Sunshine State News Blogs

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday he will be filing a lawsuit against the federal government for violating states' rights by implementing the Common Core State Standards. 

Jindal's lawsuit says states were given monetary incentives through federal grants to join in and implement the standards, which Jindal says violates the 10th Amendment. 

In June, Jindal issued an executive order pulling Louisiana out of Common Core, which has been subject to intense scrutiny and criticism from parents, teachers and members of the public in recent months. 

"The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," said Jindal. "Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything. What started out as an innovative idea to create a set of base line standards that could be 'voluntarily' used by the states has turned into a scheme by the federal government to nationalize curriculum."

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After winning the Republican primary on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott reminded Floridians on Wednesday that his $400 million cut of vehicle registration fees, one of his chief legislative priorities this year, takes effect on Sept. 1.

Scott insisted these fees were “tax increases” which then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed off on back in 2009. Despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican, Crist won the Democratic primary on Tuesday and will face Scott in November.

“This year, we set out to cut many taxes and fees on Florida families, and starting next week we are rolling back many of the 2009 tax increases on annual motor vehicle registrations,” Scott said on Wednesday. “This fee cut will result in an annual savings of about $25 per typical motor vehicle. Families deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money, and we will now be able to save Floridians $400 million, because it’s their money!”
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With Tuesday marking the end of primary season in Florida, focus now turns to the general election. That was clear on Wednesday morning as the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) announced it was backing Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, over Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan in what is expected to be one of the most competitive legislative races come November.

“Sen. Jeff Brandes has stood up for common-sense legislation and for advancing innovation,” said Dr. Ralph Nobo, the president of the FMA PAC, on Wednesday. “The Florida Medical Association is pleased to support Sen. Brandes’ re-election efforts and looks forward to working with him to improve Florida’s health care system.”

“As a member of the Health Policy Committee, innovating Florida's health care system has been a priority to me," Brandes said. "The Florida Medical Association has been a great resource, and I am honored to have their endorsement. I look forward to continuing to work with them to set Florida apart on the cutting edge of health care."

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John Cortes, the vice president of the Florida Hispanic Caucus and a retired New York City corrections officer, pulled off a major upset in the Democratic primary on Tuesday by beating state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee.

With 5,494 votes counted, Cortes had 2,843 votes (51.75 percent) and Rangel had 2,651 (48.25 percent).

“John Cortes has dedicated his career to public service and I know he will bring those same values with him to the Legislature,” said Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, after the results were known. “From his time as a police officer to his extensive work as an activist in Osceola County, John has always put his fellow community members ahead of himself. I look forward to working with John to ensure that the residents of District 43 continue to have representation that puts the middle class first this fall.”

Rangel heavily outspent Cortes in the primary contest, raising $90,325, relying on $4,500 of in-kind donations and spending almost $80,800. Cortes loaned his campaign $8,800, raised $6,865, used $100 of in-kind donations and spent $15,247.35.

Republican Carlos Irizarry awaits Cortes in the general election though this district, which represents parts of Osceola County, is strongly Democratic.
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Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, routed challenger Brandon Cannon in the Republican primary on Tuesday.

With almost 35,500 votes counted, Negron had 85.4 percent while Cannon took 14.6 percent of the vote.

“I really appreciate this community’s vote of confidence in the commitment we share for protecting our environment, supporting our seniors and safeguarding our constitutional rights," Negron said after his big win. “I look forward to continuing our grassroots campaign in the general election.”

Negron takes on Democrat Bruno Moore and a write-in candidate in November in what is a solid Republican district.

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Florida Sen. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, beat Victoria Siplin to win a seat in the Senate back in 2012 and, on Tuesday, she bested former Sen. Gary Siplin, the husband of her old foe, in the Democratic primary.

With more than 23,400 votes cast, Thompson was well ahead, taking 64.1 percent while Siplin mustered 35.9 percent.

“Geraldine Thompson is a force for good in the community,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant on Tuesday. “Her victory today is a testament to the tireless work she does on behalf of her constituents. The people of District 12 know that Sen. Thompson will be their voice as she continues to fight for better schools, equal pay for equal work for women, and to give working families a raise.”

Thompson will take on Edward DeAguilera who beat Fritz Jackson Seide in the Republican primary. This is a very secure Democratic district, making Thompson the favorite to head back to Tallahassee after the general election in November.
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After losses in state legislative primaries in 2010 and 2012, former state Rep. Carl Domino won the Republican primary to take on U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in November.

With 75.5 percent of the vote in, Domino took 38 percent followed by former Connecticut state Rep. Alan Schlesinger with 24.7 percent. Nurse and conservative activist Beverly Hires took third with 14.1 percent followed by businessman Brian Lara with 12.6 percent. Former Tequesta Councilman Calvin Turnquest garnered 6.9 percent followed by businessman Nick Wukoson with 3.8 percent.

Despite Murphy beating then-U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., by a narrow margin in 2012, the Democrat starts off the general election as the favorite over Domino.
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With the support of former Gov. Jeb Bush and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo won the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in November. Garcia ranks as one of the top Republican targets in the nation.

With 47.7 percent of the votes in, Curbelo led the five-candidate field with 47.4 percent. Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall placed second with 25.4 percent followed by former Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez in third with 16.9 percent. Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., flopped in his comeback bid taking fourth with 7.6 percent. Attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck lagged in fifth with 2.7 percent.
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U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings easily bested two candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

With 21.6 percent of the vote, Hastings was cruising with 78 percent of the vote. Jean Enright stood in distant second with 15.8 percent while former heavyweight boxing contender Jameel McCline was in single digits with 6.2 percent.

Hastings, who was first elected to Congress back in 1992, will be a heavy favorite in November in this strongly Democratic district. Jay Bonner has the Republican nomination while Luis Fernandez is running with no party affiliation.
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Carol Platt from the Osceola County Realtors Association won the Republican primary on Tuesday night to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla. 

With 96 percent of votes in, Platt, who had the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush, took 54.4 percent in the primary. Navy veteran Jorge Bonilla came in a distant second with 29.8 percent and businessman Peter Vivaldi took third with 15.8 percent of the vote.

Grayson easily beat Nick Ruiz on the Democratic side, taking more than 74 percent of the vote.

Businessman Marko Milakovich, who is running with no party affiliation, will also be on the ballot come November.
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U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., easily bested Republican primary challenger John Krause in Tuesday’s primary. With more than 44 percent of votes in, Miller had 77.4 percent and Krause 22.6 percent.

Miller will face businessman Jim Byran, who has the Democratic nomination, and businessman Mark Wichern who is running with no party affiliation. This Panhandle district is a Republican stronghold, making Miller a heavy favorite come November.

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It's finally official: former Gov. Charlie Crist will face Gov. Rick Scott in November's general election.

According to the Florida Division of Elections' website, Crist had snagged 74 percent of the vote. Former Sen. Nan Rich took 26 percent of the vote.   

"Democrats across Florida are ready to work harder than we’ve ever worked to elect Charlie Crist governor of Florida,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant on Tuesday evening. 

This is a developing story. Keep checking back for more details.  
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A member of Congress for more than two decades, U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., easily bested three Republican opponents in the primary on Tuesday. With more than 63 percent of the vote in, Mica took almost 72 percent while his closest opponent, David Smith, took 19.1 percent. Don Oehlrich stood in third with 5.1 percent and Kelly Shirley lagged behind with 3.9 percent.

Mica will be a heavy favorite in November over Democrat Wes Neuman and Al Krulick, who is running with no party affiliation, in this secure Republican district.
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Former gubernatorial aide Glo Smith beat businesswoman Twee Lowe on Tuesday in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., in November. With more than 63 percent of votes counted, Smith took 63.5 percent while Lowe garnered 36.5 percent of the votes cast.

Smith will have an uphill climb against Brown who has represented parts of North Florida in Congress since first winning her seat in 1992. Brown represents a solidly Democratic district.
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With 83 percent of precincts in, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., held off a spirited Republican primary challenge from retired Navy Capt. Ryman Shoaf. Crenshaw took more than 71 percent of the vote while Shoaf took less than 29 percent of the vote.

Crenshaw should be secure in November though he does face challenges from two candidates with no party affiliation: Gary Koniz and Paula Moser-Bartlett. Deb Pueschel will be running as a write-in candidate. With no Democratic challengers, Crenshaw should easily hold on to his congressional seat which he first won in 2000.
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Freshman U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., won the Republican primary on Tuesday, easily holding off attorney Jake Rush. With almost 14,000 votes in, Yoho had 73.4 percent of the vote. Rush had been agressive, hitting Yoho on a number of fronts, but he never recovered from stories and photos showcasing his role-playing hobby that made national headlines.

Yoho faces Democratic candidate Marihelen Wheeler and term limits activist Howard Wheeler, who is running with no party affiliation, in the general election. This is a solidly Republican district and is not expected to be competitive in November.
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As primary voting began to wrap up Tuesday afternoon, Florida's chief financial officer focused his efforts on ripping the likely Democratic nominee to face Gov. Rick Scott in the general election.

CFO Jeff Atwater ripped into former Gov. Charlie Crist for "walking away" from thousands of needy Floridians during his time in office, leaving behind his responsibilities as governor for higher political ambitions. 

"Charlie Crist walked away in our toughest hour and didn't give a care in the world about suffering Floridians because he thought it was in the best interest of his political future to avoid the hard times and hard decisions," said Atwater in a statement. "Now that Floridians have picked themselves up and made their own tough choices, guess who is back and hoping they forgot about his great political escape at their expense?"

Atwater had a message for Crist: The people of Florida, he said, would not be too quick to forget Crist's abandonment of the Sunshine State.

"You proved to all of us that the only decisions you are willing to make are the ones that are best for your own political future," Atwater continued. "This time we know better, Charlie."  
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Despite his leading role with the “Gang of Eight” on immigration reform, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned President Barack Obama that any efforts he makes on immigration reform should be done with the approval of Congress. Rubio wrote Obama on the matter on Tuesday.

“It is my sincere belief that if we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally,” Rubio wrote. “It will not be easy. And it will not be unanimous. But if we can make real progress on stemming the tide of illegal immigration, I am convinced we will have the support necessary to address this serious issue once and for all. All of this is why I have grown increasingly alarmed by news that your administration is considering sweeping executive action to give work permits to millions of people here illegally. If indeed you move forward on such a decision, I believe it will close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future.

“I know you are receiving tremendous political pressure from certain activists to grant another unilateral, temporary and uncertain legal status to millions of additional undocumented immigrants,” Rubio continued. “But to do so, without first taking any serious steps to address the border or protect American workers, will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform.

“As someone who believes sincerely in the need for reform, is the son of immigrants, and lives in a community of immigrants, I still reserve some optimism that you’ll reject the politics of the moment and remember that the decisions you make will impact the people at the heart of this issue long after your duty to serve them has come to an end,” Rubio wrote.
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The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched a new ad on Tuesday hitting Democrat Gwen Graham on President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Graham represents Democrats’ best chance to flip a congressional seat in Florida as she runs against U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.

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“Gwen Graham has made it clear that she wants to keep Obamacare even though it’s causing North Florida families to pay more for health care coverage and caused some families to lose the coverage and doctor they liked,” said Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, on Tuesday. “Sending Gwen Graham to Congress is a risk North Florida families can’t afford.”
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U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., cheered Monday’s news that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will send $6.3 million in disaster assistance to Apalachicola Bay’s oyster fishing industry which has dropped 60 percent in the last two years.

“I am thrilled that these relief funds are now on their way to helping the hard-working people who rely on Apalachicola Bay,” said Southerland. “While these resources represent an important victory, more must be done to save this cherished community. I look forward to building off today’s news and continuing our fight to restore Apalachicola’s oyster industry.”

The funds will be released later this week, with $2.8 million going for shelling by oystermen and $1.75 million for shelling by barge. The state Fish and Wildlife Service will get $415,000 to monitor the bay while $770,000 will go toward updating facilities and $540,000 for education and training.
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From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with three of his colleagues -- U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and U.S. Sen. James E. Risch, R-Idaho -- in sending a letter to five Latin American leaders, asking them to restore full diplomatic ties with Israel by returning their ambassadors to that nation. The senators wrote the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru, all of whom recalled their ambassadors from Israel in protest of that nation’s recent actions in Gaza.

“All loss of innocent lives during this conflict is tragic, but your government’s decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel at this critical time will only embolden Hamas leaders to continue on the current course of indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians rather than working with the Israeli government to achieve a sustainable cease-fire arrangement,” the senators wrote on Monday. “Your actions send a troubling message to the United States about your government’s commitment to long-lasting peace between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“We encourage you to return your ambassador to Israel, as a symbol of your country’s steadfast commitment to achieving an enduring peace in the Middle East and the fight against the scourge of international terrorism,” the senators wrote.

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The school board of Palm Beach County is joining with Lee County to explore their options to opt out of high-stakes standardized testing. 

At a meeting last week, board members discussed standardized testing and expressed a desire to investigate opting out of standardized testing -- and what the consequences would be of such a move. Board members said stakes were too high for students -- and while they didn't disagree with standardized testing in its entirety, they disagreed with its ultimate goals and results.

“Make no mistake, I believe in assessment. I believe in testing that is used for measurement not punishment," said board member Karen Brill. "I believe that we, as a district, need to research opting out from the new Florida Standard Assessments but we must also restore common sense and balance to our own testing schedule."

"I'm particularly concerned about the fact that the state has decided they're going to hold schools harmless, but they're still going to punish our kids and our teachers. I mean, I just don't get that," said Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri. "They're going to make sure that schools don't suffer consequences if their grades go backward, but we're still going to have third-graders that are not going to pass and go onto fourth-grade. It's too much too soon." 

The move follows a similar meeting held by the Lee County School Board, where members had also said they'd be interested in getting out of standardized tests. Testing in Florida has fallen under intense scrutiny in recent months with the debut of a new set of education standards as well as a new standardized test. 

"The accountability system that the state is rolling out is flawed," said board member Marcia Andrews on the issue. "We'll be right here to take the stand with our parents, with our school district, with other districts across the state and certainly with our legislators."

The Lee County School Board will be discussing the issue later this week. 
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is getting increasingly active in South Carolina which traditionally holds the first presidential primary in the South.

Held after Iowa and New Hampshire have their say, South Carolina has been the decisive tie-breaker in many recent Republican presidential primary contests. Set up by Lee Atwater to help George H.W. Bush, the eventual Republican presidential nominee won the South Carolina primary in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2008 after Iowa and New Hampshire broke for different candidates. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., ended the streak in 2008 when he defeated former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., in the Palmetto State.

Rubio will be in Anderson on Monday as the keynote speaker for U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan’s, R-S.C., “Faith and Freedom” BBQ.

“I’m honored to have a solid conservative like Sen. Rubio come to South Carolina to headline this event,” said Duncan when he announced the event back in July. “Sen. Rubio shares South Carolina’s values of limited government and individual liberty, and I’m looking forward to having him visit our state.”
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U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., hammered the Obama administration’s handling of Cuban affairs on Friday after reports emerged that three Cubans with close ties to the Castro regime -- Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro, Josefina Vidal  and Antonio Castro, the son of Fidel Castro -- had been granted visas to enter the United States.

"It is outrageous that the Obama administration once again has granted U.S. entry visas to high-level Cuban operatives Mariela Castro, Josefina Vidal, and Antonio Castro,” Diaz-Balart said on Friday. “The same regime that brutally oppresses activists, violates international sanctions to provide weapons to North Korea, and continues to imprison U.S. humanitarian worker Alan Gross should not be rewarded with U.S. visits.

“I strongly urge the administration to abandon its misguided decision to engage with the Cuban people's oppressors,” Diaz-Balart added. “Instead, it should redouble efforts to support civil society, democracy, and Cuba's true leaders who are courageously striving against the dictatorship to achieve liberty and basic human rights for the Cuban people.”
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Gov. Rick Scott focused on education on Monday, showcasing his calls to raise K-12 funding, looking at standards and assessment and trying to keep higher education affordable.

“Everyone in Florida deserves to live the American dream – and that starts with a great education,” Scott said. “We want to make sure that our students have every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in their careers, and we want to make sure our teachers have every tool they need to make that possible.”

Scott also kept his fire on former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite having spent most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary on Tuesday to challenge Scott in November.

“By continuing to invest in our K-12 schools with record per-pupil funding, and keeping college affordable for Florida students, we’ll undo the damage done by Charlie Crist when he cut funding and slammed students by allowing tuition hikes year after year,” Scott said.

Scott pointed toward his call for a “record $18.9 billion in funding for public schools – including per-pupil funding of $7,176, the highest in state history” for K-12. The governor also proposed creating a review committee to look at curriculum as he tries to use his Florida Standards instead of Common Core. Scott also called for the education commissioner to "conduct a thorough investigation of all standardized tests.” The governor also supported higher pay for excellent teachers and spending more on digital education and school safety.

In terms of colleges, Scott highlighted his call for more STEM training, informing students upfront about the costs of higher education and renewed his push for state colleges to offer degrees at or less than $10,000.
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Locked in a competitive Republican primary on Tuesday against attorney and GOP leader Paul Renner to replace retiring state Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, in the Florida House, banker Jay Fant announced the endorsements of two state representatives over the weekend: Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, and Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights.

“Jay believes in protecting our Second Amendment rights and he is a fiscal conservative who is focused on shrinking the government beast,” said Beshears. “Yet, most importantly, Jay is a grounded Christian family man who doesn’t need poll numbers or the media to tell him right from wrong.”

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NextGen Climate has revitalized its campaign to defeat Gov. Rick Scott in November's election, unleashing a new ad attacking the governor for taking $200,000 from a Collier family, owners of a company that leased land for oil exploration near the Florida Everglades.

The ad accuses the Collier family of profiting on the oil drilling and then asks Scott to return the cash.

NextGen, a super-PAC backed by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, also followed another familiar line of attack in the ad, called "Again," bringing up Scott's pleading of the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a 1995 deposition. 

The environment has become a central issue in the gubernatorial race in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Scott launched his "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" tour, pledging to funnel $1 billion in spending on Florida’s waters, with $500 million for alternative water supply and $500 million for springs restoration. Scott also met with climate scientists this week to discuss Florida's plan on climate change.

The ad will be running in the West Palm Beach and Fort Myers markets.  

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Despite the primary looming on Tuesday, a new poll shows Democrats remain largely undecided on who they want to challenge Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in November.

A poll from St. Pete Polls taken for Saint Petersblog finds 43.4 percent of voters remain undecided while 38.2 percent back former DCF Secretary George Sheldon and 18.4 percent support Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. One good sign for Sheldon is he is beating Thurston by 25.6 percent among Democrats who have already voted.

The poll of 1,825 Democrats who already voted or are planning to was taken on Aug. 21 and had  a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.
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A new poll shows former Gov. Charlie Crist has a commanding lead over former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to see who challenges Gov. Rick Scott in November.

St. Pete Polls took a poll for Saint Petersblog which shows Crist with 68.5 percent and Rich with 18.9 percent. Despite having been a Republican for most of his political career, Crist is in good shape with Democrats with 70.5 percent seeing him as favorable and 18.7 percent seeing him in an unfavorable light.

The poll of 1,825 Democrats who already voted or are planning to was taken on Aug. 21 and had  a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.
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With federal Judge Robert Hinkle striking down the state constitutional amendment on Thursday, recognizing only traditional marriage in Florida, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement on the decision. The amendment was added in 2008 after 62 percent of voters approved it at the ballot box.

The statement is as follows:

We are sadly disappointed by the court’s decision to reject marriage as the union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife. The decision fails to adequately consider that marriage unites a man and a woman with any children born from their union and protects a child’s right to both a mother and a father.

Our affirmation of marriage between a man and a woman is not motivated by unjust discrimination or animosity toward anyone. Human dignity is manifested in all persons; and all have the capacity for and are deserving of love. This is especially true of children, who should be given the opportunity, to the greatest extent possible, to be raised and loved by the mother and father who conceived them.

Only the union of a man and a woman in and of itself can bring forth children and thus is the very origin of society. With its unique beauty and goodness revealed, the public has a worthy interest in protecting this institution in law as a means to ensure humanity is both nurtured and strengthened.

The judge’s ruling negates marriage as identified in our state Constitution and approved by nearly 62 percent of the electorate in a 2008 ballot initiative. Despite this decision, we will continue to promote the truth of marriage, its foundational significance to society, and its importance to children. We are hopeful that ultimately the courts will recognize the true nature and meaning of marriage.
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