Politics

Governor's Race Mushrooms into Attack-Fest

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 6, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, Barack Obama

Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, Barack Obama

The gubernatorial race is heating up after Gov. Rick Scott offered the State of the State address on Tuesday with his challengers attacking the Republican incumbent and each other.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, continued on the attack on Wednesday. Pointing to Politifact’s review of Scott’s speech, Crist took aim at the Republican.

“Empty promises, half-truths, and downright falsehoods,” Crist insisted on Wednesday. “Simply put, Floridians deserve better.”

Crist sent out an email to supporters on Tuesday afternoon, portraying Scott’s speech as a “list of empty promises -- talking points and pay-to-play politics -- and nothing more.

“Rick Scott has had his chance,” Crist continued. “The people of Florida have had enough ... the people deserve a governor with bold ideas. Someone who can work with members of both parties to strengthen small businesses that create jobs, cut wasteful spending, and make our schools and universities better instead of cutting billions from education spending.

“The two parties in Tallahassee won't always agree -- nor should they,” Crist added. “But it's not a sin to reach across the aisle – it's an obligation of leadership, something we've seen far too little of under this governor. I believe that what unites us as Americans and as Floridians will always be more powerful than the issues that divide us. And if elected, I'll govern with that same sense of inclusion and optimism that will drive us forward together. Rick Scott doesn’t get that -- but I know the people of Florida do.”

But Scott’s team hit back on Wednesday, looking to link Crist to President Barack Obama who will be coming to South Florida on Friday.

“It’s ironic that President Obama is coming to Florida to talk about ‘expanding opportunity’ when Obamacare makes it harder for small businesses to create jobs,” said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), on Wednesday. “It shouldn’t be a surprise Charlie Crist supports a president and a law that hurts Florida’s job creators because he oversaw unemployment tripling in the Sunshine State and did nothing about it, choosing to attempt an escape to Washington, D.C., instead.”

Trying to catch Crist in the primary, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is stepping up the attacks on her rivals and even trying to tie them together. Rich hammered the State of the State address Scott gave on Tuesday.

“The fact is that all the things Rick Scott didn’t say in his State of the State speech yesterday would fill a budget document – a real budget document that would fund the critical needs of our state and get Florida back on the right track,” Rich insisted on Wednesday. “As governor, I’ll reset our state’s priorities. Public education, health care, the needs of working families, children, and seniors will come first. As your governor, I will do much better!”

But Rich has also looked to lump her two rivals together, trying to remind Democrats that Crist spent most of his political life as a Republican.

“For nearly eight years, under Republican Govs. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, Florida has given billions in tax breaks and virtual control of our government over to special interests,” Rich maintained on Tuesday. “As a state, we are less safe and less able to meet the basic needs of our citizens than we were eight years ago. We don’t need a magician to fix what’s wrong with our state – we need a governor who will reset priorities and get our state back on the right track. And that’s exactly the kind of governor I’ll be.”

Rich wasn’t the only candidate trying to argue that Scott and Crist were two peas in a pod. Adrian Wyllie, the favorite to be the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the Florida gubernatorial race, made the same argument on Tuesday night.

“In his State of the State address today, Republican Gov. Rick Scott tried to convince Floridians to ‘keep working’ and that “it’s your money.’ Unfortunately, the truth is that fewer Floridians are working, and we’re keeping less of our own money,” Wyllie said on Tuesday night. “The number of working Floridians has decreased dramatically on Gov. Scott’s watch, and his economic policies have directly resulted in thousands of lost jobs in Florida. ... It’s easy to tout positive unemployment numbers when you stop counting the nearly 442,000 Floridians who have given up hope of finding work.”

Wyllie also had harsh words for Crist. “Amid all the half-truths and half-measures of Scott’s speech, he found time to place blame on his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist,” Wyllie said. “At least that’s one issue upon which Gov. Scott and I can partially agree. Florida has witnessed more government and less liberty under the last two Republican governors. Charlie Crist was a big-spending, job-killing governor. And despite all his rhetoric and spin, Rick Scott has just been more of the same.”



Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


Comments (8)

criminals in charge
11:34AM MAR 6TH 2014
Senate President Mike Haridopolos steered millions to company with connections-

When a politically connected company was in danger of losing a $9.4 million no-bid contract with the state, Senate President Mike Haridopolos came to the rescue of the outfit — a firm that employs his good friend and political benefactor as a lobbyist.
Haridopolos staved off the threat to the deal with the Department of Juvenile Justice and quietly steered $6 million in additional dollars to the company, despite the vigorous objections of agency leaders and top Republican senators.

The move allowed Evidence Based Associates, a Washington-based probation program, the exclusive contract to handle the state effort to divert at-risk youth from costly prison beds into community programs. The company kept the business despite recent reports that it had failed to comply with key terms of the agreement — and to the chagrin of a long list of providers who wanted to compete for the work.
The company's lobbyist, Frank Tsamoutales, is a Brevard County Republican who has been a financial backer of Haridopolos since the Brevard County legislator was first elected to office in 2000. He went to work for EBA in April 2011, earning between $20,000 and $29,000 in the first year, the same year Haridopolos became Senate president.
The investment paid off.

When a legislative conference committee decided it was time to lower the cost of the project, lawmakers wrote language into the budget ordering the DJJ to rebid the contract after eight years with EBA. That's when Tsamoutales spoke to Haridopolos.

The final budget signed by Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon deleted the requirement that the contract be put to bid.
Haridopolos referred questions about the matter to his spokeswoman, Lyndsey Cruley, who said a health services exemption allows DJJ to forgo competitive bidding of the contract, and that EBA earned the work with a "proven track record of positive results."

Cruley said no one in the Senate exercised improper influence over the contract dollars.
"The Senate in no way steered that contract toward EBA," Cruley said. It was juvenile justice administrators, she added, who chose not to exercise their authority to seek competitive bids.

But lawmakers who opposed the contract consider it a gift from one of the state's most powerful legislators to one of his closest friends.
"He is as close to President Mike Haridopolos as any lobbyist could be," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, referring to Tsamoutales. [Now Pasco County Tax Collector thanks to Rick Scott] – they had to get rid of honest people like Sen. Mike Fasano, Sen. Ronda Storms, Senator Paula Dockery, Senator Nancy Argenziano and all the other honest ones!
Fasano's outspoken opposition to Haridopolos' agenda cost him his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, which controls the budgets of several agencies. He now believes his opposition to Tsamoutales' no-bid contract contributed to the Senate president's animosity toward him.
Long contract history

Haridopolos and Tsamoutales have a history of helping each other out. One of Tsamoutales' clients and closest friends last year paid Haridopolos $5,000 a month — $60,000 a year — to be a consultant. Haridopolos earmarked $20 million in state money for a biomedical development sought by another Tsamoutales client.
Tsamoutales made no apologies for appealing to his longtime friend to stop what his fellow lawmakers had done. "That was our job,'' he said.
But Haridopolos didn't just give his client a chance to hang on to a contract one more year. He encouraged Senate budget leaders to steer another $10 million to the program in recognition, Tsamoutales said, of a job well done. "Performance counts," the lobbyist said.
Legislators whittled that $10 million down to $6 million.
The probation contract belonged to EBA long before Haridopolos rose to power. Indeed, since EBA was first awarded the no-bid contract in 2004, DJJ renewed it twice without having to go through a competitive bidding process, using an exception to the state's contracting rules that pertains to "health services."

EBA oversees the probation effort, but all the direct care and supervision is subcontracted to other groups, records show. It also knows how to play the lobbying game. Before it hired Tsamoutales in 2011, its go-to lobbyist in the Legislature was Esther Nuhfer, a close friend of then-House budget chief and now U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami.
The results of the program have been laudable. State auditors at the Office of Program Policy Analysis hailed the diversion program as so successful at keeping at-risk kids out of expensive residential detention facilities that it concluded that the contract saved the state $51.2 million between 2004 and 2010. But in the last year, Fasano and others began raising questions.

In an Aug. 17 letter to the Department of Juvenile Justice, Fasano said he was surprised to learn the contract had never faced a competitive bid and, despite the program's success rate, he urged the department to hold the contract "to a higher level of scrutiny." He ordered that it be "either immediately canceled and properly rebid to ensure the public's trust" or handled in-house.
DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters agreed and, in a Sept. 16 letter to Fasano, said "upon closer examination, we have determined that the use of this exemption from competitive procurement may not be in the best interest of the state."

Strong call for rebid

Unlike most of DJJ's contracts with private providers, EBA's agreement with the state allows the company to evaluate its own performance. DJJ does routine contract monitoring.

The agency's most recent review of the contract showed that some of the company's subcontractors have fallen short of key provisions that two-thirds of the program's clients remain out of jail, and that no more than 40 percent of its graduates commit new crimes.
Some of the efforts served far fewer youth than the contract called for, as well.
Walters followed through on her assurances to Fasano, and sought interested bidders. By January, the agency had heard from 11 other companies, some of whom said they could reduce the amount of money spent on administration. Legislative budget leaders inserted a requirement that the agency bid out the entire contract— the $9.4 million original contract, which was set to expire in the fall of 2013, and the additional $6 million. When the first draft of the budget omitted a requirement that the $9.4 million contract be put up for bid, Sen. Ronda Storms objected.

"If it hasn't been rebid since 2004, you can't convince me there's not a better deal out there unless I see it for myself,'' said Storms, R-Valrico, during a Feb. 8 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee.
"We agree with you,'' DJJ's chief of staff, Christy Daly, told the committee.
Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican and a key Senate leader, also recommended the contract face competition and urged the agency to consider cutting out the middleman.
Tsamoutales said Tuesday there was "no intention on the Legislature's part" to put the contract out for a bid and "the governor's office went along" because "the program has saved taxpayers millions over the course of this contract." He said the Legislature's reason for adding the extra $6 million was "expanding the contract would expand the savings."
Storms, who announced this spring that she will not seek re-election to the Senate, called the situation "just nauseating."
"We are giving money to people who are not producing the right (results),'' Storms said, "and we are pouring in millions of dollars."

And they will say "oh but Senate President Mike Haridopolos is gone now" and we have all new leadership! Yes we do, all trained by the same bunch of criminals that has been "ruining" Florida since Jeb Bush moved into the governor's mansion - just after the removed the body of former Governor Lawton Childs.
JOE KREPS
3:33AM MAR 8TH 2014
Pay to play at it's worst.
Registered independent
10:48AM MAR 6TH 2014
I have been a registered independent since the late 1980s, I always took great pride in voting for both sides of the aisle. Given that, I cannot look at the face of Scott without becoming almost ill. The theft from Medicare, the selling of the Florida to the insurance industry, the attack on public schools. I actually get worked up and upset when I see his face and have to stop before I get myself worked up and agitated.
Dean
8:30AM MAR 6TH 2014
What I see is a political party that has ruled my home state of Florida for 16 years. A party that has spent, or stolen, every penny they could lay their hands on. A party that has screamed about preserving their rights while blocking others. A parrty that lies to us. A party that does not do the will of ALL of the people. I am ready for a change. Charlie is not perfect, none of the Democrat candidates are, but I support every one of them. I am so tired of the Republicant's. Time for some new thoughts, actions, people.Time for some Politicians that will listen to us all.
Dean
8:30AM MAR 6TH 2014
What I see is a political party that has ruled my home state of Florida for 16 years. A party that has spent, or stolen, every penny they could lay their hands on. A party that has screamed about preserving their rights while blocking others. A parrty that lies to us. A party that does not do the will of ALL of the people. I am ready for a change. Charlie is not perfect, none of the Democrat candidates are, but I support every one of them. I am so tired of the Republicant's. Time for some new thoughts, actions, people.Time for some Politicians that will listen to us all.
no need to worry
8:25AM MAR 6TH 2014
The voters need not to worry about selecting a governor for 2014. Jeb Bush and his Bush machine will use those little Clint Curtis vote fixer chips to select the minion of their choice.

And since Charlie has had a falling out with Jeb Bush and Mel Sember and Rick Scott and Jeb Bush are still in the hospital Medicare fraud business together with Miguel Recarey you can bet the winner will be Rick Scott. After all who in the heqq ever thought Obama was going to be reelected, certainly not Dick Morris, but he would in a landslide getting 141% of the vote in St Lucie County, Fl and 100% of the votes in severl Ohio districts. Jeb Bush has already got his main man Carlos Lopez Cantera in the race with Scott and you can bet they are the winning team for 2014. Then it will be Obama committing so many acts that the public will be encouraged to recruit another Bush to save the USA - that would be Jeb in 2016. George P. Bush (Jeb's hispanic son) is running for Texas Land Commissioner and in training to follow in the Bush tradition of being in line for the first hispanic president of the USA after Jeb's eight year reign.
Mark
6:51AM MAR 6TH 2014
OMG! What are the voters to do? Either way the people receive a political liar, a non productive governor, hater of the lowly middle class, and both with questionable professional/political pasts.
What the heck do we voters do?
JOE KREPS
3:31AM MAR 8TH 2014
Vote for Nan Rich "the little tiger"

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