were that Scott would commit $20 million to $22 million – a vast sum that still pales in comparison to the $75.1 million of his own money he dropped in 2010. The Crist campaign is trying to make that $20 million amount into gospel so it can scrounge for more cash. But that’s likely far too high.

“If I put in money, it will be nothing compared to what Tom Steyer – the radical, left wing billionaire from the West Coast – is helping Charlie with to bring these policies to Florida,” Scott said Monday in Miami at an early voting rally. “So if I end up putting money into the race, then it’s to make sure we have a strong finish.”

Steyer is on pace to spend more than $10 million in the race, as we first noted in August.

Asked if he might therefore put his own money into the race, Scott only said: "we’ll see.”

Question: “You haven’t yet though?”

Scott: “We’ll see.”

Scott could be plowing money into the Republican Party of Florida, which doesn’t have to report its finances until the end of the month. Scott signed an election bill that required more disclosure, but it omitted disclosing these types of transactions.

Scott and Crist: beyond the rhetoric, here's where they stand on the issues

Crist and Scott at Debate 2Florida’s race for governor may be one of the nastiest on record as candidates shout it out in more than $83 million in television ads, but beneath the rhetoric is a record of real differences between Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican, and his predecessor and challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democrat.

Here is where they stand, and where they have been, on key issues:

For all our election coverage, keep the Miami Herald's Voters Guide page handy. 


PolitiFact's guide to final Crist vs. Scott debate

CNN is hosting the third and final debate of the governor’s race Tuesday night  and the network has been clear: No fans.

That may avert another standoff like the one that held up last week’s debate for seven minutes. But it probably won’t stop the candidates from spinning on the issues. 

Whether it’s Democrat Charlie Crist or Republican incumbent Rick Scott, the two have been campaigning so long that they’ve started to repeat themselves on issues like jobs, education and same-sex marriage. PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking the race for close to a year now.

Here’s a guide to some of the same campaign lines you might hear Tuesday night and how PolitiFact Florida has ruled on the claims. The debate airs at 7 p.m. ET and will be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper and WJXT's Kent Justice. 

The Money Race: Crist fundraising outpaces Scott 6-to-1


Charlie Crist collected $6 for every $1 donated to Gov. Rick Scott during the most recent campaign finance reporting period covering Oct. 4 through Oct. 10.

Scott's campaign and political committees raised just $606,656 in cash and in-kind services, compared to Crist’s $3.2 million. This allowed Crist to move much closer to Scott in the amount of cash he has on hand to spend in the final two weeks of campaigning.

Just $656,537 separated Crist from Scott in cash-on-hand as of Oct. 10. With their campaign accounts and political committees combined, Scott had $7.5 million in the bank compared to Crist’s $6.9 million.

Crist’s political committee collected eight checks of at least $100,000 during the week, including several law firms that have collectively donated millions of dollars over the months. He also received another $200,000 from the Democratic Governors Association, bringing their total to $3.7 million.

Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee raised just $127,000, mainly $100,000 in the form of four checks from businesses related to Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 500 company in Jacksonville that provides commercial and residential mortgages.

Continue reading "The Money Race: Crist fundraising outpaces Scott 6-to-1" »

Democrat Maurice Ferre and former P.R. Gov Luis Fortuño cut Spanish ad for Rick Scott


Republican Gov. Rick Scott released a Spanish-language two-fer ad Monday that attempted to both make him look bipartisan and reach out to a fast-growing, left-leaning segment of the electorate: voters of Puerto Rican descent.

The ad features former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, a Scott appointee to a transportation board, who contrast Scott's record with Democrat Charlie Crist's. 

"He’s a Republican," Ferre says in Spanish, pointing to Fortuño as they both walk in view of the camera.

"And he’s a Democrat," Fortuño says.

Ferre: "Agreeing on anything isn’t easy..

Fortuño: "But here's why we agree that Governor Rick Scott deserves your vote."

They then mention jobs and education. (Note: it says Scott lowered Crist's higher-education tuition increases, a claim we'll have to examine more closey).

Scott, who began Spanish-language outreach earlier than any other recent candidate for governor, appears to have shored up Cuban-American Republicans in Miami-Dade, where they account for about 72 percent of the registered Republicans.

Puerto Ricans, who tend to vote Democrat and live in Central Florida, are a different story. That's where Ferre and Fortuño come in. Both men are of Puerto Rican descent and, by cutting this ad, it's a good bet Scott will run it in the Orlando-area.

Whether Fortuño polls well there is a good question: He lost his 2012 bid for reelection. Ferre, who ran as a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in 2010, isn't a big Crist fan. But his presence on camera is interesting in that Ferre chairs the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board and voted to raise tolls -- a board vote that led the Scott administration to claim it wouldn't re-appoint another board member because he supported the increase.

That board member, Gonzalo Sanabria, said Scott's administration invented the excuse only after he told them he was resigning in protest over the Scott campaign's shoddy treatment of former fundraiser Mike Fernandez. Adding to the intrigue: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's mother, Shelly Smith Fano, is vice-chair of MDX. 

Regardless of whether Sanabria quit first or was blocked first, it appears that toll increases are ok after all -- at least for the guy who cut an ad that helps Scott's reelection bid.