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Dwight Dudley leading Darryl Rouson in potential Democratic SD 22 primary contest

When the Florida Legislature begins redrawing up all 40 state Senate districts during its next scheduled special session (October 26-November 6), the Senate District 22 seat is expected to change dramatically and become much more Democratic Party friendly.

If that scenario plays out, current GOP incumbent Jeff Brandes is expected to bail out of that race and find another Pinellas County seat to run in.

So who might run in the newly formed SD 22 seat?

A new survey by St. Pete Polls released on Wednesday plays with the idea of two current St. Petersburg-based House Democrats, Darryl Rouson and Dwight Dudley, competing against each other.

In that matchup, Dudley would best Rouson, 41-26 percent, with 33 percent undecided.

Rouson is term-limited out of his House district, and had filed to run against Betty Reed in the SD 19 seat being vacated by a similarly term-limited Arthenia Joyner. However, that seat may remain in Hillsborough County, a problem for Rouson, who resides in Pinellas.

Dudley was first elected to the HD 66 seat in 2012.

It should be noted that the SD 22 map that St. Pete Polls has conceived of is strictly an educated guess at this point in time.

Currently the SD 22 seat, where Brandes easily defeated Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan a year ago, is 36 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat, and 30 percent NPA.

The newly drawn-up Senate District 22 would be 40% per cent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, and 29 percent NPA.

The scientific results shown for the questions below have a sample size of 492 and a 4.4 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

Pam Keith disagrees with Alan Grayson’s ‘Crips and Bloods’ comment, but says she’s not offended

The attacks keep coming in the Patrick Murphy-Alan Grayson Democratic U.S. Senate primary, and it’s only the first day of fall of 2015.

Early on in Alan Grayson’s remarks to the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee on Monday night in Tampa, the Orlando congressman and 2016 aspirant said the Democratic Party was a club, but not just any old club, but one more like a gang, “like the Crips or the Bloods.”

The exact quote went like this: “A lot of people think it’s a club, like the Rotary Club. I think of it like a gang, like the Crips and Bloods. We have to protect our turf. Our turf is the American middle class.”

Some Florida Democrats in the African-American community aren’t pleased with Grayson’s comment. Well, at least the ones supporting Patrick Murphy.

“Some things must never be politicized,” said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. “The gang violence that has torn apart communities for too long has affected countless people across our country. The Democratic Party must always reject this kind of language, and I call on Mr. Grayson to apologize.”

“Congressman Grayson should apologize to Democrats and our entire community,” adds  state Rep. Larry Lee.  “No comparison to vicious gangs that trap our young people in a cycle of violence and poverty is acceptable.  With so much violence occurring in communities across our nation, glorifying gangs is something we should not be hearing from anyone.”

“The Democratic Party is not a party of gangs that wreak havoc in communities. We are a community committed to principles of justice, equality, and opportunity,” said Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack. “We shouldn’t put that on the same level with the gangs that only seek destruction. That remark does not reflect the Democratic Party I know.”

All three Democrats back Murphy in the race. Their statements were issued by the Murphy campaign.

Grayson spokesman Kevin Franck notes that, “Rep. Murphy deliberately and deceptively left off the following sentence, which was greeted by enthusiastic applause:  ‘Our turf is the American Middle Class.’ Rep. Grayson, unlike Rep. Murphy,  is a lifelong loyal Democrat, and did not say anything to disparage the only political party to which he has ever belonged. Rep. Grayson was speaking to a group of Democratic Party activists, and he said what they wanted and needed to hear: In order to fulfill our obligation to stand up for the middle class in America, we Democrats must be willing to fight for them. In fact, Rep. Grayson’s speech, unlike Rep. Murphy’s tepid and vacuous speech to the same group a week earlier, was met with a standing ovation. ”

FloridaPolitics.com also reached out to Pam Keith, the Palm Beach County-based Democratic Senate candidate who also happens to be of African-American descent.

“Congressman Grayson is known for his colorful analogies,” Keith said in response. ”Am I offended? I can’t say that I’m offended. It’s inaccurate, I don’t know anybody who has to climb into the Democratic Party. I definitely disagree with him.” She went on to say that her sense was that Grayson was hinting that there’s a sense of party leadership who feels that they “own”  the institution and “do everything they can to make it an exclusive membership,” which she says she totally agrees with.

It should be noted that there were several black Democrats in the room on Monday night, including Yvette Lewis from the Hillsborough County NAACP.

“Ask Patrick Murphy is that all he got? Is that the best he can do?” Lewis told FloridaPolitics.com.

Lewis says she has not yet decided who she will support in the Senate contest, but says that Murphy should concentrate more on why there aren’t more jobs for the black community and why the Democratic Party takes blacks for granted.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Lewis asked Grayson if he was a member of the NAACP. When he said he was not, she asked him to sign up on the spot. Grayson demurred, but said he would do so.

“Ask him, does he have an NAACP card?” Lewis says about Murphy.

New poll shows Marco Rubio leading Jeb Bush for the first time in Florida

For the first time in this election cycle, Marco Rubio now leads Jeb Bush in a Florida presidential poll.

However, both still trail Donald Trump in a new survey from Florida Atlantic University (initially published by Anthony Mann in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) released on Wednesday.

The New York City real estate magnate maintains a double-digit lead over anyone else in Florida, taking 31.5 percent of the Republican vote. Rubio is in second place with 19.2 percent. Bush is third with just 11. 3 percent.

Rubio has won high praise for his performance in last week’s debate at the Reagan Library. Bush? Not so much.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, a West Palm Beach resident, is in fourth place with 10. 3 percent.

Carly Fiorina, being described by national political pundits as the hottest candidate in the race, comes in fifth in the FAU survey with 8.3 percent.

On the Democratic Party side, as per every public opinion poll taken in the Sunshine State, Hillary Clinton is dominating. She gets 59.5 percent support. Vice President Joe Biden, not even a candidate yet, scores higher than Bernie Sanders with 15.9 percent. Sanders is next with 15.2 percent.

However, the FAU survey shows that Floridians would prefer any of the Florida-based Republicans over Clinton in a one-on-one matchup.

The general election numbers:

• Carson had 51.7 percent of the Florida vote to Clinton’s 39.5 percent.

• Rubio had 50.4 percent to Clinton’s 42.2 percent.

• Bush beat Clinton, 49.1 percent to 40.9 percent.

• Trump and Clinton were statistically tied, with 45.9 percent for him and 44.5 percent for her. (Trump is an occasional Palm Beach County resident.)

The survey was conducted by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative in the College of Business. The survey of 298 Democratic likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points. The survey of 352 Republican likely voters has a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points. The general election survey, of 801 registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.23.15 — The best of Tampa Bay, mostly

Welcome to the the autumn equinox, Yom Kippur, Pope Francis’ first full day in the United States, and……the unveiling of Creative Loafing’s annual Best-of-the-Bay issue.

Tonight, the folks associated with the local alternative weekly will publish their BOTB issue, literally and figuratively the biggest paper that the company will produce this year.

As some of you may know, I served as political editor of the paper for five years before making the move over to Florida Politics/SaintPetersBlog last November, right after last year’s midterm elections

So for the first time since George W. Bush was still in office, this will be the first BOTB that I’ve not had any involvement in.

I remember a few years ago, a Tampa Tribune columnist called to complain about how a staffer at CL would only link stories published by the Tampa Bay Times, to the exclusion of the Trib, though in some cases their stories were better reported. He wanted to let me know that the “other daily” was still alive and kicking, even though it was sort of the Little Engine That Could.

I sympathized and understood where he was coming from, but the Tampa Tribune is like The New York Times in terms of resources compared to CL. I was stunned when I first began working there six years ago at the paucity of writers actually working in the building everyday, vs. the multitude of salesmen and women. It’s really never changed since then – though the paper does rely a lot on interns and freelancers. That’s why the BOTB issue is an exhaustive effort by the staff. Not that they need the plaudits, but trust me, I’ve been there. It’s a lot of work, which goes on for months.

However, something I never realized until I worked there was how much power CL editors have when it comes to BOTB. Winning one of those awards, whether it’s from the public or the editors, is a really big deal for a lot of folks in the Tampa Bay area. Which in retrospect makes a lot of sense. I mean, who doesn’t like being rewarded in some way for the work that they do? Everybody appreciates it, whatever and wherever it is, right? Depending on the source, it may be a higher honor and something for you to boast about, but most of us don’t get recognized in a public way, ever, or not very often.

You have no idea how valuable a BOTB award is for the folks that run bars, restaurants and retail establishments in this area. Do those people take it a bit too seriously? Uh, yeah. My bailiwick was relegated to politics and media, so I didn’t have to deal with the incoming from p.o.’d restaurateurs.

But what fun it was to have the power as political editor to decide each year who I thought was most deserving in the categories I was responsible for. A lot of responsibility, actually.

However, at the end of the day it’s just supposed to be a fun thing. So to my former colleagues who toil over at Ybor Square (and their homes), congrats in advance on the new issue. Have a good time at your party tonight in St. Pete.

And for those folks out there who were campaigning on social media to be named a winner but somehow came up short, it’s still all good.

In other news..

Although the Florida Legislature shows no inclination to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour next year, 17 Democrats say they’ll live on those wages for a week to bring attention to the issue.

That independent attorney hired by the city attorney to render an opinion about Julia Mandell having a conflict of interest in the advice she gives the City Council came down yesterday, and, not surprisingly, attorney Gwynne Young said there was no conflict. This is not the end of this story.

And Alan Grayson spoke with local Democrats in Tampa for over 45 minutes on Monday evening.

Jeb Bush may start inheriting more support now that Scott Walker has left the campaign, so perhaps one shouldn’t judge too harshly his current sixth-place standing in Iowa. Or should we?

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day. Congresswoman Kathy Castor celebrated the occasion at King High School, which has the highest percentage of kids registering to vote in Hillsborough County.

And Marco Rubio held a fundraiser in suburban Dallas last night that had a few people upset. Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman leading the investigation of Benghazi, opted to bow out (weeks ago, a Rubio spokesman now tells us).

Marco Rubio campaign says Trey Gowdy canceled Texas fundraising event “weeks ago”

South Carolina U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy didn’t attend a fundraiser for Marco Rubio at the home of Harlan Crow and wife, Kathy, in Highland Park, Texas, Tuesday night.

Gowdy, best known as being chairman of the Special Select Committee on Benghazi, said in the spring that he wouldn’t be using his committee to raise money because he said some things should transcend politics. “I will cite myself as an example,” he said. “I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans.”

Florida Politics reported on Tuesday afternoon that Gowdy had canceled his appearance the same day. In fact, he informed the Rubio campaign “a couple of weeks ago” that he wouldn’t be able to attend the event because of a scheduling conflict, according to Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant.

“He regrets that he was not able to attend,” Conant emailed FP.

Correct the Record, the David Brock-led research and rapid response team designed to defend Hillary Clinton, issued a statement earlier on Tuesday noting Gowdy’s scheduled fundraising appearances Tuesday night and in Volusia County next month. That’s where Gowdy is scheduled to deliver the keynote address for the Volusia County Republican Party at its Lincoln Day dinner on Nov. 8.

“Cancelling one event is not enough – Gowdy should withdraw from all fundraising where he uses the deaths of four Americans to raise money for the Republican Party and apologize for his abuse of his position – otherwise he must terminate his taxpayer-funded investigation because it is simply a campaign tool of the GOP,” said Adrienne Watson of Correct The Record.

The Rubio fundraiser already was in the news Tuesday, after Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement calling on the Florida senator to cancel the event because it’s at the home of Crow, a real estate investor who has collected art from Adolf Hitler and also owns a signed copy of Mein Kampf.

“Holding an event in a house featuring the artwork and signed autobiography of a man who dedicated his life to extinguishing the Jewish people is the height of insensitivity and indifference,” said Wasserman Schultz, as reported by POLITICO. “There’s really no excuse for such a gross act of disrespect. Mr. Rubio, who by the way, represents a sizable Jewish population in our home state of Florida, should cancel this tasteless fundraiser.”

Jeb Bush slumps to 6th place in Iowa in new PPP poll

Jeb Bush assured reporters in Cedar Falls on Tuesday that “We are in it for the long haul,” and said he believes he’ll be able to pick up some supporters of Scott Walker in Iowa. Though he has nabbed one such backer who had been supporting Walker — Iowa state Rep. Terry Baxter, he’ll need a whole lot more if he’s going to be competitive in the Hawkeye State, according to a new Public Policy Poll released today.

Donald Trump leads the field with 24 percent. Ben Carson is next with 17 percent, with Carly Fiorina now third there with 13 precent.

Next up are Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are tied for fourth at 8 percent. Then follows Bush at 6 percent, where he’s tied with Mike Huckabee. Next up is the now departed Walker, who received 5 percent in the survey conducted before he exited the race Monday night. Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul are at 4 percent. John Kasich is at 2 percent, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum are at 1 percent. Lindsey Graham, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki all at less than 1 percent.

PPP says that other than Walker, no other Republican has fallen so much over the past month in Iowa than Bush, who in a previous survey was in 4th place with 11 percent support. His favorability numbers are upside down there, though. He has a  38 percent favorability rating with 40 percent of voters seeing him negatively. His big struggle continues to be with voters who identify themselves as “very conservative” —  his favorability rating with them is 29/45, and just 2 percent support him for the nomination, which puts him in 10th place with that group.

PPP surveyed Republican voters about Jeb’s comment that he smoked pot some 40 years ago. Fifty-nine percent of GOP voters say they don’t care one way or another about that, and 7 percent actually say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, 43-22 percent. Joe Biden is at 17 percent. Martin O’Malley is at 3 percent, tied with Jim Webb. Lincoln Chafee is at 2 percent.

Scott Walker to bow out of GOP presidential race

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was once considered one of the front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, will announce that he is quitting the race at 6 p.m. Eastern time. That’s according to an initial report from The New York Times that has now been confirmed by the other sources.

“The short answer is money,” an anonymous supporter of Walker tells The Times. “He’s made a decision not to limp into Iowa.”

The writing on the wall for Walker came on Sunday, when a CNN/ORC poll shockingly had him at below one half of one percent in the polls.

As the governor of nearby Wisconsin, Walker had been pinning much of his hopes on winning in the state of Iowa, where the caucuses kick off the voting season next February. And for several months, Walker led in the polls in the Hawkeye State.

But the ascendance this summer of Donald Trump hurt Walker tremendously, and his poll numbers started dipping in Iowa over the past month. A Quinnipiac poll released last week in Iowa had Walker at just three percent, a 15 percentage-point drop in the polls since early July. That put him in eighth place there.

Walker became a contender for the nomination after he won re-election for governor last year in Wisconsin. It was his third victory in four years in what he called a blue state. A year after being elected for his first term in 2010, he made severe changes to public sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin, known as Act 10. The uproar over those moves led to a recall election later in 2011. He won that recall election, a feat never before achieved by a sitting U.S. governor. The law virtually eliminated collective bargaining by public workers.

Walker thought that success would translate on the national level, but it didn’t move the needle for him. Last week he called for the end of public sector labor unions, abolishing the federal labor relations board and enacting a national right-to-work law as part of his plan to take his Wisconsin battle with labor unions to the White House.

That won’t be happening now. However, he does return to Wisconsin to serve out the remaining three years of his term. At 47, he certainly would seem to still have a future in American politics.

Alan Grayson changes the names of two of his hedge funds

Earlier this summer, Democratic U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson acknowledged that he was managing three hedge funds in his own name, but denied that he was violating congressional ethics rules that prohibit sitting legislators from managing self-named investment entities.

But documents filed with the Florida secretary of state’s Division of Corporations earlier this month show that he has submitted the paperwork to take two of those funds out of his name.

One form shows that he has requested that the Delaware-based Grayson Fund General Partner, LLC be changed to the Sibylline Fund General Partner, LLC. Another form shows that he submitted paperwork to change the Cayman Islands-based Grayson Fund Management Co. LLC to the Sibylline Fund Management Company, LLC.

House rules and federal law state a member of Congress “may not permit [his or her] name” to be used by an entity that provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship. But Grayson has maintained the funds offerings are exempt because all the funds’ investors are “qualified investors” and he has no “fiduciary responsibility” over the funds. Some attorneys who specialize in securities law severely questioned that assertion in a story written in POLITICO back in June.

Two ethics complaints against Grayson were filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics in the wake of the initial reporting on the issue. One was filed by the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT) in early July. The other was by  St. Lucie County Democratic Party chairwoman Celeste Bush, an avowed supporter of Patrick Murphy, the South Florida congressman who is battling Grayson for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2016. Bush accused Grayson of failing to properly disclose details of three hedge funds, including their investors and his income from them.

When asked for comment, Grayson spokesman Kevin Franck directed Florida Politics to the response he gave the Tampa Bay TimesAlex Leary on Sunday night. “There’s nothing wrong with the investor partnership using ‘Grayson’ in their name, but at this point, it’s simply easier to change the name than to argue about it,” Franck said in a statement.

Joshua Karp, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Murphy, said the campaign won’t comment at this time.

Last month, however, Murphy did respond, issuing a statement in which he challenged Grayson about the hedge funds that he controls, and listed a series of questions that he called on the congressman to respond to.

Carly Fiorina jumps into 2nd place in new CNN GOP presidential poll

After Carly Fiorina earned nearly universal praise as the big winner of last week’s Republican Presidential debate from the Reagan Library, the big question was whether that praise would translate into a bump in her poll ratings, which have languished in the lower tier this year.

The answer to that is a definitive yes.

According to a new CNN/ORC poll released Sunday morning, Donald Trump continues to lead the field with 24 percent, but Florina is now in second place with 15 percent. That’s an 8-percentage point drop for Trump since last month in the CNN poll, where he was at 32 percent. And it’s a a 12-percentage point rise for Fiorina, who a month ago was sitting with just 3 percent support.

Her rise in the poll is directly related to her performance in Simi Valley – 52 percent tell CNN pollsters that Fiorina won the debate, while 31 percent say Trump was the loser in that three-hour affair.

Ben Carson is right behind Fiorina with 14 percent in the poll. However, that’s a five-percentage point drop for him from last month.

The second big winner in the poll is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who comes in fourth with 11 percent. A month ago, he was at just 3 percent in the CNN poll.

In fifth place is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at 9 percent. He’s followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 6 percent each, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 4 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 3 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 1 percent.

Shockingly, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now at less than 1 percent in this poll, where he shares the bottom ranking with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal,  and former New York Gov. George Pataki,

Ben Carson remains the most popular candidate in the GOP field, with 65 percent of Republican voters saying they view him favorably, compared with just 10 percent. saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the retired neurosurgeon.

Rubio ranks second in the popularity contest, with 57 percent viewing him favorably and 16 percent unfavorably. He’s followed by Fiorina (54% favorable to 17% unfavorable), Huckabee (53% to 28% unfavorable), Cruz (52% to 22%) and Trump (52% to 40%).

The CNN/ORC poll was conducted September 17-19 and surveyed 1,006 adult Americans, including 924 registered voters — 444 of whom are Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP. The margin of error with the Republican results is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Why Florida LWV isn’t working on the restoration of ex-felons voting rights amendment

Florida is one of only three states left in the country that takes away ex-felons’ voting rights for life.

More than 1.6 million Floridians cannot vote, hold office or serve on a jury, according to The Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group.

Democrats in the Florida Legislature have railed for years against what they call this injustice, but have nothing to show for their efforts. Things did change in 2007, when the clemency board under then Gov. Charlie Crist began to automatically restore the rights of nonviolent offenders who served their time — and a total of 155,315 got them back during his four-year term. However, that policy was reversed when Rick Scott was elected governor in 2011.

There is currently an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would restore voting rights for ex-felons, an effort one might assume the Florida League of Women Voters would be supporting.

And they are. Sort of.

“We absolutely, 100 percent support the restoration of ex felons rights,” Florida League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman said in a speech in Tampa on Wednesday. But for now, her organization isn’t devoting any resources to help get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

The Florida LWV has become quite the political player in Tallahassee in recent years, with its participation as a plaintiff in the redistricting battles the most obvious and recent example. The group also actively supports Medicaid expansion, the Floridians for Solar Choice constitutional amendment bid, stopping the guns on campuses legislation, and having the Legislature fully implement Amendment 1, the proposal intended to provide more than $5 billion for water and land conservation in Florida over the next 10 years.

Goodman says that the League’s board gets prepositioned to support lot of citizen initiatives, but before they do so, they have a “litmus” test of questions that they submit to the organizers of those campaigns. One of the most important questions they ask is if a group has the financial resources to go the distance on its particular project. Goodman said that the League itself does not fundraise for any citizen initiative, and never has. Instead, they can provide education and volunteer power or “boots on the ground” to support such an effort.

So when members of the LWV sat down with officials with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition earlier this year, Goodman says, “they said they had a good funding source.” However, that source ultimately fell through. So now the League has “temporarily postponed” any involvement in the cause.

Desmonde Meade heads the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. He says that while the LWV’s official position is that they’re not backing  his effort, “we still enjoy the support from individual League of Women Voters actively” in helping get petitions signed.

“She is pretty fair in her assessment of the situation,” he says.

Any group trying to get constitutional amendment on the ballot in Florida in time for November of 2016 must submit 683,149 signatures to the state Division of Elections office by February 1. They need to have 10 percent of those signatures to be able to submit their language before the Florida Supreme Court before that to see if it passes constitutional muster.

Meade says that the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is truly grassroots driven, and says the fact that it doesn’t have a major financial benefactor proves that’s the case.”

“We don’t have any sugar daddies to help fund us,” Meade said, comparing the right to restore ex-felons voting rights to the medical marijuana campaign. “What we do have that I think that no one else has, is that we have people on the ground who are passionate about this issue. That are donating an enormous amount of hours and energy to make sure that we get some movement on this.’

One of those volunteers could be seen attending the Hillsborough County Democratic Party’s Kennedy-King fundraising dinner in Tampa last Saturday, asking party members to sign the petition.

But can a grassroots effort get such a measure on the ballot, when Goodman says a successful citizens-driven constitutional amendment costs between $7 million and $9 million?

“If they can get that part of it together, then we of course will be on board,” said Goodman. “We support the issue 100 percent, but we never want to misuse our most treasured talents, which are our members and your time and your work efforts towards something that we may see successful and so that’s why we temporarily postponed our involvement, but if it doesn’t get on the ballot in 2016, it will be back, and it will be stronger.”

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