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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Elections officials call Scott's mailer 'incorrect' and 'inaccurate'

Two Tampa Bay election supervisors criticized as "inaccurate" and "incorrect" a mailer by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign committee that tells voters that their absentee ballots should have arrived by now.  The attention-grabbing mailer by Scott's Let's Get to Work committee has the words "Voter Alert!" and the statement, "By now, you should have received your absentee ballot."

Not true, elections official say. The first day that in-state absentees can be mailed is Tuesday, Sept. 30, and they can be mailed up to Oct. 7, four weeks before election day. The last thing county elections officials want is to be inaccurately blamed for not sending ballots to their voters. 

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer issued a news release that said "Their information is incorrect." He plans to mail more than 150,000 absentees to Tampa-area voters on Oct. 6. 

On Twitter, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley showed the mailer and said: "Here is the inaccurate flyer that voters throughout FL rec'd with incorrect info from  …

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Jeb Bush stumps for Pat Roberts in Kansas

The following is from the Wichita Eagle:

Calling the mood of the country “the most pessimistic it’s ever been,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged Kansas voters to re-elect Sen. Pat Roberts to take back control of the U.S. Senate for Republicans and end the gridlock in Washington, D.C.

“He will not let you down,” Bush said at a Roberts fundraiser in Wichita on Monday, “and the greatness of America will be restored.”

Bush appeared with Roberts before about 160 people at a luncheon at Murfin Stables, 14515 E. 13th St. Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert also attended the event but did not speak. Bush did not mention Roberts’ opponent in the Nov. 4 general election, independent candidate Greg Orman.

Bush said the nation’s future will be bright if Republicans get control of the Senate and end the gridlock in Washington that Bush said was created by President Obama.

“This has to stop,” Bush said, “and if it does, the country will take off."

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New RPOF attack ad includes goofy sound effects, memorable wordplay

The latest attack ad from the Republican Party of Florida is a light-hearted, almost comedic look at Charlie Crist's record.

The commercial points out that Crist has changed his party affiliation, as well as his position on Obamacare, abortion and the federal stimulus package. And it does so over catchy music, goofy sound effects and some memorable wordplay.

"Flippin' unbelievable," a voice says. "Flippin' amazing."

The 30-second spot's final message: "Charlie Crist. Typical flippin' politician."

The gubernatorial race has gotten ugly in recent weeks, with both camps launching bitter attacks. Democrats have labled Republican Gov. Rick Scott "too shady for the Sunshine State." Republicans, meanwhile, have insisted Crist "swindled Florida" in a series of stinging TV ads.

The new Flippin' Amazing ad takes a notably lighter tone. Watch it below.

 

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Scott leads Crist by 4 points, Florida Chamber poll shows

Rick Scott leads Charlie Crist 43-39, according to a new poll from the Florida Chamber.

Libertarian Adrain Wyllie is taking 4 percent with five percent say they will vote for one of the other candidates and 7 percent are “firmly undecided,” reads a polling memo.

The poll put Scott’s job approval rating at 49 percent. Crist’s favorability was lopsided - 39 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable. "Jobs and the economy (29 percent) continue to be the number one issue among voters, followed by education (19 percent) and healthcare (6 percent)."

Attorney General: Pam Bondi vs. George Sheldon: Bondi earns 48 percent to Sheldon 31 percent.

CFO: Jeff Atwater vs. William Rankin: Atwater leads with 43 percent to Rankin’s 27 percent.

Agriculture Commissioner
: Adam Putnam vs. Thaddeus Hamilton: Putnam earns 41 percent to Hamilton at 29 percent.

The poll, conducted on September 18-21, 2014 during live telephone interviews of likely voters, has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

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In new ads, Southerland uses vets to decry Graham

Steve Southerland has two new TV ads touting support from military vets. The vets in turn decry attacks from Democrat Gwen Graham.

"I’m Luke Murphy. I served two tours in Iraq until a roadside bomb changed my life forever," one man says. "Through tough times and 31 surgeries, Steve Southerland was there for me. I was raised to believe that integrity matters. That's why Gwen Graham's false attacks against Steve are so shameful."

Murphy doesn't cite any attacks. In the second ad, a woman pushes back on the "war on women" charge.

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American Bridge: Cuts to education could hurt Scott's re-election bid

A new report from the left-leaning American Bridge takes Republican governors to task for cutting education funding.

It includes a section on Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who slashed $1.3 billion from the education budget during his first year in office.

Scott has since restored most of that funding and unveiled a plan to boost per-student spending to a record high level in 2015. But he continues to feel the heat from Democratic opponent Charlie Crist and progressive groups.

The American Bridge report frames education spending as a political issue that could hurt Scott.

"From Rick Scott and Scott Walker to Sam Brownback, Tom Corbett and more, Republican governors are getting slammed for slashing funds for schools, dealing a blow to their respective reelection bids, while prospective governors like Doug Ducey have promised to do the same," the organization wrote in the introduction. "Locked in tight races, these Tea Party governors are floundering to explain their draconian cuts to concerned constituents by twisting numbers and distorting their records."

The report also includes passages from Florida newspaper editorials on the subject.

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Legislature likely to take up testing

In Orlando, they hosted a webinar on how to skip the state tests.

In Fort Myers, they convinced the local school board to eliminate all district-required exams.

In Miami, they created an anti-testing network of nearly 1,400 members.

Across Florida, parents are pushing back on standardized tests. Some say schoolchildren are taking too many exams. Others have concerns about the quality of the tests, and the way the results are being used.

"This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before," said Suzette Lopez, who is spearheading the effort in South Florida. "It's really hit a critical mass."

The growing movement has caught the attention of state lawmakers.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg recently acknowledged that students in Florida face "an avalanche of tests" — and said the Legislature is likely to get involved.

"We need to get our house in order," said Legg, a Pasco County Republican who runs a charter school. "Some of those tests are outdated or duplicating other tests. They need to be put out to pasture."

Don’t expect lawmakers to dismantle the state testing system. …

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Vice President Joe Biden to join Charlie Crist in South Florida

Vice-President Joe Biden's South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Monday, Oct. 13 -- making him the latest national Democrat to join the guubernatorial candidate on the campaign trail, sources say. More information will be made available at a later date.

Biden, who has presidential aspirations, follows another likely White House candidate, Hillary Clinton, who stumps Thursday with Crist at an event that's likely somewhere in the Miami area. No details have yet been made available. Clinton is also signing her new book, "Hard Choices."

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clintton, campaigned with Crist in early September in Miami.

Gov. Rick Scott has also had Republican national surrogates (and potential White House candidates) join him recently: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Vice President Joe Biden to join Charlie Crist in South Florida

Vice-President Joe Biden is South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Monday, Oct. 13, making him the latest national Democrat to join the guubernatorial candidate on the campaign trail, sources say. More information will be made available at a later date.

Biden, who has presidential aspirations, follows another likely White House candidate, Hillary Clinton, who stumps Thursday with Crist at an event that's likely somewhere in the Miami area. No details have yet been made available. Clinton is also signing her new book, "Hard Choices."

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned with Crist in early September in Miami.

Gov. Rick Scott has also had Republican national surrogates (and potential White House candidates) join him recently: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Hill + Knowlton hires Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy

Ryan Duffy, who served as the communications director for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford the last two years, is joining the Tallahassee public relations firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

Known for his calm, self-effacing manner, Duffy, 30, will serve as vice president, the company announced Monday. Duffy has also served a press secretary for the Florida House Leadership Team under then-House Speaker Dean Cannon. He also served as spokesman for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign in 2010. From 2007 to 2010 he served as speechwriter for U.S. Senators Mel Martinez and George LeMieux. He started his career as speechwriter to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

"Ryan has established himself as a battle-tested communicator who knows the ins and outs of the state capital and Florida's public affairs landscape," said Harry Costello, the firm's Florida general manager and executive vice president. "From his strong background in speechwriting for a former governor and two U.S. senators to his role as spokeswman for a house speaker, Ryan has found success in every endeavor. He will offer our clients invaluable insight and expertise." …

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Deal that wasn't: Scott wanted to give tribe more gambling for $2B

From the Associated Press:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's staff nearly reached a multi-billion dollar deal with the Seminole Indian tribe that would have allowed it to add roulette and craps at its South Florida casinos, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The deal, which was scuttled last spring amid resistance from state legislators, also would have opened the door for the Seminoles to build a casino in the Fort Pierce area and would likely have blocked construction of any Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami for the next seven years.

In exchange, the Republican governor would have gotten the headline-grabbing news that it was the largest deal ever reached between a tribe and a state government. The figure was expected to be $2 billion over a seven-year period and the words "largest guarantee ever" were included on several documents instead of an actual amount. Another estimate placed the deal at $15 billion over 30 years. …

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Now about those tax/stimulus increases your running mate vote for, governor...

Interesting look-back by the Naples Daily News about the Obama-buck-fed-tax-hiking budget, supported in 2009 by the new running mate of Gov. Rick Scott, who uses the spending plan to criticize Charlie Crist:

“This is a tough year, I strongly urge you to support this budget,” said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who at the time was House majority leader, one of that chamber’s top positions, according to video from the final day of the 2009 legislative session.

The Miami Republican, who is now Scott’s running-mate, spoke minutes before the House passed the budget on the final day of the 2009 session. In his comments, he pushed back against Democratic opponents claims that the budget relied on increased property taxes.

“That is just not true,” he said.

 More here

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Amendment 1 promises to save Florida's threatened lands

There are three proposed constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot in November. We've got Amendment 2 covered. But what about Amendment 1? An excerpt of a story in Monday's Tampa Bay Times:

More than two decades after Florida identified the need to save disappearing forests south of Miami, shrinking hammocks in the Keys and other sensitive land around the state, environmentalists fed up with politics getting in the way of conservation are taking their fight to the people.

In November, they will ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment — Amendment 1 on the ballot — that sets aside a third of taxes collected on real estate transactions over the next 20 years to conserve land and protect water.

The effort could potentially raise $10 billion and has already won support from a cross section of Florida interests: animal rights groups, local garden clubs, kayakers, bikers and even surfers. More than 700,000 signatures were collected to place the amendment on the ballot. To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week

John Thrasher. Congratulations to the soon-to-be new president of Florida State University. The selection process wasn't pretty, but in the end the capital's golden rule held true: Never bet against a Tallahassee insider.

Loser of the week

Florida Education Association. It took little time for a circuit judge to toss out the statewide teachers union's lawsuit challenging Florida's voucher programs

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Could Democrats really lose as many as seven Florida House seats?

Florida Democrats are growing increasingly worried about their prospects in legislative races. One savvy Democratic operative last week predicted to The Buzz that Democrats will lose seven House seats in November, including three in Tampa Bay. The most-vulnerable Democrats? Mark Danish of Tampa, Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg, Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor, Mike Clelland of St. Mary, Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami and Linda Stewart of Orlando.

Tampa Bay residents can check out state Rep. Dudley and his Republican challenger, Bill Young II of Pinellas Park, on Political Connections today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., and see if Dudley doesn't look anxious about his re-election.

Dudley should be safe in his Pinellas district considering Barack Obama won it comfortably twice, but Republicans are much more reliable voters in midterm elections and Young — son of the late political icon — has a handy name.

"He's not his father. He's highly inexperienced," said Dudley, the Legislature's most vocal critic of Duke Energy and Florida's energy and utility policies, noting that Duke executives are supporting Young. …

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