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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Republicans elect Leslie Dougher as new GOP chair

Florida Republicans on Saturday elected Clay County GOP chairwoman Leslie Dougher as interim chair to guide the party through the election cycle this fall. She defeated Eric Miller of Martin County, 106-69, in a surprisingly close vote.

Party activists gathered under a large white air-conditioned tent on the grounds of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay to ratify the choice of Dougher by party leaders in a crucial election cycle when some Republicans say a highly unified effort will be needed to ensure that Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected.

Scott was among those supporting Dougher's candidacy, but the event had a scripted feel that left a small number of activists disgruntled by what St. Lucie County GOP Chairman Bill Paterson called a "top-down" election dictated by insiders.

"It's always been top-down instead of bottom-up," said Manatee GOP Chairwoman Peggy Simone, who nominated Miller, who has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core educational standards. …

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Posada , the mystery map drawer, talks, apologizes, and denies

Posada Linked InIn a one-hour deposition in the offices of the plaintiff's attorney in the redistricting case, 24-year-old Alex Posada, whose name was faked as the author of a pivotal congressional map, began with an apology.

"We spoke a few weeks ago - I forget specifically when - but you had asked me if I'd submitted some maps and I misled you and I just wanted to apologize for that,'' Posada said to Vince Falcone, attorney for King, Blackwell, Zehnder and Wermuth, the firm representing the League of Women Voters in the lawsuit challenging the state's congressional maps. 

Photo: Posada's Linked In account as entered into testimony

Posada is the pivotal figure in the developing mystery over the legislature's maps. Legislators and their staff testified in the ongoing trial that significant districts from a map submitted under Posada's name became the foundation for the final congressional map. Republican Party of Florida map drawer, Frank Terraferma, has testified that at least seven districts from a congressional map he drew were "identical" to districts that appeared in Posada's map.

Who drew Posada's map and why it was submitted under false pretenses remains a mystery. The voters groups allege in their lawsuit that legislators allowed political consultants to conduct a “shadow” redistricting process that used go-betweens to create public maps intended to benefit Republican incumbents and candidates in violation of the Fair District amendments to the Florida Constitution.Full Story

Deputy DEP secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns

After three years of running the regulatory side of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn — son of veteran Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn — turned in his resignation Friday afternoon.

Littlejohn, a frequent target of criticism from environmental activists, said in his resignation letter that he was glad he had been able to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Floridians by eliminating or streamlining hundreds of rules “without lowering environmental standards.”

He also said his staff of 1,250 had “significantly reduced the time it takes to make a permit decision” from 79 days in 2010 to 28 days this year.

Littlejohn, who earned $125,000 a year, said he would be pursuing a job in the private sector, but did not say what. Prior to being hired by DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. in March 2011, Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients.

In a memo to the staff, Vinyard hailed Littlejohn’s work at DEP, which he said “yielded tremendous performance gains for DEP and Florida’s natural resources.” …

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Rubio, Scott help set 'I'm not a scientist' trend on climate change

New York magazine:

Asked by reporters yesterday if he accepts the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, John Boehner demurred on the curious but increasingly familiar grounds that he is not a scientist. “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” the House Speaker said. Boehner immediately turned the question to the killing of jobs that would result from any proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which he asserts with unwavering certainty. (On this question, Boehner is not held back by the fact that he is also not an economist.)

This particular demurral seems to be in vogue for the Grand Old Party. Florida governor Rick Scott (“I’m not a scientist”) and Senator Marco Rubio (“I’m not a scientist. I’m not qualified to make that decision.”) have both held up their lack of scientific training as a reason to withhold judgment on anthropogenic global warming. …

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Terraferma returns to redistricting trial and more docs emerge -- from RNC

RNC docThe steady drip of new revelations continued in the ongoing redistricting trial on Friday as a Republican Party of Florida official was called back to testify about a redistricting meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters with Florida legislators.

Frank Terraferma, a RPOF official, testified via telephone in day nine of the trial over the state's congressional maps. Plaintiffs called him after receiving new documents subpoenaed from the RNC and ordered produced by a Washington, D.C. appellate court on Thursday. 

Terraferma was asked about an email from Jessica Furst Johnson of the RNC staff that announced a Florida leadership meeting for June 15, 2011 -- before the redistricting maps were drawn and the public hearings on the redistricting process had begun. Attendees at the meeting were listed as: Speaker Designate Will Weatherford, Senate President Elect Don Gaetz, Chris Money, Weatherford's chief of staff, Chris Clark, Gaetz's chief of staff, and Frank Terraferma who was identified as "genius map drawer."

The plaintiffs, a coalition of voters led by the League of Women Voters, had obtained the same email during the discovery process, but the source had redacted Terraferma's name and identification. 

Plaintiffs attorney John Devaney asked Terraferma about the meeting at RNC headquaters, and he denied attending or knowing about it. He was asked if he intended to have the maps he drew submitted to the Legislature through private citizens. As he has done previously, Terraferma denied exchanging any maps with private citizens who may have submitted them to the Legislature.Full Story

John Thrasher taps old friend Steve MacNamara to assist with FSU application

A screen shot of the "properties" information found within John Thrasher's cover letter to FSU shows that it was created on a computer registered to long-time friend and fellow Republican insider Steve MacNamara.

A screen shot of the "properties" information found within John Thrasher's cover letter to FSU shows that it was created on a computer registered to long-time friend and fellow Republican insider Steve MacNamara.

The tech savvy among us know that when you create a new document on most computer programs, you usually leave a footprint. If you downloaded John Thrasher's resume and cover letter we posted here Thursday, you may have made an interesting discovery in the "Properties" field: the PDFs were created on computers registered to Stephen MacNamara.

Thrasher wants to be Florida State University's next president, and he submitted the documents to the school as his application for the job.

He and MacNamara tell the Times/Herald they exchanged emails about the resume and cover letter the way any friend would help a friend who asked for it. They say MacNamara, a tenured professor at Florida State University, has taken no other role in assisting Thrasher as he prepares for a June 11 interview.

But the discovery that MacNamara, an established and controversial figure in state politics with deep connections to FSU, gave Thrasher an assist will only fuel the flames for critics who say Thrasher is being given an unfair, inside track on the job. …

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Former Jim Davis aide Josh Earnest hits the big time as WH press secretary

President Obama just announced that Josh Earnest, who helped run Jim Davis' 2006 gubernatorial campaign, will replace Jay Carney as White House press secretary.

"He is of sound judgment and great temperament. He is honest and full of integrity," Obama said of Earnest, who has been with the president since 2008. He was currently serving as deputy press secretary.

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'100% accurate 2014 Florida hurricane forecast'

Editorial cartoon

Andy Marlette | Pensacola News-Journal

Editorial cartoon

Andy Marlette has the "100 percent accurate 2014 Florida hurricane forecast."

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Florida response to lawsuit: Gay marriage would cause harm

From our friends at the Associated Press:

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would "impose significant public harm."

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state in federal court. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Bondi's office says the state has a legitimate interest in defining a marriage as between a man and woman because Florida's voters adopted an amendment in 2008 that banned same-sex marriages.

The filing also says same-sex marriage recognition would create significant problems for the state's pension and health insurance programs. 

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Florida reaction to Shinseki resignation

Eric Shineski is out at the VA.

Florida reaction:

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, chair of VA Committee: "Everybody knows Eric Shinseki is an honorable man whose dedication to our country is beyond reproach. I thank him for his legacy of service to our nation. Unfortunately, Shinseki's tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs will forever be tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical center officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency with Congress, the public and the press. ... Right now, VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability.” …

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Timing of Thrasher-FSU deal has major implications in Senate

Now that John Thrasher has submitted his resume and letter of interest for the FSU presidency, the question in a lot of minds is not if the influential state senator will get the job but when.

The answer may have big implications for control of the Senate in 2016 and beyond.

Thrasher is one of 20 senators up for re-election this fall. The week-long qualifying period for legislative candidates (June 16-20) starts in a little more than two weeks. It's doubtful that FSU will have decided on Eric Barron's replacement by then, partly because Thrasher's candidacy is likely to stir more controversy, which could slow the trustees' decision-making process.

If Thrasher is the only Republican who files qualifying papers in strongly-Republican Senate District 6 and he then gets the FSU job, he will have to resign from the Senate. That creates a vacancy in nomination under state election laws, and the Republican Party gets to choose a new nominee for the Senate seat. …

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John Thrasher makes it official, applies for FSU presidency

We've known since March this day would likely come. But today state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, formally applied to become FSU's next president.

There had been rumors ever since President Eric Barron stepped down that Thrasher wanted the job. Former FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte nominated Thrasher last week and a search advisory committee voted to interview him on June 11 ahead of all other candidates.

This came upon the recommendation of the search consultant, who said Thrasher's nomination was "casting a long shadow" that had scared off other potentially strong candidates from applying for the job.

In a four-page cover letter, Thrasher highlights his love for FSU, his alma mater, and his background in politics and fundraising acumen. He also submitted a resume; he told the Times/Herald earlier he hadn't needed to update it in years.

Download Thrasher Cover Letter

Download Thrasher Resume …

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Mystery mapmaker is deposed; denies drawing redistricting maps

Minutes before the judge closed the courtroom in the redistricting trial, the plaintiffs dropped a bombshell.

In a deposition taken Thursday morning, the mystery mapmaker, Alex Posada, a former FSU student and private citizen who had allegedly submitted the map touted by legislators as the foundation for its congressional map, said he had nothing to do with it.

Posada, a former member of the FSU College Republicans, who appeared at a June 2012 public hearing in Tallhassee to commend the legislature's open process, allegedly testified under oath that he never drew the map, never submitted it, and a gmail account in his name that was used to submit the maps never existed.

That new information came in the eighth day of the redistricting trial in Leon County Circuit Court as a lawyer for the coalition of voters groups grilled Republican political consultant Rich Heffley about what he knew.  …

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Court closes courtroom in redistricting trial to shield consultant's docs

BainterThe public and the press were ushered out of Leon County courtroom Thursday in the redistricting trial over the state’s congressional districts during the testimony of Republican political consultant Rich Heffley.

The rare closing of the courtroom during an ongoing trial was authorized by the Florida Supreme Court after an emergency appeal by a coalition of voter groups who are seeking to get 538 pages of documents from GOP political consultant Pat Bainter of Data Targeting entered into evidence during the trial.

Photo: Pat Bainter, right, talks with his lawyers Kent Safriet and Thomas Philpot before testifying in the closed courtroom Thursday.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 on Tuesday that Bainter’s documents, which he considers “trade secrets,” could be entered at trial but only if the courtroom is closed to the public and the media. The high court could decide at a later date whether the documents should be opened, but ordered the courtroom closed to avoid further delay in the trial which is scheduled to end next Wednesday.Full Story

Rubio latest to call for Shinseki ouster

Sen.  Marco Rubio today added his name to the growing list of lawmakers calling for the removal of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

And Rubio made a push for his bill that would make it easier to fire top VA officials -- legislation that passed the House overwhelmingly but was blocked in the Senate last week. House leaders, including Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, will hold a news conference today to ask the Senate to take up the bill. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., says he agrees in general with the legislation but wants to address broader VA issues in his own bill. …

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