Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

Democrats file complaint over robocalls using Crist's GOP campaign clips

Those recent robocalls to Democratic voters featuring the voice and the conservative views of former Republican Charlie Crist have prompted Democrats to file a formal complaint with the Florida Elections Commission. Their target is Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon.

Lee engineered what he said were about 2 million robocalls to voters, using the same calls Crist used in his successful 2006 Republican campaign for governor, in which he called himself a pro-life, Ronald Reagan Republican who opposed same-sex marriage and supported public display of the Ten Commandments — views now starkly at odds with Crist the Democrat. Lee is running the campaign through a political committee called the Conservative for which he raised about $240,000 this year from interests including Disney, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. There's also a website featuring all of Crist's audio clips at charlieinhisownwords.com.

The Conservative is headed by Stafford Jones, a Republican activist from Gainesville and a behind-the-scenes player in state politics.

The complaint was filed by Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. It cites a state law that, "No telephone call shall state or imply that the caller represents any person or organization unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to make such representation."

Schale's friendly walks

Did our eyes deceive us, or was that Democratic consultant Steve Schale pounding the pavement in Pinellas County last weekend on behalf of Republican state House candidate Chris Latvala? Schale would seem an unlikely volunteer for a Republican, being one of the brightest lights in Florida Democratic political circles, having helped Barack Obama win Florida twice and now helping Crist try to unseat Gov. Rick Scott. House District 67, at least on paper, should be one of the more competitive districts in Florida, one in which some credible Democrats are running.

"Lord. Chris is a friend. That's all it is," Schale responded when asked if he was wearing his senior Crist adviser hat, his idealist, bipartisan advocate hat while knocking on doors for Latvala, or his lobbyist hat. It sure can't hurt Schale's clients — Disney, phosphate, marijuana growers, to name a few — for Schale to get on the good side of the front-runner for that seat or that front-runner's father, Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, who could become Senate president.

"I'm walking for Karen Castor this weekend. Both were friends before I put on any Crist or lobbying jerseys. And yes, there is an element of trying to do my very small part to reduce the partisan temperature," Schale said. "I remain an idealist, even after nearly 20 years in the business."

Tweet of the week

"Finally, a Fl Republican legislator taking on Duke Energy. Will other GOP legislators and candidates follow?"

That's Pasco tax collector and former Republican state Rep. Mike Fasano, responding to a Times report on Sen. Latvala, R-Clearwater, calling out Duke for charging customers more simply because the company extended its billing cycle.

Gauging enthusiasm

Once the primary day votes are counted Tuesday night, a sure topic of debate among political junkies will be whether Crist sufficiently crushed underdog Democratic rival Nan Rich to tamp down questions about Democratic enthusiasm for Crist.

"We expect Crist to win his primary with over 81 percent of the vote," Gov. Scott's deputy campaign manager, Tim Saler, wrote in a memo attempting to set expectations absurdly high for Crist.

More Saler: "Judging by history, if Democrats have any enthusiasm at all on their side in 2014, they should be able to bring in several hundred thousand more primary votes compared to Republicans. The last time a Republican governor ran for re-election (2002), Democrats had 40 percent more votes in their primary than did Republicans. This is the baseline performance for Democrats in the 2014 primary. If Democrats fall short of that metric, it would be a dangerous sign for their base enthusiasm entering the general election, and we are watching that metric closely."

It's true that Democrats have two statewide contests (Crist vs. Rich and George Sheldon vs. Perry Thurston for attorney general), and Scott faces two no-name GOP challengers, but these campaigns have been so sleepy few people have paid any attention. That's a far cry from 2002, when Democrats had a spirited and extremely close primary for governor in which Bill McBride narrowly defeated former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for the right to face Jeb Bush.

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18