A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: On this day in 1884, the first roller coaster in America opened on Coney Island. Florida is home of America’s best theme parks featuring some of the most thrilling roller coasters you’ll ever dare to ride!
THE WEEK AHEAD
Candidates have been building campaigns and raising money for months. Now it’s time to take the final plunge. Qualifying for this fall’s elections will start at noon Monday and end at noon Friday. Also during the coming week, the Florida Board of Education and the university system’s Board of Governors will meet, and the state will release May unemployment numbers.
I will be in Tallahassee this Wednesday and Thursday. If you are interested in meeting, please email me at email@example.com.
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PRESIDENT OBAMA HITS NEW LOWS IN THREE POLLS
The Washington Post notes three polls released this week showed President Obama’s favorability rating hitting new lows.
“Fifty-two percent of Americans said they held an unfavorable view of Obama, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. Forty-seven percent said they held a favorable opinion of him. The five-point net negative favorable rating is a new low for Obama in Gallup polling. The new CNN/ORC International poll showed something nearly identical, with Obama’s favorable rating at 47 percent (a new low for Obama during his presidency in in CNN/ORC polling) and his unfavorable rating at 51 percent. A Bloomberg National poll pegged Obama’s favorability rating at 44 percent.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Perhaps the single most important fact about American politics is this: the people who participate are more ideological and more partisan, as well as angrier and more fearful, than those who don’t.” — Ezra Klein of Vox.
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EARLY VOTING UNDERWAY IN CD 19…
Early voting started Saturday in a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned from his Southwest Florida congressional seat after being arrested on a cocaine-possession charge. Republican Curt Clawson won a GOP primary in April and faces Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in Congressional District 19, which includes Collier and Lee counties. Early voting is scheduled to last until June 21, with the special election slated for June 24.
… MORE THAN 1,000 COLLIER, LEE RESIDENTS TURN OUT ON FIRST DAY via Maryann Batlle of PoliticalFixFlorida.com
Outside Collier County Library Headquarters on the humid, first day of early voting, two Congressional District 19 candidates peddled their campaign swag to anyone who walked by.
Ray Netherwood, the Libertarian Party of Florida contender from Marco Island, held out a bright yellow disc to a woman leaving the library.
“If you have grandkids or dogs, I can give you a Frisbee,” Netherwood said. She declined at first, but changed her mind when she remembered a grandson would, indeed, be visiting soon.
Nearby, Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman, dressed in business attire and pearls, handed out fliers with her platform on them. She said she left her campaign bumper stickers in her car.
FOR GOP, IT MIGHT BE NOW OR NEVER TO KNOCK OFF PATRICK MURPHY via Isadora Rangel of PoliticalFixFlorida.com
Republicans say it is crucial to regain U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s seat this year, but none of the six GOP candidates has emerged as a well-funded shoo-in to oust the Jupiter Democrat.
If Republicans have to wait to take another shot in 2016, Murphy is likely to become a stronger incumbent, and Democratic voters will turn out in larger numbers because of the presidential election, Singer Island challenger Alan Schlesinger said.
“If Murphy beats us this time, you’re not getting him out with a monkey wrench,” Schlesinger said. “He’s going to be so entrenched in this district. He’s got 2016 to come back, which will be a much stronger Democratic year, and from that point he’s a strong incumbent that will be very difficult to beat.”
This early in the race, money is the best way to determine a candidate’s clout, said Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University. Murphy had raised $2.8 million for his campaign as of March 31 — more than three times the $865,000 raised by all six GOP candidates combined, their latest campaign finance reports show.
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RICK SCOTT’S STAKE IN OIL COMPANY TIED TO COLLIER DRILLING RILES ENVIRONMENTALISTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Scott’s six-figure stake in a French energy company is angering environmentalists because the firm is involved in oil drilling in Collier County, near the Everglades.
Scott and the Cabinet oversee the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates oil drilling in Florida, and Scott has invested in businesses that could be regulated by DEP and other state agencies.
Asked if he supports drilling in a county where he owns a $9.2 million home, Scott did not directly answer. He said: “You’ll have to talk to DEP.”
To avoid conflicts, Scott put his wealth in a blind trust three years ago, and an adviser is assigned to manage Scott’s money without his knowledge.
In 2011, the original blind trust showed a $135,000 investment in Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oil services company.
Schlumberger helped apply for a DEP permit so that a Texas oil company, the Dan A. Hughes Co., can use a drilling technique that uses acid to create cracks in the rock and then a gel mixed with sand to hold the cracks open.
Commissioners have voted to challenge the consent order and claim DEP is not demanding enough oversight of Hughes.
The county and residents accused DEP of excessive secrecy in its dealings with Hughes.
TWEET, TWEET: @AllisonNielsen: @FLGovScott heading to #Tampa tomorrow to talk human trafficking awareness and prevention, per email
CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA DOES MORE THAN TICK A BOX FOR SCOTT CAMPAIGN via Tom Jackson of the Tampa Tribune
Florida’s Lieutenant governor has precisely one constitutional duty: step up if the governor is incapacitated.
Otherwise, the job is pretty much whatever the governor says it is. For Miami Republican and former state House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, appointed in January to fill the vacancy created by Jennifer Carroll’s abrupt, scandal-tinged resignation in March 2013, the assignment is as daunting as it is unambiguous: help Rick Scott win re-election.
Given the evidence on display at a Tampa bodega recently, Scott chose wisely, and not merely for the most obvious reason, one we should address at the top. Yes, Scott, making history all over the place, appointed the first Hispanic lieutenant governor to succeed Florida’s first black female lieutenant governor, a recruiting coup conventional wisdom says could blunt the eventual Democratic nominee’s advantage in deep blue, heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade County.
Scott, by contrast, recruits like a top college football coach. Alerted to news of the appointment, Linda McMahon, the pro wrestling executive and two-time GOP nominee for Senate from Connecticut, told Lopez-Cantera’s mom, “We know Rick Scott. He’s been in our living room trying to talk us into moving our headquarters to Florida.”
It’s about going the extra mile, Lopez-Cantera says, adding, “Charlie Crist never went the extra inch.”
So, yeah, maybe Carlos Lopez-Cantera ticks a couple of boxes that help balance the Republican ticket. But you get the impression he’d dog Crist free of charge. The fact he can do it in two languages is simply a happy bonus.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: LG Cantera will attend the grand opening ceremony for the Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach Engine Center. 17900 Beeline Hwy. Jupiter. 1 p.m.
ST. LEO POLL: RICK SCOTT 43%, CHARLIE CRIST 41% via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Another day, another poll in the Governor’s race, this one from Saint Leo University. It shows Gov. Scott leading Charlie Crist by an inside-the-error-margin amount of 43-41 percent.
Those results aren’t surprising. Scott has spent at least $12 million in unanswered TV ads statewide and Crist has spent zero since mid-March, which coincides with Saint Leo’s last poll that showed Crist was up 43-39 percent.
Bottom line: $12 million unanswered TV ads has moved the needle a net 6 points in Scott’s favor. So that’s $2 million per point.
As with other polls, Saint Leo’s indicates Scott is struggling to get near 50 percent. Nearly every major survey shows the governor stuck between 42-45 percent. But that doesn’t matter (especially in a multi-candidate race that will feature a Libertarian candidate; likely Adrian Wyllie).
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Crist will hold a roundtable with Tallahassee teachers on Monday to discuss what a press release describes as “Rick Scott’s failed record on education and the need to restore funding to Florida’s schools.” Leroy Collins Public Library, 200 W Park Ave, Tallahassee. 11:00 a.m.
AS CAMPAIGN ENTERS NEW PHASE, NAN RICH STRUGGLES AGAINST CHARLIE CRIST via Anthony Man of the South Florida SunSentinel
Nan Rich has been running a political marathon: 250 campaign stops, 135,000 miles, 26 months.
But even as she prepares to officially qualify for the ballot as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, it looks more than ever as if she’s been running in place, destined to finish poorly in the Aug. 26 primary.
“I realistically think her chances are pretty much done,” said Kartik Krishnaiyer, of Coconut Creek, editor and publisher of the left-leaning political blog The Florida Squeeze. “My guess is that there’s just no way.”
A confluence of events — many of which were out of Rich’s hands — have worked against the former state Senate Democratic Party leader from Weston.
The party leaders who aren’t openly hostile to Rich are “very cold,” Krishnaiyer said. “And you talk to them privately, they have been reluctant to even acknowledge her candidacy.”
MEANWHILE … RICH SET TO QUALIFY ON TUESDAY via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News
Rich said she was in the Florida gubernatorial race for the long haul, and sure enough, she announced Friday she will file her paperwork to qualify on Tuesday in Tallahassee.
Her statement promised that she and her supporters will be at the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections, at 10 a.m. The division is in the R.A. Gray Building, 500 South Bronough St.
Rich has been under increasing Democratic Party pressure to back out of the primary against party favorite Charlie Crist, who was a Republican all his life until 2010, then switched to independent, then in 2012 to Democrat. Rich has consistently vowed not to quit.
“I am the only true Democrat in this race. Those who have known me over the years know I will work hard for Democratic principles and the people of Florida,” she has said.
DEMOCRATS STILL FACE TOUGH ODDS TO WIN IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News
If you want to know how tough it is to get a Democrat elected in Southwest Florida, just look at the numbers.
There are twice as many registered Republicans than Democrats in Collier County; even third party or no party affiliation voters outnumber those who identify themselves as politically left of center.
The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won Collier was 1952; the last Democrat to represent Lee County in the state House left office in 1998. And don’t even ask about Congress; few seem to know when the last time a Democrat represented the area in Washington, D.C.
Yet even with the odds stacked against them, divisions in the Republican Party and the growing number of independent voters could someday mean Democratic success at the ballot box, some political observers said. Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman may be a good bet in 2014, as long as Democrats and independents head to the polls and are on her side, they said.
“We have to get the Democrats out to vote,” said Mickey Gargan, a Collier County Democrat.
NOT A REPUBLICAN? NOT A DEMOCRAT? YOU’RE PART OF GROWING FORCE IN FLORIDA via Matt Dixon of NaplesNews.com
Voters dissatisfied with the two major parties are helping rewrite the political script in Florida, and they will force traditional campaigns to alter their strategies moving forward.
Since 2010, Florida’s voter rolls have expanded by 546,985. Of that increase, 78 percent registered with parties other than the Republicans or Democrats.
Put another way, since the last governor’s race, registration of voters with no major party affiliation increased by 17 percent. During that time period, the registration increase has been 2 percent for Republicans and 0.3 percent for Democrats, state Division of Elections data shows.
The term “independents” is often used to brand these voters, but the classification can encompass a range of minor parties, those disenfranchised with traditional parties and newly registered voters who decide not to select either major party.
“They are incredibly diverse,” said Screven Watson, a Democratic consultant and former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “You can’t just throw a blanket over them with the same messaging.”
Reaching this diverse voting bloc with its increasing political importance is becoming the new challenge for campaigns. That challenge will be evident in this year’s nationally watched gubernatorial campaign between Gov. Scott and Crist.
There are 40 statehouse and 12 state Senate seats in which voters not in a major party are the second largest voting bloc in the district, meaning they outnumber either Republican or Democratic voters in that district.
POTSHOTS FLY BACK AND FORTH IN BATTLE FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Mary Wozniak of News-Press.com
The gloves are off in the Amendment 2 battle to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
The main pro-amendment group pleads for money for a final push while anti-amendment groups that have stayed largely in the shadows have come out swinging. Rhetoric is ramping up as each side takes potshots at the other’s credibility.
Supporters shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact Floridians are overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana, said Ben Pollara, manager of United for Care, the pro-Amendment 2 campaign. “We can’t take anything for granted.”
Polls show a favorability rate ranging from 60-88 percent, but they are just a snapshot in time, Pollara said. Sixty percent is needed for a constitutional amendment to pass.
Success of the pro-amendment push depends on three factors, he said: Cash; how well voters can be educated and mistruths can be combated; and how successful they are in getting to the polls those who don’t normally vote in non-presidential elections.
The anti-Amendment 2 faction might say the same. Forces voicing most opposition and working against legalizing medical marijuana include Vote No on 2 campaign; Don’t let Florida Go to Pot coalition; and Florida Sheriffs Association.
WINNER OF THE WEEK IN FLA. POLITICS: The No on 2 campaign — The group opposing the November ballot initiative to approve medical marijuana got a boost with a $2.5 million donation from casino king Sheldon Adelson. Opponents had been at a substantial financial disadvantage (and polling) but now have skin in the game. Adelson wins, too, as he could be looking to juice casino plans in Florida.
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HOW ACCURATE IS JIM GREER’S BOOK?
It’s not often that a book is scheduled to be released before its author, but in the case of Jim Greer’s The Chairman, it’s sadly true.
Greer, the flamboyant and controversial former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is scheduled to be released from a halfway house in Orlando on July 5 having served 15 months in prison for bilking the RPOF of thousands of dollars. Greer’s tell-all book, The Chairman, was released last week, and in it, Greer very much seeks to clear his name and settle the score with enemies perceived or real. In The Chairman, Greer makes dozens of incendiary claims and dishes on some of the power elite from the last election cycle. The obvious question for Florida’s political cognoscenti: How many of Greer’s shocking allegations also happen to be true?
It’s clear that Greer has smartly chosen to omit mention of many of the excesses of the Gilded Greer Era at the RPOF.
This is a man who took possibly hundreds of luxurious junkets courtesy of RPOF donors who thought they were giving money to advance conservative principles and not merely upgrade Greer and his entourage to first class seats (or, too often, the more supple calf leather found in chartered jets). These excesses are rarely mentioned, nor are Greer’s shameless attempts to bolster his own profile among the political elite. But, it’s also undeniable that for several tumultuous years, Greer played a pivotal role as one of Charlie Crist’s closest confidants, and not in living memory has a Florida political insider at this privileged level written a tell-all about the intimate inner workings of a political regime.
Yes, it’s self-serving, yes it’s replete with typos and grammatical errors, and yes it goes on too long at 400+ pages, but there’s enough there to keep Florida political junkies enthralled with the jaw-dropping escapades of some of Florida’s best-known and most powerful political figures.
I’ve talked to political consultants and students of the process in Tallahassee and around the state, and surprisingly many of them tell me that what Greer has selectively included in his book jibes with their observations from that period. Greer generally gets right the inner workings of the RPOF, particularly as it relates to his election for chairman and the jockeying during the 2008 presidential election. People who have read the book also say that Greer generally gets right the personalities of some of the key players, and Greer’s assessment is often scathing.
Political consultant Rick Wilson did some entertaining tweets as he read the book, and others have pointed out to me some of the dozens of shocking revelations in Greer’s magnum opus.
There isn’t enough space in a blog post to cover all of the juicy tidbits that Greer dishes, so in the interest of brevity I’m going to distill the claims to The Top Ten Most Shocking Allegations in Jim Greer’s Book. Feel free to submit to me your favorites this week (provide cites to the page in the book where you got the information, please), and on Monday, June 23, I’ll post the top ten list.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Peter Golenbock, author of The Chairman, will be on Rob Lorei’s radio show on Tampa Bay’s WMNF 88.5 FM at 11 a.m.
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EDITORIAL: AT FSU, SEN. JOHN THRASHER A STRONG PICK FOR PRESIDENT via the South Florida Sun Sentinel
Thrasher is a personable, powerful and highly partisan politician. He chairs Gov. Scott’s re-election campaign. He’s a recent chair of the Republican Party of Florida. He also chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which can make or break a bill’s chances of success.
But none of this explains why about 15 years ago, when Thrasher was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, he pushed to dismantle the Florida Board of Regents, which governed the state university system.
No, Thrasher got rid of the Board of Regents because it stood in the way of Florida State University getting a medical school, and he knew a medical school was critical to his alma mater becoming a top-flight research university like its rival, the state’s flagship University of Florida.
Because of Thrasher’s influence, the state board was gutted, local university boards gained power and FSU got its medical school, which today bears his name.
Now this state senator from St. Augustine wants to become president of FSU, succeeding Eric Barron who left in April to become president of Penn State.
But the selection process has become a big mess. Last week, the consultant overseeing it resigned under intense criticism for having called the search to a halt, saying no one good would apply so long as it looked like Thrasher had a lock on the job.
Now, FSU’s board has postponed its special interview with Thrasher, which it scheduled before he’d even applied. A Florida Supreme Court justice and a state representative from Tallahassee have also joined the hunt for the well-paying post. And the faculty union — concerned about Thrasher’s record on unions, tenure and ties to conservative causes — has submitted a 1,400-signature petition asking the search committee to start over.
KEY LAWMAKER CALLS DCF INQUIRY INTO MISSING RECORDS A ‘WHITEWASH’ via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald
A Department of Children & Families investigation into the withholding and possible destruction of child death records was completed without generating a single record.
The top administrator of DCF’s Southeast Region was suspended for two days without pay as a result of the high-level inquiry into a Miami Herald story showing that the region had deliberately withheld at least 30 reports of child deaths — even after the region’s director had been ordered to produce them.
But all details of DCF Deputy Secretary Pete Digre’s inquiry remain hidden, as DCF insists the investigation did not produce a single report, memo, email or notation. Digre, the agency said, also did not take hand-written notes, which likewise are subject to disclosure under the state’s public records law.
And though the inquiry was designed to quell criticism that DCF was hiding details — and entire records — regarding the deaths of children the agency is tasked with protecting, agency watchdogs and children’s advocates now have no means of scrutinizing the work product.
State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the chamber’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, called the inquiry “a cover-up and a whitewash.”
“I just think this is a huge cover-up that is going on to save their jobs and protect their public image at the expense of these kids,” Sobel said. She added: “They are obstructing information, they are obstructing justice, and they are obstructing transparency.”
SEN. NANCY DETERT LOOKS FOR TAKE TWO ON FILM FUNDING via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Detert is not ready to accept defeat in her bid to get more funding to grow the state’s film industry.
Speaking to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance last week, Detert said she is still upset that her effort to increase the funding did not make it through the Legislature this year.
Detert said movies and filmmaking in Florida have become a big economic generator and are helping to diversify the economy. She initially sought to add $300 million for film and movie incentives over 10 years. When that failed, she sought $20 million in the closing days of the annual spring legislative session. That failed too.
“Next year this will be my first priority,” Detert said. “We’re perfect for this industry.”
LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND
With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.
Off: Alexandra Dominguez is out as the legislative assistant for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
Off: Edward Garza is no longer district secretary for Rep. Kionne McGhee.
Off: Philip Massa is no longer the legislative assistant for Sen. Joseph Abruzzo.
On: LaNedra Carroll is now the legislative assistant to Sen. Geri Thompson.
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THE EXPRESS LANE BACK TO TALLAHASSEE
Election Day is five days away for dozens of House and Senate incumbents.
With qualifying set to start today and end at noon next Friday, 49 legislative incumbents have not drawn opponents, according to the state Division of Elections website. Another two had drawn opposition only from write-in candidates — an almost sure sign of re-election.
The list of unopposed lawmakers doesn’t appear to show any pattern. Other than, of course, the embedded powers of incumbency and, in many cases, the ability to raise loads of campaign cash. But the list includes Republicans, Democrats, freshman lawmakers and well-known veterans.
It includes the powerful — think future House Speaker Richard Corcora — and many, uh, more-anonymous lawmakers. Also, it includes House and Senate members who represent districts from Monticello to Hialeah and from Fernandina Beach to Naples.
LOOK FOR powerhouse firm Ballard Partners to announce a strategic alliance with a major NYC-based political consulting firms.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Brian Ballard, Miami Children’s Initiative
Dean Cannon, Capitol Insight: Wharton Investment Group, Ltd.
Bob Martinez, Holland & Knight: Systems & Methods, Inc.
Paul Mitchell, Jim Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Choice Plus, LLC
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: CANTOR’S LOSS, TEACHER JOB SECURITY, SCOTT V. CRIST AND FATHER’S DAY
On Context Florida: The stunning loss of Eric Cantor in the GOP Virginia primary last Tuesday will only lead to a more rancorous political scene, says Martin Dyckman. A recent California judge’s ruling threatens teacher tenure and further undermines job security for teachers, writes Marc Yacht. Former State Sen. John Grant has a prediction for the summer and fall elections, which are in full swing; the Scott vs. Crist campaign is going to be ugly and expensive. Family-related holidays bring out the best in people, according to Ed Moore. So at the marking another Father’s Day, Moore writes for his kids, so they can know how much he loves them and how much he cares.
ZEPHYRHILLS MAYOR INVITES FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH TO CELEBRATE HIS 100TH BIRTHDAY WITH A JUMP AT SKYDIVE CITY via the Tampa Bay Times
News that former President George H.W. Bush marked his 90th birthday by jumping from a plane got the attention of Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield. Capitalizing on the publicity, Whitfield sent a letter to Bush inviting him to make Zephyrhills the site of his 100th birthday jump.
“Whether President Bush knows it or not, he is an inspiration to so many people around the world, not just for his years of public service, but for the example he sets by making every day count and living an active, healthy life well into his golden years,” Whitfield said in a news release. “It would be a thrill for all of us to see him jump here at Skydive City on the day he turns 100.”
Skydive City is a jump zone located at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, and this year’s host for the 5th Annual FAI World Championships of Canopy-Piloting Nov. 1-7.
Whitfield added that the elder Bush was welcome to bring former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush along “so they can all jump together” at the city’s expense.
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CONGRATULATIONS to Tampa Tribune reporter Jim Rosica and his wife Erin on the birth of their child Nicholas.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Greg Evers, Charlie Crist campaign manager Omar Khan, and RSA Consulting’s Natalie King.