Jeb Bush Archives - Page 5 of 148 - Florida Politics

5 things I think I think about today’s Tampa Bay Times

Back before there was a FloridaPolitics.com and it was just me blogging at SaintPetersBlog.com, I would write a semi-regular screed about the Tampa Bay Times’ political coverage. This was so long ago, the Times still had St. Petersburg in its masthead.

I gave up the “5 things I think I think…” column after a while because it got repetitive. (And because so many of my favorite writers — Howard Troxler, Eric Deggans, Michael Kruse —  left the newspaper). However, with 15 days left before the election, it’s as good a time as any to check in on what the Times has to offer.

Unfortunately, it’s not much. At least as far as the print product is concerned. There’s some good and interesting stuff about national and state politics, but when it comes to the local scene, the pickings are slim.

There are only two Sundays left before Election Day and there isn’t a story in the newspaper about the high-profile congressional race in the region (Republican David Jolly vs. Democrat Charlie Crist) or the high-profile state Senate race in the region (Republican Dana Young vs. Democrat Bob Buesing and independent Joe Redner). Nothing on any of the state House races, although most of them are snoozers. Nothing on the county commission race between Republican Mike Mikurak and Democrat Charlie Justice.

Like I said, not much.

No wonder Adam Smith has to write about how “the dreaded campaign yard sign appears to be less in demand this season.”

Really, that’s the best the political editor of the state’s largest newspaper has to offer two weeks out from an election? Other than quotes from good guys Brian Burgess and Nick Hansen, this story is even sillier than you might think. It’s as if because Smith doesn’t see any yard signs in his tony Old Northeast neighborhood, there are no yard signs anywhere!

Smith blames The Case of the Missing Yard Signs on “most voters disliking the major presidential nominees too much to want to boast about their choice.” But since when were presidential campaigns even known for having a strong yard sign program? It’s the local campaigns, with their tighter budgets, which rely more on yard signs. And in Smith’s St. Petersburg neighborhood there aren’t as many competitive down-ballot races as there have been in recent election cycles.

Where Smith lives, there aren’t bruising races for state Senate, state House, county commission, or school board as there were in 2012 and 2014. So maybe Smith’s headline should have been “Adored by candidates, the dreaded campaign yard sign appears to be less in demand IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD.”

Ah, the good ol’ days of making fun of Adam Smith‘s work. It’s 2013 all over again. No wonder yellow-bellied Adam won’t participate in a post-election panel with me at the Tampa Tiger Bay club.

Actually, Smith has a must-read piece fronting the newspaper about Hillary Clinton’s connections to the Sunshine State and his “Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics” (consultant Rick Wilson is the winner; Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes is the loser) is spot on.

Other thoughts about today’s newspaper:

Months after both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were dispatched from the presidential election by Donald Trump, their names still sit atop the Times’ website when you click on the 2016 CAMPAIGN under the POLITICS link.

jebio

I agree with half of what John Romano tries to say about how “Rick Scott might have held the key to an outsider’s successful bid to the White House” because the columnist echoes some of what I’ve recently written about Scott; namely that Scott is under-appreciated as a political force. But where Romano and I diverge is with his thesis that Trump should have relied on the same message-driven playbook that worked for Scott in 2010. To suggest this ignores The Donald aspect of Donald Trump, which is what has propelled him to where he is today.

With Trump, there’s no way to separate the messenger from the message. This can be accomplished with Scott because he was a blank slate before he arrived on the political scene. Trump was already a brand.

Still, Romano’s column is worth the read.

 The Times’ final mission for the 2016 election cycle is to take down the utility industry-backed Amendment 1. The newspaper, of course, will write about Clinton vs. Trump and Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign, but it can’t influence those races. It can be a factor in whether Amendment 1 passes, so look for it to flood the zone — as it does today with not one, not two, but three Amendment 1 related punches, including this editorial.

Such good questions prompted by Charlie Frago’s reporting of how the City of St. Petersburg “experienced the equivalent of an air-raid siren warning about its impending sewage crisis.” Unfortunately, no one at City Hall is talking.

“I have no recollection of that event,” says Bill Foster, the mayor at the time. … Council members who served at that time also had never heard of it.

Former public works administrator Mike Connors, who was there when the Albert Whitted plant was closed in 2015, has retired. Water resources director Steve Leavitt and engineering director Tom Gibson were placed on unpaid leave while the city investigates what happened to the 2014 report, which was brought to light by a whistleblower.

Gibson and Connors declined to comment. Leavitt could not be reached for comment.

Even if any of these people did comment, it would not answer this question: who tipped off Frago to the 10.5 million-gallon discharge in 2013?

Pay attention to Susan Taylor Martin’s reporting about the 400 block of Central Avenue and whether it should be redeveloped into a residential property or into commercial space. Ten years from now, the 400 block could be the most important piece of non-waterfront property in the city, but only if the right decisions about its future are made now.

This was fun, critiquing the Times’ political coverage. Maybe it’s time to relaunch this series …

Marco Rubio presidential campaign owes $1.5M in debt

Marco Rubio might be running for re-election, but his presidential campaign is still more than $1 million in the red.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Rubio’s presidential campaign had more than $1.5 million in debt as of Sept. 30. The sum includes the costs of telemarketing services, media production, and legal fees.

According to campaign finance records, the presidential campaign owed $570,657 for telemarketing; $315,000 for media production; $167,000 for legal fees; $350,000 for strategic consulting; and $130,000 for web services.

It may seem like a lot, but the campaign has continued to whittle down its outstanding debt each reporting period. Records show the presidential campaign had more than $1.9 million in debt at the end of March.

Rubio ended his presidential bid in March, after he came in second to Donald Trump in Florida’s presidential preference primary. He announced he was running for re-election in June, just days before the qualifying deadline.

It’s not unusual for presidential campaigns to carry debt well after the race is over. In May, the Wall Street Journal reported former presidential hopefuls owed more than $5.4 million.

Paying down the debt could take years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic nominee, didn’t pay off debt for her 2008 presidential campaign until 2012.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still trying to pay down the debt from his 2012 presidential bid. According to the most recent campaign filing, Gingrich still owed $4.6 million for his 2012 campaign.

Rubio isn’t the only 2016 hopeful whose campaign is still carrying some debt.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign owed $368,063 through Aug. 31; while Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful, owed $472,011 at the end of August.

Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign owed $250,000, down from $452,065 at the end of February. Bush ended his presidential bid after the South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, Chris Christie’s campaign still owes $170,505; while Rand Paul’s presidential campaign owes $301,107.

 

Mark Wilson: Rising workers’ comp rates hurt businesses

mark-wilson-florida-chamber
Mark Wilson

Attention Florida business owners — in case you missed it, you are about to be hit with a workers’ compensation insurance increase that you most likely haven’t planned for, all for the benefit of Florida’s billboard trial lawyers.

This week, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 14.5 percent workers’ compensation rate increase that takes effect Dec. 1 for new and renewal policies, the fallout from two damaging Florida Supreme Court decisions, Castellanos and Westphal.

A rate increase this big, this sudden, hurts Florida’s competitiveness and employers large and small. Many businesses will be forced to delay hiring — or even cut existing staff — to cover this leap in their workers’ comp premiums.

The increase is also a direct blow to Florida’s business-friendly climate and jeopardizes the 62 consecutive months of private-sector job growth we’ve experienced.

Let’s rewind back to 2003. At that time, Florida had the second-highest workers’ comp rates in the United States. These rates were threatening our state’s competitiveness. In response, the Florida Chamber of Commerce joined with then-Gov. Jeb Bush to pass a series of commonsense legislative reforms.

These reforms have become a national success story. Since enactment, Florida’s workers’ comp rates dropped approximately 60 percent, while at the same time injured workers got the care they needed more quickly and were able to return to work an average 10 days sooner than in the past.

But the Supreme Court rulings, issued earlier this year, have jolted job creators and threaten to unravel all the great progress our state has made over the past 13 years.

The most damaging of the two court rulings overturned reasonable attorney fee caps established to stop trial lawyers from using often minor workplace injuries as a means for suing businesses in hopes of hitting the jackpot on fee awards.

Florida’s insurance regulators had little choice but to approve the sudden rate hikes we’re seeing now because they forecast that the court’s approval of runaway legal fees is retroactive and will set off a tidal wave of trial lawyers refiling old cases and concocting new ones.

The worst part of this mess is that it isn’t about improving safety or care for injured workers. It’s been thoroughly documented that the 2003 reforms succeeded in getting workers well and back to work faster, while eliminating unnecessary legal costs. The only group benefiting from this ruling is the trial lawyers.

In fact, in Castellanos, the trial lawyer argued for $38,000 in attorney fees in a case in which the injured worker was awarded only $800 — and the Supreme Court now says those fees are acceptable.

We urgently need a legislative solution to address this looming crisis. Our goal must be to ensure injured workers continue to receive access to quality care and the court system, while providing job creators cost controls and the benefits of reining in outrageous attorney fees.

The Florida Chamber is actively leading the charge to help lower workers’ comp rates once again. Our Workers’ Compensation Task Force has been engaging Florida’s highest elected leaders, working with the brightest legal minds and coordinating with other states to develop the right solution. We are also working closely with business leaders and local chambers throughout the state to ensure Florida’s success story does not unravel and become a nightmare again.

Putting injured workers and job creators first, not trial lawyers, is the right thing to do to keep Florida’s workers’ comp system working.

___

Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at mwilson@flchamber.com.

Democrats throughout Florida call on GOP opponents to denounce #TrumpTapes vulgar comments

A newly released videotape showing Donald Trump making crude comments about a married woman he tried to seduce is sending shock waves throughout Florida politics.

“I’ve said some foolish things,” the Republican presidential nominee said overnight Friday in a taped apology posted on Facebook. “But there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women.”

But Florida Democratic candidates statewide are not letting Trump off the hook so easily. Nearly all of them are calling for the Republican nominee — as well their opponents who support him — to either clarify their position or withdraw from the race.

U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy released a statement Saturday calling Trump’s comments “disgusting,” blasting his opponent, incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, for giving a tepid response.

“While prominent Republicans like Senators Mike Crapo and Kelly Ayotte have already withdrawn their endorsements,” Murphy writes. “Marco Rubio issued a tweet with empty rhetoric and continues to stand by his choice for President.”

“Donald Trump’s comments are sickening, inexcusable and dangerous,” Murphy said. “They contribute to a culture that devalues women and makes our society unsafe … Trump is an unhinged misogynist who has no place anywhere near our country’s highest office.”

Murphy points out Rubio claims he ran for re-election to serve as a check on the next president, even if that president was Trump.

“But how can he serve as a check on a Trump presidency if he won’t even hold Trump accountable as a candidate?” Murphy concluded. “If Senator Rubio cannot withdraw his endorsement after this latest sickening news, then he should withdraw from the race.”

Randy Perkins, who faces Republican Brian Mast in the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, says that his opponent has regularly ignored the regular flow of Trump’s “crude comments about women.”

In a statement, Perkins accuses Mast of continuing to support Trump, despite frequent comments the GOP nominee made about women, including calling them “fat pigs … dogs … and slobs” and talking about prenuptial agreements as, “There are three types of women, all gold diggers.”

“I am deeply disturbed and disgusted, not only as a husband and a father, but as a human being,” Perkins said. “Bragging about groping women is never acceptable, and this type of language can never be tolerated or condoned.

“This is why I’m calling on Brian Mast to officially revoke his endorsement of Trump’s candidacy for president,” he added. Many prominent Republicans, including Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, have had the courage to denounce Trump’s vile rhetoric toward women, but, unfortunately, Brian has yet to take their lead.”

Perkins concludes with a question: “Whose side is Brian on, the people of District 18 or Trump?”

David Singer, the Democratic candidate for Florida House District 60, calls it a simple issue of “right versus wrong.” He also demanded Jackie Toledo, his Republican opponent for the Hillsborough County-based seat, to immediately denounce Trump’s remarks.

“As a husband and the father of two young daughters,” Singer said in an email. “I am horrified at Donald Trump’s comments. What he described as his normal behavior with women is criminal sexual assault, plain and simple.

“Anyone who seeks public office should immediately condemn him and call for him to drop out of this race as he is unfit to serve. This is not an issue of left versus right. This is an issue of right versus wrong. This does not reflect the values of our community.

“I am joining Democrats, Independents and Republicans across the country who are calling on him to leave this race. I hope that Jackie Toledo would immediately disavow him as well and join with us in opposing his candidacy.

“At the very least, I would hope that she will finally state that she will not vote for him. If she won’t reject Donald Trump’s candidacy after this, she should tell us what it would take.”

Former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl refers to the release of the video — now trending on Twitter as #TrumpTapes — as the “Moraitis Moment.”

Keechl, a Democrat running for House District 93, was referring to his Republican opponent, incumbent state Rep. George Moraitis, who took to the stage last month to introduce Trump in Broward County.

“He is the kind of President that I want,” Moraitis had said at the rally.

Keechl is demanding an apology.

“The country, and world, now have seen what many Republicans, Democrats and Independents have known for so long — Donald Trump is offensive and demeaning to women and his words on the video released yesterday only show how disgusting and hurtful he is,” Keechl said in a statement. “If my opponent stays silent — or worse — continues to endorse and support Donald Trump, then he not only condones Donald Trump’s words and action, but he too will owe Broward residents an apology.”

Jeb Bush: ‘No apology can excuse’ Donald Trump’s vulgar comments

Former Gov. Jeb Bush joined scores of Americans outraged by vulgar comments made by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in a 2005 video uncovered this week by The Washington Post.

“As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women,” the once-presidential candidate tweeted Friday evening.

Talking with Billy Bush, who was then a host of “Access Hollywood,” Trump was heard on the three-minute long video describing attempts to have sex with a married woman and bragging about women letting him kiss and grab them. Billy Bush is Jeb Bush’s cousin.

“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said. “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”

Trump was preparing for a cameo appearance on the daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” According to the New York Times, the video was discovered by “Access Hollywood” producers, scanning archival footage for past interviews with Trump. NBC News, part of the same corporation as “Access Hollywood,” acquired the tape; the Post also obtained a copy to the video.

Trump responded with a statement calling the exchange: “locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

 

State issues final order for workers’ comp cost increase

As expected, state insurance regulators have issued a final order jacking up the price of worker’s compensation insurance by nearly 15 percent.

The order was published Thursday.

The decision approves the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) request “for an overall combined statewide average rate increase of 14.5 percent,” the Office of Insurance Regulation said in a press release.

The rate hike, which applies to new and renewal policies, is effective Dec. 1. The increase continues to be bitterly opposed by business groups.

The bulk of the increase is blamed on two Florida Supreme Court decisions, both authored by Justice Barbara Pariente. 

One struck down a provision in state worker’s comp law limiting the time injured workers can get temporary disability benefits, saying such payments should last five years, not two. Another invalidated the law’s cap on legal fees as unconstitutional.

The U.S. Labor Department, in a new report this week, is calling for “exploration” of federally mandated minimum benefits.

According to NPR, the report says changes in state workers’ comp law have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In Florida, opponents have criticized the 2003 changes put in place by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature, saying they were draconian and favored employers at the cost of injured employees.

Companies said the new system cut costs, which helps businesses grow jobs. And the changes also were intended to reduce lawsuits over benefits.

For more information about the public hearing and rate filing, visit the “NCCI Public Rate Hearing” webpage.

To view or download a copy of the NCCI rate filing, go to the I-File Forms & Rates Filing Search System and enter File Log #16-12500 into the “Quick Search” function.

Mitch Perry Report for 10.6.16 — Do you want to live forever?

On the campaign trail last year, an ebullient Jeb Bush used to talk about how we were on the verge of the greatest time to be alive ever, with a limitless future ahead.

“We’re on the verge of where my little boy Jack, my four day-old Jack is going to live until he’s 130 years old,” Bush told hundreds of Republican activists at a New Hampshire Republican Party summit in April of 2015. Later, he moved it up to 150 years.

Jeb sounded like he had found common cause in believing in The Singularity, the moment when humans — with the aid of technology — will supposedly live forever.

One scientist, David Sinclair, a co-director of a lab on aging at Harvard Medical School, recently predicted that yes, the first person to live to 150 has already been born. “Over the last 10 years, my lab and many others around the world have shown that it’s not just possible to delay aging, but to reverse aspects of it,” he said last year.

Maybe so, but a new study made public yesterday suggests there is a natural limit to human lifespan of about 115 years old.

Jan Vijg, Xiao Dong, and Brandon Milholland, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have produced a new report saying that — after looking at demographic data from the last century — they believe human lifespan has a hard ceiling at around 115 years.

As The Atlantic reports, between the 1970s and early 1990s, our maximum age rose from around 110 to 115 — and then stopped after 1995. Despite sanitation, antibiotics, vaccines, and other medical advances, the stats show the oldest living people simply aren’t dying any later. They’re unlikely to either, the Atlantic reports, regardless of calorie restriction, drugs like rapamycin, and all of our other efforts to slow the flow of sand through the hourglass. “In science, you never know,” says Vijg. “But I’ve not seen anything that I think would break through the ceiling.”

“There’s no question that we have postponed aging,” says Judith Campisi from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. “But to engineer an increase in maximum lifespan, we’ll probably have to modify so many genes that it won’t be possible within our lifespan—or even our grandchildren’s lifespan.”

So maybe Jeb’s grandson Jack won’t make it to 150, or 130.

Most importantly for all of us, though, is how long we can in a vigorous state, right? What’s the point of living to be 110 if the last 20 years amount to sitting on a couch?

In other news …

As they prepare to debate today in St. Petersburg, David Jolly joined with Charlie Crist in calling for an additional early voting site in South St. Pete. Jolly’s statement came after a Crist-led press conference in South St. Pete.

A new report from the Center for American Progress expresses concern about Florida’s voting machines, but the secretary of state’s office says many of those same counties have had upgrades since the 2014 election.

Hillsborough County Commissioners approved a six-month moratorium on the creation of any medical marijuana dispensaries. County staff will work on creating a regulatory framework for such entrepreneurs to get into the local market, as Floridians prepare to vote for Amendment 2 regarding medical pot next month.

Tampa City Council District 7 candidates have differing opinions on that major $251 million, 30-year stormwater tax approved last month by the current council.

Meanwhile, two of the candidates in that race — Luis Viera and Jim Davison, announced some new endorsements.

We spent a few minutes chatting up AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka when he was in Tampa earlier this week.

Former GOP Senate candidate Todd Wilcox has formed a new Super PAC, called “Restoring American Leadership.”

Jeb Bush to teach, lecture at Harvard this fall

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be spending some time at Harvard University this fall.

Harvard’s Kennedy School announced on Tuesday that Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, will be a visiting fellow in the Program on Education Policy and Governance.

Bush plans to serve as a guest instructor and presenter on education issues during several visits to the Ivy League university during the fall term. He is the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Bush is scheduled to deliver the annual Edwin L. Godkin Lecture at Harvard on Thursday. The school says he will discuss problems with economic and social mobility in the U.S. The more than century-old lecture series is named for the founder of The Nation magazine.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.27.16 — The ‘what difference does it make?’ debate

Was it as good as you hoped it would be, America?

For months, people have talked about how they could not wait to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battle it out in their first presidential debate. We all know that excitement wasn’t because of Clinton’s sterling debate style. No, it was because of the unknown about how The Donald would perform.

And … ?

Let’s put it this way: Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, just said on MSNBC this morning that Clinton failed to deliver the knockout punch. Absolutely true; so is that how we’re grading this thing?

Look, under any which way you score a debate, Mrs. Clinton had the winning hand. But as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush can tell you, traditional scoring points don’t necessarily mean much in debating against Donald J.

Conservatives are upset at the question selections offered by moderator Lester Holt — no Benghazi, no Clinton Foundation, no immigration. But as some said about the criticism of NBC’s Matt Lauer after the “Commander in Chief” forum, if you’re complaining about the moderator, you’re probably losing.

Many of the questions did put Trump in a vise — his explanations for not disclosing his income taxes felt hollow (where he boasted about not paying them), and his attempt to blame Sidney Blumenthal and Patti Solis Doyle regarding where Barack Obama was born seemed weak.

On style, it was interesting to see how long Trump would stay relatively subdued before he became the more blustery, bombastic candidate who dominated most of the Republican presidential debates in 2015 and early 2016.

The momentum has been moving Trump’s away in the past two weeks. Does that get stalled now? Does Clinton pick up some of the undecided voters, or Berniebros flirting with Jill Stein and/or Gary Johnson?

So many questions. My favorite line this morning, though, is the phrase “this really doesn’t change much.”

Then why all the hype in the first place?

In other news …

House District 68 Republican JB Benshimen insists he’s still in it to win in in his race against Democrat Ben Diamond, but his poor fundraising numbers aren’t encouraging.

Dover Republican Ross Spano’s House District 59 seat is one Democrats are targeting this fall. He tells us what he’s done in office since his 2012 election.

Former Pasco County DEC Chair Alison Morano is now leading a group targeting Marco Rubio for his past statements regarding Social Security.

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and various Latino advocacy groups are working on signing up people to vote in advance of Florida’s Oct. 11 deadline.

And Dana Young gets the firefighters unions in Tampa and Hillsborough County’s endorsements in the Senate District 18 race.

Florida primaries eyed: Representation of few, or the many?

It took just 14,496 votes to win his closed Democratic primary for one of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. Now Darren Soto is virtually assured of going to Capitol Hill, unlikely to face a strong Republican challenge this November in his safely Democratic district.

The state senator snared the votes of just 2 percent of the Orlando area district’s 750,000 residents, beating three other candidates in last month’s closed-party, winner-takes-all primary. Only registered Democrats could cast ballots in Soto’s race and the small percentage of them likely decided the contest before the general election.

It’s a scenario repeated regularly in Florida’s state and congressional races in districts firmly controlled by one or the other of the two major parties. Now such outcomes are prompting calls to reform Florida’s primary system so more voters have a say in who represents them.

“That’s a question that comes up often,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters. Her group is studying the primary system and will make recommendations next year to lawmakers on broadening the electoral process.

Florida is one of only nine states with a strict closed primary system, which prevents independent and minor party voters from casting primary ballots. Proponents say political parties should have the sole say in who they nominate, but critics say closed primaries exclude a large swath of voters, particularly as the number of independent voters grows.

Until 16 years ago, Florida primaries weren’t even over until a candidate won a ballot majority. If no primary candidate received at least 50 percent plus one vote, the top two met in a runoff to decide who reached the general election.

But then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush eliminated the runoff in 2002, a year he was seeking re-election and two years after his brother George W. Bush carried the perennial swing state by 537 votes in a famously chaotic presidential election. Jettisoning the primary runoff was part of reforms aimed at making Florida elections run more smoothly.

The impact on Sunshine State politics was immediate.

In 2002, political newcomer Bill McBride won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno by 0.4 percentage points in a three-way race. Many believe Reno would have defeated McBride in a runoff and gone on to face Bush. And in 2010, now Gov. Rick Scott won the Republican nomination with only 46 percent of the vote though a runoff could have overturned the results.

And this year, state Rep. Matt Gaetz is a lock to represent northwest Florida in Congress after capturing just 36 percent of the vote in a seven-way Republican primary, meaning 64 percent of voters wanted someone else in Washington from their firmly GOP district. It’s a decision that essentially excludes Democrats and independents.

It was a runoff that helped primary runner-up Bob Graham into the governor’s office in 1979.

Eventually a three-term U.S. senator, Graham avidly supports resurrecting the runoff primary. He said the current system often encourages election of the most extreme candidates among both major parties. He said primary reforms could make representation more moderate, in line with the views of most voters.

“The question ought to be not whose convenience are we serving, but what makes democracy work best and gives the people the opportunity to have persons in office who represent the broadest consensus,” said Graham, who now runs a University of Florida center for greater citizen engagement with government.

Only 11 states still have some form of a runoff primary, mostly in the Deep South. Louisiana, California and Washington state have all-inclusive primaries where the top two vote earners advance to the general election, 15 states have open primaries and nine states allow independent voters to choose which primary they’ll vote in.

People are increasingly open to changing primary systems because they don’t like current options that contribute to partisan extremes in Washington, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, a non-partisan Washington-area group that seeks to make voting more representative.

“There are different approaches that make sense for different states. There’s more openness in the reform world to not have a one-size fits all model,” he said.

Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County that includes Florida’s capital of Tallahassee, was first elected in 1988 aided by a primary runoff.

He agreed more voters should have a say in who’s elected, but isn’t espousing a return of the second primary. Instead, he said all candidates should be put on a primary ballot regardless of party and all registered voters, including independents, should be allowed to vote. The top two candidates would face off in November.

That notion doesn’t appeal to Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who chairs the House committee that considers election issues. He prefers the idea of voters picking their first two choices in a crowded primary. If no candidate wins a majority, then the second choice of voters are weighed to determine a winner.

Changing Florida’s primary system would require legislative action or a change in the state constitution through a ballot initiative.

“I’m not afraid to try to tinker with it,” Caldwell said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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