Charlie Crist Archives - Page 6 of 70 - Florida Politics

CNN reports, eloquently, on the nightmare that is Florida Medicaid

It’s been ten years, almost to the day, since Congressman-elect Charlie Crist pulled $360 out of his pocket to pay for a year’s supply of thermal blankets for 12-year-old Kevin Estinfil, and pulled the plug on state lawyers who’d been fighting in the Third District Court of Appeal to deny the boy the basic supplies that were keeping him alive.

Back then, Crist was the Florida Attorney General who had just been elected Governor, and Kevin was confined to a Medicaid group home for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Kevin’s case turned up on Crist’s radar thanks to bad publicity courtesy of Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller, but not before the state had spent enough money jerking Kevin’s caregivers around to pay for a warehouse full of thermal blankets.

Today, half of Florida’s children rely on Medicaid “insurance,” and the plan is managed as badly now as it was a decade ago.

People who study Medicaid for a living will not be surprised by anything in the damning new report from CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and neither will families who have sacrificed their savings, their careers, and any hope of a normal life for the sake of a child who will never be able to care for himself.

For the rest of us, Cohen’s look into the lives of Florida’s “health care refugees” is a bone-chilling holiday buzzkill.

Among the refugees are Kim and Richard Muszynski, formerly of Boynton Beach. With good jobs and longtime Florida roots on both sides of their blended family, they could not have imagined packing it in and starting over in Colorado.

But that’s what they did, after five-year-old daughter Abby, who was born with a life-threatening genetic disorder, had one near-death experience too many due to the toxic combination of underfunding and red tape for which Florida’s Medicaid program is infamous.

In Colorado, Abby’s physical health and her parents’ mental health have improved dramatically. Somehow, America’s Centennial State has figured out how to give children enrolled in its Medicaid program the therapies and medications ordered by doctors, without interference from Dr. No at the Department of Pennywise, Pound Foolish.

Another member of the Florida Medicaid Diaspora is three-year-old Sofia Patriarca. Like Abby, her needs are complex and will require round-the-clock care all her life. Sofia’s parents sold their family pizzeria in Lantana and will relocate to a state that’s safer for children with unique abilities.

“Medicaid forces us to give our children subpar care,” Sofia’s mother, Stefany Garcia-Patriarca, told CNN. “They treat them like animals instead of children.”

It took special courage for Heather Rosenberg to tell CNN that she and her husband have considered leaving Florida to obtain better health care for their children. As foster parents to 16 children, three of whom they adopted, Rosenberg is an expert on Florida Medicaid.

She described it to CNN as “horrible” and “an absolute nightmare,” hastening to that she speaks as a mother, and not in her role as — wait for it — children’s ombudsman at the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida spends a small fortune recruiting foster and adoptive families, and promises that they will not have to dip into their own pockets to fund essential medical services that are beyond the reach of all but families with the richest private insurance plans.

No matter how much room people like the Rosenbergs have in their hearts, they’ve only got 24 hours in a day, and they should not have to spend a minute of it begging the state to keep its promises to Florida’s Medicaid eligible children.

Critic hits Leon County’s Scott Maddox right where he lives

Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman and statewide office candidate Scott Maddox is involved in another political fight this Thanksgiving season. Though elected to another term on the Tallahassee City Commission, he was blocked from taking the oath of office earlier this week.

Maddox, who served as FDP Chairman from 2003-2006, is facing a legal challenge to his official residency. The question going back and forth through the Leon County courts and the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) is whether Maddox officially lives within the city limits of Tallahassee, a fundamental requirement of the city’s charter.

Similar complaints about residency crop up around the state from time to time, usually among candidates whose district lines were re-drawn putting them outside their district. Nothing usually comes of these other than news stories, but Maddox is facing a persistent local critic in Dr. Erwin Jackson.

Jackson filed suit in the Second Judicial Circuit in September claiming Maddox is ineligible to serve because he actually lives outside the city limits. According to the filing document, Maddox, an attorney, lists his residence as a rented office building in downtown Tallahassee.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit brought by Erwin Jackson on his third attempt to discredit me,” said Maddox, who was the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. “This one will be thrown out like all of the others have been.”

The City of Tallahassee intervened and asked that they, Maddox’s colleagues, have the final say in determining his eligibility. Judge Charles Dodson agreed.

Jackson went to the DCA, where a three-judge panel unanimously reversed Dodson, saying “the proper forum for Jackson’s post-election contest is in the circuit court.”

The three-judge panel consisted of Charlie Crist appointee Lori Rowe, a former Executive Deputy Attorney General; Rick Scott appointee Scott Makar, a former Florida Solicitor General; and another Scott appointee, Susan Kelsey, an experienced appellate lawyer.

Dodson did not appear to take the reversal well. The DCA order to Dodson to hold a hearing used the term “immediate” before the word hearing.

He took them literally. Dodson held a hearing almost immediately and ruled in favor of Maddox. Jackson and his legal team were outraged by the fact they had little time to prepare.

This is “a miscarriage of justice,” Jackson said. “An appeal will be immediately forthcoming.”

Again, the DCA overruled Dodson, this time with a bit of a hand slap. The judges said the lower court “abused its discretion” in the way it handled the hearing.

Monday was swearing in day for the Commission and Dodson gave the go-ahead for Maddox to take the oath of office pending the residency review. The DCA stepped in by again overruling Dodson and blocking Maddox from taking the oath of office “pending further order from this Court.”

Jackson is also seeking the removal of Dodson from the case. To be reversed three times on the same case, called a hat trick in hockey, is not a good thing.

The parties are now arguing the date on which a public official is eligible. Jackson argues legal residence means Election Day, which in this case was August. The Maddox team argues November 21, or swearing in day.

To a non-lawyer observer, like this writer, that would seem to acknowledge there could be a problem if you are arguing “when” as well as “if.”

To be fair, Jackson is a relentless critic of city government. Sometimes they deserve the scrutiny, like the recent proposal to raise property taxes by 27 percent.

Maddox, to his great credit, was an opponent of the outrageous property tax plan and argued against other increases. He sounded like a conservative.

At the same time, it is understandable for elected officials to become frustrated, especially if they truly believe they are doing the right thing.

Maddox remains confident, perhaps with good reason, he will prevail. The residency challenges usually go in the favor of the candidate.

Jackson certainly isn’t going away, whether or not Dodson is relieved of command. He is 100 percent certain he has a case.

Stranger things have happened as this year’s elections demonstrated.

We will know soon.

Charlie Crist unanimously inducted into New Democrat Coalition

Newly elected Congressman Charlie Crist is one of the freshmen lawmakers making up the New Democrat Coalition for the 115th Congress.

By a unanimous vote, the Coalition inducted 10 members-elect — four from Florida — to the progressive centrist group of legislators dedicated to advancing the New Dem vision of economic innovation, competition and national security.

Crist recently defeated incumbent Republican David Jolly in the redrawn Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The former Republican governor joins Democrats Val Demings of CD 10, Stephanie Murphy of CD 7, and Darren Soto of CD 9. Murphy had unseated longtime Republican John Mica, who represented Central Florida for 12 terms; Soto became Florida’s first Puerto Rican in Congress.

“In a year that was filled with disappointment adding to the New Dem ranks offers a bright spot,” said coalition chair Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin. “The New Democrat Coalition is proud to induct these ten accomplished and dedicated Members-Elect into our growing coalition.

“Together we look forward to advancing key priorities including growing the economy, giving everyone a shot at the American Dream, making government work better, and keeping our nation secure,” Kind added.

The remaining crop of members-elect to the group include Salud Carbajal (of California’s CD 24); Lou Correa (California’s CD 46); Josh Gottheimer (New Jersey’s CD 5); Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii’s CD 1); Tom O’Halleran (Arizona’s CD 1); and Brad Schneider (Illinois’ CD 10).

Joe Henderson: Facing many hurdles, Bob Buckhorn could make a good governor

The rebirth of downtown Tampa brought inevitable speculation that Mayor Bob Buckhorn might parlay it into a shot at the governor’s mansion in 2018. The job obviously has appeal for someone like Buckhorn, who likes a big stage and challenge.

Asking him to tip his hand about a possible run, though, has proved to be a necessary, but ultimately fruitless, endeavor.

As he told Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday, “Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead.”

He then added, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.”

Oh, I think a big part of him wants to do it. I also believe Democrats have a path to victory in the race to succeed Rick Scott. Whether Buckhorn can lead his party down this road and win is another question, though.

I like Buckhorn. I like his style. I like what he has done as Tampa’s mayor. I like his determination. I have known him for a long time, dating to his days on the Tampa City Council in the 1990s. I think he would make a good governor.

Whether any of that matters won’t be decided for a while and Buckhorn has a lot of hurdles to overcome, starting with his own party. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from Tallahassee has all but declared her intention to run, and high-profile attorney John Morgan might get into the race as well.

Graham is the daughter of one of Florida’s legendary politicians, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Morgan has been on TVs around the state nearly every night for years with his relentless “For the People” slogan, and voters just strongly approved his signature issue — making medical marijuana legal.

Escaping the shadow of either of those two would be a huge challenge for Buckhorn, or anyone else.

Plus, statewide Democrats may have a case of Tampa Bay Fatigue. There have been four races to be Florida’s governor in this century and a Democrat from the Tampa Bay area has been atop the ticket each time — Bill McBride (2002), Jim Davis (2006), Alex Sink (2010) and Charlie Crist (2014).

They all lost.

Buckhorn is a loyal Democrat, though. He went all-in for Hillary Clinton in this year’s election and worked for Barack Obama here before that. He has been outspoken in his disdain for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. That’s all fine, but Clinton lost, Rubio won, and Obama is leaving office.

One thing to keep in mind: Buckhorn isn’t afraid of losing.

He lost in a primary for state House seat in 1992. He finished third out of five candidates running for mayor in 2003. And then there was the humiliating loss to former pro wrestler and first-time candidate Brian Blair in a 2004 county commission race.

He came back to take an upset win for mayor in 2011 and was re-elected without serious opposition.

Buckhorn always says being mayor of Tampa was his dream shot. Whenever I’ve told him it looks like he never sleeps, he responds that there will time to sleep when his second term is up. Whether he decides to postpone that nap to run for governor remains to be seen.

At this point, I don’t like his chances.

But knowing Buckhorn, he will figure out a way to be involved even if he is not on the ballot. He loves this stuff too much.

Barack Obama goes below .500 in his picks for Florida House and Senate seats

With his legacy on the line, Barack Obama went all out during this just-concluded election season to not only get Hillary Clinton elected, but also more than 150 down ballot races for state Senate and House in states across the country, including 13 Democrats on the ballot in Florida.

With one House race so close there is a recount going on, the president’s record on those picks in Florida stands at 5-7.

Though a former state senator himself in Illinois, Obama had never previously endorsed in state Legislature races as president before this year. His first batch of any state legislative endorsements came in Florida on Oct. 21, and he actually cut an ad for state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who ultimately ended up defeating GOP incumbent Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in Senate District 37.

Another Obama pick, former state representative Linda Stewart, defeated Republican Dean Ascher in the newly created Senate District 13 seat.

However, Obama’s other three Senate picks went down to defeat: Rod Smith to Keith Perry in the newly drawn SD 8 district; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to GOP incumbent Anitere Flores in HD 39; and Bob Buesing, who lost by seven percentage points to House District 60 Rep. Dana Young in the newly created SD 18 seat in Hillsborough County.

In the House, Obama has a chance of going .500 in his eight picks, if Democrat Robert Asencio can continue to hold onto his narrow lead over Republican David Rivera in the House District 118 recount going on this week inside the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections office.

Other Democrats backed  by Obama who won last week were Ben Diamond in Pinellas County’s House District 68; Nick Duran in HD 112; and U.S. Army veteran Daisy Baez over Republican John Courier in a close matchup in the HD 114, 51 percent to 49 percent.

The four Democrats who lost were Beth Tuura in House District 47, who lost out to GOP incumbent Mike Miller. Tampa attorney Rena Frazier lost by nine points to GOP incumbent Ross Spano in HD 59; Lisa Montelione lost to GOP incumbent Shawn Harrison in HD 63, 51 percent to 49 percent ; and attorney Ivette Gonzalez Petrovich lost out GOP incumbent Manny Diaz in the House District 103 race.

Obama also backed Patrick Murphy for Senate and Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings in congressional races, cutting TV ads for Crist and Patrick Murphy.

Charlie Crist defeats David Jolly in CD 13 race

Charlie Crist has defeated David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District by four percentage points, 52 percent to 48 percent.

The Associated Press called the race with 239 precincts out of 241 reporting.

His victory will be framed as his political comeback, following two rough losses statewide for U.S. Senate in 2010 and governor in 2014.

Crist originally did not intend to run against Jolly in the CD 13 seat, but after the district’s lines were redrawn in 2015, Crist opted to get into the race. It didn’t hurt that the new district was much more favorable to a Democratic candidate.

For Jolly, it ends a very eventful 20 months in office.

When redistricting did occur last year, he opted to run for the then-open U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio said he would be leaving to run for president. But Rubio reversed course in June, weeks after he dropped out of presidential contest.

The race became vitriolic between the two men from the jump. When Crist declared his candidacy in the fall of 2015, Jolly somewhat uncharacteristically crashed his press event, blasting him at the time.

Tensions escalated after the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee began airing a television ad featuring a photoshopped picture of Jolly with Donald Trump. In fact, Jolly has denounced Trump’s candidacy, and he called for local stations and the DCCC to stop airing the ad.

But the ad continued to air for several weeks until Crist ordered it to come down, after a stern editorial written by the Tampa Bay Times called on him to do so.

“Congratulations to Charlie Crist on becoming the next representative for Florida’s 13th Congressional District,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Alixandria Lapp said in a statement. “FL-13 voters have rejected David Jolly’s backwards agenda and chosen a representative who will make their voices heard in Washington. House Majority PAC is proud to have played a role in ensuring Charlie Crist will be able to do great work in Congress.”

HMP aired two TV ads on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms in the Tampa Bay media market, becoming the first outside group to spend on TV in the race.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a potential 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, congratulated Crist on his victory. “His community and our state will be well represented by Charlie and our delegation will be stronger because of his victory tonight,” he said.

Party like a politician: Where to find the candidates on Election Night

Election night parties will be raging across the state Tuesday. For some, it’s a chance to pop some bottles and celebrate. For others, it will be a somber event, marking the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought campaign.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where candidates will be as the polls close.

U.S. Senate

It was one of the most-watched U.S. Senate races this election cycle. And on Tuesday night, both Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy will be toasting the crowd in South Florida.

Rubio will attend an election night party at the Hilton Miami Airport, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive in Miami. The party is expected to begin around 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Murphy will be in Palm Beach Gardens. The Democrat is set to attend an election night party at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 RCA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Rubio has consistently led in the polls since announcing his re-election bid in June. Outside groups have poured millions of dollars into the race to re-elect Rubio; Murphy had the backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

U.S. House

CD 2 — Republican Neal Dunn will hold an election night part at the Holiday Inn Panama City, 2001 N. Cove Blvd. in Panama City. The Panama City surgeon faces Democrat Walter Dartland and Libertarian Rob Lapham.

CD 5 — Democrat Al Lawson will hold his election night party at The Moon, 1105 East Lafayette St. in Tallahassee. The party kicks at 6:30 p.m. He faces Republican Glo Smith.

CD 6 — Rep. Ron DeSantis will hold his election night party at Daytona International Speedway, 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd. in Daytona Beach. The party kicks off at 6 p.m. DeSantis faces Democrat Bill McCullough.

CD 7 — Democrat Stephanie Murphy is holding her election night part at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel, An Tobar Irish Pub, 600 North Lake Destiny Dr. in Maitland. She faces Republican Rep. John Mica.

CD 12 — Rep. Gus Bilirakis will hold his election night party at the St. Nicholas Cathedral Center, 348 N. Pinellas Ave. in Tarpon Springs. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m., and will include a visit from Shalyah Fearing, a semi-finalist on NBC’s “The Voice.” Bilirakis faces Democrat Robert Matthew Tager in the general election.

CD 13 — Rep. David Jolly will hold his election night party in the grand ballroom at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 5th Ave. N.E. in St. Petersburg. The fun begins at 6 p.m. Jolly faces former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, in the general election

CD 18 — Republican Brian Mast will hold his election night party at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, 131 S.W. Flagler Ave. in Stuart. The party kicks off at 6 p.m. Democrat Randy Perkins is holding his party at Big Apple Pizza, 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce. Perkins’ party is expected to begin around 7 p.m.

CD 19 — Republican Francis Rooney will hold his election night party at Bistro 41, 13499 Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers. The party begins at 6 p.m. Rooney faces Democrat Robert M. Neeld in the general election.

CD 22 — Rep. Ted Deutch will hold his election night party at Miller’s Ale House, 1200 Yamato Road in Boca Raton. The party begins at 7 p.m. Deutch, a Democrat, faces Republican Andrea Leigh McGee.

CD 26 — Democrat Joe Garcia will hold his election night party at La Carreta Restaurant, 11740 S.W. 88th St., in Miami. Garcia faces Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who unseated Garcia in 2014.

State Senate

SD 8 — Democrat Rod Smith will hold his election night party at the Gainesville Woman’s Club, 2809 W. University Ave. in Gainesville. He’ll be co-hosting the party with Ken McGurn, a Democrat running in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. Smith faces Republican Rep. Keith Perry in Senate District 8, while McGurn faces Republican Ted Yoho.

SD 13 — Republican Dean Asher is holding his election night party at Sheltair Orlando Air Center, 3024 E. Amelia St. in Orlando. The party kicks off at 7 p.m. Asher faces Democrat Linda Stewart.

SD 16 — Sen. Jack Latvala will hold his election night party at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater. If one Latvala isn’t enought, Rep. Chris Latvala will also be hosting his party at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The fun begins at 7 p.m. Sen. Latvala faces Katherine Perkins, a write-in candidate; while Rep. Latvala faces Democrat David Vogel in House District 67.

SD 18 — House Majority Leader Dana Young will hold an election night party at Pane Rustica, 3225 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Young faces Democrat Bob Buesing and no party affiliate candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

SD 37 — Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez will host his election night watch party at Ball & Chain Restaurant, 1513 S.W. 8th St. in Miami. The fun begins at 7 p.m. Rodriguez faces Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

SD 39 — Sen. Anitere Flores will hold an election night party at 8470 S.W. 8th St. in Miami. The party starts at 8:30 p.m., and Flores will be joined by Senate President designate Joe Negron and other election officials. Flores faces Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

State House

HD 9 — Democrat Loranne Ausley will host an election night party at 7 p.m. at The Southern Public House, 224 E. College Ave. in Tallahassee. Ausley faces Republican Jim Messer.

HD 49 — Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith will host his election night party at 7 p.m. at The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive in Orlando. He won’t be partying alone: Democrat Beth Tuura is also holding her festivities at The Abbey. Smith faces Shea Silverman in House District 49; while Tuura faces Republican Rep. Mike Miller in House District 47.

HD 63 — Democrat Lisa Montelione will host her election night party at Mr. Dunderbaks, 14929 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa. The event is free and open to the public, and kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

HD 69 — Rep. Kathleen Peters will host an election night party at Middle Grounds Grill, 10925 Gulf Blvd. in Treasure Island. The party begins at 6:30 p.m. Democrat Jennifer Webb will hold her election night party at Punky’s Bar and Grill, 3063 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

HD 70 — Former St. Petersburg City Councilmember Wengay Newton will host an Election Night Watch Party for his campaign beginning 6:30 p.m. at The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge in downtown St. Pete. The Hangar is located at the Albert Whitted Airport Terminal, 540 1st St. S.E., Second Floor in St. Petersburg. RSVP at 727-823-PROP. Newton faces Republican Cori Fournier.

HD 114 — Democrat Daisy Baez is holding her election night party at Pinch Me Gastrobar & Market, 216 Palermo Ave. in Coral Gables. The fun begins at 7 p.m. Baez faces Republican John Couriel.

Candidates aren’t the only one partying. Local party officials and supporters of ballot initiatives will also be partying hard Tuesday night:

— The Republican Party of Pinellas County holds its Election Night Watch Party at the St. Petersburg Hilton, 950 Lake Carillion Drive in Clearwater. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a cash bar.

— United for Care, the group behind the medical marijuana ballot initiative, will host its election night party at a hotel in downtown Orlando. The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

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Tom Jackson: At our time of choosing, will we guess wrong?

And so, at last, it is upon us. Election Day. Time, fence-sitters, to decide.

We’ve been counting down so long, all the way back to the spring of last year; it sometimes seemed we’d never get here.

Great nation that we (still) are, however, propelled by momentum and time-honored systems that guide truer than any GPS, we’ve navigated the distance: From the GOP’s scrum-debates of last fall through the frigid caucuses and first primaries, through the snooze-fest conventions and the increasing post-Labor Day urgency, to here, this day, this moment.

The choice apparent record numbers of voters have been pushing off — and who can blame them, really — is now. Time to choose. Time to commit.

Time, if the dug-in partisans who’ve been slinging varieties of the same invective on your Facebook page since before Memorial Day, to decide … and to discover if the progression of events has assumed the role of the Man In Black and this truly is our iocane-powder moment.

Will we, too, guess wrong no matter what? Is this a land war in Asia or, worse, going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line? Or has the United States, buoyed by the genius of its shared-authority Constitution, spent the last two-plus centuries building up an immunity to two equally poisonous goblets of wine?

My money is on Mr. Madison’s antidote of checks and balances, as well as the resilience of the American people who, as Winston Churchill once said, always can be counted on to do the right thing … once all other possibilities are exhausted.

Not that the choice still lurking for those of us — including me — who reserve and hallow Election Day for the vigorous exercising of our franchise, has improved, or, frankly, even clarified, with the approach and, at last, arrival of today.

The negative campaign messengers have convinced me. One is an orange, helmet-haired xenophobe with a dismal moral character who lashes out in unpredictable fashion as it suits him. But he has lovely children. The other is the most corrupt candidate for high office in any reputable historian’s memory, whose corrosive appetite for power is exacerbated by Nixonian characteristics: paranoia and vengefulness. But Chelsea seems OK.

In a change election, in a nation whose inhabitants, by more than 2-to-1, ache for a new direction, our top picks for president each seems a perversion. One wouldn’t be where he is without having converted a personal fortune into brand-conscious schtick. The other wouldn’t be where she is without her married last name and the blessing — in an America increasingly organized around group identity — of lady parts.

Given that, it seems perfectly appropriate that the final week swirled around the revelation of fresh correspondence discovered only because the husband of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidant is an apparent serial creep who hoarded his wife’s email on a laptop — and that the whole thing, resolved in record time by the FBI — amounted to nothing.

The entire affair almost seemed a feint, a dodge, a misdirection play, mischief from the nation’s chief investigative team. Imagine Director James Comey as Johnny, pulling the plug on the runway lights in “Airplane.” Just kidding.

Well. You can believe that if you want to.

Meanwhile, in Michigan and Pennsylvania Sunday night, Donald Trump, to the cheers of those who skipped Economics 101, resumed his pledge to punish U.S.-based companies that attempt to move or outsource.

Hoo, boy.

The whole thing tempts you to leave the top of the ballot blank, and dive straight into the foundational races.

Will Floridians renew Marco Rubio’s political lease? (They should.) In Pinellas County, will David Jolly’s against-the-grain legislative and campaign styles usher him past the latest iteration of Charlie Crist while showing Republicans a possible new way forward in their (presumed) post-Trump era?

In north Tampa, will the GOP’s Shawn Harrison have stitched together a sufficient number of disparate supporters to hold off Democrat Lisa Montelione in the mixed blessing that is state House District 63? Or will his history as the Legislature’s perpetual freshman — winning off-year elections, losing during presidential years — endure?

And will we, as is prudent, reject all attempts to amend the Florida Constitution at the ballot box? … Or will we face Wednesday’s new dawn having acquired a malady covered by medical pot, and be happy for the hippy dippy wisdom of the state’s voters?

Strap in. At long, long last, Election Day is here, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Ex-Gov. Charlie Crist aims for political comeback in House

It’s a sunny fall day at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg, and Charlie Crist is in his element.

“What’s your name?,” he purrs to a woman in a wheelchair, taking her hand. He beams a white smile that matches his snow-white hair, contrasting with his tan face. “May I get a picture?” he asks, bending down on one knee. The woman giggles.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, is a former governor, former state attorney general and was on the short list to be Sen. John McCain‘s vice presidential running mate in 2008. This year, he’s setting his sights on a seat in the U.S. House.

Democrats are counting on Crist and other candidates to make significant inroads into the Republicans’ commanding House majority. Florida offers at least three potential Democratic gains as the party tries to cobble together a 30-seat pickup.

Crist, a 60-year-old lawyer, faces Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Jolly. The race may be one of the few nationally in which the Republican candidate is using Donald Trump against the Democrat, noting that Trump helped Crist raise money when he was with the GOP.

“It’s a crazy year,” Crist says.

He hopes it’s his year.

Crist has the hometown advantage — he was raised in St. Petersburg — and is running in a redrawn district that includes more African-Americans.

Jolly, who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2014, is hoping Crist’s complicated political past will make him vulnerable.

“The fundamental issue is trust. Everybody knows Charlie, they know he’s been on every side of the issue,” Jolly says. “By most polls, this will be a neck-and-neck race.”

A recent poll by St. Pete Polls shows Crist with a narrow lead, while another tally by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida shows Crist leading Jolly 54 percent to 36.

Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, ran for Senate as a Republican in 2010 but lost to Marco Rubio in the primary. Crist quit the Republican Party, ran in the general election as an independent and lost. He switched party affiliation again, becoming a Democrat, and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Rick Scott in 2014.

The 43-year-old Jolly has his own complications. He earlier had announced he would run for U.S. Senate, but when Rubio dropped out of the presidential race and said he would run for re-election, Jolly got out of that race.

Jolly says his biggest accomplishments are taking on campaign finance reform and backing a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign contributions.

Jolly set himself apart from many Republicans by refusing to fundraise for the national party while working in Washington. And he refuses to endorse Trump.

“I’ve been fully abandoned by the Republican Party,” Jolly said. Still, he’s done pretty well with fundraising; as of Sept. 30, he’s raised $1.75 million to Crist’s $1.4 million. But Crist is getting help from the Democratic Party and other political action committees.

And Trump has become another flashpoint in the campaign.

In September, Jolly released a video that says Trump helped Crist raise money several times when Crist was a Republican.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired television ads using doctored photos to make it appear Jolly and Trump are pals. Only this week did Crist denounce the ad.

That negative ad turned some Crist voters off.

“I may end up voting for Jolly out of spite for the Democrats putting out negative information,” said Joe Jordan, a 36-year-old IT professional.

Crist touts his record on education, the economy and the environment, and says he supports a woman’s right to choose.

In the St. Petersburg park, he smiles at Velva Lee Heraty and her miniature Shih Tzu. Heraty shows him photos of when he walked little Miss Nena outside a cafe.

“That was two years ago,” Heraty says.

Crist gives her a serious look. That’s when Gov. Scott defeated him by a single percentage point.

“Two years ago. We’re hoping for a better result this time,” Crist says.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Charlie Crist, Rick Kriseman, Alex Sink get out the vote

With less than a day to go before the polls open for the last time, former Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spent some time Monday urging people to vote if they had not already done so.

Kriseman and Crist, who is running for the Congressional District 13 seat held by Republican David Jolly, started out in the Tyrone area. Later, they visited businesses on Central Avenue in St. Pete where Alex Sink joined them. Sink is a former Florida chief financial officer.

“This is in the hands of the people,” Crist said of Tuesday’s election. Still, he said, “we don’t stop. You’ve got to run through the finish line.”

Sink said she came out to walk with Crist because they’re friends. But, she said, she also believes in him.

“I’m always available to help my favorite candidates, and I’m a big Charlie Crist fan,” Sink said. To Crist, she said, “You were the peoples’ governor. You’re going to be the peoples’ congressman.”

Kriseman agreed that Crist was the best candidate: “We need people up there who will fight for us here.”

While the three Democrats want Crist elected, they said the overall election is incredibly important. Kriseman paraphrased Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in saying that Tuesday’s election is important not just for the state and nation but also for the world.

“The whole world’s at stake with this election,” Kriseman said.

The polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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