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7 posts from April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012

American Conservative Union to the rescue, backs Connie Mack in Senate race

Congressman Connie Mack, whose Senate campaign has lost luster in the eyes of some Republicans, is scheduled to get a big endorsement Tuesday from the American Conservative Union, the nation's largest grassroots group, the Associated Press Reports.

The endorsement comes none too soon for Mack, who is favored by FreedomWorks but has failed to inspire a show of support from the Club for Growth. State CFO Jeff Atwater is mulling whether to enter the race, but an ACU endorsement will probably give him pause.

Divided JNC bars members from supporting any judicial candidates

In a sign that Florida’s merit retention fight is becoming increasingly testy, the members of the board that nominates candidates to the Florida Supreme Court adopted a policy Monday banning its members from contributing to or actively participating in any judicial race in the state -- including races the board will have no effect on, such as the merit retention race of the three justices to the Supreme Court.

The decision angered former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, one of the Judicial Nominating Commission members who has been actively involved in a number of local judicial races and is co-chairman of the campaign for Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis.

Lewis, along with Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are up for merit retention in November. Voters will have a choice of selecting yes or no to allow the justice to continue to serve. Because the justices are already appointed, the JNC has no role in their retention. The commission's role is to select three nominees when there is an opening on the court and send the list to the governor for appointment.

“We’re just going to too far,’’ said Butterworth, a former judge who was the state’s attorney general, during the conference call. “I know my name’s on a number of invitations. I’m not going to be able to take it off.’’

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FL CFO Jeff Atwater: I'll "take a hard look" at running for U.S. Senate. Bad news for Connie Mack?

It started as a few shaking heads, some whispers, a sense of disappointment in the Republican U.S. Senate race. Now the feeling that Congressman Connie Mack might not be what Republicans need is leading to a draft-CFO-Jeff-Atwater campaign.

The Shark Tank reports that Sen. Marco Rubio's former finance chair, Nancy McGowan, and Indian River Tea Party Chairman Toby Hill want Atwater to run for the seat.

"I think I have a responsibility to sit back, to these people that I respect greatly, who are serious-minded conservatives of this great state, to take a hard look at it..I think I have to," Atwater told The Shark Tank.

It's no easy task running for a federal seat if you've been a statewide candidate (it's harder to raise non-corporate dollars). But unlike Mack or Republican George LeMieux, Atwater has actually been on a statewide ballot.

In fact, he received more votes than any Republican in 2010 (more than Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi or Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Atwater, a former Florida Senate President as well, hails from one of the hotbeds for Republican political finance, Palm Beach County. And unlike Mack, the current frontrunner, Atwater has a more experienced Florida team that's better plugged into the state Republican Party.

Still, Atwater has a major weakness: His 2009 vote in the state Legislature to take Obama stimulus money and raise $2.2 billion worth of taxes and fees. Tax-raising is a killer in a GOP primary, let alone a general election. Also, Atwater's a banker. He's cautious by trade, if not by nature. Chances are, and this is a guess on my part, he doesn't do it.

Regardless, it's a warning shot to Mack and LeMieux.

**Update, Mack's campaign comments on Atwater and the "left-wing media:"

"Connie Mack has sent Bill Nelson and his liberal allies, including those in the press, into panic mode and it won't work. Republicans know that  conservative Connie Mack will defeat liberal Bill Nelson and Mitt Romney will defeat Nelson's chief ally Barack Obama, regardless of what the left wing media wants."

Herald named Pulitzer finalist for series on neglect at assisted living facilities

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists have been announced and the Miami Herald was a finalist in the category of Public Service Journalism for its series, Neglected to Death, by reporters Rob Barry, Carol Marbin Miller, Mike Sallah, Kenny Malone  and Ana Larrauri.

The judges commended The Herald "for its exposure of deadly abuses and lax state oversight in Florida's assisted-living facilities for the elderly and mentally ill that resulted in the closure of dangerous homes, punishment of violators and creation of tougher laws and regulations." Despite the series, the Florida Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have imposed tough new safeguards on the industry in Florida.

Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marques Gonzalez said the Pulitzer recognition "is a welcome acknowledgement of extraordinary work that literally saved lives." Read Pulitzer story here.

Winners of the top prizes in journalism include:

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Movers and Shakers: Hughes leaves RPOF, Scott hires new top jobs guy

Hughes resigns from RPOF to focus on own firm

Brian Hughes resigned from his post with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Republicans to oversee his own strategic communications firm, Meteoric Media Strategies.

Hughes was deputy executive director for the Republican Party of Florida.

Previously, he has served as deputy communications director for the Executive Office of the Governor and for RPOF. During the 2010 legislative session, Hughes was communications director for the Florida Senate Majority Office under Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

“Now it’s time to get back to building my own business while helping Republicans the best way I know how, in the trenches during the hard-fought battles of an election year,” said Hughes in a statement.

Hughes started Meteoric Media in 2009 working with candidate campaigns and issue advocacy. His clients include CFO Jeff Atwater, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Hughes will continue to advise RPOF until the agency finds a replacement.

Scott hires new top jobs guy

Banking executive Hunting Deutsch, the vice president of Wealth Management at BankUnited, will lead the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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John DeGrove, Florida's father of growth management, dies

John DeGroveFrom 1000 Friends of Florida statement:

Dr. John DeGrove, “Father of Growth Management,” passes away

The Board and staff of 1000 Friends of Florida deeply regret the passing of one of its most eminent founders. A fifth generation Floridian, Dr. John DeGrove was born on May 4, 1924 in St. Augustine, growing up on what he described “one-sick-mule farm” in nearby Palm Valley. 

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Herald and others sue to open Zimmerman documents

The Miami Herald and other media outlets are asking a judge to unseal court documents in the prosecution of George Zimmerman in Sanford.

In a motion filed Monday, the press asked that a Seminole Circuit Judge reconsider a quickly made decision last week to seal the court file, which in Florida is normally a public record.

In a case that has riveted the nation, Zimmerman is facing a charge of second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen visiting his father’s girlfriend in a gated Sanford community.

Trayvon, 17, the neighborhood watch volunteer got into a physical confrontation, and Zimmerman shot the teen. Claiming self-defense, Zimmerman was not initially arrested and police cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in not charging him. Story here.