October 21, 2014

Democrats try new jab against Carlos Curbelo after GOP shifts criticism of Joe Garcia


The physics law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction may also apply to politics.

As Republicans shift their line of attack against Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrats have also added to their message criticizing Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released two Spanish-language television commercials Tuesday. One maintains the party's chief jab against Curbelo, over a secretly recorded comment in which he said Medicare and Social Security amount to a "Ponzi scheme." Curbelo has said the phrase was a figure of speech and "of course" he doesn't think the federal programs have anything to do with criminal operations.

But the other ad focuses on education, which Garcia only touched on in a prior campaign spot. Curbelo is a Miami-Dade school board member who has trumpeted how the board has helped Superintendent Alberto Carvalho shrink the size of the school system.

"Carlos Curbelo voted to cut 1,000 positions from our schools, including guidance counselors and college advisors," the ad says. Later, it adds: "Carlos Curbelo co-authored the agenda that cut $1.3 billion from our schools."

The later claim is an apparent reference to Curbelo's participation four years ago in Florida Gov. Rick Scott's education transition team. Scott later backed statewide education budget cuts. What the DCCC's ad doesn't say is that Curbelo wrote in 2012 that those cutbacks represented a "colossal" reduction leading to an "untenable" situation for public schools.



GOP defends Carlos Curbelo on Medicare, pivoting away from ethics attacks against Joe Garcia


National Republicans are coming to the aid of Carlos Curbelo in countering attacks over his criticism of Medicare and Social Security. Democrats and U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia have bashed Curbelo over his secretly recorded comment that the federal benefits amount to a "Ponzi scheme."

In a sign that their efforts might be working in the close race, Curbelo and the National Republican Congressional Committee have released a new set of political commercials touting Curbelo's support for the entitlements, at least for current and soon-to-be seniors. Republicans had focused their earlier attacks on the criminal investigations that engulfed Garcia's 2012 and 2010 campaigns. Those ads are still running.

A Curbelo spot on Spanish-language radio features the candidate, a Miami-Dade County school board member, telling voters Garcia has lied about his opponent's stance.

A new television ad unveiled Tuesday by the NRCC takes a similar tack. It refers to Garcia's ads as "misleading and false" -- an apparent reference to a PolitiFact Florida "False" rating for an early Garcia spot that accused Curbelo of wanting to "end the Medicare guarantee." That ruling came before the Democrats recorded Curbelo saying he backs several reforms to the program.

"The truth? It was Garcia who supported Obamacare, cutting $700 billion from Medicare," the NRCC's new ad says. "And it was Garcia who supported a plan to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69, and cut benefits."

Those claims actually stretch the truth, as we detailed last week when Curbelo unveiled a similar TV commercial.


1m in FL have voted early; GOP well ahead and says Charlie Crist 'in complete meltdown'


More than 1 million Floridians have cast pre-Election Day ballots now that early in-person voting began Monday while mail-in absentee ballots continued to pour in.

Right now, it looks like good news for Republicans. They're still out-voting Democrats, who tend to dominate early voting just as Republicans do at absentee voting.

"The first day of early voting is in the books, and Charlie Crist’s campaign is in complete meltdown," Gov. Rick Scott's deputy campaign manager, Tim Saler, wrote in a memo this morning to donors.

Saler says Democrats only edged Republicans by 2 percentage points in early votes cast, a far smaller advantage than in prior years. We're double-checking (the state doesn't report all of its early voting data in one big file, so it takes broke reporters with laptops a little more time to assemble the 67 county text files and run the numbers).

The memo doesn't point out, however, that the real test comes this weekend, when working people can show up at the polls and vote without having the pressures of getting to and from work or home.

African Americans, who have made early voting after church a tradition, are expected to come out in force this Sunday and next. This is where a visit from President Obama could pay more dividends for Crist than cost him. Crist is leaning toward having the president come down but, in a twist, Obama advisors think that might not be a good idea.

Continue reading "1m in FL have voted early; GOP well ahead and says Charlie Crist 'in complete meltdown'" »

CNN lays down the law for final Florida debate

In CNN's amateurish early days as a 24-hour cable news outlet, critics called it the "Chicken Noodle Network." CNN has come a long way, but for tonight's final debate in the Florida governor's race, those three letters might as well stand for "Can't. No. Nope."

Political debates in Florida are a big deal, especially in a neck-and-neck race like this one between Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, and CNN is the sponsor of a live one-hour faceoff at 7 p.m. at WJXT in Jacksonville. The network is determined to protect its place as the exclusive host.

It's common for TV stations to let reporters watch the debate from a room near the studio so that both sides can grade their own and their opponent's performance afterward in a "spin room," but CNN said no. News outlets asked to stake out the candidates in WJXT's parking lot afterward and CNN said no. It's providing a filing room at a downtown hotel several miles from the TV station.

Because of space constraints at WJXT, the Associated Press asked if it could cover the event with a single pool reporter and photographer. CNN initially said no, but agreed Monday to let AP take pictures of the two candidates on stage just before airtime, in what AP's Miami photo editor calls "an unusual and unfortunate situation."

And with all the controversy over Crist's use of a fan at last week's debate, the Times/Herald asked CNN for a copy of the debate rules. The network's response: No. It referred us to a CNN memo of last week that said no opening or closing statements, "no notes, no props and no electronic devices," including no fans.

Fact-checking Rick Scott's claim about driver's licenses for Dreamers and whether the bill he vetoed would have changed "nothing"

Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are competing for the Hispanic vote, leading the candidates to argue about their stances on everything from the Cuba embargo to rights for illegal immigrants.

During the Telemundo debate Oct. 10, the debate moderator asked the candidates to explain their conflicting views on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In 2013, the Legislature passed a bill to give driver licenses to those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, sometimes called "Dreamers." Scott vetoed it.

Crist, a Democrat, said during the debate: "I’m in favor of a driver’s license for Dreamers. The governor recently signed a bill where they can have in-state tuition. And that was a good thing to do. But if you can’t drive to school, or you can’t drive to your job, good luck getting to work."

Scott, a Republican, responded: "The driver’s license bill that was passed, nothing changed. Those same individuals have the right to get a Florida driver’s license today."

Scott was partially correct and partially misleading. Floridians who get Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, called DACA, generally get work permits, which they can use to get driver’s licenses.

But he is overstating the situation when he says "nothing changed," because that bill would have affirmatively given those immigrants the right to use their DACA forms to get a driver’s license, even if their work permit didn’t arrive simultaneously. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read more.

October 20, 2014

Clean energy group delivers 92,000 petitions to governor

A group of clean energy advocates continued the drumbeat against Gov. Rick Scott's on Monday and delivered more than 92,000 signatures urging him to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA's Clean Power plan. 

The group, called Florida’s Clean Future coalition, had school children, college students and parents pull red wagons with boxes of petitions to the governor's office at the state Capitol as part of an aggressive initiative by climate change activists to keep a focus on the issue in the governor's race. The EPA requires the state to have a plan to reduce carbon emissions in place by 2030 and the first deadline is in 2015. The governor has remained silent about his plans to address the issue. 

Last week, scientists, business and community leaders called on Scott to listen to their climate change solutions. Meanwhile, NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid.


Miami-Dade mayor heads to D.C. for meetings


There's a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting Tuesday, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez won't be there.

Instead, he'll be traveling to Washington D.C., where he has been invited to a transportation and infrastructure briefing by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the National Economic Council, Gimenez's office said.

Before that, the mayor will participate in a forum titled "Fix My Commute." The event, hosted by the Washington Post, is part of a series -- "America Answers" -- on tackling local government issues.

Later, Gimenez is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Gimenez will be traveling with his spokesman, Michael Hernández, and the trip will be paid for by the mayor's office travel budget, Hernández said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigns en español. Praise, critics follow


As the number of Hispanic voters across the country has grown, so has the number of gringo politicians who want to say something to them — in Spanish.

But Miami is not always a good place to come practice. So many locals are fluent that they can be merciless to those who mangle the language of Cervantes.

More than a few of those critics privately assailed Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week when he used his closing at a debate against Democratic rival Charlie Crist to deliver a halting paragraph — far beyond the usual cursory few words — in Spanish, a tongue the Republican governor concedes he has yet to master.

Mi español no es perfecto,” Scott said Monday.

Yet Miami audiences can also be very forgiving. And plenty of people — namely Hispanic Republicans — have come to the defense of the governor, who is scheduled to participate in a third and final debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday on CNN.

At Monday’s GOP rally at the West Dade Regional Library, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami praised Scott in Spanish as “a governor who is even learning to speak Spanish. So his opponent’s campaign criticizes him... because he speaks with an accent.”

More here.

The Rick Scott and Charlie Crist management stories each campaign will alternately hate and love


Two stories about the management styles of the frontrunners for governor. Rick Scott's campaign and his supporters will probably hate the first one and love the second. It's the opposite for Charlie Crist. First the Scott story.....

From his poor poll numbers to his formidable fortune, Rick Scott’s political standing revolves around Columbia/HCA.

Scott was once hailed as a “wunderkind” for making the hospital chain the largest healthcare company in America. Then, he became a pariah after he and his company were investigated for Medicare fraud, leading to his ouster in 1997.

Today, Scott avoids even mentioning the words “Columbia/HCA.”

“In 2010, the Democrats attacked me,” Scott said at a debate earlier this month, omitting he was first attacked by Republicans. “And I said when I ran a company I would take responsibility for the actions while I was CEO.”

But Scott never really did take responsibility at the time. Initially, he denied anything was out of the ordinary. He ultimately faulted others under him.

For some former Scott allies, employees and supporters, the denial and blame-shifting is but one pattern of behavior Scott took with him from the board room to the governor’s mansion.

More here about Scott.

And as for Charlie Crist....

In his long history as a politician, Charlie Crist excelled at two things: making news and running for other offices.

Crist’s political biography is a chronicle of campaigning for: state Senate (1986 and 1992), U.S. Senate (1998), education commissioner (2000), attorney general (2002), governor (2006), U.S. Senate again (2010) and, now, governor again.

“The campaigning has always had more allure to him than the governing,” said George LeMieux, Crist’s former top political advisor who was appointed to an interim U.S. Senate post by the former governor.

Crist in 2010 sought that senate post LeMieux seat-warmed, making the governor the first in modern times to not seek reelection. It also marked the beginning of a stark political transformation that led Crist to flee the GOP, become estranged with LeMieux and ultimately become an independent and then a Democrat seeking his old job back under a new party banner.

In numerous interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, current and former advisors of Crist’s say they worked for an always-candidate, one who wasn’t so much obsessed with policy details as with poll numbers.

“I am,” he often reminded his advisers, “the most popular governor in America.”

More here about Crist

Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away

UPDATE: Former state legislator and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Tom Slade has passed away.

His family just sent this updated press release and obituary:

Tom Slade, former Florida State Senator and State Representative and perhaps best known for his leadership as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1993-1999, passed away this afternoon at Orange Park Medical Center following heart failure last week. Thomas H. Slade, Jr. was 78.

Tom Slade’s political career began in 1962 when he was elected to the State House of Representatives. He was elected to the State Senate in 1966. While seeking the Cabinet office of State Treasurer in 1970, Slade survived a plane crash at the Tallahassee Regional Airport with C.W. Bill Young, who was seeking the Congressional seat that Young served in until his own passing last year.

A successful Jacksonville businessman, Slade served as Chairman of the Florida Tax and Budget Commission in 1990 – a service that brought him back to the political arena, and he was encouraged to run for Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in 1993. As of his election that January, Florida’s Governor’s Mansion, State Cabinet, State House were all controlled by Democrats, with the State Senate in a 20-20 tie.  Slade focused on building the Party’s messaging, candidate recruiting, fundraising and campaign training, which by the end of his three terms following the 1998 elections, Slade had led Florida Republicans to statewide victories with the election of Governor Jeb Bush and Republican control and leadership of the Florida Senate, State House, the Cabinet, and a large majority in the Florida Congressional Delegation.

Slade offered his candidacy as Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1999, and following that unsuccessful bid, formed Tidewater Consulting, a governmental relations and political consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee.

Details of services for Tom Slade are pending and will be released in accordance with the wishes of the Slade family.


Continue reading "Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade passes away" »

Nearly 900,000 absentee ballots cast as early voting begins; GOP still leading big


More than 888,000 absentee ballots had already been cast of Monday morning when early in-person voting began in Florida.

Right now, Republicans lead Democrats 49-35 percent in terms of absentee ballots cast by party. That 14 percentage point margin is lower than it was in 2010 but it’s far higher than in 2012.

Here's what's remarkable: the number of absentee ballots cast at this point relative to the 2012 elections is actually greater, by 140,695. And that's despite the fact that midterm elections have about a 50 percent turnout compared to presidential election years when turnout is over 72 percent. 

Democrats typically excel at early voting while Republicans dominate voting by mail.

But at a Miami rally today, Gov. Rick Scott and a host of other local Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, said the GOP needs to start banking in-person early votes as well.

“In 2012, when Mitt Romney lost, he lost because Republicans didn’t early vote,” Scott said. “We can win this election. We’ve got to get out and vote.”

The first part of that statement is probably historical revisionism. Romney lost for a variety of reasons, but it’s likely cause in Florida is that the GOP is so outnumbered by Democrats.

That remains the case today, with Democrats holding a 39-35 percent registration advantage of 455,946 voters. One troubling sign for both parties: the rise of the No Party Affiliation voters, who account for 23 percent of the rolls. Add in third party voters, particularly those who think “Independent Party” is really like NPA, and the proportion of independents swells to 26 percent.

Despite having such an edge, Democrats have typically been killed in midterms in Florida. Will this year be different? We'll know more in one week's time, when African-Americans (the most likely to vote early in-person) have a chance to vote after church. If Democrats haven't lowered the Republican edge to single digits in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrat Charlie Crist likely has a huge problem on his hands.

Here are the top 10 counties sorted by party affiliation

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      40,225 REP PIN 43%
      36,157 REP LEE 56%
      36,067 REP DAD 47%
      34,027 DEM PIN 37%
      28,146 DEM DAD 36%
      21,899 REP HIL 43%
      19,706 DEM HIL 39%
      19,022 DEM BRO 52%
      18,851 REP ORA 42%
      18,696 DEM ORA 41%

FSU trustees approve John Thrasher's contract


A delay caused by technical difficulties with the conference call phone line took almost as long as the meeting itself. But Florida State University's Board of Trustees has approved John Thrasher's contract, including a $430,000 base salary.

The board made some small changes, such as clarifying that a potential $100,000 annual bonus will be tied to Thrasher's ability to meet performance goals approved by him and the trustees. But members generally agreed on the substance of the contract (detailed here) and approved it unanimously.

Thrasher is expected to start work Nov. 10. The state Board of Governors must sign off on his contract first, but that should happen during its meeting Nov. 5 and 6.

Once that happens, Thrasher has promised to step down from the state Senate.

FSU Provost Garnett Stokes served as interim president but was unsuccesful in her bid for the permanent job. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that she agreed to stay on under Thrasher as his second-in-command and head of academic affairs. 

Thasher is expected to focus on fundraising and working with elected officials in obtaining more resources for FSU, leaving many of the day-to-day operations in Stokes' hands.

Scott wins endorsement from anti Common Core crowd

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards spent months trying to push Republican Gov. Rick Scott to take a stronger position against the controversial benchmarks.

But on Monday, one of the state's largest anti-Common Core groups announced that it would be supporting Scott on Election Day.

Florida Parents Against Common Core sent an email to 22,000 sympathetic parents on Monday, urging them to vote for the Republican incumbent.

"[Democratic candidate Charlie] Crist's unwavering support of the standards and federally aligned assessments confirmed the group's vital need to endorse Gov. Scott," founder Laura Zorc said in a press release.

Zorc said Scott had received the endorsement "because ONLY Gov. Scott has called for an independent Florida Standards Review Committee to evaluate additional improvements."

"Gov. Scott has committed to giving parents the opportunity to have a voice at the table for legislative recommendations and the adoption of better standards and policies," she said. "Once past the election and with a steady resolve and an aligned force, parents can continue efforts to improve the curriculum and assessment methods used in Florida."

With Charlie Crist outraising him, Rick Scott says he 'might' self-fund after saying he wouldn’t


In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott was clear about plowing his personal fortunes into his reelection campaign: “I won’t have to.”

But now that Democrat Charlie Crist outraised him 6:1 last week, Scott appears ready to open his personal piggy bank. He has spent $56.5 million on ads (at least two-thirds of them negative) to Crist’s $26.5 million (also heavily negative) yet he and Crist remain tied.

Rumors for weeks in Tallahassee were that Scott would commit $20 million to $22 million – a vast sum that still pales in comparison to the $75.1 million of his own money he dropped in 2010. The Crist campaign is trying to make that $20 million amount into gospel so it can scrounge for more cash. But that’s likely far too high.

“If I put in money, it will be nothing compared to what Tom Steyer – the radical, left wing billionaire from the West Coast – is helping Charlie with to bring these policies to Florida,” Scott said Monday in Miami at an early voting rally. “So if I end up putting money into the race, then it’s to make sure we have a strong finish.”

Steyer is on pace to spend more than $10 million in the race, as we first noted in August.

Asked if he might therefore put his own money into the race, Scott only said: "we’ll see.”

Question: “You haven’t yet though?”

Scott: “We’ll see.”

Scott could be plowing money into the Republican Party of Florida, which doesn’t have to report its finances until the end of the month. Scott signed an election bill that required more disclosure, but it omitted disclosing these types of transactions.

Scott and Crist: beyond the rhetoric, here's where they stand on the issues

Crist and Scott at Debate 2Florida’s race for governor may be one of the nastiest on record as candidates shout it out in more than $83 million in television ads, but beneath the rhetoric is a record of real differences between Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican, and his predecessor and challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democrat.

Here is where they stand, and where they have been, on key issues:

For all our election coverage, keep the Miami Herald's Voters Guide page handy. 


PolitiFact's guide to final Crist vs. Scott debate

CNN is hosting the third and final debate of the governor’s race Tuesday night  and the network has been clear: No fans.

That may avert another standoff like the one that held up last week’s debate for seven minutes. But it probably won’t stop the candidates from spinning on the issues. 

Whether it’s Democrat Charlie Crist or Republican incumbent Rick Scott, the two have been campaigning so long that they’ve started to repeat themselves on issues like jobs, education and same-sex marriage. PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking the race for close to a year now.

Here’s a guide to some of the same campaign lines you might hear Tuesday night and how PolitiFact Florida has ruled on the claims. The debate airs at 7 p.m. ET and will be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper and WJXT's Kent Justice. 

The Money Race: Crist fundraising outpaces Scott 6-to-1


Charlie Crist collected $6 for every $1 donated to Gov. Rick Scott during the most recent campaign finance reporting period covering Oct. 4 through Oct. 10.

Scott's campaign and political committees raised just $606,656 in cash and in-kind services, compared to Crist’s $3.2 million. This allowed Crist to move much closer to Scott in the amount of cash he has on hand to spend in the final two weeks of campaigning.

Just $656,537 separated Crist from Scott in cash-on-hand as of Oct. 10. With their campaign accounts and political committees combined, Scott had $7.5 million in the bank compared to Crist’s $6.9 million.

Crist’s political committee collected eight checks of at least $100,000 during the week, including several law firms that have collectively donated millions of dollars over the months. He also received another $200,000 from the Democratic Governors Association, bringing their total to $3.7 million.

Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee raised just $127,000, mainly $100,000 in the form of four checks from businesses related to Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 500 company in Jacksonville that provides commercial and residential mortgages.

Continue reading "The Money Race: Crist fundraising outpaces Scott 6-to-1" »

Democrat Maurice Ferre and former P.R. Gov Luis Fortuño cut Spanish ad for Rick Scott


Republican Gov. Rick Scott released a Spanish-language two-fer ad Monday that attempted to both make him look bipartisan and reach out to a fast-growing, left-leaning segment of the electorate: voters of Puerto Rican descent.

The ad features former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, a Scott appointee to a transportation board, who contrast Scott's record with Democrat Charlie Crist's. 

"He’s a Republican," Ferre says in Spanish, pointing to Fortuño as they both walk in view of the camera.

"And he’s a Democrat," Fortuño says.

Ferre: "Agreeing on anything isn’t easy..

Fortuño: "But here's why we agree that Governor Rick Scott deserves your vote."

They then mention jobs and education. (Note: it says Scott lowered Crist's higher-education tuition increases, a claim we'll have to examine more closey).

Scott, who began Spanish-language outreach earlier than any other recent candidate for governor, appears to have shored up Cuban-American Republicans in Miami-Dade, where they account for about 72 percent of the registered Republicans.

Puerto Ricans, who tend to vote Democrat and live in Central Florida, are a different story. That's where Ferre and Fortuño come in. Both men are of Puerto Rican descent and, by cutting this ad, it's a good bet Scott will run it in the Orlando-area.

Whether Fortuño polls well there is a good question: He lost his 2012 bid for reelection. Ferre, who ran as a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in 2010, isn't a big Crist fan. But his presence on camera is interesting in that Ferre chairs the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board and voted to raise tolls -- a board vote that led the Scott administration to claim it wouldn't re-appoint another board member because he supported the increase.

That board member, Gonzalo Sanabria, said Scott's administration invented the excuse only after he told them he was resigning in protest over the Scott campaign's shoddy treatment of former fundraiser Mike Fernandez. Adding to the intrigue: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's mother, Shelly Smith Fano, is vice-chair of MDX. 

Regardless of whether Sanabria quit first or was blocked first, it appears that toll increases are ok after all -- at least for the guy who cut an ad that helps Scott's reelection bid.  

Charlie Crist casts his vote


Charlie and Cafrole Crist hopped out of a staffer's car in front of the downtown St. Petersburg elections office and a crowd of nearly 50 started singing happy birthday. Today is the former and maybe future first lady's 45th birthday, and they celebrated it by taking advantage of the first day of early voting.

Someone presented Crist with a hand-held, battery-operated fan, an homage of sorts to his debate performance last week.

The Crists cast the ballots, and then he joined a couple teachers outside- "We're voting for education today. That's really what this is about" - before taking questions for about 90 seconds.

Q: Republicans want you to return donations from strip club owners.

A" We got it from a management company as i understand it, so I'm happy to vote today. That's what today is all about--early voting."

Q: Republicans have a big lead in mail-in votes cast so far. Are you worried?

A: "Three of the biggest Democratic counties didn't send their's out as early as some of the others did, so I'm encouraged. I think it's going to be fine and I know it's a lot better than it was in 2010."

Q: Are you intimidated by reports that Scott might spend another $22-million of his own money?

A" "I'm not intimidated by it. Rick Scott talked about spending $100-million and we decided to to run again anyway because people deserve a choice and it isn't all about the money. Maybe it is to them but not to me."

Q: So will you have a fan for CNN debate?

A: "I have no idea."

Hotly contested race could shape Florida Senate

The most closely watched race in the Florida Senate is a bare-knuckle battle between two political rivals.

But the contest between Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs and former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff is more than just a grudge match. It could also give Republicans a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber — and determine the Senate president in 2016.

Some observers say it could even help Democrat Charlie Crist become Florida's next governor.

"If this race turns out people in Broward and Palm Beach counties, those people are also going to vote for Crist," said Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Read more here.