Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Hottest 2010 Campaign Issue? Travel On State Planes

One of the hottest issues emerging in the statewide races coming up in 2010 appears to be travel on state aircraft.  Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp was the first to come under fire for what some deemed as “excessive” travel on state aircraft on the taxpayers dime.  Kottkamp, a rumored candidate for Attorney General, has moved to put the accusations to rest by reimbursing the state and hiring a well-respected legal team to assist in fighting ethics complaints.

The issue has not stopped with Kottkamp; however.  Attorney General Bill McCollum and CFO Alex Sink are now both facing ethics complaints over their own use of state aircraft.  Today, the first attack ad of the political cycle emerged with a YouTube video targeted at Sink.  The ad was produced by the 527 group “Don’t Bank on Sink”, which is headed up by Gainesville businessman Jay Navarrete.  The ad appears below: Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Questions for Florida’s Gubernatorial Candidates

With Tallahassee having proven itself too small to contain the political ambitions of Charlie Crist, the race for Florida’s next Chief Executive is wide open.  Alex Sink, the state’s CFO, looks as if she will sail to the Democratic nomination without any opposition.  Bill McCollum, the state’s Attorney General, has so far failed to draw a primary opponent, although State Senator Paula Dockery is said to be considering challenging him.  Regardless of which candidates are put forth, there are serious questions that should be raised of the candidates on both sides of the ticket.

Jeb Bush was arguably Florida’s most powerful governor in recent history.  During his tenure, the role of of the Governor was expanded like never before.  Prior to 2003, Florida’s Governor was merely one of seven equal votes on the state cabinet.  The cabinet voted on all executive level decisions, which meant an alliance of four votes could override the Governor on any executive level decisions.  In 2002, with Jeb Bush’s backing, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that shrunk the cabinet to three positions, greatly expanding the power of the governor.  At the same time, voters approved an amendment that eliminated the Board of Regents, which governed the state’s higher education and shifted that responsibility to the new Florida Board of Governors, which are appointed by the Governor.

Charlie Crist has continued to expand the role of the governor while in office, using his position to push through the deceptively named “Save Our Homes” Amendment.  (Deceptive, in that it marginally cut property taxes while negatively impacting funding for local governments.)

With those those two most recent chief executives in mind, here are five questions Duval County voters might want to ask as they begin to think of how they will vote next November.

1.  Where does the candidate stand on the expanded role of state power at the expense of local governments? The candidate’s position on this issue should begin to emerge rather quickly as they hit the campaign trail.  Are the candidates pushing an agenda that includes cutting property taxes?  If so, they are most likely masking an effort to further weaken the ability of local governments to provide essential services to their citizens.  They are also removing the option to cut taxes from local governments and consolidating it in Tallahassee.

2.  Does the candidate support the Crist practice of using non-recurring revenues and trust fund raids to balance the state budget? Sink was quick to announce her opposition to trust fund raids, but McCollum has remained ominously silent on the issue.  The practice is dangerous for Florida and something that will have dire consequences in the long term.

3.  Where does the candidate stand on water issues? This is one that will be quite difficult to pin any candidate running for statewide office down on, but it’s one that North Floridians should be very concerned about.  The recent decision by the St. Johns River Water Management District to allow Seminole County to remove up to 5.5 million gallons of water from the St. Johns River each day will not bode well for the long-term health of the river.  Central Florida has known for years that their growth is not sustainable, but will a gubernatorial candidate be willing to upset the vote-rich I-4 corridor to state the obvious?

4.  Where does the candidate stand on the sales surtax that Gov. Crist vetoed? This is an issue of particular importance to Duval County residents.  Duval is at a disadvantage when compared to every other county in the state because of the inability of our elected commission—the city council—to levy a sales tax surcharge to fund indigent care.  Crist inexplicably vetoed a measure that passed the legislature unanimously that would have allowed Jacksonville to shift the burden for indigent care from the city’s operating budget to a half-cent sales surtax, freeing up much-needed funds for other services.

5.  Where does the candidate stand on the Fair District Florida effort? Fair Districts Florida is an effort to put two amendments on the ballot  that would fundamentally alter the redistricting process in Florida.  Redistricting in Florida has grown increasingly partisan in the last several decades.  Groups have been marginalized and districts throughout the state have been drawn in ways that make no geographic sense—it’s glaringly apparent that they exist for one of two reasons:  To either protect an incumbent or minimize a specific segment of the population.  It’s important to know where the next Governor of Florida would stand on this issue—after all, she (or he) would play a major role in drawing new districts after the 2010 census.

Of course, these are just five of the many issues facing the state, but they are a start.  It will be interesting to hear both sides address them as the election nears.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

Firefighters Back Alex Sink

Alex Sink, the presumed Democratic candidate for Governor, has won her first major endorsement and it’s a big one.  The 24,000 member Florida Professional Firefighters union has announced their support of Sink.  The union, which backed Jeb Bush in his last two races for the Governor’s mansion, has had a long history of supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates throughout the years, making the Sink endorsement all that more significant.

Bill McColum, Sink’s presumed opponent in the general election, looks like he may face opposition within his own party after all.  According to the St. Pete Times, David Hill, a veteran Florida Republican consultant, says that McCollum is beatable.  Hill is said to be in deep discussions with State Senator Paula Dockery about whether or not she will challenge McCollum for the GOP nomination.

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Alex Sink: “Lawton Chiles Meets Minnie Pearl”

Dan Ruth of the St. Pete Times has a rather interesting column about Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for Governor.  He looks at Sink’s efforts to portray herself as a folksy daughter of a farmer in an effort to head off Republican criticism of her banking career:

Until she retired some 10 years ago with a pot full of farewell money, Sink was a bare-knuckled, hard-charging, body-part-crunching executive who eventually rose to become Florida president of Bank of America. She knows her way around a boardroom as well as Rambo knows how to snap a windpipe.

And yet since she announced her gubernatorial plans, Republicans have tried to suggest by virtue of Sink’s banking background she’s responsible for the Great Depression, the Irish potato famine, the collapse of Zimbabwe’s currency and the nation’s current economic crisis.

That is even more disingenuous than blaming the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, for being complicit in the Guantanamo torture memos simply because he was a former judge advocate general lawyer as well as a congressman before he left office in 2001. After all, McCollum did suggest last month at a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting that he doesn’t consider waterboarding to be torture.

Now it is understandable that Sink would want to introduce herself to voters as a doting mother and wife. But her decades in the financial community are also a significant part of who Alex Sink is as a person — the parent who may have kissed her son’s boo-boo in the morning as well as the bloodless suit who cut the knees off a corporate foe in the afternoon. Think of June Cleaver morphing into Joan Crawford.

For the record, I consider attacks on her banking career to be rather lame.  (I know, what a surprise coming from another banker.)  They also have the potential to backfire.  Jeff Atwater, the GOP’s current candidate for CFO is a long-time banker, and one whose bank has received a bit of unwanted publicity as of late.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , ,

The Great Florida Treasure Hunt

In these tough economic times, every little bit helps. Maybe the state is holding some money for you, and it’s just sitting in Tallahassee. Enter the Great Florida Treasure Hunt.

The Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, holds unclaimed accounts valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. Unclaimed Property also includes tangible property such as jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles, from safe deposit boxes.

If you have ever lived in Florida, there’s a chance the State is holding unclaimed property for you. So, take a look yourself at www.fltreasurehunt.org. If you find a match and believe it is yours, you can print and complete a claim form and mail it to the department, or you can request a claim form be mailed to you. The claim form will list the documentation required to prove your claim. Or you can call the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-888-258-2253. There is no statute of limitations on making a claim. You have the right to claim your property any time at no cost.

Some of the more notable Jacksonville folks the State is holding money for: Corrine Brown, Joe Carlucci, Tommy Hazouri and Adam Hollingsworth. 

The site is also a nice little campaign ad for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, as well. When you click on the site, there is her smiling face. Now who wouldn’t want to vote for someone who is associated with something as pleasant as finding unexpected money in your pocket?

Hat tip to Scott Maxwell’s Orlando Sentinel column.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

CFO Candidate’s Former Bank Among State’s Weakest

The Republican Party may want to re-think their strategy against former Bank of America Executive Alex Sink and her bid for the Governorship with this news about Jeff Atwater, the presumed front-runner for the GOP nomination for Florida CFO.

Riverside National Bank, where Senate President Jeff Atwater worked as a regional president, was again ranked among the weakest banks in the nation, according to a list from TheStreet.com. The bank, based in Fort Pierce, was also identified as deeply troubled and given one of the lowest safety ratings last month from BauerFinancial. Our story about that here.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, left the bank in February, but the association could haunt him in his upcoming campaign for state chief financial officer. The Republican Party of Florida, for example, opened the spin cycle of the 2010 campaign season by identifying Democrat Alex Sink, the state’s current CFO who is running for governor, as “banker Alex Sink.”

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

RPOF Steps In It

Well, the Republican Party of Florida certainly stepped in a pile of dookie today.  It seems the RPOF released an attack on “Banker” Alex Sink alleging that she participated in predatory lending practices that led to the crisis with subprime mortgages.  The chair of the RPOF, Jim Greer, called on Sink to “release all information relating to her involvement with Barnett Bank (among others) subprime predatory lending practices.”  The only problem is, Sink never worked at Barnett Bank…..but Jeff Atwater, Senate President and the Republican candidate running to replace Alex Sink as CFO, did.  Read more about it here.  

You just can’t make up stories as good as this one.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

The Tallahassee Glass Ceiling

Great cartoon from Andy Marlette of The Pensacola News Journal:

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

New Website Tracks State’s Finances

From The Post on Politics:


State CFO Alex Sink, a Democratic candidate for governor, unveiled a new web site today myfloridacfo.com/transparency that tracks the flow of tax dollars coming into the state. The site includes the graphic above, which shows the state’s general revenue slump over the past few years (click on the image to enlarge.

“Today we’re opening up Florida’s checkbook for everyone to see,” Sink said.

The site was called “long overdue” by Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominick Calabro. “The information provided by this website and the tools it contains will help citizens compel their government to improve and become more efficient,” Calabro said.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

Florida’s Political Dominos

With Charlie Crist’s Tuesday announcement that he was jumping into the race to succeed retiring US Senator Mel Martinez, the political dominos are beginning to fall in Florida.

Within a week, Florida CFO Alex Sink (D) is expected to announce her intentions to run for Governor.  So is Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R).  So is Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson (R).  That would mean all of Florida’s Cabinet positions will now be open.  So, who is running?  

State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Ft. Myers) will soon announce his candidacy for Attorney General.  (His website currently shows “Under Construction.”)  Rumors abound that State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), currently a Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat, might also be interested.  Another potential candidate on the Democratic side is former State Senator (and Gubernatorial candidate) Rod Smith (R-Alachua).  The Republican candidates are less clear, perhaps State Rep. Adam Hasner (R-Palm Beach) or State Rep. Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park).  

The race for Chief Financial Officer is wide open on both sides.  Alex Sink was expected to be a shoo-in and no major candidates had expressed interest because of that.  Perhaps former State Senator Tom Lee (R) will give it another shot.  Current Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) appears to be the only one in the race at this point.

The race for Agriculture Secretary is already underway.  US Rep. Adam Putnam (R) already has his campaign website up and running.  At this point, it appears that there are no significant challengers to him.

The most interesting race in the state to watch; however, will be the US Senate race.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already weighed in on the Florida race, despite their promises to stay out of it last week.  They have endorsed Crist, something that will only encourage Marco Rubio in his outside bid to “claim” the nomination for “conservatives.”  Jim Greer, the Chairman of the Florida Republican Party, is a close ally of Gov. Crist and will most likely make overt moves to back him in the primary as well.  According to sources, a key figure in the Florida GOP leadership also told a Republican crowd this weekend that he is working to “clear the field” in the Gubernatorial race, meaning that the GOP is moving avoid a nasty primary.  (Of course, nothing speaks to democracy like an attempt by party power brokers to “clear the field.”)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the flurry of activity around the new candidates for statewide office is that there is nary a mention of a North Floridian among them.  That’s right, Jacksonville—long one of the dominant cities in fielding Florida Governors over the years—has no one ready to step up to higher office.  What does that say about the people we’ve been sending to Tallahassee for the last two decades?

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