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244 posts from September 2014

September 29, 2014

Mailer mixup: Elections officials fault Scott mailing

Two Tampa Bay election supervisors criticized as "inaccurate" and "incorrect" a mailer by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign committee that tells voters that their absentee ballots should have arrived by now.  The attention-grabbing mailer by Scott's Let's Get to Work committee has the words "Voter Alert!" and the statement, "By now, you should have received your absentee ballot."

Not true, elections official say. The first day that in-state absentees can be mailed is Tuesday, Sept. 30. They can be mailed as late as Oct. 7. The last thing county elections officials want is to be inaccurately blamed for not sending ballots to their voters. 

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer issued a news release that said "Their information is incorrect." He plans to mail more than 150,000 absentees to Tampa-area voters on Oct. 6.  

On Twitter, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley showed the mailer and said: "Here is the inaccurate flyer that voters throughout FL rec'd with incorrect info from #LetsGetToWork."

Yet another tweet Monday from Seminole County Supervisor Mike Ertel: "Absentee ballots to local voters have not been mailed. Florida voters get ballots about one month before Election Day."

Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz issued this statement: "Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive their vote-by-mail ballots promptly." The campaign wouldn't comment on the record as to why it sent voters inaccurate information, but it's possible that the mail pieces simply reached Florida households sooner than expected.

Polls show the race between Scott and Charlie Crist is in the low-to-mid single digits, and voting by mail is rapidly increasing in popularity in Florida. Both parties and campaigns aggressively "chase" voters who ask for mail ballots to make sure the ballots are returned promptly.

Florida Supreme Court gives Gov. Rick Scott 14 days to justify suspension of acquitted Miami Lakes mayor


Suspended Michael Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has scored a major legal victory in his quest to regain his seat after Gov. Rick Scott refused to revoke his suspension after his acquittal on federal bribery charges last month.

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday instructed the governor, who was sued by Pizzi, to explain by Oct. 14 why he should not revoke Pizzi’s suspension.

“[T]he Court has determined that the [Pizzi] petition demonstrates a preliminary basis for relief,” according to the order.

In effect, the high court has boxed in the governor, leaving him with little choice but to lift Pizzi’s suspension, which Scott imposed after his arrest in August 2013.

“It’s a home run for us,” Pizzi said after reading the state Supreme Court’s order. “The court has done exactly what we asked them to do.”

More here.

This post has been updated.

New, light-hearted ad attacks Crist's record

The latest attack ad from the Republican Party of Florida is a light-hearted, almost comedic look at Charlie Crist's record.

The commercial points out that Crist has changed his party affiliation, as well as his position on Obamacare, abortion and the federal stimulus package. And it does so over catchy music, goofy sound effects and some memorable wordplay.

"Flippin' unbelievable," a voice says. "Flippin' amazing."

The 30-second spot's final message: "Charlie Crist. Typical flippin' politician."

The gubernatorial race has gotten ugly in recent weeks, with both camps launching bitter attacks. Democrats have labled Republican Gov. Rick Scott "too shady for the Sunshine State." Republicans, meanwhile, have insisted Crist "swindled Florida" in a series of stinging TV ads.

The new Flippin' Amazing ad takes a notably lighter tone. Watch it below.


Allen West endorses Carlos Curbelo; Democrats rejoice


Former U.S. Rep. Allen West backed fellow Republican Carlos Curbelo of Miami against Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia at an event in Washington D.C. on Monday, the Sunshine State News reported.

Curbelo's campaign has yet to trumpet the endorsement. But Democrats did it for him, emailing the news story to reporters.

"After Carlos Curbelo was caught on camera calling Medicare and Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme,' it's no surprise that Tea Party champion Allen West is backing his campaign," David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement. "This is just the latest example showing Curbelo puts his own political interests and the agenda of his Tea Party political allies like West over the values of South Florida families."

West was a firebrand congressman from Palm Beach Gardens before losing reelection in 2012. He now has a political action committee named Guardian Fund. It has endorsed 13 candidates, though only Curbelo in Florida.

"Col. Allen West served our country with integrity and honor," Curbelo communications director Wadi Gaitan said in a statement. "He understands that South Florida deserves better than Joe Garcia, a Congressman surrounded by scandal and corruption and who referred to Republicans as the Taliban on the House floor."

Joe Garcia: I'll debate Carlos Curbelo 4 more times. Curbelo: I've said yes to 7 more invitations


U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, said Monday he plans to attend four more debates against Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo -- a number Curbelo's campaign criticized as too low.

Two of the four debates to which Garcia has committed, both televised, would be in Miami-Dade County. The other two would be in the Florida Keys. Congressional District 26 straddles both counties, from Westchester to Key West, though the bulk of voters are in population-dense Miami-Dade.

In a statement announcing the debates, Garcia said in part that the events will highlight a "clear contrast" between the candidates.

"Carlos Curbelo has proven time and again that he's looking out for himself, his paying clients and his Tea Party political allies -- while I am proud of my commitment to putting South Florida first," he said.

But Wadi Gaitan, Curbelo's communications director, said in a statement of his own that Garcia's debate schedule is "light" and "demonstrates a lack of respect for the voters."

Continue reading "Joe Garcia: I'll debate Carlos Curbelo 4 more times. Curbelo: I've said yes to 7 more invitations" »

RPOF ad citing anonymous Floridians bashing Obamacare faces PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter

Got a beef with Obamacare? The Republicans want to remind voters that Democrat Charlie Crist thinks the president’s health care law is "great."

A TV ad by the Republican Party of Florida features anecdotes from people making claims about how the health care law has hurt them in the pocketbook or made it harder to find doctors:

"I think Obamacare harms doctors and patients."

"It increased my health policy, personal health policy, 30 percent."

"I’m disabled and I can’t find doctors that will help me."

"My family’s medical costs have doubled."

"Many doctors are losing their patients, and patients are losing their doctors. I was one of them."

"Obamacare hurts my ability to create jobs."

The ad soon pivots to Crist saying of Obamacare "I think it’s been great," comments he made in a TV interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley in March 2014. Crist has campaigned in favor of the federal health care law while his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been a major critic.

The ad doesn’t identify the various men and women complaining about Obamacare making it impossible to verify each individual’s experiences. State GOP spokesperson Susan Hepworth’s only reply to our questions about the people and their insurance woes: "They are not actors."

But we can research the ad’s overall message that the Affordable Care Act has inflated Floridians’ health care costs anywhere from 30 percent to twice as expensive. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated this claim. 

Report takes aim at Scott's education funding record

new report from the left-leaning American Bridge takes Republican governors to task for cutting education funding.

It includes a section on Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who slashed $1.3 billion from the education budget during his first year in office. 

Scott has since restored most of that funding and unveiled a plan to boost per-student spending to a record high level in 2015. But he continues to feel the heat from Democratic opponent Charlie Crist and progressive groups.

The American Bridge report frames education spending as a political issue that could hurt Scott.

"From Rick Scott and Scott Walker to Sam Brownback, Tom Corbett and more, Republican governors are getting slammed for slashing funds for schools, dealing a blow to their respective reelection bids, while prospective governors like Doug Ducey have promised to do the same," the organization wrote in the introduction. "Locked in tight races, these Tea Party governors are floundering to explain their draconian cuts to concerned constituents by twisting numbers and distorting their records."

The report also includes passages from Florida newspaper editorials.

Anti-testing wave catches lawmakers' attention

In Orlando, they hosted a webinar on how to skip the state tests.

In Fort Myers, they convinced the local school board to eliminate all district-required exams.

In Miami, they created an anti-testing network of nearly 1,400 members.

Across Florida, parents are pushing back on standardized tests. Some say schoolchildren are taking too many exams. Others have concerns about the quality of the tests, and the way the results are being used.

"This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before," said Suzette Lopez, who is spearheading the effort in South Florida. "It's really hit a critical mass."

The growing movement has caught the attention of state lawmakers.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg recently acknowledged that students in Florida face "an avalanche of tests" — and said the Legislature is likely to get involved.

"We need to get our house in order," said Legg, a Pasco County Republican who runs a charter school. "Some of those tests are outdated or duplicating other tests. They need to be put out to pasture."

Don’t expect lawmakers to dismantle the state testing system.

In a recent op-ed published in Florida Today, incoming Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said unraveling the system would have "significant negative consequences on student learning, education funding, and, ultimately, a graduate’s ability to find a job in today’s global marketplace."

Read more here.

Vice-president Joe Biden's South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Oct. 13


Vice-President Joe Biden's South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Monday, Oct. 13 -- making him the latest national Democrat to join the guubernatorial candidate on the campaign trail, sources say. More information will be made available at a later date.

Biden's last visit to South Florida was in May, when he delivered Miami-Dade College's commencement. He also attended a South Florida Affordable Care Act event in February.

Biden, who has presidential aspirations, follows another likely White House candidate, Hillary Clinton, who stumps Thursday with Crist at an event that's likely somewhere in the Miami area. No details have yet been made available. Clinton is also signing her new book, "Hard Choices."

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clintton, campaigned with Crist in early September in Miami.

Gov. Rick Scott has also had Republican national surrogates (and potential White House candidates) join him recently: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Medical marijuana ad wars start in FL with release of pro & con commercials


The supporters and opponents of medical marijuana both posted their first TV ads Monday, just in time for Floridians to receive the first wave of absentee ballots in the mail.

The clash is one that has played out in 23 other states plus Washington D.C., with medical-marijuana supporters playing up the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer or MS -- while opponents target older, more conservative voters with a message about crime.

"They don't call it the Drug-Dealer Protection Act. But they should," says the opposition ad from Drug Free Florida Committee, which focuses on a provision in the proposed constitutional amendment that allows caregivers to handle marijuana. 

The supporters, People United for Medical Marijuana, concentrate on the broad outlines and promise of the amendment: Getting people the care they need without the intrusion of government.

"Twenty-three states now keep government and politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship. And it's worked," says the ad. 

Drug Free appears to be spending the most early: $1.6 million, with the likelihood of millions more to come -- especially from Las Vegas gambling magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

People United for Medical Marijuana hasn't disclosed how much it's spending. Its chairman, Democratic donor and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, have promised to do what it takes to get their message out.

A constitutional amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. The polling average of the last major public surveys pegs Florida voter support at about 64 percent.

Drug Free is concentrating on conservatives because, if Republican support falls to about 40-42 percent, the amendment will likely fail even if independent and Democratic support remains in or around the 70 percent range (more here).

Over the months, Republican support for the amendment appears to be dropping. But Democratic and independent support appears to be increasing. As a result, polls from the conservative-leaning business group, Associated Industries of Florida, show the amendment's support has remained at 64 percent for months. People United's polling showed the amendment's support has remained relatively constant as well, at 69 percent this month and 70 percent in June.

Here are the ads, in-depth fact checks to follow.