« March 10, 2014 | Main | March 12, 2014 »

18 posts from March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014

Republicans' CD13 win gives Florida Democrats a bad case of déjà vu


It happened again.

Another mid-term election year. Another Democratic loss. Another Republican win.

This time, the scene was the special election in St. Petersburg-based Congressional District 13, where Republican David Jolly carried more than 48.4 percent of the vote to Democrat Alex Sink’s 46.5 percent, according to initial results Tuesday.

Jolly’s 1.9 percentage-point victory came at a crucial time for the Republican Party of Florida. It watched Democrats gain legislative and congressional seats in 2012, when President Obama won the nation’s largest swing state for the second time.

But without Obama on the ticket, something weird happens to the Florida Democratic Party and its candidates in big mid-term elections: They lose swing races. Though this was a special election in a mid-term year, the pattern remains.

"Special elections are not an indicator of the future," U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, the DCCC chair said Wednesday morning, lamenting the close loss. "Special elections are not predictive, they are instructive." 

Continue reading "Republicans' CD13 win gives Florida Democrats a bad case of déjà vu " »

Media coverage roundup of Tuesday night's David Jolly/Alex Sink congressional election

The Miami Herald

Without President Barack Obama on the ticket, something weird happens to the Florida Democratic Party and its candidates in big mid-term elections: They lose swing races. Though this was a special election in a mid-term year, the pattern remains.

Read more here


Both Democrats and the GOP had plowed millions of dollars into the race in the hopes it would give them a boost heading into the midterms. The GOP, which focused its attacks on linking (Alex) Sink to Obamacare, managed to win with an untested candidate that many in the national party had grown frustrated with.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/david-jolly-alex-sink-florida-special-election-2014-104543.html#ixzz2vhiQ6984



The Washington Post

Jolly's win in a Gulf Coast district just west of Tampa illustrated the political toxicity of the law known as Obamacare. Jolly favored repealing and replacing the law, which was a central focus of the campaign, while his Democratic opponent did not. The law's botched rollout has heightened Democrats' anxiety eight months before the midterm elections. The Florida result is likely to raise their concerns.

Read more here


The New York Times

The special election to replace Representative C. W. Bill Young, a Republican who held the seat for more than 40 years, may offer a hint at how Republicans and Democrats will do in midterm races this year. The campaign had largely been commandeered by national political organizations that are waging a proxy battle over issues such as the president’s health care program and Social Security.

Read more here


Tampa Bay Times

It was a deflating moment for Democrats, who were already facing a tough November and saw in Sink a buffer from the health care attacks. And it was a crushing blow to Sink, the former state CFO who narrowly lost her 2010 race for governor to political rookie millionaire Rick Scott.

Read more here


Associated Press

The battle for Florida's 13th District seat is a prequel of sorts to the national fight this year over who controls Congress in the last two years of Obama's final presidential term. The House is expected to remain under Republican control. But in the Senate, Republicans are hoping to leverage Obama's unpopularity and his health care law's wobbly start to gain the six seats required to control the 100-member chamber.

Read more here: 



While a contest this far out from the midterms rarely offers a preview of what will actually happen in November, the election was seen by some pundits as a potential bellwether.

Read more here



South Florida congressional delegation asks for more customs agents at Miami International Airport


Asking for more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents for Miami International Airport is a bipartisan political issue.

All seven South Florida members of Congress sent a letter Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging him to increase the number of agents at MIA, which has been understaffed for nearly two years.

The shortage hurts MIA's growth, the letter says -- especially since the county-owned airport can't fully staff an $180 million facility opened in 2012 to ease North Terminal delays. The airport recently added several dozen self-service kiosks to process arriving passengers, increased its own staffing to manage crowds and reimbursed the feds $6 million to pay for customs personnel as part of a pilot program approved by Congress. 

“MIA has invested in the necessary infrastructure to accommodate its growth and it would be unconscionable if a key U.S. port of entry cannot capitalize on new markets and additional international air service because of CBP’s insufficient staffing levels,” the letter says.

It was spearheaded by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and signed by Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Joe Garcia, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

The shortage has not gone unnoticed outside the airport.

At a Miami cruise industry conference Tuesday, Arnold Donald, chief executive of Carnival Corp., mentioned the delays to clear customs for air passengers compared to cruise passengers.

"I bet a lot of you weren't treated with love and tenderness" at MIA, he said.

--with Douglas Hanks

This post has been updated to include Wasserman Schultz, whose name had been omitted in error.

Miami-Dade labor unions want healthcare prices


Miami-Dade labor representatives urged county administrators Tuesday to require more price transparency from hospitals, doctors and insurers — including the county’s employee health plan administrator, AvMed — as a way to help reduce the rising cost of employee health benefits in 2015.

Healthcare costs could rise as much as 10 percent next year when Miami-Dade’s employee health plan could cost as much as $424.7 million, said Ed Marquez, deputy mayor for finance.

With that sense of urgency, the Labor Healthcare Committee — established by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to review employee health benefits and save money — began to lay the ground work for labor negotiations that will begin later this year.

The committee will meet as both sides negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to cover a three-year period from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2017.

Health benefits and their costs are expected to be a major point of contention, following a vote by Miami-Dade commissioners in December to restore workers’ pay and no longer require the county’s nearly 26,000 employees to contribute 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs.

More here.

Coral Reef teacher says politics got him banned from visit by 'BOGUS POTUS'


Randall Scott “would rather dine in Hell with Satan” than shake President Barack Obama’s hand. But the Coral Reef Senior High teacher says he was wronged last week when he was barred from attending a speech by the president in his school’s gymnasium.

Obama spoke Friday about higher education to a crowd of about 1,600 and Scott, a self-described “virulent anti-Communist and hater of Obamanism,” says he wasn’t welcome.

The social studies teacher wrote on his Instagram account that his outspoken views on social media caused the Secret Service to ban him from seeing the president speak. He said he ignored a request by his principal to lay low; one of his posts ahead of the president’s visit referred to Obama as a vulgar term that rhymes with the word wussy.

“I was singled out for using my right to free speech,” Scott wrote in an open letter he said was sent to the media.

But school district spokesman John Schuster said Scott’s political views in his own classroom were so inflammatory that two students had requested to be withdrawn from his class prior to the president’s visit – prompting investigators to take interest.

“Because of the sensitivity surrounding the allegations regarding remarks that were made — remarks that were reviewed by Miami-Dade Schools Police and the U.S. Secret Service — the matter is currently under review,” Schuster wrote in a statement. “The size and set-up of the event venue did not permit all of the school’s staff and students to attend, and local administrators were required to decide who would attend to represent the school.”

Scott shockingly was not among that group.

Miami-Dade may revise manatee protections


So protected are the gentle sea cows that roam the waters off Biscayne Bay that regulations have thwarted the marine industry’s growth and frustrated developers’ plans to build widespread docks for recreational boaters.

At least that’s the argument from boaters and industry groups seeking to loosen restrictions in place for nearly two decades to guard the endangered Florida manatee.

They have a powerful supporter: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who has proposed revising the county’s manatee-protection plan to allow for more commercial and residential docks along key waterways.

“Where our plan was very rigid before, this one’s more flexible,” Barreiro said from the dais in January. “I want to give more encouragement to more boat ownership and more marine use.”

The revisions, scheduled for a public hearing Thursday, are not only opposed by environmental activists, who contend the new rules would put more boats on the water that could collide with the slow-moving mammals. Miami-Dade’s own regulators object to some of the proposed changes, which Barreiro concedes were based on recommendations from the marine and development industries.

“You’re trying to tell the state to make the boundaries less strict. That’s not what the data says,” said Lee Hefty, director of the county’s division of environmental resources management, DERM. “It would probably be a hard sell.”

More here.

Bill to take politics out of Supreme Court appointment gets dwarfed by -- politics

A bill portrayed as an attempt to keep politics out of judicial appointments dissolved into a tense political dispute Tuesday as the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out a constitutional amendment to give the next governor the ability to stack the court -- against the wishes of Democrats. 

The proposal by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon and chairman of the committee, on its surface looks like a simple attempt to clarify Florida law that now raises questions about whether an outgoing governor or his incoming successor is entitled to make the appointments to the Florida Supreme Court when the vacancy occurs on inauguration day.

But, because of a coincidence of timing, the terms of three of the seven sitting justices are expected to expire at the same time as the term of the next governor. As a result, the proposed amendment effectively allows the governor elected in 2014 to stack the court as one of the final acts of his four-year term -- potentially leaving a legacy that could last generations.

"Good governance transcends any personality or ideology,'' said Lee, who is a supporter of Gov. Rick Scott. "If we try to do this in 2016, there will be a whole lot of discussion about who this benefits and who this doeen't. I think this is the purest time to deal with it." 

But who wins the election in November may determine when the justices decide to retire. If the justices agree with the judicial philosophy of the sitting governor, they could retire early, and give the governor clear authority to appoint their successors. If they disagree with the governor's philosophy, they could wait until the end of the next governor's term and leave open the door for a successor governor to pick the replacement. 

Continue reading "Bill to take politics out of Supreme Court appointment gets dwarfed by -- politics" »

Sen. Rubio reports for jury duty on Wednesday in Miami-Dade

From AP:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is reporting for jury duty in Miami.

A spokesman for the Florida Republican says Rubio will be flying from Washington to Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

Rubio is to report at 8 a.m. Wednesday for jury duty at the Richard Gerstein Justice Building, where Miami-Dade County criminal trials are held.

Rubio's family residence is in West Miami, where he began his political career as a city commissioner. Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Charlie Crist's claim on economic turnaround faces Truth-O-Meter

The Republican Party has tried to boil down the comparison between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, with four words: "Crist crash, Scott surge."

Crist -- a Republican-turned-independent while serving as governor from January 2007 to January 2011, was indeed in office during the economic downturn. His successor, Scott, has been in office during the recovery. Crist, now a Democrat, wants his old job back -- and he argues that the economic recovery actually started on his watch, not Scott’s.

He made that argument in a March 9, 2014, interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley:

Crowley: "Can I get you in a yes or no to get you to tell me whether you think the economy is better than it was when the governor (Scott) took office?"

Crist: "I think it is, yes. You can. And I'm always comfortable telling the truth but that turnaround started at the end of my term. And one of the reasons is I accepted the stimulus money, saved thousands of teachers’ jobs, law enforcement officers, firefighters, (is that) it was the right thing to do. … President Obama said, I want to help you, and I said yes as a Republican to a Democratic president. Not because it was political, but because it was right."

We have previously fact-checked Crist’s claims about the stimulus. But PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter revs up when we hear candidates make a point of saying they’re "telling the truth." Here we will fact-check Crist’s claim that the economic turnaround started at the end of his term.

Broward gay leaders to host Crist fundraiser

Several activists in Broward’s gay community are hosting a fundraiser for Charlie Crist's campaign for governor next week.

The March 19 event will be held at the home of Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, an attorney and the city’s first openly gay city commissioner. The event is the first fundraiser in Broward’s politically active gay community for Crist.

Crist’s Democratic rival, former Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, has been a loyal supporter of gay rights. But Rich is lagging behind in fundraising and gay Democrats want to invest in the candidate they believe can win.

“I know that everyone is saying why have you abandoned Nan Rich? I don’t think we have abandoned Nan,” Trantalis said. “She has been a longtime supporter of equal rights for the LGBT community and she is a great person. ... There are some members of the gay community who have embraced Nan Rich’s campaign and I think that’s fine, but the reality is I don’t believe Nan has the ability to win statewide whereas I believe Charlie Crist has that ability...”

Gay activists point to Crist’s transformation in favor of gay marriage -- a stance that many more politicians have come to support including President Barack Obama. In an interview with Watermark, a Central Florida publication that caters to the gay community, Crist apologized for his previous stance against gay marriage.

"It comes down to one word: fairness," Crist told Watermark in an interview published in December. "Everybody deserves to be treated fairly."

PolitiFact has examined Crist’s stances on a few gay rights topics -- we put two on our Flip-O-Meter which does not make a judgment call on a politician’s changed stance but measures whether the person did flip and to what extent.

* PolitiFact gave Crist a “Full Flop” for changing his stance on gay marriage -- he came out in support in 2013.  After gay marriage had victories in several states, Crist posted a message of support on Facebook: "I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here." 

* PolitiFact gave Crist a Full Flop for his stance on gays adopting -- he came out in favor after he left the GOP and became an independent in 2010.

* PolitiFact fact-checked Crist’s claim “I always supported civil unions.” Crist repeatedly made statements in favor of civil unions between 2006 and 2010. In fact a gay publication endorsed him in the Republican primary in 2006 because of his stance on civil unions. But Crist sacrified his support for civil unions by voting for an anti-gay-marriage amendment that could have also banned civil unions. We rated his claim Mostly False.

Back to the fundraiser: other host committee members include Michael Albetta, a well-known gay Democratic activist in Broward; Robin Bodiford, co-author of the county's domestic partnership ordinance and Norman Kent, publisher of South Florida Gay News.

The fundraiser starts at 5:30 p.m. and is seeking $100 per person or $25 for those under 30.