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The Keiser Bunch - Belinda Keiser

FMA slams ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser in new ad

A political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association released a new ad Wednesday hammering Belinda Keiser, who is running as a Republican in the special election for Senate District 25.

FMA is backing Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the SD 25 race, which is opening up this year due to the early exit of Senate President Joe Negron.

“The Keiser Bunch,” as the title hints, borrows heavily from the intro to Sherwood Schwartz’s famous 1970s sitcom to cast Keiser as a faux Republican, still in league with the Democrats she’s been donating to for decades.

Keiser takes center square in the Better Florida Fund Corp ad while Democrats Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, Bob Graham, Al Gore, Alcee Hastings, Buddy MacKay, Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman Shultz fill out the remainder of the grid.

Those eight Democrats got a spot in The Keiser Bunch because they’re among the better-known Democrats who have received campaign contributions from Keiser, but that list isn’t exhaustive.

“Here’s the story of Belinda Keiser moving from Parkland to run as a Republican for Senate. She’s donated thousands to Democrats like ‘crooked Hillary,’ Al Gore, Debbie Wasserman Shultz and not one dime to President [Donald] Trump. And she’s even run for office as a Democrat,” the ad narrator states.

The ad then pans over a spreadsheet showing dozens of donations Keiser made to Democratic politicians over the years. Federal candidates alone have received $141,667 from the Keiser University chancellor, add in state-level candidates and the Florida Democratic Party and that figure approaches nearly $200,000 without adding in the funds she used to boost her failed campaign as a Democrat for state House.

Those aren’t all old contribs, either — just six months ago she cut a $1,000 check to Plantation Sen. Lauren Book, and in July 2017 Crist, now a Congressman, received a $2,500 check.

“Blue wave Belinda has paid her dues to the left, but this Broward County Democrat won’t fool us. Vote no on ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser,” the ad concludes.

Keiser’s palatial Parkland home is 80 miles away from the southern border of SD 25, which covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. Despite the long trek, she filed for the seat using the address of Keiser University’s St. Lucie campus shortly after Negron’s announcement.

Since then she’s attempted to paint herself as a loyal Trump supporter who has been a member of the Republican Party since the turn of the century, though a cursory search of her own statements shows she joined the GOP no earlier than 2007.

The ad is below.

#16 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Charlie Crist

It’s not often a freshman officeholder whose party is in the minority makes a most-powerful list. Although, politicians like U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist aren’t exactly common, either.

The former Florida governor already had star power to spare when he narrowly defeated Republican incumbent David Jolly in the 2016 race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District seat, which covers most of Pinellas County, save for its northernmost reaches.

The Republican-turned-NPA-turned-Democrat has had a busy year. He was a vocal critic of the GOP tax cut as well as his former party’s attempts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act — his criticisms got the attention of the National Republican Congressional Committee more than once.

Crist, 61, was a highly visible backer of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in his uphill battle for re-election.

Whenever his constituents rally for stronger gun laws or a ban on offshore drilling, if he can be there, he will be. Crist is always at home speaking in front of a friendly crowd. That his presence behind the podium usually draws TV news cameras can’t be a bad thing for a cause, either.

He’s also got a knack for constituent service. Take freeFall Theatre in west St. Petersburg. After Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage to the roof of the performance space, Crist helped the theater company land a large Small Business Association loan to cover its repairs.

Although the tendency to try jump to higher office when it’s opportune has earned him criticism more than once, Crist doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. Rumors about a possible run for governor were DOA. last year. He started fundraising for re-election as soon as he took office, and with help from the likes of Nancy Pelosi, who recently headlined a fundraiser for him, Crist’s war chest now exceeds $2 million. And despite the two unknown Republicans currently duking it out in a primary for a chance to challenge Crist, CD 13 will more than likely stay blue.

Crist’s ranking fell somewhat this year; he was No. 13 on this list in 2017. That’s understandable, given the limitations of being a first-termer and a member of the underdog party.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “He has a sweet gig, but how until he gets bored with being only one of 435 members of the U.S. House?”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Steve Schale: Florida, persuasion or turnout, or both?

In the never-ending quest to simplify Florida, one of the ongoing debates about winning the state is whether Florida is a state won by winning persuadable voters, or whether it is all about turning out one’s base.

I remember when I started with Barack Obama, I got a ton of advice — most of it unsolicited (much was helpful), though a significant portion went something like this:

“Steve, nothing matters but I-4 … Steve, if you don’t maximize the Jewish vote, you can’t win … Steve, the field is dumb, it is an air war state … Steve, TV is dumb, it is a field war state … Steve, you have to do better with absentees … Steve, don’t waste money trying to convince Democrats to vote by mail … Steve, you have to watch your floor in North Florida, or you can’t win … Steve, you have to take Obama to Condo X, or you won’t win … Steve, you have to pay for bus benches in Miami, or you can’t win.”

You get the point.

Here is the secret — all of it matters. Florida is neither a persuasion state or a turnout state. It is, in my honest opinion, both. It doesn’t matter if it is a presidential cycle or a midterm year, Florida is a state about managing margins, everywhere.

Avid readers of my blog (thank you to all three of you) have read me refer to Florida as a self-correcting scale. The bases of both parties do a nice job of balancing — or canceling themselves out, almost regardless of population or demographic shifts.

Before we go any further — it is important to note that this phenomenon is almost exclusively a result of my party losing vote share among non-Hispanic whites. If we were winning non-Hispanic whites at a level anywhere near Obama 2008, based on the demographic shifts in Florida, we would be a leaning to likely Democratic state.

At the same time — if Florida wasn’t experiencing demographic changes — and the Republicans weren’t losing share among voters of color — particularly Hispanics, we would be a predictably Republican state. Functionally, if either party can broaden their own coalition, Florida quickly gets less competitive.

But these two factors have largely canceled each other out — hence the self-correcting scale.

Let’s review quickly how Democrats and Republicans win Florida.

Because I am a Democrat, let’s start there. Democrats earn their votes in a handful of counties, specifically: Leon, Gadsden, Alachua, Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Winning Democratic candidates typically do a few other things: win Pinellas, win St. Lucie, win a few North Florida counties like Jefferson, maintain reasonable margins counties like in Duval, Sarasota, Volusia, and Seminole. They also maintain a reasonable floor in North Florida, suburban/exurban counties around I-4 and the Fort Myers media market.

For Republicans, their math is a little different — they win a lot more counties but by relatively smaller counties. Their win comes from winning in places like Pinellas and St. Lucie as well as running up the score in places like Duval, the suburban and exurban counties around I-4, and in southwest Florida.

I’ve written extensively about this dynamic in presidential cycles. You can read my primer on Florida here, or my 2016 debrief here and here, but in short, I would argue there was a lot of misreading of the Obama wins in Florida.

Yes, they were driven by significantly increasing the margins in the Democratic base counties over John Kerry and growing them in 2012. But here’s the thing — that alone wouldn’t have won the state. In both 08 and 12, Obama generally kept the margins in check in the GOP counties — and he won the few battleground counties that exist in Florida.

Take Obama 12 and Hillary Clinton 16 — both races decided by a roughly 1 percent margin. For all the chatter about a “less than enthusiastic” Democratic base, Clinton won the base Democratic counties by more than Obama did.

Her problem wasn’t turnout. Her problem was Trump winning the few battleground counties and setting records in both share of the vote and actual vote margins in those places where they must run up the score to win, and where we need to keep it in check.

I can read your mind — “That’s interesting Steve, but this is a midterm cycle, and you know it is different.”

Yes, it is — and no it isn’t.

Yes, it’s different because the electorate is smaller, and at least in the last two cycles, been more Republican (a fact impacted by two consecutive midterm waves for the GOP), which was a change from 06, where turnout marginally leaned Democratic (and Dems won 2 statewide races).

But there are a lot of similarities between the presidential and midterm cycles. Both Republicans and Democrats still need to carry their margins in the same counties as they do in presidential cycles. While the vote totals are different in individual regions and counties are different, the functional roadmaps for winning isn’t.

Rick Scott won two elections by a point. However, the shape of those wins was quite different, and in those differences lies the path to how the Democrats can win in 2018.

In 2010, the Democratic struggles were a creature of three real problems: Hispanic drop-off from 2008, lower participation among white Democrats particularly in Central Florida, and a wave of GOP and GOP-leaning NPA voters who saw voting for the GOP as a way to send a message to President Obama.

From a math standpoint, this led to lower than necessary margins in South and Central Florida base counties. But here is the thing, Scott ran up some very large margins in parts of the state, Alex Sink kept him in check in many others. In fact, she kept him in check by more than enough in many GOP counties to have a winning coalition if the Democratic counties had performed well. But they didn’t.

The lesson of Sink: Florida isn’t alone a persuasion state.

Charlie Crist’s math in 2014 was quite different. Crist ran on a far more progressive platform than Sink, with a fairly robust turnout operation — certainly not the size of Obama, but the largest in midterm cycle history for Florida Democrats, and as a result succeeded to run up the score in the base Democratic counties, winning the three South Florida counties by almost 100,000 more votes than Sink. He also did well enough in the “Crist counties” — the stretch from Pasco through Sarasota, where his brand is most established, winning those counties by almost 2.5 percent, where Sink lost them by a half of a point.

But the floor fell out for him in North Florida. Despite North Florida shrinking as a percentage of the electorate from 2010 (20 percent) to 2014 (19 percent), Crist lost the region by 8 percent more than Sink did, netting Scott’s margin roughly 107,000 more votes, more than wiping out the gains Crist made in the base Democratic counties (97,000 votes).

One other way of looking at it, Crist won the base Democratic counties by 92,000 more votes than Sink did. He lost everything else by 95,000 more votes than Sink. The lesson of Crist, as was also the lesson of Clinton: Florida isn’t alone a turnout state.

If Clinton has her margins in the base counties, plus Obama’s elsewhere, she wins by a point or two.

If Sink had her math, plus Crist’s margins in the base counties, he wins by about a point. If Crist has his margins, plus Sink’s margins only in North Florida, he wins by almost a point.

2018 will be different yet.

The Democratic nominee will benefit from an electorate that is more diverse, meaning the base county margins should rise, and I think there is a lot of room for growth in the Orlando urban core. However, at the same time, they will be unlikely to be able to count on some the margins Crist won in his corner of the state and will have to contend with areas where the GOP population is growing.

The questions aren’t as simple as how do we turnout more voters, but also have to include questions like how do we keep Duval looking more like it did for Obama, Clinton, and Sink than it did for Scott in 14 or Rubio?

For Republicans, they must deal with the fact demographics are changing in a way that helps the Democrats, and that 2018, unlike 2010 and 2014, will almost surely not be a very good Republican year, as we’ve seen in each of the competitive special and off-cycle elections this year.

I believe that in Scott/Nelson, as well as in the Governor’s race, Florida starts this year somewhere around 47-47 — maybe even 48-48, and we will be fighting over the path to that remaining 150,000 votes or so that a winning candidate will need.

Some of those votes are found by increasing turnout, others won and lost in the persuasion fight. The candidate who wins in 2018 won’t find those votes by getting just one of those things right, they will succeed in building the right answer to a puzzle.

That is just how Florida works these days.

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist joins effort to block newspaper tariffs

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has signed on to bipartisan bill that would send the Trump Administration’s new tariffs on newsprint into the shredder.

In a Friday statement Crist made clear that he wasn’t lining up behind the PRINT Act simply to take a jab at the White House, but because the tariff is already costing jobs within his Pinellas County district.

“An unnecessary trade war with some of our closest partners is already having real, negative consequences for our economy and the newspaper industry in particular. The Tampa Bay Times recently announced 50 employees would be laid off due to new tariffs — shrinking newsrooms at a time when thoughtful, credible reporting is needed most,” said Crist. “Newspapers are an integral part of our communities, employing our neighbors and keeping us informed. It’s encouraging to see bipartisan and bicameral support for protecting local news.”

The Tampa Bay Times said the tariff would cause the price they pay for Canadian sourced newsprint to jump by a third. That would cost the paper, and by extension their readers, more than $3 million a year.

That bipartisan support includes the bill’s principal sponsor, South Dakota Republican U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, and another 10 Republican representatives.

Sean Shaw

Florida Young Dems endorse Sean Shaw, Jeremy Ring, 11 congressional candidates

Sean Shaw and Jeremy Ring have gotten the backing of the Florida Young Democrats in their quests for the Florida attorney general and chief financial officer posts, as have 11 candidates in their congressional races.

The YoungDems did not endorse in the governor’s race, the agriculture commissioner’s race, or 16 other congressional races, including several in which incumbent Democrats are seeking re-election, notably U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Al Lawson, and Stephanie Murphy.

Shaw, the state representative from Tampa, faces attorney Ryan Torrens in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face one of several possible Republican nominees, state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, and former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody of Tampa.

Ring, the former state senator, is unopposed among Democrats heading toward a November showdown with incumbent Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

The Florida Young Democrats’ board recommends endorsements, and the candidates were voted on at the annual young Democrats convention, May 18-20 in Miami, by the organization membership.

The organization said it did not endorse if there were two or more Democrats and the vote was close and the candidates were all considered strong progressives, or if the candidates did not meet the organization’s vision on issues. The organization’s bylaws require two-thirds vote backings from both the executive board and the voting membership.

The congressional endorsements went to former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg in Florida’s 6th Congressional District; Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District; Andrew Learned in Florida’s 15th Congressional District; David Shapiro in Florida’s 16th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson in Florida’s 24th Congressional District; Mary Barzee Flores in Florida’s 25th Congressional District; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

“Our priorities in races were trying to support young people and trying to support candidates who had messages that support young people,” said Florida Young Dems President Jake Sanders.

“We’re endorsing our own; that means we’re endorsing some young people against people who are favorites,” he added. “We want to make sure that people who speak to youth issues get recognized for it.”

In the governor’s race, which features two Young Dems, Chris King and Andrew Gillum, along with Philip Levine, Gwen Graham and newly-filed candidate Jeff Greene, “We have people on our executive board for every single candidate,” Sanders said, adding, “Except no one for Jeff Greene.”

In one race – Florida’s 18th Congressional District – the Florida Young Dems decided not to endorse because Sanders has been involved in the campaign of Lauren Baer, who faces Pam Keith in the primary.

Personnel note: Eileen Stuart departs Mosaic Co. for Hopping Green & Sams

Big news in the influence industry: After almost 10 years leading fertilizer giant Mosaic’s lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington, Eileen Stuart is moving on to a new role.

She’s joining the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) in June to helm its government affairs practice.

Stuart will be a shareholder of the firm, though her practice will center largely on state and federal government and regulatory affairs.

“Her expertise in environmental, energy, permitting and tax issues will complement HGS’ deep roster of professionals,” a news release said.

The firm “is a powerful combination of the state’s top environmental and land development lawyers, along with a robust and loyal client base,” Stuart said in a statement.

“HGS’ widely recognized expertise and reputation provide an unparalleled platform, and I am excited to work alongside the exceptional team there to help our clients achieve their objectives.”

Added HGS shareholder Gary Hunter: “We are thrilled to welcome Eileen to the firm. Having worked closely with her over the last decade, we appreciate firsthand Eileen’s substantial talents.”

“Her deep relationships, substantive command and understanding of the key levers in state and federal government will greatly enhance our growing presence in the Florida government affairs arena. Most important, our clients will benefit from her expertise.”

Stuart, a known and respected name in Tallahassee, most recently served as Vice President for Government and Regulatory Affairs for The Mosaic Company, directing the Fortune 500’s state and federal government affairs strategy and engagement in the state and national capitals.

Before that, she was Vice President for Public Affairs and led the company’s strategic communications and community engagement. She will continue to represent Mosaic in Tallahassee and serve as a key voice and face for the company.

Prior to joining Mosaic, she worked in the Executive Office of the Governor under Gov. Charlie Crist where she served as Deputy Policy Director.

She also has worked at the Florida Senate and the Public Service Commission. Stuart received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law. She and her husband live in Tallahassee with their two sons. 

Personnel note: Philip Levine names two deputy campaign managers

Democrat Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign is bringing in a couple of deputy campaign managers to bolster its operations in the South Florida and Tampa Bay regions.

Campaign manager Matthew Van Name said Friday that West Coast area director Jocelyn Mund is moving up to the deputy campaign manager position for Tampa Bay, and former SEIU political director Alex Ring would fill the same role for South Florida.

“Jocelyn’s keen understanding of the Tampa Bay area allowed us to put down roots in the community early, where we continue to build a real network of grassroots support and grow our engagement in local events. She is motivated, highly skilled, and will enhance our campaign’s organizational strengths as we move towards August,” Van Name said.

“Alex will build on our campaign’s strength in South Florida and work to bring Mayor Levine’s message directly to voters. His breadth of experience in the region strengthens our dynamic approach to continue building the infrastructure necessary to win in August and November, and deliver a win for the working people of Florida.”

Prior to joining Levine’s campaign, Mund managed outreach and public events for the St. Petersburg area in her role as Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s deputy finance director. Ring’s background includes the SEIU job and three years as the legislative assistant to Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne during his first stint in the House.

Both newly deputized campaign operatives touted the Levine platform in a press release announcing personnel move.

“This election is a pivotal moment for our state — it’s an opportunity to take Florida in a new direction and elect a Governor who will put people over power,” Mund said. “Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee’s top-down, controlling approach, Mayor Levine will bring the government back to the people.”

Ring added, “This year unequivocally brings the best opportunity for Floridians to change the course of history in Florida and elect a Governor who will empower working families by investing in public education, preserving the right to unionize, and ensuring access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Mayor Levine is the right leader at the right time — he has the experience and proven record of success to build a Florida that works for all.”

Levine is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Democratic Primary to replace termed-out Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Levine leads the Democratic field in fundraising thanks to hefty self-funding and also has a narrow lead in the most recent poll of the primary race, though more than 40 percent of voters were undecided.

Belinda Keiser

Belinda Keiser’s Democratic donations may trouble SD 25 Republican voters

Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser announced her bid for Senate District 25 Tuesday, but her past political contributions to Democrats should raise some questions about her attractiveness to Republican primary voters.

SD 25, held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, covers St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as a piece of northern inland Palm Beach County.

Keiser University’s home base is also in Fort Lauderdale, though it has campuses all over the state, so a donation or two to Democrats in the largely blue South Florida county could be spun by Keiser as being pragmatic — in the age of Donald Trump, she may well say it’s evidence that “our system is broken” and, as a businesswoman, she had to do it.

That might serve as adequate cover for her donation to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Keiser’s Parkland home in Congress. Ditto for her contribs to CD 20 U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Keiser University’s main campus, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who represents neighboring CD 23.

That same logic could apply to the checks she wrote former U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch, Ron Klein and Robert Wexler, but at that point the “had-to-do-it” column is overfilled to the point of bursting.

Assuming Republican voters can look past those, which is a big ask, there’s a veritable host of candidates Keiser has supported that simply won’t be glossed over.

Keiser has cut checks to the failed presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, to St. Petersburg U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. To top it all off, she’s donated to the Democratic National Committee and former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sure, Charlie was a Republican once. And yes, he’s one of the Sunshine State’s most likable pols — he could teach a masterclass in retail politics. But that kind of logic won’t play well among Rick Scott voters. Same goes for Nelson. It doesn’t matter that SD 25 voters re-elected him by 10 points in 2012 — Keiser’s task of making them remember that is doomed in an election year where Nelson is standing in the way of a Scott Senate campaign.

And those Clinton and Gore donations. Yeesh. That’s going to be a hard one to sell in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Then there’s the donations to Boxer and the DNC. There is simply no way to sidestep those.

A Republican who gives to their Democratic congressman? Fine. No GOP candidate is going to take down Deutch, anyway. A Republican who prefers Clinton to Trump? Not the best look in a primary campaign, but she’s definitely not alone on that one.

But in what world is someone who cuts checks to the DNC and boosts the campaign accounts of out-of-state Democrats considered anything other than a Democratic fundraiser? Not this one.

Good luck, Belinda. You’ll need it.

Nancy Pelosi in St. Pete tonight to raise money with Charlie Crist

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg Wednesday for a high-dollar fundraiser benefiting the campaign arm of Congressional Democrats.

“Right now, we’re on offense holding Donald Trump and congressional Republicans accountable for their reckless agenda. Across the country, Americans of all walks of life are standing up and saying no to the Republican vision,” the former House Speaker wrote in the invite.

“Countless supporters have stepped up to fight back. We have the momentum, and we need to do everything we can to take advantage of it. We will take back the House this year, but we need to make sure we have the resources to do it.”

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg home of Kathy and Joe Saunders.

More details are only available after an RSVP, but prospective attendees will need to get their checkbooks ready — the bottom-level donor will need to shell out $2,500 to make the DCCC’s “supporter” list.

The suggested donation levels only go up from there, topping out at $33,900 for a seat in the “Speaker’s Cabinet.”

The invite is below.

DCCC invite 5.2.2018

vote poll

Let voters decide on felons’ voting rights, advocate says

The man behind a proposed constitutional amendment to restore ex-cons’ voting rights wants voters — not “politicians” — to decide the issue.

Desmond Meade, who’s backing this year’s “Voting Restoration Amendment,” on Wednesday said an appellate court should issue a “stay” in a separate but related federal lawsuit on restoring felons’ voting rights.

The proposal, which will be Amendment 4 on the November statewide ballot, would automatically give back voting rights to felons, save for those convicted of murder and sex offenses. They also must have served all their prison time and probation and paid restitution to victims.

“Current law outlines a difficult process to restore an individual’s eligibility to vote, and Judge (Mark) Walker recently determined that the restoration process is arbitrary and unconstitutional,” Meade said in a statement.

“The problem is that without Amendment 4, any fix still leaves this decision in the hands of politicians and a person’s eligibility to vote should not be left up to politicians and election cycles,” he added. It needs 60 percent approval for addition to the state’s governing document.

In a series of harshly worded rulings, Walker — a U.S. District judge in Tallahassee — found the state’s vote-restoration process violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights. Last month, he gave Scott and the board until Thursday to overhaul what the judge called a “fatally flawed” process and rejected a request by Bondi to put his order on hold.

Scott and the board immediately appealed Walker’s decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked that court to put a stay on what the governor’s office branded a “haphazard clemency ruling.”

Late Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott‘s office announced a 9:30 p.m. Wednesday out-of-calendar meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The next regular meeting had been set for June 14.

The meeting “will give the 11th Circuit as much time as possible to issue a ruling, while still allowing the Board to meet the lower court’s deadline,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said. “We are anticipating that the 11th Circuit will rule soon, but if a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the Board to consider how to respond to the lower court’s decision.”

Under the current process, felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored. After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete. There’s currently a backlog of 10,085 pending applications, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

“Recent polls indicate over two-thirds of Florida voters overwhelmingly support the amendment,” Meade said. “Let’s take matters into our own hands and vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 4 to give Floridians who have made past mistakes the eligibility to vote only after they have completed their full debt to society …”

“These are our family members, friends, and neighbors that have paid their full debt to society and earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.”

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 
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