Saturday, February 24, 2018
Columns

Surprising opponent may take on Charlie Crist

Just in case you thought former Republican/former independent/former governor/former finalist for vice president/former U.S. Senate candidate/former washed-up politician/current Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s career couldn’t get any weirder, there’s a new development.

A singer and diehard Donald Trump supporter appears to be looking at running against Crist for his Pinellas County U.S. House seat.

Joy Villa, best known for wearing a Make America Great Again dress at the Grammys, told Fox & Friends on Friday that she’s looking seriously at running as a Republican for Congress in Florida, California or New York — "most likely" Florida.

We haven’t reached her to pin down where in Florida, but on Twitter she asked her followers which of "my communities" they want her to run in: New York City, Tampa Bay, Santa Barbara or Los Angeles. Villa is a Scientologist who, according to her Facebook page, has lived in Clearwater, the church’s spiritual headquarters and part of Crist’s congressional district.

Villa is a favorite of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News, and Trump tweeted his support Friday: "Good luck to @Joy_Villa on her decision to enter the wonderful world of politics. She has many fans!"

Crist would be tough to beat, especially by someone moving into the district from California. The district leans heavily Democratic, not exactly a bastion of love for Trump. And Crist already is sitting on more than $1.4 million in his campaign account. Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly hasn’t closed the door on running again, but he has sounded less and less like a candidate lately.

Philip Levine likely to join gubernatorial race

Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, worth more than $100 million, is likely to jump into the Democratic gubernatorial primary Wednesday. Orlando-area trial lawyer and businessman John Morgan, also worth north of $100 million, is much less certain to run. Millionaires Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Chris King of Winter Park have already jumped into the primary. (Andrew Gillum is the only non-millionaire in the race.)

What’s clearly missing from the Democratic field of prospects is someone with real money.

Back in February, we reported that Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene was looking at the race, and the other day he told the Palm Beach Post he’s still interested: "It would be a blast. I think I could really make a difference. If it was just my wife and me, I would do this in a minute," said Greene, who has three young children.

Greene spent roughly $23 million of his own money running for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2010 and won 31 percent of the vote against Kendrick Meek.

Lawmaker files bill to change electoral vote

State Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, has filed a bill to mandate that Florida’s electoral votes be awarded to the candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote. Even if it has a snowball’s chance in Miami to pass a GOP-controlled Legislature reluctant to draw the Twitter wrath of a president who doesn’t take kindly to popular vote talk, it’s at least an interesting idea for discussion and probably less of a lift than amending the U.S. Constitution.

"The results of the 2016 Presidential Election demonstrated once again that the Electoral College is an obsolete, archaic, and anti-democratic system," Geller said. "For the second time in 16 years, the winner of the popular vote — or as it is called everywhere else in the world, the vote — has lost the presidential election. This is in complete contradiction to our principle of one person, one vote."

The legislation would make Florida join something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — states banding together to make sure presidents win a majority of the popular vote. Ten blue states (Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, New York) and the District of Columbia have joined the compact already. It would go into effect once enough states joined so that they account for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

"Passage of this act by the Florida Legislature would ensure that Floridians’ votes for president count as much as residents in all other states, which is not the case today," said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League, endorsing the bill. "Floridians’ votes are worth only a third of residents of less populous states because of the Electoral College formula."

She and Geller contend the "winner-take-all" rule for Florida and most states diminishes the value of each vote. That’s because all electoral votes currently go to the person winning in that state, even if by a bare majority.

The counter argument? Florida, with more electoral votes than any other swing state, wields far more influence than most states. That’s why candidates spend so much time in the Sunshine State and so little time courting voters in states like Wyoming or California. No swing state, let alone red state, has yet joined the compact, though some Republican-dominated legislative chambers have passed it.

Alex Leary contributed to this week’s Buzz.

 
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