Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Blake Dowling: Social media shows the great (and ugly) of society, politics

This week, Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL27 stopped by the office to chat on one of my favorite topics — social media posts, specifically video content.

If I were to critique my own social media use, one might say I post too much. However, I try and stick to a once daily max for most platforms (Twitter being the exception).

I think one post a day is entirely reasonable.

In fact, I am merely trying to share things that were intended to be shared: columns, branding my company and (of course) very important pictures from our football tailgate.

Speaking of football, did you know if you asked Siri yesterday morning who is the worst team in college football, she said the Florida State Seminoles?

Very strange, as I think they are only last in FBS schools’ average points per game (5) they are not actually last in the rankings. Who knows where Siri gets her info.

The race for worst team in the state is on with the Seminoles currently in the lead, but that could change fast as the Hurricanes, Gators or Knights could catch up at any time.

We will see if Willie Wonka and the Warchant Factory can turn it around.

My chat with ABC started with kids and irresponsible online behavior, before moving to some more responsible use of video, and then corporations, celebrities and, of course, politicians.

We began the conversation with a local story about a man with a gun and some local youths. As of this writing, the man with the gun is still on the loose.

The youths were using video to defend themselves, documenting a situation where someone pulled a gun on them, and good for them, in other cases, people are using video very poorly. For example, this security guard was fired after his employer found this ridiculous video online.

Really? Paul Flart?

Meanwhile, a Florida Taco Bell refused service to a guest because she didn’t speak Spanish. The guest could have driven off and never said a thing.

Instead, they filmed the entire encounter to document what they were dealing with and shared it.

So, by way of the video, the story speaks for itself.

The woman did have a great sense of humor about it: “Isn’t Quesadilla, in Spanish, Quesadilla?”

Well isn’t it?

Politicians love their videos too. And not just pricey TV spots, but online content that gets a fine-tuned message out to the public.

Check out Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor; he combines his beliefs with some humor in this clip:

In Florida, Andrew Gillum’s team produced a more serious message about family and his childhood experiences.

I also chatted with Steve from ABC about the fact that instead all-day handful of news outlets, we now have literally millions. Everyone with a phone is a reporter and might have a story or (in the context of this article) video.

According to The New York Times … “People are broadening their definitions of what political leaders can look like,” said Teddy Goff, a co-founder of the agency Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and President Barack Obama’s former digital director.

“A political leader,” he added, “can be a 17-year-old from Parkland or a 28-year-old who was a bartender until last year.”

The internet and video content can share the greatness in our society like with Phil, the homeless man who needed a shave and his positive experiences with the Tallahassee Police Department. Or it shares the ugly, as in the case of the aforementioned man with a gun.

And, of course, Paul Flart.

It can also propel political messages like never before. This idea is not new, but we are seeing more depth than ever its use and how messages are crafted.

Cheers to Kemp and Gillum for their creativity with video content.

And regarding Mr. Flart: “C’mon on Man” (to quote ESPN).

Thank you to Steve and ABC27 for visiting Aegis, and thanks to Florida Politics for publishing this piece.

Have a good one, and thank you for reading.


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

Joe Henderson: Candidates should let it rip at Governor’s debate

You can’t have a major political campaign unless the candidates debate, right? Usually, they are over-scripted, overhyped and underperforming, but a Florida Governor’s debate between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis should be memorable.

Both sides were working out the specifics on Monday, but it looks like this is going to happen.

You would assume someone will be trying to convince Gillum it is his chance to show voters he is not, as DeSantis has painted him, a tax-loving far-left wacko. But you know what? If he retreats too much from the populist proposals that got him this far, his campaign wouldn’t be intellectually honest.

So, he should go for it.

Medicare for everyone? Medicaid expansion? Lots more money for schools? Raise teachers’ salaries after years of GOP mockery about public education? And by the way, remember that “monkey it up” comment DeSantis made on national television? Let’s revisit that.

Damn straight.

And for DeSantis, it’s a chance to show voters he can be his own man if he is put in charge of the state and not just a Donald Trump Mini-Me — but that wouldn’t be honest either.

DeSantis has made it clear he completely supports President Trump’s policies and agenda. His whole primary campaign against Adam Putnam was built around the endorsement by “the big man himself” and he can’t run from that now.

I don’t believe he will, either.

That’s why I believe sparks should and will fly when these two.

They offer completely different visions for the state, and it could (cross your fingers) get testy. But that’s what we all should want.

Remember the infamous “controversy” around Charlie Crist’s use of a fan in his podium during his 2014 debate with Rick Scott? Scott threatened to call the whole thing off, with a national TV audience watching, because he said the fan violated agreed-upon rules.

Florida looked pretty silly that night to the rest of the country, even by Florida standards. If there is controversy during DeSantis-Gillum, I want the real thing.

Let ‘er rip, gentlemen.

These men passionately believe that Florida will thrive under their plan, and that fire and pestilence will rain down from the sky if the voters choose the other candidate. They should conduct themselves accordingly.

I almost wish they would stage these things without moderators. Just have the candidates on stage in easy chairs, arguing back and forth about health care, immigration, minimum wage, and whether Ryan Fitzpatrick should remain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback when Jameis Winston returns.

A Florida Governor’s debate like that would be just like what plays out every day in living rooms and corner bars across the state. It would be real.

Consultants would never let it happen though, so we have to hope for the next-best result.

Both men are confident that they are the right choice for the state, even if they speak for distinctly different audiences.

Gillum appeals to younger voters, the disenfranchised, minorities, and people who think Republicans care only about the wealthy.

DeSantis appeals to those who believe all Democrats want to do is create expensive government-controlled boondoggles that simply won’t work as well as the free market.

Both men have compelling personal stories. Both have powerful political donors and machines behind them. They need something else, though. They need to convince voters that they are the right choice, and they won’t do that by playing it safe.

Game on, gentlemen.

You want to be Governor?

No holding back.

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception

Erika Donalds, a Constitution Revision Commissioner and sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment.

Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools.

Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot.

Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. Non-transparency and sneaky omissions in ballot language are actually a better description of “disenfranchisement.”

The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government.

We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

We repeatedly shared our concerns with the CRC regarding the bundling of multiple proposals. If the backers of Amendment 8 truly wanted this decision to be left to the voters, they would have put it forward as a stand-alone amendment in clear, unambiguous language. They had every opportunity to do just that.

Donalds also claimed that voters “deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise.” Donalds needs to keep in mind that public schools are not a business — they are a public service paid for by public tax dollars for the benefit of all citizens. Her argument is akin to saying fire departments have a monopoly over putting out fires.

Donalds asserted that the League “grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.” Elections are the ultimate term limit. Anyone who feels they are more qualified for the job than an incumbent can run against them.     

Donalds insisted that “more parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their district. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate … [The League’s] interest is in preserving the status quo and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.”

If for-profit charter schools are as popular as Donalds claims, why was there no mention of charter schools in the ballot language? Why was the primary purpose of the proposal — taking away local authority over public schools — hidden between term limits and civics education? Floridians overwhelmingly support the constitutional requirement to make adequate provision for the education of all children that is ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality.

This wasn’t just about “expanding choice” for students. It was taking local school boards out of the equation to allow for-profit charter school operators to set up new schools wherever and whenever they think they can make a profit at the taxpayers’ expense.   

Finally, it should be noted that Donalds didn’t mention that she was a founding Advisory Board Member and Director of Operations for Mason Classical Academy, a Hillsdale College public charter school in Collier County. 

Do the words “conflict of interest” ring a bell?

Donalds has vowed to continue the fight for school choice, and that she and other “reformers” have thick skin. Interesting. Her article sounded to us like the whining of a sore loser.


Patricia Brigham is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Daisy Baez: Attacks on ACA are attacks on health care access, innovation

As a former hospital executive, a health care consultant, and a former member of the Health Innovation Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives, I’ve seen firsthand how access to quality, affordable health coverage can save lives.

The Affordable Care Act has driven significant progress on access to care and innovation. The law ended discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer and asthma. It allowed young people to remain on their parents’ health plan until age 26, giving them the opportunity to establish a career while being covered. And the ACA gave the states the option of expanding Medicaid, bringing coverage to hardworking, low-income families.

As a result, about 20 million more Americans — and 1.5 million more Floridians — are insured today. Even as the Trump administration slashed enrollment assistance, sign-ups on the exchanges remained strong for 2018. More insurers, including Oscar Health in Florida, are entering the marketplaces for 2019, and more states are reconsidering their Medicaid decisions. Virginia was just the latest, opting to cover 400,000 more residents.

But, this comes at a time when Florida’s uninsured rate — already the highest in the nation — ticked up for the first time in years, rising more than 5 percent to 2.68 million people without coverage. Florida’s uninsured rate of 12.9 percent is well above the national average of 8.8 percent. More than 130,000 of our fellow Floridians became uninsured in the past year, which drives up health care costs for everyone.

In addition to benefits for patients, increased access to insurance helps local medical centers, thanks to falling rates of uncompensated care. The changes are also transforming U.S. health care into a value-based system, designed to maximize positive patient outcomes.

This is something that patients want. Why? Because it means “feeling good” is a measure of success. It means employers are building a healthier, more productive workforce. And it’s something budget hawks should get behind, because it will save federal and state governments, businesses and families money.

This shift toward value-based health care is leading to some major innovations, as well. Cigna is boosting quality and controlling the cost of care for people with coronary artery disease, by linking reimbursement rates to health outcomes. Florida Blue is offering proactive, in-home care services for the clinically fragile, to help high-risk patients avoid the emergency room and hospital readmission. Prestige Health Choice, a Medicaid managed care plan, is using biometric monitoring to assist individuals with Type II diabetes. Other platforms are providing integrated, personalized plans to help individuals reach their health goals, whether an expecting mom seeking nutrition advice, or a senior citizen hoping to safely incorporate more exercise into their life.

These types of innovative and technology-enabled solutions empower patients to take charge of their health. Paired with free preventive care services, they are among our best tools for reducing chronic disease, which accounts for over three-fourths of U.S. health care spending. That means health care innovation can deliver wellness and sustainable budgets.

I developed my passion for health care in the United States Army as a Preventive Medicine Technician. That’s why I care about electing leaders who are committed to protecting access to health care.

Democratic candidates for Congress, like my good friend Debbie Mucarsel-Powell running in the 26th District, have already made health care a top issue in their campaigns. And with health care under assault by Donald Trump and Republicans, we need leaders who will preserve and build on the Affordable Care Act.

This is a fight worth winning on behalf of South Florida’s families. With her fellow leaders in Congress, I know she’ll keep up the pressure to defend the ACA from attacks, and ensure America continues on the road toward greater health care access, value and innovation.


Daisy Baez is the former State Representative for District 114, and founder of the Dominican Health Care Association of Florida. She lives in Miami.

Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers

Education reform requires thick skin. I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians.

Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. The LWV patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children.

They grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.

The once-laudable League disgraced its mission and showed it is yet another teachers’ union surrogate to obstructing school choice.

The devastating 4-3 Supreme Court decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot was a loss not just for so many students in desperate need of education reform, but for millions of voters who are now susceptible to disenfranchisement anytime an activist group pushes and funds its agenda.

In addition to term limits and civics education, the most publicly contentious priority was to create new pathways for public schools of choice for Florida’s families. We know that choice, competition and innovation are the avenues to continuous improvement of our education system.

More parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their zoned district school. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate. The education establishment sees these trends and has doubled down on its antiquated policies and structure. Their interest is in preserving the status quo, and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.

And so, despite tremendous gains for our students, it is clear we still live in a state where the education establishment cares more about the system than its students. To them, students are cogs. They are considered “butts in seats.” I know this is not the sentiment of so many hardworking, passionate individual teachers, but the union mentality has lost sight of what matters. It is incredibly sad, but I will not pretend it’s surprising.

These latest actions ensure that student-centered choice will now have to expand further through private options instead. Amendment 8 would have created a pathway to more high-quality public schools, but the monopoly-defenders and activist Supreme Court of Florida won’t have it.

The students most impacted by this awful decision cannot write checks, organize to write misleading editorials or hire high-priced out-of-state lawyers to distort the truth in the courtroom. I was proud and determined to speak up for them. And will continue to do so.

Education reformers do not give up on students. The greater mission of bringing true education freedom to every family in Florida will continue. It is our goal that every child be afforded a free public education that meets his or her unique needs.

Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing change. Schools of choice are real schools too, with real students and loving teachers. That is all that matters.

Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve.

You can be sure this is not the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. And we have thick skin.


Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds is a mother of three school-age children and CPA serving on the Collier County School Board. She was the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the Revision Commission.

Reggie Garcia: Amendment 4 will save taxpayers money, give felons a second chance

Florida’s 13 million voters have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help convicted felons who have paid their debt to society earn the right to vote, and to a second chance.

Called the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment will grant most of the 1.7 million convicted felons the right to vote and help select their leaders for local, state and federal offices.

That is a good thing. It makes sense.

To be eligible, these felons must complete “all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” That means they would have paid restitution, court costs and fees, and completed community service, house arrest, jail, and/or prison sentences, plus any other special conditions of parole or probation.

Felons convicted of murder or a felony sex crime would not be eligible and would have to go through the regular executive clemency process.

Why is Amendment 4 on the November general election ballot? Because almost 850,000 current Florida voters and taxpayers across the state signed a citizen’s initiative petition to give all voters this good choice.

Those who signed span Florida’s political spectrum — not just registered Republicans and Democrats but also Independents, members of one of the smaller parties, or “Non-Party Affiliated“ voters (NPAs).

So, clearly, Amendment 4 has strong bipartisan and nonpartisan support. That is a good thing. It makes sense.

Amendment 4 is good public policy and smart justice. Here’s why:

— Data from the Florida Commission on Offender Review proves that the vast majority of felons who get their voting and other civil rights back do not commit new crimes. They have learned their lesson and are trying to earn the second chance they have been given. On July 1, the Commission reported to the Board of Executive Clemency (made up of the governor and Florida Cabinet) that of the 992 felons who were granted restoration of civil rights in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, only one person was convicted of a new felony. (Yes, literally one out of almost 1,000 people.) If you consider data from the last seven fiscal years, 5,344 felons were granted clemency restoration of civil rights and only 12 people were convicted of new felonies requiring state prison. Now that is smart justice.

— The reduction in the number of reoffending felons will have a positive $365 million economic impact, according to a credible economic study completed by the Washington Economics Group, based in Coral Gables. How? By leading to fewer prisons and more jobs and positive economic activity.

— Reduced prison construction and staffing costs will save $223 million. Florida taxpayers currently fund 56 major state prisons, numerous state prison annexes, camps and work release centers, 10 federal prisons and 67 county jails.

— Increased job earnings, taxes paid and economic investments by the felons themselves will generate another $142 million.

Many of the affected individuals are our family members, neighbors, co-workers, high school classmates, church friends and mutual acquaintances of people we know. Except for their status as felons, they are regular Floridians who pay taxes, own homes and businesses, have kids, and contribute to our schools and communities.

Many of their convictions were for small drug possession or property crimes, often committed long ago when they were young.

Under Florida’s constitution, getting voting and other civil rights restored currently requires a grant of mercy, and the process simply takes too long.

A 5- or 7-year waiting period must pass before you can even apply. Some felons seeking voting and other civil rights can be approved without a hearing, but most must wait several years to get a hearing and a decision because there are approximately 23,000 pending applications for all types of executive clemency.

Proposed constitutional amendments require a supermajority of 60 percent approval to be adopted.

So, please vote yes on Amendment 4 and save taxpayers money and help felons earn a second chance.


Reggie Garcia is a Florida lawyer rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer-review designation, and the author of two books on executive clemency: “How to Leave Prison Early” and “Second Chances-Florida Pardons, Restoration of Civil Rights, Gun Rights and More.” He can be reached at reggiegarcialaw@icloud.com.

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?

Leading into Florida’s recent Democratic gubernatorial primary, the lone female candidate and presumed front-runner Gwen Graham was asked in a debate if she would accept support from former President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail … “given the #MeToo movement.”

She hesitated in answering and took heat from her opponents (and perhaps from some voters) for failing to welcome Clinton’s support wholeheartedly.

I don’t need a mention of #MeToo to be reminded of Clinton’s catalog of transgressions, including and beyond what constitutes abuse of power or exploitation in the workplace. Therefore, in my mind, Graham’s hesitation was warranted — even if not the most strategic answer when competing for Democratic votes.

But now Florida’s attention is on the most polarized and high-profile gubernatorial contest in the nation, in which support from nonpartisan voters will determine the outcome.

I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the same question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo?

We tested this through an experimental survey design in which half of the 1,100 respondents were primed to think of #MeToo before answering the question, while half were not. It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement:

— Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Following mention of the #MeToo movement, negative views among NPAs regarding a Clinton endorsement almost double, while favorable views drop from 22 percent to 3 percent.

 — Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans.

— Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men.

To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Bill Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.

The fact that a reference to #MeToo moves non-partisans strongly but moves Democrats very little implies that partisanship eclipses other values, or somehow alters how standards are applied.

This wouldn’t be exclusive to Democrats — it doesn’t appear that most Republicans would punish those that President Trump endorses even if reminded of the many repellent things he’s said or done. Quite the opposite, as demonstrated by Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

But in the current general election, the calculus shifts to which endorsements can rally a base without turning off (and, ideally, appealing to) voters in the middle.

And if voter perceptions of endorsements can, in fact, be influenced by something as little as a hash-tagged reference, there may be plenty to consider.


Karen Halperin Cyphers, Ph.D., is a partner and vice president of research with Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee. Have curiosities or ideas for experimental survey questions? Email her at karen@sachsmedia.com.

Thomas Kennedy: The real extremist running for Florida Governor

Politics in America has become quite the spectacle recently. Florida, of course, has never been known for boring elections. Consider our last gubernatorial election, where former Republican Governor Charlie Crist ran as a Democrat against Republican Rick Scott, a millionaire who oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the history of Florida (and is currently running for Senate).

Need I say more?

Yet Florida has not seen anything like the epic race pitting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum against Rep. Ron DeSantis, both aspiring to become Governor. Gillum made history by becoming the first black nominee for Governor in the history of the state after beating four other candidates, all millionaires, while running a bold and progressive campaign. DeSantis defeated Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam after receiving Donald Trump’s endorsement in what was considered an upset by political observers.

Since the onset of the general election, Gillum has faced a barrage of smears from the Florida Republican Party and its allies claiming that he is a candidate too radical for the people of Florida. Republicans say that Gillum is out of step with the average Floridian.

That’s funny coming from a party that has held political power in Florida for two decades, with disastrous consequences for working-class families. Currently 45 percent of households in the state qualifying as working poor and struggle to afford basic necessities like health care, transportation and housing despite being employed. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state have underfunded public education, refused to expand Medicaid for as many as 1 million Floridians, and set up corporate slush funds that divert millions in taxpayer dollars to the same wealthy corporations who help fund their campaigns

In the current race for Governor, it is DeSantis who is the clear extremist. His reactionary political agenda is plain for all Floridians to see.

— He has not taken a stand on raising the abysmal $8.25 minimum wage in the state.

— He opposes gun policies that would prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting and is proud of his NRA endorsement and the money that comes with it.

— He opposes a woman’s right to choose what happens to their bodies.

— He wants to criminalize undocumented immigrant families who contribute to the economy of Florida in an effort to make their lives as difficult as possible.

— He supports the privatization of prisons and has taken big sums of money from GEO Group, the largest for-profit prison company in Florida.

— He opposed imposing meaningful regulations on industries that are destroying our environment and questions if climate change is caused by humans despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

In stark contrast stands Gillum and his progressive agenda, yet his policy positions are hardly radical or extreme. In fact, they are in lockstep with a majority of Americans.

— Medicare for all? Supported by 70 percent of Americans.

— Assault weapons ban? Supported by 67 percent of Americans.

— Comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship? Supported by 63 percent of Americans.

— Legalizing marijuana? Supported by 61 percent of Americans.

— Raising the minimum wage? Supported by 51 percent of Americans.

— Restoring voting rights to people with prior felony convictions? Supported by 74 percent of Floridians.

I can keep going if I’d wanted to, but I think I’ve made my point.

Despite what political consultants and mainstream media outlets will tell you, people are hungry for change and support policies that will materially make their lives better. They are tired of having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, and fearing that a health issue could potentially lead to financial ruin or even death due to lack of health care.

DeSantis is a radical who has tied his political fortunes to Donald Trump, one of the most corrupt and unpopular Presidents in modern American history.

I believe that come Nov. 6, Floridians will choose Gillum as the candidate that stands with them on a majority of the issues.


Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.

Joe Henderson: If Andrew Gillum is radical, so are lots of people

The Republican game plan to defeat Andrew Gillum has been clear from the start: Paint him as the compromised puppet of billionaire Democratic donors who want to unleash a radical socialist agenda on Florida that would END LIFE AS WE KNOW IT!!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout.

We saw some evidence of that on this most excellent website just the other day in a commentary by conservative John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Stemberger noted that Gillum opposes “robust Second Amendment rights” and even bragged about leading protest marches.

Well, to a lot of people, that isn’t exactly a “radical” idea. In the wake of the Parkland massacre, there were massive protests and several polls showed between 65 and 70 percent of Floridians wanted tougher regulations on firearms. Maybe those who oppose that are the radical ones, huh?

Stemberger also referred to Gillum as “impressive” — which obviously he is. He stormed from behind in the final days of the primary campaign to win the nomination. Somebody must like him. We know Bernie Sanders does.

That group won’t include Republicans, of course — but it likely does number a majority of Florida’s 3.5 million voters who have no party affiliation.

If I may offer just a tiny bit of advice to my GOP friends, it would be this: Be careful with all that “radical” talk.

It’s not “radical” to say health care isn’t a privilege reserved for those who can afford good insurance. It’s not “radical” to say the failure to expand Medicaid to the neediest citizens is a moral failing by a government that should try to represent all the people.

It’s not “radical” to say our public schools deserve better than they have gotten from a state government masking attacks on the teachers’ union as educational reform.

Nor is it “radical” to question why Tallahassee, under Republican control for 20 years, has taken to slashing and burning environmental protections in a state where the great outdoors is kind of important.

Here’s what has happened, though.

After controlling everything in Tallahassee for two decades, Republicans have become tone-deaf. They believe they’re responsible only to people who believe in the same things they do, and to hell with everybody else. That ignores the fact, by the way, that Rick Scott won two elections to be Governor by about 1 percentage point each time.

They haven’t had to care what opponents thought and wanted for so long that anything beyond their own agenda seems, well, radical.

That’s why in their deepest recesses, they are afraid of Andrew Gillum.

They should be.

I’m sure they noticed how he squashed his opponents in South Florida in the primary.

Andrew Gillum got nearly 40 percent of the vote in a 5-way field in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and the turnout was significant. Getting out the vote has always been a problem for Democrats, especially in nonpresidential years. That might be changing.

Gillum has tapped into the frustrations of people who feel left behind and ignored by the GOP, and they vote too — especially when the Republican candidate, Ron DeSantis, clings to Donald Trump like a shadow.

None of that is “radical” Republican friends.

It’s just reality.

Carey Theil: Dog racers gaslight while greyhounds continue to die

In light of a recent industry guest column regarding state gambling data, voters should ask themselves whether they can believe anything the greyhound industry says.

Earlier this week, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation released new data on gambling at Florida racetracks. According to this report, betting at Florida dog tracks fell by 6.4 percent in the most recent fiscal year, compared to the previous year. Gambling on live races fell even more, by a precipitous 7.1 percent.

In part, this decline is due to significant drops at key dog tracks. For example, racetrack betting fell by a catastrophic 11.2 percent at Palm Beach Kennel Club, arguably the flagship facility for the entire industry. Similar drops occurred at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club (8.8 percent), Sarasota Kennel Club (10 percent and Pensacola Greyhound Track (27.3 percent).

These are signs of an industry in its death throes. According to state records, Florida dog tracks lost a combined $34.8 million on racing in 2016, the most recent year for which the data is available.

Everyone knows that greyhound racing only continues today because of the state dog racing mandate, which requires that gambling facilities hold races in order to offer more profitable forms of betting. This mandate has effectively become a subsidy program for greyhound breeders, who are profiting from a product the market no longer wants.

The aforementioned guest column is designed to mislead and confuse. It wrongly attributes this state data to our campaign. It also attacks the state data, referring to an “incomplete financial analysis” and “propaganda.” Finally, it links to a spreadsheet created by a Massachusetts gambler, who claims the amount bet on races originating at Florida dog tracks is more than the state reports.

If the industry wishes to dispute this state data, it can take up its cause with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. As a policy matter, there is certainly some money bet in other states, via simulcasting, on races that originate at Florida tracks. Those bets originate in other states and are taxed in other states.

The Division is specifically responsible for accounting for and protecting state revenues related to taxable pari-mutuel activities conducted in Florida. As you may be aware, government agencies are not exactly in the habit of letting tax revenue owed to them under state law slip away. For that reason, the state’s numbers remain more credible than those of an out-of-state professional gambler.

The industry uses these out of state bets to fabricate an imaginary monster, the “Advanced Deposit Wagering” internet gambling bogeyman. The industry uses this rhetorical trick because it needs a platform to argue that greyhound racing isn’t dying. It’s a tough task, because every single shred of actual data shows a consistent and perpetual decline. In fact, according to state data, gambling on dog races at Florida tracks has fallen in 25 of the last 26 years.

However, facts are stubborn things.

In reality, just 9.3 percent of all greyhound racing bets were made over the internet in 2015, according to actual records from the states themselves. While we are responding to this point primarily due to the series of false allegations made by the other side, it remains the case that the alleged preferences of bettors in other states have no bearing on the choices of Florida voters.

This is an intentional strategy dog race promoters are using to try to save their cruel industry. If possible, they deny the facts about the way greyhounds live. If that doesn’t work, they invent their own facts and rationalize their behavior. Let me provide a few examples:

— When the state releases data that shows a further decline of the industry, industry promoters release an unsourced spreadsheet from an out-of-state gambler and misrepresent the state data.

— When it becomes clear voters oppose greyhound confinement, industry promoters say that greyhounds are “only” confined for 18 to 20 hours per day, and that’s acceptable because dogs sleep a lot. Apparently they believe dogs like to live in cages.

— When news organizations report on the 483 greyhound deaths that have been reported to the state since 2013, industry promoters deflect by saying that other dogs die too, so apparently these deaths are acceptable.

In a little more than fifty days, Florida voters will head to the polls to decide the future of greyhound racing. I believe they will no longer tolerate this cruelty, or the trickeration being used to enable it. I’m convinced they will vote Yes for the dogs on Amendment 13.


Carey Theil is Senior Advisor to the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign.

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