The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Buckhorn could cruise to re-election

TAMPA — If you plan to run for mayor of Tampa next March, now is the time to lay the groundwork.Mayor Bob Buckhorn is doing just that, but there are no signs anybody else is.

How thin is the field? At one point, radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem said he might challenge Buckhorn.

"I'd love to get in some debates with him," Clem said in January. No surprise there: Buckhorn once called Clem a "complete moron" in an email that later became public.

But despite vowing to "make it my mission to destroy" Buckhorn, Clem did not follow through by registering to vote in Tampa at least a year before the next mayoral term starts in April, as is required by the city charter.

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Prison visit uncovers another death, prompts another suspension

The visit by the head of Florida's prison system to the Dade Correctional Institution on Thursday produced more than a show of interest in the suspicious death of an inmate more than two years ago. It also led to an unexpected revelation: the suspicious death of another inmate the day before.

Department of Corrections Secretary Michaal Crews announced in a news release late Friday that he had suspended deputy warden Royce Dykes because he and Warden Jerry Cummings had concealed Thursday’s prison death, which Crfews said occurred in the prison’s infirmary. 

Crews on Thursday had announced the suspension of Cummings amid a firestorm over the 2010 death of mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey in June 2012. Raineys' body was found two hours after guards placed him in a scalding shower, allegedly as punishment for defecating in his cell.

Miami-Dade police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the death of the second, unnamed, inmate, the release said.  

“It is astonishing that the same day I was visiting Dade Correctional another inmate was reported dead,” Crews said in the statement released late Friday.  …

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Redistricting ruling: big change or status quo?

The court ruling that invalidated Florida’s congressional districts this week will give voters in November’s elections something they are used to: uncertainty.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis rejected the Legislature’s 2012 congressional map and specifically ordered two of the state’s 27 districts redrawn to comply with the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, should see her sprawling district become more compact and follow traditional political boundaries, Lewis ruled. And U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, should have his Orlando-based district revamped to eliminate the partisan advantage that came when lawmakers swapped out Hispanic Democrats for white Republicans.

Among the harsh criticism Lewis directed at the Republican-controlled Legislature was that they allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency. …

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David Rivera bails on Congressional bid, says he'll seek state House seat

By Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald

His reputation tainted by scandal, former Miami Congressman David Rivera vowed he would return to politics.

He did — for 72 days. On Friday, just over two months after launching a new campaign for his old seat, Rivera has called it quits, at least for now.

Rivera, who is under federal investigation in a campaign-finance scheme, said Friday he is suspending his congressional bid. But he said it had nothing to do with the FBI probe — which he refuses to discuss — and everything with a ruling Thursday from a judge in Tallahassee.

"As a congressional candidate affected by this decision, I will not be held hostage by Florida's liberal activist judges," he said in an email to supporters.

Rivera cited "great uncertainty" following a ruling by a Leon County judge late Thursday that invalidated two of Florida's congressional district boundaries — even though neither of the districts is the one Rivera was seeking. …

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Florida GOP calls LeBron James and Charlie Crist quitters

Florida GOP knocks Crist and LeBron

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Florida GOP knocks Crist and LeBron

While Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were thanking LeBron James for his tenure in Miami, the Republican Party of Florida was using Heat star's departure as an attack on Charlie Crist.

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Pro-Scott sheriffs criticize Crist over his '10-20-Life' comments

With the Florida media, and especially TV, feasting on the story of why on-duty working cops would be at a campaign event for Gov. Rick Scott (which is barred by law), his handlers knew just what to do Friday: try to change the subject.

So Scott's campaign rolled out a statement from 23 sheriffs who accused Democrat Charlie Crist of a "reversal" on his past support for minimum mandatory prison sentences in the state's 10-20-Life law. "Charlie Crist's reversal on his support of 10-20-Life legislation and mandatory minimums threatens the incredible progress we have made over the last 15 years to make Florida safe for families and visitors," their statement said.

Crist told a statewide gathering of news editors Thursday that the Legislature should review the 10-20-Life law after hearing of a case in which a man was sentenced to 80 years in prison for firing a gun into the air.

The Associated Press quoted Crist as saying: "I'm always open-minded to looking at those kinds of things. When you're faced with new facts, I think you ought to listen."

 …

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Rich tells newsies of dangers of 'two Republicans' for governor

The News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders reports on Nan Rich's speech Friday to the Florida Society of News Editors:

Nan Rich is frustrated. That much is clear. But the lifelong Democrat and former Senate minority leader isn't backing down. …

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Democratic group skewers Scott over 'cop prop' campaign event

The Democratic advocacy group American Bridge, which tracks Gov. Rick Scott's every move, also closely monitors Florida TV newscasts. Its latest video involves the dustup over the presence of on-duty uniformed police officers at a Scott campaign event in Tampa -- a potentially serious no-no that will attract the attention of the Florida Elections Commission. 

The Bridge video uses snippets of local TV newscasts in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach -- and it's not the kind of coverage any governor wants to attract in the heat of an election campaign.

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Redistricting ruling: George Washington and the unraveling of political 'infiltration'

Judge Terry Lewis took less than a month to write his opinion invalidating Florida's congressional map after receiving the final, written briefs from the parties but it is chock full of analysis, including some of his own detective work that led to him raise questions about the behavior of legislators and political operatives that we hadn't seen raised at trial. Parts of it read as if he's piecing together a spy novel.

 Here's our first story. Here's the ruling. Let us know what you think and give us your observations. Download Romo.Final Judgment.July 10, 2014

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Corrine Brown calls redistricting decision 'seriously flawed'

Rep. Corrine Brown issued a statement tonight blasting as "seriously flawed" Judge Terry Lewis' decision on the redistricting maps. First, here's a primer on how Brown many years ago partnered with Republicans to carve out her bizarrely shaped district.  Brown joined a lawsuit against Fair Districts, and lost. The Legislature wrote the maps that retained her advantage. Today she suffered a setback.

Here is her statement:

“The decision by Judge Lewis is seriously flawed. It completely fails to take into consideration the rights of minority voters or to recognize federal law, specifically the 1964 Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and clearly supersedes the state’s Fair Districts standards. After the Florida Legislature conducted several dozen hearings throughout the state of Florida in a bi-partisan fashion to include voter participation and input on their representation, the Legislature drew the current plan and it passed both the House and Senate. …

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Judge invalidates Florida's congressional districts, appeal likely

In a ruling released late Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis blasted the Republican establishment that created Florida's congressional map, saying they "made a mockery" of transparency, allowed for "improper partisan intent" and he ordered that two of the state's 27 districts drawn in 2012 violate the Fair District standards.

In his 41-page ruling, the judge rejected challenges to districts in South Florida and that Tampa Bay but said that District 5, held by Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, and District 10, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, "will need to be redrawn, as will any other districts affected thereby."

The ruling is expected to be appealed by the Legislature, which said in a statement it is reviewing the ruling.

Lewis blasted the role of the political consultants saying "they made a mockery of the Legislature's transparent and open process of redistricting" while "going to great lengths to conceal from the public their paln and their participation in it.

"They were successful in their efforts to influence the redistricting process and the congressional plan under review here,'' he wrote. "And they might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the Plaintiffs determined efforts to uncover it in this case."

He concluded, however, that the circumstantial evidence proved that the political operatives "managed to find other avenues...to infiltrate and influence the Legislature." He drew no conclusions that legislative leaders were aware of the scheme, but he noted that Legislative leaders destroyed almost all of their emails and other documents related to redistricting, as did the political operatives.Full Story

Tampa Bay cops at odds over Scott's handling of campaign event

Police officers in Tampa Bay differed Thursday on whether they were duped, perhaps illegally, into attending an event to promote Gov. Rick Scott's re-election.

A police union official filed a complaint Thursday with the Florida Elections Commission, accusing Scott of violating a law that makes it a crime for an official to "directly or indirectly coerce" a public employee to take part in political activity on the taxpayers' dime.

Scott's campaign says it made clear in all invitations that the event Monday at Patrick Uniforms in Tampa was for the campaign.

But Jim Previtera, a colonel with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office who brought several uniformed deputies with him, said otherwise Thursday. He said he showed up to the event thinking it was Scott, in his official capacity, talking about effective strategies to reduce crime.

"We obviously didn't know we were going to a campaign event," Previtera said. "Had we known it was a campaign event, we wouldn't have been there." He said he didn't know how the invitation to the event was arranged. Previtera's boss, Sheriff David Gee, has endorsed Scott's re-election. …

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New Spanish-language TV ad attacks Scott's education record

Democrats are taking aim at Gov. Rick Scott's education record -- en Español.

On Thursday, the party released its first Spanish-language TV ad, a 30-second spot called "Recortes," or "Cuts."

It opens with an image of the Republican governor on a chalkboard.

"Our community needs a governor who fights on our side," a woman says in Spanish. "That's why it's alarming to know that Gov. Rick Scott cut more than a $1 billion from our public schools."

The ad mentions neither former Gov. Charlie Crist nor former state Sen. Nan Rich, the two Democrats running for governor. The Democratic primary is Aug. 26.

Scott's campaign was quick to label the new ad "misleading."

"Whether we're talking about jobs, debt, or education, Charlie Crist took our state to the bottom during his failed term as governor," Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said in a statement. "He ran up a $3.6 billion deficit and left our schools in worse shape. Then Charlie, a man who stands for nothing but his own ambition, tried to run away to Washington instead of cleaning up the mess."

Both parties are working hard to court Hispanic voters. …

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DOC suspends Dade warden involved in inmate's shower death

Facing a rising wave of criticism, Florida Department of Corrections Mike Crews on Thursday suspended the warden of a Florida City prison where an inmate died after he was locked in a scalding-hot shower.

In placing warden Jerry Cummings on paid administrative leave, Crews denied that the punishment was a direct consequence of the inmate’s death, which is the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation. Instead, Crews said that the move was “part of our overall leadership evaluation at Dade Correctional Institution.”

Cummings has worked for the department for 11 years, and has been the warden at Dade Correctional since 2011.

The two correctional officers who placed 50-year-old Darren Rainey in the shower for nearly two hours — allegedly as punishment because the mentally ill man had defecated in his cell — are still working at the prison.

Crews said the correctional officers have not been suspended because “right now, all we have are the allegations.” He expressed hope that the investigation, undertaken by Miami-Dade homicide detectives, will eventually provide “concrete information” as to what happened in that shower in June of 2012. More here.

-- Michael Vasquez

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