October 15, 2014

Appeals court upholds Miami-Dade law that limits absentee-ballot possession


Miami-Dade County’s law aimed at curbing absentee-ballot fraud has withstood a first big legal challenge.

An appeals court on Wednesday shot down the case of Hialeah’s Sergio “El Tio” Robaina, who claimed the county law was unconstitutional and unfair to elderly Hispanic voters who rely on friends to deliver their absentee ballots.

The ruling is a resounding victory for Miami-Dade County, which in 2011 passed the ordinance amid fears of growing election fraud.

Under the law, a person can only turn in two absentee ballots other than their own: one belonging to an immediate family member, and another belonging to a voter who has signed a sworn statement designating that person as responsible.

The Third District Court of Appeal issued the ruling without a written opinion, which means that Robaina will likely be unable to appeal his case to the Florida Supreme Court.

More here.

Southerland and Graham debate the issues, politely

You call this a debate? The candidates hugged each other at the beginning -- and at the end.

The candidates in Florida's most competitive race for Congress politely faced off Wednesday before a crowd of about 500 people at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, sponsored by the Capital Tiger Bay Club. Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Graham offered opposing views on some issues, but they agreed on a lot, too. They agreed on the need to secure the border to illegal immigration and for campaign finance reform. They shared doubts about how President Barack Obama has handled the crisis in Syria and called for a ban on all civilian air travel from West Africa to the U.S. during the Ebola crisis.

Graham had Southerland on the defensive early when she recalled his radio ad in which he says he didn't go to Washington "to make friends." Graham used the ad to repeatedly make the key point of her candidacy, that she would reject partisanship in D.C. and work across the aisle. "I believe in the power of the goodness of people," Graham said.

That prompted Southerland to note that he was twice named to congressional conference committees to hammer out compromises on bills dealing with transportation and agriculture. Those assignment go to members who can work well with others, he said, but it doesn't fit the media's "false narrative" that he's a rigid Republican ideologue.

"The proof is in the pudding," Southerland said, "despite what the mainstream media tells you."

Southerland emphasized his family's deep roots in Panama City, in the heart of the district: "I know this district and more importantly, this district knows me," he said in one of the best sound bites of the forum, that lasted an hour and 15 minutes. Graham talked about her role models: her father, former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham and former First Lady Adele Graham, both in the audience.

Both candidates protested the massive amount of negative ads that are being beamed to 2nd District voters by third-party groups on both sides. Graham said that at the annual Possum Festival in Wausau over the summer, she suggested they issue a joint statement denouncing the outside ads but they never worked out the details. Southerland disagreed with Graham's account.

Debate moderator Carl Cannon asked both candidates to set the record straight on their opponents' negative ads. "I am not Nancy Pelosi," Graham said to a loud burst of laughter. "Neither am I Barack Obama or Harry Reid."

Southerland got the biggest laugh of the debate by mocking a Democratic attack ad in which a woman complains that during a fiscal crisis, Southerland voted to keep the congressional gym open. He then opened his suit jacket to reveal his ample waistline and said, "I mean, really?" The crowd roared in delight.

If elected, Graham said, she won't support Pelosi as her party's leader in the next Congress. "We need new leadership on both sides of the aisle," she said.

Southerland said he would continue to back U.S. Rep. John Boehner because no one has come forward to challenge him.

Graham made no apologies for her tendency to hug everybody -- including her opponent. "I'm going to hug my way through the Congress," she said.


Carlos Curbelo asks GWU to be lenient with students that let in tracker who recorded 'Ponzi scheme' line


Democrats pounced on Carlos Curbelo's remark last month that Social Security and Medicare amount to a "Ponzi scheme." George Washington University pounced on the students who let a Democratic tracker secretly record the comment, delivered to college Republicans.

After learning that the students could face a potential suspension, Curbelo's campaign sent a letter to the university this week requesting leniency.

"While the act may constitute a violation of university policy, we strongly believe that the measures shouldn't disrupt the academic careers of young people who were obviously manipulated by a reckless campaign," wrote Curbelo's campaign manager, Nicole Rapanos.

Curbelo's camp may blame Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia for the incident, but the video, first published by the Miami Herald, originated from national Democrats based in Washington D.C.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said the video shows Curbelo as "out of touch" with constituents in Florida's 26th congressional district. PolitiFact Florida has rated the "Ponzi scheme" claim False.

We raised $600K in 3rd quarter, Joe Garcia campaign says


From a press release:

Miami, FL– The Joe Garcia campaign has raised more than $600,000 in the third quarter of 2014, bringing the total raised for the grassroots campaign to re-elect Rep. Garcia to more than $3.4 million for the 2014 cycle.  The campaign is pleased to also report over $1.1 million cash on hand allowing Joe to continue to build momentum and strength for his re-election campaign to put South Florida first.  The strong third quarter numbers are the largest quarterly numbers posted to date by Rep. Garcia and have a median donation of $25 which speaks to the massive grassroots nature of this campaign.    

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Press Association pushes back on Adrian Wyllie's claims

Adrian WyllieThe Florida Press Association on Wednesday refuted claims by the Libertarian party candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie after he lost a legal bid to be included in the governor's debate in Broward County.

A federal court judge in Fort Lauderdale ruled late Tuesday that Wyllie did not have a right to be included in the debate under the criteria established by the press association and Leadership Florida more than a year ago. Wyllie responded by posting a statement on his web site accusing the for-profit subsidary of the press association of profiting from the Crist campaign and Democratic groups. 

"This is absolutely false,'' said Dean Ridings, president of the Florida Press Association in a statement Wednesday.

He noted that the Intersect Media Group, which works with the advertising agency used by the Crist campaign, the ad agency has never placed any ads through Intersect Media and "has not profited in any way from any campaign advertising for the Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, or the Adrian Wyllie campaigns."

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn ruled that Wyllie did not meet the requirements for gaining access to the debate that begins tonight at 7 p.m. at Broward College, and streamed live on miamiherald.com.

Cohn said the private nonprofit debate sponsors did not change the access rules by increasing the polling threshold required for a qualified candidate, 15 percent.

Cohn said the defendants “offer legitimate reasons” for excluding candidates like Wyllie and six others because the goal of the debate is “to provide a forum to inform Florida voters through the meaningful exchange of ideas among those gubernatorial candidates with a reasonable chance of winning the election.”

From the Florida Press Association press release:

Continue reading "Press Association pushes back on Adrian Wyllie's claims " »

Tampa Bay Times/Graham Center poll: Crist, Scott tied at 40%

Via @adamsmithtimes

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist are locked in a dead heat race for governor in the final weeks of the campaign, and a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll shows Florida voters think very little of either candidate.

The exclusive poll finds 40 percent of likely voters supporting Crist, 40 percent backing Scott, and 6 percent for Libertarian nominee Adrian Wyllie.

Independent voters have broken toward Crist since a September poll from the Times partners showed Scott leading by 5 percentage points and voters’ already negative impression of the governor have grown even worse.

More here


Rick Scott asks feds for advice on Ebola preparedness, prevention

From a press release: 

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to instruct Florida hospitals on best practices and what lessons have been learned from their experience in Dallas to best protect Florida healthcare workers in the event that Florida has an Ebola patient.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Now that there is a second healthcare worker with Ebola in Dallas, we want Florida hospitals to hear directly from the CDC on how to best protect our health care workers on the front lines. While the CDC has existing guidance, there have been public reports from nurses in Texas that either that guidance was not followed, or the guidance for healthcare workers needs to be updated.

Whatever the case may be, Florida hospitals must hear any new safety guidelines directly from the CDC in the next 48 hours so our hospitals are best prepared to protect the health of nurses, doctors and patients.

“We are asking the CDC to hold a conference call with Florida hospitals on the best training and personal protective equipment protocols in the next 48 hours because we have to act with a sense of urgency to ensure our hospitals are prepared.

“We have also informed the CDC of DOH’s work to redirect federal grant funding, so we can purchase more personal protective equipment and other supplies to prepare for any case of Ebola in Florida. In light of this second case in Dallas today, we are asking the CDC to support our work to redirect these federal funds for Ebola preparedness, also within the next 48 hours.

Governor Scott previously called on Florida hospitals to hold mandatory training for their healthcare workers on Ebola preparedness. To date, only 39 hospitals in Florida have reported to the Department of Health that their mandatory healthcare worker training is complete.

On Tuesday, State Surgeon General Armstrong sent a letter to Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC, announcing that Florida is working to redirect over $7 million in federal grant funding to Ebola preparedness efforts, specifically for the purchase of high-level PPEs to protect health care workers. Of the $7 million intended for redirection, $5.8 million requires federal support.

535,000 absentees already cast, Dems lagging but gaining


More than 535,000 absentee ballots have already been cast as of Tuesday night and, as in prior mid-term elections, Republicans have a solid lead in returns.

About 48 percent of all ballots cast so far have been by Republicans, 35 percent by Democrats and 17 percent by independent voters. That Republican lead of about 13 percentage points is certainly bigger than during the 2012 presidential elections, when Democratic turnout is generally higher, but it’s slightly less for this time in the election season for a mid term.

For years, Republicans have dominated at early voting by mail; Democrats by ballot casting in person during early voting, which starts Monday.

To be clear: we won’t know how people voted until Election Day. So the return numbers are more of a gauge of campaigns’ ground games. And both sides have something to brag about.

Last week, Republicans led by 18 percentage points in ballots cast compared to Democrats, who are catching up somewhat now that the big Democratic counties, which mailed absentees later than Republican counties, are starting to report.

As usual, Pinellas County remains the Oregon of Florida as the leader in mail-in voting: 45,000 ballots cast, of which 43 percent are from Republicans, 37 percent from Democrats and 16 percent from those with no party affiliation.

Because it’s a Republican County, it’s tempting to chalk this up as a win for Gov. Rick Scott. But this is Crist’s home county, which he won outright in a three-way U.S. Senate race that he lost overall in 2010.

In Pinellas’ next door neighbor, the much-larger and more-Democratic Hillsborough, Democratic mail-in ballots exceed Republican ones cast by just 1 percentage point. If Crist wins Hillsborough, as expected, and carries his home county of Pinellas, there’s a good chance he wins the Tampa Bay media market, one of the ends of the I-4 corridor that Scott won in 2010. (Crist also needs a chunk of Pasco)

Democrats have their biggest numbers posted in Orange County, the heart of the Orlando media market in the I-4 corridor, where they lead Republicans by 3 percentage points in returns. That also bodes well for Crist.

But, still, Republicans are dominating elsewhere. Of the top 15 counties for overall returns, Republicans have cast more ballots in nine: From Pinellas to Scott’s home counties of Lee and Collier. Republicans are posting solid leads in Volusia, Sarasota and Duval counties as well -- all keys for Scott.

Republicans are also winning the Miami-Dade ballot turnout. But the lead is just 2 percentage points in a county where they once blew Democrats away. This is something to watch.

Here’s a snapshot of the returns in big counties, sorted by party:

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      27,754 REP PIN 43%
      24,322 REP LEE 54%
      24,039 DEM PIN 37%
      12,065 DEM ORA 43%
      11,289 REP DAD 42%
      11,277 DEM LEE 25%
      11,091 REP ORA 40%
      11,037 REP CLL 62%
      10,834 REP DUV 55%
      10,761 DEM DAD 40%
      10,567 NPA PIN 16%
      10,529 DEM HIL 41%
      10,481 REP VOL 47%
      10,399 REP HIL 40%
       8,966 REP SAR 45%

Crist's attack on Scott's job promise faces Truth-O-Meter

What’s 700,000 jobs give or take … 1 million? That’s the question a new ad from the Charlie Crist campaign hopes to answer for Florida voters.

"He made a promise," the ad says, showing video of Gov. Rick Scott from the 2010 campaign for governor. "Hold me accountable for delivering on the campaign promises I make," Scott says.

The ad then shows Scott promising to create 700,000 jobs "on top of what normal growth would be." Later, in reaction to a reporter’s question on that metric, Scott said, "No."

The ad is paid for by the Florida Democratic Party, but the Crist campaign approved it and promoted it to the media. So we’re rating it as coming from the Crist campaign.

Since 2010, PolitiFact Florida has been tracking Scott’s promise to create 700,000 jobs over seven years, so this controversy is very familiar to us. But if you’re just tuning in now, we’ll start the story from the beginning. Turn to Angie Drobnic Holan's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

A preview of falsehoods and half truths in Scott vs. Crist debate Take 2

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will debate Wednesday night with polls showing the Florida governor’s race as too close to call.

Scott, the Republican incumbent, rode a tea party wave into the governor’s office in 2010. Now he’s being challenged as too conservative by Crist, a former Republican governor who’s now a Democrat.

At this point in the campaign, the candidates are starting to repeat themselves, using their favorite talking points over and over. But voters just tuning in may be hearing the lines for the first time.

With that in mind, here’s our guide to the candidates’ most-repeated lines (with a hat tip to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the idea) and how they rate on PolitiFact Florida’s Truth-O-Meter.

By the way, you can watch the debate Wednesday night via live stream or on TV stations around the state. Follow @PolitiFactFL on Twitter for live coverage.