Florida’s election for governor, Congress, the Legislature, Cabinet and other offices is today. Here are five things voters should know:
GOVERNOR’S RACE: The election between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, the former Republican who preceded Scott in office, is close, bitter and expensive.
Scott and Crist crisscrossed the state Monday and were confronted with reminders of the testy nature of the contest that has included more than $100 million worth of ads from the campaigns and their allies. Scott started his day by campaigning in Clearwater where his bus was met by a loud protesters who were chanting “too shady for the Sunshine State” and “it’s not working,” a dig at Scott’s election motto. Crist, meanwhile, campaigned in South Florida ahead of an election eve rally with former President Bill Clinton. Outside a Miami union hall, Crist supporters crossed the street to drown out a contingent of Scott backers that included Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
The last Quinnipiac Poll before the election released Monday showed Crist with a 42-41 percent lead. Nine percent were undecided and Libertarian Adrian Wyllie was getting 7 percent, which would easily be a record for that party in a statewide race. The poll of 817 likely voters was conducted between Tuesday and Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
AMENDMENTS: Floridians will decide three constitutional amendments that, if passed, would legalize medical marijuana, dedicate billions of dollars to conservation efforts and let the outgoing governor fill three expected vacancies on the state Supreme Court in 2019.
Amendment 1 would dedicate $18 billion in existing real estate taxes to environmental protection over the next two decades. About half the revenue would go to buy nearly 2 million acres – pockets of wilderness including swamplands, beaches and other places that link key corridors of open space where wildlife can migrate naturally.
According to Amendment 2, to obtain medical marijuana, patients would have to get a doctor’s certification of their condition, which in turn would qualify them for a patient ID card they could use at licensed dispensaries.
Amendment 3 is complicated, but it boils down to whether the outgoing or incoming governor would fill three expected vacancies on the state Supreme Court. Under the state constitution, each measure needs 60 percent approval to pass.
CABINET: All three Republican incumbent Cabinet members are expected to coast to re-election Tuesday. Attorney General Pam Bondi faces the toughest challenge against Democratic challenger George Sheldon, who once led the Florida Department of Children and Families and served in the Legislature. Bondi has outraised Sheldon by an almost 3-to-1 margin. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are both running against little-known Democratic opponents, William Rankin and Thaddeus Hamilton, respectively. Atwater has outspent Rankin by an 80-to-1 margin and Putnam has outspent Hamilton by a 100-to-1 margin.
CONGRESS: Only two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts are expected to produce tight races.
In the Panhandle, Republican Rep. Steve Southerland is in a tough race with Democrat Gwen Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, the popular former governor and U.S. senator. That race took a weird twist when Southerland defended an all-male fundraiser that encouraged donors to “tell the Misses (sic) not to wait up” as the men joined in a time-honored tradition of talking policy and politics without women in the room. After Gwen Graham took issue with the way the invitation was worded, Southerland asked a Tampa Bay Times reporter: “Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?”
In a South Florida district, it is a Democratic incumbent who is in danger of losing. U.S. Rep Joe Garcia rode into Washington two years ago on an anti-corruption platform against scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. David Rivera, but now Garcia’s camp is facing its own corruption accusations. That has allowed Republican Miami-Dade County school board member Carlos Curbelo a chance at pulling off an upset.
LEGISLATURE: The Republicans will maintain large majorities in both the Florida House and Senate, but the question is whether they can gain enough seats to gain two-thirds majorities that would allow them to override any gubernatorial vetoes without Democratic help. That would be especially important for the GOP if Crist defeats Scott. The GOP has a 26-14 lead in the Senate and a 75-45 lead in the House. To flip the Senate, the GOP needs to flip one seat. In the House, it needs to flip five.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.