Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Race for Tampa Mayor about to get serious

While candidates have been crisscrossing Florida for months trying to get your vote on Nov. 6, a low-key campaign has been going to see who will be the next Tampa Mayor.

The election for that post won’t happen until March 5, 2019, so the eight people who are running to succeed term-limited Bob Buckhorn and lead the city for the next four years could afford to stay under the radar.

They also didn’t have much choice. The primary and general elections sucked the oxygen out of the Mayor’s race.

That is about to change.

“Our campaign will go full gear 48 hours after the polls close (on Nov. 6),” candidate Ed Turanchik said. “It has been like spring training up until now, but the regular season starts Thursday.”

Turanchik, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner, is one of eight candidates who filed to run for the city’s top job. That crowded field includes a self-funded billionaire, a former Police Chief, two current City Council members, business people, and a former hypnotist.

The field won’t be officially set until the qualifying period, January 14-18, at which time candidates have to submit completed paperwork that includes 3,592 signed petitions. The election is March 5, with a runoff to follow if no candidate receives a majority of the votes.

The Mayor’s race is much more targeted than a statewide race or even one for the State House or Senate. For one thing, the turnout is generally low. When Buckhorn was elected in 2011 (he ran unopposed in 2015), the vote total was only about 42,000 for both the five-way general election and his runoff win against Rose Ferlita.

In past campaigns to be Tampa Mayor, money hasn’t mattered as much as personal relationships, often forged years ago and strengthened over time.

While candidates in the November election have been blanketing TVs and filling mailboxes with ads and attacks, those running to be Tampa’s Mayor have been building the foundation by meeting with civic clubs, service groups, and so on.

“People don’t understand the Mayor’s race is like the New Hampshire primary,” Turanchik said. “Direct mail and TV doesn’t work, and no poll or pundit is accurate. You’re basically trying to target 40,000 voters, and the only way to do that is to get out and meet them face-to-face.”

In the race, even a few votes can make a big difference.

“It’s a different kind of connection,” candidate and outgoing Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez said. “People feel more like they know you. They see you out at the grocery store and other places.

“You cannot use the same kind of platitudes to run for this office that someone running for the Legislature or Congress might use.”

It will be interesting to see if that dynamic changes with the billionaire David A. Straz, Jr. in the race. Straz, who has never held elected office, is a major philanthropist whose name is on the performing arts center complex where the Broadway smash “Hamilton” will be staged next year during the time when the Mayor’s race will be getting hot.

In fact, one showing is even set for 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

His campaign finance reports list $1.5 million in contributions, but $1.3 million of that total came in loans Straz made to himself. In July, while other candidates were low key, the records show Straz spent $342,588 on advertising.

Will money make the difference?

Hard to tell.

Early wisdom is that former Police Chief Jane Castor is the early favorite, but as Turanchik pointed out, “In 2011, everyone said (former Mayor) Dick Greco was going to win and he didn’t even make the runoff.”

Castor has been low-key so far, not making a lot of public statements but meeting with local groups and raising cash. She has about $176,000 in contributions, which would lead the field if you took Straz out of the picture.

Council member Harry Cohen is in the race as well, and along with the usual stressed points of transportation, education and what we need to do about climate change, he has stressed civility as something voters crave.

Refreshing.

But the most interesting candidate, hands down, is Topher Morrison. He has never run for office and he probably won’t win this time, even assuming he qualifies in January. But he has gotten strong reviews for public speaking, and his former career as a professional hypnotist – therapeutic, to help people stop smoking and stuff like that – earned him some free media.

One thing is certain: the candidate who wins this election will inherit a city on the move. Buckhorn has worked tirelessly to help transform down and attract business and jobs. The work is not done, but the infrastructure is in place for the next Mayor.

And after the votes are counted and the big races for Governor, Senator, and so on are decided, the candidates to be the next Tampa Mayor need to be ready for their close-ups. People are about to start paying attention.

Joe Henderson: Democrats win polls but GOP dominates Florida elections … again

The polls said this Florida election was supposed to be the Democrats’ night. Andrew Gillum was going to be the next Governor and that Bill Nelson would be headed back to the U.S. Senate for a fourth term. They would finally have a real seat in the room where it happens in Tallahassee.

But Florida reminded pundits again that polls don’t vote, voters do, and that’s why Ron DeSantis gets to be the Governor and Rick Scott gets to work as the state’s next Senator.

Democrats can keep their noses pressed against the glass.

Gillum may be heard from again, or maybe not. Barring a last-ditch miracle if there is a recount, Nelson’s political career is certainly over at age 76.

Florida Democrats by now should be used to playing the role of Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy because they know how it ends. The football gets pulled away and they wind up flat on their backs.

It happened again Tuesday in the two highest-profile races on the ballot. In both cases, Democrats told themselves they were running against flawed candidates at a time when a midterm “blue wave” was supposed to be building.

Blue wave?

More like blew by you, Democrats.

In the past, they were second-guessed for running candidates who appealed to centrist voters. This time, they went all-in with an unabashed progressive and that didn’t work either.

Now what? Democrats are going to need a hug this morning.

What will Gov. DeSantis bring to the state?

More of the same, most likely.

More support for the expansion of gun rights. More support for charter schools and vouchers. More bureaucratic interference with public schools. Continued disinterest in environmental protections.

The jobs forecast will look good but forget about a serious push to mandate the $15 per hour minimum wage Gillum promised. Those Floridians hoping for Gillum’s promise of statewide health insurance for everyone will have look elsewhere or go without.

It has been winning formula for Republicans and they’ll see no reason to change it.

Something else that won’t change is Florida’s bitter cultural divide. Scott won two terms as Governor by about 1 percentage point both times, and DeSantis followed the same script.

It’s not exactly a mandate, but in politics, it only matters who gets to put their hand on the Bible and take the oath.

As the late football coach Al Davis once said, “Just win, baby.”

This result should once and forever dash any perception about what matters to people when they go to the voting booth and what doesn’t.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre was supposed to a game-changer, especially after a massive student march on Tallahassee and rallies around the state demanding change.

It wasn’t.

Red tide was an environmental disaster that was supposed to trigger voter retaliation against Scott.

It did not.

Instead, Scott’s relentless pounding on Nelson as out of touch and ineffective appeared to have worked just well enough. And the steady attack on Gillum’s link to an FBI corruption investigation, while he was Mayor of Tallahassee, will be interpreted by many as inflicting fatal damage on him, but I think it was driven by something more basic.

I think people are just focused on their own lives, especially when it comes time to pull the lever. Everything else just bounces off.

For instance, if you’ve got health care, you probably don’t think much about those who don’t. If you’ve got a good job, you’re thinking about your own problems and not so much about those working two or three jobs to get by.

Red tide? Well, yeah, that was bad. Those dead fish washing up on beaches around the state were icky. But people only have so much mental bandwidth to spend on things they don’t believe will affect their everyday lives.

Oh, and there was this: If Florida’s highest-profile political races were supposed to be a referendum on President Trump, the voters sent a message to the rest of the nation Tuesday that looked kind of like an upraised middle finger. They don’t care what anyone says, they like him.

So deal with it.

At this point, opponents are out of options — just like always.

Steve Schale: Like the Jaguars season, the election is nearly over.

To: Fellow Americans Who Don’t Sleep

From: Steve Schale, Tired Florida Man

Re: You know you are going to miss these.

*5 hours until the polls open

*17 hours until the first of 23 phone calls between 7 and 7:05 p.m. asking what I think.

*19 hours until FSU basketball season tips off against the boys from Hogtown, East Florida Seminary

*3 days until we the media forget this election and goes all-in on 2020.

*5 days until the Jaguars lose again.

*6 days until the Vet Fest 5K in Tallahassee, as I need to burn off the last few week’s diet.

*708 days until someone else writes the first Florida memo of the 2020 cycle

*728 days until the Election Day 2020.

This is the second memo of the last day, and for ease of life, I am going to copy and paste the first part, so you have it, sans the jokes about Democrats voting like Blake Bortles throws touchdowns to the opposing teams — virtually everywhere, and often and get into this thing. There is really no reason to repeat it, any more than there is a reason for Bortles to throw two interceptions in a single half.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am writing this after a day that began at 5:30 a.m., has included multiple GOTV shifts, and about 400 miles in the car. I can attest for the record that my entire diet has consisted of granola bars, candy I rifled from campaign offices, some tacos, a slice of old pizza, and caffeine in a variety of forms.

So, forgive me in advance for the bad jokes, sarcasm and etc., that you will find.

As of this evening, Floridians have cast: 5,111,452 votes

Democrats: 2,074,400 (40,58 percent)

Republicans: 2,049,877 (40.105)

NPA: 987,175 (19.3 percent)

Total Democratic margin: 24,523 (+0.48)

For comparison, yesterday we were at just over 4.8m voters and Republican Party +24,689

Friday we were at 4.46m voters, and GOP at 56,902.

Despite many counties not opening Sunday (Sunday was optional for counties in Florida), nearly as many people voted Sunday as Saturday, when the polls were open statewide. The nearly 50,000 voter net gain the Democrats had was twice as big as the last Sunday in 2014, and nearly matched the 55,000-net gain of the final Sunday in 2016.

Already, 2 million more people have voted as voted before the Election Day in 2014. The Republicans went into that Election Day with a 97,000-vote lead, or roughly a 3 percent advantage. One way to think about this election in comparison — even with the Election Day advantage Republicans had in 2014 and will have in 2018, I have no doubt Charlie Crist would have won in 2014 with the electorate where it is today.

In terms of the partisan difference in the electorate, Democrats start Tuesday morning in a net of about 120,000 votes better position than four years ago.

My Republican friends like to point out that the electorate in 2016 was very similar, and I agree, it is. I also agree to their point that the electorate tomorrow is likely to be more Republican than Democratic, possibly by as much as 150,000-200,000 votes (though I think the latter is unlikely given that Democrats will still have infrequent voters turning out to cancel some of their advantage). But one thing appears in all polling to be different: crossover voters, and independents, both who broke late to Donald Trump in 2016, and appear to be breaking for Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson.

To give a quick example of what this means, even with the large surge of GOP voters in 2016, the defining feature of Trump’s win was late deciding independents, who overall gave Trump a four-point edge in the exit poll — a number that based on polling, seems quite plausible. If that same segment of the electorate had given Hillary Clinton a four-point edge, she would have won Florida by a margin like Barack Obama in 2012, who, yup you guessed it, won independents.

Republicans also will point out, and if they won’t, I will for them, that Crist won independents, and lost. This is also true. But again, if you go back three paragraphs, you will see that the electorate was substantially more Republican.

There is a point at which the GOP turnout advantage could be so big that Gillum and Nelson would have to win independents by something so herculean, akin to the scale of imaging Blake Bortles throwing 10 passes without bouncing one off an offensive lineman’s helmet, that the math doesn’t work. But this is far from that kind of model. More on this later.

A couple of other cut and paste facts from the morning memo:

The share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6 percent, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2 percent). Hispanic is up to 13 percent, which still lags its registration, but it is moving up. Overall, the electorate that is about 68 percent white.

Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple: Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required.

It is not likely that tomorrow will see the electorate get more diverse, nor do I think much will happen to make it less diverse.

The Black turnout is driven across all groups: 2014 voters, 2016 voters, new voters, etc. — consistent across all targets. The Hispanic and NPA turnout is being driven by newer voters. The percentage of voters who did not vote in 2014 is up to 33 percent.

Within that universe, it is more Democratic — Dems have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic — over 18 percent, than the electorate at large. It is also more NPA, with 26 percent of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger — nearly 23 percent under the age of 34.

So what happens tomorrow? Republicans show up, and infrequent voters continue at some level, maybe not as high as in early vote, but still at a steady click So what does this mean? I have been pretty set on about 7.25 million for turnout for most of two weeks.

I don’t see it going lower than this, and while it may be a bit higher, I don’t know that it is a lot higher, mainly because while we have seen a surge, a lot of the surge is really just convenience voting.

As I told a reporter (or two) today, the most remarkable thing is just how normal this electorate looks — just with more volume.

So let’s do some quick math (I NEVER SAID THERE WOULD BE NO MATH).

Dem edge today is roughly 25,000. It could go up or down a bit by morning, given the absentee ballots that came in today but isn’t likely to change much.

Let’s say, worst case scenario for Democrats, virtually every likely GOP target shows up tomorrow, and they win the day by 200,000 voters. Again, I think reasonably, this number is closer to 160,000, but for sake of this model, let’s say it is 200,000, And let’s say that to get there, turnout is about 1.5-1.6 million for these super voters.

At this level, based on how infrequent votes have been voting another 400,000 infrequent voters are likely to show up and at the current Democratic pace, Democrats probably net minimum of 30,000 voters.

200,000 GOP edge on EDay

25,000 Current Dem edge

30,000 Dem infrequent edge.

= 145,000 final GOP edge in turnout.

At 145,000, this means Republicans would have a 2 point edge in the share of the electorate, and as I showed the other day, there are a variety of ways, with very little crossover, and a very reasonable NPA win, that the Democrats win.

More on this in a bit.

Let’s go back to an exercise from one of the first memos — how do both parties win? Well, for Democrats, run up the score in a few places, and keep it between the ditches everywhere else.

The big places for us, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Orange and to a lesser extent, Hillsborough. Let’s start with Broward, where Democrats entered Eday in 2014 with a 100,000 voter lead — today, that number is 165,000, and arguably even more important, the county will turnout a bigger share of the electorate. In 2014, the total Broward turnout was 44 percent, and as of just today, it is 40 percent. It will exceed its 2014 turnout, quite possibly by a significant number — and that is just volume, a volume that adds up in the Democratic column. Turnout in Broward has made Florida Man’s driving on I-95 seem peaceful and tame.

In fact, there are 8 counties that are within 10 percentage points of reaching their 2014 turnout percentages — in other words, the counties that are performing the best relative to their 2014 turnout, and of those 8, four are significant Democratic base counties: Dade, Broward, Orange and Hillsborough. Every single one of these counties will be a bigger chunk of the electorate than 2014, and every one of them will deliver large majorities for Gillum and Nelson.

A fifth county, Osceola, is also in this category and is a Democratic base county.

If you take these five counties, currently the Democratic advantage in turnout is 313,584 voters. In 2014, the advantage was 134,439 voters — and even if you just factor in the higher turnout numbers, these three counties are still about 90,000 voters ahead of where they were four years ago. That is not insignificant.

Let’s also look at the two “play defense by playing offense” counties that I mentioned in one of the first of these memos, which feels like 18 months ago now. In two large counties in North Florida, Clinton outperformed Crist: Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval — also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville, home of Blake Bortles’ fumbles.

The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African-American participation. These are also two communities that both Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016

So what is going on there? Well in Duval, in 2014, Republicans had about a 3 percent lead in party share entering Election Day — in 2016, the Dems had about a 1.4 percent lead, and today, the Democratic advantage is over 3, or roughly 12,000 voters. Democrats are not only denying the Republicans a large margin in a county that Scott won by 34,000 votes (+13 percent), but they might just win the whole darn place.

I have wanted to win DUVAL since taking the head coaching job for Florida Obama in 2008 — we almost got there in 08, Clinton got closer in 16, and I am going to go bold, and throw a Blake Bortles deep ball into triple coverage and say Gillum go up and grab that pass, and bring DUVAL home in 2018. As for Escambia, the party advantage was 23 percent in 2014. Today it is 17 percent. Chipping away at the margin. That’s how Democrats win. DUUUUUUVAL.

Secondly, Republicans run up the score in a handful of counties and win a few dozen by decent vote total, to counterbalance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties. For DeSantis and Scott, their path lies with the dozen or counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014). While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott. Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

Tampa market:

Hernando (Scott 47.9 percent +2,013 votes — Trump 62.9 percent, +27,211 votes)

Citrus (Scott 53.7 percent, +8,881 — Trump 68.3 percent, +31,667)

Pasco (Scott 46.8 percent, +2,859 — Trump 58.9 percent +51,967)

Pinellas (Scott 41 percent -39,659 — Trump 48.6 percent, +5,551)

Sarasota (Scott 48.7 percent, +4,972 — Trump 54.3 percent, +26,541)

Manatee (Scott 51.7 percent, +12,356 — Trump 57.0 percent +30,647)

So how does it look there?

Again, keep in mind the goal in these counties is to change the math, like what the Democrats had done in their base counties. In 2014, the Republicans went into Election Day — and today, their margin is 8 percent, for a net lead of 58,107, which is nearly the same percentage margin as 2014, and a net gain in voters of just about 15,000. Sure, tomorrow could blow up here, but what has been keeping the GOP markets down isn’t lack of GOP enthusiasm, it is Democrats in these places are voting. In fact, in Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee, Democratic voter turnout rates match, or even exceed the Republicans.

Orlando and South

Marion (Scott 55.3 percent, +19,869 — Trump 61.7 percent, +45,806)

Volusia (Scott 48.8 percent, +6,434 — Trump 54.8 percent, +33,937)

Charlotte — Ft Myers DMA (Scott 52.5 percent, +8,273 — Trump 62.5 percent, +26,781)

Martin — West Palm DMA (Scott 55.3 percent, +9,220 — Trump 62.0 percent, 23,091)

Just like above, in places where Trump blew up the numbers, we are seeing flatter growth — Republicans leading these four counties in early vote in 2014 by 15 percent, or about 33K votes, and today leading by 14.3 percent, or about 48K votes (with 100,000 more votes cast).

In fact, generally, while Democratic counties are quickly reaching their 2014 turnout rates, Republican counties are trailing; 25 counties the GOP traditionally win are more than 20 percent behind their 2014 final turnout percentage, and 40 total are more than 15 percent behind. They are simply not getting enough volume — so far. This will change tomorrow, but there is a lot of catching up to do to get to the kind of turnout the GOP saw in 2014 in contrast to the Democrats that cycle.

A couple of other quick observations — right now, the Miami and Orlando media markets are ahead of their projected share of vote, while most of North Florida is behind. This should level out tomorrow, though Miami and Orlando will both be a bigger share of the electorate in 2018 than 2014.

So here is where I am. While I don’t discount the GOP edge on Election Day, I do think if the NPA and crossover vote is doing anything close to what pollsters are finding, that edge gets eliminated quickly. In fact, a 9-point Gillum edge in NPA eliminates a 2 point GOP edge in turnout without having to win a single more GOP vote than DeSantis wins among Democrats — and I think Gillum wins more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats.

I know a lot of the polling of late has shown it stretching to a 4-5 — and even 7-point race, but honestly, I’ll believe it when I see it. That being said, I will be less surprised if he wins by that margin than I will be if he loses — and honestly, if James Comey hadn’t sent a memo, and I hadn’t lived with watching the disaster for my party that was Election Day in Florida in 2016, I probably would have no hesitation in saying where this plane lands. I think 2016 is the thing that gives most people pause, when in reality, the vast majority of signs pont to Gillum and Nelson.

That doesn’t mean a win is a certainty — if GOP really shows up, Dems turnout stalls and white independents crash tomorrow, that could be a bad combination. For Trump, it took all three of these things happening to win, and while I expect one will happen, the other two are a lot less certain.

Moreover, the polling seems to show the race consolidating toward both Gillum and Nelson, whereas in 2016, you could feel the race slide toward Trump late.    Again, I put the odds of DeSantis winning at lower than the odds of Gillum winning by a comfortable margin — but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

So, if you are on my team, GOTV. If you are not, I hear there are some Jaguars reruns on Netflix.

Tomorrow I will be watching turnout in the counties north of Tampa, and in Pinellas. This where the real Trump surge happened on Election Day in 2018, and where if we see a repeat, we will see signs during the day.

At 7, I will check Pasco. I can’t say I have a specific trigger on Pasco, other than kind of like when Bortles chucks one up under pressure with no specific offensive player in mind, I more go by feel, but anything close to parity is a good sign for Democrats.

Pinellas will report quickly and will report most of their vote at once.

Up, and I will feel good. Down, and I’ll settle in.

DUVAL is also early, and I want to see my side up. Dade early reports quickly, and Crist margin was 50,000 in early/VBM in 2014 — I want to see north of this.

I’ll start checking the urban/suburban counties around Orlando, and again, mostly just want to see margins in line with, or below 2014, as well as Orange and Osceola, and will want to see margins closer to 2016 numbers than to the Crist 2014 margins.

Then heading to 8 — what does the total margin look like? In 2014, Scott won the Central time zone markets by 140,000 votes — so are the Dems clear by at least that? If so, given late reporting southeast Florida counties, they are probably fine. If not, well, you can probably turn on basketball.

Florida is pretty fast reporting, except for Palm Beach, which I think is still counting ballots from 2000, so unless this thing is really close, I think we will have a good sense of where this is headed at a reasonable hour.

Real quick, I want to thank a few people.

First, my friend Dan Newman, who for two cycles has been an invaluable resource to these pieces.

I also want to thank the other vote counters — Dan Smith, Caputo, Wiggins, Tyson and Wayne Bertsch — I appreciate bouncing things off each other — and the thoughts you all share with me, as well as — and I will protect the innocent, some of the national guys who help me check myself.

And to everyone who reads these things, truly, thank you.

As I think I have said in the past, in my younger years, I struggled with reading and math comprehension, so I made Excel sheets, and wrote out concepts to help me think things out.

To this day, I think by writing.

I started writing these pieces as more internal objects in my campaign days, to help me process decisions — and as I migrated out of day-to-day campaign stuff (getting old sucks), someone suggested sharing these to provide maybe a little insight into how at least one old hack thinks about the state and its trends.

Like everyone else who spends time in this data, it is a time-consuming labor — but a labor of love, and I really do appreciate you reading.

To all the candidates who ran, congratulations, you have more guts than me, someone who has decided not to run a few times in his life. Your willingness to step into the arena is admirable.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

And lastly, while I have a lot of folks I am rooting for, I want to specifically wish Andrew Gillum good luck tomorrow.

While I initially was on another team, I’ve known Andrew for well over a decade, and I have nothing but genuine admiration for what he’s achieved in his life. His improbable story is one that can give hope to so many for whom hope is a shrinking commodity. I also think back to my first two years working in the legislature, when divided government led to some incredible achievements; Bright Futures scholarships, KidCare expansion, School construction and many more, and I believe Andrew will bring a much needed, fresh voice to the process, and help drive some big ideas, and big conversations. I’d be proud to call my friend my Governor.

Bring it home, sir.

PS — Congrats to Miami Dade College on turning out the most earlier votes, and winning the early voting Team Democracy State Championship. With a top-five finish, look for UCF to declare themselves the Early Voting National Champions.   Thanks to all who voted, you quite literally help save democracy.

For the 12 of you who read my other posts, see you soon. For the other 38, see you all in 2020, God willing.

Joe Henderson: GOP’s midterm election negativity was nonstop

The pundits got it wrong on Florida’s midterm elections.

With Election Day dead ahead, it’s not so much about the choice of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s progressive agenda in the Governor’s race against the conservatism of Republican Ron DeSantis.

Nor, in the U.S. Senate race, are voters deciding Rick Scott’s pro-jobs record against Bill Nelson’s approach to the environment and health care.

Nope.

At least for the races at the top of the ballot, this has been a campaign of fear and loathing vs. hope and promise.

If you’ve been exposed to campaign pitches from both sides, I don’t have to explain which one has been peddling fear and which one is offering positive change.

Gillum has promised to take on the NRA, push for health care expansion, more money for teachers and schools, and higher corporate taxes to pay for it.

DeSantis warned that Gillum would “monkey up” the state’s economy and immediately was widely criticized for using a racist term.

DeSantis made it worse by saying no, that wasn’t racist. It’s just a common expression (that no one seems to have heard before).

Scott has relentlessly pounded Nelson as a career, do-nothing politician who votes the Democratic Party line with regularity and rarely shows up to work. And a PAC that supports Scott even managed to sneak in a dog whistle about Nelson’s age, which is 76, with this line in a commercial that is getting a lot of airtime: “The poor man seems more and more confused.”

Really? Did they go there?

Yes, they did.

Now, we pause a moment and note that most polls give the edges to Gillum and Nelson – although both Florida midterm elections are expected to be close.

But what if, instead of trying to paint their opponents as the offspring of Darth Vader, DeSantis and Scott had taken a different path? They might not have sent no party-affiliation voters stampeding in large numbers to the blue side of the street.

Most Floridians really don’t know DeSantis, other than his appearances on Fox News that earned him the support of President Trump. He didn’t have much to say about what he would do if elected Governor, although in a long-running ad campaign he was happy to highlight his participation on the Dunedin team that went to the 1991 Little League World Series.

Yay.

The only thing missing from that was Bruce Springsteen singing “Glory Days” – you know, times slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of … yeah, that.

Instead of saying how Gillum would destroy the state, DeSantis could have stressed why his plan – assuming he had one – would be best. He didn’t do that nearly enough to cut past the steady lava flow of negativity his campaign was producing.

He also got rattled and snippy during a debate with Gillum about accepting support from a supporter identified with white nationalists.

And Scott, well, I just don’t understand his line of attack.

He didn’t play to his strength as a job creator nearly enough, even though that was what got him elected Governor two times. And his disdain for environmental regulations while in office came back to bite him when Nelson’s campaign seized the opening and tagged him with the recent red tide debacle.

To be sure, Nelson didn’t exactly run an inspired campaign.

The commercial about his 1986 trip as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle was about as relevant to the current campaign as DeSantis’ youth league baseball exploits, but I believe Nelson is benefitting from the enthusiasm that appears to be surrounding the Gillum campaign.

Gillum seems to have the wind at his back just now, but it’s only a hunch. If it is as tight as some polls project, no one can be really surprised however this turns out.

This much is true, though: DeSantis doesn’t seem to have generated enthusiasm beyond his base in the way Gillum has. Gillum will win if all those who seemed inspired by his story actually vote. We won’t know that until Tuesday.

Here’s what we do know now: While negative ads have been a standard part of political campaigns for decades and will continue to be, I think DeSantis and Scott took it to the next level this year.

If both men lose, it may be the voters’ way of saying: We’ve had enough of that.

Steve Schale: #FloridaMan has two more days to vote

As a longtime hack, I always saw “falling back” as a biennial opportunity to get an extra hour of sleep. But that is probably where the upside of going back to standard time ends. If I ever run for President, Make Evenings Light Again will be a key part of my platform.

Florida Man and Florida Woman voted yesterday like there it was BOGO day on flip-flops at the early voting site.

When it is all in (several counties have not reported yet), total in-person early voting will be around 300,000 votes. With the VBM ballots that came in, the day will come close to (but not reach), the last Saturday in 2016. There is no question in my mind that Florida will cast more than 5 million votes before Election Day, and there is no question in my mind that the margin between the two parties will be less than 1 percent, and probably more like 0.5 percent.

Like yesterday, this memo will be shorter for two reasons: I want to get some more volunteering in for GOTV, and I will take a much deeper look at everything in tomorrow’s memo. Also, keep in mind these totals are not perfect — there are about 10 counties, a couple of which are mid-sized, that did not report at 7:30 a.m.

So, here we go: 4,817,062 votes have been cast.

Republicans: 1,964,364

Democrats: 1,936,328

NPA/Minor: 915,370

Republican edge is 28,036 (+0.58 percent)

The GOP voter advantage has floated between the mid-50s and 70 since the start of in-person early voting, but this is the first time we’ve seen it really move. In 2014, Democrats won in-person early voting on the final Sunday by 25K votes, and in 2016, the number was 55K, and I do think the Democrats win the day by enough to take a lead. When the straggling vote by mail ballots come in, given the GOP edge there, the number may pop up close to tied. Welcome to Florida.

The GOP went into Election Day with about a 90K voter edge in 2014 or about 3 percent

The Dems went into Election Day, also with about a 90K voter in 2016, which was about 1.3 percent

Crist won the NPA vote by 6, not enough to overcome the GOP early and EDay advantage.

Trump won the NPA vote by 4, enough combined with a strong EDay advantage to win.

The GOP will almost surely win the turnout battle on EDay — and this isn’t because of anything other than they simply have more certain voters who wait until the final day to vote. So like everything in Florida, this will come down to who wins more crossover, and who wins the NPAs. We are, as I often point out, both a turnout and a persuasion state.

Statewide turnout is now 36.2 percent — in other words, 2.7 percent of Florida registered voters cast a ballot yesterday. Among Republicans, it is 42 percent, among Democrats, it is 39.2 percent, and among NPA, it’s up to 25.1 percent. Yesterday alone, 3.2 percent of all registered Democrats voted.

As we saw in both 2014 and 2016, the NPA share is growing as we get closer to Election Day. On Monday, it was 17.7 percent. Friday it was 18.4 percent. Yesterday it is 18.7 percent. Today it is 19. It will get over 20, and for Gillum who most polling shows is winning the NPAs, this is how you make up a partisan difference — and the bigger the NPA share, the more his advantage there helps. How important was NPA to Trump? If you hold everything else constant, he won the NPA’s by about 90K votes — if they had split the NPA vote, the race would have been in a recount. If she won the NPAs by four? She would have won Florida.

The last two days also show how the electorate is getting more diverse. After Wednesday, the electorate was 71 percent white, and yesterday it is 70 percent, and this morning it was 69. Yesterday, non-Hispanic whites made up 54 percent of voters, with African-American and Caribbean voters making up 19 percent, and Hispanics another 14. The Hispanic number continues to lag a bit, but it is headed in the right direction. Right now, Hispanics are 12.6 percent of registered voters, and I think this ends up in the low 13s, based on trendlines. There is a possibility Black voters will exceed their share of registered voters in the early vote — right now, it is 12.96 percent, and registration is 13.2 percent.

Keep one thing in mind, Hispanics are underrepresented by the registered voters, namely, not all Hispanics self-select Hispanic on their voter-registration, and some have been registered long enough that it was an option in the county where they live. In this election, I don’t think this delta is significant, but just worth nothing.

In-person early vote has exceeded vote by mail, which happened in 2016, but not 14.

51 percent of the vote is in-person early, and Democrats have a 37,585-voter advantage. 49 percent is vote by mail, and the GOP advantage is 65,621

GOP return rates of VBM ballots continues to outpace my team, Republicans have returned 72.7 percent, Democrats 65.5 percent, and NPA 60.1 percent. The statewide return rate is 67.3 percent, which is down from 2014.

Dems have 114K more unreturned … excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall.

OK, I am back.

Two last observations, and then off to work.

One — DUVAL — wow. Setting records every day, voting like Blake Bortles played against the Steelers. I am not going to predict that Gillum and Nelson win DUVAL yet (I might tomorrow), but longtime readers know I am a big fan as a Democrat of playing defense by playing offense in this county, there is a chance that Democrats will go into Election Day with a 10,000-voter advantage. DUVAL is a place that can provide huge GOP margins, but that won’t happen Tuesday.

Right now, the regional distribution of votes looks very good for Democrats. Miami is almost 20 percent (naturally lands 17-18 percent), and Orlando is also up. But it also looks a lot like 2016 did at this point, with a few places that helped my home team higher than normal. What happened on Election Day was a lot of those counties flatlined, and GOP ones took off — that and NPAs and other swing voters broke to Trump.

I will get more into this tomorrow, but for Democrats, this is rounding into nice shape. There is very little doubt in my mind that when we go back and look at actual votes, Nelson and Gillum will start Tuesday ahead of their opponents. How much ahead? We can’t tell from this. Is it going to be enough? Well, that is why if you want them to win, you should now close your laptop, or put the phone down, and go pull a shift. America’s team, the Jaguars has a bye week, so there is no excuse.

As I used to tell our crew in Obamaland — and this really applies to both sides of this race it is now in your hands. Don’t be a Blake Bortles and fumble it away now.

Until then, if you are a journalist in Florida covering an election, watch out, because Florida Man and Florida Woman are coming to vote, and if history says anything, you do not want to get in the way of determined Florida Man or Florida Woman, because you never know when they are packing a small alligator or spatula. So be safe out there.

 

Blake Dowling: We can’t stop election meddling, but we can put up a fight

So far in the 2018 election cycle, we have seen record early and mail voting, as well as the usual mudslinging.

For about a month, my mailbox has been stuffed (like me at Thanksgiving) with flyers and mailers. In fact, one really ridiculous one arrived in regard to a local race; a guy who runs a pizza shop is running for office; as a college student, he was arrested selling bogus football shirts (not properly licensed).

This particular mailer had his mug shot, saying something like, “do you want a criminal in public office?” Weak. Save the drama for Days of Our Lives. (Is that still on? Amazing. I bet if I watched one now I could pretty easily pick up right where I left off 20 years ago.)

Moving on … like sands in the hourglass, mud will be thrown during an election: Name calling has been rampant … the FBI (apparently) can get great seats for “Hamilton” … debates compared to WWF.

This season has it all.

The question is: what are we not seeing?

What is going on in cyberspace? In the devious underground bunkers of Kuybyshev (Russia) Wuhan (China) or Santa Claus (Indiana) — yes, it’s a real city — cybercriminals, my friends, are domestic as well as abroad.

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus … Indiana.

So, what are they planning?

The President of the United States said just this week: “There will be, hopefully, no meddling, no tampering, no nothing.”

Just as last month, a Russian was charged with attempting to mettle in the election. So, the idea of no meddling is off the table, but hopefully, the impact will be minimal.

We can’t stop them all. But we can put up a heck of a fight.

The Feds (with $380 million at last count) and states have spent a lot of time and energy working on protecting the voting process.

However, there is no silver bullet that can stop everything. Just as we put in place countermeasures, hackers develop new ways of infiltration and intrusion.

Back to the mudslinging.

Have we reached a point where “None of the Above” is a viable box to check (as Montgomery Brewster boldly stated in 1985)? Perhaps not yet, but name calling is tacky and mudslinging not required.

BREWSTER’S MILLIONS, Richard Pryor (center), 1985

Let’s remember what we learned in kindergarten, everyone. The same applies to us all: President, Mayor, Senator, undercover FBI agents (not really, they pretty much do what they want), etc.

Have we reached a point where we are good to go with cybercrime? Nope.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the score until well after the game is over. However, kudos to all involved in the process — as massive enhancements have been made to protect the voting process and our way of life in this great nation.

From the United States Cyber Command, to your local Supervisors of Elections, things have tightened up like never before.

Nevertheless, as stated earlier, we can’t stop all of it.

In fact, there is info on millions of U.S. voters allegedly available on the dark web right now.

If you missed it, read that last line again: This is a BIG deal.

That alone may keep some voters home, particularly in North Florida, a region still severely damaged from Hurricane Michael. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to predict that will have an effect on voter turnout.

Would you leave to vote if there were looters prowling around your land? Scam artists on every corner? Running life on a generator?

Most experts agree we are much more prepared than just two years ago … minus this guy who says we are doomed, with some live tests to prove it. But there is always someone saying we are doomed. Am I wrong?

Yin and Yang.

Regardless, results are coming, and new people will be in charge on both sides of the fence. So, get out and vote and bring it Tuesday.

My bet is if we see a significant issue with cybercrime, it will be something brand-new, and hopefully easier to understand than the latest Kanye West rant?

Happy voting.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at Dowlingb@aegisbizteh.com.

For local officials, there is no offseason

Sports coaches are fond of saying, “championships are won in the offseason.” It pays homage to the hard work and dedication that goes into preparing for the season ahead. It also means that for winning teams, there really is no offseason.

The same is true for Florida’s mayors, council members, commissioners and local elected officials. Year-round, we’re working to deliver results — collecting trash, keeping the power on, filling potholes, and developing innovative solutions to local economic, environmental and public health challenges.

Yet every year in Tallahassee, as the state legislative session begins, a new season kicks off — the state legislative session. And instead of referees calling pass interference, it’s state lawmakers passing interference over local communities.

That interference, in the form of pre-emption bills that block local governments from passing common-sense local laws, prevents us from doing our jobs and improving our communities. It silences local citizens and puts local democracy at risk.

Florida lawmakers have grown fond of proposing dozens of one-size-fits-all solutions. The list of shortsighted schemes to rein in local communities is as long as it is ridiculous.

In just the past two years, Florida’s legislators have tried to interfere with: short-term rentals, local hiring laws, 5G wireless technology, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, community redevelopment agencies, immigration policies, towing and storage fees, stormwater management, dogs in vehicles, back in parking in parking garages, tree-trimming, anti-discrimination laws, development impact fees, affordable housing, red light cameras and debris from storms.

It would be one thing if genuine differences of opinion drove these heavy-handed pre-emption laws. But the truth is this: big-money special interests are behind this trend toward replacing citizens’ rights with corporate rights. Lobbyists and corporations know it’s easier to turn state legislatures into one-stop shops for thwarting local authority, than to work with 67 counties and 400 municipalities to advance their agenda.

We’re fed up. We’re fighting back. And that action begins in the offseason, before the Legislative Session.

Local officials have an obligation to keep our residents safe. That’s why earlier this year, more than 30 cities and counties joined a lawsuit challenging the state’s super-preemption law on firearms — a law that allows special interests to sue mayors and commissioners, have them fined and even removed from office, just for voting for common-sense local gun safety measures.

And just this month, the Florida Supreme Court announced it would take up the City of Miami Beach’s challenge to the state’s minimum wage pre-emption law. $8.25 goes further in some of our communities than others, and local residents deserve the right to enact a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

Your local elected officials are raising awareness through public education, informing our citizens about the threat state interference poses to their voices and their rights. We need our residents to understand that their wages, jobs, paid sick leave, clean air and water, diversity, and public health and safety are at risk — and we need them to fight back with us.

Numerous organizations, like the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, are working to help communities stand up, speak out and make themselves heard. They’re sharing tools to organize, educate, and inform our neighbors about preemption’s threat to their quality of life.

But the most important tool? Your voice — and using it now, before state lawmakers head into the special interest-fueled frenzy of the legislative session.

Elections have consequences. Just like us — your local mayors and commissioners — your state legislators work for you. It’s crucial that we speak up now. Contact your state senator and representative. Tell them you believe in local solutions to local problems. Ask them to protect local democracy.

For sports teams, the hard work done in the offseason can be the difference between a good season and a great season. What we all do now together in the offseason can be the difference between healthy, vibrant local communities and communities with less opportunity, less vitality and less freedom.

Let’s put in the hard work together and win.

 ___

Shevrin Jones represents House District 101; Daniella Levine Cava is County Commissioner of Miami Dade County; James D. Simmons is Mayor of Melbourne Beach; Dan Daley is Vice Mayor of the City of Coral Springs; Helen Warren and Adrian Hayes-Santos are City Commissioners of Gainesville.

Rick Asnani: A voter’s guide to the 2018 Florida Amendments

As Tuesday, Nov. 6 quickly approaches, Floridians will set out to place their votes and partake in one of the most pivotal recurring events in United States history.

This year, in particular, the number of ballots for state and local proposed constitutional amendments may seem daunting for Floridians as the list has exponentially grown since previous years. Commonly, citizens are overwhelmed by the voting process because of the sheer amount of voting options and the complicated jargon used to explain the crucial proposals.

Floridians will vote on 12 proposed constitutional amendments varying in topics, from property taxes to victim’s rights and gambling across the state. Each amendment requires 60 percent of voters to approve it in order for the amendment to pass and become part of the constitution.

Well-versed in ballot issues and referendums across the country for more than 25 years, I’d like to offer the people of Florida insight ahead of the upcoming 2018 election on constitutional amendments and how to approach them before voting.

First, we need to consider how a constitutional amendment reaches the ballot. Traditionally, there are three different processes wherein an amendment can go to ballot; through a citizen initiative, placed on the ballot by the legislature or through the Constitution Revision Committee (CRC).

This year’s proposed constitutional amendments include:

Amendment 1 “Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption,” Amendment 2 “Limitations on Property Tax Assessments,” and Amendment 5, “Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees” which were included by lawmakers.

While Amendment 3, “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida” and Amendment 4, “Voting Restoration Amendment,” were citizen-initiated amendments.

The seven other ballots were included by the Constitution Revision Committee who originally placed eight amendments on the ballot. Initially, the commission chose about 20 proposals for this year’s ballot but determined to group distinct proposals together forming eight amendments.

This means that voters must approve or reject disparate proposals that have been batched together. For example, one bundled ballot question Floridians will need to decide on is to ban both offshore oil and gas drilling as well as vaping indoors — reason being, clean air, clean water. One of the eight amendments was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court’s ruling on Sept. 7.

Another consideration voters should ask is if the proposed issue actually belongs in the constitution. Or is this something the legislature should do or can already do? Ask yourself if this has a negative impact on the economy, society or your future?

Finally, it’s important to consider who does the amendment empower? Is the amendment taking away power from local government and shifting it to Tallahassee or taking power away from the individual voter and placing it in the hands of the legislature?

With your research done and the above considerations in mind, I strongly encourage everyone to go vote on or before Tuesday, Nov. 6 and do not skip the amendments — the extra few minutes are worth it for you, your family and the future of our state’s well-being.

Amendments and local issues matter as much as the candidates. Vote your entire ballot.

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Rick Asnani is President of Cornerstone Solutions and is a political consultant based in Florida who specializes in ballot initiative campaigns across the United States.

FAPA: Yes on Amendment 2 will avert tax crisis

The Florida Association of Property Appraisers (FAPA) recommends Floridians vote YES on Amendment 2.

The amendment asks voters whether to make permanent a 10 percent limit on the annual increase in assessed value of a non-homestead property. A “yes” vote will avert a sudden and largely unexpected tax crisis for more than 5 million residential and business property owners throughout Florida.

Most homeowners in Florida enjoy the tax savings afforded by two $25,000 homestead exemptions. Business owners, rental property owners, second homeowners and part-time retirees, whose permanent residence may be in another state, are not eligible for those exemptions.

For them, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 that placed a 10 percent limit on the annual increase in assessed value of a non-homestead property, commonly referred to as the 10 percent cap.

Over the past 10 years, these property owners have enjoyed significant tax savings as a result of this assessment limitation.

What many people do not know is that the 10 percent cap on non-homestead property is set to expire at the end of 2018. If Amendment 2 does not pass, those non-homestead property owners will have to pay more than

$700 million additional property taxes next year according to the state Revenue Estimating Conference.

For property owners running their own small business, property taxes are one of, if not the largest, expense. For example, a business owner operating a local diner has been enjoying the benefits of a $200,000 non-homestead cap for the past 10 years. Without the cap, this property’s taxable value will increase by $200,000 January 1, 2019, which may represent an additional $2,400 in property taxes.

What is perhaps most concerning about the cap’s looming deadline is that many of the people whom it will directly affect are unaware of the cap and/or its expiration date. We encourage all voters to talk to friends, family, and local business owners in your neighborhood about the importance of this amendment. If you are the owner of a non-homestead property, we urge you to call your local property appraiser to find out how the repeal of the 10 percent cap will affect your property.

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The Florida Association of Property Appraisers (FAPA) is a statewide professional organization comprised of locally elected, constitutionally authorized property appraisers.

Joe Henderson: Donald Trump hit talking points and Dems better listen

As Cheerleader-in-Chief for his team, Donald Trump is hard to beat. The raucous Halloween night crowd at Hertz Arena in Estero loved the multiple-course helpings of red meat the President served at an old-fashioned style campaign rally with the midterm elections less than a week away.

The President hit all the talking points. Well, shouting points.

Immigration.

Taxes.

The economy.

Security.

Oh, and Democrats — particularly Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson — are out to destroy the way of life as we know it, let rapists and murders stampede the borders, tax away your life savings, and destroy the economy with those pesky economic and environmental safeguards, also known as regulations.

The crowd loved it. The crowd ate it up.

Thousands waited in line for hours, sometimes a more than a day, to secure seats. The base remains fiercely loyal.

But the substance was nothing, really, we haven’t heard from the President or his supporters throughout the campaign, so what difference will it make on Election Day?

I would caution this to Democrats who might be overly encouraged by polls showing Gillum and Nelson ahead in their respective races for Governor and the U.S. Senate. There was a similar feeling of confidence among Democrats at about this point in 2016 when then-candidate Trump kept coming, kept bringing the heat, appeared in Florida, and we know what happened.

Wednesday’s rally appeared to me to generate genuine run-through-the-wall enthusiasm by the true Trump believers, and there are a lot of them. Underestimate that at your own risk, Democrats.

The President hit all the right buttons.

He gave shout-outs to key Republicans like U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Gus Bilirakis. He invoked the name of Greg Steube, running in CD 17, and Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

He gave face-time to Rick Scott, who, in the thrill of the moment, told the crowd to “make sure we turn this country away … um, around….”

Well, maybe it was just a slip of the tongue but that’s the counterattack Democrats use — Republicans, especially the President, are turning this country away from what Ronald Reagan called a “shining city on the hill” into one stressing a blinking red light and a fear of immigrants.

Ron DeSantis got face-time and microphone-time too, reminding viewers for the umpteenth time, “I’m the only guy who can credibly say I’m not under investigation for corruption by the FBI.”

The crowd slurped it up and asked for seconds.

It’s easy to say that, well, that was gathering of maybe 8,000 true believers who didn’t come for anything other than what the President delivered. Maybe. But if Democrats don’t know the danger of false confidence by now, they never will.

I’ll tell you what I saw in this rally.

I saw motivated people who believe in this President.

I saw enthusiastic support for DeSantis and Scott.

It’s accurate to say Andrew Gillum’s crowds have been wildly enthusiastic too.

I know what the polls say. Gillum and Nelson appear to have the momentum with time running out.

The polls were wrong before.

Democrats, beware. This race isn’t over until the last ballot is counted. To believe otherwise is to invite déjà vu on Nov. 7, and Donald Trump can tell you all about that.

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