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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Open government group: Scott won't commit to reversing practices in second term

Declaring that Florida's open government laws have been "under attack in recent years," the First Amendment Foundation asked the two candidates for governor to answer three questions pledging to reverse recent trends and operate with more transparent practices if they are elected.

Gov. Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist were asked if they would agree to conduct all public business on public computer networks and devices, release a detailed schedule of appointments and travel, and pledge that he and staff will not use private email accounts when conducting business.

Crist, a Democrat, responded that he would. Scott, a Republican, did not respond.

The First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit open government watchdog that receives its support from voluntary contributions and many of the state's news organizations.

The governor's failure to respond comes against a backdrop of increasing questions about his commitment to Florida's open government laws.

During his term, Scott has blocked data about his private air travels from public flight tracking records. He has released only superficial details about his daily schedules. He has used, and allows his staff to use, private email accounts when corresponding on public business, creating additional barriers to public access. And his staff has been encouraged to use private cell phone accounts when sending text messages about politically sensitive issues.

In each case, the governor has said he has followed the law but his actions have drawn lawsuits.

He is is being sued by Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews, a Republican, for allowing his staff to alter calendar entries, for withholding documents from public records requests and for failing to say who opened his private gmail account and the gmail accounts of his staff. He faces another lawsuit, from attorney general candidate George Sheldon, a Democrat, alleging that his financial disclosure forms fail to reflect more than $200 million of his wealth because it excludes assets his wife owns but which Scott remains as the beneficiary.

Here are the responses from Crist:Full Story

Tampa Bay Times Poll: Tied Fla gov race, med marijuana failing


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Marco Rubio really wants to be loved in Iowa

Amid the high-profile stumping this week for Joni Ernst in Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio made sure he cast his shadow -- way, way down the ballot.

He campaigned for a state representative in Waterloo on Wednesday. The rep, Pat Grassley, happens to be the grandson of Sen. Chuck Grassley.

"I miss those days when I was a state legislator in Florida and knew my voters," Rubio said. "I knew my constituents because I would knock on their doors every years."

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Cuba politics maze traps Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo

By Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald

They vowed to be different. They’d sound like a new generation of Miami politicians. They’d shift their focus away from foreign policy. They’d care more about the family down the street than the brothers 90 miles across the Florida Straits.

Yet the Cuba politics maze trapped them anyway.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo have spent the precious last few days of their congressional campaigns dissecting an unusual Spanish-language television advertisement by Garcia that stars a prominent Cuban dissident.

Curbelo and other Miami Cuban Americans have accused Garcia of using Guillermo Fariñas for personal political gain and violating an unwritten rule that shields opponents of the island’s Communist regime from internal U.S. politics.

That rule is hardly hard-and-fast. As Florida governor, Republican Jeb Bush once sent a recording of support to a dissident in a Cuban political prison. President Barack Obama met with Fariñas and another opposition leader last year at a Democratic fundraiser in Pinecrest. …

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Jeb Bush sharpens rhetoric, taking on Obama, Clinton

Jeb Bush is talking tough.

In Colorado on Wednesday he criticized Hillary Clinton. "The former secretary of state who was campaigning in Massachusetts, where she said, ‘Don't let them tell you that businesses create jobs,’ Bush told the crowd, according to Kasie Hunt of MSNBC. “The problem with America today is that not enough jobs are being created. They are created by businesses, where people's incomes rise, where they can live a life of purpose and meaning independent of government. That should be the mission.”

He took on President Obama's handling of Ebola during a speech at Vanderbilt University on Tuesday: "It looked very incompetent to begin with, and that fueled fears that may not be justified. And now you have states that are legitimately acting on their concerns, creating a lot more confusion than is necessary."

In the same speech he blasted Obama's foreign policy, calling it "an unmitigated disaster." …

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GOP vote lead over Dems in Fla stays fairly static

About 2.4 million Floridians have cast in-person early and absentee ballots as of Thursday morning and, as in the past week, Republicans still hold an advantage over Democrats in ballots cast but the GOP's margins are still slipping a bit, in terms of percentage.

GOP lead over Democrats: 140,123, or 5.9 percent. Yesterday, the spread was 141,363, or 6.4 percent.

Since in-person early voting began, Republicans have alternately (but barely) increased their overall vote lead but seen their advantage in terms of rate slip. That's in part because Democrats and independents (a shorthand for no-party-affiliation and third-party voters) have begun casting ballots at higher rates.

Here are the early and absentee ballot numbers as of this morning: …

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Fla Chamber says Rick Scott up 5 in its poll

Press release from the pro-Rick Scott Florida Chamber: …

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Florida Republicans recall 'entrepreneurial spirit' of Gary Morse

Reaction to the death of Gary Morse:

Gov. Rick Scott: “Gary was a champion of Florida innovation. When molding The Villages into the one-of-a-kind community it is today, Gary demonstrated what makes our state so great - the idea that anyone can make a positive, lasting impact in the lives of generations to come. Gary’s boldness and entrepreneurial spirit is known internationally and helped define Florida as the place where anything is possible. Ann and I send our condolences to Renee, the Morse family and the entire community of The Villages today.

Sen. Marco Rubio: "Gary Morse looked at the pastures and prairies of Florida’s interior and saw the American Dream. Not just for him, but for the tens of thousands of seniors who have been able to enjoy their golden years and continue to live them to their fullest. His vision created a retirement community unlike any other, and Florida is richer for his entrepreneurial spirit." …

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Amid bad press, RAGA sends Bondi Twitter love

Sure, recent stories about how the Republican Attorneys General Association has influenced Florida's Pam Bondi haven't been the most flattering.

On Sunday, the Times/Herald wrote about how the group has raised $750,000 for Bondi, who has adopted much of that group's corporate-backed agenda. Then there was Wednesday's story in the New York Times about how groups like RAGA nurtured close ties between attorneys general, including Bondi, and corporate lobbyists trying to get deals for clients.

But RAGA apparently isn't backing away from its association with Bondi heading into the Nov. 4 election, at least not on Twitter, which is posting this ad sponsored by the group.RAGAbondi

The ad was paid by a political committee called RAGA Florida, which spent $25,000 on digital ads on Oct. 28, just before the New York Times piece was published. Now that's getting ahead of the narrative!

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The Villages developer, GOP mega donor Gary Morse dies

The Villages Daily Sun:

THE VILLAGES – Harold Gary Morse, the ambitious and creative driving force behind The Villages for more than 30 years, died Wednesday night. He was 77.

Morse was a visionary who took over a small mobile home park from his father, the late Harold Schwartz, and turned it into the world’s premier retirement community. A former advertising and marketing executive, he assumed leadership of The Villages in 1983, when it was still called Orange Blossom Gardens and had just 386 manufactured homes, a clubhouse and a few shuffleboard courts.

Today, Morse is known internationally as the developer of a community that is famous for its active retirement lifestyle, beauty and incredible growth. It boasts close to 600 holes of golf, more than 100 restaurants, 76 recreational facilities and close to 4 million square feet of commercial space, among other things.

More here

And Michael Van Sickler wrote this about the community Morse created.

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With boost from independents, Crist leads Scott by three points in Q poll

A new poll by Quinnipiac University shows Democrat Charlie Crist with a three-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott, 43 percent to 40 percent. The poll shows Crist pulling out to a narrow lead largely on the strength of independent voters.

From a Quinnipiac news release:

Independent voters prefer Crist by 47 percent to 29 percent with 16 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. In the last Q poll last week, Scott and Crist were tied, with Crist receiving 41 percent of independents and Scott 38 percent.

"Independent voters are often the difference in swing states like Florida, but the size of Crist's lead among them is truly remarkable," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.


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Fla Insider Poll: The most depressing campaign ever?

We've already reported the results of the latest Florida Insider poll but the comments for those who participating were striking. Over and over, participants lamented the state of Florida politics and leadership based on this election cycle. We asked if the election taught us anything. A generous sampling of answers:

We don't deserve self-government. And as long as the balance of campaigning is skewed so heavily to attack ads, we will never have a top of the ticket candidate who polls higher than 45%.

The first requirement of whomever wins the gubernatorial race will be to restore confidence that the battered and muddied victor has a vision for Florida and that he is willing and able to see that vision fulfilled.

 This initiative campaign is different than most. The reason is, that the voters have a better understanding of this issue than the political operatives that are trying to influence the outcome.

That negative campaigning doesn't suppress voter turnout

There is WAY too much money in the process!!

To never count out a seemingly unelectable political opportunist, for they are the ones that fool unsuspecting and vulnerable electorate. …

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Amendment 3 asks voters to expand powers of governor as he ends his term

Florida voters are being asked to approve a little-noticed amendment to the state Constitution that would rewrite the way judges are appointed to the state’s highest courts and strengthen the powers of governors who are leaving office.

Proponents say it is needed to avert a constitutional crisis, but opponents say it is a manufactured problem and a partisan power grab that could have ominous consequences.

Amendment 3 is the brainchild of Florida Republicans in the Legislature who describe it as a modest change needed to correct a constitutional ambiguity that could arise in 2019.

Under current law, the governor is not allowed to make an appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, or the state courts of appeal, unless there is a vacancy. On the same day the governor takes office in 2019 — after the 2018 elections — three of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. The justices, R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are considered the court’s liberal wing. …

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Lobbying of Bondi may have broken law

Attorneys General Pam Bondi of Florida and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, right, during a Republican Attorneys General Association gathering at an exclusive resort in Coronado, Calif., in June.

[The New York Times]

Attorneys General Pam Bondi of Florida and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, right, during a Republican Attorneys General Association gathering at an exclusive resort in Coronado, Calif., in June.

Partners with a powerful Washington, D.C., law firm aren't registered as Florida lobbyists, but that hasn't stopped them from wining and dining Attorney General Pam Bondi the past four years to discuss clients.

Bondi dropped suits or declined to investigate cases after numerous behind-the-scenes interactions with the firm, Dickstein Shapiro, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald review shows none of the partners were registered to lobby in Florida, meaning their advocacy may have violated state law. They won't be prosecuted unless someone files a sworn complaint with the state. …

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Medical marijuana supporters blast latest web ad from opponents

With less than a week until the election, supporters and opponents of Amendment 2, which would allow marijuana for medical use, are still waging a fierce battle to sway voters.

Amendment 2 advocates, United for Care, is blasting the latest salvo from the Drug Free Florida Committee. The political action committee on Wednesday launched a web ad featuring Polk County Sheriff Gray Judd.

Judd's message is that Amendment 2 "gives teens legal access to pot. Make no mistake. Teen drug use will rise. They don't call Amendment 2 the pot for teens amendment but they should."

United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara responded with a press release stating that "medical marijuana opponents have decided they can't win by telling the truth. You don't have to take my word for it - independent, objective observers have clearly demonstrated that the claims made by the No on 2 campaign are untruthful.

"We're going to win this election by telling the stories of sick and suffering patients who truly need this medicine to dramatically improve their quality of life," added Pollara. "The No on 2 campaign will continue to spread lies because they know they will lose if they stick to the facts." …

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