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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.

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.

Charlie Crist, Rick Kriseman, Alex Sink get out the vote

With less than a day to go before the polls open for the last time, former Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spent some time Monday urging people to vote if they had not already done so.

Kriseman and Crist, who is running for the Congressional District 13 seat held by Republican David Jolly, started out in the Tyrone area. Later, they visited businesses on Central Avenue in St. Pete where Alex Sink joined them. Sink is a former Florida chief financial officer.

“This is in the hands of the people,” Crist said of Tuesday’s election. Still, he said, “we don’t stop. You’ve got to run through the finish line.”

Sink said she came out to walk with Crist because they’re friends. But, she said, she also believes in him.

“I’m always available to help my favorite candidates, and I’m a big Charlie Crist fan,” Sink said. To Crist, she said, “You were the peoples’ governor. You’re going to be the peoples’ congressman.”

Kriseman agreed that Crist was the best candidate: “We need people up there who will fight for us here.”

While the three Democrats want Crist elected, they said the overall election is incredibly important. Kriseman paraphrased Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in saying that Tuesday’s election is important not just for the state and nation but also for the world.

“The whole world’s at stake with this election,” Kriseman said.

The polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

jolly

Poll: Charlie Crist holds five-point lead over David Jolly on eve of election

Charlie Crist could be heading to Washington, D.C.

A new poll from St. Pete Polls shows the former governor holds a five-point lead over Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The survey — conducted for FloridaPolitics.com — shows nearly 51 percent of voters said they were backing Crist, compared to nearly 46 percent backing Jolly. About 4 percent of respondents said they were still unsure.

The poll of 844 likely Florida voters was conducted on Nov. 6. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

The poll found 66 percent of respondents said they already voted. The survey found 56 percent of early voters said they picked Crist, compared to 42 percent who picked Jolly.

Crist has support from 76 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independent voters, and 23 percent of Republicans. He also received support from 73 percent of black voters and 63 percent of Hispanic voters.

Jolly has the backing of 74 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independent voters, and 21 percent of Democrats. More than 49 percent of white voters and 52 percent of male voters backed Jolly.

About 43 percent of likely voters said they had a favorable opinion of Jolly, who has served in Congress since 2014. More than 38 percent had an unfavorable opinion, while more than 18 percent said they were unsure.

Crist continues to be well-liked within the district, with 50 percent of likely voters saying they had a favorable opinion of him. About 41 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion, while about 8 percent said they were unsure.

Charlie Crist leads “souls to the polls” on final day of early voting

As the final day of early voting wound down, there were lines at voting sites and overall turnout was about 47.8 percent in Pinellas.

That number included both mail-in ballots that had been received and early voting as of about 4 p.m. Sunday, a day that saw candidates scrambling for every vote still left on the table.

One of the big pushes was the “Souls to the Polls” events, a statewide initiative designed to reach members of the faith community, particularly African-Americans, said Melissa Baldwin, the Tampa Bay regional press secretary of For Florida’s Future.

“Souls to the Polls” events were scattered across Florida, with several in the Tampa Bay area. According to a press release from For Our Future, the events, which combined entertainment and food, with the “get out and vote” message, was a success.

Thousands of congregants from dozens of faith organizations joined together today to celebrate the progress our country had made and ensure their community has a say in our future, the release said. At 15 “Souls to the Polls” events across the state, family fun, speeches and marches, among other activities, helped to ensure the last day of the popular early voting was a success.

In St. Petersburg, former Gov. Charlie Crist led a contingent of voters from Williams Park to the Courthouse, a block away.

Crist, like his opponent, David Jolly, had started the morning visiting African-American churches in southern St. Petersburg to urge voters to go to the polls. Then he took time to drop by the Gulfport Neighborhood Center, 1617 49th St. S, and stand in line to cast his ballot.

Crist, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Jolly for the Congressional District 13 seat.

The election is Tuesday.

Charlie Crist  Charlie Crist  Charlie Crist  Charlie Crist  Ben Diamond  Bensmihen and Diamond  David Jolly  David Jolly

Joe Biden, Jimmy Buffett to hold GOTV rally in St. Petersburg on Monday

Jimmy Buffett has a message for Floridians: Get out and vote.

Buffett is scheduled to perform at a get out the vote rally for Democrats Hillary Clinton, Patrick Murphy, and Charlie Crist on Monday. The Florida music icon will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife. The event comes just one day before Election Day, and is meant to encourage voters to get to the polls.

Murphy and Crist are also expected to attend. Murphy faces Sen. Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race, and trails Rubio in the polls an average of 3.2 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics. Crist, the former governor of Florida, is hoping to unseat Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

The addition of the Bidens to the roster shows just how important Florida is to the presidential race. Clinton has an average lead of 1 percentage point over Donald Trump in the Sunshine State, according to RealClearPolitics. The margin isn’t much larger nationwide, where RealClearPolitics shows she has an average lead of 1.8 percentage points.

The vice president and his wife will attend a rally at 1:15 p.m. at Florida A&M University, 1668 South Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Tallahassee before heading to St. Petersburg.

Buffett is expected to perform a short set of songs with Country Music Musician of the Year Mac McAnally. The event is schedule for 5 p.m. at Albert Whitted Park, 480 Bayshore Drive SE in St. Petersburg. The event is free, but tickets are required.

Charlie Crist, David Jolly fish for votes three days before election

David Jolly and Charlie Crist spent much of Saturday the way they’ve spent much of the past few months – casting a net for votes.

Jolly, the Republican incumbent, is facing a challenge from Democrat Crist for the 13th Congressional District seat.

Jolly spent the first part of the morning at an Alzheimer’s Awareness Fair at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on the University of South Florida campus in downtown St. Petersburg. His office had helped arrange the event, which included a book signing by Jolly’s friend Kent L. Karosen.

Karosen, president and CEO of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, recently published the book, Why Can’t Grandma Remember My Name?  The book provides a way for parents and family to share with children what is happening to Grandma or other loved ones.

Jolly said that, during his time in office, he has made it a priority to increase federal funding for Alzheimer’s research. This year, he said, the House Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, designated $1.286 billion to Alzheimer’s research. That is $350 million more than the previous fiscal year. The funding will go toward finding better detection and treatment options, improving early diagnosis, and finding a cure.

Jolly said he’s also pushing for Medicare coverage of testing that could detect Alzheimer’s even before it sets in. The earlier the disease can be caught, he said, the more likely it is to be controlled or even eventually cured.

Crist was hopscotched around Pinellas. traveling from Pinellas Park to Clearwater and back to St. Petersburg. Crist was accompanied by former Congressman Jim Davis, a Democrat from Tampa.

Ben Diamond also accompanied the two. Diamond is a Democrat running for state House District 68. He’s opposed by Republican Joseph “JB” Bensmihen. There is no incumbent in the race.

Crist also had robocalls going out over the weekend from civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who campaigned for Crist earlier last week in St. Petersburg. Lewis is urging Pinellas residents to vote for Crist based on his record of fighting for civil rights and voting rights, particularly affecting the African-American community. Lewis also points out NAACP praise for Crist.

Sunday is the last day of early voting. The election is Tuesday.

David Jolly  David Jolly  David Jolly     Charlie Crist

Mike Fasano making robocalls for Charlie Crist

Mike FasanoFormer state Sen. Mike Fasano, who is now the Pasco County Tax Collector, has endorsed former Gov. Charlie Crist in his run for the Congressional District 13 seat.

News of the endorsement came the same day that Fasano, a Republican, was featured in a robocall supporting Crist’s candidacy. Crist, a Democrat, is running against Republican incumbent David Jolly.

In the robocall, Fasano says, “Hi, I’m Mike Fasano. I’m a lifelong Republican, and I’m supporting Charlie Crist for Congress. Before you cast your vote, there are a few things you oughtta know.

“As governor, Charlie worked with both parties to get things done, like lowering your sky-high property taxes. Charlie will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare as we know it; David Jolly wants to privatize it and hand it to Wall Street.

“Charlie Crist took on the big utility companies for overcharging us; David Jolly got $350,000 from Duke Energy and Florida Power and Light last week alone. Charlie will protect Pinellas beaches and our tourism business; Jolly wants to expand oil drilling in the Gulf. Charlie Crist will protect our veterans; David Jolly wants to privatize and dismantle the VA. Charlie needs your vote.”

A scheduling issue prevented Fasano from appearing with Crist during a campaign stop early Friday afternoon at Solar Source, a Largo company that does solar and electrical installations and general contracting.  But representatives from both the national and local offices of the Sierra Club were at the tour.

Wayne Wallace, the founder of Solar Source, said Crist was the first Florida governor to install solar power while in office. Solar Source, he said, installed a solar swimming pool heater in the Governor’s Mansion.

Charlie Crist“I call him a pro-solar man,” Wallace said. “He is not beholden to the fossil fuel interests, which most politicians are.”

Crist said that, while on the campaign trail, he has heard from voters who are “very frustrated with the utility companies.”

Many of the complaints, he said, center on cost. Using himself as an example, Crist said his July electric bill was about $300. The next month, it was more than $500.

“It’s horrific,” Crist said. “If we did more [solar] rather than whatever Duke does, which is gouge us” people would have more disposable income to use for their families.

Later, Crist said, “We have such an obvious and clear answer to solving the stranglehold” of the utility companies. “It’s the sun. … We need to highlight what this company, what anyone’s doing in this industry to harness God’s power.”

Early voting ends Sunday. The election is Tuesday.

Charlie Crist campaign adds another $5,500 to his campaign warchest

Charlie Crist added another $5,500 in campaign contributions Wednesday.

Among the contributions was a $1,000 check from the political committee, Friends of Rose DeLauro. DeLauro has been representing Connecticut’s third district in the U.S. House of Representatives for over two decades.

Crist also received a $1,000 contribution from Democrats Reshaping America (Dreampac), a Democratic super PAC, and a $1,000 contribution from Lisa DeBartolo, who oversees the DeBartolo Family Foundation as its executive director. She is also executive vice president of DeBartolo Holdings. She’s perhaps best known for being the daughter of former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and cousin to Jed York, the current Niners CEO.

Crist is running in Florida’s 13th Congressional District against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Through Oct. 19, Jolly had brought in about $1.9 million and had about $160,000 of that money on hand, while Crist had raised over $1.5 million through Oct. 19 and had about $169,000 in his campaign account.

DCCC to air radio ads in CD 7 and 13 featuring Barack and Michelle Obama

Aiming at driving black voters to the polls to vote on down-ballot races,  the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now airing radio ads featuring Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in Florida’s congressional Districts 7 and 13, two districts with a significant African-American population.

This DCCC radio advertising campaign begins Thursday and runs until next Monday, Nov. 7 in the Orlando and Tampa markets. The DCCC says the ads will run on hip-hop, R&B, and urban contemporary radio stations, in order to target voters young and old. In Orlando, the campaign will run the maximum number of spots on four different African-American radio stations.

“Each and every voice will make a difference in this high-stakes election, and this radio advertising effort courtesy of Barack and Michelle Obama is a critical part of the plan for House Democrats to pick up seats in Florida on Election Day,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan. “We have long recognized the need to engage critical Democratic base voters, including African-Americans, Latinos, and millennials, and I am thankful that the Obamas are urging the American people to turn out early and strongly in Florida and key districts across the country.”

Democrat Stephanie Murphy is facing GOP incumbent John Mica in District 7, while Charlie Crist is attempting to bring the CD 13 seat into the Democratic column for the first time in several generations against Republican David Jolly.

There has been considerable discussion that black voters in Florida are voting in lower numbers to date than in 2008 and 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. Most observers believed Hillary Clinton would never be able to match those historic numbers, but with Florida looking to be a dead-even race (the RealClearPolitics shows Donald Trump to have a narrow lead), the campaign needs to do everything it can to bring out its base voters.

In CD 13, Jolly is making an appeal to black voters specifically, running ads criticizing Crist for his previous incarnation as “Chain Gang Charlie,” when he pushed for aggressive treatment of prisoners.

Here are the scripts for the radio ads:

FLORIDA’s 7th SCRIPT:

Michelle Obama: This election is about more than the White House. It’s also about electing leaders to Congress who care as much as we do about our children’s future.

Announcer: Stand up and be counted. Cast your ballot early and show that your vote matters. Early voting in Orange County is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day through Sunday, and in Seminole County 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day through Sunday.

Vote today for Democrats all the way down the ballot.

SCRIPT ONE:

Announcer: Our future matters. So, make sure your voice is heard, Nov. 8th.

Barack Obama: We have the opportunity to build on all the progress we’ve made, to fight for the issues you and I believe in. I’m doing everything I can to make sure our Democrats all around the country have what they need to win, and that’s why I need you. I need you to vote. I need you to make sure your friends, family, and neighbors vote.

Announcer: Continue President Obama’s legacy. Show up and be counted. Vote Democrats for Congress on Tuesday.

SCRIPT TWO:

Michelle Obama:

This election is about more than the White House. This election is about planning for our children’s future. It’s about electing a Congress that will have our interests at heart. Support the issues that matter to you, work with our president, and continue my husband’s legacy, building on the progress we’ve made.

On Tuesday, I want you to vote. I want you to make sure that your friends, families, and neighbors vote. Vote for your future. Vote for your children’s future. Vote Democrat all the way down the ballot.

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