Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist campaign sponsors NASCAR car

Given how frugal Charlie Crist has tended to be with his campaign money, this surprised us, even knowing that adviser Steve Schale is a racing buff: His campaign is sponsoring a car in the Coke Zero 400. These sponsorships can cost as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The campaign spent no money on this and the cost of wrapping the car was an in kind donation from a supporter who is a big NASCAR fan," said campaign spokesman Brendan Gilfillian.

The car is owned by Mike Curb, Republican former California lieutenant governor and record company executive who surely knows Crist's long time political pal, Mitch Bainwol, the former head of the Recording Industry Associatioin of America. The driver is Josh Wise.


Full Story

Five reasons why Charlie Crist should debate Nan Rich

Charlie Crist should change course and agree to debate his Democratic primary opponent, former state Sen. Nan Rich. Voters deserve to see the two candidates side-by-side at least once before the Aug. 26 primary, but there are lots of other good reasons, too. More here.

Full Story

Pam Bondi fundraiser organized by Scientologists

The invitation to Pam Bondi's fundraiser Tuesday night in Clearwater.


The invitation to Pam Bondi's fundraiser Tuesday night in Clearwater.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who already has raised millions for her re-election campaign, can expect to pull in more dollars Tuesday night at a Clearwater fundraiser where all six organizers are prominent members of the Church of Scientology.

Bondi’s “special guest,’’ the invitation says, will be U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.

Hosting the event are Liz and Michael Baybak, owners of a 23rd-floor penthouse in the swank Water’s Edge condos downtown. The tower, perched on a 40-foot bluff, affords stunning views of Clearwater Harbor to the west and, in every other direction, Scientology’s many buildings.

Baybak is chief executive of Michael Baybak and Company, a Clearwater-based business services consulting firm. Baybak and his wife have been major donors to Scientology. They also have been occasional contributors to congressional candidates, federal elections records show. They could not be reached for comment. …

Full Story

Crist looks to raise money off Hobby Lobby decision

Fundraising email

Crist campaign

Fundraising email

Charlie Crist sees today's Hobby Lobby decision as a way to raise money.

"Today's decision is a harsh and unfortunate reminder that elections have consequences," Crist wrote in an email solicitation. "We have to protect the progress we've made, and we have to keep fighting for the values we share. Giving $1 or more before our critical midnight deadline will go a long way."

The appeal matches efforts by ohter Democrats nationally.

Full Story

Labarga becomes Florida's first Cuban-American chief justice

On Tuesday morning, the court released the official photograph of the 2014 Labarga Court.

Florida Supreme Court

On Tuesday morning, the court released the official photograph of the 2014 Labarga Court.

In a standing-room-only Supreme Court chamber Monday, Jorge Labarga took the oath of office as Florida's first Cuban-American chief justice.

Labarga, 61, succeeds Ricky Polston. For the next two years, Labarga will be the chief administrative officer of Florida's courts, first among equals on the state's seven-member high court and will take the lead in all oral arguments. One of his first objectives is to hold a statewide summit on access to the courts to include representatives from the governor's office, state Legislature and the business community. 

"It is a societal problem that must be resolved by society," Labarga said in his first speech as chief justice.

Labarga was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. in 1963 when he was 11 years old, and was raised in sugar cane country, Pahokee, where he learned to speak English. He received both his bachelor's and law degrees at the University of Florida and is a proud "double Gator." …

Full Story

Americans for Prosperity promoting Rick Scott

Literature left at Florida homes by Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity

Literature left at Florida homes by Americans for Prosperity

Gov. Rick Scott is getting some help from Americans for Prosperity, which has begun phone banking and canvassing across Florida. The door-hangers pictured here are an example.

"We’re going to use that field effort, like we’re already doing, to educate folks on his record. And it's a pretty good one," AFP President Tim Phillips said in an interview near the group's headquarters in Arlington, Va.

AFP, which gets funding from the Koch brothers, has 10 field offices across Florida. Last year, AFP paid for TV ads attacking three Republican state senators -- Charlie Dean of Inverness, Nancy Detert of Venice and Greg Evers of Baker -- over pension and other issues.

AFP recently named Chris Hudson as Florida state director, replacing Slade O'Brien, who was promoted to a regional director.

Hudson had been Florida director for Strategic Advocacy, a public affairs firm, and the Foundation for Government Accountability, a free market think tank, in addition to directing numerous campaigns throughout the state, according to a release. …

Full Story

Florida reaction to Hobby Lobby ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning issued a ruling in the widely-watched Hobby Lobby case, ruling some corporations do not have to provide birth control coverage.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): “ObamaCare was written and passed with a clear disregard for the reality that millions of Americans are inspired by their faiths in all aspects of their lives, including the way entrepreneurs manage their businesses. In America, no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs if they wish to run a business. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is a re-affirmation of America’s commitment to religious freedom and a reminder of why ObamaCare is such a flawed law that needs to be entirely repealed and replaced.” …

Full Story

Mayo Jacksonville lobbied for share of Florida cancer research dollars

From today's paper:

Gov. Rick Scott's plan to spend tax dollars to boost the national prominence of Florida's top cancer centers came as a pleasant surprise to the Mayo Clinic.

One of the country's most prestigious names in research, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is in three states — the mother ship in Minnesota, plus Florida and Arizona. Mayo Jacksonville officials figured they — and the 14,000 cancer patients seen at the Florida site — would benefit from Scott's plan.

After all, the glass doors of its research building bear the federal seal of approval Scott wants more Florida centers to have: "A comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute."

But Mayo, nestled in a forest of pine trees in suburban Jacksonville, has learned that being "Florida's best kept secret," as its leaders like to say, has political consequences. As this year's legislative session wore on, it became clear that Mayo would be snubbed in favor of centers that enjoy more support in Tallahassee.

"It was eye-opening to us," said Layne Smith, Mayo's director of state government relations. …

Full Story

Fla Poll: Rick Scott 41%, Charlie Crist 39%, 59% back marijuana

Gravis Marketing has a new robo poll out that appears in line with most other public polls recently: Rick Scott leads Charlie Crist in the governor's race 41 percent to 39 percent, which is within the survey's plus of minus 3 percent margin of error. Libertarian nomineee Adrian Wylie draws 6 percent

Meanwhile, only 50 percent of voters  support legal medical marrijuana as a general concept - significantly less than the 60 percent thresshold for passage - but 59 percent would vote for the ballot language.

Attorney General Pam Bondi leads her rivals by at least 5 percentage poiints and at  least 15 percent undecided.

More here

Full Story

Nickens: Charlie Crist is off his game

From Tampa Bay Times Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens:

Rick Scott has done more damage to this state than any modern governor.

The Republican has starved public schools and higher education, disregarded voting rights and privacy rights, and dismantled environmental protections. He has little feel for Florida and sides with electric utilities, property insurers, developers and the National Rifle Association over the concerns of families struggling to pay bills, afford health insurance, find quality public schools for their kids and keep their neighborhoods safe.

Yet Scott could win re-election in November.

As we head into July, the race appears essentially tied and Charlie Crist is not maximizing his greatest assets as the likeable guy who understands Floridians and their priorities. Instead, the Republican-turned-Democrat is uncharacteristically committing too many unforced errors. …

Full Story

Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Marco Rubio. A speech Wednesday on proposals aimed at the middle class — a problem area for the GOP — had Republican thought leaders heaping praise on Rubio, who has basically built a campaign platform for a presidential run. His ideas lack some detail and still haven't met a lot of scrutiny, but the speech was a winner for Rubio.

Loser of the week

Charlie Crist. He cancels a trip to Cuba, always dicey territory even as the embargo loses favor, and then is put on the defensive by Gov. Rick Scott over not releasing his wife's tax returns. Scott, who is gaining a national reputation for dodging questions, was proclaiming himself Mr. Transparency. Crist's campaign is looking a bit shaky.

Full Story

Bill Clinton fires up Florida Democrats, who face a big election-year challenge

Charlie Crist and Bill Clinton together Saturday night

Scott Keeler | Times

Charlie Crist and Bill Clinton together Saturday night

For the first time in two decades, Florida Democrats are likely to field a gubernatorial candidate well known across the state. Charlie Crist is breaking Democratic fundraising records and taking on an incumbent who is among the most unpopular and vulnerable governors in the country.

But even as former President Bill Clinton fired up 1,600 party activists and donors Saturday night at a swank, ocean-front hotel in South Florida, Democrats in America's biggest battleground state faced a bleak reality: Election Day in four months could pull their already beleaguered party to a new low.

If Crist unseats Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Nov. 4, nothing else matters much because holding Florida's top office would mean a dramatic improvement in the party's ability to raise money and rebuild.

The party is poised to bet its future on a lifelong Republican.

Underscoring the goal, his campaign made sure to liberally distribute Crist stickers and signs. Fortune cookies at dinner held the message "Charlie Crist is in your future!"

But the star power Saturday night was Clinton's. Story here.

Full Story

Hot and cold: Marco Rubio's immigration stand

Then and now

Associated Press

Then and now

These photos capture the state of immigration reform in Washington and Sen. Marco Rubio's role.

He fully on board with immigration reform at the start of 2013. But on June 27, 2013, when the Senate passed the bill he helped author, Rubio was a no-show for the news conference. He continued to distance himself by joining Republican talking points that the Obama administration cannot be trusted.

Full Story

Crist: Courts should knock down Florida's gay marriage ban

Rounding out a busy week on Friday, Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist filed a legal brief in support of marriage equality.

The brief comes as six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses prepare for their day in court. They are suing Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin.

A hearing is scheduled for July 2 in Miami.

Crist was governor when Florida passed a constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same-sex marriages in 2008. 

In his brief, however, Crist called the ban "discriminatory" and said the courts should strike it down. 

"With the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice, this issue of marriage equality will almost certainly not even be an issue for the children and grandchildren of this state," Crist wrote. "But it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently, and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love."

Gay-rights advocates said they welcomed Crist's support. …

Full Story

Rep. Dane Eagle takes plea deal in DUI arrest

From our friends at the Associated Press:

A member of the Florida Legislature arrested on a drunken driving charge was sentenced to six months of probation and subjected to alcohol tests under a plea deal agreed upon Thursday.

Rep. Dane Eagle, 31, was arrested in April after an officer spotted him driving erratically and he refused to be tested. The Cape Coral Republican refused to resign after his arrest.

Eagle, who was not in court for the hearing, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of reckless driving, according to the state attorney's office.

Part of the deal requires Eagle to also perform 100 hours of community service as well as spending time in a program that counsels drivers.

Eagle will also have to subject himself to tests to see if he has been drinking.

Read more here.

Full Story