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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

LA Times Poll: Obama up 7

LA Times/Bloomberg Oct. 25-27 poll (http://www.latimes.com/media/acrobat/2008-10/43084942.pdf) (moe +/- 3%) has Barack Obama leading John McCain 50 percent to 43%.

"Voters living in the Miami/Gold Coast area are heavily supporting Obama – giving him a 25 point lead over his opponent; Tampa Bay area voters are giving Obama a 13 point advantage over his Republican rival; Central Florida voters are also giving Obama a five point lead. However those living in Southern Florida are splitting their vote, and voters in Northern Florida are giving McCain a strong 11 point lead."

Posted by Adam Smith at 6:55:41 PM on October 28, 2008

Next up in New Port Richey, Sarah Palin?

Those Sims Park barricades that New Port Richey put up for Monday's rally by Joe Biden can stay up a little longer. Sarah Palin is planning a rally for Saturday morning at the park.

City Manager Tom O'Neill had two meetings Wednesday with campaign officials interested in bringing the running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain to the riverfront park. "It's a possibility," said O'Neill. "It's not a definite thing."

Campaign officials are also scouting other locations, he said. And Palin may have a little competition: Calvary Chapel Worship Center has already received city permits to host a fall festival at Sims on Saturday.

O'Neill said Palin's people are talking with the church to see if they can coordinate the two events.

-- David DeCamp and Jodie Tillman, Times staff writer.

Posted by David DeCamp at 5:52:25 PM on October 28, 2008

Does gov have authority to extend hours?

On Friday Secretary of State Kurt Browning told Congressional Democrats in this letter (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/Browning24.pdf) that: "there is no means to extend early voting hours or days under the law," which contrasts a bit with the letter (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/Browning28.pdf) he sent to Gov. Charlie Crist today asking him to extend hours.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 4:58:58 PM on October 28, 2008

Tony Rezko lands in Florida

Thanks to the Republican Party of Florida, which delivered this mailer today.

Posted by Alex Leary at 4:53:30 PM on October 28, 2008

Jimmy Buffett plays Tampa for Obama

Jb First the Allman Brothers and The Dead rocked out (http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2008/10/14/the-dead-reunite-for-obama-at-scorching-penn-state-benefit-gig/) for Obama. Now Florida's own Jimmy Buffett is throwing a free concert in Tampa on Sunday.

Tickets can only be obtained by visiting one of the Campaign for Change Early Vote information tables at locations listed below and are limited to two per person. Visit FL.BarackObama.com or call 1-877-2FL-OBAMA for more information.

Sunday, November 2

LAST CHANCE FOR CHANGE RALLY WITH JIMMY BUFFETT

Ford Amphitheatre

Tampa, FL

Media access: 1:30 PM

Gates open: 1:30 PM

Show begins: 3:00 PM

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials, please visit http://FL.barackobama.com/BuffettMedia .

The event is free and open to all Florida residents and students. Two free tickets per person are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the locations listed below.

For more information, please visit FL.BarackObama.com.

TICKET LOCATIONS:

***Tickets are available starting at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, October 29. Early Vote information tables are open from 10:00 AM to 5 :00 PM daily.***

***For security reasons, do not bring bags and please limit personal items. No signs or banners permitted.***

Early Vote Distribution Centers:

BRADENTON

J&J Bar-B-Q

B2620 8 th St W

Bradenton, FL

VOTE AT:

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office

600 301 Boulevard West, Suite 118

Bradenton, FL

CLEARWATER

Campaign for Change Sub-Office - Clearwater

34 North Fort Harrison Ave

Clearwater, FL

VOTE AT:

Pinellas County Courthouse

315 Court St, Room 117

Clearwater, FL

Campaign for Change – Clearwater

133 North Fort Harrison Ave

Clearwater, FL

VOTE AT:

Pinellas County Courthouse

315 Court St, Room 117

Clearwater, FL

HOLIDAY

South Holiday Library

4649 Mile Stretch Dr

Holiday, FL

VOTE AT:

South Holiday Library

4649 Mile Stretch Dr

Holiday, FL

LAKELAND

Campaign for Change – Lakeland

5385 Gateway Blvd, Bays 12-14

Lakeland, FL

VOTE AT:

Lakeland Courthouse

930 E Parker St

Lakeland, FL

Mitchell's Coffee House

235 N Kentucky Ave

Lakeland, FL

VOTE AT:

Lakeland Courthouse

930 E Parker St

Lakeland, FL

LAND O'LAKES

Rapscallions Restaurant

4422 Land O' Lakes Blvd

Land O' Lakes, FL

VOTE AT:

Land O' Lakes SOE Office

Clark Professional Center

4111 Land O'Lakes Blvd, Room 105

Land O' Lakes, FL

LARGO

Professional Surveys

8550 Ulmerton Rd

Largo, FL

VOTE AT:

Starkey Lakes Corporate Center

13001 Starkey Rd

Largo, FL

NEW PORT RICHEY

Campaign for Change – New Port Richey

4809 Grand Blvd, Suite P

New Port Richey, FL

VOTE AT:

South Holiday Branch Library

4649 Mile Stretch Dr

Holiday, FL

Or

West Pasco Government Center

7530 Little Rd, Suite 110

New Port Richey, FL

The Breakfast Station

7335 Little Rd

New Port Richey, FL

VOTE AT:

West Pasco Gov Center

7530 Little Rd, Suite 110

New Port Richey, FL

PLANT CITY

Wisdom Center Smoke House

624 S Evers St

Plant City, FL

VOTE AT:

Plant City - City Hall

302 West Reynolds St

Plant City, FL

SARASOTA

Buddha Belly Donuts

1990 Main St, Suite 112

Sarasota, FL

VOTE AT:

Sarasota County Terrace Building

2001 Adams Lane

Sarasota, FL

ST. PETERSBURG

Campaign for Change – St Petersburg

2321 Central Ave

St Petersburg, FL

VOTE AT:

County Building

501 1 st Avenue North

St Petersburg, FL

Globe Café

532 1 st Ave North

St Petersburg, FL

VOTE AT:

County Building

501 1st Avenue North

St Petersburg, FL

TAMPA

Campaign for Change - Tampa Downtown

817 East Washington St

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

County Center

601 E Kennedy Blvd

Tampa, FL

Campaign for Change – Tampa USF

14519 North 18 th Street

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

Temple Terrace Library

202 Bullard Pkwy

Temple Terrace, FL

Cut N' Style

3817 S Manhattan Ave

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

Jan Platt Regional Library

3910 S Manhattan Ave

Tampa, FL

Joe Chillura Courthouse Square

602 E Kennedy Blvd

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

County Center

601 E Kennedy Blvd

Tampa, FL

Salcines Park

1705 N Howard Ave

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

West Tampa Library

2312 West Union St

Tampa, FL

Terrace Sports

5311 E Busch Blvd

Temple Terrace, FL

VOTE AT:

Temple Terrace Library

202 Bullard Pkwy

Temple Terrace, FL

Urban Culinary Cuisine

10016 Cross Creek Blvd

Tampa, FL

VOTE AT:

New Tampa Library

10001 Cross Creek Blvd

Tampa, FL

WESLEY CHAPEL

Winner's Sports Grill

5429 Village Market

Wesley Chapel, FL

VOTE AT:

Wesley Chapel Village Center

5325 Village Market

Wesley Chapel, FL

Posted by Alex Leary at 4:31:14 PM on October 28, 2008

Obama's Florida call center

You know he has a lot of volunteers, when he can staff his own call center.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor held a new conference this afternoon in Tampa to launch a new Obama call center in Tampa to be staffed by "knowledgeable volunteers to assist voters and monitor voting issues."

"Voters can call 1-877-2FL-OBAMA with questions about the election process."

It's being called the Florida Voter Education Call Center and is located at 1220 E Fifth Ave. in Tampa.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 3:44:31 PM on October 28, 2008

Crist's quick shift on early voting hours

Proving once again, that he has no problem changing his mind, here's Gov. Charlie Crist on whether he has the authority or the will to extend early voting hours around 11 a.m. this morning.

"I don't believe we do (have the authority to extend voting hours). Under the law, it's open for eight hours per day and eight hours for the weekend. And that's what's happening in the counties throughout the state. I think it's been the most open opportunity for people to vote early that we've ever had. In addition to voting early, if they want to vote by mail, they can vote by mail. And they can vote Election Day. Florida has been terribly embracing of making sure that every voter who is qualified has every opportunity to vote and we should be very pleased by that."

Listen to it here (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/earlyvoting.mp3).

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 3:12:54 PM on October 28, 2008

Crist extends early voting hours

Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday afternoon issued an order expanding the hours of early voting up to 12 hours a day through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a total of 12 weekend hours, between 7 a.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. (The law allowed for a maximum of eight hours a day and a total of eight on the weekend).

At a hastily arranged news conference, Crist said the right to vote is sacred and that "many have fought and died for this right." He said he consulted a leading Democratic legislator, Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, before issuing his order, and that Gelber knew of a similar order issued by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 that dealt with helping voters deal with new equipment. (Buzz audio here (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/cristpresser2008-10-28.mp3).)

As to the perception that more early voting helps Democrats, Crist said: "This is not a political decision. This is a people decision."

Last week, all nine Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation wrote a letter (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/ltr_to_crist_and_browning_on_voting.pdf) urging him to expand early voting and to order all early voting sites to be open on Sunday.

Early balloting in Florida so far favors Democrats, while Republicans hold an advantage in absentee voting. Waits of up to four hours have been reported in precincts in heavily-Democratic Broward County.

Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee Bureau Chief

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 2:48:24 PM on October 28, 2008

Martinez to pay FEC fine

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., has agreed to pay $110,500 for violating federal campaign finance laws governing contribution limits and reporting requirements from his 2004 campaign, Federal Elections Commission records show.

In an FEC agreement struck Oct. 10, Martinez's campaign agreed to the improprieties and the fines and promised to revamp the system it uses to track of donations.

The FEC, meanwhile, said it didn't believe Martinez personally violated the Federal Election Campaign Act, and that it has "made no findings that the violations described in this Conciliation Agreement were knowing and willful."

The cost to Martinez's campaign includes a fine of $99,000, which the FEC was kept relatively low thanks to the campaign's cooperation during the investigation, and $11,500 in donations that exceeded the $2,000 limit for cash contributions, but which could not be properly returned or rolled over to another campaign account.

Posted by Wes Allison at 1:55:10 PM on October 28, 2008

Crist shooting TV commercial for McCain

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: Crist said he wasn't yet sure what the commercial will focus on but it'll be shot this evening. He said he will spend the day tomorrow with McCain. Also, Crist will be at a fundraiser tonight at the home of lobbyist Rodney Barreto (http://www.floridaconservation.org/About/bios/Barreto.html).

Gov. Charlie Crist is headed to Miami today to shoot a TV commercial for John McCain, the Buzz has learned from three sources.

The spot is to be rushed onto air, with one week remaining before Election Day. It could dampen criticism that Crist has not done enough for McCain or that McCain has not utilized the popular (and telegenic) governor enough.

The question is, What took so long?

Posted by Alex Leary at 1:39:27 PM on October 28, 2008

Obama up 8 in Fla?

Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call: "...Two recent presidential polls in Florida, one by Fox News/Rasmussen and the other by SurveyUSA, showed McCain ahead in that state within the margin of error. They are more than balanced out in my own mind by a just as recent Republican poll in Florida that has not been released publicly and that showed Obama over the 50 percent mark and beating McCain by 8 points in the state."

Posted by Adam Smith at 1:35:37 PM on October 28, 2008

Grand jury should probe Clark, Democrat says

In what Republicans label a "stunt," Democratic National Committeeman Jon Ausman wants a grand jury probe of Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark for "possible misfeasance" because she offers three early voting sites in a county with nearly 650,000 voters.

Pinellas has slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans and is seen as a key county in the presidential race in Florida. Clark is a Republican, and Ausman said the state attorney should convene a grand jury in its role as a traditional watchdog over how government agencies function.

Ausman says state figures show that Pinellas has the lowest early voting turnout rate in the state so far (2.7 percent) and he says that's no coincidence. "Early voting overwhelmingly favors Democratic voters," Ausman said. "Pinellas County is the worst county when it comes to allowing its voters to vote early." Clark aggressively promotes absentee voting over early voting, which Ausman said traditionally is favored by Republican voters.

"Jon Ausman's political stunt today, while typical, is as deceptive as his claims are false," said Erin VanSickle, a Republican Party spokeswoman. Noting Florida's 15-day window for early voting and several weeks during which voters can request an absentee ballot, she asks: "How is this suppressing the vote?"

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 12:30:26 PM on October 28, 2008

The Florida votes so far

Nearly 20 percent of all Florida voters have cast ballots already. That includes 1,128,241 abentee ballots (35.4% by Democrats and 49.96% by Republicans; and 1,193,987 early votes (53.66% by Democrats and 30.25% by Republicans).

All told, 115,418 more Democrats have voted than Republicans. Also 357,298 independent and minor party voters have cast ballots.

Posted by Adam Smith at 12:10:27 PM on October 28, 2008

Stemberger strikes back

Yes2Marriage.org leader and Orlando attorney John Stemberger released a letter accusing Amendment 2 folks of clouding the issue and trying to scare seniors with their ads that point out that Amendment 2 could threaten domestic partner benefits. Read the letter on the jump.

An Open Letter to Opponents of Amendment 2:

What Part about "Single Subject" Don't You Understand?

By John Stemberger

State Chairman, Yes2Marriage.org

Just "Making Stuff Up"

The opponents of Amendment 2 in Florida want to talk about anything and everything except what the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is all about. They want to talk about hospital visitation, benefits, domestic violence, social security, tough economic times, health care, Michigan, domestic partnerships, more benefits, putting government into your private life, alleged campaign violations and any other number of contrived focus group tested themes. But they absolutely refuse to discuss the driving force behind why 27 states amended their state constitutions by overwhelming majorities-- to protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In fact, I can't find a homosexual activist anywhere in this state that will debate the policy question of whether same sex marriage is a good idea for Florida's children and families.

Trying to Scare Our Most Vulnerable: Seniors

After having been beaten badly in the marketplace of ideas in 27 states, gay activists had to think up a new strategy and a new message. The new message employed in 2006 in the state of Arizona was to not say a word about "gay rights", "gay marriage" or even "gay equality". The new pathetic strategy was to only say that the marriage amendment would "somehow" hurt senior citizens. And that it would take away "benefits" from unmarried persons. And they would say this new message over-- and over--and over again. And it worked. Arizona became the first state to ever lose a state marriage amendment by a couple of points. So this explains the reason for our opponent's messaging in Florida, a state where one out of every five persons is a senior citizen.

Ignoring the Obvious and the Important

The disingenuous arguments being made by Florida Red and Blue, the ACLU and Equality Florida are really too numerous to address in one article. But all their arguments are tied to the idea that the language of the amendment will "somehow" (no explanation is given) do all these really bad things. But they never care to break out the Webster's to examine the words of the amendment language much less look at the existing legal cases directly interpreting the language. And they completely ignore the fact that the Florida Supreme Court has unanimously approved the language of the amendment! Interestingly enough, even though every single daily newspaper in Florida has taken a position against Amendment 2, not a single editorial has even referenced, much less analyzed, what the highest legal authority in this state has already said about the scope of the amendment. Instead, the newspapers have shamelessly taken our opponents reprehensible talking points and parroted them back to readers and in most cases, word-for-word.

Single Subject = One Thing

Citizen's initiatives have the unique legal requirement of being limited to a "single subject". If the amendment addresses more than one topic, or if the language is unclear and ambiguous, then it is struck from the ballot by the high court. I appeared before the Florida Supreme Court with Attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel as he argued the "single subject" requirement at an oral argument court hearing. The high court quickly and summarily rejected the ACLU's arguments, that the amendment would affect domestic partnerships and other benefits. Yet these are exactly the same arguments that our opponents are making now in the campaign.

A Little Honesty Please?

So, what has the highest legal authority in this state said about Amendment 2 that our opponents refuse to mention and the news media has never printed in a single news story or editorial position? They said this:

"The voter is being asked to vote on the single subject of whether the concept of marriage... should be limited to the union of one man and one woman."

" The amendment essentially tracks the current language of the current statutory provision…inserting this statutory scheme into the constitution with language substantially similar to the statutory provision itself." See Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General Re: The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, 926 So. 2d 1229 (2006).

So Amendment 2 takes the existing law on marriage and places it into the constitution to prevent it from being redefined as it has been in Massachusetts, California and just recently in Connecticut. The bottom line is this-- if the amendment language did take away benefits then we would not be here today because the court would have thrown the amendment out as dealing with more than one subject.

The Substantially Equivalent Boogie Man

To ensure that existing domestic partnerships are not affected, Amendment 2 also prohibits any union that is the "substantial equivalent" of marriage. The words substantial equivalent mean "almost equal" or "virtually identical" and were found by the Florida Supreme Court to be clear, unambiguous and words "frequently used by the common voter". These words give the court a bright- line test to weigh the rights of "other legal unions" against those rights found in marriage. Existing domestic partnerships in Florida grant a very small bundle of 6-8 rights. In contrast, marriage grants hundreds of rights at a state level and 1,138 rights at a federal level. Florida's domestic partnerships are quite safe for the simple reason that their 6-8 rights could never be legally construed to be the substantial equal to the huge number of rights conferred in marriage.

So to all the intellectually dishonest opponents of Amendment 2 I say this: If you think that same sex marriage is a great idea, then fair enough--make that argument. But do not commit mass fraud on the people of Florida with deceptive and false ads advertisements about seniors and unmarried persons losing rights and benefits.

The opening words of Mat Staver's oral argument before the Florida Supreme Court were these: "While most initiatives create something new, this amendment protects something old. It does not change the existing law but preserves the status quo." Attorney Staver is exactly right. Amendment 2 does nothing new but only protects something that is timeless, longstanding and precious. For children, for families and for the next generation, please vote "Yes" on Amendment 2.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 11:57:12 AM on October 28, 2008

Obama's Sarasota plans

Gates open at 9 a.m. Thursday for Barack Obama's early vote rally in Sarasota at Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St. Tickets are not required, but the campaign is encouraging online RSVPs here (http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/flhome).

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:08:52 AM on October 28, 2008

Sink smacks McCain, Huizenga

Carl Quintanilla to Alex Sink on CNBC: "Can you blame the likes of Wayne Huizenga for saying he wants to sell a bigger piece of the Dolphins early because he's worried about an increase in capital gains taxes (under Obama)

Sink: "I'm not worried about Wayne Huizenga. He can certainly take care of himself. I'm worried about the person who works at Dolphin Stadium and the little small businesses who rely on the activities of our sporting franchises here. So let's get our focus in the right place here. That's the problem with the McCain message. He's more worried about Wayne Huizenga than he is worried about the everyday small business owner down in Fort Lauderdale."

Video here (http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=908186162).

Posted by Adam Smith at 10:51:53 AM on October 28, 2008

'No on 2' sues 'Yes on 2'

Florida Red and Blue, the group fighting against the gay marriage ban, filed a lawsuit today in Miami-Dade Circuit Court asking a judge to force the group campaigning for Amendment 2 to disclose all its donors.

The head of Florida4Marriage.org, John Stemberger has said as recently as last week that his group's fundraising records have been disclosed as much as they need to be, as allowed by federal law.

The suit asks for a judge to force Florida Family Action Committee and Florida Family Policy Council to disclose their donors. They also want the judge to stop the groups from "expenditure of illegally obtained and expended funds," which means, they want to stop pro-Amendment 2 TV ads.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 9:54:10 AM on October 28, 2008

Crist confident about Republicans on Nov. 4

Despite large numbers of newly registered Democrats, Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday said he's confident that the Democrats won't pick up any more seats in the Legislature.

He says he stays in close contact with incoming House Speaker Ray Sansom and Senate President Jeff Atwater, and "they're very pleased with how the elections are going in their members . . . they feel their districts are safe."

He also says he's confident Sen. John McCain can win Florida: "As long as he continues to step on the gas, the way he's been, he's going to take Florida."

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 9:10:50 AM on October 28, 2008

Crist still bullish on the Rays

"They just keep fighting, it's just been incredible. It seemed like they were fighting in the mud," said Gov. Charlie Crist, who thinks they should move the latter half of Game 5 to Florida, "where the weather is already perfect."

Crist said that just getting to the World Series is a major accomplishment.

"Who would have thought they would have made the World Series. I don't know that anybody would have thought that," Crist said.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 9:02:40 AM on October 28, 2008

Rasmussen: Obama 51, McCain 47

Rasmussen (http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/florida/election_2008_florida_presidential_election): "After John McCain pulled even in Florida a week ago, Barack Obama is back on top this week. The latest Fox News/Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds Obama with 51% of the vote while McCain gets support from 47%.

"This is the fourth time in five weeks that Obama has held a single digit lead over McCain. Last week (http://blogs.tampabay.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/florida/mccain_49_obama_48_in_florida) was the exception with McCain up by a single point. McCain is viewed favorably by 57% of the state's voters, Obama by 55%. "

Posted by Adam Smith at 8:33:52 AM on October 28, 2008

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