October 30, 2014

With little success, Cuban dissident tries to address controversial ad in Miami congressional race


Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas tried -- rather unsuccessfully -- to address Thursday the controversy over the political commercial he taped for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

In repeated interviews, he refused to offer a play-by-play of how he ended up in Garcia's ad. He said only that it was an "error" to get in the middle of a rancorous campaign between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

But Fariñas, who lives in Cuba, stood by his praise for Garcia, and seemed to add to it. He said in a Pinecrest fundraiser last year for President Barack Obama, Garcia tried to recruit Fariñas to support an effort to bring a Havana research institute's diabetes treatment to the U.S. Fariñas said no, he said, because he felt that would undermine the U.S. trade embargo toward the island, which the dissident supports.

A few days later, Fariñas said, Garcia telephoned him to tell him he had thought about their conversation and agreed with him -- an apparent indication that the congressman had a change of heart about the drug trial. It's unclear if Garcia really did stop pushing for the treatment in the U.S. He hasn't campaigned on the issue this year.

According to Fariñas, Garcia called him in the past two days to "apologize" over any trouble the campaign ad could bring the dissident. The Cuban government likes to find new excuses to crack down on its opponents, Fariñas acknowledged, without expressing regret over praising Garcia.

Beginning in an interview with el Nuevo Herald, Fariñas also said wealthy businessmen contacted him and other dissidents last year. "They tried to buy us off with several million dollars, and we refused," he said.

Sunshine advocates: Scott won't commit to operating more in the open in second term

Declaring that Florida's open government laws have been "under attack in recent years," the First Amendment Foundation asked the two candidates for governor to answer three questions pledging to reverse recent trends and operate with more transparent practices if they are elected.

Gov. Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist were asked if they would agree to conduct all public business on public computer networks and devices, release a detailed schedule of appointments and travel, and pledge that he and staff will not use private email accounts when conducting business.

Crist, a Democrat, responded that he would. Scott, a Republican, did not respond.

The First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit open government watchdog that receives its support from voluntary contributions and many of the state's news organizations.

The governor's failure to respond comes against a backdrop of increasing questions about his commitment to Florida's open government laws.

During his term, Scott has blocked data about his private air travels from public flight tracking records. He has released only superficial details about his daily schedules. He has used, and allows his staff to use, private email accounts when corresponding on public business, creating additional barriers to public access. And his staff has been encouraged to use private cell phone accounts when sending text messages about politically sensitive issues.

In each case, the governor has said he has followed the law but his actions have drawn lawsuits.

He is is being sued by Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews, a Republican, for allowing his staff to alter calendar entries, for withholding documents from public records requests and for failing to say who opened his private gmail account and the gmail accounts of his staff. He faces another lawsuit, from attorney general candidate George Sheldon, a Democrat, alleging that his financial disclosure forms fail to reflect more than $200 million of his wealth because it excludes assets his wife owns but which Scott remains as the beneficiary.

Here are the responses from Crist:

Continue reading "Sunshine advocates: Scott won't commit to operating more in the open in second term" »

Polling shows Fla governor's race could be closer than 2000


Gov. Rick Scott is winning reelection by about 2 percentage points in a major new poll exclusively shared with The Miami Herald.

Democrat Charlie Crist is winning by 3 percentage points in Quinnipiac University’s new poll.

Which survey is right?

Both are.

The results rest within each poll’s margin of error, meaning the race is essentially a tie – regardless of the poll. Every other major survey shows that. And it looks like it will stay a squeaker through Election Day, Nov. 4.

“This race is closer than we thought George Bush vs. Al Gore was before the 2000 elections,” SEA pollster Tom Eldon said, referring to the 537-vote margin that made Bush president after 37 days of disputed results, court challenges and ballot reviews.

So Tuesday is going to be a long night?

“You’re potentially talking about a long month,” Eldon said.

More here

SEA (Dem) poll: Rick Scott 46 percent, Charlie Crist 44 percent


Gov. Rick Scott is holding on to a 46-44 percent lead over Charlie Crist, according to a new likely voter poll exlusively shared with The Miami Herald.

Scott’s 2 percentage-point lead is well within survey’s 2.7 percentage-point margin of error – like every other recent major poll in this race – making the contest a tie. The 1,300-respondent poll was conducted by Democratic-leaning polling firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design.

A Quinnipiac University poll this morning found Crist led Scott 43-40 percent, a lead that was also within the margin of error.

The SEA poll, chartered by a coalition of businesses and exclusively shared with The Miami Herald, has been conducted in two waves over the past three days. The first results, of 800 likely voters, were reported yesterday.

While Scott’s margin has held at 2 percentage points, Florida's medical-marijuana constitutional amendment has slightly slipped by 2 points, with 57 percent supporting it and 37 percent opposing.

The amendment needs 60 percent support to pass. It still could pass if the undecideds stay home.

What makes the survey from pollster Tom Eldon stand out is that he’s one of the best in Florida, he’s a Democrat and he doesn’t sugarcoat his numbers. It’s also proof that good pollsters produce good numbers, regardless of party affiliation.

Eldon produced the poll showing Crist running strong in a bellwether seat in Pasco County.

This poll shows Scott is viewed more favorably by the electorate, relatively speaking, than President Obama or Crist.

Scott’s fav-unfav rating: 49-47 percent
Crist’s fav-unfav: 45-51
Obama’s fav-unfav: 48-50 percent.

Basically, no one is liked very much. And, as noted earlier today, all the polling and ballot numbers make this look like a squeaker of a race.

Crist used to be viewed much more favorably. But then Scott in March embarked on a mammoth $70 million TV ad campaign. Much of Scott’s ads have been devoted to trashing Crist, though the Republican has called the Democrat a “mudslinger.”

And, indeed, Crist has thrown mud. But he and his allies have less money for slinging; they’ve spent about $35 million on ads, much of savaging Scott.

Also aiding Scott somewhat is the condition of the state’s economy: 40 percent say it’s heading in the right direction; 31 percent in the wrong direction and 20 percent say it’s mixed. As for Scott’s job performance, 51 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove.

Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is not a factor, getting 4 percent of the vote.

Scott and Crist get about equal amounts of their base voters; with the Republican drawing 86 percent support from Republicans and the Democrat 83 percent from Democrats. Scott and Crist each get 9 percent support from voters of the other party.

Crist is leading Scott 38-33 percent among no-party-affiliation and third-party voters.

Crist’s lead among independents could prove crucial. Quinnipiac, which identifies party ID differently, found Crist leading by an astonishing 18 percentage points – an outlier compared to other polls. Both surveys have different methodologies.

More on polling can be found in the polling tab here.

False claim about 'stand your ground' law and Trayvon

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, which sparked a national discussion about "stand your ground" laws, has become ammunition in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race.

The Senate Majority PAC, which aims to elect Democrats, ran a radio ad urging higher turnout among black voters. The ad attacks Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House, challenging Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. The ad makes a series of claims about Tillis including this one:

"Tillis even led the effort to pass the type of ‘stand your ground’ laws that caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin."

PolitiFact has fact-checked numerous claims related to the Trayvon Martin case. Did Florida’s "stand your ground" law cause his death?

The radio ad was captured by the conservative blogger SisterToldjah and sparked considerable media attention. It prompted a conservative group tocounterattack with a radio ad accusing the Democrats of "race baiting." While we are focused on the claim about whether Florida’s "stand your ground" law killed Trayvon, other media reports dissected Tillis’ role in the North Carolina law, which Tillis voted in favor of.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read more.

Fact-checking claims about environment in Florida's race for governor

When billionaire activist Tom Steyer declared that he would use his fortune to attack candidates who didn’t believe in man-made climate change, that set the stage for the environment to play a prominent role in this year’s race for governor in Florida.

Steyer formed a political action committee, NextGen Climate Action Committee, and set his sights on Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in addition to candidates in other states.

Environmental issues have arisen in past campaigns, but what was unique about Florida this year was that a pro-environmental entity had millions to spend on TV ads.

Scott’s rival Democrat Charlie Crist weighed in with his own statements about the environment, including our state’s record on solar energy.

Scott and the Republicans countered with attacks on Crist about Duke Energy and about riding in a private jet. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for a summary of our environmental fact-checks.

Cuba politics maze traps Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo


They vowed to be different. They'd sound like a new generation of Miami politicians. They'd shift their focus away from foreign policy. They'd care more about the family down the street than the brothers in power 90 miles across the Florida Straits.

Yet the Cuba politics maze trapped them anyway.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo have spent the precious last few days of their congressional campaigns dissecting an unusual Spanish-language television advertisement by Garcia that stars a prominent Cuban dissident.

Curbelo and other Miami Cuban Americans have accused Garcia of using Guillermo Fariñas for personal political gain and violating an unwritten rule that shields opponents of the island's Communist regime from internal U.S. politics.

That rule is hardly hard-and-fast. As Florida governor, Republican Jeb Bush once sent a recording of support to a dissident in a Cuban political prison. President Barack Obama met with Fariñas and another opposition leader last year at a Democratic fundraiser in Pinecrest.

Garcia, though, appears to be the first politician to feature a dissident, speaking straight into the camera, in an ad.

More here.

Almost 2.4m in FL have voted, GOP lead and margin-rate slightly sliding to Democrats


About 2.4 million Floridians have cast in-person early and absentee ballots as of Thursday morning and, as in the past week, Republicans still hold an advantage over Democrats in ballots cast but the GOP's margins are still slipping a bit, in terms of percentage.

GOP lead over Democrats: 140,123, or 5.9 percent. Yesterday, the spread was 141,363, or 6.4 percent. 

Since in-person early voting began, Republicans have alternately (but barely) increased their overall vote lead but seen their advantage in terms of rate slip. That's in part because Democrats and independents (a shorthand for no-party-affiliation and third-party voters) have begun casting ballots at higher rates.

As noted in prior posts (you can find them here), independents are looming larger and larger in the race. Just this morning, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Charlie Crist led Gov. Rick Scott by an 18 percentage point margin among independents. That's probably an outlier result. And it needs to be pointed out that Quinnipiac uses self-identification polls in which respondents tell the pollster what their party is; so some of these independents are Democrats and Republicans.

However, another poll released yesterday by SEA Polling and Strategic Design showed Crist winning independents 37-33 percent. And that poll was conducted off a voter list, so those margins can theoretically be compared to the independents who have voted so far. 

Here's what happens if you apply those independent results to the pre-Election Day ballots: Scott's potential 140,000 lead gets cut by by about 12,000 to almost 128,000, an 8.7 percent reduction.

Apply the entire SEA poll's partisan crosstabs to the early ballots, and Scott theoretically leads Crist 47-42 percent (a 133,000 margin).

A word of caution: the above calculations are just a math exercise to give one glimpse into how the race is playing out. We still don't know how people actually voted. This is also based on one poll. All polls have error margins. And all major polls recently find the race basically tied. Unlike Quinnipiac, SEA finds Scott doing slightly better with his own base (Republicans) than Crist is with his (Democrats) and it finds Scott doing slightly better than Crist among crossover voters from his opponent's party. Also, the poll has 6 percent undecided.

Here are the early and absentee ballot numbers as of this morning:

PARTY         EV          %
REP             330,497 41.3%
DEM             333,711 41.7%
IND             136,340 17.0%
TOTAL             800,548  
PARTY         AB's           %
REP             714,315 46.0%
DEM             569,327 36.6%
IND             269,937 17.4%
TOTAL          1,553,579  
PARTY      EVAB           %
REP          1,044,812 44.4%
DEM             903,038 38.4%
IND             406,277 17.3%
TOTAL          2,354,127  

NOTE POST HAS BEEN UPDATED (Some prior numbers were wrong at the margins).

Amid bad press, RAGA gets behind Bondi

Sure, recent stories about how the Republican Attorneys General Association has influenced Florida's Pam Bondi haven't been the most flattering.

On Sunday, the Times/Herald wrote about how the group has raised $750,000 for Bondi, who has adopted much of that group's corporate-backed agenda. Then there was Wednesday's story in the New York Times about how groups like RAGA nurtured close ties between attorneys general, including Bondi, and corporate lobbyists trying to get deals for clients.

But RAGA apparently isn't backing away from its association with Bondi heading into the Nov. 4 election, at least not on Twitter, which is posting this ad sponsored by the group.RAGAbondi

The ad was paid by a political committee called RAGA Florida, which spent $25,000 on digital ads on Oct. 28, just before the New York Times piece was published.

Q Poll: Charlie Crist, fueled by independents, leads Rick Scott 43-40 percent overall


Charlie Crist has slightly nudged ahead of Gov. Rick Scott in Quinnipiac University's latest poll that shows the Democrat picks up 43 percent support from likely voters to the incumbent's 40 percent.

That apparent 3 percentage point lead for Crist is essentially a tie because it's within the poll's margin of error, however the poll of 800 likely voters indicates Crist has some momentum on his side.

Last week, Quinnipiac surveyed the governor's race and found it dead even between Crist and Scott, with each getting 42 percent. So the contested has shifted a net 3 percentage points in Crist's favor or a net 5 points compared to Quinnipiac's September survey that showed Scott with a negligible lead.

Boosting Crist: the strong support of self-identified independents, who favor the Democrat over Scott by a spread of 47-29 percent.

“Independent voters are often the difference in swing states like Florida, but the size of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s lead among them is truly remarkable,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a written statement.

Continue reading "Q Poll: Charlie Crist, fueled by independents, leads Rick Scott 43-40 percent overall" »

October 29, 2014

Amendment 3: Will Florida voters expand powers of governors leaving office?

Florida voters are being asked to approve a little-noticed amendment to the state Constitution that would rewrite the way judges are appointed to the state’s highest courts and strengthen the powers of governors who are leaving office.

Proponents say it is needed to avert a constitutional crisis, but opponents say it is a manufactured problem and a partisan power grab that could have ominous consequences.   

Amendment 3 is the brainchild of Florida Republicans in the Legislature who describe it as a modest change needed to correct a constitutional ambiguity that could arise in 2019.

Under current law, the governor is not allowed to make an appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, or the state courts of appeal, unless there is a vacancy. On the same day the governor takes office in 2019 — after the 2018 elections — three of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. The justices, R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are considered the court’s liberal wing.

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sponsored the amendment as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said his legal scholars concluded the current law is unclear about which governor can make the appointment and a potential legal battle could set off a “constitutional crisis.”

“Even if the appointments could be made on the incoming governor’s inauguration day in 2019, the Supreme Court would likely not be fully functional for weeks,’’ Lee wrote in an opinion piece distributed to several newspapers.

The amendment has the support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of 100 and is opposed by the League of Women Voters. It needs to receive the approval of 60 percent of voters on Election Day to become law and, recent polls show, most voters remain undecided about it.

Under the proposal, the Constitution would establish a new legal term — “prospective vacancy” — and allow a sitting governor to fill an opening to the Supreme Court and to the courts of appeals before it occurs.  

Opponents, led by a bi-partisan group of lawyers including former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, say the amendment is a solution without a problem and the proposed language is an overreach.

“There is no impending crisis because there is no ambiguity,’’ said Anstead, who served on the court from 1994 to 2009 and was appointed by former Gov. Lawton Chiles. “Who would want to inject into our Constitution this dangerous term ‘prospective vacancy?’” Story here. 



Lobbying of Bondi may have broken law

Partners with a powerful Washington, D.C., law firm aren't registered as Florida lobbyists, but that hasn't stopped them from wining and dining Attorney General Pam Bondi the past four years to discuss clients.

Bondi dropped suits or declined to investigate cases after numerous behind-the-scenes interactions with the firm, Dickstein Shapiro, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald review shows none of the partners were registered to lobby in Florida, meaning their advocacy may have violated state law. They won't be prosecuted unless someone files a sworn complaint with the state.

Cases involving Dickstein Shapiro clients that fizzled in Florida include Accretive Health, a Chicago-based hospital bill collection company shut down in Minnesota for six years because of abusive collection practices; Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit online school that Iowa attorney general Tom Miller said had engaged in "unconscionable" sales practices; Herbalife, which had been investigated by federal and state authorities; and online reservation companies, including Travelocity and Priceline, on allegations that they were improperly withholding taxes on hotel rooms booked in the state.

Since 2011, Dickstein Shapiro has contributed $122,060 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a super PAC where Bondi sits on the executive committee and that contributed $750,000 to her re-election bid.

Dickstein's partners and a client, ETC Capital, have also directly given $24,750 to Bondi's campaign.

Revelations about Bondi's relationship with Dickstein drew fire from her opponents.

"This is an attorney general who, once she is on a case, like gay marriage, won't let go," said Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian nominee. "This raises so many concerns because over and over she dropped these cases for no reason."

"This is devastating to her credibility," said Democratic nominee George Sheldon. "It tarnishes the images of attorneys general nationwide. This whole pay-to-play concept has got to stop."

Bondi said her interactions with special interests don't interfere with her duties.

Read story here.

State surgeon general: Florida will ensure officers stay safe

State officials are considering the health and safety law enforcement officers as they respond to the threat of Ebola, Surgeon General John Armstrong wrote in a letter to Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz on Wednesday.

The letter came after Ortiz blasted Republican Gov. Rick Scott for doing "nothing to provide law enforcement officers with the proper equipment and training."

In response, Armstrong said state officials had been working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sherriff's Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association to "ensure aspects of officer health safety and protection are being firmly addressed."

"Local Florida Department of Health officers are in contact with all primary response partners, including law enforcement, to share all important department guidance," Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong also noted that the state health department had purchased 15 first responder support packages for use throughout the state –- and that the packages would be made available to any agency that requested them.

"I am very aware of the concerns of law enforcement regarding the protections for officers called upon to execute a containment order," Armstrong wrote. "The department will continue to collaborate with law enforcement to ensure that officers stay safe in the face of the emerging Ebola threat."

Also on Wednesday, Florida Police Chiefs Association Executive Director Amy Mercer penned a letter to Scott praising his response.

"We know that the health, safety and welfare of the law enforcement officials and health care workers in this state, as well as all Florida residents, is your top priority and at the forefront of your mind, and that is greatly appreciated," Mercer wrote. "These are serious times when the potential spread of this deadly disease would have the possibility of being devastating to our state, and your steadfast leadership is continuing Florida on the right path."

The Florida Police Chiefs Association supports Scott's candidacy.

Read the letters below.

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Marijuana supporters blast latest web ad from opponents

With less than a week until the election, supporters and opponents of Amendment 2, which would allow marijuana for medical use, are still waging a fierce battle to sway voters.

Amendment 2 advocates, United for Care, is blasting the latest salvo from the Drug Free Florida Committee. The political action committee on Wednesday launched a web ad featuring Polk County Sheriff Gray Judd.

Judd's message is that Amendment 2 "gives teens legal access to pot. Make no mistake. Teen drug use will rise. They don't call Amendment 2 the pot for teens amendment but they should."

United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara responded with a press release stating that "medical marijuana opponents have decided they can't win by telling the truth. You don't have to take my word for it - independent, objective observers have clearly demonstrated that the claims made by the No on 2 campaign are untruthful.

Continue reading "Marijuana supporters blast latest web ad from opponents" »

Rothenberg Report says FL-26 race now tilting GOP


Ten days ago, the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report said Florida's 26th congressional district was no longer tilting in incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia's direction, and switched the race to "Pure Tossup."

On Wednesday, the report updates its ratings once again -- and further moved the odds in Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo's favor. Rothenberg, working with Roll Call, now lists the race as "Tossup/Tilts Republican" because the GOP and its allies plans to outspend Democrats and their allies in the final days of the race. (Read Rothenberg's reasoning here, though a subscription is required.)

Curbelo's campaign trumpeted the news as a sign the GOP has momentum to win back the Westchester-to-Key West district.

Rothenberg also shifted Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter's seat from "Favored Democratic" to "Safe Democrat." The other competitive Florida race, in the Panhandle between Republican Rep. Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Graham, remains "Pure Tossup."

Has Rick Scott invested in $350 million to combat sea level rise? Not really, concludes PolitiFact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott has drawn criticism from environmentalists for denying in 2011 that man contributes to climate change and now dodging questions with the reply of "I’m not a scientist."

The topic arose during the Oct. 21 CNN debate when moderator Jake Tapper asked Gov. Rick Scott why he was "reluctant to believe the overwhelming majority of scientists who say that man contributes to climate change."

Instead of answering the question directly, Scott claimed that he had already taken action to protect the environment, including addressing sea-level rise.

"We have spent $350 million to deal with sea-level rise down in the Keys, or down in the Miami area. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with coral reefs," he said.

Scott made a similar claim in the debate at Broward College on Oct. 15.

Scott’s claim, particularly about investing in projects to combat sea-level rise, stood out for us. Under Scott, has the state spent $350 million to deal with sea-level rise in the Miami area and hundreds of millions to protect coral reefs?

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer.

Rubio, back in Iowa, celebrates Reagan and stumps for Senate candidate Ernst


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami and potential 2016 presidential candidate, was back in Iowa Tuesday, speaking at an event honoring the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan and lending support to a candidate in one of the hottest Senate races in the nation.

Rubio is backing Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator from the small southwest Iowa town of Red Oak who is battling current U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. The winner will replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.

At the Scott County Republican Party's annual Ronald Reagan dinner Tuesday, Rubio talked up a "new American century" but said it won't get started as long as the "outdated ideas of the political left” remain, according to the Quad-City Times, a newspaper on the state’s eastern edge.

Before the dinner – attended by more than 600 people – Rubio campaigned with Ernst, a surprise story of the 2014 midterm elections who got an initial boost before the primaries from Rubio.

Aided in part by a last-minute assist from Rubio, Ernst came from behind to win her Republican primary in June. In doing so, Rubio has said, he made an exception to his no-primary rule.

Rubio has offered his support to other Republican Senate candidates, trying to help the GOP win the chamber – a prospect that looks more and more likely. The time and visibility in Iowa could also help Rubio in 2016, as the state holds a pivotal early caucus in the GOP nominating process.

The Ernst campaign received two other boosts on Wednesday: a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows her up 4 percentage points over Braley, and an endorsement from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

UPDATED U.S. Chamber hits Joe Garcia over Obamacare support


A new television advertisement by the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce goes after Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia for backing the Affordable Care Act.

"Despite promises, premiums are still going up," the ad says, calling Obamacare "a big-government disaster that Congressman Joe Garcia still supports today."

The chamber has endorsed Garcia's Republican opponent, Miami-Dade County school board member Carlos Curbelo.

UPDATE: Garcia spokesman Miguel Salazar called the ad misleading and noted the Chamber once backed the former Republican incumbent.

"The truth is that Rep. Garcia has voted multiple times to improve the Affordable Care Act and has worked with Republicans to protect the Medicare that seniors have earned," Salazar said in a statement. "This group backed David Rivera before, and now they're behind Curbelo -- which should tell South Floridians all they need to know."


SEA (Dem) poll: Rick Scott 45 percent; Charlie Crist 43 percent


Florida’s race for governor is as tight as ever, with Gov. Rick Scott getting 45 percent support and Democrat Charlie Crist 43 percent from likely voters, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning polling firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design. 

The Republican’s 2 percentage-point lead is well within the 800 voter survey’s 3.5 percentage-point margin of error – like every other recent major poll in this race.

Like other polls, this one shows that Florida's medical-marijuana constitutional amendment is within a point of passing or failing. It shows Amendment 2 polling at 59-32 percent. The amendment needs 60 percent support to pass. Another way to look at it: opponents need 40 percent to oppose it. If the undecideds stay home, the amendment likely passes.

What makes the survey from pollster Tom Eldon stand out is that he’s one of the best in Florida, he’s a Democrat and he doesn’t sugarcoat his numbers. It’s also proof that good pollsters produce good numbers, regardless of party affiliation.

Eldon produced the poll showing Crist running strong in a bellwether seat in Pasco County.

Contrary to the belief among some in Tallahassee and other political circles, Scott has secured his base. He’s getting 84 percent support from Republicans; while Crist draws 80 percent from Democrats.

Crist is not disproportionately getting crossover voters from the opposite party. In fact, on that count, they’re basically tied. Crist gets 11 percent support from Republicans, Scott gets 10 percent from Democrats.

Crist is leading slightly among independents: 37-33 percent. That could prove crucial.

For comparison, the averages of the partisan crosstabs of 10 polls released earlier this month showed Republicans backing Scott over Crist 72-13 percent; Democrats backing Crist over Scott 74-13 percent and independents favoring Crist over Scott 34-39 percent.

This is all inside-the-error-margin stuff.

No matter how you slice these polls, or this poll from SEA, this race is essentially tied.

And, yes, it’s time to say the smartest and dumbest thing in politics: It’s all about turnout. Republicans are turning out more of their voters in pre-Election Day ballots, but Democrats have more voters.

The poll reflects a Republican turnout advantage of 2 percentage points, showing an electorate of 43 percent GOP; 41 percent Democrat and 16 percent independent.

Change those numbers and the topline numbers change.

For more polls in this race, here's our polling tab.

National teachers union president to travel to Broward before election

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will travel to Fort Lauderdale Thursday to "highlight the stark differences on education between the two Florida gubernatorial candidates," according to a press release.

Expect to hear support for the AFT's candidate of choice, Democrat Charlie Crist.

The national teachers union, through its political committee, has pumped at least $750,000 into Crist's campaign.

Weingarten will be joined by Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie and Broward Teachers Union President Sharon Glickman. They will also be discussing the formation of new task forces to focus on testing and student equity.

"This year's race for governor has brought education issues to the forefront, and solution-driven BTU members are taking it upon themselves to address the deficiencies in their classrooms and communities by focusing on teaching and learning, not testing and punishing," the release said.