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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Who's bigger threat to Fla- Trey Radel or Ken Detzner?

Radel, Detzner

Times Files

Radel, Detzner

Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano:

They have called for his head, his job, his political future.

From the governor to the state Republican Party chairman to Democrats in every direction, the chorus has been predictably harmonious.

They say U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, a Republican from Fort Myers, should resign at mid-term following his recent guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of buying cocaine.

Please excuse me for singing a different tune.

Radel's crime was foolish. Reckless. It showed a serious lack of judgment and possibly a major flaw in character. And when he comes up for re-election next year, I would not fault any voter from southwest Florida who wants to go in another direction.

But Radel did not directly harm anyone from his district, other than his own family. He has admitted his mistake, apologized and entered rehab. The consequences are all his own, and probably won't have a major impact on the citizens he was chosen to represent.

To me, that's where the line should be drawn.

Abrupt resignations should be reserved for someone who has knowingly, and repeatedly, acted against the best interests of a significant number of Florida residents.

Like, perhaps, the Secretary of State …

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Dems launch new site bashing Rick Scott

The Florida Democratic party has launched a new site, to slam Gov. Rick Scott again.

“This website will show voters how Rick Scott is working against Florida families. Before Rick Scott was governor, his company defrauded taxpayers and hemade hundreds of millions of dollars. When federal investigators asked questions, Rick Scott pled the fifth 75 times, and his company was sued for billions. As Florida’s governor, he has slashed public schools and colleges while hiding public records and enriching his wealthy campaign donors,” said pary spokesman Joshia Karp.

"His whole career, Rick Scott's priorities have been about taking care of himself and his friends, regardless of the rules. That's what he's doing as Governor,” added Karp

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Ooops. Confusion at Alex Sink campaign

The Alex Sink Congressional campaign sent this today:

We don’t want to bombard you with so many emails this holiday weekend, but this is important:

Tonight at midnight is our FIRST monthly fundraising deadline of the campaign. It’s critical we put up a big showing, but right now we’re still 91 donations short of our grassroots goal. We have to close the gap.

Will you chip in $3 or more right now to help Alex close the gap before tonight’s midnight deadline?

If we’re going to have the resources to win this special election, then we need you to have Alex’s back right now.

Thanks for stepping up,

Sink for Congress

Trouble is, Sink's folks seem to forget she's running for federal office, not state.  The first reporting period for her race actually ends Christmas Day, 12/25/13.

UPDATE: The Sink campaign said it was refering to an internal campaign deadline, not an actual reporting deadline. So it was critical to have a big showing, inside the campaign. Got it?

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John Morgan: the bombastic, omnipresent lawyer fueling Florida's 2014 election

You'd think after making thousands of "For the People" TV ads for his law firm, John Morgan would be more than comfortable before the camera.

But as he looked at his cherubic baby face on the TV monitor recently, Morgan groaned. "Laawd," he said in his deep Kentucky drawl, "high def is a mother f-----."

Insecurity runs deep, even for a bombastic multimillionaire who leads the country's largest personal injury law firm, has hosted President Barack Obama at his 18,000-square-foot mansion and is poised to be the most important man in Florida politics this election cycle other than Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

Morgan, 57, is leading a high-profile ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida for medical use and he's a key adviser to former Republican Gov. Crist's unprecedented campaign to win back the Governor's Mansion as a Democrat.

Some wealthy middle-aged businessmen bag trophy wives; Morgan goes for trophy lawyers, and Crist is the biggest trophy and best rainmaker at Morgan & Morgan. …

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Elections officials worry about state directive's impact on voters

When Secretary of State Ken Detzner told election supervisors Monday that they can't encourage voters to drop off completed absentee ballots at drop off sites or early voting sites, it touched off a furor, in part because of the timing.

The state ruling would seem to have its biggest impact in Pinellas County, where Supervisor of Elections Deb Clark is so aggressive in promoting voting by mail that she has a system of secure remote drop-off locations to make it easy for voters to return absentees. If Clark can't use those sites, she said, the turnout likely would be lower in the upcoming special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. CW Bill Young.

But as it turns out, the issue had actually been raised earlier by two other supervisors -- both of whom disagree with the state's interpretation that the law prohibits voters from handing in absentee ballots at early voting sites. …

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O'Toole discloses job with group approved for millions by her committee

In the conservative Florida Legislature, Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, has an undisputed reputation for fiscal austerity.

None other than Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire libertarian brothers David and Charles Koch, gave O’Toole an A+ rating in June, establishing her as the gold standard for a group that says it prizes “free markets over cronysim.”

Yet even this group questions O’Toole’s dual roles as chief operating officer of a nonprofit and vice chair of the House education appropriations committee that approved $6 million for the same Miami nonprofit in this year’s budget.

Take Stock in Children was awarded an additional $9.1 million from the state’s $200 million mortgage settlement. O’Toole, a former IBM executive with a thick Boston accent, voted on both matters.

In neither case did she disclose she’s paid $50,000 a year by the group.

“It seems the proper thing to do in this case would have been to identify that you have this role with this group,” said Slade O’Brien, the Florida director for Americans for Prosperity. “Or recuse yourself from the vote.”

Getting an explanation from O’Toole, 68, isn’t easy.



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Detzner's directive on absentee ballots sets off spirited debate

Secretary of State Ken Detzner's directive to election supervisors on the return of absentee ballots has set off a fierce debate with some of them criticizing Detzner's action and others coming to his defense.

Detzner issued an order to supervisors Monday, telling them they "should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor's office." The directive appeared to take dead aim at one supervisor, Deborah Clark in Pinellas, who aggressively promotes voting absentee and has a small network of remote drop-off locations to make it easier for people to turn in their absentee ballots. (Clark may formally respond to Detzner's order Wednesday).

The state's order comes as Clark prepares to send thousands of absentee ballots to voters in the upcoming special election in the 13th Congressional district. Inside absentee ballot envelopes, Clark reminds voters in all caps about MAIL BALLOT DROPOFF LOCATIONS and that "an election employee will be at each site to assist and hand out 'I VOTED' stickers." …

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Lawmakers to consider single-gender classrooms

Two Miami-Dade lawmakers have filed legislation that would encourage Florida school districts to try gender-specific classrooms.

The proposal, by state Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., of Hialeah, and Sen. Anitere Flores, of Miami, would designate state funding to help five school systems pilot the idea at an elementary school.

The initiative would cost no more than $1 million, Diaz said.

"There is a school of thought that boys develop slower and girls are always ahead in elementary school," Diaz said. "At the same time, there is also research that shows that girls can be intimidated in some classes and not speak up as much."

If the HB 313 becomes law, parents would have the ability to opt in (or opt out) of the gender-specific schools. The students would all come together for lunch, and classes such as art, music and foreign language. 

Diaz envisions the pilot program lasting for two years. He considers it an important step in expanding school choice. …

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Radel on the chopping block

Andy Marlette

Pensacola News Journal

Andy Marlette

Another classic from Andy Marlette ^

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Orange County GOP lawmakers skip delegation meeting on Obamacare

Republican representatives and senators from Orange County apparently weren't too keen on the topic of the latest delegation meeting: the Affordable Care Act.

Not one GOP lawmaker from Orlando showed up to the meeting in Orlando Monday night to discuss Obamacare. They reportedly missed a great deal of public testimony encouraging the legislature to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars to reduce the number of uninsured, according to a press release from the Oraneg County Democratic Party.

All six Republican members of the delebate submitted paperwork asking to be officially excused from the meeting. The eight Democrats representing Orange County attended the meeting, the news release said.

Here is the full press release: …

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Gov. Scott agrees: Rep. Trey Radel should resign

Gov. Rick Scott agrees with calls for Rep. Trey Radel to resign, but a spokesman for the Fort Myers Republican said he intends to return to work.

"Congressman Radel's top priority right now is to complete his rehabilitation and then return to work as soon as possible," spokesman Dave Natonski wrote in an email to the Associated Press, echoing what he said last night.

Scott was in Lee County for the groundbreaking of the Hertz headquarters and said he thought Radel should step down. "My thoughts and prayers are with Radel and his family," Scott said, the AP reported.

The Naples Daily News went to the rehab center where Radel checked into last week. From the newspaper story: …

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GOP calls grow for Rep. Trey Radel to resign

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers


Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers

Update Tuesday: Gov. Rick Scott agrees: Radel should resign.

Lee and Collier County Republicans, as well as the Republican Party of Florida, tonight called on U.S. Rep. Trey Radel to resign, adding to growing demands the lawmaker step down after pleading guilty to a cocaine charge.

Radel's actions "have violated the trust of those whom he was elected to represent and fall short of the standards for an elected official," the county GOP committees said in a statement. It called Radel's "actions clearly disqualify the pursuit of another term and if he should run for re-election, he would not enjoy our support." (see full statement in jump)

RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry said: "The people of Florida’s 19th Congressional District need a Congressman who is 100 percent focused on the needs of Southwest Florida. "Therefore, Congressman Radel should step down and focus his attention on rehabilitation and his family.”

A spokesman told the Naples Daily News that "Congressman Radel's top priority right now is to complete his rehabilitation and then return to work as soon as possible."

But any support Radel had is rapidly eroding as would-be Republican candidates size up a special election.

Radel, who checked into a rehab center last week, pleaded guilty to a cocaine possession charge in a District of Columbia court last Wednesday. He was busted Oct. 29 trying to buy cocaine from an undercover officer.Full Story

Florida can use new drug in inmate executions, judge rules

The state successfully defended its new execution drug in court on Monday, reports Bill Cotterell of the Florida Current:

Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier, who held an evidentiary hearing ordered by the Florida Supreme Court last week, ruled that midazolam hydrochloride is not just sufficient to render condemned killers incapable of feeling pain -- it could kill them itself, in high enough doses. The drug is used as the first of three in execution, an anesthetic followed by a paralytic chemical and then a heart-stopping drug.

The state previously used pentobarbital as the first drug in the execution “protocol,” but the manufacturer of that drug cut off supplies to states using it in executions. Other states also plan to switch to midazolam but have not yet used it.

Askari Abdullah Muhammad, previously known as Thomas Knight, had been scheduled to die on Tuesday but the Florida Supreme Court last week stayed his execution through at least Dec. 27 and ordered Rosier to hold an evidentiary hearing. She did so last week, hearing from a doctor on each side of the issue. …

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Sheriff is 2nd member of Scott's L.G. short list to say 'No thanks'

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger on Monday formally declined Gov. Rick Scott's offer to be considered as a possible lieutenant governor, becoming the second person on Scott's four-person short list to turn him down.

Eslinger sent an email to his staff saying he was "flattered and honored" to be considered but that he will keep the job that he was first elected to in 1990. Last week, St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Joyner also rejected Scott's offer, saying that accepting it would "render me ineffective."

The moves by Eslinger and Joyner suggest that neither man knew he was under consideration for the No. 2 post until they found out when the Times/Herald broke the story last week.

As a result, Scott now is down to two known candidates for the job, both from Hillsborough County: Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

This can't be the outcome Scott wanted. The withdrawals by Eslinger and Joyner create the perception that no one wants to be the governor's running mate in 2014.

Here's the full text of Eslinger's message to his employees: …

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State orders restrictions on voters returning absentee ballots

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official issued an order Monday that imposes new restrictions on how and where voters can return completed absentee ballots in future elections. (See the directive here.)

At least two county election supervisors, Brian Corley in Pasco County and Deborah Clark in Pinellas, are troubled by the decision, say they were never consulted by the state and predicted that it could depress turnout. Pinellas is also the county where voters will soon elect a new member of Congress to replace the late C.W. Bill Young.

The two-page order, officially called a "directive," was issued by Secretary of State Ken Detzner. But election supervisors are elected constitutional officers, so it is unclear whether they would be legally obligated to obey it. Detzner has the authority to sue a supervisor who he believes is not following the election code. …

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