The week ahead in Florida politics

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This week in Tallahassee the talk will be about numbers. When polls close Tuesday the fall campaign season begins and after all politics is a game of numbers.

“The rubber meets the road after the primary is over,” said Brecht Heuchan of Contribution Link, a Tallahassee-based political consulting firm. “The voters start to pay more attention and the intensity of the campaign builds with every passing day. Now is when all the work pays off; plans get implemented and money gets spent and voters’ minds get changed.”

State-wide candidates for November have been known, except for the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, but that race has generated little interest or discussion because, few outside of their immediate families think George Sheldon or Perry Thurston have much of a chance of defeating Pam Bondi in November.

“Either would make an excellent Attorney General, however, unless they raise enough money to be competitive, they will have to swim upstream against off-year election dynamics,” said Steve Vancore, a Tallahassee-based consultant.

Off-year election dynamics produces the first set of numbers those living inside the Capitol’s political/media bubble make note of when speculating about the November election.  With neither control of the House or Senate at risk this campaign season is about who will be governor.

Much of the nation will be watching whether Charlie Crist, the self-proclaimed Reagan Republican former governor can successfully evolve into a Truman Democrat and recapture the governor’s mansion and make the Florida Democratic Party relevant for the first time in 20 years.

Democrats tend to sit out mid-term elTections in greater numbers than Republicans. There may be 400,000 more Democrats register to vote but four years ago the GOP turned out 7 percent more voters and produced supermajorities in the House and Senate and a 61,000 vote winning margin for Gov. Scott.

Confidence in the Scott’s camp that Republicans are more enthused about their candidate this election than Democrats is such that deputy campaign manager Tim Saler, Friday set an enthusiasm threshold of 40 for Crist and the Democrats.

“The last time a Republican Governor ran for re-election (2002), Democrats had 40 percent more voters in their primary than did Republicans,” Saler wrote in a memo the campaign released. “This is the baseline performance for Democrats in the 2014 primary. If Democrats fall short of that metric, it would be a dangerous sign for their base enthusiasm entering the general election.”

That enthusiasm advantage didn’t help Bill McBride defeat Gov. Jeb Bush but we will make note of it and place it next to a couple of grains of salt, one also for incoming House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-Palm Beach, who also likes the number 40.

“I think you will see an issue-related vote cast this cycle,” said Pafford, who’s counting on a trio of issues, water quality, medicinal marijuana and health care to drive Democratic-oriented voters to the polls.

“Some of these issues have been fermenting for 30 -40 years,” said Pafford. “They’re personal, people have experience with them. Almost everyone knows someone who suffered from cancer or struggled with medical costs and water is an issue from the panhandle’s oyster beds to the Indian River Lagoon to Florida Bay,” said Pafford.  “I think you will see an issue-related vote cast this cycle.”

Pafford said the Democrats focus is on providing a Democrat governor veto-proof margins in both chambers.

After the Republicans won supermajorities in the House and Senate four years ago the legislature’s first order of business was to override nine vetoes Crist issued in 2010.  For a Crist gubernatorial victory to have any relevance then Democrats need to hold onto at least 41 seats in the House and 14 in the Senate to protect a Crist veto.

Analysts explain the 2010 election results as an aberration when a Tea Party-inspired wave of voter dissatisfaction flipped more than 700 state legislative seats nationwide from Democrat to Republican. But Vancore said some of the same dynamics are at work this year. He expects the GOP will have a 1 – 3 point advantage in voter turnout in November.

Crist, however, has his eyes on another number, the 61,000 margin of victory Scott posted while spending $73 million to barely beat Alex Sink in what was an unusually favorable year for Republicans.

“Look at what happened in California where Meg Whitman spent $100 million, more than twice than Jerry Brown,” said Crist while discussing the dynamics of mid-term elections. “People want someone in government who has their back and I have a record.”

A $25 million Scott advertising blitz this summer to redefine Crist wiped out a 10-point advantage in polls the Democrat had.   And come Tuesday night we’ll have a new set of numbers to figure with when talking about who will be Florida’s next governor.

Other numbers up for discussion in Tallahassee this week includes rate hikes for Citizen’s insurance policies and whether there enough customers for Duke Energy to build a Citrus County power plant.

Here’s a rundown of this week’s events:

Tuesday, August 26

DUKE ENERGY: The Public Service Commission will discuss a petition for determination of need for a Duke Energy power plant in Citrus County. The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the PSC Tallahassee office.

OBAMACARE: The Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board will meet and discuss issues related to the Affordable Care Act. The meeting will begin 3:00 p.m. in room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

PRIMARY ELECTION: When the polls close the votes will be tabulated and the November ballot will be set. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to barnstorm the state. Charlie Crist scheduled a victory party in Fort Lauderdale. Attorney General will be in Tampa and her expected Democratic challenger will hold a victory celebration in Tallahassee.

Wednesday, August 27

CITIZENS INSURANCE: The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation will conduct a public hearing to discuss proposed rate changes for wind insurance. The proposal includes a 10 percent hike for commercial property, 9.5 percent for residential and 8.9 percent for condominium properties. The meeting will be begin 10:00 a.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building in Tallahassee.

PAROLE: The Florida Commission on Offender Review has scheduled hearings on a number of cases dating to the 1970s and 1980s. The meeting takes place at 9:00 a.m. in Tallahassee.

Thursday, August 28

HIRING LOBBYISTS: The Florida League of Cities will host a webinar on best practices for hiring a lobbyist. The webinar will be conducted in two sessions, one beginning at 2:00 p.m. and one at 3:00 p.m.  More information can be found here.

SUPREME COURT: The justices return from their summer hiatus and are expected to resume issuing weekly opinions.

MAINSTREET: The Florida Main Street Selection Advisory Committee will review applications for its Main Street Communities program. The meeting takes place at 1:00 p.m. R.A. Gray Building, Tallahassee.

Friday, August 29

VISIT FLORIDA:  The public private partnership that promotes Florida tourism will hold a conference call to discuss promotion programs. The meeting begins at 9:00 contact Jennifer Maraist for more information, [email protected]

CAMPAIGN FINANCE:  Candidates and committees updated campaign finance reports are due.