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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott, Cabinet choose Port St. Lucie for veterans nursing home

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet voted Tuesday to locate the state's seventh nursing home for veterans on the Treasure Coast in Port St. Lucie. A site selection committee ranked St. Lucie the best of nine possible sites for the new 120-bed skilled nursing facility, and elected leaders mounted a months-long lobbying effort to close the deal.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, led a delegation of two dozen residents who drove for six hours to attend a Cabinet meeting in favor of the site, near an acute care hospital. Negron said the home would fill a "gap in service" between Daytona Beach and Pembroke Pines in Broward County where the two closest vets nursing homes are based.

Marion County leaders made a last-minute lobbying pitch for their site in Ocala, to no avail. They included U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, state Reps. Dennis Baxley and Charlie Stone and County Commission Chairman Carl Zalak III.

Speaking in opposition to the St. Lucie site, Stefano Perez, a legislative aide to Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, called the decision "subjective" and said the greatest need for a new veterans nursing home is in southwest Florida. …

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Today's the day FSU picks a new president

The search that began in March and stalled over the summer because of the long shadow cast by a powerful state senator is expected to end today.

Florida State University will pick a new president this afternoon, and Sen. John Thrasher is among four finalists. Several members of the Board of Trustees who will make the final selection have supported Thrasher politically over the years.

All four finalists will interview with the board for about an hour today. Thrasher, former West Virginia University Provost Michele Wheatly and Richard Marchase, vice president of research and economic development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, are all in Tallahassee. Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System who is still recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina, will interview using videoconferencing.

Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican, continues to draw the most attention. He enjoys support of members of Florida’s political and business community with FSU ties, but has faced strong opposition from students and faculty. His interview is up first. …

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DCF was warned of dangers surrounding murdered family

The Spirit family that child welfare investigators confronted two weeks ago presented a volatile mix: two drug-abusing adults, six small children and a history of violence. It exploded Thursday when Don Charles Spirit killed his daughter and six grandchildren one by one.

The killing spree in tiny Bell, Florida, is believed to be the largest loss of life in a single family with a child welfare history ever in Florida. And records show authorities knew there were risks.

On Sept. 1, Florida child protection investigators received a report on the youngsters over the Department of Children & Families’ abuse hotline. They were told that the children of Sarah Spirit, 28, were living with drug abusers. During the investigation that followed, Spirit told the agency she had just been released from jail after violating probation by testing positive for illegal substances. At the time, she was living with her father, a 51-year-old man with a record of violence who had once gone to prison for fatally shooting his son in a hunting accident. …

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County elections officials urge online voter registration by 2017

Florida's 67 election supervisors released a report Tuesday that calls on the Legislature to create a new system of online voter registration next year. But the report cautioned that the system should be implemented cautiously and after the next presidential election in 2016.

The report, released on National Voter Registration Day, was produced at the request of Sen. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who will be Senate president in November. The full report can be found here.

Arizona was the nation's first state to switch to paperless voter registration, back in 2002. A total of 20 states now allow people to register online, including Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana and four more states are in the process of implementing online registration. Democrats in the Legislature (Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee) filed bills in the 2014 session to implement the change, but Republicans would only allow a brief workshop on the idea. 

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Jeb Bush in Tampa this evening for big fundraising event

The Jeb Bush fundraising tour continues this evening in Tampa, where he’ll headline an event for U.S. Senate candidates Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, Dan Sullivan and Monica Wehby.

The candidates except for Sullivan are expected to attend the event, which will draw a bunch of bold-faced names including event chairs Al & Dawn Hoffman, Kim & John Kirtley and John Rood. Admission: $2,600 per person.

Bush has been busily traveling the country to appear at fundraisers for candidates. On Sept. 29 he’s to head to Wichita to help embattled Sen. Pat Roberts. In October he’ll appear at a fundraiser for the Michigan Republican Party along with Gov. Rick Snyder.

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Rick Scott is getting hurt by environmentalists ad campaign, NextGen poll memo says

NextGen Climate's five TV ads bashing Florida Gov. Rick Scott's environmental record have hurt the Republican and, as a result, given an otherwise-outgunned Charlie Crist more of a fighting chance this election season, according to a polling memo from the environmental group.

In a head-to-head matchup, Crist leads Scott 46-43 percent. With Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in the race, Scott is up 42-41 percent. Both leads are inside the error margins of the poll of 600 likely Florida voters conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang, a firm that typically surveys for Democrats and liberals.

Pollster Geoff Garin says, compared to a survey taken in July, "Scott’s standing has eroded significantly" in the three media markets where voters have seen at least $1.8 million worth of ads that focus on Scott’s ties to Duke Energy, the sugar lobby and an Everglades oil-drilling outfit. …

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Hillary Clinton is Miami-bound for Charlie Crist (and book signing)

Former Secretary of State and early 2016 presidential frontrunner is coming Oct. 2 to Miami to sign her new book "Hard Choices" and campaign with Democrat Charlie Crist.

Clinton's event with the candidate for governor comes one month after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, stumped with Crist in Miami.

There's not much detail about the newest Crist-Clinton event, which was announced on Facebook by Bob Poe, the Charlie Crist for Florida committee's chairman and treasurer. It takes place at 5 p.m. somewhere in Miami. That's about an hour and a half after Mrs. Clinton hosts her Books & Books signing in Coral Gables. 

Hillary Clinton's appearance with Crist is a no-brainer: She's still wildly popular with Democrats and appeals to women.  …

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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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