Thursday, August 28, 2014

Greenlight Pinellas advocates want you to know they have GOP support

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Karen Seel
  • Karen Seel
Earlier this month the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously to oppose Greenlight Pinellas, the tax swap proposal that would include a one-cent sales tax increase for enhanced bus and light-rail service in the county.

“I think at that point it's really tough to say there's Republican support," committee member Daryle Hamel told the Tampa Tribune. "While you may have individual candidates or elected officials support it, I think there's a clear definition that as a party, this is a massive tax increase.”

Au contraire, says Kyle Parks with Yes on Greenlight, the political committee pushing for passage of the transit tax.

"If you really want to hit a nerve (about GOP support), ask Susan Latvala or Karen Seel or Frank Hibbert. I can go on and on and on," he says of notable Republicans in the county who are fully supportive of the measure. 

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New report says minimum wage in Florida should be doubled to support working families

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM

A new report says that the mininum wage in Florida simply doesn't allow families to make ends meet, and that a true living wage in Florida would amount to just less than $17 an hour (officially $16.98).

"This reflects what's needed to make basic needs, and also to maintain some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead," said Allyson Fredericksen, Policy Associate with the Alliance for a Just Society based in Seattle. 

That group has recently produced a new report called The Job Gap: Families Out of Balance, an in-depth look on family debt and the living wage in Florida. 

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Mitch Perry Report 8.28.14 - Will Florida Democrats unify for better results than 2010?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The Florida Democratic Party's unity event from 2010
  • The Florida Democratic Party's unity event from 2010

Four years ago, the Florida Democratic Party hosted a "unity" event in Tampa at the State Fairgrounds. Along with all of their Cabinet nominees like Alex Sink, Dan Gelber, Scott Maddox and Lorraine Ausley present, there were Dems like Dave Aronberg, whom Gelber had defeated in an intensely fought primary election, and Kendrick Meek, the party's Senate candidate (who would end up finishing third that year, behind Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist). It was a feel-good moment, and it meant nothing two months later when the Democrats got their clocks cleaned by state Republicans.

So will 2014 have a different ending for the Democrats, as they prepare for similar unity events today in Orland and Fort Lauderdale?

Impossible to say at this point, obviously. But please, don't take the lackluster turnout numbers in South Florida as a barometer. As we wrote leading into this week's primary election, it frankly wasn't that exciting a ballot, especially if you were part of the biggest affiliated group of voters in the state, independents, who are shut out of participating in primary elections.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Florida Republicans blast expected lawsuit against school voucher program

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 5:26 PM


The state's largest teacher's union released a statement on Wednesday saying that they are planning another lawsuit related to the state's school voucher program. The Florida Education Association will hold a press conference tomorrow in Tallahassee to discuss the case. But state Republicans aren't waiting until Thursday to express their indignation at the idea of such a lawsuit.

The FEA is already suing over a bill passed this year that expands the school voucher program. That suit says lawmakers “logrolled” too many education issues into a single bill that passed in the final hours of the legislative session.

Approximately 60,000 students in Florida are currently receiving tax credit scholarships, which allows corporations to fund private-school scholarships for low-income children. The businesses receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits in exchange for their contributions.

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HD 65 GOP Rep candidate Chris Sprowls cites study that says it's better to have no insurance than Medicaid

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Chris Sprowls
  • Chris Sprowls
Youth vs. experience, and likely lots of money vs. not so much, appears to be the scenario already forming in two Pinellas County House races taking place his fall between the Republican and Democratic Party candidates in House Districts 65 and 67. On Wednesday afternoon, the four candidates involved in those two races met at the Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg.

HD 65 encompasses Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and East Lake, fertile territory for conservatives that longtime Pinellas school teacher Carl Zimmermann was able to steal from the GOP in 2012. Now he's facing an intense challenge from 30-year-old Pasco/Pinellas prosecutor Chris Sprowls, who seems to already being groomed for leadership in the GOP House, months before he's been even been elected.

But the up-and-coming Republican made a stunning statement at today's forum, when asked if he would support expanding Medicaid if elected in November. 

Citing a 2010 University of Virginia study that reported that 
surgical patients on Medicaid are 13% more likely to die than those with no insurance at all, Sprowls said that women with Stage 3 breast cancer end up having higher mortality rates on Medicaid than on regular health insurance, leading him to say, "You might be physically better off not to have insurance than Medicaid," before quickly adding, "I don't know if I believe that."

(The study got currency in conservative circles after former Mitt Romney adviser Avik Roy wrote about it in the National Review, but as Media Matters reported in 2011, the authors of the study themselves have acknowledged that the study was flawed).

Moments later Zimmermann pounced, asking "How could no insurance be better than Medicaid?" adding that some people he knows who don't have insurance ultimately die for lack of care.

It's obvious that Democrats running for the Legislature (and Charlie Crist) will make the rejection of Medicaid expansion an issue this fall, and surely Sprowls will have a better argument for why he doesn't support its expansion the next time he's asked. 

Perhaps like his friend, fellow young Pinellas Republican Chris Latvala.

House District 67 encompasses mostly Clearwater and Largo, and has been represented for the past eight years by Republican Ed Hooper. But with his term expiring, the 32-year-old Latvala, one of the "dynasty" candidates trying to make it into the GOP House this fall (he's the son of Jack Latvala) is the candidate. He said he's against Medicaid expansion but would be willing listen to the will of the people of his district. "If that's something that they want I'll definitely support that — or at least listen to them."

Latvala is running against Democrat Steve Sarnoff, fresh off the latter's vanquishing of his much better financed Democratic opponent Shawna Vercher on Tuesday night. Sarnoff is a Bronx native and union leader who is an unabashed liberal and believes that the district is ripe for a Democrat to win. He's a decided underdog in terms of how the financial arms race will play out, as well as gunning up against the Latvala name, but he didn't appear to be backing down from the challenge on Wednesday.

"It's important that we are a product of our life experiences and trial and tribulations we've dealt with," he said. "That gives me the ability to relate to people of our district."

Regarding the issue of charter schools and the expansion of vouchers, Latvala said he supports them, as long as they have the standardized testing that public schools must undergo. Sprowls said he felt that school choice was important and believed in accountability. He said "when we go to the supermarket we have 40 choices for milk — strawberry, chocolate, fake milk — the fact of the matter is to give parents an opportunity that suits them. Allowing them the choice is a positive thing."

On the issue of Common Core standards, Sarnoff was the most enthusiastic supporter, saying that it wasn't mandated from the feds but from the National Governors Association (and was strongly backed by Jeb Bush). 

All of the candidates were asked what type of race they intend to run. The 63-year-old Zimmermann said that while he respected his much younger GOP opponent, in his opinion to adequately represent the people of the district you needed a wealth of experiences in life. "I plan on pointing out the differences between my opponent [and himself]. I have 48 years of experience ... and he has a little over four years' experience.."

For his part, Sprowls said he had plenty of experience as a prosecutor, and said people want less talk and more action from their representatives. 

Latvala said he believed Sarnoff was an honorable man and didn't intend to say anything different during the campaign. Zimmerman said he feared he was going to "get hit by a baseball bat" in terms of the Republican Party of Florida tearing him apart over certain votes.

In his closing remarks, Latvala also noted how he was recently lauded by Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper for refusing to debate on the same stage as recently vanquished HD68 Republican candidate Joshua Black, who earlier this year tweeted that President Obama should be hung. Latvala then compared that gesture to one he claims his opponent Steve Sarnoff did not make, referring to how a number of Democrats wrote to protest Pinellas Democratic Party chairman Mark Hanisee's treatment of Manuel Sykes when Hanisee told him he should not run for the Democratic nomination for Congress this year.

Latvala noted that one Democrat whose name wasn't on that letter protesting Sykes' treatment was Sarnoff. But afterwards Sarnoff said that only elected officials were asked to sign the letter — and Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, standing by Sarnoff, nodded her head in agreement.

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PSTA board stands firmly behind Brad Miller & Ken Welch

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Susan Latvala, Brad Miller & Ken Welch at today's PSTA meeting. - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • Susan Latvala, Brad Miller & Ken Welch at today's PSTA meeting.

Meeting for the first time since their CEO, Brad Miller, had to humbly return $354,000 to the Department of Homeland Security, the PSTA board heard intense criticism from some members of the public this morning, with some calling on Miller and PSTA chairman Ken Welch to resign, saying that that they have abused their positions.

Two months ago at the transit agency's June meeting, Welch blasted a report by WTSP's Mike Deeson that said that PSTA had misused funding from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for ads promoting Greenlight Pinellas, the transit tax initiative on the ballot this November. But in an about face, Miller earlier this month ended up refunding $354,000 to DHS after the federal agency said that the ads didn't meet the requirements for an "anti-terrorism" campaign. Further criticism reigned down on PSTA after the agency said they would post the names of those who request public information on the agency's website.

"This agency has lost the trust with the voters because of it’s continued scandals," said Dr. David McKalip, who initially wrote on his blog about the DHS funding. "This is not a one time thing, but a pattern of abuse with our tax dollars." He accused Miller and Welch of being "drunk with power."

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Triumph & travesty: a primary election round-up

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM

  • Kevin Tighe
  • Pat Kemp.

Unlike spirited Democratic Party gubernatorial encounters in 2002 and 2006, there was little suspense going into this week’s primary election between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich, with the former Republican poised to easily defeat his sole challenger for his new party’s nomination.
But in the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, GOP strategists began touting that if Crist didn’t sufficiently blow out Rich, he would already be in trouble in his mano-a-mano battle with Rick Scott come November.

“I think he’s got to get 80 percent,” said Tampa GOP consultant and columnist Chris Ingram on Florida This Week. “Because if he doesn’t have that intensity of hardcore Democrats to come out and vote for him as the primary candidate this coming Tuesday, he’s going to have a really hard time getting people who are just occasional voters, and they don’t follow politics at the level of intensity that primary voters do, [so] he’s going to have a really hard time beating Rick Scott.”

But when asked by CL on Monday what he thought about the threshold that he allegedly needed to obtain to prove “credible,” Crist shook his head dismissively.

“Fifty [percent] plus one,” he replied. “I don’t have any expectation of what the number should or should not be. I just want to be able to defeat Rick Scott and get Florida back on track.”

Crist ended up winning 74 percent of the vote; Rich finished with 26 percent.

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Mitch Perry Report 8.27.14 - We now return to the Crist-Scott bash-athon, already in progress

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 6:51 AM


You have to forgive the casual political observers in Florida this morning, who are waking up to headlines informing them that the Charlie Crist-Rick Scott battle is now "on," as opposed to what's been happening since springtime. 

Well, Crist is now the official nominee, for one thing, so the story for the next couple of days will be: Can the Democrats come together for a kumbaya moment? (We're looking at you, Senator Nelson.) That starts tomorrow, when the Dems hold "unity" events in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. 

Meanwhile, the most competitive race last night was in the Hillsborough County's District 6 Countywide School Board race. Incumbent April Griffin was expected to advance, so the big question was, who would be joining her in the runoff on November 4?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ed Narain topping Sean Shaw in intense HD61 race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 8:55 PM

  • Chip Weiner
  • Ed Narain
In a race that has one candidate labeled a carpetbagger and the other a "Rick Scott Republican," AT&T area manager Ed Narain is beating attorney and former state insurance consumer advocate Sean Shaw in the House District 61 seat, which encompasses parts of downtown Tampa, Ybor City and Seminole Heights.

With 324 of 347 precincts reporting, Narain is leading Shaw, 41-35 percent. Sharon Carter is at 16 percent, and Tatiana Denson is at 8 percent. 

Earlier in the day, Shaw told CL he was confident that he would win, as he assailed Narain for receiving contributions from conservative organizations such as the Florida Retail Federation, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "Ed has a unique ability to coalesce nasty people in his favor," he said.

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Ed Hooper crushes Norm Roche in Pinellas GOP District 2 County Commission race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Norm Roche in somewhat happier times.
  • Norm Roche in somewhat happier times.
It's been a controversial four years for Norm Roche on the Pinellas County Commission, and the Republican electorate in Pinellas is turning him out of office in humiliating fashion Tuesday night.

With 287 of 299 precincts reporting, outgoing Clearwater-based state Representative Ed Hooper is leading Roche by 28 percentage points, 64-36 percent. 

Although he ran away from being tarred as a Tea Party favorite, Roche was swept into office alongside the GOP tsunami in 2010 after previous unsuccessful runs as a Democrat. 

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