Sunshine State News Blogs
On Monday afternoon, Carlos Lopez-Cantera was sworn in as the lieutenant governor of Florida. Lopez-Cantera, who rose to become Florida House GOP leader, will return to his old stomping grounds in the House chambers for the ceremonial swearing-in later in the afternoon.
“Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera will make a great addition to the team as we continue to build an opportunity economy in our state,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “He has two daughters, like I do, and together we are focused on how we can transform our economy so we aren’t just creating jobs, we are creating careers and opportunities that will be here for our children, grandchildren and all future Floridians for generations to come. I am confident that we have the right person in place to serve Floridians and ensure the passage of our $500 million in tax cuts for Florida families.”
“It is a great honor to serve the people of Florida and Governor Rick Scott,” said Lopez-Cantera. “Governor Scott has led a truly remarkable turnaround in this state, and he has proven he is the right choice for Florida. I am proud to help further Governor Scott’s mission of economic growth and job creation.”
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott’s team pushed back against a Web ad released earlier in the day by former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his career in the Republican ranks.
"Charlie's incompetence is on full display and it's alarming,” said Matt Moon, a spokesman for the Scott campaign. "He continues to take no responsibility for the economic disaster that occurred under his watch, and pretends that as governor he was helpless to fix the situation. Things got so bad he ended up running away but now he wants his job back. To do what? Crist is just another politician who refuses to take any responsibility for anything. It's not every day that a politician admits in his own advertisement that he is incapable."
“People are calling out for someone who can end the dysfunction in Washington,” Benacquisto said. "The constituents that I have the honor and privilege to serve, I truly care about them. We have been strong and resolute in their encouragement and general push for me to lend my name for consideration. That coupled with the fact that there are so many critical issues in our country that affect our area have motivated me to serve in that capacity.”
Benacquisto had been long rumored to be a front-runner for the seat and recent polls put her ahead of other potential candidates to replace Radel. Just last week, the Senate majority leader was in Washington meeting with Republican leadership about her potential run for Congress.
She will join former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson, Mike Giallombardo, Brian Gibens, Timothy Rossano and Michael Dreikorn in a run for the coveted seat in Congress.
The primary election to replace Radel in Congress will be held April 22 with the general election taking place June 24.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Lopez-Cantera's appointment to the position in January after it had been vacant for over 10 months. Former Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll resigned from the post in March 2013 after being interviewed by law enforcement officials about work she did for a charity that prosecutors said was a front for a gambling ring.
Prior to his appointment, Lopez-Cantera served as Miami-Dade County's property appraiser and represented District 113 in the Florida House of Representatives. The former Republican majority leader will also be Scott's running mate on the 2014 ballot.
According to News Press, Goss says he "has too many business obligations -- he has his own consulting business that helps clients with federal budget issues -- and family considerations to join the race for Congress."
Goss also said, with children only a few years away from starting college, "his responsibility to his family takes first priority over the commitment needed to serve as a representative in Washington, D.C."
Radel resigned last week after months of scrutiny surrounding his October arrest for misdemeanor possession of cocaine in Washington, D.C. He initially took a leave of absence, but ultimately faced a formal investigation from the House Ethics Committee and resigned from his post.
The primary election to replace Radel will take place April 22 and the general election will be held on June 24.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott despite having spent most of his political career as a Republican, has launched a Web ad pushing back against one from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) last week.
“Rick Scott is blaming me for the financial crisis? That's ridiculous,” Crist says in the video. “Here's the truth. The recession wasn't caused by me or by you. You know who caused it? Greedy Wall Street bankers and corporate takeover artists. In other words, guys like Rick Scott. His company committed outright fraud. So when you see his ads, remember it was guys like Rick Scott that crashed our economy. I'm Charlie Crist. I work for you, the people. Always have. And always will.”
See the ad here:
Pro-life leaders are calling for a boycott of buying cookies from the Girl Scouts this year due to their ties to Planned Parenthood and pro-choice leaders.
Steven Ertelt, the editor of LifeNews.com, sent an email out to supporters on Sunday noting “several prominent pro-life groups," including his organization, have launched a “national boycott of the Girl Scouts and sales of their Girl Scout cookies this season"
“The Girl Scouts should be an organization dedicated to teaching young girls moral values, teamwork, leadership, self-esteem and other skills kids need growing up,” Ertelt insisted. “Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts have longstanding ties to the Planned Parenthood abortion business and have promoted pro-abortion groups and activists. The Girl Scouts have partnered with Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business, participated in international conferences promoting abortion, hired pro-abortion feminists as national Girl Scout leaders, promoted pro-abortion politicians like Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius. The Girl Scouts should not be partnering with the Planned Parenthood abortion business or promoting abortion or pro-abortion groups and people. Therefore, until the Girl Scouts end their associations with Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion groups and people, we support the boycott of the Girl Scouts and Girl Scout cookies."
Responding to constituents on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had harsh words for President Barack Obama’s plans to rely on executive orders if he can’t get his agenda through Congress. In the State of the Union address last week, Obama said he would not hesitate to use executive orders if Congress does not pass his agenda.
“This idea, that somehow your idea is so good, that it is somehow above the law and above the Constitution, is a very dangerous one,” Rubio said. “It not only violates the Constitution, it violates the very principles which have kept us a free and democratic country for so long. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
“One of the reasons why we have not been able to address, in the proper way, many of the issues the president raised, is because of these sorts of actions that he is taking,” Rubio added. “It’s undermined a slew of other potential policy areas where there could be agreement on. But when you take unilateral executive action, you undermine the entire process. And, you make people more cautious about dealing with you because they don’t trust you to enforce the laws in the future. ... Obamacare is an example of that.”
Florida TaxWatch weighed in on Monday morning, praising Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $74.2 billion proposed budget.
"I commend Governor Scott for including many cost-savings recommendations from Florida TaxWatch," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "By increasing efficiency in state government and offering significant tax cuts, this budget shows his commitment to Florida taxpayers."
Calabro pointed toward recommendations from Florida TaxWatch included in Scott’s proposal, including creating the Agency for State Technology to handle IT issues for the state government, reforming state employee health insurance and monitoring more nonviolent prisoners electronically.
Florida TaxWatch has more on the budget here.
Charlie Crist isn't the only Democratic candidate in the run for governor this year. Crist's Democratic rival, former state Sen. Nan Rich, is making her rounds with robo calls against the former Republican, calling Crist an enemy of women's reproductive rights.
According to Broward Beat, the robo calls reached registered Democrats in Broward County, which is the county with the most Democrats in the Sunshine State.
The recording featured the voice of former National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland, who said Crist "blocked reproductive choice for too long."
“For too long, Charlie Crist led the pack of Republicans waging war on women,” Ireland said.
Ireland brought up inconsistencies with Crist's positions on women's rights, claiming that when Crist was governor, he proclaimed, “I’m pro-life, pro-Republican.”
Ireland also urges those called to join her on Progressive Choice Florida, a Facebook page geared to "help expose conservative Charlie Crist."
The page's "About" section reads:
Progressive Choice Florida is a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for Florida leadership that stands firm on progressive principles and genuinely represents the interests of women and working families.
Our mission is to make sure that voters in Florida’s 2014 Democratic Primary are educated about the candidates’ issue positions. Our goal is for Democratic voters to cast votes based on values that respect women’s right to choose, embrace equality and diversity, reflect children’s right to quality education, support increased job opportunities, and embrace everyone’s right to a safe community and a healthy environment.
Radel resigned from Congress on Monday after several months of scrutiny after he was arrested in October for misdemeanor possession of cocaine in Washington, D.C. Initially, Radel said he would only take a leave of absence from the House.
Former State Rep. Paige Kreegel and CEO Curt Clawson have already declared they'll be running for the seat. Talk of State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto running for the seat has been rampant since Radel's resignation. Chauncey Goss's name has also been thrown out as a possible contender in the race to replace Radel.
Former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, who many long contended would run for the seat, announced earlier this week he would not be running.
The New Jersey governor probably can say goodbye to his presidential aspirations.
This just out: Chris Christie knew about lane closures on the George Washington Bridge at the time they were occurring -- and a former Port Authority official who oversaw the disastrous lanes’ shutdown claims to have evidence to prove it.
That news came in not one but two reports Friday.
The bombshell reports in The New York Times and The Star-Ledger mark the first time it’s been alleged Christie knew all about the September closures -- something he’s repeatedly and emphatically denied.
Read the story here, via Newsmax.com.
The error aired during a segment highlighting a recent RPOF TV ad attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist for "running away" from Florida when its economy tanked.
"This blatant disregard for journalist ethics and impartiality is a complete abdication of your station's professional duty to truth at best and slander at worst," wrote RPOF Chair Lenny Curry to the station's president and vice president. "We are currently reviewing our legal options against your station, but at minimum we demand an on-air apology for violating journalist ethics and public discipline for any employees responsible for the creation of this graphic."
Check out the clip here (segment starts at 1:34):
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched a new ad on Friday attacking former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate in the special election for the congressional seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. Sink takes on Republican David Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 special election.
“Can we trust Alex Sink in Washington?” the narrator of the ad asks. “As Florida’s CFO, Sink spent $400,000 of taxpayer money to jet around in a state-owned plane. She used the taxpayer-funded plane so she could get to a vacation in the Bahamas. And even used the plane to attend political campaign events. Alex Sink: Taxpayer-funded jets for her, higher taxes for you.”
Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, also bashed Sink. “Alex Sink’s record of wasting Florida taxpayers’ money as CFO is very troubling,” Prill said. “If we can’t trust her to do the right thing here in Florida, how can we trust her in Washington with Nancy Pelosi?”
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) announced Friday it will be hitting former Gov. Charlie Crist in a new Web ad with a “significant six-figure digital ad buy.” Crist is the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Sott in November, despite spending most of his political career as a Republican. The ad can be viewed here.
Florida TaxWatch looked at job growth in the Sunshine State in 2013 with around 193,000 jobs created, a 42 percent increase over 2012. The organization released a study finding 2013 was the best year for job growth in Florida since 2005.
"With increased investment in important industries, such as manufacturing, logistics and tourism, Florida's economy is growing jobs at the highest rate in the last eight years," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Friday.
The study finds job growth is on the rise in the private sector though there are almost 3,600 more federal and state employees than there were in 2012.
Calabro expressed optimism for the new year.
"In 2014, through investment in logistics, manufacturing, and company expansion and relocation, Florida can expect even more economic diversification, creating more high-wage jobs for Florida residents," said Calabro.
The study can be read here.
This week, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, endorsed Navy veteran Jorge Bonilla in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., in November. Sessions chaired the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) and is married to Karen Diebel, the Central Florida Republican who made a try for Congress in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
“We all want to win this upcoming November, and Jorge Bonilla is the consensus candidate that will be able to do just that, win,” Sessions said.
“Congressman Sessions has been a friend and mentor to our campaign, and we are thankful for his endorsement,” Bonilla said. “His support proves that our consensus candidacy appeals to both mainstream and grassroots Republicans alike. The Republican Party’s embrace of diverse ideas and inclusiveness, transcend beyond race and ethnicity."
The Investigative Reporting Prize, which carries a $10,000 award for finalists and $25,000 for the winner, is intended to recognize and encourage journalism that promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics by disclosing excessive secrecy, impropriety and mismanagement, or instances of particularly commendable government performance.
The Miami New Times' entry is Tim Elfink's “Biogenesis: Steroids, Baseball and an Industry Gone Wrong,” a year-long series on doping and so-called “anti-aging” clinics. It resulted directly in the suspension of 13 players, including a record 162 games for Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. It was the largest round of such discipline in the history of American sport.
The series also revealed systemic failure in Florida that allowed felons to own clinics like Biogenesis employing physicians with long disciplinary histories to sell federally restricted drugs such as steroids, testosterone and human growth hormone. The New Times probe forced baseball to confront its doping problems and the state to move toward policing its clinics.
The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony March 5 at the Kennedy School.
Conservative group American Action Network announced on Thursday it will spend $500,000, including more than $350,000 in television ads, direct mail and online ads, to torpedo former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate running in the special election for the congressional seat left open by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. Sink meets Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 special election.
“With a mess of a record supporting Obamacare and tax hikes and a past of gross financial mismanagement, Florida families simply can’t trust Alex Sink in Washington,” said Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for American Action Network. “This is a tossup race and we see an opportunity for victory in a must-win election for Nancy Pelosi and her liberal lieutenants.”
American Action Network defines itself as “an 'action tank' that creates, encourages and promotes center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security. The American Action Network's primary goal is "to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into action to advance our center-right policy agenda.” Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., chairs American Action Network.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota will appear on Thursday night’s episode of Ora.tv’s “Politicking with Larry King” where he takes on two of the leading possible presidential candidates in 2016: former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ventura referenced former first lady Barbara Bush’s comment that she hopes her son does not run for the presidency in 2016.
“I never thought there would be a day since George W. got out of office that I would ever agree with a Bush ever again,” Ventura tells King. “But lo and behold ... Barbara Bush, you have Governor Jesse Ventura’s full support on that position. She is absolutely correct. We are not England, we don’t have royalty here.”
Ventura knows a little about political dynasties. Back in 1998, most of the focus in the Minnesota governor’s race was on the Democratic primary which featured three political scions -- sons of vice presidents and losing presidential candidates Skip Humphrey and Ted Mondale and Mike Freeman whose father Orville served as agriculture secretary under JFK and LBJ. Humphrey won but lost out to Ventura, the Reform Party candidate, in the general election.
Attorney David Jolly, the Republican candidate running for the open congressional seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., is hitting the airwaves with a new commercial. Jolly, who worked for Young, is taking on former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate, and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 special election.
Jolly showcased a new television commercial on Thursday in which he goes on the attack against Sink, hitting her for backing President Barack Obama’s health care law and contrasting their fiscal records.
“Pinellas needs someone to look out for our interests, not President Obama’s,” Jolly says in the ad.
The ad can be seen here.
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., endorsed Carol Platt in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla.
"I have known Carol Platt and her family for 20 years and I am pleased to endorse her candidacy for Congress,” Weldon said. “Her track record of accomplishment and her dedication to conservative principles are what we need in Washington, D.C.
“I am confident not only in her ability to win in November but more important in her ability go to Congress and fight for the values that made this nation great,” Weldon added.
After serving 14 years in Congress before retiring in 2008, Weldon offered a late challenge to Connie Mack in the 2012 Republican primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., but he placed a distant second. Platt has worked for the Osceola County Realtor Association and has won the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush.
In 2012, Deputy Liberatore was conducting a security check when he observed a vehicle with an expired tag that had pulled into a business. Liberatore made contact with the suspect and noticed a small amount of blood on his clothing. Liberatore became more suspicious of the suspect, and he was eventually able to convince the suspect to take him back to his residence.
While at the residence, Liberatore began questioning the juveniles at the residence, as well as neighbors nearby. Liberatore's interview revealed that at least one of the juveniles had been sexually assaulted by the suspect. Deputy Liberatore received a full confession from the suspect, which revealed that the abuse had been occurring for years.
The suspect was later sentenced to more than two life terms in prison.
Deputy Liberatore was joined by eight other officers from around the Sunshine State at a ceremony recognizing them for their "dedication to law enforcement and public safety," according to a release from Bondi's office.
“All of the nominees deserve recognition for their commitment to protecting others and selflessly serving their communities,” said Bondi. “It is an honor to name Master Deputy Tim Liberatore the 2013 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Thanks to Master Deputy Liberatore’s dedication, a juvenile was saved from heartbreaking abuse.”
On Thursday, former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., showcased a video response he made to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
“Tuesday evening during the State of the Union address, President Obama offered more empty campaign rhetoric,” West emailed supporters on Thursday. “Instead of offering solutions to move America forward, he offered more of the same failed policies his administration has been pushing for more than four years.
“We deserve better ... the way to return America to prosperity is to repeal Obamacare, lower taxes, rein in government overreach, and enable the American people to succeed on their own merit," West added.
While he has ruled out making a political comeback, West has closed the door to running for office this year and has no plans to take on U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., who defeated him in 2012.
The video can be seen here.
Justice Jorge Labarga was officially named the incoming chief justice for the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday. Labarga was unanimously elected by his peers to serve in that post for two years starting on July 1.
“I am so honored to serve in such an important position,” Labarga, the first Cuban-American to become Florida chief justice, said on Wednesday. “I am deeply grateful for the trust of my colleagues and pledge to make sure our constitutional principles are enforced.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighed in on human trafficking on Thursday and urged Congress to pass the “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act" he introduced with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., last month.
Broward College held an anti-human trafficking event on Thursday and Rubio offered a video statement in which he talked about incidents in South Florida.
“Just this month, a human trafficking ring was busted at a Miami Beach strip club. Their victim was a 13-year old girl. 13 years old,” Rubio said.
“It seems unconscionable that anyone would target and exploit our precious children like this. But they do, and we need to do more to stop it,” Rubio continued. “Last year, Congress took an important step to combat human trafficking by reauthorizing landmark legislation. But significant gaps remain.
“That’s why I’ve introduced the 'Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act’ – a bill to combat sex and labor trafficking in child welfare systems across the country,” Rubio added. “And we need your support to pressure Congress to get it passed and signed into law this year.”
Rubio’s bill calls for states to work with the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services to maintain data from their child welfare systems on human trafficking and their efforts to comabt it.
Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry went after former Gov. Charlie Crist and President Barack Obama on taxes on Thursday morning. Despite having been a Republican for most of his political career, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott come November.
“Obamacare's taxes are harmful to the middle class and small business in Florida and around the country,” Curry said. “Rather than stand with the people of Florida, Charlie Crist stands with Barack Obama and his buddies in the White House, refusing to rule out raising taxes and wholeheartedly supporting a law that hurts so many Floridians. Florida doesn't want more taxes and we can't afford Obamacare or four years of Charlie Crist."
A poll of registered Florida voters from Quinnipiac University released on Thursday morning finds former Gov. Charlie Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott 46 percent to 38 percent. Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political career as a Republican.
Crist led by a similar margin -- 47 percent to 40 percent -- in a Quinnipiac poll from November, though he was beating Scott by 16 percent in a survey taken back in March. Last week, Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, showed the race much closer with Crist leading 43 percent to 41 percent.
The poll shows Scott does better when matched against former state Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, beating her 41 percent to 37 percent.
"At least for now, Florida Governor Rick Scott's comeback against his major Democratic challenger, former Governor Charlie Crist, has stalled after considerably narrowing the Crist lead in 2013,” said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And on several other measurements, Crist gets higher grades from the Florida electorate.”
The poll shows that both candidates overwhelmingly get the support of their party base but independents break for Crist 48 percent to 36 percent.
A majority -- 54 percent -- of those surveyed say Scott does not deserve another term compared to 38 percent who say he does. Scott is upside down in the poll with 49 percent disapproving of his job performance and 41 percent approving of it. While 38 percent see Scott as favorable, 45 percent view him as unfavorable.
Crist gets better marks in the poll with 44 percent seeing him in a favorable light and 35 percent viewing him as unfavorable. A majority of those surveyed -- 53 percent -- approve of Crist’s term as governor though 36 percent disapprove.
Rich remains largely unknown, with 7 percent viewing her as favorable. 6 percent as unfavorable and 86 percent not sure about her.
"The best number in this poll for Crist -- and the biggest problem for Scott -- is that a majority of Florida voters say the current governor does not deserve a second term in Tallahassee,” Brown said. “Voters also give Crist a higher job approval for when he ran the state than any approval rating Scott has received in his three years on the job.”
Despite the unemployment rate going up to 11.3 percent under Crist’s watch and dropping to 6.2 percent under Scott, the Democrat does better when it comes to the economy, with 47 percent thinking Crist would do a better job of managing it while 42 percent say Scott would. More than a quarter -- 29 percent -- of those surveyed say the economy is the most important issue in Florida, while 9 percent say education and 8 percent say health care.
"Almost a third of voters say the economy/jobs is the most important issue in the governor's race," Brown said. “Most voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state and more are optimistic than pessimistic about the future, but at this point Governor Scott isn't getting any credit for that good feeling."
The poll of 1,565 registered voters was taken from Jan. 22-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.
“Andy has worked throughout his career to provide Florida students with the tools they need to succeed," said Scott. "I am proud to appoint Andy to the State Board of Education, and look forward to him continuing to make Florida the best state in the country to get an education.”
Tuck, a citrus grower, is the former Highlands County School Board chairman and was a member of the Florida School Boards Association from 2012 to 2013.
Tuck's appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Some of the rules proposed by Weatherford and Gaetz would make sure certain legislators are living in their districts, an issue that has gathered considerable criticism when it was discovered that some lawmakers were living outside of their districts.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, championed the effort to crack down on residency issues, filing a bill that would impose a stronger definition of "residency" for elected officials. Latvala estimated 10 percent of his co-workers in the Florida Legislature don't actually live in the districts they represent.
"It's now our joint view a clear, enforceable rule is called for," Gaetz said.