Charlie Crist Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Personnel note: Charlie Crist appoints Austin Durrer Chief of Staff

U.S. Representative-elect Charlie Crist announced Thursday that experienced Capitol Hill veteran Austin Durrer will head his new congressional office.

Durrer has served in senior roles in both the legislative and executive branches over the past 15 years. He was a longtime aide and Chief of Staff to Congressman Jim Moran, a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, and currently serves as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), overseeing the Department’s data technology mission.

“Austin brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and a strong, steady hand to this important position. He’s an impact player who will build our team in Washington with a laser-like focus on serving the people of Pinellas County,” said Crist, the former Governor who now represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District in the 115th Congress.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to work for Gov. Crist on behalf of Pinellas County,” said Austin Durrer. “He’s no ordinary freshman, and someone who has dedicated his life to looking out for the little guy. I look forward to helping advance his agenda of bringing common sense solutions to Washington, to bridge the political divide, serving as the voice for the people of Pinellas County on Capitol Hill.”

Durrer has an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Political Science and Economics

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

CNN reports, eloquently, on the nightmare that is Florida Medicaid

It’s been ten years, almost to the day, since Congressman-elect Charlie Crist pulled $360 out of his pocket to pay for a year’s supply of thermal blankets for 12-year-old Kevin Estinfil, and pulled the plug on state lawyers who’d been fighting in the Third District Court of Appeal to deny the boy the basic supplies that were keeping him alive.

Back then, Crist was the Florida Attorney General who had just been elected Governor, and Kevin was confined to a Medicaid group home for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Kevin’s case turned up on Crist’s radar thanks to bad publicity courtesy of Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller, but not before the state had spent enough money jerking Kevin’s caregivers around to pay for a warehouse full of thermal blankets.

Today, half of Florida’s children rely on Medicaid “insurance,” and the plan is managed as badly now as it was a decade ago.

People who study Medicaid for a living will not be surprised by anything in the damning new report from CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and neither will families who have sacrificed their savings, their careers, and any hope of a normal life for the sake of a child who will never be able to care for himself.

For the rest of us, Cohen’s look into the lives of Florida’s “health care refugees” is a bone-chilling holiday buzzkill.

Among the refugees are Kim and Richard Muszynski, formerly of Boynton Beach. With good jobs and longtime Florida roots on both sides of their blended family, they could not have imagined packing it in and starting over in Colorado.

But that’s what they did, after five-year-old daughter Abby, who was born with a life-threatening genetic disorder, had one near-death experience too many due to the toxic combination of underfunding and red tape for which Florida’s Medicaid program is infamous.

In Colorado, Abby’s physical health and her parents’ mental health have improved dramatically. Somehow, America’s Centennial State has figured out how to give children enrolled in its Medicaid program the therapies and medications ordered by doctors, without interference from Dr. No at the Department of Pennywise, Pound Foolish.

Another member of the Florida Medicaid Diaspora is three-year-old Sofia Patriarca. Like Abby, her needs are complex and will require round-the-clock care all her life. Sofia’s parents sold their family pizzeria in Lantana and will relocate to a state that’s safer for children with unique abilities.

“Medicaid forces us to give our children subpar care,” Sofia’s mother, Stefany Garcia-Patriarca, told CNN. “They treat them like animals instead of children.”

It took special courage for Heather Rosenberg to tell CNN that she and her husband have considered leaving Florida to obtain better health care for their children. As foster parents to 16 children, three of whom they adopted, Rosenberg is an expert on Florida Medicaid.

She described it to CNN as “horrible” and “an absolute nightmare,” hastening to that she speaks as a mother, and not in her role as — wait for it — children’s ombudsman at the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida spends a small fortune recruiting foster and adoptive families, and promises that they will not have to dip into their own pockets to fund essential medical services that are beyond the reach of all but families with the richest private insurance plans.

No matter how much room people like the Rosenbergs have in their hearts, they’ve only got 24 hours in a day, and they should not have to spend a minute of it begging the state to keep its promises to Florida’s Medicaid eligible children.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Critic hits Leon County’s Scott Maddox right where he lives

Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman and statewide office candidate Scott Maddox is involved in another political fight this Thanksgiving season. Though elected to another term on the Tallahassee City Commission, he was blocked from taking the oath of office earlier this week.

Maddox, who served as FDP Chairman from 2003-2006, is facing a legal challenge to his official residency. The question going back and forth through the Leon County courts and the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) is whether Maddox officially lives within the city limits of Tallahassee, a fundamental requirement of the city’s charter.

Similar complaints about residency crop up around the state from time to time, usually among candidates whose district lines were re-drawn putting them outside their district. Nothing usually comes of these other than news stories, but Maddox is facing a persistent local critic in Dr. Erwin Jackson.

Jackson filed suit in the Second Judicial Circuit in September claiming Maddox is ineligible to serve because he actually lives outside the city limits. According to the filing document, Maddox, an attorney, lists his residence as a rented office building in downtown Tallahassee.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit brought by Erwin Jackson on his third attempt to discredit me,” said Maddox, who was the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. “This one will be thrown out like all of the others have been.”

The City of Tallahassee intervened and asked that they, Maddox’s colleagues, have the final say in determining his eligibility. Judge Charles Dodson agreed.

Jackson went to the DCA, where a three-judge panel unanimously reversed Dodson, saying “the proper forum for Jackson’s post-election contest is in the circuit court.”

The three-judge panel consisted of Charlie Crist appointee Lori Rowe, a former Executive Deputy Attorney General; Rick Scott appointee Scott Makar, a former Florida Solicitor General; and another Scott appointee, Susan Kelsey, an experienced appellate lawyer.

Dodson did not appear to take the reversal well. The DCA order to Dodson to hold a hearing used the term “immediate” before the word hearing.

He took them literally. Dodson held a hearing almost immediately and ruled in favor of Maddox. Jackson and his legal team were outraged by the fact they had little time to prepare.

This is “a miscarriage of justice,” Jackson said. “An appeal will be immediately forthcoming.”

Again, the DCA overruled Dodson, this time with a bit of a hand slap. The judges said the lower court “abused its discretion” in the way it handled the hearing.

Monday was swearing in day for the Commission and Dodson gave the go-ahead for Maddox to take the oath of office pending the residency review. The DCA stepped in by again overruling Dodson and blocking Maddox from taking the oath of office “pending further order from this Court.”

Jackson is also seeking the removal of Dodson from the case. To be reversed three times on the same case, called a hat trick in hockey, is not a good thing.

The parties are now arguing the date on which a public official is eligible. Jackson argues legal residence means Election Day, which in this case was August. The Maddox team argues November 21, or swearing in day.

To a non-lawyer observer, like this writer, that would seem to acknowledge there could be a problem if you are arguing “when” as well as “if.”

To be fair, Jackson is a relentless critic of city government. Sometimes they deserve the scrutiny, like the recent proposal to raise property taxes by 27 percent.

Maddox, to his great credit, was an opponent of the outrageous property tax plan and argued against other increases. He sounded like a conservative.

At the same time, it is understandable for elected officials to become frustrated, especially if they truly believe they are doing the right thing.

Maddox remains confident, perhaps with good reason, he will prevail. The residency challenges usually go in the favor of the candidate.

Jackson certainly isn’t going away, whether or not Dodson is relieved of command. He is 100 percent certain he has a case.

Stranger things have happened as this year’s elections demonstrated.

We will know soon.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Darden Rice, FLPIRG call out Marco Rubio, David Jolly for failing to protect consumers

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. David Jolly have sided with Wall Street bankers rather than protecting financial consumers, according to Florida PIRG, a public interest advocacy group.

“Rep. Jolly and Sen. Rubio have sided with big Wall Street banks and other financial institutions at the expense of consumers,” said Turner Lott, a campaign organizer with FLPIRG. “They have supported legislation that would starve the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] by changing its funding source.”

FLPIRG, a nonprofit, public interest advocacy organization, is campaigning to highlight the work and successes of the CFPB. Lott said Jolly is being targeted because he may still be able to vote on legislation that affects the CFPB before he leaves office in January. Jolly, a Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Charlie Crist.

Rather than siding with Wall Street, Lott said, Rubio and Jolly should instead defend the CFPB against proposals that would weaken it.

The CFPB is a federal agency tasked with the job of protecting financial consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and taking action against companies that break the law. The CFPB also provides education and information so consumers can make good financial decisions.

The CFPB’s successes for consumers cited by FLPIRG:

— The CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion to more than 27 million consumers by holding companies accountable for breaking the law.

— Among its numerous actions is a record $100 million penalty and consumer restitution against Wells Fargo for millions of fake, fraudulent consumer accounts created by its employees.

— The CFPB’s website hosts a complaint database that has processed more than one million complaints. It provides educational resources to help consumers make important financial decisions.

— More than 64,000 complaints from Floridians have been published in the database.

St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice agreed that the CFPB needs to continue as an independent watchdog agency. The CFPB’s work to regulate financial companies and ensure consumers are financially stable is critical to an area like St. Petersburg, she said.

The prevalence of payday loan companies in the city is a prime example of the need for a watchdog. Rice said, “There are more payday loan storefronts than there are Starbucks and Burger Kings in the St Pete, Tampa, Clearwater metro area.

“These payday loan vendors are concentrated in areas that are predominately lower income communities and are still recovering from the economic collapse. We need to take necessary steps, like strengthen the CFPB, to protect consumers from predatory loan businesses that put people in debt traps they can never escape.”

Lott cited three threats to the autonomy of the CFPB:

— Proposed changes to its leadership structure – The agency is currently headed by a single director, Richard Cordray. There are efforts to change the structure to a commission of five people. Getting Cordray confirmed was a long uphill battle, Lott said. Getting five people confirmed would be even more difficult, possibly leaving the agency unable to fully function. Or the five seats could be stacked in favor of the industry it is meant to rein in. Both scenarios have been seen at other agencies, Lott said.

— Changes to its source of funding – The CFPB is currently funded independently through the Federal Reserve. Every banking regulator has had independent funding since 1864 to protect the economy from the politicization of banking policies as much as possible. Lott said there is an effort to bring the CFPB’s funding under Congressional appropriations approval – this means Congress could starve it to death so it wouldn’t be able to do its job because the lobbyists dominate those funding decisions.

— Stall the CFPB’s current rulemaking – The CFPB is currently working on rules that would protect consumers from payday debt traps and forced arbitration. Forced arbitration is used to prevent consumers from banding together and joining class action lawsuits to seek justice when they are wronged by financial companies. There are efforts to hamstring the CFPB’s work on these rules, he said.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Charlie Crist unanimously inducted into New Democrat Coalition

Newly elected Congressman Charlie Crist is one of the freshmen lawmakers making up the New Democrat Coalition for the 115th Congress.

By a unanimous vote, the Coalition inducted 10 members-elect — four from Florida — to the progressive centrist group of legislators dedicated to advancing the New Dem vision of economic innovation, competition and national security.

Crist recently defeated incumbent Republican David Jolly in the redrawn Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The former Republican governor joins Democrats Val Demings of CD 10, Stephanie Murphy of CD 7, and Darren Soto of CD 9. Murphy had unseated longtime Republican John Mica, who represented Central Florida for 12 terms; Soto became Florida’s first Puerto Rican in Congress.

“In a year that was filled with disappointment adding to the New Dem ranks offers a bright spot,” said coalition chair Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin. “The New Democrat Coalition is proud to induct these ten accomplished and dedicated Members-Elect into our growing coalition.

“Together we look forward to advancing key priorities including growing the economy, giving everyone a shot at the American Dream, making government work better, and keeping our nation secure,” Kind added.

The remaining crop of members-elect to the group include Salud Carbajal (of California’s CD 24); Lou Correa (California’s CD 46); Josh Gottheimer (New Jersey’s CD 5); Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii’s CD 1); Tom O’Halleran (Arizona’s CD 1); and Brad Schneider (Illinois’ CD 10).

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Joe Henderson: Facing many hurdles, Bob Buckhorn could make a good governor

The rebirth of downtown Tampa brought inevitable speculation that Mayor Bob Buckhorn might parlay it into a shot at the governor’s mansion in 2018. The job obviously has appeal for someone like Buckhorn, who likes a big stage and challenge.

Asking him to tip his hand about a possible run, though, has proved to be a necessary, but ultimately fruitless, endeavor.

As he told Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday, “Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead.”

He then added, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.”

Oh, I think a big part of him wants to do it. I also believe Democrats have a path to victory in the race to succeed Rick Scott. Whether Buckhorn can lead his party down this road and win is another question, though.

I like Buckhorn. I like his style. I like what he has done as Tampa’s mayor. I like his determination. I have known him for a long time, dating to his days on the Tampa City Council in the 1990s. I think he would make a good governor.

Whether any of that matters won’t be decided for a while and Buckhorn has a lot of hurdles to overcome, starting with his own party. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from Tallahassee has all but declared her intention to run, and high-profile attorney John Morgan might get into the race as well.

Graham is the daughter of one of Florida’s legendary politicians, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Morgan has been on TVs around the state nearly every night for years with his relentless “For the People” slogan, and voters just strongly approved his signature issue — making medical marijuana legal.

Escaping the shadow of either of those two would be a huge challenge for Buckhorn, or anyone else.

Plus, statewide Democrats may have a case of Tampa Bay Fatigue. There have been four races to be Florida’s governor in this century and a Democrat from the Tampa Bay area has been atop the ticket each time — Bill McBride (2002), Jim Davis (2006), Alex Sink (2010) and Charlie Crist (2014).

They all lost.

Buckhorn is a loyal Democrat, though. He went all-in for Hillary Clinton in this year’s election and worked for Barack Obama here before that. He has been outspoken in his disdain for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. That’s all fine, but Clinton lost, Rubio won, and Obama is leaving office.

One thing to keep in mind: Buckhorn isn’t afraid of losing.

He lost in a primary for state House seat in 1992. He finished third out of five candidates running for mayor in 2003. And then there was the humiliating loss to former pro wrestler and first-time candidate Brian Blair in a 2004 county commission race.

He came back to take an upset win for mayor in 2011 and was re-elected without serious opposition.

Buckhorn always says being mayor of Tampa was his dream shot. Whenever I’ve told him it looks like he never sleeps, he responds that there will time to sleep when his second term is up. Whether he decides to postpone that nap to run for governor remains to be seen.

At this point, I don’t like his chances.

But knowing Buckhorn, he will figure out a way to be involved even if he is not on the ballot. He loves this stuff too much.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Charlie Crist defeats David Jolly in CD 13 race

Charlie Crist has defeated David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District by four percentage points, 52 percent to 48 percent.

The Associated Press called the race with 239 precincts out of 241 reporting.

His victory will be framed as his political comeback, following two rough losses statewide for U.S. Senate in 2010 and governor in 2014.

Crist originally did not intend to run against Jolly in the CD 13 seat, but after the district’s lines were redrawn in 2015, Crist opted to get into the race. It didn’t hurt that the new district was much more favorable to a Democratic candidate.

For Jolly, it ends a very eventful 20 months in office.

When redistricting did occur last year, he opted to run for the then-open U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio said he would be leaving to run for president. But Rubio reversed course in June, weeks after he dropped out of presidential contest.

The race became vitriolic between the two men from the jump. When Crist declared his candidacy in the fall of 2015, Jolly somewhat uncharacteristically crashed his press event, blasting him at the time.

Tensions escalated after the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee began airing a television ad featuring a photoshopped picture of Jolly with Donald Trump. In fact, Jolly has denounced Trump’s candidacy, and he called for local stations and the DCCC to stop airing the ad.

But the ad continued to air for several weeks until Crist ordered it to come down, after a stern editorial written by the Tampa Bay Times called on him to do so.

“Congratulations to Charlie Crist on becoming the next representative for Florida’s 13th Congressional District,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Alixandria Lapp said in a statement. “FL-13 voters have rejected David Jolly’s backwards agenda and chosen a representative who will make their voices heard in Washington. House Majority PAC is proud to have played a role in ensuring Charlie Crist will be able to do great work in Congress.”

HMP aired two TV ads on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms in the Tampa Bay media market, becoming the first outside group to spend on TV in the race.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a potential 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, congratulated Crist on his victory. “His community and our state will be well represented by Charlie and our delegation will be stronger because of his victory tonight,” he said.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Where to find Tampa Bay candidates on election night

Election night parties will be raging across the state Tuesday. For some, it’s a chance to pop some bottles and celebrate. For others, it will be a somber event, marking the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought campaign.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where candidates will be as the polls close.

U.S. Senate

It was one of the most-watched U.S. Senate races this election cycle. And on Tuesday night, both Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy will be toasting the crowd in South Florida.

Rubio will attend an election night party at the Hilton Miami Airport, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive in Miami. The party is expected to begin around 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Murphy will be in Palm Beach Gardens. The Democrat is set to attend an election night party at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 RCA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Rubio has consistently led in the polls since announcing his re-election bid in June. Outside groups have poured millions of dollars into the race to re-elect Rubio; Murphy had the backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Although not on the ballot, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will join Hillary for Florida supporters for an election night watch party in Tampa at the Florida Ballroom, 2nd Floor, Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, 700 South Florida Avenue. After a day of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, attendees will watch Clinton deliver remarks to supporters and volunteers at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Joining Nelson will be U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, state Rep. Ed Narain and state Rep.-Elect Sean Shaw.

U.S. House

CD 12 — Rep. Gus Bilirakis will hold his election night party at the St. Nicholas Cathedral Center, 348 N. Pinellas Ave. in Tarpon Springs. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m., and will include a visit from Shalyah Fearing, a semifinalist on NBC’s The Voice. Bilirakis faces Democrat Robert Matthew Tager in the general election.

gus-bilirakis

CD 13 — Rep. David Jolly will hold his election night party in the grand ballroom at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 5th Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. The fun begins at 6 p.m. Jolly faces former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, in the general election.

jolly-party-vinoy

CD 18 — Republican Brian Mast will hold his election night party at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, 131 SW Flagler Ave. in Stuart. The party kicks off at 6 p.m. Democrat Randy Perkins is holding his party at Big Apple Pizza, 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce. Perkins’ party is expected to begin around 7 p.m.

CD 19 — Republican Francis Rooney will hold his election night party at Bistro 41, 13499 Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers. The party begins at 6 p.m. Rooney faces Democrat Robert M. Neeld in the general election.

State Senate/House

SD 16 — Team Latvala — Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala and his son, first-term state Rep. Chris Latvala — will be holding a joint election night Party beginning 7 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. NcMullen Booth Rd. in Clearwater. The elder Latvala is running unopposed in SD 16.

team-latvala

SD 18 – Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young is holding her Election Night Watch Party beginning 6 p.m. at Pane Rustica, 3225 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. No RSVP is necessary. Young is running in the newly drawn Senate District 18 against Democrat Bob Buesing, as well as no-party-affiliated candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

dana-young-watch-party

HD 63 – Democrat Lisa Montelione is hosting an Election Night Watch Party at Mr. Dunderbaks, 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd. in Tampa. Party begins at 6:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Food will be provided and there will be a cash bar. Montelione, a former Tampa City Councilwoman, faces incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison in HD 63.

HD 66/HD 67/HD 68 — The Republican Party of Pinellas County holds its joint-candidate Election Night Watch Party at the St. Petersburg Hilton, 950 Lake Carillion Dr. in Clearwater. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a cash bar. In attendance will be State Rep. Larry Ahern, who is running for re-election in House District 66, facing Democrat Lorena Grizzle. Chris Latvala is also scheduled to make an appearance. Latvala is running for re-election in House District 67, facing Democrat David Vogel. Also at the Hilton event will be JB Bensmihen, who faces Democrat Ben Diamond in House District 68.

multi-candidate-victory-party

HD 69 — Rep. Kathleen Peters will host an election night party at Middle Grounds Grill, 10925 Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

kathleen-peters

HD 70 — Former St. Petersburg City Councilmember Wengay Newton will host an election night Watch Party for his campaign in Florida House District 70 beginning 6:30 p.m. at The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge in downtown St. Pete. The Hangar is located at the Albert Whitted Airport Terminal, 540 1st St. SE. Second Floor in St. Petersburg. RSVP at 727-823-PROP.

screencapture-file-f-wengay-newton

County races

Pinellas County Commission District 3 — Mike Mikurak will also make an appearance at the Republican Party of Pinellas County event at the St. Petersburg Hilton. Mikuriak is running against incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice.

Hillsborough County Commission District 6 — Pat Kemp holds her watch party at the Italian Club in Ybor City, 1731 E. 7th Ave. in Tampa. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

pat-kemp-watch-party

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser — Bob Henriquez holds his election watch party at the Outpost, 909 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. Event begins at 7 p.m. with live music, food and a cash bar. RSVP at www.Henriquez2016.com. Henriquez is running for re-election against first-time candidate Todd Jones, who is a private-sector appraiser.

bob-henriquez

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Tom Jackson: At our time of choosing, will we guess wrong?

And so, at last, it is upon us. Election Day. Time, fence-sitters, to decide.

We’ve been counting down so long, all the way back to the spring of last year; it sometimes seemed we’d never get here.

Great nation that we (still) are, however, propelled by momentum and time-honored systems that guide truer than any GPS, we’ve navigated the distance: From the GOP’s scrum-debates of last fall through the frigid caucuses and first primaries, through the snooze-fest conventions and the increasing post-Labor Day urgency, to here, this day, this moment.

The choice apparent record numbers of voters have been pushing off — and who can blame them, really — is now. Time to choose. Time to commit.

Time, if the dug-in partisans who’ve been slinging varieties of the same invective on your Facebook page since before Memorial Day, to decide … and to discover if the progression of events has assumed the role of the Man In Black and this truly is our iocane-powder moment.

Will we, too, guess wrong no matter what? Is this a land war in Asia or, worse, going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line? Or has the United States, buoyed by the genius of its shared-authority Constitution, spent the last two-plus centuries building up an immunity to two equally poisonous goblets of wine?

My money is on Mr. Madison’s antidote of checks and balances, as well as the resilience of the American people who, as Winston Churchill once said, always can be counted on to do the right thing … once all other possibilities are exhausted.

Not that the choice still lurking for those of us — including me — who reserve and hallow Election Day for the vigorous exercising of our franchise, has improved, or, frankly, even clarified, with the approach and, at last, arrival of today.

The negative campaign messengers have convinced me. One is an orange, helmet-haired xenophobe with a dismal moral character who lashes out in unpredictable fashion as it suits him. But he has lovely children. The other is the most corrupt candidate for high office in any reputable historian’s memory, whose corrosive appetite for power is exacerbated by Nixonian characteristics: paranoia and vengefulness. But Chelsea seems OK.

In a change election, in a nation whose inhabitants, by more than 2-to-1, ache for a new direction, our top picks for president each seems a perversion. One wouldn’t be where he is without having converted a personal fortune into brand-conscious schtick. The other wouldn’t be where she is without her married last name and the blessing — in an America increasingly organized around group identity — of lady parts.

Given that, it seems perfectly appropriate that the final week swirled around the revelation of fresh correspondence discovered only because the husband of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidant is an apparent serial creep who hoarded his wife’s email on a laptop — and that the whole thing, resolved in record time by the FBI — amounted to nothing.

The entire affair almost seemed a feint, a dodge, a misdirection play, mischief from the nation’s chief investigative team. Imagine Director James Comey as Johnny, pulling the plug on the runway lights in “Airplane.” Just kidding.

Well. You can believe that if you want to.

Meanwhile, in Michigan and Pennsylvania Sunday night, Donald Trump, to the cheers of those who skipped Economics 101, resumed his pledge to punish U.S.-based companies that attempt to move or outsource.

Hoo, boy.

The whole thing tempts you to leave the top of the ballot blank, and dive straight into the foundational races.

Will Floridians renew Marco Rubio’s political lease? (They should.) In Pinellas County, will David Jolly’s against-the-grain legislative and campaign styles usher him past the latest iteration of Charlie Crist while showing Republicans a possible new way forward in their (presumed) post-Trump era?

In north Tampa, will the GOP’s Shawn Harrison have stitched together a sufficient number of disparate supporters to hold off Democrat Lisa Montelione in the mixed blessing that is state House District 63? Or will his history as the Legislature’s perpetual freshman — winning off-year elections, losing during presidential years — endure?

And will we, as is prudent, reject all attempts to amend the Florida Constitution at the ballot box? … Or will we face Wednesday’s new dawn having acquired a malady covered by medical pot, and be happy for the hippy dippy wisdom of the state’s voters?

Strap in. At long, long last, Election Day is here, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Ex-Gov. Charlie Crist aims for political comeback in House

It’s a sunny fall day at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg, and Charlie Crist is in his element.

“What’s your name?,” he purrs to a woman in a wheelchair, taking her hand. He beams a white smile that matches his snow-white hair, contrasting with his tan face. “May I get a picture?” he asks, bending down on one knee. The woman giggles.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, is a former governor, former state attorney general and was on the short list to be Sen. John McCain‘s vice presidential running mate in 2008. This year, he’s setting his sights on a seat in the U.S. House.

Democrats are counting on Crist and other candidates to make significant inroads into the Republicans’ commanding House majority. Florida offers at least three potential Democratic gains as the party tries to cobble together a 30-seat pickup.

Crist, a 60-year-old lawyer, faces Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Jolly. The race may be one of the few nationally in which the Republican candidate is using Donald Trump against the Democrat, noting that Trump helped Crist raise money when he was with the GOP.

“It’s a crazy year,” Crist says.

He hopes it’s his year.

Crist has the hometown advantage — he was raised in St. Petersburg — and is running in a redrawn district that includes more African-Americans.

Jolly, who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2014, is hoping Crist’s complicated political past will make him vulnerable.

“The fundamental issue is trust. Everybody knows Charlie, they know he’s been on every side of the issue,” Jolly says. “By most polls, this will be a neck-and-neck race.”

A recent poll by St. Pete Polls shows Crist with a narrow lead, while another tally by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida shows Crist leading Jolly 54 percent to 36.

Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, ran for Senate as a Republican in 2010 but lost to Marco Rubio in the primary. Crist quit the Republican Party, ran in the general election as an independent and lost. He switched party affiliation again, becoming a Democrat, and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Rick Scott in 2014.

The 43-year-old Jolly has his own complications. He earlier had announced he would run for U.S. Senate, but when Rubio dropped out of the presidential race and said he would run for re-election, Jolly got out of that race.

Jolly says his biggest accomplishments are taking on campaign finance reform and backing a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign contributions.

Jolly set himself apart from many Republicans by refusing to fundraise for the national party while working in Washington. And he refuses to endorse Trump.

“I’ve been fully abandoned by the Republican Party,” Jolly said. Still, he’s done pretty well with fundraising; as of Sept. 30, he’s raised $1.75 million to Crist’s $1.4 million. But Crist is getting help from the Democratic Party and other political action committees.

And Trump has become another flashpoint in the campaign.

In September, Jolly released a video that says Trump helped Crist raise money several times when Crist was a Republican.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired television ads using doctored photos to make it appear Jolly and Trump are pals. Only this week did Crist denounce the ad.

That negative ad turned some Crist voters off.

“I may end up voting for Jolly out of spite for the Democrats putting out negative information,” said Joe Jordan, a 36-year-old IT professional.

Crist touts his record on education, the economy and the environment, and says he supports a woman’s right to choose.

In the St. Petersburg park, he smiles at Velva Lee Heraty and her miniature Shih Tzu. Heraty shows him photos of when he walked little Miss Nena outside a cafe.

“That was two years ago,” Heraty says.

Crist gives her a serious look. That’s when Gov. Scott defeated him by a single percentage point.

“Two years ago. We’re hoping for a better result this time,” Crist says.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons