A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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THE WEEK AHEAD
Will he or won’t he? Whether Charlie Crist plan to run for governor may be the question of the coming summer. He’s got a series of appearances, starting with one tonight, where he’ll be asked the question, over and over.
Meanwhile, voters in the Pensacola area know who is running for House District 2. The special election is to replace the late Rep. Clay Ford. The primary is Tuesday.
In the Tampa Bay area, lawmakers will wrap up the session at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting this week.
And you won’t have to drive to Georgia to play MegaMillions, starting this week. Florida joins the multistate lottery game mid-week.
The News Service of Florida has a comprehensive listing of the week’s events here.
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PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MIAMI BOUND FOR JUNE 12 DNC FUNDRAISER via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Obama plans to attend a June 12 Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Miami Beach home of Joseph Blount, who gave at least $251,376 to various candidates and committees last year. Invite here.
RUBIO’S HIGH-STAKES PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM via Dan Balz of the Wathington Post
Two realities shape the debate over immigration reform: No bill is likely to pass without the expressed support of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), but even Rubio’s endorsement may not be enough to assure passage. For Rubio, the political stakes of both sides of the equation are huge.
Immigration reform is one of President Obama’s most important second-term priorities, but for now the president has been relegated to a secondary role in the debate. Because his views are anathema to conservatives, the less he says about the bill, the better may be its chances of passing. In Obama’s place, Rubio has emerged as the most significant public voice on the issue.
… But in taking on immigration, he has put himself in an unusual position. By the end of this year, he could find himself in the minority among House and Senate Republicans on the issue, if he chooses to continue to support the bill. Not many presidential candidates start out a campaign with a signature issue that has been rejected by a majority of the elected officials and much of the base in his or her party.
WHAT IS RUBIO’S CAMP THINKING
It was a busy week for immigration reform, with three important developments Rubio’s team are flagging:
1. Kim Strassel has a must-read column in the Wall Street Journal about immigration reform & the conservative movement. Here is the crux:
“On the reform side, occupied by Mr. Rubio and growing numbers of conservatives, is a party that wants to rekindle its pro-growth roots, that has remembered it succeeds when it exudes optimism and solves problems. That is why the media judgment that the GOP is simply in search of ‘Hispanic votes’ is trite. The right’s budding embrace of reform reflects something bigger, an effort to reclaim principles that appeal to broad swaths of the public.”
2. The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary released their analysis of the immigration bill, and found it would create over 3 million jobs while stopping over 2 million illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. over the next 10 years. You can read the whole letter here, but the key sentence is this: “Overall, we anticipate that the net effect of this bill on the long-range OASDI actuarial balance will be positive.” (Translation: Immigration reform will help Social Security’s long-term finances.)
3. The ACU (best known as the host of CPAC) released a statement in support of immigration reform signed by a broad group of over 2 dozen conservative leaders. Read the whole statement and see the list of signatures here, but note this:
“We are encouraged by the starting point that Senator Rubio and his Republican colleagues have gotten leading liberals in the Senate to agree to. We believe they are working in good faith to improve the bill and we support a fair, open and transparent legislative process. We ask that conservatives in the Senate work to improve the legislation. America needs immigration reform.”
Crist … told activists in Tampa Saturday night that his old party has changed to the point that he’s far more comfortable as a big-tent Democrat.
“It’s about blacks, it’s about whites, it’s about gays, it’s about wherever you come from, you’re welcome in this party,” said the former Republican governor, recounting how former Democratic Gov. LeRoy Collins stood beside civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., despite political repercussions such as the ones Crist faced after embracing President Barack Obama and his stimulus package.
Crist’s eight-minute speech drew an enthusiastic response from the 300 activists gathered for the annual Kennedy-King fundraising gala for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party. It was a healthy, but hardly overwhelming crowd that suggested Crist can’t expect a coronation should he jump into the Democratic race for governor.
MY NOTES FROM THE KK DINNER
>>>Whoever was responsible for printing the program for the Hillsborough County Kennedy King Dinner should be shot — but only after first learning how to spell Crist’s name. It’s Charlie Crist, you numbskulls, not Christ.
>>>How poorly designed was the program? They misspelled the word ‘Sponsors’ which, you know, made the Sponsers (as they had it) so excited to Sponser the event!
>>>Not only did the Hillsborough Democrats not spell Charlie’s name right in the event program, they forgot to put a fan on stage with the Tan Man. No wonder Charlie’s speech ran only eight minutes. Charlie was too damn hot. Some have suggested the Hillsborough Democrats aren’t to blame for this gross oversight. Crist’s ubiquitous companion, Greg Truax, was the one responsible for making sure Charlie had his fan. Well, it looks like Truax dropped the ball. And is that surprising? The last campaign Truax ran, if you may remember, was Dick Greco’s abortion of a mayoral campaign in 2011.
>>>Alex Sink was given a standing ovation tonight at the Hillsborough County Kennedy King Dinner. And that was before she delivered a moving speech, make that eulogy, about her late husband, former gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride.
>>>Please, Senator Arthenia Joyner, PLEASE, refrain from addressing another member of the Florida Legislature as your “homey.” Especially if you are referring to white-as-Wonder-Bread dudes like Representatives Dwight Dudley and Carl Zimmermann.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “This is the big tent party. This is the people’s party. This is what Florida is all about. I’ve seen it, I know it, I feel it. So let’s go get it!” — Charlie Crist
SPOTTED: Ana Cruz, uber fundraiser Justin Day, congressional candidate Jessica Ehrlich, Ben Diamond, House District 61 candidates Ed Narain and Sean Shaw, my favorite Tamp City Councilmen Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, as well as once-and-future Tampa City Council candidate Dr. Jason Wilson.
DEMS SAY SCOTT VULNERABLE, BUT WHO’LL FACE HIM via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press
(S)cott has the stage to himself, traveling to the state’s largest media markets to tout teacher raises and projecting himself as a pro-education governor without an opponent to remind people he helped the Legislature increase school funding by more than $1 billion his first year in office. And don’t be surprised if the governor who won office as a far-right, tea party conservative gets on his private plane and makes his case as an environmental governor when he signs an Everglades restoration bill.
“We’re looking at a year out, but nobody’s making a move. It’s like a basketball game where someone is sitting back with the ball and nobody’s moving toward him,” said Screven Watson, a Democratic political strategist. “We’re giving him, basically, this summer to go out and lay the predicate for why he should be re-elected and that’s very dangerous.”
… Privately, both sides see Nelson as the Democrats’ best hope of beating Scott. Nelson, who will be 71 before the election, says he’s not planning to run. The third-term senator just finished a campaign and the longer he stays in the Senate, the higher he rises in the chamber’s ranks. Still, Democrat fundraisers and the party elite have put pressure on him knowing just how important the race is to a party that has been insignificant in Tallahassee since the 1990s.
“Nelson has said no. He hasn’t said ‘hell no,’ and there’s a difference in my book,” Watson said.
NAN RICH SAYS SHE’S UNDETERRED via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel
Rich — the only Democrat to announce her candidacy for the 2014 gubernatorial election — has been campaigning for a year without grabbing much media attention. But she says she is energized by the people who turn out to hear her talk.
… “I’m in this race, and I’m in it to stay,” she told a gathering last week of about 60 Democrats in Solivita, the 55-and-older community in northeast Polk County. It was one of the four or five appearances she says she makes each week across the state.
“Stranger things have happened in Florida politics,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett, noting that Rich has little money or name recognition. “But going into the race, she would be considered an underdog.”
Leary caught up with Sen. Nelson, talking to him about President Obama’s call to close Guantanamo (he agrees), his letter to Gov. Rick Scott urging a special session on Medicaid (no response) and Marco Rubio’s role in immigration (“I’m very proud of him”).
Then came talk that Nelson is being courted for, and quietly considering, a challenge to Scott 2014. Nelson, re-elected last year, seems against it, but also expressed frustration with Washington.
L: Are you ready to emphatically state right now you are not going to run?
N: Oh, come on. I’ve already told you: I have no plans to run for governor. I have no intention of running for governor. Why can’t you accept the King’s English?
L: Well, you know nobody does until you say ‘I am declaring right now I am not running for governor.’
N: Why do I have to declare? I never declared that I was. Why do I have to declare that I’m not?
L: So let me just ask in plain, we will not see you running for governor?
N: I’ve said what I said.
L: That leaves a little bit of wiggle room.
N: Well, that’s because you guys need something to write about.
L: But you could right now say ‘I’m not going to run’ and that will clear it up.
N: I have no plans to run. I have no intention to run.
L: I know, but that’s different from saying I’m not going to run.
N: Awww, come on. Come on. Look I’m enjoying being senator. But I must say I’m frustrated. I’m very frustrated. I mean the extremists around here. You can’t get anything done. The filibuster is really being abused.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will kick off the “Building Up Florida Manufacturing” victory tour celebrating the elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment. The tour will run Monday and Tuesday, making six stops.
MAXWELL COLUMN: SCOTT SHOULD CALL SPECIAL SESSION
Scott should summon Legislators back to Tallahassee for this reason: There’s a good chance he’ll win.
First of all, he is on the popular side of this issue.
Polls should the vast majority of Floridians want the expansion. Senate Republicans want the expansion. Democrats want the expansion.
The only ones who don’t are House Republicans, who don’t even bother formulating cogent arguments as much as they just scream “Obamacare! Obamacare! Obamacare!”
PET PROJECTS MAY FACE SCOTT VETO via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times
Turn to any page of Florida’s 450-page budget and what’s most striking is the missing detail.
Yes, as page 421 points out, it’s a $74.5 billion spending plan that pays for 114,480.5 positions. But specific descriptions about what the money actually pays for are noticeably absent.
… No other explanation is provided as to what these projects are.
… “There isn’t simply a central stock pile of information in the appropriations office,” replied Gaetz’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, in an email. “In many instances, an extensive search that diverts the time and resources of staff from other responsibilities will reveal no additional records exist.”
“It’s really hard to get a handle on what these projects are,” said Kurt Wenner, vice president of tax research for Florida Tax Watch. “A lot of time even the agencies don’t know.”
After Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned from the lieutenant governor post two months ago, Gov. Scott said he would wait until after the legislative session to select a replacement. A week after the session concluded, Scott says: “I’m working on that.”
In an interview broadcast Friday on WFLA radio in Tampa Scott said he hadn’t made the pick just yet. “I’m going to find somebody that can do a great job and help make sure that we’re the number one state for job creation and the number one state to get an education,” Scott said.
Asked about Allen West, a Republican from Palm Beach Gardens who lost his bid to remain in Congress last November, Scott replied “He’s a great American and a great patriot, and he’d be a great lieutenant governor.” Other names that have been frequently mentioned as possibilities include former Congresswoman Sandy Adams and Sen. Anitere Flores.
WILL SCOTT’S TEACHER RAISES WIN HIM VOTES? via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Despite making teacher pay his top priority of the legislative session, Scott, like every Republican governor before him, appears unlikely to break the Democratic Party’s powerful bond with the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
“Nobody knows what he’s thinking with this strategy,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “It’s clearly all about 2014 and the governor’s race. Teachers welcome the raises. But that doesn’t buy forgiveness.”
… (E)ven many Republican-leaning teachers remain wary of Scott, said Sandra Maldonado-Ross, a Central Florida high school teacher and president of the FEA’s Republican Educators’ Caucus.
“They’re definitely appreciative of the raise,” said Maldonado-Ross. “But I think there’s a lot of suspicions about, ‘Why now?’”
>>>State Rep. Mark Pafford represents the district that includes Wynnebrook Elementary School, but Pafford didn’t join Gov. Scott when he visited the school last week to tout teacher pay raises. Pafford is a frequent Scott critic, but said his absence was due to a scheduling conflict and not political disagreements.
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BARBIE AMONG FLORIDA’S NEW RESIDENTS, AND OTHER RELATED NEWS by contributor Karen Cyphers
Like many other Californians seeking to escape stifling regulation, Barbie has left Malibu for … the Sawgrass Mall in Sunrise. The 10,000-square foot, first-of-its-kind Dreamhouse opened Wednesday. It took two years to create and features an “endless closet” and other rooms where guests are invited to interact through multimedia features and can get made-over by Barbie staff before taking their own stroll down a runway. The Dreamhouse experience is devoted to “the fashionista and multi-career role model.” So, let’s talk about Barbie’s careers. I’ve been holding onto an April 2013 analysis in The Economist that describes how the price of a Barbie doll varies by its profession. “Most in the ‘Barbie I can be…’ collection cost $13.99,” the column reads, “But some, like ‘computer engineer’ … can fetch two or three times more.” Their explanation? Price discrimination: the concept that “sellers exploit parental hopes that a girl playing paleontologist may grow up to be the real thing, so charge more.” Just something to keep in mind, if you choose, when doing the Dreamhouse tour with your little ones. As reported in the Sun-Sentinel, Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst, said Barbie’s new house will likely serve as an experimental project for the company to determine whether it can replicate the concept with its other brands. To which I tell Mattel, if that happens, at least let it be an interactive museum of board games. Or something with Hot Wheels.
FLORIDA ENTERS MEGA MILLIONS THIS WEEK via the News Service of Florida
Florida Lottery will have a new multi-state game for players to toss money toward next week, while the action for another fixture goes cold. Starting Wednesday, May 15, Florida joins 42 other states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in offering Mega Millions. The addition of the game in Florida could spell a big economic hit for retailers just north of the border in Georgia, which have reported a surge of Florida players when the Mega Million jackpot has reached into triple digits. The jackpot – drawings are held Tuesday and Friday – starts at $12 million. The start of Mega Millions comes as Florida Lottery discontinues the Lucky Lines instant-win terminal game on Tuesday. The game has been offered since late 2010.
FLORIDA TO “GAIN JOBS” THROUGH ITS FEDERAL HEALTH CARE SNUB? by contributor Karen Cyphers
Another health care headline double-take: “Four States that Snubbed Health Care Law Gaining Jobs From It”, as reported by Kaiser Health News, describing how the federal government will be creating jobs in Florida and three other states all of whom rejected health care expansion under federal reforms. In states that chose not to develop health care exchanges as described by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, uninsured residents will be directed to federally-run marketplaces. Up to 9,000 jobs are anticipated to be created at call centers to support the federal exchange and help people shop for coverage. Florida’s Tampa-based call center jobs will be added to an existing Medicare call center.
Although I am sure that both proponents and opponents of state health exchanges will take this dubious headline as a win — proponents, to suggest that the implementation of exchanges creates jobs to support their operation, and opponents, to suggest that by rejecting reform we improve our economy — I’d be careful to assume either as true. Nearly every state has conducted economic analyses on the impact of federal reforms (Medicaid expansion and state-based health care exchanges) with findings that span a dramatic range — all of which talk about jobs in the tens of thousands and economic impacts in the millions or more. Hospitals groups and other advocates promise major booms in employment through the measures, while conservative think tanks predict a drop in jobs up to 800,000 through the law’s implementation. In other words: The ‘creation’ of a few thousand call center jobs is a slice of pepperoni on a moon-sized, ten-topping pizza.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***
5 QUESTIONS FOR BRIAN PITTS OF JUSTICE 2 JESUS here, including:
Q: How do you know so much about so many bills?
PITTS: At the beginning it was many hours. But now, actually, it’s easy…The title of the bill is easy, and the title summary. As you know, it’s an act relating to something, and all the things that are behind it. The drafting helps a lot, and that’s what it’s supposed to do. So actually, I’m just using what they’re supposed to do for a quick fix on the bill.
Now, you still have to know what you’re doing. That concise information don’t really tell you. Well, easy. That’s why they have staff, again. The first page of the staff analysis is a concise summary of that. So if you take the title and the title summary and the first page of the bill analysis [snaps fingers] you know what the bill is.
The first year, it was brutal. I’m going to tell you right now. Forget burning the midnight oil. Forget where the rubber meets the road. Wasn’t no road, wasn’t no oil…Yes, I had to figure it out. And of course, as a regular citizen, they don’t tell you how it goes, and there’s a reason for that, of course, so you can’t figure out what’s going down.
Now I’ll be honest: I would not have gotten involved if it hadn’t been for (the now-defunct community organizing group) ACORN, ’cause ACORN used to have these one-week segments when they would bring people up. If it had not been for ACORN, I wouldn’t have. ‘Cause what happened was, it gave me the interest. I says, “Wait a minute. What else they doin’ up here?”
SIMPSON HOSTING CITIZENS PROPERTY POLICYHOLDER FORUMS via contributor Karen Cyphers
During Florida’s 2013 Legislative Session, 63 bills were filed regarding property insurance, 45 of which specifically proposed changes to Citizens, and one of which passed. SB 1770, a 72-page bill with dozens of amendments, makes various reforms intended to return Citizens to its intended role as Florida’s “insurer of last resort”. To assist policyholders in understanding the bill’s impact, Simpson is holding Forums on May 20 and May 21 at the Pasco Hernando Community Colleges in New Port Richey and Spring Hill, respectively, from 9 am to 5 pm. Representatives from Citizens will begin each of the forum with an overview followed by an opportunity for policyholders to have one-on-one sessions with a representative to review their individual questions and concerns. Simpson’s staff will also be available to meet with policyholders until noon at each location.
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MURPHY CHALLENGERS NEED TO RAISE MILLIONS, GOP CANDIDATE RECRUITER SAYS by George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
Any Republican who’s serious about challenging freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy next year should put a campaign organization together before October and be prepared to raise $3 million to $5 million, the GOP’s top House candidate recruiter says.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is the National Republican Congressional Committee’s vice chairman for recruitment, was in South Florida last week to chat with some potential candidates and offer a reality check to the host of Republicans who have been eyeing Murphy’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat.
McHenry met with former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner on Thursday and businessman Gary Uber on Friday. He met with state Rep. Gayle Harrelland former state Rep.Carl Domino in Washington earlier in the week and has also had a sit-down with St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery.
McHenry didn’t rule out the possibility of future meetings with other Republicans who have entered or are pondering the race. That list includes Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel, former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest and Alan Schlesinger, a former GOP Senate nominee in Connecticut who now lives in Palm Beach County.
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LATEST POLL SHOWS MIKE HILL SURGING TO 12-POINT LEAD OVER ED GRAY IN HD 2 SPECIAL ELECTION
According to the latest survey by St. Pete Polls, the candidate likely to emerge on Tuesday is Mike Hill. The Tea Party leader has surged to a twelve-point lead over former Gulf Breeze mayor Ed Gray, with Hill receiving 36% of respondents’ support and Gray receiving 24%. Former Pensacola City Councilman Jack Nobles is in third at 11%.
Gray began the race with a thirteen point lead over Hill, according to a poll taken on April 6th. Hill closed the gap, drawing to within six points in a poll taken on April 20. Today, three weeks after the last poll was taken, Hill has zoomed past Gray as almost all of the previously undecided voters have broken to Hill.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Tucker Hall’s Bill Carlson and writer extraordinare Adam Weinstein.