A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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OBAMA WANTS TO REDIRECT ATTENTION TO DOMESTIC FIGHTS via The Associated Press
With flared-up tensions on Syria possibly ebbing, President Obama told his Cabinet today that he wishes to recast Washington’s focus onto his domestic agenda as a set of major benchmarks on the budget and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act await his administration this fall. “It is still important to recognize that we have a lot of things left to do here in this government,” Obama said. “The American people are still interested in making sure that our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, that we are putting people back to work.”
CONSERVATIVE POLL: INTERNET TAX BILL UNPOPULAR via James Hohmann of POLITICO
A poll conducted for a pair of conservative groups finds most voters opposed to federal Internet sales tax legislation and suggests that lawmakers who vote for it could face attacks in the midterm elections.
The results of July surveys for the National Taxpayers Union and R Street show that 57 percent of “likely” voters oppose changing the system for how states collect sales taxes from Internet purchases. One-third support it.
Mercury, the public affairs firm that conducted the poll for the groups that oppose the Marketplace Fairness Act, found that majorities of suburban voters, women and independents oppose the measure. In a separate poll specifically of Republican voters, 66 percent opposed changing the system.
HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERS MEET TO TALK LOOMING FISCAL ISSUES via Roll Call
Members of Senate and House leadership met in the office of House Speaker John Boehner to discuss the fiscal battles looming this fall. The gathering settled little and is just a beginning to the negotiations, but it was the first such meeting on fiscal issues in months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said afterward that “their direction is a direction to shutting down the government,” while Boehner insisted Democrats need to work with the GOP to cut spending to “deal with the problem” of retiring baby boomers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the meeting “constructive” but did not say a deal had been made.
JOBS CLAIMS FALL TO SEVEN-YEAR LOW, BUT GLITCHES PARTLY CREDITED
Jobless claims dropped last week by 31,000 to the lowest level—292,000—since April 2006, the Labor Department said on Thursday, but the decrease appears to be due in large part to two unidentified states that had trouble processing their filings, Reuters reports. Despite the technical glitch, the numbers reinforce steady data that the labor market is continuing to improve. “While the information value of this week’s report looks limited, claims have been signaling an improving labor market,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
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ALEX SINK, WOMAN OF FLORIDA POLITICAL MYSTERY via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Will she or won’t she run? Don’t ask Alex Sink. She sounds utterly unsure about whether she’ll run for governor. But the 2010 Democratic candidate and prior state CFO at least sounds sincere about it. Sink acknowledges she’s “tempted.”
Sink is also conflicted about her potential rivals. She has an apparent affinity for former state Sen. Nan Rich, the only major announced Democratic candidate, and – more surprisingly so – former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-
Yesterday, Sink seemed to actually boost Crist’s candidacy by implicitly suggesting he stood for the little guy and earned the enmity of the insurance industry, which might fund his opponents (background here). Sink didn’t have to say anything remotely supportive of Crist. And while she has previously questioned Crist’s Democratic conversion and sincerity, she also said she was happy he became a Democrat.
While friendly, Sink and Crist certainly seem to be in a slow-motion rival stare down. Crist was expected to announce by Oct. 25 as well. Now it’s unsure. Crist is lining up support and meeting with potential donors.
BRUTAL SCOTT MAXWELL COLUMN RE: PAM BONDI Read here
Florida’s top cop halted an execution — so that she could host a political fundraiser.
For a campaign without an opponent.
Basically, Bondi told the families of victims who had been grieving for 25 years that they needed to grieve another three weeks so she could break out the champagne flutes and rake in the campaign checks.
Fortunately for Bondi, she’s a Republican — and Florida’s Democrats are so incompetent that they couldn’t find their own rear ends if you spotted ’em both cheeks.
Still, Bondi will probably ultimately face someone — thanks partly to this episode.
The attack ad practically writes itself …
CONTEXT FLORIDA — DAN GELBER: SCOTT IS TRYING TO DUPE VOTERS ABOUT HIS SUPPOSED ACCOMPLISHMENTS Read here
He and his minions also resorted to sending out tweets and e-mails to anyone without a spam filter in which Scott gives himself credit for America’s rebounding economy. And as you might expect, they also send tweets blaming potential 2014 opponents, former Gov. Charlie Crist and former CFO Alex Sink, for the recession that preceded the rebound.
How ironic. Scott seeks to blame Crist and Sink for a national recession created by the policies of President George W. Bush, who Scott supported, and he wants to take credit for an economic recovery jump-started and buoyed by the policies of President Obama, who Scott adamantly opposed.
Floridians know better. They know the last recession was global in scope and crippled Florida because our economy was so dependent upon housing and construction.
… So who gets the credit? Are banks lending more because of Rick Scott’s campaign tweets or because the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy has kept interest rates low? Did his gimmicks stabilize the toxic mortgage crisis or was it the $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities provided by the federal government?
Is Rick Scott actually taking credit for the stock market roaring back and the stability in the national housing market?
Frankly, all this credit-grubbing distracts from addressing some severe truths about Florida’s economic challenges.
SCOTT BROADENS HIS CAMPAIGN THEME: BLAME CRIST FOR FLORIDA’S RECESSION via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Scott on Thursday told a gathering of Florida business and political leaders that the recession that befell Florida under the watch of his predecessor “never should have happened.”
“We never should have had that downturn,’’ Scott told the Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit in Orlando, suggesting that Florida’s economic troubles in the midst of the global recession that spiraled out of control in 2008 after the fall of the nation’s largest investment banks was the fault of his predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
… Scott’s comment to the crowd, unadorned by context or explanation, was the latest sign that the governor is broadening his campaign talking points even though he has not officially announced his re-election bid.
“If you think about it our country, all of our states are competing for jobs,’’ Scott told reporters after his remarks to the group. “We’re a state that has no income tax; we’ve never had one; we’re a right to work state, low business tax; we’ve got the expansion of the Panama Canal. We’re the gateway to Latin America. So if you think about that, we shouldn’t have had the downturn. We shouldn’t have lost those 832,000 jobs before I became governor.”
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DESPITE SURPLUS, AGENCIES GEAR UP FOR BUDGET CUTTING EXERCISE via Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current
State economists have projected an $845.7 million budget surplus for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, but state agencies will once again prepare budget requests outlining 5 percent reductions in recurring funds from their current year spending plans. The budget-cutting exercise is part of the instructions sent to agencies by Gov. Rick Scott’s budget office for submitting their legislative budget requests, due Oct. 15.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist also asked for agencies to target budget cuts of up to 10 percent as the economy cratered into a deep recession in 2008, producing steep budget shortfalls. That remained the case when Scott took office in 2011, when he asked agencies to slash 10 percent in the face of multibillion shortfalls as part of their legislative budget requests.
Scott has claimed his policies have helped turn around the budget picture, but the budget-cutting exercises continue. Also, Scott is in the middle of a statewide tour to gather ideas to cut taxes by $500 million, even though many agencies are still at reduced staffing levels since the onset of the recession.
NEWSMAKERS: CHESTER SPELLMAN Video interview here
Chester Spellman, the CEO of Volunteer Florida sits down with Sachs Media Group’s Trimmel Gomes to discuss some of the many ways people can give back to their communities.
As many commemorated the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, Americans marked September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. There are many ways to lend a helping hand but in times of disaster Spellman says it’s best to work through relief organizations. “Many times after a disaster, there are spontaneous volunteers and they are all very well intentioned, but those volunteers have to be coordinated, so that’s really our key role.” Volunteer Florida administers national service programs like AmeriCorps but there are many others that are closer to home. “To volunteer someone can go to our website, volunteerflorida.org,” Spellman tells Gomes. “Our website has an interactive tool where you can enter your zip code and pull up volunteer opportunities in your area.”
NEW RULES AT ODDS WITH SOME IN GAMBLING INDUSTRY via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida
“Jockeys” would have to hang up their jeans and cowboy hats, and all race tracks would be required to have oval shapes under a set of new rules proposed by gambling regulators.
The proposed rules, released by the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering last week and up for discussion for the first time at a workshop Oct. 16, are an attempt to rein in the proliferation of questionable practices at race tracks and jai-alai frontons throughout the state, ranging from “flag-drop” horse races to a fronton without a full roster of players.
But insiders say the draft rules, while a good starting place, are riddled with problems and demonstrate a lack of knowledge of Florida’s gambling industry, a cash cow for the state and for operators.
“Some of them make sense. Some of them haven’t been thought out very well,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “One or two are pretty silly.”
UNIVERSITIES SHARE $20 MILLION IN PERFORMANCE funding via Tia Mitchell of the Times/Herald
State universities are finding out today how much they will receive in performance funding. This is the first time in recent history the state has attempted to reward schools based on how they perform on measurable categories instead of tying money to enrollment or specific project requests. The funding is based on a point system for three categories. A school received two points for meeting the system-wide average, one point for falling slighty short of the average and zero points if they are way behind. There was an opportunity to receive three points for going far above average, but no schools met that threshold for any of the categories. Two schools earned six points and will share the biggest portion of the funding. University of South Florida and University of Central Florida will each receive $2.6 million.
Earning $2.2 million for five points: Florida International University, Florida State University, Florida Gulf Coast University and University of North Florida. University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University will receive $1.7 million for four points. University of West Florida will receive $1.3 million for three points.
Florida A&M University will receive $869,565 for earning two points and New College of Florida will receive $434,783 after receiving one point.
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APPOINTED: Robert Atkins and Hans Wilson to the Boating Advisory Council.
APPEALS COURT SAYS CHALLENGE TO HCA TRAUMA CENTERS SHOULD PROCEED via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida
A state appeals court Thursday sided with hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas in part of a long-running battle aimed at shutting down new trauma centers approved by the Florida Department of Health. The ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal will clear the way for challenges to the continued operation of trauma centers that opened in 2011 at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.
Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and UF Health Jacksonville have fought the new trauma centers for more than two years. Those hospitals, which operate trauma centers, have argued they would be hurt by the new trauma facilities, which would siphon off patients and compete for specialists.
The dispute has led to a complex maze of legal actions. But Thursday’s ruling was a second important victory for the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville-area hospitals as they seek to shut down the new facilities, which are at hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain.
The full ramifications of the ruling were not immediately clear late Thursday afternoon. But it comes after the appeals court last year upheld an administrative law judge’s decision that the Department of Health had used an invalid rule in approving the new trauma centers.
CONTEXT FLORIDA — JAMES CROUTEAU: A VIEW FROM INSIDE FLORIDA’S OMBUDSMAN PROGRAM Read here
Less than two full weeks on the job and I am pleasantly surprised and impressed. Asked by Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Charles Corley to serve as Interim State Ombudsman for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, I had read all the outside claims of turmoil and the negative press: lawsuits, investigations, resignations, and retirements. I expected chaos when I arrived in the office, but I found just the opposite.
I discovered dedicated staff at the program’s central office who were hard at work supporting ombudsman volunteers in responding to residents’ needs, in addition to capturing data, preparing required reports, and presenting policy and legislative recommendations. Regional and district managers were handling over 5,000 complaints expeditiously and professionally. The program is on target to complete by September 30, a resident-centered assessment of over 4,000 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family care homes that complements those of the Agency for Health Care Administration and other regulatory agencies.
What is not generally reported in the media is the tremendous work of 370 trained volunteer ombudsmen across the state. These dedicated individuals visit every long-term care facility to ensure that each resident and their family members are aware of their rights and have access to the Ombudsman Program to voice their concerns or complaints. The ombudsmen work with residents, families, and facility administrators and staff to resolve issues and to keep the lines of communications open to prevent future issues or complaints.
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LEGISLATIVE BUDGET COMMISSION TAKES ON SERIES OF ISSUES
The Legislative Budget Commission, a joint panel of House and Senate members, took up a series of issues including long-range financial projections that show the state could have a surplus of $845.7 million for the 2014-15 budget year. Amy Baker, who leads the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, made a presentation about the projections, which factor in expected tax revenues and expenses.
… Budget chief Seth McKeel not ready to celebrate: “Obviously the widely reported surplus is good news for Florida. But despite our healthy surplus, it is not cause for dancing in the streets. The Florida Legislature has made fiscally responsible decisions that have helped to improve Florida’s bottom line and I suggest that we not lose sight of our fiscal principles as we move forward. It is also important to point out that this LRFO is minimalist by design, contemplates only critical and high priority funding items and should not be taken as a projection of our budget. The Legislature will need to be very judicious as we move forward to consider funding priorities next session.”
… Florida TaxWatch cautious: “We should remain cautiously optimistic about an anticipated surplus,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. “TaxWatch urges the Legislature to continue identifying and implementing savings, such as those included in our annual cost-savings recommendations.”
… Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli optimistic: “I am encouraged by the news out of the Legislative Budget Commission’s meeting today that Florida is likely to once again see a budget surplus in the upcoming fiscal year. Republican policies have helped improve Florida’s economy and the tough, but responsible budget decisions we made over the last several years are paying off. Though we will continue to follow our fiscally conservative principles as we develop our budget proposal in the upcoming session, I am hopeful that these improved conditions will allow us the opportunity to provide a significant tax break for Florida families and businesses.”
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HOUSE TO HAVE BUSY THREE DAYS via The News Service of Florida
As they return to Tallahassee this month, House members will jam almost all of their committee meetings into three days, according to the House website. Some House members likely will attend a Joint Legislative Auditing Committee meeting Sept. 23, the first day of the committee week. But all other House committees and subcommittees will meet the following three days.
Among the highlights: some appropriations subcommittees will meet Sept. 24; the full Appropriations Committee and Education and Health and Human Services committees are scheduled to meet Sept. 25; and Judiciary, Economic Affairs and State Affairs committees are slated for Sept. 26. The committee week is the first round of meetings leading up to the 2014 legislative session.
NEW ON THE TWITTERS: Rep. Holly Raschein. Follow her @HollyRaschein
SEN. JOE NEGRON FILES BILL TO LOWER VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEES…
Joe Negron f thinks Florida motorists pay too much in vehicle registration fees.
Negron, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, filed SB 156, a bill to roll back vehicle-registration fees raised in 2009 to close a state budget shortfall.
In the 2013 legislative session, Negron proposed a similar bill, estimated to save vehicle owners nearly $230 million. The bill failed, primarily because the funding would have come from eliminating a tax break favorable to the insurance industry.
This new bill, scheduled for consideration during the 2014 session starting this spring, does not address the insurance-tax issue.
Earlier this week, Negron said he spoke with Gov. Rick Scott about adding the vehicle-registration fee reductions as part of the governor’s proposed $500 million tax and fee cuts.
… SAYS SCOTT’S TAX PLAN MAY REQUIRE CUTS
The Associated Press’s Gary Fineout reported yesterday afternoon that Sen. Negron said that Gov. Scott’s tax plan may not be possible without cutting some budget items.
Fineout tweeted: .@joenegronfl warns that new priorities/initiative re tax cuts may not come without possible budget cuts of things put in budget in past
The Florida Democratic Party’s Joshua Karp, while hyping reporters to Fineout’s tweet, says that this is just further confirmation that Rick Scott’s tax plan will wind up being harmful to Florida’s families.
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BILL GUNTER’S PAST INCLUDES “LSD, REDS, VALIUM AND SPEED” via Matt Dixon of the Jacksonville Times Union
Today Bill Gunter is a Presbyterian minister running in a special election for a Pasco County House seat. Decades ago, his life included “LSD, reds, valium and speed.” He was also into stealing alcohol – his nickname was the “beer boogeyman” – and was violent to the point his parents feared him.
Gunter openly talks about his past in a 1989 piece that was republished online in 2007. In the story, he talks about the time he pulled a gun on a man and told him he was going to “blow your brains out.” “Two girls jumped on him, and [Gunter] beat them up,” writes Jay Rogers, the article’s author. “However, he says “If it weren’t for them, I think I would have killed him.” (Read the full article and Gunter’s response below)
In a statement, Gunter said that he has changed.. “Like many people, my faith and the maturity that comes each day helped me change the direction of my life,” said Gunter, who is a minister at Redeemer Community Church in Pasco County. He is running in a special election for the House District 36 seat vacated when state Rep. Mike Fasano, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to be Pasco County tax collector. Gunter had the early support of state Rep. Richard Corcoran who is the next-in-line to be House speaker.
MORE FROM THE HD 36 SPECIAL ELECTION
Dems put Rick Scott at center of race (via Adam Smith): Gov. Scott’s approval numbers in Mike Fasano’s old district are said to be awful, so no one should be surprised to see the Democrats putting the guv front in center in their absentee ballot chase operation. This mailer just started hitting homes in the west Pasco district.
NFIB endorses Bill Gunter: The National Federation of Independent Business announced their support of the New Port Richey Republican as he seeks to replace former Rep. Mike Fasano, who left in August to become Pasco Tax Collector. “Bill has demonstrated genuine commitment to small-business issues and improving the economy,” said Bill Herrle, NFIB/Florida Executive Director in a statement. “Bill’s priorities align with those of the small-business community, and he will be an effective ally to our members in the fight to preserve Florida’s pro-small-business climate.”
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EIGHT MORE LEGISLATORS ENDORSE SHAWN HARRISON
Shawn Harrison, looking to win back his House District 63 seat, racked up eight more endorsements from past and current House Republicans who Harrison previously served with. Former Speaker Dean Cannon, along with Representatives Jimmy Patronis, Eddy Gonzalez, Jason Brodeur, Larry Metz, Jeanette Nunez, Erik Fresen, Michael Bileca, and George Moraitis, joined the growing list of Harrison endorsements.
REP. DEBBIE MAYFIELD DRAWS PRIMARY CHALLENGER via Jonathan Mattise of the TCPalm
Rep. Debbie Mayfield has drawn a 2014 Republican challenger for her Indian River County-centered Florida House seat. Joshua Lawrence Fields, a 31-year-old pharmacist, has filed paperwork to run in District 54, which contains all of Indian River and a slice of northern St. Lucie County. The district tilts heavily Republican, considering Indian River has about 44,400 Republicans versus 27,000 Democrats and 23,400 independents.
Fields described himself politically as a conservative, Christian, constitutionalist and a “tea party type.” He moved to Florida from Ohio in 2001, and lives in Vero Beach with his wife and 18-month-old daughter. The Nova Southeastern University graduate also served as treasurer for the Florida Pharmacy Association’s political fundraising committee.
Fields said he doesn’t have anything against Mayfield, but he said he wants to see conservative politicians getting more aggressive.
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10 MEMBER GOP FUNDRAISER SET FOR SEPT. 24
Prepare for another mega-fundraiser, this time for ten incumbent House members, brought to you by Florida Crystals Corporation, Southern Strategy Group, and Smith Bryan & Myers. They are coming together to support Representatives Dennis Baxley, Halsey Beshears, Doug Broxson, Travis Cummings, Mike Hill, Travis Hutson, Clay Ingram, Keith Perry, Elizabeth Porter, and Charlie Stone.
Other hosts include Pat Byrne, Johnson & Blanton, Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Mixon & Associates, Florida Auto Dismantlers and Recyclers, The Fiorentino Group, Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, and the West Florida Optometric Association.
Join them on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Governors Club Main Dining Room, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. A VIP Reception will be held from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m.
POLK COUNTY GOP DELEGATION TO RAISE MONEY FOR COLLEEN BURTON
The Polk County Republican Legislative Delegation is combing together for a fundraising reception honoring Colleen Burton, candidate for House District 40. Join Senators Denise Grimsley and Kelli Stargel, and Representatives Ben Albritton, Neil Combee, Mike La Rosa, Seth McKeel and John Wood on Wednesday, October 9, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Governors Club Library Room.
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FLORIDA PORTS COUNCIL TO LEAD WASHINGTON D.C. FLY-IN NEXT WEEK
Transportation leaders and port directors will visit Washington DC on September 18 and 19 with a stacked agenda of congressional meetings. The fly-in will include representatives from the Florida Ports Council, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Governor’s Office, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Transportation Commission. They will be joined by members of the Canaveral, Everglades, JAXPORT, Key West, Manatee, Miami, Palm Beach, Panama City, Pensacola and Tampa ports. These executive and port leaders will meet with more than 20 congressional members individually, along with a group briefing for the Florida Congressional Delegation. Top of the list will be communicating to members the importance of the Water Resources Development Act to Florida.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Erin Choy, National Strategies LLC: GovDelivery
Nick Iarossi, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Dosal Tobacco Corporation
Crystal Rountree, Omari Todd: Teach for America, Inc.
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JEB BUSH JR. JOINS SLATER BAYLISS AS MAVERICK PAC FLORIDA CO-CHAIR
Maverick PAC announced Thursday that Jeb Bush Jr. will join Slater Bayliss to co-chair the Maverick PAC Florida effort. MavPAC Florida is part of a national organization that is engaging young professional Republicans in the political process. Today, over 20 attorneys, community and business leaders across Florida were also named as Regional Chairs in support of Florida’s efforts.
“I’m excited to welcome Jeb Bush Jr. to the MavPAC Florida team,” said Slater Bayliss, who also serves on the national MavPAC board. “MavPAC Florida’s goal is to attract young, professional conservatives who are actively involved in the most important issues affecting the future of our state and our nation. I look forward to working with Jeb Jr. as we continue to provide a vehicle to put those ideals into action.”
NANCY WATKINS HIRED TO FIX MICHELE BACHMAN’S MONEY TROUBLES via Roll Call
Bachmann has brought in a new treasurer for her congressional campaign and leadership political action committee in the wake of a federal grand jury probe, a potential House Ethics investigation and a possible inquiry from the Federal Election Commission.
Nancy Watkins, a well-known campaign finance treasurer in GOP circles, submitted paperwork a few weeks ago naming her the new treasurer of both campaign accounts for the Minnesota Republican. Watkins is still the treasurer for Bachmann’s failed 2011 presidential bid, and despite allegations of impropriety surrounding that campaign, Watkins’ stewardship of that account has not been questioned.
“She is a fixer, in terms of coming in and cleaning-up the mess that other people left behind,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox.
Kappel described Watkins as a “total straight arrow” who has been asked by other troubled GOP campaign committees to “clean up the books.”
Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Marion Hammer and Screven Watson.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Barry Edwards, Adam Goodman, Brendan McLaughlin, Angie Drobnic Holan.
Political Connections on Orlando’s 13 News: Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer.
Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Candidates running in the special election for House District 36.
The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: Bill Cotterell.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rosemary Goudreau, Melissa Joiner, and Will McKinley.