August 10, 2014

Mud-slinging governor's race spells trouble for Florida

The race for governor of Florida features two leading candidates voters increasingly see as deeply flawed with campaign strategies virtually alike: Tear down the other guy at every turn. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his likely challenger, Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom expected to win their party primaries later this month, have spent more time criticizing each other than laying out a future vision on major issues such as water, climate change, gaming, property insurance, economic policy or taxes.

The candidates, their operatives and third-party groups relentlessly drive a message that their opponent is untrustworthy, unethical or incompetent. Their campaigns eagerly amplify the mud-slinging in news releases, social media messaging and television ads, and their policy papers lack details on a host of deadlines facing the next governor will face.

Political scientists, consultants and even former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who served two terms as governor, warn that the lack of vision in the governor’s race spells trouble for Florida. Story here.

August 09, 2014

Rick Scott affirms support for Medicaid expansion, sticks to pro-business principles on health policy


Rick Scott swept into the Governor's Mansion fueled by his scorn for President Barack Obama's health reform law. So, when Scott announced last year that he supported expanding Medicaid — a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act — the nation was amazed.

In an interview with the Times/Herald Friday, Scott reaffirmed his support for Florida taking $51 billion in federal money to provide health insurance for up to 1 million poor Floridians. And he said he sees no contradiction in the positions he has taken.

"While they spend 100 percent, I'm not going to stand in the way of the federal government doing something," he said. "What I'm not willing to do is put Florida taxpayers on the hook. … I've been very consistent and let's all remember that Obamacare is an absolute bad bill for patients, for families, for employers, for employees."

Now, as he seeks re-election, Scott said Friday that his pro-business views on health policy — honed as he led the nation's largest hospital chain — are firmly in place.

His actions on health-related issues as governor confirm it.

Read more here.

August 08, 2014

Committee formed to try and recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez



A fledgling attempt to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez entered an early paperwork phase this week, with its organizer creating a committee to back the challenge.

Retired firefighter Jack Garcia is heading the effort, joined by a group of college students involved in local politics. The campaign has a Facebook page with 2,800 likes, a new website,, and now a political committee called "A Better Dade."  

Hand-written forms creating A Better Dade were filed with county election officials Wednesday, and a County Hall press conference inaugurating the push is set for noon on Monday.  

"There's no billionaire here,'' Garcia, 55, said in reference to Norman Braman, the auto magnate who successfully led (and funded) the 2011 recall effort against Gimenez's predecessor, Carlos Alvarez. "I'm a novice in all this." 

In a statement, Gimenez's chief spokesman said the mayor "refuses to be distracted by a recall effort."

"The previous mayor was recalled in part because he raised taxes in order to fund salary and benefit increases for union workers,'' wrote Mike Hernandez, Gimenez's communications chief. "Mayor Gimenez has not increased tax rates and has held the line on employee salaries and benefits."

Garcia entered the media spotlight this summer when his adult son died in a July 4 boating accident off Biscayne Bay. He had been a leading critic of Miami-Dade not funding a dedicated squad for the county's largest fireboat. Garcia suggested in a press conference shortly after the accident that having the vessel in the water might have helped find any survivors not killed on impact.

Continue reading "Committee formed to try and recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez" »

Miami-Dade mayor to feds: You may need to help us with surge of unaccompanied immigrant children


Miami-Dade has sent the federal government a letter noting an increase in unaccompanied immigrant children taxing county services and asking for potential help.

"For the past several weeks, we have seen an increase in the involvement and support of Miami-Dade County with regard to the caring of" the children, Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Thursday.

"With over 3,180 children having been released to the care and custody of sponsors in Florida since the first of the year, Miami-Dade and its agencies will undoubtedly play a significatn role once again with this Federal mission."

Gimenez goes on to note that the federal government should continue to exchange information with the county and provide financial assistance if necessary, as it did when there was an influx of about 9,000 Haitian immigrants following the 2010 earthquake.

"Please also be aware that Miami-Dade has a long history of providing support and aid to those in the Caribbean and Latin America following disasters and other emergencies," the letter says.

Last week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski issued a public plea for lawyers to help represent some of the children. He said Miami's immigration court would add 150 cases through September for recently arrived unaccompanied children.

Many of the Central American children initially held at detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border are arriving in immigrant-rich South Florida, where their parents and other relatives live.

Gaetz PAC money draws ire from both Panhandle Dems and Republicans

MattgaetzIt’s not often that Democrats and Republicans can agree to much of anything.

Which is why what happened Friday at a news conference in Okaloosa County is sorta noteworthy.

Prompted by a Northwest Florida Daily News story about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s use of PACs to influence local races, John Whitley, a state committeeman of Okaloosa County for the Florida Democratic Party, and Gaye Ellis, the chairwoman of the Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee, reached agreement on Friday that there’s too much outside money sloshing around local races.

“The Northwest Florida Daily News has focused on a Tallahassee PAC which has local ties, but there are other PACs influencing our local election with no local ties at all," Ellis said. "This outside influence puts a damper on the phrase: ‘We the people.' The people of Okaloosa County have the ability to govern themselves.”  

“It appears our state legislators are bringing the nasty, deceitful, and misrepresented, misleading and false statements of the federal and state level politics to our homefront,” said Whitley.

Although no names were mentioned at the news conference, Whitley was asked who he was talking about, and said it was Gaetz, who is the focus of the Daily News story:

Gaetz has established two political committees of his own, and he's working with similar committees and groups across the state to accumulate large amounts of money.

The dollars have thus far flowed from the committees into the campaign funds of selected local candidates, but history shows committee funds can also go toward political advertisements that can't be tied to a particular person.

District 4 County Commission prospect Trey Goodwin is one of the local candidates on the receiving end of Gaetz’s fund raising efforts. He makes no apologies for that.

"Nobody is buying me by contributing to my campaign," he said. "I make that clear. I'm asking them to buy into my vision."

Goodwin not only got a direct $500 donation from Gaetz, but he also has been the beneficiary of two $500 donations from the Economic Freedom Foundation and two $500 donations from the Free Enterprise Fund.

The Florida Division of Elections lists Gaetz as the chairman of both.

Goodwin also collected a $1,000 donation from the Florida Future Alliance, a committee headed by Republican state Rep. Rob Schenck.


Continue reading "Gaetz PAC money draws ire from both Panhandle Dems and Republicans" »

Thurston's supporters keep pushing Sheldon to bow out


Florida’s Division of Elections has repeatedly said that it has no authority in establishing whether a candidate meets the qualifications of office.

But don’t tell those angling to get Democratic Attorney General candidate George Sheldon thrown off the ballot because of a technicality. (Psssst: They also happen to be supporters of Sheldon's Democratic opponent in the Aug. 27 primary, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale). 

A Miami-Dade attorney specializing in elder care filed a lawsuit Friday against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the Division of Elections, and Sheldon.

The attorney, Jessica Elliott, (pictured) claims Sheldon’s residency status, which last week raised questions about whether he had been a resident of Florida the past seven years, is enough to disqualify him.

Detzner should decide because he's responsible for accepting qualifying documents from candidates, the lawsuit states. If true, that would might leave Thurston the lone Democrat in the race to square off against Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in the Nov. 4 general election. But a Secretary of State spokeswoman, however, has stated that's not Detzner's job. Asked for comment about the lawsuit, she said she couldn't comment on pending litigation.

Why would Elliott claim an interest in the race?

Continue reading "Thurston's supporters keep pushing Sheldon to bow out" »

Judge rules against former Florida House candidate hoping to get on ballot

A Miami Beach publicist won't be on the ballot in Florida House District 113, a judge ruled Friday.

Republican Laura Rivero Levey was disqualified from the race last month after a check she submitted to the Florida Department of State bounced. 

The bank accepted responsibility for the returned check, and Levey sued to have her candidacy reinstated. But on Friday, Leon County Judge Charles Francis said he could not extend the qualifying deadline for her.

Francis said state law is clear: Candidates must pay the filing fee before qualifying period ends.

"I find this to be a very harsh decision," he said. "In fact, I don't think there is anything the candidate could have done differently that would have changed what happened during the week… But I am bound by the precedent that says when the legislature speaks as to a particular item, I am not to guess at what it means." 

The ruling means incumbent David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, will be automatically re-elected.

Richardson was already told he was the official winner. But he was waiting on the ruling to close out his campaign accounts.

After the hearing, Levey said the state Division of Elections needs reforming.

"What happened was very unfair and I will think about appealing [the decision]," she said.

Richardson, however, called the ruling consistent with state statute.

"It's unfortunate for Ms. Levey because she wanted to be a candidate in the race," Richardson said. "But the law is the law."

Miami-Dade commission candidates trade jabs over Marlins Park


Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell debuted a new line of attack Friday against challenger Daniella Levine Cava: She accused the social-services nonprofit Levine Cava used to run of supporting an unpopular public-financing deal for the Marlins' ballpark.

"Daniella Levine Cava owes this community, its children and future generations an apology for lobbying and supporting the biggest squandering of public tax dollars to date -- the disastrous Marlins Stadium Deal of 2008," Bell said in a press release emailed by her campaign.

Bell's camp pointed to remarks delivered on Feb. 21, 2008, by Abigail Vladeck, policy director of the Human Services Coalition (now Catalyst Miami) in which Vladeck said she "share[d] the sentiments" with then-County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and City Mayor Manny Diaz "that in order to be a major league city, Miami needs a major-league baseball stadium."

"The funding for the deal is certainly a feat of creativity and ingenuity," Vladeck added. At the time, Levine Cava was the Human Services Coalition's chief executive.

But though she might not have said so outright, Vladeck was actually speaking against the stadium proposal, a speaker's card she filled out that day shows.

Speaker's card

A handout she gave county commissioners listed ways to amend the agreement with the Marlins to make it "a good deal for all of Miami." (The handout can be viewed here, scrolling down to page three.)

Levine Cava responded Friday with a statement bashing Bell. The two women are vying for District 8 in a heated, partisan contest.

"She is lying about my record and the facts simply don't hold up," Levine Cava said. "Unlike my opponent, I have long been a champion of holding government accountable and ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent."

Listen to Vladeck's remarks yourself in this video of the more than 10-hour-long commission meeting. Vladeck spoke at about the 4:35 mark.

Pam Bondi: Let the U.S. Supreme Court decide gay marriage


Rather than argue Florida's gay-marriage debate at the state Supreme Court, Attorney General Pam Bondi says she'd rather wait until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue nationally, once and for all.

“Neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality,” Bondi wrote in a filing late Thursday to the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal. “The United States Supreme Court, however, ‘has the final word on the United States Constitution.’”

Bondi told the appeals court she expects the U.S. Supreme Court will act soon on the gay marriage issue. She cited filings this week from the states of Utah and Oklahoma asking their gay-marriage cases be heard by the nation’s highest court.

“A ruling from the United States Supreme Court would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal, and end all related cases,” Bondi wrote. “The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word. In the meantime, this Court should preserve taxpayer and judicial resources by staying briefing until the United States Supreme Court rules.”

More here.

"Fight for them," No. 2 at Miami-Dade police force says of cadets slated for lay-offs. Tell the mayor, too.



A fiery graduation speech by Juan Perez, deputy director of the Miami-Dade police department, caused a stir this week. One reason: he urged the audience of police officers, higher-ups and new recruits to tell "the commissioners, the mayor" and "whoever is listening" that the community needs the new officers.

Thanks to pending budget cuts, the new recruiting class is officially slated to be let go once the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. That assumes Miami-Dade commissioners approve the budget as presented by Mayor Carlos Gimenez. It costs about $2.5 million to train a new recruiting class, according to a department spokeswoman. 

For details, click here