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June 16, 2014

Crist appeals to teachers, blasts Scott's record on education

Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist plans to make education the focus of his campaign, he said Monday.

To make his point, the Republican turned Democrat held a roundtable discussion with teachers in Tallahassee on Monday -– and then asked one of them to deliver his qualifying paperwork to the Florida Department of State.

"What this campaign is going to be about, first and foremost, is making sure we have someone in the governor's mansion [who] understands how precious education is and how important it is to honor our teachers and not demoralize the heck out of them," Crist said.

The thirteen teachers who attended the roundtable hailed mostly from the Florida Panhandle. They opened the conversation by thanking Crist for his veto of a controversial teacher performance pay bill in 2010.

Crist called it "an honor" to veto the proposal, SB 6 in the 2010 session.

"It was exciting," he said. "It got unexciting because the next year, Rick Scott signed the bill. But we are going to undo it."

Repealing the law would be a heavy lift. The Republican-dominated legislature has been supportive of performance pay for teachers, as have influential think tanks. But Crist said he would have bargaining power after winning office.

"If we win, they will consider things because I will have a [veto] pen again," he said.

Later, Crist blasted the turnover at the state Department of Education. "It's like a revolving door of idiocy," he said. 

He also accused Scott of spending too little on education given the recent surplus.

The budget Scott recently inked sets aside $18.9 billion for education, the largest amount in state history. But the per-pupil funding level, $6,937, still falls short of the $7,126 spent per student in 2007-08.

"He talks about jobs all the time," Crist said of his opponent. "But he won’t lay the groundwork so people can get them."

Scott's campaign was quick to fire back.

"Most of us realize that no matter how many times you repeat a lie, you can’t make it true," campaign spokesman Greg Blair said in a statement. "Not Charlie Crist. The unfortunate truth for him is that he left K-12 schools in a worse financial position than when he entered office while Gov. Scott has provided record funding for schools and $480 million for teacher pay raises."

Blair added: "At this rate, Charlie Crist will soon try to convince Floridians that the earth is flat."

Crist has already won the endorsement of the Florida Education Association, the state teachers union.

Arecia Shelton, a guidance counselor at Fairview Middle in Leon County, said she would rally her colleagues to support Crist's bid for governor.

"You earned the respect of teachers," she told him Monday.

Rick Scott releases tax returns ($8.7m income in '12), calls on Charlie Crist to do same.


Gov. Rick Scott released three years of tax returns Monday and called on his top Democratic rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, to do the same.

"I think Charlie Crist will follow our lead and disclose his and his wife's tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012," said Scott, who filed jointly with his wife Frances Ann Scott said. "I think he ought to do that right away so every citizen in the state can look at that and because transparency is good for everybody."

A Crist spokesman, Kevin Cate, accepted Scott's challenge and issued one of his own

"Let's do it. And go back further," Cate said via Twitter.

Scott has filed for an extension on his 2013 tax returns, so they couldn't be disclosed.

Unlike many politicians in Florida's Capitol, Scottis decreasing while he's in office.

Scott reported about $8.7 million in adjusted gross income in 2012, a decrease of nearly $572,000 since his tax filing in 2010, before the political newcomer won office. Scott's total tax bill: $1.35 million -- a decrease of about $469,00.

Scott, who released the tax returns on the day he and Crist officially qualified to run for office, pointed out that he released three years of tax returns in 2010 as well. The major difference between then and now is literally technical: This batch of returns isn't available in a PDF format; they have to be read on his website.

Updated paragraph: The following is struck out because, in reviewing the record, Rick Scott either misspoke or his comment was transcribed improperly. "The last person I ran against in the general, the Democratic candidate, didn't do it. But I'm doing it because I believe in transparency," Scott said, pointing out that his finances are in a blind trust to prevent "the appearance of a conflict of interest."

Here's the press release:

Governor Rick Scott today made a sweeping disclosure of his personal finances as he completed the qualifying process as a candidate for reelection, going well beyond the requirements of Florida transparency laws.

The Governor qualified for reelection with the Secretary of State and also filed his financial assets in a personal financial disclosure with the Florida Commission on Ethics to provide the public full transparency. The Governor then immediately placed his assets back into a blind trust. The use of a blind trust avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest for an elected official, protects the people of Florida from an elected official making decisions based on personal finances, and is recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics for this reason. In fact, Charlie Crist’s grand jury on ethics reform recommended blind trusts be used by Governors, Lieutenant Governors and Cabinet officials in 2010.

Governor Scott also released his joint tax returns with First Lady Ann Scott for 2010, 2011, and 2012. Governor Scott previously released joint tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009 when he ran for office in 2010, even though that release was not required by law. Today’s additional voluntary release of his and the First Lady’s tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012 means six years of their tax returns have been made public. He also previously reported a list of his financial assets to the Florida Commission on Ethics when he qualified in 2010. Most Floridians would be surprised to know that Governor Scott refuses to collect a paycheck from the state of Florida.

Governor Scott said, “For the purposes of qualifying as a candidate for reelection, I have disclosed my financial assets today. However, before that and immediately after filing, these assets were under the management of an independent financial professional in a blind trust in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“In order to provide even more transparency to the public, my wife Ann and I also voluntarily released the last three years of our tax returns. I hope that Charlie Crist will follow our lead and take the same steps today by releasing his and his spouse’s tax returns. His immediate public production of these tax returns for 2011 and 2012 is important to provide the people of Florida the transparency they deserve.”

CLICK HERE for Background Information on Blind Trust and Tax Returns

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott’s Transmittal letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics

CLICK HERE for Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott’s Tax Returns

FSU application pending, John Thrasher files for re-election

From the News Service of Florida:

As the search for a new president at Florida State University plays out, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, formally qualified Monday to run for re-election in his Northeast Florida district.

Thrasher is widely considered to be the front-runner for the presidency of FSU, where he earned bachelor's and law degrees. But it remains unclear how long the stop-and-start search process will take. Qualifying for this year's state elections started at noon Monday and will end at noon Friday.

Thrasher qualified on the first day in Senate District 6, along with fellow Republican Derek Hankerson and no-party-affiliation candidate Greg Feldman. District 6 includes all of St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties and part of Volusia County.

Miami-Dade pets group finally finds a commission candidate [updated]


Even a television campaign couldn't shake loose some challengers that pet advocates wanted to run for the Miami-Dade County Commission.

"We tried,'' a dejected Michael Rosenberg, president of the Miami-Dade Pets' Trust, wrote Naked Politics on Monday. 

Update: Rosenberg wrote a much cheerier email Tuesday afternoon. "Last night we received a response to our ad,'' he wrote. Marjorie C. Figueira, a school administrator, agreed to run against District 12 Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz. The story on her and other candidates' qualifying for the ballot is here. Wrote Rosenberg: "Marjorie wants to make a difference."

The organization behind 2012's successful straw-poll resolution endorsing a special property tax for animal services had hoped to find a candidate to champion their cause in this year's commission elections. It ran television spots pleading with someone to run against incumbents who the Pets' Trust viewed as not supporting the will of the voters in the non-binding ballot item. 

In a video sent by Rosenberg, Figueira said she responded to the Pets' Trust ad and decided to "get involved." She cited library funding as a priority, and also noted: "I believe when people vote, their votes should count." 


 Rosenberg said Monday he saw little hope of a candidate throwing a hat into the ring. 

"Money was the biggest reason,'' Rosenberg said in an interview. With the six incumbents up for reeelction collectively having raised more than $2 million, Rosenberg said would-be candidates didn't see a path to victory. "It would be like the Dolphins playing a team without any equipment." 

Continue reading "Miami-Dade pets group finally finds a commission candidate [updated]" »

Brian Ballard takes Manhattan in Tusk Strategies alliance

From a press release:

TALLAHASSEE – Ballard Partners, one of Florida’s largest and most successful government affairs firms, today announced a strategic alliance with New York City-based Tusk Strategies, Inc., which specializes in political consulting and advocacy campaigns.

“Ballard Partners not only shares several clients with Tusk Strategies, we share a passion for their issues and a driving commitment to their success. The strategic alliance forged between our two firms will provide clients with an even deeper bench of seasoned, knowledgeable professionals at their disposal. I am pleased to be affiliated with Bradley Tusk and his top-notch team,” said Brian Ballard, president of Ballard Partners.

Tusk Strategies, Inc., develops, manages and executes successful campaigns for Fortune 500 corporations, interest and trade groups, and major advocacy groups and institutions focused on state and local government across the nation. They have put their expertise to work for a diverse group of clients, including AT&T, Walmart, Expedia, StudentsFirst, The College Board, Weather Channel, Uber, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Resorts World, PENewark and NBC News.

Download Ballard Tusk Strategic Alliance Joint Release_FINAL (3)

Rick Scott signs 'Charlotte's Web' medical pot bill


As promised, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that legalizes the use of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions like childhood epilepsy. He signed Senate Bill 1030, which approves the medication, and SB 1700, which protects the identifies of the patients who use it, today.

"As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer," Scott said in a statement. "The approval of Charlotte’s Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life."

Despite this legislation that is now state law, there is still a larger medical marijuana debate that will be held later this year in Florida. Voters will be asked to weigh in on Amendment 2, a much broader medical pot referendum.

Scott has said in the past that he personally opposes legalizing medical marijuana but will leave the issue to voters.

The governor's office also announced today that he approved  HB 697, which bans six new synthetic drugs.

Gov. Scott draws two Republican primary opponents

Gov. Rick Scott drew two little-known Republican challengers Monday as the week-long candidate qualifying period got underway in Florida.

Both of Scott's newfound rivals are women: Yinka Abosede Adeshina of Tallahassee and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder of Sarasota each paid the qualifying fee of about $7,800 to have their names listed on the Aug. 26 ballot.

Both will be considered the longest of longshots, but their presence on the ballot may force Scott to spend time and resources solidifying his Republican base. Scott also is likely to face questions of whether he's willing to debate his primary opponents.

Adeshina's website describes her as "focused on providing healthcare to all Floridians by 2017, improving diversification in the workforce and reducing unemployment." She is a 1997 graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit and is the mother of twin sons, one of whom is autistic, according to her campaign web site, www.yinkaadeshinaforgovernor2014.com.

Cuevas-Neunder's web site, www.elizabethforgovernor.com, describes her as the only bilingual candidate for governor and that she's running on behalf of all of the "underrepresented citizens of our state."

UM's Sylvester among cancer centers sharing $300M to boost research


Between Florida's size and its senior population, cancer treatment is needed heremore than in most other states. Yet Florida has only one facility with the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation: Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center.

According to the American Cancer Society, Florida ranks second in the nation in cancer incidence and mortality, but 15th in NCI grant funding.

That could change under a proposal backed by Gov. Rick Scott and approved by the Legislature to spend $300 million over the next five years helping cancer centers at the University of Miami and University of Florida get NCI's stamp of approval. Moffitt will get the largest share of the money to help it grow and improve.

"There's unfortunately so much cancer in the state that even if we wanted to, we couldn't take care of everybody," Moffitt director and executive vice president Thomas Sellers said.

NCI, a division of the National Institutes of Health, gives varying designations to 68 cancer centers that pass a rigorous evaluation process. The title isn't just an honor — with it comes special access to grants and clinical trials.

Read more here.

TV anchor calls out Rick Scott for refusing interview unless campaign OKs topics, interviewer

via @AdamSmithTimes

News 13's Ybeth Bruzual in Orlando called out the campaign of Gov. Rick Scott for refusing to sit down for an interview unless the topic was limited to Hispanic outreach and the campaign could approve the reporter asking the questions. News 13 is the sister station of Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay, which also has a Sunday political affairs show called Political Connection in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times and also has had little or no luck getting Gov. Scott to come by for an interview in more than a year. Charlie Crist is Sunday's guest on Political Connections on Bay News 9 on Tampa Bay.

Update, The Huffington Post also wrote about this, noting:

It isn't the first time Scott has frustrated reporters by declining to directly answer questions. When WFTV's Lori Brown was rebuffed while asking about the state's broken unemployment website several months ago, she told viewers in Orlando, "For the fourth time, he did not answer our questions."

"You may not have noticed, but Gov. Rick Scott doesn't much like answering questions," observed the Orlando Weekly after the kerfuffle. "What color is the sky? Jobs!"

Scott's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.