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191 posts from May 2014

May 31, 2014

Thrasher's new competition: Ricky Polston, yes Supreme Court Justice

Ricky PolstonFrom the Associated Press

The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court is applying to become president of Florida State University.

Ricky Polston, who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Charlie Crist, submitted his application for FSU's vacant post on Saturday.

Polston's move comes at a time when the frontrunner for the position is state Sen. John Thrasher. A search committee has already voted to interview Thrasher and then decide whether to offer him the job.

FSU has been without a permanent president since Eric Barron left to lead Penn State University.

Polston has two degrees from FSU. In a letter to the search committee he said he is applying for the job out of loyalty to the school and a desire to help the school continue to improve.


Florida Republicans elect Leslie Dougher as chair

Florida Republicans on Saturday elected Clay County GOP chairwoman Leslie Dougher as interim chair to guide the party through the election cycle this fall. She defeated Eric Miller of Martin County, 106-69, in a surprisingly close vote.

Party activists gathered under a large white air-conditioned tent on the grounds of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay to ratify the choice of Dougher by party leaders in a crucial election cycle when some Republicans say a unified effort will be needed to ensure that Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected.

Scott was among those supporting Dougher's candidacy, but the event had a scripted feel that left a small number of activists disgruntled by what St. Lucie County GOP Chairman Bill Paterson called a "top-down" election dictated by insiders.

"It's always been top-down instead of bottom-up," said Manatee GOP Chairwoman Peggy Simone, who nominated Miller, who has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core educational standards.

Dougher, 50, a Middleburg real estate agent and a California native, is a long-time grass roots GOP activist who had the backing of leading Republicans such as House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who nominated Dougher and called for unity to secure Republican victories this fall.

"She will be a good steward of the Republican Party," Thrasher said.

Dougher (pronounced DO-er) succeeds Lenny Curry, who stepped down after two-and-a-half years to run for mayor of Jacksonville. She becomes the fifth party chair in the past four years. 

Curry succeeded former Rep. Dave Bitner, who died after less than a year in office. Bitner succeeded Thrasher, who briefly served as interim chair after helping to force the ouster in 2010 of Jim Greer, who is in prison after pleading guilty to stealing party money. Greer was the choice of former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat and is Scott's leading challenger.

In her speech, Dougher said the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012 "made me sick to my stomach" and that she doesn't want to see a repeat of that in the governor's race. "The best man did not win. I do not want to feel that way on Nov. 5," Dougher said.

She singled out the work of Pinellas County Republicans in helping to secure U.S. Rep. David Jolly's recent victory in the special election for the 13th Congressional district, even though he was outspent by Democrat Alex Sink.

May 30, 2014

American suicide bomber in Syria was from Fort Pierce

@ChuckRabin @LDixon_3 @PatriciaMazzei

FORT PIERCE -- The young American suicide bomber who last weekend blew up an explosives-laden truck halfway across the world in Syria made his home in Florida, law enforcement officials said Friday. Records indicate the man played high school basketball in Vero Beach and lived at some point in Fort Pierce.

The 22-year-old, identified late Friday in news reports as Moner Mohammad Abusalha, is believed to have been the first American suicide bomber in Syria.

Few details have emerged on Abusalha, whose name was kept secret by federal authorities for most of Friday while they interviewed his family and friends — some of them elsewhere in Florida — as they traced his movements and investigated whether he was recruited or radicalized online.

Basketball statistics posted on a youth sports website show Abusalha played in 2007 for the Indian River Warriors, a team based in Vero Beach. Records show his parents have lived there and owned several grocery stores along the Treasure Coast.

Law enforcement sources told the Miami Herald that Abusalha resided, at least for some time, in Fort Pierce, about 130 miles north of Miami. The most recent address listed for him in public records — an apartment with a blue door in a one-story Fort Pierce building — now has a different tenant who said he didn’t recognize Abusalha’s name.

At the nearby Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, an imam who did not give his name declined an interview request late Friday. Earlier in the day, several men leaving an afternoon prayer who were shown Abusalha’s photograph said they did not know him.

Photographs posted on jihadi social media show the suicide bomber purportedly in Syria, smiling and sporting a reddish-brown beard. In one of them, he is cradling a cat.

More here.

Miami-Dade County commissioner — and family — targeted over library funding


IMG_1313A visitor to Rebeca Sosa’s West Miami home Sunday morning was met with an unusual welcome.

The front page of the previous day’s Miami Herald was taped to the door handle, scrawled in ominous red letters.

“You think about blood,” said Sosa, the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

The angry message, written in magic marker: Don’t mess with public libraries.

“A VOTE AGAINST LIBRARIES = A CULT OF IGNORANCE!” the page said. Circled in the bottom right-hand corner was a news story about thousands of students failing the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

It wasn’t only Sosa who was targeted. Her two adult children found the same newspaper page taped to their front doors, too. “TELL MOM,” they read, repeating the library message.

“Usually, family is off limits,” Sosa said Friday. “My grandson didn’t want to sleep after that.”

Late Friday, the Coalition to Save Our Libraries, an advocacy group, issued a statement condemning “any form of intimidation” against Sosa or any other commissioners.

More here.

Alex Posada, redistricting mysteryman: 'I misled you and I just wanted to apologize'

Posada Linked InIn a one-hour deposition in the offices of the plaintiff's attorney in the redistricting case, 24-year-old Alex Posada, whose name was faked as the author of a pivotal congressional map, began with an apology.

"We spoke a few weeks ago - I forget specifically when - but you had asked me if I'd submitted some maps and I misled you and I just wanted to apologize for that,'' Posada said to Vince Falcone, attorney for King, Blackwell, Zehnder and Wermuth, the firm representing the League of Women Voters in the lawsuit challenging the state's congressional maps. 

Photo: Posada's Linked In account as entered into testimony

Posada is the pivotal figure in the developing mystery over the legislature's maps. Legislators and their staff testified in the ongoing trial that significant districts from a map submitted under Posada's name became the foundation for the final congressional map. Republican Party of Florida map drawer, Frank Terraferma, has testified that at least seven districts from a congressional map he drew were "identical" to districts that appeared in Posada's map.

Who drew Posada's map and why it was submitted under false pretenses remains a mystery. The voters groups allege in their lawsuit that legislators allowed political consultants to conduct a “shadow” redistricting process that used go-betweens to create public maps intended to benefit Republican incumbents and candidates in violation of the Fair District amendments to the Florida Constitution.

Continue reading "Alex Posada, redistricting mysteryman: 'I misled you and I just wanted to apologize'" »

Pam Bondi: Gay marriage would cause harm

From the Associated Press with additions:

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt existing marriage laws and "impose significant public harm."

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in federal court in March. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who was named in the lawsuit along with fellow GOP Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, earlier this month filed a lengthy response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit for several reasons, saying a federal court shouldn't rule on a state's marriage laws.

Bondi's office also argues that the state has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between a man and woman. Florida first banned same-sex marriages nearly two decades ago and voters reinforced that ban when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2008.

Continue reading "Pam Bondi: Gay marriage would cause harm" »

Terraferma 'genius map drawer' is called to testify again with new RNC docs

RNC docThe steady drip of new revelations continued in the ongoing redistricting trial on Friday as a Republican Party of Florida official was called back to testify about a redistricting meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters with Florida legislators.

Frank Terraferma, a RPOF official, testified via telephone in day nine of the trial over the state's congressional maps. Plaintiffs called him after receiving new documents subpoenaed from the RNC and ordered produced by a Washington, D.C. appellate court on Thursday. 

Terraferma was asked about an email from Jessica Furst Johnson of the RNC staff that announced a Florida leadership meeting for June 15, 2011 -- before the redistricting maps were drawn and the public hearings on the redistricting process had begun. Attendees at the meeting were listed as: Speaker Designate Will Weatherford, Senate President Elect Don Gaetz, Chris Money, Weatherford's chief of staff, Chris Clark, Gaetz's chief of staff, and Frank Terraferma who was identified as "genius map drawer."

Continue reading "Terraferma 'genius map drawer' is called to testify again with new RNC docs" »

Florida lawmakers in Congress agree Eric Shinseki had to go


WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, reacting to the news that Eric Shinseki had resigned as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said, “He did the right thing, and he’s putting his country first.”

Nelson, a Democrat, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and has known the general for a number of years.

He added:

“This is a strong, patriotic general who stood up to Donald Rumsfeld about the length of time that we were going to have to be in Iraq. Now that he resigned, we can get on. There ought to be a lot of heads rolling, because there is something in the culture of the VA that is not responding to serve our veterans the very best that they deserve.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, had called for Shinseki to go earlier in the week. In a statement Thursday, Rubio said a recent VA inspector general report on problems in the VA health system “confirmed our worst fears about rampant mismanagement and institutional neglect at the VA.”

On Friday, after the resignation, Rubio added in a statement:

“Secretary Shinseki’s resignation is just the first step in addressing the institutional neglect of veterans at the VA, but that alone won’t solve the problem. The systemic mismanagement will continue unless we bring reform to the VA and hold all those who are responsible accountable. Under current law, whoever succeeds Secretary Shinseki will be prohibited from firing VA employees such as those detailed in the inspector general’s latest report, who have failed at their jobs and therefore failed our nation’s veterans.”

Rubio is pushing legislation that seeks to remedy those issues.

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, said Shinseki had “served this nation honorably” but that visits with veterans “made clear that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.”

“While the problems facing the VA were not necessarily created by Secretary Shinseki, new leadership is in order to right this ship,” Garcia said. “We can now move forward with a fresh start to thoroughly examine and address the clearly widespread issues facing the VA and ensure they never happen again so that our nation’s veterans can get the care they have so rightly earned.”


John Thrasher taps old friend Steve MacNamara to assist with FSU application


The tech savvy among us know that when you create a new document on most computer programs, you usually leave a footprint. If you downloaded John Thrasher's resume and cover letter we posted here Thursday, you may have made an interesting discovery in the "Properties" field: the PDFs were created on computers registered to Stephen MacNamara.

Thrasher wants to be Florida State University's next president, and he submitted the documents to the school as his application for the job.

He and MacNamara tell the Times/Herald they exchanged emails about the resume and cover letter the way any friend would help a friend who asked for it. They say MacNamara, a tenured professor at Florida State University, has taken no other role in assisting Thrasher as he prepares for a June 11 interview.

But the discovery that MacNamara, an established and controversial figure in state politics with deep connections to FSU, gave Thrasher an assist will only fuel the flames for critics who say Thrasher is being given an unfair, inside track on the job.

MacNamara served as Thrasher's chief of staff during the second half of his term as House speaker, but they actually met years prior when MacNamara was one of Thrasher's daughter's professors at FSU, Thrasher says. MacNamara is a tenured communications professor at FSU. Thrasher said MacNamara is one of many people, some of whom also have ties to FSU, who helped him update his resume and cover letter for the first time in about 30 years. 

“His expertise is in communications, and certainly I wanted to make sure that how I was addressing the resume was done in a way that was positive and formatted in a modern way," Thrasher says.

Continue reading "John Thrasher taps old friend Steve MacNamara to assist with FSU application" »

Timing of Thrasher-FSU has Senate implications

Now that John Thrasher has submitted his resume and letter of interest for the FSU presidency, the question in a lot of minds is not if the influential state senator will get the job but when.

The answer may have big implications for control of the Senate in 2016 and beyond.

Thrasher is one of 20 senators up for re-election this fall. The week-long qualifying period for legislative candidates (June 16-20) starts in a little more than two weeks. It's doubtful that FSU will have decided on Eric Barron's replacement by then, partly because Thrasher's candidacy is likely to stir more controversy, which could slow the trustees' decision-making process.

If Thrasher is the only Republican who files qualifying papers in strongly-Republican Senate District 6 and he then gets the FSU job, he will have to resign from the Senate. That creates a vacancy in nomination under state election laws, and the Republican Party gets to choose a new nominee for the Senate seat.

Thrasher's district includes all of three counties (Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns) and part of Volusia.  By law, the state party chair notifies the county chairs, who then call meetings of the county executive committee to choose a replacement candidate.

Rep. Ronald (Doc) Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, is interested in the seat, the News Service of Florida reports. Thrasher's Senate district also takes in much of the House district of freshman Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton.

Thrasher's replacement could play a decisive role in the battle for control of the Senate for the 2016-2018 cycle when Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Joe Negron of Stuart both hope to succeed Sen. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who will become Senate president in November. Gardiner surely would have a say in the selection of the new Senate candidate.

Negron knows about finding last-minute replacement candidates. He was chosen by GOP leaders to be the replacement candidate for Congress in 2006 after Rep, Mark Foley abruptly resigned following a sex scandal. Foley resigned in September, too late to have his name removed from the ballot, and Negron lost the election to Democrat Tim Mahoney and later won the Senate seat formerly held by Ken Pruitt.