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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Curt Clawson looks to make mark as 'outsider' in race to replace Trey Radel

Check out this ad from Curt Clawson, a Republican candidate in the contest to replace former Rep. Trey Radel. Clawson, a former basketball player at Purdue, is casting himself as the "outsider" in a race that will feature some well-known people. The ad is to run locally during the Super Bowl.

(As a sidenote, this reporter was at the White House when President Obama tried to shoot hoops with a bunch of kids. He kept missing. It was ugly.)

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Scott to set special election to replace Trey Radel

Gov. Rick Scott is about to announce the dates for a special election for Florida's 19th Congressional District, which Trey Radel held until his cocaine trouble.

The primary, which will likely decide the outcome, will be April 22. The general election is to be held June 24.

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Study: Medicaid expansion would prevent more than 1,000 deaths in Florida

A study published on the Health Affairs blog concluded that between 1,158 and 2,221 deaths in Florida could be prevented if the state embraced Medicaid expansion.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Hunter College conducted the study, which was based on data from various sources they used to estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on mortality.

"The Supreme Court's decision to allow states to opt out of Medicaid expansion will have adverse health and financial consequences. Based on recent data from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, we predict that many low-income women will forego recommended breast and cervical cancer screening; diabetics will forego medications, and all low-income adults will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical expenses, and death," the researchers wrote.

Despite the support of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Senate and Democrats, efforts to use $51 billion federal Medicaid expansion dollars to reduce the number of poor Floridians were unsuccessful last year. House Republicans blocked a plan to use that funding to buy private insurance policies for roughly 1 million people. …

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Rubio raised $1.1 million in last quarter

Sen. Marco Rubio raised $1.1 million for his re-election campaign and his PAC in the last quarter, an aide reported today.

That brings his total 2013 haul to an impressive $8 million.

Terry Sullivan said Rubio has $2.3 million cash on hand for the 2016 re-elect and $307,000 cash in the bank for Reclaim America PAC.

In a sign of Rubio's efforts to grow a national fundraising base (which would come in hand should he run for a different office in 2016) Sullivan boasted on Twitter: "Over 69,000 donors from 50 states contributed to @marcorubio in 2013."

Some of that money went into this video promoting Rubio as a coach of his son's football team:

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David Jolly distances himself from attack on Alex Sink

The National Republican Congressional Committee is airing a TV ad hitting Alex Sink for her use of a state state plane while she was Florida CFO: "She used the  taxpayer funded plane so she could get to a vacation in the Bahamas," the ad says.

But Sink's Republican rival David Jolly isn't touching that Bahamas plane attack: "We sent out a mailing and I said to our people I don't want anything about her trip to the Bahamas on my mailing. The RNCC wants to do that, but were not doing that," Jolly said. "I understand there is some nuance it - the fact that she took the plane from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and then took her own flight to get to the Bahamas."

As a former aide to the late U.S.. Rep. CW Bill Young, Jolly is no stranger to taxpayer-funded flights himself. Federal records show that between 2003 and 2005, flew overseas to Italy, France, Britain Spain, Belgium, Austria and Crete at a cost to taxpayers of more than $7,100. Between 1998 and 2006 he spent more than $38,000 traveling between Washington and Florida. …

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Simpson, Diaz proposal would reduce corporate filing fees

State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, are sponsoring proposals that would reduce the annual costs small business owners pay to the state.

SB 776 and HB 767 seek to reduce the corporate filing fees businesses pay to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations.

“This legislation will continue to promote Florida as the number one place to do business,” Diaz said. “By cutting the corporate filing fees businesses can focus on hiring more workers, providing more jobs for Florida’s families."

The proposals dovetail with Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to reduce corporate filing fees by $33.3 million.

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PolitiFact Florida checks more claims against Alex Sink, David Jolly

PolitiFact Florida is keeping busy fact-checking the race for Pinellas County’s U.S. House race ahead of Monday night’s debate between Alex Sink and David Jolly.


Today the NRCC reused an attack on Sink’s use of state airplanes as chief financial officer years ago, saying she used a tax-payer funded plane to get to the Bahamas. PolitiFact Florida has already checked that claim and found it didn’t tell the full story.


This week we’ve also looked into whether Sink “supported a tax on homeowners insurance policies” and wanted “more taxes on water and TV.”


Meanwhile, we put her rival Jolly under our microscope to determine whether or not his old firm lobbied for “a dictator in Pakistan.”


To read more about the race, head to PolitiFact Florida.

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RPOF to NBC Miami: Apologize for "Reprehensive Party of Florida" gaffe

When NBC Miami aired a news segment that mistakenly called the state GOP the "Reprehensive Party of Florida" in a graphic, the state party issued a strong statement demanding an apology. The party got the expression of contrition promptly Friday from NBC -- and from the media company that put the news package together, Tallahassee-based Capitol News Service. The company's boss, Mike Vasilinda, said he went a step further.

"The person responsible for this has been fired," he said. "We take this very seriously." He also issued an apology on his website (listed below). Said NBC in a statement: “We apologize to the Republican Party of Florida and to our viewers for our airing of a wrong graphic in a news story in last night’s 6 p.m.newscast. The story came to us from a news service we use out of Tallahassee that we have relied on for years with no issues. We do, however, know it was our responsibility to catch the graphic and we regret that we did not prevent it from airing. We are addressing this with our employees to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. Once again, we sincerely regret this incident.” …

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Rubio still facing questions over blocking South Florida judge

Sen. Marco Rubio continues to face questions over his blocking of South Florida judicial nominee William Thomas. (background here)

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New DCCC ad bashes David Jolly with doctored campaign sticker

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's strategy against the Republican candidate for Pinellas County's open congressional seat seems to be: David Jolly=Washington Lobbyist.

  The DCCC has created a new television ad bashing Jolly for his lobbying work and even using what appears to be one of his campaign stickers -- except for the words "Washington Lobbyist" underneath.



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How medical pot initiative could helps Dems in gov race

CORRECTION: We blew this report. John Morgan was not actually on board with the marijuana initiative at the time of this poll and says he never saw the polling memo. Ben Pollara, executive director of United For Care, commissioned the poll "well before it was even on John’s radar."

Morgan emails: "If I wanted to help him (Crist) I would have given him 4MM and told him to run on that platform."

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan has repeatedly insisted his push for a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for medical use in Florida has nothing to do with helping his employee Charlie Crist get elected governor. Really? Well, Morgan certainly did take in interest in in how his ballot initiative might impact the governor's race.

Check out part of an internal polling memo we obtaineed that shows how Morgan's pollster a year ago specifically examined how a medical marijuana might ballot initiative might be helpful to the Democratic gubernatorial candidate: But Bu


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New TV ad targets Alex Sink's use of state plane

The NRCC said this morning it will air this new TV ad attacking Alex Sink. "She used the taxpayer-funded plane so she could get to a vacation in the Bahamas," a narrator says.

The ad relies on 2009 reporting out of Tallahassee, when Sink was CFO, and questions raised about her use of the state plane. Sink eventually reimbursed the state $17,000. The ad implies she flew a state plane to the Bahamas. In fact, she took the state plane from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, and then caught a commercial flight to the Bahamas.

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Q Poll: Hillary Clinton leads all 2016 contenders in Florida; Jeb Bush leads GOP field

From a press release:

In the 2016 White House race, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie loses ground among Florida Republicans and in a matchup with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while former Gov. Jeb Bush remains the top Republican in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Secretary Clinton tops Gov. Christie 51 – 35 percent in an early look at the presidential race, compared to a 45 – 41 percent Clinton edge in a November 22 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Clinton leads Jeb Bush 49 – 43 percent and tops other possible GOP contenders:

51 – 41 percent over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio;

53 – 38 percent over U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky;

52 – 39 percent over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin;

54 – 34 percent over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Bush leads a hypothetical Republican primary with 25 percent, followed by Rubio with 16 percent, Paul with 11 percent, Cruz with 9 percent, and Christie with 9 percent – down from 14 percent November 22, and Ryan with 5 percent. …

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Rubio and Nelson react to flood insurance bill passing Senate

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were in the majority as the U.S. Senate passes a bill to block flood insurance reforms.

Times files

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were in the majority as the U.S. Senate passes a bill to block flood insurance reforms.

The U.S. Senate today passed a bill that would block major reforms under the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act that have caused flood insurance rates to skyrocket in Florida. Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were in the majority.

“We are finally coming to the point at which we can grant homeowners and businesses some relief from the huge, gargantuan – sometimes tenfold – increases in flood insurance premiums,” Nelson said.

Rubio, who bucked conservative groups such as the Club for Growth in voting for the bill, had a more nuanced reaction:

“I support the concept of finding a solution to rate increases and arriving at a sustainable solution. However, I think it is critical that we first delay the scheduled increases and then work at finding a long term answer to this issue. The current increases have paralyzed the real estate sector in much of Florida. We should first pass a suspension of the scheduled rate increases and then begin work on a long term solution to this issue along the lines of this proposal”.

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Benacquisto makes rounds in Washington, prepping run for Congress

Spotted in D.C. today: State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a sure sign she is planning to jump in the race to replace Rep. Trey Radel, who quit this week amid cocaine troubles.

Benacquisto was in Washington yesterday and today, meeting with GOP officials and conservative activists, a source said.

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