A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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COMING FEATURE: WHO ARE FLORIDA’S BEST POLITICAL CONSULTANTS
First, we identified Tampa Bay’s Top 25 politicians. Then we named Florida’s 30 brightest politicos under 30-years old. Our next series promises to be the most interesting: Who are Florida’s best political consultants? Some of them — Steve Schale, Rick Wilson — are household names, at least within households in Tallahassee. Others, such as Pat Bainter, wield enormous influence without showing up often in the headlines.
By analyzing campaign finance spending data, election results and several other metrics, as well as surveying dozens of operatives in the industry, we are compiling the definitive list of the best political consultants in the state.
This special series will be unveiled beginning September 2. In the meantime, your input is welcomed. Who belongs on this list? How should this list be compiled? Would you like to be part of the panel which determines who makes the list?
If you are interested, please drop me an e-mail to Peter@Extensive-Enterprises.com.
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OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE SPEECH HIGHLIGHTS REBATES, LOWER PREMIUMS
President Obama began a renewed attempt to sell his signature health care law to the American people on Thursday with a speech that focused on insurance-company rebates and a promise of lower premiums, the Associated Press reports. Obama said that $500 million in rebates are going to almost 9 million people, thanks to his law’s work to hold insurance companies more accountable. “If they’re not spending your premium dollars on health care, they have to give you some money back,” Obama said.
The president also touted states — California, Oregon, Washington, and New York — that are anticipating lower premiums because consumers can shop for coverage in state health exchanges.
RUBIO STUMBLES ON IMMIGRATION via Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico
The very issue Rubio … thought would be a game-changing, legacy-builder looks like a big liability for the Florida senator, at least right now. … [T]he self-confident presidential hopeful suddenly looks wobbly, even a little weak, as he searches for what’s next. … His poll numbers in Iowa and nationally are falling among conservatives. And he clearly feels intense pressure to start acting more conservative … One of his new, non-immigration pushes: Warning he won’t vote to fund the government unless Obamacare is thrown out.
… Some top conservatives are questioning Rubio’s judgment on immigration, arguing that he was ‘played’ by Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats in the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration working group… ‘The business, financial, tech and evangelical groups were for the bill – that’s all pretty good stuff. He showed political strength by not kowtowing to the … right. And if the bill fails, the only way Republicans could win the Hispanic vote in a national election would be with him on the ticket.’
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U.S. SENATE REACHES DEAL ON STUDENT LOANS via The Washington Post
Senate negotiators have reached a deal on a new interest rate structure for federal student loans in time to avoid significant rate hikes before the next academic year.
For the coming school year, undergraduates would see rates of 3.86 percent. That’s lower than the current fixed rate of 6.8 percent … Graduate students would pay about 5.41 percent for the coming year… Loans taken out by parents for their dependent children would have an interest rate around 6.41 percent … Right now, graduate students have interest rates of 6.8 and 7.9 percent, while parents pay 7.9 percent.
Inside Higher Ed explains the mechanics of the deal: “Undergraduate loans — those that are federally subsidized as well as those that are not — would be set at the Treasury rate plus 2.05 percentage points, while loans for graduate students would be set at 3.6 points above the Treasury rate, and loans for parents at 4.6 percentage points over the T-bill rate. The maximum rate would be capped at 8.25 percent for undergraduate loans, 9.25 percent for graduate student loans, and 10.25 percent for parent loans.”
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ABOUT THAT KITCHENS POLL SHOWING CRIST LEADING SCOTT BY 29 POINTS
According to a new survey taken this month, Gov. Rick Scott looks to be in “big trouble.” The Governor falls far behind both Sen. Bill Nelson and former Gov. Charlie Crist in a subscriber-only poll by the Kitchens Group.
Crist and Nelson both beat Scott by 64-35 percent, but that is only the beginning of his troubles. Former Scott rival Democrat Alex Sink of Tampa would win 59-41 percent, while former state Sen. Nan Rich, who has been struggling to get her name out to the voters, bests Scott 55-45 percent.
Kitchen’s poll was a forced decision between two candidates, meaning voters did not have the opportunity to select ‘undecided’ or ‘none of the above.’ That means it did not matter whether the voters actually knew anything about the candidates. The poll was conducted July 5-10, and has a margin of error of 3.8 percent, Kitchen said.
That’s all well and good, but as Democratic strategist Steve Schale tweeted: “… if anyone believes that poll, I’ve got some ocean front property in Ocala to sell you.”
Sure, sure, it’s easy to dismiss this poll, but what if the results had been different.
If Kitchens’ poll showed Crist and Scott tied or, imagine, Scott leading Crist, the Florida GOP would have held a press conference, sent out five e-mails, and melted down on Twitter crowing about the results. Lenny Curry would have been squawking ’til the cows came home had Scott finished ahead of Crist, Nelson or Sink.
Obviously that was not the case.
All then Florida politicos are left with is another poll, albeit one apparently conducted outside of a Carrabba’s, showing that Charlie Crist is twice as popular as Rick Scott.
And we really didn’t need a poll to tell us that.
THE EMPTY CHAIR SAGA, PART III via contributor Karen Cyphers
In 2006, Crist’s gubernatorial campaign calculated how many votes were missed in Congress by Democratic opponent Jim Davis and portrayed his record of absence with an empty chair. Apparently, it was an empty chair that knows how to swivel full circle. Two years later when Crist was courting John McCain to be the vice presidential nominee, the Florida Democratic Party slammed Crist for his “blatant absence during the state’s most dire economic times.” The Democrats launched a website, www.emptychaircharlie.com, to highlight what they saw as the governor’s inattention to his office and to what they considered his “astounding amount of time off” from work. The Dems went on to call him a “self-centered opportunist” and hammered Crist for his “reckless, quick-fix approach to our state’s highest office.” Today, five years later, the Republican Party of Florida has re-launched that same site, once again attacking Crist — but only as an archive, reposting the very same words that the Democrats had used against him prior to Crist’s joining their party.
“Those who plan on voting in the Democratic primary next year deserve to be reminded of how the Florida Democratic Party felt about the man who is now courting them for their nomination in next year’s gubernatorial race,” said Lenny Curry. “As a lifelong Democrat, a simple question for Allison Tant would be whether or not she agrees with FDP’s attack that Crist was ‘supposed to be working for Florida, but it’s clear as day that Charlie is only working for himself.'”
Will the Democratic infrastructure be as willing to stomach their own flip-flop on Crist as they are the flip-flops he himself brings to the dance?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This contest presents a good opportunity for Democrats, but in a state that went strongly Republican in the last midterm election, Scott’s ouster is hardly a slam dunk despite his weaknesses.” – Governing.com.
RPOF’S LATEST CRIST ATTACK ALSO PUTS PALIN, AYOTTE IN BLAST AREA via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Thursday’s Republican Party of Florida attack on Charlie Crist recycles a 2010 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee web video that lumped then-Gov. Crist with RepublicansSarah Palin and Kelly Ayotte as politicians who betrayed voters by abandoning their jobs.
At the time of the Democratic ad, Crist was Florida’s Republican-turned-independent governor whose no-party Senate campaign was siphoning votes from Democratic nomineeKendrick Meek.
The Democratic ad likened Crist to Palin, who resigned in the middle of her term as Alaska governor in 2009, and Ayotte, who stepped down as New Hampshire attorney general in 2009 to pursue a successful 2010 Senate bid. Unlike Palin and Ayotte, Crist didn’t leave office mid-term to run for Senate, but he did pass up running for re-election.
“Of course the DSCC ad took shots at many Republicans,” RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth said. “The difference is Charlie Crist is now a Democrat. So the question is really for national Democrats: Do they still stand by their attack that Charlie Crist is a quitter?”
SCOTT WALKS OUT ON PRESS CONFERENCE via Noah Pransky of 10 News
In a week filled with a number of growing controversies, Gov. Scott has apparently had enough.
After scheduling a press conference Thursday, Gov. Scott made the media wait nearly an hour, then answered one question for a total of 51 seconds.
The question had to do with the national outcry over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and dozens of protesters waiting in the Capitol to talk to the governor.
Scott answered with what seemed to be a well-rehearsed rebuttal to criticism, saying he has no desire to change Stand Your Ground after a 19-person, bipartisan panel analyzed the law and suggested no changes.
TEACHERS SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT GOV. SCOTT; DEMOCRATS UPSET via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Florida Democratic Party is mad because the Republican Party of Florida published a web video using footage of public school teachers who were interviewed saying really nice things about Gov. Rick Scott. According to a press release from State Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, footage of the teachers was misused by the RPOF who turned the interviewed teachers into political pawns or props for the governor’s reelection campaign. The thing is, nobody required these teachers to be interviewed or told them what to say, and a video with their comments became publicly available when it was distributed as a news release following the Teacher of the Year Summit in June. The RPOF got footage from this release, just as any other party could have done. My guess is that had the teachers said mean things about Gov. Scott’s policies, the FDP would have been the ones cutting the footage into web videos for their perpetual campaign against him. Without calling each teacher to ask whether it was okay, and without concern for what impression it might give to voters. Instead, here is what some of the award-winning teachers had to say:
“I think Gov. Scott is a visionary. He is a brilliant businessman…. I think what he has done for the business world for Florida he can incorporate that into education and see, ‘wait a second we have to invest in our children by investing in our teachers,’ and that’s what I’m so looking forward to as a teacher.” …. “It means a lot to educators as a whole because we know he listens to us.” …. “For teachers on the front line the investment of the Governor in education is paramount and I think we are already seeing some of the changes that come with the dedication and his listening to us and all the changes he is trying to make in Florida.”
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida TaxWatch, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Florida, and the Florida Retail Federation will release the results of a new study that examines the issue of e-fairness in Florida and its impact on Main Street businesses and the state’s economy. Florida Press Association, Tallahassee. 11:00 a.m.
BRADENTON’S BILL GALVANO TARGETS SENATE PRESIDENCY via Sara Kennedy of the Bradenton Herald
State Sen. Bill Galvano is quietly amassing pledges from colleagues aimed at winning the presidency of the Florida Senate in 2018.
The Republican attorney already holds signed pledges from most of his Senate class, said state Sen. Nancy Detert. Detert said she is committed to voting for Galvano “because he’s from my area, and I’ve known him for years, and I have much respect for him.”
This is, of course, assuming Galvano is re-elected in 2014 and again in 2018 to four-year terms, and that the Senate majority remains in Republican hands. The Senate president typically serves a two-year term. … Galvano’s high-profile terms in the Florida House also will help him win a campaign for the Senate presidency, said Mike Bennett, Manatee County supervisor of elections and a former state senator.
BLOG POST (albeit tongue-in-cheek): Matt Gaetz eyes Senate Presidency in 2025-26 here.
DCF SECRETARY CALLS IT QUITS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune
David Wilkins, embattled head of the state’s Department of Children and Families, stepped down Thursday and the agency’s regional director in Miami will be interim secretary.
His temporary successor is a former prosecutor, having served 15 years in Miami-Dade County, where she was hired by then-State Attorney and later-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
For the record, Wilkins “resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector and to provide more attention to his foundation,” a news release said. Esther Jacobo of Miami replaces him for now.
Wilkins had taken publicity hits in recent months: Four children in DCF care have died since May 16, and local child-welfare agencies blamed Wilkins for trying to exert too much control over them.
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10 CLASSIC POLITICAL ADS WORTH COPYING via Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball
As we survey the developing House, Senate and governors races, we thought it would be fun — and, hopefully, instructive — to recall some classic ads from past races (we excluded presidential commercials) that contained themes, images and ideas that today’s candidates might consider borrowing.
DUVAL COUNTY SHERIFF JOHN RUTHERFORD ENDORSES PAUL RENNER TO REPLACE DAN DAVIS IN HOUSE DISTRICT 15
In the open Jacksonville State House seat being vacated by Rep. Daniel Davis, Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford has endorsed Republican Paul Renner. According to a release, Renner was raised in Jacksonville and is a graduate of Davidson College and the University of Florida, Levin College of Law. He served 23-years in the US Navy on both active duty and in the reserves, including deployments in support of combat operations during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in Afghanistan during 2011. His personal awards include the Combat Action Ribbon and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. He also served as an assistant state attorney, earning a strong reputation for his successful efforts to prosecute serious felony offenses. Renner is an attorney and partner at Milam Howard Nicandri Dees and Gillam, P.A., where he represents many local businesses. He is active in the community and has served as President of the Jacksonville Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society and as General Counsel to the Duval County Republican Party.
FUNDRAISER SET FOR REPS. METZ AND PASSIDOMO
Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli, Chairman Richard Corcoran and Representative Jose Oliva invite you to a fundraising reception benefiting the reelection campaigns of Representatives Larry Metz and Kathleen Passidomo. Join then on Wednesday, September 25, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., at the Governors Club Library Room in Tallahassee.
TAKE YOUR FAVORITE REPUBLICAN SENATOR OUT TO THE BALLGAME via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times See the invite here.
America’s favorite pastime is, of course, baseball. Tallahassee’s favorite pastime is, of course, raising money.
Senate Republicans will merge the two next month when they hold a fund-raiser at Yankee Stadium during an Aug. 13 game between the Bronx Bombers and the Los Angeles Angels. A VIP reception precedes the baseball. The Yankees, who train in Tampa every spring, are represented in Tallahassee by the lobbyist Brian Ballard and his partners.
The listed co-hosts on the invitation are Senate President Don Gaetz and his designated successor, Sen. Andy Gardiner. The money will benefit Senate Majority 2014, the fund-raising account for GOP senators who are up for re-election. Sixteen of the 26 Republican senators will face the voters in 2014.
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ALLEN, MOONEY & BARNES ANNOUNCES PROMOTION OF KIMBERLY DIXON TO AVP
The financial investment firm Allen, Mooney & Barnes Investments (AMB) announced Tuesday the promotion of Kimberly Dixon to associate vice president. The promotion is in recognition of her exceptional work in the areas of financial advisement, investment management and employee benefits. In addition to her work with AMB, Dixon serves as the acting president of the Economic Club of Florida, and is a member of the Tallahassee Community College Board of Directors and Leadership Tallahassee. In addition, Dixon is the immediate past president of the Tallahassee Regional Estate Planning Council. Dixon received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mercer University and later completed her graduate studies at Georgia State University.
MILISSA HOLLAND TO JOIN SOUTHERN STRATEGIES GROUP
Southern Strategies Group has added to its elite lobbying force with the welcoming of Milissa Holland to the squad. Holland, a six-year Flagler County Commissioner, will lead the Tallahassee office’s Local Government practice area, and will work with the Jacksonville team representing clients in Northeast Florida. Holland represented the Flagler commission on the Northeast Florida Regional Council where she served on legislative and economic development committees and played a prominent role in the Reality Check Project. She recently joined the Central Florida Water Initiative Solutions Planning Team, and will continue to serve on the Board of Directors of 1000 Friends of Florida, where she is currently Vice Chair. Milissa also belongs to the Urban Land Institute, North Florida District, serving 34 counties.
“Increasingly not only private citizens but also local governments are finding they need lobbying representation within their regions and in Tallahassee so they can continue to flourish in a rapidly changing political landscape. Milissa is perfectly qualified to fill that need,” said Paul Bradshaw, the firm’s founder.
SPOTTED: Uber lobbyist Rich Heffley at the Dave Matthews Band concert in Tampa on Wednesday.
SUGAR SUBSIDIES A BIPARTISAN POLITICAL FAILURE
A column on the Public Campaign blog blasts the sugar lobbying machine for the sweetheart deal embedded in the 2013 farm bill that will continue subsidies to sugar conglomerates despite what writer Mike Bennettsees as the negative impact of this on small farmers, manufacturers and consumers. Sugar’s victory in maintaining these deals derives from their enormous campaign contribution activity — amounts far disproportionate to the relative size of the industry. While sugar products comprise only 1% of US crop production, sugar interests represent 35% of lobbying expenditures by crop producers, totaling $8 million in 2012. And it seems to be paying off. The US House passed a farm bill last week that was stripped of food stamps, but made permanent the current sugar subsidy programs that are currently subject to regular reauthorizations.
Republicans aren’t the only ones responsible for perpetuating the lobby-drive handouts. In fact, in 2007, the conservative Cato Institute reported on the same and implored the newly-Democratic Congress to “show that they are different” by radically changing sugar policies in a way that “could cut food costs for families and end unfair benefits for a small group of wealthy sugar barons.” This didn’t happen under Democratic leadership. And to Cato analysts, this continued inflation of US sugar prices is directly responsible for higher food prices, lost jobs, and the outsourcing of production to other countries. Making these subsidies permanent is clearly a move in the wrong direction.
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Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Bill Bunting (NRA/GOP), Eric Deggans, Rev. Charles MacKenzie (Rainbow/PUSH Florida), and the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith.
Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Congressman Dennis Ross.
The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: Sarah Bascom, Sean Pittman, Steve Vancore, and Gary Yordon.