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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

United for Care poll shows strong support for medical marijuana

A new poll shows continued strong support for Florida's proposed medical marijuana amendment, United for Care announced Monday. The poll of 1,004 likely voters, taken Sept. 12-18, showed 69 percent of respondents in favor, and 28 percent opposed. The margin of error was 3.1 percent up or down.

The result was consistent with three other polls commissioned by the organization since January 2013, all showing support in the 70 percent range.

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Scott signs death warrant for Florida double murderer Chadwick Banks

Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant Monday for Chadwick Banks, who fatally shot his wife Cassandra and then raped and shot to death his 10-year-old stepdaughter in Gadsden County near Tallahassee in 1992. Banks pleaded no contest to both killings and a jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 9 to 3.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld Banks' death sentence in 2003, and rejected defense claims of ineffective legal counsel and that he should have been allowed to present evidence relating to his mental health.

Banks' execution is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 13 -- more than a week after the election -- at the death chamber at Florida State Prison in Starke. He would be the 18th Florida death row inmate to be executed since Scott became governor in January 2011.

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Dennis Ross releases first TV ad for re-election campaign

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross is going up with his first TV ad. The spot casts him as a problem solver in partsian Washington and touts support for flood insurance legislation.

Ross is being challenged by Democrat Alan Cohn.

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Jolly to Congress: Let's work more

U.S. Rep David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, says Congress ought to spend more days at work. Specifically, he's calling for the Congress to be in session more days than it is now. 

   This is from a news release explaining the letter Jolly recently sent  to the House Rules Committee: …

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Anti-internet tax group poll: Fla voters don't want internet sales tax

Does the wording of these questions sound rather loaded to you?

The proposed legislation would allow tax enforcement agents from one state to collect taxes from online retailers based in a different state. For instance, if a customer in New York makes an Internet purchase from a retailer in Florida, the state of New York may make that retailer collect New York sales tax and send it to New York… Knowing this, do you favor or oppose federal legislation that changes how states collect sales tax from Internet purchases? (IF CHOICE MADE, ASK) Do you strongly (favor/oppose) this, or just somewhat (favor/oppose) it?

The proposed legislation would create a new national sales tax collection mandate that applies to every retailer who sells goods and services over the Internet… With this in mind, do you favor or oppose this legislation? (IF CHOICE MADE, ASK) Do you strongly (favor/oppose) this, or just somewhat (favor/oppose) it? …

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The Money Race: Crist and Scott amp up spending on ad wars

Cash APFlorida’s governor’s candidates spent more money than they collected in the last round of political reports as Republican Gov. Rick Scott continued to unleash his negative ad war and Democratic Charlie Crist responded, leaving them nearly even with cash on hand.

Scott’s Lets Get to Work Committee raised $107,350 for the week ending Sept. 12 and spent $6.3 million and his campaign raised $250,352. Most of the money spent by the governor’s political committee, $5.8 million, was sent to the Republican Party of Florida which likely spent it on buying television ads, because it can purchase them at a lower rate than the committee.

Crist’s committee raised $861,470 for the period ending Sept. 12 and spent $2.8 million and his campaign raised $299,201.

Like Scott, the Crist for Florida committee sent nearly all of its cash, $2.5 million, to the Florida Democratic Party which likely used it to buy television ads at a lower rate.Full Story

Did Crist "swindle" Florida? Republicans say yes.

Republicans are insisting Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist "swindled" Florida.

In a new digital ad, the Republican Party of Florida says Crist "swindled his own supporters [and] swindled voters" by changing his position abortion, gay marriage and taxes.

"We won't let Charlie Crist swindle us again," a female voice says.

"Swindle" has been a hot-button word since Fort Lauderdale investor Dean Kretschmar, in an ad promoting Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign, said he was swindled by both Crist and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Democrats called the ad misleading, and have asked Scott to take it down. (PolitiFact Florida rated the claim Pants on Fire.)

Republicans, however, are doubling down. See video below.


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SurveyUSA/WFLA: Scott 44%, Crist 39%, Wyllie %7 percent

From SurveyUSA's Sept. 16* poll for WFLA TV:

In an election for Governor of Florida today, 09/16/14, a month until ballots are mailed to voters, incumbent Republican Rick Scott is now 5 points atop Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, according to the latest WFLA-TV tracking poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Today's results --- Scott 44%, Crist 39% --- are the first time that Crist has polled below 40% in the 6 months since WFLA-TV began tracking the contest...

Compared to a WFLA-TV tracking poll one week ago, Crist is down 5 points, Scott is down 1 point. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie --- today at 7% -- is up 4 percentage points. Crist has lost ground among men, where he is today polling at 35%, 12 points behind Scott. Immediately before the 08/26/14 Democratic primary, Crist led among Independent voters, but today Crist is down among this critically important constituency by 13 points. In Southeast Florida, a Democratic stronghold which includes Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Crist is down 9 points week-on-week, and today leads in that part of the state by just 3. Without Southeast Florida solidly in one's back pocket, no Democrat can carry the state.... …

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Scott-Crist ad war tops $50m in spending

Another week. Another $10.4 million thrown in the fire we call television advertising.

Florida’s governor’s race is now a $50 million-plus commercial spectacle, with more than 71 percent of that spending from Gov. Rick Scott.

During the week that ended Friday, Scott dropped an additional $8 million for current and future ads. That’s about a 23 percent increase for the Republican, dwarfing Democrat Charlie Crist’s ad-buy increase of 17 percent, or almost $2.5 million.

If TV ads decided the governor’s race, Scott would win in a landslide.

There’s more to an election than running commercials, however, just as there’s more to winning a war than just using air power. Like a military campaign, a political campaign needs infantry — the “ground game” or “field operations” of paid staff and volunteers who phone voters and reach out them face to face:

But the latter depends on the former. And so, therefore, does the election.

Think of the old military adage: Fire without maneuver is inconclusive, maneuver without fire is suicide. A Florida campaign that exists only on air isn’t enough; an off-air campaign goes nowhere.

Column is here. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winners of the week

Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy. For Florida Democrats, one positive side of having no statewide officeholder in Tallahassee is that it's easier to look like a rising star. That's why a woman not even elected to office yet — Graham — and a one-term South Florida congressman — Murphy — would be mentioned by a fair number of our astute Florida Insiders as leading statewide contenders in 2016 or 2018.

Loser of the week

Debbie Wasserman Schultz. As if the tough climate for Democrats wasn't enough to worry the DNC chairwoman and Florida congresswoman, Politico piled on with a scathing article loaded with anonymous quotes from critics casting DWS as an inept, self-serving party leader who's consumed with getting the DNC to fund her wardrobe

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As pressure increases over inmate deaths, prison head fires 32 guards

255 Michael Crews071114 Department of CorrectionsThirty-two guards with the Florida Department of Corrections were fired Friday afternoon in what union officials were calling a “Friday night massacre.” All were accused of criminal wrongdoing or misconduct in connection with the deaths of inmates at four state prisons.

One of them is Rollin Suttle Austin, the subject of a Miami Herald investigative report coming Sunday. The Herald has published a string of articles alleging brutality and corruption in the prison system.

Eighteen of those fired by Secretary Michael Crews were involved in the death of Matthew Walker at Charlotte Correctional Institution on April 11. Walker, 55, was killed in what the DOC is calling an “inappropriate use of force.”

Five other fired corrections officers from Union Correctional had been accused of using excessive force in the death of inmate Rudolf Rowe on Aug. 16, 2012. Story here. 

Photo: Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews, shown in this July 10, 2014, file photo, fired more than 30 guards Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in connection with inmate deaths.AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Charlie Crist campaign focuses on black voters and turnout

Crist black vote

Mary Wilkerson is aware there's a governor's race on the November ballot, but "it's not on my radar,'' says the 60-year-old from Jacksonville.

Wilkerson, a black Democrat and reliable supporter of Barack Obama, is the kind of voter who is pivotal to the candidacy of Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat.

His campaign has put a premium on building a field operation aimed at turning out the vote in key communities and has crafted a careful message of inclusion that aims to avoid the mistakes that imperiled Alex Sink, the Democrat who lost to Gov. Rick Scott four years ago by less than 2 percent of the vote.

Blacks made up 11 percent of the vote in 2010, "but if that vote share had been over 12 percent, Rick Scott would not be governor,'' said Omar Khan, Crist's campaign manager.

While the two remain virtually tied in recent polls, black voters overwhelmingly support Crist over Scott this election cycle. Black voters showed up in larger numbers in 2008 and 2012 than white voters, but will they bring record numbers to the polls if Obama is not at the top of the ticket? …

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Court hears case over redistricting docs, consultant claims conspiracy

One of Florida's top Republican political consultants stopped short of accusing the state Supreme Court of lacking "integrity" Friday if it rules that he must disclose emails in a case brought under the state’s new anti-gerrymanding laws.

Pat Bainter, whose firm Data Targeting Inc. has battled for two years to keep the documents private in a lengthy legal battle over the state’s redistricting maps, argued that the release of his emails violates his First Amendment right to anonymous political speech.

But after the justices – who have had access to the documents -- raised doubts about Bainter’s argument that they were trade secrets, he issued a blistering statement.

"Today’s Supreme Court hearing is the culmination of a legal assault and press sensationalism as to whether or not I, a private citizen, have the right to petition my government without fear of a political inquisition into my private matters," he wrote after the oral arguments. "After today's hearing, it is clear to me that, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, Amendments 5 & 6 are unconstitutional because they criminalize political speech based upon its content."

Photo: Pat Bainter, left, consults with his attorneys before the courtroom was closed for his testimony about his undisclosed emails.Full Story

GOP consultant threatens court that its 'intrigity is at stake' over his case

With his First Amendment challenge pending before the Florida Supreme Court, GOP political consultant Pat Bainter issued a rare statement calling out the court after oral arguments today in which he urged the court to keep secret his emails related to redistricting.

Bainter is now suggesting that the "institutional integrity of the court is at stake" in how they rule.

Here's the statement: Full Story

Crist releases "4,000 lies' response ad to Scott's 'swindle"

In response to Gov. Rick Scott's second ad about Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, Democrat Charlie Crist is releasing his second response commercial, called "4,000 lies" -- a references to the estimated number of times the ad called "swindle" ran.

At the heart of Crist response: the misleading nature of "swindle," which The Miami Herald exposed this week. Scott, too, has walked back part of the ad's core allegation that suggests Crist was complicit in Rothstein's crime.

Crist's ad is an improvement on his prior response spot in which he said Scott has "teamed up" with Rothstein. PolitiFact rated that Crist claim False (and it found that Scott's first ad's claim that Rothstein claimed Crist sold judges was half true). It's likely to rate this Crist commercial either true or mostly true because the ad pivots to video of Scott ducking questions in a civil deposition concerning his former hospital company, Columbia/HCA, which was socked with a record $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine.

While it's true that Scott once invoked his right against self-incrimination 75 times in a deposition, it wasn't in this deposition featured in the spot.  …

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