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Jacksonville’s pension reform efforts get national attention

Jacksonville is wrestling with a pension crisis decades in the making. And national media and political pressure groups are taking notice.

The venerable American Spectator magazine — a bible of movement conservatism — waded into the Jacksonville public pension debate last week, throwing sharp elbows at the Northeast Florida city’s pension crisis.

The Spectator hit on Jacksonville is part of a larger series discussing how “municipalities are also being hit with unprecedented pension debt.”

“Baby boomers are retiring. Some state and local budgets allocate more funds for pensions for retirees than they use for actual services and current worker pay. Once again, the younger generation is saddled with debt from a previous profligate era,” writes the Spectator’s William Patrick.

“Jacksonville’s unfunded pension obligations have blown a hole in the city’s finances and saddled residents of Florida’s most populous city with billions of dollars in debt and no ready way to pay it,” Patrick writes, without paying any heed to August’s County Referendum 1.

The “Yes for Jacksonville” referendum authorized the extension of Jacksonville’s half-cent sales surtax and dedicate it to funding the $2.8 billion unfunded pension liability, contingent on negotiated pension reform after collective bargaining with the city’s unions.

The Spectator article doesn’t discuss this, however. Instead, it savages the city for a lack of “accurate and transparent accounting data,” claiming “the city doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills”, that “the city is still hiding about $90 million in unfunded retiree health care benefits,” and that the city has a “debt burden … estimated at $6,100 per city taxpayer.”

“According to Jacksonville’s comprehensive annual financial statements, the city has $14 billion in assets. However, more than two-thirds are capital assets, such as roads, buildings, and land, leaving only $3.5 billion available to pay $5 billion in total obligations,” claims the Spectator.

“The 1.6 billion shortfall represents compensation and other costs incurred in prior years that should have been paid in those years. Instead these costs have been shifted to future taxpayers,” a report the Spectator cited from Truth in Accounting asserted.

Truth in Accounting CEO Sheryl Weinberg was unsparing in her critique of Jacksonville.

“If Mayor Lenny Curry and his administration want to address the city’s financial situation, the first thing they should do is publish accurate and transparent accounting data. The citizens of Jacksonville deserve an honest report on the city’s finances,” she said.

Ironically, this is something the Curry administration has sought to provide.

The city commissioned an audit from Ernst and Young shortly after Curry’s election; the audit pointed to the existential threat pension costs pose for the city.

“At 46 percent funded status, Jacksonville has the lowest pension funded status for the Police and Fire pension plan compared to other Florida cities included in the analysis. At 55 percent funded status, Jacksonville has the second-lowest total pension funded status for total consolidated pension plans,” the audit noted.

Without pension reform, the audit continued, Jacksonville would face long-term pressures on the stability of the city’s pension fund.

Without pension reform, the audit continued, Jacksonville would face long-term pressures on the stability of the city’s pension fund.

In a Monday conversation, Curry took issue with reporting from the American Spectator on this issue.

“It would appear to me they didn’t do their homework,” Curry said, noting that he’s been very vocal about the crisis created by unfunded pension liabilities for two years now, and has, with “clarity and transparency,” advanced a “solution tied to reform,” one that imposes “no additional burden” on taxpayers.

While “critics, so-called experts, and academics” pontificate, Curry is advancing “solutions grounded in principles” that he believes in.

“They wrote a story as if it’s a newsflash that Jacksonville is in a financial crisis, when I’ve been screaming at the top of my lungs that the crisis is here and must be dealt with now,” Curry added.

“We report with transparency and clarity … in accordance with [GASB] accounting rules and standards.”

Referring to the numbers used in the American Spectator report, Curry noted that they were “created and communicated” and “disclosed” by the administration … which counters the assertion from the conservative website that the city was not providing “accurate and transparent” accounting data.

The American Spectator, meanwhile, is not the only national entity taking an interest in Jacksonville’s pension negotiations.

Americans for Prosperity created a website (jaxfix.com) which allows interested parties to send form letters to members of Jacksonville’s city government, including the city council.

The website says it’s “time to fix Jacksonville” and its “broken pension system,” and includes a call to action: a form email that can be sent to elected politicians in the city.

The text exhorts site visitors to let Curry “know you appreciate him working to fix Jacksonville’s pension system problems,” and to let “the city council know that they should stand with Mayor Curry and get to work fixing the broken pension system.”

“Your city council works for you,” reads the AFP webpage, “not for Unions or special interests that are trying to keep Jacksonville broke.”

Curry said his political team has no involvement in this effort; that said, he’s “not surprised that groups would take notice” and he expects “that this will get more national attention.

Curry reiterated previous assertions that Jacksonville’s model of pension reform – which projects to be rooted in defined contribution plans for new hires, with current employee benefits guaranteed by a dedicated revenue stream after collective bargaining – could be a “model” for other cities facing similar pension issues.

One such city facing looming catastrophe: Dallas, Texas.

The New York Times reports that municipal bankruptcy may be on the horizon for Dallas, as the “city’s pension fund for its police officers and firefighters is near collapse and seeking an immense bailout.”

Risky investments and a tendency of older retirees to cash out their holdings have left Dallas seeking a $1.1 billion bailout – which does not even address the whole problem.

“As I’ve been saying for two years,” Curry added, “the crisis is here. It’s real.”

Dallas, like Jacksonville, didn’t get into its predicament instantly.

And Curry – despite the carping of the critics and their “soundbites” – is resolute in facing his city’s challenge.

“I’m facing the reality we’re in. We’re going to solve this,” Curry said.

Curry’s hope: that collective bargaining is completed in time for the next budget.

As those following Jacksonville’s situation know, renegotiated terms for new hires are a necessary prerequisite for the revenue that the ½ cent sales tax extension would allow in future decades, and – just as importantly – the guaranteed revenue source that sales tax extension provides

Paul Astleford says Visit Jacksonville gets results

With Gov. Rick Scott in Jacksonville announcing record-setting tourism numbers and attributing them to VISIT FLORIDA, it was only natural that Paul Astleford, who heads up Visit Jacksonville, would have his say on the “big numbers.”

With Visit Jacksonville under scrutiny for travel expenses, and with its contract due for renewal in a year, Astleford took advantage of the big stage and the media coverage to make his energetic case for Duval County tourism.

Astleford said “2016 has been a tremendous year for tourism in the entire Jacksonville area.”

“Tourism (and many people don’t know this) is a huge and growing economic development engine not only in the state of Florida, but here in Duval County. It produces $3.2 billion in visitor-generated spending,” Astleford said.

Those dollars “contribute significantly to the prosperity and the quality of life for all who live in Jacksonville,” he added.

Mirroring the governor’s invocation of the 1.3 million Florida jobs sustained by tourism, Astleford noted that 50,000 jobs in Duval County could be attributed to the industry.

These jobs affect “every sector of the local economy,” Astleford continued, “and these numbers continue to grow.”

In 2015, Jacksonville had 20.4 million total visitors; 9.7 million were overnight visitors.

“The numbers in 2016 literally continue to grow,” Astleford added, “over that record-setting year.”

October, said Astleford, was the 36th consecutive month of revenue growth per hotel room.

“Every area of our county has seen record numbers this year,” Astleford said, singling out the beaches for upticks in both “record occupancy” and rates.

Jacksonville, Astleford added, is outpacing the averages “of the entire nation” in terms of “occupancy growth percentages.”

“And for the rest of the state of Florida,” Astleford added, “we’re beating those figures as well.”

“We may still be considered an emerging visitor destination,” Astleford continued, “but our city is a natural water wonderland and a sportsman’s dream destination.”

Beyond that, sporting events — such as the Florida/Georgia football game in October, the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 31, the TPC championship in May, and “our beloved Jaguars” — are major drivers of “Jacksonville’s emerging national and international presence.”

That success is translating into direct general fund budgetary impact also. Of the two cents of the six cent hotel/motel bed tax allocated to the Tourist Development Plan, anticipated revenue this fiscal year is $7.4 million, up $600,000 year-over-year.

New Jacksonville department heads are promoted from within

Two heads of Jacksonville departments are being promoted from within, it was announced Friday by the office of Mayor Lenny Curry.

Diane Moser, chief of Talent Management, has been promoted to serve as director of Employee Services. Stephanie Burch, chief of Real Estate, has been promoted to director of Neighborhoods.

Curry described these roles as “critically important” to his administration.

Moser has almost a quarter-century of experience in city government, with stints managing personnel services, and managing human resources at the Jacksonville Public Library.

Previous personnel services director Kelli O’Leary now works for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, having left City Hall in September.

Neighborhoods chief Burch, a former counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation, is a recent addition to city government.

She was hired in March 2016 as chief of real estate.

However, the position heading the Neighborhoods department is a considerably more high-profile slot, especially in light of Neighborhoods being a major organizational priority for the Curry administration.

Neighborhoods was re-instituted in a much-ballyhooed reorganization, after the previous administration eliminated the department.

Finding leadership for the department has been a challenge. Derek Igou resigned the post without much warning in April, due to having a degree from an unaccredited university.

Kim Scott served as acting head of the department in the interim.

4th Circuit State Attorney-elect Melissa Nelson announces leadership team

As Melissa Nelson prepares to become 4th Circuit State Attorney in January, her administration is taking shape.

Two Chief Assistant State Attorneys, Mac D. Heavener III and L.E. “Leh” Hutton, were announced on Wednesday. Both Heavener and Hutton worked at the SAO previously.

Heavener currently is deputy chief of the U.S. Attorney Office in Jacksonville, while Hutton is a partner in the Willis, Ferebee & Hutton law firm.

Chosen as chief investigator is Timothy Quick, who will manage the office’s investigative staff. Quick is special agent in charge of the Norfolk NCIS office.

In a statement, Nelson affirmed these hires reflect the spirit of her campaign, in which she routed current incumbent Angela Corey in a closed GOP primary in August.

“Throughout their distinguished careers, Mac, Leh, and Tim have conducted themselves with unquestioned integrity. They bring a wealth of experience to our office and each shares my commitment to tough, but fair and ethical law enforcement,” said State Attorney-elect Nelson.

“Our office will protect our community, safeguard the constitutional rights of all, and exercise sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars. I am proud to have Mac, Leh, and Tim joining me to lead this important office,” Nelson added.

 

Americans for Prosperity issues call to action on Jacksonville pension debt

The major conflict in Jacksonville politics right now: negotiations between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the heads of various public sector unions.

Curry wants to move the unions beyond defined benefit “dinosaur” plans, offering raises for current workers, assurances that their plans won’t change, and bonuses for the current employees.

The unions are reluctant to move toward the 401K model Curry advocates for future workers, saying there will be recruitment and retention issues.

Curry hopes to have this negotiation wrapped up in time for the next budget year. And Americans for Prosperity is trying to help, via a website that seems to misunderstand the issue being a matter of collective bargaining with seven different bargaining units.

The website says it’s “time to fix Jacksonville” and its “broken pension system,” and includes a call to action: a form email that can be sent to elected politicians in the city.

The text exhorts site visitors to let Curry “know you appreciate him working to fix Jacksonville’s pension system problems,” and to let “the city council know that they should stand with Mayor Curry and get to work fixing the broken pension system.”

“Your city council works for you,” reads the AFP webpage, “not for Unions or special interests that are trying to keep Jacksonville broke.”

AFP-Florida state director Chris Hudson says his group is putting a full-court press on Jacksonville residents.

“Our grassroots teams have been going door to door and phone banking to educate Jacksonville’s residents about the looming financial crisis. Our goal is to have thousands of face-to-face conversations across the city to encourage citizens to take action and call on their city officials to address the $2.85 billion debt brought on by the broken pension system,” Hudson asserts.

“Mayor Curry’s efforts to reform Jacksonville’s broken pension system should be commended. While we disagree with the tactic of allowing a sales tax increase to persist, we also believe that the city should be finding ways to cut spending and live within its means. Mayor Curry’s plan is a step in the right direction to give the residents of Jacksonville relief from these financial strains,” continued Hudson.

Will these efforts help with collective bargaining? That remains to be seen.

One union leader has already contacted FloridaPolitics.com with an email linking to the AFP site and the subject header: “Koch Brothers Money!”

Kerri Stewart cleared of ethics charges

Justice was delayed for an important member of Jacksonville’s city government. But on Monday, it was finally delivered, as one of the most honorable people in City Hall was cleared of what were ultimately spurious charges.

Last year, a report from the Jacksonville City Council auditor’s office implied Kerri Stewart, the chief of staff for Mayor Lenny Curry, had acted improperly years ago in a previous role with the city.

Stewart was head of the Neighborhoods department under the John Peyton administration, when a city contract was facilitated for consulting services from a company (Infinity Global Solutions) that she went on to work for.

Local media raised a ruckus about it at the time. One local outlet called it a “dubious” deal, predicated on a “no-bid contract” and the city had nothing to show for its million-dollar deal.

Meanwhile, at least one Republican council member wondered privately if there was substance to the wrongdoing, even going so far as to muse about Stewart potentially needing to resign her position.

However, after due process, the city’s ethics director concluded Stewart had done nothing wrong.

In an email to Florida Politics, Ethics Director Carla Miller summed up the current state of the case.

“This recommendation was reviewed by the Ethics Commission last night; the case was dismissed,” Miller wrote, adding that parallel cases were dismissed against two other parties: Wight Gregor and Mayor Lenny Curry.

Miller added other insights, noting “Stewart followed the procurement process that was in effect at the time.”

As well, those who wondered about the lack of clarity in the Council Auditor’s report might find this discussion of process interesting.

“I have been told that the Council Auditor’s report did not involve taking any statements from any of the interested parties,” Miller noted.

“That is typically how they do it, though — paper audits. Whereas, the IG’s office takes sworn statements.”

Miller offered a longer statement, in which she summed up the scope of the initial complaint.

“The audit issues revolved around the city’s purchase of consulting services (through a purchase order and contract) from Agency Approval & Development (now known as Infinity Global Solutions and hereinafter referred to as IGS) and the involvement of 2 City employees, Wight Gregor and Kerri Stewart in that purchase order/contract. The time period of the IGS purchase order/contract ran from March, 2007 through September 30, 2012. The total purchase order/contract with IGS went from a purchase order in March, 2007 for $85,000 to a contract with amendments that grew to $953,000. The contract ended on September 30, 2012 and the final payment was made to IGS on October 23, 2012, roughly 4 years ago,” Miller wrote.

The charge: “that Kerri Stewart and Wight Gregor had substantial involvement in the purchase order/contract with IGS and subsequently went to work with IGS (Kerri Stewart as Senior Vice President and Wight Gregor had IGS as a client) after they left City employment (Kerri Stewart on 9/3/2011 and Wight Gregor on 10/11/2011). To be clear, all funds expended were approved through the City’s procurement process.”

If this had been valid, Stewart and Gregor would have been on the hook for a panoply of charges, including misuse of position, soliciting future employment or compensation, and post-employment restrictions.

However, Miller wrote, it was not valid.

For starters, there was no evidence Stewart or Gregor were involved in the purchase order. Even if they had been, Miller writes, the two-year statute of limitations had elapsed. And even if it hadn’t elapsed, Miller notes the initial purchase order in 2007 preceded the ethics code of 2008.

“This is an old matter,” Miller notes, “happening between 2007 and 2012. The Commission does not have jurisdiction in these cases because of the statute of limitations. Therefore, the recommendation of the Ethics Director is that these cases should be dismissed.”

Miller also advises that the Office of Inspector General is more appropriate for reviews such as this.

Stewart’s attorney, former Jacksonville City Council President Jack Webb, notes the procurement process was followed to the letter of the law, and that the document authorizing the contract with IGS was signed by a deputy chief administrative officer to Mayor Peyton. Moreover, three other city officials signed off on contract extensions.

Thus, “the question of whether Ms. Stewart’s independence or judgement was compromised is implausible at best,” Webb wrote in his formal statement addressing the ethics inquiry.

As well, Webb notes that upon leaving city employment, she sought legal advice from the office of general counsel. Stewart adhered to the guidelines put forth in the letter, Webb wrote, avoiding any conflicts of interest such as representing IGS in a “conflict” with the city, or taking a role in the project in question.

Webb also rejected the contention that funds were somehow illegally diverted from the capital project accounts in question for consulting from IGS. Webb also added that the district councilman, Reggie Brown, had “full knowledge and total involvement” in the use of the funds, including monthly updates.

The “displaced ethical scrutiny” of this audit, as Webb put it, came later.

We talked to Stewart Tuesday afternoon, who appreciated the “vindication” of how this matter was resolved after a “horrendous six months.”

“I knew all along that I had done nothing wrong,” Stewart said, “so I wasn’t worried.”

For Stewart, who continued to work through the entire process, including through high-profile and high-intensity tasks as helping to finalize the current budget and helping the city to move forward toward the pension reform referendum, this period was a test.

However, she said, “I know better than to let other people’s political agendas distract from the mayor’s agenda.”

Jacksonville council panel OKs revision of tourist development plan

Jacksonville has changed a lot since the late 1970s. But the city’s tourist development plan remains as it was when originally implemented almost 40 years ago.

With that in mind, Council President Lori Boyer brought forth a bill Monday morning to the Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services Committee with some revisions to charter language regarding the tourist development council.

Among the interesting wrinkles, according to the bill summary: added language prohibiting use of tourist development tax funds to finance capital improvements through the use of public or private debt; to construct, furnish or equip a hotel, whether or not adjacent to a county owned and operated facility; for the use of privately owned facilities.

Of the two cents of the bed tax allocated to the Tourist Development Plan, anticipated revenue this fiscal year is $7.4 million, up $600,000 year-over-year. This is notable, as the proposed funding formula sees shifting budgetary allocations as revenue increases.

Out of the first five million, 71 percent goes to advertising, PR, and marketing to “promote tourism,” with 24 percent going to fund events that promote and advertise tourism, targeting tourists from outside the area. The additional five percent goes to convention bureaus, tourist bureaus, and visitor information centers.

From the next million dollars, there is a shift in ratios: 40 percent goes to advertising and the like to promote tourism, 20 percent goes to fund events that bring in tourists from outside the area, and 40 percent goes to “fund any other authorized use under state law with city council approval.”

Above $6 million, there is another shift in the formula: 50 percent of that money goes to promotional efforts, 25 percent goes to “any other authorized use under state law with city council approval,” and the last 25 percent goes to “acquire, construct, expand, repair, improve and operate publicly owned convention centers, auditoriums, aquariums, or museums.”

An amendment was offered in committee from Boyer. Among the highlights: marketing through “engagement strategies” (digital ads, for example) and marketing through a “more traditional sense” (print ads, for example) were combined for accounting purposes.

As well, grant guidelines would take a closer look at return on investment for events, with a cutoff of 5,000 tourists generated per event.

Below that, Boyer said, “it’s a really cumbersome process and really expensive to go through it for a smaller impact.”

Councilman Doyle Carter discussed the cumulative impact of smaller events, such as equestrian events, as putting “heads in beds,” and also “showing off our city.”

A second amendment was proposed by Councilman Garrett Dennis, with one at-large member of the tourist development council being part of the commercial airline industry, including members of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

Boyer offered support for this amendment before it was approved, noting that more robust tourism leads, among other things, to direct flights to and from meaningful national and international destinations.

The discussion was spirited, with sticking points including the four-year requirement for TDC terms from the state, and who would or could be appointed from the city council.

The Boyer bill had the current council president and either the most recent council president or previous past president as the members.

Also a sticking point: the numbers in allocation themselves.

Despite these qualms, the committee moved the bill 5-0.

This bill has a public notice meeting slated for Tuesday, and two more committee stops. Rules will mull it Tuesday afternoon. Finance will consider it Wednesday morning. If it gets through both committees, the bill will be considered by the full council on Nov. 22.

Protests against Donald Trump to begin in Jacksonville

On Friday and Saturday, Jacksonville residents who take umbrage with the outcome of the presidential election will have chances to express that displeasure in public parks.

Friday at 5:30 p.m., Riverside Park will be the staging point for a “CommUNITY Vigil.”

This event will offer “solidarity against oppression and Trump.”

Vigil attendees will have the opportunity to “stand together in unity to express our solidarity against racism, oppression, hatred, and bigotry” during “a unity vigil in Riverside Park.”

“There is an outpouring of anger, pain, fear, and disbelief as a result of this election,” reads the event page on Facebook. “Unite to stand together on the side of love!”

Saturday at 3 p.m., anti-Trumpers will gather at Hemming Park in Jacksonville to express a similar sentiment: “Donald Trump NOT MY PRESIDENT!

This event takes the unity trope and uses it to deepen a cultural critique of the president-elect: “the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, bigot that is Donald Trump [who] became our next president of the United States.”

“Donald Trump is not our President! If you are a Woman, Muslim, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native, LGBTQI+, Straight, doesn’t matter, we recognize the need for a worker’s movement that acknowledges that identity isn’t a political issue but a HUMAN RIGHT. We call on the masses to organize, raise class consciousness, and wage struggle against the ruling class that benefits on dividing us,” reads the event invite.

Though it is by no means certain Hillary Clinton, the candidate President-elect Trump defeated, has any affinity for a “worker’s movement” and concomitant class consciousness, it’s clear Jacksonville progressives are, at least in the short term, willing to attempt to catalyze popular resistance against the polarizing Manhattan billionaire elected to office just days ago.

Jacksonville slates recycling drive for Tuesday

Tuesday is America Recycles Day. And for the sixth consecutive year, the City of Jacksonville will collect recyclables at public locations.

Last year, over 19,000 pounds of paper and 500 pounds of cardboard were collected.

This year’s efforts will be staged at two locations.

Adventure Landing on Beach Boulevard will have an onsite vendor collect and shred paper from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, with another onsite vendor collecting computer equipment.

For those in the Urban Core, the Prime Osborn Center will hold paper shredding only from noon to 5 p.m.

Jacksonville residents looking to offload “gently worn shoes, blankets, coats, towels, and sporting equipment” will have opportunities to do so at both locations. These items will benefit the Jacksonville Humane Society, Lions Club International, Teacher Supply Depot, Soles 4 Souls, BEAM, Downtown Ecumenical Services, and UNF Trail Wings.

Steve Schale: Notes on Election Day in Florida

To: Anyone who has been reading my memos, Putin included.
From: Steve Schale
Re: We survived, and genuine thanks from me.

First, thank you all for following along for the last two weeks. This memo isn’t going to be a big data dump. For those, you can go back and read the other 12 versions of this thing.

But I want to start with a couple of numbers. First: 67. That is the percentage of the electorate that was white in 2012 — which by the way was down from 71 in 2008. My foundational assumption was if the electorate was more diverse than 2012, the basic coalition that got President Obama over the line in 2012 would hold. We finish early voting at 65.7 white, 15.3 Hispanic, and 13.1 black, with the black number closing in on the 2012 share, and the white number down.

Another thing working into play here is the explosion of turnout in Central Florida and Miami. If you reweighed the 2012 election by the current 2016 share of vote by market, Obama would have beaten Romney by almost twice the 2012 margin, or 1.5 percent. Under the same scenario, if you apply the 2012 margins by county to the 2016 turnout, you end up with a nearly two-point Clinton win. And none of this factors in the likelihood that race will drive larger margins in some areas — and smaller Republican ones in others.

So, as I think about this race, I try to get my head around what both candidates have going for them.

First, the factors that Clinton should feel good about:

The electorate is more diverse than 2012.

The Orlando area (Orange and Osceola) and Miami area (Broward and Dade) are turning out a full three points higher as a share of the state (29.3 percent, projected 26.15 percent).

While Republicans talked about Trump‘s ability to turnout low-propensity voters, it is Clinton who has turned out 250,000 more low-propensity voters.

NPA voters, making up the largest share they’ve ever made up in a Florida presidential election, are four points more diverse than the electorate at-large, including a 20 percent Hispanic share.

Voters who do not fit into one of the three main demographic categories are over 50 percent low propensity, and combined, are 77 percent Democratic or NPA.

North Florida, a Trump stronghold, is well under its performance targets, yet #Duuuval County, a GOP stronghold, is starting Election Day with a 4K voter Democratic edge. Again, this is why the president came to Duval. For Dems, it was never about winning there, but it is all about stopping the tide.

Factors Trump should feel good about:

The Fort Myers media market is over-performing its projected market share by about 1 percent

Democrats have a smaller raw voter lead going into Election Day. While I think there are structural reasons for this, it is still the reality.

There are more Republicans who voted in both 2008 and 2012 left to vote than Democrats (though among just 2012 voters, it’s basically a tie).

So, what does this mean?

Those are not equal ledgers, and pretty much everything Hillary Clinton wanted to have take place to position herself to win Florida has happened.

I was asked yesterday by a journalist, “So Schale, what would you be worried about if you were in her campaign?”

Truthfully, not a lot.

I am usually superstitious about turnout, so, of course, you worry about that. But at the same time, I also recognize that for Trump to win, he must have a ridiculously good day. I suspect when early voting is counted, she will have won the early vote by three to four points, and if early voting is, let’s say two-thirds of all the votes, it means Trump has to win tomorrow by six to eight points. I don’t think six to eight points is out there today for him.

If you look at the 3.2 million voters who in 2012 who haven’t voted yet, even if they all vote, Miami and Orlando remain well above both their 2012 share and their projected share, and I-10 (Trump Country) still falls below 2012. Also, Fort Myers comes back to life, finishing where it should, about 6.6 percent of the electorate.

In other words, even if all those 2012 voters come out — voters that lean a little Republican — the electorate is still regionally balanced better for Clinton than Obama, is more diverse than it was for Obama, and has an NPA voter pool that is more diverse than it was for Obama — or in any state where Trump is winning NPAs. Can Trump win today? Sure. Is it likely? Not really.

In other words, what should I be concerned about?

My good friend Tom Eldon, a longtime Florida pollster and fellow oenophile, asked me today “On scale of 1-10, how are you feeling?” If I was a 7 going into 2012 (just ask every reporter who heard me make my pitch for why Obama would win a state no one thought he would), and a 10 in 2008, Tom agreed he was also a 9 (sorry to out you bro).

It is this simple: If the Clinton operation hits its marks tonight, she’s going to win. It’s going to be close, probably in the 1.5-2.5 percent margin race. It’s hard to nail down exactly because I don’t have access to campaign polling (real polling, not public polls).

What to look for?

Data is going to come in very fast today after 7 p.m.

Two scenarios: because so much vote is early and will be reported early, if she’s going to win by say, two or more, I think it will be fairly apparent early. Under a point, it will be late.

Brian Corley in Pasco County usually reports first, VBM-ABS just after 7 p.m. Pinellas is early as well, and often Orange and Duval come not long after. In those counties, you are looking at 60-75 percent of the vote coming in at one time. If it is relatively close in Duval and Pasco, and she’s leading in Pinellas, and Orange is looking +20, she’s probably going to win, but it will take time for the race to play out.

If Orange is bigger than that, or if she starts out tied or with a lead in Duval, it could be faster.

Dade also will come, probably around 7:30 (though being Dade, it might be 7:30 Thursday). As I told a reporter tonight, I have no clue what to expect. She could be up 25, or she might be up 40, but I suspect it will be big. Former is probably a winning number; latter would be tough to beat. Broward should be about the same time. I suspect a margin north of 200K in the early voting.

Around 8 p.m., the Panhandle will come in. Romney won the Panama City and Pensacola media markets by about 180K votes. So, to be super generous, spot Trump 250K in the Central time zone. Unless there is something odd with the reporting — like Dade or Palm Beach report nothing before 8, if she is up in the 300K margin, it will be hard for Trump to overcome. If it is 400 at that point, you can go home.

But we will know early if it is a short night or a long night. But either way, I think it is a steep challenge for Trump. Since he is a golfer, I’ll put it this way: I think he’s basically facing a 250-yard carry over water, into a little wind, and that’s a shot he probably doesn’t have in his bag. God knows I don’t have that shot anymore.

Remember, you should track these on individual county sites until 8. The state won’t report data until polls close in the CST zone.

What is interesting about Florida is that the margins in counties are consistent over time. Outside of a handful of places, we have a decent sense of where it will land. For Trump to win, this basically has to happen: in 64 counties, he has to get the highest share of any Republican between 2000 and 2012, and he has to keep Clinton’s margins in Osceola, Orange, and Dade in the low 20s. He has major problems with the former, namely semi-large places like Sarasota, Polk, and Duval, which so no signs of being anywhere near their GOP highs. And with the latter, I don’t see how Clinton doesn’t stretch Obama’s margins in all three of those counties.

So with that, I think she wins. In fact, I am confident. I don’t think it’s a huge margin, but no win in Florida presidential or gubernatorial races these days is huge.

Lastly, I hate Election Day as a staffer. Other than trying to get your side on TV or ordering robocalls, there isn’t anything you can do other than trusting your operation, and hanging out in the boiler room all day is about the most horrible thing you can do. I spend most of Eday calling fellow hacks of both parties. I’ve always found it a strangely congenial day between warriors, mainly because we are all doing the same thing, pretty much sitting around.

Today, I take out my Turkish group, and we are going to see some campaigning, before heading to Tampa to watch the results. I will be providing some thoughts on early returns on Twitter, so pay attention.

Finally, and I mean this with all sincerity, I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my musings. When I wrote the first one last Tuesday, I did not plan on doing this daily, but it kind of took off. For me, writing is how I think things out, and so over the last two weeks, I’ve used these memos, not only to provide some data, but also to work through some of the emerging questions about this race. I also hoped to provide some context to the map, from the eyes of someone who has been trying to read defenses for a solid decade on the field of play.

I’d also like to thank my wife for putting up with me not paying attention to anything other than my spreadsheets for two weeks, my friends who have dealt with me constantly responding to emails and texts, and those who have found my voicemail full. I also want to thank my friend Dan Smith at UF for letting me bounce some theories and data off him, as well as other hack friends, including more than one Republican that I won’t name to protect the innocent, for being good checks on what I was writing. I don’t have staff, and 99 percent of the time, I was doing all my own data work, so forgive me if I didn’t respond to you on phone, email, or Twitter. I’ve been drinking straight from the proverbial fire hose since about 2 p.m. on Day 1 of in-person voting. As I’ve told many reporters, my respect for how they manage the flow of information has substantially risen — and thanks to all of you for your feedback over the last two weeks.

I’ve enjoyed having a life for most this cycle, but it was fun to be in the game for a few weeks. But mostly, having not slept more than five hours in two weeks, or eaten more than two or three proper meals, I’m ready for it to end. It’s time to put this shibacle of an election behind and hopefully start reducing the acrimony on both sides of the American debate.

So, until 2020 — if I am crazy enough to do this again, Happy Election Day, that singular day when we get to renew the greatest experiment in self-governing man has ever known.

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