Wednesday, August 15, 2018
News Roundup

Insiders predict Clinton win in Florida

Time for our final Florida Insider Poll of the 2016 election cycle.

We surveyed more than 160 of Florida's most experienced politicos — campaign operatives, fundraisers, political scientists, lobbyists and the like — about their predictions.

The results?

• Almost two-thirds expect Hillary Clinton will win Florida, all but guaranteeing she wins the White House.

• More than 3 out of 4 think she will win the presidency, regardless of whether she wins the Sunshine State.

• Almost 95 percent expect Republican Marco Rubio to beat Democrat Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate.

• Nearly 9 in 10 expect the medical marijuana ballot initiative to pass.

•Seven in 10 doubt that the utility-backed amendment relating to solar power — and opposed by most consumer groups — will reach the 60 percent threshold needed to pass.

"I expect in Florida the main difference between Donald Trump losing and Marco Rubio winning will be the Hispanic vote. But we will see soon enough!" said one independent voter.

"Trump's worst week of entire campaign (first debate, twitter wars, tape) came at best time for (Clinton) — right when (mail ballots) were dropping and being returned," a Republican said. "If Trump loses, you can point to that week specifically."

Don't freak out over this Insider Poll, Trump supporters, or get smug, Clinton backers.

This is an utterly unscientific poll that reflects conventional wisdom of Florida's political elites. These are the same folks who last summer overwhelmingly expected Jeb Bush to be the Republican nominee.

We allow participants in our Insider Polls to weigh in anonymously to encourage honest assessments. This week's participants included 63 Democrats, 90 Republicans and 11 people registered to neither major party. Their names are listed online at tampabay.com/buzz.

Firefighters balk

Proponents of Amendment 1 lost a crucial supporter Friday as the union representing the state's professional firefighters withdrew its endorsement of the utility-backed amendment and demanded that the political committee pull television ads featuring firefighters.

Firefighters had been heavily featured in hundreds of ads run by Consumers for Smart Solar, the political committee financed by the state's largest electric companies. The ads urged voters to support Amendment 1 and implied that rooftop solar panels could be a fire hazard.

"It is clear to the elected executive board of this organization that our membership would prefer to pursue any future firefighter safety regulations related to the still developing alternative energy industry through legislative or rule-making action, as opposed to a constitutional amendment that many believe to be misleading,'' the Florida Professional Firefighters said in a press release issued late Friday.

The campaign has promoted the amendment as protecting consumers and encouraging solar, but the amendment would inject into the Constitution language that the utilities want to impose new fees and costs to rooftop solar users. After weeks of complaints from members, the executive board reversed its endorsement, suggesting that the amendment was misleading.

"We assure Florida's firefighters that their safety remains our top priority and this decision, by no means, indicates that we will be any less vigilant in advocating for their health and well-being when it comes to rapidly evolving, environmentally friendly, and sometimes confusing alternative energy systems," said Jim Tolley, FPF president.

Richard C. Silvestri, a retired fire captain for the city of Miami, was among those who complained to Tolley about the endorsement of the amendment. He said that saying that portraying solar panels as a fire hazard was "one of the biggest scams on Floridians in the history of the state."

Silvestri recently installed solar panels on his home in Fort Pierce, and he said that the process required numerous permits and inspections — including by Florida Power & Light — to be hooked up to the grid.

"I am in an expert's position to say the procedure followed was above and beyond,'' he wrote in the letter to Tolley, which he provided to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald. "The only way these solar installations could be any more unsafe than the thousands of other electrical and electronic devices in use on the grid either in businesses, homes, factories, marinas, airports, etc. would be if they are installed without permits."

Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Consumers for Smart Solar political committee, said it was in the process of removing television and online ads as requested by the firefighters but expect some delay.

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