1. Florida Politics

Voucher advocates back two Democrats in Senate District 19 primary

State Rep. Darryl Rouson is one of two candidates who won endorsement from a political group in a state Senate primary race for their backing of the Florida school voucher program. [SCOTT KEELER    |     TIMES (2014)]
State Rep. Darryl Rouson is one of two candidates who won endorsement from a political group in a state Senate primary race for their backing of the Florida school voucher program. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES (2014)]
Published Aug. 26, 2016

The Florida Children's Federation, the political arm of the Florida movement for private school tuition vouchers, has sent out mailers in favor of two candidates in the state Senate District 19 Democratic primary: Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and former Rep. Betty Reed of Tampa.

They are running against St. Petersburg lawyer Augie Ribeiro and Rep. Ed Narain of Tampa in a primary that's likely to determine the final outcome of the race.

John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman and school voucher advocate, said via email the group is taking the unusual step of backing two candidates in one primary because "both of them have been strong supporters of parental choice for low-income families," and Narain and Ribeiro "do not support parental choice."

Kirtley wouldn't say how much the group is spending on the District 19 race. State records show it has spent more than $132,000 statewide on direct mail over the past two months.

Narain and Ribeiro both oppose what they call diverting tax money from public to private schools.

Harvard death penalty report may hit Ober

A report last week from the Harvard University law school's Fair Punishment Project singled out 16 counties nationwide for excessive prosecutorial zeal in seeking and applying capital punishment, including Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Those 16 counties, the report said, are the only ones in the nation that imposed five or more death sentences from 2010 to 2015.

Details on Hillsborough and Pinellas weren't in the release. They're in the second part coming next month. But a Harvard law school researcher suggested researchers will include Hillsborough death penalty cases overturned by appellate courts on grounds of defendants' mental illness, including the case of Humberto Delgado, convicted of gunning down Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts in 2009.

The report is likely to hand some ammunition to Democrat Andrew Warren, who's running against Republican State Attorney Mark Ober.

"Even the initial report is a scathing indictment of the State Attorney's Office," Warren said. "It's just another example of how we've been doing things wrong here."

But Michael Sinacore, Ober's chief assistant, responded, "There's no right or wrong number" of death penalty cases. "You make the right decision for each case.

"We stand behind our decision to seek the death penalty for the man who executed a police officer," Sinacore said. "The jury and judge weigh mitigating factors including mental illness. The Supreme Court's job is to conduct a proportionality review … and provide guidance for future cases. That's part of the process. That doesn't mean it was done in an overzealous manner."

Norman shoots back over Arkansas house

Jim Norman appears to be getting tired of being asked about the Arkansas vacation house that led to a Florida Ethics Commission finding in 2012 that he illegally failed to disclose a $500,000 gift to his wife to buy the home.

In a candidate forum by the Twelve Oaks Civic Association last week, Norman went off on an attendee who questioned him about it, raising his voice and gesticulating, saying he was being persecuted because he's a conservative Republican.

"There's no funny stuff about it," he said, in response to a series of questions from retiree Joe Johnson. "My wife has a right to go into business just like every lady in this room. … Has any other politician's wife's business been analyzed?" he asked, his voice rising.

"Because I'm a conservative Republican in this town. How about Bob Buckhorn – anybody ever called up Bob Buckhorn's wife and said, 'Hey, let me look at your assets.'"

Johnson, who backs Norman's opponent, Tim Schock, in the County Commission District 6 Republican primary, said Norman appeared angry during the exchange.

"I wasn't trying to get him upset," Johnson said. "I just asked him, help me understand how that happened."

GOP-oriented group continues in District 19

Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief Steve Bousquet detailed last week how a Republican-oriented political committee is getting involved in Democratic primaries, including dropping campaign mail pieces backing Reed and Rouson in the state Senate District 19 primary.

It's now gone farther. The group, Floridians for a Better Florida, is also putting up TV ads, one boosting Rouson and one attacking Ribeiro.

The anti-Ribeiro ad charges that he's "trying to buy a state Senate seat." Ribeiro, who has put $500,000 into his campaign, says he's doing that to remain independent of the special interests who, he says, are funding his opponents' campaigns.

Toledo: Spouses, like attorney husband, can disagree

Is it inconsistent for Jackie Toledo to campaign on repealing in-state tuition and licenses to practice law for children of undocumented immigrants when her husband practices immigration law and has sought to help such children?

Toledo took those stands in a mailer recently. She initially declined through a spokesman to comment on the practice of her husband, attorney Jose Toledo, who according to an article on the Florida Bar website went to Mexico in 2014 to help children hoping to cross the border to escape gang persecution in Central America.

"Spouses don't always agree on everything, and this is one of those instances," candidate spokesman Ryan Wiggins said. "While her husband has a law practice to run, it is Jackie, not her husband, who is running for office. Jackie stands by what she has already said on this issue."

Is Narain for digging up Confederate vets?

He says no. The Save Southern Heritage Florida organization says yes, but then, they also misspelled his name.

"In a recent Candidate Survey, Narian stated that he believes the graves of American Veterans who served for the South should be dug up if they are buried in public parks or cemeteries," the group said in a news release.

They provided a copy of the survey. It's not complete, but it does include a "yes" answer to a question asking whether "American veterans like Nathan Bedford Forrest should be dug up and moved if they are in a public cemetery or park."

Forrest is known as one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

Narain said he started filling out the online survey but didn't finish or submit it: "It must have been submitted when I turned off my computer hours later."

He said the disinterment question is why he stopped.

"I thought, 'What's the point of this?' I'm not in favor of spending state money to dig up veterans and all that. That's ridiculous."

Narain was co-sponsor of legislation to remove the statue of a Confederate general as one of Florida's two representatives at the Capitol Statuary Hall display in Washington, D.C.

Contact William March at