Observations and musings on Jacksonville 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, , , , ,

Jeb? Again?

Politics never cease to amaze me.  Florida Grassroots has already counted on Crist to announce he’s running for US Senate and started a “Jeb Again in 10” campaign.

Dear Gov. Bush,

With the recent announcement that Gov. Crist will run for Mel Martinez’ U.S. Senate seat, Floridians need to make certain proven leadership is restored to the Executive Office of Governor.

During this exceptional period of financial unrest and the historic unemployment rate in Florida, we need an exceptional solution and leader to steer us through this.

We appeal to you Gov. Bush, because of the dedication you exemplified and love we know you have for Florida, to step to the plate to help save our state by running for governor again. You left office with a 65% approval rating after being the only twice elected Republican governor ever. This demonstrates what strong bipartisan support you enjoy statewide.

Our request is not without precedent. Heroic Founding Father, Patrick Henry, was the governor of Virginia 5 times. Another great Florida quarterback like yourself, Tim Tebow, is also returning to lead his team for a third title this year.

With your stellar record of achievements and success in everything from the economy to Education Reform and managing 8 major hurricanes which hit Florida in 2 years, we call on you to offer your steady hand and vision which is necessary to set Florida back on course again. Your supporters are mobilizing across the state and we await your prayerful decision.

Thank you for the selfless leadership you have provided our state.

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

Victory ’10… let’s do it!

Florida Grassroots for Jeb

Check out their website here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

The Coming Battle for the soul of the Florida GOP

The race to succeed retiring Senator Mel Martinez just got very interesting, not only for Florida, but really for the entire nation. 

The “contraction” of the Republican party has received a lot of media attention of late, particularly in light of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic party.  The reasons for Specter’s switch were fairly obvious—he was a moderate Republican incumbent facing a primary challenge from a conservative and all signs were pointing to a primary loss.  Specter’s move was the latest in a series of defeats for the Republican party, particularly the moderate wing within the party.  

In 2006, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee lost his re-election bid after a tough primary challenge from a conservative Republican left him weakened in a general election.  In fact, more than one of the seats lost in the House during the 2006 and 2008 elections could be directly attributed to the defeat of moderate Republicans in a primary—or the retirement of a moderate.  So, how does this translate to Florida?

Charlie Crist is seen as a moderate, due in part to his support of Barack Obama’s stimulus package.  But, even before the Obama position—for which he was roundly attacked on talk radio—Crist had staked out more moderate positions on many of the hot-button issues. He’s anti-abortion, but don’t try to engage him in a long conversation on the matter.  He’s anti-gay marriage, but says it in a way that leaves no one completely offended.  He won a GOP primary in 2006 against an opponent who had tried to define himself as the only “true conservative” in the race.  In didn’t work in 2006, but could 2010 be a different story?  

Marco Rubio, after all, is no Tom Gallagher.  Sure, he never had a cameo appearance on “The Golden Girls”, but Rubio is young, telegenic and has always been a passionate “conservative”-something that Gallagher could only claim a late-in-life conversion to.  And, Rubio has come out swinging.  In his announcement, he took a step that many saw as unprecedented—attacking sitting Senators of his own party with whom he would have to caucus, assuming he won the primary and general election.  Lashing out at Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Rubio said that adding to their ranks was essentially the same as electing a Democrat.

While Crist’s popularity ratings have remained unusually high, his popularity among the rank-and-file Republican voters has suffered as of late, particularly after the onslaught he took from political
powerhouses like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity over his support of Obama’s stimulus package.  Their opposition [Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s], when combined with the support already being offered Rubio by the conservative Club for Growth, could signal trouble for Crist in a Republican primary likely to be dominated by conservatives.  While Crist’s political fortunes don’t necessarily concern many other than himself, Republicans do have to wonder how Rubio’s increasingly conservative message will sell in a state that voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic Senator in the most recent statewide elections.  

At this point, despite the potential of a bloodbath, the Republicans still have the strongest field in the race.  Both Democratic candidates currently in the race are facing their own hurdles.  Both candidates are from South Florida, something that could prove challenging as they move to win over more moderate and conservative voters from central and northern Florida. Likewise, neither are well known throughout the state, something that will necessitate significant fundraising success to change.  But, if bloody primaries offer a moderating state the choice between an outspoken conservative Republican and a more moderate Democrat, the Republican Party might have reason to worry.  

Could one have imagined Jeb Bush’s Florida with a Democratic Governor, Democratic Attorney General and two Democratic US Senators?  It may very well be possible…

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

“Charlie, do we really know you?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  From Michael Putney:

All this hyper-Crist exposure has me asking: Is Charlie the genuinely concerned Republican moderate/populist he professes to be (“I work for the people, they’re my boss”)? Or is he a slightly ditzy, disconnected lightweight who has succeeded on the strength of great political instincts, an appealing personality and a Clintonesque (Bill, not Hillary) talent for making you feel like you’re the most important person in the room for however long you’re with him?

He is extremely likable. Heck, I like the guy. But likability is only one small component of leadership — and not an essential one. Some leaders — Jeb Bush, to name one — don’t give a hoot whether they’re liked or not. They’d rather be respected or, better yet, feared. Nobody, I suspect, fears Charlie Crist. 

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

Jeb Bush on Education: Throw the system out

The Wall Street Journal interviews Jeb Bush.

What comes through when Mr. Bush is asked about education is how radical his views are. He would toss out the traditional K-to-12 scheme in favor of a credit system, like colleges have.

“It’s not based on seat time,” he says. “It’s whether you accomplished the task. Now we’re like GM in its heyday of mass production. We don’t have a flourishing education system that’s customized. There’s a whole world out there that didn’t exist 10 years ago, which is online learning. We have the ability today to customize learning so we don’t cast young people aside.”

This is where Sweden comes in. “The idea that somehow Sweden would be the land of innovation, where private involvement in what was considered a government activity, is quite shocking to us Americans,” Mr. Bush says. “But they’re way ahead of us. They have a totally voucherized system. The kids come from Baghdad, Somalia — this is in the tougher part of Stockholm — and they’re learning three languages by the time they finish. . . . there’s no reason we can’t have that except we’re stuck in the old way.”

Interestingly enough, you’ll notice he doesn’t mention his successor on the list of current Republican governors he admires.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

Boyd and McCollum out

US Representative Allen Boyd and Attorney General Jim McCollum announced today that they are not going to pursue Mel Martinez’ US Senate seat.  All the big names are dropping out.  First Jeb, then Alex.  Is there a pox on that seat or something?

On another note, Representative Boyd was one of 11 Dems voting against the federal stimulus package today.

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

Glenn Beck v. Joe Scarborough for US Senate?

The 2010 US Senate race is set to be a free-for-all in Florida and Dr. Stephen MacNamara is busy tossing possible candidates names into the mix. Of course, the big guys (and girls) have already been mentioned, but in the spirit of Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham and Claude Kirk, MacNamara is pulling for the possibility of an unknown (or untested) candidate throwing the whole race into flux. His most unique suggestion? Talk-show host Glenn Beck. According to MacNamara:

If name recognition, organization and money are so important, how come Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States? Two years ago today 40% of Americans couldn’t even identify him and fully 1/3rd had a negative opinion or no opinion of him. My spell-check still doesn’t even recognize him!

Florida has a rich history of unknowns and statewide political failures capturing statewide offices.[Sayfie Review]

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

Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) Jumps into Senate Race

The first “major” candidate has jumped into the race that will be left vacant by the retiring Mel Martinez in 2010. From the St. Pete Times:

The 42-year-old former legislator and son of former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, should be a significant force in the campaign. He has a national and statewide profile and network, built leading the class size amendment, the sit-in at Jeb Bush’s office, and leading John Kerry’s Florida campaign in 2004.

And it’s a sign of Meek’s confidence and scrappiness that he’s jumping in the race – essentially giving up a lifetime Congressional seat if he stays in – while other candidates wait to see what heavy favorite Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink decides. Other prospective Democratic candidates include Sink, state Sen. Dan Gelber, and U.S. Reps. Allen Boyd and Ron Klein.

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

Vern Buchanan Emerges as Senate Contender

When we first discussed the free-for-all expected after Jeb Bush’s announcement that he would not run for the seat of retiring US Senator Mel Martinez here, US Rep Vern Buchanan didn’t exactly show up on our radar screen. That was, apparently, a significant omission. Mr. Buchanan, who replaced Katherine Harris in the House, had Florida’s own version of the current Norm Coleman/Al Franken controversy back in 2006 when the House decided to seat him, despite the ongoing challenge of his Democratic opponent. With a few years in the House under his belt, he is seriously considering a run to fill Martinez’s seat. With his considerable car dealership and used car warranties wealth, Buchanan would emerge as a major contender. Of course, Mr. Buchanan’s business dealings would provide a Democratic challenger with reams of opposition research. His designation by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the “20 most corrupt Members of Congress” would also provide the basis for a great campaign commercial.

Don’t expect the negatives to stop him; however, Mr. Buchanan has long held higher ambitions. Stay tuned…

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

What is Marco Rubio up to?

I mentioned here yesterday that Marco Rubio would be a front-runner for the US Senate seat being vacated by short-termer Mel Martinez. Well, it didn’t take long. Marco is up today with a new website. As FLA Politics puts it, you can:

-Watch a video of Marco, his four bored children and his bored wife.
-Learn fun facts about Marco in the “Did You Know” Section.
-Subscribe to “Marco’s View,” although there is nothing yet posted to the “news letter.”
-Send a message to the “Floridian Shout Box,” although you’ll have to go through a thorough approval process first.
-Join the team!
-Send a text message to Marco!
-Invite Marco to speak at your…whatever!
-“Connect” with Marco on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. How very Web 2.0.
-Check out the “Rubio Review,” whatever that might be, since the page is blank.
-Find interesting typos such as “Welcome to Marco Rubio website.”
-Watch several videos where Marco talks without actually saying anything.

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

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