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363 posts from October 2014

October 30, 2014

Sunshine advocates: Scott won't commit to operating more in the open in second term

Declaring that Florida's open government laws have been "under attack in recent years," the First Amendment Foundation asked the two candidates for governor to answer three questions pledging to reverse recent trends and operate with more transparent practices if they are elected.

Gov. Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist were asked if they would agree to conduct all public business on public computer networks and devices, release a detailed schedule of appointments and travel, and pledge that he and staff will not use private email accounts when conducting business.

Crist, a Democrat, responded that he would. Scott, a Republican, did not respond.

The First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit open government watchdog that receives its support from voluntary contributions and many of the state's news organizations.

The governor's failure to respond comes against a backdrop of increasing questions about his commitment to Florida's open government laws.

During his term, Scott has blocked data about his private air travels from public flight tracking records. He has released only superficial details about his daily schedules. He has used, and allows his staff to use, private email accounts when corresponding on public business, creating additional barriers to public access. And his staff has been encouraged to use private cell phone accounts when sending text messages about politically sensitive issues.

In each case, the governor has said he has followed the law but his actions have drawn lawsuits.

He is is being sued by Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews, a Republican, for allowing his staff to alter calendar entries, for withholding documents from public records requests and for failing to say who opened his private gmail account and the gmail accounts of his staff. He faces another lawsuit, from attorney general candidate George Sheldon, a Democrat, alleging that his financial disclosure forms fail to reflect more than $200 million of his wealth because it excludes assets his wife owns but which Scott remains as the beneficiary.

Here are the responses from Crist:

Continue reading "Sunshine advocates: Scott won't commit to operating more in the open in second term" »

Polling shows Fla governor's race could be closer than 2000

@MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott is winning reelection by about 2 percentage points in a major new poll exclusively shared with The Miami Herald.

Democrat Charlie Crist is winning by 3 percentage points in Quinnipiac University’s new poll.

Which survey is right?

Both are.

The results rest within each poll’s margin of error, meaning the race is essentially a tie – regardless of the poll. Every other major survey shows that. And it looks like it will stay a squeaker through Election Day, Nov. 4.

“This race is closer than we thought George Bush vs. Al Gore was before the 2000 elections,” SEA pollster Tom Eldon said, referring to the 537-vote margin that made Bush president after 37 days of disputed results, court challenges and ballot reviews.

So Tuesday is going to be a long night?

“You’re potentially talking about a long month,” Eldon said.

More here

SEA (Dem) poll: Rick Scott 46 percent, Charlie Crist 44 percent

@MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott is holding on to a 46-44 percent lead over Charlie Crist, according to a new likely voter poll exlusively shared with The Miami Herald.

Scott’s 2 percentage-point lead is well within survey’s 2.7 percentage-point margin of error – like every other recent major poll in this race – making the contest a tie. The 1,300-respondent poll was conducted by Democratic-leaning polling firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design.

A Quinnipiac University poll this morning found Crist led Scott 43-40 percent, a lead that was also within the margin of error.

The SEA poll, chartered by a coalition of businesses and exclusively shared with The Miami Herald, has been conducted in two waves over the past three days. The first results, of 800 likely voters, were reported yesterday.

While Scott’s margin has held at 2 percentage points, Florida's medical-marijuana constitutional amendment has slightly slipped by 2 points, with 57 percent supporting it and 37 percent opposing.

The amendment needs 60 percent support to pass. It still could pass if the undecideds stay home.

What makes the survey from pollster Tom Eldon stand out is that he’s one of the best in Florida, he’s a Democrat and he doesn’t sugarcoat his numbers. It’s also proof that good pollsters produce good numbers, regardless of party affiliation.

Eldon produced the poll showing Crist running strong in a bellwether seat in Pasco County.

This poll shows Scott is viewed more favorably by the electorate, relatively speaking, than President Obama or Crist.

Scott’s fav-unfav rating: 49-47 percent
Crist’s fav-unfav: 45-51
Obama’s fav-unfav: 48-50 percent.

Basically, no one is liked very much. And, as noted earlier today, all the polling and ballot numbers make this look like a squeaker of a race.

Crist used to be viewed much more favorably. But then Scott in March embarked on a mammoth $70 million TV ad campaign. Much of Scott’s ads have been devoted to trashing Crist, though the Republican has called the Democrat a “mudslinger.”

And, indeed, Crist has thrown mud. But he and his allies have less money for slinging; they’ve spent about $35 million on ads, much of savaging Scott.

Also aiding Scott somewhat is the condition of the state’s economy: 40 percent say it’s heading in the right direction; 31 percent in the wrong direction and 20 percent say it’s mixed. As for Scott’s job performance, 51 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove.

Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is not a factor, getting 4 percent of the vote.

Scott and Crist get about equal amounts of their base voters; with the Republican drawing 86 percent support from Republicans and the Democrat 83 percent from Democrats. Scott and Crist each get 9 percent support from voters of the other party.

Crist is leading Scott 38-33 percent among no-party-affiliation and third-party voters.

Crist’s lead among independents could prove crucial. Quinnipiac, which identifies party ID differently, found Crist leading by an astonishing 18 percentage points – an outlier compared to other polls. Both surveys have different methodologies.

More on polling can be found in the polling tab here.

False claim about 'stand your ground' law and Trayvon

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, which sparked a national discussion about "stand your ground" laws, has become ammunition in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race.

The Senate Majority PAC, which aims to elect Democrats, ran a radio ad urging higher turnout among black voters. The ad attacks Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House, challenging Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. The ad makes a series of claims about Tillis including this one:

"Tillis even led the effort to pass the type of ‘stand your ground’ laws that caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin."

PolitiFact has fact-checked numerous claims related to the Trayvon Martin case. Did Florida’s "stand your ground" law cause his death?

The radio ad was captured by the conservative blogger SisterToldjah and sparked considerable media attention. It prompted a conservative group tocounterattack with a radio ad accusing the Democrats of "race baiting." While we are focused on the claim about whether Florida’s "stand your ground" law killed Trayvon, other media reports dissected Tillis’ role in the North Carolina law, which Tillis voted in favor of.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read more.

Fact-checking claims about environment in Florida's race for governor

When billionaire activist Tom Steyer declared that he would use his fortune to attack candidates who didn’t believe in man-made climate change, that set the stage for the environment to play a prominent role in this year’s race for governor in Florida.

Steyer formed a political action committee, NextGen Climate Action Committee, and set his sights on Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in addition to candidates in other states.

Environmental issues have arisen in past campaigns, but what was unique about Florida this year was that a pro-environmental entity had millions to spend on TV ads.

Scott’s rival Democrat Charlie Crist weighed in with his own statements about the environment, including our state’s record on solar energy.

Scott and the Republicans countered with attacks on Crist about Duke Energy and about riding in a private jet. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for a summary of our environmental fact-checks.

Cuba politics maze traps Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo

@PatriciaMazzei

They vowed to be different. They'd sound like a new generation of Miami politicians. They'd shift their focus away from foreign policy. They'd care more about the family down the street than the brothers in power 90 miles across the Florida Straits.

Yet the Cuba politics maze trapped them anyway.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo have spent the precious last few days of their congressional campaigns dissecting an unusual Spanish-language television advertisement by Garcia that stars a prominent Cuban dissident.

Curbelo and other Miami Cuban Americans have accused Garcia of using Guillermo Fariñas for personal political gain and violating an unwritten rule that shields opponents of the island's Communist regime from internal U.S. politics.

That rule is hardly hard-and-fast. As Florida governor, Republican Jeb Bush once sent a recording of support to a dissident in a Cuban political prison. President Barack Obama met with Fariñas and another opposition leader last year at a Democratic fundraiser in Pinecrest.

Garcia, though, appears to be the first politician to feature a dissident, speaking straight into the camera, in an ad.

More here.

Almost 2.4m in FL have voted, GOP lead and margin-rate slightly sliding to Democrats

@MarcACaputo

About 2.4 million Floridians have cast in-person early and absentee ballots as of Thursday morning and, as in the past week, Republicans still hold an advantage over Democrats in ballots cast but the GOP's margins are still slipping a bit, in terms of percentage.

GOP lead over Democrats: 140,123, or 5.9 percent. Yesterday, the spread was 141,363, or 6.4 percent. 

Since in-person early voting began, Republicans have alternately (but barely) increased their overall vote lead but seen their advantage in terms of rate slip. That's in part because Democrats and independents (a shorthand for no-party-affiliation and third-party voters) have begun casting ballots at higher rates.

As noted in prior posts (you can find them here), independents are looming larger and larger in the race. Just this morning, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Charlie Crist led Gov. Rick Scott by an 18 percentage point margin among independents. That's probably an outlier result. And it needs to be pointed out that Quinnipiac uses self-identification polls in which respondents tell the pollster what their party is; so some of these independents are Democrats and Republicans.

However, another poll released yesterday by SEA Polling and Strategic Design showed Crist winning independents 37-33 percent. And that poll was conducted off a voter list, so those margins can theoretically be compared to the independents who have voted so far. 

Here's what happens if you apply those independent results to the pre-Election Day ballots: Scott's potential 140,000 lead gets cut by by about 12,000 to almost 128,000, an 8.7 percent reduction.

Apply the entire SEA poll's partisan crosstabs to the early ballots, and Scott theoretically leads Crist 47-42 percent (a 133,000 margin).

A word of caution: the above calculations are just a math exercise to give one glimpse into how the race is playing out. We still don't know how people actually voted. This is also based on one poll. All polls have error margins. And all major polls recently find the race basically tied. Unlike Quinnipiac, SEA finds Scott doing slightly better with his own base (Republicans) than Crist is with his (Democrats) and it finds Scott doing slightly better than Crist among crossover voters from his opponent's party. Also, the poll has 6 percent undecided.

Here are the early and absentee ballot numbers as of this morning:

PARTY         EV          %
REP             330,497 41.3%
DEM             333,711 41.7%
IND             136,340 17.0%
TOTAL             800,548  
     
     
PARTY         AB's           %
REP             714,315 46.0%
DEM             569,327 36.6%
IND             269,937 17.4%
TOTAL          1,553,579  
     
     
PARTY      EVAB           %
REP          1,044,812 44.4%
DEM             903,038 38.4%
IND             406,277 17.3%
TOTAL          2,354,127  

NOTE POST HAS BEEN UPDATED (Some prior numbers were wrong at the margins).

Amid bad press, RAGA gets behind Bondi

Sure, recent stories about how the Republican Attorneys General Association has influenced Florida's Pam Bondi haven't been the most flattering.

On Sunday, the Times/Herald wrote about how the group has raised $750,000 for Bondi, who has adopted much of that group's corporate-backed agenda. Then there was Wednesday's story in the New York Times about how groups like RAGA nurtured close ties between attorneys general, including Bondi, and corporate lobbyists trying to get deals for clients.

But RAGA apparently isn't backing away from its association with Bondi heading into the Nov. 4 election, at least not on Twitter, which is posting this ad sponsored by the group.RAGAbondi

The ad was paid by a political committee called RAGA Florida, which spent $25,000 on digital ads on Oct. 28, just before the New York Times piece was published.

Q Poll: Charlie Crist, fueled by independents, leads Rick Scott 43-40 percent overall

@MarcACaputo

Charlie Crist has slightly nudged ahead of Gov. Rick Scott in Quinnipiac University's latest poll that shows the Democrat picks up 43 percent support from likely voters to the incumbent's 40 percent.

That apparent 3 percentage point lead for Crist is essentially a tie because it's within the poll's margin of error, however the poll of 800 likely voters indicates Crist has some momentum on his side.

Last week, Quinnipiac surveyed the governor's race and found it dead even between Crist and Scott, with each getting 42 percent. So the contested has shifted a net 3 percentage points in Crist's favor or a net 5 points compared to Quinnipiac's September survey that showed Scott with a negligible lead.

Boosting Crist: the strong support of self-identified independents, who favor the Democrat over Scott by a spread of 47-29 percent.

“Independent voters are often the difference in swing states like Florida, but the size of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s lead among them is truly remarkable,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a written statement.

Continue reading "Q Poll: Charlie Crist, fueled by independents, leads Rick Scott 43-40 percent overall" »

October 29, 2014

Amendment 3: Will Florida voters expand powers of governors leaving office?

Florida voters are being asked to approve a little-noticed amendment to the state Constitution that would rewrite the way judges are appointed to the state’s highest courts and strengthen the powers of governors who are leaving office.

Proponents say it is needed to avert a constitutional crisis, but opponents say it is a manufactured problem and a partisan power grab that could have ominous consequences.   

Amendment 3 is the brainchild of Florida Republicans in the Legislature who describe it as a modest change needed to correct a constitutional ambiguity that could arise in 2019.

Under current law, the governor is not allowed to make an appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, or the state courts of appeal, unless there is a vacancy. On the same day the governor takes office in 2019 — after the 2018 elections — three of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. The justices, R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are considered the court’s liberal wing.

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sponsored the amendment as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said his legal scholars concluded the current law is unclear about which governor can make the appointment and a potential legal battle could set off a “constitutional crisis.”

“Even if the appointments could be made on the incoming governor’s inauguration day in 2019, the Supreme Court would likely not be fully functional for weeks,’’ Lee wrote in an opinion piece distributed to several newspapers.

The amendment has the support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of 100 and is opposed by the League of Women Voters. It needs to receive the approval of 60 percent of voters on Election Day to become law and, recent polls show, most voters remain undecided about it.

Under the proposal, the Constitution would establish a new legal term — “prospective vacancy” — and allow a sitting governor to fill an opening to the Supreme Court and to the courts of appeals before it occurs.  

Opponents, led by a bi-partisan group of lawyers including former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, say the amendment is a solution without a problem and the proposed language is an overreach.

“There is no impending crisis because there is no ambiguity,’’ said Anstead, who served on the court from 1994 to 2009 and was appointed by former Gov. Lawton Chiles. “Who would want to inject into our Constitution this dangerous term ‘prospective vacancy?’” Story here.