1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott for VP? 'Toxic,' poll says

Gov. Rick Scott has said that he has no interest in being vice president, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that Donald Trump could select him.
Gov. Rick Scott has said that he has no interest in being vice president, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that Donald Trump could select him.
Published Jun. 5, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — As Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Gov. Rick Scott to talk political strategy at Trump Tower Monday, a new statewide poll finds that Trump would court disaster in Florida if he picked Scott as his running mate.

Scott has repeatedly said he has no interest in being veep, but speculation rages on, and the governor should expect a swarm of media in Manhattan on Monday morning.

"I'm going to pass on that," Scott told CNN on Friday, again pouring cold water on the VP talk.

A new Mason-Dixon poll of 625 Florida voters has Hillary Clinton with a slight edge over Trump at 45 percent to 42 percent, but that's really a tie because the poll has a margin of error of 4 points. The poll also tested Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and the Republican governor as potential running mates.

"Nelson doesn't appear to pay big dividends for Clinton. He does have a small net positive effect among independent and undecided voters, but it appears to be marginal," Mason-Dixon's analysis said. "On the other hand, Scott could be toxic for Trump in the state. A whopping 40 percent of Florida voters say they would be less likely to vote for Trump with Scott on the ticket."

GOP Senate candidates to debate

Republican candidates in the crowded U.S. Senate primary election will have a shot at convincing voters they're the right choice in a debate a week before the Aug. 30 primary.

The debate, sponsored by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University and the Palm Beach County Young Republicans, will take place Aug. 23 at the university. It will be televised.

It's the only primary debate scheduled with all five GOP candidates.

The five candidates running are U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, defense contractor Todd Wilcox and developer Carlos Beruff. However, others could enter the race by the June 24 qualifying deadline, and there has been speculation that Sen. Marco Rubio could seek re-election, despite saying during his presidential campaign that he would not do so.

Corcoran's ethics push

Rep. Richard Corcoran tried to get the Legislature to pass new laws on lobbying and ethics.

It didn't work, so the House speaker-designate from Pasco County says he may add the controversial changes to the House rule book when he takes command in November.

The changes could include requiring lobbyists to disclose all bills and amendments they want to influence and to extend from two to six years the ban against legislators becoming lobbyists after leaving office.

"To the extent that we ultimately end up with a team of leaders in the House who believe that these make government better, then we absolutely will do those in the rules," Corcoran told the Times/Herald.

Free rides into office

The weeklong qualifying period for federal, state and local candidates begins June 20, two weeks from Monday. As usual, dozens of legislators will waltz into office unopposed without having to face voters on a real ballot.

The lucky ones, so far at least, include newcomers in five state legislative seats (two of whom have served before).

Awaiting their free rides to the Florida Senate are Broward County Democrat Perry Thurston, a former House member, and Republican George Gainer of Panama City, a car dealer and county commissioner who scared off opposition the way Tallahassee knows best, by dropping $500,000 into his campaign.

The three unchallenged House newcomers are Republicans Ralph Massullo of Lecanto, Don Hahnfeldt of the Villages and Mike Grant, an ex-House member from Port Charlotte.

All told, 16 senators and 33 House members currently don't have opposition. The group includes five Tampa Bay senators: Republicans Jeff Brandes, Bill Galvano, Jack Latvala, Wilton Simpson and Tom Lee, who has not yet announced whether he'll seek a new term.

New voter cards

Tens of thousands of Florida voters switched parties before the March 15 presidential primary to vote for or against a candidate but hundreds, maybe thousands of them, missed the registration deadline. Elections supervisors don't want that to happen again.

Supervisors across the state will be mailing new voter information cards in advance of the Aug. 30 statewide primary, because court-ordered redistricting changes have forced new precinct boundaries and district numbers.

Pinellas Supervisor Deborah Clark is reminding voters that Florida is a "closed primary" state, meaning only Republicans and Democrats can vote for partisan candidates in a primary.

Clark's office will mail 623,000 cards over the next four weeks. Voters can call (727) 464-VOTE with questions.

For the primary, the deadline to register or to change parties is Aug. 1.

Adam C. Smith and Michael Auslen contributed.