Sunshine State News Blogs
With the terms of Nancy Argenzenio and Nathan Skop ending on the Public Service Commission, Gov. Charlie Crist announced his choices to replace them -- West Palm Beach Assistant City Administrator Eduardo Balbis and Tampa-based attorney and Realtor Julie Brown.
An environmental engineer by training, Balbis also served on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council -- experience that Crist said would help him on the PSC.
“Eduardo’s duties overseeing municipal utilities and public works during the past three years have already given him the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to protecting consumers,” said Crist. “As an engineer, he also understands the importance of safeguarding Florida’s freshwater supply.”
Brown works in the legal department for First American Corp. and owns her own real estate company.
“Julie understands the fairness and judgment that must be exercised by Public Service Commissioners,” said Crist. “Her past experience ensuring real estate agreements comply with all regulations, as well as reviewing proposed changes to historic properties as a member of a zoning board, have provided her valuable insight into the needs of Florida consumers.”
Florida Libertarian Party Chairman J.J. McCurry has stepped down for personal reasons and Vice Chairman Vicki Kirkland has taken the helm of the state's fifth largest political party.*
Though McCurry has taken heat from various factions of the highly fractious party this campaign season, U.S. Senate candidate Alex Snitker said there was no coup d'etat at Libertarian headquarters.
Kirkland confirmed that account and said she expects to hold the chairmanship until May, when the party's annual convention elects new officers.
McCurry, an Orlando area bread delivery man, was selected by the party's gubernatorial nominee, John Wayne Smith, to be the Libertarians' lieutenant governor candidate. But a paperwork snafu with the state Division of Elections bounced their names off the ballot.
McCurry was not immediately available for comment.
* In case you were wondering, Florida's third and fourth largest parties are the generically named Independent Party (259,193) and Independence Party (57,130). The Libertarians claim 17,522 registered voters.
On a busy Tuesday, with television ads being released across Florida, Rick Scott’s campaign team released a new commercial looking to humanize the Republican gubernatorial candidate. Esther Scott, the candidate’s mother, attempted to offer a bit of insight into her son -- and (shades of Jeff Greene?) even portray his successful career in business as a “rags to riches” Horatio Alger story.
A group called Citizen2Citizen, partnering with the Central Florida Tea Party Council, is campaigning against state Supreme Court Justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry this fall.
Labarga and Perry, who are up for retention votes Nov. 2, were among the justices who threw Amendment 9 (the Health Care Freedom Amendment) off the ballot.
In a news release, the "Restore Justice" campaign stated:
"These justices sided with the liberal political agenda of four Florida citizens having close ties to the Obama administration who filed suit in late June, alleging that three statements (comprising a mere 20 words) in the ballot summary were misleading, to thereby disenfranchise millions of Floridians desiring to exercise their constitutional right to vote on the Legislature’s proposed amendment."
"Such partisan politics," said Citizen2Citizen founder Jesse Phillips, "is unbecoming of any judge, especially on the Supreme Court. Their role is to interpret the law and uphold our constitutional right to vote on legislatively proposed amendments, not to defend Obama’s health care plan under the guise of ‘protecting’ the voters.
"The fact of the matter is that this amendment was voted on by a supermajority of our elected representatives to constitutionally be placed on the ballot. And yet the court arbitrarily decided to ignore the Constitution and intent of the Legislature. This is a tremendous injustice and power grab by the court, which we have the opportunity to restore this November," Phillips said.
Florida law requires that Supreme Court justices face a merit retention vote by the voters every six years. Thanks to universal retention recommendations by the Florida Bar Association (which takes a leading role in judicial nominations) and limp newspaper editorials that parrot those recommendations, no judge has ever lost a retention election.
The Rick Scott for Governor campaign launched a creative new ad showing Alex Sink backing higher taxes in almost every aspect of Floridians' lives. But Sink, while only briefly attacking Scott for not understanding the issues, focuses most of her ad on her platform policies.
In an ad launched Monday Congressman Ron Klein paints his opponent Allen West as a right-wing extremist.
West's new ad criticizes the incumbent for failed policies and extreme support of Nancy Pelosi and union bosses. The two are fighting to represent Florida's 22nd Congressional District, which stretches from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter.
A month after losing to Rick Scott in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Bill McCollum released a letter late on Monday that he sent to Ken Feinberg, the Beltway attorney handling the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.
McCollum reviewed a meeting that he held with Feinberg on Wednesday and offered his take on what had occurred -- and the attorney general’s attempts to “ensure a more prompt and responsive claims process.”
Wrote McCollum: “Although the discharge of oil has been stopped, the Deepwater Horizon blowout is an ongoing economic and environmental disaster and we must recognize that recovery will take some time. Part of the recovery process will depend on providing a fair and efficient claims process that, at the very least, complies with the requirements of OPA (Oil Pollution Act of 1990) and ensures at least some mitigation of economic loss so that affected Floridians can weather this crisis.”
The full letter can be read at the attorney general’s website.
Spirit Airlines, which holds the distinction as the first U.S. carrier to charge for carry-on bags, will launch an initial public offering, hoping to land $300 million.
Florida-based Spirit says it expects to retain $150 million from the IPO proceeds.
While total revenue for the six months ended June 30 climbed 2 percent to $357 million, Spirit reported that profits fell amid higher fuel costs and the continued economic downturn.
On Tuesday morning, Republican congressional candidate Karen Harrington, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, continued her campaign of blistering attacks on the incumbent’s position on the economy.
Taking umbrage at Wasserman Schultz blaming the economic problems on former President George W. Bush, Harrington insisted that the Democrats, who have controlled Congress since the 2006 general elections, are to blame for the recession and Florida’s high unemployment rate.
"Debbie Wasserman Schultz must take responsibility for the failed economic results that have occurred on her watch -- results that are the direct consequence of the policies she has supported," said Harrington. "Debbie Wasserman-Schultz -- along with most of the political class in both parties, Republicans and Democrats -- has failed the American people. Ordinary Americans from all walks of life are directly responsible for their own job performance to their employers. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made a living in Congress by scapegoating her political opposition with hyper-partisan rhetoric, and she has somehow convinced herself that she is exempt from notions of accountability and personal responsibility. The impact of her policies on Florida's unemployment rate since her party assumed responsibility for our national budget in 2007 is undeniable proof of her failure."
Harrington once again made small-business issues one of the centerpieces of the campaign.
"If you are a true advocate of the small businesses that are the backbone of the Florida economy, a member of Congress must do more than give speeches and photo-ops,“ said Harrington. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz, through the policies she has supported, is directly responsible for the fear and uncertainty in our local business climate that has frozen job creation here in South Florida. As your congresswoman, I will support and enact the policies that are truly business-friendly and will spur job creation -- lowering taxes and eliminating costly regulations are what will restore a competitive and predictable business climate here in South Florida."
FreedomWorks, the Washington, D.C.-based tea group headed by former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, will endorse Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott on Tuesday.
Issuing just its second gubernatorial endorsement (after Nikki Haley in South Carolina), FreedomWorks PAC called Scott "the clear choice" in his race against Democrat Alex Sink.
“Although FreedomWorks PAC does not endorse many candidates running for governor, we believe that Scott will best serve the interests of hard-working Florida taxpayers by advocating the principles of lower taxes, less government and more individual freedom," said Matt Kibbe, president of the organization.
Robin Stublen, a tea party leader in Punta Gorda, called FreedomWorks "a very class organization, and I'm pleased they are supporting Rick Scott."
Reportedly raising more money than any other state Senate candidate in the latest filing period, Democrat Deborah Gianoulis collected $65,914 in her bid to oust Republican John Thrasher from his Jacksonville seat.
Gianoulis' cash haul for the Aug. 20-Sept. 10 period easily surpassed Thrasher's $10,375.
Even more impressively, Gianoulis reported amassing $147,482 cash on hand. In addition, she received $27,813 in in-kind support from the Florida Democratic Party during the latest filing period.
Thrasher, who spent heavily to defeat a primary opponent, listed just $13,174 cash on hand.
But don't worry too much about Thrasher. He raised more than $400,000 before spending virtually all of it in the primary. Ensconced in Republican-friendly SD 8, the well-connected state GOP chairman is in a position to reload his war chest soon enough.
Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race, unveiled a new television commercial in which he takes subtle shots at Gov. Charlie Crist, who is in the race without party affiliation and looking to tap into voter discontent at Washington.
“Washington isn’t just broke, it’s broken,” says Rubio in the commercial, before taking Crist to task. Rubio has torn into Crist for standing on both sides of certain issues. “But it won’t get better if we keep electing politicians who will say or do anything just to hold office.
“Government is out of touch,” continues Rubio. “Spending is out of control. Foreign debt threatens our economic and national security. And typical politicians just don’t get it.”
Vice-presidential candidates have traditionally filled the role of attack dogs, ripping into their opponents. The same thing can be said of candidates for lieutenant governor -- a role that Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Jacksonville, assumed on Monday.
Carroll, Republican candidate Rick Scott’s running mate for lieutenant governor, attacked the Democratic nominee state CFO Alex Sink’s record in guarding state employees’ pensions.
“Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was at the wheel when the state pension fund lost $24.5 billion; she even approved giving bonuses to SBA staffers despite the losses,” said Carroll. “It is appalling to learn that not only was the SBA warned about the risky investments that cost our seniors billions and put the Local Government Investment Pool in grave danger, but that the SBA repeatedly tried to finagle permission from the SEC to make these risky investments despite repeated advice and warnings that it might be against the law.
“Ignoring warnings and the SBA’s previous failures, CFO Alex Sink is still allowing the SBA to engage in ‘risky’ investing in what experts called an ‘absurd investment scenario,’” continued Carroll. “CFO Alex Sink has sunk our seniors’ pensions and cost local governments valuable resources with a pattern of behavior that raises questions about both her competence and integrity.”
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio is not the only politician attacking Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running without party affiliation in the Senate election, for switching positions on issues. The campaign team of U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee in the U.S. Senate race, is hitting the governor for backing offshore drilling, which he denounced on Monday in a meeting with the Orlando Sentinel editorial board.
"This is yet another attempt by Charlie Crist to try and hide his conservative intentions as he stakes out positions on both sides of this issue," said Abe Dyk, Meek's campaign manager. "To have supported drilling 5 miles off Florida's beaches puts Charlie Crist on the ultra-conservative fringe of the Republican Party."
Mired in third place in most polls, Meek’s strategy is to win-over Democrats and liberal independent voters who may be backing Crist as the best option to defeat Rubio. Look for Meek and his camp to continue hammering Crist, insisting he is a conservative -- just like Rubio will blast Crist for being a liberal. For the moment, as the television ad he released today shows, Crist is focusing his fire on Rubio.
After stopping for a town hall meeting in Miami on Sunday, the "Spending Revolt" bus will visit 10 more Florida cities in the next three days.
The road trip is sponsored by SpendingRevolt.com, a coalition of taxpayers, business owners and policy organizations focused on breaking the cycle of spending in Washington.
For scheduled stops and online town hall webcasts click here.
On Monday, Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, the Democratic attorney general candidate, won the backing of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans (FLARA) -- a group with more than 200,000 members across the Sunshine State.
“As a top federal prosecutor, Dan took on the crooks who prey upon Florida seniors, and we know he’ll continue to take them on as attorney general,” said Tony Fransetta, the president of FLARA. “Dan has been a tireless advocate for retirees in the Florida Legislature, and we couldn’t ask for a better candidate to be Florida’s top cop.”
“Throughout my career as a federal prosecutor, chief investigator and state legislator, I have always taken great pride in standing up for our seniors, which is why I am especially proud to have the endorsement of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans,” said Gelber. “Preying upon seniors is one of the greatest indignities, and as attorney general, I will do everything in my power to protect the economic security of our retirees and take down criminals who target them.”
Pam Bondi, Gelber’s Republican opponent, reached out to seniors last week, highlighting her almost two decades of experience as a prosecutor and condemning gangs and scam artists that threaten older Floridians.
As our Kevin Derby reports here, Mitt Romney is coming to Florida to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. So, why is Bill McCollum still sulking?
Romney, who endorsed the attorney general in the primary, is doing his bit for Republican unity. Similarly, Mike Huckabee, another McCollum endorser, is expected to jump on the Scott bandwagon.
It will be interesting to hear how Romney and Scott finesse their obvious differences on health care. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney pushed through a state-mandated health plan that was the forerunner to Obamacare. Scott, a former heath-care executive, is strictly a free-market guy.
With Romney and Scott finding common ground, McCollum's prolonged sideline snit looks all the more juvenile.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who made a spirited bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is widely expected to do so again in 2012, will be heading to Florida to campaign with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott.
The former and perhaps future presidential candidate will be heading to The Villages to campaign with Scott on Oct. 1. Romney will be hitting 25 states to campaign for Republicans before the November elections -- one more sign that he has his eyes on the White House. Romney, who supported Attorney General Bill McCollum over Scott in the primary, has been an active backer of Republicans across Florida.
“Today, I want to talk about taxes and insurance -- two very important issues that must be addressed in order to put Floridians back to work and turn around our housing crisis,” said Scott at a town hall event in Miami.
Scott used the event to take a shot at his Democratic rival, state CFO Alex Sink.
“Politicians in Tallahassee, like my opponent Alex Sink, had an opportunity over the last four years to reduce property taxes and insurance, but instead made the problem worse,” he said. “As an outsider who is not entrenched in the status quo or beholden to special interests, I have a plan that will lower property taxes for all homeowners in Florida who desperately need some tax relief, eliminate the business tax and address the insurance crisis.”
Scott focused on property taxes -- and called for a major tax cut.
“Florida is also in the top three states nationally in mortgage foreclosures and our economy has been crushed by housing price declines,” added Scott. “Forty-four percent of our homes are underwater and property tax revenues have been growing faster than personal incomes. I will cut the state portion of property taxes by 19 percent for all homeowners in Florida helping to make their homes affordable again.”
Scott added that revenue would be made up by his job’s plan. Scott also pledged to reform tort law in Florida.
When the Florida Supreme Court knocked Amendment 7 off the ballot, the folks behind the FairDistricts campaign (Amendments 5 and 6) may have figured they had a clear shot to victory Nov. 2.
But hold on.
On Friday, a political action committee called Protect Your Vote announced it will work to defeat the amendments that purport to "reform" how legislative and congressional districts are drawn. The anti-group is headed by former Secretary of State Kurt Browning.
No finance reports have been filed, but with less than eight weeks to Election Day, it's unclear how much headway Browning's group can make against FairDistricts, which raised more than $4.2 million since forming in 2006.
See our coverage in two stories Tuesday.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate without party affiliation, launched a new commercial on Monday attacking former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the Republican nominee in the race, for backing earmarks and special projects. While Crist had pledged not to go negative, with Rubio leading in the polls by double digits, the governor is now trying to hammer the GOP nominee.
“Charlie Crist is so desperate to not talk about his record of higher unemployment, failed $800 billion stimulus programs, wasted taxpayer dollars on European junkets and numerous flip-flops on Obamacare that he has resorted to making up facts about Marco Rubio,” said Alex Burgos, a spokesman for Rubio. “Since Charlie Crist will say anything and change any position about his record in order to win, there's no reason Florida voters should trust what he has to say about his opponents.
“No matter how much Charlie Crist spends on attack ads, nothing will change the fact that Marco Rubio is the only candidate Floridians can trust to challenge the direction Washington is taking our country and offer a clear alternative,” added Burgos.
On Monday, the campaign team of Pam Bondi, the Republican attorney general nominee, attempted to draw differences on gang issues between its candidate and Democratic nominee Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.
"As a prosecutor, I handled many cases of gang-related violence and crime, and I know firsthand that gangs are a very real and growing danger in our state," said Bondi. "As attorney general, I will do everything in my power to fight crime and keep Floridians safe. Locking up dangerous gang criminals is a personal and top priority of mine."
The Bondi team pledged to continue Attorney General Bill McCollum’s campaign against gangs and pointed to its candidate’s almost two decades of experience as a prosecutor as opposed to Gelber’s years in the Legislature.
Bondi said that her experience on the issue goes outside the courtroom.
"In addition to investigating and prosecuting gang criminals, I have personally gone into schools to speak to thousands of kids about the dangers of drunk driving, drugs, gangs, and the importance of staying in school," said Bondi. "Education is a key component to prevention, and it terrifies me that although I used to get asked to give these lectures to high-school students, I now know that if we don’t start in middle school, it is already too late for many of these kids."
Her trip, on Oct. 6 at the American Airlines Arena, is scheduled five days before President Barack Obama is due in Miami to try to bridge the enthusiasm gap among Democrats.
"SflaConservative is proudly partnering with The Liberty and Freedom Foundation to bring the incomparable Sarah Palin to the American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami on Wednesday, Oct. 6.
"Gov. Palin is in Miami to raise funds to help elect principled grass-roots conservatives. You are invited to get involved in this, the most critical midterm election in our Republic's history.
"Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
"Get engaged, get active. Don't miss this opportunity to meet and welcome Sarah to the Magic City."
In words that could have been scripted by Marco Rubio's campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headlined its latest news release: "Crist and Handpicked Chair Face Heat for Lavish 'Inappropriate' Personal Spending on Party Dime."
While Crist scrambles to explain away the damning results of the Republican Party audit, Democratic Party leaders no longer appear interested in playing footsie with the guv. They're just kicking him in the rear.
That's potentially good news for Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, and ominous for Crist, who, in getting it from both sides, will have an even harder time raising money as a left-leaning "independent."
The Values Voters Summit closed on Saturday with an upset in a straw poll for 2012 presidential hopefuls.
With 24 percent of the vote, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, helped by a speech to the group on Friday, narrowly beat former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the event in 2007 and 2009, who took 22 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed third with 13 percent, followed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 10 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 7 percent. Pence also won the vote for vice president, followed by Palin and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. All of the politicians listed above, save Palin, spoke at the event in Washington which was backed by the Family Research Council.
Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, the Republican CFO candidate, was thrilled to be endorsed by the NRA on Friday -- the day when America celebrates the passage of the Constitution. The NRA gave Atwater an A-plus for his record on Second Amendment issues.
"On a day that celebrates the wisdom of the founders who established our nation and created our Constitution, it is a great honor to have my work to protect our freedoms acknowledged," said Atwater.
"No other candidate in this race has the background of dedicated legislative service that you have demonstrated to the cause of freedom, the Second Amendment and protection of constitutional rights,” wrote Marion Hammer of the NRA to Atwater.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart are going to have a media event in Tallahassee on Monday to continue their fight against redistricting measures backed by FairDistrictsFlorida that will be on the November ballot. At the event, the two members of Congress will announce the kickoff of the “No on Amendments 5 and 6” campaign. Both of them have been vocal opponents of the measures all throughout the year.
“These amendments are nothing more than a deceitful attempt to turn the clock back to the days before 1992 when Florida did not have any African-American representation in Congress, and I had to battle with the courts to obtain congressional districts that could be occupied by minorities,” said Brown, one of the few prominent Democrats to come out swinging at the measures. “Clearly, given that minorities make up more than one-third of the state of Florida’s population, I see any attempt to decrease our political representation on a state or federal level as a serious civil-rights issue for the state.”
“These amendments are deceptive and misleading to voters, and are an attempt at sabotaging the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice,” insisted Diaz-Balart. “The decision taken by the Florida Supreme Court last month to allow the amendments to appear on the November ballot has the potential of irreparably harming the electoral process, and is a clear disregard for the law. It is a shame that politics has gotten in the way of fair judgment.”
“As the incoming Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives, I disagree with the Sept. 16 statement by the spokesman for the Campaign for Accountability, which was published on the Florida Democratic Party website, impugning the Florida Chamber of Commerce,” said Saunders on Friday.
“While I am a strong supporter and friend of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink, and had hoped that she would receive the chamber’s endorsement, I do not feel that their endorsement of her Republican opponent warranted an attack on the Florida Chamber’s integrity,” continued Saunders. “As a state legislator, I have always found the Florida Chamber to be accessible to members of the House of Representatives and a good source of information on business issues. During my tenure as House Democratic leader, I will work to ensure that the cordial relationship the Florida Chamber has had with the House Democratic Caucus continues.”
Port St. Lucie residents are restless and the city's police officers are calling their union reps over a City Hall that appears to be reeling out of control.
Officials in the city -- once one of the country's fastest-growing cities; now suffering among nation's highest levels of foreclosures and unemployment -- gave initial approval this week to a 17 percent increase in the property tax rate.
While hundreds of taxpayers protest that move, the police chief is proposing to lay off 24 more officers next month.
Even as residents and police protest (the cops have erected a billboard decrying the cuts), they note, with bitter irony, that an assistant city manager received a $16,536 pay raise last April.
Such feather-bedding echoes the plight of Bell, Calif., where city officials were paying themselves six-figure salaries and bonuses while slashing services in the blue-collar town.
The overweening sense of official entitlement in Bell has yielded misconduct charges and a broader state investigation.
As Port St. Lucie continues on course, it provides more proof that California is where the future happens first.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had words of advice for establishment Republicans who've been beaten by tea party insurgents.
"You shake the hand of the guy who defeats you," Huckabee said on Fox's "Neal Cavuto" show this afternoon. "There needs to be a level of grace."
Were you listening, Bill McCollum?
Rick Scott, who narrowly defeated McCollum for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, is still waiting for the attorney general to offer a hand of support.
One would think Huckabee's advice might mean something to McCollum, since he had endorsed McCollum in the primary. As things stand, McCollum's churlishness isn't helping the party to which he professes allegiance.