The week that was in Florida politics — in one read

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Of the millions of sound bites generated in Florida politics this week, these bubbled to the surface:

Unemployment rose in most states in July, and fewer states added jobs than in June.  But Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.1 and the state added 34,500 jobs. 

Rick Scott, or at least his handlers, raised eyebrows with some sloppy advance work according to the Crowley Report, when his “SUV slid past hundreds of protesters, a gaggle of media, and zipped behind the protection of a high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire” at a tour of the polluted St. Lucie Lock. Scott defended his record on water, but “the optics were really bad.”

William Gibson of the Orlando Sentinel reported that an estimated 1,205 kids in Florida will be denied Head Start enrollment this coming school year, far less than the 2,700 slots the White House said would be lost due to ‘sequester’. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that the sequester is hurting the poor, but, via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald, didn’t offer very many specific ideas about how to reduce the deficit to cancel the sequester other than ending tax loopholes for big corporations.

Jim Greer was back in the news, this time for his role in trying to oust a state gambling regulator at DBPR who had issued quarter house permits — contrary to the interests of Greer’s client, Mardi Gras Casino in Broward County.  According to Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida, wagering director Dave Roberts was forced to resign two days after Greer asked his longtime friend (and his son’s godfather) secretary Chuck Drago to see to it.

Rick Scott was bullied a bit that Florida’s 2012 security costs for protecting the governor and important visitors to the state were the highest in the last eight years. Yet much of this increase was due to the hosting of the RNC in Tampa…. which brought in an estimated $404 million in economic impact through the influx of politicos, police, protestors, and guests.

It was a busy news week for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.  The freshman congressman held public budget-balancing exercises in Palm Beach and Fort Pierce designed to engage constituents in fiscal decision making; but among the attendees were protestors from Americans for Prosperity who vocalized the need for federal spending cuts.  Via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post, Murphy was also named as the subject of a $10,000 NRCC ad buy, where he will be blasted for votes on ObamaCare.

Sen. Gwen Margolis filed a bill (SB 94) requiring juries in capital and life felony cases to “reflect the demographics of the county in which the case is to be tried” and to require a 12-member panel for life felony cases like Zimmerman’s.

Florida Atlantic University is offering a 3-hour elective class on Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law; a federal appeals court rejected a request by Gov. Scott for a rehearing in the legal battle over his executive order to require random drug tests for executive agency employees; and DCF was grilled by Miami-Dade County judges over “systemic” failures that have left children dead or injured.


“I used bankruptcy as way to responsibly pay my debt,” said Allie Braswell, whose candidacy for Florida’s chief financial officer ended this week following news that he filed for bankruptcy three times in two states.   The RPOF had some fun with Braswell’s four-day campaign.  Allison Tant did not. Steve Schale comes to Tant’s defense, kinda, in a post lamenting the challenges of candidate recruitment.

Via Rich Shopes of the Tampa Bay Times, Ann Hildebrand’s flirtation with a political comeback was even shorter: she had considered running for Fasano’s old HD 36 seat before learning she didn’t meet the requirement of living in state for at least two years prior to running.  The longtime Republican and former Pasco County Commissioner had recently retired to a lakeside home outside Auburn, Ala.  

Also in the HD 36 race, Republican Bill Gunter raked in a few more legislative and law enforcement endorsements.  Jeromy Harding, 23, entered the race; as did Richard Sikes, 36. Democrat Amanda Murphy, an executive with Raymond James and active community volunteer, also filed to succeed Mike Fasano — and has the support of Leader-Designee Darryl Rouson. Follow her at @VoteAmanda.

For his reelection campaign, Mark Danish doesn’t want to raise more scrutiny regarding campaign activities on school district time: he is taking a break from teaching middle school to focus on his race. Danish is the subject of an open investigation by the Hillsborough County school district’s professional standards office.

Alex Sink loathes Rick Scott, but is still unsure about running: her kids and her father are not enthusiastic about it.  To Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, “she sounds genuinely undecided.”

Announced Tuesday by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association: at least one live, statewide televised gubernatorial debate will air in 2014, and if a heated primary pops up, there may be more.

Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel wrote on Tuesday that the phenomenon that helped get Obama reelected in 2012 may do the same thing for Scott in 2014, even though he is “one of the most unlikely politicians to ever walk the face of the earth.”

The AP published a rundown of all the possible 2016 presidential candidates and what they’re doing.

Frank Bruni, in a Sunday NY Times column, touts Jeb Bush as the leading new tone-setter for the GOP. Best line: “Besides, if Hillary Clinton indeed rolls to the Democratic nomination, Republicans needn’t be so concerned about a nominee of their own with a dynastic aura. Clinton versus Bush would be political royalty versus political royalty.”

And Marian Johnson of the Florida Chamber offered a note about special elections: “There was a time when a special election was, indeed, something of a rarity. But in the last 15 years, special elections have exploded and have become a common part of the election cycle.. Since 1998, there have been 42 special elections (Senate 11, House 29 and Congressional 2), including the latest one, HD 36.  In the two years prior, 1996 and 1997, there were only two…one each year.” 


Want to know how Matt Gaetz raised a quarter of a million dollars in 49 days? Brecht Heuchan knows, because his company, ContributionLink, provided the metrics and the management behind it. The ContributionLink software system manages more than $900,000,000 worth of donor information.

Via the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Marco Rubio met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday in a string of Cali fundraisers.

Federal fundraising reporters for July came in: the RNC outraised the DNC by $2 million.  The RNC brought in $5.9 million in July, against the $3.8 million posted by the DNC.  The RNC has $12.3 million cash on hand; while the DNC struggles with $4.1 million cash on hand but an $18 million debt hole left to work out. See Politico for more.

Other state office fundraisers were scheduled this week:  Jake Raburn – Aug. 27 – Fishawk Sporting Clays; Scott Sturgill – Aug. 27 – Heathrow Country Club; Chris Latvala – Sept. 18 – Island Way Grille;  Reps. Janet Adkins, Charles McBurney, Lake Ray, “Doc” Renuart, Charles Van Zant, and Elizabeth Porter – Sept. 23 – Governors Club; Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli –  Sept. 25 – at the home of Chris and Kellie Kraft in Tallahassee;  Shawn Harrison – Sept. 26 – Hunters Green Country Club.


Michael Hirsch of National Journal pointed out that along with the usual “second-term blues”, President Obama’s “biggest problem right now is that he can’t seem to get anyone to listen.”  And apparently, that is the same problem facing ObamaCare.

Both Obama’s slip in approval rating and looming trouble on the Affordable Care Act front may be attributed to younger voters.

I shared Gallup poll data this week affirming that younger voters know the least about ObamaCare. This may mean even lower compliance with the individual mandate when the provision takes effect, which in turn will undermine the law’s fiscal basis that relies on low-risk healthy people being in plans.   Even among the entire adult population, only 15% of respondents claim to be “very” familiar with the law, and another 35% feel they are “somewhat” informed.  More importantly, familiarity with the law is adversely related to approval. Americans who say that they are very or somewhat familiar with ObamaCare are far more likely to disapprove of it (55%).  

Meanwhile, liberal advocacy groups feel that the State of Florida is “not much” help in enrolling people in ObamaCare. William Gibson of the Orlando Sentinel gave voice to Laura Goodhue, director of Florida CHAIN, an alliance of health advocacy groups that is working to enroll consumers in plans by Jan. 1.  

The Washington Post reported Thursday that some local governments are cutting workers’ hours due to the Affordable Care Act.  By reducing the number of hours part-time employees work, several cities will avoid dealing with spending hundreds of thousands in new health-care costs under ObamaCare.  Cited Middletown Township, NJ; Brevard County, FL; Lynchburg, VA; Chippewa County, WI.

UPS also said Wednesday that it will stop providing coverage to spouses of employees who can obtain coverage from their own employers.

The RAND Corporation released a study suggesting that the one-year delay of the employer mandate “will not have a substantial impact on insurance coverage” (about 300,000 fewer people), but will have an $11 billion reduction in federal revenues from employer penalties.

These estimates are significantly lower than what the Congressional Budget Office reported, estimating that about 1 million fewer people will have employer-based healthcare as a result of the delay.

USA Today reported Tuesday that at least 8.5 million people will use the exchanges to buy insurance, higher than the 7 million expected by the federal government.   This doesn’t mean that these are the desired new enrollees, though: the Heritage Foundation warns that people may shift from getting insurance through employers who drop coverage, rather than those who are currently uninsured.

Florida won’t be joining; but it seems that GOP-led statehouses in Virginia, Ohio and Michigan are still trying to work out deals to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Gov. Scott and Pam Bondi raised concerns on Tuesday about the so-called “navigators” who will help people wade through health care laws. Scott is concerned that navigators will have access to sensitive data and that there aren’t enough safeguards to protect it.


This ‘week in data’ brought a few pieces of interest:

According to new Rasmussen numbers, Democrats identify more closely with their party’s Congressional members than Republicans do with their own.  More Democrats believe that the average Democrat in Congress feels about the same as they do (45%), while more Republicans feel their representation is either too liberal (30%) or too conservative (25%).

Another study to be published in September’s Political Research Quarterly asked whether partisan control of the agenda changes how Senators respond to the poor.  Their (unexpected) conclusion: “Republicans are more responsive than Democrats to middle-income constituents in the 109th Congress, and a case study of the 107th Senate reveals that responsiveness toward the wealthy increases once Democrats take control of the chamber.”

Florida was named by the National Science Foundation as among the US states with the highest geographical concentration of science and engineering (S&E) employment. But when I factored in state size and looked at S&E employment relative to population, Florida (and the other big states) don’t do so well at all.

The Cato Institute released a report showing that in most states, the value of welfare benefits greatly exceed the poverty level, which may provide disincentives for work.  Florida is among the few states where this is not the case.

Finally, if you ever wondered whether state laws on medical marijuana impact residents’ interest in growing their own, check out the charts linked within this post.


The Associated Industries of Florida and the American Water Works Association announced the fourth annual Florida Water Forum to be held on Friday, September 20, at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. 


Tim Nungesser was named the new legislative affairs director for NFIB.

Linda Robison, Stanley Weston, Ivan Ford, and Susan Maurer  were appointed to the Commission on Ethics.  Daniel Cane and Mary Beth McDonald were appointed to the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees; and Patricia Hollarn and Brian Seymour were appointed to the Florida Elections Commission; Pat Sacco was appointed to the Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council.

Alan Levine is leaving Florida… again.  This time for the Tennessee-based Mountain States Health Alliance, a non-profit hospital chain.   Levine was secretary of AHCA to Jeb Bush, health secretary to Lousiana’s Bobby Jindal, and most recently, group president for the Naples-based Health Management Associates. This gator leaves in January.

Fatima Perez of Southern Strategy Group was interviewed for Saint PetersBlog’s 4th Floor Files, sharing her ardor for Catholic Charities, pro bono work against human trafficking, bargain shoe purchases, and Kill Bill.  This is her first month with the firm.


Corcoran & Johnston (Matt Blair, Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, and Amanda Stewart) signed with Buccaneers Limited Partnership and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.  The Commission’s contract with Corcoran & Johnson followed an announcement last week that State Rep. Jamie Grant and others are looking to demolish the Commission.   The contract is reportedly worth ninety thousand dollars per year.  From Peter Schorsch: “At that rate, Corcoran & Johnston should ask Grant to suggest aloud that other agencies be shuttered.”

Liberty Partners (Ashley Dieguez, Jennifer Green, Thomas Hobbs, and Melanie Shank) signed No Casinos, Inc; Ballard Partners (Brian Ballard and Matt Forrest) signed  Max Planck Florida Foundation, Inc; The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners (Slayter Bayliss and Al Cardenas) signed Palladium Equity Partners Advisors, LLC.; and Edgar Castro and Nelson Diaz signed the Florida Girl Scout Legislative Network.

Brought to you by Karen Cyphers, PhD. Karen is president of The Cyphers Group, LLC. She directs data analysis, political consulting, and public policy research.